Monday, February 28, 2011

What a crazy vacation!

After posting my most recent blog, I sent letters out to co-workers explaining my "cancerversary" and 5 years later asked for their support.  This time I was hoping their support would be in the form of a donation to my 3-Day walk.  Once again, my colleagues did not disappoint.  Donations have been coming in over the last few weeks, and I am on my way.   It makes me feel honored to have such giving people in my life.  If you would like to donate, just click on the link on this page.

While this blog appears to be an "everything is wonderful in the world" blog, it is; however, it didn't always start out that way.  Just two days after I distributed letters at work, I was rubbing my leg and I found it...yes, a lump.  Then further down on my leg, another one.  Many of you are probably saying, "I have a lump in my leg.  What is she worried about?"  You are right.  Many people have fatty deposits in their legs.  I have many friends that do.  But, these people have not had cancer.  I have said it before.  If you are a survivor, it is sometimes so difficult to stay away from that evil place.  I feel that I go through my entire life trying to be positive, but there are just times when I want to someone to say its okay that I got dealt a sucky hand.  Again, I have many friends that are battling much more difficult situations, but sometimes I just need, even for a minute, to think why did this happen to ME?  This was one of those times.  It was about 11 o'clock at night, and I tried to self-diagnose online.  Please, please, please don't ever do it!  I thought I had learned my lesson the first time, but obviously I didn't.  I walked upstairs inconsolable, only to wake my sleeping husband.  After 45 minutes of conversation and good old hugs, I finally fell asleep with the promise to call my oncologist in the morning.

The following day was a Friday, and I had to work.  I woke up feeling a bit better and determined to make it through the day.  As I sat in my office waiting to call my doc, I just lost it.  I called Patty on the phone and told her what was happening.  Patty was fabulous.  She knew exactly what I was feeling.  She said I had every right to be scared to death.  That was what I needed.  I needed someone to justify what I was feeling, not someone telling me that everything was going to be alright.  After I hung up the phone, Tracy and Carolyn, two friends from work, picked up where Patty left off.  Within the next 15 minutes I was waiting for a return phone call from my oncologist.  My breathing became less labored, and I made it through the day.  Around 6:30 that night, I heard back from them, and they had scheduled an appointment for me the following Friday.  My mind seemed a bit more at ease when they said that breast cancer doesn't usually manifest itself that way.

So I had to wait a week.  I could do that.  I was feeling a little more at rest after talking to my doctor.  I had Z's basketball game over the weekend, and all the craziness that goes with the week before vacation for a teacher.  As Saturday went on I started to develop a case of sciatica--a debilitating case.  The only time I had ever experienced it before was when I was pregnant with the girls.  Man, does it hurt!  By the end of the day, I was in bed speaking to the on-call doctor at my PCP's office.  She prescribed something, and over the next day or two, I began to feel better.

The waiting game continued.  Early in the week, was business as usual.  My back was feeling better, but I was extremely dehydrated.  The meds I was on were killing me.  I didn't feel like I was taking in enough water, but figured I could bear it for a few more days.

Tuesday night, Patty called and invited the family over for dinner Friday night.  I told her that we would love to and that I would need either celebrating or consoling because I was headed to DFCI that day.  She then told me she had an appointment with our oncologist one hour later.  We decided to make it a date, and go in together.  That way AZ wouldn't have to take off from work, and honestly, Patty is such a huge support.  She truly understands what I am going through.

Wednesday and Thursday evenings were spent volunteering at 3-Day Get Started Meetings--definitely a place to keep my mind occupied.  We all know how much I love speaking about the 3-Day.  I met some wonderful people, and a lot of them signed up.  Yahoo!

I came home Thursday evening ready to relax and watch American Idol which I had dvr'd.  At around 9:45, I started getting heart palpitations.  Those of you who know me, understand that this is something that happens, and has been checked out by my doctor; however, these were different.  They were lasting much longer and were not resolving themselves.  I decided to go to bed.  I figured that I was probably making myself more anxious, therefore making it worse.  As I lay it bed, it did get worse.  My chest started to feel heavy, and I began to have difficulty breathing.  All I could think of was that wouldn't it be just great if I beat cancer and died of a heart attack.  Seriously!  I told AZ we should probably go to the hospital, so we called my mom and dad, who always come to the rescue, to watch our little cherubs.  As we waited for them to arrive, I felt worse.  I made the decision to call 911.  I have heard so many stories of women and heart attacks.  I didn't want to be one of the statistics.  Shortly after, two adorable (of course) EMTs showed up at my house.  Upon the initial monitoring, they noticed something unusual and decided it would be best to take me to the hospital.   

The ride to the hospital was uneventful.  The most fearful part was that the EMT had to put an IV in my hand.  Keep in mind, how smooth Amesbury's roads are when you think of this.  Fortunately, he waited until we were stopped at a light.  He gave me some nitro and I started to feel better.

At the hospital I explained my situation, and told them what meds I was on.  I couldn't remember the name of the anti-inflammatory or the steroid for the sciatica, but they said that was okay.  They ran a bunch of tests, a chest x-ray, an ekg, and a slew of blood work.  The preliminary results looked good--just one more blood test to wait for.  They told me that as far as my palpitations were concerned, they were normal.  That made me feel much better.  While I was there, they gave me 2 liters of fluid and I still felt thirsty.  Weird.

