PREVIVOR: A person who is not diagnosed with cancer, but has survived the predisposition, or higher risk, of cancer due to a genetic mutation and/or strong family history. After being armed with this information, a previvor can make informed choices prior to a cancer diagnosis.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Last year, one of our priests at Mass told a story in his homily that really spoke to me. (Homily=sermon for my non-Catholic friends :) ) I told him at the time that I really felt touched by his homily that day. Here's the parapharsing of the story:

A man saw a caterpillar still in it's coccoon, struggling to break free. He saw that the caterpillar was fully developed into a butterfly but was seemingly having a lot of trouble coming out. The man took pity on the caterpillar and cut the coccoon away, expecting to see a beautiful butterfly fly away. Instead, the weak, colorless butterfly fluttered a little before dying. You see, the man didn't understand that in order to get the colors into it's wings and become a butterfly, it had to struggle against the coccoon first.

Sometimes, we cannot be what God wants us to be unless we go through the struggles. It's through the struggles, that we become the beautiful person God intends.

Needless to say, hearing that weeks before my PBM was comforting. Even now, as I agonize about whether I'll have another infection come up, it's comforting to know that maybe all of this serves a bigger purpose.

Friday, February 17, 2012

In case I forgot.....

I know a lot of time has passed since my last blog. Well a lot of time for me, who feels the compulsive need to share every detail that's going on in my jumbled head. Somehow, in the weeks following my exchange surgery, I changed. I saw my PS 6 days after, she pronounced me fine and scheduled an appointment for a follow up at the end of April and we'd start discussing fipples. So, I put my new foobs in the back of my head and proceeded in my busy schedule. 2012 is going to be a big year for me. I've got clinicals starting in September, my first summer trimester I've ever had to go to school, I've got to save up money for the summer trimester since I'm about 95% sure Finanical Aid won't pay so for the first time in my life I'm actually becoming semi-responsible with my money. (Which translates into me not making a bee-line for the Coach store when my tax refund came in). I've got my 10 year high school reunion in August (dear Lord, I'm old) and my sister's wedding in June. Not to mention the fact I do want to try to go to the national FORCE conference in Orlando in October, on top of starting the FORCE group in Memphis. WHEW! I'm exhausted just typing it!

It's no wonder that I came down with a cold last week. Since I get free health services from UT (the med school next to my school) I went to the doctor there. The meds he gave me really helped, so I was a little surprised when this past Friday I started to feel bad. I tried to put it to the back of my mind, and just drank an extra cup of coffee and took some cold medicine. By Friday around 4 pm, right when my break at work was scheduled I happened  to brush against my left foob as  I was moving my hands. Uh-oh....I could feel heat radiating through my shirt.

I hurriedly raced to the bathroom and lifted my shirt up and nearly burst into tears. My left foob had a very noticeable area of pinkness at the bottom that was hot to the touch. I reached for my phone and called the PS office and spoke with the nurse. I explained what had happened and she asked me to text her pictures of my foob. I took her cell number down and had the fleeting thought that this was the first time in my life I had ever snapped topless photos of myself and texted them to someone.

She called me back, told me not to worry, and that she was calling me in some Levaquin. I went back to work, but was feeling increasingly worse. On my lunch break I went and picked up my Levaquin and stopped to get dinner. I could barely eat, but I took the Levaquin and went back to work. Thirty minutes later I was shaking badly, hot, had a headache and was nauseated. I called into my supervisor to let them know I was logging out. I think I freaked Mike out a little who kept asking me if I needed to go to the hospital. I told him I was taking a shower and going to bed (this was at 7:20)

I slept fitfully that night and didn't feel too much better when I woke up. I was scheduled to work at 2:00 pm and had planned on staying in bed until then. Mike left for work, telling me to call him if I got sicker. About 30 minutes later I went into the bathroom and cautiously lifted up my shirt.

Holy crap.

My left foob was almost completely pink, and swollen to about twice the size of my right foob. It felt almost constricting, like someone was squeezing my implant. I didn't want to call the on-call doctor right away, because I knew what the response would be. The nurse had given me her cell phone number and told me to call or text with problems. I texted her to tell her what was happening and she replied saying she'd call my PS. The nurse called and advised me to call the on-call doctor. So I did, and I got the answer I knew I would. Go to the ER. The doctor then told me that he was going to check my infection out, get me on IV antibiotics, and I should come prepared for him to admit me. Fantastic. My gut reaction was "I don't have time for this!" but I just said ok and called Mike to let him know. I told him to stay at work and that I'd get my Mom to take me to the hospital. I called my mom and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey what are you doing?
Mom: Just got out of the shower.
Me: Well do you have any plans today?
Mom: Not really, why?
Me: Well can you take me to the hospital?
Mom: Ok I'll be there as soon as I get ready.

