Monday, April 26, 2010

Well I've taken the next step. I had my second surgery on the 19Th of April. The surgery went as planned. They took a larger area around the tumor site to try to get clear margins this time and also did a sentinel node biopsy. I'm still recovering of course. I think the pain is worse near where they took the lymph nodes. It's just in an awkward place and there is still lots of swelling but I'm told that's normal.

I'm waiting on the final results which should come sometime today. I think the waiting is the most difficult part. All the uncertainty. If margins aren't clear the surgeon says we need to do a mastectomy. I was really hoping to avoid that since I'm not insured reconstruction isn't an option at this point. The initial findings of the lymph nodes was clear but one looked suspicious so we won't know until the dissection is done and we get final results. Of course if that pesky one isn't clear they will remove the rest of them under my arm for more testing. I so hope I don't have to do that!

I have to say the sentinel node biopsy prep was not a fun thing to go through. I'm so glad I had my mother wait in an area away from where the prep was happening. I think she would have lost it completely if she had heard me scream. It's not something I ever wish to go through again. If you're squeamish don't read the next sentence or two. They have to inject a radio active substance into the nipple in 4 areas. That is absolutely the worst pain I've ever gone through and I've had 3 children. I'm pretty sure that's the loudest I've ever screamed in my life. The doctor who was doing the injections felt so bad. He just kept saying he was sorry but this was the only way to do it. There was no numbing medication as he said that injection was worse than the others. I can't even imagine.

So here I sit waiting to see what the next step is. Radiation and possibly chemo or yet more surgery. I'm trying to keep positive thoughts but it's a difficult thing not know the outcome of the pathology yet. I'll be sure to post when I get my results. Keep me in your thoughts and prayers. I'm so nervous i can't sleep and I think I'm about to lose my mind here. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My new journey

Well it's time for me to start a new journey. After spending years not having health care, I finally found an organization of volunteer doctors, hospitals, clinics and laboratories who help those in need. I was led there by a limited free clinic in my town.

I met with them and qualified and they assigned me to what they call a "home doctor," meaning that would be my main doctor to see and that doctor would refer me to specialists in the program to address any medical issues. First was to tackle the problem with my arm. I had gotten some kind of infection in the tendons and as a result couldn't lift it. I was sent to physical therapy and I'm happy to say its good and new. They also did blood work to check my thyroid (I have graves disease and take thyroid replacement hormones), and the other standard blood work i.e. blood sugar (I'm diabetic), cholesterol, triglycerides, liver function, etc. Well all of my blood work was not good. Blood sugar was up, thyroid was dangerously high, cholesterol was 3 times normal as were my triglycerides. My blood pressure was also dangerously high (160/102). I was told that because I am diabetic with those counts it was as if I had already had one heart attack and I was on my way to a second. So needless to say my meds were changed and I will soon be having them redone to check my progress.

You would think that was enough to deal with but I was also having issues with eating. I was in a lot of stomach pain when I ate and to put it delicately I lived in my bathroom. We will just leave it at that. I had an ultrasound to check for gallstones. None were found. It was decided they would then check the function of my gallbladder. Although it was consider to be a normal result, it was very high as compared to most. Most results come out between 40 and 50 percent. Mine was at 87 percent. I was referred to a surgeon and he did one last test to check my stomach function which was normal. We decided it was the gallbladder and determined the best thing to do was remove it. It was overactive and I'm happy to say since my gallbladder was removed all symptoms are gone.

Ok so yes I'm leading up to the real reason I've decided to start blogging again. When I went to the Women's Imaging Center to have the ultrasound of my gallbladder the tech noticed some retraction in my breast. When she went to talk to the radiologist about my gallbladder she mentioned it to him. He came to the room and told me no stones in my gallbladder but that the tech had mentioned what she saw and would I mind if he took a look. I said ok and he inspected the retraction and ask me how long it had been since I'd had a mammogram. I told him I thought it had been about 2 or 3 years and so far they had been fine other than a cyst they had found once but that I had recently noticed a lump in the right breast. He ask me to stop and the front desk and sign a release to allow them to get all my old films and that I should come back in the next 2 weeks to have a mammogram and ultrasound to check on the lump. I signed the release and informed my home doctor and she ordered a diagnostic mammogram with ultrasound.

I went to my appointment and had my mammogram. The mammo tech used a special paddle to get a closer picture of the lump. From there I went to the ultrasound tech who did extensive exam of my right breast and the lymph node area. She uploaded the digital images to the radiologists computer and ask me to wait. Not to long after they both walked in and the radiologist did another ultrasound exam of the area around the lump and the nodes. Saying that made me nervous is an understatement to say the least. The minute he looked at me I knew what he was about to say and my heart sank and I thought it would beat out of my chest. All I could think is, "This can't be happening to me."

