Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Home... Maybe?!

Dr. Reid surprised us this afternoon by clamping my chest tubes. I will have an x-ray taken first thing in the morning. If my lung is doing fine, dealing with the extra fluid, the chest tubes are pulled, which I've heard might not feel the greatest. Then my epidural will be turned off and I start the oxycodon. I'm monitored for a few hours, then it's time to bust out! I'm really hoping tomorrow night I'll be home in my own bed. Crossing our fingers.

In other good news, the tubes have started to come out. First it was my catheter, then my central line. I didn't realize how much I really missed going #1 without the help of a tube! My mother-in-law saw the nurse take the stitches and central line out of my neck. She's a woman after my own heart, as she got her face down by all the action. Pretty neat stuff!

Today was the first day I broke down and cried after visiting with the kids and then watching them leave, again. Hopefully tonight was the last time I'll have to do that! Keep the love and prayers coming. It means more than you know!

Love,
Jamie

Hospitals... and the drama therein

Anyone who knows me well enough knows I like to joke and laugh. So does Jake. His sense of humor (and smile) are what drew me to him the first time we met. We like to laugh about the same things, although, he will tell you I'm a little more "open" sometimes than I should be and maybe that's true, but I think this week I've earned some "open" time.  Feel free to skip this post if you feel it might offend you. Not my intention. Just want to make you laugh and smile. :). So, pull up a chair and stay awhile. Here is a post dedicated to my hospital journey thus far.
I have tubes.  Lots of them.  They are coming out of every orifice of my body.  It sometimes takes two other people, besides myself, to entangle me enough to get me across the room.  I feel like a robot, connected to every plug and outlet the doctors and nurses can get their hands on.  Also, NEVER take your pulse oximeter off your finger unless it's a life or death emergency.  You will get the nurse running into your room within 1 minute, making sure you're still alive and all is well.  What can I say?  I just want to be free and one less thing I'm attached to gives me that tiny taste of freedom I've been craving.  Also, not being able to type with my right index finger is driving me CRAZY, so if there are any typos, I apologize.  Just know it's not me losing my grammar skills, it's my middle finger's fault.  It can't keep up with my brain like my index finger can.  (*** Update:  My friend, Polly, and her family came to visit tonight.  I explained to her this unnerving problem about the oximeter and she suggested, half joking, that we just put it on my toe.  My nurse, Stacey, said "Sure.  We can try that."  So within a few seconds this small annoyance was attached to my middle toe and now here I am, typing again with all needed fingers.  What would I do without you, Polly?!)
I haven't had a full body shower since June 22nd.  Doing the math?  We are going on 8 days.  Thankfully, I've had a few sponge baths, one of them given to me by my mom and good friend, Abby.  (Now we are REALLY good friends!)  Thanks, Abby.  Maybe someday I'll be able to return the favor.  Or maybe not.  I've been told the day you actually are allowed to finally shower is "the most wonderful day of your life."  I assume I will be as happy as the man pictured above.
     
I've had problems with my catheter since Day One.  I get air blocks once or twice a day which means it feels like I really need to go #1, but it's really just the catheter having problems.  I had a great moment a couple days ago as I was walking on the treadmill with my friend, Ashley, the exercise therapist.  She had to leave and help another patient for a minute, so I got Jeff to monitor me while she stepped out.  In those few minutes I suddenly felt wetness down below.  It turns out the balloon at the end of my catheter had shifted a little, causing some "bladder fluid" to drip down my legs as I continued to walk.  I believe Jeff was *slightly* disturbed by the incident, but have been told he is "used to stuff like this."  Hmm... for some reason, I'm not entirely believing that to be true.
Enemas and bowel movements.  Need I say more?  (I was going to say more, but Jake made me draw the line somewhere so I'm ending it.)

