Monday, May 31, 2010

Wow! Breast cancer vaccine being tested!

Tears of joy keep streaming down my face as I daydream about this news story. Praise God it's gotten as far as it has and the testing continues. Wow. God is amazing! He makes all things possible.

Friday, May 28, 2010

On this day, one year ago...

On this day, one year ago...
...I was told that I had breast cancer ...I didn't know if I'd be alive much longer ...I didn't know how I'd get through it ...I didn't think I could do it On this day, one year ago... ...I knew my life would change forever ...I didn't believe that cancer could be a blessing ...I didn't have much faith ...I was terrified of what was ahead of me On this day, one year ago... ...I didn't know how much support I would have ...I didn't know God well at all ...I didn't know I could help myself or anyone else ...I didn't know I'd be a survivor On this day, May 28, 2010, I am a one year survivor of stage 3c triple negative breast cancer. On this day, I'm filled with faith and hope. On this day, I'm living proof that God is AMAZING! On this day, I'm unbreakable.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Crazy hair and surgical tape halter tops are "in"

...lower girlie parts are "out". Surgery went really well yesterday. I went under at 7:30am and woke up around 11:30am with a new left boob, a revised right boob, and no more uterus, ovaries and cervix. Woot! Once in my room I had to launch into my role as my own patient advocate rather quickly when I learned I was not getting any iv pain medication (just vicodin which didn't work for me last time) and I was only being permitted to have ice chips for 24 hours! I called a meeting with the RN and the in charge nurse and explained what happened last June when my pain wasn't proactively controlled and they agreed to order that the nurse on duty is to come offer me pain meds (demerol by injection) every four hours rather than wait for me to ask for it (because by the time I would really need it, I'd be behind the pain and in trouble trying to get caught up like last summer). Ever since the meeting they've done a wonderful job tending to my pain med needs and I'm very grateful for that. So...if this post is rambling or in any way confusing, I blame the demerol. I went without food or beverage of any kind (only allowed ice chips and sips of water) from Monday night at 9:30pm til lunchtime today (Wednesday)! Not cool. Apparently they were starving me so that I wouldn't vomit even though I've assured them I had no nausea whatsoever. Thank God for my lovely friend, Jessica, who brought me some contraband - an organic blueberry smoothie, organic blueberries and some other goodies that I could slowly consume while waiting for the doctor to change my dietary orders so I could have a real meal. Thank you, Jessica!!!! My dietary needs had to be taken up with the doctor. When one of the residents came to talk to me about it he explained the main concern was that I'd get nauseated and vomit (my translation of that was that they didn't want to have to clean up the mess so it was easier for them to starve me). He advised that I shouldn't eat anything, including the beautiful organic blueberry smoothie that Jessica brought me. Since they were mainly concerned with me vomiting but not expecting any other gnarly side effects of consuming something I thanked him for his advice and proceeded to cautiously sip on the smoothie. Thankfully, I've never had any nausea or vomiting from anesthesia and this is my fourth surgery since June '09 (all performed here UCLA). The subject of the catheter came up and I explained that I was feeling pressure and the need to go to the bathroom. He told me to use the bed pan (by the way, sadly and hilariously funny is the fact that the bed pan is pink). I raised both hands and showed him how on one hand I'm tied to an iv tube and the other hand a pulse-ox cable and then lifted the blanket off my legs and showed him the compression garments and cables attached to both of my legs and asked him to instruct me on how exactly one should go about wiping their rear end while laying down and tied to all this stuff. He suddenly realized I was serious and not some little kid trying to get out of doing her homework. I seriously considered using the bed pan and I seriously resolved not to. I recommended he take the bed pan home with him and try it out so that he'll know how patients feel when faced with that as their only option for relief while tied to the hospital bed. He laughed, nervously, and admitted that really every doctor and nurse should be required to do that so they'll know how patients feel. I agree. Somehow I doubt that he'll follow through to find that out. Oh, and in addition to both arms and both legs being attached to tubing, I had a catheter attached to me too and that thing was really cramping my style this time. I tried to convince them to take it out last night but they wouldn't take it out til this morning. I really did not want to use the pink bed pan and was determined not to and thankfully I managed to avoid it. I was visited by several doctors today, including my favorite Dr.Crisera (plastic surgeon, aka Dr.McHotty, aka Dr.C) :) and we agreed I could/should spend one more night because they want to see to it that I can handle solid foods and once I get home Cooper will be all over me and wanting me to pick him up which I can not do for 2 weeks. Dr. Heaps (OB/GYN surgeon, aka Dr.H) came by shortly afterward to check on me and he too agreed I should stay the night and he told me that everything he removed appears to be benign PRAISE GOD! but that official pathology results weren't in just yet. I had barely any blood loss during surgery - he told Bob it equaled a tablespoon or less. I told Dr.H about how hungry I was and how I had no issues with the sips of the smoothie last night so he changed my orders so I could have a regular meal at dinner time. Once I heard that I started nibbling on the rest of the fruit Jessica left for me. Besides the two surgeons, I've been visited by two teams of residents assigned to my case. I forgot which team belonged to which division (plastics or gynecology) so one time that a team entered the room I asked them if they were here for the hooters or the hoo-ha. :) Now that I've finally had a meal (first full meal in 48 hours), I can say that it's been a good experience - nurses are on top of everything around the clock. I also just received the pain meds and my eyes are heavy and about to close (actually I think I dozed off halfway through composing this haha) so it's time to wrap up this update and get onto the very important business of sleep. :) Thank you for your prayers and positive thoughts! I am praising the Lord... for everything...including my crazy hair and surgical tape halter top! ;) Before surgery: After surgery: Love, Julie

