Friday, July 29, 2011

You just don't get it and don't tell me to relax

I'm currently stage IIIb or c, depending on which doctor you ask. I can't seem to get a straight answer from any of them. When I was first diagnosed and discussed my options, my oncologist said he was against Interferon therapy because it makes you feel like you have the flu for a long time, like almost a year, and because the statistics show it doesn't really add any time to a patient's survival. Being the person that I am, I didn't really like the sound of being sick with the flu for a year and having to give myself shots. I figured there were other options out there instead, and there were; clinical trials or observation. I wasn't considered "sick enough" for chemo or radiation therapy, I was in that gray area.

Long story short, if you've read back through my entries you know I wanted to do the clinical trial of Yervoy but due to family troubles I decided not to. My mom wanted me to do "observation", so that's what I'd do. But I have to admit I'm scared. Every time I hear of someone else that is the same stage as me, with melanoma in the same area thereabouts, and they are following up their surgeries with Yervoy or Interferon, I get scared, and a little jealous. I know, that sounds messed up, at least the jealous part does.

I'm not jealous of the pain and suffering, side effects, etc. I'm jealous that those people will KNOW for SURE that they've done everything they possibly could to keep Melanoma from coming back. I'm scared my Melanoma will come back every single day. If it does come back, I will always wonder if I played Russian Roulette with my life and lost. And part of me wonders if my oncologist is the right one for me. Maybe I need one more aggressive?

Unfortunately because of my lack of insurance, I have to accept who I'm given. Now don't get me wrong, this guy is from Shands in Gainesville, very respected, and everyone I've mentioned him to has only good things to say about him. But I don't know if he's a specialist with Melanoma, and if he's not, I don't know how to find one that would see me with me not having any insurance or money.

It's been almost 4 months now since my initial diagnostic scans pre-surgeries. From what I've read online and heard from other melanoma warriors, the first year we are supposed to have scans every 3 months.

My first follow up appointment with my oncologist is next Wednesday and if he doesn't schedule me for a PET scan, and some other scans, I think I might start asking some hard questions. After all, that's what observation is, right? It's MAKING SURE the melanoma doesn't come back, doing blood work, checking my skin, my remaining lymph nodes, doing xrays, cat scans, MRI's, PET scans. If I get in there and he just does a general exam, take my vitals and listens to my heart and says everything looks good, I think I'm going to get upset.

This is my health. My cancer. My life.

I waited to get my mole looked at and it cost me alot. I'm never going to sit back and be that complacent again. If he doesn't follow me AGGRESSIVELY by doing the proper scans and blood work then I will be forced to find someone else. I already feel like I'm being complacent enough by not doing Interferon or Yervoy. If he tells me to sit back and relax, I may have to scream.

Does this make sense to anyone? Do you have to have cancer to understand what I mean??

The other day my sister said to me "I have a feeling I'm going to know more about Melanoma than I've ever wanted to". I apologized and told her I would try not to talk about it so much to her. But if I can't talk to her, or to mom, the only people I can talk about it to are the people online that have melanoma. I'm only 4 months out of being diagnosed. I'm scared. I need support and I need to talk.

A few days later we were watching a reality competition show on tv and one of the competitors was a cancer survivor. My sister said "Oh, I know which one YOU'RE going to root for". I know she didn't mean anything negative by that, but I felt like she was calling me "cancer girl" or something. Yes, I feel for that person, I understand a little of what they've gone through. People can root for their favorite football teams, why can't I root for a fellow cancer survivor?

I guess it all comes back to unless you've had a doctor look you in the eye and tell you that you have cancer... you just don't get it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Love, Love, Love

So, you're cleared of cancer (for the moment), you've had all the surgeries, and maybe some kinds of treatments, you're starting to feel normal again, you're technically NED (No Evidence of Disease). How do you start living your life again and leave Melanoma behind?

Easy answer. You don't.

You see, through my journey I've read a group of websites and blogs by people who were going through or have gone through the same thing. Besides my family, these websites and blogs were critical in helping me get through. From reading them and friending some of them on Facebook I've come to care about these people, even if I've never spoken to them. There's something that happens once you get cancer, suddenly everyone that has your type of cancer is family, and you want to support your family through the good times and the bad. Just because I'm NED doesn't mean I plan to ditch the sites I read, stop caring about the people that are fighting every day, being happy for the ones that are NED like me. Of course, that route has it's risks. Sometimes the people you've read about for a while... they get worse. Really worse.

And sometimes they die.

I admit when that happens my heart breaks and I freak out a little. Could that be me someday? Will it? Why that person? Why their poor family? No one deserves this. The last time this happened, I believe it was last week, it sent me into a panic attack that only Xanax could get me out of. Sometimes life isn't fair, and Melanoma sucks every single day that there is no cure for it. It sucks the life out of people and breaks the hearts of everyone that witnesses it. My family says to stop reading the cancer blogs, stop going to the websites. Just STOP and be happy it's not me and get on with my life.

I can't do that. I just can't. Why? Because together we are stronger. When I had my lymphocintigraphy shots done, I kept thinking "I'm gonna kick this in the ass, then go home and tell everyone online about how brave I was!!". And it worked. Those shots hurt like bloody hell, but if I had to paint rainbows on my face and wear a bikini to get through it, I would have. Just the thought of how proud my family and friends would be of me (and that includes online friends) was what helped me walk into Nuclear Medicine and say "Bring it!".

My family loves me. I know that. Especially my sister Deni that lives with me. She's the one who I cry to when the world gets too much. My mom has had ovarian cancer, she knows the constant fear of "will it come back?". These two people are the most affected when I freak out, have a panic attack, or get depressed, so I can understand why they don't want me reading the Melanoma blogs. I'm not wallowing in the negative, living in cancer-land, concentrating on the negative. I'm sharing and supporting in the new family that I've become a member of. I want to help others that have just been diagnosed and are scared out of their wits. I want to tell the ones that have to have surgery that they are stronger than they think they are, and it will be ok. And when someone dies, I want to add my heartbreak to theirs in the hopes that their family will feel the love and support and take comfort in it. But mostly, I want to be an advocate for Melanoma Awareness. I can't do that if I hide my head in the sand.

So what's the answer? Keep reading the cancer blogs or stop?

The answer is balance. Live my life, laugh, love, be happy for the good things I have. Support those that need support, and when times get hard... cry, ask for help, get support from friends and family. Because Melanoma is a part of my life now, and that's never going to end. I know too much about this disease to know that I'll ever be far from it. It can come back any time, in my liver, lungs, brain, anywhere. And if I'm one of the lucky ones that remain NED for a long time, I hope to spend that time supporting others while living my life.

In the immortal words of Eva Markvoort, who has been a huge inspiration for me, "It's all about the love. Love, love, love".

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 5th 2011 - My version of what will hopefully be the last surgery....

I had a feeling this tumor was benign, but I knew it had to come out, otherwise I would always wonder.. and be scared. So on Monday Mom and I headed over to the ortho oncologist for a pre-pre-op checkup. I got to ask questions and get the play-by-play from Doc Onc and his trusty sidekick Mr Fellow (who is actually kinda cute). Once I was done there, Mom and I ran a few errands and made it to Shands hospital Anesthesiology dept in time for my official pre-op. This consists of waiting in a waiting room along with about 30 other people, getting called on, go back and fill out paperwork, go back to waiting room and wait, getting called, go fill out more paperwork with someone else, go back and wait more, getting called, go have tube after tube of blood taken, etc. It takes about 2-3 hours all total, but mine went a bit faster since I already knew the drill. Many of the questions and things they had to tell me I already knew. One of the ladies even asked if I could go out and let everyone else know the drill because she was tired of saying all the usual There's something to be said for having as many surgeries in as little time as I have had.

Once that was done, I had myself a latte thanks to mom and went home to rest. I was assured by Doc Onc that he would try and schedule my surgery as early as he could so I wouldn't have to go so long without any water or drink. The last time my surgery didn't happen until early afternoon and I hadn't had anything, not even a sip of water in over 12 hours. Food I can do without, but a drink... I'm diabetic and I get cotton mouth really easy, so I always have a drink next to me. So anyways, Doc Onc promised me an early surgery. Later Monday I called Pre-op to find out my surgery time and they told me to be at the hospital at 10am, which meant no surgery until noon, which also meant another 12 hours with no water. I was so pissed, I ranted and raved and just generally had myself a little meltdown. It's funny the things that will get you down. For me it was the straw that broke the camel's back. I was nervous and stressed and a little scared, and by the time they told me the surgery time I had just had it. Luckily for me I have a great mom and sister that basically told me to "Suck it up, Princess!" and I got over myself. The next morning pre-op called at 7am and asked how soon I could get to the hospital. Seems they had a cancellation or something, so my early surgery was back on... after all that bitching and moaning...LOL. So Mom and I grabbed our stuff and took off.

Once there they took me straight back and I left Mom in the waiting room. I knew once they did a few housekeeping things (took vitals, changed me into the dreaded hospital gown, hooked me up to machines, inserted the IV) that they would let her come back and sit with me, so I was pretty relaxed. I knew the drill. Getting the IV in wasn't easy because I only have one arm they can use (I'm not allowed to use the lymph node dissected arm for shots, vitals, IVs...anything), and the one vein they tried blew as soon as they got it, so they had to stick me twice but they eventually got it inserted. It was uncomfortable and really pinched and I hope later it would settle down and stop hurting. Once I had all the doctors come in and check on me, they said they were going to do the nerve block right there before they took me into the OR. I asked if Mom could come back and be with me and they said no, not until it was over. Now, I know I'm 46 yrs old, supposed to be a grown woman, not afraid of stuff, but I was afraid of this nerve block and damnit, I just wanted my mom with me. I started to get really nervous, but then suddenly I was overcome by a feeling of calm. Something told me that they had taken good care of me before, and they wouldn't do anything that would hurt me. I don't know where this feeling came from, but I went with it.

