I can't stress how important it is to check your breasts regularly. Honestly, I rarely did before, but one day I found a lump. In January my doctor's said my tumor was 1cm. One month later when I had my mastectomy it had grown to 1.7cm and there were two other tumors that were .2 and .3cm. Catching it early when it was stage 1 saved my life.

Below is one of the best self-exam videos I've seen. It was made by an Argentinian Breast Cancer charity to demonstrate the regular checks women should be doing while skirting censorship of women's breasts by social media. If you are in a relationship, have your partner help you. Men can get breast cancer, too. Please be sure to check yourself once a month.

Check yo self! Please!!!

Love this girl.

Calysta Bevier 16-yr-old ovarian cancer survivor

Reconstruction surgery went really well. My doctor exchanged the expander with a permanent implant. I have one patch of skin near the center of my chest that's a bit questionable. Instead of risking tearing the skin she ended up placing the implant a little further outside. Since my boobs were already set a bit wide, it shouldn't be that noticeable.

Compared to my last surgery, this one really was a walk in the park. The biggest challenge is to not use my right arm for the next three weeks. I need to make sure I don't do anything jarring that could move the implant out of place. The pain meds make me a little nauseous and lightheaded but so far we haven't had any of the fainting spells from last time.

We set up another meal train for anyone that wants to help us with dinners, driving to doctor appointments, bringing me lunch on the weekdays, or taking my kids. We will need help through at least July 15 when I'm able to use my arm again. The sign up calendar is here: https://www.mealtrain.com/trains/mdo4r7

Come on the meal train

Warning, its getting graphic. Keeping it 100.

Constipation is one of the worst side effects of antibiotics and pain meds. Beware, Dulcolax and some other laxatives can have you running to the bathroom every 10 minutes or sharting your pants. Senna and stool softeners eventually loosen things up but plenty of fiber in your diet can really help you get back to being regular. Chia pudding (chia seeds soaked in almond/soy/milk) with some fruit and nuts is a sure fire way to get everything working smoothly again.

Poop food

Ack, what happened!?! I have completely neglected updates on this blog, partly because it's been hard to make the time and once I was feeling better I was back to over-extending myself and trying to be "normal" again. I am not Wonder Woman. Hard to admit, but I'm finally learning to say enough. My stubborn Irish side didn't want to let cancer slow me down, so I kept trying to work full-time, volunteer, and keep my side business going. Too many things fell through the cracks, so I'm finally learning to let go and hand off responsibilities to others who want to help. I've been spending more time with family and friends which has left less time to be online, but I do plan to catch up, as sharing this journey has really helped me get through it.

It's amazing and surreal to say I HAD cancer. Recovery has been complicated but I'm getting closer to the end. The next step is Reconstruction Surgery. I'm nervous and excited to replace the expander with the permanent implant tomorrow. Excited to have this uncomfortably inflated space holder out and nervous to see how the implant feels. My fear is that the implant will still hurt as much as the expander. We'll see, I'm hopeful it won't.

Wish me luck!

For those that have asked to help... if you want to bring us dinner, take my kids, or visit me and bring me lunch feel free to sign up on the calendar here:
https://mealtrain.com/mdo4r7

Reconstruction Surgery tomorrow

My oncologist called me after dinner and the genetic testing of the tumor came back as "low" so there is no benefit to chemo. I will be taking Tamoxifen soon instead. Bring on the hot flashes.

My genetic testing is partially in, and I'm negative for BRCA 1 and 2 so I get to keep my ovaries!

Recovery is slow, as I'm having exceptionally more pain and sensitivity than most of my plastic surgeon's patients. This weekend I fainted twice and have had bad dizziness spells. Doctors think its the combination of my low blood pressure and the meds. So I need to stop the Gabapentin (nerve pain) and flexeril (muscle relaxer) and only use over the counter ibuprofen. :(
I'm getting a blood pressure monitor to better track what's going on, increasing salt in diet and drinking more fluids, along with eating smaller meals more often to help.

I have a few more appointments with plastic surgeon to fill the expander and then I'll recover for a few months before the next surgery to exchange the expander with the permanent implant.

I start work tomorrow, but will be working from home for a week since I can't drive until the fainting/dizziness is resolved.


Week 3. No chemo!

