Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pink Wig Dance day was so much fun!

We had a blast!  A bunch of breast cancer survivors and friends gathered in downtown Los Angeles yesterday and had so much fun dancing and filming for our viral video.  Here's a shot of the group having some fun.

Top row: Laurel, Sierra, Nicole, Lisa, Isabelle, Mary Lou, Middle row: Allison, Julie (in polka dots), Mandy, Bottom row: Jessica (in stripes), and Tira (purple hair tie and pink top). 

We can't wait to see the final video - it is going to be so awesome. We got SO MUCH great footage to use!  I've been laughing for 24 hours just remembering all the fun and silly stuff we did. What an awesome, blessed day we had!  God truly graced us with His favor - gave us the most amazing set to shoot on, great (though hot) weather, the perfect group of dancers - the list goes on!  Stay tuned for fun out takes and clips from this great project. I can't wait to get my hands on some clips to share with you.

Oh yeah, at the end of the day, me, Jessica and Tira shot a fun breast exam public service announcement that we're entering into a contest. As soon as we have that ready to share we'll post it and ask you to please vote for our video :).  

Thank you, Lord, for such an amazing and blessed experience. No matter how the video turns out or how successful it is once we launch it, you have surely given me a most rewarding and wonderful experience bonding with these amazing women. 

Special thanks to Gerry (Jessica's awesome hubby) for directing and filming the group - you were awesome! :)  

Friday, September 17, 2010

Post-op Update - Feeling great! PTL!

Surgery went very well yesterday. The team at UCLA is always so professional and compassionate. I always manage to have a little fun with them too.  

I mentioned in a post recently that I'm working on a project called the Pink Wig Dance. We are three survivors producing a viral video of survivors and loved ones wearing pink wigs, dancing, and posting for photos that will be spliced together in a short video set to a great tune and posted to the internet to raise awareness that breast cancer affects women (and men) of all ages and walks of life. It's our way to unite and celebrate life in the process of raising awareness. We have a blog with our mission statement and instructions for how to participate: and you can email the team at  

Anyway, I brought a couple of pink wigs along to the hospital and explained what we are doing and managed to get my surgeon and a couple of residents to put the wig on and pose for pictures :).  Like I said, UCLA is awesome! :) I'm so grateful to them for the incredible care they have given me and for helping me through this journey by participating in other ways such as humoring me and supporting me emotionally as well as physically. I've posted the pics below :)

More about the surgery -- the anesthesiologist agreed to use my port one last time to push the first dose of medication to get me drowsy and then switch to an IV in my arm once I was asleep so I wouldn't have that icky IV placement feeling which I so hate.  I had put the numbing cream on the skin over the port when I got dressed in the morning so it was fully effective by the time they put the line in.  
With one push of a syringe, they began the process of making me sleepy - I was getting general anesthesia once sleepy since they were doing both nipple construction and port removal and incision revision.  I was awake as they wheeled me into the OR and was moved onto the operating table and then I was out like a light.  I love that. Even better is that my body handles anesthesia really really well. It works well and I handle it well. I've never become nauseated or felt sick from it any other way.  I woke up two hours later, opened my eyes and looked around as if I had woken from a nap. I could feel a little soreness on the port removal site but felt no discomfort at all on my breasts - probably because my breast skin is mostly still numb from the original bilateral mastectomy.  
Bob handed me my blackberry (he knows me well!) and then he headed down to the pharmacy to pick up my medication (antibiotics and pain medication). I read my email, responded to some work emails (I know, I'm nuts), texted some friends to let them know things went well and I'd be home soon, updated my Facebook status, etc.  I know, I know, I'm addicted haha.  When Bob returned we got my post-op instructions and a wheelchair escort who was kind enough to take me to the Simms/Mann Center for Integrative Oncology one floor down so that I could drop off a bag of standard stylish wigs donated by a wonderful and generous church member for the women in the breast cancer support group conducted there. That's the same support group I attended weekly throughout my treatment.  The facilitator was thrilled to receive the donation and promised to bring them to the group next week to offer them first dibs and any that don't get taken by the support group members will be given to Helen's Room where patients can get free donated wigs while in cancer treatment.  

Once that was done, I was wheeled down to the parking garage entrance where Bob had the car standing by and ready for me to get in and head home. We were home by 2pm. 

