Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Story Abbreviated

I know some of you are new readers and don't know a lot of my Cancer Journey, so I thought I would give you a quick version of how all of this happened. This not only helps you understand where I am coming from or what I have been through, but it helps me too. Sometimes I forget the beginning of the journey. Yes, I have been through A LOT, but I have come a long way and I have put up one hell of a fight. I know, that even though I am cancer free right now, that my journey is far from over. I will continue to fight with everything I have. I have no intentions of ever giving up, no matter how tired I get. I will do whatever I have to do to be with my babies.

The summer of 2007, my husband noticed a spot on the back of my left calf. I didn't think to much about it. A year later my mom encouraged me to see a Dermatologist. On July 8th, 2008 the day my daughter turned 6 months old, was the day that the Dr told me I had cancer. At first I was speechless, then the tears started flowing. I called my mom, husband, and mother in law to tell them the news. Those were very hard phone calls to make. The Dermatologist scheduled an appointment with the surgeon and oncologist and removed the melanoma from my calf. The test results came back as Stage IV Melanoma.
I met with the surgeon the following week. He was very positive that it hadn't spread. We scheduled a surgery to have some lymph nodes in my left groin removed and more skin excised from the primary spot on my calf. He removed 7 lymph nodes from my left groin. 4 came back positive, 3 were negative.
I then met with my oncologist. The standard treatment for Melanoma is Interferon. I did a month long round of Interferon, 5 days a week for 4 weeks. After that I did shots 3 times a week. In January 2009 a lump showed up on my back. 3 different Dr's felt that it was a cyst. In March two more spots showed up on my chest. These were under the skin. I showed my Dermatologist immediately. He scheduled an appointment for me after hours the following day to have all three spots removed. All 3 spots came back as Melanoma. At this point we realized that the Interferon was not working. My Oncologist was very honest and told me that they did not have what I needed.
My paperwork was faxed to MD Anderson on a Thursday, and my first appointment was scheduled for that Monday. After my oncologist at MDA received my CT scans and PET scans he discovered that I had 4 more tumors inside my body. We discussed different chemotherapy options and decided on the one that has been proven to be the most successful. There is about a 50% success rate for the biochemo that I did. There is an 87% chance that the cancer will eventually return. The average remission time is 9 months.
Approximately one week later I was started on biochemotherapy. The drugs included Cisplatin, Aldesleukin (IL-2), Dacarbazine, and Vinblastine. I was hospitalized for a week during chemotherapy. I returned home for two weeks, then started the chemo all over again. I did this a total of six times.
After two rounds of the biochemotherapy, another PET scan was done. One of the tumors was completely gone, one of the tumors he decided was not a tumor, but calcification from a shot I had as a toddler, the other two tumors had shrunk greatly, but were still there. PET scans were completed after every two rounds of biochemotherapy. The tumors continued to shrink, but still remained. After my 4th round of chemo, my oncologist decided that he wanted me to complete 2 more rounds of chemo, so instead of doing 6 rounds of chemo I was going to complete 8 rounds. I was pretty upset about this. Chemo was awful and I was ready to be done.
At my appointment with my oncologist before my 6th round of chemo, I started crying. After seeing my tears he decided to not have me do the 7th and 8th rounds and instead we could just have surgery.
I returned to MD Anderson 1 1/2 months later for surgery. Unfortunately, the ultrasound could only find 1 tumor. The surgery was able to remove all of that tumor. The other tumor was to small to find, therefore it could not be removed.

I returned two months later for repeat PET scans and the tumor that remained had grown for 4mm to 6mm. The Dr sent me to ultrasound where they found the tumor immediately. Another surgery was scheduled. The remaining tumor was removed and I am currently cancer free!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Explanation

Remember this post where I whined about my pain? Well, I now know why I was in so much pain!

