Angel Note

Angel Note
"If Music be the food of Love, Play on!" -- Wm. Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It Never Rains But....

LadyBug is currently sitting in the E.R. of a hospital up north. She went in for a visit with Dr. Plastics today. He said everything around the surgical sight looks great, and she is healing up nicely. He was concerned, however about the trouble she was having breathing, so told her to get a chest X-ray at the hospital.
The x-ray showed fluid in both lungs, plus a blood clot in the left lung. They are waiting for a room to be ready, or something right now, and our son StarGazer drove over to be with her. They said they will probably keep her a couple of days, but we don't know for sure exactly how long. They have her on oxygen, and I think, antibiotics, and will start her on anti-coagulants as soon as they can.
We don't know much at this point, but your continued faith and prayers are appreciated. I am quite worried right now, because my accompanist told me her husband's first wife died suddenly from a blood clot in her lung. We'll be walking a tight line until we can get LadyBug home again.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Little Pampering Goes A Long Way

Today, LadyBug called down to one of our neighbors who has an in-home salon, to see if she could wash her hair for her. The lady not only agreed to do this, but offered her services pro-bono, so we took her down there. Our van had not started for two days, so we jumped it with my truck, drove down and helped LadyBug into the salon. The lady washed it, dried it, and even started styling it for her, though that was not needed, since she doesn't know how LadyBug styles her hair. but it was a kind, generous service, and was a nice way for LadyBug to get out, get some pampering, and get a small amount of exercise all at the same time. 
I am not necessarily surprised, but definitely pleased about how many people are stepping in to help LadyBug. We still have a long way to go, but with all this help the Lord is sending us, we won't go through it alone!

LadyBug Fly Away Home

Tuesday, LadyBug was released from the hospital. She spent the night with her little sister and her husband, SnowMan. The next day, they brought her home to stay! They then went home, but came down again for Thanksgiving (more food than humanly possible to eat in a week!
For the first day, we had to check LadyBug's drains every four hours. Now we are up to 8 hours. This is a quite unpleasant task that I gladly perform, because it means I have a tangible way to help her! Kissa and SoccerGirl have helped a few times, and StarGazer has at least been trained, though he hasn't needed to help. Soon, we will need to remove the pain-med pump, and be done with that. Once the drain levels are low enough, we can go to Dr. Plastics and he'll remove the drains.
People keep asking what they can do to help. We respond that this is the first time we've ever gone through this, so we don't know what we'll need. One thing that will help is those who have volunteered to take LadyBug up north when she needs to go. I am more than half-way done with taking my possible leave days, so too many more, and the district will start docking my pay. We REALLY can't afford for that to happen.
We actually have more food right now than we know what to do with, so we are okay there. Which is good, since all our spare cash already went for gas to get north, and dinners while we were there. I get paid again in a few days, and LadyBug should get at least a small check next week. If we have too many trips, those will be gone fast. Thankfully, I have my classes at the College to help.
LadyBug is doing fairly well, considering. She takes Percoset for pain, plus another pill that makes her drowsy. She has spent 48 hours on the couch, only getting up to relieve herself or change. She can't shower for a while, but we have caps that you put over your hair to wash without water. Weird, but cool. She hurts, but it isn't unbearable, and she is staying focused. The rest of us are trying to stay as strong and positive as she needs us to be. The one thing that keeps us going is knowing that with the Lord's help we can get through anything. Thank you to all who have shown and offered your support!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Hardest Thing I've Done

