Saturday, February 3, 2018

2018 Update

Well, it’s been almost three years since I’ve checked in. It was a very busy time caring for ill parents and mother-in-law so painting was almost nonexistent. My folks passed within 5 months of each other and a big move for us, but now life is wonderful!!!! I’m down to once a year for check ups and still cancer free, PTL!

 My husband and I, now semi-retired, were able to move away from the busy pace of rapidly growing Atlanta to the lovely Murrells Inlet in SC. We are so blessed to live 3 miles from the beach and near some of the best seafood on the East coast! I’ve gotten back in the groove of painting 5 days a week and sales couldn’t be better. Gratitude to my Heavenly Father for bringing me through these last five years of illness and being a caretaker to others is my constant focus!

I’m now building my new medical team which has been a challenge in a much smaller community. I’ve only seen a dentist so far and have an appointment with a primary care doc who I hope can give me a good reference for an oncologist. Eating Paleo ( not super strict ),  I’ve tried to do what I can to stay healthy. Exercise is my biggest challenge, but up until these coldest months, regular long walks on the beach has been my favorite form of moving the body.

I’m thankful for each day and celebrate good health and more blessings than I deserve! God bless you!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

happy as can be.....
Here it is nine months since my last update. Reading back, I was not in a good place that day and am sorry to leave the last blog post in such a down mood.

Other than minor colon surgery in January, all has been on the mend since last September. Can't say all things are back to normal though ( "normal" is ever-changing ). The medications that I continue to take for cancer prevention have side effects such as swollen and painful feet and thinning hair, etc., but all is relatively minor to the alternative of returning cancer. A recent "chance" encounter with a guy at Barnes and Noble woke me up to reality. His wife who had had similar breast cancer in size, stage, and type as mine had a recurrence within two years of diagnosis and passed away within a year after that. She had chemo and radiation as well as double mastectomies and it still came back. I didn't have the chemo or radiation but am taking other meds that she did not. I guess I've been in total denial, but I have been operating on the mindset that after a double mastectomy - no more cancer. I knew this wasn't really true, but stuck to the belief that it was true for me, if you know what I mean. But to report good news, my yearly chest MRI shows all things clear!! Yeah!

After hearing of this man's wife passing, my mindset has changed. I'm not more afraid, but rather have become happier and more appreciative of each day I have. I don't fret the small stuff and value time with friends and family and especially quality time with Kenn more. I've really never felt happier! I'm enjoying my painting time more and am no longer putting pressure on myself to "produce" paintings.  All in all I'm just so thankful for the time I have and for all the ways I've been so blessed.

I'm still so humbled and thankful beyond words for how many of you friends and family members supported, prayed for, and cared for us over the time of my illness. Your love was extremely instrumental in carrying us through those tough months and we will be forever grateful! I'm thinking that this may be a way of closing out my "survival journey" for now. My journey of life continues but I do certainly feel like a survivor- no, certainly AM a survivor.

Friday, September 13, 2013

a bit out of sorts....
Today is Friday and surgery ( right side mastectomy for prevention ) is in four days. I’m a bit melancholy this time leading up to the "down" time. I want my life to move forward and don’t welcome yet another period of "rest" and recovery. As before with the left side mastectomy, I will not be able to lift anything more than 5 lbs for 8 weeks. I won’t be able to lift my right arm any higher than my chest for a while either so I don’t know when I can paint. I’m not really complaining, things could be sooooo much worse, but I’m just tired. Somehow my "happy" countenance is missing and I find myself being a bit irritable and wanting desperately to control things. I’m assuming all this is natural for one going through multiple surgeries––God is near and I wait at his feet but I don’t feel his arms around me and that warm comfort.

Another factor in my "out of sorts" condition is pain. A week ago Kenn and I did some yard work on two occasions. I didn’t do anything more than pull some weeds, pull some vines off a flower bed and bag pruning cuttings. Because I have not felt any pain in my rib surgery areas for quite a while I didn’t think of this activity as being harmful. Boy was I wrong! On Sunday last week I began feeling the pain. It was only in the areas of my rib surgery where two tumors were removed along with four ribs which were replaced with synthetic materials. I guess the muscles in those areas and the muscle moved from my back to the front chest wall were not happy with the new activities forced on them. They have made their displeasure heard loud and clear! All week I haven’t been able to walk the dogs, lift heavy dishes, turn over to either side while lying in bed, etc, without very sharp and intense pain. This causes concern because I will be having surgery to remove the breast and place a tissue expander right on top of where the worst pain is. Yesterday the pain did lessen somewhat and I’m hoping that by Tuesday, surgery day, I’ll be feeling less pain there. Anyway, after surgery I will have good pain meds to take it all away!

I don’t like making negative posts but this is part of the journey and I’m convinced that sharing deep feelings can help others going through similar events. It is good to know that we are not the only ones who deal with negative emotions. God bless you going through all your own journeys.

