5 years cancer free.. May 5, 2012

Published May 2, 2012 by lifereflections45

This month marks my fifth anniversary since my diagnosis of breast cancer.  I really don’t know how I feel about that. I have never really let myself feel anything else but that I had to beat it.  There were so many I had to be strong for. But now I think it is time I write about it and let myself be honest.

When I was nineteen I felt my first lump. I was so scared. I made an appointment with my doctor immediately. My doctor assured me that it was a fibroid and nothing to worry about. I started doing my self breast exams and always wondered how I would know the difference.  I would ask doctors and they would tell me that I would know. When I was about twenty-five I was told that my paternal grandmother had died of breast cancer. Some would say I became OCD about my breast exams. When I was thirty I had my first mammogram and when I was thirty-five I felt a lump that did not feel right and went to have it checked out only to be shrugged off and told that it was just a fibroid. So feeling like I was just being paranoid I kept up my self exams and did not pursue my concerns about that lump. But soon after my fortieth birthday while in the shower I felt a lump that just did not feel like it should and felt as large as a walnut. I was having some other female issues and decided to make an appointment with my family practitioner. When I saw him he said I really needed to see my gynecologist.  I made an appointment and this time I made it with someone I knew would listen to my concerns and not make me feel like I was being paranoid.  I talked to him and he suggested we do another mammogram and he felt that I had another fibroid but we needed to check it out. He told me that I needed to point it out to the technician when they did the mammogram. The test was scheduled for six weeks later. During the rest of the exam he discovered a large tumor in my pelvic wall and that began a long list of test and biopsies. All the test came back inconclusive. The only thing that was definite was that it was between 15 an 18 cm in length and 8 cm in diameter. My doctor and all his colleagues he consulted with had never seen anything like it. I was sent to a specialist out-of-town. I was scheduled to have surgery to have it removed.  A week before I was to go into the hospital for surgery I went into have my mammogram.

As I sat in the waiting room covered in a paper gown, I wondered if this time would be like the rest and it would only be a fibroid. As the technician smashed first one and then  the other breast between those cold metal plates I felt numb. Most women speak of how uncomfortable it is but in all honesty I did not notice. My thoughts were on the surgery I was schedule to have in a matter of days. The technician came back and informed me that they did not see anything on the scan and wanted to do an ultrasound since I had definitely felt something. I watched her as she rolled across my breast where I had indicated the lump. I was then told to go wait in the waiting room while the radiologists looked over the ultrasound. When she came back out to get me and told me that the radiologists himself wanted to redo the ultra sound I knew something wasn’t right. The radiologists explained to me that he was concerned because I had all the markers they look for.  The two I remember the most were that it was solid and that it was irregular in shape. I don’t remember getting up off of the exam table and getting dressed. I do remember sitting in the waiting room while they made an appointment for the next day for a biopsy and noticing how little info there was on what to expect next in the brochures they had. As I walked out of the hospital I called my mom.

“Moma, you know how they say God doesn’t put on you anything that you are not strong enough to get through and that doesn’t make you stronger?  Well, I think he has me mixed up with someone else.”  My mom started making arrangements to fly in to be with me for my surgery and to be as much support as possible. My husband headed home.  Two days later I sat across from my doctor in his office as he told me and my husband  that I had invasive lobular carcinoma. My first thought was how was I going to tell my children. My youngest had just turned sixteen and he was probably the hardest to tell since one of his friends had lost his mother to it the year before. I realized I had to be strong for everyone and keep a positive attitude. I could not allow myself to think negatively. My doctor scheduled me an appointment with a breast specialist for the next day. We had to move fast to make a decision about what was going to be priority the removal of the tumor from my pelvic wall or treat the cancer first.

My first appointment with the breast surgeon was very informative. I learned that there are many different types of breast cancer. Mine was a slow-growing. It involved the mammary glands. I learned your breast are made up of  fatty tissue, muscle and that the mammary glands are nodes grouped together like a cluster of grapes. One of those nodes had developed into a tumor and was cancer. That if I was to have breast cancer the form I had was the kind to have and that it was a miracle I had discovered it in a self exam. Most of the time when a woman is diagnosed with this kind it is advanced because the majority of the time the mammogram will miss it until it is 2cm or more. It was decided that my surgery would continue and that we would address the cancer after I recuperated from this surgery. The tumor was benign in my abdomen. The biopsy of the tumor in my breast showed that my cancer was hormone aggressive so I chose to have a hysterectomy while they were removing the tumor. I spent ten days in the hospital.

