An explanation...

Why Foob? I had a double mastectomy, and at the time, the plastic surgeon put "expanders" under the muscles in my chest. Every 2-3 weeks, they were filled with more saline, in preparation for my reconstructive surgery. They were very full and hard. Uncomfortable. One time, one of my sons gave me a hug and then said "Your foobs are hard!" Hee, hee, hee! My kids have this endearing habit of combining words. So, "Foobs" are fake boobs. Which I will still have, even after the reconstruction.

Foob Babe - that would be me!
"The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next." ~Mignon McLaughlin


I'd love to help you tell your cancer story. Visit my business blog, contact me, and let's get started.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Just a Little Update on the Cancer Journey...

I'm starting to feel much better now. It's been almost 7 weeks since my final chemo treatment. The first 3-4 weeks after that last chemo were pretty bad. I became tired and sick much faster than I ever have before. But, now I'm starting to feel like I have more energy. I've stopped taking the anti-nausea medications. Don't need them anymore - good news, since they make me soooo tired. I started walking in the American Fork Cemetery (my favorite place to walk) last week and I have to say, it has really helped my energy level. Bummer that it's FREEZING right now - I'm not quite to the point where I'll walk in freezing weather. :-) I still have a few yucky side effects from the chemo. Mostly, my nails - they are really trashed. All of them have dark streaks running through the nail beds. I had to have the acrylic taken off of my nails - the only thing that makes them strong - because I got an infection under one of them. My finger tips hurt a lot and they are also kind of numb. Weird. My mouth still tastes a little metallic, but I am now able to drink milk - YAY!!! I haven't been able to have a regular glass of milk for 5 months!

I still go every 3 weeks for my Herceptin treatment, but since there are no side effects with that medication, I don't have to worry about feeling crappy. Awhile ago, after my chemo doc looked at some of my blood tests, he told me that my calcium levels were very high. I'm not sure what that really means, or if it was caused by either the cancer or chemo. But, I saw an endocrinologist about it. She scheduled a para-thyroid scan and a bone density scan. The bone density scan was fine - good news, the chemo hasn't hurt my bones. But, the parathyroid scan showed a small tumor (not cancerous) on one of the parathyroids. So, now I have to have a surgery where they slice open my neck (in the front - right in the hollow) and take that parathyroid out. The scar will be anywhere from 1 inch to 3 inches long. Yikes! I have to have that done soon - April 7th. The recovery shouldn't be too bad or take too long. So I have that lovely little procedure to look forward to. I'll have to stay in the hospital overnight so they can monitor the bleeding in my neck and so they can check the calcium levels. Sigh.

As far as the chest expanding goes - it's almost done. I've been expanded to 720cc- the biggest implant they make is 800cc - so I'm pretty much where I need to be. (And no, that doesn't mean that I'll be HUGE - remember, I have zero breast tissue, so the implant is going under pretty much nothing but skin and muscle.) Now, the doc will do 2 more "fills" of 70cc each, on each side, to expand just a little bigger so the implants will fit well. Today is one of those fills. I really hate the fills. The chest muscles are being stretched so tight, that it really hurts. I'm on pain pills almost constantly now - just one a day, though. It usually hurts the most in the late afternoon and evening - after I've been up all day. I'm such a baby when it comes to facing those HUGE syringes of saline with the scary needles attached, that I have to have either my sis or my BF, Lori, holding my hand. No, seriously. It sucks! Good news is that I'm almost done. So, I get to have the reconstructive surgery probably the first week of May! I can't wait. I know it's probably going to really hurt and take a long time to recover from, but I know I'll also feel relief from the expanders.

Here's a quick laugh for you: My 18-yr-old son, Michael, came home from college this last weekend. He gave me a big hug and then said "Your foobs are hard!" Yep, he called them foobs - fake boobs. I laughed so hard I almost choked! What a dork! (He's right though - it's like I have 2 rocks on my chest!)

That's it for the cancer update. I know I've promised to go back and document the journey from the first. I'm still planning on doing that. It's just hard to think about and read my notes from that time - very emotional. I'll get it started soon though. It's actually a very interesting journey.

I haven't said it for a long time, but it is still true... cancer SUCKS!

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Past and Pending

I asked my son Alex to come up with a name for this blog and he came up with The Past and Pending - a Shins song title. It has nothing to do with this blog, but it sounds cool.

