Friday, October 28, 2011

Frequent surgery "flyer" miles, please!

All week long I was sure I was having surgery today. Last Friday it began at my check-up with the surgeon who performed my my bi-lateral mastectomy in 2009 - because last week I felt something suspicious in my left breast (details in previous post).  When she said she wanted to take it out she said "how's next Friday for you?" so then Friday was on the brain.  Her assistant later handed me a sheet of paper that had Thursday's date. I didn't notice that date corresponded with Thursday (not Friday).  I got a call Wednesday morning from the UCLA surgery center to confirm my surgery for the following morning. "What?!" LOL  I fumbled through my paperwork and there it was. Oops.

I checked in with the surgery center earlier than my call time because lately L.A. traffic has been worse than usual and I nearly missed my biopsy appointment on Monday due to awful traffic (a 30 mile drive took me 2 hours!).  They took me in right away though and my surgeon was ready to go so I got to get in quickly, not before asking the check-in clerk to credit me with some "frequent flyer" points. OK OK so they don't award those but she smiled and replied "sorry, we're fresh out of those today."

In pre-op, I did the usual and tried my best to make everyone laugh and smile. I firmly believe that surgery goes smoothly and we're set up to be surrounded by the best possible energy when we connect with our care providers in a positive way. I have had umpteen surgeries in the past two+ years on this journey and my blog followers know it's paid off for me so I'm sticking with that philosophy. :)

It was a quick surgery, one hour, followed by an hour of recovery. I had general anesthesia for this lumpectomy.  By the way, I never imagined I'd have a lumpectomy once I had a bilateral mastectomy over 2 years ago.  However, it's an important reminder to all that even mastectomy surgery can not remove ALL breast tissue and about 1% is left behind. And, if you have reconstruction involving transplanted tissue (fat) like I had in June, that tissue also needs to be examined for abnormalities as well.

When I woke up, my surgeon informed me she is 99.9% sure that the benign biopsy results will be confirmed by pathology now that she's seen and removed the lumps. She said she's sure it was fat necrosis (dead fat) which makes sense given the timing and nature of my last surgery.

I was actually able to walk out of the hospital (first time I've done that after all the many surgeries I've had) on my own without a wheelchair assist and Bob drove me straight to Starbucks, followed by Whole Foods, so I could get my organic soy latte and something from WF's gourmet hot bar for lunch.  I'm so blessed that anesthesia doesn't make me sick to my stomach and I can eat right away. :)  Amazing blessing that is!

I'm home recovering well. No major pain. Just a little sore and tired.  I'll be at church on Sunday and back to work on Monday. God is sooooo good!

Thank you for your prayers and well wishes!

Oh, and one other thing -- Bob surprised me this morning with the news that he nominated me and I was chosen as a finalist for an incredible survivor victory challenge contest!!!  I'm one in three finalists!  Will you please consider voting for me (by midnight Monday - winner to be announced on Monday)?  Here's the link:

Please click here to vote for me in the Otterbox Survivor Victory Challenge

Thank you so much - and please, if you're inclined to do so, I'd appreciate you passing the link along.  Our house and morale could use the TLC after two years of focusing our energy and time elsewhere (obviously).

Love and blessings,

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


My new favorite word: BENIGN

My surgeon called this evening with the biopsy results: "Julie, I have very good news - it is scar tissue."  That's when I fell to my knees and sobbed tears of joy and praised God aloud over and over. Doc heard me crying and must have thought I misunderstood her as she reiterated that it was good news haha and I told her I was so happy I was crying out of sheer joy. 

With that news out of the way she reminded me that we still need to take it out so it's not left there to turn into something else which apparently can and does happen.  Surgery is still on for Friday morning. Fine by me.

Thank you so much for your prayers and well wishes, making me feel so loved and cared for no matter what the outcome was going to be. God is so good, blessing me with such amazing friends and family.  I'm incredibly grateful.

Remission continues! =) Praise God!  What a relief that the remission clock doesn't need to be reset. 

Like my three year old son, Cooper, has taken to saying lately "that was a close one!"  and "ay ya ya ya ya!" ;)  When he saw me crying while laughing tonight he said "Mommy, you're funny, I love you."  I love you too, Cooper - more than you could ever know!

