Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles - Pink Hair Edition

I love that life always keeps me on my toes. I hate that life always keeps me on my toes. My toes hurt. Seriously, my toes hurt! I have to stretch my toes now, on top of everything else! I don't even think I can blame cancer for that one. I certainly won't be blaming age! I haven't aged a day in twenty years!

It has been a wild couple of weeks! Hurricane Matthew gave us another school-free day. That is three hurricane days this year! I am challenged to remember a time when we had so many days away from school! Stars Hollow came to town, turning one of the fabulous coffee shops in Ybor City into Luke's Diner for the day, and giving away free coffee to swarms of Gilmore Girls fans. I have to say that meeting my dear friend there for coffee and pastries on Wednesday truly was the highlight of my week. I have wanted to live in Stars Hollow since I saw the first episode so many years ago. What fun to pretend for a little while!

My trip to Stars Hollow was followed a few hours later by a major meltdown over a medical scare. You can hear the story in the video below this. I am taking deep breaths and trying not to worry while I wait for tests and answers. After the doctor, I visited my pups. They are both doing incredibly well and are now helping to train other dog parents.

I am trying to get out of the house more, as I have learned that curling up into a little ball, hiding at home in my pajamas isn't the best way for me to heal. Some days it is okay to stay in pj's, but getting out has to happen, too. Reverting to the 9:00 PM bedtime that my parents strictly enforced throughout my childhood has made a huge difference this week, and so has yoga. I am getting back to the mat, slowly but surely. This is definitely a good thing. Made it to a movie yesterday in the theatre for the first time in years. Then this morning, I headed over to St. Petersburg for the Hooked on Hope pamper party that took place during their annual fishing tournament. It was a blast! Check out the results of that in the video, too!

Thanks for all of your support and encouragement! I really do have the strongest army on the planet! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! My trees are calling, so I have work to do.

Until next time.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

One of those weeks

The port has been out for ten days now, and for that I am so very grateful! The removal went very well. Dr. Rock Star and his fabulous team were amazing, as always. I think my body had been fighting so hard against it that when it was finally out, all I could do was sleep. I haven't slept that long since just after the surgery! 

This was my first complete week back at work, and it kicked my behind! Some days just trying to put one foot in front of the other takes all of my energy. I'll keep doing it, though, and doing whatever it takes to get stronger every day.  

Oy! Such a face!

The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk is October 22nd, just five days before my next surgery. Join me and the rest of Amy's Army if you can. We'd love to have you with us, and have your support for our cause. We still have a long way to go to reach our goal.

Thank you to everyone who purchased one of my metallic trees in support of our team. They all will go out in the mail this week, and it is entirely possible that there will be more trees for the cause to come. Perhaps an auction next time...we'll see.

If you want to order a Gloves Up t-shirt, this is your last chance. Follow this link to the Gloves Up With Amy page on Facebook. The order will be placed with the printer tomorrow, so reach out now if you'd like one. Unisex tank tops are also available.

Have a wonderful week! Take care of yourselves and be kind to each other.



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Port Comes Out In The Morning!!!

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray, this port, my doc to keep.

That's all I've got for tonight. I should be asleep already. More post-port removal. 

Gloves up!


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles : The Poking Edition

As I got out my phone to film the week's edition, I realized that I completely missed posting an update last week. It was a rough one! 

My final expansion was last Tuesday.  Woo hoo! I am stretched enough now. That meant that we could set a date for the second surgery. Unfortunately, it also meant that a rash of hives broke out on my left breast. It was weird. It would get bad, come back, then get worse, and start all over again. I could live with in the beginning because it was in the part of the breast that I can't feel, but Monday it got much worse and sent me to the doctor early. I took pictures if it over several days, and I am so glad I did! The doctors were able to see the changes and pinpoint what the cause might be. 

I will tell you that after two days of urgent doctor's appointments, hospitals, and tests I have been drained, incised, excised, and pierced. I have five holes in my upper torso in such a configuration that regardless of in what position I sleep, there is a spot that hurts like Hell! More meds, here I come.