They injected something calming into my IV (yeah I know, but this was AFTER I felt calm), and then rolled me onto my left side. I felt something cold and wet on the side of my upper thigh (alcohol), and then I felt a poke... and another. I knew they were injecting my nerve twice, and I remember saying "ouch" twice, but it wasn't a big deal and it's all kind of fuzzy now. The next thing I knew I was laying there relaxed and Mom was with me and everything was fine. Weird. Why can't they give me that stuff at the dentist? Laughing gas is great, but not like this stuff.

A few mins later Mom kissed me goodbye and went to get breakfast while they wheeled me into the OR. Doc Onc said a few things to me as I lay there looking at all the lights and instruments, and I think I said my usual to him, "Do a good job!", and I was out.

I woke up in recovery hours later. I thought they said they weren't going to put me to sleep? Well I guess they did. I still don't understand it. Apparently there are different levels of being put to sleep and they used a new one on me... I think. I don't know, all I care is that I don't remember a thing. When I woke up in recovery it was with the usual sore throat and I lay there and sipped ice water for about an hour, drifting in and out. I vaguely remember Doc Onc stopping by my bed to tell me he was pretty sure the tumor was benign, and then Mom was there with me. As I woke more I realized I had a long blue velcro immobilizer on my leg from the upper thigh to my ankle... and I couldn't feel my leg AT ALL. Very weird. Of course there was no pain, just my throat being sore.

A while later they wheeled me upstairs to my room and Mom and I got settled in. One nice thing about staying in the hospital in New Shands in the cancer section, the rooms are all private. I spent the rest of that day just laying there, not being able to feel a thing, watching tv with mom, and drifting in and out of sleep. Mom was so great and got me a little pizza for lunch along with a frozen latte... my favorite, so I was a happy girl. And it was confirmed the tumor was benign.

Later that night Mom was asleep on the pull out couch, and I was getting IV antibiotics all day on and off, when suddenly it started burning like acid in my hand and it was so bad that I told the nurse to take it out completely. Usually they would have argued with me about it, but I told them in no uncertain terms that if they didn't take it out.. I would, so they did. I still don't know what happened, I guess my vein blew or something, but once it was out my hand felt so good. Relief! That was the only thing that happened that night. Oh and every nurse and doctor that came in kept telling me that when the nerve block wore off, it would wear off really fast and the pain would hit me like a truck, so at the first hint of discomfort, I was to tell the nurse and she would start me on my pain meds. Mom and I almost got paranoid about it. Finally about 2am I could wiggle my toes again (you wouldn't think it would be a big deal but I was SO HAPPY to feel my toes!!!) and I started to feel a little pain, maybe a 1.5 on a scale of 10, so I told the nurse and she gave me a pain pill. After all the warnings, my pain never got above a level 3 or so, which surprised the nurses and doctors, but Mom said I have a high pain threshold just like her and Deni, which made me proud. Everyone in my family always thought I was a wimp.... until now.

The next day Doc Onc came by to tell me I could go home, and then Physical Therapy came by to show me how to get around. So far until now I had been using a portable potty chair next to my bed because I couldn't get to the bathroom. They brought in a walker and some crutches for me and showed me how to stand up safely. The crutches, which I thought would be good, were ackward and I hated them. The walker, like Mom predicted, was great and I used that to walk out of the room and down the hall a bit. Then they put me in a wheelchair and took me to the physical therapy room that had different things in it, along with my nemesis, the small mock up of stairs and a landing.

They showed me how to get up the stairs and down first using the crutches, then using the walker. It was a shock to me to discover how weak I was and how totally useless my leg was. I hated the stairs, and both my house and Mom's house have stairs up to the house that I would have to navigate if I were to get inside. I had a little mini-freakout and sat there and cried. I hated that I couldn't walk, couldn't use the bathroom like a normal person, couldn't get up or down stairs, etc. I just hated feeling disabled. It was a good lesson for me. I eventually started getting up and around my hospital room a bit more and started feeling better and they released me.

Once I got back to mom's, which is where I stayed for 2 days, I got up the stairs easier than I had thought I would. It was still really awkward but I did it. The next day it was even easier, and so on. Right now I'm walking without a walker or crutches, or should I say "limping" around. I have a wonderful "L" shaped scar on the back of my leg to add to my collection, and very little pain. Mostly my leg feels really stiff. After two days I took off the big blue monster leg immobilizer and I felt so much better. Now all I have to do is heal. I'm back to making dinner and waiting on Deni, albeit much slower than normal. Today I will go grocery shopping and I will have to use an electric chair for the first time. It will be an odd feeling but if anyone questions me I can point to my incision which is still very visible.

I'm hoping this will be my last surgery for a long, long time. I've gone 46 years with no surgery other than oral, and now within 4 months have had 4 surgeries. I think I've earned a rest

June 30th, 2011 - Surgery #4 Complete!

Home from the hospital and doing good. Limping around with a walker and have a big blue velcro leg immobilizer on my leg from the top thigh to the ankle. Pain is easy peezy. Pathology came back... no cancer, just an annoying benign tumor. Yay!! Now to heal....

June 24th 2011 - ...and yet ANOTHER surgery

This is my last weekend pre-surgery. Feeling fine, able to walk, able to do normal things. After spending the last 3 months basically recovering from one surgery after another, I'm not excited to jump back on the recovery hamster wheel again. I've just gotten to where I feel NORMAL, but that's going to end. Monday I'll spend most of the day at the hospital doing pre-op stuff which I'm sure will include paperwork and the taking of my blood. Then Tuesday is the surgery. I'm going to beg the anesthesiologist to put me to sleep because the thought of getting a needle in the lower back is really squicking me out. Plus I'd rather not be awake during the surgery, something tells me it will be worse when I'm awake.

They have me scheduled for two days in hospital just in case I don't handle the surgery well, but I'm sure I will go home later the same day. My biggest worry right now is how I will get around seeing that I can't use crutches because of my lymph node surgery under my arm. I don't think I can handle a crutch pressing up against my arm pit. That kinda leaves either a walker or a wheelchair. My house is SMALL and I have NO room for a wheelchair. I guess a walker would be the winner, even if it makes me look like a 90 year old.

I really don't want this surgery, but I have to find out what this tumor is, and if it's cancer having spread, then it would have to come out anyways. So wish me luck and I'll post again as soon as I feel up to it.

June 10th, 2011 - New Family member

I've been depressed the past few days. Who knows why, depression... hormones... having cancer... take your pick. I just want to shake myself and say "Snap out of it!!" but I don't know how to do that. Oh and add that I'm beyond broke, and my bills are all behind, after I worked so hard earlier this year to get them caught up. Having surgeries and being out of work to recover really hit my income hard, and now I have another surgery coming up. That's another reason why I'm depressed.

When I met with the orthopedic oncologist, he said he would do the surgery outpatient, using a nerve block and I would go home the same day. A few days ago his office called to tell me the date of the surgery, and the girl said he had me scheduled for two days in hospital. WTF? I'm hoping they just got me mixed up with someone else, but maybe they've decided the surgery would be more in depth? I don't know. I just know that I've been away from the whole "cancer patient" thing for a while and I've actually spent hours a day not thinking about it, but having another surgery looming just brings it all back that I am not normal or healthy. And of course, this little demon voice just keeps whispering about the tumor "it's melanoma... it's spread". I don't want to believe it, and I want that voice to shut the hell up, but it's there and not going away until I have the surgery.

I keep trying to call the dr's office to ask why my outpatient surgery has suddenly morphed into a two day hospital stay, but the stupid girl never seems to be there and I don't want to leave a message. I just want to talk to a human and not have them transfer me or take a message. I wish I could speak to my doctor personally but the odds of that happening aren't very high.

Tomorrow I get to start with a brand new primary doctor since the health center dumped me after finding out I had cancer. Let's see if this doctor runs screaming, too.

The only good news lately is that we got a new kitten. A new family member. We've been ready for a new kitty for years, and we've always said when the timing is right, the kitten will appear. Most of the kitties we've gotten have been from people giving away kittens at the Winn Dixie in High Springs, but we haven't seen anyone giving kittens away there in probably 5 yrs or more. Suddenly last weekend a lady was there with a box full of cuteness. I've wanted an orange kitty forever, but she didn't have an orange one, only an orange and white one. I almost took it, but then decided to wait. Then, not an hour later, I went to the Dollar Store and there was someone there with a box of kittens too! And two of them were orange... Snap! I felt like the universe was saying HERE'S YOUR KITTY! So even though they were girl kitties, I took one.

Her name is Arya, from Arya Stark of Winterfell in the Game of Thrones books. Denise and I both fell in love with the character and it seemed the perfect name. The Arya from the books is a real little scrapper, and this little girl that we have is living up to her name for sure. The boys are not happy at all that there's a new cat in the house, and they've been using my bedroom as the "man cave" but Ari has learned how to barge her way into the man cave which causes lots of hissing and batting of paws. She's pretty fearless and has even smacked back at Bid when he smacked her. She's decided that Deni is her mom and she sleeps on her every night. She's SO adorable, I just can't help but smile when I look at her.

So we are a full house now. When we get a kitty, we have them for life. I'm a little nervous about having a girl, though. I've never had a girl so I don't know if there's anything different about them. I just want to get her fixed asap and hopefully that will be all I need to do.

Please excuse the tv in the background. The voice is Deni.