I try to stay strong. I try to stay positive. But this week nearly broke me, as I did one of the hardest things I've ever done.
It started on Monday when LadyBug went in for surgery. She was on the table for over six hours, which is quite a bit longer than the doctors told us would happen, worrying us (our youngest daughter was waiting with me). First we had to go in for an X-ray. LadyBug had to fast, so I took our daughter to the cafeteria for breakfast. After, we had a couple of hours to get a haircut and find out that Wally World pharmacy wanted to charge us over THREE TIMES what should have been our cost for one of our medications.
We got back in time for LadyBug to get injected with radioactive dye (I asked if she would now turn green when she gets wouldn't like her when she's angry). After this we went to the prep room. About 1:00 pm they took her to the O.R. where Doctor Wonderfulsurgeon scrubbed up within minutes. Three hours later, she came to talk to us while Dr. Plastics started reconstruction. She told us that the operation went as well as could be expected--better in some aspects.
She told us, however that the lymph nodes tested positive for cancer. This means that LadyBug will have some recuperation time from this surgery, then around the start of the year, she will start Chemo-therapy. Those can be done right here in our town! Depending on what the Oncologist recommends, this will entail bi-weekly visits for either 6 or 8 treatments. Immediately following completion, she will start radiation, which will go five days a week for four weeks or so, and must be done up north.
We still have a lot to learn about which combination of chemicals will be used, what stage the cancer was in, etc., but we are focusing on getting better. 
My daughter and I, in the mean time, had both lunch and dinner, before LadyBug was brought to the room. She was quite groggy from the anesthesia, and was still in quite a bit of pain. Our daughter has never seen her mom in this sort if setting, so really had a hard time with it, but we stayed as positive as possible for her and LadyBug.
And then, after several mg's of morphine, I did one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. I left her in the hospital and went home. I've missed so many days of school already, and expect to miss more, so I couldn't afford to stay, though it tore me up to leave. With her missing at least two weeks of work right now, and with more dr. visits coming up, we need every dollar my paycheck brings. Logic explains it, but didn't make me feel like less of a cad. It was so late when we left as it was that I had to have my daughter drive part of the way home.
That was yesterday. Today, LadyBug was released. She will spend a day or so with her sisters family, who will bring her home for Thanksgiving. That means she won't have to be in the hospital, but we still don't get to see her yet. I know we still have a ways to go, but we can see the end now. By summer, LadyBug will be done with all her treatments. And because of Dr. Plastics, she will come home with almost the same cup size she started out with! And within weeks, she can decide just how much more she would like to have. She doesn't want to go very big, and it doesn't really matter to me (no, really!). I keep telling her she should at least go up one cup size, just because she's always complained about being too small....
I wish we knew more. People keep asking how they can help. I just have to answer that we've never done this before, so don't know what we need. Cooking and cleaning can be handled. We will need some help getting her to some of these appointments, and several friends have already volunteered. We know before this is done, we'll end up owing twice as much to the medical treatments as we originally thought. We've met our deductible this year, but treatments start in the new year. So we'll get our deductible met for next year before January is up, I am sure!
The one thing we know has helped us is all the fasting, faith, and prayers on our behalf. I've always believed that the Lord answers prayers. I've also always believed that he doesn't always answer them in the way we expect or necessarily want. Sometimes, what we think we need is not what is best for us in the long run. This experience has already changed us, and continues to do so. And in the long run, perhaps we will eventually become the people the Lord wants us to be.
I just finished reading Stone Tables, by Orson Scott Card, which is a fictionalized retelling of the story of Moses. The main theme of this book was that Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and Joshua expected their lives to go one way. They prayed for their lives to go another way, but the Lord had other plans. Moses in particular had to lose everything in order to be in the situation where he could be the Lord's prophet. He certainly didn't think it was a good thing at the time, but realized later that it was necessary.
We may not be enjoying our circumstances right now, and we may not yet be entirely grateful for our hardships, but we recognize the Lord's hand in all things, and are seeking to understand His will. One thing for sure, we have come to realize not only how much our friends and family love us, but how much we love them. Without our loved ones, we would be left bereft of much of what gives us hope. May the Lord bless all of you who have supported us and continue to do so. Thank you!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Never Disappointed?

My mother once shocked me by telling me that she used to come up with new ways every day to disappoint me, with the plan that that way i wouldn't grow up not knowing how to deal with disappointment. Well, for better or worse, I think her plan worked (sometimes I wonder if it worked so well I EXPECT disappointment)!
I was thinking the other day, though, that perhaps this is one reason why I was led to LadyBug some two dozen years ago. I wonder if the fact that I have spent the last two decades convincing her that she is not only worthwhile, but strong in her own right, has made it possible for her to continue through this ordeal with cancer in the way she has. She has stayed positive and focused throughout the whole ordeal, and has earned the respect of observers for her courage.
I have never really considered myself to be a "strong person" but feel that my mother-developed ability to see adversity as a temporary challenge has enabled me to help LadyBug in this trial. I also believe, as Delirious has stated, that our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has helped us through this also. With His aid, all things are possible, and I feel that when He is blessing us, we can overcome any obstacle. It has inspired me to seek other stumbling blocks in my life to remove.
This has also shown me that there are some things in our lives which we cling to that simply are NOT important. I have found that dropping some of these things was easier than it would have been three months ago. I'm not giving up every indulgence or pastime, but I am recognizing which ones I definitely can do without.
So, although she sometimes scares the crap out of us, at this time of year, I am Thankful for a mother who wasn't afraid to disappoint her children. Repeatedly. On purpose....


