Healing

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So I’m usually a pretty positive person, but I’m just going to say it…recovery from this surgery has been awful. Very painful. I’d even have to say it’s been worse then my previous surgeries. There’s the expected incision pain and soreness but there’s also the pain I wasn’t expecting. The pain that had me crying out every time I moved. I didn’t know I would be pumped full of air before surgery started as to make room so my doctor could see. When surgery is over, some of the air is trapped inside. I am suppose to release this air by burping and passing gas. Well I just can’t do those things on demand like my boys can! And I was told later that the air would eventually be absorbed by my intestines, then I would be able to pass the air by burping and passing gas. I didn’t know this would take two days. Two days of the air being trapped and it moving up to my shoulders causing excruciating pain. Pain so bad, I didn’t want to move. At all. It hurt to move. It hurt to cry. Pain medication and heat were the only things to help. I was to get up and walk to help move the air. But I didn’t want to, it hurt. But I did, because I wanted the air out! I’m happy to report that the air is finally leaving my body, I won’t say how…haha! But you can guess! I am now only on Tylenol and feeling much better. I’m hoping to enjoy what’s left of this holiday weekend. 

  
The surgery was performed by my doctor, using Da Vinci. I have one small incision in my belly button and that’s it. I watched a surgery on YouTube, after my surgery of course, and it was so cool to see how it worked. To know that a robot was hovering over me and not my doctor was a little unnerving, but she was only a few feet away operating the robot with the best view to get the job done. 

  
Picture before surgery…

I thank everyone for the positive thoughts and prayers. I felt at peace going into surgery. Surgery is never easy. This one was hard. But I made it through because I knew God had me. So again I thank all of you for lifting me up. 

Stay strong. Stay positive. 

RenaeπŸ’•

Goodbye Ovaries

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It has been 228 days since I’ve written anything. I’ve just been living life happy and cancer free! I had a great summer full of baseball, baseball, and more baseball. We made one of the baseball tournaments into a family vacation. We went to Gatlinburg, TN and had a blast. We ziplined through the mountains for the first time as a family and it was something I will never forget. Fun time making memories with my guys. Overall I have been feeling pretty good. I started working out with a trainer earlier this year. She helped me learn how to get my strength back, especially in my upper body. I learned the proper way to lift to gain strength back in my chest, arms and shoulders. I still don’t have full feeling in my chest or my left arm but I am getting stronger! And it feels good!

I’ve been on tamoxifen for almost a year now. I still hate it. The side effects are just plain awful. Leg cramps, foot cramps, hip pain, always feeling tired and blah. I’ve gained 10 pounds too, which I’m not happy about at all. Tamoxifen is suppose to block the actions of estrogen. It’s suppose to put me into medically induced menopause. I think my body knows it’s not suppose to be going through menopause at the age of 37. While taking tamoxifen, I’ve still had periods. I still experience cramping. But while on tamoxifen, it was 10 times worse. I had a follow up appointment with my breast surgeon and told her about it. She had told me about a study where removing the ovaries from women with high percentage ER+ breast cancer before the age of 40, it increased survival rate and decreased the chance of a reoccurrence. My breast cancer was 96% ER+. Sorry ovaries, but you gotta go. I met with my gynecologist and she went over everything. I have the option to have the surgery done robotically. The robots name is da Vinci and my doctor will operate it. There will be one small incision at my belly button and the fallopian tubes and ovaries will come out through my belly button. Recovery time is faster and it’s suppose to be less painful using the robot. It sounds pretty cool and it’s exciting this kind of technology is being offered. Surgery is set for tomorrow morning at 8:30. Tony is going to drive me and my Mom is here to help with the boys. The unknown again is what keeps me up at night. I’ve been through so much, why this too. It’s preventive surgery. I’m not having surgery because cancer is back. I have always said I will fight everyday. Tomorrow’s another bigger fight and I know with God in my corner, I can do anything. 

   
 

Prayers would be appreciated, thanks friends!

Stay strong. Stay positive. 