I’d appreciate your prayers for our upcoming week. Kenn will be very busy taking care of me and the dogs on his own and other responsibilities. I’d appreciate prayers for a quick and easy recovery. Thanks to all for your prayers this last year, you all mean the world to me and to Kenn.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

moving along....
I have a date for my non-cancer side mastectomy–September 17, our 42nd wedding anniversary–a day to remember! lol Glad to have it scheduled though, no complaints.

Soon after my rib tumors surgery in April, I began my medication to remove all estrogen from my body. The breast cancer I have is fed by estrogen so the accepted treatment is taking Arimidex for 5 years for post-menopausal women. I don’t expect to get more cancer in my breasts due to the double mastectomies but even though the lymph nodes were clear there my be a cell or two somewhere in my body and the drug is to prevent those cells from surviving. The drug reduces my chances of metastasized cancer to about 9% ( over a 10 year period ). Without the drug my chances are about 18% of returned cancer. These numbers where given to me by analysis of my specific cancer type, stage, grade and additional tests.

I certainly was willing to take the meds but as I’ve been on it now for two months the side effects are making be wonder if it is worth the lower quality of life I am expecting. The most uncomfortable symptom is the swelling and pain in my feet. I can only wear flip flop type shoes but even then my feet hurt like severe arthritis in all my toes. To bend my feet when walking is very painful. When I rise from a chair or bed, I feel like I’m an arthritic senior of 85! As I walk around it gets better and I begin straightening up but I do take extra-strength Tylenol a couple of times a day for back and general all-over pain.

My memory and cognition have gone down hill these past two months as well, but some of that could be from the recent anesthesia. There is also heartburn ( never had it before ), increase in dry eye to the point of getting up in the middle of the night to put lubricant drops to relieve the feeling of grit and burning. I have broken out skin on my face like a teen, and have a swollen belly like a middle age habitual beer drinker and I hate the stuff! I’ve an appetite like a sailor and never feel satisfied which might possibly explain the 4-5 lb weight gain these last two months. I’ve read of much worse damage to the body from online forums. Some women on the drug have symptoms later–like permanent nerve damage, carpal tunnel syndrome, permanent numbness in hands and feet, damaged female parts, etc. All these symptoms are listed on the drug website as possible side effects, so I’m to determine which of my symptoms are from the recent surgery or the medicine.

Kenn and I are going to the beach a week from today so I decided to take myself off the med 3 days ago and throughout our vacation. I’d like to walk in comfort on the beach and not deal with these symptoms. It will allow me to see for sure how much the drug is causing. Within 24 hours off the pill my feet felt so much better and now 2 days later I can see a lot of the swelling in my feel gone. When we get back from Murrells Inlet ( August 31) I’ll contact my oncologist and see what other choices I may have. I am looking into diets that can reduce the risk of cancer and see if that could be another avenue of prevention. Just know that as far as we know I am cancer free for now, so I’m not looking into alternative cancer cures, just prevention–a big difference. But I’ll certainly listen to my oncologist’s advice.

Meanwhile I have painted some, have a part-time job of taking care of the folks ( it takes that many hours...) and am preparing to move the contents of our public storage into an already packed house- all my parent’s things and now all ours. I feel each day that I’m spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere. Such is this season of my life but I try not to be hard on myself and not let things bother me. Not accomplishing things is a big stressor–not healthy!!!

Meanwhile, on my vacation, no diets. Yeah! Great seafood, hopefully sun and definitely fun! God, my Lord is so gracious and loving. I’m learning this more and more each day. This has been a special two years of being drawn close to Him. Wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Monday, July 1, 2013

over the hurdle...

It has taken me a while to get back to painting my small oil paintings. Today I made my first art blog post in over a year and it felt really great to be getting back to producing art once again after soooo long. Click here if you'd like to take a look at my art blog, Small Oil Paintings.

My health is progressing at a fantastic rate! I'm feeling mostly normal, only a bit of fatique and soreness are hanging around. As my "numb" areas around surgery sites are beginning to come to life again I have these random short bursts of sudden pain that last a few seconds. These shots feel like a bee sting! Very strange. At least I know that feeling will be returning to these "dead" areas of my abdomen and back.

Next Wednesday I return to my plastic surgeon to discuss my right side prophylactic mastectomy and breast reconstruction as well as finishing the reconstruction on the cancer left side breast. I'm hoping to begin the 2 to 3 surgeries this fall and finish all before the end of the year. I'm trying to avoid another year of deductibles and out of pocket costs. I think I'll go to every doctor I can schedule between now and the end of 2013. Guess I have to go through my first colonoscopy! :O See the dermatologist, gynecologist, neurologist, and maybe look into a hearing aide! lol   Maybe I won't have time to paint after all....

