Archive for February, 2008

29
Feb
08

Surgery

It’s Brian here at the editor’s desk tonight (literally, as Julie really does have an editor’s desk). Julie is recovering from a long day of surgery.

The day started at roughly “way-too-early” o’clock and we were out the door by 5AM for arrival at 5:30 at the hospital. Needless to say, traffic wasn’t a problem. We checked in and went through the usual surgery preparations (“Do you have a pulse?”, “Is your temperature in two or more digits?”, “I need to verify that you have blood”). The hospital staff operated in their usual professional, efficient, and friendly manner that we appreciate so much. The anesthesiologist decided it was time to get this show on the road, and wheeled Julie off to the OR at 7:45 for her own personal triathlon: chemo port removal, breast reconstruction, and ovary removal. I went off to find something hot to drink and a place to take a nap.

The plastic surgeon (an odd term if you think about it, since neither he or his patients are plastic) came out to see me at 9:30 to report that the chemo port removal and the reconstruction surgery went well, and that the ovary removal was in progress. We discussed that Julie’s next few days at home might be difficult. Certain actions like getting up out of a chair were going to be complex, since she couldn’t use her arms to lift (it messes with the healing), but her abdomen was going to be sore from the other surgery. I realized that the normal way I would help a person get up would be to lift under the arm, and that was probably verboten. He said I should get behind her and push. I’m not sure I quite have the picture on that, so this may be interesting.

One of the nurses called from the OR about 11:30 to say that all was well, but that it was taking longer than expected and not to worry. That call says something about the staff. Making that call didn’t help Julie’s surgery. It was made just out of consideration for me. I think that’s great.

At 2 PM, the remaining surgeon came out to tell me that Julie was in recovery and the surgery had gone challengingly, but well. Apparently, in most cases the various components of the body in that area are reasonably easy to separate from each other. Julie, however, is different. Perhaps due to her hysterectomy a few years ago, a lot of adhesion had developed. Everything was stuck pretty tightly to everything else and nothing wanted to let go. The surgeon had hoped initially to perform the surgery laparoscopically and by hand. After discovering all the adhesion, however, she fell back to plan B, which was to perform the surgery laparoscopically, but through the use of a robot. She told me this was a perfect case for justifying the use of the robotic controls. The robot gave her much better 3D visualization, and it also gave her microscopic control of the instruments.

So, after quite a lot of effort, the ovaries were removed successfully and all the surrounding tissue was left intact. The pathologist examined the removed tissue with particular care given Julie’s recent cancer battle, and reported no indication of cancer at all. That was what we expect to hear, but it was still a relief to hear.

Julie spent 2 hours in recovery, and I saw her in her hospital room about 4:20. She was fairly groggy, but remarkably coherent and showing much of the typical Julie humor. Some nausea set in in response to a sip of ginger ale, and the nurse responded promptly with some anti-nausea medication that took care of that.

I talked to her later in the evening, and she was having toast and seemed to be doing fine with it.

So there we are. Julie is expected home tomorrow or on Sunday. She’ll have a couple of weeks of healing, and then hopefully life can get pretty much back to normal.

We’ve talked to some of you today, and we appreciate the good wishes and support we’ve received from all of you throughout this ordeal.

Take care, everyone. Goodnight.

25
Feb
08

February 25, 2008

The countdown begins . . .

We met with both surgeons last Thursday – everything is set to go for this coming Friday. I have a pre-admissions appointment Tuesday morning, where they take a broad medical history, make sure any medications I need are arranged for, and do any necessary blood tests.

First, my chemo port will be removed. While the surgeon who did my mastectomy does that, the plastic surgeon will work on my left breast. He expects to finish both sides in roughly an hour – the incision is made over the existing mastectomy scars, and a slit is made in the muscle that overlays the tissue expanders. The permanent implants are inserted, drains are inserted, and everything is closed up.

The ovarian removal will be done laparoscopically, using a Da Vinci robot. I went to their web site, and you can even view video of surgery being performed. Frankly, it’s a lot less messy inside than one would expect. It’s sort of like doing surgery with a Wii.

I have to be on a clear liquid diet on Thursday, only broth, clear juices, water, jello. Any other ideas of clear liquids that anyone can suggest are welcome (I’ve already considered the intoxicants – probably a gin and tonic would be fine, but it would require quite a few of them to stop me from being hungry).