He proceeded to tell me the lump was highly suspicious of cancer and my lymph nodes looked reactive. He said he would give me copies of my films before i left the office because he didn't want to have any delays and that i should see my surgeon immediately for a biopsy. I waited in the waiting room for my films to get done and was greeted by many of the techs who looked at me with sad eyes and gave me hugs. Although that was so sweet of them to do to show their concern it also scared the heck out of me. Even the lady who had me sign out for my films looked at me sad and hugged me. All I could feel at the time was terror and devastation. I just wanted to get home and be in familiar surroundings. Even harder was then telling my family. My mother is devastated as is the rest of my family.

My first surgery was done on March 19Th, 2010. At that time they removed my overactive gallbladder and also my biopsy. The diagnosis is invasive ductal carcinoma. So the next step is to check the lymph nodes and also remove more of the area around the tumor as they didn't get clear margins the first time around and have to take bigger margins. That surgery is scheduled for April 19Th. Needless to say I'm a wreck. I've chosen a lumpectomy and will have to have 7 weeks of radiation therapy. I'm praying for no involvement of the lymph nodes as that would mean chemo too. The thought of chemo is terrifying. Actually this whole thing is terrifying.

So that's where it stands for now and now I wait to see whats next in my new journey. A journey I surely wouldn't have chosen for myself but mine nonetheless. I'll post along the way as I can and hope that anyone that has been through this will post comments to help me with my journey. All support is welcome.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

For the animal lovers out there...

I just love animals..they have such funny personalities. In my life I've had dogs and cats and birds and what a joy they all were. Unfortunately I live in an apartment now so I'm not allowed to have any pets (although I think I may be able to talk them into letting me have a bird so wish me luck on that). My sister received two beautiful parakeets with an awesome two story cage for Mothers Day this year so we can blame my family for getting me thinking about a new bird. I'm very excited at the thought. I truly miss my pets and look forward to the interaction with a new member of our family.

I've had a couple of Cockatiels. I had one named Scarlet. She was pure white with just a small orange and yellow spot on each side of her head. She was a very talented little bird. She liked to walk back and forth across a keyboard and make her own music. She also would sit on my shoulder and make her way down to my hand if I had a cracker there. She would abscond with the cracker and come back when she was finished with it (my little cracker thief). Scarlet loved to have her head rubbed...she would climb down my arm to my hand and gently rub her head back and forth across the back of my hand and that was her signal she wanted to have her head rubbed. She loved attention and she was such a pleasure. I miss her so much but she lived a long life and died of natural causes many years ago.

As an animal lover one of the things I love doing is vi sting a website called where you can view live camera feeds in hopes of spotting something wonderful like elephants, zebras, wildebeests and more. There is also a flamingo cam and I love to watch all those beautiful pink flamingo's. There are always so many of them. It's a wonderful site and I love watching for the animals to appear and interact with each other or steal themselves a drink of water. Its also great because you can capture the pictures to your computer. I've captured a lot of them and use them as a slide show for my screen saver or use as beautiful backgrounds for my desktop.

There are also plenty of ways to interact with others on the site in the form of blogs and forums. You can submit photos and video catches to share with others on the site and also chat with other site members. If you use twitter you can follow them ( @africam ) and they will alert you when animals are spotted by other members so you can go view them too. The site is free and can give lots of enjoyment to anyone of all ages. Its great for kids to see these animals in their natural habitat. If you enjoy animals as I do, I highly recommend this site.

There is nothing more loyal and loving than a family pet. If you're lucky enough to experience having a furry family member remember to love and care for them and you will get so much more than you could ever imagine in return.

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Heart Breaks for those involved..

My heart breaks for the families involved in the case of all those desecrated graves in Burr Oaks Cemetery in Alsip, Illnois. How can someone be so greedy as to think that disturbing the resting place of someones loved one in order to profit is ok? If it were up to me I'd lock up those involved and throw away the keys. They showed no respect and they deserve no respect in return.

The families of the deceased will not only have to wait at the very least months to find out where the remains of their loved ones are, if that's even possible, but once identified they will have to suffer the pain of the burial all over again. It's just unfathomable how deeply these families will be affected by this atrocity committed by those who had no respect for those who have passed on. The most heartbreaking thing about all of this is the fact that the families will never forget. They will carry this pain for the rest of their lives. They had faith that their loved ones had been laid to rest and to their horror they were betrayed in one of the worst ways possible. Even sadder is the fact that many of them knew personally the very people who betrayed them.

