Thursday, April 28, 2016

Faith, Family and Friends

We've almost made it through another week, and we have successfully made it through surgery number two! After hearing Monday's news, we're feeling as confident as ever that anything placed in front of us from here on out is something we can handle. And truthfully, your support is giving us the extra strength we need when we can't seem to find it for ourselves.

I woke up out of surgery Tuesday evening with 23 emails, 48 text messages, 8 voice mails, and 9 facebook messages. The outpouring of love and prayer is overwhelming and I can't say thank you enough.
We woke up Tuesday and took the kiddos to school. Bennett's teachers have been THE BEST and have offered to keep our little Lainey and love on her all day so my parents are able to be at the hospital with Shane while I'm under. Their helping us with anything we need and the goodness of their ministry does not go unnoticed.

I was called back to my pre-op room and put on my garbage bag. Legit the HOTTEST (temperature wise) thing I have ever put on my body. Does not breathe at all. And this stud was of course waiting with me.
Before surgery my Aunt Toby and Uncle Dan drove all the way from Ohio to pray for me and over me during the surgery. And the most awesome moment was right before they took me back to the OR. My aunt shook my doctor's hand and said she was heading back out to the waiting room. she had just come back to pray over me. My doctor's eyes lit up and she said "Oh awesome! Do you guys all want to pray together?!" Of course we did! So, we all gathered hands and Dr. Kauffmann prayed the most wonderful prayer over everyone involved. It was the exact peace I needed before being carted back to the OR.
 Again, the nurses kept everyone up to date with the monitors in the waiting room. Shane requested exclamation points and smiley faces in our updates and that's exactly what he got :)

 A big shout out to my cheerleaders. LOVE you all!
 Once I was out of recovery and assigned a room for the night, I made my first request ... celebratory ice cream obviously!
 And then hubs and I snuggled in for a long netflix marathon on the iPad.

The next morning we met with all of the doctors and physical therapists to recap the surgery and discuss what's next. The goal of this surgery was to remove the remaining lymph nodes from the groin.  During the first surgery we discovered the cancer had spread to one of the three sentinel nodes that they had removed. Which meant there was an 18% chance the remaining nodes in the groin could be infected with the cancer as well. Therefore, we had to remove the remaining nodes to get clean margins in the local area.

The nodes they took from the surgery have been sent to pathology and we will have results in 3-5 days. Due to the invasiveness of the surgery I also have a drain inserted into my thigh to help remove some of the fluid and trauma left over from the surgery. The drain will get to come out in 2-4 weeks depending on output (we've got to get below a certain number for a couple days in a row before they will remove it - so focus your prayers on that!).  Essentially my body has to learn to reroute my lymphatic system since a giant piece of the chain has been removed. The sooner this happens the quicker the healing/less swelling/and lower risks of lymphedema (a major risk and side effect of this type of procedure).

After we know pathology results of the remaining nodes, I will meet with both my surgical oncologist and my medical oncologist May 9th to discuss options and weigh risk/reward of starting chemo or not.  At my last appointment the doctors seemed to think it was still very much being considered simply because of my age and the aggressiveness they want to attack this. But, the pathology from this surgery will let us know a lot more.

From what we have been told, the surgery went well.  They had to take a piece of my femoral nerve they were hoping to avoid because my lymph nodes were wrapped around it, so at the moment I am completely numb on the top of my thigh which is weird. And as part of the procedure they had to detach my hip muscle and reattach  it  in a separate spot to protect the underlying artery. When they removed the nodes they took all of the tissue that usually protects the artery, nerve, etc. so if they didn't move the muscle it would have no protection other than a thin layer of skin.