I've been taking it easy, taking my antibiotics as instructed, limited my activity (no lifting over 5 lbs, no reaching overhead, etc.) and have only taken two pain pills in 24 hours. I OK without it now which is great, especially since the side effects (digestive in nature) are not pleasant and I could do without THAT which I would find worse than the soreness from the surgery haha. Besides, I need to be able to drive tomorrow so no more pain pills for that fact alone.

I'm glad I took today and Monday off from work to recover so I can really rest and get some good sleep and make sure I'm not doing anything stressful.  Unfortunately, Bob has to go to work tomorrow morning so I have to be diligent and remember not to pick Cooper up which will be a challenge, especially when I need to go anywhere. So, I have a 2-step fold up stool that I'll need to have Cooper use to climb up into the car into his seat and take that along with us when we go anywhere. Tomorrow I have my friend watching Cooper when I head out for a couple hours while I get out of the house for a couple of hours so I won't have to worry about it then and she'll watch him again Sunday when I'm at church so at least it'll be a couple days before I really need to get him into the car so that's good. I know I can call several other neighbors to help though if I need help getting him lifted into the car in the event the stool option doesn't work out. I'm so blessed and grateful to have such wonderful neighbor friends.

Once I've fully healed from this step of the process, the next step will be to get the nipples tattooed. If you google nipple reconstruction you will be amazed by how natural these fake nipples turn out. I'm excited to finally look and feel "normal" again - before the end of the year, even. Yay!  Of course, those that know me well know that I would have been ok without reconstructed breasts too. I'm all about living - being alive - to me, that's all that matters and the rest is icing on the cake.

Now for the pre-op pink wig fun....

Me with Dr.Crisera
UCLA Resident physicians Mandeep Sehmbey and Victoria Vo with me
Bob Olsen - my husband :)

So there it is - I'm so blessed to have had another very successful surgery at UCLA. I can't say enough wonderful things about them. Thank you, UCLA!!!!  Praise the Lord for such a wonderful team of health care professionals, for my excellent health care coverage, and the support of family and friends. I will never take these things for granted or underestimate their immense value. xoxo


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's a big deal

It's a bigger deal than I thought. In May I was going to get nipples constructed and have my port removed during same visit as the hysterectomy. But the plan changed when the lymphedema swelling resulted in one breast being larger than the other so instead it became implant swap out, minor revisions for symmetry, and hysterectomy/oopherectomy and keep the port til the next surgery so I could use it for another zometa infusion.I was relieved even though the port gets in the way sometimes when trying to cuddle with Cooper and he presses on it or puts his head on it and that hurts or when the line up into my neck gets irritating and causes swelling which looks and feels like a swollen neck node on that side, causing me to panic even though Dr.B says it's ok.

This thing has been an incredible blessing - helping me painlessly (mostly) endure countless blood draws and 12 chemo infusions and 2 zometa infusions, and even used it in my two recent surgeries to get me asleep without discomfort. It has spared my arm veins from being mangled at a time when they would be vulnerable (chemo) and helped me protect my arms especially the left one with lymphedema since it can be poked (too risky for infection and swelling danger).

I've had two clean PET scans since finishing chemo - Feb.1st and Sept.7th so now it is time to say goodbye to my port. Praise God, I don't need it anymore! Every time I say, think or type that I begin to cry. Joyful tears. Maybe some nervous tears mixed in too.

Tomorrow morning I go back in for nipple construction surgery and the port will come out and the scar revised to clean it up (it's ugly/angry looking). As I was getting ready for bed tonight it finally hit me. I'm done (with cancer). Treatment is done (minus the zometa bone protection I will get quarterly for 2.5 more years, the quarterly blood draws and follow ups and of course the nipple tattoos as the final step in reconstruction).
I really am a survivor! From stage 3c to "cancer-free" in 15 months. Wow. Praise God!

I am living proof of the Lord's power and miracles. He woke me up and set me straight and I am listening (and learning). He showed me His work in my life daily through this journey (and ongoing) - with the most amazing support network (you included), the most loving and supportive husband so certain of my complete cure and healing, brilliant and compassionate physicians, nurses, administrators (except for a couple - remember my first attempt to get a port!?), a generous and caring mother and father who came to help whenever I incredibly supportive employer and team at work who patiently and generously gave me the time I needed to get well without the fear of losing my job or health coverage. The exact right caregivers at the exact right time for my precious Cooper. A bearable (albeit challenging) course of treatment with limited and tolerable side effects. My many friends, family and colleagues who wrote, called and sent generous thoughtful gifts to cheer me up and donations to fund breast cancer research in honor of me! Awesome neighborhood friends who checked in on me, brought meals, helped with Cooper and the dog, and kept me company when being alone was unbearable while Bob was working. God led me to my new church home and family a year ago where my faith in God and mankind has been restored and raised to levels I didn't know were possible. And, of course, He brought me to the bravest, most beautiful warrior sister survivors with whom I share an unbreakable bond for life.

