Thursday, March 26, 2015

Chemo is no joke!

I officially now know what it may actually feel like to get hit by a Mack truck! 

Yesterday morning began at 9:00 a.m. when Kyle and I would go to Metro and they would surgically insert a port into on my right chest.  It was about a 45 minute procedure but by the looks of all of the bandages you would think I had some sort of open heart surgery.  Geesh! 

We would then be whisked away to the Cancer Center which is directly behind the hospital so they could begin my chemo regimen for the day.  Chemo almost did not happen yesterday, however. For my health insurance colleagues...the insurance company truly can be a pain in the butt when getting chemo treatments (each north of $15,000) pre-authorized.  Thanks to Lynda Cerutti for getting me to the VP of this process.  The treatment was literally going to be called off within a half hour Tuesday afternoon because prior authorization had not been granted.  They came through in the 11th hours...whew!

We had a beautiful little 'pod' to ourselves with a TV and a recliner.  I was hooked up to the first chemo bag at 1:00.  They would tell us to set our iPhone timers for 90 minutes for this bag.  Then some at 20 minutes and then the last two at 90 minutes and 2 hours.  At 6:30 last night I was finally unhooked.  Then re-hooked me to a pump that I have attached through my port and sits in a handy dandy fannie pak (No, Becky can't bedazzle it!).  I am receiving 2ML per hour of a pretty strong chemo drug called 5FU (perfect name for this drug) after my day today.  I literally can't stay awake for more than an hour at a time and the nausea is getting worse as the day wears on.  Another interesting side effect I am experiencing is blurry vision so no guarantee's on spelling.

You have heard me talk about Matt Chattfield in my prior blog and we had the distinct privilege of meeting him and his wife yesterday while having chemo.  What a blessing they will be to us.  I had lots of questions and Matt even lifted his shirt for me to see what my scars would look like.  Lets just say my bikini wearing days are over!

Finally home and a beautiful surprise from Kyle.  Brand new bedding for our bed which my mom and one of her friends worked all day on getting ready for me.  For those of you who know us, Kyle likes the finer things in life and I have always been content with Target brand.  I don't want to know how much he spent on this bedding but I can tell you it wasn't purchased at Target.  It was like sleeping in a 5 star hotel!  What a gift!

As rough as this is I am up for the fight!  I have these two beautiful girls who need their momma!  And this will be all worth it when I can say I am a SURVIVOR!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

This week....the fight begins!

Last week Thursday I was able to meet with my medical oncologist, Dr. Dublis.  She seems quite young but so incredibly bright!  Before our meeting she met with the U of M tumor board and Chemo is what was agreed upon.  She explained the reason my surgery was cancelled on Friday is because they want to shrink the tumor in my colon so it will give the surgeon more margin around the tumor to cut.  Chemo will also take care of all of the microscopic cancer cells that surgery cannot. 

I was so impressed by the Metro Health/U of M Cancer Center.  I have always been a Michigan fan so pulling up and seeing the big block M was quite reassuring.  Hail to the Victors!  Seems like a pretty well oiled machine.  After about an hour with Dr Dublis, who was able to show me my PET scan with all of my 'hot' spots (made it real), we were transitioned to Rita, the patient navigator.  Rita works with Dr. Dublis, my insurance company, children's services for my girls and the surgeons office.  Rumor has it she is quite a bulldog and doesn't let anyone slip through the cracks.  This is what we need!  My only concern is that I was easily the youngest in the waiting room by at least 20 years.  That was a little upsetting.

I am scheduled at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday to get my Port inserted underneath my clavicle.  Right from surgery I need to go to the Cancer Center to begin 5 hours of chemo.  I will then be sent home with a pump with a slow chemo drip for 48 hours after.  I will return to the Cancer Center to have the drip removed only to return again in 2 weeks to start the process all over again.  I will be doing 6 rounds of treatment over 3 months then the Colon resection will likely be in late June or early July.  Chemo again and then the liver resection and likely chemo again.  I am just hoping I am one of the lucky one's who responds well and has minimal side effects from the chemo treatment.  (2 full pages of side effects from all of the chemo drugs they are gong to be putting into me.)  Please pray for Kyle, the girls and my parents as I embark on this journey!

Because I am no longer fighting my tiredness, I am using this time before treatment to get a lot of naps!  Thanks to my friend Michelle, I have discovered Unisom.  Finally getting some uninterrupted sleep.  My mom is cleaning my house from top to bottom (it really was not that dirty but apparently doesn't live up to her standards) and my dad has become Jack's best friend, taking him on walks everyday.  I am sending my parents home today to get a break.  I can't imagine watching either of my girls go through this so I can completely understand their need to be by my side.  Kyle is keeping on top of the girl's schedule and their homework.  A special thank you to Century for giving him such flexibility.  It is truly a team effort at the Gildea house!

Yesterday I was able to go to the Irish Jig 5k whose proceeds benefit the Colo Rectal Cancer Foundation.  My Army was in full force!  Thank you to my Chick-lits and their families, my cousins and neighbors who showed up to run, some for the very first time. Seeing your name on a shirt is quite surreal.  Once the race started my immediate  family looked around and we noticed only the Nauta's were left so we went to the bar to drink Bloody Mary's to wait for everyone to finish.  Ha!  Maybe next year we will run!