Our neighbors are going to dogsit Robin on Friday – so while I’m under the knife, he’ll be romping around with Jasmine. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

Last Friday, I started noticing that I seem to be having temperature-control problems, more than just the usual throwing-off-the-blankets-at-night kind (although those are still extant). Rather than hot flashes, I’m having hot sustaineds. I especially get very hot if I’m wearing a hat or scarf, and as of today, I’ve had to spend most of my time bare-headed, because every time I got cool enough to put my hat back on, it would take very little time for me to reach “boiling” point. This is all well and good during the winter (I didn’t need to buy that down coat after all!), but it’s going to be expensive during the summer, having to run the air conditioning constantly at 50 degrees ;-}

Anyway, not really much else to tell – Brian will post after surgery to update how I’m doing. I will be in the hospital for at least one night, maybe two. It’ll really depend on how they feel I’m doing clot-wise (or, of course, if there are any complications).

A very big thank-you to Schrodinger (my employer) for making an extremely generous donation to the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event – and to everyone else who has made donations so far or joined the team to walk. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the caring and support that everyone has shown me personally, and I greatly appreciate the willingness to support the cause, also.

Julie

17
Feb
08

February 17, 2008

Not much to talk about this week.  I spent two days at home with a bad cold – BC (before cold), I kept saying that I was recovering fine, no problems other than a little fatigue, but basically, I was over the chemo and the surgery.  I now believe what everyone has been saying – that you don’t recover from chemo that quickly.  There’s no way this was such a bad cold, but it hit me hard.  On the other hand, even though I’m still congested and coughing, I don’t feel as wiped out today as I did last week.

I didn’t get weighed in Friday due to being sick; but my home scale was at least 2 pounds down from where it had been the previous Friday, so I’m sure I’ve made some progress.

Other than that, we meet with both surgeons on Thursday, and we’ll finalize the details of what and how – my biggest decision (now that I’ve agreed to do the ovary removal surgery) is whether I’m going to have silicon or saline implants.

Captain Peachfuzz signing off!

10
Feb
08

February 10, 2008

Just call me Captain Peachfuzz . . .

Biggest news first: I have hair! As of 5-weeks-post-chemo, I couldn’t see or feel any hair besides the stubble that never seemed to go away in the first place. On Monday I thought I felt a little bit, and by Wednesday, I definitely had peach fuzz that was both tactile and visible. It’s very soft, mostly white, and looks like it’s pretty thin so far, but historically my hair has grown very fast, so I suspect that before long I’ll exchange the peach-fuzz look for the dandelion look. There’s no warmth involved, however – I still need to wear scarves or hats to keep from freezing. Every once in a while I’ll get too warm and take off my hat to cool off, but that’s pretty rare.

My weigh-in went great on Friday – I finally made a significant loss of 2.6 pounds in one week. I was starting to get very frustrated by the minuscule losses. Then, of course, we went out of town for two days, and it’s very hard to eat out without blowing the program. I managed to do pretty well, though, and have plenty of points left to celebrate Valentine’s Day dinner at Alessandro’s ;-}

We got out to Newport Friday night around 10 p.m. The drive was fine, mostly dry, until we got over to Newport. When we woke up Saturday morning, though, there was some sunshine, and even though it clouded up over the course of the day, it never rained. Unfortunately, we hit the high tide wrong, so instead of going to the beach that day, we went out to the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. We wandered through the museum, and climbed to the top of the tower. The ocean is rocky right around Yaquina Head, and with the tide in, very dramatic. That evening we played games, just having the opportunity to enjoy each others’ company without all the pressures of being home and having to deal with ‘stuff’.

Sunday we checked out and headed up the coast. We stopped for a brief stroll at Agate Beach, which, contrary to its name, had no agates that I could find, although there were some very good whole shells. Then we continued on to Lincoln City, where we stopped to visit with my Aunt Pat and Uncle Dick (and Carleton the Westie). We went to lunch at Mo’s down in Taft, which is the original restaurant – I hadn’t been there in many, many years. It was nice to catch up on family news, and see the addition on the house – they have a great view of the ocean from the new room upstairs, and it’s very cozy. Traffic home on Highways 18 and 99W was surprisingly sparse, so it only took a little more than 2 hours.

Robin enjoyed his stay with Sharon, Gary, and Jasmine. Since he wasn’t able to go to the beach, at least he got to go somewhere where they really understand him! April and Jeremy were right at the door waiting when we got home, and pretended they didn’t care that we were gone. Except that April is following Brian everywhere this evening . . .

Thank you to everyone who has made a donation or signed up so far for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk – your support for the team and me personally is greatly appreciated. More importantly, I appreciate all the moral support that everyone has been so generous with in the last few months, and I depend on it to help me get through the next surgery and recovery period. Hopefully, there will be leftover support for those who have to deal with my newly menopausal self.