I'm starting to forget how it feels to wear "real clothes", underwear and all.  I can see how people in Europe find this sort of thing comfortable, and convenient, and choose it on a weekly (and I'm sure even in some cases), on a daily basis.
It seems I have become like family to people who I didn't even know existed a week ago.  We have cute Ilse, a 50-year old CNA from Colombia.  She just got married 2 months ago to her dream man, "a blond haired, blue eyed American."  Then there is sweet Anne.  Her huge smile is infectious and it's hard not to feel good around her.  She has 4th of July plans with groups of friends all over the valley and hasn't figured out where she's going yet.  (Popular girl! ;) )  Joselyn is one of my favorite night RNs who doesn't own a tv, likes working the night shift, and likes to ski at Alta and Snowbird.  Jeff is a fun one.  From first glance he looks to be a quiet, 40 year old introvert, but really, he's the guitarist in a butt rock band called Werewolf Afro.  They sing Led Zepplin and ACDC-inspired music, written by him.  Audrey is a cardiac exercise therapist who just started dating this 30 year old guy 2 months ago.  She really likes him and sees there is a potential future there, but she's worried she might be going a little too fast and might miss the "red flags" (if there are any) because she is so enamored with him.  Desiree is having her first baby in September, a boy with no name, although they are taking suggestions.  Teresa has three girls who are all grown.  It was hard for her to raise them because she is a tom boy and her girls were not.  She thinks she would have done better with all boys, but I disagree with her.  I'm sure she was an excellent mom to her girls.  Andrea, a beautiful and intelligent 25 year old exercise therapist gets teased by her 30 year old roommates that she's an "old maid."  She's watching the new Twilight movie right this very minute.  Her sister got 3 free tickets but decided in the end not to use them because the showing is down in Provo and she is in North Ogden, so Andrea got them.  (She promised me a full report tomorrow!)  My favorite story yet, Daysi.  She and her husband are from El Salvador, working here with visas.  They cannot return to their home country or the visas are taken, so Daysi has not seen her father for over 12 years.  Her parents have also been trying to get visas but her dad has not been able to. (Her mom did after a few tries.)  It's $125 to apply for a visa and they lose the money each and every time he submits his application, even if he doesn't get the actual visa.  It's a lot of money to lose, especially to people who have really no money to begin with.  Daysi would love to be a stay-at-home-mom but says she can't.  Since her parents are not doing well financially, she chooses to keep working (despite having a 6 year old son, 4 year old daughter, and a 2 month old daughter at home) because the money she earns she sends down to her parents.  When I tell her how amazing she is, her response is how she wishes she could "give more."  In my mind I see what she is giving already (her time away from her children, money that could help her own family become more financially stable, etc.)  She tears up when I tell her that.  She is a beautiful, amazing woman.  And so, well... you get the picture.  I'm slowly becoming a permanent fixture here at the hospital.  I'm already plotting out where to hang my favorite pictures, imagining a different wall color, wanting to change up the window treatments.  (Clearly I've been here too long, although, there is a 20 year old patient who spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and his birthday here on the fourth floor.  He was living with an artificial heart, just waiting for a transplant.  He's 6'9" which means the 'big' guy needed a 'big' heart, and that's why the 8 month stay.  He finally got one last week.  He just left ICU this morning and returned to this floor today.  To welcome him back, the nurses toilet papered his room.  He is planning to go home at the end of the week.  I can't imagine being that guy.  What a trooper!)  
I have an interior jugular central line.  It has three little ports that can have blood taken out of them, medicine put into them, etc.  I think I much prefer this IV compared to one in my arm that I have to be pretty careful with, and the site needs to be changed every 3 days.  By the way, just found out this morning that this central line is stitched into my neck.  Didn't realize that until I checked it out in the mirror.  It's a little Frankenstein-ish.  (*** Heidi, thanks for correcting me.  Thought this whole time it was a picc line.  Oops.)  

