What is lymphedema??

No, I promise you this will not be a biology lesson. 1)I am not a biology professor, and 2)I hated biology in school.

Since I will be living with it the rest of my life I thought I should do some research on it. The occupational therapist in Des Moines threw so much at me the hour I was with her, I came out of there with this deer in the headlights look. Mary had gone with me and when she asked me how it went, I told her it was like years of biology thrown all at once at me.

Our bodies have a lymphatic system that runs through our bodies. These are vessels that carry a clear liquid called lymph to our hearts. There is more than one function for the lympathic system, but I won’t go into that. When a person (me) has lymph nodes removed it causes a traffic jam so to speak of the liquid to back up which causes swelling. With the help of occupational therapists, exercise and massage, we can reroute the fluid into other lymph nodes.

I had about 14 lymph nodes removed when I had my lumpectomy. Years ago doctors would remove several lymph nodes from patients with breast cancer. They really didn’t know how to treat it then, so women had to live with the swelling. Fortunately today surgeons only remove the affected nodes which helps reduce the risk of swelling. You can still have it but there now is ways to treat it.

I noticed my hand was a bit swollen a couple of weeks ago. Not wanting to go back to Des Moines for treatment (gee- I wonder why), I am able to work with the wonderful occupational therapist at GRMC. Along with my fashionable compression sleeve I bought at Stacy’s Bridal and Prom (just where you’d think to buy one ;), I also purchased a ‘gaunlet’ so I am now the one gloved wonder. Fortunately it’s not white like Michael Jackson’s (I’d get it dirty). I do what I call manipulations on my arm to help re-route the fluid.

When people see my gaunlet or my sleeve, they feel sorry for me. Please don’t. The way I look at it is I would rather have swelling than cancer.

Sorry- I started this May 7th and have just gotten back to it. I am working FULL time and I love being back to work. Of course I say this now just as we are in the middle of hail season and have had the busiest week we’ve had in a long time.

My hair is growing and growing. It is really curly and I’ve had my first haircut since last August! I finally had to color it as it came in really gray and of course that’s not my natural hair color!

I am feeling great for the most part- I still tire easily and there’s the neuropathy in my hands and feet that is constant (hopefully it will go away…..). I am working on getting back into some kind of a routine with house cleaning and cooking. (still don’t like to do either!)

I am going to keep up my blog– it just won’t be all about cancer. It is and will continue to be about my walk with God. He is amazing! As I look back over this last year I am in awe of what He has brought me through. A year ago I would have laughed in your face if you would have told me I would kick cancer’s butt and do it with a positive attitude. I saw myself being the type that would wallow in self pity and ask why me all the time. Oh yes, I did ask why but I didn’t focus on why me. I focused on God. God and God alone got me through this. I was just the vessel He used. I believe He used me to show others what God can do when you put your faith in Him. He can take a scared, funny, chubby, little ugly duckling and make her believe anything is possible. With God all things are possible

I AM DONE!!!

A week ago I had my LAST radiation. A lot of hugs and a lot of tears. My sister Marilyn and her daughter Melissa sent me beautiful pink tulips. They were so gorgeous. I received a gold pin from the radiation clinic as my graduation pin. I loved all the girls there. Everyone was so sweet and I miss them already. I thought I had seen the last of Dr. Deming but he is always on the news so I can catch him there. He told me about his next trip with Beyond Cancer which is in September to Tibet. As tempting as it sounds to climb a mountain in a foreign country and eat foreign food, I said I didn’t think I’d be ready yet. I think I will start out slow like climbing the hill at Ahren’s park. :)

I will be seeing him again in May for my follow up. He needs to be sure my skin is healing. It is pretty much cleared up except for the oval around my incision which is peeling.

I also saw Dr. H last Monday for a follow up. He is putting me on another medication, this time for estrogen. Oh boy!!

Jarl and Chris took me out to Texas Roadhouse to celebrate. Yummy!

It will be some time before I am over the fatigue– or at least I won’t be able to use that as an excuse anymore. I found out this weekend that I am not quite able to do what I once did before cancer struck. Mary and I went to a few garage sales Saturday– in the rain. When I got home I was so cold and tired I slept for two hours and couldn’t find the energy to do anything. Sunday we had church service, met my cousin for lunch, Chris and I went to Marshalltown to a movie, then we had movie night at church. It was go, go, go all day. I was tuckered out. I woke up this morning tired, achy and have a sore throat. Did I do too much?

I let Chris drive home from Marshalltown. I am so very proud of him. He drove 65 on Hwy 30 and did great. Hwy 146 is a bit too narrow for my liking and Chris got over a little too close to the shoulder a few times, but all in all he did great.

