Thursday, January 28, 2016

I just went back and reread everyone's comments, and prayers, and I have to say I am blown away by everyone's concern!  Thank you all so much! Your encouragement, love and prayers mean so much to me.
I am doing well.  My first chemo treatment was Jan 15, and that went well. My mom went with me and waited on me hand and foot, and if I didn't need her she was helping out others in the center that had no one with them!  Then when I got home Steve did the same thing. I had a few days of being very tired, and I still get tired easily.  I am happy to report that the anti nausea meds that they give you work very well! I only needed to take them for a few days, and I was happy to stop because they can make one lightheaded and driving is definitely not recommended while taking them. But believe me, I would have taken them for as long as I needed them!  I also received a series of shots to boost my immune system, and my insurance approved me for Neulasta, which does the same thing, but in only one shot with fewer side effects.  I'll get that the day after my next chemo treatment.
I still have my hair, for the moment anyway.  It could fall out any day now, or it could hang in there for a few weeks.  There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to what people have experienced. I talked to one woman who lost hers within a week of starting treatment, and another that finished chemo, then woke up a few days later with a pillow full of hair. The only certainly is that it will fall out at some point.
I am still considered immune suppressed, and will be for some time.  I have to be very careful about what I eat, and where I go.  Basically I can't eat anything raw unless I can wash it myself, no buffet lines, potlucks, salad bars or anything prepackaged.  Goodbye, bagged salad! I also have to avoid crowds, and obviously anyone who is even slightly under the weather. Soap and hand sanitizer are my best friends these days.
My next chemo treatment is Feb 5, and hopefully I will tolerate that one as well as I did this last one. The following weekend we are planning to go to TN for about 10 days, and while we are there, check out this facility  http://provisionproton.com/about-us    Proton therapy takes the place of traditional radiation, and there are fewer side effects and much less chance of damage to surrounding organs.  Since my heart is right under where the tumor was, this is a big concern.  I have been in contact with them and the possibility of being treated there is looking promising.
Again, thank you for your calls, emails, texts, and visits.   Keep them coming.  If it's not a good day, I promise I will tell you!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Short hair

 In preparation for the next side effect of chemo (hair loss), I decided to get my hair cut very short.  My sweet hairdresser, Bonnie, met me at her shop on a Sunday, so I wouldn't be exposed to everyone's germs.  I haven't had hair this short since I was about 10!

Goodbye, Long hair!




video

 Time lapse video of the process

The result!  I actually like it a lot better than I thought I would.  



Tonight, Steve gave me this cap that he has been working on for quite a while.  He managed to get both kids, their spouses, and all 5 grandkids to trace their handprints, and put their names on this hat.  Once my hair falls out completely, I am told that I will feel cold at night, since normally hair would keep my head warm.  So a sleep hat is recommended.   The front of the hat says "Prayers for GiGi"  How comforting it will be to fall asleep with the hands of my loved ones on me!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Next step on the journey

Tomorrow , Friday, I will begin the next step on the road to a cure. Chemo is scheduled to begin at 9:30 and will probably take most of the day. The oncologist ordered 3 different nausea medications and I plan to take them as directed. I sure don't want to feel sick!
Am I nervous?  Yes, a little bit, but more than that I am impatient to start this process so I can be finished. Most people have told me that it wasn't as bad as they expected. I will lose my hair in about 10 days, so I am getting it cut short in the next day or two. I already have a wig, which looks remarkably like my real hair.
I am thankful for modern medicine, which means I have the drugs at my disposal to fight this disease, and a method of early detection, to catch the cancer before it spreads.
I am thankful for the support of family and friends. Everyone, even relative strangers, have been so supportive and helpful. I know that I am on the prayer list at at least 8 churches, and I'll take all the prayers anyone wants to offer!
I am thankful that we have good insurance coverage, in spite of the fact that I really don't like dealing with them.  Several of the drugs that I'll be taking are not approved in countries with socialized medicine because they are too expensive. If you want them, you pay yourself.
I will update this as I am able, and in the meantime, I welcome prayers, calls, and texts. Visits too if you are local, but please call first in case it's not a good day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

When your life is turned upside down...