We went yesterday to get a sonogram. The doctor wanted to compare this with the MRI from earlier in the week. As they performed the sonogram, they could easily see the mass on the right side, and said it looked like a normal--and more-importantly--benign fibroadenoma, a normally recurring type of tissue found in breasts of women the same age as LadyBug.
They still wanted to be safe, so recommended taking a core biopsy (or, more accurately, FOUR biopsies). These were couriered over to the pathologist so he can try to have a report on it before the surgery Monday. We then had to get a chest x-ray. This is in preparation for the surgery, which will take place Monday, sometime after noon.
Basically, unless the information we have changes, or LadyBug's mind does, the surgery will excise the left breast, while leaving the right. The best possible conclusion will be that this removes all the cancer and LadyBug will not need radiation or chemo. 
Your prayers and faith have been greatly appreciated. We are praying for a quick recovery and a quiet Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Checking the Right

Today we went north again. We needed to get an MRI to see if there was anything in LadyBug's right breast that could cause concern. We also had an appointment with the plastic surgeon to see options for reconstruction. We ended the day with both good news and bad news.
First the bad. LadyBug's MRI showed a mass in her right breast. Dr. Wonderfulsurgeon said we should not panic, because it appears to just be fibrous tissue, but then that's how the left side started too. Regardless, it means we must go north AGAIN on Friday to get a sonogram, so they can compare images to decide what exactly is going on. It basically means that we still don't know whether this will be a double-mastectomy or single. It also doesn't help us know whether or not LadyBug will need radiation and chemo. So all we know is that we need to get more tests, and the operation is still Monday.
The good news is that whether LadyBug needs radiation or not, the reconstruction process will begin Monday while LadyBug is STILL ON THE TABLE. We saw several pictures today showing what the reconstruction process is like, including a coffee table book showing one woman's journey from mastectomy to recovery. Not for the squeamish, and not what you want to show to your kids friends, but very informative and encouraging. If LadyBug only needs one side removed,  they can not only rebuild that side, but build up the other so they match (including a breast lift on the right side). If she must have the double, then both sides will be rebuilt at the same time, and she can choose what size she wants when she gets there. I won't go into the gory details of everything reconstruction involves, but we will keep positive and keep posting through the process.
The prayers of all our loved ones have definitely helped us, and the strength we receive from the Lord keeps us going. We don't know how we will reach the end of all this, but we know that with His aid, we will reach it. This experience has brought us closer, built our faith, made us grateful for our blessings, and made LadyBug realize how many people care for her.
I don't know if we can say yet that we are thankful for this experience, but we can definitely say we are grateful for things that have come to us as a result of it. Thank you all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Insurance Companies are Evil

If you are planning to get health insurance, check first to see if your company covers the costs of the test for the cancer gene. Ours, Educator's Mutual, does not. Further more, the people who do the test told us it takes 10-14 days to receive results. That would be okay, if they had told us with more than 7 days until our surgery. Which means that even if we could afford the $3,300.00 cost of the test, we would not have results back in time to do any good. So double check those sorts of things before you throw good money to bad companies. Healthcare reform, my eye!

Monday, November 15, 2010

To Contribute

Anyone wishing to help with deferring the medical costs of our Cancer Battle may do so by sending funds via PayPal to:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