I like to say I am blessed. I had time to consider my options. Many don’t understand some of the decisions I have made and how could they when they are not the ones that have had to make them.  My doctors gave me all my options and I explored them all. I looked at what I could and could not live with. The one thing I knew was that I could not let fear be a priority in my life.  I had a breast MRI that showed another tumor in the same breast. So my options were limited to a mastectomy of that breast or a bilateral. I chose the bilateral. Two months after I was diagnosed I went in for surgery.  The pathology report and lymph node biopsy showed that I did not have lymph node involvement or vascular involvement. I chose to have reconstruction. Only instead of being a double D I chose to go with a size C. I always wanted a reduction. My brother joked that I always had to do things to the extreme.

After surgery I saw my oncologist and was put on arimidex. I was told this was to help stop the rest of the hormones in my body. Even if you have a hysterectomy your body will still produce estrogen and progesterone in small amounts. I was to learn later on that arimidex is also a small dose of chemo. Within days of taking this I started having side effects. The only thing I could eat that did not taste like metal was fruit and some vegetables. I could not sleep, was vomiting and was having anxiety attacks. Before I knew it I was taking four more medicines to counteract the side effects of the one. But the worst side effect was the inability of my body to heal. My incisions were not healing like they should and I developed a staph infection. I was hospitalized and the implants removed til my body was completely healed from the staph infection. I started back on my arimidex a month later and another side effect developed. Bone pain! This is probably the most debilitating side effect of them all. I could not get out of bed and nothing helped with the pain. I discussed with my doctor the benefits of me taking this medicine and he explained that with all the preventive measures I had taken already that it was basically like talking a bucket full of water and adding drops of water to it. I chose quality of life. What use is it to take a drug that will not make that much of a difference only to have the quality of your life diminish?  I started my reconstruction again a few months later with expanders. Basically they stretch the skin and prepare your body for the permanent implants. By this time I had six surgeries so once I had my last fill on the expanders I decided to take time off from surgeries and wait to have the permanent implants put in.

In the meantime I returned to work driving over the road again and tried to move on with my life. My family and friends moved on with their lives. I talked less and less about my experience with cancer. I felt like my family was uncomfortable with me talking to others about it. I started keeping it all inside and not telling others my story afraid I might offend someone.  I even had someone say that all I had to do was get it cut out and get over it. This was a nurse saying this.  I had people looking away from me when they found out I was a survivor. I felt and still feel like people are afraid of me.

I said I was going to talk about my feelings. Well, here goes.. I am angry. Mad as hell actually that I have not allowed myself to be afraid, to be angry, to feel proud of the decisions that I have made to survive a disease that so many have not. Mad as hell that I have been made to feel ashamed of my experience and that talking about the importance of those self exams may actually save someone else’s life. I have decided that the reason others are uncomfortable with my story is that it keeps them from making excuses. You cannot stick your head in the ground and not take responsibility for your own body.

I hear all the time how strong I am to have gone through what I have. Well, news flash I am not that strong. I have had those moments where fear has overcome me and I have cried when no one was looking. I have cried for all that this disease has taken from me. I have curled up in my bed and covered my head when the pain has been so bad that all I have wanted to do was to give up. I have wanted to hurl everything I could lay my hands on against a wall just to hear it crash to the floor in a million pieces. I feel my body has betrayed me. I get so angry when I am told to move on and let go of the past when the past wont let go of me. I get so angry at people who are unhappy with their lives because they don’t have the job they want, the house they want or the money they want. All I want is to get out of bed one day and not have pain or stiffness.    I want to feel whole again. But instead I have had to learn acceptance.  I have accepted that this is my life and I make it what it is. My happiness depends on me. I have accepted that life is not perfect. But just because it is not perfect does not mean I give up. I get up everyday. I look for the positives in my life because if I were to dwell on the negatives I would have to question if all that I have been through and all that I still go through is worth it. There are days that it is hard to find those positives but then I remind myself I woke up today.