Several things have happened in the last few days to make me feel happy. Yesterday, as I was driving south on I-15 in Utah Valley - towards Provo - I realized what an incredibly beautiful day it was. There is nothing like a sunny Utah day - one that comes after a stormy day. The stormy weather clears the air and it's breathtaking - the mountains, covered in snow, are majestic and it just makes you feel so good. So, because I was feeling great, while I was driving to Provo, I started thinking about the good things that have happened that make me happy. I'm kind of tired of being sick, upset, tired, etc. from the cancer, so I've decided to try to be happy and grateful instead. wonder I feel good!

First of all, I'm through the hardest part of this cancer journey. Finally, I'm through with the chemo. And I'm actually starting to feel better than I've felt for months. In fact, this morning I went for a short walk! Something I haven't been able to do for 8 months. Then, yesterday, I noticed some stubble on my legs. Now, this might sound like bad news to you, but to me it's great! It means that my hair is starting to grow back. I shaved my legs in October and haven't had to shave them since then!

My baby, Matthew, turned 12 this week. He was the last kid to be in both primary (in church) and elementary school. It was a big step for our family. I'm excited for him, but it was kind of bittersweet. I'll have to blog about that some other time.

The thing that has made me those most happy this week is that my missionary son comes home in two weeks. I've been thinking about him every day and it just keeps getting closer. I can't wait. I haven't seen him in 2 years. And I've only talked to him on the phone 4 times.

Yesterday, I was reading a new blog that I'm following and the blogger is so positive and such a good writer. It made me really want to be happy and improve myself. So, here are a few goals I'm going to try to accomplish:

I'd like to be more positive. Even if I'm not feeling great, I'm going to try not to tell anyone that. I think people are just tired of hearing how sick I am. :-) I know I am. I'm feeling great. I'm feeling good. I'm feeling ok. Those are now my only responses. Although, I reserve the right to complain a little after my reconstructive surgery.

I'd like to do a few things each day that will contribute to my recovery and help to make me feel better. I'll try to walk each day. I'll try to remember how much I've been craving water for the past 5 months and drink lots of it every day. I'll try to eat fewer fast food meals and more fruits, veggies, and other good stuff.

I'd like to help my skin to recover. Most especially, the skin on my face. So, I'm going to go find some really good anti-aging type lotion and use it every day. Wrinkles and brown spots - watch out!

And finally, I'd like to become a better blogger. I had a hard time sleeping last night because I was thinking of different things I could blog about. I want to blog about a different thing each day of the week. I'm still working on the schedule, but some of the subjects are: a Family Home Evening lesson (Sundays), a Book of Mormon post or a missionary post (Mondays), My Cancer Journey and Cherish Bound stuff (Tuesdays), Almost Wordless Wednesday (highlighting some of my sons' photographic skills), Book Review - probably on childrens books, because I have such a huge collection of them (Thursdays), Helpful Fridays (things like recipes, quotes, tips, etc), and then on Saturdays you'll get an update on each family member. Phew! I'm really excited to start!

Just writing this blog made me feel good. If you'd like to check out the blog I was reading that motivated me, look under my Blogs That Rock on this page and it's called C Jane Enjoy It.

Oh, one more goal: ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I've been wanting to share my story with other people, in the hopes that I can help someone. I would absolutely love to be able to speak to groups of women about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. So, I'm going to work on a presentation and make sure my information is all updated and figure out what I would share. I think it would be good to start with the womens' group in the LDS church, since that's who I'm surrounded by here in Utah. If you know of a group that would want to hear my story, let me know. I can't wait to start helping other people.

Have a great day!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cancer Scars

I’ve got to get something off of my chest – not trying to be funny there. I’m angry. I was looking in the mirror after I got out of the shower the other day. I got angry just looking at all the scars. I’m so tired of the scars. They are ugly. You know, I’ve got lots of scars. There are the scars you can see and the ones you can’t see. Cancer leaves the ugliest scars.
There are the scars on my chest:
I’ve got one that is about 2 inches long where the surgeon took out some lymph nodes. There is the scar where I had my two biopsies. That one is no longer there because it was cut off when I had a double mastectomy. But, I still see it. There are my mastectomy scars – just horizontal lines where something else used to be. I’ve got two small scars from the drains that were left in after my last surgery. And then there are the upcoming scars – from my reconstructive surgery and the one I’ll have when they take out my IV port. I can already see them.
The other scars cancer has left:
The scars on my face – commonly called wrinkles – I have so many new wrinkles that you’d think I’d aged 10 years. These make me particularly angry – I’ve been blessed with my mother’s beautiful skin and now it’s ruined. There are tiny brown spots all over my face and hands as well, reminding me, every time I see myself, that I’ve had cancer.
Sometimes I feel like there is a scar where my mind used to be. I’ve never had a great memory, but this is ridiculous. Believe me, “chemo brain” is real.
The scar that is my bald head. I know that the hair will grow back at some point, but the scar that shaving it off caused will remain in my mind.
The chemo has affected my eyesight – I can feel those “scars” getting bigger by the day.
If I had a dime for every time I’ve been poked with a needle, I’d be rich. Those needle scars are too small to see, but they are there.
And what about the scar that I have from being thrown into early menopause from the chemo – I feel that scar every time I have a hot flash.
There’s even a scar from when I had to stop working. I used to work at a job I love, with people I love. It’s a long scar – 8 months long, and getting longer by the day. Even though I know I’ll get to go back to work, the scar that is ‘lack of work’ is there.
The other night I turned to Rick and said: “Sometimes when I look at myself and see that my chest is gone, I think, “What the HELL??!!! What was I thinking, allowing that to happen? Sometimes I wish I could go back and make a different decision.” And Rick just says, “I know… I know.” And he does. He knows what I’ve been through. He’s been there to help me make every hard decision and to get through every horrible side effect. And I have to say thanks to Rick, for being there to walk me through the scars and help me through the anger.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Side Effects

