Hello...it's me...


Well hello everyone! It's been a while but I'm here and I've got great news to share, as well as a summary of how surgery went. I'm approaching 1 month out and feeling pretty good, on days when I push too hard I definitely feel it and pay for it later, but I started "exercising" last week (long walk) and picked up Evelyn for the first time this weekend. So progress is coming, slowly.

The first two weeks following surgery were all a bit of a blur #blameitonthenorco. The first two days were pretty awful and had me regretting doing the hysterectomy at the same time as the mastectomy. I really only had use of my legs, so getting in and out of bed was pretty darn difficult. In addition, I had trapped air under my diaphragm which caused some pretty significant pain. But once I got rid of the gas, the recovery from the hyster was pretty smooth. Now I can say that I am happy I don't have ANOTHER surgery to recover from! Here's a few pictures from the last couple weeks...

The night of surgery, it took 8.5 hours!! This was before the gas pain kicked in so I'm still smiling.

Kate made me a get well soon card at school. That's her name along the bottom (the p is really a backwards a). The best gift I received! That orange guy? That's mommy with "boy hair"

Day 3 of recovery, so happy to be home! I didn't leave this recliner for a solid week, laying flat was a big challenge

This girl wanted mommy snuggles so badly, we finally snuggled on day 3, with the help of a mastectomy pillow. My heart was complete at this moment!
11 days post surgery, I could tolerate sitting with her without the pillow, though it was tender. Still had my drains in at this point, which was awful, I would get them out on day 14.


13 days post surgery and SUPERBOWL! Kate had a jam packed weekend and fell asleep on my lap (which never happens) so I enjoyed my snuggles with her too. The new boobies make nice pillows!
Silly faces with Evelyn on day 17



Non-surgery related, my hair is coming back in STRONG! I have reached milestone #1, which is enough hair to NOT see my scalp underneath. Not quite ready for a haircut just yet, but its coming along nicely. My eyebrows are also coming back in, thank goodness, because I am so tired of drawing them on. The eyelashes are pulling up the rear, coming in slow. I'll be so happy when they are back in, eyelashes are functional as well as fashionable!


Now, what does the future hold for me? Some pretty great stuff apparently. I had my first "survivorship" appointment with my oncologist and we talked pathology and recurrence rates. When they did my surgery, they sent all the tissue they removed (breast tissue and lymph nodes) to pathology to look for any residual cancer cells. And guess what?!?! IT WAS ALL NEGATIVE!


OH YEAH!! That news called for a celebration. All your prayers worked my friends, you all helped me get to this point! It's called a complete pathological response (cPR) to chemo and it carries with it the best prognosis possible with my diagnosis. 

So this is what I'm fighting the next few years. Because I had triple negative cancer (very aggressive and can be difficult to treat) my greatest risk of recurrence is in the next 3-5 years. BUT, because I had a cPR, that risk is only about 10%. If I can make it beyond 5 years, research shows my risk of recurrence is nearly zero, for some reason triple negative cancers don't seem to return past the 5 year mark. So I just have to make it to 2022 and I'm in the clear!

This whole cancer journey is such a mindbender. I have gone through a total range of emotions, from feeling like I am totally going to beat this and its just a bump in the road, to feeling like I have a death sentence and I won't see my girls grow up or get old with Mitch. Now that I'm on the other side, its time to start balancing these emotions. 

While I'm aware of my chance of recurrence, I'm not going to let that paralyze me. I'm going to take better care of myself (my body has been through the ringer the last 6 months!!) and my family. Take the time to play with my girls, take pictures and videos to remember this time and go on dates with Mitch. And I hope to give back somehow to my new community of women as well, be of help to other young women fighting this same battle.

What I do know is I am not the same. I will not get the pre-cancer Lindsay back, but that's ok. Because this Lindsay is a total bad ass! She beat cancer and isn't looking back,


Pre-op

Well, the day has finally arrived. The odd thing is, I have been preparing for this day since before I knew I had cancer, yet I feel more unprepared than ever, if you can believe that.