May 31st, 2011 - ANOTHER surgery

I went to the orthopedic oncologist on Friday and before they even saw me they gave me a new x-ray. The place is near the UF campus, nice big glass and stone building, marble floors... they even have their own on site X-ray and MRI facilities. So once they read my new x-rays, the doctor (and his "fellow") came in to talk to me. Long story short, what I have behind my knee is an actual tumor. No discussion on how it got there, we didn't really care. What they cared about is with my Melanoma, tumors can pop up anywhere on my body at any time. He did say that the odds of this being Melanoma are very low, but... he suggests I have surgery to take it out so they can do the lab work on it and make sure it's not Melanoma. He said if it was him, he'd have it out. At first I was like "Oh HELL no, I am NOT having ANOTHER SURGERY!!", but then after I had a few mins to think about it, I knew I was going to do it. I mean, come on, I'm still recovering from my last surgery... it was only a month ago, but the thought that this could be cancerous, it would just be stupid to leave it sit there. If they take it out and it comes back benign, then hey, I can relax and heal.

I wish they would put me to sleep to do it, but they won't. Here's the part that I'm not happy about; he said they would give me a nerve block to numb my right leg for the surgery. That's a shot in my lower back on the side near my sciatic. Ok, that sounds PAINFUL, but the doctor assured me it didn't hurt. Yeah, like I'm gonna take the word of a doctor on what's painful? Ha! In the end, I don't have a choice, it has to come out and whatever pain is involved has to be endured.

Deni says I'm just bound and determined to get my lifetime's alotment of surgeries over in 3 months. Yeah, this will be my **4th** surgery since March 14th. It's not a record I'm actively going for. Right when I'm starting to feel better and get my range of motion back in my arm, now I'm gonna be Limpy McCripple stumbling around until my knee heals.

So I'll call them tomorrow and see how soon they want this done. ::sigh::

I am strong, I am brave, I am aggressive, I can do this.

May 26th, 2011 - Here we go again

I had the MRI of the spot they found on my knee when they did the PET/CT scan. At the time we were busy with other surgeries so they said they'd wait until later to investigate it. Now is later.

MRI's in themselves aren't painful, but this one was for me. It wasn't an "open air" MRI machine like I've had in the past. This one sucked me in feet first to within inches of my chin and came right down on top of me. I was alarmed at first when it kept getting closer and closer, but the tech assured me it would stop. When it did, it was so close to my head that I had nowhere to place my arms. While this normally wouldn't be a problem, I'm still recovering from surgery under my right arm and I don't have full range of motion back in it yet. There was literally no where I could place it that didn't hurt. The tech did the best she could trying to help me, putting cushions under the arm, etc, but there was nothing I could do to keep it from hurting. Finally we both just agreed to get on with it and I would have to grin and bear it, so that's what we did. At least this place had headphones so I could listen to a music station. she asked me what kind of music I wanted and I said classic rock, I couldn't think of anything else off the top of my head. In hindsight I should have said pop or modern rock. I swear if I ever hear "One whiskey, one shot, one beer" one more time I'm gonna punch someone in the ear. And that's partly a country song, isn't it? The stuff they were playing was crap. I didn't know what was worse, the music, or the MRI banging away and pulsing away in my ears for 45 mins.

By the time we were done, I was hurting so bad I was almost in tears. As soon as I got in the car I took a double dose of pain pills. I still had work to do when I got home, but I just couldn't do it. The pain meds had kicked in, and I was so out of it that I ate dinner and went right to bed. I slept almost 12 hours straight.

I had a little "Scanxiety" because it seems I always get bad news from doctors lately, so I was prepared for the spot to not just be a harmless Baker's cyst, and I was right. My oncologist called while I was out shopping with mom today and told Deni I have a "perforated synovium"(?) of the knee, which is a perforation of the lining around my knee. He said alot of athletes sometimes get that... I am SO NOT an athlete! I don't remember having injured that knee at all, and it doesn't hurt either. So the onc referred me to an orthopedist and I have an appt with him tomorrow. He's a specialist in orthopedic oncology, and my onc said he would probably want to do some kind of surgical procedure to find out what exactly is going on. Apparently they are being super-investigative because I have Melanoma and it can pop up anywhere, anytime, for no reason at all, and they want to make sure this isn't because of it. Sounds like a biopsy is in my future.

If it turns out to be melanoma... then things get deadly serious. That would bump me up from a stage 3b to stage 4, I would be considered "metatastic", and my survival odds would plummet. I would also immediately become eligible for every kind of chemo they have, and maybe radiation too.

::Sigh:: Just when I think I have a handle on things. Mom is worried again, but it might end up being nothing. Fingers crossed.

May 23rd, 2011 - Decision made.

Feeling much better today. Have made my decision not to do Yervoy trial at this stage and I'm at peace with it. As of right now, I am considered cancer free (NED = No Evidence of Disease), so let's just stay that way. Still have lots of dr appts to keep a close watch on me, but "if it aint broke, don't fix it", in the words of mom.

May 21st, 2011 - Don't know what to do

I'm still undecided about the Yervoy trial. Honestly, if they offered it in Gainesville there would be no question, I'd do it. But the fact that it's 3 hrs away and would require money and a lot of effort to do it... I'm willing to do it, but I don't think my parents are. Mom said tonight that if I wanted to do it, I would have to come up with $500 to pay her for gas and hotel. There's no way. Right now my bank account is overdrawn $200. Having $500 free and clear may as well be a million dollars. I keep reading blogs about other people fighting Melanoma, and almost every one of them followed up their surgeries with some kind of chemical therapy. My mom thinks I'm fine, I'm going to BE fine. I think she just doesn't want to face the truth that this could still not be over, or that it could rear it's ugly head a few months from now, or a year, etc. I know traveling to Tampa to get the chemo would be hard on my parents, they are both in their 70's, and I know it would cause my parents to fight. They argue about everything. Usually my mom wants to do whatever I want and my dad is a grouchy old man and has a million excuses about why we can't do whatever it is.

I know if I did this chemo trial, there's only a %50 chance that I would be getting the actual drug. It's a blind placebo trial. If I went through all the effort and ended up not getting the drug, I would be pissed, but at least I would know I did everything in MY power to make sure the cancer is gone. Just sitting here, doing nothing feels like I'm playing Russian Roulette. Pull the trigger and see what happens. I think everyone in my family was at Defcon 1 the past two months and now they are back at 5. Situation normal, everything's good. Me? I'm still at Defcon 3. I just don't know what to do. I don't. I don't want my family to fight. I don't want my parents to argue or to have to drive me 3 hrs away for treatment. I don't have the money to pay them. I don't want anyone in my family unhappy.

But I'm scared to do nothing.

When they did my PET scan last month before my last surgery they found a spot behind my left knee, so I have to go have an MRI next Wednesday to try and find out what it is. The surgeon said she thinks it's just a "functional cyst" no big deal, but I have this nightmare of her calling me to tell me it's a melanoma tumor. Luckily the odds of that happening are low. Usually when Melanoma comes back it's in your liver, lungs, or brain. But... fingers crossed. I'm still gonna be nervous anyways.

I went to the Davis Cancer Pavilion yesterday where my oncologist is to have my first physical therapy session. Mostly it was a lot of questions and examining and measuring, and testing my range of motion. The lady (thank god it was a female) was super nice, and I had no problem taking my shirt off to show her my scars. She definitely agreed that my right breast is more swollen than the left, and down that side of my torso is swollen as well. My upper right arm is swollen but not too badly. She wants me to wear the hated compression bra that my surgeons made me wear (grumble grumble) and said they may even have to get a binder for my breasts to offer even more compression. Apparently compression is the best way of keeping lymphadema in check. Yes, just call me a little Chinese girl, binding her breasts to look like a It doesn't sound real comfy, either. All I can say is, if they continue wanting me to do these physical torture things, they better give me some good meds. Honestly, I'm taking Percocet now for pain since the surgery, and I don't even feel it. I don't really notice much of a difference. So something stronger would be nice. When I got home yesterday I was so exhausted and after having them move my arm around so much to measure my mobility, it was very sore and hurting. The lady warned me that PT isn't going to be a walk in the park, it will be physical work and some of it will hurt. I told her, after what I've just been through, I think I can handle it. But yeah... more painkillers, please?

Oh and I have to do PT twice a week, which doesn't really thrill the parentals. See, I have no car, so if I go anywhere, they take me. When I have money I try to pay for gas, but right now I'm broke. And I could drive myself, but I'm not allowed to drive for a few more weeks. So I'm sure my dad will bitch about it. But this is only a 1 hr drive, not a 3 hour drive.

I wish there was a high speed train I could take to have my chemo stuff done. Then I wouldn't have any problems.

If I don't do the chemo, I want to be at peace with it. But I'm not at peace. Not right now. I'm scared. I don't know how to be at peace with it. Please send me some good juju, vibes, whatever, that this gets resolved one way or another. I just want to beat this cancer, I just want to do everything I can.

May 12th, 2011 - Lots More Cancer Talk

Yesterday I went to the oncologist to see what he had in mind for further treatment for my cancer. I was afraid he was going to say nothing, and that's pretty much what he did say, to my mother's relief. Now, don't get me wrong, taking Interferon and puking my guts up for a year isn't really at the top of my To-Do list, but on the other hand, neither is just waiting around for the next spot or tumor or nodule to pop up somewhere on my body. I had pretty much decided not to do Interferon anyways because of the severe side effects and because studies show it doesn't really affect long term survival, but there is a clinical trial of Yervoy, a new Melanoma drug, that I qualify for. The only thing about it is that I'd have to go to the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and that's a 3 hour drive away. I have no car so I'd have to rely on my parents to take me, and I just know that would be something they'd end up arguing about. They just got a new car and my dad hates putting wear and tear on their car. I would have to go to Tampa once every two weeks for 6 weeks to get the treatment, then I'd have to go back one final time for a follow up.