We saw Age of Adeline in Marshalltown–very good.

Just Two More

TWO MORE RADIATION TREATMENTS!! Did I say TWO? Yes I did. Today and Monday and then I’m done. Tomorrow it will have been 8 months since I started treatment and 9 months since I was diagnosed. It may seem like alot but when I think about the people that have had treatments for years, it’s not. I am so blessed and so very thankful that my journey is almost over. Thank you Lord for being there nudging me to have the lump checked, thank you Lord for being there through the biopsies and the tests, thank you Lord for holding me while I cried, thank you Lord for being with Jarl and I when we told Chris, thank you Lord for the peace you gave me through all my treatments, thank you Lord for helping me be strong, and thank you Lord for all the amazing people you brought into my life.

Last week we did one final mapping for the six days of treatment. They are now zooming in on where the tumor WAS. Yes that’s right! The tumor is gone! I have NO cancer. Praise you Father!!

The right side of my chest is totally sunburnt. And it hurts!!! No wearing bras for me. My right armpit and underneath my breast are blistered and are ‘weeping’ which means they are oozing. I have medicine to put on them but it still hurts.

I thank you all for supporting me throughout this. Don’t worry… my blog will continue. I’m gonna do Whatever God Wants.

It’s Almost Over!!!

I cannot believe I only have 10 more treatments left! Surprisingly, it has gone fast. I think it’s due to not being sick, having great weather, and the amazing people that drive me there and back.

‘The Girls’ as I lovingly call my techs are awesome. I have had four different ones rotate in and out. Cheryl is my fav as she is sweet and funny- a lot like me! We laugh alot during my treatments which helps them go fast. When Mary took me Cheryl came out to the waiting room to get me. On the way to treatment she asked who brought me. Being ornery, I told her my sister and my best friend. She then asked ‘well which one was in the waiting room?’ I told her both. She said ‘there was only one person there.’ Yep. that would be my sister and my best friend. She finally got it and we had a good laugh.

I am getting very red from the radiation. It’s like a sunburn. And since that area has never been exposed to the sun (no, I’ve never laid out naked!) it is very tender. Remember now much it hurt to wear a bra after getting too much sun? Yep-that’s about how it feels– only worse. To help with the irritation the girls suggested I wear a t-shirt under my bra. WHAT? It feels strange but it works.

Yesterday I went to a workshop called Looking Good, Feeling Better. This is put on by the American Cancer Society. There were eight of us who were in different stages of our cancer journey. We each received a make up kit filled with all sorts of make up. Many companies donate the products- Lancombe, Clinque, Chanel, Smashbox, Mary Kay, and more. Yes, I do have a tube of Chanel lipstick! I never thought I’d own anything Chanel. Unfortunately it is pink which is not really my color, but heck I’m gonna keep it to say I have it!! We had a ball with our instructor Sal. He used to have four beauty salons in Des Moines and also a school. When I first saw him I thought “oh boy, an old man is going to teach us how to put on makeup??” But he turned out to be very good at it. We took off our wigs/hats and got down to business. It was awesome being with women who knew what I was going through. We laughed at each other and ourselves and shared our stories.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter. Ours was quiet at our house. Chris helped me clean out my flowerbed since last fall I wasn’t able to do it. It felt great to get out in the sun and do some gardening. Now I just have to get some flowers to plant in it!

Think spring and sunshine!!!

Five Weeks and Counting

I have finally started radiation. Dr. Deming is my radiation oncologist and he is very sweet. He is a very gentle man and always smiling.

When you first meet with the oncologist, they do the standard vitals and then set you up for a ‘mapping’ appointment. To me, mapping sounds like your mapping your travels. I wish I were going on a trip! This mapping is with a scan so they can mark where they want to do the radiation. For this mapping I stripped down to my waist, laid down on the gurney, put my hands up over my head and grabbed two posts, turned my head to my left and hold it there for what seemed like hours but was only 15 minutes or so. Oh did I mention my feet were bound so they wouldn’t move. Now this started to feel like a recent released movie that everyone was talking about. It actually was more like Fifty Shades of Red! The tech, of course was male, also gave me my first and only four tattoos. They are so tiny that I can’t pick them out. They’re the size of a dot, a pin poke. I have one on both sides of my chest and then two in the cleavage of my bosom.