Renae πŸ’•

We Now Return You to Your Regularly Scheduled Medication

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I would love to live in a world where I didn’t have to take pills. Before cancer, I hardly ever swallowed a pill. Now I take them every single day. I shouldn’t complain really, I only have to take two pills daily. Some women have to take a handful every day. I’m thankful it’s only two, however those two come with side effects. I’m taking tamoxifen and effexor. The tamoxifen is an estrogen blocking drug that inhibits the growth of tumors. I will take this medication everyday for 10 years. Side effects include hot flashes and night sweats, loss of sex drive, mood swings, nausea, leg cramps, muscle aches. Sounds fun, right?! I have experienced most of these and they are awful. I’m usually always cold, but the hot flashes make me want to strip down to nothing and open a window…even when it’s freezing outside! The leg cramps wake me up at night, horrible pain! The mood swings are not fun. One minute I’m happy, happy then BAM I’m feeling like the Hulk and wanting to destroy everything. My four guys have to put up with me and I know it’s not easy. I finally couldn’t take it any longer and went to see my doctor. She was not happy I waited so long to address this situation. She prescribed effexor which is an anti-depressant. I wanted to avoid anti-depressants. I felt if I took them it meant I failed because I couldn’t handle life. My doctor told me there was no medal for not taking anti-depressants. The tamoxifen was causing all these crazy things in my body. It wasn’t my fault. I began taking the effexor and within a couple weeks I noticed changes. The hot flashes stopped, I felt calm. Like I could handle the daily grind of being a wife and mother. The leg cramps continued but I could handle those. I was happy. I was doing well, felt great! So when my surgeon told me I had to stop taking my medicine for two weeks leading up to surgery, I was bummed. My body had just gotten use to the medication and I was happy. To stop taking a drug that was keeping the cancer at bay scared me. My oncologist said it would be fine. The tamoxifen stays in your body after stopping. I was back on an emotional roller coaster I didn’t want to get back on. Fast forward to after surgery and I’m told I can’t start my medication for two more weeks. What?! They wanted to be sure no blood clots would form. Longest two weeks ever. I was ready to get back to my routine. To feel calm and happy. To not worry if every ache and pain was cancer coming back. Two days ago, I finally started taking my medication again. I hate taking pills, but I am excited to be swallowing these two pills everyday. They give me peace of mind, a calming feeling that I’m doing what’s needed to keep cancer away. 

Stay Stong. Stay Positive. πŸ’• 

 

2016 Is Going To Be A Happy Year

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Happy 2016!! When I posted last, I was very anxious and nervous for my surgery. I was making myself sick and just an emotional wreck. I don’t know why. I’m sure there was more then one reason. The idea of an operating room again. Being cut open again. Being put to sleep again. Not knowing what to expect when I woke up. I arrived at the surgery center very early at 6:30am. Surgery was set to begin at 8:00am. The nurse who took me back to get me ready for everything was awesome. She eased my anxiety and made me feel calm. I met with my doctor, she made some pretty blue lines on my chest, told me all was going to be fine and went to get ready for surgery. I felt good about everything, my head was good. Stay positive, I told myself. I fell asleep thinking about the beach. Surgery took about two hours and went very well. Oh and my port came out too! I was very exited about this. This means no more chemo! I was cleaning out my purse and found the identification card for my port. I had it put in on December 30, 2014. Exactly one year later, it was coming out! Halleluja!! I got to go home the same day, which I was happy about. I had a great male nurse (Tony) who took good care of me. 😊 I only took the heavy pain medication for two days. I was sore, but the pain was manageable and I hate taking pain meds. When viewing my new girls for the first time, I wasn’t sure about them. They seemed really big! I didn’t feel they looked the same. I was warned my radiated side would be tighter and will take longer to settle. I was also told to be patient and not to worry about what they looked like those first few days. So I kept them wrapped up inside a sports bra at all times, unless I was showering. I had my follow up appointment with my doctor a week later. She told me I was to begin massaging them and demonstrated how I was to do that. Holy moly! I think she forgot I had had surgery just seven days earlier! I do the massaging as she demonstrated, in the shower and not as rough. The radiated side is still tighter and requires more massaging. Overall, my doctor and I are happy with how things turned out. I am ecstatic that 2015 and all the hard, hard stuff is behind me. It was not an easy year, but it made me grow. Made me stronger. 2016 has started off happy for me. I am recovering well from surgery, I was able to go back to work after the holiday break and my confidence is growing with each day. Even though no one sees what I see when I take my shirt off, the appearance still bothers me. I know it will take time for me to get used to the new girls! I’m happy to have the option to have new breasts because many women don’t get the choice. I’ll take it one day at a time. Things are looking up! Whatever 2016 has in store for me, I’m ready. 

Stay Strong. Stay Positive. πŸ’•

  

I’m Ready…I Think

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Tomorrow morning at 8am, I will be undergoing my final surgery. The surgery is to exchange the hard tissue expanders I’ve had since my first surgery over a year ago with permanent implants. I am so ready to have this all behind me. My nerves are getting the best of me today though. I’m making myself sick and I know it’s not good for me. I am usually positive and strong but for some reason I can’t shake this anxiety. I appreciate all prayers and positive thoughts. 