So, as far as how I'm doing ... I'm mainly just sore. I'm not in nearly as much pain as I was the first go round, but I am incredibly sore. But we're saying good riddance to any of the disease that was left and pray that this was the last uphill battle and the rest we'll get to fight down hill. Jesus is leading us down a path we do no understand, but we are learning to trust him. He knows what he is doing, the story he wrote is involved, beautiful and complete.  There is grace for the journey now and always and we're trying to remain faithful in that belief.
 "You don't understand now what I am doing, but someday you will" John 13:7
I am trusting that I am fighting this battle now while my children are young and will not remember, so that I get to be strong, whole and healthy when they most need me to help them fight their battles.  And even though it is hard, and I am struggling with that ... I am in some regards thankful I have been given this now. Because who better to bare witness to struggles in life than your children? As they grow and face hard times and their faith flutters, Shane and I have a great story to share with them. And as my cousin reminded me, my story is just as much a part of myself as it is theirs. When they go through hard times we get to remind them to put their faith in Him and know He is good all of the time.  He is always with us. And I can't wait to continue to teach these cuties all about it!

 And even more good news, I got a sweet ride out of the deal! Ha! Put together by my one true love.
 Just joy riding all over town (sarcasm font)
 And another shout out to my girlfriends for helping with my babies and making sure they are having fun so my family can help me. Andrea, Natalie and Lynn all deserve gold stars and once I'm back to healthy and bee-boppin around town we're gonna have a gals night on me!
And that's the latest folks, we're at home recovering and will be for a few weeks. I'll check in after we meet with medical oncology and let you know more. But, in the meantime I can't say thank you enough for your continued support. Kisses to all!

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Celebrating The Roses: Stage III

Have you ever seen the funny sign at a restaurant or bar that says, "A minute depends on which side of the bathroom door you're standing on?" I feel like a version of that sign is my life right now. It's amazing how hearing the verdict of highly anticipated results and embracing the collective faith all of you, my prayer warriors, have been covering me in can make the news that days ago felt like the worst possible outcome, quickly seem like the greatest.

Last Wednesday, I received the anxiously awaited phone call from my doctor.  She called to share the news that it was time to take the gloves off and fight, because the melanoma had spread to my lymph nodes and I was now classified as at least a Stage III (of four) patient. I say at least Stage III because I had yet to undergo further scans to determine if the cancer had metastasized at a distant site elsewhere in the body; which would then classify me as Stage IV.

Today, The Big Man upstairs proved once again he is good all of the time, and gave us the results we've been praying for. The PET Scan and Brain MRI showed no visible signs of malignant growth elsewhere in the body and for the first time, we celebrated Stage III.  While we still have a major battle and the road before us is bound to be bumpy and unpaved - I'm gonna agree with Mr. Abraham Lincoln and focus on the roses of this thorn bush.
So, now that we've shared our good news ... here's a look at how we got there and an outlook on what we know is ahead in the immediate future.  I mentioned last week that we had jumped the first two hurdles of diagnosis and the surgical staging surgery and then we rounded the corner to more scans.

We went to bed Thursday night anxious and uncertain of what to expect from the following day. I was scheduled to be in the hospital for my first set of scans, PET Scan, Friday at 2:00 and I was due to check in an hour early. My favorite teammate accompanied me per usual, and we waited (waiting is a thorn on our rose bush, but our rose is ha! we get to wait and hang kid free for a while!).
Next they called us back and we began. First up was the PET Scan (which was scanning the entire body), my IV was started and I was injected with glucose that contained radioactive tracers. Once it was injected I had to sit for an hour to allow my body to absorb everything and then I was taken to the scan.  When I was explaining everything to my parents my dad asked me what it was like to be a super hero for a couple of hours, since I had radioactive matter coursing through my veins, and I assured him it didn't feel much different because I've been a super hero my entire life, HA!
Luckily, Amazon came the day before and brought me this new little number to read, so I was entertained while I waited.
After an hour had passed, I was carted to the machine and got all settled in for the PET scan. My girlfriend, Andrea, joked that I wasn't far off from feeling like I was back at space camp. How awesome is technology?! They divided the scan into two parts, the upper half of my body and lower. Each scan took about 15-20 minutes and I just had to lay completely still.
I was so anxious about the scan before heading to the room, but it was completely manageable. After the PET Scan, we headed to cardiac MRI for the Brain MRI portion of the day. This really was the macdaddy of all machines, and holy cow I wasn't prepared for it. The claustrophobia everyone talked about didn't rattle me nearly as much as the overall test itself. It was very similar to the PET Scan in the fact you lay down and can't move, but the machine was completely enclosed on one end and your head is basically in a cage and strapped down.  Additionally, you're given noise cancelling headphones with music piped in (I chose country) and yet the sound of the machine was still incredibly loud and unnerving.

