Cameron and Kacey

Cameron and Kacey
My Beautiful Angels

Friday, April 30, 2010

Some Fun Before the "Not So Fun" Begins

So I now feel that I DEFINITELY made the "right" decision. EVERYONE is behind me 110%, including my radiation oncologist at Mass. General whom I spoke with this morning. He said he could tell I was not in the right frame of mind to go into the surgery and he was also trying to figure out another method to go about this and shrink the tumor before thinking about surgery. So he is on board with my choice as well. It doesn't hurt that he worked with these docs at Dana Farber for over 15 years before starting the Head and Neck Center at Mass. General.

I got a call today from Brigham and Women's Hospital's Day Surgery Dept. this morning. I am having my Porta-Cath inserted into my chest on Monday morning at the UNGODLY hour of 6am!! I think my Dad is rethinking his choice to take me into Boston that day!! But the good thing is that we will be in and out early, so traffic either way. This will make it much easier to give me my chemo meds, draw blood and hydrate me without having to stick a vein every time.

And then on Tuesday, I meet with my medical oncologist to sign the consents for the chemo and I begin my first round of treatment. Not sure how long it takes before the effects begin to set in, but I am trying to be as optimistic as I can and stay positive right from the beginning. They also said my hair would begin falling out within the first 2-3 weeks, so I am going next Friday to get my new "do"! Gonna cut it REAL short so it is less dramatic when it falls out, both for the kids and me!! I'll post a pic when I do!

But until then, Jen and I are taking Cameron, Kacey and Peyton away overnight tonight to CoCo Key Indoor Water Resort for a few days of fun! Think we all need it and will be a time time away before all of the treatments begin.

I want to thank everyone again for their positive vibes, messages and prayers!! Please keep them coming as they are working wonders apparently!!

Love you all!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A "Better" Choice...

Where do I even begin after my “whirl-wind” day yesterday? We went to the Dana Farber for a second opinion. My thought for doing this was to get peace of mind that I was doing the right thing about my treatment. I figured they were going to say basically the same thing my doctors at Mass. General said and I would feel like I was making the right choice. Boy was I wrong!

The Farber is an incredible place. I was amazed the moment we walked in the door. We met with a team of doctors, including radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists, and medical oncologists. They did a full “background” check and got my history. Then the team did a physical exam, including a scope of my vocal cords and nasopharynx (THAT was fun! Yuck!). After that they left to discuss my case.

Everything changed the next time the door opened! The surgical oncologist and radiation oncologists came back in and my worst fear came true! They had decided as a group that the carotid surgery was NOT the way to go and had too many risks. This is what I had felt since day one and was not confident about the surgery at all!

So they were now suggesting that I begin nine weeks of very aggressive chemotherapy, three cycles, of three very strong chemo drugs (Cisplatin, Taxotere, and Fluorouracil, also called 5-FU). They have had much success with treating squamous cell carcinoma with this regiment and feel that it will respond well to the drugs. I have also never had chemo before so they think I will tolerate it well, being young and healthy, and that it will either eliminate the tumor or shrink it enough to then do a less risky surgery and treat it further with radiation and a lesser dose of chemo.

So now, as I looked at my Mom and Dad who were sitting in the room with me, I was so confused and flooded with information, I did not know what to do! But for some reason, a strange calm came over me and I knew the choice I had to make. Since the day the doctors at Mass. General suggested the surgery, it had not sat well with me. I never ONCE had a positive feeling about this surgery option and actually had more negative feelings than I care to share. There was NO way I could go in for MAJOR surgery, as risky as it would be, feeling the way I did.

I finally had a plan that I was willing to try and actually felt GOOD about! Sure, I am not thrilled to deal with side effects from infusion chemotherapy for nine weeks. Nor am I thrilled to lose all of my hair, but it will give me an excuse to buy some new baseball hats!!

So after talking this plan over with the doctors at DF quite extensively, I decided that in my heart I KNEW that this was the “better” choice for me. So I go back to DF tomorrow, Thursday, for a full-body PET scan to make sure this damn disease has not spread to anywhere else. Then I go on Monday to have my Porta-cath inserted in my chest for the chemo infusions. And at 7:45am on Tuesday morning, I begin my treatments.

I also know that I cannot do this alone with two young kids at home. They say I'll be too fatigued to take care of myself, never mind Cam and Kacey. So Mom has "graciously" offered to move in when necessary. Oh what fun that will be!! Just kidding Mom!! I love you and Dad and couldn't do this without either of you!! And I am sure Jen will be there when my parents are not. Not easy for her either with three kids at home under 3 1/2! Love you for that, Bub! The kids will also be staying with Chris and his parents a bit more than usual, and I thank them greatly for that as well. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful support system of family and friends that will give up things in their own lives to make sure I get better and my kids are taken care of.

I feel like I have been given another chance. I feel relieved that I am not thinking about the surgery now. I finally feel like I have a plan, that I have some control over. I finally feel like I have some peace and that I can now move forward and get rid of this disease once and for all! Is it the right choice? Who knows! But it feels like the “better” choice. And a choice I can live with….and hopefully for a long, long time!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Still Waiting.....