As many of you may remember, I was planning a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with total hysterectomy when I discovered I was BRCA2+ in January of last year. Now, a year later, almost to the day, with a cancer diagnosis thrown into the mix, I am actually going through with the mother of all surgeries.

A lot of you have asked what my surgery will be like, if I will have reconstruction, if I am still getting the hysterectomy now that I have the big C, etc, so I thought I would devote an entire post to going through it step by step.

Disclaimer: I will be using terms like "nipple" and "breast" and maybe even "vagina", so if those words make you squeamish 1. grow up and 2. this post may not be for you. If you are hoping for pictures of real boobs, you will be out of luck. Move along son.

Now that the legalities are out of the way, lets get on with it....

Day before day of surgery (Sunday)
This day may actually be worse than surgery day. I have to report to the hospital bright and early (0730) and check in to receive a radioactive shot right to the nipple. POW.
Let me explain. Because I had cancer, I also earned an sentinel node dissection, which requires my breast surgeon to remove 1-3 lymph nodes to test for cancer cells. She doesn't want just any lymph nodes in my armpit, she wants the first and BEST lymph nodes in my armpit.

I'll bore you the anatomy lesson, but lymph nodes are responsible for draining fluid around your body. They work together in a group, much like a gang. The sentinel node is the queen bee, or the leader that drives the chain of nodes. My surgeon is on the hunt for her and her closest cronies, because if they are cancer free, it is safe to assume the others are as well.



In order to determine which node is the leader of the pack, a radiologist has to inject radioactive dye into my breast and that dye drains out of the area through the lymph system. As it leaves the breast area, it concentrates the most in the first node of the chain, then lesser so in those nodes following until it is no longer detected in the nodes at the end of the chain.

So in case you missed it, I will repeat for emphasis. "a radiologist has to INJECT radioactive dye INTO MY BREAST." This means nipple meets needle, FOUR.TIMES. Tomorrow morning I will be injected at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock around my nipple, just to make sure enough dye gets in to make it glow like a glowstick*.

*I am told it is actually a very low dose of radioactivity. It does make me feel a little bad ass though to say I'm radioactive.

Then the following day, my breast surgeon will scan me to find the most radioactive nodes and promptly take those suckers out. More about that later in this post.

So after my super awesome morning wakeup call, I then get to come home and begin my bowel prep for surgery. I start out with an appetizer of magnesium citrate, or a very effective saline laxative, followed by a full day of only clear liquids, which means oreos are off the menu. What is on the menu is a variety of gatorade, water, soup broth and jello. I know you are all so jealous, you can hardly contain yourselves. This treatment is prescribed to ensure I am cleaned out prior to surgery.

Clear liquids, with a side of poop emoji. My kind of Sunday.
I will end my night with a massage (courtesy of a fellow survivor, shout out to Jen!) and some positive self talk in addition to a whole lot of prayers and likely some xanax.

Day of Surgery (Monday)
Now that I am prepped physically, although maybe not emotionally, I will head to the hospital just after 5 am to check in for surgery. I'll get an IV, sign a crap ton of papers and have my last moments with the breasts that fed both of my babies for almost 2 years combined and the uterus that provided them with a comfortable home. Mentally, I want to go into surgery with a positive attitude, so I plan on listening to some dance music and staying up beat. If that doesn't work, watching George Dubya put on a poncho just might do the trick. They will walk me back to surgery around 0700.



Surgery 1- Robotic total hysterectomy (removal of uterus, tubes, ovaries and cervix)
After I am good and asleep (and airway secured!), we will begin with my hysterectomy. After making one abdominal incision, my Gyn doctor uses a robot, as an extension of his arms, to remove all the parts listed above.

That's right, a robot is taking out my uterus. Maybe that would be a good suggestion for a future FRC challenge?? Perhaps not...

This will take approximately 1-1.5 hours to complete, and then my Gyn surgeon will hand off to my breast surgeon.

