Sunday, December 19, 2010

Every time I climb up I feel like I get knocked down

I promised myself I wouldn't whine anymore. I guess I lied to myself. This is my outlet - I'm sorry! I apologize. If you don't want to read whining, please skip this post.

I'm still suffering from revenge of my oophorectomy/hysterectomy... This time I think its developed into a kidney infection. I'm still sore in my lower abdomen. I can deal with that. However, now I'm even more tender & its spread around my back. That plus some other unpleasant symptoms of the infection are tormenting me. I've got a call into my doctor about it. :-/ I'm taking an antibiotic that might be making me feel worse instead of better.

I'm still dealing with the hot-flashes & panic attacks. For the most part, I'm ok with the hot-flashes. I actually was thinking last week that they were getting better. However, this afternoon my granddaddy (my dad's dad) came over to mom's. It was the usual craziness with my brother & sister-in-law, their kids (Abby 4 yo, Sarah 2 yo, & Lukas almost 1 yo), my 2 kiddos, mom & dad. Generally I'm in the center of the action willingly. Instead, I had a hot-flash & even though I've learned to control my panic somewhat, all I wanted was to go outside by myself. I handled it, but it definitely wasn't pleasant.

The rest of the time was great though, so don't think its all miserable. I love spending time w/ the family - especially ones like granddaddy that we don't get to see very often. Its also great to share time with my brother's family & mom & dad. My biggest wish is to control these hot-flash/panic attacks a bit more & get to the end of the revenge of the gynecological surgeries.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

You just never know...

Recently a friend of a friend was diagnosed with Stage IV renal carcinoma. She went from doing bicycle races (road & mountain) one week, to being hospitalized after having surgery to remove a kidney, part of her spine, and some other tumors. She's in her 30s or 40s with no previous symptoms or family history. She was just suddenly struck with this horrible disease. My friend tells me she's in good spirits, but it just has to be horrible for her. Her bicycle team/club has made decals for their bikes that say "I ride for Dee" as a show of support for her.

Those decals may not seem like much to those who put them on their bikes, but coming from my perspective, things like that mean a tremendous amount. Being told by friends that you're an inspiration gives you the courage to continue fighting. Knowing that someone else has used your example of fighting to keep themselves going through their own struggles is humbling. While they gain strength from your struggle, you gain strength from their choice of you as inspiration. Its a wonderful circle of inspiration! I hope Dee gets the same courage from her team's support as I have from the various people who've done something similar for me.

Then you have my mom. If you recall she's a 5 year breast cancer survivor (she's the one I inherited mine from). She had a bilateral mastectomy with TRAM flap reconstruction. The surgery was a very long procedure (16 hours), but successful. She did chemotherapy too. She had a worse time with her chemo than I did, but she survived. Well, the other day she went to her regularly scheduled oncology appointment. The oncologist found a lump on her chest wall. With our history, she was terrified it was cancer again. I went with her to meet with a surgeon who will probably do a biopsy. He wanted to remove the whole lump, but we know from speaking with MD Anderson that they typically like to keep the lumps in so they can observe them during treatment. We got the surgeon to say he'd speak to mom's team in Houston & left. Mom had already been pro-active enough to send a secure email to her breast surgeon in Houston. Eventually, she ended up speaking with the breast surgeon's nurse on the phone. That phone call was full of great news. The doctors there are probably 90% convinced that her lump is actually just fat necrosis - a fairly common occurance with the type of reconstruction my mom had. Instead of a biopsy, they recommend an ultrasound. Since ultrasounds are *much* less invasive, that is a great alternative. I'm not sure when the ultrasound will be scheduled, but we're praying for good results!

Anyway, it just goes to show that you never know what life is going to hand you. You have to roll with the punches & rely on God to take care of you. He has a plan, its just that most of the time we don't understand it. Its also important to tell those you love and admire how you feel because you never know when something could take that ability away from you. God bless!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Oh No!!!

Just the other day I got a letter in the mail from MD Anderson. In that letter was the notification that my plastic surgeon is leaving December 17th. I realize that sounds kind of superficial, whining about my plastic surgeon leaving, but the plastic surgery is the primary component of my treatment that's supposed to make me look 'normal' again. I have gone to a plastic surgeon in Louisville - for follow-up and fills - but his vision and methods for my reconstruction were *VERY* different than those of the doctor in Houston. Since the reconstruction is actually what I'm going to live with for at minimal 10 years (baring unforseen complications), it is *really* important to me that the final results be as close to my 'normal' as possible as well as maybe improving things a bit. I would have had my reconstruction finished by now if my gynecology oncological surgery hadn't gone so poorly and if I hadn't required another emergency surgery a month later. However, I can't change the past, so I was looking forward to the fabulous results I thought the plastic surgeon in Houston could give me. Actually, at this point I'm kind of considering staying local for the plastics part if I'm going to have to break in a new doctor anyway. I actually have my Houston doctor's pager number & he's willing to speak to me on the phone about that option. I'm going to call today!

In other news, my first *real* day at work was a success. Wednesday I was in Frankfort for a meeting, so while I was technically working, it wasn't really my day-to-day tasks. However, yesterday I arrived at my home-away-from-home and after updating my office with photos of the kids, a statue of St. Peregrine, & a holy card, I began my work in earnest. I spent much of the day trying contact the various investigating officers in charge of my cases. However, I did actually work a case as well! Its actually quite a relief to be back to doing my normal things. I don't feel quite as useless and out-of-touch.

Meanwhile, the kids were with mom. She had them doing crafts - clothespin angels - as well as playing as usual. It was *very* heartwarming to go pick them up last night. Both of them came running, well Rachel tried to run, to the door exclaiming for me. Simon was actually saying "Mommy". Rachel says "momma" when I'm not around, but when I arrive she either gibbers or says "nana" or "dada". I don't know why neither of my babies (at this age) will call me by "momma". Its amazing how quickly Rachel has learned to walk and even try to run. She still staggers like a drunk at times and falls frequently. However, the staggering and falling is abating. She's making great strides!

While I was driving home and picking up the kids, Andrew, aka Mr. Househusband, was cooking supper. I arrived home with the kids to a clean house and food on the table! Whoot, whoot!!! I also saw his handsome face! ;-) Like Mater from Cars, "I knowed I made a good choice!" We all spent the evening playing. All in all, my 1st day back was not as traumatic as I was dreading!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thank you to KSP Employees!

It is with great gratitude that I return to work today. I am so deeply moved by all those who have participated in the time-donation that has allowed me to have a work-worry-free time to recover from my cancer surgeries. The well-wishes, time, and prayers have been a great boon for me while I recovered. Just last night I went through some of my get-well wishes & they brought tears to my eyes. I never imagined I would be the beneficiary of such love and care from those I can't even name! I appreciate every hour that was donated to me. I know that without your support I would not have been able to recuperate as effectively as I have. The journey has not been easy, but you have given me peace of mind (on the work-front) that has helped. Thank you with all my heart!

For any of those who don't know, the reason it has taken me so long to return was that my simple surgery went very poorly. I ended up having to have two surgeries about a month apart from one another. In both instances, I was unknowingly much closer to death (by bleeding first and by infection second) during both of these surgeries. Since the surgeries were much more complicated and traumatic for my body to deal with, my recovery time was lengthened. As a matter of fact, the first surgery went so poorly that the second part of it was not completed. After having the second surgery, I was mandated to delay my reconstruction process another 3-6 months. However, I have sufficiently recovered at this point to return to work.

Also, the kids are doing great! Rachel had her first birthday the Friday after Thanksgiving. Even after receiving chemo while still in utero, she is growing wonderfully. She's learning to walk and talk now. Her brother, Simon, helps her as only a big brother can! They thank you for the support you've given their mommy too! :-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Well, I'm still working on recovering. I've found that this cancer thing has changed my physical & mental capabilities & out-look. Right now, these changes have sunk my confidence in myself. I'm working on improving. I've also found that I need to be more confident of myself as an adult. Contrary to how I sound on the Internet, I'm pretty meek & mild when around my elders. I'm also very cautious about hurting others feelings when/if they hurt mine. In other words, in real life, I don't speak out very much. I'd rather remain silent than stop someone near & dear to me from saying more than I want to hear on a subject. I've gotten pretty good at talking to Andrew in my own way, but I haven't been able to branch out to others yet. Its a goal.