News From the Front

So LadyBug and I headed north today to see her surgeon. This was a much anticipated visit after the news we received on Friday. If you ever want to spend a tense weekend, find out on Friday you have entered the realms of cancer, then wait until Tuesday to find out more.
After a bit of a wait, the Doctor Wonderfulsurgeon entered the room. She, much as she always does, got right to business. She laid out both options that were available to us, with accompanying benefits and consequences. One was a lumpectomy, the other a full mastectomy. To cut the matter short, LadyBug decided to opt for the total package. She doesn't want to have to worry (and lose even more sleep) and wonder whether or not the cancer will come back.
One of the things she did was recommend a screen for the Cancer Gene. If the results come back positive, she will strongly advise a double-mastectomy. If the results are negative for that gene, only the left breast will be taken. The doctor then explained that as she is in surgery, they will look at her lymph nodes, and the pathologist will be able to tell before the end of the operation whether or not the cancer has spread. 
If the cancer has spread to the lymph system, LadyBug will need to begin radiation therapy as soon as she is recovered from the surgery, to be accompanied by chemotherapy. If she were to do just a lumpectomy, the radiation and chemo would have been mandated. Since radiation therapy would mean a 200 mile round trip five days a week, please pray that it will not be necessary. If the lymph system is cancer-free, the surgery will most likely end the ordeal, with possibly some chemo added for good measure.
While LadyBug is still on the table, the reconstructive specialist will come in to see what he can do about building a new breast. He will insert a tissue extender, which can be inflated with saline gradually over time. Eventually, when the surrounding tissue has reached the point where it is ready, he will remove the extender and insert the augmentation implant. LadyBug's younger sister suggested going BIG! Her brother-in-law (married to another sister) advised DOUBLE-D's.
LadyBug doesn't want anything much bigger than what she has now, but if they only have to take the left breast, she will get a new one to match it's size and shape. The surgeon can eventually reconstruct (ahem) all physical attributes of a healthy breast, with the exceptions of inner material and feeling. I suggested that once she is done, she needs the shirt that says, "Of course they're fake! My real ones tried to kill me!"
LadyBug first has to have an MRI, and consultation with the plastic-surgeon, both of which take place next Wednesday. The full surgery will take place on the Monday before Thanksgiving. She will spend one night in the hospital, with a possible second-night stay. LadyBug's bro-in-law, Pillsbury Doughboy, has volunteered to check in on her the second day, since I will have classes to teach. If she can be checked out that day, he has volunteered to drive her home. If not, he will call me and let me know. Then she can be brought home the next day (the day before Thanksgiving).
We don't know how long recovery time is. We do know without my college classes, we wouldn't stand a chance of making it without LadyBug working. We also know we have the faith and prayers of many loved ones. My students had a text forwarded around town about five times telling everyone to fast and pray for her this last Sunday. It's in the Lord's hands now, and I feel very strongly that he is guiding the surgeon's hands. What His will is in this matter, we cannot say, but we know He will watch over us and guide us. Our thanks to those whose prayers have benefited us so much already. And if you haven't seen your doctor in a while, go soon. Don't wait. And may God bless each one of you.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

We Have Joined the Cancer Community

I will not post very much here. I just want to keep one more place where everyone can be kept up on what is going on. In June, LadyBug went in for her first Mammogram. She was 43, and felt she had put it off too long already. The results showed several masses, which appeared to be just fibrous material that is common and benign. 
She was referred to a WONDERFUL doctor up north who did more exams and determined the same thing. She told her that she had several options: 1) Wait and see what happened over the course of the next six months; 2) Biopsy the lumps and decide later; or 3) Remove the lumps and be done with it.
LadyBug chose option number 3, and went in for surgery in August. All three lumps were removed, and biopsied. The results came back as expected--they were non-cancerous fibrous tissue. We were relieved, but not too surprised. After all, this is what we had been told to expect.
Six weeks later, LadyBug began experiencing pain in her left breast, a few inches away from any incision. We called our doctor, who put her on antibiotics, thinking it was an abscess. After a week or so, we called the surgeon's office. She was out of town, but one of her associates agreed to see us. After several types of exams, we were told it was most likely a hematoma or an abscess. This doctor really didn't seem to interested in anything other than getting us out of the office. He gave her stronger antibiotics, and was asked to contact him if there were no improvements. There weren't. 
When we went back, Dr. Doesntgiveacrap saw us again and said, "Oh, it looks smaller! Good! That means the antibiotics are working!" He told her that all her other symptoms were basically figments of her imagination. So we went home, feeling like we had completely wasted a long trip, plus copay.  
A few days later, Dr. Wonderfulsurgeon came back into town, saw that her disinterested associate had seen us and called to get LadyBug in for a visit. She wanted to see for herself what was going on. She did an ultra-sound exam, and saw the mass, which she assumed was either infection, or a hematoma. She suggested we should return in a couple of days for another surgical procedure. We agreed.
After a three-hour wait in Pre-Op, and a thirty minute surgery, the dr. came to speak with me. She did not find a huge amount of infection OR a hematoma, but instead, found a small amount of infection surrounded by what she called "angry tissue." She cleaned out the infection and scooped out some of that "angry tissue," which was biopsied.
Friday morning, Dr. Wonderfulsurgeon called at 10:30 to speak with LadyBug. She had just gotten the results back from the biopsy. "Angry Tissue" turned out to be cancerous. She set an appointment for Tuesday. We don't know what to expect, but have been on the receiving end of Relief Society dinners, well-wishes, and Fasting and Prayer by many of my students and friends. Things like this really let you know what is going on! And let's you know what really matters. We will know more Tuesday, but I have appointments every day this week because of this, so I don't know how soon I will get onto this blog. I will try to keep my family informed as soon as we know anything (although I don't think I have cell numbers for everyone yet...).
For now, just keep her in your prayers. It is in the hands of the Lord, and our Wonderful Surgeon, and between you and me, that's the best place she could be in this situation!