It takes about 10 to 14 days for them to process my mapping and come up with a plan for radiation. I had my first radiation on March 9th. I have a great couple of gals that do the actual radiation-Cheryl and Drema. There’s another one that works on Mondays but she is not my favorite. I lay on the gurney with my knees supported by a wedge. I get into my Fifty Shades of Red position, and then using the sheet beneath me the girls tug and pull me into position. It reminds me of when you’re making a bed with someone and you say I have so many inches over here, what’s your side like… When they finally get me into position, they leave the room and the big machine takes over. If you hold your arms in a big circle that’s about the size of the machine that puts out my radiation. It starts on my left side (remember I have my head turned to the left so that’s all I see) and there are little bars inside a big window type thing that move back and forth in a pattern that is program just for me. It is there about a minute then it moves over me and is there another minute or two, then to my right side for another minute or two. I think it takes me longer to change then the actual treatment. Chris timed me the day he went with and it’s about ’15 to 17 minutes’ from the time I left the waiting room until I returned.

The only side effects I could experience are redness (like a sunburn) at the sight-(that’s right, my boob, folks) and fatigue. I am tired, but I don’t know if it is from the radiation or the driving back and forth and back and forth from Des Moines. It’s only been a week and I’m already tired of the drive/ride. I am hoping before I’m done, the landscape will be green and showing signs of SPRING!!

I have some wonderful people taking time out of their days to take little ole me. Shout out to Lora, Dana, Bob and Mary. You all rock!! And of course Chris. He has been my entertainment making me sing songs from Frozen. I’m about ready to let him go! I do love that brat (and I call him that with affection). I let him drive home from Netwon. He did an excellent job. There was no one behind him so he could go at a speed he was confortable with. My little boy is growing up.

Well time to head for Des Moines. Until next time–

My Interview with Ellen DeGeneres

Okay so maybe it wasn’t with Ellen, but the interviewer made me cry like Ellen would. We sat across from each other and she threw the questions at me. It sure felt like an interview.

I was asked what was the worst part of cancer. It made me stop and think for a moment. Was it the chemo? The nausea? The fatigue? What was the worst part?

The worst part for me was the thought of dying. Oh I know where I’m going- no doubt about it. I am okay with dying. An awesome person once told me that he was okay with dying- he was going to meet God. I have to agree with him. I can’t wait to meet God and walk those streets of gold.

I may be okay with dying, but there’s someone that would not be ready for me to go– Chris. I go back to the day when he learned of my diagnosis and told Jarl he could not lose his mama. What do you say to that? Yes he may be 21 but he is not like most 21 year olds. He is like a little boy trying to find his way in the world and I cannot die until he finds it. I plan to stick around as long as it takes.

Yes there were other times that were hard- after the initial diagnosis I would climb into bed and pull the blanket over my head and cry– for me. Why me? What’s going to happen? When I would get really tired, I had pity parties. There were hard times, but God saw me through them.

My friend then asked me what the best part of cancer was? SEE I told you it was like an interview. The best part of cancer? REALLY? Yes really. There can be something good come out of cancer. You have to really look for it, but it can be there.

God made Himself known to me in so many ways. The peace He gave me throughout my treatment is indescribable. He gave me the ability to laugh through it all. He brought friends into my life that I may never have known. The support all my friends showed me was from God. He showed me His love day after day after day. Even on days when I asked where He was, He was there, holding me, loving me.

I praise God for bringing me through cancer. I thank Him for using me through cancer and I hope I made Him proud as I tried to be the kind of soldier I was called to be.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

This is my 50th blog and I wanted it to be something special. What’s more special than a mom. Especially when it’s my mom.

Today (Feb 13th) she would have been 89. I cannot even imagaine her 89. What would she be like? Would she be a crazy cat lady? I really doubt it since I don’t think she was crazy about the cats we had growing up. Would she and Dad have traveled? I like to think she could have talked him into at least seeing this country. I know she and her sister Lillian would have done things together if Dad didn’t want to.

I also know she would have loved all her grandchildren and spoiled them. Laura and Tricia were really the only ones that knew her. Melissa was only two, Kim was a baby and Chris wasn’t even born yet. She also would have loved being a great grandma to Skylor, Lilly and Sophia.

I would have loved to have had her in the front row when Jarl and I got married. Would she have cried that her baby was FINALLY out of the nest? Or would she have laughed and said ‘she’s your problem now, Jarl”?

I wish she could have known Chris, her only grandson. Oh she would have loved him. I know she would have been his biggest fan and advocate for autism. She would have listened to him tell his stories over and over and sit with him to watch Thomas the Tank Engine over and over. She would have been his biggest cheerleader as he received his diploma.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. She was an amazing woman. She couldn’t cook, but we somehow survived childhood eating her burnt to a crisp roasts. She loved working at the schools and took her job seriously. It made Mom sad when a student would come in smelling like cigarette smoke or mention they hadn’t had breakfast. She would be really sad to see how students are today.

I miss you more than words can say, Mom. Happy birthday! Have a glass of wine! Cheers!