Andrew & I have been spending a lot of time at home with the kids the past 2 weeks. Rachel is still not quite walking - she takes 4-6 steps then sits down. She is an absolute leech on Andrew, just like Simon. She's also started throwing temper tantrums. When she doesn't get what she wants (like picked up by Andrew) she flings herself onto the floor & rolls around while moaning. Its kind of funny, but its also scary because I don't want her to be so spoiled. She chatters like a Magpie too. I think one of her words is "horsie" which makes me happy! She can also say: mama, dada (one of her top 2 words), bye-bye, nana (one of her top 2 words), papa, nanny, papaw, and ninin (I think that's Simon). She's obsessed with my Breyer horses and Simon's cars. She also likes books, but won't sit still for a whole one to be read to her.

Simon is still not potty trained. I'm pretty disappointed. If we press him to potty in the potty too much he'll just hold it in. He also cries like his heart is broken if we try. Otherwise he's doing quite well. Right now he's on a hunger strike. He's not eating, but he's drinking. Both he & Rachel have had some sort of viral mucus funk. I thought he had it first, but now that Rachel has recovered he seems like he's got it again/still. He's been really cuddly lately (that's his sickness mode). He & Rachel roll around on the floor and wrestle all the time. They love to play with one of my blankets - peek a boo mostly.

Overall, I think our little household is doing pretty well. Both kids are kind of spoiled, but Andrew & I have talked about how we're going to prevent further spoiling (in our house) and hopefully reverse some of the spoiling. We're still working on communication. Tomorrow (November 18th) will mark 5 years since Andrew & I first met! So much has changed, yet so much has stayed the same! Hopefully things will get better! :-)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New start?

I've enlisted all my strength to try to start over again. I'm trying to keep myself *very* busy so I don't think about my physical problems. I'm also trying to just not think too much period. Today I helped Andrew in his 'new' man-cave/semi-trailer w/o wheels. We built a work-bench. This is probably the 1st time we've worked together on something like this as such a good team. I'm usually with the kids or trying to do something else. I think I may have surprised him by my familiarity with the process & such. I may not be a girly-girl, but I've tried to avoid too much heavy lifting since we've been married - mostly because I've been pregnant on & off (mostly on with the 2 live babies & 4 miscarriages in less than 4 years). Anyway, today I was able to hand him things w/o him asking and be a couple steps ahead sometimes. I was quite proud of myself. I think the work-bench looks great! Hopefully I was also able to help him work smarter & not harder for his back's sake.

Of course, the semi-heavy lifting I did was not without consequences. My foobs are burning & my lower abdomen where my scars are hurts pretty bad. However, I think it made my mental/emotional picture better today. I still think this cancer stuff is horribly long-lasting, but maybe I'm going to be better soon. I hope & pray...

Monday, November 8, 2010


I am theoretically physically healing. Its just taking a LONG time. Mentally I'm not sure I'm healing at all. I think this last round has kicked my butt beyond what I can deal with - even with the wonderful support I have from family, friends, & internet buddies. Its hard to describe what I feel right now. Words just aren't adequate. I feel defeated. I'm not hopeless - although hope is far from obvious. I'm not faithless - although my Faith is being severely tested. I'm not despairing - although I find little joy in anything. I'm mostly just tired. I do feel a bit worthless, inadequate, and troublesome.

I worry about my interaction with everyone because I don't want to bring anyone else down. Sometimes that's an arrogance that I know I should avoid - afterall the world doesn't revolve around me. However, I do know how one person's attitude can affect & infect someone else. I don't want to be that one Debbie-downer in a crowd of people who have their own struggles to overcome. In these times we ALL have troubles. At this moment I just feel that mine are insurmountable as things stand now.

I'm working with Dr. B on trying to get medication that will help my hot flashes and maybe my depression. Once that gets in my system at the proper dose, maybe I'll be able to look at my struggles and see the way out. I'm also exploring other avenues that I typically would avoid like the plague - therapy, massage, anti-depressants, etc.

One unconventional thing I plan to look for later this week is a horse. I don't need to buy one or anything. I just need to smell that wonderful horsey comforting smell and feel the hair, muscles, and acceptance a horse can give. I've tried bonding with my dogs, but they're Beagles & would rather hunt than bond. I've tried bonding with the cats, but they're cats & pretty aloof. I need a horse because that has ALWAYS been my go-to comfort.

Just to re-assure any of you out there wondering: my cancer is gone. That's not what has me so melancholy. I'm still dealing with some of the physical limitations, pains, and quirks of this new body I've been given. I don't have intense pain all the time, but its enough pain to disrupt my day between the foob discomfort, scar discomfort, and some internal pangs. I have a hard time dealing with the continued problems with my body because I'm in a pessimistic mind-set. Every extra twinge or bruise/blood gets me worked in to a lather that something *else* is going wrong. Logically I know that recovery is a LONG SLOW process... However, it seems like I've been recovering FOREVER! I was expecting much more smooth sailing instead of this roller-coaster ride my recovery has been. I guess that's the problem with having high expectations. :-/

Monday, October 25, 2010

Depression makes me busy...

Well, I had Dr. B put me on Effexor for my hot-flashes. After 4 days (nights) of taking it, I started noticing that I felt like I had ants crawling under my skin. I decided that was a bad thing (allergic reaction), so I quit taking them. I also wasn't noticing any signs of the hot-flashes abating.

After I quit taking the Effexor, I took the time to re-assess myself. I was feeling pretty depressed, but I was sub-consciously keeping myself busy to not dwell on it. However, I found that when I was honest with myself I just didn't care about anything. I'm not sure if the depression was due to the Effexor or just to the overwhelming sense of disquietude in my life right now.

To those of you who haven't had any of this kind of thing done to you, it may sound like I'm being petty, vain, and/or sensitive. However, I've noticed that its bothering me more & more how my body looks. **I may get a little TMI here, so if that turns you off - click away from this page now.**

Let's put it this way. In July 2009, I was a 28 year old woman with 2 kids. I had a pretty realistic idea of how my body would look after 2 children. Before this cancer diagnosis I was coming to terms with my body as God made me. I had things I didn't like, but I was mostly comfortable with my body. I'm a typical girl in that I've always felt a bit insecure about certain aspects of my body, but in general I had the attitude that if you didn't like it - don't look. I also knew deep down that my body was probably better than average. I was large breasted and after nursing Simon, my breasts had begun their downward descent. However, they had a normal tear-drop shape and were delightfully sensitive (sometimes over-sensitive, but hey). I had a fairly flat stomach with just enough cushion to not look anorexic - even at 20 weeks pregnant. My waist tucked in nicely well above my bubble butt and bodacious hips. I was a *happy* 34DD-29-38!

Now, in October 2010, I'm a 29 year old woman with 2 kids. I have unnatural breasts that look like someone put coconuts under my skin. The tendons & muscles that connect my pectoral muscles to my shoulders/arms stand out in significant relief instead of smoothly being hidden by extra breast and/or fat tissue. For some reason this *REALLY* bothers me because it reminds me of how my Nana looked after she had her mastectomy (unilateral on her left). While the implants are there, they don't fill in the space properly AT ALL. They look totally foreign & feel even worse. They also are slowly, but surely, working their way under my arms. I have to wear some sort of bra at all times or else the movement of the implants rasps against my chest wall. The pain is significantly worse when they're pushed into my chest by holding Rachel or Simon or laying on my stomach.

Another issue is that I have absolutely no feeling in the skin on my breasts what-so-ever. I can feel the skin along my breast-bone. However, from my breast bone to under my arm - about the middle of my arm-pit - the only sensation I have is pressure on my chest wall. One of my nipples is permanently semi-raised, while the other one is missing (it died off after my mastectomy).

Then as I look further down, instead of the mostly flat tummy I once had, I have a misshapen ridge from my open laparotomy. For some reason, the internal stitches bunched up on my right side, so it makes a rather large (to me) lump. I'm also apparently still retaining fluid and/or swelling upon activity, so instead of being mostly flat or at most slightly convex, (to me) I have a quite convex profile. Not only that, I also can't feel (except for pins & needles and/or pain) the majority of my lower abdomen.