Well, that's enough stories for one day.  As for an update, last Saturday the suction for my chest fluid was turned off, and then I was monitored for 24 hours to see how my body reacted.  The next day the suction was turned back on because it looked as though my remaining lung was moving downward a tiny bit and had the potential to collapse.  The doctor had me wait it out a few more days, and then finally turned off the suction again today.  I'll have another x-ray in the morning and Dr. Reid will decide if I go back on suction, or the tubes get clamped for the day.  If they get clamped, good sign.  They will monitor me for another 24 hours.  If I'm still good, the chest tubes will be removed, along with the picc line, catheter, and epidural.  I'll be transitioned to percocet for the pain and if all goes well, the earliest I could leave would be Thursday night, but the doctor said more like Friday.  We are cutting this 5K close.  We have a wheelchair ready and waiting for me to use on Saturday morning.  Crossing my fingers I'll be able to make it!

Well, that's it for now.  I will try and update tomorrow once we know more.

Love,
Jamie

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Miracles

I just had to write and share something I learned yesterday afternoon.  My surgeon called one last time around 6:30pm to check on me and let me know he would be gone for the weekend, and he would see me on Monday.  As we were chatting about the surgery and recovery, Dr. Reid shared an interesting situation that happened while he was operating.  He said there was a moment right after my middle and lower lobes had been removed, a huge hole in my chest cavity was exposed, and Dr. Reid, another surgeon, and the pathologist were staring at my upper lobe, deciding if they should take it or not.  All three men debated back and forth about what to do, and at the last minute my surgeon said “No, we are leaving it.”  There was still a small chance that those strange looking cells were not cancer, but if they were, he felt that taking my upper lobe (which would leave me with only my left, smaller lung) would dramatically change my life.  I would get winded easily, exercise would be harder, and that loss of lung capacity would be very noticeable.  Dr. Reid then said I was a young, healthy, active mom and I needed all the extra time I could get out of that upper lobe.  He had mentioned the day before that once the tumor got big enough to make an impact (could take years to reach that point) then the upper lobe would be removed.   Here I thought I would leave the hospital cancer-free, then the surgeon said it was very possible I would leave with cancer cells that would eventually become another tumor that would need to be removed, performing this exact same surgery years down the road.  I was devastated.  Dr. Reid continued with his story…  He told the team to hold off, so they sewed me up, keeping my upper lobe in place.  Jake and I both feel that doctors are usually fairly conservative in making cancer diagnoses and so for three doctors to tell us they were pretty certain that these strange, inflamed cells were cancer, makes us believe that they probably were.  I know many, many people were thinking about us, and praying many, many prayers for us Wednesday night and Thursday.  Fastforward to Friday morning, Dr. Reid called with the results and said the strange cells were just very inflamed cells from the biopsy done a few days before, and nothing more.  Also, he found a huge lymphnode that he also suspected to be cancerous, then it turned out to be clear.  He seemed just as surprised as I was when he told us the news.  I know God answers prayers, and I really feel he answered them here in healing me.  We had two other mini-miracles today.  #1 I am off the lung suction now and the fluid is just draining on its own.  The doctors like to get a chest x-ray after the suction is turned off, just to make sure the lung is doing okay, working on its own to get the fluid out.  After my x-ray, the tech came out and said “Wow, you should get your dr to let you look at this x-ray.  Your upper lobe has taken up quite a bit of that empty space that’s in there now.”  I was told that would happen over time, not 2 ½ days after surgery.  #2  My friend, and coincidentally my exercise therapist, Ashley Buck, has been getting me up twice a day to walk around the floor.  It's really important to get up because that exercise helps get your bowels moving, gets the blood circulating, and overall, improves your recovery time.  Well, just 12 hours out of the ICU I was moved to the main floor.  I was able to walk, pushing my IV pole the entire way, never riding in a wheel chair.  (I'm told this rarely happens that soon out of surgery.)  Then Thursday morning I walked the entire floor once.  Later that afternoon I walked it twice.  Yesterday I managed to walk the floor 6 times in a row, which I was told was 1/2 mile.  This morning Ashley felt I was strong enough to walk on the treadmill, so this morning we headed over to the little exercise room on our floor and I walked ONE MILE!  Then this afternoon we went back and I walked 1.27 miles.  Yes, just barely 3 days out of surgery and I walked 2.27 miles.  (Ashley said she has never heard of any patient doing that before, which made me feel pretty good. ;) )  I have been training some friends for the past few months to get them ready to do the NSL 5K, which is July 3rd.  When all this craziness happened I thought for sure I would have to pull out of the race.  Well, now I have a tiny bit of hope.  I might actually be able to walk the whole thing, being only 3 or 4 days out of the hospital.  (Don't worry.  I'm going to be careful.  My friends are going to walk alongside me, pushing a wheelchair in case I need to jump in it and rest... but I want to at least give it a try.)  Again, huge blessings. 

