Well, I am starting to feel a bit normal, which says a lot considering I still have tubes in my underarms and no feeling in my chest. The surgery was, well, the most painful surgery I have ever experienced - but I should remember I did undergo a double mastectomy with reconstruction at the same time, so, it wasn't going to be the most comfortable surgery I have ever endured. I did stay overnight at the hospital, which, if you have ever stayed the night at the hospital, you will know you get everything BUT SLEEP. They wake you every 4 hours for medication, bathroom breaks, ect. So, I was ready to be home when I came home.
For the most part I am healing pretty quickly. I don't feel as much pain at this point, and I can take a shower (no soap though, UGH). I think a lot of what you experience is mental, but you do feel pain from time to time. I just feel fortunate that I could exercise today for a good 32 minutes. I guess I should start from the beginning. The first day is by far the most painful. I don't remember this, but I was in so much pain I was crying and the anesthesiologist had to do a hard reset on me. After I came to, I was being rolled into the short stay room. After that, the pain was there, but always under control. When I came home, it was hard getting up and down the first day, but thank goodness for TGU because I actually used much of that technique to get up and down. I am 4 days post op and I actually feel pretty decent. I can move my arms, workout lightly, get things unassisted, take a shower, put my own clothes on - you know the basics that you sometimes take for granted when you realize you can't do it on your own.
One thing I will say that makes this difficult - I look different. Not my face - but my chest area. Dr. Gallagher and Dr. Roughton did a FANTASTIC job, I mean, on the plastic surgery end they didn't have a TON to work with, but she made the transition much easier for me. Dr. Gallagher saved my life. She removed all the cancer growths in my breasts and lymph nodes. My left side looks well, not like me. The first time I saw the divet where my lymph nodes were located I was quite shocked. I understand that I will NEVER look the same again, and that is a tough pill to swallow at age 31, but for me, I realized it was either have cancer kill me, or get it out of me. I think anyone would choose the latter. I am really proud of both of my surgeons. I honestly couldn't have asked for a better team to work on me. They saved my life and made me look right at the same time. I understand that things will be different - I have absolutely no sensation on the front of my chest (ZERO). I do get phantom pains sometimes, which was something we expected, but it isn't bad. It just feels weird. Overall, I am happy to be over this first stage of cancer treatment.
Stage 2 is chemotherapy. We are not 100% sure if we will have to undergo chemo, but we do know that I will be taking the medication herceptin. That is about all we know for sure. It really depends on what the pathology exam shows from this past mastectomy (yes they sent ALL the tissue to a pathologist). Once we get an idea of what the pathology results show, we will know how aggressive the treatment for chemotherapy. I was lucky to have caught this in the earliest possible stage. If you are going through something similar, the best advice I can give you is BE PERSISTENT. Some doctors will tell you, you're crazy or it's in your head - well, let me tell ya, it wasn't in my head it was full blown cancer. So listen to your body.
I hope to update you guys a bit more frequently, but I had to recover a bit in order to get my thoughts together. I feel okay now and ready for physical therapy to actually start for me, but I have to wait till the tubes are out (less than a week).
Much love and thanks for reading. .
Well, tonight is my last night with my real breasts. Honestly, I am really okay with this situation as my breasts have been hurting me for the past month. So, I apologize in advanced for any typos, ect. because I am in a hotel room writing this and the WiFi sucks ass - like every damn hotel you go to.
I have to be at UNC at 6:30 AM, and that is damn early - but the surgery starts at 8:00 AM. I would be lying out of my ass if I said I wasn't scared. Yes, I am scared shitless. This surgery is incredibly invasive and I will be out for roughly 5 hours. I have no idea what to expect afterward. All I know is that I will be staying the night at the hospital before we head back home to our area.
One thing I will say is that having my husband and my sister Ashley here has been a true blessing to me. When I was hurting the most, my sister knew how to make me laugh and calm me down. Both James and Ashley have calm demeanors and that is lifesaving when you get nervous. Having both of them here has made this experience run smoother for me and I am forever thankful for both of them. I love them both for the sacrifices they made to be by my side during this time. During a time like this, I have to say, having a support system, no matter how small, can make a huge difference in how you react and feel to a scary situation.
Tonight is the last night I will ever have real breast tissue or nerves in my chest. I am afraid of what else they may find, and if I will lose some of my pectoralis major muscle since the tumor is located around that area. I won't really know 100% of what they performed until after it is completed. I have full trust in my physicians to do a great job and essentially keep me alive.
I will be offline for sometime in that I will have drainage tubes hanging out of my body for 7 days. It will be hard to update you guys, but if you follow me on FB, I will let you know that I am alive and if the surgery was successful.
Thank you for all of your loving thoughts, donations, love, prayers, and letters you all have sent. Some of you have even seen me in the hospital and spent some time with myself and Jim (Paul! Thank you). I have gotten many text messages and I read all of them and try to reply back. Thank you all for thinking of me during this time.
after I heal from surgery will be the next large step: Chemotherapy. To be continued...