Yesterday morning I woke up soaked. I'll be honest, at first I thought I had peed the bed. Now, I don't do that often. I promise. But, right now anything is possible. Honestly, I kind of wish it was pee. Because, it was blood and fluid. Lots of it. Everywhere. I was a little confused. I jumped in the shower to clean it off. Then I realized it wasn't stopping. I yelled for Cody, who's exact words I am pretty sure went something like, "Oh, Shit." He called his mom to come watch the kids and he rushed me to the ER. They got me in really quick. And the verdict? The incision is infected. No wonder I was in SO MUCH PAIN!

They gave me some lovely pain meds. Stuck a razor sharp Q-tip* in the opening of the incision for a swab. Gave me a very potent antibiotic. And placed me on modified bedrest so that I don't split the incision open any more. Right now we just have to let the infection drain out. It's quite gross!

*It wasn't really razor sharp but it felt like it!

On the plus side, the pain is much less. Still hurts, but not nearly as bad! And my MIL has "moved in" for the time being since Cody had to head out of town for work. I am so lucky to have great family!

Keep Praying!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thank You

Thank you to everyone for your wonderful comments, emails, and letters. So far, being cancer free has not been the funnest. I am in some major pain. The first few days I was ok. Then Friday hit and I was hurting so bad I had tears in my eyes. Most of you don't know where the tumor was removed from, and no offense, but I think I will keep that private for now. It's just crazy how you don't realize how much you use a part of your body until you can't really use it. Sucks!

Don't get me wrong, I am overjoyed to be rid of that nasty stuff. Overjoyed I tell ya! But damn do I hurt! Luckily, K has been very understanding and has even seen my incision. Ella, of course, has no clue. She just knows that mommy is having a difficult time getting around and she has to be gentle with me. I feel so blessed to have truly wonderful children. Truly wonderful. The love I have for them is so impressive. And, lucky me, they feel the same way! Am I one lucky mama or what!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Guess What... this time I am CANCER FREE!

They successfully removed the one remaining tumor. My surgery was at 7:30AM, right on the dot. Before they take you back to surgery they give you something to relax you. The first surgery I was able to fight it off and didn't fall asleep until I got to the operating room. Apparently this time I feel asleep before I got to the operating room because I woke up in post-op totally confused. I became very attached to my anesthesiologist and would not let him leave me. Finally, they brought Cody back and I gave up my anesthesiologist:(


He was a nice guy.

Anyway, Cody and I made the decision to head home after my surgery since it was scheduled so early in the morning. I think the drive just about killed Cody, but for me it went quite quick! I was out of it most of the drive! I feel so lucky to have a husband that would do anything for me.

I am feeling good. I am more sore today than I was yesterday, and I have discovered that I should NOT take Hydrocodone during the day. It did get rid of the pain, but I was a little loopy after taking it. It was an odd feeling!

Luckily, Cody and my Dad were here to help with my loopiness and watch over the kids! I am so blessed with excellent men in my life. I could not have asked for a better husband, father, father in law, or brother. They have all shown that they are willing to do what ever they need to do to help me through all of this. And for that, I am extremely grateful.

Huge thank you's to all of you out there. I truly believe that God has been listening to all of our prayers. I am realistic, I know that the chances of this cancer returning are great. But, I also believe that God knows how much my children need me and how much I need them. He is listening to us, my Prayer Warriors. Keep praying for clear scans! We can do this.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Early, Early AM

The stupid surgery is scheduled for first thing tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. I have to get up at the crack of dawn, however, I am her first surgery of the day so hopefully that means there will be less wait. The surgeon is fabulous and I have complete confidence in her. I am just so sick of being cut in to. It's just getting old. Please pray that this will be the last surgery for a long, long time.

Today, as I was waiting for an appt, or labs, or something, I had a very kind older lady tell me how pretty I am. It totally made my day. That is the great part about being at MD Anderson. Everyone here knows what it is like to have cancer or have someone you love dearly battle cancer. Even though everyone's story is a bit different, it's still the same. Everyone here is a fighter. Everyone here knows what it is like to have to worry about dying. Everyone here knows how precious life is.