The second surgery will be the morning of October 27th!!!
 Hopefully it will be the last. And guess what! We scheduled the surgery for after the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on Saturday, the 22nd of October. That means I will be walking with Amy's Army! If you have yet to sign up to join us or to donate to our team's goal, here is the link to make it happen right now. Amy's Army is Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.  We'd love it if you would wear one of the Gloves Up t-shirts on October 22nd. If you have yet to order one, this is the place. Gloves Up t-shirt orders. We will walk #glovesup together to end breast cancer.

Thank you for taking this journey with me. You all mean more than you know. 



Monday, August 8, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles : The Stop Overthinking It Edition

I don't know about you, but I have a tendency to overthink things. If you know me I'm sure this comes as a complete shock to you. (Go ahead and laugh now.) Anyway, I do. I am mid-way through my fifth week post-op and have been away from work now for six weeks or more. Our students start next Monday, so this week seemed like the right one to get back into the proverbial saddle. I was terrified! I was worried I wouldn't even be able to walk up the stairs. I was worried that my bald head would scare people. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to last more than a few minutes. I was worried about making sure I had everything with me that I needed. In short, I was worried about everything. Apparently I'm a worrier.

I should have known better. I did know better, but it was still scary until I stepped onto campus. Immediately I knew I was home again. I was surrounded by love, and hugs, and smiles, and offers to help me carry things. I was with family, and I was happy to be there. I only stayed a couple of hours, but at least I made it. And I will go again tomorrow and stay a little longer. I can do this. I am stronger every day, and I am surrounded by people who are willing and eager to help. I am so very, very lucky and so very, VERY grateful.

It bothers me that I still let overthinking take control. I know that I should be better about it by now, and sometimes I am, but not always. Nothing is ever as bad as I am afraid it will be. Imagine all of the stuff I could accomplish if I could get out of my own way!  In the immortal words of Cosmo Kramer,"Serenity now!" is what I seek. More mindful meditation, yoga, and Buddhify is clearly what I need.

Is it just me, or do you build things up in your head until they are far bigger than they need to be?


Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: Sometimes You Just Have to Sleep (Five Weeks Post-Op)

Waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep is awful. I think we can all agree on that, regardless of our politics. Yesterday I woke up around 4:00 am. I thought I would go right back to sleep, but I didn't. I couldn't. I fought with myself about taking something, but I didn't think I was hurting badly enough to need it. I tried reading a book, reading the news (big mistake), listening to relaxing music. I finally gave up and downloaded the first season of Outlander. I didn't have a chance after that! I was hooked! Midway through the second episode, Mom texted and we went to explore the new art store in town.

Welcome @blick_tampa
We had a blast tinkering with all of the tools and toys for artists! I, of course, couldn't resist picking up some new goodies to create my trees! When I asked for test paper, Dave, the guy helping us, asked me to draw something which turned into a sign welcoming them to Tampa. I'm told it will be framed and hanging the next time I am there. What fun! Give them a follow on Instagram @blick_Tampa if you are into art or crafty things.

New pens = new trees! 

So, of course, I had to try out all of my new goodies when I got home. This tree has a long way to go, but I am enjoying seeing how it develops. I also learned a valuable lesson yesterday. After YEARS of hunting for yellow ball point pens, I found a set that included yellow last week at the dollar store, which I used to begin this tree. I also found some more expensive ones at Blick, but I left them in the store until I could try the first ones. Now I wish I had bought the fancy ones. The cheap ones work, but they leave globs of ink all over the paper. Lesson: sometimes cheap pens aren't worth the price. At least I know now, and can now save up for the good set at Blick.

After waking up way too early yesterday morning, and running around more than I had in weeks, I knew sleep was imperative. To help, I decided to search some post-mastectomy yoga videos on YouTube last night. I tried a couple of very slow and gentle practices, and they helped me relax enough to sleep. I guess I needed it more than I realized.

Thank you for all of the input on the videos. I hope they are getting a little better. Today's was a struggle for a multitude of reasons, all of which can be summed up by the words Operator Error. Learning new things is so much fun, isn't it? Welcome, once again, to my world. It may not be pretty, but this is the way it is today.

I misspoke on the video about how long I have been off the estrogen. It has been about eight weeks now. Still flashing, and not fun! Sorry for the mistake, but I simply could not record this AGAIN! LOL.

