Friday, September 25, 2009

Has it been that long already?

Good morning dear reader.  If you are as tired as I am, then you’ll be able to follow along this morning.  If you are one of those ‘wake up in the morning smiling and happy’ people, then I pity you….this posting might just drive you to your coffee pot in the hope of achieving a caffeine high after which all this will make sense.

If that first sentence is an indicator as to how this is going to go, then we are all in for a crazy ride today.  It was pointed out to me last night at choir practice that and update to these pages might be in order.  So I checked the date of my last post, and it was a long time ago…and things have happened.  But, hold the phone!!!  Choir practice?  Your saying “But, Rod, you haven’t been in choir for so long…what gives?”  Yes, dear reader…I am back in choir.  And it feels good to be able to sing praises to my Lord again in the way that only choir can provide!!  Along with having a real blast (thanks Bernie!!!) during the practice, it was very good for my mood to go and start learning some new songs and to sing.  If there are any men out there who want to join, we really need basses and tenors (Jesse, I thought you were coming this year?  I’m hunting you down at church on Sunday!!!).  But, I digress.  That is my first tangent of the day, and I don’t guarantee there won’t be more.

As I mentioned, things have happened in the past couple weeks.  Last time we spoke, I believe I said that all is well.  In that respect, it has changed, because now all is better.  That’s right…improvement is happening daily.  The last two drains came out last week (one because it was plugged and not doing any good, and the other because it was pretty much done draining).  And, with the drain removal comes the ability for Dianne to wear prosthetics.  I have to be careful here, because I am under censorship as to what I can or can’t say about this.  Not that Dianne is watching over my shoulder, but she will read this (Hi babe!!  I love you!!!!) and will critique and chastise if necessary.  And, being a man (and we all know that men love boob talk), this is going to be hard for me to keep this real, and to write this in an acceptable manner.  Suffice it to say that Dianne wears prosthetics now so she looks like all the other mom’s out there (this is really important for the kids…they want their mom to look like other moms).  There is so much more that could be said from a man’s perspective….regarding the grope factor, the ooh la-la factor and the woo-hoo factor…but I promised I would behave.  Therefore, allow me say this:  All is well.  Exclamation point, Exclamation point!!!!!!!!!  (I’m sneaking in a w00t w00t and a thumbs up the prosthetics!!!!!!)  LMAO.

Ok, so what else has happened?  Well, Dianne has been to the CCI to get all mapped out for radiation.  She has tattoo’s now (nothing fancy, just 3 or 4 little dots) that are used for lining her up.  Radiation Therapy begins on October 1 and she will have a minimum of 20 treatments, possibly going up to 30 (and anywhere in between).  The side effects of radiation are fatigue and possible burning in the treatment area.  I will let you know how the RT is going as it begins and happens.

Also, Dianne has been back to the hospital once since all the drains came out.  At this ‘appointment’ the surgeon had to shove a needle into the surgery area in order to suck out all the liquid that was pooling.  It was not a huge amount or a dangerous amount, but it did need to come out.  Having it removed made Dianne a whole lot more comfortable (it was after this appointment that she went and got her prosthetics.  Typical man…always back to the boobs.)  The surgeon is very very pleased at how well Dianne is healing, and also is very pleased at how much movement she has in her shoulders and arms.  I should mention that this process of getting drained via a needle was in no way painful for Dianne….there are no nerves in the surgical site, and since the needle went in through an incision, she felt nothing.  Kudos to the surgeon for doing an awesome job!!!!!

Hmm, is there anything else I need to say here?  Hmm…thinking….thinking….Oh!!!  I know.  We did get the pathology report back from the surgery.  This has caused some confusion because of the way I wrote it up for the church bulletin.  So, let me clarify here.  As expected, there was no cancer found on the right side, and there was cancer found on the left side.  The tumor they removed was cancerous (as we all know).  The interesting part is that initially, there were two tumors in the left breast.  However, they only removed one.  The other one had disappeared!!  Yes, dear reader…the chemo did it’s job!!!  The one tumor was gone, and the second one had shrunk to the point that made the surgery much easier.  One of the initial concerns was that the tumor(s) were either attached or very close to the chest wall, which would have made for a very difficult surgery.  But it wasn’t.  Thus, the surgery was ‘easy’ and the surgeon was very happy.

