My Breast Cancer Experience

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Cancer Free

So far as the doctors can determine I am cancer free right now. It is a wonderful feeling. I am not pain free, however and hoping that as the days pass, I will continue to heal. I am about 3 months out from my last radiation.

My sister (21 months younger than me) was just diagnosed with stage IV same side breast cancer, but a different type than mine. It has metastasized to her brain. She lives in California and this has really distanced us. I try to keep in touch with her daughter to know where she is at in her treatment. My daughters and I put together a nice care package for her with some of things that helped me through my darkest hours. She is not a stamper, unfortunately! My story is below. Sue

Stamp Projects During Treatments

November/December 2006

January/February 2007

March/April 2007

May/June 2007

July/August 2007

September/October 2007

November/December 2007

Stamping With Cancer

To all of my *stamping* buddies out there, this story is for you.

I am so thankful to have found stamping, especially Stampin UP, about 5 years or so ago. Little did I know 5 years later I would be using this hobby as a very important tool to help me endure a life changing experience. And what a blessing it has become to me. It is better than reading, better than surfing the net, better than housework (hands down!)....not better than friends, family and prayer....but you know what I mean.

A year ago in November I was helping one of my SU upline to put together one of best *hive happenings* (but exhausting!) I have ever attended. For the first time I felt more of a part of Barb's group, in a more useful way, I suppose. I wasn't working at the time, so I had ready and willing hands and materials to help put together doorprizes, shoebox cards, decorations for the tables, running to all of the tables handing out tickets and so forth. There really is so much prep that is put into one of these events. I remember going home that night afterwards feeling extra especially tired. A few days later I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Now, I know I am not the only stamper in Barb's group or otherwise that has had breast cancer or any other life threatening disease, but I thought I would take a minute to let you know how I am doing. I have received several emails from the girls in the group. A year ago I met a sister stamper at an event that Summer Stone and I hosted. The Menu Planner class. I cannot remember her name, now. But I would love to talk with her again. And I would enjoy any comments or emails from any of my stamper friends at any time.

I think the key for me staying as positive as I have been has been my connection with my friends and family. If I started to feel neglected, I just picked up the phone. I wrote many emails to a group of friends. I have transferred these emails into a small book. And all of the emails that I received are in this book, as well. The book has reached about 140 pages (double spaced).

Over the last year I have received an outrageous amount of flowers, robes, pjs, slippers, socks, lotions, cards, gifts, and the incredibly delicious meals, some of my friends even cleaned my house. I am not sure what I ever did to deserve all of this fuss. I could never repay what has been done for me and my husband. Being a card maker I kept up on passing out or sending *thank you* cards to these lovely, wonderful, giving people.

Cancer details:
In 11/06 I discovered my left nipple was going flat and I had a little sharp pain that would come and go in my upper left breast. I mentioned this to a couple of my friends and we all decided *it couldnt be cancer, since there usually isnt any pain with cancer*. Well, I am here to say that this isnt always true. Around Thanksgiving I had a core needle biopsy (anyone thinking of doing this, I would love to talk to you first) where 3 specimens were aspirated or vacuumed out. A few days later I was attending a bible study when my primary care doctor called and asked me if I could talk. It was snowing outside and I was just leaving to have lunch with a friend, so I couldnt right then. After returning from lunch, I called her and she told me I had cancer and to go find a a surgeon. It struck me as very insensitive of her to give me this news over the phone. She is no longer my doctor.

I did find a surgeon who was and is wonderful...great bedside manner and a fantastic woman. When you are diagnosed with cancer every part of your body has to be checked for possible metastasis. I started out with many tests including a muga, MRI, CT scans, electrocardiogram, bone scans, etc. I had a port placed in December and began 4 months of chemo 1/07 - having it every 2 weeks. The alternate week was my *shot* week, having to have one every other day (normally in my tummy) to make sure my blood count would stay where it should. Of course, my hair fell out and I went bald. Sometimes I would just run around the house without a hat or scarf --- why not? I didnt have to look at myself....hehehe.. One of my very giving friends bought me a $200 wig before I lost my hair, so I was ready. When it really started falling out, I had it shaved to about 1/2 inch and the wig was trimmed for my face all in one fell swoop. My older daughter went with me that day. She was so funny. She was trying on every wig in the place, bought me a bunch of cool head coverings and herself a *bright pink wig*. We went shopping afterwards and people were staring. A little girl asked her why was she wearing that pink wig and she said ... *my mom has to wear a wig, so I thought I would too!*.

In an effort to save my breast I asked for a lumpectomy. I wont go into these details, but there is a lot involved with these kinds of surgeries. Lots of tests, and injections, the day of. I had 17 nodes removed 4 of which had cancer and then, of course, the lump was removed. 2 or 3 days later I was told the margins were *dirty* meaning there was more cancer so on 5/17 I lost my left breast. What a blow. Very difficult to take.

My 4 year old granddaughter asks me *grandma, when is your boob going to grow back*? She is the sweetest most endearing child you could ever know. (you see her in my scrap pages a lot). My belief is that I will get it back at a time when all sickness pain and suffering will be a thing of the past. (my religious belief).

I began radiation in July. They took all the measurements and it ended up that I needed 4 beams a visit x 6.5 weeks and I went everyday. I had planned an event at the Clackamas County Fair back in the winter and didnt realize I would be looking like a baked lobster during August. The heat was really on, let me tell you. I want to thank my sister stamper demos that helped put this event together and I believe we had a very successful experience and made some new friends along the way. FYI- our booth won the Blue Ribbon!

Since the very beginning I have been stamping, planning workshops, conducting workshops in my home. How wonderfully therapeutic. I so appreciate being invited to Barb's events, but I really havent felt like attending Barb's business meetings. I havent felt like doing very much of anything, even shopping! But I am getting back my groove. Another very difficult thing for me is relaxing and be patient with myself so I can heal.

In August, my right thumb developed trigger finger...OUCH....I couldnt bend it for about a month and when I did it felt like it was popping out of the socket. I finally got a shot in it and until just lately, it has been moving and working like a charm. I am afraid I have the trigger finger back and will need another shot soon.

I have to take arimidex for 5 years for cancer prevention. The side effects are achy bones, especially in my fingers. During the chemo I had neuropathy in my hands and feet, but I plugged along stamping when I felt like it. I love looking at SCS and the SU site as well as many others and getting ideas.

I am still unable to work, which I am hoping to eventually be able to do. I have pain in my chest and need therapy. It is expensive, so we are working on getting a grant for it. I work out my arm and chest best I can. I have a friend that invites me to come along with her to the gym. If you have lymph troubles, jumping on a small trampoline is helpful. And I am doing other exercises, too.

As you can well imagine, this entire experience has been very emotional for me. From what I have read, it seems to be for most women, but not all. I cried every day and continue to cry off and on, just wanting to feel like my old self, really. I do not think there is anything wrong with crying. It can be a good thing. But the doctors wanted me on antidepressants because I was so sensitive ... I tried them, but couldnt find one that I had the patience enough to wait for it to work! I am unsure of reconstruction. I may have to have a small mound removed in 6 months that she left under my arm that is a constant irritant and makes it difficult to wear a bra for very long. It is like having an extra sock in your shoe.

I am still stamping and scrapping. I am hoping to enter the *artisan award contest*. I love, love, love the new catalog. I am continuously inspired by all of your creativity and so very thankful for the spoken and unspoken support of all of my sister stampers. Love you all Sue