Because it's a clinical trial, it means that %50 of the patients will get the new drug, and %50 of the patients will get a placebo. I'd never know which one I got, and after everything it could all be for nothing. Mom is convinced that I don't need further treatment, but I don't know how much this is her feeling confident that I'll be fine, and how much it's her just wanting to say I'm cured and put this whole thing behind her. I can't blame her for wanting to just get on with life, she's been so worried about me, but if a tumor pops up somewhere a year from now, she may feel horribly guilty.

Regardless, I've just decided to reject the Yervoy trial and just do observation which is seeing the oncologist and the dermatologist every 3 months. That's what mom wants me to do, and my onc feels good about choosing this option too, so that's what I'll do. I know the rates of recurrence for Stage 3 melanoma are very high, so I guess I'll have to live with the knowledge that it could come back any day at any time. If you look at the rates of survival, they are anywhere from %45-%60 that I will be alive 5 years from now, and those numbers drop for 10 years. Wonderful.

My family says don't look at the internet, don't read statistics, I'm just scaring myself, but I HAVE to. This is my LIFE and I need all the info I can get. I've spent most of today gathering information on stage 3 treatments and trials, and trying to figure out what to do. Basically I've been in tears all day but no one knows it. Mom keeps saying I'm "cured", I'm in "remission", I should be happy. I'm not. I've read enough online now to know what kind of an animal Melanoma is, and I feel in my gut that it will come back, maybe a year from now, maybe later, but it's the sword of Damocles that will be hanging over my head and there's nothing I can do. Everyone says relax and think positive. It's so hard to do.

My surgery recovery has been slow, but again it's only been two weeks since I had all my lymph nodes out. I've been scared of getting lymphadema in my arm, so what happens? I get lymphadema... not in my arm, but on the side of my breast facing my arm. So I have one normal sized boob and one mega sized. Mom says she's gonna call me "One hung low". Ha, very funny. The Onc looked at it and is setting me up for some physical therapy. Apparently they can show me some types of exercises and massages to make the swelling go down. Yeah, this is me sitting around massaging my boob all day. My underarm incision looks really good, the steri-strips finally came off and I think it's healing nicely, including the small hole where my drain was. The incision on my chest is still being a pain in the ass, but it's healing little by little. I see people looking at me when I go out of the house wearing a shirt with no collar. It makes me curious what they are thinking when they see my scar.

I went into the local grocery store yesterday and before I even got to the check out, they were ready for me. The two girls that I had showed my scar to a week ago were there and they put all my food on the checkout counter for me, and made sure I had help out to my car. They even asked how I was doing, and were super nice. Hey, if my scars can help anyone learn more about the dangers of skin cancer, then that makes me feel happy.

The one good thing that did happen yesterday is I got a new Rx for Percocet because I'm still in pain. Yay pain pills, they do help the healing process.

Through all this turbulent past two months whenever I get upset or scared or worried (which is every day), I go to my "happy place", meaning I put on my headphones, put in my Stargate DVD's and just tune the world out. I went through all 5 seasons of Stargate Atlantis, and I'm on season 5 of Stargate SG-1. It makes me forget about everything for a while. I guess when I'm done with them I'll have to rejoin the real world. Maybe I'll try and watch Battlestar Gallactica online again, wish I had those DVDs.

So that's my life right now. 


May 5th, 2011 - Surgery Wrap Up II

So I've spent the past week recovering from surgery again at Mom's, and just came home yesterday. I feel pretty good, albeit very sore, and very swollen. I'm not allowed to pick up anything over 10 lbs with my right arm or drive for the next 5 weeks. I have another lovely scar for my collection, and I got my tube removed. Here's a brief recap.

Wednesday I went into pre-op and after getting me situated with my IV and stuff, my mom came back to sit with me. My dad was there, but my neice Heather was there too, so I let her come back instead of my dad. They only let 2 people come back to pre-op. Heather had to come to the hospital anyways to do something for school so she stayed with my mom all day, which was really nice of her. We all talked and made jokes with the staff and each other until they came to get me. It's weird being wheeled on a bed into the OR and seeing all the lights and instruments, and people are buzzing around everywhere getting things ready. All for me. There was music playing too, but I don't remember what it was, just that I was glad the atmosphere was good. This time I was getting to be an old pro, so I put my arms where they could place them on the boards, I didn't freak when they put the compression pants on my legs, and right before they placed the mask on my face, I said "Do a good job!" and gave them a thumbs up.

I woke up in recovery and this time my throat wasn't on fire like last time. I was a bit more uncomfortable, in more pain than last time, but it was still only like a level 4 or 5 of pain. Again they gave me Percocet and I was feeling very relieved that it was over. They took me up to my room on the 5th floor and Mom and I settled in for the rest of the day and the night. Mom was so great, jumping up every time I needed something. There's something really weird about having to ask complete strangers to come help you go to the rest room, but that's what the PCA's and nurses were there for. Mom could only help me so much, she couldn't handle all the IV tubes and things I was attached to. Mom slept on a pull out couch bed thing that she said was horribly uncomfortable, and neither of us got much sleep. By the next morning after not having any good sleep, the anesthesia had worn off and the pain had kicked in, and my body felt so ALIEN to me, I sat there and cried. This was gonna be harder than I thought. Also I felt guilty. It was Mom's birthday and here she was in the hospital looking after me. I was not happy.

They had a physical therapist come see me, and once I got up into a chair I started feeling better about things. She showed me exercises that I have to do every hour to keep from getting lymphadema, and she thought I already had good movement in my arm. Oh and I had a new friend, Jackson, my little drain attached to a tube that went into a small hole near my armpit. They showed me how to clean and strip the tube daily, how to empty it, and to record the daily outputs. Then after my doc came by and took a look at me, she signed my discharge papers. It was barely noon.. yay! So they bundled me in my PJ's and into a wheelchair, and we left. After leaving the hospital I went straight to mom's and stayed there for almost a week. I had to have help showering, going to the bathroom (thank god for moms!!), dressing, doing just about everything. I was given Percocet for the pain, but it wasn't that bad. Apparently this is a common surgery for breast cancer patients because the exercise paperwork and disharge papers had alot about recovering from breast cancer lymph surgery.

By the end of the weekend my drain was barely putting out any fluid so we called the doctor Monday and she had us come in Tuesday. They removed the drain, and I was so nervous it was going to hurt, but the thing practically jumped out onto the floor. I didn't feel a thing, and I was so glad. They looked at my new incision, which looks good, and then at my chest incision, which is being slow to heal. They discovered underlying stitches on my chest that were pushing their way up out of my skin, and this was keeping the wound from scabbing over and healing properly, so they had to do some maintenance. I had to lay down on the table while she took some tiny tweezers and pulled/clipped the little threads that she could find. Ok, this did hurt... but no big deal. She also pulled all the scab off so when she was done my wound was fresh, red, and irritated. But it was apparently better for healing. Now I have to take a shower daily and use a wash cloth to gently scrub the wound to keep dead skin or scab off of it. Today is only two days later and it already looks much better. They DO want it to scab, but not like it was doing before. I know, I'm confused too.

One of the important things that happened that day was I asked the doc how many lymph nodes she removed and she said 25, and the pathology report came back and said none were cancerous. So that means only the initial lymph node that they biopsied had cancer in it. Yes that means that I didn't really HAVE to have all my other lymph nodes out, but better safe than sorry. I'm glad I had them out. So the doctors basically dismissed me as a patient in the surgical area and said they were turning me over to my oncologist to do his part. I'll see him next Wednesday and we'll find out if he wants to do any kind of chemo or radiation or anything. Mom really really wants him to say he's just going to observe me for a year or whatever, but if he suggests actually doing some kind of therapy, I'm gonna do it. I mean I know mom doesn't want to see me sick or anything, but I don't want to play "let's just sit back and see what happens". I'd rather be aggressive and pro-active to make sure the cancer is not only gone, but doesn't come back.

So I'm back at home now, with my bed, my pillows, my kitties, and my Doodlebug. I love being at mom's, but I also love being home. My arm keeps doing all this weird crap, tingling... hurting... itching... feeling good... feeling bad, especially by my elbow. And there are many parts of my upper arm that are numb and will never change. Apparently the doc had to cut two of the nerves in my arm and it may take months for the tingling and other feelings to subside. I don't care about the parts that will stay numb... as long as it isn't near my hand, I'm fine. I can deal with it. My incision under my arm is a long "S" scar, but it was done beautifully and looks like it's healing really nicely. I have just a tiny scab where the tube went in, but eventually I'll barely even be able to see it. I do still feel like I have a golf ball under my arm, there is SO much swelling, but I'll have to be patient. All in all, I feel pretty good. Everyone keeps telling me to take it easy and slow down, but I just want to get back to normal, ya know?

So there you have it, my surgery wrap up. Things are looking up, but I'm still a stage 3 cancer patient. I'm not running around thinking everything is over and fine, but I am thinking positively, and I'm letting myself feel happy... at least until next

April 29th, 2011 - I'm Home

I shouldn't be typing this right now but what the hell. I'm home at mom's healing from surgery and on painkillers. The pain is manageable but I'll be glad to get this 6 week healing over with. Oh and I have my own plastic bottle draining fluids from my incision. Weeee.

The good news is I had the PET scan and the results are clean. This means the cancer hasn't metasticized to anywhere else in my body. So now I have to heal and find out what my oncologist wants to do in terms of chemo or radiation.