 

 

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I Made a Friend Today!

Published April 24, 2012 by lifereflections45

Since my last blog I have started a new job and there has not been much time for anything else. Sometimes we forget to take time out for the good things and I am no exception. As a truck driver it is hard to plan anything as there is always something unexpected getting in the way and I can’t just park anywhere.

Yesterday I heard a little voice in my head telling me to stop at this rest area. (Wait maybe that was my bladder screaming for relief.) As I was walking into the building I noticed there was a playground with a walking path. So after getting the  relief I needed I went back out to my truck and grabbed my old friend the camera   and some sunflower seeds I had left.

As I ventured on the path I kept feeling like I was being followed. I glanced over my shoulder and saw the cutest little guy following me. 

I began dropping sunflower seeds behind me. He would run and eat it. I walked over to a stump and placed a few on top. and sat on the concrete about 4 feet away. At first he was a little timid and would scamper away if I moved even the slightest.  Soon he realized I was not a threat and would venture closer to me. I believe he even began to pose and perform for me and my camera.

I soon ran out of sunflower seeds and started to leave. As I reached the parking lot  I looked back for one final farewell.

I realized then I had made a friend.

Spring AWW….CHOO!!!

Published April 1, 2012 by lifereflections45

The earth has begun to come alive with the colors of spring. The birds are singing their melodious repertoire. The flowers are bursting from the earth to showcase their beautiful colors. The trees are awakening from their winter hibernation providing shade from the hot sunrays of summer.  The earth is carpeting itself in a lush green carpet in anticipation of the bare feet that will soon be running through it.

I always anticipate this time of year with an excitement combined with a dread for the pollen that it creates.  I awake in the morning and my head feels like it weighs a ton. I  reach for my allergy medicine and before I even get out of bed I dose myself up. I start the coffee pot and stand there with cup in hand waiting for that first sip. I will admit I am addicted to my coffee. I just don’t feel human without it. After my first cup I get in the shower with the water as hot as I can stand it. The steam wafting around me and moistening my nasal passages. Oh what a feeling! My head feels a lot lighter already and the headache that was lingering in the background has dissipated to just a tingle.

Everything goes well and I am standing with the mascara brush to my eyelashes when AWWW….CHOO!!  A black smudge runs under my eye, down my nose and not a bit of it is on my eyelashes. I get the tissue (that I had at my side to catch any sneezes) and clean the mascara from my face. My eyes are watering and red so today will be a mascara free day.

AWWW…CHOO!!

Later in the afternoon being the adventuress person I am, some would say I like to torture myself, I decide to go outside to my neighbors and take some pictures of her beautiful yard. I don’t make it far when I see this strange vehicle parked in my driveway. It is the same make and model as mine but instead of a smokey grey it is yellow. Upon closer inspection I discover that mother nature has bestowed upon it a sprinkling of its golden pollen.

AWWW….CHOO!!

Now that I have solved that mystery. I wander over to my neighbor’s yard with camera in hand anticipating the pictures I will capture.  Her yard is such a peaceful place. There are birds , squirrels, insects and even this early in spring a variety of flora. Did I mention my grand-daughter came along to help? And like any other seven-year old she likes to talk.  

After about 30 mins of venturing around another annoyance of spring arrives.  SMACK!  Mosquitos! Let me tell you some of those suckers can bite so hard you almost think you have been bitten by a vampire. Today is just not the day to get too many shots with my camera. But despite the pollen, mosquitos and the seven-year old, it has been an adventure in discovery. 

Back home with camera in hand.  AWW….CHOO! 

Tomorrow is another day!  And we are going to Texas Hill country!!

A Virtual Pin Cushion?

Published March 29, 2012 by lifereflections45

I was on face book the other day and a friend of mine sent me a link for an app called “Cities I’ve Visited”. For those that have not seen this it displays a map and you are to click on cities around the world that you have visited. When you click on the cities a pin is added to the map showing the location. Well, after an hour of clicking I finally gave up and looked at what I had. There were so many pins on the continental United States that it looked like a virtual pin cushion.