Another thing that disturbs me greatly is the fact that the original casket of Emmet Till was found in an old shed yet those who were arrested for this atrocity deny that his remains were involved in the scheme. I find this hard to believe. If his remains were not involved his casket would not be in some shed. Till was savagely beaten to death because of racism. It's saddens me to think that not only was he horribly disrespected in life solely because of his race, but Emmet has also again been treated horrifically treatment in death.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the family members involved in this indescribable difficult situation. This had to make us think and just maybe we should check further into this to make sure its not happening in other parts of the country. I for one will be keeping an even closer watch on my loved ones who have passed on. I can't even imagine going through such a tragedy as these families are suffering now.

You can read more about this story on the CNN website in the story titled "Cemetery with missing grave sites declared crime scene"

Friday, July 10, 2009

Are you kidding me?....

I was appalled at what happened to a group of minority children from The Creative Steps Day Care in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago. These children only wanted to swim and beat the summer heat. I truly thought we were past the kind of racism and ugly thinking displayed by members of the Valley Swim Club.

About two weeks ago the Valley Swim Club sent away a group of mostly African-American and Hispanic children whose day camp had paid $1900 so that they could enjoy a bit of summer swimming. After arriving for what they thought was going to be their first of several days of swimming during the summer they were sent away, asked not to return, and their money was refunded. The children were subjected to racist and ugly hurtful comments by other children and their parents who were swimming at the club.

It saddened me to see and hear the hurt in the children interviewed after this unforgivable display of racism. How could someone turn such beautiful children away. Their only desire was to enjoy their summer vacation.

Now they (Valley Swim Club) are making what in my opinion are excuses for why the children were turned away. They are saying they didn't realize there would be so many children and it was just a safety issue. I would think they would have known an approximate number of children when they made the agreement with the day camp. That also doesn't excuse the racist remarks made by club members that were there when the children from the day camp arrived.

If they want to prove they aren't a racist club, maybe they should reconsider allowing racist members that were there that day to remain members and allow the children to come back, although I can understand why the children would be too traumatized to return to that club. I don't see that scenario happening since I'm not buying their excuses. As the old saying goes, "I don't trust them any farther than I could throw them." I don't know where the Valley Swim Club has been but the days of separate restaurants, water fountains and sitting in the back of the bus are over. They need to catch up with the rest of us.

The Valley Swim Club needs to join with those of us who know and believe that all of us, no matter what our skin color, religion, or culture are all equal in every sense of the word. There is never a good excuse for any kind of racism in our country or in the world for that matter. I have to say I'm as disgusted with their behavior as I've ever been with anyone.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Before I start my reflection I would first like to say that I hope everyone had a very safe and happy 4Th of July. And most importantly I would like to thank all the soldiers that keep me safe and make it possible for me to live in this great country that allows me to be free. I would also like to thank the families of these soldiers who also sacrifice so that their loved ones are free to proudly serve our country. And I also have to thank all the soldiers including my father, my step-son and two very close friends who are very much my family also who served our great country in the past. If not for all of you I might not be setting here today with the freedoms I enjoy. Thank you so much and know that my love and my prayers are with you always.

OK all of that being said I will now explain to you all of the thoughts that passed through my mind today. They may sound a bit like self pity, and maybe they are but sometimes in order to feel our feelings and get them out a bit of self pity is a good thing or at the very least OK once in a while, so here I go.

Have you ever had one of those days in which circumstances of the day seem to force you to reflect on your life? I'm sure you least I tend to believe most people have, When I woke up tired and groggy from the late nights I've come to dread I thought I'd had my day all planned out (I tend to do that even though they never end up how I planned them). I knew it wasn't going to be my normal 4Th of July. I'm used to enjoying a great barbecue surrounded by family and friends, but because of the normal flow of families and their other obligations this years 4Th of July get together was canceled.

Even though I was a bit disappointed (well maybe more that a bit) I still planned what was to be a minimal celebration for my 18 year old son and myself. We would enjoy an early dinner until it was time for him to go to work and then I would later watch the fireworks display from my balcony or wherever they would be best seen from my apartment complex. Not my usual celebration as I mentioned before but nonetheless still a celebration of the most important day to our country.

