Unexpected news today....not good unfortunately.

Today Dawn's surgeon called unexpectedly to give her the final pathology reports from specimens taken during surgery.  If you remember my post last week, I reported that her lymph nodes showed no cancer cells.....it turns out that they did find one small 0.1mm cluster of cancer cells within the sentinel node that was removed.  She also said the the tumors were bigger in size than initially reported.  The smaller tumor was 3.5cm and the larger one was 4.2cm.  This didn't change the staging of her cancer though as it is still 2A.  She actually said that the lymph node would still be considered "clear" because the cluster of cells was not greater than 0.2cm, but that was enough for concern.  She confirmed that Dawn will DEFINITELY have to undergo chemotherapy treatments.  We will find out more on 11/6/12 when we meet with the oncologist.  

Please keep Dawn in your prayers, she has other obstacles to clear, but with the Grace of God and support from our family and friends she will be better than ever before you know it.

Now comes the hard part...

Let me start by saying that we have been fed EXTREMELY well since Dawn's co-workers are signing up to provide dinner for us every day for a few weeks.  The outpouring of love and support Dawn and our family have received continues to amaze me.  I can only hope that someday I will be given an opportunity to show someone else in a similar situation the same unconditional support that we have experienced.  Thank you!!!

It's been 5 days since Dawn had the surgery and she is recovering well.  She is learning quickly what her limitations are and exactly how much she can do with her left hand....and she is making the most it.  For the most part, she has resumed our daily routines with the exception of the obvious NO-NOs imposed since we caught her trying to wash clothes the day after surgery.  She has accepted that she needs to take it easy and ASK for help....which does not come naturally to her at all.  Dawn is a very strong woman and she often amazes me with what she can tolerate.  I'll be he first to admit, she's tough.  

She came home with a pretty bulky dressing covering the incision and hiding her loss.  She avoided mirrors and just looking down at it made her tear up.  I knew that she would cope with everything on her terms, but she knew that she wouldn't do it alone, so we did it all together, in steps.  The first time she looked at the dressing when we changed her pajamas.  She cried and I held her and tried to console her.  It didn't feel like it was enough, but I think it was exactly she needed and wanted.  She wanted to remove some of the dressing that was coming off, so I removed some of it and re-secured with tape in other areas.  We got her back into pajamas and into bed for the night.  The next morning when I woke up she informed me that she had 43 staples between the the 2 incisions--one from the mastectomy and on under the armpit from the lymph node removal.  She wanted help to remove some of the sticky tape residue and to replace the dressing with a thinner, less bulky dressing.  Again, understandably, she began to cry.  It breaks my heart that I can't make this pain she has go away.  I can only imagine the feelings she is having, but I t continually tell her that I love her and everything will be OK.   I remind her that she's not alone and that I will be there for her no matter what....and she knows that is true.  I replaced the dressing and removed what residue she could tolerate.  I encouraged to reach out to her support people at work and online, but also made her promise to ask for help if she felt that she was getting depressed.  I wanted to make sure that her toughness wouldn't prevent her for asking for help if she needed it.  She promised me that she would seek help if needed, but we agreed that what she is experiencing now is more shock and adjustment to the changes in her appearance.  Seems that keeping her busy is a great way to keep her mind occupied and not focusing on it, it's the down times that sneak up on her.

Sunday, she felt up to going out to one of our local hangs for breakfast and then to Target for a brief shopping trip, so by the time we got home she was ready to rest.  Aeden and I met up with one of his friends and his dad for a play date.  Aeden has handled everything in stride, but you can tell that he is concerned.  Dawn spoke to him prior to surgery about some of the things that she may go through in the months ahead.  He asks questions from time to time and she answers him very honestly.  He's very curious about her incision and drain, but has only seen the drain and the fluid  in the collection bulb.  It's good for her to be able to discuss this with him.

So, she is still scheduled for a follow up visit with her surgeon this Thursday and I'm sure I will have more to add at that time.  Until then......