This surgery was removing all the lymph nodes from under my right arm. My DOMINANT arm. I'm not supposed to use that arm right now. Greeeeaaat. Ever try to use your other arm for everything? Sucks.

This is about all I can manage right now. Just wanted to let you all know I was home and doing ok.

April 25th, 2011 - Here we go again...

So here we go again. This weeks starts another round of tests and another surgery. Last week they told me the pathologists were taking a second look at my cancerous lymph node to see if the cancers were below .1 or .2cm in size, or over. Apparently the survival rates for cancer below those sizes are better than the survival rates above. My oncologist called me this morning to tell me my size was 1.2 cm which is well over the size so, as he put it, "It's a good thing we're going ahead with the surgery to take out the rest of the lymph nodes". I asked him if this ups the odds that I'll have some kind of chemical therapy and he said he wants to wait and see what the PET scan says tomorrow, but he did mention Interferon again and I'm starting to get nervous. Having the flu for a year is my nightmare. I'll do it if it's either that or death, but they better give me some heavy duty anti puke drugs. I have a feeling I'll be spending the better part of the next 12 months in bed. How this will affect my job is beyond me. I have to just trust and forge ahead.

Tomorrow is the PET scan and I have... let's see... a little under 5 hours left to eat and drink tonight. I'm not worried that anything will hurt, I'm worried about the crap they're gonna make me drink before the scan. I hope it's not chalky. I know I have to sit still for almost an hour before the scan, and I'm hoping they'll at least let me listen to and/or watch my ipod so I don't have to stare at the wall. If they don't let me, I may drive everyone nuts by singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall over and over and over. I told mom she better eat breakfast at her house before we leave because if she stops for a breakfast biscuit on the way to the scan, I may have to hurt her. And god knows by the time I get out of the scan I will be cranky McCranky pants, and will be heading to the nearest McDonalds for FOOD.

I'm also on a chocolate silk pie kick. Guess what I'm having for dinner tomorrow night? That's right, chocolate silk pie...LOL. No really, I'll have some, but I will eat a regular dinner as well. Steaks? Hmmmm.... When you have cancer, you could really give a f*ck about the price. Especially since I expect to be really miserable for the next week or so and not give a care about food.

So wish me well tomorrow and I'll try to post before the surgery. 


April 20th, 2011 - Update on Surgeon and Oncologist

Yesterday was the two week checkup with my surgeon and my oncologist. As usual, Mom came with me.

First the surgeon. She looked at my incision site on my chest and agreed it looked ugly, but said even though it wasn't healing "pretty", it was healing and it wasn't infected or anything. (I think it looks like a rancid piece of meat with all the yellow drainage). She says this is normal healing fluid that the body provides and is nothing to worry about. She could see where the incision has pulled apart a bit and she was a little suprised that they used DermaBond instead of stitches for the top layer. She said she could go back in and stitch the top layer together if I wanted a prettier scar or if it was really bothering me. Basically it's going to heal either way, it's just up to me how I want to proceed. I asked her what she's do herself and she said she'd probably just leave it alone because I have bigger things to worry about.


So the pathology results, which we knew, were that my chest wall incision was clear of any cancer, all the margins were clean. But the lymph node she removed from under my arm did have cancer. That automatically moves my stage up from a II to a III, and makes things way more serious. You see, Melanoma likes to take road trips, and the lymphatic system is the superhighway of the body. Finding Melanoma at a rest stop means there's a chance it could have gone sightseeing. We're hoping it hasn't started it's road trip yet and was still busy getting snacks and packing the car. My surgeon was discussing what to do next, and she said there are two schools of thought; the first one thinks that if you find cancer in one lymph node, you should be safe and take the rest. Better safe than sorry. The other school of thought says wait a second, we don't have concrete proof that taking all the lymph nodes will add to the patient's survival. That's the word she used, too, "survival". I saw the look in Mom's eyes when that word was uttered and it was pure terror. Mom was under the impression that we were still in the diagnostic phase and that things weren't that serious yet. Suddenly they are talking about survival rates and things like that, meaning that this is no longer just a little thing to be taken care of, this is life or death.

After discussing it, we decided to go with the first school of thought and yank the remaining lymph nodes, just to be safe.

Before that's done, I'll be having a PET/CT scan next Tuesday. That will tell us if Melanoma and his friends have already started their road trip and visited other sites in my body and settled there. The PET/CT scan entails me getting an injection of radioactive glucose, then I have to sit in a dark room without moving for 30 mins or so. I also have to drink two bottles of some nasty stuff. Then I will have the scan, lying again motionless for about 45 mins. Fun, annoying, but not painful. It's the little things I'm greatful for.

The surgery will be the following day, next Wednesday. The current incision under my arm has healed amazingly. It's so small it looks like a cat scratch. As the surgeon explained, this next one will be quite a bit bigger, in the shape of an "S" and go from the top of my armpit down and around the side towards my back. I will stay overnight in the hospital, and I will have a drain installed. The drain will stay in place for 1-2 weeks depending. I'm scared of this surgery because of the complications. On the inside of my upper arm there is a risk that the nerves will not heal and I may never get the feeling back. There is also a risk of lymphadema which is my real fear, that fluids will build up and my arm will swell to several times it's own size. If that happens I will have to wear a compression sleeve on my arm, and I may have to wear it for the rest of my life. I told her I'm an artist, will this affect my hand movement, and she said no, so that's a good thing. Apparently the day they release me from the hospital, they will send in a physical therapist to talk to me about exercises for my arm to keep the lymphadema at bay. Again, no promise that this will improve my survival odds, but better safe than sorry.

As soon as she got done explaining all this, I think my mind just imploded a bit and I started to cry. It was alot to take in. Mom started to cry too. There are alot of things I can handle, but seeing my mom cry, especially because of worry over me, is something that breaks my heart. Not to mention my surgery will be the day before her birthday. She's planning on staying the night in the hospital with me and bringing me home the next day, but I feel guilty. Happy Birthday to her. The next day, Friday, my neice graduates from nursing school, so I won't be able to go to that. Deni is going to stay with me so Mom can go instead. And that's another thing. The first surgery was hard enough on Deni and I because I stayed at mom's so she could take care of me. Deni and I were both miserable being apart. Now we're going to have to go through it all again. At least this time we've discovered Skype video chat.

So after the surgeon slammed us both with the emotional hammer, we went to scheduling to schedule the surgery, then over to the cancer pavilion. There's a Subway there so we had lunch and tried to calm down a bit. I went over to Nuclear Medicine to schedule my PET scan but they were out to lunch and by that time it was time to meet with my Oncologist. There really wasn't much to discuss with him as far as treatment. He wants the results of the PET scan too, before we decide on a strategy. He did mention Interferon, and I said "I thought you didn't like Interferon" at which point he said well, I think we have other options available before we have to think seriously about that one. Which is good because having the flu for a year... yeah, not so much on my "to do" list. I'd much rather have radiation. He did mention Yervoy which is a new drug for Melanoma that shows promise, but it's only being used for advanced stages of Melanoma, so if he puts me on that, then I'll know I'm probably a stage IV at that point.

After we met with him, it was back down to nuclear medicine to schedule my PET scan. I guess there was a red flag somewhere in the computer system because I had to go see a financial person who asked me a bunch of financial questions. I told her I'd already gone through this two weeks ago with someone else and she acted like it was the most important thing in the world that I get financially "Approved" for the PET scan. She was so uncaring and also had me down as "Indigent" because I have no insurance. I couldn't help it, my eyes teared up, I had just had enough. I felt like telling her "Lady, do you have any idea what I'm going through? Do you know how little I give a fuck about your stupid paperwork?". I mean really, I'm already in for over $10,000. To me, they're just numbers on a screen, or a paper. I'm more concerned with SURVIVING right now. In the immortal words of Ripley in Aliens, "They can BILL me!!"

I've been going to the Melanoma Research Foundation boards and talk to other people who've been through the same thing and they're so great. They tell me exactly what to expect, how much it could hurt, etc. And there are many many stage IV patients that have been stable for years now, so I'm trying to think positively. I have people I don't even know praying for me, and the outpouring of love that I've gotten is just overwhelming. I always figured if anything happened to me it would only upset my family, but there are people from all over thinking of me and it brings me to tears.

Yesterday was a day for tears...and xanax. It was a day to buy a chocolate silk pie and eat some before dinner (I did), and it was a day to have steaks for dinner, damn the cost. (Again, I did). Money? Who cares. It's just paper, or coins, or ticks on a credit card. So yesterday I was beaten down and curled up in bed. Today I'm up and taking a deep breath and gathering my strength for the next battle ahead. I'm not there yet, but I will be by next Wednesday.

In the meantime, nothing is allowed to upset me or stress me out. Only happy things to exist around me. So let it be said... so let it be done.

April 19th, 2011 - It's Getting Real

So far after I've gone to a dermatologist to have a mole removed, this is what's happened:

1. They called to tell me the mole was malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
2. They sent me to a surgeon and an oncologist.
3. the surgeon scheduled me for surgery, the oncologist talked about possible treatments after we get more info.
4. I had a lymphocintigraphy which are radioactive shots that hurt like hell in the mole region of my chest to see which lymph nodes that area goes to.
5. I had surgery on my chest to remove more of the mole area, and I had a lymph node under my arm removed.
5. Pathology results no cancer in my chest area, but cancer was evident in my lymph nodes in the one they removed.

Now today nuclear medicine called saying my surgeon has scheduled a PET scan. I've done enough research by now that I know this is the next step and it's to make sure cancer hasn't spread elsewhere in my body. I've also been informed my surgeon will want to do another surgery to remove the rest of the lymph nodes under my arm.

