Thursday, September 23, 2010

Movin' On Up...

To the mountains that is. And only for 4 days. BUT...these 4 precious days in Gatlinburg are worth silver, gold, platinum, frankincence, myrhh, and whatever else you could imagine (except copper as my level is still toxic on that one -HA!)
I am headed to the Ladies of Legacy (you can google it) women's only retreat with my friend Kelly and probably 30 other women that I do NOT know, but will come to know soon. This group was started, I think, with just 4 women several years ago as a long weekend to just get away, relax, study God's Word, eat, shop, form new friendships etc... Through the years it has grown and now I am going as a "freshman" and am thrilled (why else would I be up at 4:30 writing a blog?) We stay in a huge chalet and have a roommate which is someone that you DO know. I can just picture it now...
My plan...? TO BE INTENTIONAL with God for 4 solid days. No excuses made! No, "mommy, mommy, mommy, he did this, she said this, get me...." The only distraction I am counting on is being so in love with the beauty of the mountains around me that the Creator made for me. I am taking my Bible, journal, iPod for sermons and worship music, and an open heart and spirit so that I can take in whatever God has in store for this tired and weary soul.
Please pray that I do not get distracted by the shopping trips that are going to be going on (which is also totally fine - just not my purpose this time) as I do LOVE to shop. Also, pray for my family as I am away. I know that David is going to be just fine with the kids, but I have NEVER left him, by himself, with them for more than 1 night. Chloe has been crying that she is scared I will fall off the mountain, that she should go too since it's a girls' trip, that I should stay home in case daddy goes to work, that I might get scared of the bears, etc... You name it, this child has thought of it.
And my specific prayer requests, if you want to know what I will specifically be praying for so you can too if you feel led:
1. That I am making the right decision in moving forward with a latissimus flap in regards to my reconstruction.
2.  That I will finally be able to rest in the confidence that He has healed me forever as He has shown me.
3. That I can make the final touches to a speech that I am giving to 2 different groups when I return. I will be telling my story through breast cancer and I want to make sure I give God full glory, without missing a beat, keep it somewhat light-hearted and funny, and at the end have everyone trusting in God and seeing His ways are always PERFECT.
4. that I can be a more intentional mom. Lately at night, the kids and I have been setting aside 30 minutes before bedtime to do puzzles, color, play dinosaurs, or whatever they want to do together. It has been such a fun way to end the day, but I want to work more of that into my days while still being able to run a household and rest when my body tells me I need to rest. Usually we get out of the house every day for some fun activity for them while I have a chance to catch up with other mommy friends, but I feel like I need to and want to have more 1 on 1's with them throughout the day.

Thanks friends...I will update as soon as I return as there will be no computer with me this weekend (another distraction of mine). I am taking my phone though because I really think my SIL is going to have her baby today or tomorrow so I MUST know when I become an aunt again!!!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Here's, honest, and authentic

If you don't like to read any types of posts except for the "life is perfect" ones, than I must warn you that you need to hop off of this blog and on to another one REALLY fast because I have so much going on right now that I have got to get it off of my chest and journaling is the way I do that...obviously. Those who have been following my blog for a while know that I am a normally pretty positive person especially in regards to my cancer being healed, my incredible growth and walk with the Lord, and just in my life in general.

Well, today, there were several people who made comments to me about my reconstruction process. Let me explain this to everyone once and for all how this works...for me. Both my general surgeon who did my mastectomies and my oncologist (chemo doctor) agreed that my cancer was too aggressive and too far progressed to worry about getting the tissue expanders placed at the time of my initial surgeries. They both wanted me to get through all of the chemo and radiation FIRST because truly life is more important that boobs. That being said, I followed their advice and felt (and still do feel) 100% comfortable with that decision.
When it was time for me to begin the reconstruction process, I went to a plastic surgeon who is highly recommended in Nashville, highly trained in breast reconstruction, and I happen to know 2 women in my city who have used the same surgeon so I have seen his work and he is good! So, what's the problem? RADIATION! When you have radiation, your skin shrinks, scar tissue forms, and you acutally are sunken in in the chest area. It is very difficult to reconstruct radiated tissue, but after talking with Dr. O, we both agreed that placing tissue expanders was the best option to start with for me. I asked him about other options such as a TRAM flap (using stomach muscle and vessels to build a boob) which he was very honest with me and told me that in his opinion I was NOT a candidate for it becauase radiated skin has poor blood supply and it probably wouldn't take, but that he would refer me out to somewhere else if that was what I really wanted to do. To me, that's a great surgeon right there. To admit that he doesn't think it will work for me but will send me to a second opinion if I want one.
Now, tissue expanders look like implants but they start out as empty and there is a port in them where the doctor injects saline weekly. The goal is to stretch the skin and the muscle enough to be able to place an implant in eventually. The expander goes in between the muscle and the skin in a pocket that is created. Each week when I get expanded, it is the worst pain I have ever had. It gets worse with each expansion as there is more and more fluid going into that radiated side and hardly any expansion is happening. My skin and scar tissue is just too fragile and not wanting to cooperate. The other side (without the cancer) is expanding perfectly and I couldn't be more happy. Percocet and Valium are essential to me even being able to breathe for the 3 days after expansions because all of the fluid, instead of pushing everything forward, is staying put and putting extreme pressure on my ribs, muscles, etc... I feel like I am walking around with broken ribs.

Tomorrow I will have 600 cc's total in my radiated side which should put me at a D. However, I am not even an A yet. This is by no fault of my surgeon. I wish people understood that. This is because this is how my body is reacting. Does is frustrate me? YES! Does is make me sad? YES! And am I beginning to feel pretty hopeless? FOR SURE!
I am confused at to what my next step should be. Here are the options that I have...
1. keep expanding and pray that eventually the scar tissue will just give and the saline will go where it is supposed to. If I do that, I have 4 more expansions left.
2. Go ahead and let the PS take me back to the OR and allow him to clean out more scar tissue and then place the expander back in and keep moving forward with hopes that with less scar tissue there will be better results.
3. Have a latissimus flap done. This is where they will find skin from areas of my side and back and graft it onto my chest to allow me to be able to have an implant placed. This is my last resort as I know that skin grafts are difficult, painful, and I just am not ready to resign to this decision.

I wish life were easy. I wish so bad that someone would just tell me what to do and not give me a choice. I wish I were normal. I wish that cancer had never entered my life. I wish that my friend Kate were still here to help me make decisions as she would be walking this same journey with me and we would be a great support to each other. As of now, no one that I know has walked in my shoes as far as having expanders placed after radiation. I wish there were no pain. I wish the tears would stop for good. I wish that my family didn't have to deal with me and all of my junk all of the time. I wish all of these things were not just wishful thinking. But the thing I wish the most is that the hope and security that I had in my God were as strong as it was when I was first diagnosed. I wish I had the hope and belief that all of the numerous times He has told me that I am healed forever were not being overshadowed by the thought that any day my cancer will be back. I feel like I am turning into the Israelites who kept forgetting the amazing things that God had done to prove Himself to them and that's the last thing I need is to be like that. I don't want anymore "wandering in the desert."

I know all of these feelings make me human. I know that these are a normal part of the process of recovering, grieving losses, etc... but I'm just tired of it all.
Next week I leave for 4 days to a women's conference where there is a Bible study, but most of the time is just for us moms to be able to relax, read, shop, or whatever we want to do. I can guarantee you that what I will be doing is being intentional with the Lord and our time together. I will be praying and begging for an answer as to what to do. I will be on my knees before my Lord praising Him for the 33 years I have had and asking Him to bless me with many many more.
Please be in prayer for me.
Love and hugs to each of you!