I had my two week follow up today with my surgeon. My drainage has decreased to 5-10ml's for the last few days, so the drain is coming out! After two weeks I can finally take a shower!!! My plastic surgeon didn't want to risk infection from any thing getting in the drain tube so she advised "No showers/baths" until the drain was removed. She said some patients get creative with saran wrap or garbage bags and tape, but that seemed too complicated so I stuck with sponge baths.

I was really nervous about getting the drain removed. Terry and Scott did a great job distracting me, talking about everything except what was happening, which was really helpful. My pain meds make me a little wonky so when I felt a poke I thought it was my doctor injecting an anesthetic to numb the area, but she was actually cutting and pulling out the sutures. I was thinking, if I can feel the tube coming out with anesthesia, it must be really painful without. In truth, no anesthesia was given and it wasn't that bad. It was just weird to feel the tube sliding out from under my skin. It wasn't nearly as bad as I'd imagined. (I have read on forums that some drains have barbs on the end that hurt like hell when they are removed. Talk to your doctor about what kind of drain you have. You may need to take something before hand to take the edge off.)

The combination of drugs has made me nauseous, light headed and has increased my insomnia. I feel like I'm walking around in a foggy haze and not able to think clearly. I've felt dazed and confused but not in a good way, more in a paranoid the cops are coming way. My doctor recommended backing off of the narcotic pain killers and only using them as needed and instead scheduling the muscle relaxer into my medicine routine to help control the pain. After the mastectomy, my plastic surgeon put the temporary expander under the muscle that will be filled gradually and then replaced with the implant. I can feel the muscles tightening around the expander which has been painful and sensitive to the touch. The muscle relaxers should help everything loosen up and hurt less.

When I'm up and active for too long I get fatigued and more sore, so I'm still trying to stay in bed as much as possible. I've been listening to podcasts and farting around on the inter webs. "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons really struck a chord with me and when I looked up the video I found this non-official one below and learned about Tyler Robinson. If you don't want to cry you can watch the band's video here https://youtu.be/sENM2wA_FTg to hear the song, otherwise check out the home video below that Tyler's brother took.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqwx2fAVUM0
Tyler battled a life threatening staph infection when he was 12 years old, he fought and beat it after 8 surgeries and a month in the ICU. Followed by 6 months of heavy antibiotics and hospital visits.
4 years later, at the age of 16 he was diagnosed with stage 4 Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that had infected 95% of his bone marrow. After a year and a half of chemo (20 rounds) and 6 weeks of radiation he was declared cancer free. No doubt he fought like a champion during his battle with cancer. Just 4 months after being declared cancer free, at the age of 17, he unexpectedly passed away due to complications from 3 large cancerous tumors that had formed in his brain. This video is a memory of the great man that he is.

The story of Tyler's life and how Imagine Dragons got involved to start the Tyler Robinson Foundation is perfectly told in this additional video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISpAgxW1vQw
"It's Time" by Imagine Dragons

So this is what you meant
When you said that you were spent
And now it's time to build from the bottom of the pit, right to the top
Don't hold back
Packing my bags and giving the Academy a rain check

I don't ever want to let you down
I don't ever want to leave this town
Cause after all
This city never sleeps at night

It's time to begin, isn't it?
I get a little bit bigger but then I'll admit
I'm just the same as I was
Now don't you understand
I'm never changing who I am

So this is where you fell
And I am left to sell
The path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell right to the top
Don't look back
Turning to rags and giving the commodities a rain check

I don't ever want to let you down
I don't ever want to leave this town
Cause after all
This city never sleeps at night

It's time to begin, isn't it?
I get a little bit bigger but then I'll admit
I'm just the same as I was
Now don't you understand
I'm never changing who I am

It's time to begin, isn't it?
I get a little bit bigger but then I'll admit
I'm just the same as I was
Now don't you understand
I'm never changing who I am

This road never looked so lonely
This house doesn't burn down slowly
To ashes
To ashes

It's time to begin, isn't it?
I get a little bit bigger but then I'll admit
I'm just the same as I was
Now don't you understand
I'm never changing who I am

It's time to begin, isn't it?
I get a little bit bigger but then I'll admit
I'm just the same as I was
Now don't you understand
I'm never changing who I am

Unplugged. Week Two Follow Up.

