Drain free!

Can you believe I was more excited to share the info about the Relay for Life than I was to share the news that I’m drain free?! Hopefully for the last time ever!

So Dr. H pulled the last drain on Monday. He also said everything looked great, and my follow up is scheduled for one month.

It’s kind of weird to not have to see a doctor next week. Whatever will I do??

Anyway, I’ve been working hard, brainstorming some fundraising ideas. I can’t wait to get started and make some things happen. I’m also in my last full week of school. Final exams are next week. My upcoming holiday break is exciting!!

Hope you’re all doing well!

Relay for Life

So I’ve decided to do a thing and join my local Relay for Life event which is organized by the American Cancer Society. I’m going to work on some fancy and cool fundraising ideas over the next 150 some odd days until the event, so stay tuned!

And, of course, if you’d like to join the team and walk the walk, please do! The more the merrier. My team name for this event is “More Than Ribbons” because we ARE more than ribbons. We are more than cancer. We are people. We’re people who have dealt with or are dealing with more BS than anyone should ever have to experience. Join the team here.

I will be working on and sharing some fun ways to contribute to my fundraising goals, but if you feel like making a straight donation today, I won’t fight you on it. You can make a donation here.

The Relay for Life also has an awesome and beautiful way for you to support fighters and caregivers, honor survivors, and remember those we’ve lost. For $10, you can purchase a luminaria and include a personal message. I plan on purchasing several for those I know who have been affected in one way or another. You can get yours here.

So, the walk itself is April 26th at 6:00pm at Cane Bay High School in Summerville. Join the team so I can see you there!

More info to come, but I ask you, on this Giving Tuesday, to consider making a donation or purchasing a Luminaria.

Also, you can check back on the static blog page for More Than Ribbons for updated information (click here) AND you can also see the amazing logo I designed for the team!

xoxo

A lot to be thankful for…

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you get stuffed, and I mean that in the best way. ❤

I have a lot to be thankful for this year.

First of all, I can take full advantage of the holidays because I don’t have to worry about the side effects of chemo leaving me feeling like garbage. I managed to skip a week of chemo at Thanksgiving so I could enjoy that holiday with my family, but later, my sick week fell right across the week of Christmas. It was lovely.

Of course, I’m also thankful that I’m healthy and cancer free. I’m no longer pissed at my body for getting cancer, but thankful that it kicked cancer’s ass and that I was healthy enough to undergo and recover from the surgeries necessary to make me better. Yes, I may still have one surgical drain left, but I can live with that. Key word: live.

I’m thankful for my family and friends. They’ve been really amazing and supportive throughout this experience and knowing I had that safety net made my mental health a lot better than it could have been.

Same with my medical team. I never felt like I had to worry, that’s some serious confidence right there. I’m thankful I could have that support.

While I’m thankful for a lot of other stuff, I feel like it’s important to add that I’m thankful for all the things I ever took for granted while being “normal.” You don’t know until you’re limited in some way how easy you once had it. So I guess I’m thankful for that perspective. I’m thankful I can brush off the petty little things that may have bothered me before and worry about the real stuff. You know? Because, quite honestly, there isn’t all that much “real stuff.”

Granted, this isn’t true for everyone and everything, but it sure makes me roll my eyes a lot more often. Ha. 

 

Still one drain…story of my life.

I had two drains removed yesterday, the ones in my chest, which is great because they were sore and itchy and nobody liked them. Ha. Seriously, though. I was so aware of those two. I kind of figured the belly one would stay, so I’m not surprised. I’m not even that annoyed about it, except this whole shower thing, but I’m about to bust out some plastic wrap so I can shower. Not even kidding. Shh, don’t tell.

I’ve had a BM since I last posted. I know that makes you as happy as it makes me. I’ve slowed down on my water drinking and I know that’s part of my problem, so I’ll pick that back up. Also, the anti-nausea meds can cause constipation and since I’m not taking oxycodone anymore, I’m not taking the anti-nausea meds anymore. I’m also getting a little annoyed that constipation isn’t coming up on the predictive text on my iPhone and I have to spell it out every time. It’s a long word, Apple, get with the program.