Surgery 2- Sentinel lymph node dissection (taking out the queen bee and her posse) 
This is where the previous day's procedure is important. While the picture below isn't entirely accurate (I said peace out to my tumor a while ago courtesy of adriamycin, cytoxan and taxol), it gives you the idea of the procedure. Using a probe, my surgeon will identify those nodes that glow the brightest in the chain and promptly take them out and send them to pathology. She will then proceed with my mastectomy and wait for the preliminary pathology to return before my procedure is over. I'm not sure how long this part of the procedure takes, I'm guessing around an hour or less.

Surgery 3- Nipple sparing, skin sparing bilateral mastectomy (bye bye boobs)
Now the serious work begins. My breast surgeon will make an incision in my "inframammary folds" (greek lesson- infra = below, mammary = boobs) and begin removing breast tissue under my skin. She will remove every ounce of tissue she can find from my ribs up to my collarbone and over to my armpit. All of this tissue will be sent off to pathology and scrutinized for cancer with the hopes of an all clear at the final report. Removing all this tissue will take approximately 3-4 hours and at that time, the preliminary pathology report should be back on my nodes. If there is concern for more cancer in the nodes, then my breast surgeon will remove more.

Surgery 4- Direct to implant, over the muscle breast reconstruction (hello new boobs!)
My breast surgeon has now earned her lunch, and she will tap out and allow my plastic surgeon to finish the job. I want to mention that many plastic surgeons all over the country chose to do reconstruction differently. The most common method is to create a pocket beneath the pec muscle to hold an eventual implant. Because this pocket does not naturally exist, expanders are put into place to stretch that pocket gradually until it is large enough to hold an implant.. This means slow, painful fills to stretch that muscle, in addition to muscle spasms and an additional surgery to swap them out for implants. While this technique is not wrong and may actually be preferred in some cases, my surgeon prefers to do it a bit differently.

This is the best image I could find to describe the two options,, just ignore the mammary gland in the photo, mine will be removed
My breast surgeon prefers to do over the muscle implants, where he creates a pocket with collagen sheets, almost like an internal bra to hold the implant in place. The down side to this is that there is very little tissue between the implant and the skin, so sometimes you can see rippling under the skin, but I can have everything done in one surgery instead of two and I can avoid some of the complications with under the muscle implants. This portion of the surgery will take approximately 1.5 hours.

Whew, I'm tired just writing this all out and I have to go through it all physically in about 36 hours. My entire surgery should last around 7 hours, although to me it will just feel like a really long nap! I hope this post helped explained a little bit of what Monday will look like for me. I hope to blog more frequently while I am off and I will do my best to update Monday night once I am somewhat coherent.

Prayers are always welcome, specifically for clear minds and steady hands for my surgeons, healing for my body and absence of infection in the days to come. I would also welcome prayers for Mitch and the girls, that they can adjust to me being less available for a while and that Mitch has peace while I am in surgery.

Thank you to ALL of you for your support and love, I couldn't have gone through all of this without you. Much love, ~Linds

Graduation Day

Hi internet! I promise I haven't forgotten you, I've been very busy since my last post over 2 months ago (seriously, how is it possible it has been that long!!). I've:

-completed all 12 rounds of Taxol and officially am DONE-ZO with CHEMO!!
-worked pretty much full time during chemo, including finishing almost 70 performance reviews
-got sick 3x since Thanksgiving with head cold/cough, courtesy of the cutest little germ buckets in Peoria aka Kate and Evelyn
This is what bedsharing looks like in our house, there is no SHARING.

-still managed to get Christmas cards out on time (It's a Christmas miracle!)


-started growing some hair back!

- Been to all my pre-op appointments in preparation for my upcoming surgery on Jan 23rd. All my doctors are happy with my progress through chemo and feel I am ready to take on this next step.

-Kicked off robot season with Mitch, this year they have to build a robot that shoots wiffle balls into a funnel (simple way to describe it) and carry gears to a peg in the middle of the field. At the end of the game, the robot has to climb a rope for extra points. The animation below will give you a much better description!


