Monday, July 8, 2013

Buh Bye

It's gone!!! It's gone!!!

My pathology report came back and there isn't anything but GOOD news to share!!! All 30 lymph nodes that were removed came back clear of cancer. And my uterus, cervix, Fallopian tubes and everything else that was removed from my body also came back clear. It's all still surreal...I think I'm in shock...disbelief. Is it really over?

Wahoo!!!

No radiation necessary! No chemo necessary! No more treatment necessary! Now, I just have to focus on recovering from my surgery and I'll be visiting with my oncologist on a regular basis for the next several months to ensure that all is kosher and continues to be positive.

Praise The Lord! Thank you for all of your prayers and well wishes. We are forever grateful.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Last Day of "School"...

I was wide awake this morning at 5:00…just lying in bed filled with anxiety anticipating this last day of work before my surgery next Monday. It feels like the last day of the school year. I'm saying bye to all of my friends/work buddies, giving hugs to all of my teachers/bosses, cleaning out my locker/office...and I have all of the same melancholy feelings that I did back in the day when it really was the last day of school.


Instead of being excited about the fun summer ahead, I'm dreading the next couple of weeks...especially this coming Sunday and Monday.

Sunday is Father's Day. We usually eat really good food and drink lots of yummy beverages on Father's Day. This year won't consist of any of that though as my doc has prescribed a clear liquid diet on Sunday in preparation for the surgery Monday morning. Ugh! A whole day of not eating? I can't even imagine what that is going to be like. Especially while watching everyone else feast and enjoy the day as they normally would. I've thought about just hibernating all day so that I don't have to witness any of the fun that will be had...or be tempted to partake, but I think that might be even more miserable.

I'm pretty much dreading the surgery and will definitely need some anti-anxiety meds to help me get through the day on Sunday and to sleep that night. Have I told you how much I hate needles and giving blood? Yes...I have...in just about every post that has had to do with this whole ordeal. I despise them. They make me want to puke...or pass out. So, you can only imagine how fabulous I felt this past Tuesday when my oncologist walked me through all of the gory details of the surgery. I honestly don't think she left out one thing that will take place in the 5-6 hour surgery she will do on my body. She told me how she will have to dissect certain tubes and such from tissue...puke, puke, puke...as well as cauterize and use heat on other things...puke, puke, puke. I just want it all to be over.

So Monday is pretty much a wash. The surgery is set for 7:00 in the morning and by the time I'm out and done with recovery and in my room, it will most likely be 5:00 in the evening. I'm sure after being under anesthesia for that long, I'll be exhausted and want nothing other than to eat finally and then sleep the rest of the day away. I'm looking forward to waking up on Tuesday and hopefully my pain will be managed and I won't have a huge cut in my lower abdomen - we're praying that there aren't any complications and my doc is able to do the surgery less invasively with the "robot", which would leave me instead with just a few small incisions above my belly button. Fingers crossed for that. If that is the case, I should be going home on Wednesday. If she has to do a full open surgery, then I will be there probably until Thursday or Friday.

I'll be sure to update after the surgery...especially since I'll have nothing but time on my side. Six whole weeks of time. I'm not much of a TV fan...and one can only read so many books and trashy magazines. I'm so excited that my mom will be by my side the first couple of days to keep me company. My bestie from Michigan, Alena, is coming in for a couple of days too. What a blessing that will be as she always knows exactly what I need...and what to do to make me smile. And then my aunts and uncles will be here in early July to help take my mind off things and hopefully have some fun! So the recovery time isn’t going to be all that lame as I’ll have lots of people around me throughout.

The love and support of everyone has been overwhelming. Please continue to pray for healing...for a complication free surgery...for a quick recovery free of infection or any other craziness that could happen. Pray also for my sweet family...that they may have the strength and courage to get through the next couple of weeks of my bitching and complaining. And most importantly, pray that this hysterectomy is the last and final treatment necessary to cure my body of this cancer. XOXOXO
I hate this place!  Hopefully I don't have to go much longer...
Oh...also wanted to share...my sister-in-law, Laura, shared this amazing song with me last weekend.  It's called "Next to Me" and it's by Emeli Sande.  I love, love, love it!  Totally inspiring and brings me so much comfort...and so fun to sing and dance to while driving.  :)  Click here to watch the music video...  Happy listening/watching.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Three Surgeries?

Decisions, decisions. When this whole ordeal started, I was mad to think that I wasn't going to have choices. I was sad to think that a disease was going to determine if we were going to have another child or not. Now, I find myself annoyed with the choices available to me. I actually almost wish that there wasn't a choice to be made...that my treatment plan was cut and dry and there was just one course of action to take to cure my body. Of course it couldn't be that "easy."