I’m working my way into my new food plan, and healthy eating is making me feel good. Yay! Should regulate some stuff as well. This time I’m doing something a little different, which I’ll talk about later, just to give it a try. So far I love it, and we’ll see if I have results. I also can’t wait to get this drain pulled so I can exercise, but for now it’s walking!!

That’s all the update I’ve got for today, so I’ll share more when I’ve got more. 💜

Nausea, constipation, gas, and insomnia, oh my!

I almost sound like a Pepto Bismal commercial. I’m still feeling pretty good. Still some soreness at my port site and on my ribs at the entry points for the drain tubes. I don’t have pain at my belly or chest incisions.

I’m backed up from the medications, which is incredibly frustrating. And, ironically, I take more medicine for the gas and constipation. Today, nothing seems to be working in that department though. It’s different from the last time because I was in the hospital for the days following the surgery and I didn’t have any bowel movements there, so I guess I’m not doing so bad in the grand scheme of things considering I have had a few BMs since this surgery, they’re just not as frequent as I’d like them to be, so I’m uncomfortable.

Also, just a note, I’ve had very little appetite today. I had a late lunch, ate some fruit, a cupcake, and that was it. I have been eating pretty regularly, but today was a blah day for food, which perhaps is related to the constipation.

Sleep is random. I was having insomnia before, and the only thing that seemed to help the last couple days were the pain meds and the muscle relaxer. But I didn’t take any of those during the day because I really didn’t feel like I needed them…which is good. I did take a pain pill around midnight because of the rib pain. It’s very uncomfortable, and I will be glad when those are pulled. I can’t even feel the one at my waist.

So it’s 2:30 and I can’t sleep. I’m watching more Buffy the Vampire Slayer and listening to Brad snore and slowly going insane…

I’ll update after my post-op appointment with Dr H on Monday.

Final Surgery Recap

And now for a more comprehensive recap of my surgery.

I had it at the same hospital where I had my mastectomy, so I had high hopes. Nothing went wrong, but being an outpatient was a different experience. My pre-surgery nurse was nice, but had no personality and a perma-frown. I tried to get her to talk or smile, no luck. She did interact with me, but she just never smiled. She took my vitals, asked all the right questions, and hooked up my IV. Just very straight and to the point, unlike many of the other nurses and techs I’d come into contact with throughout this journey.

Next I met the anesthesiologist, surgical nurse, and Dr. H. Then the anesthesiology nurse came and gave me chill out drugs, and took me away…while I still had my glasses on and before I could say goodbye to Brad! I don’t remember much else after that. I do vaguely recall moving from one gurney to another in the OR, but that’s it.

I woke up in recovery with a very dry mouth. I was given an anti-nausea patch before the surgery and one of the side effects was dry mouth. It lasted quite some time and I drank my usual post-op cranberry juice and had some ice chips. I tried to eat some crackers so I could take the pain meds, but my mouth was too dry so I stuck with the ice chips.

The pain has been intermittent. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, so it’s hard for me to judge exactly what it all feels like.

First off, no more port! So weird. It’s the smallest incision, but it’s the one I feel the most. That’s probably because I still had a lot of numbness in my chest and abdomen from the previous surgery.

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My boobs are smaller (yay!). I’ve gained weight since the previous surgery, and since abdominal fat grows faster than other fats, my boobs gained weight. Plus, my boobs were a little too big for my liking anyway, so I’m glad they are a bit smaller. And, of course, this surgery shaped them up a bit since the flaps were removed. Remember the pic of the softball looking stitches? They are gone!

My chest is a little sore, but what’s weird is the the tube from the drains is so close to the surface. It looks totally crazy.