On top of all that I'm dealing with 20+ hot flashes a day. Since my mastectomy I've had either an altered sense of smell or my sweat glands under my arms put out a slightly different odor. So now I'm paranoid that I'm going to have BO as well as looking like a freak. Not to mention that I'm not 100% sure how this whole surgical menopause is going to effect me in the long run... Its still early yet, but I could become a stark raving b*tch at almost any time.

Basically, my gripe with my body is that it betrayed me & I am going to have to go the rest of my life this way. A 29 year old shouldn't (IMO) already have so much going against her. Now I've got fake boobs & a bulgy abdomen - neither of which have sensation. I could go stark raving crazy at any time and most likely if you're with me for an hour or so I'll have at least one hot flash, so I'll be sweating even if the ambient temperature is a chilly 60 degrees. I now have the semi-fake body of a 60 year old woman instead of an honestly God-given flawed body of an almost 30 year old.

I can't stand to see myself naked. I can't stand to think about what I look like. Its much worse than having lost my hair b/c I know that at least my breasts are NEVER going to look like they did or even natural. I can go for a LONG time without remembering chemo and losing my hair, but I can't go more than a few minutes before realizing that my breasts are artificial and have no sensation. I don't know what's going to happen to me if my lack of hormones causes me to be evil either. I can't go for more than an hour it seems (awake) without having a hot flash to remind me of what I've lost.

Of course, I keep trying to tell myself that I lost my breasts, ovaries, tubes, uterus, & sensation of all of the above in order to *keep* my life. Sometimes I know the trade-off is worth it, but other times it just seems like the cost is so high. I mean, quality of life vs quantity of life is important. How do you decide which is worth more? I really didn't have much choice on my breasts since I had cancer. I don't feel like I had much choice on the ovaries, tubes, & uterus either - especially once I talked to Dr. B about the various cysts I had in my ovaries. So if I look at it logically, I know I am where I am because I needed to get here. However, my mind isn't working logically. Emotionally, I'm exceptionally depressed about my situation. At this moment I can't see it getting much better. Again, logically I know it probably will. When you're deep in a pit its hard to see how to climb out. Logically you know the only way out is up, but finding the hand-holds & foot-holds is difficult. Even then once you get 1/2 way to the top at any time you can fall back to the lowest level. I'm praying that God will give me the strength to get out of this pit.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Breast cancer awareness & Life alerts

Its that time of year again. The time when you can't go anywhere or do anything without running into pink this or that marked with a pink ribbon. While I appreciate the sentiment as a 5th generation breast cancer survivor, it really irks me that some of the most prominent organizations that support breast cancer research are hand-in-hand with the nation (world's?) leader in abortion services. In 2009, the Susan G Komen foundation gave $7.5 MILLION dollars to Planned Parenthood. However, in 2008 (another banner year of donations for SGK going to PP) breast cancer services (mammograms & other screenings) went down 4% while abortion rates INCREASED by 6%. That is NOT what most supporters of SGK intend, at least not among those I have befriended. As a matter of fact, I know some women who are very active in their local SGK & have said that their local SGK does *not* fund PP. However, there is a slippery slope there... The local SGK chapters send money to the national SGK. The *national* SGK is the one funding PP - not necessarily the local chapters. So in essence, any support of *any* SGK chapter is supporting PP. There is also growing evidence that even abortion supporters cannot deny that abortions INCREASE a woman's chance of breast cancer. So, riddle me this... Why is SGK giving money to the biggest provider of abortions (PP) - especially in light of the troubling statistics from 2008, the troubling research coming to light about the link between breast cancer & abortions, and in the face of PP receiving MILLIONS from the government?

As a 5th generation breast cancer survivor, a mother, a woman, and a pro-life Catholic (isn't it sad that I have to differentiate on that issue with other Catholics?), SGK's association with PP deeply troubles me. Through my research I've found that other seemingly innocent organizations supposedly trying to eliminate breast cancer (or any cancer) also donate tremendous amounts of money to PP. Some organizations are open about it (SGK is), but many others deny all claims. For instance, although the American Cancer Society claims to not donate money to or refer patients to PP, if you search their website and/or browse PP's financial records (records they don't release in a timely fashion), you'll see that women are subtly directed to PP from ACS. At the very least, ACS has not kept up with the current research since on their page about breast cancer during pregnancy, they further the idea that termination *may* increase survival. Actually, research has shown the opposite. Women who are pregnant during their chemotherapy have BETTER outcomes and fewer side-effects from chemotherapy than similarly staged women that are not pregnant. Perhaps this is because at the end of pregnancy you get the most wonderful gift of all - a new life to love, protect, and praise God about. Whatever the reason, ACS should keep abreast (haha a little breast cancer humor) of current research.

Now, if you're like me, what I said above troubles you and leaves you confused, angry, and disappointed. However, here's my solution... Look in your own community for a cancer patient needing funds raised, travel paid for, prayers said, support given, etc. Give someone in your community suffering from cancer (breast, ovarian, prostate, lung, whatever kind) your DIRECT support. Cut out the middle-man, that way you'll KNOW where your money is going and who it's helping.

If you don't want to single someone out in your community, try your local cancer center or a large cancer center. You may need to research your cancer center to be sure they aren't in bed with PP or a similar organization. I've vetted my cancer center - MD Anderson - and found that they have a no embryonic stem cell research policy. I also know from experience that they have been helping women like me have their babies & receive treatment for 20 years. While they aren't 100% pro-life (a fact I sadly found out 2nd hand while down there), they don't perform abortions on-site, nor to my knowledge do they support PP. I would be tremendously honored if people who read my blog or attend my FaceBook page would donate to MD Anderson in my honor.

In short, sadly supporting many of the mainstream breast cancer organizations equals supporting Planned Parenthood and/or the abortion industry (or embryonic stem cell research). To combat this, find someone in your community in need of support & give them your money. Another option is to support a cancer center you KNOW isn't supporting abortion (like MD Anderson). Make sure your money goes where YOU want it to go.

PS - I've included some links to articles as sources for some of my numbers & information. If you're of a mind, you can do some independent internet research to find other sites supporting my facts. I've chosen to use Life Site News because of parsimony.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The article about my Life Award

Banquet Organizers 'Excited' About Turnout, Involvement

08 Oct 2010 — Messenger-Inquirer

By Beth Wilberding, Messenger-Inquirer

Organizers say Right to Life of Owensboro's annual banquet attracted one of its largest crowds this year.

Nearly 700 residents made reservations for Thursday night's banquet at the Hines Center, said Laura Ebelhar, president of Right to Life of Owensboro's board of directors.

'It's amazing,' she said earlier on Thursday. 'We think it's incredible. So many people are making a point to step forward and show their support for us and our missions. We're very impressed with the community at large. We're very excited about it.'

The annual banquet is Right to Life of Owensboro's largest fundraiser of the year. Money raised goes towards the organization's educational campaigns, including the billboards it places around town and radio and newspaper advertisements.

'Our mission is to educate about life, so we use the money to create educational campaigns essentially,' Ebelhar said.

Right to Life's guest speaker was Heather Gemmen Wilson, author of 'Startling Beauty: My Journey from Rape to Restoration.' Gemmen was raped in her home and became pregnant as a result of the sexual assault.

She told the group that she had three options: Keep and raise the baby, which she initially ruled out; put the baby up for adoption; or have an abortion.

'I'm ashamed to say how tempting that was,' she said. 'I grew up in a family that was pro-life.'

Though Wilson and her then-husband initially asked a married couple they were friends with to adopt the child, the couple ultimately decided to keep her child, a daughter.

She described her daughter as being 'the one startling beauty that could come from something so painful.'

Wilson encouraged the group to 'trust God in whatever situation you're in.'

'I do know God can do powerful things through your situation if you trust Him,' she said.

Accepting the Life Award: pictured Rick Jones, Rachel Vandiver, Amanda Reffitt, and Erika Vandiver (l to r) Photo by Rowan Jones
An Owensboro resident was honored with the organization's Life Award. Erika Vandiver was 28 years old and 20 weeks pregnant when she learned she had breast cancer in 2009.