As a quick recovery report, I’m doing well.  Last night, however, I had a little incident that set me back a little bit.  We had visitors in my room and at one point I tried to shift myself up and over to the middle of my bed and my right hand was on one of my chest tubes, and I didn’t realize it.  When I lifted up, the pressure tweaked the tube a little and it began to rub against my lung, causing horrible pain each time I breathed in.  Over the course of a few hours the pain became unbearable.  I was in tears, writhing in pain, wondering what I had done to cause myself so much pain.  The rest of the night the nurses kept me drugged so I could relax and get some sleep.  When I woke up I had slight pain at my incision site, but thankfully, the pain I had felt the night before was gone.

The dr expects me to be here until Tuesday or Wednesday because my lung fluid is still draining quite a bit.  Once it slows down, the tubes will be clamped off and I will be monitored to see how I do.  If the extra fluid is getting absorbed into my chest wall, then the chest tubes, picc line, epidural, and catheter will be taken out.  No more wires hooked to me!  At that point I will only be on oral pain meds, and again will be monitored for the day to make sure I’m handling the transition okay.  Once all that is over with, I will be discharged.  Can’t wait to get home and continue the recovery process there, with the family by my side.

Thanks, again, for all the good thoughts and prayers sent our way these past few weeks.  Jake and I are so grateful and know we have seen miracles happen this week.  We are truly thankful and humbled.

Love,
Jamie

PS Because you always need pics in a post:

A picture taken after the Hobble Creek Half Marathon last summer with my BBC runner friends, and then another pic of them visiting me in the hospital.  Thanks Heidi, Leslie, and Megan for coming to visit.  It meant a lot!  (Also, thank you to all my other BBC runner girls who I'm sure wanted to make it but couldn't.)



Friday, June 25, 2010

I Am Cancer-Free!!!

I just got a phone call from my surgeon saying the pathology report was in. The upper lobe cells in question were only inflamed, none of them cancer. My lymphnodes came out clear as well, and then Dr. Reid said those glorious words... I am CANCER-FREE!  My mom and I were ready to do cartwheels down the hall. Thanks to everyone for your thoughts, prayers, and well wishes. I have heard and felt them all.

Love,
Jamie

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I'm Alive and Kicking :)

Just wanted you all to know I made it. I'm alive and kicking. ;)  I was wheeled into the OR around 4:30pm. They did a bronchoscopy first, then started the actual surgery around 6pm.  Dr. Reid finished at 10:30pm and then I was brought into the ICU to rest awhile, before the nurse brought back Jake, my mom, and my Grammy to see me. The only thing I remember was asking what time it was and hearing it was midnight. This morning the dr came in and told me how it went. He told me he had to take both lobes, which made me a little sad. Then he said they found a few weird looking cells that were right at the base of the upper lobe. We should get the pathology results tomorrow and see if it is in fact, more cancer cells. Not exactly the news I wanted to hear this morning, but what can you do?  So potentially I might need to lose my upper lobe, depending on what the report says tomorrow.  The dr said he won't want to take it for awhile, though, and he will just monitor it.  I'm not in too much pain. I have an epidural in to manage the incision site pain, which I'm especially grateful for right now. Everyone says I'm being superwoman right now. I was only in the ICU for 12 hours, when most are there 1-2 days.  It makes me feel pretty good to hear that. ;)  I feel extra strength in me from all of you, and of course from God. Hopefully the pathology report shows the upper lobe is fine and I really am cancer-free. Crossing my fingers.

