Monday, March 26, 2012

Fucking Cancer.

Everyday I worry about whether I'm healing well or not.  Wondering if the pains and aches I'm feeling is normal or not.  If the new bruises that suddenly appear or get larger and larger over the weekend is something I should call in about.  Why my side has been sore since the surgery.  Freaking out about blood clots whenever I feel the slightest bit of pain in my calves, or in my chest when I breathe in.  Feeling nauseas at the sight of my own body and trying my best to not faint while I'm in the shower.  Wondering who I could ask to take me to my appointments without feeling embarrassed in case they say no.  Having my schedule revolve around everyone else's.

Fucking cancer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A week and a day post-op

It has been one week and one day post-op and I am happy to say that I am feeling well overall!  A biopsy was done on my lymph nodes in surgery, and I am also happy to report that it came back negative!   The surgery was 5 hours long.  I spent 4 hours in recovery, as I watched them try to stabilize my blood pressure which had dropped down to almost 60/40.  I spent 3 days in hospital and went home on Friday.  Since then, my cousin Sheila has been staying with me and I am so grateful to her.  She has cooked and cleaned for me, helped me get dressed and even washed my hair for me!  Love her!  I've had so many visitors since my surgery, both in hospital and at home, as well as many thoughtful gifts, messages through Facebook and my blog, phone calls and texts.  I am surrounded by love all around, there is no doubt in my mind that is what has helped me have such a speedy recovery thus far!

The flowers, cards and cookie bouquet I received while in the hospital.
I have had to return to the hospital twice over the weekend for pain in the sides of my abdomen along with what I thought was fluid buildup in my sides.  I've had the pain since day one after surgery, and I've felt as though it was getting progressively worse.  The doctors were puzzled, as they did not even touch that area, but say that I may have bruising from the bolsters that kept me in place while they worked on my side.  Let's hope that is all it really is.

The surgery I opted for was a skin sparing mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.  With my mass being 3cm x 2cm in size, I was given the option of a lumpectomy, but knowing that there was only a 50/50 chance that the surgeon would get a clean margin I decided that a mastectomy would be the better choice.  The type of reconstruction that was done was a latissmus dorsi reconstruction.  Here, the plastic surgeon took a portion of my lat dorsi, a muscle in my back, and rotated it to the front to create a pocket for the implant to sit in.  The top portion of the implant is tucked under the chest muscle.  Fat tissue from my back and skin from under my arm were placed overtop the muscle.  I had two drains, one from the breast area and one from the back where the muscle was removed, to collect extra fluid.  Those things were a nuisance to have, and luckily I was able to have one removed before I was discharged from the hospital and the other removed just yesterday at my first post-op appointment.

Yesterday's appointment was unexpectedly an emotional one.  They finally removed my bandages (which was extremely painful, probably the most physically painful part of the entire experience lol).  I have a weak stomach when it comes to stuff like that, and thinking about what I might see was making me light headed and nauseas.  But, when I finally felt ready to step in front of the mirror, I was practically sobbing as my nurse prepared me for what I would see.  It came out of nowhere.  I think that was the moment when I realized that I had literally lost a part of myself.  My body is now that of someone who I do not recognize, not mine, and most importantly not by my choice.

The scarring is not as hideous as I had expected it to be, and what I did not expect was all the bruising.  It looked as if my entire breast was sponge painted with dark purple paint, apparently from the broken blood vessels during the removal of breast tissue during the mastectomy.  I will have a scar that runs from under my arm and up my back towards my shoulder blade, where the muscle was removed.  I have blistering on my back from where the bandages sat, my skin was pretty sensitive to the adhesive.

I have lost feeling in my breast, around my side and part of my back, and in the underside of my upper arm.  It was the strangest sensation as the nurse cleaned up my breast after removing the bandages, it felt like there were a few inches of padding in between my breast and the saline soaked piece of gauze that she used to clean me up with.  The feeling in my upper arm is numb, as if it has permanently fallen asleep.  I have trouble moving that arm.  I am not supposed to lift my elbow any higher than shoulder height, but I can't even move it halfway.  I see improvement in my range of motion each day, though; I am now able to pull my hair back into a ponytail on my own, I can do the dishes and I can get dressed on my own as long as my top is stretchy enough.