She is the fifth generation in her family to have breast cancer. She delivered a healthy baby girl, Rachel, last Thanksgiving Day.

Vandiver and her husband, Andrew, also have a son, Simon.

Erika Vandiver went through chemotherapy while she was pregnant and continued treatment after Rachel was born. Vandiver had surgery for a bilateral mastectomy, then later to have her fallopian tubes and ovaries removed because she had a high risk of ovarian cancer.

Vandiver didn't know she was receiving the award.

'Most people don't have a clue that you can have cancer, survive and have a baby. ... It's important to insure that message gets out,' she said.

Beth Wilberding, 691-7307,

To Learn More:

Donations to Right to Life of Owensboro can be mailed to the organization at 1115 Tamarack Road, Suite 200, Owensboro, KY 42301, or made at For more information about the organization, call 685-4922.

To learn more about Heather Gemmen Wilson, visit

Erika Vandiver's blog is

Version: 6End:

"Banquet organizers 'excited' about turnout, involvement" Messenger-Inquirer 08 Oct 2010: C1

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Humbled & honored...

Well, I was conspired against at the Right to life banquet... I was awarded the annual Life Award for my journey with Rachel & cancer. I'm again humbled & honored by my family, friends, & strangers who find me inspiring for doing all I know how to do - survive. Thank you & God bless!

Let's play catch - up!

Well, I think the last time I was on here I told the story of my CT scan & ultrasound showing a hematoma or cyst on my uterus. Well, that was Thursday, this is Thursday of the next week... Friday was an awfully painful day & I promised Andrew & mom that if I continued to hurt that badly I'd call Dr. B. Well, I continued to hurt that badly, so I called Dr. B. I actually ASKED to be put in the hospital it was hurting so badly. She pre-admitted me over the phone & told me to head over. We got there around 1 pm. By 3 pm I was in surgery. The surgery went well, but it showed that I definitely had a great reason to be in so much pain. Instead of a hematoma beside/on my uterus, I had an abscess in the wall of my uterus and a portion had died off the side. I also had severe adhesions between my uterus, bowel, and mesentary (the sac that holds your internal organs in a loose bundle in your abdomen). The adhesions on my mesentary were so severe that it looked like a piece of cloth that was pulled as tightly as possible. I spiked a fever after the surgery, so I wasn't released until Tuesday. I'm still on some strong medication & quite uncomfortable, but on the upswing I think.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Another complication...

At least now I know I had a really good reason to feel so miserable... I had to have emergency surgery Saturday Oct 2. The pain got to be so great that I couldn't handle it at home, so I called my doctor (who was luckily on call) and she did a direct admit on me. Around 3pm that afternoon, she had me in the OR. It turns out that my uterus had an abscess in its wall as well as adhesions attaching it to my bowel and mesentary (spelling). Some of the photos show how tightly everything was attached. Internal organs aren't supposed to be attached to one another tightly. They're supposed to kind of float around inside your abdomen. Mine apparently didn't read that book! The surgery was a success. She was able to use my most recent laproscopic incisions to remove my uterus & the adhesions. However, I spiked a fever after my surgery & so I'm still in the hospital for now. I'm hoping to get out tomorrow, but I haven't had much luck holding food down yet. I'm on IV antibiotics and fluids for now. I'm still in quite a bit of pain, but its slowly getting to the level it was when I was admitted Saturday.

In a way I got what I wanted initially, my uterus, tubes, & ovaries removed. I just had to take the long way, as usual. The worst part is that this is probably going to delay my reconstruction AGAIN. I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever be finished with this cancer crap... :-/

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Well, I can't say I'm surprised, but the ultrasound today showed that I have a hematoma (blood filled sac) near my uterus on the right side (the side that oozed/bled so much during surgery). This isn't the worst option, but it isn't a good option either. As of right now its not obvious that the hematoma is getting bigger and/or infected (an abscess). However, that is a significant possibility. So I'm on some high-powered antibiotics, rest, wait & see until next Thursday. Then I have another ultrasound & visit with Dr. B. She's fairly confident that it'll resolve itself if I take care of myself. However, if it doesn't, Dr. B will have to do more surgery on me to remove the offending hematoma/abscess. If she does that I'll go ahead & have her remove my uterus this time. Of course, the biggest concern with that is that for whatever reason I bled last time will still be present & I'll bleed badly again. However, if the pain doesn't decrease & the hematoma doesn't shrink there really isn't another option. Of course, this all means that my 2nd stage reconstruction ('permanent' implant exchange for these horrible expanders I have in now) will be delayed again. That's terribly frustrating to me. Basically I'm in wait & see mode.

I had to give in to the fact that I'm having some trouble dealing with all this emotionally & mentally, so I'm going to rely on some pharmaceutical help in that department. I'm still not going to be allowed to walk, be active, or pick-up/handle the kids. However, hopefully in a few years I won't even remember this seeming roadblock in the road except as as a bit of speed-bump. Last night I was kind of blaming myself for this problem because I didn't *have* to have my ovaries & tubes removed yet. However, Dr. B read the surgical report & saw that I had an ovarian cyst (benign, but still problematic) that would most likely have needed to be removed in 4-6 months anyway. So I'd have had to have my ovaries removed regardless of whether I chose to or not. So contrarily, that kind of made me feel better emotionally about my decision even though I'm suffering for it now. I was also pleased that the tech that did my ultrasound was actually the same one that did all my biophysical profiles for Rachel before she was born. I got to share with her how big & healthy Rachel turned out. That was a good feeling. Something similar happened yesterday at the Health Park. The woman that registered me for my CT scan had dealt with me while I was still pregnant & bald. I was able to tell her about Rachel's wonderful health too.

I am still kind of depressed about the whole situation. It looks like I'm going to have about a month longer off work to recover. Its also really hard not to pick-up the babies. They're so cute & sweet that I just want to cuddle them & hug them. However, when I do, I pay for it with lots of pain. However, I'm getting a lot of support from family, friends, and even complete strangers. That helps me realize that God is up there watching over me. Its easy to feel like God is out to get me or punish me for something. One of the techs today pointed out that God doesn't give us more than we can handle. I think one of the saints is quoted as saying they wished God didn't love them quite so much when confronted with that logic. I feel like that saint. I've also lately been given several quotes and/or comparisons to Job. However, I just don't think I'm nearly as righteous as he was (or the saint was). However, I'll keep plugging away. I still pray for God to let this cup pass from me, but I figure that since He didn't let Jesus's cup pass, He's not going to let mine pass either. However, it is comforting to know that even Jesus cried out to God for relief & was denied. Granted He did a whole lot more than me and was a lot more blameless than me, but He still suffered & cried out for relief. Thank you everyone who's praying, thinking, and wishing me well. I appreciate it & need it!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Its been a while...

I guess its bad that I've not been blogging. Honestly, I just haven't felt up to it. Things have not been so well...

After my surgery I thought things were going to get better relatively quickly. I was apparently wrong. Its been 4 weeks and I'm still on Lortab & Ibuprofen every 6 hours. I'm hurting a lot more than I anticipated... I'm pretty sure I'm hurting more than the doctor(s) anticipated as well. Yesterday, Dr. B ordered a CT scan to check on the conditions of my innards. The CT scan revealed that I have an abscess, an infection of my tube (that's supposed to have been removed), or an accumulation of fluid on my right side. I go tomorrow to have an ultrasound to see about differentiating which problem it is.

I'm pretty bummed out about all this. I have hot flashes too. I'm just not so happy. To start with I was told to expect a laproscopic procedure combined with my reconstruction with a 2-3 week recovery phase. Instead I ended up with a laparotomy with 5 days in the hospital & at least 6 weeks recovery and no completed reconstruction. Even though I knew the surgery went poorly, I still expected to have my usual quick recovery. Not so. When the pain (for me) outlasts the pain medicine the doctor(s) give, its a really bad sign.