This was the perfect way to end such a long week.  I feel ready for what lies ahead and truly can feel the power or your prayers. While I do have moments of sadness, I really try not to let myself dwell for more than 10 minutes at a time.  I really feel quite positive.  Overall I am a blessed girl! 
God IS good!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Rolling with the punches

March 18, 2015

I have always loved be in control.  I might even consider myself a bit of a control freak.  Well, I am gonna have to let that go!  When you are diagnosed with cancer things seem to change with every passing hour and for me that is frustrating.  God, grant me patience!  I am no longer in control and need to learn to be at peace with the process.

I had a lot anxiety going into today and I loved all the texts and messages this morning with such words of encouragement.  This post may be somewhat graphic but I need to account for all of my experiences so when I write my New York Times best selling book I have documentation (lol!) 

I would start the day out giving myself an Enema.  Not as bad as I thought!  Not great, but I lived.  This would be in preparation for a Rigid Sigmoidoscopy to determine exactly where the tumor is.  Kyle and my parents went with me today so they could meet Dr. McCahill.  We sat down in the waiting room and fire drill! Ha!  Just  thankful I was not having my procedure yet! 

I have 3 tumors on my liver, one in the left lobe and one in the right.  The other is in a really difficult spot to get to so when they do do my liver resection he is going to take about 1/3 of my liver (did you know your liver is the size of your head?) They can take up to a half so he has plenty of room to work with. 

Into the Rigid this involves a stainless steel tube that they put up your rear and they continually blow air into it.  This allows them to see where the tumor is at.  Before he started he said it wouldn't be nearly as bad as I was probably thinking.  Umm...yea, it was as bad as I was thinking.  Almost lost my cookies a few times. The hope is that the tumor would be completely out of my rectum.  Well,  it measured at 12cm so he called in Northern rectum, Southern colon.  This is in a grey area between having radiation (rectum) and chemo (colon).  Prayers were is high enough I will not need a colostomy!  Dr. McCahill immediately called my oncologist and they both think they are going to fight for chemo at the Tumor Board with U of M tomorrow.  Apparently the long term effects of radiation for someone my age are not ideal. 

So surgery is off for Friday either way.  Dr. Dublis wants me to start either chemo or radiation within a week.  Stay tuned on what cancer killing method they are going to use on me.

I have been so loved this last week, it has felt amazing!  Kyle and I are trying to keep things as normal as possible for the girls.  I even played in my women's volleyball league on Monday night.   Such a great workout! 

Michelle Elzinga (one of my besties who lives a few houses down) comes down every night at 8:00 to pray with me.  I love it!

I have been part of a book club for many years, we call ourselves the Chick-lits!  They, along with my family will be running the Irish Jig this weekend which benefits Colon and Rectal Cancer.  Look for my Army in the t-shirts below:

My life is blessed! and God IS good!


Monday, March 16, 2015

Plan B

Wow...what a whirlwind of emotion this last week!  I feel so good, which I know sounds crazy!  As much as I hated the colonoscopy prep, it actually has helped with my stomach issues. 

I remember in my younger years hearing the words Stage 4 cancer.  Immediatly you knew it was a death sentence.  When my surgical oncologist (Dr. Mcahill) said it for the first time, my heart skipped a beat!  But he was so laid back about it.  I would later ask him about his reference and he said, "dear, you are so lucky to have stage 4 cancer in 2015 and not 1995."  I am good with that explantion...enough said!  He said to prepare for at least 9 months of treatment so it truly is going to be a long haul. 

We met with the Dr. Hamby this morning and good news.  The cancer hasn't spread past my liver.  There are 3 spots on my liver that lit up in the PET scan and my surgeon said that is going to be first priority.  As of today (seems like plans change with every passing hour), surgery is still 'on' for Friday of this week to do my liver resection.  I am upbeat this afternoon because I finally feel like we are moving toward treatment rather than sitting and waiting. 

They do need to do one more test on Wednesday to make sure the tumor in my colon is not in my rectum (it is in a very grey area) which is totally different treatment plan.  This may be a wierd prayer request but please pray it is in my colon.  I really don't want a colostomy! 

Thursday I meet with Dr Dublis who will be handing the medical oncology side of my case.  What is so amazing is that all 3 doctors talk about me daily to make sure everyone is on the same page.  Many have asked if I am going to U of M for treatment but the bonus is that Metro's Cancer Center is part of U of M and every case is reviewed on Thursdays by both the oncology team at Metro and the oncology team at U of M.  This is called the Tumor Board.  I am the subject of the Tumor Board on Thursday. (not sure if I should be honored or not!)

So I asked this morning how long I have had this tumor growing inside of me.  Colon cancer is very slow growing and would have started as a polyp 10 years ago.  There would have been no way of detecting it unless I had a colonoscopy.  The bummer with this type of cancer is by the time you are symptomatic the disease has already progressed to cancer.  PLEASE....if you are over 50 and have not had a colonoscopy, schedule it!  Don't put it off any longer!