We met with my doctor on Tuesday of this week to talk about the next steps in my plan. It turns out that I am a candidate for a trachelectomy. That is the procedure where they remove the entire cervix and then close off the uterus with a cerclage. It is an alternative to a hysterectomy and has been done since 2005 or so as fertility preserving measures are more of an issue with larger percentages of younger women (who still want to have babies) being diagnosed with cervical cancer. Though the medical community believes that trachelectomys provide the same medical outcome for cervical cancer as a hysterectomy does, they haven't been doing the procedure long enough for it to stand on its own...so my doctor recommends it as a step...but not the final step. If I choose to go this route, she still recommends a hysterectomy down the road.

With a trachelectomy, having another baby is still not a guarantee. Research has shown that it is actually more difficult to get pregnant after the procedure given that the cervix is gone and the uterus has essentially been closed off. A good percentage of those who have gotten pregnant after having the procedure have undergone fertility treatments to do so. In addition, the risk of miscarriage once pregnant is greater...especially in the later trimesters. The pregnancies are considered high risk and bed rest during is common because the bottom of the uterus is held closed by the cerclage...a string...that can break or come loose...and often does. Many babies are carried to full term, however many babies are also born premature. The baby also has to be delivered via c-section.

So...if we decide to go this route, I will have the surgery and then have a 6 week recovery. If we were able to get pregnant and the baby survived the pregnancy, I would have a c-section and then have an 8 week recovery. And then I would go back and have a hysterectomy and then have another 6 week recovery...with a new baby and a little girl to also keep me busy. Three surgeries. Or, if we weren't able to get pregnant and once we were done trying, I would go back for the hysterectomy then. Two surgeries. Have I told you how much I love IVs and getting my blood drawn?

Obviously the other option is to have the hysterectomy. One surgery. However, there will be no chance for another baby to live inside this body of mine. When I think about all of the steps and uncertainties of the other option, as well as all of the risks involved with each of the three surgeries, I am really leaning toward this option. I'm not a patient person either...so knowing that there is a good chance that we won't get pregnant on our own is really hard for me to digest. It will piss me off and I will be an emotional wreck if it doesn't come easy. Also, I had a really great pregnancy with Reagan, however because of the miscarriage I had at 6 weeks along just before conceiving her, I was on edge through the whole thing. I was so nervous that I was going to lose her before she was ever born. I can't imagine the stress and worry of a high risk pregnancy...especially knowing that the chances of miscarriage later on are greater. And then to have the grief and heartache of either not being able to get pregnant...or losing the baby just doesn't sit well with me. If we didn't have Reagan, I might be considering this option a lot more.

But, we do have Reagan! Praise The Lord for her. She is such a gift and a blessing. I've said from day one of this diagnosis that my main goal is to live and be healthy for her. She is my priority. I'd love to give her a sibling, but I'm not sure that is in the cards. I think that it is more important for her to have her momma...alive and present...and not an emotional basket case who is in and out of surgeries...than it is for her to have a sibling.

So there you have it. Just writing this all down has helped me think through this crazy choice that we have to make. The surgery - the one surgery - the hysterectomy will be June 17th. I'm praying that all will go off without a hitch - that my doctor will have steady hands and crystal clear vision - that she will be able to use the "robot" so that my incisions are minimal allowing my recovery to be "easier." I'm also praying for peace with this decision...as well as the strength to not break down when this is all over and someone asks, "So, when are you all gonna have another baby?" or, when there is a super cute snuggly little baby in my arms cooing at me and I feel the desire to have another baby of my own. I pray that those times are minimal and that I'm not plagued with regret for choosing to end this craziness. I'm praying too that this is the end - that there isn't a need for addition treatment (chemo and radiation) after the hysterectomy. Thank you for joining me in these prayers. XOXOXO

Happy Hour with my man last week. I can't imagine going through this without him by my side.


My sassy swimmer.  She is three - seriously? Cutest bathing suit on the planet...cutest kid on the planet.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Nightmare

The working part of Vegas went really well last week. My energy was back and I was in a great mood - work was definitely taking my mind off things and the motivation and inspiration of the event was lifting me up. Then on Tuesday evening as I was getting ready for dinner, I started spotting.

My doctor had told me that a little spotting was normal, but if there was bright red blood, give her a call, so I did. She told me to go to the emergency room just to have them check things out. She said that the bleeding was most likely because a small piece of the scab that was protecting my cervix from last week's procedure had sloughed off...it wasn't serious and the doctor would most likely put some medicine on the site that would stop the bleeding. So off to the ER I went. 