It’s been a long, hard week, and it’s only Wednesday morning! I’m sitting in the chemo room at the cancer center, getting Herceptin dripped into my veins. Herceptin doesn’t really have immediate side effects. Just a small headache.

It’s been 3 weeks since my last chemo treatment and I’m feeling ok in the mornings, but by afternoon I’m exhausted and sick to my stomach. I was really hoping that I’d be feeling better than this. I’m a little impatient. In fact, I’ve been wondering why my hair hasn’t grown back by now. :-)

Monday night, I had kind of a break down. At least it was only in front of Rick – not the kids. I was feeling overwhelmed because of my schedule for Tuesday. I was feeling like a loser mom because it was my baby’s 12th birthday (Matthew – my youngest) and I hadn’t even shopped for gifts yet. He was going to wake up in the morning and not have presents to open. I’d just been too tired to go out. Then, I realized that I had a stupid para thyroid scan on Tuesday that would take half the day, and then district science fair, where Matthew’s project needed to be set up (the same time as the dr apt), and the art show at the junior high for Alex. There would be no time at all to do anything for Matthew’s birthday. Plus, just looking at the schedule made me tired. As soon as Rick walked in, I started crying. I’m such a baby! He asked me what was wrong and I couldn’t even find my voice. I just whispered that I’m so tired of being sick and I’m so tired of being tired. I’ve had it. Then I told him about the schedule for the next day and he said “Well, you just can’t do it all. Take something off the schedule.” Ok, what would you take off? The dr. appointment? The science fair? The art show? MATTHEW’S BIRTHDAY?! Geez! Not to mention, I still had shopping for gifts and making a cake. I finally decided to ask for help from my friend Lori (she set up the science fair project – actually Steve and Jeff did – thanks you guys), and to keep Matthew home from school and take him with me – we had a great time, shopping for presents and going to lunch in between scans at the doctor’s. Everything worked out ok – Rick came home early to help with the last part of the science fair and the art show turned out to be tonight instead of last night. I even made the cake and ordered pizza before I completely collapsed from fatigue.

Fatigue is one of the lovely side effects you have from chemo. You know, I’ve just about had it with side effects. When you meet with your oncologist the first time, he’ll tell you about the side effects. I’m pretty sure he told me about not only the immediate side effects, but also about the long term side effects. I just don’t remember much about those long term ones – probably because one of those is what they call “chemo brain” – where your brain basically becomes mush and you forget everything. I’ve been suffering from this particular one almost since I started chemo. I forget everything. I’m amazed that I even remembered that it was Matthew’s birthday yesterday! Other long term side effects – a weakened heart (from the Herceptin), wrinkles, early menopause (which includes hot flashes!). I know there’s more, but I’ve FORGOTTEN what they are! I just know that there will be constant reminders of the beast.

I was watching a short video the other day that my son, Grant, sent home from Japan (where he’s serving a mission). The camera was pointed at a store window and inside was a huge dragon head (one of those that are made from paper), that was moving from side to side while the eyes lit up. All Grant said was “Holy crap – it’s a dragon!” That’s kind of how I feel about the cancer: holy crap – it’s a dragon! And the side effects are the fire that spews forth from it’s mouth.

Here’s where I say that I’m really grateful that there is even a thing called chemo – it’s saving my life. And I know I’m a big whiner, but sometimes, in order to fight the beast, I’ve got to let some feelings out. I’ve got to get things off my chest (literally).