Drain Free!

Forbidden Gold

Photo credit: Steve-h

June 5, 2012No more JP drain!  So happy to be free of the annoying drain attached to my side. I was really surprised today in the Doctors office when they removed it and pulled out more than five inches of tube that was inside me! The wonder of medicine. But my Healer is so much more amazing.

Lord please allow the lymph nodes that I have left to properly drain the fluids. You have created amazing bodies that perform incredibly, You are a Master Builder and I am just a laborer in your vineyard. I ask that you allow my body to heal and function beautifully without the breast and lymph nodes that cancer took.

I have 48 hours for that drain hole to heal before filling my body with the toxic mixture that chemotherapy offers. It seems so strange to me that my best hope is infusions of toxic combinations, but science statistically prove it helps. Tomorrow, June 7th at 3:30 pm is my first treatment, so prayers storming heaven!

I will move forward with the chemotherapy, but I will place my ultimate trust in the Lord.

For He is my hope and salvation. He is my stronghold.

He is the Light in my darkness, in Him I find my refuge.

God indeed is my savior. I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the Lord and he has been my savior. Psalm 12

Grace embraced through the freedom I feel with more arm movement where I can use it to praise the Lord!

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End of May

Well ending the month of May gives me much pause for reflection.

I began the month on May 1st with being Anointed by Fr. Dave before surgery on May 4th.  My daughter flew home to be with me for surgery.  I remember being in the pre-op area, putting on the gown and looking at my chest for the last time, waiting for the IV insertion that took two different people to get placed, and then the walk to the operating room.  As they directed me to sit on the table, I looked around and realized how large the room was and so sterile and white. It seemed cold too. This room would begin my journey as a different person, a breast cancer survivor, a woman with a mastectomy, a woman who will soon lose her hair with chemo. I had yet to meet my oncologist, so I forced myself to look only at this procedure and go day at a time.  As I followed their instructions to lay on the table, reach out my right arm on an extension of the table that had yellow bumpy foam covering it! They connected the IV to someone at the head of the table. Then they asked me to reach out my left arm onto a similar extension, as I looked passed my arm, I knew numbness,fatigue and pain would live in that arm for weeks and months to come. I said, to no one in particular and to anyone who could hear, that I was praying for them. And I began to silently pray to Jesus and all those loved ones that I felt were watching over me as I floated off to anesthesia land.

Then my sister and niece brought Gianna, pictured here, who brightened my first week of recovery! They stayed with me, helped in so many ways and made me laugh every day! It was just what I needed.

Family brought meals, friends stopped by, cards poured in. As I relax and recover, I look forward to the mail and the cards that arrive! My sister in law who is a great cook and loves to try new recipes is working her way through Betty Crockers Cancer Cookbook through chemo with me. A fantastic culinary weekly experience!

The month was filled with Doctors visit, echocardiogram, blood work, and calls from the U of C billing office to talk about payment plans already.  It’s gonna be a long year.

But then the wait began. Loneliness begins to creep in as the minutes turn to days which turn to weeks.  The waiting is filled with reading, personal scripture study, email, surfing the web, praying, waiting…the pain mess bring on a fuzzy mind, so I am trying hard to limit those.

The final drain is my biggest challenge right now.  I know there was a lot of work on my lymph nodes and they take a lot of time to heal (the numbness may be apart of my life forever), but my spirits are good, I feel strong and am wanting to return to work.  But again the doctor tells me to stay put, in bed, no activity until the drain comes out.

Now the kicker is…the drain comes out next Tuesday whether or not it’s still draining, we have to move on to chemo. We already postponed the May 31st chemo because of the drain, June 7 is chemo without the drain. If it is still draining and my body begins to collect the fluid, it can cause a seroma, meaning they will have to drain the fluid with a needle to avoid infection.  These are things I am strongly praying I do not have to deal with.

My focus is on chemo and fighting any cancer cells that haven taken up residency in my body. I am listening to the doctor and slinging my arm, so that the draining slows naturally and the good Lord blesses me with no seroma or infection.