Now, granted most people would immediately start freaking out wanting to know why you were having to go to the hospital and wondering if you should go via ambulance.  But my parents have gone around this block plenty of times and I'm beginning to think a phone call like this is expected of me every now and then..

My Mom took me to the ER which surprisingly had an empty waiting room so we were taken straight back. I got examined by the ER doctor and then the on-call PS who had said he'd meet me there. He said I needed to be on IV antibiotics and that he'd admit me. Then he said he'd consult with an infectious disease doctor and let him decide whether I needed to go home with a picc line or what. He also said that by Monday they'd be able to see if I was responding well to the IV antibiotics or if I needed surgery. They took blood, and determined my white blood cell count was 18,000 (normal is 10,000-11,000) It was official- I had an infection.

I was hoping to go home Monday, since it was determined that I didn't need surgery and was responding well to the antibiotics. The infectious disease doctor also said I could go home on oral antibiotics instead of a picc line. Which I almost cried from relief when I heard that- to me a picc line is too much like getting chemo which I had hoped to avoid by having a PBM. When my PS (who was back in town and said that she was glad she didn't see my foob when it was bad because she would've cried) came in Monday, she said she'd let me go home in 12-24 hours after speaking with the other doctor.

Now as a side note I'd like to point out that Tuesday was Valentines Day. Mike and I had reservations at a wonderful restuarant and I had a pretty dress and was SO excited about it. I'd also like to point out that while I'm not a complete sap, I do appreciate a little romance so I love Valentines Day.

However when my PS came in Tuesday afternoon, she noticed two spots on my left foob, that were pitting slightly and still red. Almost apologetically she said "Will you kill me if I keep you in here another day?" when I reluctantly agreed, she told me she was ever impressed with my hope and my attitude about all of this. She told me that if it was her in my position she'd be a nervous wreck but that I take everything in stride. I just said "Thank you" because that kind of talk embarrasses me. I don't really think of myself as being that strong...I just see it as dealing with what God has given me! But I do want to be an inspiration and support to others, so maybe I'm headed in the right direction.

And I will say that while I didn't get to wear my dress, or eat in a fancy restuarant, my barbeque dinner from my favorite barbeque restuarant in my pjs and the candy and flowers made my day. I do love my boyfriend :)

I finally got discharged Wednesday afternoon, which brought my total days in the hospital to 5. I was given a very high powered oral antibiotic and nausea medicine (because antibiotics make me feel like my intestines are on fire). I'm glad to say that the spots are clearing and the swelling is gone. I talked to the PS today to give her the good news and am going to see her Wednesday. I'm going back to work tomorrow and back to school Tuesday. Life goes on I suppose.

Except.....there's a chance....a possibility....that the antibiotics are just suprressing the infection. If I finish my round of meds and the infection comes back, surgery becomes neccessary. And get this- when I have surgery they wait until I'm opened up to make the decision to a) wash the implant and the pocket really well, place a drain to get any infected fluid and hope for the best or b) replace the implant with an expander, place a drain, begin to fill it up, wait 3 months and exchange for another implant. Does that sound familiar? Yep-start ALL over.  And the kicker is that I wouldn't know what they were going to do until I woke up. Crazy psychological freak out.

Until then I'm going to try and go about my daily business and take my medicine, say my prayers, eat my Wheaties, blah blah. There will be lots of candles lit between now and then! I'm going to TRY to push this whole mess out of my mind until I know what's going to happen,

Lent starts this Wednesday and if I could give up thinking about my mastectomy and subsequent complications I would. Even though I know that's not possible, I have a feeling my Pathophysiology class is willing to try to keep me occupied ;)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Paying it forward

As I've talked about all through this blog, I have received support from wonderful, brave women who have been where I've been. I honestly would be in a padded room right now if it wasn't for them. One group in particular that I've posted dozens upon dozens of messages on the message boards and received nothing but wonderful support. Check out their page here:

FORCE-Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered

I try to post on the message boards as much as possible still, but my role has changed from the person NEEDING support to the person GIVING support.

One thing I've noticed is that there was a lack of support in the Memphis area. The message boards are wonderful, but sometimes you need a hug! You need that person to person contact. So I, along with my co-coordinator Irene (who's blog you can read  here) decided to get a FORCE outreach group going in Memphis. I am SO excited about the prospect of supporting women with Hereditary/Genetic Breast and Ovarian Cancer in this area!

However, we do need to fundraise first. I normally hate just outright asking people for money, but this cause and this organization means so much to me that I'll make the exception :) Please take the time to visit my website here to donate whatever you can spare!

I thank you, Irene thanks you, and any woman or man who benefits from our group thanks you! Awareness is SO important and this is an issue that definetely needs it!

Thank you! :)