Thursday, October 7, 2010

Great Marketing Gimics

Since I know that it really raises breast cancer awareness I won't complain too much, but you can find just about anything from a appliances to tampons with that pink ribbon on display this month.  If you are making an effort to purchase these things thinking you are giving back to the cause, make sure that they are actually donating a fair amount back to some reputable organization. mmm-k?!

Speaking of marketing....wouldn't it be great if the medical community worked the same way?  If you were handed your cancer diagnosis along with a consumer reports magazine of all the local doctors in the area, their brag sheet and then patient reviews?  I think I may have found my billion dollar idea!
I have always said that I felt very blessed to have had the medical team that I did.  I was fortunate enough to have friends of friends that connected me with my oncologist Dr. Medgyesy here in Fort Collins.  When I was first handed my diagnosis from my GP (general practitioner) it became a whirlwind of decisions that needed to be made yesterday and referrals to whom ever could fit me in first.  Now, I am not saying that my GP didn't have my best interests at heart but I had no personal experience with cancer so was just doing as I was told.  My first appointment was set up with the brand new doctor at the local surgeons office because he had the openings and could get me in the fastest.  He was to prepare me for surgery ASAP to get my tumor removed.  Of course the first thing I did was google the doctor and found out that he had no real specialty or prolonged experience with the needs that I had and was, as I said, fresh out of med school.   
I was lucky enough to have a dear friend, Courtnee, who was friends with a NP (nurse practioner) at Front Range Cancer Center.  After expressing my concerns with being overwhelmed and not knowing what to do with Courtnee she immediately called her friend the NP, Lisa, who recommended that I come and speak with an oncologist before making any big decisions.  Dr. Medgyesy offered to stay after her normal schedule the following day to see me.  After looking at my scans and charts she recommended that instead of doing surgery right away that we do Neo Adjuvent chemotherapy (chemo before surgery) because the tumor was growing very close to my chest wall.  It was her opinion that if we did not do this then there was risk of having to also remove parts of my chest wall to get all of the tumor.  She took the time to sit with us and explain the pros and cons of each situation and then give her opinion as to treatment.  In the end it was left up to me.  I ended up choosing to do the Neo Adjuvent Chemo and do surgery afterwords.  After meeting with her I also decided to call around and look online for a surgeon that would better fit my needs as a patient.  I was going to need a general surgeon fairly quickly to put in my port.  This is used for administering chemo and other drugs and also drawing blood samples rather than having to start an IV or get poked every day.  I found my surgeon Dr. Chiavetta here locally too that was wonderful through other patient recommendations and online research.
Through my entire cancer process I was under the care of lots of different doctors but more importantly lots of different opinions.  I saw 5 surgeons to consult about reconstruction between here and Salt Lake City.  I believe it is very important to obtain opinions from several docs and be able to choose the one that is right for you.  I also believe that getting several opinions to weigh your options is very beneficial.  Any good doctor will not be offended or threatened by you getting a 2nd, 3rd, 4th opinion.   

Lesson Learned:
Doctors work for you and not the other way around.  Don't be afraid to take charge of your health care and do your homework about your situation.  Any doctor that has issues with you getting 2nd opinions is not the right doctor for you.  Don't be afraid to ask questions and question what is going on with your care.  You are the best advocate for your care and you know your body better than anyone else.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Day 1

So we have officially entered breast cancer awareness month. Let the pink ribbons explode upon retailers everywhere. Personally I couldn't be any more aware of this disease, but if it hasn't been forced upon you or your family, as it was mine, it is a good thing to be reminded of.  Enter...the purpose of this blog.

I think of everything in life is a learning experience.  Learning is sometimes fun, sometimes painful. For better or for worse, lessons are learned and we are all the wiser for the experiences that life forces upon us.  Cancer was one of the experiences that my life forced upon me.  I have learned a lot of things from this disease.  
I recently received an email from Komen and in the subject line it read "I think about this disease everyday". Then I thought..hmmm, me too!  I wondered how many other people, like myself, could say these exact same words. Say them, and really mean them. I think there are a great number of us that can unfortunately. Not only us cancer patients, but the people that love us as well. I think it is safe to say that millions and millions of people are affected by this disease, and not only this disease but cancer itself.

I saw a story on the news yesterday about a women here in Colorado that has been faking cancer for several years and has swindled her friends, neighbors, etc. out of money to support her drug habit. You can read about this piece of work here if you are so inclined. I was infuriated and personally offended after hearing this story, as I am sure many people were. On the news I saw them interview one of her neighbors. The neighbor said that she was not sorry that she had offered her help and that she would offer the same help to her again if she found out they were in need of it.  I have to say I would not have been so nice.  Just hearing the report I was yelling at the TV and I wasn't even personally involved.  Maybe I should pray to be more forgiving?