Now, here is the part that caused a bit of angst in reading the church bulletin.  We knew going in to the surgery that they were going to remove stuff from the armpit.  They did not know if there was cancer in the lymph nodes, but they were not going to take a chance.  So, during the surgery, they went in to the pit area (sounds like a NASCAR event) and removed a ‘mass of stuff’.  In this ‘mass of stuff’ there were 14 lymph nodes.  Out of these 14 lymph nodes, 6 were cancerous.  Dear reader, this is NOT a surprise.  And this is NOT a bad thing.  It would have been bad had they not removed them.  But it was suspected for quite some time that there was cancer in the nodes, and the pathology only confirmed the suspicion.   Thus, there is no reason for us to be alarmed or upset at this bit of news…we pretty much expected it.  That is the part that I did not clarify in the church bulletin.  For those who were alarmed when they read that, I apologize for not being more clear.  For those who were just confused by it….the confusion should be over now.  If not, ask me and I’ll try explain it (‘splain, Lucy). 

As of right now, dear reader, everything is going according to plan.  Dianne continues to do her physiotherapy at home, and she continues to heal.  Some of the side effects that were caused by the chemo / steroid combination are disappearing (including the insomnia).  Although she is not looking forward to Radiation, the benefits far out-weigh the risks, thus it is easier to face.  It is going to be a long month (October).  She will be going to the CCI 5 days a week until she hits her allotted amount of treatments.  If she needs rides, we will be contacting our Helping Hands coordinator (Karen, I believe that is still you, right?).  For at least the first couple weeks, she will be using the bus service on days the Rebecca is in Kindergarten (except Tuesdays, because apparently Marlene is taking her every Tuesday (Thanks Marlene, you are a real sweetheart and we love you to pieces)).  On non kindergarten days, I am taking an extended lunch (and extending my shift at the end of the day) in order to pick up Dianne and Beck, go to the CCI, get treated and get them back home.  (Thanks to my boss for being the most awesome and amazing boss EVER!!!!)  And all that should take us through the month of October.

Dear reader…again I say…all is well.  Dianne has the one major hurdle left, and we trust that God will give us the strength to get through this as much as He has been with us during this whole process.  I’d like to give a shout out to my mom, who spent a few days with us to help out.  Mom did a bunch of work for us, she drove Dianne to some appointments and was generally a real joy to have in the house.  Thanks Mom, we love you lots!!!!  And once again, dear reader, thanks to everyone who is praying for us, sending us positive vibes and helping out in whatever way they can.  We truly appreciate everything, and words cannot express the gratitude we feel.

And with that, I must get back to work.  I must get my mind off of prosthetics and back onto computers.  As difficult a task as this may seem, I can do it.  And if I can’t, I’ll at least have a smile on my face for the remainder of the day. 



Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Quickie….

Ok, then….here we go.  A really quick update.  No, I’m not much in the mood for writing…I have a game of Medieval II: Total War waiting for me.  Plus I’m not feeling too inspired tonight.  Thus, you get this update in a quick manner.

As much as I’d love to say “All is well” and end this thing….I can’t.  I owe it to you, dear reader, to provide a bit more detail.  You have stuck with me for almost 8 months (or is it more?), and so I will give an alluring look into the day.

All is well.


Ok. Ok.  A sad attempt at humour.  I’ll not try that again.  *sigh* 

The day started out wonderfully….we got David on the bus to go to school, and the rest of us were ready to go immediately after that.  So, we headed off to St. Albert, to the surgeons office, for Dianne’s scheduled appointment.  When we got there, the door was locked, and the secretary (remember her of great notoriety?) was seated at her desk (I could see her as I plastered my face against the window).  When she unlocked the door, she did not greet us at all.  So, in a very dignified and tactful manner, I bellowed “Good Morning!!!!!!!”  Someone needed more coffee this morning.  It turns out that our appointment was not at this particular office, but at the hospital.  I’m still wondering why we weren’t informed of this.  We asked the secretary to phone the hospital and let them know we’d be a wee bit late for the 8:15 appointment, and with that…..we scampered off.