Love,
Jamie

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Surgery Update

I think Jamie would probably want me to send this out. The surgery started about three hours later than we thought it would, so it didn't wrap up until about 10:30 pm. The surgeon told us that Jamie did great. Unfortunately, he had to take both the lower and middle lobes of the right lung (we were hoping to be able to avoid losing the lower lobe). Jamie is moving from the OR to her room in the ICU and we will be able to see her in a few minutes. I'll update a little later with more information, and I'm sure she'll want to post some of the gross pictures they took during the surgery, but I'll do my darnedest to dissuade her. I suspect she'll win that argument. Thanks everyone for your thoughts and prayers.

Update:  If you want to see pictures of the surgery, including some blood, organs, and other potentially gross things, please see below:

One last post

It's 12:15am now, which means it's the day of my surgery. I fell asleep at 10pm but had a CNA come in to check my vitals and can't get back to sleep.

I'm sitting here, alone, propped up in my hospital bed. The room is dark and I hear the humming of the A/C. Surprisingly, I feel calm. I even have a few moments when I forget why I'm here, until I feel the dull ache in my wrist from the IV, and my loud cough rattles the bed. Oh yes, I remember now. We learned some good news today, though. The dr said the tumor looked like it wasn't completely connected yet to my lower lobe, just dropping into it so it's looking like I 'might' get to keep it and only need my middle lobe removed. He did also say, however, if there was even a tiny bit of uncertainty about the tumor being attached, the lobe would need to come out. If even just one cancer cell is left behind, it will come back. So, crossing our fingers and hoping for the best today. I feel very confident in my doctors and their abilities, and I know I'm in very good hands. Just think, by this time tomorrow I will be cancer-free!! So happy and looking forward to saying those words.

Love you all,
Jamie

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Test, tests, and more tests

I'm sitting in my hospital room, waiting for a chest x-ray, and to speak with my surgeon and the anesthesiologist. I thought I was going to be able to go home and sleep in my own my bed tonight but... not going to happen. I had a bunch of breathing tests early this morning. My mom took a sexy picture of me sucking on a tube. I also was told I needed a blood draw from an artery, not a vein, which is a tad painful (so I was told.). It wasn't that bad, until the tech couldn't actually get an artery so he started wiggling the needle in and out and up and down. I almost passed out. He tried one more time, and then thankfully called in a blood-gas tech to do it for him. She got it on the first try. Now both my wrists are bruised. Oh well. It will prepare me for the coming week of "fun" times. After that, I checked into the Heart & Lung unit as a "pre-Thor" patient and am stuck here until after the surgery. I've had an EKG, bloodwork, urine test, glucose check, watched an "informative" video on recovering from heart surgery, a tour of the thoracic ICU, spoke with a PA, RN, and respiratory therapist. It's been a busy day. Tonight I'm losing whatever side and back hair I have, and taking a shower with antiseptic soap. Tomorrow I take another shower with the same soap, get an IV put in my artery, then surgery is scheduled for 1:30pm. It will take 4-5 hours to complete, then I'll be moved to the thoracic ICU for a day or two, then on to the main floor for the rest of my stay.

I apologize if any of this post seems somewhat humorous or sarcastic. It's the best way my mom and I are dealing with the stress of the unknown. We are laughing a lot, but it's mostly nervous giggles. Better to laugh than to cry. Can't wait for this to be over.

Jamie (aka the pin cushion)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Abdomen CT Scan

Just got a call from my dr. I'm not going to lie, my stomach was in knots when I saw the number on the caller ID. The last time my dr called an hour after my CT scan, it wasn't good news. Thankfully, this time that wasn't the case. No tumors in my stomach! The scan came back clear, thank goodness! As a sidenote, I just have to say the gallon of yellow stuff they made me drink before the scan was atrocious. I almost threw up three times, and had stomach issues after (if you know what I mean.) I kept thinking "I've had three c-sections and yet I'm acting wussy because of this nasty drink?! What's wrong with me?!!" Anyway, we are all ready to party tonight, celebrating only one tumor in me and not more! So happy and relieved!