Besides reminding myself to pray to be a better made me think about all of the people that were so kind to me during my fight with cancer. So, so many people offering to help in whatever ways they were able. I was overwhelmed with how many people reached out to help me and my family. People brought in meals, sent cards, paid bills, left money, cleaned my house, took care of my kids, took me to appointments, gave me massages, held my head over the toilet, helped me walk and recover after surgery, shaved their heads, listened to me cry and whine, held my hand, I named it - they did it.
Here is a story related from my blog shortly after I lost my hair:

Jon and I were able to go out to eat at the Egg and I with the twins the other day. We went to go pay our bill and someone at the restaurant paid our bill and gave the waitress a note to give to me that said "A good deed had been done today in loving memory of my mother. Good luck to you ~ a friend" Of course I was in tears the rest of the time there and the whole way home. It is unreal to think about all the many women that this disease has impacted.

I still remember that day.  It was cold and snowing, and I am always freezing, but with no hair it gets really cold.  I had a stocking cap on, but my head was getting so itchy from wearing it.  I realized soon after shaving my head that it was constantly irritated.  I had been messing with it most of the way through our meal and finally just took it off.  I always hated the looks and stares from everyone.  I could just feel everyone in the room looking at me and was so uncomfortable.  It was a bad day on top of all the hat drama because I was feeling horrible.  As soon as the waitress gave us that note I was in tears and cried until we got home.  I couldn't believe that a total stranger would have done something so kind for me.  The stranger really lifted my spirits that day and I will never forget that. I will be forever indebted to those who so generously gave of themselves for my benefit during that time.  I hope that I will be able to do the same for others when the opportunity presents itself.

Lesson learned:
An act of kindness, no matter how small you might think it is, can really make a big difference to the person on the receiving end.  When in doubt, it is always better to act then stand by and wait for someone else to.  You'll never regret being kind and loving. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Baskin Robbins Fundraiser

On Friday night we had our team fundraiser at Baskin Robbins. It was a great success with the help from all of you. Here are some snap shots of the evening. We made $190 in tips that go straight to relay plus our cut of the sales. We love you and thank you for your support.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Je m'appelle Claude!

C'est Claude
I love this picture!!  She was beautiful bald, wasn't she?

Claude is French.  I love to hear her speak, and I wish that I could speak french.  I took 3 years of french in high school and still can't even carry on a conversation.  You've just read about the extent of what I can say in French :-)
Claude was the very first survivor and the very first person that I met at treatment.  I met her on my first treatment day.  She gave me her phone number and that is the first thing that was written down in my 'treatment journal'.  I kept a journal of all my treatments, drugs I was taking, side effects and other misc things.  Claude's name and number is at the top of the first page.  She was there from the beginning of my cancer experience.  She introduced me to Hope Lives! and the services that they provide to local women in our community.  She was the first survivor that I had a conversation with about the reconstruction process.  I believe she was in the middle of her reconstruction process when I met her.  There are so many different options out there, it is a bit overwhelming.  I was grateful to the network of survivors that I met during my experience that helped me prepare for what was still ahead and become more knowledgeable about the process and options available.
She hosted one of our survivor's girls nights a few years ago and it was a blast.  We need to arrange another one of these!! 
It is always a great time with Claude!

I relay for you Claude.  Love you lady!

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Give a little, to what has taken a lot

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Scariest Chemo Day Ever

This is what I wrote on my blog on Sept 21st 2006...

"I did chemo after my Dr. Appointment today. Everything was going fine until I started my Taxol, which is the actual chemo drug. Since it was my 3rd time getting this they put it on regular flow and it usually takes about an hour. I was laying down in the recliner for about 10 min and started to feel funny. All at once I felt hot in my abdomen and and it moved quickly up my abdomen into my chest and to my throat. By the time I sat up and looked at my mom on the one side of me and said "Something isn't right," and turned my head to the other side to tell the nurse, my chest and throat got very tight and I couldn't breathe. The 3 nurses all rushed over shut the IV line and shot me up with a steroid and a bunch of benedryl. It worked quickly but there was about 10 or so seconds there where I couldn't catch my breath. It was VERY SCARY! I thought I was going to pass out. They put some saline through me and waited about a half hour before starting on it again. They start it back up but at about 1/2 the speed. I waited about 20 min and then the hot feeling came over me again. I didn't have the breathing problem that time, but they did the same things again. I had to stop and wait another 1/2 hour and then start the taxol again at about 1/2 that speed. Luckily the 3rd time was a charm and worked okay but we ended up being at chemo from 10:00am to 4:30pm. Long day! I feel horrible tonight too. My chest still hurts and my lower back hurts. I am a total medicine head from all the benedryl I am on."