I have an appt with the surgeon tomorrow to discuss this, and she'll probably schedule my lymph node surgery for next week. Then I go to Nuclear Medicine to schedule my PET scan. Then I go to my oncologist to see where he wants to go in terms of immunotherapy, chemo, radiation, etc.

So tomorrow should be just full of fun.

My chest incision doesn't seem to be healing as well as it should, but who am I, not a surgeon. It seems to be weeping alot in the past couple of days, and you can clearly see where the surgical glue on the top layer of skin has failed and the wound has pulled apart some. Everyone says it just means I'll have a more prominent scar. I still have the compression bra on, after almost 2 weeks. When I take it off, the weight of my boobages pulls the incision down and it hurts. This is one of those times I wish I was flat chested.

I had a black folder that the hospital gave me to keep all my forms and things in, and I called it the black cancer folder of doom, but then I blinged out the front of it, attaching all kinds of sparkly stickers to it, and now it's the blinged folder of fabulousness. I guess I'll need to start a list of more questions to ask tomorrow and put it in my folder.

This is all getting a little too real and I admit now... I'm getting scared. I think... I think my life is in danger. I think I need to fight. I think I need to gather those people around me that understand and that encourage me to hang in there, while offering me a hug and a shoulder at the same time.

I want to go tomorrow to get more info, but I'm scared to go, too.
I'm just...scared.

April 15th, 2011 - Pathology Results

All I want to do today is sleep, and that's mostly all I've done. I was woken up this morning by the dr's office on the phone with my pathology results. It wasn't the surgeon, it was someone from her office, a nurse maybe? Anyways, she said the excision and all the tissue they took from my chest around the initial mole site was clear, no cancer. Yay! But the lymph node they took from under my arm? Yep, cancerous. Crap. Well my surgeon told my parents (while I was still out in the OR) that she could tell one lymph node was cancerous because it was darker than the others, so it really isn't a huge suprise to find out it IS cancer. But the lady on the phone said I could talk more with Dr. Shaw next Wednesday when I see her, but that she's gonna want to do more surgery and take out more lymph nodes.



I think the odds just went up that I'll have to have some kind of chemo or radiation. I'll find out about that on Wednesday too when I meet with my oncologist.

This all started a month ago yesterday. Hard to believe. And all because of a stupid mole.

I'm not scared of doing radiation therapy or some other kind. I'm scared that if (when) they do more surgery they might find cancer in my other lymph nodes. Yes, I think that will scare the shit out of me if that happens.

Meanwhile...I've only been home a few days, and now I'm facing another surgery. Mom has already said if that's true, my ass will be back over at her house so she can take care of me afterwards...LOL.

I've gotten such comments of love and support. It humbles me, and touches me.... and makes me want to fight. And fight I shall.


April 12th, 2011 - Pic of my gross incision... you know you wanna see

Pic of my incision...may be gross to some.

This is a pic of my incision on my chest. You can see how long it is. I have another incision under my right arm that's about 1/4 the length of this one. I barely feel that one, but it does get sore on and off. This one, though, feels like they scraped my skin down to the bone. I still can't stand up straight. There are stitches inside the incision but they used a derma bond glue on the outside.


I'm wearing the compression bra they put on me in the OR. It does help with the pain because it supports the breast area and helps the incision heal. It's so weird, though, to look down and see this long cut with no stitches.

And all this because of a little mole the size of my fingernail. And I may not be done yet, either. Haven't heard back from pathology yet, I wish they'd call already. I don't know who's more nervous, Mom, or me.

April 9th, 2011 - Surgery.... the whole long thing...

So I have, apparently, come through surgery just fine. I know you're sick of hearing me say "If you would have told me...." but here comes another one. If you would have told me two months ago I would have a mole removed, get diagnosed with cancer, and have a real actual surgery, I would have probably had a heart attack on the spot. I always knew one day I'd have to face some painful medical procedure or diagnosis, and I've dreaded it. I've watched while Deni has undergone procedure after procedure and been so brave, so stoic. Without even having had anything happen to me, I was embarrassed at my own fear of the future.

Needless to say this is one of the biggest things that's ever happened to me, and on a scale of painful, I'd have to give it maybe a 3. Now having bad teeth, that's been a 10. You see, when my body has an illness and my immune system is compromised, my bad teeth just figure they'll join the party and decide to act up, which is exactly what happened the night before surgery. Yes, here I was about to have my first real surgery and what am I complaining about? My tooth. I wasn't supposed to eat or drink anything after midnight, but by 3:30am I was hurting so bad I called my other sister, who's a nurse, and asked her what to do. She told me to take a Vicodan with just enough water to wash it down, and not tell anyone. I was really scared of the doctors re-scheduling me, so I did what she said, and it was enough to get me through.

I must say that every person I had contact with at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, and the Shands Cancer surgical dept at new Shands were SO NICE and understanding. As soon as I told them I was scared, they were immediately on my side, making sure I was ok every step of the way.

The thing that hurt me the worst was when they put the IV in while I was in Pre-op. I've had IVs before, but for some reason this one was a bitch and I felt it. I wanted to slap the nurse that put it in ala Chris Tucker in "Fifth Element" and yell "OUCH! That HURT! What's WRONG with you?!!!BzzzzZZZZZZ!!!!". But I was good and just said Ouch. Once that was done, they let my parents come in and sit with me while the cute anesthesia guy asked me some questions. I love how they give you those warm sock with the no skid pads on them and cover you with toasty warm blankies.

After a few minutes, they came to get me, and mom kissed me on the forehead just like I was a Honestly by this point I swear she was more nervous than I was. I was ready to roll. They got me into the OR and had me move from my bed to the other bed. Then there about 4 people doing things to me all at once; giving me oxygen via a face mask, putting both my arms on cushioned boards and taping them down, and they put these cuffs around my legs, like blood pressure cuffs only bigger. I get calf muscle cramps really easy and I started freaking out. The one tech said would you rather have a blood clot during surgery or a muscle cramp, which you won't feel anyways? And I said "yeah, ok" and he started to laugh and put the mask back on me. A few mins later as I felt the gently waves of massage on my legs I remember saying "Oooo that's nice!", and I looked up to see the tech staring down at me with a smile saying "We're gonna take good care of you", and I was out.

The next thing I know I was laying in a bed in recovery, wrapped in nice warm blankets, while the nurse was reading my monitors. My first feeling was that my throat felt like acid had been poured down it, and it was IMPOSSIBLE to talk. All that came out was a whisper. I felt a little pain on my chest at the surgery site, but more sore than pain really. The only thing I cared about was my throat. The nurse had two ice laden drinks for me and I started sucking them down like I'd been in the desert for a month. Eventually mom showed up and sat next to me and told me they were having trouble with my sats, that I needed to try and breathe more to bring my sats and my blood pressure up before they'd let me go home. It took about 45 mins of me drinking and breathing, but eventually my vitals were fine and they released me and wheeled me out to the valet parking. My mom, meanwhile, was sent to the nearby coffee bar on a mission from me.... obtain a LARGE vanilla latte freezer STAT!! And she did. And OMG was it GOOD!!!

Before I left the recovery area, they gave me two Percocets for my pain, and by the time we hit the interstate going home, the meds had kicked in BIG TIME. I was talking nonstop and making my mom laugh so bad. My dad was driving a little fast and I told him to slow down, he made some excuse and I said "Hey! I just had surgery! Lean back and let me grab your testicles and we'll be even!". Both my parents almost spit their drinks laughing when I said that. I probably shouldn't tell you all that, but really, that's the kinds of things I was saying. High doses of painkillers give me "The stupids" really bad.

Once I got home I discovered I have a compression bra on that has to stay on for as long as I can stand it. I have a large incision on my chest that I swear goes down to the bone because I feel like I got a face lift on my chest. I also have a small incision under my arm that I don't even feel. As for pain, they've given me Lortabs, which are great, but my pain has been really small. I just feel ALOT of tightness in my chest and I walk a bit hunched over because if I stand up straight, the skin pulls from my chest up to my neck and feels uncomfortable. I'm over at my mom's so she can take care of me, and Deni and I are like two siamese twins that have just been separated. It's awful. I'd rather have surgery again than have to be away from my Doodle. Hopefully I'll be able to go home in a few days when Mom thinks I'm strong enough.

The big thing now is waiting for the pathology results which will come back sometime next week. The surgeon told mom that based on how my one lymph node looked, and how it looked inside my chest, that she was "Cautiously optimistic". I'm praying nothing higher than the current stage 2, but I'm prepared to fight tooth and nail if it's higher. I saw a t-shirt supporting cancer that I thought was great, it said "Fight like a Girl". That's so awesome! If I have to have radiation or chemical trials - so be it. I'm really amazed, though, at the havoc a small mole can cause. For the rest of my life I will be an advocate for taking care of your skin and fighting against Melanoma.

Keep your fingers crossed for me, and remember.. stay out of the sun. It's not worth it.

April 6th, 2011 - Here We Go

So here's my day today. First we went to Surgery Pre-Op and filled out a bunch of forms. Then to the lab so they could take many vials of my blood. After that sign more forms, then over to xray to get a picture of my chest. Then across the street to meet with Financial Guy (who was young and CUTE and very nice to me!). By then it was too late for lunch, so over to the Medical plaza for my shots. My parents were famished and the Plaza has a Subway inside so I told them to go eat and I'd go do the shots myself. My mom was so worried about me, she almost insisted she come with me, but I said no, I can do this. So I went over to Nuclear Medicine myself, filled out more forms, and waited.