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The incisions on my breast are just straight lines from my nipple down to my chest on each side. Pretty simple and tame looking. Right now there are steri-strips over those incisions, so once those come off, I’ll share pics. Dr. H fixed about a 10 inch stretch of my abdominal incision where the scar tissue was a little gnarly from him having to reopen it so it would heal from the inside out. That looks neat and clean, but it is also covered steri-strips.

I have three drains, one on each side of my chest and one at my waist. The ones in my chest are not producing much, but the one in my waist is. Last night was 60 ccs, this morning was 30. Each side was less than 10 this morning. I am hoping all will be pulled at my appointment on Monday, but I’ll accept whatever I can get. I certainly don’t want fountain belly again. I did not get a surgical bra or one of those tank tops that hold the drains this time, so I’ve got a sash made out of gauze that the drains are hanging from. It’s quite awkward. Last time, the drains had clips I could clip to my shirt or pants, not this time.

My appetite is fine and I have a good level of energy. I am a bit constipated from all the drugs, so I’ve been taking some kind of fiber pill to help me use the bathroom. I can’t take a shower until the drains are removed, so that’s fun. It’s a good thing I have a shower sprayer with a hose so I can clean from the waist down and wash my hair. I’ll have to use a wash cloth everywhere else. (Insert eye roll here.) I guess there has been an increase in infection related to showering with drains, so Dr. H changed his aftercare instructions. I just want to be healthy, so I’ll do whatever they say!

Not much else to report at the moment, at least nothing I can think of. I’m off work until after Thanksgiving, at which point I hope to be feeling at or close to 100%. It’s hard working with kiddos when you’re not well or don’t have full range of motion. Tomorrow, I’m going to try to go out with Brad for a little bit and do some food shopping. I’m ready to dive back into our healthy eating plan, and I figured I’d use my week off next week to get readjusted to that, even though it is the week of Thanksgiving and it seems dumb to talk about healthy eating and Thanksgiving in the same sentence. But that’s the thing about the plan he and I are following. It’s OK to take a day off or to make mistakes. It’s not going to throw us into a downward spiral of shame. It’s just one day.

So yeah, I think I’ve included everything and if you want to know more, just ask! It’s quite possible that I’ve omitted something or glazed over something else in my medicated stupor over here. You all know I’m not shy, so ask away!

Surgery is over!

All my major cancer-related crap is over! Can I get a “hell yeah?!”

Hell yeah!

My surgery was this morning, everything went well. We went a little smaller on my chest since they were a little too big before. I’m happy with the way that turned out.

Dr. H recreated a nipple on the right side, so that’s both amazing and cool. He also did the wound closure at my abdominal incision, so that looks nice and neat.

I am a bit sore and still running off the hospital anesthesia. I took a Zofran for nausea. I can’t wait to eat real food. I had a Shakeology when I woke up from my nap, it was good and full of nutrition! I think it was just what I needed at the time, chocolate with berries.

Anyway, I’m binging on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and patiently awaiting some pizza. I’ll post more about this experience when I’m less loopy.

SC ABA Conference

I had a great time at the South Carolina ABA conference in Greenville! I went with two of my co-workers, and we met our boss there. I always loved going to work conferences at one of my previous jobs. It’s so rejuvenating being around like-minded individuals and I always leave full of new ideas and feeling even more excited about my job.

I absolutely love my job. I know I’ve talked about it here and there, but I’m not sure if I’ve gone into detail. I am a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) and I work with kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. I’ve worked in this field for a year and a half, and pretty much anyone I talk to about it needs an overview. ASD is a developmental disorder; the key characteristics are social and communication deficits and repetitive and restricted patterns of behavior. ASD cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be treated (there’s still SO MUCH that is unknown). An RBT (me) is a provider of ABA therapy to children with the disorder. ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) is the best evidenced-based practice for treatment of the symptoms of ASD. You can read up on more of this stuff at some of these websites: Autism Speaks, NIMH, or BACB.