I feel like my body has betrayed me. I mean, it was bad enough to get cancer while I was pregnant & in my (late) 20s. Then it was bad to find out that I'd have to have "permanent" silicone implants instead of using my own tissue. Then I didn't heal quite as quickly as I wanted from the mastectomy/reconstruction. Now, I made the difficult decision to have my ovaries out thinking it'd be an easy procedure (I was assured of it by several doctors and lay-people), only to have it back-fire on me. I feel awful. I feel ugly. I feel defective. I feel depressed. I feel like I'm a bad mom b/c I don't have much maternal desire right now. I'm just miserable.

Rachel & Simon are doing great though. Simon's still not potty-trained, but he's extraordinarily intelligent! Rachel is growing like a weed & learning to stand & even walk. Andrew's being great too. He's still unemployed, but we're spending a lot of time together!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Home again!

We started home almost as soon as I was released from the hospital Saturday afternoon. We had to stop for the night about 5 hours away from home. Then we made it all the way home by 3 pm Sunday afternoon. It was a long hard trip that I'm still trying to recover from.

We spent the night by ourselves - sent the babies off to my mother-in-law's house. We slept in really late & then Andrew went to go get Simon. We played with him all day! Andrew's going to bring Rachel home tomorrow.

Brenda (my mother-in-law) called earlier to let us know that Rachel stood up on her own without holding onto anything else. Brenda said she turned away for a second & the next thing she knew Rachel was standing holding on to a toy! While we were gone she mastered some words - bye-bye with hand motions (means both the obvious as well as come get me I want to be with you), mama, nana, dada, and papa. Mom sent me a video of her doing it.

It makes me sad to miss some of these firsts of Rachel's. I feel like I've not bonded as well with her as I could have. Simon was so dependant and connected to me (quite literally a lot of the time) when he was this age. I still felt kind of left out sometimes because Andrew has always had quite a way with him. However, at least I knew I was providing him w/ something vital that linked us all the time.

Poor Rachel has been continually separated from me it seems. First it was chemo separation. I was with her, but not really b/c I was somewhat miserable from the chemo. Then I had my 1st surgery, so I was unable to hold her for 2 weeks. Then even after I healed from that surgery, I've had some issues with not being able to hold her close b/c of my expanders and pain. Then we kind of settled in with each other. However, now we've been separated for a long time again & I won't be able to hold her for at least 2 weeks again. In a few weeks (3-4 maybe) I plan on trying to have my 2nd stage of my reconstruction done. So that'll be *another* separation.

However, I still feel like she's more bonded with others than she is with me. Maybe part of it is because I don't have that same closeness of nursing her. Another part of it is that I feel like I've just been so worried about myself that I've not been able to be as single-minded with her. I don't feel like she's been neglected or anything. Its just that I have uber Mommy guilt I guess.

Friday, September 3, 2010

This sucks...

If there's a list of what can go wrong during an ooph I probably hit all the top ones. I had my surgery Aug 31st. Supposed to be laproscopic & implant exchange. Ended up being a laparotomy without exchange. I lost almost 2 liters of blood during surgery. I had adhesions from endometriosis all over. She left my uterus. I've had transfusions & now have illeus (my bowel's asleep). I'm still in the hospital & I'm absolutely miserable. I still have my horribly ugly expanders. I'm pissy & sore.I'm 900 miles away from my home & kids. Farting is my biggest accomplishment for the day. It just sucks.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Houston we have a problem...

Well, I did get to have my surgery, but only part of it. I was scheduled for both my ovaries to be removed as well as for my 2nd step of reconstruction. The ovary removal was 1st. We never got past that part. Apparently my endometriosis has been really busy since I had Rachel. Dr. K got into my abdomen and found all kinds of adhesions. My ureter (tube that connects your bladder to your wee-wee) was attached to my ovary, and other things we attached to each other. Technically, nothing was supposed to be connected to anything else. Dr. K got my right ovary out, but I kept bleeding. I lost over a liter of blood & have had to have a transfusion. A simple 2 hour surgery (the ovary part) turned into a LONG time. I think all told, from when I got here yesterday until they found me a room was about 15 hours. With all these complications, my 2nd step of reconstruction couldn't be done. The risks were just too high. Instead of being in the hospital for one night, it's probably going to be 2-3 nights total. Instead of 3 weeks off of work for recovery, its going to be about 6 weeks. I'm pretty miserable. I'm glad to have at least this much done, but I'm just so exhausted. I'm on a morphine pump - I can give myself a dose every 6 minutes. I'm pretty much doing that. Please keep the prayers coming. I really appreciate it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Schedule set

I got my surgery time. At 11am I'll hopefully be going under. I can't wait for the 'happy' juice!! I'm kind of nervous. Ok I'll admit, I'm a lot nervous. This surgery is nothing compared to the last one, but i feel just as nervous as before. Hopefully I'll be ok. Timeto start my nasty prep. :-(

Sunday, August 29, 2010

We have arrived

We made it to Houston this afternoon. It's such a long trip... Bleh! Tomorrow I have only one appointment scheduled. Then I think we'll try to do something moderately fun. The worst thing will be that I have to do my icky surgery prep & not eat after 6 pm. Oh well.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Drumroll please... Blood counts are...

OK!!! They're not exceptionally high or anything. Actually, I'm just barely squeaking by with a whole 0.4 over the absolute minimum! However, it should be good enough for surgery next Tuesday (August 31st). I can't decide if I'm nervous or just anxious to get this phase of my life FINISHED. We're leaving the kiddos behind Saturday to make our way to Houston. Dad's coming w/ us, but mom will man the fort (and the kids) while we're away!

I did my public speaking engagement yesterday for the Making Strides kick-off breakfast! It was great! I stood there w/ Rachel on my hip. She, of course, tried to steal the show by grabbing the microphone & babbling a bit. I just honestly told my story, & of course I left a bit of what I wanted to say out (that's the problem w/ not having note-cards or a page to read from). I think a lot of the people there were suitably moved & happy to hear my story. I got some laughs & a lot of head nods &/or head shakes when I emphasized that the only 2 choices most women know about are terminating their unborn baby or possibly dying from their cancer. My goal is to share that there *is* a 3rd option that is entirely viable - have the baby & treatment at the same time!

I'm so blessed to have the opportunity to share my story with such wonderful caring people. I'm even more blessed to be surrounded by the wonderful, caring, loving people like my family & friends that have supported me through this entire situation. Its not finished yet, & I'm not entirely certain I'll ever be 'over it', but I know with the support I have I'll beat this!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Public speaking...

I'm in a somewhat unique situation since I went through cancer treatment while pregnant. Most people don't know or even understand that this can be accomplished. I've been contacted by two organizations as of now to speak about my blessing/curse. One is the local American Cancer Society's Making Strides against breast cancer breakfast on August 25th. The other is still in the 'maybe' stage - the "World's Biggest Baby Shower" in McLean County. I'm actually *really* excited. I would love to get my foot in the door & try to be an inspirational speaker sharing my story of life & love. I want people all over to realize that no one's life has to end when you're pregnant and diagnosed with a disease. I'd like some tips on how to realize this goal...

I would also absolutely love to write a book (short story?) about my blessing/curse. Its a secret dream of mine to be a writer. I *love* to read & would absolutely think it awesome if I could give others something to enjoy & maybe even inspire. I have to say that I've mostly thought about fiction, not non-fiction, but again, I'm more than willing to try to get my foot in the door. In other words, tips would be greatly appreciated for this endeavor too!

Friday, August 13, 2010

I wish...

Time is passing slowly & sometimes I wish it would speed up. Time passes quickly & sometimes I wish it would slow down. I guess it just depends on where I am at the moment. Most of the times I live inside my head a completely different life than anyone else even suspects. I bleed most frequently on so-called anonymous online sites like this one, FB, & some bulletin boards. However, even there (here) I don't always really get out everything I feel. Its too scary & makes me feel weak & vulnerable. Sometimes I wish I could express myself fully, but I don't know how... here's a song that entirely speaks my feelings... Listen real hard to the lyrics.

SheDaisy - I Wish I Were the Rain

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Surgery date...

I get to have my surgery August 31st as long as my blood levels cooperate. I'm having the combined reconstruction with hysterectomy surgery done in Houston. You can be that I'll have my blood checked before I leave KY!!!