Once I got in there I was so pumped up it was almost ridiculous. I kept telling the tech "Bring IT!" and she would just laugh. She was SO NICE and we talked and talked, and she loved how I blinged out my iPod. Then the other tech came in, and I told him I'd pay him $100 to be gentle, and he laughed and said he'd be gentle anyways. Again..SUPER NICE. They just talked with me and joked and put me completely at ease. They even let me listen to my iPod with one headphone so I would be less nervous.

They gave me two shots. The lady held my hand and the man said ok here we go, first the stick, and he put the needle in and I was like "Ha! That was...." then he said "Ok now the burn" and I said "OHHHHHH SHIT!!!!!" and 3 seconds later it was over. Then a few deep breaths and he said ok, last one, get ready.... stuck the needle in, no problem, "here comes the burn"..... "SONOFABITCH!!!" and they both said that's ok, scream whatever you want. I was actually kicking my legs on the table but right when I thought I couldn't take any more, it was over.

That was it. Yeah it hurt. It burned like acid going in. But it sure as HELL wasn't worth all the worrying and the tears I spent over it the past week.

I kicked it's ass!

Once they injected the dye they had this big machine that traced where the dye went to, which lymph node. I was so terrified it would be in my neck, I really don't want surgery on my neck. But I was lucky, it was right under my right armpit where I had hoped it would be. So I know now when I wake up tomorrow I will be cut on my chest and under my right arm. The more info I know, the better able I am to handle stuff.

They gave me special soap that I have to wash my torso with tonight, and then I have to take another shower with the soap in the morning before I leave for the hospital. Tonight I have to call after 7pm to find out what time my surgery is and what time I have to show up at the hospital.

Change that... While I was typing that last sentence, the hospital called. They want me there at 6AM tomorrow, which means I have to leave at 5AM, which means I have to get up and shower at 4AM. OMG.. Mom is thrilled... LOL. I just went quickly and took my 1st shower. So 4am means I'll have to go to bed at like 10pm? Yeah, right. And no food or drink, not even water after midnight.

Please say a prayer that tomorrow goes as well as today, and that they find no cancer in my lymph node. You probably won't hear from me again for a few days at least, so I guess I will see you all on the other side.

April 5th, 2011 - Just Breathe

Tomorrow is THE first day of this whole thing. I have to go for my anesthesia Pre-Op at 10am, then over to the lab for blood work, then across the street to turn in my bank statements to the financial bloodsuckers. Then maybe lunch if we have time. At 1:30 it's back to the cancer center next to Shands to nuclear medicine for my lymphocintigraphy, aka the shots that hurt like hell.

I'm feeling calm, really calm, and I haven't had any xanax since last night. I don't know why or how I'm feeling this calm, I'm just praying to any god, goddess, ancestors, flying spaghetti monster that this calmness stays with me until the moment I get those shots. The way I'm feeling right now, I'm halfway in the mood to look at the nuclear tech tomorrow and say "You think you scare me? Bring it" but the last time I did that when I got a tooth pulled, he brought it big time and I was in pain for the next month. So I'll settle for calm. Just let me be calm. This will NOT be as bad as I'm making it in my mind. I can do this. I just hope the techs aren't embarassed if I yell "Sonofabitch!"....LOL. They'll probably say "Well, that's a first"!

Calm. Calmness. Breathe. Surrounded by love. Tomorrow at this time it will be over... then the surgery. I'm more scared of tomorrow than I am of the surgery. Weird, huh? I figure I'll be asleep Thursday so what's the big deal.

Thursday will deal with itself. Right now it's about tomorrow.

I have calmness at the center of my being.

Deep breath.

April 4th 2011 - A good day

I've been getting Get Well cards in the mail from my family and boss and it really touches me. Mom was supposed to have her knee scoped out today but they said they didn't need to, so they just gave her a cortisone shot and she was already walking better. I'm so relieved for selfish reasons, I need her with me this week.

She's SO looking forward to having me stay at her house until I recover from surgery. She's planning on making meals that I like and just between you and I, I think she's looking forward to having someone other than my dad to talk to...LOL.

We had a good day today. After the doctor we went to Walmart, Lowe's, Penny's, then I took my parents out to lunch at Applebees. The best part of working hard is having money to spoil my family with. And let's be honest, I'm spoiling myself too. It couldn't have come at a better time.

I bought myself a new nightgown to wear at mom's while I recover, and I bought Deni and myself a bunch of "bling" to put all over our iPods. Now they look like someone threw up sparklies on them, but we love it. Mom even put some on the back of her iPod. We are so attracted to anything that sparkles and shines...LOL.

I've been listening to this song over and over. It used to make me cry, but for some reason right now it's making me feel calm. It's called "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap. I want to be able to take my iPod into the radiology room when they inject me Weds, it would help SO MUCH to be able to concentrate on the music instead of the injections but I'm pretty sure they won't let me. Total silence. I'll have to go somewhere nice in my head until it's all over.

Please let the rest of the day be to you all.

April 4th, 2011 - Tick tock tick tock

I was doing ok today until I started looking at some Melanoma sites online. I was looking for some different support groups, but got caught up in treatments, peoples' stories, worst case scenarios, etc, and I had a panic attack and had to run over to mom. Anyone's that's had the diagnosis of cancer knows what it's like.... that certain panic. And sometimes only another person who's gone through it can "talk you down". To her credit Deni, who has been through her own medical hell, has been great, but sometimes you just want your momma, ya know?

I want this week over with. I want to know what I'm dealing with, what the future will hold. How many surgeries will I end up having total, will I have complications, will I have to have chemical treatments, clinical trials, radiation. Will my recovery be worse than I ever imagined? Will it be easier? Will I look back on this one week from now and laugh?

God I hate this waiting.

April 1st, 2011 - Feeling better now

I'm so sorry my last post was so... bleak. Honestly yesterday was a hard ass day, and today was just a day for crying and getting it all out. I do feel better now. I understand now how people that are brave are just like me... they have no choice. They just grit their teeth, close their eyes, and jump, because there's no going back. I will do this. It will hurt. Maybe the most pain I've ever had in my life, but I will do this. And in the meantime, when scary thoughts crowd my head (which is about every 5 mins), I will be good to myself. I will eat chocolate, and have chinese food. I will watch stupid movies and laugh myself sick. I will buy myself something pretty... maybe a new iPod cover. I will nap whenever I want. And if I need to crawl into my sister's lap and cry like I did today until I feel better, I will. Because she's here and she understands, and she knows I'm stronger than I think I am.

I will be good to myself. This has all come about because I was busy taking care of everyone but me. I don't regret it for a second but I have a favor to ask everyone that reads this: please, if you're Irish, or fair skin, if you have moles, if you've sunburned alot in the past, please please at the slightest change of a mole no matter how minor, go to a dermatologist. Even if you're broke like I was. Find a way. Write a bad check if you have to. Just DO IT please. And don't lay out in the sun. Tanning beds? Why, yes, cancer would be lovely. The only safe tan is a spray tan. Or else love yourself as a very fair skinned person.

Because of one stupid mole, I may very well be fighting for my life. At the very least I'm getting big chunks of my body removed. All because of one stupid little mole.

Don't be like me. Please. Don't lay in the sun, don't ignore changes in moles, don't put off seeing a dermatologist.

I love all of you....Love yourself.

Love, love, love. (Thank you Eva for your strength).

March 31st, 2011 - This is mostly for me, it may be depressing. Feel free not to read this.

Yesterday was a bitch of a day. First mom and I went to the hospital to meet with the surgeon. She examined my incision, felt to see if my lymph nodes were swollen, and answered a bunch of questions that I have written down. She was very nice, but in a no bullshit way. She said right now I have at least stage II cancer and it could go up depending on the results from the surgery, which is next Thursday. I will get the path results 3-4 days afterwards while I'm still healing. She showed me how big the incision is going to be and it's about three times as long as it was before. How far down depends on what they find once they get in there. The surgery will be outpatient and I won't be intubated, but I will be out. It's some kind of mask they put over my face that knocks me out.

The bad part, at least for me, is that I have to go in the day before surgery for pre-op blood work and to talk to the anesthesiologist, and I have to have lymphocintigraphy done. What is lymphocintigraphy, you ask? Well they're gonna take a couple of needles and inject me in my STILL HEALING incision site with radioactive dye that will tell them which lymph node my mole drains to, and which node to biopsy. I asked my surgeon will it hurt, she looked me right in the eye and said "Yep". Oh great, thanks. I asked if I could have a little lidocaine before the injection, and they said no, it might interfere with the test results. Sounds like someone's a little masochistic fucker to me, excuse my french. I figure if the dude giving me the injection lets me hold his nuts, and I'll twist them each time he hurts me, I bet you anything he'd find a way to give me some lidocaine. Asshole.

Sorry. I'm more terrified of this lymphocintigraphy than I am of the damn surgery. After they stick me, I have to lay down while some big machine scans me. hour or two. Grrrreat. Just like another MRI. Why can't they knock me out for this? Because it would make it all too easy.

So when I wake up in recovery, I will have a big incision on my upper chest horizontally, and I will have another small incision wherever my lymph node was. They remove it and do a "Sentinal Node Biopsy" meaning they test it for cancer. That will also tell them what stage I'm at, and what my oncologist needs to do in terms of treatment.

So after I got all that happy news, I had some lady following me in the halls wanting to meet with me. She represented some science department of the hospital that does testing on cancerous tissue, trying to find better treatments, and she wanted to know if I would donate my excess tissue to them. So of course I said sure and signed all the papers. I mean, it's not like I'm gonna ask for my excess tissue after the surgery. Can you believe some people actually do? That's just weird....and gross.

