It's been six weeks since I posted an update on my journey through breast cancer. Today I have lots of news to share. My sincere thanks to any and all of you who are interested in my journey. I continue to be amazed at the number of people who truly care for me and have expressed their concern, support and encouragement.
As I think back, it was right about the time of my last update that I noticed my hands and feet were feeling . . . strange . . . a sort of numb feeling. Ironically, my oncologist had just asked me that week if I had noticed any numbness in my fingers or toes. I joked with him the next week that it was the power of his suggestion that made me begin to notice the numbness because it was literally the day after he asked me that I began to notice it. Within two weeks the numbness (called neuropathy - a form of nerve damage) had spread across the entire surface of my hands and feet. I began to stumble occasionally, had trouble picking up little things, struggled with papers at school and found turning pages in textbooks nearly impossible (combination of dead fingernails and the numbness). The week after that, my nurse asked me how the numbness was. My response was "the same." She was very determined and stern as she instructed me to let them know if it intensified or changed in any way. The next week, she asked and I informed her that it hadn't lessened, may even have worsened. When she began to ask questions about my ability to do the normal things we all do every day, and she got around to asking me if had tripped any, I just looked at Kenny, and we laughed. I had tripped at least three times that very morning. Little did I know what would result. Before beginning administering my chemo, she wanted to contact the doctor and let him know about the neuropathy. Since he was in the downtown office that day (he is usually in the Gunbarrel office on my chemo days), it took almost an hour for them to hear back from him. The directive: no chemo that day. He wanted to see if the neuropathy would diminish if we halted the chemo temporarily. I had two more treatments to go, and I was really anxious to finish the chemo. However, he's the expert, and he had explained to me that the neuropathy could be permanent. He was trying to keep that from happening.
The next week (the day I would have been finished with chemo): no treatment. Maybe next week.
The next week (last week): Dr. Schlabach had decided I would have no more chemo. I was finished! That was it! So with that, we had finished the first stage of breast cancer treatment. I literally danced and jumped up and down in the lab upon hearing the news.
The sad part: all my caregivers there were so sad because they said they wouldn't be seeing me anymore. They were happy, but they were sad. They had "graduated" several other patients just that week. I promised I would come back to see them, and I will. I will miss our visits. They are all so caring and cheerful and professional all at the same time. My experience with them combined with our experience with Ty's birth and surgeries has given me an entirely new perspective on nurses and what a ministry they have in caring for us.
So, having finished the chemo, an MRI was scheduled. We got that done yesterday. Today we met with Dr. Schlabach for the results. The tumor that had started so large is down to barely 1/2 cm in diameter. So exciting! The doctor is of the opinion that a lumpectomy will be the appropriate surgery for me. He feels certain enough to say so. He was so pleased with the results. He texted my surgeon, Dr. Valle', right then and there to tell him I was ready for surgery.
Next week, on Wednesday, Kenny and I will meet with Dr. Valle' and determine a surgery date and confirm exactly what type of surgery I will have (probably a lumpectomy). After recovery from the surgery, intensive radiation treatments will begin. But that's the next stage. We are so glad to be through the first stage and ready to begin the second stage of treatment.
Looking back at the last update, I have to smile at the progress I've made. Almost everything tastes delicious!!! I have really enjoyed eating this last week. It took two weeks for the deadening of my taste-ability to wear off. L.O.V.I.N.G. Couch's barbeque!!!!! Every chance I get! Today I had Ken's chili. It was the perfect day for that yummy, spicy, chunky chili. With Fritos. Yummmmm!
A few days ago I noticed little hairs sticking out all over my head. Sparse but there! And noticeable. And then there's the fuzz coming in that appears to be totally and completely white!!! Won't that be interesting?! Now I had plenty of gray hair back in May, but it wasn't WHITE!
None of my fingernails have fallen off. That's not how it works anyway. They loosen and you have to cut them off. I know that because I had to remove the big toenail on my right foot this morning. The entire nail had died, turned white and let go. So I cut it off. Not having a dead nail on my toe feels so much better. In fact, I've been cutting back my dead fingernails, too. That makes them feel better and enables me to be able to function without having to be so careful and without hurting all the time. Kenny predicts that in 30 days my nails will be back to normal. I hope so.
The tiredness persists, but since I've begun my medical leave from school, it's not so intense. If you have never taught school or worked in a school, you can have no idea how intense the work is and how worn out teachers and other school personnel can be! If you know a teacher, school secretary, principal, custodian, guidance counselor or other school personnel, please thank them for their work and encourage them. This is just my first week out of school, and I don't run out of energy at noon every day, but by 4:00 p.m. I'm out of steam and longing for a nap.
Oh! My! Stars! the itching!!!! I itch all over. It's just about driving me crazy. I wake up in the middle of the night itching and have to get up and get a hairbrush or backscratcher and tend to my itchy back . . . and arms . . . and legs . . . and scalp . . . and eyes! My eyes are driving me insane itching! And as I suspected, this is withdrawal from the chemo. The Taxol was administered with heavy doses of Benadryl and steroids. Those two were to help my body not suffer side effects of the Taxol. However, they also put my itchy skin to rest. It was a wonderful few weeks of itchlessness. My itching came back with a vengeance, but Dr. Schlabach assures me this too shall pass.
On a side note, we took Kenny to see an orthopedic doctor today for his shoulder. We knew from xrays done several years ago that Kenny has "a bone spur" on his right shoulder joint. We figured we would see Dr. Smalley, he would have xrays made, he would come back and tell us he would take the spur out, and Kenny would be his wonderful, active self again. Not gonna happen. We were shocked to hear the words "need a shoulder replacement" come out of the doctor's mouth. Shocked! Kenny has absolutely no cartilage left in his right shoulder joint. Dr.Smalley called it "bone-on-bone arthritis." And there is not just "a bone spur." There are several. What??????? Kenny and I just looked at each other. Could. Not. Believe. This. My indestructible, busy, active, work-a-holic hubby. Then came the good news. Kenny can try a daily anti-inflammatory to see if it will help. He also got a cortisone shot to the shoulder today. Please pray these help ease his pain. Dr. Smalley told Kenny we can wait until Kenny is ready for the replacement surgery. Trust me, Kenny is no where near ready for that surgery! That's a big one!
So here we are, two "senior citizens," doing what senior citizens do, I guess: the best we can as our bodies slowly wear out. And thankful for each and every day God gives to us to live and praise Him! To enjoy our lives, our children, our friends, our grandbabies, and so much more.
And who decided that you become a "senior citizen" when you turn 60? Oh well, one day at a time. One challenge at a time. Jesus promised to be with us all the time, in everything. God is a very present help in time of trouble. I know that for a fact. I pray for His blessings upon you all and thank Him constantly for His love, patience, longsuffering with me, and the Hope of Heaven with Him.
I'll update y'all again when there's something to tell. Love to all!