Funny Simon story... I've posted before that he has commented on my 'balloons' (expanders look like coconuts strapped under my skin). Well, he noticed them the other night & asked what happened to my 'other' ones. I told him the doctors had to cut them off. He immediately said back to me, "They got caught in the cactuses!" Now if you've ever heard him say 'cactuses' you'd know one reason this is so funny to me... He has a way of stressing the 1st syllable and drawing the word out much longer than it is. Its actually very funny to hear. Only a 2 year old! ;-)

Poor Rachel got bit on the hand by some bug (not a brown recluse spider) and had an allergic reaction to it. Her little hand swelled all up like a lobster claw. She went to the doctor yesterday for it & was pronounced fine. She was also weighed... She's 21.5 lbs!! She's a BIG girl! :-) She's also starting to crawl. Its so cute b/c she rolls from side to side. Its hilarious to watch!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Drum-roll please... The results are...

My blood work came back decent. Not good, but not bad. The funny thing is that the standards MD Anderson has in place are actually lower than the ones my local Ob uses. My Absolute Neutrophil Count needed to be above 1.5 for MDA, but above 1.8 is where Dr. B wants it. I think it was 1.7. My total white blood cell count needed to be above 4 for MDA, but above 4.2 is where Dr. B wants it. Mine was 4.1 I think.

I've made the decision that as long as they can do both surgeries at the same time (replacing my expanders for real implants & hysterectomy) I'm doing it in Houston. If the scheduling &/or my blood levels aren't good enough for that I may split them up & do the hysterectomy part here & go down to Houston at a later date for my foobs. I think I can live with that.

However, right now I'm slowly getting more & more irked with MDA because I keep sending messages asking if I can still do both surgeries with my blood levels where they are & when I can do it. All I keep getting in return are messages saying my request/questions have been forwarded to the doctor in question. Its been a week since I started contacting them. I still haven't gotten the final word on whether Dr. K (in Houston) is actually happy w/ my blood levels. I just got the results over the phone (Thanks, Sarah!) & asked for them to be faxed to MDA. I didn't ask many questions except to know I barely scraped by... I know how conservative MDA is, so I'm not really getting my hopes up yet. Heck, at this point I'm not going to get my hopes up until they put the IV in my arm & give me that great stuff that 'relaxes' me right before surgery. I think I just need to carry around some of that stuff... You know, like how people w/ bad allergies carry around an epi-pen? I need a relaxi-pen! I get all worked up & then I can't eat or sleep.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Realizations & Rationalizations...

I've come to some realizations this week.

1) Even though I've actually had a hair-style similar to the one I have now, its not the same. I understand that its kind of cute & hip, but I didn't get to choose it. That's the big difference. I was basically forced to undergo this transformation from a woman w/ hair the length she wanted to a baldie and now to a pixie. So while I appreciate the comments about how cute it is, its just not the same as if I'd gone to a salon & chosen this style above all others. Its a constant reminder of the year I've spent fighting this beast. I am winning so I want all signs of my struggle gone from my sight (and other's sight).

2) Another part to the above that also includes my body and self-image is that its fairly easy for me at this point to forget my outward appearance. Sometimes I walk by a mirror and am shocked at my appearance. I can't recognize the face, body, and/or hair in the mirror as myself. In my mind I'm still the same girl/woman I was last year, the year before, etc. Yeah, I'm a year (or so) older, but I'm essentially me in my mind. When I glance in the mirror & see this alternate image of myself in the mirror its kind of shocking. If you've ever gotten a drastically different hair-style you may recognize the phenomenon. The same goes for my body as well. There are actually moments when the foobs don't hurt or bother me, so I can reasonable feel like I'm a whole person. Then I happen to look in the mirror or catch a glimpse of the hollows in my chest above my expanders. Then the memories flood back and the immediate awareness that I'll never be the same again hits me. Even if I look outwardly to the world the same as I did before this experience, I'm constantly reminded of the changes I've undergone just to live.

These realizations may not seem like momentous ones to you. However, to me they are the ultimate. I'm sure as I age I'll come to similar revelations, but hopefully they won't be so sudden and drastic as these. Afterall, I'm a 29 year old woman w/ 2 children. I know I'm going to age & change in appearance - sometimes for the worse. However, through it all there will be remembrances of who I was before all this happened.

I'm also dealing with rationalizations. I have the opportunity to choose to have my surgery here in town by my own Dr. B who delivered both of my children & has seen me through 4 miscarriages & this past year of cancer woes. My other option is to have my surgeries (both the hysterectomy & implant exchange) in Houston by doctors who specialize in cancer treatments/preventions. The vast majority of my family seems to think that I should still go to Houston. However, Andrew & I are lured here to town by the ease it will have over going to Houston again so soon. For both options I have to wait for my blood counts to rise (I still don't know what they are). I have until August 3rd to decide I guess. Hmmm...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Catching up...

I've been neglecting my blog again. Sorry. Things are still pretty much the same.

Rachel's not crawling yet. She pushes herself backwards with her hands & can sometimes convince her fat little legs (I mean little as in their not very long, not that they don't have extreme girth) to lift her fat little butt (again little is that she's 7 months old, not that its not extremely well-padded) to take a small crawl-step forward. However, these crawl steps are few & far-between! She basically likes to pull her feet up and wave her hands around while she rocks back & forth on her belly like an odd-looking rocking horse! Mom says I used to do the same thing.

Simon is still not potty trained. He has had 5 total successes & I can't even begin to enumerate how many failures. We've tried bribing him (toys, food, etc), giving him targets, telling him we'll be happy if he does it right, sitting him on the potty for hours, having him run around naked, doling out gentle discipline for peeing (or #2) on the floor, etc. He has shown that he knows what to do, he just doesn't want to do it. He can also hold it for tremendously long because as soon as we put a diaper on him its fairly bursting w/ pee (&/or #2) within 5 minutes. At this point we're doing all of the above simultaneously in the hopes that its going to click one of these days. Last night after he had 2 'accidents' at mom's house I brought him home to sit on the potty for a while. He did what he was supposed to FINALLY!!! Even though he'd already made a puddle at mom's he filled the potty pretty well! He got a potty dance from me, a "good job" & "I'm proud of you" from Andrew & me, & two toy trucks (a monster/hot rod John Deere tractor & hot rod fire truck). I kept praising him right up until he went to bed.

I sold Febe on Saturday. She's now in her new home in Northern/central Indiana. The family that came out to buy her was really sweet. She's going to be the foundation for their Equine Ministry. They have a daughter of about 8 or 9 that has Down's Syndrome. One of their son's is about 15. The son is the one that's going to work with her primarily until she settles into their routine. However, they hope to use her for their daughter as well as other children in need. They're also going to breed her if/when they find a stallion. Its weird to be horseless again for the 2nd time in a year. However, I know she went to a good place & that it'll work out best for me/us to not have a horse to worry about right now. In the next year or 2 I hope to get to a place again where I can have a horse & actually use it.

Andrew has been feeling kind of bad lately. He went to the doctor & they can't find anything wrong with him. The doctor said he was probably just extraordinarily stressed from everything that's going on in our lives. Andrew's not one to relish being idle, but since he closed his business, he's not had a 'purpose' for his days. I'm not home enough to help him out of the doldrums. So he's struggling a bit. However, I think he feels a bit better knowing that there's nothing seriously wrong with him.

I'm still waiting for my meeting with my local ob/gyn. I've had several people put the bug in my ear that I should still have my hysterectomy done in Houston. Most people's opinion is based on the fact that I *could* have cancer & if that is the case, they want to be sure I have someone familiar with cancer doing the surgery in case there's something different that needs to be done. I'm still leaning towards having it done here though. The chances of me having ovarian cancer are fairly slim (less than 5% I think) due to my age. However, I think the chances of having a more complicated surgery (open abdominal surgery instead of laproscopic) is probably greater than the cancer risk. If I do have to have the open abdominal surgery I'd rather be close to home for my recovery. I don't relish a 900 mile journey home with a big incision in my belly. I'm confident that Dr. B can do a good job. I'm still open-minded though (or at least I'm trying to be). I'm waiting on a reply from Dr. K from Houston on her opinion. Plus I'm going to ask Dr. B what her opinion is on Wednesday. All I know is I want it done ASAP!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tenacious Tuesday.