By the time I left the hospital I had so many papers they had to give me a folder to keep them all in.

I cried only once, thinking about the needle injection.

Then onto the Cancer Pavilion next door to meet with the oncologist, and Mom said "This is gonna be the hard part" and I was like "WTF? If it's any worse, I'm gonna kill someone". The doctor was an older man, about my dad's age, and he examined me (again) and felt my lymph nodes (again), made me fill out tons of forms (again), and talked to me about treatment options. I told him I was at least a stage II right now and I asked him about survival rates for that, he wouldn't give me a figure, but he did say a recurrence rate for stage II is %30, so Mom says that means a survival rate is at least %70 if not better. He talked to me about Interferon treatment which he's not a big fan of. He says it makes you sick like having the flu, and the treatment lasts a year. A YEAR of having the flu....OMG. Luckily we've both decided I won't be going that route. Of course this is all depending on the path results from my lymph node. We might decide to just observe me depending on the results, or he also mentioned some new clinical trials too.

My surgeon says I have a %40 chance of the cancer having already spread to my lymph nodes. So... %60 of a good outcome??? Please??

I swear if my biopsy comes back good I won't ask for anything ever again for myself. No Christmas presents, no Birthday presents, nothing, just a nice clear lymph node.

I'm so scared and stressed right now, I can't imagine going through another week leading up to this. How the hell am I gonna do this? I told my boss what was going on, and to her credit she told me to take whatever time I need, work when I want, don't work when I don't want to, and just get past this whole thing. Is that great or what?

But oh my god. The panic... The fear of pain, the fear of I'm about to have something serious done to my body and I have no freaking clue of the pain I'm in for, Then there's the fear of the results... what stage am I? All I had was a little freakin mole!!!

Ok let's just say it. I don't want to die. Not yet. I don't want to cause my family that pain. I love my family. I love my kitties, I love music, books, movies, my iPod. I love the sky when it's about to storm. I still haven't seen snow. I have to see snow.


March 30th, 2011 - I'm Home

Surgeon and oncologist consult today. I am exhausted, terrified, and not processing any of this right now. I'm so scared, please if there is god or goddess please help me ... Just help me be strong for my family. Please.

March 29th, 2011 - Meeting tomorrow at Shands...

I'm in a strange, quiet place in my head right now. Tomorrow I meet with the surgeon, then a few hours later, the oncologist. Per my dermatologist's suggestion yesterday, I've written a list of all my questions so I won't forget anything.

It's amazing what the mind can learn to accept in a very short time. If you had told me a month ago that I'd be having extensive surgery and very possibly cancer treatments I probably would have fainted from the shock. But the just absorbs and says "Ok, get on with it". You just so badly want to see the finish line, the waiting really makes you miserable. Waiting for test results, waiting for surgery, waiting for healing, waiting for more test results, then you start all over again.

Mostly I just feel numb. When I got my stitches out yesterday I was really happy that it didn't hurt. I was afraid that it was starting to get infected, but they said it looked fine. They said I was "Spitting a stitch" and I almost swallowed my tongue laughing. They explained that they closed the incision with two layers of stitches: one inside, and one outside. Apparently "spitting a stitch" is when your body pushes one of the inside stitches out of the incision. The nurse just reached in and pulled it out. It stung a little, but no big deal. But that's a new term for me.

What upset me was when the doctor explained that she gets concerned when a mole/tumor goes more than 1 centimeter down into the skin beneath. Mine was 3.8 , which is why she set me up with an oncologist right away. I get the feeling even if my biopsy results come back good, they might start me on cancer treatment anyways.

Hyperventalating, that was me. Poor mom is so worried about me, she was wacked out on Xanax. She was so drugged I had to make sure she didn't fall down. She really needs to back off tomorrow because I need someone to be there with me and be STRONG for me. I need someone that will listen and make sure I don't freak out. I would have Deni come with but I know it would be hard on her. I worry about the toll this is taking on my mom. I have to get back to where I can take care of them, not the other way around.

It's weird now hearing my family members refer to me as being sick, or ill, or having cancer. It just blows my mind.

Hopefully this new reality is only temporary.

March 28th, 2011 - Everytime I think I've got a handle on this...

Just got back from having my stitches taken out. It didn't hurt, of which I was relieved, but I did get some more alarming news from pathology. Apparently when a mole/tumor/skin thing goes down into the skin more than 1 cm, the doctor gets concerned. Mine went down 3.8 cm. My doctor (the dermatologist) said because of how far down it goes, she wants to treat my cancer aggresively. She answered some questions I had and told me the surgeon will definately put me out for the surgery. That makes me happy on one hand, but I've never been put to sleep before, so I'm hella nervous. Plus they'll do the lymph node biopsy while I'm asleep...yay. She showed me the size of the area they will be removing and it's pretty big, bigger than a silver dollar, a little smaller than a sand dollar. **Gulp** Then she talked about why she's sending me to the oncologist and it's because of the depth of the cancer. She said they could decide to treat me with Interferon, or Radiation, and also there's a new drug at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa that they can try and get me on. That's all assuming the cancer is in my lymph nodes, which I hope to god it isn't.

So... a body blow for sure. To my credit I didn't cry, just got really contemplative, until I got home and found a letter from the Health Center. They are my primary doctor, and apparently after years of being a patient, they are terminating me for "non compliance with treatment". I have no freaking clue what they're talking about. Deni got pissed and call them, and they wouldn't give either of us any info.

Let's not forget these are the same people who blew me off the first two times I showed them my mole last YEAR. Now suddenly they're dropping me the week after I got diagnosed with cancer? Way to go, thanks for that.

Karma's a bitch and I hope it's a super bitch for them.

Meanwhile I'm going to bed because this day sucks. I have a feeling Wednesday will break me down into tears again.

March 26th, 2011 - A Little Better

I'm feeling better today. No tears. Little by little I'm getting mad, and strong. One stupid little mole...tumor...Melanoma. This is NOT going to rule my life. When I think back to when I was 16, baking every summer at the beach trying in vain to get tan. Irish do not tan, we burn, peel, blister, and turn white again. But I never gave up trying. I could just scream now when I think about it. Stupid media making me think my pale skin was something to be ashamed of. At least nowadays they have totally safe spray tans, but those girls still stupidly laying out in the sun, or using tanning beds.... I hope they don't live to regret it.

Anyways, the point is today is much better than yesterday. I still have my moments when I'll think of something involved in the surgery and a cold icepick of terror will go through me, but I tell myself... nope, no bad thoughts. Think of something happy or silly or stupid, and it works.

And Xanax. That works too.... LOL

March 24th 2011 - Xanax is my best friend right now

I want to thank everyone that's commented on Facebook and sent me messages of love and support. It's funny, but if you had told me a few months ago that a person would be diagnosed with skin cancer and it had a severe impact on them, I would have laughed. Regrettable, but true. If the doctor had told me yes, it's skin cancer, but we removed it and you're fine, then I would have shrugged it off and gotten on with life. It's the part where the doctor said "I hate to give you bad news..but...", then proceeded to tell me I'll need more surgery and I'll need to meet with an oncologist. That just rams home the truth.... I have cancer.

Cancer. Cancer.

Mom keeps telling me the more I say it, the less shocking it is and the less power it has over me.

My mom had it, ovarian cancer, they did surgery and she was fine. Deni had it, skin cancer, several times, they removed it, and she's fine. I have it, but I have to have more surgery, and a lymph node biopsy. I'm sure the oncologist will want to discuss treatment options with me next week. Of the words I'm sure I'll hear are "Chemo", "radiation therapy", and other words that make your blood turn to ice.

Yes, I know. Let's not jump to worst case scenarios. They don't even know if there's any cancer left inside me yet, that's why they're doing more surgery and checking my lymph nodes. But don't you think they should ascertain that fact BEFORE they send me to the oncologist and get the holy living shit scared out of me? Seems like putting the cart before the horse.

I have two nurses in my family now and both of them think my incision is on the edge of becoming infected, so I'll need to call the dermatologist tomorrow. She'll probably put me on antibiotics, but I'm due to have my stitches out on Monday. Not sure how that's gonna go. When the incision is still red and sensitive, the thought of someone tugging out the stitches willy nilly... not so appealing.

I think I've spent every day since the doctor called me in tears. I'm not a weepy person, at least I don't think I am. But I've cried to mom, to my niece, to both my sisters, I've cried alone in the car. I don't like what this is turning me into. And I feel guilty as well. The last thing my family needs is another person to worry about. I'm the care taker, the caregiver, the person that helps, not the person that needs help. When I have my surgery, who's going to take care of Deni? What if the surgeons get bad news and tell my family before I'm even awake? I have to go grocery shopping tomorrow with my parents. I'm not allowed to lift anything or carry anything heavy. My parents are going to do that, and they're in their 70's. How pathetic is that? I should be taking care of THEM, not the other way around.

To top it all off, work has not only picked up, it's nonstop. I wanted more work, but this is ridiculous, and I've had a constant migraine all week. I get up, work a few hours until my head hurts so bad I want to cry, go back to bed for a few hours, get up later, do more work, go back to bed... wash, rinse, repeat. It's kinda hard to concentrate on work right now when I feel like all my energy is needed on other things. Some people say work can help, getting your mind off things, but right now I just can't concentrate the way I should.

Once I meet with the surgeon next Wednesday I'll either be completely frantic, or I'll feel better after getting some of my questions answered. Let's hope it's the latter.

And thanks again for the love. It's a little thing to comment and say "I'm thinking of you", but damn... it DOES help. It's like getting a virtual hug. And I need those hugs right now. God, do I need them.