Well, the kids and I had a pretty good week off from school. It was nice to have some time to spend with them. We went to the Children's Museum in Boston, watched Dan run the Boston Marathon, went for a picnic, had TBall practice, visited our new 6 week old friend Teresa, and many other fun things.

But unfortunately, I still do not have a surgery date or dates for my pre-op tests yet. I called three doctors this week and have heard nothing. So I am going to enjoy my weekend and get on those docs Monday for answers. This waiting is killing me and my anxiety is starting to get the best of me. I need to get this surgery over with and behind me so I can move on to the treatments and the part of the process that I feel like I have at least some control over.

I also have an appointment at Dana Farber on Tuesday afternoon for a second opinion. I can't see them telling me anything too different, but more for my peace of mind that I am making the right decision, if and when they finally decide to do this surgery!

So today, the whole family is coming to weed, edge and mulch my gardens! They are wonderful and I can't thank them enough! One less thing for me to worry about this Spring.

Thank you for all the well wishes, positive vibes and prayers.....I appreciate them all and love you all very much!!

Have a super weekend!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dear Cancer....I am stronger than you....Game OVER!!!

This blog is just one of the first steps in my battle against cancer for the third time. I figured it may help me emotionally to be able to post my progress in this fight and to keep my family and friends informed of what is going on.

My first battle began in March of 1998 when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma at the age of 27. I felt a "lump" in my neck, that a year prior they told me was mono and never really went away. I had the lymph node removed and it was positively diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. I underwent weeks of radiation therapy from my diaphragm up to my ears. My throat got so sore that I was unable eat or drink. As I finally finished treatments, I was then admitted to the hospital because my digestive system was shutting down and I had lost 30 lbs. in less than 2 weeks. The doctors finally decided to insert an NG tube through my nose to feed me nutrients. Within 24 hours, I was a new person. The tube was a removed a week later and I finally began my recovery.

In November of 2005, I had what I thought was a canker sore or "ulcer" on the right side of my tongue. After visiting the dentist, it was decided to wait until after Kacey was born in December to further any decisions. In March of 2006, I had my first biopsy of the spot on my tongue. It came back with "abnormal" cells, but nothing cancerous. The sore did not heal and I then returned to the oral surgeon for another biopsy. After much convincing, he finally did another biopsy, telling me all along "that if I was his sister he would say that everything was okay and not to worry about it." Glad I was NOT his sister and demanded that he did another biopsy because this one came back positive for Squamous Call Carcinoma. I had surgery in April of '06 to remove a portion of my tongue, where the "host" tumor was, and 17 lymph nodes on the right side of my neck, one of which was positive for squamous cell. After almost 8 weeks recovery, I began external radiation to my tongue and neck. This went on for 23 treatments. I had a G-Tube placed into my stomach because my throat got too sore to eat and I did not want to get too weak that I would not be able to continue treatments like with my Hodgkin's treatments. After a few weeks of recovery, I had surgery again to place 10 catheters up through my chin and into my tongue. Small radioactive capsules were then threaded into these catheters where I was placed in isolation for 4 days to receive high doses of radiation internally into my tongue. Most people would have enjoyed four days of isolation, away from work and the kids, but keep in mind I had a 2 1/2 year old and an 8 month old at home. This was no vacation. I finally recovered from this treatment and returned to work in October of 2006.

I have been "cancer-free" for almost 4 years, when I felt another "lump" above my collar bone on the right side of my neck in February of this year. After 2 weeks of "waiting" to see if it was just an over-reactive lymph node, I went to the doctor, who was convinced it was nothing more than a reactive lymph node or an infection. Boy was he surprised when I had a CT scan that saw a suspicious mass and a needle biopspy that confirmed that is was again squamous cell.

This fight has already began to prove that it is going to be "different" than the others. Unfortunately, it seems that the tumor has attached itself to my carotid artery. After many appointments with my oncologists, head/neck surgeon, and vascular surgeon, it has been decided that it is my best option to remove the tumor and a section of my carotid artery on the right side and hopefully bypass the carotid so I do not lose the blood flow completely. As risky as this surgery is, it is my only choice to rid my body of the cancer and "cure" me, not just prolong my life. And with two beautiful angels at home that need their Mommy, I must chose the best option for a long life with them.

I do not have a surgery date yet and have to have many pre-op tests done before the surgery can take place. I am hoping to hear from the doctors this week to begin the scheduling of those tests so I can get this surgery behind me and continue moving forward. After a 4-6 week recovery period after the surgery, I will begin a 5-6 week period of external radiation and probably a low-dose chemotherapy once a week to increase the effectiveness of the radiation.

I am holding my head high and trying to live each day with a smile on my face. I am scared, as you can imagine, but I know what I have to do and want to prove to myself and everyone else that I can beat this damn disease once and for all...or is that thrice and for all!?!?

Please keep me and my family in your thoughts and prayers....

I am a FIGHTER and I will SURVIVE!!!!