God is great and my everything!!!!!!! Thank you Jesus.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

from the other side....
It has been six weeks and five days since the rib tumors surgery. And it has been a year and ten days since the xray in my chiropractor’s office that began this journey of survival. What a year it has been! Full of anxiety at first but then as the Lord drew me near to him, a year of a wondrous spiritual transformation ( more about that later ) –– to Him be the glory!

So the question that is asked the most through emails and texts is “how r u doing?” So this post has to be an update on that very thing. It has been a difficult six weeks but maybe not as bad as I had anticipated. I did have a complication in the hospital that made my pain management an issue. I was severally allergic to some surgical tape and the epidural that was given to me had to be removed within the first 12 hours. I had the epidural and a morphine drip to manage the pain to allow me to breathe. When that was discontinued, I was given Perocet ( a narcotic ) only –– not able to use morphine with this drug. Needless to say it was not doing a very good job and breathing did become difficult. As a result I had fluid in my lungs and chest cavity and have had a couple of procedures to have the fluid drained. 

The benign tumors removed were larger than I had thought. One was the size of a baseball and one the size of a softball. Both were growing to the inside of the chest wall on ribs. Four ribs were removed and replaced with synthetic material. Oh, how I praise God these were not cancer!!!!

After home from the hospital I continued on the Percocet for about four weeks. Pain by this time was well controlled. As I had to go off the narcotic ( tapering off ) the pain was an issue again for about a week. Tylenol was my only pain relief. Things got better then and it was now time to go off my oxygen. I had been on oxygen for 5 weeks and as I tapered off that I had numerous problems with dizziness for a little more than a week. 

As of last Monday I was beginning to feel like myself, just a little soreness, an occasional dizzy spell and an energy level from 60% to 75%, depending on the day. I take frequent rests during the day. So all should be good, right? Kenn got sick with sore throat, headache and congestion last Thursday and Sunday I came down with the same thing. We went to church on Wednesday night and picked it up from someone sick. I’m feeling better today and hopefully will be back to a great recovery in the next day or two. So, all is pretty much behind me, the worst being over. I do have two to three more surgeries later this year to finish up my other mastectomy and finalize reconstruction. Those hopefully will be a breeze compared to what I’ve been through thus far. 

It is time for us to finally begin rebuilding our lives. Kenn and I have been through much loss as far as lively hood, home and identity. This year of loss, moving ( the most difficult move we’ve ever made ) and just being on hold has left us now with a desire to rebuild and see what our future holds. God has moved us to this place and we are looking forward to his guidance. It is daunting if we try to lean on our own strength but he will lead the way. Please continue to pray for us as we seek his will. 

Thanks again for all your love, prayers and support. We are so blessed with wonderful friends and family!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

April it is...
So the date is finally set for the big one––April 11th. BIG one as in the rib tumors surgery. If you haven’t been following, I have two large benign tumors on each of two ribs, one on the front right side and one on the back right side. They have been there for years undetected until last summer when discovered in my chiropractor’s office and from there the search was on for a diagnosis. The tumors are growing into the chest cavity so not noticeable from the outside. Now they have to come out because of their present size and the future danger to my spine or organs. A CT has shown the tumors have not grown since last fall so the surgery can proceed with out any problems.

The ordeal of waiting for a date for this surgery and to get it all over with has been a long one. Kenn and I have had our lives put on hold since last June from the initial diagnosis and the subsequent discovery of breast cancer. Having closed our cleaning business and moved from Tucker to my parents’ home in Marietta has changed our life from one that was once productive to one of complete dependence on others and our heavenly Father. This time has been both humbling and at times embarrassing to a period of drawing closer to God and worthwhile faith building. We are both in a place of daily seeking God for our next steps.

My days are filled with never ending paperwork for medical claims, hospital financial aide and income taxes. Yea!! I finished that blasted tax return! The time I’m not at my desk we are shuttling my Mom or Dad to doctor appointments and more-than-can-be-counted errands for their busy lives ( although they are in assisted living ). My doctor appointments have been numerous as well with January having been another health crisis. And now I approach the April surgery. In March alone we, Mom and Dad will have had eight doctor appts and/or procedures, I will have had seven appts and/or procedures and Kenn one doctor’s appt. I’m stunned at how much of a full time job this has been! I am so disappointed that I have not been able to paint. I need uninterrupted time to get back into the patterns of creative thinking in order to practice my craft again. It seems impossible to get to that place. I’m trying....

Overall my life is full of love, hope and joy. Moving to Marietta has been a blessing in that I’m nearer to my family and closer relationships are developing as a result. Kenn and I are finally able to share more in the care of our parents and we are trying to make up for the absence when we lived farther away. We have no doubts about God’s moving us back to Marietta during this season of our lives.

We have not left all behind in Tucker though. We still have "family" there as well and go to our church on LaVista Road twice a week. All our newer friends ( from the last 20 years or more ) live in Northeast Atlanta and we miss being close to them. Most of our business clients have become close friends and they have supported us continually through these last seven months. We are so blessed to have so many extraordinary people in our lives. I thank God every day.