Oh, big news! The wristbands are in again! Thank you to everyone who took one the first go-round. If you would like an Amy's Army #glovesup wristband, please send us a message and we'll make it happen. If you would like a bunch, let us know. The new Gloves Up t-shirt order is up on the Gloves Up With Amy FB page, so check that out and we'll put in an order with the printer asasp.

Thank you for all of your love, support, encouragement, time, energy, and thoughtfulness. I am still the luckiest girl I know, and I am thankful to all of you every minute of every day.

As always, like, share, comment, tweet, message, whatever works for you as I learn this blogging and video blogging process.

Be well. Be happy. Be kind.



Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: The wanted to stay in bed edition

Some days it is hard to get out of bed. Some days I hurt a lot and just want to sleep. Today was one of those days. But instead of staying in bed I got up, took a shower (That helped a lot!), had lunch with my parents, and then drove myself (HUGE!) to see my puppies at their sleep-away camp. What a treat it was to see them for the first time in over a month! They are doing great, being well trained and well taken care of while I heal. If you have a dog that needs training, check them out here.

Inghram's Sit & Stay

I forgot to take pictures while I visited puppy camp, I was too busy loving on my babies. Got caught in the storm on my way to the car, and came home to a very unhappy completely soaked kitty on the back porch. Cat trapped now, as I type. The rain didn't ruin my hair, so that was cool!

Cat Trapped under a sodden Bitty Kitty
Trying to get back my strength so I can start working again soon.

Thank you for all of the love, support, and encouragement.

Peace, love, and #glovesup

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: The Best News!

Sorry it has been so long between posts. A lot of life has happened in the last four days. Really good life with lots of celebration!

Check out the video below for the details. Like, share, comment, subscribe, celebrate, whatever you wish.

Know that I am thankful to and for every, single one of you whether we have met IRL or only through this blog. Your support, kindness, and love have kept my #glovesup and those of my family, too.

I'm still getting the hang of this video thing, so please be kind.

A new post may even happen later tonight. We'll see. I am still really tired and relatively weak, but I am getting better every day.

Peace, love, and thanks!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles ~ The Video Edition: Day One

This is new territory for me. Breast cancer, double mastectomy, bald head, chemotherapy, and now we add to that list Video Blogging. It does, however, seem like it may be a better option some days than writing a full post because fighting cancer can be exhausting.

I was holding the camera while I shot it because I am computer-challenged and too tired to figure it out tonight. This is raw video. I feel silly talking to a camera, I apparently look up A LOT when I'm trying to think. Maybe I need a script next time. We'll see. I just wanted to give it a shot and see how it worked.

Watch with those warnings in mind. Then please be kind if you choose to comment. If you have a suggestion for a phone stand to use during video, I'd seriously appreciate it. I mentioned this is new to me.

Enough stalling. I need sleep. Laugh. Smile. Giggle. Enjoy. Be kind.
And since I forgot to say it at the end of the post, #GlovesUp


Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: It's Me Again!

I'm back! At least for a little while...

First, thank you to everyone who has been supportive of me and my family through this first round of the battle with breast cancer. Your love, time, thoughts, prayers, energy, calls, texts, messages, tweets, cards, gifts, meals, and shoulders keep us going whenever things become too challenging or scary. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. I will say it again later because there will never be thanks enough.

One of my goals in dealing with this damn disease is to use my experience to take some of the fear out of cancer for the next person, or loved one of a person, who faces it. When we talk openly and honestly about things that scare us, the power that those things have begins to dissipate. If it were up to me, and frankly it should be, cancer wouldn't be able to scare or hurt any of us ever again.

As I have said before, I am lucky to have had the amazing doctors who have helped me through the first surgical part of this journey. Dr. Rock Star and his staff have been lovely, kind, gentle, and even entertaining throughout the "taking them off" part. Dr. Superwoman took the second half of the surgery, "putting them on" in the form of expanders to help my chest muscles learn how to work in their new place. The expanders kind of remind me of whoopee cushions, or empty beach balls. They go in flat and get filled every week with sterile saline until they are the size and shape that the actual implants will be. Pretty cool, right? But I am jumping way ahead. We'll come back to Dr. Superwoman and her terrific team in a little while. In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that I am still on meds, so I talk in circles sometimes. (Like that is anything new! I just have something on which to blame it now!)

The surgery was three weeks ago yesterday. and I may have to tell this in installments because so much has happened in the last twenty-two days.