My friend Julia came up with a great hack to clean my hair while I'm stuck flat on my back. She put down a shower curtain and washed my hair on the floor, rotating towels to soak up the water. She even brought her new baby to keep me entertained. Clean hair never felt so good!

Tarp and towels = clean hair solution

It's annoying that most of the products targeted for breast cancer patients are not in my demographic. Sadly, I know too many people in their 30s and 40s dealing with cancer but in all of the pamphlets and marketing materials, everyone is in their 60s and 70s.

Since I can't shower until I get the drain out, they sent me home with this dry shampoo to wash my hair. I'm not sure if it only works on short hair but after using this and blow drying my hair looked like I had an inch of grease at my roots. Complete product fail.

Dry Shampoo Fail

Blogging sponsored by Cianna (this adjustable laptop holder rocks! Thanks Cianna!!)
It's been up and down. Being confined to bed for the first week was really limiting, but necessary to save as much skin as possible and hopefully save the nipple that had been biopsied from the inside. In order to get clear margins my surgeon had to cut really close to the skin during the mastectomy. Turns out I also have pretty thin skin, so there were a few sections my doctors were concerned might lose blood supply and become necrotic tissue. After my first follow up appointment they said it was looking good and I could move around more. But I overdid it and gravity took a nasty toll on my boob and my drainage doubled, so now I'm bedridden by choice.

I have to keep the drain in as I have too much fluid still coming out. The drain is one of the painful parts, especially at night when I'm trying not to sleep on it. My shoulder feels like it was dislocated as they had my arm out perpendicular to my body for the lymph node removal. I got a higher dose of pain meds that I hope will help. Right now I feel like the end of this video...

"This Too Shall Pass" by OK Go https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qybUFnY7Y8w

You know you can't keep lettin' it get you down
And you can't keep draggin' that dead weight around.
If there ain't all that much to lug around,
Better run like hell when you hit the ground.

When the morning comes.
When the morning comes.

You can't stop these kids from dancin'.
Why would you want to?
Especially when you're already gettin' yours.
'Cause if your mind don't move and your knees don't bend,
well don't go blamin' the kids again.

When the morning comes.
When the morning comes.

When the morning comes.
When the morning comes.

When the morning comes.
When the morning comes.

Let it go, this too shall pass.
Let it go, this too shall pass.

Let it go, this too shall pass.
(You know you can't keep lettin' it get you down. No, you can't keep lettin' it get you down.)

Let it go, this too shall pass.
(You know you can't keep lettin' it get you down. No, you can't keep lettin' it get you down.)

Hey!

Let it go, this too shall pass.
(You know you can't keep lettin' it get you down. No, you can't keep lettin' it get you down.)

When the morning comes.
(You can't keep lettin' it get you down. You can't keep lettin' it get you down.)

When the morning comes.
(You can't keep lettin' it get you down. No, you can't keep lettin' it get you down.)

When the morning comes.
(You can't keep lettin' it get you down. You can't keep lettin' it get you down.)

When the morning comes.
(You can't keep lettin' it get you down. No, you can't keep lettin' it get you down.)

When the morning comes!

Post Week One

I had my follow up appointment today with my surgeons and the pathology reports are in...
We caught it early, it’s stage 1, they removed enough tissue to have clear margins, my lymph nodes came back negative for cancer. I have some complications from the surgery that I'll go into later but I have to keep my drain tube in for another week. I have some new drugs to try to help manage the pain better.

I meet with my oncologist next week to see what the next steps are. I’m really hoping I get to skip chemo and radiation and go straight for the drugs that cause menopause! Woo hoo, bring on the hot flashes. Ugh.

Suck it Cancer. You're next Pain!!

I'm pretty much sleeping all of the time and getting up to walk to the bathroom every few hours when I get pain meds. My plastic surgeon is concerned about the thinness of my skin, so to try to make the implant as successful as possible, I need to be flat on my back 95% of the time trying to keep the area as warm as possible to increase blood flow to the area. I never sleep on my back so it's a bit uncomfortable but if it can save my nipple and skin I'll deal with it. The heater is cranked up in my room and I have a mound of blankets to keep me warm. Downside... I'm super sweaty stinky, but can't take a shower or get the incision wet until after my follow up appointment next Thursday. I'm hoping to have some results early next week to know what stage the cancer is or if it spread to my lymph nodes. Just sleeping as much as I can now.

Flat out tired