As I typed the opening sentence of that last paragraph, I think about all my years as a property manager. The worse part of my job was evicting someone for non-payment of rent. I have had to go through that process with residential units and businesses. It’s horrible, I always tried to give them the benefit of the doubt and work with them, but it weighed heavy on me, even when I knew I did everything I could to help.  But this is different these cancer cells were never welcomed in, they are trying to claim squatters rights and I’m fighting with all my might! I’m evicting them from my body!

So to close out May, my oncologist, Phil Hoffman, MD, set the course for my next year. We three rounds of different chemo combinations and radiation, June begins the battle of my life.

Maybe that’s why they want you to rest so much, they know what’s ahead!

Grace embraced: all the calls, cards, texts, emails, gifts, meals and kindness that embraces me every day. 

Faith is not for overcoming obstacles; it is for experiencing them all the way through! Daily Contemplation May 19, 2012

Feeling good and praying for Yes’s

Tuesday May 23, 2012

Second post-op appointment and going with a positive feeling. I am strong and have been resting, so I am hopeful for three changes…

1. Removal of the final drain
2. Release to drive
3. Release to go to work

Dr. Jaskowiak did say the incisions are healing really well. The surgical strips are off for good and the beautiful scar that I never imagined would be across my chest stares back at me in the mirror. It is almost a perfect line of suntanned skin above of the scar and lighter unsunned skin below the scar, visually cutting the left side of my chest not only with a scar, but with the tone of my skin…it’s very odd to see…but’s its a Cancer-Free sight too and I am learning to love its look. Realistically I know there will be days that I cry in front of the mirror for what is gone, but those days are becoming infrequent. I also think the Vicodin I was taking added to a sadness, almost depressing attitude. So pain management with Advil or Tylenol as much as possible, so that I can think clearly and positively.

The output of the drain is still over 30 cc a day and that’s the magic number…below 30 cc a day for two days…so the hope of drain being removed is gone. The drain stays in for another week. Dr. J humorously stated that if I’m still draining that much next week, she’s putting my arm in a sling to restrict movement. Suddenly, I’m confused. She said after surgery, no lifting, but that I should move my left arm so it doesn’t get stiff. Even though, Kevin would disagree, I believe I have not been doing too much with my arm. So I need to find the balance between moving, stretching and gentle use of my arm while resting and not causing more fluid drain. New goal for the week…Get The Drain Out!

After being discouraged about the drain, I really, really nicely asked if I can drive. I made Dr. J laugh! Absolutely no way will she be responsible for me driving with a drain and limited arm movement. No matter how much I tried to explain how careful I’d be, she was just as adamant about not letting me drive. Two no’s right off the bat!

But I was still hopeful and holding on to the possibility of a positive affirmation for my last request.

Am I able to return to work? Dr. J kindly asked again what my job day entails. Mostly desk work, I answer. She feels that if there is something that really can’t wait and I have someone who can drive me, maybe for an hour or two, if necessary, but only if absolutely necessary and not more than two hours. More of a no than a yes. Since it’s a 40 minute drive to my office, I can’t ask someone to drive me for an hour and half so that I can work an hour or two. Guess it is remote working for another week.

Shot down on all three.

But I have to remember it has only been 18 days since surgery. I’m becoming restless in the house, yet I need to rest to get the drain out and begin to resume a normal life. Well normal for a while, until chemo begins.
Oh, the challenges of a mastectomy patient…or maybe just a challenge for me!

We talked about the discomfort in my underarm, it’s range of motion, goals for reaching above my head and finally getting approval to wash it with perfumed soap and apply deodorant! That is a great news! Because of where the incision under my arm is from the lymph node removal, they did not want anything but gentle soap and water there, being careful not to get the drains wet that are four inches below. Finally news I could embrace!

The underarm is slightly swollen and the scar tissue and muscle is very tender, but it’s getting a scrubbing with Bath & Body Works Sweet Pea body wash tonight!

