Friday, October 16, 2009

Another Surgery Done

Hi, everyone! I think I mentioned in one of my previous posts that the radiation had been pretty hard on my skin by the end and especially my mastectomy incision. When I went for my one month follow up appointment with my radiation oncologist, he said that if we tried to let it heal on its own, it could take up to a year. In the meantime, my medical oncologist did not want me to start my next chemo until I was healed. So, the decision was made to see an oncology plastic surgeon to repair the damage.

It is definitely a ride to and from Tucson each time, but the doctors taking care of me there have been absolutely wonderful, and Dr. Hurst, the plastic surgeon, was no different. I told Joe he looked like someone who would play a plastic surgeon on TV; classic good looks and a great smile. And yet, he was so kind and patient in explaining everything to Joe and I. He is also being wonderful about working around my school schedule so I don't have to take days off from teaching.

I am on fall break this week, so we scheduled surgery for this past Tuesday. My time was To Be Announced, so we waited at home Tuesday morning for a call from the hospital. They called around 8:30 saying I was scheduled for 11:30, so we headed out the door for Tucson. By the time we got there, Dr. Hurst had been called in to help out in another difficult case, backing up his scedule. I ended up not going into surgery until after 4. It was a long day of anxious waiting.

The surgery went great. Don't read the rest of this paragraph if you don't want details! It was much more involved than the mastectomy surgery. He cleaned out the wound on my chest and then moved the lattisimus muscle around from my back to my front to fill in the space. He then took a flap of skin from my back and used that in the front to cover over the wound. I have an incision on my back that is about twelve inches long and a patch in the front that looks like a giant cat's eye. I told my girlfriends I'm beginning to look like a patchwork quilt and Liesl said my new nickname should be patches. :>) I have three drains that will stay in for about three weeks. Overall, the discomfort hasn't been too bad. I'm finding all of these procedures are giving me a new perspective on just what pain is. I'm alternating Advil and Percocet about every three hours and am pretty comfortable most of the time.

So, hopefully, everything is back on track now. The plan is to heal for the next three or four weeks and then get the chemo restarted. I'm doing really well; just really, really tired of all of the medical procedures.

Thanks for everyone's thoughts and prayers over the last couple of days. Love you all!

Oh! I almost forgot. I said on facebook I would post pictures of my hair after I colored it, but am backing out. It took the coloring really weird and is a strange color and the texture is like that of a teddy bear - comforting on a teddy bear, not so much so on your head. I'll try again in a couple of weeks and hopefully have a better outcome.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

25th Wedding Anniversary!

Hi,everyone. It's been a busy week and so I didn't get to post sooner, but this past Tuesday, October 6th was Joe and my 25th wedding anniversary. It hardly seems possible that so much time has gone by. I've been typing and erasing and typing and erasing, trying to put into words my feelings about this occasion and find I can't really capture with words the emotions in my heart.

When I look at our wedding pictures, I remember how young, and optimistic, and full of dreams we were. And, I think about how very, very lucky we have been. So many of the dreams we had for our life together have come true in ways beyond our wildest imaginings. We are just as much in love today as we were on that day twenty-five years ago. Our children are our three most favorite people in the world. They are just at the ages where they are starting to take their first steps out into the world and we are so proud of the young adults they have become and love them so very much. They are our most important accomplishment and bring us so much joy.

This past year has definitely been a trying one and the future right now is still uncertain, but amidst all this upheaval and uncertainty, Joe's love and support have been a constant. There are a lot of men out there who can't handle the things he's had to and they walk away. I guess I should say we are more in love today than we were on that day twenty-five years ago because living the vows we made that day, day in and day out, through all the different experiences life has held for us, has deepened our understanding of what it means to truly love another person. I am one of the luckiest people in the world.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Susan G. Komen 3 Day Walk and My Everyday Superheroes

Hi, everyone. In just a little over a month from now, the Susan G. Komen 3 Day Walk for the Cure will be held in Phoenix. It is sometimes hard to believe an entire year has gone by since I was first diagnosed. The Phoenix walk started last November on the very same day that I recieved the official word that I did indeed have breast cancer. At the same time I was sitting in my doctor's office trying to absorb the news, hundreds of men and women were walking past my elementary school in Gilbert, Arizona. My students were out cheering the walkers on and I felt in my heart cheering me on, too.

Earlier this year, my sister, Pam, my daughter, Janaya, my husband, Joe, and I decided that we were going to participate in the walk this year. We have experienced first-hand the benefits of the continuing research into better treatments and hope one day a possible cure for breast cancer will be discovered. We knew we wanted to do something to contribute to the effort of making breast cancer a thing of the past; something our children wouldn't have to deal with. For me, it would also be an emotional celebration, a chance to show that the cancer hadn't beaten me.

Unfortunately, although all indications are that I'm cancer free at the moment, I'm not physically ready to actually walk myself. I found out this past week that I am going to need to have plastic surgery, some type of skin graft, to repair damage done to my incision by the radiation. I also have another course of chemo ahead of me when I heal from that procedure. I am so disappointed. However, I will be out there with my students, cheering on this year's walkers. Among them will be Pam, Janaya, and Joe - my everyday superheroes. On those three days in November, they will walk a total of 60 miles, but they have already walked a million steps with me on this journey over the past year. Without their love and support and their being there for me every step of the way, I know I wouldn't have had the strength to face the physical and emotional battles I've had to.

I am not alone in facing these challenges. One in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Every time I'm with a large group of women, at the gym, at the grocery store, at school, I think of what that means, of the lives that will be impacted.

I've posted two videos from the 3-Day website below. I think they are powerful. They are recruiting walkers, but I think they also give you an idea of the type of people who walk and why they walk. If you'd like to help support my superheroes and all of the other men and women that fight this battle or know someone who is or has fought, please visit their website. It is Click on make a donation and search for Pam Regan, Janaya Hitzel, or Joseph Hitzel. Together, their goal is to raise $6,900.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!