Dear Lord, my creator and ultimate healer, I praise and thank you for the countless "second chances" you bless me with. My gratitude is immeasurable and my love for you infallible. You brought me back from the brink not just once, but many times and you work through me in ways I never imagined possible. Lord, I ask you to wrap my warrior sisters in your healing light and love - take away their pain and fear and instill a sense of peace and confidence that Your will shall reign for the greater good and that You will provide comfort and healing of all that ails and troubles them.  Lord, I ask you to bring forward the cure for the wretched disease of cancer that plagues us. Show us the way to eliminate the toxins and dangers brought about by greed, selfishness and other evils that Satan thrusts upon us with the false promise of empty "wealth" and "convenience".  Lord, use us survivors to spread your good news and to help our sisters through this difficult trial in their life and show them how they're loved and valued the way I have been loved and valued through my journey. Help us to keep paying it forward, Lord, delivering hope, laughter, and faith in Your name.  In your son, Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Blessed, and dreaded, fear

Breast cancer: the "gift" that keeps on giving. Whether it's treatment side effects, surgical scars, or the emotional roller coaster without end - the fear comes and then goes and then comes 'round again.  I can't say that I've had a day where I haven't thought about it - not yet.  It would be nice to not think about it but I doubt that day will ever come, and perhaps that is as much a blessing as a curse.

For now, it mostly is there in the back of my mind and comes into the forefront when I have a nasty hot flash or when my arm swells and feels gunky from the lymphedema. The flashes had begun to really slow down until I was on vacation in the hot and humid Florida sun and enjoying a refreshing beverage each night (wine, beer or margarita) and before getting half way through a single drink I was breaking out into an intense wave of heat and sweat reminiscent of the early days of surgically-induced menopause (read: BRUTAL).  So there it is - alcohol is a major trigger for my hot flashes. It's a good thing I don't drink much or often.  The high heat and humidity also aggravate the lymphedema which really stinks since it also makes it unbearable to wear the compression sleeve that should help manage the amount of swelling in the arm.  I end up tearing it off for some fresh air relief. It was so hot all summer here in the Santa Clarita Valley of southern California that I hardly wore the sleeve at all and now my arm is a bit puffier than it should be so I'll need to get some of that intense therapy that requires it be bandaged up for 24 hours for a 2 week period. I'll wait till the weather is cooler though - it's still in the upper 80s here believe it or not.  I welcome the cooler weather, not the round the clock bandaging.

If it's not my own physiological reactions relating to treatment side effects and surgeries, there are reminders all around like things I can't do anymore - no more spa days since I can't go in a hot tub, sauna or steam room (aggravates lymphedema), and I learned this past week that I can't do the challenging spinning exercise classes since I can't put pressure on my arm/hand such as when the class is instructed to do stands or "jumps" or lean-ins that require a firm grasp and leaning with the arms and hands on the handle bars.  I'm not terribly sad about these lifestyle changes most of the time but as they arise they serve as reminders - reminders that at times are unwelcome moments of frustration but praise God that most of the time they are reminders of what I've overcome and that I'm still here, living life!

The blessing of the fear that pervades my consciousness is that it serves to remind me to cherish every moment, to live life to the fullest, to not sweat the small stuff. Even though I've been on this crazy ride, I seem to still need reminders often so I guess that's why I'm showered with them!

The fear of recurrence is the worst of all though. I try not to think about it but this week it took center stage as I returned to the UCLA Revlon Breast Center for a follow-up appointment and was faced with my surgical oncologist's different opinion from my medical oncologist's feeling about something I can feel in my left breast (which of course is mostly made up of belly fat at this point but I guess that tiny bit of breast tissue that's left behind after mastectomy still presents a risk).  I wanted her opinion but my heart sank when she quickly determined "it needs to come out".  Um, what?  Yup, whatever it is that we can feel needs to be biopsied and removed and biopsied again because the booby masher and ultrasound tests I endured shortly after hearing those words were "inconclusive".  Shoot. Crap. Boo!  Trick or treat?!  Blech!

Dear Lord, I submit to you my life for Your will. I lay my worry and fear at Your feet and trust in You. Please guide the physicians and nurses minds and hands to ensure accurate and clear results and provide for my safety and comfort while in their care. Please grant me acceptance and peace with whatever the outcome may be. But Lord, please let it be benign. Amen.