I thought I would write a blog post because I am in a shitload of pain right now. Cancer is funny sometimes - some days you are asymptomatic, and other days you feel like you're dying - which is a weird choice of words but hey I don't really care right now. I know many of you have wondered how I keep such a positive attitude much of the time. Well, the truth is, I don't always have a positive attitude. I do my best to stay positive, but there are days where positivity is so incredibly difficult, and I can't do anything but cry it out (or punch it out). I try to think to myself, you know Amber, you could be a stage 4 patient which is, well, bad news. But you can't help but think in the back of your mind that you have something inside you that is trying to kill you. A bullet didn't do it, a knife, a fight - no - my body was invaded by cancer cells and it found a capillary source to supply it nutrients for growth and replication. The next logical step for something invading your body is to spread to other areas and attach itself near another capillary source (which it did in my lymph nodes). For those of you wondering, capillaries area an exchange area of nutrients to different areas of the body including organs. Okay enough about the biology lesson (sorta). I am just writing information on the fly here.
As I write this, I am in an intense amount of pain, and usually during these moments are when I feel the saddest. It reminds me that something is inside me killing me slowly. My cancer is located in a weird position, the 11:00, which makes it near my heart. Much of that is incredibly scary. I have no idea how I will feel during and after the surgery - I have no idea how I will handle Chemotherapy. Those things are incredibly scary. As much as I try to stay positive about the situation, all of this is unknown to me. It doesn't really help much that I have been alone most of my time in North Carolina except for times when I go to the gym and shop for things I need for the house. I don't know anyone here in NC that has faced similar challenges (yes, people I know they exist). I just want to survive all of this intact - physically and mentally. I know it will be a long 8 months to a year - but I want to eventually go into remission. The fear still remains: what if the cancer comes back somewhere else? I know I shouldn't think that far, and just be here right now, but that is incredibly difficult. Everyday I notice my health is slowly beginning to fail me. I am constantly tired, I have more days in pain than I do not, I am losing weight rapidly, and I have resorted to protein shakes at this point because I can't get the nutrients I need. All of these things are really starting to play into my psyche a bit.
I guess what I am trying to explain is that it is nearly impossible to stay positive everyday. There are days that you wonder about your life, and the fact is - it is hard to plan just about anything because you have no idea what the future holds for you. All you can really do is take everything one day at a time. I would be lying if I said I wasn't afraid - yes I am afraid. Everything that I know to be is changing and I am completely different from what I was, physically. I am doing my best to accept and embrace those changes, but it is incredibly difficult. So, in this blog, I wanted to be truthful to you that I don't always stay positive everyday. There are days where I am seriously struggling to maintain my own sanity. This is my own show of vulnerability to you that is legitimate. As things get closer to treatment, the more fear I feel inside of me. I go in for the double mastectomy in less than 2 weeks, and yes there is fear there. I know I will never look normal again, and I have come to terms with most of that - but I never expected to go through this type of change at 31.
I just have to continue to believe that I can do this - and put one foot in front of the other everyday.
I just thought I would write what a rollercoaster cancer can damn well be. I also wish they had darts somewhere. I do enjoy playing darts. I guess throwing things at an object can be quite cathartic.
Much love guys.
OH man, I am tired. Well, I finally have a desk. I ran over and got a desk and put it together in about 20 minutes. It is pretty basic, but works for what I need. Typing on the ground was making my back hurt! Luckily, I still can still put shit together relatively quickly even though I am constantly tired. Yes, many ladies put EVERYTHING in their own homes together (many strong military spouse ladies I know around here are the shit).
I said I would write a blog post about my Advanced Directive, Power of Attorney, and End of Life Will. At the age of 31 this isn't usually something you think about, especially a WILL. I mean, honestly, most of us have not amassed that much wealth to distribute properly among family members. Since Jim and I have moved so much, I have been extremely reluctant to buy a house because I wanted the house I bought to be lived in for at least 10 years in order to build equity - BUT enough about that. In my case, because cancer is so unpredictable, I had to have all of these things set in place in order to protect my own interests, my husband, and my sister. I wrote a blog post about this before, but actually DOING IT was much tougher than I anticipated. I know they try to make it as harmless as possible, but yikes. I am not going to lie to any of you - I cried while putting all of it together. The reason is, at 31 - you don't truly think about your own mortality unless you have a job that forces you to. Yes, there are hazardous jobs in the world that you HAVE to have these things put in place, but for the average person, this isn't really the norm of things. Having cancer made me think about things that I didn't want to really think about. I had to think about the worst case scenario in every situation - what if something catastrophic happens during surgery? What if the cancer spreads all over and my life is severed? Ugh, just all of it is hard to think about and hard to process. I am happy that I was alone to do this - I don't think I could have done this with my husband or family around. These decisions are deeply personal, and I just couldn't do any of it near anyone. I also wrote letters to those closest to me to accompany my will. Sometimes, you just have to say things that you just don't want to say while you're alive. Am I thinking I am going to die? No, I',m not, but I have NEVER been in a situation where I had to think about end of life. I wanted to make sure everything was set in stone and that those I love know that I Love them.