Do not be terrified; do not be afraid. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you.       Deuteronomy 1:29-30

Final Stretch

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A year ago, things were uncertain. So much information was thrown at me all at once and I was expected to make decisions very quickly. At the time, I didn’t know if I was making the right decisions. Especially when making the decision between lumpectomy and mastectomy. I took the more extreme, evasive route with the bilateral mastectomy but I couldn’t risk being told I had cancer again. Or telling my boys again. When my pathology report came back of my breast tissue and lymph nodes, the cancer had spread to two other spots in my left breast and two out of three of the lymph nodes removed. In the end, the mastectomy was the better choice. The cancer spreading brought on chemo and radiation. Eight rounds of chemo and 28 rounds of radiation brought on the worst fatigue, hair loss, horrible bone pain, mild neuropathy, loss of appetite and irritated reddened skin. Those hard months also showed me grace. I never went to a chemo treatment alone. When I returned home from chemo, there were special gifts waiting for me from my awesome neighbors. Friends and neighbors bringing my family meals. Two special women who took the time to clean my house every couple weeks while I was down. Countless cards and gifts arrived in the mail. My family and I were shown so much love and I cannot say thank you enough. I am one blessed girl!

In just a few short months, I will finally endure my final surgery. My reconstruction surgery is set for December 30th. I know, happy new year to me! I wanted to finish everything before the end of the year and start 2016 fresh. My reconstruction surgery will consist of my plastic surgeon removing the tissue expanders and replacing them with silicone implants. I am so excited to have these hard, uncomfortable expanders out! At the time of the exchange, my surgeon will also remove my portacath. This is great news as it means no more chemo in my future! 

I am meeting with my ob/gyn tomorrow to discuss the removal of my ovaries. When I went to my follow up appointment with my oncologist, he wanted me to think about having my ovaries removed because my cancer was ER+/PR+. This means the estrogen produced by my ovaries likely contributed to my cancer. By removing the ovaries, my body would no longer produce estrogen. The downfall to this, I would go into permanent menopause at the age of 36. I will discuss everything with my doctor but my gut is telling me to have them removed. I very much dislike taking Tomixifen. I do not like the way it makes me feel. I feel on edge most of the time. I feel like a different person. A person even I wouldn’t want to be around. I feel sluggish and just have an overall blah feeling. By removing my ovaries, I could stop taking Tomixifen. It doesn’t mean I’d be done taking a pill though…I can only wish. I would have to take an aromatase inhibitor so my body stops producing estrogen. Even though removing the ovaries stops the production of estrogen, my body is forced into menopause. My body will still produce some estrogen and these inhibitors will block an enzyme that converts other hormones into estrogen. It will prevent cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow. I will likely be on Tomixifen for at least a year, then switch to an aromatase inhibitor, including Arimidex, Aromasin or Femara. I would continue to take this medication for at least five years. I’m hoping to educate myself tomorrow and again make a decision whether to remove yet another part of my body because of this disease. I’ll do what I have to though. I will not stop fighting. 

Stay strong. Stay positive. ❀️ 

 

Reflection

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One year. It’s been one whole year since I received the phone call that turned my life upside down. Those four words that left me speechless…you have breast cancer. After I hung up the phone, Shake It Off by Taylor Swift came on the radio. So it only seemed fitting to start my day off by listening to that song…in the car, turned up really really loud! I’ve been shaking it off this past year and breast cancer hasn’t slowed me down. It tried, but I won. I went to dinner tonight with two strong women who are also survivors. We were diagnosed around the same time of year, but a year apart for all of us. I was celebrating one year, Leigh Anne is two years and Sandie is three years on the other side. Love the friendship that has grown between the three of us.  

 from left…Sandie, Leigh Anne then me. πŸ˜ŠπŸ’•

Since my last post, which was forever ago it seems, I’ve been busy living life with my family and friends. I have a new outlook on life and want to soak everything up. My husband, three boys and myself finally got to take our trip to the beach in July. It was a much needed getaway for us. It was nice to not worry about anything for a week and just relax with our toes in the water. We had a great time and can’t wait to go back.  

 On our balcony…me and my guys. My world. πŸ’™πŸ’™β€οΈπŸ’™πŸ’™

I’ve spent a huge amount of time watching my boys in various sports. Nicholas played travel baseball all summer, as did Owen. Bryce played some soccer. Nicholas also played on a fall baseball team which is wrapping up this weekend. I’m so thankful I didn’t have to miss out on watching them play. 

Last Saturday, Purdue played in their annual Hammer Down Cancer game. As a survivor, my family and I got to be on the field before the game to welcome the team onto the field. It was so much fun!  

    
   
I was asked to be part of a fundraising gala put on by Saks Fifth Avenue to benefit St. Vincent cancer care. It’s called Key to the Cure and what a fun time I had! I will be featured in a video promo that will be shown at the gala. I felt like a movie star…there was a hair and makeup gal who made me camera ready. There were all these cameras, lights and mics around me. The video will show me, along with other cancer patients, sharing our wish with the audience. After we all share our wishes, the ultimate wish is no more cancer. It will then show an empty infusion room. An empty OR. An empty waiting room. Wouldn’t that be great!?! My wish was to be here to see my three boys grow up. When I was diagnosed one year ago, this was my wish. My hope. My prayer. It was scary to think they would grow up without me. But here I am, a year later…it’s a different me, but it’s me. Stronger. I’m ready to tackle another year. Let’s have some fun! 