I heard from Dr. B's office yesterday. I meet with her to discuss my surgery July 21st. Its help ease my mind a little bit to at least have a concrete plan.

I think Rachel will be crawling in a few days - hopefully by next week. She's getting her knees under her and pushing herself forward on her face. Its quite comical to watch. I tried to get some video (using my iPhone), but the little twerp would roll onto her back & grin at me instead!

Once again, I've been thinking. Do the decisions we make really change us? If I could go back & change just one thing, would that make me a different person? Better? Worse? On the one hand, I don't regret who I am, but who's to say that I couldn't be a better person if I'd chosen more appropriately at one point in my life? On the other hand, sometimes the quirks of fate seem to slap me in the face instead of patting me on the back. Oh, I know God is ultimately in control of everything. However, its our free will that really screws things up!

For instance, if I was bosom buddies with someone who then turned around & stabbed me in the back, am I a better person for it - or does it just show that I lacked perception in chosing my bosom buddy? Another instance, when I hid myself away after my boyfriend's death, did I delay the joy that Andrew & I have found? Had we met sooner, would we have more than 2 living children and 4 saints in Heaven? Would I be a better wife, him a better husband? Would my cancer have come sooner or later? If I'd phrased a comment differently, would the response still have been so dramatic? There are so many questions & so few answers. God, the author of Life, is the only one who knows.

Sometimes its the small things that can completely change someone's life - either for the better or worse. Did a harsh word I said to someone in high school irrevocably harm them? Did a harsh word I heard irrevocably harm me? Did a kindness done to me or observed by me foster in me the desire to do the same for someone else? This latter is what I strive to do - live it forward.

Life has dealt me some blows. It is my goal to rise above these blows and cause someone else to have hope, love, and compassion. The only way I can do that is if I have hope, love, and compassion. Lately I've been lacking in hope and quite possibly compassion. Life has been difficult & sometimes, even when you strive to rise above, you can't get above the deep well of negative emotions. I'm crawling up by will, prayers, & my fingernails. I hope that in my struggles I've not brought anyone down. I wish only to rise above and help others to rise as well. God bless!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The waiting is KILLING me...

I'm hoping that statement is only figurative, not quite literal. I'm worried that if I wait too long it *will* be literal though... I'm SO frustrated right now. I got rejected in Houston, my local oncologist says I should have the surgery anyway, so I call my local ob/gyn first thing yesterday morning. I'm waiting on a call back to see if she'll do it... Since I haven't heard anything from her yet, I call her office... They're CLOSED until Monday! I know this is her regular day out of the office, but I just want to know one way or another...

At work we also just got the 'official' word that furloughs are definitely going to be required for state employees. That means that we're going to be forced to take a certain number of days off without pay. Not to mention that the budget shortfall is making them mess with our retirement benefits. Of course, the private sector people think our benefits are so awesome... Well, they used to be, but now we're really just average with a little better retirement/insurance. However, our salaries are generally *lower* than other states as well as private sector jobs in our field. For instance, in Henderson, NV (or really almost anywhere, but here) if I had this same exact job, I'd be making at least $10,000 more per year. So in order to stay close to my family, I thought the benefits of state employment would out-weigh the lower pay. However, it looks like when its time for me to retire (if I make it that long) the retirement plan will no longer be in place. I think its set to run out of money in 2013.

So basically, since our legislators/governors/etc can't balance a budget & keep to it, us 'little people' are going to suffer. You can bet your bottom dollar that they're not going to suffer from this... When they're re-elected they'll throw out perfectly good office furniture & such to order new for themselves. They'll give themselves raises every year while our 1% increment has been denied to us for at least 2 years. They'll spend money wining & dining lobbyists & themselves, but they forget they're sometimes taking food from the tables of hard-working state employees (not to mention tax-payers). They'll give money to people who have no jobs - some through their own faults (drugs, convictions, etc) - but not help those who work for a living.

Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!! This has been a *really* crappy week...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A year has passed...

Well, I'm not in a super good frame of mind right now. I'm back to work & trying to keep busy. However, I keep thinking about the past year & where I wanted to be by now.

This time last year I was being strapped to an operating table without anesthetic for my biopsy. I could hear, feel (a lot more than I wanted), and smell the surgeon taking the lump out of my breast. I could feel Rachel (although I didn't know she was a she yet) swimming around in my tensed abdomen. I can still remember the disbelieving expression on the surgeon's face as he told me, mom & Andrew that the lump he removed was cancerous.

It probably doesn't make sense to everyone why I'm making such a big deal out of this. I mean, another month or two really isn't supposed to matter that much. However, I've got some bad feelings. I'm haunted by the fear that my body is going to betray me again & I'll have cancer (ovarian this time) if I don't hurry up and remove the appropriate tissue. I'm also worried that I'm going to lose my nerve to have this surgery. There's also the increased risk of becoming pregnant (and most likely miscarrying) during this dangerous time. I'm going to mourn the loss of my fertility, but there are definitely benefits to that loss - some of which only another woman with problems like mine can fully appreciate. Not to mention I was really looking forward to having my real foobs as opposed to these uncomfortable & ugly expanders. All in all, this surgery was about actually *improving* my life as much as it was about preventing cancer. Its also difficult for me with my obsessive-compulsions to get over the fact that my tidy schedule has been irrevocably ruined. I want to see the end of this cancer monster that has not left my mind since this day a year ago. I want to know I've done everything in my power to eliminate this monster from my life once & for all.

I was hoping that by this time this year I'd have all this behind me. I was working really hard to attain that goal. Sadly it didn't work. I'm still just as unsure about the future as I was then. I'm still as nervous, scared, and worked-up as I was last year. The biggest difference is that now I have a 7 month old Rachel instead of a 20 week embryonic Rachel. I just want to be finished with this scourge called cancer. I want my life to go back to normal. I just want to be normal. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride... :-(

Friday, July 2, 2010


Well, I guess technically I didn't fail, but my bloodwork sure did. I spent the most miserable birthday ever all for nothing. We drove to TX all night on the 30th. I felt nervous & sick so I mostly tried to sleep. That left me sore & groggy when we arrived at 7am the 1st. Then since all of us we feeling groggy we slept all day. I seem to have caught a slight bug, but figured it wouldn't matter. Got to the hospital bright & early this morning met with both doctors who couldn't wait to operate then did diagnostic tests. One of the most uncomfortable & humiliating of which had to be done twice due to computer issues. As if that wasn't bad enough after we left the hospital I get a call from my main surgeon. The bloodwork showed my white bloodcell count to be 3.5 instead of a normal 4. That completely disqualified me for both of my "unnecessary" surgeries... The whole reason we drove all this way. I'm not mad I'm just so deeply disappointed and unhappy that I can't seem too get over it. This is way worse than finding out I had to have implants instead of my own tissue. I know I'm not likely to have any complications because of this wait, but I feel like my life is once again on hold because of this stupid cancer. Not to mention that the low WBC count could have a more sinister cause than left-over chemo. So now I still have a sword of Damoclese hanging over my head. We're leaving 1st thing tomorrow morning. Yippee another 900 mile journey only this time for nothing. :-(

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

butterflies & acid rain

Let's just say my system is on revolt... The military helicopter butterflies are bombing away w/ acid rain or something. I know this surgery is in my family & my best interest, but I feel like I'm being sent to the gallows or something. I just wish I could get it over with already! This waiting is AWFUL!

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Ok. I got to thinking again... You know how when you're nervous people ask if you have butterflies. Well, I decided that is definitely NOT accurate enough. When I think of butterflies, I think of light airy beautiful creatures that flit & fly from flower to flower. Butterflies bring to mind a tranquil pastoral setting in my mind. Swaying flowers and flitting butterflies do not connote the nerves that the 'butterflies' should. When I'm nervous its more like I have bats, buzzards, or military helicopters circling my stomach. Its a violent & awkward sensation with no peace at all. That's the feeling I have now. I think right now I've got enemy military helicopters bombing away...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This time last year...