And, the joy continued.  When we got to the hospital, we asked the admitting office where the Outpatient office was.  They pointed it out to us (across the foyer from them), and then proceeded to make sure we were supposed to be there.  We were….things are good again.  So, we shuffle across the foyer and let the nurse at the desk of the Outpatient clinic know that Dianne was there for her 8:15 appointment with the surgeon.  Again, someone desperately needed coffee.  We were told that Dianne needed to be admitted (didn’t the admitting office just verify that Dianne was admitted, registered, paper-worked, stamped and verified?)  With a mighty sigh, we shuffled back across the foyer to the admitting office, and told them that apparently Dianne still needed to be admitted.  The admitting nurse bellowed at the outpatient clinic nurse that Dianne was admitted, registered, paper-worked, stamped and verified.  The outpatient clinic nurse bellowed back for the paper work (complete with registration, admittance, stamps and verification).

Have you kept up with me, dear reader?  Well then, Dianne finally got to see the surgeon (I stayed in the foyer with Rebecca and read her a Winnie the Pooh book).  Here is the part you’ve all been waiting for…….wait for it……wait for it……

All is well. 

The surgeon was very pleased at how well Dianne is healing.  Things are looking very well.  There is no sign of infection.  One of the 3 drains was removed.  And that is the update.  See, like I said…all is well.  Dianne is feeling good, and is still constantly exercising her arms (especially the left one), and that is coming along nicely.  The surgeon is going to refer Dianne to a plastic surgeon with a view towards reconstructive surgery, but there is apparently a 1 year to 1.5 year waiting list for this.  No big deal, as Dianne will be able to wear prosthetics until a permanent set can be put in place.  Once the drains are out, and there is no tenderness in the area she can go in for a fitting. 

Honestly, dear reader…..all is well.  We are very thankful for how things are progressing.  A quick shout-out to Annette, Charlaine and Evelyn for the meals you’ve provided this week.  They were absolutely wonderful (well, Annette’s and Charlaine’s were….Evelyn’s we are having tomorrow night and I’m sure it will be great!!). 

And with that….I have to go cause some massive destruction in 1080 AD England, and continue my quest to conquer my foes in that wonderful game called Medieval II: Total War.  (I should get royalties for that shameless plug).



Monday, September 7, 2009

Two down, One to go

Hello again, dear reader.  I’d love to claim that the title of today’s update is something very clever, but really it isn’t.  Basically, all it means is that two major hurdles in Dianne’s fight against breast cancer have passed….chemotherapy and surgery.  And, there is one major hurdle remaining….radiation.  Oh, I’m not discounting the whole recovery process, both physical and mental, but from a medical perspective it truly is two down, one to go.  So, without further ado, let me take you through what was the day of surgery, and bring you all the way up to today, followed by a brief glimpse into the future.

A lot of what I’m going to write today is pretty much the long version of my Facebook updates which were posted the day of surgery.  So, for all you FB addicts, this is going to rehash all of that.  For those who don’t do FB, here is what happened.

Our day started at about 4:45AM September 2nd.  That is when the alarm woke us up.  It was precisely that moment when I realized what time it was that I truly decided I did NOT miss being a baker.  Nope, I don’t miss it one bit.  I am still very thankful that I woke up to the smell of coffee brewing…if I had to put it all together that morning, who knows what I would have ended up with.  Once the coffee was poured, thermos filled (you didn’t think I was going to drink hospital coffee, did you?), laptop was packed, Dianne was ready…..we left.  And we managed to leave the house without waking up the kids or the babysitter.  It is amazing what one can do with ones eyes closed.

We had been warned that the admitting process at the hospital could take up to 15 minutes.  Well, 30 seconds after arrival, we were done and Dianne was admitted.  So, we went up to Unit 28, were shown the room that she could call home for a bit, and then had to go over some paperwork.   Dear reader, do you remember from the last entry the kerfuffle we had with the whole double vs.. single thing?  And the mix up with the consent forms?  Well, guess what?  Yup, you guessed it….the consent form on record at the hospital was for a single.  It was at this point that I was very very prepared to get very very angry….but I held it in check.  Needless to say, neither Dianne nor I was impressed.  So, we mentioned this to the nurse.  The only thing she could suggest was to make sure the anesthesiologist (wow, my spell checker didn’t barf at that!!!) didn’t touch Dianne until she had a chance to talk to the surgeon.  And so…..we waited.