It was the first time throughout this entire process I've felt like this cancer deal is bigger than me and I truly am a patient. It wasn't something I took lightly and being completely transparent, it really rattled me to my core. I broke down after the scan and was completely frazzled. Luckily, soon after we got an update that the kiddos had just purchased some new cowboy boots and were having a ball.

So, my favorite teammate wheeled me down the hall and sang the whole way. God bless him.
And then he drove me to stuff my face with nachos, drink a glass of wine and calm my nerves.  It was a much needed chill session that couldn't have been better.
The weekend was long. I woke up and had a near panic attack after dreaming about that terrible Brain MRI, but again Shane was there to save the day and make me laugh again. And I woke up ready to take on the weekend with perfect weather, a little Sunday Jesus session and my family... the roses on the thorn bush of what we're facing.
And just like that, Monday morning arrived and it was time for our post-op visit and the results of Friday's scans. Here's our recurring "what are we about to walk into selfie".
And this has become another rose on the thorn bush. Knowing that through all of this, I get to look up and he's by my side. Ain't he cute?!
And here's the screen (along with my doctor of course) where we were given the results. This tiny little monitor gave us the images we'd been waiting to see and our opportunity to celebrate Stage III.
And in regards to what's still ahead ... Tomorrow, we head back into the hospital for hopefully my last surgery. The doctor will be removing the rest of my remaining lymph nodes from the groin. This surgery is a bit more invasive and has a higher elevation of risk associated with it than the first, so it requires a 1-2 day hospital stay; in addition to more intensive post-op care.  The fancy name for the surgery is "right superficial inguinal node dissection with sartorius flap" if you were wondering :) .

We're removing the remaining lymph nodes in effort to get clean margins in the local nodes.  Determining if the disease has spread to more than the sentinel node previously removed, along with the results from pathology + my scans will determine our future treatment options. We will meet with a medical oncologist May 9th at our post-op visit to discuss whether or not we will be moving forward with immunotherapy. And that is where we stand today.

Thank you for sticking with us through this difficult time and continuing to lift us up in prayer. It means so much to all of us to hear from you and know we are in your thoughts. And for now, we're going to continue to celebrate Stage III and keep finding the roses. The Derby might bring a tear to my eye this year, for reasons far beyond choosing uncomfortable shoes. And if you have a hard time understanding that one ... it's probably time you visit our hometown, Louisville, KY during the month of May.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Time to Take the Gloves Off

Hump Day! We've made it halfway through the week. I had plans to pop in today and tell you all about the fun stuff that's been happening while I've been in recovery.  And adorn the blog with all things cute and add funny pictures from Bennett's Family Picnic day at school to ice cream dates, and even some hilarious updates about how I'm handling crutches (ahem, they were so much cooler when someone came to school with them when I was 12) and my dad's attempt at making Lainey a bottle. But, pathology is in and I think it's best to just get everything out there and share with everyone what's going on.

Meanwhile since I'm laid up anyways, I'm going to be doing a little bit of back-end work to create a page directly dedicated to this whole medical debacle. So, for those family and friends that are interested in specific updates, but aren't necessarily all things blog lover. They can easily find them without having to read about potty training my little guy or the most adorable top I just ordered online (although I cannot for the life of me imagine why they wouldn't want to know that too?!?! ha!). The updates and posts will still appear here on your live feed too, so you won't miss anything!