Anyway, like I said, I love my job. I work with some amazing therapists and amazing kids. The job is so challenging sometimes, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Hearing a child say his or her first words, respond to a request, make a request…there’s just no other word for it. It’s amazing. Being part of milestones in the lives of kids who are living with so many challenges is amazing. They’re not lucky to have me, I’m lucky to have them. I probably learn as much from them as they learn from me. They’re just incredible kids.

I’m currently a lead therapist, which basically means I’m a team manager. Each kid has a team that consists of a consultant, lead therapist, and line therapists. I started out as a line and was promoted to lead, when I had cancer no less. I have five kids at the moment, but am hoping to pick up another one in the spring. As lead therapist, in addition to providing line therapy, I also manage paperwork, graph data, do reports, and act as a liaison between the families, therapists, and consultants…a jack of all trades, really. I love the work and it keeps me very busy, which is great.

I’ve loved my job since the moment I started it. There are definitely high days and low days, but all days are great days. Initially, I felt like my job was great experience towards my graduate degree (first clinical counseling, then school psychology). I knew of ASD and ABA when I started, but I didn’t really understand the whole process, but I was willing to learn. Of course, I have a better understanding of it all now. Anyway, over the summer we did these Fun Friday social outings for the kids. They were so much fun. The kids loved them and so did the therapists. There was this one event where we took the kids to Little Gym. They had so much fun. It was wonderful watching them in their element. It was on that day that I realized I’d finally found what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

So, for what seems like the umpteenth time, I changed my degree plans. Fortunately, I was in a place where I could just complete my education at The Citadel with masters degree in psychology. I have the course credits, I just need to complete my thesis. To become a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst), I also need to take a verified course sequence of six classes, complete experience hours (which I can do while I work, like a paid internship), and take and pass the certification exam (which is not terrifying at all).

Anyway, blah blah blah back to the conference. It was great. I’m excited. I love my job. It’s the first job I’ve ever had that doesn’t feel like work. I feel like I could learn about this stuff forever and I definitely want to work with these kids forever. I seriously can’t imagine doing anything else.

We learned stuff, met people, ate some yummy food, and just had a great time.

Now I’m home and exhausted and ready for bed! I’ll report back later after my pre-surgery vacation! One more week until my last surgery! Hooray.

Save the date…

My next and (hopefully!!!!) final surgery will be on Tuesday, November 13th! 🎉

It will be at East Cooper Medical Center, same as the last. Hopefully we’ll wake up on time this time since it’s 45 minutes away and we have to be there at 5:30. When I talked with the admissions nurse today, she said she usually hears that people get stuck in traffic, not that they oversleep. Glad I could be the first. Ha.

So this is the second stage of the breast reconstruction, revision of the abdominal incision (where there’s some serious scar tissue from when I had to get cut open), and port removal! So three parts, two surgeons, about three hours. I will probably have drains, too. Two up top and one at my belly. Yay. Not.

I’m bummed because my bestie will be in town and this is interfering with our time together, but it is what it is. We’ll just have to catch up again after. We’re going to get to spend a super fun weekend together in Columbia at a book signing, and we’re staying at a lake house which will be even more fun. So this is a crappy ending to our fun trip, but whatever. At least we get our fun trip!

In other news…

Today was Halloween and I had a good day. I saw one of my kiddos, did some pre-op stuff, and went to a Halloween party. I saw my niece, Gabby, and randomly saw some good friends of ours who were trick-or-treating with their kids. It was a nice day.

I am going with a couple coworkers to the South Carolina ABA conference next week. The conference is Monday and Tuesday in Greenville. It’s my first ABA conference, and I’m looking forward to it.

So…oncologist and more pre-op Monday the 12th. Surgery on Tuesday the 13th. Post-op on Monday the 19th. Probably another post-op sometime after that. Then I’m done!! I’ll still have the Lupron shots every four weeks, and daily meds, but that’s it.

In the meantime, I’ll be living my life.

✌🏻 ❤️