How quickly a routine medical checkup can turn into a life changing diagnosis!  After a long several weeks of mammograms, ultrasounds, and a biopsy, I was diagnosed with breast cancer just before Thanksgiving.  I was immediately referred to an oncologist, a surgeon, and a radiation oncologist, and spent the next several days alternating between walking around in shock, and making/keeping doctors appointments.  Our first appointment was with an oncologist, and I found out that not only did I have cancer, but that I was estrogen receptor positive, and HER2 positive, both of which can make the cancer more aggressive, making chemo a necessity.  I was really hoping to avoid that! I'll also have 4 weeks of radiation following the chemo, and a pill I have to take for a very long time.
     The good news is that a lumpectomy was recommended, not a mastectomy, and I had that and a lymph node removal done Dec 9.  I had my followup two days before Christmas, and there is no lymph node involvement, and the surgeon got all of the tumor.  Best news I've had in a long time!  This news doesn't really change the treatment, but there is a better chance for long term success now.
     I had a port installed on Jan 7, to make receiving the chemo treatments easier. Chemo is very hard on veins, and mine are not good to begin with, so a port was the way to go.  I will begin chemo as soon as the insurance company authorizes the treatment.  I don't expect any problem with that, it just takes time.

What I've learned:
     God gives us all a certain number of days, and only He knows what they are.  We can improve our chances somewhat by our behavior, but ultimately He decides.  It's up to me to make the most of my days. Whether I live 1 more day, or 30 more years, I want to be greeted in heaven with the words, Well done, my good and faithful servant.
     Fear is not from God!
I have real hope in Jesus Christ!  There was a time right after my diagnosis, that I couldn't even find the words to pray in any way that made sense.  That Sunday our pastor mentioned that when that happens, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, and prays when we can't.  Donnie had no idea of our situation, but somehow he knew to say that.
     Chemo brain is a real syndrome, and it starts the minute you find out that you have to have it.  I can't remember squat these days!  I see a lot of list making in my future.
     I was reminded that I have the best family and friends on the planet! Especially my sweet husband, who has taken so many days off work, and comes home and listens to me ramble on about whatever I've learned about treatment that day. Everyone has been so supportive, and it's hard to really express my gratitude.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Wet Bottoms Trail


After our epic hike on Monday, we were not in any shape for anything too ambitious for the rest of the week.  However, we were feeling the for a bit of activity, so we decided to check out Wet Bottoms Trail in Cades Cove. This is a 1 mile long trail that connects Cooper Road trail with the Abrams Falls trail. It would be a great trail to take small children on. Grandkids, are you listening? Parts of it would probably be stroller friendly, but not the whole thing. For such a short trail, there is a lot to see.  You pass by a  barn, the Elijah Oliver homestead, and finish at the Abrams Falls trailhead, where there is a nice stream to cool your feet.  An added bonus was the beautiful rhododendron blooming.
         
 This was an upscale cabin with several glass windows and multiple rooms. 
 The springhouse


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Who goes to Cape Cod in January?

1/30/15  A Pappy and Gigi who miss their grandkids, that's who!  We found a good price for the flight, and were lucky to get in and out between snowstorms.  We were there for the Super Bowl, which the Patriots won, so it was a good time for all!
Obviously I'm very behind on posting, but I want to remember the trip, so bear with me
Steve finally got to see his newest grandaughter
Josiah is learning from the master!

These kids love each other so much!  It's wonderful to see how good Sarah and Josiah are with Lydia.

They had a lot of snow!  It was over 3 feet deep in their yard.  Fortunately the city keeps the streets plowed, so getting around wasn't a problem.  Both of these snow pictures were taken by David.



My girls!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lower Mt. Camerer

5/25/15  Today we hiked the Lower Mt Camerer Trail from Cosby Campground to Campsite 35, with a short side trip to Sutton Ridge, for a total of 7.4 miles.  Although long, it was a fairly easy trail.  The mountain laurel were in full bloom, and I don't think I've ever seen so many of them.  It was like walking through a tunnel of flowers. 
The ladies; Gina, Vicky, Alice, Mary Ann

The hammock garden at the backcountry campsite.  If we take a long hike, we definitely stop for a rest in the middle of the day.  One tree had 3 hammocks attached to it.  Gina in front, Vicky on left, and Alice on right.  Mary Ann is in the background

Squaw Root.  Although considered a wildflower, it is parasitic and has no chlorophyll.  It's one of the first things to come out in the spring, and is an important food source for bears. 


Mountain Laurel tunnel.
Gina & Vicky in front, back l-r :Hank, Mary Ann, Alice, John, Larry, Steve

How many people can you get in  a selfie?
My thanks to Gina for the last 2 pictures.