A few moments later, the nurse came in and told me that my d-dimer test was slightly elevated.  This is a test that can determine whether you have a pulmonary embolism otherwise known as a  blood clot in your lung.  The way to rule this out is with a contrast chest CT.  I had one of those when I was first diagnosed.  When they insert the dye you have a rush of heat throughout your entire body, and you feel like you are peeing your pants.  It is truly a bizarre feeling.  The whole test takes about 5 minutes, and then you feel fine.  The down side is that you have to wait about 45 minutes for the results.

AZ and I dozed in and out of sleep in the ER for the next hour.  It was about 3:15AM when the doctor came in and informed us that everything looked good.  There was no blood clot.  Of course my question was why was my test elevated.  I was told that a good thing about this test was that it could rule out blood clots, but if it is elevated, it could be a number of things causing it to present that way.  They sent me home with instructions to follow up with my PCP the next day.

I crawled into bed at 3:30 only to be aroused by the alarm at 5:30.  Patty was picking me up at 6:15.  I again, dozed in and out on my way into DFCI.  Patty and I arrived early enough to navigate our way around the new building.  It is just gorgeous.  The healing garden is definitely something to see.

Our oncologist assured me that the lumps were just fatty deposits--of course they were.  We chatted about our video, which she had not seen yet because it was released after our last appointments.  We shared with her our excitement about the TWPs becoming a non-profit, and she gave us some great advice on ways to help women with the funds we raise.  She even squeezed Patty in earlier, and we were out the door before we knew it.  I would be home in time to call my PCP and get in to see him.

After a quick nap at home, I went to see my PCP.  While there I was talking with him about my sciatica and how dehydrated the meds were making me.  He didn't understand why until I showed him the pill bottles.  The on-call doctor, not affiliated with my practice, had prescribed the wrong medication for me.  The meds were not even remotely related to anything one would take for sciatica.  No wonder I felt awful.  He immediately told me to stop the meds and get some probiotics.  My whole system was out of whack!  He assumed this contributed to all of the palpitations.  Just to be on the safe side though he wanted to run a full cardiac work-up, but he said I was able to continue with all of my activities.  It was vacation after all!

Even with all of the craziness, vacation was off to a good start--I didn't have cancer, and I didn't have a heart attack.  It would be a week of rest, family visits, some basketball, and ski trips.  Of course my cardiac tests were thrown in there, but that was only one day. 

The highlight of the week (or so we thought) was our Tuesday night skiing trip with friends.  Gunstock has an amazing deal on Tuesday's from 4-9PM it is 2 people for $28!  You can't beat that.  The conditions were a little icy, but the kids had a blast skiing with their friends.  My kids just really started skiing this year, and they have taken off.  They love it, and have become confident skiers.  Little Mia is our daredevil and always wants to go as fast as she can.  She tries to go over jumps, and for being such a quiet girl, is just an aggressive skier; however, on Tuesday night, her daring personality got her into a bit of trouble.  On one of the last runs of the evening, Mia caught a little too much air on a jump and came down on her hand.  Bill, the EMT in First Aid, wasn't sure if she hyper-extended her thumb or broke it.  He immobilized her hand with this really cool cast made of cardboard and foam and advised us to see a doctor in the AM.

Long story short, my entire Wednesday was spent traveling back and forth to Anna Jacques Hospital.  By my third time there, I had forgotten where I had parked and spent 5 minutes looking for my car.  No joke!  I was there first for my cardiac echo, then for x-rays for Mia, back for my cardiac stress test, and back yet again for a hot pink cast for my sweet girl's right hand.  Yes, her thumb was broken.  Being the TWP that she is, of course she chose a hot pink cast.  The little thing handled everything so well until it was time to go to bed.  We all know that time when you are alone with your thoughts.  Well the same happens for kiddos too.  Mimi called to me, sobbing, saying it was all her fault, she never should have skied so hard, now she couldn't do gymnastics and had to wear a "stupid cast" for a month.  It just about broke my heart.  We had just planned more ski trips, and she is so close to getting her "kip" in gymnastics (one of the more difficult moves to get on the uneven bars).  In typical parent fashion, I explained how it could be much worse.  Just imagine if it were summer.  She eventually fell asleep and woke up with that same smile on her face.  A restful night can always make the world appear a little brighter.

Now it is Monday, and I am back to work, thinking about the week ahead.  Thursday night is our second TWP meeting.  I am so looking forward to having everyone together.  We have lots of plans in the works including our Second Annual "Dance Like a Princess" Dance/Silent Auction on Saturday, May 14th!  Be sure to save the date!  It is a night not to be missed.  We have changed the venue to Holy Family Parish Hall in Amesbury so that we can accommodate a larger crowd.  If you or someone you know would like to contribute an item to our auction, just let me know.  We would like to offer a variety of items ranging in price.

I'll keep you updated with the future endeavors of the TWPs.  Keep those donations coming!

Royally yours,