Unfortunately my day wasn't to end up how I had imagined it. I did make a small early dinner for my son and I and we did enjoy that. He then went to shower and get ready for work. He was suppose to start at 7pm, but that was not to be. He got called in to work early as they had several who were sent home for one reason or another. So he hurriedly got ready for work and I dropped him off. I came back home and enjoyed the company of my online friends until it was time to go watch the fireworks. I waited and waited for dusk to come and finally I heard the start of fireworks in the distance..and not just from one location but in every direction. Well since of course my day had not gone as planned I was not surprised that although I could hear the fireworks, much to my disappointment I could barely see them over the tops of the trees. So much to my dismay I reluctantly went back to my empty apartment and watched what fireworks displays I could find on television. Not as exciting but I guess at least I got to see some.

I guess one thing I haven't mentioned was that my oldest son is away on a great week long vacation trip with his dad, his uncle and cousins for the holiday and my daughter has moved away to another state. That just added to the start of the loneliness and at least a minimal amount of depression of my day. Thus the evening of reflection. While I usually enjoy times of so much. I thought about all the twists and turns my life has taken, of course none of which were planned. Two divorces, the death of my second husband to alcohol (he was my ex by then) and then finally finding my soul mate and then his sudden and unexpected death. It was devastating and not at all what I had imagined for myself.

In 2001 I decided to go to college (I hadn't had the opportunity when I was young and got married at age 18). I was so excited about my future and did very well in college winning an award and making the deans list and receiving other honors. I was even invited to take an honors class. I worked so hard and knew what I wanted to do when I completed my degree. I wanted to work in a capacity that helped forge better relationships between employers and employees and see that the employees were treated with the respect they deserve. I completed 2 associate degrees with honors and was going to be going on to receive my bachelors degree. Unfortunately before I could achieve this goal, as I said earlier I lost my soul mate unexpectedly, I lost my job and soon after that I became ill and it seemed one thing after was going wrong with my health. I won't go into details, but because of my illnesses I'm unable to work and I have no insurance so am limited on what I can do about it.

So here I am at 51 (much to early), depending on my sons to help me until some miracle happens and I can finally take care of myself again. I am so far from where I thought I'd be at this point in my life. It's not even a matter of starting over. I would have done that if I could have. I keep thinking in a normal world I could find something to do at home, but with the economy the way it is and so many people losing their jobs, It's not so easy to find something like that right now. Being dependent on my 18 year old son is to say the least depressing. I'm not one who likes to be dependant on anyone, let alone my youngest son. It breaks my heart and my spirit. And yes some days I'd just like to give up. But that's not me either so I keep going. Towards what, I have no idea at this moment.

So this is the reason for my day of reflection. Thinking about the past..the present..and the uncertainty of my future. I have no idea where I'll be next month let alone next year. I wish I could say that my reflections today gave me some answers but unfortunately they didn't. I still don't understand how my life ended up here and I certainly have no idea where it's going at this point. Maybe that revelation will come another day. I can only hope so.

OK so I got it out...not feeling better yet but maybe tomorrow..who knows. I'd also like to say that even though I allowed myself this little pity party and expressed my reflections here, I am in no way asking for or expecting pity from anyone. That wasn't the purpose of my post. It was solely a form of therapy of sorts. And yes I do know that there are so many others that have a much rougher life than I could even imagine and my heart truly goes out to each and every one of them.

So in closing I would like to thank you for listening to my thoughts and hope that you found something here that made you think also.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I have a bone to pick with the new agencies!...

I have never been so disappointed in the news media as I am at this moment. We have lost so many great people lately it's getting scary. Makes you wonder who will be the next one to fall. My beef with the media is the lack of coverage for the most recent loss we've suffered.

I understand how very sad the loss of Michael Jackson was. It was a huge shock to all of us and he was such an amazing talent. My sympathies go out to his children...his family and his friends for their loss. This being said we did lose others and they seemed to get overshadowed by the loss of Michael. Did we forget that their lives also count for something. They also contributed in some way to our lives.

Although Farrah Fawcetts tragic passing has gotten some coverage, it was certainly overshadowed. I think in recent days even Billy Mays has gotten more coverage than Farrah. His passing was also a huge shock to everyone.

I feel like because Farrahs death was expected, she didn't get as much coverage but it was still just as tragic and the news media seemed to drop the ball on her passing. So now we've lost yet another wonderful entertainer to cancer. Fred Travalena passed away from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on Sunday afternoon. You can read the minimal story on his death at CNN's website. Fred fought a hard battle with cancer and deserves to have his life celebrated. He made us laugh for so many years and I for one will miss him terribly. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family

I'm so upset with the media for not giving him the attention he deserves. I can't believe you let ratings overshadow the death of someone who so many people loved and so many will miss. I think its time for you to step up to the plate and correct this major reporting error. His life DID matter and its a story that should be told! RIP Fred, Farrah, Ed, Michael, Billy, Bea, David, and Gale. You will be missed.