Describing my surgery will be another post entirely, as it is too much detail to put in this one (plus Evelyn is currently trying to close my computer as I type. These children of ours make finding time to blog nearly impossible!)

I am now off work until after the surgery, so I am hoping I will have more time to blog. I really do miss it and I know all of you miss reading and knowing what is going on with our little family. So hopefully there will be more posts to come!

In preparation for surgery, I am going to open the meal train back up for the few weeks after surgery when I will be reduced to a live human T-rex (I will have limited range of motion in my arms for a while) so the link is below if any of you readers are interested in making sure my kids and husband don't have to live on cereal.


Ok, gotta run, Kate just threw a baby crib at Evelyn's head...

Something to celebrate

I had this post planned a few days ago with the intention of writing it while at chemo (which I did start writing on Thursday, but I'm finishing it on Sunday) not realizing it would be the morning after a historic game 7 and a fairy tale win for the Cubs. So the beginning of this post is celebrating an amazing win and a dream realized for hundreds of thousands of people. Go Cubs Go.

Staying up to watch the game, sis couldn't stay awake any longer...

My real reason for writing, and celebrating, is I was able to get a mammogram and ultrasound on Monday to investigate some changes I had felt in my left breast recently. In doing so, they were able to evaluate the status of my original tumor, in addition to looking for any new growth that may have popped up since. I am happy to report that

1. I have no new tumor growth and
2. My original tumor is GONE.

Let me say that one more time so it can sink in, I have no tumor left in my body. Gone. Absent. Nada.


I am just flabbergasted and excited and hopeful and emotional and #allthefeels. Knowing that what I have been putting myself and my family through for the last 13 weeks has been worth it. Technically I am cancer free and that feels GOOD. Now we just need to get through 7 more rounds of chemo, then surgery and then getting back to normal life. Or at least a new normal.

Which brings me to the real reason for this post, let's celebrate!!! My amazing work peeps hosted a vendor party/fundraiser for me Friday night and it was the most amazing and overwhelming experience I have had in a long time. So many people came together to support me and our family and there are truly no words to express how I felt that night. 


There were so many amazing women (and men!) that were in attendance selling their products. Many of the consultants donated their time (and some even their commission) to our family to help us through this tough time. That in itself is amazing. What is even better is they have some really great products they are selling just in time for the holidays and the party is still open!

Since many of you are not local to me, I thought I would post links to the different vendors on here so that many of you are able to shop their products, even from home. So if you are interested in ordering anything from the following vendors, you should be able to order online and have it shipped to your house. Clicking on the link to each vendor should take you to their page to start shopping!

Thirty-one


Thirty one is a great company that sells a large variety of bags, storage items and personalized gifts. I have a few of their products and swear by them! The deluxe utility tote is great for Costco runs and both girls have cinch bags for daycare necessities. They also have great thermal products that help transport hot or cold items to parties--perfect for the upcoming holiday season.

Beauty Counter

Beauty counter is a company that has developed beauty products that are free from the multiple toxins and chemicals that are laced in all our cosmetic items. I have recently started using their products and I love them. If you read my positive or negative post, you know that some breast cancers grow in the presence of estrogen and/or progesterone. Unfortunately, there are many chemicals in lotions/cleansers/hair care products that mimic estrogen in the body (if you have heard of parabens, they are one of these compounds). Beauty counter is dedicated to making safe products free of all of these chemicals, which is so important to me during this journey. While I haven't eliminated all of my cosmetics with these compounds, I have switched moisterizers, face cleanser and body wash to beauty counter products.

Jamberry



Jamberry is the company responsible for the cute nail wraps you have seen all over facebook. While I can't use nail wraps when I'm on chemo (total bummer, there are so many cute patterns!) they also sell regular and gel polish. Jamberry is also trying to eliminate toxic chemicals in their products, making their polishes "5 free".