After doing a pelvic exam, the ER doctor said that the bleeding was a breakthrough period and discharged me.  As I was walking out of the hospital, I could feel that something wasn't right...so I went to the bathroom to find a significant amount of blood.  It most definitely was not a period.  I went back to triage and told them that they had to re-admit me and that I needed to have a GYN examine me.  They were reluctant...but after some pursuading (screaming) from my oncologist here in Dallas, the nurse put me back on the 4 hour ER waiting room list.  The bleeding continued for the next four hours and after another exam by the ER doctor...and a third exam by the GYN who was on call, they discharged me again saying that it "was just a period."  I've never been so frustrated in all of my life.

Seriously, it felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.  I couldn't believe the way that the doctors and nurses at this hospital were treating me...and even more absurd was that they really believed that the amount of blood I was losing was a period.  I've never in my life bled like that...even after giving birth to Reagan, I didn't bleed like that.

My oncologist here in Dallas was amazing.  She stayed on the phone with me literally all night long.  She was also just as frustrated and knew that I needed additional treatment before getting on a plane back to Dallas the next day.  She finally tracked down a doctor friend of hers in Vegas who is in the same field of medicine and was able to convince her to see me right away - by this time it was 7:00 Wednesday morning.  I made it to the other hospital where she was at quickly.  I was so scared.  I could tell that I had lost a significant amount of blood and I barely had any energy.  I was dizzy and felt like I could pass out at any minute.  When I walked through the doors of the hospital to meet with the doctor, she asked if I was still having much bleeding.  I simply looked down and moved my legs apart a little bit...blood was streaming out of me and puddling on the floor.  She immediately took me to the operating room.  She put me under and cauterized the surgical site to stop the bleeding.  It most definitely was not a period.  We're not exactly sure how it happened...but we're pretty certain that the ER doctor irritated things by removing the entire scab that had been on my cervix, causing my cervix to actively bleed for more than 8 hours. 

So, there you have it.  My living nightmare.  It just goes to show that there are good doctors and there are bad doctors.  You have to go with your gut.  You know your body better than anyone else.  If you don't like the answers the doctors give you, speak up!  I'm so thankful that I did.  I could be in much worse shape than I am.  My blood levels are still pretty low...even a week later.  My energy is super low.  I get headaches and dizzy when I stand up.  I'm tired.  I'm pissed at those doctors at the first hospital and can still get myself worked up to the point that I'm shaking when I talk about it...or write about it - like now.  Onward and upward though...no time to dwell on the negative stuff...

My oncologist got the pathology back from the May 1st cone procedure and it looks as though my cancer is staged at 1B1.  She wants to review my case with the tumor board at UT Southwestern as it is a rare case and the information learned through the pathology suggests that it is borderline 1A2 and 1B1...which ultimately determines the next steps in the treatment of this disease in my body.  A hysterectomy is most definitely a possibility, especially if the 1B1 stage is confirmed.  Our appointment to talk about all of that is set for May 28th.

I can't say it enough - I appreciate everyone's prayers.  This is such an incredible journey already...its just barely been a month since I was officially diagnosed.  I'm in good spirits for the most part but I have my days too...like today.  I found myself reading the www.cancer.gov website today and the treatments for 1B1 cervical cancer...and I didn't like what I read.  Though the word "cancer" sucks, I've become somewhat used to it now.  The words "chemotherapy" and "radiation" don't sit well...my doctor hasn't mentioned them...but the website does...praying that neither are necessary.  I don't want to be sick.  I don't want to be tired.  So prayers please - prayers that I won't have to go down that road and that my body will be cured with surgery.

Here is a video that Judy (she keeps Reagan for us when we're working) sent me while I was in the hospital in Vegas.


video

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bigger Battles

I'm off to Vegas...and not excited. Huh? Who isn't excited to go to Vegas? What a bummer! I've never been to Vegas and have always wanted to go, but now I find myself emotional and trying to muster up any and every ounce of positive energy in my body to get me there. I'm going for work...which is the first point of contention...and I'm going without Kevin, my mom or anyone else in my immediate circle...which is the second point of contention. Ugh...

When my surgery was scheduled so close to the trip, I thought my biggest hurdle to going was going to be my physical health, yet instead, I find my emotional health the issue. I think I might be in a slight depression as I just can't get excited about doing much of anything lately. The weather was so pretty all weekend long and all I wanted to do was lay in bed and snuggle with the family. The thought of going to a restaurant or to a movie or someone's house was exhausting...and the thought of doing laundry, unloading the dishwasher or organizing anything in my house just put me in an even worse mood. I hate feeling this way! I want some energy. I want to be happy! I want to get out and enjoy the weather and laugh. I want to be me again. I really wanted to soak in a hot bath last night and just be by myself for a little while...unfortunately I wasn't able to as the doctor ordered "no baths" for two weeks...which made for an even bitchier self last night.