Dr. J again reminded me to work on resting so that the drain can be removed after Memorial Day. Her nurse, Sheilah, came into the room to finish us some paperwork with my husband and I. She was surprised that the drain did not come out and we talked for a minute on how to accomplish that goal. Then…I can’t believe what happened…

Sheilah opened the exam room door as she said “Janet, listen to your husband”.
Kevin exclaimed “I love you” as the staff in the hallway began to laugh.
I said “You have no idea what you power you have given him” as I smiled and laughed knowing that Kevin now felt more control over my resting schedule.
Sheilah tried to add “only from 9:00 am to 10:00 am”, but it was too late, Kevin was glad for the assurance that he will be doing more for me and helping me rest more.

In a single comment, Sheilah opened up the power of an incredibly caring husband and reminded an impatient patient that healing takes rest and time.

It was a fantastic ending to an appointment that did not go the way I had hoped. Thanks Lord for the laugh, you knew I needed it!
I did go home and rest. Kevin is the perfect caregiver, maybe a little too cautious. (I can carry my own plate to the dinner table, honey) But I am grateful for his love and assistance, since I know many do go through challenges alone.

Grace embraced: Well, I’m feeling good, even though I received no’s for my three questions, I am graced with laughter and love.

Week One…pain

Saturday, May 12, 2012

This week has been filled with new challenges and new sensations.

My arm hurts. The numbness continues throughout my left side and underside of my upper arm. I can’t lift it higher than about 30% off my body. I try to stretch and work it, but it is painful.

My drains are uncomfortable. I have two tubes coming out of my body. It seems like something from the movies. It’s not a pretty sight to see when visitors stop by. It’s a little gross to empty, measure and chart, then clean and set for the next drain collection.

My sleep is restless. I sleep, but never move, so I awake stiff and sore. I need to roll to my side, but am prevented by the drain and the pain.

My body screams for showers, but showers are so exhausting. My sister helped me shower. As tears ran down my face, ashamed of needing help while so grateful for her love, I cleaned myself. It felt so good to have water running down at least 80% of my body. My left side can’t get wet, so sponge bath for that side. My hair needs to be washed in a sink. I never thought of my long brunette hair, that my husband loves, as beautiful, but when you are facing losing it all, you seem to really appreciate it. I realized that my hair has not been above my shoulders since I was in 8th grade and the thought of what I will look like is very humbling. My husband watches as my niece washes my hair, for he is so nervous about hurting me and doing everything right. My second shower I am helped by my husband, it is even better than my first shower. Kevin puts in the stool/chair that was sold with the shower last year (that we have never used). God’s plan preparing for this moment. It makes everything easier. There is a place to set my drains, I can sit and shave my legs, I can relax and feel the water release the tension from my body. This shower takes an hour from the start of removing my bandages to putting on clean bandages and my pajamas. But it is wonderful.

My chest itches. The surgical tape will fall off on its own, but not until it drives me crazy. My daughter lovingly tells me I officially have the largest scar in our whole family.
Should I cry over that or embrace it and be proud of what I have overcome. But I have not overcome anything yet. I am still traveling through the darkness. But look ahead, can you see the light that I see? I keep myself focused on the light!

I am humbled.
By the outreach of family and friends – through calls, text, emails and cards.
By the meals that are brought to us out of love.
By the visit and hugs that I am receiving daily.
By the laughter of great stories that keep my uplifted.
By my sister and niece flying to my side to help, when help was needed and the precious gift of beautiful Gianna, my 7 week old grand-niece who brought pure joy into my week of suffering by her smile, first giggle and first roll over.
By the friends and family that are walking tomorrow in the YME walks in Chicago and Denver.
By the friends and family in Arizona that don’t have a YME walk in the area, so they are getting up in the morning and walking 3 miles in my honor.
I am humbled by YOU.

Grace Embraced: The Lord showers me with love through all the suffering, just as he does you in your life. Remember to see the light in the darkness and always stay focused with me.