I am still trying to get used to moving around.  Getting out of bed can be a challenge, and coughing (which I have been doing a lot of since the surgery) causes pain in my chest muscles.  Breathing is still sometimes shallow.  I went for my first walk outside today, Sheila and I went for a walk down to Osborne Village, hung out at Second Cup and walked back home.  It felt awesome to get out and get some fresh air!  But, the walk was slow and I found it challenging to speak at the same time, slowing down often to catch my breath.

Thank you to everyone for the 100+ messages that I received, the lovely gifts, phone calls, texts and visits.  Thank you to my family who have been there for me every step of the way.  Kuya for driving me to the hospital over the weekend.  Sis-in-law Sheila for being my personal counselor/therapist and nurse.  Joel and Len for the stupid little errands that I needed to be run.  Cousin Sheila for helping me and keeping me company once I got home.  Mom for your awesome cooking and dad for wanting to just be there.  And really, I could go on and on... I'm sorry for everyone who I did not name, I really need to start blogging daily to be able to keep up with my "thank-you's."  Mark for driving me to my appointment yesterday.  Also to those who regularly check up on me, some of you almost daily: Ger, Mary Ann and Vernis.  My boss and co-workers.  Ger and Tita Shelly who also visited me daily while in hospital.  Yah, I can go on and on..

BUT, I definitely must send a big thank you to Dr. Ethel Macintosh, my surgical oncologist, and Dr. Tom Hayakawa, my plastic surgeon, and their team.  Thank you, thank you, thank you... not sure what else to say but "Thank you..."

Counting my blessings.  Well, trying to, at least.  There are too many to count. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's time

I'm exhausted, but I didn't want to go to bed tonight without this one last blog before the big day.  

Drama and Jax
The past few days were spent with so many friends and family.  On Thursday, Ger and I went to the Humane Society.  I've been thinking about getting a dog.  I knew I wanted a little dog, was leaning towards a shih tzu (just like lil Drama and Jax!) but I saw some big, but really cute dogs at the Humane Society.  There was a pit bull named Frankie... omgeee.  Beautiful dog!  There was another that I really liked, his name was Solo and he is a rottweiler mix.  And there was a mastiff, I can't remember his name, but he also was a gorgeous dog.  I've decided that once I own my own house, I will be adopting a larger dog.  But for now, I will be on the search for a little shih tzu, and hopefully have a little one sooner than later.  

Westwood Dental (missing: Lily, Melissa, Brooke) 

I spent that evening and the days following catching up with old friends.  Hung out with Lisa, Shauna and Alexis that night.  Then had lunch with the Westwood crew Friday afternoon, who made me the most amazing cake!  Friday evening I spent with Eddie and Mark, who so graciously put together my microwave cart for me while I slept.. lol.  The next morning, Eddie took me out to run my errands, and Lori that evening helped me clean out my apartment.  Couldn't have done any of it without them. Finally, Cheryl and Mylaida came to see me on Sunday evening.  It was so good to see everyone.  I've been needing to surround myself with people these days, the mind does crazy things when I'm alone.

Sunday was my dad's birthday.  There was a get together with our closest family members at Kum Koon for lunch.  Again, family therapy is great therapy.  I love my family to pieces, it was a great way to spend the day.  It was an emotional time for me, both happy and sad.  Grateful to celebrate my dad's 65th year of life and good health.  Grateful for all the support I received from the extended family, as it was my first time seeing almost everyone since hearing of my diagnosis.  Grateful that we were all together.