These are the works of an almighty, merciful, forgiving and instructional God who has transformed me and I believe is using me and I am so amazed, so blessed, so grateful. Thank you, Father, for these blessed gifts. I am humbled, grateful and determined to become worthy of them. Please continue to use me, Father, to spread the good news and glorify you in my thoughts and actions. Guide me, Lord, and help me to not stray. Forgive me, Lord, when I do stumble as I often do. Take my worries and fears, Lord, and help me live beyond my own abilities and fulfill your will for my life. Thank you, Father, for your healing and your mercy for me and so many others.

Lord, please wrap my friends Michelle, Theresa, Tracie, Tonya, and Sue in your love and light. Infuse their bodies with healthy fighter cells and medical ammunition to destroy and eliminate the cancer that has taken residence in them. Give them continued strength, hope and faith in your promise and word and bring about complete cure and healing as I know you have big plans for these warriors here on earth.

God, please hurry and show us the cure for all cancers.

This, I pray, in Jesus' name. Amen.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

911 Every Day -- Please Stand Up 2 Cancer

Did you know that: 
  • 1 out of every 2 men, and 1 out of every 3 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer. :(  
  • Every 60 seconds, someone in America dies of cancer :(
  • 1500 people die of cancer EVERY DAY (that's equivalent to the Titanic tragedy DAILY) :(
  • Cancer accounts for nearly one-quarter of all deaths in the U.S., exceeded only by heart diseases.  :(
  • 1.5 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2010 in the U.S. :(

Cancer isn't a one-time tragedy with a one-day anniversary. It doesn't discriminate. It can't be stopped at our borders and our military can't protect us from it.
Will you please STAND UP 2 CANCER?!   Please DONATE to the Stand Up 2 Cancer foundation where 100% of all donated funds go directly to innovative, collaborative cancer research. 
Together, we CAN and WILL find the CURE. We MUST!

Watch the 2010 Stand Up 2 Cancer show here



Thursday, September 9, 2010

CLEAR! Dancing with NED!

The doctor just called. The PET/CT results were NEGATIVE - NORMAL! NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE!  I'd be lying if I said I didn't hang up the phone, look up to the sky and thank God immediately and then sob like a baby. [Insert huge sigh of relief]

I'm so grateful to the Lord for His mercy and trust in me. I will not let Him down. 

Thank you all, so very much, for your prayers and support. I'm so incredibly blessed and grateful.

Romans 8:28 (NIV) 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.

Deuteronomy 6:5 (NIV) Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

The waiting! ;/

I'm sitting here at my desk trying desperately to concentrate on work. Muddling my way through my to-do list while a fog of anxiety floats around my head.  Tuesday morning I had a PET/CT scan. I'm grateful that these tests exist because they can bring peace of mind when the results are good news. But the waiting to hear the news is nothing short of torture.  Even when there is no reason to suspect anything but good results, it's torture.  

I'm anxious to hear good news so I can breathe a sigh of relief. But I worry about wasting precious thought time/space in the event that it's not good news. Will it be clear? Will it be not clear? Will I be dancing with NED again? (NED = no evidence of disease) Or won't I be?  

I try so hard to give my worries over to the Lord since only He knows where my life path is heading. He is in control now, not me.  It's hard though. So very hard. I've spent over 37 years thinking I was the one in control and old habits are hard to break. 

I go from thinking about all the awesome things I have planned for my future to thinking about whether any of it will even be possible. I wonder why my friend and sister warrior got her awesome news of her clean scan results this morning already even though her scan happened after mine at the same facility. So I called my doc's office and asked if the report was in yet. No. Insert heavy sigh.  Then I think why am I in such a hurry to know when I'm alone today. Sure, I'm interacting with people online and by phone for work, but Bob is away and Cooper is at daycare and I'm here with my computer and phone, remembering the last time I was alone to receive test results and it was not good.  Dear Lord, please let it be good news. And please help me accept it if it's not good news. Amen.

Philippians 4:6 (NIV) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.