So, for anyone new to class here's what you've missed, I was Diagnosed with Melanoma last month, and I had surgery to figure out what stage the cancer was at last Tuesday and recapped that here. And now we have reached the surgical staging portion of this process and that's what I'm here to tell you about today.


Okay, so my surgery was Tuesday, April 12th and the doc said pathology would be in - in about five days.  During surgery they took three lymph nodes and pathology slices them into incredibly tiny pieces and injects a dye into them that reacts only to melanoma. So it can take a while for them to review all of the pieces and let the dye get to work.  So, full report was in last night, reviewed today and she called me around 11:30 this afternoon. Some good news, some bad. The good news - from the portion of the leg that was removed, there is no cancer left and we got clean margins. Woohoo! The bad news - it has spread.

They took three lymph nodes from the previous surgery, and in testing those three nodes they found traces of the melanoma in one of them. There was about a 6mm amount or about a half a centimeter in the node. This means to date, my surgical staging of the cancer is Melanoma - Stage III
  • Stage I - a thin melanoma in the skin
  • Stage II - a thick melanoma in the skin
  • Stage III - melanoma in the skin and it has spread to the lymph nodes
  • Stage IV - melanoma in the skin that has spread to the lymph nodes and other places in the body 
Now, we're onto the next round of testing to determine what else we are up against. And our battle continues! So, from here we've got a few more hurdles to jump before we have a more clear picture. 

First, and moving quickly, I will face a round of scans that will show us if the cancer has spread and is metastasizing (developing malignant growths in places distant from the original cancer site) elsewhere in my body. I will go in Friday afternoon for a PET SCAN in which I will get an IV of fluid with a radioactive tracer and a glucose solution that the body will absorb. During the scan if the body has highly concentrated spots of the solution on the scan - it will light up, and that is a good indication the cancer has spread there. The scan is about 2 hours and I can't eat or drink 6 hours before the scan (so hungry- wahh!). It will scan the entire body (minus the brain) and give us a good indication. 

After that, I will walk my hungry little booty to snag a quick bite and then I'm off to cardiac MRI to get a Brain MRI. The nurse said, and I quote "this is the mac daddy of all machines" so I'm expecting this thing to basically be like the coolest spaceship I've ever seen (and that's coming from a gal that spent a summer at space camp, so I'm well versed in machinery, ha!). Here I will get a pigmented IV that will help detect anything in the brain. This procedure is also about 1-2 hours. After both scans Friday I will get to come home and have a happy weekend with the littles. 

Then, Monday morning I head back to the clinic for my regularly scheduled post-op visit with my doc. Before the visit they will be doing a full write up and all lab work, then I will head to her office and get my stitches removed and talk about the recovery from the first part of surgery. After that portion of the appointment, we will review the results of my PET and Brain MRI scans from Friday and finalize our next surgery date to remove the remaining nodes in my groin. 

There is a possibility the surgery could be as early as next Tuesday, but most likely will be the Tuesday after that. As I mentioned before, they previously took 3 sentinel nodes to biopsy in the surgery last week to determine if it it had spread, and as we've found out .. it has spread to one of the three nodes they took. So, routine practice is to remove the rest of the nodes from groin (which is the nearest place to the cancer site on the leg) and that will be what is taking place during this second surgery. They will go in through the same incision they originally went made last week and will remove the existing scar tissue.  Unfortunately, the incision will be larger than the original and there are roughly 10-15 lymph nodes in your groin and they're all coming out. Bye see you laterrrr!

This surgery will take about 3-4 hours and the recovery from this one will be a little more extensive as my body learns to reroute the lymphatic system.  Like last time, we'll have the results of those lymph nodes in about 5 days and my doctor will review the results with my oncology team and we will determine with those findings, plus the results of my scans what we (if anything) need to do. If further treatment is needed, the typical treatment for melanoma is immunotherapy which is a form of chemotherapy. It basically puts your immune system on steroids to help your own body attack the disease. 

