Wednesday, July 24, 2013
For the first time since February 22nd, I feel like I can truly breathe.
Today, at my nine-day-post-surgery clinic appointment, I received the best possible news. Going into surgery, we knew that I had more than one area of cancer in my breast and that the cancer had spread to at least one lymph node. The surgical pathology report we received today showed that chemotherapy shrunk each of my three cancerous tumors (all removed during surgery) to a tiny two millimeters or less. Of my 24 lymph nodes taken, only one had cancer. In a full-circle moment, the same kind nurse practitioner who gave me the awful news of my diagnosis back in February, today told us this report places me "in an awesome prognostic category going forward." I still have radiation therapy and hormone therapy (in the form of a daily Tamoxifen pill for five years) ahead to further reduce my risk of recurrence. But I will face all of it breathing easier--with every reason to believe that there is no more cancer in my body.
Posted by allison at 9:22 PM
Saturday, July 13, 2013
On June 16th, I completed chemotherapy. It feels good to have that stretch of the treatment road behind me. It was a tough four months but I'm thankful it was only four months. I rebounded well enough between treatments to stay on my sixteen-week schedule. My mammograms and ultrasounds show that my cancer responded well to the chemo.
This Monday, July 15th, I'll take another big step when I have a mastectomy. After surgery, we'll have even more information about how my cancer responded to chemo.
Once I recover from surgery, I'll complete six weeks of radiation therapy. Six months after radiation, I'll have reconstructive surgery. On the one hand, this plan is the same as it has been from the beginning. I'm thankful there have been few surprises. On the other, next spring--when I'll have my last major surgery--feels like a long time from now.
I find myself very focused on right now. If I look too far back, I find myself longing for our pre-cancer life, our normal life. If I look too far ahead, I get overwhelmed by the surgeries, my radiation schedule and, of course, the uncertainties.
Right now, I'm enjoying a nice summer with Matt and the kids. We've had some fun little adventures since I finished chemo, the highlight of which was a trip to the beach.
This week, we're looking forward to some time with extended family. My aunts Louise and Bethany are already in town. My parents and sister arrive later today and my brother, Sunday. Matt's mom will join us for my second week of recovery.
Honestly, I don't know how much I'll be able to enjoy family time as I recover from surgery over the next few weeks, but I am immeasurably grateful that they are here, to support and love us.
I find that we are making our way through all of this: one step at a time, buoyed by love.
Posted by allison at 2:56 PM
Saturday, July 06, 2013
Evan is my summer baby. Lauren's birthday is also in June but falls before the summer solstice, so Ev has a season all to himself, which is quite appropriate. I think of him less as my middle child and more as my "center" child as he often finds his way to the center of my attention. He's an exceedingly charming, entertaining fella. He has always had a very strong sense of what he wants. Evan's a lot less interested in pleasing us than he is finding his own way. Recently, I complimented him on an "E" he wrote, and he furrowed his brow and informed me, "Mom, that's not an 'E.' It's an 'F-E.'" He then drew an "E" with four horizontal lines and quipped, "See Mom, that's an 'E.'" Since this was a rare instance in which he seemed interested in writing letters, I suggested he write the next letter in his name. He intentionally drew a "U" and told me, "That's not a 'V'; it's a 'U.'" Next he substituted an "H" for an "A." Then he moved on to something else. That's how things often work with him: if it's not his idea, he's not necessarily interested in doing it. But if he's into something, he's all in.
Evan's birthday officially ends our six-week birthday celebration season. He's had to be patient, waiting his turn for presents, festivities and cake. Tobin helped him with his countdown, telling him exactly how many days until his birthday for the last month or so. When June 28th finally rolled around, his reaction to the first present he opened did not disappoint.
He's been talking about those Hulk gloves since he first spotted them on a Target trip about four months ago. Thank you, Grandma! As for whether the gloves were a good idea, I guess I can report that there having been fewer violations of the no-hitting-people rule than you might think.
Our original plan for Evan's birthday was a celebration with my side of the family in Louisiana, where we find ourselves most summers around this time for the Lantrip family reunion. Alas, my course of treatment has me scheduled for surgery in the middle of July (more on that in a later, separate post), so we're traveling very little this summer. Evan's birthday ended up being a just-the-five-of-us affair. And there was something extra special about that because, as much as I've enjoyed having our helping visitors over the last few months, I've found myself especially treasuring the times in between when it's just us.
I thought a special birthday treat would be for Evan, Tobin and me to go to a movie, because Evan's never been to one. When I talked with Evan about, he wasn't super excited but I figured that was because he didn't really know what a movie theater was. He perked up when I said the movie we were going to see was Monsters University; we'd seen Monsters Inc. recently. When we got to the theater, he thought his folding seat was cool and he commented on each of the previews, saying, "Oh, I'd like that movie!" But about thirty minutes into the feature, he started asking when we could go home. He was never too insistent but did ask several more times. We stayed for the entire movie, and he laughed and smiled some but mostly seemed restless. When we got home, he reported to Matt that he didn't like the movie because "It was just too scary for me." I don't think he was really scared of the movie but probably just less than impressed with the whole experience. It wasn't his idea after all.
Leading up to his birthday, whenever we asked Evan what he wanted to do, he would usually just tell us he really, really wanted those Hulk gloves . . . the ones he saw in Target? And then he'd list a few more presents. Eventually he came around to saying he wanted to go to the play gym where we had Tobin's birthday party. So we went there after the movie, and it was a particularly great idea because, like so many days around here recently, outside play wasn't really an option due to a thunderstorm. I actually didn't get many pictures of Evan there because he spent the entire time running past me.
At the end of the day, we headed home for pizza and cake. The day before Evan's birthday, when I set out the ingredients to make the vanilla-vanilla cake he requested, he asked if he could help. As he pulled a chair up to the counter, he announced, "I want to make chocolate cupcakes!" I was a bit taken aback because for weeks Evan had insisted on this particular cake and he will tell you that he loves vanilla but he doesn't really like chocolate. Anyway, I told him that it was a little too late to change his mind and he was okay with this, happily helping me mix the ingredients.
Evan seemed impressed with the finished cake but after blowing out his candles and being offered the first slice of cake, he frowned and said, "I don't want cake. I want vanilla ice cream." So that's what he had.
I find myself so especially sentimental about Evan turning four, perhaps more so than Lauren turning two, even though she's my baby. He's so big now. Physically, he's quite tall and is wearing some of Tobin's 5T hand-me-downs. He keeps up with his big brother riding bikes and playing whatever kind of ball they're into at the moment. He's done with naps. Socially, he loves striking up conversations with other kids wherever we go. He's excited about starting school and playing organized soccer in the fall. Maybe he was feeling some of this sentimentality too because on his birthday morning, when we started saying things like "Wow, Ev, you're four years old!," he would retort, "No, I'm just three!" But at some point in the day, he decided he was okay with being four, so if you were to ask him now, he'd proudly tell you he's four. (I think.)
Posted by allison at 9:50 PM