Well, now that I’m home, I have to deal with ‘stuff’, like getting to bed at a reasonable hour and making sure I have enough coffee for tomorrow. All the best to you all,

Julie

02
Feb
08

February 2, 2008

Happy Groundhog Day!

We’re not the least surprised here in Portland to know that P. Phil saw his shadow – the clouds, wind, and rain definitely look as if they’re here to stay. It’s actually rather comforting weather for me, as it reminds me of all the road trips that we took when I was a child – driving in the rain in Oregon seems natural because we did it so often. My one regret about the cold and rain is that I haven’t been able to drive with my convertible top down since before my surgery last year.

Next weekend we’re traveling to Newport for a couple nights, because I really want to get out of the house – this will be my first excursion away from Portland since early September. Between surgery, chemo, work, and facing another surgery, if we don’t go now, it’ll probably be late April or more likely May before we’re able to get away. Robin isn’t able to come, although he would love it, since he loves the beach; but he gets to stay with his friend Jasmine, so he may not even notice we’re gone.

Some of my coworkers have done a really wonderful thing – the American Cancer Society holds a walk every year to raise money for breast cancer research. Jenny, along with Lynnette and Shi-Yi, decided to set up a team in my name, called “Supporting Julie”. It is impossible to describe in words how honored and touched I feel. The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk is on May 10, 2008, starting at 9:00 a.m., but the starting location is not determined yet. For anyone who is interested in joining the team to walk with us, or in making a donation in our team’s name, follow this link: SupportingJulie. If you want more information about Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, here is a link to the main page: Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. I will be walking in memory of mom, and in honor of my aunt, two of my cousins, and a friend.

My surgery date has now been confirmed – it*is* going to be February 29th, at 7:30 a.m. That means that I have to be at the hospital at 5:30 a.m. – since I’m going to be asleep most of the day, it won’t matter much to me, but poor Brian! The nice thing for me is that my previous surgery was scheduled for 2:00 p.m., and I couldn’t eat or drink after midnight – for this surgery, the cut-off is still midnight, so I don’t have to suffer through all those hours of thirst and hunger. The surgery(s) are expected to take up to 5 hours between them, and then, of course, it’s usually an hour or more in recovery before they take you up to a room. So for me, the day will be pretty short; Brian’s day is going to be pretty long.

Tonight we’re going out to dinner with some friends, so I have the challenge of being able to find something to eat that won’t totally gobble up all my points for the week. I’ve had a light breakfast and lunch, so I should be able to splurge a little bit – it’s the point where I have to make the responsible decision of ordering something sensible rather than a burger and fries; or fish and chips; or the creamy, cheesy, most fat-laden dish on the menu that is the hard part. Especially in this weather, hot food rather than a salad seems necessary, so I have to try to come up with something grilled or baked. We’re going to the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse (a McMenamin’s pub), so that seems pretty unlikely. Also, I will need to restrain myself from my usual pint of Ruby mixed with hard cider that goes down so well. Or maybe I’ll just have that and skip the meal altogether ;-} Well, not really, but having one might make the idea of a salad much more palatable. . . My weigh-in this week was disappointing, but at least my weight went down, even if only by a fraction of a pound. I don’t want to blow it now, when surely, by following the plan religiously, sooner or later it will start showing. I’ve tried very hard to account for everything I eat, and make overestimates of how much I take in situations where I can’t measure it exactly. I try to comfort myself with the thought that working out in physical therapy is building muscle tissue, which weighs more than the fat. I try not to use up my Activity points, although I definitely did this week, between work’s Winter Party and the beading group night.

My next beading group night is the night before my surgery – I definitely plan on going, because it is now a tradition that I go to some sort of crafting group or class the night before surgery. Last time, it was a quilting class. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to continue the class due to recovery taking longer than I expected. So I planned on taking the class this spring when it was offered again. Guess what? The first session of the class is the week after I have my latest surgery. If I were paranoid, I’d say it was a conspiracy to stop me from taking the class – Brian, did you call the teacher and bribe her into moving it?

I’ve been reading a lot this winter. Mostly I’ve been in the mood for light stuff, so I’ve been re-reading the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I also have read a lot of The Sandman by Neil Gaiman – not that it is light reading at all, but it is very compelling, and an incredible graphic novel series (comic books for adults). Even with getting back to work, I’ve been reading a lot – historically my average is about 13 books per month, and I read 21 books in January.

BTW, I haven’t noticed any hair growing yet. They say it takes 4 – 6 weeks for hair growth to restart after chemo, and it has now been 5 weeks. I still have the usual crop of stubble, but it’s not getting any longer, nor is it filling in areas where there hasn’t been any hair. I keep meaning to get some pictures of me bald, and we just haven’t done it. Maybe today.

Julie




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