And that my friends, from a very green patient in this category is my best regurgitation of what I have been told to date. And an honest assessment of how I'm doing ... is a complete roller coaster. Seriously, if I write this post in an hour you may get entirely different text. 

But, truthfully I am in good spirits. Did I want the phone call to be great news and the doctor tell me it hadn't spread and we got it all? Of course I did! I wanted that most of all. But, did I know this could be a possible outcome and I was guarding my heart that I may have to deal with this too? Yes, I was.

So here we are. We've jumped the first two hurdles of diagnosis and the surgical staging surgery and now we're rounding the corner to the next hurdle of more scans and another surgery. I could keep writing (and I will later) about how I'm handling everything else, but right now I need to focus on one thing at a time. I can tell you I'm struggling with the mommy and family piece of it all.  Having to take a back seat to the fun adventures and simple day to day with my kiddos and normal routines are the parts that are hurting my heart most. But we can chat more about that later. 

Bottom line, we played nice and hoped it would bow down and not spread, but it has. Therefore, we've got no other option than to take the gloves off and fight dirty. And I'm fully prepared to do just that. The Lord paved this road for me, and as my dad says "He helps those who help themselves" and I'm ready to walk it. And keep walking it for a very long time!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Stitch Fix ~ #3

Howdy ya'll. You read that title right, Stitch Fix came again this month and I was pretty happy with this month's selection. We've still got a ways to go, but I LOVED two of the shirts this go round. Furthermore, it's probably good that they send a few items I like and don't love, otherwise we'd be racking up a hefty bill :)

Thanks to be being laid up, I had a personal assistant with this month's shipment, Penny (my momma) was behind the iPhone with this month's fix. Thanks momma bear!

Item #1 ~ Dolce Vita, Ross Suede Wedges (returned)

  • These were cute, but just too chunky for my style. Plus the yellow color was a little off for me.

Item #2 ~ Fate, Ruby Maxi Dress (returned)

  • This was super cute too, and with wedding season quickly approaching I'm in need of some good Maxi dresses to keep this awesome looking scar covered up. But, unfortunately it didn't make the cut. The outer layer was sheer, and the under layer was one of those shorter dresses and to be honest it was just too short. My little booty would have been making an appearance at the wedding and we just can't have all that. 

Item #3 ~ Paper Crown, Elphias Split Neck Blouse (kept)

  • This was a keeper for sure! It was a great hi-low cut, super flowy, cool and will be an excellent addition to the summer wardrobe. 

Item #4 ~ Market & Spruce, Colleen Cowl Neck Trapeze Knit Top (kept)

  • Another love. This is why I love stitch fix. These are the items I always want to buy, but they're outside my norm and therefore, I usually don't take the time to try them on to see if I even like them. But, thanks to this little diddy, I get to try them on in the comfort of my own home! And I loved it!

Item #5 ~ Just Black, Adorra Skinny Jean (returned)

  • I said it from the beginning, unless they blow my mind ... I'm not keeping jeans. So adios. 

As always, excited for my next fix! Let me know if you end up signing up, I'd love to see your fixes too.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

My Teammate

Six years ago today, this handsome fella dragged me out of bed on a Sunday morning {before the sun came up - which back THEN was so early} and whisked me away on a hot air balloon ride with our super sweet balloon driver (pictured below).  He asked me to be in his life forever. And it's the best decision I ever made. 

We always joke with one another and say "I'll be on your team" and most of the time it's trivial. But all jokes aside, over these past 10 years we've been together I don't think I could have found a better teammate. And I truthfully sometimes feel like that's what we are. We're husband and wife, obviously. We're best friends even moreso. But, at the end of the day we're teammates. 