Friday, May 14, 2010

Surgery around the corner. Farewell fertility.

I'm excited and a little sad too. Excited to get this over with - the hysterectomy - and feel good knowing I'm preventing cancer of the ovaries/uterus/cervix by having said body parts removed and getting on with life. Sad that I'm saying a very final goodbye to my fertility and the possibility of ever giving Cooper a blood related sibling. Even if I wasn't having the surgery I would do everything in my power to avoid becoming pregnant again because of the fear that pregnancy hormones would ignite a deadly firestorm in my body. But it's still a really big deal to be saying goodbye to having the option of creating beautiful life. Don't get me wrong about this - I want this surgery. But one thing I've learned over the years, and especially through this cancer journey, is that a person can want and need something and still have grief about it too. Feelings must be felt and processed for healthy resolution. So, tonight, I'm looking at Cooper and experiencing a flood of emotions as I prepare to say goodbye to my reproductive organs next Tuesday. I'm so thankful to God for the timing of my pregnancy with Cooper. Had we not gotten pregnant and had Cooper when we did we would not have ever had him because of the cancer. Cooper is such an amazing and precious gift from God. I'm thankful that my body withstood the challenge that the pregnancy posed and that we were blessed with a healthy beautiful son in spite of the difficulty we had (incompetent cervix resulting from procedures years earlier to remove precancerous cells). God got us through it and gave us this amazing child. I sometimes worry that we've done Cooper a disservice by not giving him a brother or sister but I know in my heart that we're protecting him with this decision by taking steps that we believe will help keep his mom here on earth for the many important years to come. Tuesday morning I'll head down to UCLA for the surgery. I'm having a complete hysterectomy and also having one of my breast implants replaced (it's too large in light of the lymphedema swelling I have which is not likely to go away). The hysterectomy will be performed using the Davinci robot which is pretty cool since that makes it minimally invasive and greatly reduces the recovery time. In fact, the plan is for me to be back to work next month! I'll be spending the night in the hospital since it's still considered a major surgery. My mom is flying in to help out again. I am so blessed to have such an amazing mom. We can't wait for her to arrive tonight. Cooper will have so much fun with her during her visit. Thank you, mom! I love you! I appreciate your prayers and positive thoughts as we proceed with this next important step in this journey. We're praying for a successful surgery with no complications and with a quick and smooth recovery ahead. We're praying that Cooper won't struggle or be hurt when I'm unable to lift him in the couple of weeks after surgery. We're praying for clear/negative pathology results following the surgery. And we're praising God for the miracles He has performed for us already - every single day.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Today I walk... memory of the millions of women who lost their lives to breast, ovarian, endometrial, uterine, and cervical cancer. honor of all those who are living with these diseases and fighting for their lives. hope that our efforts will lead to treatment advances and a cure. faith that God has a plan for each of us and that we can and do fulfill His purpose and make a difference in spite or because of the life challenges we face. my first fundraiser since becoming a cancer survivor...nearly one year since being diagnosed with stage 3c triple negative breast cancer.

...with some of the most courageous and amazing warrior sisters - particularly my dear friends Tira and Jessica. I love you, ladies! gratitude for the incredible, generous, and compassionate support I've received for this event and throughout this journey.

Thank you! God bless you!
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Monday, May 3, 2010

Please sponsor me - EIF Revlon Run/Walk for Womens Cancers

My first fundraising event as a cancer survivor is this Saturday, May 8th. Just 20 days before my one-year survivorship anniversary. I've posted my sponsorship request to Facebook and have already raised quite a bit and am very close to the automatic individual goal ($2000) set by our team (UCLA Fights Women's Cancers) - less than $200 to raise til I achieve it. But I'm an overachiever and this cause means a great deal to me so I'd like to raise as much as I can and I need your help. More than 273,000 new cases of women’s cancers will be diagnosed this year in the United States. In 2009, breast, ovarian, uterine and other women’s cancers accounted for almost 70,000 deaths. One in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life – that’s approximately 192,300 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed annually. And more than 21,500 will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Behind each of these statistics is the face of a woman like me who needs our help – a mother, a wife, an aunt, a sister, your friend. Let’s work together to fight and eradicate women’s cancers. Please consider helping me achieve and exceed my fundraising goal. Money raised goes to cancer research, counseling, and outreach programs. Please click here to donate today. Thank you so much!