Day One: Surgery
I knew that the scan they needed to do of my lymph nodes before the mastectomy involved an injection, what I didn't know until the day before my surgery was that the injectionS were to go in just below my nipples without anesthesia! I had never been in so much pain in my entire life. Until after the surgery. There was no way to prepare for that! If any part of it could be funny, it had to be the fact that the doctor who came in to give me the shots was the parent of a former student! I knew as soon as he introduced himself, and I told him how much I enjoyed teaching her. Then, midway through the injection, I remember wailing, "I was nice to W...! Why would you hurt me?" He apologized and just kept on sticking. Then I was left alone for twenty or thirty minutes so the stuff he injected could get where it needed to go to be detected.

Next was Pre-Op for loads of questions, weight, BP, and an IV. The nurse or tech trying to put in my IV was midway through her second try when a lovely doctor walked in and asked, "Amy?" Instantly I recognized her as the mother of yet another former student! She said, "K... told me you would be here today! I'm not your anesthesiologist, but I wanted to make sure you were okay." I was thrilled! Then she looked at the IV debacle happening in my right arm and said, "I got this. Thanks." Not only did she numb the area -What a concept!- but she put in a painless IV on the first try into an even tougher spot! Thanks, Dr. B! I still have a bruise from the one that was happening when she arrived. After huge thanks, an update on her kids, and a couple of hugs, she was on her way. Just a few minutes later, a former student popped in to check on me. Come to find out she is a tech at the hospital and wanted to give me a pre-op hug! Love you, KH! Again I was overwhelmed with thanks for this amazing life I live.

And then it was time.

Surgery started later than scheduled. My Dream Team of perfectionist surgeons had another case before mine, and they wanted to make sure everything was right. We were  happy to know how much it mattered to them to get the little things right. The complete operation lasted between four and five hours. Through the post-op haze I remember being almost unable to breathe from the pain I felt coming back into consciousness. Baby Sis tells me that all I got out was a barely audible, "," that made them all want to cry. I'm pretty sure I was crying. Loads, and loads, and loads of Dilaudid later, it still hurt like Hell, but I was able to rest a little. E stayed the night with me in the hospital so Mom could go home to get some sleep. He made sure I rested as comfortably as I could with with four drains sticking out of me, not an easy task. That night when I first tried to get out of bed to use the restroom, I remember being so thankful that my office is on the second floor, and that I have taken the stairs up and down several times each day for the last year. That made getting into and out of bed without using my hands or arms a possibility. I'm not sure I could have done that eighteen months ago. #glasshalffull

Who would have believed that a complete double mastectomy with reconstruction only merited a single night in the hospital? Not this Betty! But that is, in fact, the case. One night only. Getting out of the hospital should have been the easy part right? Not if you know my family! Mom, Dad, and Baby Sis were all there to help. Truth be told, I wasn't feeling particularly well as I made the switch from IV pain meds to pills. I thought I was just a little light-headed and figured it would pass, but probably should have said something. The wheelchair came, everyone took a bag and we were out the door. Suddenly we entered what I was sure was the Walking Dead hospital crossway, remember? You know, the one that was so bright, where they were going to get Beth back from the woman who held the hospital. Yes! That one! The image popped into my head and as it did I heard a crash behind me, followed by an expletive or two. I twisted around in my chair (bad plan after double mastectomy) to see Dad on the floor! The man has a pair of bright, shiny, new hips, so his fall was more than a little scary for all of us! He was fine, but mortified. I remember trying to ask if he was okay, as the nurse was explaining that she needed him to go to the ER to get checked out, and then everything went black. Yep! I passed right out in my chair! I had already been released from the hospital! This had to be a joke. Right? Next thing I knew they were wheeling me back into a room, Dad and Baby Sis had gone downstairs to fill out a report and agree not to sue, since he refused to go to the ER, while I lay in a freshly made hospital bed sobbing. It was, at the time, awful. The next day, it was hilarious! And it gets funnier by the day. I'm pretty sure we have more fun laughing at ourselves than just about anything else. We crack ourselves right up almost all of the time.

I'll end this post here, but stay tuned for new ones, shorter, and funnier, and filled with hope.

Thank you for taking this journey with me. Take care of each other and be kind.



Peace from Post Op