Tomorrow I head back to the hospital at 8:30am for some breathing tests. The surgeon wants to know exactly how much lung functionality I have now. This information will help him know what to expect of my lung function after the surgery. Once I'm done with the breathing tests I'm supposed to stay at the hospital overnight, but I was told they might let me come home. Crossing my fingers. I know I would sleep much better the night before the surgery if I was in my own bed. Then Wednesday is the big day. One perk to going on Wednesday... I get one more day to workout! (yes, I know I'm obsessed.) :)

I really hated that drink... can you tell?!

One More Day

So, we are just now leaving the surgeon's office. He wants to do more extensive breathing tests so has pushed the surgery back to Wednesday afternoon. Dang! Oh well. One more day. I'm getting a ct scan of my abdomen now and will possibly have more tests this afternoon. Just wanted you all to know.

Let's Get This Show on the Road!

We leave in 3 hours for the hospital. I just wanted to check in this morning and tell everyone thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and well wishes. It means so much. People who don't even know me are posting and praying for me and my family and I am so grateful. My mom pulled in last night around 6pm. She drove alone, 12 hours non-stop to get here. I'm so happy she is here to take care of me. Nothing like mom's love to comfort and help heal her child (I feel the same for my own kids.)

So, here's the timeline. We are leaving here at 10:45am and heading to the surgeon's office. We have a consultation with him at 11:15am. After that I'll be sent straight to the Heart and Lung Unit at the hospital and will be poked and prodded all day, maybe have a CT scan if they can fit it in. They want me sleeping at the hospital tonight, then the surgery is Tuesday at 7:30am. I'm told the surgery lasts a couple hours. The official term for this surgery is called a thoracotomy and you can read about it HERE. A little intense, but I just keep reminding myself that once it's over and I'm healed, I'll be a new woman! I'll have Jake's laptop and will try to update my blog from the hospital (or have my mom do it if I'm not up to it.)

Thanks again for all the love, prayers, and support we have felt the past few weeks. Honestly, I feel good. I went to my Body Combat class this morning, got in one last good workout for awhile. I gave it everything I had in me. I'm strong. I feel at peace. I know we will get through this.

See you all on the flip-side.

Love,
Jamie

Friday, June 18, 2010

Priorities & Perspective

Priorities. It’s amazing how the minute you are faced with your own mortality, your priorities seem to change in an instant. What seemed so important at that moment, now seems so trivial. This challenge has helped me to recognize and remember what matters most: My family, my friends, and my relationship with God. I have hugged my kids a little tighter, kissed Jake a lot longer, and said “I love you” so much more. I have been in contact with many friends and family who have buoyed me up and helped me hold it together when I felt like I couldn’t. I have had countless e-mails, phone calls, dinners brought in, offers to babysit, and ears to listen. It is incredibly humbling and has given me extra strength to get through this. I’m so grateful for all of you and hope, someday, somehow, I’ll be able to return the favor.

Perspective. I’ve gained a lot of it this week. My biggest stressor this past year has been dealing with our job situation, which includes our Foreign Service drama. Will Jake pass the OA? Will we all get Class 1 medical clearances? Will Jake get his security clearance? When will we get on the register? And now for the past 3 months we have wondered when that long-awaited e-mail from Pat Evans will come, inviting us to DC for A-100. Well... that all just doesn’t seem to matter so much anymore. We found out today that Jake is ranked 56 out of 169 on the Political register. Ten days ago I would have been really frustrated, cursing those dang 6.0s which seem to get added to the register daily. Today, though, I’m okay with it. We obviously are not meant to be traveling the world right now. We are where we should be... which leads me to my next thought.