Monat Hair Care

While I don't really need to worry too much about hair care right now, I did learn a lot from Melanie and came home with some products to help promote healthy hair growth. Monat, like many of the companies I have already mentioned, specializes in improving the health of your hair and scalp by using sustainable, natural products.

Pampered Chef

This popcorn popper was the hit of the party! All you have to do is use the red stopper to measure your popcorn kernels, dump them in the bowl and pop it in the microwave and you have yummy microwave popcorn without all the oil and chemicals. I can't wait to use it with Kate! This one just one of the awesome items Brittany had available.



There is something about the smell of cloves and cinnamon around the holidays that just make our house feel cozy. Scentsy has so many yummy holiday scents and warmers, they are great for gifts or to jazz up your holiday decorations. They are also a great price for holiday gift exchanges!

Stella and Dot


Chelsea was a busy lady at the party Friday night as well, her jewelry and accessories were very popular! Stella and Dot has something for everyone, no matter your style. I love both the delicate engravable bar necklace and the chunkier cuff bracelets. Maybe some bold earrings would go well with my bald look!

Usborne books

Usborne has the MOST creative and inspiring books for kids. While we read to the girls often, it has been exciting to see Kate really start to enjoy "reading" books by herself. I love the idea of opening a book every night before Christmas instead of spending money on more toys the girls don't need. Click the link to get some books for your little ones!

Also a big thank you to Erin from Rodan and Fields and Charissa from Lularoe for partying with us!

****Disclaimer, if you are easily annoyed by all of this advertising, don't worry, I will be back to my (semi)regularly scheduled programming on my next post. I wanted to give each of these ladies time on my blog because they GRACIOUSLY donated their time to support me. And what a great way to get some holiday shopping done early!!

Reality Bites.

Does anyone remember this movie? It doesn't get more nineties than Jeanine Garofolo and Winona Ryder and while this post will not be about the angst of 20 somethings in Houston, it's title is awful fitting for MY reality right about now.

Let me preface this by saying, this is not another pity party post. I am actually feeling pretty positive lately, given that I have reached the chemo summit and am now slowly inching my way down, one base camp at a time. While I still have 10 more rounds of Taxol before my mountain is conquered, in total I was prescribed 20 weeks of treatment and this was week 10. So take that Everest, I'm coming back down.


Anyway, back to reality (ha, you get it?). I came to the realization today that receiving a cancer diagnosis drastically changes reality in many ways. My perspective on a lot of things has changed and I am reaching, searching, grasping for a new normal in the midst of some rather uncertain times. So come along for the ride and let me give you a glimpse into my new reality, in no particular order.

Chemo brain: It's like pregnancy brain without the baby.
Chemo brain is a real phenomenon my friends and unfortunately, I'm afflicted with it. Main symptoms are aphasia, or inability to find the right word(s), memory loss, difficulty concentrating and loss of attention to detail. I have found the aphasia the most common for me, often times I feel like I'm on $10,000 pyramid, trying to describe the word I'm looking for.


I also have experienced some of these things prior to my diagnosis so I can't blame them all on the chemo, but this week I took the wrong exit on the way from the cancer center to daycare to pick up the girls. I was rocking some serious car karaoke to Justin Timberlake at the time, but #blameitonthechemo.

Low blood counts: Children are walking petri dishes
I have blood drawn from my port before every treatment to ensure my blood counts aren't too low before I'm allowed to have chemo. While I was receiving AC chemo (the nasty red stuff), my counts were amazingly resilient, in part because I received a shot the day after chemo to boost my white blood cells.

Taxol does not have nearly the effect on my counts so imagine my surprise when the nurse tells me my white count was 2,000 (normal range is 4,000-10,000) but because my differential (or the percentages of the types of white cells I have) was promising, I was give the go-ahead for another round of Taxol.

What this means is I am at an increased risk of infection, which is super neat for a few reasons:
1. We are entering cold and flu season
2. I work in a hospital, where sick people go to get better
3. We have two small children in daycare 50 hours a week

I'm not sure I could put myself at any more risk, unless I do something silly, like go to a children's museum. Here's hoping that my low counts are a fluke and will get their act together before next week's treatment. In the meantime, I will be covering myself in sanitizer.