I have been driving a semi-truck on and off for seventeen years now and until that moment of looking at all of the pins I did not realize where all I had been and I gave up before I even finished. I also looked at the places I had managed to pin that I would like to go. Does anyone know if there is a trucking company that employs drivers to operate amphibious eighteen wheelers? I love the traveling part of my job but some of the other aspects can be a pain in the posterior part of my anatomy.  I won’t even start on those tonight but will save those for other blogs.

So that is what led me to this post tonight. I have been going through my photos I have taken over the years and I have found some I wanted to share with you. I don’t have descriptions. I just can’t put into words what others may see when they look at them. Maybe some day I will have a blog and call it “Title that picture” or “What does the picture say to you?”  But for now use your imagination.

I hope you enjoy and constructive criticism is welcome.

The 5:00 AM Phone Call

Published March 24, 2012 by lifereflections45

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."
— Anne Bradstreet

On August 16, 2011 I awoke to my husband’s voice calmly saying “Son calm down..”

Having five sons between the two of us naturally my response was “Which one?”

My husbands reply “Ricky”

Me: “What’s wrong?”

Him: “I don’t know I can’t understand him”

He hands me the phone. I realize at the same time it is the first night I have not brought my phone to bed with me.

Before I could say anything my son crying hysterically is telling me “He’s not breathing. We lost him.”

My heartbreaking I begin to tell him to calm down and tell me what has happened.

My daughter-in-law had awakened him in the middle of the night in pain to tell him she was going to the ER. Upon arrival at the ER she was told she had a bladder infection so they began to treat her for that. But soon it became obvious that she was in labor. They gave her medication to stop the contractions but she became sick to her stomach and in the meantime she thought she had wet the bed. When my son raised the sheet up to help change the bedding he saw my grandson’s feet. They had to pull him out and when they did he was not breathing.

He then said words I hope to never hear again when I am 13 hours away, “Mom we need You! We can’t handle this by ourselves.”

Sitting there quietly sobbing for my sons pain and for my grandson that I would never meet. I said “I will get there as soon as I can.”

I then called my mom and told her.

At 5:45 am my son calls back. He is calm now and he says “I just spoke with the doctor and his heart rate is 145..:”

“Wait a minute Ricky.. Did you just say his heart rate? He is alive?”

Ricky: “Yes Mom and they are taking him to Children’s Hospital.”

Me: “What are his chances?”

Ricky: ” They are giving him 70%.”

Me: ” Thank God! He has answered our prayers.”

Ricky; “But mom there is still the chance he won’t make it. And I want to be able to take my son home.”

Me: “Ricky, calm down and be strong. Your wife and your son both need you. You have hope now 45 mins ago you had none. So God has given you Hope. Have faith.”

Little did we know when they chose my grandson’s name how significant it would be. Cooper Allen Northcutt was born 14 weeks premature and weighed 1 lb 11 ozs. His chances of survival were not good. But there was hope and he was a fighter. His initials said it all C.A.N.. 

Image I arrived there that night tired from the long drive but relieved to be there for my kids. My son took me back into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. As we walked up to this small bed enclosed in an incubator,  I looked down on this very tiny baby with wires and tubes hooked up to him and prayed that God hold him in His hands and give him strength for the long battle ahead. I spent ten days there watching my son and his wife as they took turns watching, praying and hoping.  With each day Cooper grew stronger. But then also came the news of a brain bleed and complications with his lungs. But each time we kept positive for this baby who had been given a chance when at first there was none.  We were told all the complications he could have throughout his life. But this little man as I call him kept persevering.

I wrote this one night while I sat with him.

“As I sat outside my grandson’s incubator today,

I realized that most of the things parents don’t look

forward to are exactly what we are anticipating.

To hear him cry, for him to have a dirty diaper,

to see any expression even a frown.  There are

so many things in life we take for granted even life itself.”

A week later we were allowed to finally touch our little man. As I reached my hands through the holes in the incubator,  my body shook  as tears rolled from my eyes.  The next day I would have to leave to go home for my other two children who were expecting babies. ( Yes I was worn out grandma by the first week of September.) I had some trepidation about leaving. But again I prayed that God keep my family in His hands and all would be well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It would be a month before Ricky and Sam could hold him and then only once a day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two months before they could feed him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was able to come home on my sons birthday November 4 th.  Almost three weeks before his due date which was November 24 th.