I have been so overwhelmed with support and I know many of you have commented you feel so helpless.  I actually feel great so I am trying to be as active and get as much done around the house as I can (if my mother lets me...she is so bossy!)  I have appreciated the meals becasue my parents are here as well.  Just takes the stress off everyone.  Kyle being home has been a huge relief.   We have both said that maybe God just slapped both of us across the face!  We have a new purpose in life!

Small of our neighbors is best friends with Amy and Matt Chatfield (you can follow Chatty's Cheerleaders on Facebook) Matt was diagnosed in October with virtually the same thing.  Tumor in colon that spread to his liver.  He just had his liver resection a few weeks back and is doing great.  Heather gave me such hope this week!  It will be nice to get to know them better. 

I know all of my BCBSM colleagues will say I am crazy but I would do anything to put on my security badge and be heading to work!  I miss it!  I miss my customers and coworkers.  I miss lunches out, talking about 'nothing'...  you all might have to come and have lunch with me!

That's all for now...continue to keep my entire family in your prayers. 

God IS good!



Friday, March 13, 2015

March 13 2015 - Well this week has completely sucked!

Well this week has completely sucked! 

I remember saying my prayers last Sunday night and asking for strength to get through such a busy week.  I had to take my state life insurance exam on Monday, Kyle was going to be out of the country this week on Peter Island for work so I would have to be mom and dad until he got home, Logan would turn 9 and school treats would need to be made, I would have my first Colonoscopy because of my pesky upset stomach my primary care physician just couldn't  figure out.  "Lord just give me strength to get through" I asked. 

Monday - Up early so I could get a little bit of studying in before I took my Life Insurance exam.  Off to the testing site and YES!  I PASSED!  Relief.  Then to work so I could wrap up some things before I would have to leave at 4:00 so I could start the 'prep' for my Colonoscopy on Tuesday.  If you have ever had one, you know it is horrible.  If you haven't and people tell you the prep is no big deal, they are LIARS!

Tuesday - Logan's 9th Birthday!!!  Dropped treats at school at 8:30 then back to meet my sister in law Tracy so she could take me to get my Colonoscopy.  I joked with the Doctor that it was probably my Grandma Symon's Ulcerative Colitis.  He thought maybe an Upper GI bleed...I would finally know soon. 

I awoke to my worst nightmare!  Pictures put in front of me of a colon (apparently mine) that sure didn't look normal.  Then I heard the words come out of Dr. Hamby's was a large cancerous tumor almost completely blocking my colon.  What did he say???  I felt a rush of heat run through my body.  He did not just say that???  I am 41 year old mother of 2 little girls and a busy life that I absolutely love.  Wait?  Did he just say Cancer?

Tracy and I would drive to the local watering hole and consume 2 glasses of wine and try and make sense of what just happened.  Are you sure he said cancer?

Call to my parents in Florida (I made Tracy do it) and a text to Kyle (he doesn't get cell service on the island) and start figuring this whole thing out.  Work....oh shoot...I have a job! Need to figure that out.  My boss, Sophia..AMAZING!  They quickly took over my email and voicemail and were able to quickly divide and conquer. I decided I could not tell the girls right away because I really don't need Logan telling me I ruined her birthday...and she would!

Wednesday - The phone started ringing early.  Doctors, Hospital, here, do this, don't do that. It became overwhelming very quickly.  I would meet with the Oncologist this morning and my dear friend Marcia would go with to take notes.  2 1/2 hour meeting and I walked out with my head spinning.  Drink this white chalk and be back at 3:30 to drink more and have a CT scan.  That was fairly easy...although you feel like you are peeing your pants.  Weird.

Off to tell the girls.  I thought it best that I tell them at Kyle's sisters house so I had some support.  Went better than expected.  Logan's concern was I would lose my hair.  Reese just sat and tried to think of all the positives...I wouldn't have go to work for a while (she is so my kid). 

Thursday - I am not sure how I feel about technology today.  I have an app through Metro Health Hospital called MyChart.  It alerts me when test results are ready.  I hadn't heard from the oncologist yet so I thought I would open.  It stuck out like a sore thumb....multiple spots on liver.  Definite sign of metastasis to the liver.  What?  now I am at WTF!!!  Well, apparently we are moving to Plan B.  I can't remember what that is but I am sure Marcia wrote it down. 

Mom and dad are finally home!  Nothing like a hug from your mom.  Made me feel like I was a little girl again. 

Friday (the God is messing with me) - PET scan today ... Marcia referred to it as a CT scan on steroids.  Hoping that the cancer is just hanging out in my colon and liver. 

I feel good today.  Positive attitude will get me through (and Netflix). 

The troops are rallied!  My many friends and family, Conifer Ridge family and my BCBSM family!  I have a long road ahead but with all of you I can do this! If you have emailed or texted and I have not gotten back to you I did get your message but am just overwhelmed.  I appreciate all of the love, support and prayers!

I will continue this blog because I actually find it very cathartic. 

Wait...did he just say cancer?!