Hot flashes: Because there is nothing sexier than a sweaty bald lady
I started experiencing hot flashes in my first round of chemo and they have stuck around this entire 10 weeks. Initially they were mostly night sweats, causing me to wake up both hot and cold at the same time (not really sure how this is possible, but its true!). Now I get them periodically throughout the day as well, although they are still more common while sleeping.

I am not sure if the hot flashes are from chemically induced menopause (that just brought the mood down in the room real quick) or simply a side effect from the chemo. Regardless of origin, they are an annoying, but tolerable side effect and unfortunately, part of my new reality.


Superman vs Clark Kent: Breast cancer and my mild mannered alter ego
This is the one I am struggling with the most at the moment. I got cancer and that sucks. My prognosis is good, my side effects have been manageable and I can no longer feel my tumor, which everyone tells me is a good thing and a sign that the chemo is working. All of these things are GREAT news, but it is creating this imbalance for me mentally because by all appearances, not that much has changed.

I am working nearly full time, although less hours than what I was doing prior to my diagnosis. I am still a wife and mother, responsible for caring for our kids, maintaining a household, and supporting my husband. Now that we have gotten over the hump of AC, its like life has returned to normal. Yet its not normal. 

My new reality is that it will be years before my hair reaches my shoulders. My new reality is I will have surgery in January that will permanently remove any sensation I have behind my breasts, despite how close to real boobs they will appear. My new reality is even if I beat cancer now, because of my genetic mutation, I still have a risk of reoccurrence and will continue to be watched closely for decades. My new reality is every October, I will be reminded that I have become a survivor instead of a supporter, that breast cancer will forever be a part of me. I am Superman and Clark Kent. As much as I look like Clark Kent on the outside, I've changed on the inside.

I guess what I am trying to say is everyone has complimented me on how well I'm doing. How great I look or how strong and inspiring I have been. And while these compliments are great to hear and keep me going, there are days I don't want to get out of bed. There are days I am completely exhausted. There are days I want to go back and pretend this never happened. But I will forever be a breast cancer survivor. That is my new reality. And I guess if I have to be something, being Superman really isn't so bad.




Toots.

Having two girls, I assumed we would bypass the bathroom humor. Oh man was I wrong, Kate cracks up over "poopie" or "tootie" with the best of them. And while I try to encourage her to reserve using potty words only in the bathroom, it was only a matter of time before Evelyn joined the club.

On the way home from school yesterday, Kate and Evelyn were cracking each other up making "toot noises" the whole way home. And now, this has become Evelyn's favorite new trick.

Tonight, she sucked me into it as well, because really, toot noises are never not funny, even as an adult. So for a little midweek humor, watch and enjoy...




Happy hump day friends, we are over half way there...


Pity Party for 1

Well friends, it was only time before today happened. I have arrived at my pity party. As I am not one to sugar coat this journey, I'm going to be real.

I'm tired of having cancer.

I'm tired. I'm nauseous. I'm hot (one of the side effects of chemo is low grade temp) but my head gets cold easy. I have this constant unsettled feeling. I need to buy new bras because I have very few non-nursing bras, but why bother when I'll have different boobs in 3 months. My skin is dry but lotion feels weird on my skin.

I got in the shower today and had nothing to do. So I just stood there. No hair to wash. No hair to shave. I did use soap (just in case you were wondering) but then I just stood there. Thinking about how this sucks. And I don't want cancer. I want my normal life back.

Now, let me be clear, I'm not "giving up the fight" or wishing my life away, I very much want to live and be around to watch our girls grow. But chemo sucks and I don't want to do it any more. But the alternative is worse. So where does that leave us? At the Pity Party.


1 more cycle of AC next Monday and then on to Taxol. One day at a time.

Specific prayer requests: strength in this fight for me and patience with the girls when they need my attention.