I am happy to say that Cooper is now 7 months old. He is at the developmental stage he would be if he was born on his due date(4 months). He is doing good and is now 12 lbs 5 ozs. I spent three weeks with him in December.  I talk occasionally on Skype with him. I am truly blessed to have five strong grand-babies.  And I appreciate every milestone in their lives.

Memories of a “Stormy” Childhood

Published March 23, 2012 by lifereflections45

Stormy Sunset in New Mexico.

It has been a grey week with storm clouds looming above us and the occasional downpour. We have been fortunate that the tornadoes, hail and flash flooding have not occurred here. Night before last parts of Louisiana just south of us were hit by one tornado after another.  I have lived here all of my 45 yrs and have some interesting memories as well as terrifying ones. The one thing I remember the most is how close our family was during these storms.

My first memory of the force a tornado can create and the destruction it can cause was as a small child. My grandfather was a captain of one of the fire departments here and he took me out with him the day after a storm to survey the damage. We came upon this one house that the roof  had been picked up and turned 180 degrees and placed back down. But that is not what I remember the most. There was a wooden fence along side the house and in the top rail there was a pine needle that had been forced through the wood. I wish now that I had a camera to take a photo of it. Even seeing with my own eyes I still find it hard to believe.

We never missed the sirens when they went off because the one for our part of town was directly behind our house. When it would go off my parents would get us up and we would get our pillows and blankets and move to the hallway. We would sit and listen to the radio and play games as we waited for the threat to pass. If we had friends over it would be like a party. As kids we never knew how serious it was. I remember one particular morning getting up and as we left for school there were trees down and limbs all over and wondering what had happened.  We use to have fire drills  when I was in elementary school.  They would march us all out in a line and away from the building.  I remember a few times we went as far as the hallways and lined up against the wall and were given instructions to sit with our heads between our knees and our arms over our heads. We were then told that this is what we would do in case of a tornado.

As I got older I became more aware of the storms and what they could do. I remember several touching down around us.  One particular one when I was fourteen will always stand out in my memory. My mother worked at the local mall and my dad had just dropped us all off when my mom came to tell us to go out in the mall to one of the hallways that a tornado was right down the road from us. I remember being frightened but I was also fascinated. The mall had glass skylights and we could see the tornado as it went over us. The sky became dark and the clouds were swirling around with debris caught up in it. After it was all over my dad came running in the doors.  He had heard on the radio about the warning and had turned around to come back but did not make it inside. He said he had watched the tornado bounce over the mall and move on across the highway. We heard later that evening on the news that it had touched down and hit an apartment complex about ten miles from us killing three people.

As an adult I became less frightened of them although I respected them. I would still gather up my children and put them in the hallway. But like my father I would stand and watch to see if it would hit before running for cover myself. I can honestly say there is nothing like the feeling in the air when there is one close by. There is truly a calm before the storm and then it rushes in with all its force. In just a matter of minutes everything can change and the destruction it leaves behind can be anywhere from minimal to total.

The other night my step-son who grew up in West Virginia and Upper state New York posted on his face book page “How do you know if a tornado is coming? I am afraid to go to sleep for fear I won’t know.”  So many people posted advice.   All of them said it sounds like a train. This is the standard response. But from someone who has lived through a few and being the type who tries to find the levity in all things my response went something like this. ” Well, Kenny I usually listen for the sirens.. You know those things that look like mega phones on the telephone poles. I am sure you have them there.  As far as them sounding like a train, I don’t know about that. But if you do here a train coming I think you better get in the center of your house and put your head between your knees and hopefully there won’t be a need to kiss your butt goodbye, Love you.”  After the recent reports of destruction caused by tornadoes and living through a few myself  I know how serious they can be but sometimes a little humor helps to alleviate our fears of  the possibility and help us be prepared for the reality of one.  Most of my children and their families have moved away and the mom in me still keeps an eye on them. There have been a few times that I have called to make sure they are okay. One lives in Kansas, one in Northern Arkansas and the afore-mentioned one lives in southwest Texas.  I worried about tornadoes, flooding and even an earthquake when one of my sons was Stationed in Cuba. But I pray every night for the safety of my family and as my dad used to say I put them in God’s hands.

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