Have you ever felt like you were drowning?  That day I felt like I was drowning, but I wasn't underwater.  I was in a room connected to an IV that was feeding my body poison.  I lost control of my body.  I could not breathe.  My insides felt like they were on fire and my heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest.  I. could. not. breathe.  It was hands down the scariest experience ever.  I was looking at my mom's face as she stood by helplessly and all she could do was hold my hand.  I was staring wide eyed at the 3 nurses that rushed over to my side shouting things like turn off the drip, get this, get that, hold on, it will just be a few seconds more, take a deep breath, stay calm.  I can tell you from experience that when someone tells you to stay calm, that is the last thing you are going to be doing.  Especially when you can't breathe.  Those 10 seconds felt like an eternity and slowly I was able to catch my breathe a little more and a little more. 
That was a long day.  Even after being feed what seemed to be the maximum dosage of Benedryl, I was wide awake the rest of the day.  It's never good to be the center of attention in a room full of patients sitting in recliners being fed their chemo meds.  There were several times that I had seen patients being taken from our treatment room across the street to the hospital and thankfully I was never one of those patients.  Chemo is truly a love/hate relationship.  You love it because it is saving your life, but hate it for what it is doing to your life in the short term.  You truly live a day at a time. 

Please follow the link on the side bar to donate to my relay for life efforts
Give a little, to what has taken a lot

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I'm in Pain!

This last week the fence in our blew over in the strong winds.  On Friday night we had to dig up the old fence post that was attached to a ton of concrete so we could re do the post and pour new concrete.   Jon and I spent over an hour digging up the old concrete.  Well really Jon did most of the digging and I just helped as much as I could.  We ended up having to enlist the neighbor's help (Thanks Brad!) and then pull the big chunk of concrete out with the truck. 
So fast forward to Sunday.  I can barley move my arm much the less lift anything without throbbing pain through my arm and chest.  I feel like someone smacked me with an open hand right above my chest.  From all the surgeries and the reconstruction I have been through my pec muscle and the tendon or whatever it is in your armpit that connects your pec muscle with your arm have never been the same.  That tendon sicks out of my pec and armpit like a rubber band.  Even after all the endless physical therapy that I have done, it still hurts whenever I do anything physical with that area.  Whenever we ride the four wheelers in the summer it is always a few hours and then I am done for the day.  I guess I need to be doing something more regular as far as strength training, but dang it hurts. 
It amazes me how much my body has been through and still seems to work fairly well for the most part.  It's painful days like this that remind me that I am not the same person I used to be.  I cannot do whatever I want without expecting to pay for it the next day, or for days later in this case.  I cannot go out and swing on the monkey bars with my kids.  I cannot do heavy lifting.
I can take lots of advil though and I can enjoy spending another Mother's day with my family. 

And it is worth it.  Everyday it's worth it.  I am lucky to be here.

Please follow the link on the side bar to donate to my relay for life efforts
Give a little, to what has taken a lot

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Don't Mess with Texas!

Meet the Lloyd Family
Wow, Adrian!  You are one lucky fella!  Your girls are gorgeous!
I met Debbie in the middle of my treatment and towards the beginning of hers.  We were connected through Hope Lives! when she sent out a inquiry about other woman that were doing the same chemo protocol she would be doing.  Debbie and I had the exact same medical plan from chemo to surgery.  We also saw the same amazing oncologist, Diana Medgeyesy.
She is one of my girls!  She's a Texas girl.  She has watched several members of her family fight cancer and tested positive for the BRCA1 gene, which is the hereditary breast cancer gene.

Debbie is an awesome!  We talked about all the crap that goes along with cancer and did all the crap that goes along with cancer right next to each other.  We even got our new "girls" around them same time, right Debbie? The old ones were trying to kill us.
In Oct of 2007 we had the opportunity to participate in the Hope Lives Gala and fundraiser and also be featured in the the local magazine STYLE.
What a fun experience!  We were both honored as survivors and were treated like queens for the day.

Debbie continues to volunteer for Hope Lives! and worked with the models at the gala this last year.  
 She is an amazing lady!

I relay for you Debbie!

Please follow the link on the side bar to donate to my relay for life efforts
  Give a little, to what has taken a lot