I was thinking this morning (I've been doing a lot of that). Anyway, this time last year I was scared to tell anyone about my pregnancy b/c I did not yet know whether the lump on my breast was cancer or not. I was fortunate that I was almost 20 weeks pregnant & not showing any signs b/c I was able to effectively hide both my pregnancy & my worry about cancer until I had to take off for my biopsy July, 7 2009. Talk about a let-down. I told everyone that I had good news & bad news... The good news was of course that I was successfully pregnant about 20 weeks along. There wasn't much celebration at my announcement because of the bad news. The bad news was of course that I also suspected I had breast cancer.

Poor Rachel didn't get welcomed as much as most babies b/c she was announced & born amid my cancer. I think she's fine though. It won't matter one way or another for her! :-) Here she is playing house with her big brother! She's almost 7 months old & he's 2. They have the greatest time together. She loves to watch him play - even when he's driving Andrew & me crazy! Its just a matter of time b/4 she's on his heels chasing him and being chased by him! I can't wait! :-D

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I've been thinking...

Its not a good thing for me to be thinking like I have been. I've been pondering my looming surgery. I'm afraid plain & simple. Not of the surgery itself, but of the consequences of it. Am I really going to be a woman afterwards? I don't have real breasts, I won't have ovaries, tubes, and possibly a uterus. I will no longer be able to be open to creating life w/ Andrew. Deep down I know I will still be who I am and a woman. However, its really quite frightening to be not quite 30 and be sterile for the REST OF MY LIFE.

Of course, the key here is LIFE. If I don't have the surgery I'm putting my life at risk. Everyone I've spoken to has said it sounds like I'm making an informed decision medically, morally, and personally. However, there are still doubts and fears that seem to want to overwhelm me sometimes. Medically speaking about 3% of women get breast cancer before they're 35. Correspondingly, about 5% of women get ovarian cancer before they're 35. However, since I'm already in that loser's bracket of the under 35 crowd for breast cancer, I think the risk of me getting ovarian cancer is too much.

I want to live to see my kids grow up. I want to watch Andrew get old & know that he'll always be 9 months older than me! ;-) I want to be there to help take care of my parents when/if they need it. I want to LIVE. I don't want to live in fear & if I don't have the surgery I'm afraid that's what'll happen. So while I know in my mind & heart this surgery is the answer to my worries, it is still frightening. So please, keep me in your prayers. I appreciate it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Its been a while

I've not gone on vacation or anything, but its been a while since I've written. Things are kind of hectic with all the responsibilities I feel I have on my shoulders. Plus our internet at home is rather unreliable. The kiddos are doing great. Andrew is still kind of at loose ends, but he's doing pretty well. I'm tired. That's really all that's going on...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Surgery date...

I just got the call back from Dr. K at MD Anderson for removing my ovaries. The date is July 6th. I will have pre-op appointments the week before, so most likely I'll be traveling to Houston on my birthday & having my 1st appointment on mom's (sorry mom). However, I'll be almost 1 year to the day since my diagnosis! So on my diagnosis aniversary I will be 'cured' hopefully once & for all! :-)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I thank God for...

Life in general - in another age I could be dead already - not to mention my 6 month old little girl would not have made it either. Although today breast cancer is relatively easily fought & won by many - even a decade ago, my mutation would have meant almost certain death for me & my unborn (at the time) child. So another aspect of this thanksgiving is for those who've pioneered in the treatment of my ailment and found ways to preserve not only my life, but also my child's.

My husband for being my rock, laughter, tease, lover, fellow-Catholic, accountant, and best friend.

My children for blessing my life with their smiles, laughter, and antics.
My family (mom & dad & DH's parents) for being so giving to help us w/ the kiddos while we work.

My job even though I occassionally (ok - most of the time) hate having to leave my family. I am blessed to have steady income, good insurance, and wonderful co-workers who also helped me through this struggle w/ cancer.
For those that have gone before us and are praying for and with us closer to God's ear than we on Earth can hope for.

My Faith, Savior, and Church. Without these rocks of my salvation I would surely have floundered in the deep recesses of my soul.

My BBC & FB & blog friends who've given me untold support all the while demanding nothing of me. I hope that one day I can return even just a paltry portion of this aid to a few of you.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Innermost thoughts?!

Its been a while since I've delved into my inner-most being on here. I try to keep things light-hearted & happy. Not because I'm faking the joy I have in my life, but because I'm trying to focus on the joy and not the doubts, fears, and struggles. Anyway, today I have been beset with thoughts that linger. This is the best way I know to relieve myself of them.

What does your inner voice tell you? Does it tell you you're a wonderful person? Or does yours, like mine, constantly query you as to whether you're the person others see in you? Does your inner voice congratulate you for well-made decisions? Or does yours, like mine, persistently call to mind all the doubts you've had about your decisions? Does your inner voice exude confidence at your image, intellect, and personality? Or does yours, like mine, wonder at the way others must see you? Does your inner voice accuse you of laughing too loud or too hard, of opening your mouth only to display your ignorance, or scoff at your appearance?

Does something like the struggles I've endured in the past year change you? Or does it merely call into the forefront your mortality? Did I really do anything that is all that wonderous? I was diagnosed with breast cancer - millions of women cope with that beast daily. Yes, I was pregnant at my diagnosis - 1 in 3000-3500 women have the same fate. I endured (yes I will at least give myself that much) chemotherapy and the endless paranoia associated with uncertainty. As a matter of fact, I'm still confronted w/ uncertainty and a decision that will forever change my life. However, I did not do it like a lamb lead to slaughter - opening not my mouth as the Prophet said of Jesus. No, I opened my mouth and sought compassion and commiseration.

I don't feel that I've done anything out of the ordinary. Actually, most of the time I feel that I called too much on my family & friends to support me. Every one I know has their own crosses to carry, yet I often-times know nothing of their struggles. They don't seek out my advice or comfort. I am too oblvious to notice. Although I now feel like I've experience more of life, I am still oblivious to others struggles it seems. I truly want to help others. I can acknowledge that sometimes just being up-beat (and oblivous) can help others through their dark times. However, I like to do concrete things. It just seems that I'm too selfish & caught up in solving my own problems (as if I can solve them) to help someone else attend to theirs. So take this as my humble plea and vow to offer solace where I've sought it. I truly appreciate everything that has been done for me & wish to return the favor if possible. You have but to ask.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Great day!

Today was a great day to be alive! The sun was shining, the temperature was warm, but with a nice breeze, and the kids were happy. The only thing is that Febe got out TWICE and ran from me TWICE! We think we've figured out where she's getting out, so hopefully tomorrow we'll be able to fix it. Otherwise, the kids & I played outside all day. Andrew played on his tractor all day - mowing Rowan & Laura's fields, Febe's field, our yard, etc. Simon got a 'man' haircut today & looks SO CUTE!!! He didn't like it much, but it was worth it! Abby, Sarah, Laura & Lukas came over this afternoon to pick cherries off my cherry tree. We're not sure what Laura's going to be able to make with them (there aren't very many), but she's going to try for something.

Some weirdness did happen today though. In the mail I got a notice that my Louisville plastic surgeon's office scheduled me for surgery without calling to ask me for a good date/time. Apparently, they think 2 days b/4 my birthday would be a great time to have surgery. Hate to break it to them, but I think that would make my birthday SUCK! I'm kind of weirded out that they would schedule my surgery and inform me of it via mail when we never really talked about when I'd like to have it. I just got a notice about the surgery & some pre-op blood-work orders without a phone call or discussion with the doctor.

My Chemo-Jane hair-style

My Chemo-Jane hair-style
I just had to have my mom buzz my hair because it was falling out so badly.

Pre-op wearing my hand-crocheted cap with my prayer shawl.

Pre-op wearing my hand-crocheted cap with my prayer shawl.
My loving husband is watching me distract myself with a game on his iPhone.

2 days after my BMX w/ 100ccs in the TEs

2 days after my BMX w/ 100ccs in the TEs
I even have a fashionable belt to hold up my drains.

3 weeks post-op w/ 400ccs in each TE

3 weeks post-op w/ 400ccs in each TE
The smile is fake because the TEs were irritating!