Maybe this short trip to Vegas will jump start something inside of me and get me back to being me. I'm hoping that my work family will be in the mood to have some fun and help me kick this yuck. I'm also hoping that Dr. Kehoe doesn't call me while I'm here. I don't want to hear any news - good or bad. I don't want to talk about it or rehash the story with anyone. I just want to pretend like I don't have cancer for a couple of days...maybe forget about it completely. I'm tired of being on pins and needles...wondering and waiting. Is the cancer gone? Did she get it all? Am I done having to give blood and get IVs? I know that my situation is so much better than others...I know that I am going to live and be okay...I know, I know, I know...but there is still that little shred of doubt in the back of my mind. And honestly...giving blood and getting IVs for me could be the equivalent of getting chemo and radiation for others...I hate it that much! I feel bad saying that as I don't want to diminish the reality of chemo and radiation and how horrible that must be...but I'm just keeping it real...

The guy sitting next to me on the flight just told me that he is going to Vegas for two weeks. He is in the Air Force and said that he is going to be "blowing stuff up in the desert" while he is there. His wife couldn't join him because they have two small children at home and they didn't want to bring them along. So...there God goes again...reminding me that there are worse scenarios than mine. He has only given me as much as I can handle and this is only going to make me stronger in the long run. I could be the wife of this dude...a single mom for the next two weeks while my hubs is "blowing stuff up in the desert" and having the time of his life with his comrades when he isn't "blowing stuff up in the desert." I could be his wife...waiting for his next deployment...or I could be the wife of another military man who is currently deployed...waiting for him to come home...wondering if he will ever come home. Or, I guess I could be in the military like this guy...putting my life on the line for others' freedom. He would probably laugh in cancer's face...he has bigger battles to fight. Snap out of it, Traci! This life is too damn short and you're going to be ok...better than ok...

So...cheers to Vegas! I just bought TWO airplane size bottles of Chardonnay from the flight attendant - total of $28 cuz I'm a high roller like that...actually I'm just ready to get a buzz and relax and don't care how much the damn wine costs! Don't judge me...I'm going to Vegas...

On another note, Reagan and I made french toast for the first time together this morning. I let her crack the eggs and put them (and all of the egg shells) into the bowl. She poured the milk into the eggs, whisked them up and then sprinkled the cinnamon into the mixture. She seemed to have everything under control for the most part so I started to put the bacon into the pan...as I turned around to see how she was doing, I was mortified to see the fork she had been using to whisk in her mouth! Ewww! Really? Was she seriously just eating raw scrambled eggs? Yep...and she said that it tasted "great!" Ahh...this child! She makes me smile each and every day. What a blessing she is. And with that, a prayer...God - please protect her body - please keep salmonella poisoning away - please keep her healthy and happy and innocent forever and ever. Amen. The french toast was great and she made sure that we knew that she made it. All. By. Herself.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Its not what happens to you...

My surgery yesterday went well - so the doctor told everyone - I don't remember talking to her much at all...or anything else that took place from 1:00 until about 5:00 yesterday. She said that she saw 3 lesions on my cervix and therefor, she took a very large cone in hopes of getting all of the cancer. The piece of my cervix is basically like a super big biopsy now...it will be reviewed by pathology to determine if she got all of the cancer...or if I'll have to have another procedure/treatment to cure my body of this disease. Fingers crossed that the cancer is all gone!!! Now we wait for the oncologist to call with the results...tick tock, tick tock...

I'm feeling good today. Not too much pain, but I'm staying close to the clock and taking my hydrocodone every 4 hours as directed. I don't want that stuff to wear off! So, I'm pretty drowsy and am enjoying my time snuggled in watching TV and chatting about life and random stuff with my momma - Paula P. I'm not sure what I would do without her. Just having her next to me...no words being exchanged...is the best! Her presence and sweet smell are so comforting to me. I love my momma!

I've learned so much about compassion already through this ordeal. Most importantly, I've been reminded that we don't always know what is going on in other people's lives...we have no idea what they are going through. The day after my OBGYN told us about my cervical cancer, I ran into an old friend at work who was pressing me about having another child. Obviously she has no idea what I'm going through...and I wasn't about to tell her then in front of the 400 other people who were in the room that day. So, I just nodded and held back the tears as she kept on telling me all of the reasons I need to have another baby. Ugh! It was so hard to not break down right then and there. People can look completely amazing on the outside, but yet be fighting some horrible stuff behind closed doors. I know that her pressing was completely innocent - had she known, she definitely wouldn't have gone there, but it reminded me that compassion for others is so important. I'm will forever be careful as to what I say and suggest to the people around me - the people who I think I know. This was especially brought to life this last weekend as I attended a girlfriends retreat though our church.