Around 7:05, Dianne was wheeled away.  So, I sat there, in her room…drank coffee and played video games on the laptop.  Surgery was scheduled for 7:45, and it being about a 3 hour procedure, I was expecting to see her again around 11:30 or 12:00.  At the very least, I was expecting to hear from someone a report on the surgery and Dianne’s state.  But, no.  Nothing.  12:30….1:00….1:15….fingernails worn down to the nub, heart racing, mind racing….video game racing!!!!  w00t w00t!!  Just kidding, I don’t have a racing game on the laptop.  I was tempted briefly to go down and try find someone to talk with, but I figured it would be my luck to have the surgeon show up in the room as I’m wandering aimlessly looking for someone with some information.  So I sat.  And drank coffee.

Finally, just before 2:00, Dianne was wheeled back into the room.  She was awake and alert.  I was given 30 seconds to say hi before I was booted out.  They had to get her into her bed, check her vitals, arrange the drains and catheter, and make sure she was semi-comfortable.  After that, I was allowed in.  We chatted about how she was feeling, the pain level, and the pre-surgery conversation with the surgeon.  My fear was that she’d come back with only a single mastectomy.  Alas, my fear was un-founded.  We had huge confidence in the surgeon from the day we met her, and that confidence was renewed this day.  When Dianne talked to her pre-surgery, her first words were (and I quote, so don’t gripe at me for my language): “What the hell is going on here?”.  Yes, dear reader, the surgeon was apparently livid at all the BS going on.  She felt horrible for us having to go through what we did to get the surgery date changed (it was her that moved the date, so speculation on that is ended).  She was furious that the proper consent form did not make its way from her office to the hospital.  Well, she righted the wrong.  She changed the consent form with one stroke of her mighty pen, and proceeded to perform the double mastectomy with a mighty stroke of her scalpel. 

From what we understand, the surgery was a success!!  One of the two tumors that was in the left breast had disappeared completely (YAY FOR CHEMO!!!) and the tumor that was left had NOT attached itself to the chest wall.  Because of the size of the tumor(s), this was a concern going in.  But, because it was not attached, the surgery was much ‘easier’ than what it could have been.  Also, the surgeon did remove a ‘fatty mass’ from under the arm, but we don’t know as of this writing what was all contained in this mass (IE: cancer, lymph nodes).  There was a pathologist on hand to take the cuttings away for testing.  We are hoping at some point to find out what was what. 

On Thursday morning, I received a phone call at 9:00 in the morning from the Sturgeon Hospital informing me that I could come and pick Dianne up.  So, I quickly fed the kids, got them dressed and off we went to go get her.  The 3 of us were very excited to have her come home…and I’m sure she was happy to be going home to her own bed, home-cooked meals and a much less noisy roomate (I purposely left out the room-mate story, but suffice it to say that there was a lot of burping, farting, chewing loudly with mouth open etc etc).  It was a good day on Thursday.

Dear reader, today is Monday…5 days after surgery.  Dianne is recovering well.  She has almost full motion back in the right arm, but the left arm needs a bit of work yet.  She exercises it regularly during the day, and is hoping she won’t have to go for physiotherapy.  She still has 3 drains attached, which are still draining copious amounts of fluid (well, 2 of the 3 are…the third one just looks bored).  We have had a homecare nurse come in once so far….this was on Friday, at which time the bandages came off.  On Wednesday, she goes for an appointment with the surgeon (hmm…same secretary or different?).  I will post an update here hopefully Wednesday night.

As for the future…well, time will tell.  We will find out some of it during the visit to the surgeon (IE: physio yes or no, drains out or not etc etc).  We do know that radiation will be starting in the beginning of October, and this will run for 5 days per week, and a minimum of 4 weeks.  Beyond that, we just don’t know yet.  Time will tell.

And that, dear reader brings you up to date.  Once again, we thank you all for your thoughts and prayers, and your support in whatever fashion you have provided it.  Every little bit helps.  Check the blog Thursday…hopefully I’ll have another update.

Until then….goodnight.