Why? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this question. I’ve been taught that God will never give us something He feels we cannot handle. God and I have had quite a few conversations this past week about what He feels I can handle, and what I feel is my limit. Obviously He feels I’m strong enough to deal with this, and so I should be comforted by that, and in a way I am. I just hope this is God’s limit for my trials, and not just the beginning. ;) As I think about this past year and the struggles we have gone through, I’m beginning to see how all those seemingly ‘hard’ things have in a way prepared us for this ‘hard’ thing.  Jake and I decided that we might try and pursue a career with the Foreign Service. What did we have to lose?! Jake ended up passing the OA in DC in November and the entire family needed extensive medical exams to make sure we were ready to live anywhere in the world. It was at that exam when the dr first saw the mass in my lung. I was only two weeks out from my bout with pneumonia so we all figured that’s what it was. My dr recommended that I come back in 2 months for a follow-up, just to make sure my lung had cleared. The State department also asked for that follow-up, and so I waited 2 months to have my second chest x-ray. The mass was still there. My third x-ray was on my birthday, June 8th, and still no change. I was sent to the hospital two days later for a CT scan, and an hour after I left the hospital I got the call. I know that this past year of uncertainty has prepared us for this.

I told my mom how if this had happened at any other point in my life the past 10 years, it would have been much more difficult. I’ve been overweight, pregnant, nursing, overweight, pregnant, nursing, overweight, pregnant, nursing... you get the picture. It has only been in the last 2 years that I’ve really started to focus on getting me healthy. I’m in the best shape of my life. My heart is strong. My lungs are strong, despite having the tumor. My thyroid is regulated. My cholesterol is “near perfect,” so my dr says. I’m not pregnant, thank goodness! I have youth on my side. I know as hard as this will be, my body is prepared and ready.

Yesterday I had lunch with some runner friends of mine and at one point we talked about Heidi’s friend, Julie, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. She is just a little bit older than me, with two kids, and has maybe 6 months left. She is going through chemo and having a hard time. When people ask why she’s doing the chemo because of all the pain and sickness it causes her, and knowing that she’s going to die anyway, her response is that her 1 1/2 year old isn’t going to know who she is and so every extra minute she gets to spend here on Earth with her family is infinitely precious.

That is perspective.

Yes, I know what I’m going through is hard. I would rather keep both my lungs and not have to go through this. I still have moments daily when I feel scared and anxious. I'm not superwoman. I'm worried, even with the biopsy findings, that there is still something they overlooked. (The dr wants to do a CT scan on my abdomen on Monday since I've had stomach issues for nearly two years and we have found nothing wrong through ultrasounds and a HIDA scan last year. He just wants to rule the cancer out to give us all peace of mind.) I'm a little anxious about the surgery, hoping nothing goes wrong. I wonder if my body will ever be 100% again so I can continue to compete in races and push my body to its limit, something I really love and enjoy. So YES. I'm worried. But you know, I have a lot to be thankful for. This cancer isn't very aggressive. It was caught early. I’m ALIVE. And I will beat this.


My dear friends, Meighan, Abby, Kim, Selena, and Amber had the idea of making lung cancer awareness bracelets. Last night we gathered at Abby’s house and made one for each of us. We chatted, ate wonderful food and enjoyed each others’ company until 2am. I know they were all exhausted and probably just wanted to go home and get some shut-eye, but no one made a move until I said I was ready to go. What sweet friends. I’m so lucky to have you ladies in my life. Love you, girls!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The "C" Word

Thursday, June 10th, 2010 I was told I have cancer.

I debated writing about this on here. Jake isn’t too keen on me sharing such personal news on a public blog where anyone can read it. I understand his reasoning, but realize we differ on this subject. Maybe it’s the man in him and the woman in me that makes us respond the way we do. For me, when tragedy strikes, I want friends and family to know. We can always use as many good thoughts, prayers, support, and positive karma coming our way, to help sustain us during difficult times. I have felt strongly I should document this journey here, so I can look back in a few months, and years from now, and remember how I got through one of the hardest trials in my life, and came out stronger because of it. I want my kids to see how our family got through this together, and became more unified because of it, too.

