Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Date is Set!

My mother reminded me again over Sunday dinner that I need to get on the horn and schedule my hysterectomy/oophrectomy soon!  I needed that prodding, because I am very much dragging my feet.  This morning, I called Dr. Soisson's office and set up the surgery for FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14th!  It feels okay.  I'm glad I'm doing it.  My aunt is going through the last stages of ovarian cancer...I know that I have the power to avoid that path...and yet I drag my feet...

But today, I DID IT!  As I write those words and as I wrote the date on my calendar, tears build up.  I think that fear of the unknown is what holds me back.  I'll look back and say, "I am so happy that I had the courage to do that hard thing!"  I know I'll say that.  Right now, going through the "courageous steps" is the scariest thing I've done...maybe ever. 

When I was consulting with Dr. Soisson, I remember thinking that this was not the big surgery.  Since it wasn't cosmetic, it wasn't going to be that emotional as having my breast mastectomy and reconstruction.  Right now, it seems that this one IS the big surgery, since the side effects are so life-challenging (hot flashes, inability to sleep at night, loss of libido, short-temper).  Goodness!

"Goodness!" was the text that Dan sent me this morning when I texted him and my family that I had set the surgery date.  I know what he means...goodness!  What a game-changer.  I really need his patience and support.  His understanding is what is going to make this whole process livable.  It's either me alive with the inconveniences that these surgeries bring or it's me with cancer or gone.  I pray that the setbacks will not be as large and inconvenient as I imagine they could be.  I think I'll come through this okay and my daughters and son will find courage in my example.  Because, ultimately, I'm doing this so that I can be here for Dan and the children.  If I were a lone woman in the business world, there wouldn't be as much to live for.

My mother texted me back, "Finally!  Proud of u!"  That's what I need.  Encouragement, Reinforcement that I am making the right choices.

I am so going to need the help of everyone, SO GOING TO NEED THEIR LOVE AND PATIENCE!  I am very lucky to have such a wonderful husband and great parents and in-law-parents who will care for me and the children.  Thank goodness James is able to drink from a sippy cup!  I won't be able to lift him for a while.

It's going to be okay!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Frustrating to find out that ANOTHER HIGHLY RECOMMENDED SURGEON is not covered by my insurance.  First, the Huntsman Cancer Institute is NOT covered...really?  EVERY insurance should be covering the premier cancer institute in the state!  Now, this other surgeon isn't covered.  I hope to find another highly recommended physician to get a second opinion.  This is frustrating and so much effort!

Aetna gave me the names of plastic surgeons covered in the area.  So tonight I am trying to search the web for information on these providers.  One practice has very informative videos on their website.  they explain various methods of reconstruction and show a pros/cons list of the various methods.  This is well worth a viewing.

You can access the videos at http://content.understand.com/Players/Flash/?page=Menu&account=warnock.  If this link doesn't work, then go to
http://premierplasticsurgerygroup.com  and click on the tab "View Procedures in 3D".  Then click on "Breast" and "Breast Reconstruction" from a drop down menu.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Guest Post: Heather Von St James

I was contacted by Heather.  She said she'd like to share her story on her blog.  She has experienced a different type of cancer, but I think the threads of fear, courage and triumph are resonant in all of our stories.

View Heather Lily 1.jpeg in slide show
In all the experiences I had gone through in my life, having my daughter was the most miraculous. From the time I found out I was pregnant, my life had gained new meaning. My pregnancy was stress-free and it wasn’t long before I welcomed Lily into the world via C-section on August 4, 2005. My “village”, which included my husband, our parents and our dear friends, came to wish our new family luck. To say our life was pure bliss was an understatement.

Although I loved staying home with Lily, I returned to work when she was just four weeks old. Obviously, I was nervous to leave her. I had no energy and spent my days feeling fatigued and breathless. I reassured myself that these feelings were attributed to the baby blues. Eventually, I decided to see the doctor and get a physical. I had no idea what I was about to hear.

On November 21, 2005, I was given my diagnosis – a diagnosis that would change my life forever. I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer in the lining of the lung that is caused by exposure to asbestos, something I was exposed to when I was a child nearly 30 years ago. I felt like I was entering a nightmare and leaving my joyous life with my 3-1/2 month old baby girl behind.

I was given 15 months to live unless I started treating the cancer immediately. It wasn’t just me I was thinking about either but my husband and daughter too. Together, we decided that I needed the best treatment possible. We reached out to our “village” and I knew at this very point that I would need them in ways I never thought possible.

Lily was cared for in South Dakota by my parents and my husband and I left for Boston. On February 2, 2006, I had an extrapleural pneumonectomy, which is a procedure that removes the affected lung and its surrounding tissues. Recovery from the surgery lasted 18 days and I stayed another two months before starting radiation and chemotherapy.

This was a frightening time in my life, but through it all, my “village” continued to grow out of love and support. We met other families during our stay in Boston that were battling the same experience. Meanwhile in South Dakota, my parents’ village was growing too. Lily was getting love from the community, including girls I had babysat when I was young.

I am happy to say that today I am cancer free. I fought the battle and won, but my experience was not as simple as that. I missed out on important milestones with my daughter, milestones that I had waited for during my nine months of pregnancy.

I couldn’t be more grateful to my “village” that stood by my family and me during this difficult time. It’s easy to take things for granted, but when you’re faced with something as horrific as cancer, you need your village to survive. I’m glad I didn’t give up my fight. Every moment with my daughter was worth it all.    

Heather Von St James is a 43-year-old wife and mother. Upon her diagnosis of mesothelioma, she vowed to be a source of hope for other patients who found themselves with the same diagnosis. Now, over 6 years later, her story has been helping people all over the globe. She continues her advocacy and awareness work by blogging, speaking and sharing her message of hope and healing with others. Check out her story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Getting Frightened

I have this little timeline in my head...that I'll go in for my total hysterectomy/oophrectomy end of September or early October.  I'll be done breastfeeding sweet baby boy by then...
But I seem so unprepared.  Maybe I just have to set up the surgery date and go for it.

It's been in the future for so long and know it's knocking on my doorstep.  Goodness, I'm scared!