 
Stay strong. Stay positive. β€οΈπŸ’•β€οΈ

Butterfly

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My dear friend, Denise graciously gave me this Pandora bracelet soon after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ve been adding charms to the bracelet as I navigate and conquer different stages of my fight. Upon completion of radiation, I knew I wanted to add something that represented finally being done. Something that represented the change my body, both physically and emotionally, has been through. A charm that says, look at me…I did it! I decided on the butterfly. As a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, it shows the world its beautiful transformation that took place over several weeks. It is no longer a caterpillar, but has taken on a new life as a butterfly. The butterfly symbolizes change for me. As I come out on the other side of cancer treatment, I too am seeing change and taking on a new life. Some good change and some not so good change, but I’m alive and able to celebrate the struggle of this new life, to celebrate happiness, love and hope. 

  
We are leaving tomorrow night for the beach! I am so excited to spend seven blissful days beside the Gulf of Mexico…my happy place. It is there that we will reflect on this journey we have been on since September and celebrate us as a family making it through. It’s been a long difficult journey, but we made it. Together. And we deserve this trip to the beach. I may not post again for a while but just know I’m doing well and enjoying life. I get texts, emails, cards in the mail, and phone calls from people checking in on me. Thank you for caring, it means so much. πŸ˜Šβ€οΈβ˜€οΈ

For the Last Time

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Today was my 28th radiation treatment…the last one! 

I walked into the cancer center and headed to the radiation waiting area for the last time. I tied the strings on the pink gown I had to change into for treatment one last time. I positioned myself on the table one last time and watched the machine rotate around me. I held my breath while the machine turned on to send the radiation to the spaces where cancer used to be…for the last time. While laying on the table I stared at the ceiling. The ceiling was painted a sky blue with fluffy white clouds painted in certain shapes. The direction I had to look, I could only make out two clouds…one was a flying elephant, the other one to me looked like a guinea pig. To help me get through the treatment while holding my breath, I would imagine being on the beach. Sitting with my toes in the sand, hearing the waves crash on the shore, the smell of salty air, the warm sun on my skin. It’s one of my favorite places to be. Ever. And in 25 days, I will be on the beach. I cannot wait! 

 Here is the room where I would lay as still as possible for 10-15 minutes, five days a week, for 28 days. 

The boys came with me for a couple treatments. My radiation technician gave them a tour of the room, let them “ride” on the table and even see me on the monitor and talk to me through the intercom from their area where they administered the treatment. It made it seem less scary for them to know what was going on when I left everyday to go to treatment.  

 
My awesome radiation technician, Kaci. She was the best and made coming to treatment bearable. She would go out of her way to get me lotion or creams I needed for my irritated skin. She was thorough and always asked if there was anything she could do to make my treatment better.  

 
Tony and the boys joined me for my last treatment. I normally went alone, but wanted to celebrate my last one with them. It was along 28 days for the boys. We are all glad it is over! 

 
Upon finishing radiation, they give you a cute teddy bear for graduating! Here I am with my cute teddy. I named him Vincent, after the St. Vincent cancer center. 😊 

 
And lastly, I had a celebratory drink to make a toast to no more radiation with Tony and some of my bff’s! 

 
I have been smiling all day. I think I will wear my smile for a while. I’m so happy and blessed!

Stay Stong. Stay Positive. 

Three More!

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I had on my calendar that radiation would be done on July 2nd. I wasn’t expecting my radiation technician to tell me I was on a 28 day treatment plan and my last day is actually June 30th. Woohoo! I know it’s only two days, but man it’s exciting! I will definitely miss all the wonderful people at the cancer center, but I will not miss the drive, laying still for 15 minutes, holding my breath or the itchy, red skin. All in all, I feel I weathered radiation well so far. I’ve heard the worst can happen after you finish. The skin can become very red, sometimes blistering. I pray that my skincare regimen before and during treatment will keep that nasty stuff away. The skin where I’m being treated is red and itchy, but not blistering or peeling. The worse spot is actually on my back, just above my shoulder on the left side. I didn’t realize there would be an exit point for the radiation. And your skin can be affected at the exit point. It’s red and very itchy…Aquaphor has been my friend. As long as I keep the red spots moisturized, it’s not too bad. 

So that’s what I’ve been up to, radiation everyday, running my boys all over the place and lots of baseball. I feel blessed to have the energy for it all. I’m looking forward to radiation being over, so I can spend the entire day doing fun things with the boys. Summer is just getting started for us!