Shane and I have both been athletes from the moment we both began walking - so it's pretty common for everything in our house to have a sports theme.  So in honor of today's Engageversary, I decided to make a little teammate take on the age-old "you're the macaroni to my cheese, the ink to my pen" verses that you often hear about. So in honor of our love day, and my favorite teammate, here's my teammate take where he's got my back when I fall:
You're the winning serve to my missed dig, the free-throw when I miss a shot, my goalie when it comes down to penalty kicks, you cover my block, my long putt when I undercut the chip, my Hail Mary in OT,  you make the three pointer right at the buzzer of a two point game, two a days that make sense at the end of the season, the minute shaved off my mile, the hand that reaches out to help me up when I trip, the pass that slips through the defender, the alley oop no one sees coming, the quarterback sneak that fools the best analysts, the line judge that knows for certain that hit was on the line, and the perfect back set for my right side hitter. 
He's my teammate. And goodness gracious, I love my team. Have a great week everybody!

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

When You Go Through Deep Waters

I want to share something with ya'll that spoke to me ...
"When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you." Isa 43:2
The world is made up of billions of individuals - each one important, each one carrying their unique story. Our collective stories, including those past, makeup the world we know. And like great books, our stories are so varied and different from one another… But they all carry similar themes; the search for love and belonging, tragedy and heartache, joys and hope, challenges and faith… and more. Here is a look at our current story if you're behind ...
Before heading to the hospital for surgery

It’s easy to become enraptured with our own story and be blinded to those around us. We aspire, we dream, we accumulate stuff, amass wealth and experiences, and we complain when we don’t get what we want, we judge when someone hurts or annoys us, we sink into morbid despair when hardship comes, then we blame and point fingers… all this because our ears are filled with our own narrative, drowning out the voices and plight of others.
Sorry for being so pretty (hahahaha)
Does anyone else HATE IV's?! I swear they're one of the worst parts. 

Our stories were never meant for solo flight - they will never reach their full potential or impact unless they’re shared and exchanged with someone else… vulnerable and authentic. Warts, beauty and all. Let someone read it, add to it, pour over it, mark it, enjoy it… cry and laugh, sharing stories, exchanging moments… hearts. Our stories becoming communal, part of each other.

My awesome support team - my dad documented, he was there too, but took the pics! 
(Aunt Charlene, Uncle Gary, Aunt Toby, MaKenzie)
My Father-in-Law, Steve, My momma
My mother-in-law, Susan
My Father-in-Law, Mark, And Hubs

God 'wants in' on our stories too.  No matter what we go through, no matter what part of the story we're up too; the scary and sad parts, the chilling and horrific parts, God never stops reading. He’s not on the sidelines judging, and he’s not in the end waiting for us to finish. He is with us everywhere we go. Around, in and through. His is the hand of a ready writer, wanting to help us with the plot, themes, and narrative. Our voices join, and the story becomes ours. Shared, divine and holy. You can’t tell where one story starts and the other one ends.

I waited in the hospital yesterday looking around and realizing even though the past few weeks have been so "me-focused" and I've felt like everything is crashing around me ... I looked around and couldn't help but think I wasn't the only one in that hospital. I wasn't the only patient in the oncology unit starting their battle, there were patients everywhere. And nurses and doctors that were committing their days to help me and everyone else be more comfortable.  We're all fighting a battle, and there is more than meets the eye.

The board that kept everyone updated. 

No matter where the story of your life is up to, God is with you - even through deep waters… He will not leave you. He’s been there before, and he will go there with you again.

God was with us yesterday and came in the form of my family and friends supporting me in my own personal cheering section.  He was with me in the form of good friends that watched my babies so we could be at the hospital. He was with me in the form of knowledgeable doctors that are helping me fight this. And he was with me giving me peace while I waited for the doctors to take me to the OR.  While we won't have the results from pathology for several days - the surgery went well and I am home in recovery. They had to take more than they originally planned from the back of my leg and three nodes were removed. But the doctor seemed optimistic we got clean margins on the leg, and we're continuing to pray + positive energy that it has yet to spread to my lymph nodes.
Awake and in recovery!

And while we wait, I've got a lot of delicious food to eat thanks to family and friends that have sent it my way :) I'm going to start with a yummy brownie Laura made me.
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