It’s hard to put into words the emotions I felt as I sat across from my doctor, as he pointed out the tumor in my lung. At that moment my life flashed before my eyes. As I looked over at my three kids, trying to sit still in the doctor’s office, my thoughts automatically went to them and to Jake. Is this really happening? How did it happen? Am I going to die? Will Jake and the kids be okay without me? All questions that ran through my head in just those first few seconds. I walked outside in a daze, wondering if what I had just experienced was real or just a horrible dream. I unlocked the van door, let the kids get inside and buckled Josh. I climbed into the driver’s seat and shut the door. Breathe. Stay calm. Breathe. My fingers trembling, I dialed Jake’s number.

It has been 5 days now since we learned the news. A lot has happened since then. We have learned this cancer mass has a name: Typical Carcinoid Tumor. It’s supposedly the “best cancer to have” because it’s operable, slow growing, and doesn’t spread like Atypical carcinoids do. It is located in my right lung, covering the air passageway to my middle lobe, and partially covering the lower lobe. This has caused my middle lobe to be completely collapsed, with no air getting to it. I’ve been told this tumor is most likely the reason for my bouts of pneumonia and bronchitis these past couple years. That was at least a tad comforting to find out, knowing I’m not just someone with a horrible immune system, catching nearly every sickness I come in contact with. This tumor most likely has been there for years, growing slowly, and in the last year has become big enough to notice and cause breathing problems. Jake and I met with a pulmonary disease specialist yesterday who performed a bronchoscopy and biopsy of the tumor tissue. Good news is that the doctor was fairly certain that the tumor did in fact start in the lung and hasn't spread to any other organs. Huge blessings! The only thing we have to be careful about is the cancer coming back, once it's surgically removed. He said there is a small chance that will happen so I will need a bronchoscopy every 6 months for 5 years, and then every year after that. As for the surgery, my middle right lobe will need to be taken out, and it’s a good chance my lower lobe will need to be taken as well. We won’t know for sure about the lower lobe until the dr has me opened up and can get a good look at what he’s dealing with. This lobectomy will take place on Tuesday, the 22nd, just 12 days after I was first told of my “condition.” It’s actually quite a relief that the doctors are moving so quickly on this. I haven’t had too much time to really dwell on the reality of the situation. I’m sure over the next few days it will sink in, but for now, I feel a little numb. We are glad, though, we finally have some answers. Now we need to prepare for what is to come these next few weeks and months. I also have to say I am completely amazed and humbled by the outpouring of love, prayers, and support we have received these past few days. There are people all over the country and world, thinking of and praying for me and my family, and the shear thought of that brings tears to my eyes. Thank you to you all. We feel your love and draw strength from you.

It’s now after midnight and I need to close before I fall asleep at the keyboard. More to come soon.

Jamie

I asked Jake to take a picture of me after the biopsy when I was coming out of sedation. He said I was pretty hilarious. Glad I could be entertaining for him. ;)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Emma's Dance Recital 2010

video
I'm so proud of Emma. She had her dance recital today and did a great job. The first dance is one that just got thrown in a week or two ago. The second is the one her class has been working on the past two months. Emma loved getting her costumes on, wearing mom's makeup, and getting her hair curled. She's definitely a girly girl. Jake and I both are so shocked by her. She can be very shy and yet it seems when she's on stage a different "Emma" takes over. Thanks to Grandma Schip, Aunt Katie, Aunt Mel, cousins Hannah and Isabelle, and dear friend Susi for spending nearly two hours at her recital. Emma loved having you all there. We love you, Emma. Way to go!
Emma, loving her costume and makeup
Emma and her friend, Halle
Emma with her teacher, Miss Jess
Her dance class (Ella, Emma, Halle, Isabelle, and Emmi)
Emma and her cousins, Hannah and Isabelle
Giving mom a squeeze
The whole family, so proud of her!