One of the speakers at the retreat fought breast cancer 5 years ago. She had a double mastectomy and went though chemo and radiation to beat her cancer. Fast forward to last October when she was having trouble swallowing and some other strange symptoms, she went to her oncologist and learned that the cancer was back - this time in her lymph nodes and brain. Her cancer is stage 4 this time - terminal - no cure. She is my age - she has a three year old - just like me. She is gorgeous and if you didn't know that she was fighting cancer, you would think that her life was completely perfect. But in reality, she is fighting for her life! Her cancer is much more aggressive than mine and she doesn't have the "good news" that she will be ok. Yet, in the midst of her horrible terminal diagnosis, she is completely faithful and considers her cancer a blessing. A blessing because it has opened her heart and mind so that she can be completely honest with her husband, family and friends. The cancer is allowing her to enjoy a sweeter life - where she appreciates each and everything that comes her way and has been able to let go of regrets and love her family completely. A blessing because her faith and relationship with God has grown tenfold - as has the faith of her husband and family.

Her story was exactly what I needed to hear. She is so amazing. Definitely living her life as a testament to "its not what happens to you that people remember - its how you react to what has happened to you that people remember." She is young, vibrant and has an incredible attitude. I can only hope to have half as much courage as she does through my ordeal. I'm trying...

Through her story, I've realized that my cancer is God's answer to my prayer of the last several months. My prayer that He would grow our faith and relationship with Him. I never in a million years would've thought that he would offer up cancer as the catalyst to grow us closer...but if that is how He has to make it happen, then we're gonna give Him the glory that He deserves. I'm not sure how anyone can go through things like this without faith and a relationship with God. I'm so grateful for those in my life who are faith filled and have helped me get closer to God this last year. You are all blessings! XOXO

Monday, April 29, 2013

Coping

***This post was written on 4/25/13***

What a day! I am drained - emotionally exhausted and am pretty certain that I am going to sleep like a rock tonight.

I wasn't nervous leading up to today. We have already talked to one oncologist and he gave us favorable news. I've already had a PET scan and the nurse said that things looked good - the cancer isn't in my lymph nodes and seems to be localized to my cervix. So...why should I be nervous?

Then we walked into the Sealy Cancer Clinic at UT Southwestern...and I was nervous. The waiting room was full. Full of people with scarves on their heads. Full of people a lot older than me. Full of people with ports and such waiting for their chemo and radiation treatments. Full of sick people...like really sick people...people with cancer. I wanted to run out the door. I sat there waiting for my name to be called and told myself over and over to just take deep breaths and relax. So much easier said than done.

Do I really have cancer? Is this all real? Seriously? As I sat there, I had anxiety fearing that this new doctor was going to tell me something different than I had already heard. I was scared she was going to tell me that the cancer was farther along than the other doctor thought...or that she felt it was more serious and needed to be treated more aggressively.

I realized in that moment that I had been hanging onto each and every piece of GOOD news...no matter the size...any and every glimmer of hope. All of the yucky stuff that doesn't necessarily sound good gets pushed aside and replaced with the better case scenario. That's how I cope. Because...it just feels better to be optimistic. So...I really hate having to replay everything over and over again. I don't want to be reminded of the worst case scenarios...I'm not going there.

So when the doctor wanted to talk about stages and the worst case scenario...I had a good old cry...ugly cry face and all and then immediately moved the conversation forward to what our next steps are. I'm having the cold knife cone next Wednesday, May 1st. I'm believing that the doctor will get all of the cancer with the procedure. I'm believing that I will be cancer free after the procedure. I'm believing that this little bump in the road will all be over and we will be back on our road to our perfect little life.

Say some prayers for my doctor - may she have steady hands and X-ray vision to successfully remove every last cell of cancer from my body on Wednesday. Say some prayers for my family - may they continue to be strong and hear the positive messages so that they may remind me of those things when I can't help but remember the negative things. Say some prayers for me - may I have peace - no anxiety - and good, plump veins so that the nurses don't have to search and dig (puke) when taking blood or putting in IVs - and may I also be strong and brave - no passing out - no complications - and a fast complete recovery. Thanks for keeping us on your prayer lists. XOXO

I saw this necklace on Instagram today and loved the message...I think I need one of these...