Hope third time's the charm.

Monday will be Cooper's first full day back to the daycare setting since my diagnosis last year. I'm excited and yet a teeny bit terrified - not because of the typical separation anxiety often experienced by a mother and child when bringing a child to daycare of school, but rather because of what happened the last time we were ready for him to go back just a year ago - just a few days before the shit really hit the fan (and the time before that). I remember it so clearly, the excitement we felt about him finally returning to daycare as he approached his first birthday. We planned for it and were excited that we'd be spending a lot less money on child care with him at daycare. We were thrilled that Cooper would be returning to the same teacher that we felt so good about from the beginning when he first attended - when we first brought him there at just a few months old. The very first time we tried to enter him in the program we had to take him out and hire a nanny because his little preemie body couldn't handle the usual daycare illnesses. Every sniffle passed along to him turned into a full blown respiratory infection and every time he got sick he couldn't be at daycare (though it seems every other parent had no problem sending their sick and snot-spewing kids in against the rules) and we had to hire someone to help at home so that we could work but inevitably we'd catch it and Bob would be grounded from flying and one or both of us would end up not able to work from being sick. In just a few weeks of Cooper attending he was sick the majority of the time and his doctors felt it was best to keep him home. Cooper was high risk with a history of pneumonia and his pulmonologist was sure he'd contract RSV if he were in a daycare setting (and perhaps even if he wasn't). So we hired a nanny (and promptly went broke) and decided we'd try daycare again in the summer ('09) when he turned a year old and was stronger. Cooper was back to daycare just a couple of days before I went in for my first mammogram last May (27th to be exact). We were transitioning him back slowly over a week or two - at daycare half the week and at home with the nanny the other half. I remember dropping him off and telling his teacher that the following day he'd be home with Esperanza (our nanny). Cooper and Esperanza came with me to the mammogram appointment (Bob was flying). They didn't come inside with me; instead she took him for a walk in his stroller around the hospital campus. I remember returning to them outside the medical building and being in complete shock that I had just had a biopsy performed because a suspicious mass was seen in the images. The next couple of weeks are sort of a blur except for a few specific moments here and there. I remember having a feeling that I'd be having extensive treatment and I'd have to rehire Esperanza full time and walking into the daycare center and informing his teacher that I had cancer and that Cooper wouldn't be staying (yet again) - this time because I couldn't be exposed to the usual daycare germs once my treatment started. So, here we are, one year later. I've finished treatment. My counts are in the normal range again (low end, but still normal range) and it's time to try again. I'm excited. I'm nervous. I want this to be it. For this third time to be the charm, as they say. I don't want another setback. I won't allow it. I'm strong. Cooper is strong. We're broke from the cost of nannies and medical bills and being on disability and switching to an organic lifestyle. I need this return to day care to be successful and not tied to another health crisis for anyone in my house. We've let the nannies go. I've even given a glowing reference for Esperanza to work for another family here in town. She won't be available to come back. Last time she didn't have other opportunities awaiting her. So I'm counting on the reference request and phone call being a good sign for us - that it is going to be OK. I need it to be a good sign. Friday I brought Cooper to the center for a visit to his new classroom. He'll be in that room for just a month or so before he will need to transition to the 2-yr old room. He had a ball during his one-hour visit. He didn't hesitate one bit and played well with the other kids. He barely noticed I was there, at least until I was telling him it was time to go home and then he was not happy with me. So, I know that he is cool with this. Even I am. I'm excited for him to have more social interaction, for him to be worn out at the end of every day, and for all the learning and arts he'll be exposed to there as well. After dinner I prepared Cooper's lunch and snacks for tomorrow. We are as ready as we'll ever be. Now we just pray and give it to God. And we hope it is His will that this really is the right path and that we continue to be healthy and strong as we approach and pass the one year anniversary of my diagnosis. Father God, Thank you for blessing my family. Every single day is a gift that we cherish together. We are grateful for and humbled by your mercy and love. Thank you for curing my body of disease. For giving me another chance to find you and be used by you to serve your purpose for my life. Thank you for blessing us with the most amazing family and friends who have helped us get through these past couple of very challenging years. Thank you for blessing me with a compassionate employer and with the resources needed to afford treatment and the costly lifestyle changes that give me a shot at beating the odds. Thank you for the brilliant and compassionate physicians, nurses, lab technicians and researchers whose hands you guide to help me and millions like me with effective treatment and care. Thank you for making Esperanza and Sarah available to help care for Cooper in our time of great need and for the open spot at the center so that Cooper can now return once again to the daycare center. Thank you for guiding me to such a wonderful place to worship you - NorthPark Community Church. Thank you for using me, Lord, to help others, and continuing to show me the way. Thank you, father, for filling my body and soul with your light and your love, boosting my immune system, and flushing the impurities and harmful cells away. Without you, Lord, I am nothing. Amen. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” - Romans 12:12 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. " - Matthew 7:7-8 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28