I have spent the last 5 days thinking about how crazy it is, how much people have pulled through for me and how willing the people who truly love me are to help me.  Having friends from high school and friends from work who keep reminding me that they'll be around to see me and help me out in any way when I get out of the hospital.  Sheila, my sister in law, who has listened to me cry over and over again over the past few weeks... and who so selflessly stayed up until 7am Sunday morning to do my laundry for me.  Love, love, LOVE you, Sheila.  And Jady, who drove me to my appointment today and held my hand while I was injected with radioactive material (for my sentinel node biopsy tomorrow, which will be done in surgery to see if my cancer had spread).  And the lovely phone call from Nicole and Karen in Vancouver on Saturday night.  Really, so much support from the people who care about me, and even from some who I least expected it.  I can go on and on, I wish I could go on naming everyone but there has just been so much. 

When I wake up, I will be getting ready to go to the hospital for my surgery.  Thank you for all the thoughts, prayers and positive vibes.  I'm scared, but trying to remember that this is it... they're physically removing the cancer from my body.

Tomorrow.  Tomorrow I start my path to recovery.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Happy 65th birthday to my daddy.  I was reminded today how willing he is to do ANYTHING for me.  I love you, dad.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Family Ties

The Big Bean. Lol.

Gemma, Glen and myself
The trip to Illinois did some real good.  It was a last minute decision to go, and I'm so glad I did!  I spent some time with my cousin, Glen, and his wife and her family.  PS - spontaneous trips like that are fun.. on Monday I asked Glen and Gemma if they were going to be busy that weekend and on Tuesday I booked my flight, lol!  Anyway, there is no therapy like family therapy; being out there, I was able to talk about my situation without breaking down into tears and also be able to live almost as if I wasn't even going through this at all.  They took me out on the town, did a lot of sight seeing and had crazy laughs at the Sears Tower (or Willis Tower, whatever it's called).  Gemma taught me how to make cake-pops, something I can maybe get into while I'm stuck at home over the next few months.  But a big part of what made me come home stronger were the stories Gemma and her sister Grace had shared about themselves and their friends and what they had gone through.  I listened to the experiences of others, and what they eventually were able to overcome.  And they all really did come out stronger in the end.  

Vic, Gemma, Glen, Grace and myself
Thank you to Glen, Gemma, Grace, Ate Jane and Vic for taking me out, being there to talk to, to listen and for just hanging out.  And Drama and Jax... if I could have taken you home without them noticing, I totally would have!!

I got home on Tuesday night.  Yesterday was a tough first full day back.  I thought I was through with the crying!!!  So I kept myself busy.  I had to go to see my plastics nurse, as the medical supply store had ordered the wrong surgical vest for me and she wanted to see if I could get away with using that one.  I can't, so I've got to go back tonight to exchange it for the one I had asked for.  Then I spent some time with Ger and my God-son, Dylan.  Went for bubble tea, and OMG, can Dylan make me laugh!  Ger and I don't get to see each other as often as we'd like, but we're always there for one another, no matter what.  Friends like that are few and far between, not sure where I'd be without her.

Dylan in his Spiderman pajamas
After that, took my cousins who had moved here from the Philippines out job hunting.  Then spent some time with Johann.  He used to be one of my best friends, we used to talk every single day til the sun came up.  To be 19 again... lol.  There was a lot to catch up on. :)

I honestly don't know where I would be without my friends and family.  Not only have they all been there for me as I grieved my diagnosis, but they are also there for me as I grieve the loss of a relationship; Jon and I broke up.  If it weren't for them, I probably would still be living in my bedroom.  I don't take break-ups well, especially not this one.  It was in limbo for almost a week, with failed attempts to reach him and not knowing if I'd ever hear from him again.  For that week, I couldn't get out of bed and I didn't eat... and I probably would still be there right now if it weren't for my sister in law, my cousin and my friends.  They reminded me that I have more reasons to get out of bed than reasons to stay in bed.

Don't know where I'd be without you guys.

Today I am looking forward to spending some more time with Ger, and then dinner with some friends from high school.  It's gonna be a good day. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012


I had to edit that last post, I will not have any more of that!

Landed in Illinois a few hours ago and feeling refreshed!  Good people, good laughs, good times.  This is going to be an awesome trip.  :)

Flyin' away

Way too much on my plate right now.  See you all in a few days, I'm off to Chicago for a little getaway.