For others in a similar situation, it is best that you cover your ass and the ass of those you love. I have seen A LOT of fighting within families because something unexpected happened and no one knew or EVERYONE thought they knew exactly what the individual wanted. When you don't legally bind your wishes, it can turn into a free-for-all with family and friends. This was my way of protecting everyone and letting everyone know that these wishes were MY OWN and no one else. Sometimes you may think you know someone, but what they actually want is completely different from your own thoughts.
For the people that will make the toughest decisions for me, it makes things easier for them because they know exactly what I want in each situation. Only two people are allowed to make decisions on my behalf, and I made that clear within my legal documents. If you are in a similar space, this should be within your legal papers as well. You want those you trust and know will do what you ask to make the hardest decisions for you.
Just some insight from someone who is in that space.
Much love to all of you,
Well, most of you already know this, but I finally planted back to North Carolina. Luckily, things have gone fairly smooth considering everything we did was long distance from Las Vegas, including the house we decided to rent. I am so fortunate because I actually LOVE our home and our landlord and his girlfriend are super nice. Normally when you deal with a property management company it can be the BIGGEST pain in the ass.
I miss my family. They will be here next week. I finally have internet in the house, even though I have zero furniture besides what my landlord left for me, which was SUPER nice of him. I honestly forgot about how good people can be to you when you are just openly nice to them. In Vegas, I felt like I had to be a gigantic asshole all the damn time because NOTHING would ever get accomplished unless you were. That gets really exhausting, so what can I say, I am already happier just being here because I can just be me. Our home is so quite, it feels a bit strange! I am so used to loud noises ALL THE TIME and now I am kind of in the middle of no where and it is super peaceful. I honestly forgot about all of this, and I am surprised by how much I actually missed it.
As far as my health, well, what can I say? It seems to be failing me. Honestly, my mind is sharp (thank goodness) but my body just doesn't feel like it's mine. My energy levels took a sharp turn a few weeks ago, but it has just gotten a lot worse as time goes by. I work out 4 days a week (not my usual 5-6 days) and let me tell ya, those days are struggles! It takes EVERYTHING I have inside me to make those workouts, well, work. I am so slow, which is weird for my body. I feel like everything is moving in slow motion in regard to my body, and I do get embarrassed because I am used to people asking me how can I do this or that? Or, I want to lift like that! That part is gone with the wind I guess. I took everything I had to power clean and front squat my normal warm up weight (roughly 115#). I am sharing this with all of you, even though it is INCREDIBLY difficult for me to share because, well, I am embarrassed! I am a little bigger now, but I've lost roughly 10# in about 2 weeks time. I am dropping weight a bit faster than what is healthy. Remember, you should only lose roughly 2.2# a week on the HIGH END of things. I can't eat a whole lot anymore. My appetite is about gone, and depending on what I do eat, I end up throwing up a lot of foods that just don't sit right. So - I am sort of subjected to oatmeal and protein shakes. Here is what I can say: I can still do strict pull ups, although not pretty. I can still clean and snatch, although not as heavy. I can still do a handstand (pretty well actually!). I can still run, jump, and swing. I can still do awkward movements like a Turkish Get up, even though I am not at my max weight (I did 55# today, max is roughly 75#). I can tell you this much, I am thankful for the things that I CAN pull off. I know many of you are wondering why I haven't made my way into a CrossFit gym. Honestly, it is because I can't do anything at warping speed anymore, and pushing me to do it can land me in the hospital (seriously). My body is fighting as hard as possible, and I have to move at a pace that I can survive with. So, I essentially program for myself and I go to local gyms around town. I do the very best I can, but it is incredibly hard. I know once I go in for surgery, I will lose just about everything and will be starting from scratch. Right now, my goal is to prepare my body for what it is about to face - invasive surgery and chemotherapy. As a cancer patient, my advice to others with sickness, I can't tell you how important it is to exercise and keep your body healthy. Yeah, things won't always feel right - but all you can do is push yourself until your body says STOP (and trust me you will know when your body says this). During my clean workout, the left portion of my upper body literally began to seize up. I couldn't breathe right and it was really painful - basically that was the signal that my body was finished.
I go in for surgery in two weeks time. Am I scared? Absolutely. If I wasn't I would be kind of concerned for myself lol. I know that what I am doing RIGHT NOW is putting my body in the best position to go undergo surgery. If anyone else is in the same boat with ANY surgery, keep your body health before hand. Your recovery will thank you for it. :o)
Anyhow, my NC friends, I would love to see you before I look like garbage! :o) Some of you have already reached out, and I am really thankful for that. Right now, I am just trying to get some things finished (will, advanced directive, power of attorney) before shit hits the fan, per say.
Much love to you guys, and of course, Happy 4th of July. Celebrate responsibly (or irresponsibly it's up to you. life is too short).