To be honest, I've opened up this bloggy blog probably a grand total of nearly 100 times over the last two weeks. And, every time I start typing I've either got a massive case of writers block or the words I normally write have felt so insignificant relative to what is really on my heart. I was talking to Shane about it, and I think I've realized it's because it seems from the beginning, I've been talking so much that I haven't really taken a lot of time to listen. And simply put, I needed to take some time to listen. I needed some time to process. I needed some time to reaffirm what I had been saying. I needed some time to simply put it all on hold and really strategize with myself. I needed time to pray. And bottom line, I needed more time to take it all in and figure it out.
I AM CANCER FREE!There is no visible disease left in my body and I've got the scars to prove it <insert squinty eyed tongue sticking out emoji here>!
Shout out to Karlie, for this incredible insert in a thinking of you card. Makes me laugh hysterically.
In that same breath, MaKenzie called me last night and we talked for well over two hours, yes you read that right, two hours ... we're cousin sisters remember AND we live far away, we have lots to share. In speaking with her I continued to find my voice. She has a way to make me feel stronger than I really am. And whether it's real or just sister induced, she was hurting, because I'm hurting and I don't want that for anyone. So it reminded me - SHARE THE GOOD NEWS! Remind everyone there is a reason to celebrate, regardless of whatever is ahead. Life is happening right now, and it's moving on regardless of what is happening behind the closed doors at my house. So, it's time to come out from the curtain and get back to it. Here's an update on where we currently are ...
Recovery from surgery #2 took longer than we anticipated, and we've had some slight complications that's made "getting back to it" a bit of a struggle. But, we're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm limping as fast as I can to get there!
- Complication number one came the day before the second surgery. I was scheduled to have the stitches removed from the first surgery and the nurse was told to apply steri strips after the 25 (ouch) stitches were removed from the back of my thigh. Shane and I were jabbering and not paying attention when we realized the nurse applied mastisol to my leg (an adhesive often used in conjunction with steri strips). PANIC!!! We uncovered, the very hard way, that I am SO RIDICULOUSLY allergic to this stuff after my c-section with Bennett. The nurse tried to remove as much of the adhesive as she could, but unfortunately a few days later we encountered a similar reaction as we had faced a few years ago. The reaction was so severe that it began to infect the incision from the first surgery. So I was put on some strong antibiotics and the ability to move my leg became a little more challenging. We battled the infection and the allergic reaction, and about 3 weeks later it's finally starting to look somewhat back to normal and we're feeling pretty good about that!
- Complication number two, came after the last surgery when I mentioned a drain had been inserted in my thigh to help alleviate the post surgery fluid. We'd hoped it would get removed after two weeks, but my output has yet to drop below the desired number so I'm still rocking my fancy grenade. However, my doctor won't leave it in longer than 4 weeks due to risk of infection so I have an appointment Monday to have it removed. While I'm praying that the output will be down and it will be ready to come out, I couldn't be more happy to say adios to this little contraption.
- Complication number three was diagnosed two weeks post-op, I was having some pain in my calf muscle when I would walk. I was attributing it to simply being on my feet more after surgery and strengthening my muscles. But, when I mentioned it to my doctor and she looked at the amount of swelling she sent me immediately to ultrasound. And I was quickly diagnosed with an Acute DVT blood clot in my femoral artery. Boo! Hiss! So, I was placed on blood thinner injections (I give to myself in the stomach) and will remain on these for roughly three months and we will re-scan to see if the clot has dissolved. This past weekend I was having some pain in my chest and we were concerned perhaps the clot had dislodged and moved to my lungs, so I was sent to have a CT scan to check for a pulmonary embolism. But, happy news - I DID NOT! So, we'll continue to take it easy and remain on the thinner.
"God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God." Eph 2:8
But, for now we are faced with a very tough decision and we're trying as hard as we possibly can to make the right choice. We've met with medical oncology and I am classified as Stage 3A - which essentially means "it's pretty bad, but not bad enough". And therefore, my options for drugs are limited (because other drugs that are having success are still in clinical trial phases and only available to stage 4 patients). Therefore the two drugs available to me in the form of immunotherapy (a type of systemic chemo) are Interferon and Ipilimumab. I would take whichever I choose for about 3 months intravenously and then maintenance treatments for the remainder of the year. The alternative option is observation. There is A LOT to say about both options, and we're getting a second and perhaps a third opinion before we decide. For what it's worth, our Vandy oncologist's opinion was observation.
From a very surface level explanation here are some things we're studying up on: We need to ensure we have full understanding of the drugs, their side effects and possible complications. We want to be made aware of any drugs that are still in clinical trial that I may be available for. We want to understand our chances of recurrence of the disease, and the effectiveness of the drug options I am eligible for. We want to talk a little more and understand more about any microscopic cells left in the leg, or those that could be in transit elsewhere in my body. We want to read about cancer killers in life and ways to starve cells if they do remain in the body. We want to meet with more than one doctor and hear varying opinions so we can educate ourselves and arm ourselves with the most knowledge. You have to make a decision of whether or not you are going to undergo treatment in a 12 week time frame from your last surgery; so we have about 9 weeks remaining to decide if we will take a drug or simply observe.
I'll be sure to update ya'll intermittently as new developments arise, but for now ... I'm going to get back to regularly scheduled programming on this little space...Because Shane celebrated his birthday and I took pictures of Bennett on his last day of Two Day Twos and I've yet to update you on that (GASP!). It's going to be a long process, and I love having my support team along for the ride. But I want us to enjoy the ride and and sing our favorite songs while we're in the car. Because a road trip with bad music is just the worst.