She is home!!!!

As many of you know Dawn made it through the surgery and was released from the hospital last night at around 8:30 p.m.  Evidently, when she arrived in recovery she was having quite a bit of pain and they were pretty liberal with the stronger pain medications.  When they allowed me to go back, she was very groggy and having to be constantly reminded to breathe which was a side effect of the pain meds.  The recovery nurse and I assisted her  out of the bed and was able to get her clothes on, but that's when the nausea hit.  Once we got that under control she started coming around a bit more and the staff felt that it was safe to send her home.  She slept all the way home, but was able to walk in and up the stairs to our bedroom with her mom and I helping her along the way.  Aeden was waiting to see her at the top of the stairs and wanting to hear about the surgery.  Dawn was glad to see him and spent a while snuggling with him before I put them both to bed.  

Dawn slept well and only needed pain medication once during the night.  She woke up this morning saying that she was hungry, so I made her breakfast and brought it up to her to eat it in bed.  She lounged around the first half of the day, but that didn't last long.  She decided to come downstairs for lunch, so I helped support her as she went down the stairs.  I read her all the responses from the update emails I sent out to friends and family yesterday during the surgery and she was happy to know that everyone was up to date.  Then, she started getting beautiful flower arrangements from her friends and co-workers....to everyone that sent flowers, THANK YOU because it really brightened her day. 

We ended the evening eating some awesome food provided by one of her co-workers.  Many of her co-workers have graciously made arrangements to provide us with dinner the next few weeks and again I have to send them a huge THANK YOU for their support of Dawn during this time.....that means so much to us both.  

Oh, and did I mention that THEY FOUND NO CANCER IN THE 2 LYMPH NODES REMOVED?  Wow!!!  Her next appointment will be with the surgeon next Thursday.  Then, we will meet with her Oncologist the first week of November.  Please keep praying for her.  I don't know if chemotherapy is still a certainty, but we are so happy that at least we know that those two tumors do not have the opportunity to do any more damage to her body.  Thank you LORD!!!!


How our lives have changed in just under a month--Surgery day is here!

 The surgery scheduling staff threw us a curve ball and instead of us arriving at 0900 they wanted her to check in at 0730 with the surgery still scheduled at 1100.  After calling in some favors from our old next door neighbors to assist with the transport of our little one to school and to look after the animals while we were away.  Thanks Sandee and Nancy!!!

Dawn, better known today as #191325 got checked in and was promptly called back into the pre-op area.  She was issued a nice purple paper gown with matching socks.  We were able to have a little fun with that, as you can see above.  I'm not sure how she could smile or joke knowing what was ahead, but nevertheless I was glad to see her smiling.  The nurse came in and introduced herself then explained the series of events that would take place to get her ready for surgery.  Lots of redundant questions (triple checking never hurts), starting of IVs, heart monitor leads placed, O2 saturation attached to her finger, and sequential compression devices to her legs that help prevent blood clots during surgery.  Now it was time to wait.....

We were informed that her surgery was going to be pushed back a bit, as the surgeon was still in the OR with another patient.  She tried to relax but between the paper gown and plastic blood pressure cuff, she was uncomfortable.  The anesthesiologist came around and did his assessment then explained his role as the surgery was performed.  More waiting....

Finally at 12 noon things started hopping.  Her surgeon came in and marked the breast to be removed, while asking her if she had any additional questions.  She told her surgeon "No".  It was time and she began to cry.  Her mom and I hugged her and reassured her that everything was going to be OK.  Just then, another nurse came in and noticed that she had been crying.  She asked Dawn if she was crying about the surgery or because she was scared.  Dawn indicated the later.  She also reassured Dawn and told her that she had been through and similar experience in the past when she battled a "weird form of Lymphoma".  She encouraged Dawn to think about the good that would come from this surgery...mainly ridding her body of this cancer and one step closer to "kicking its ass"--her quote not mine :)  I'm certain that just that little effort on her part to comfort Dawn help ease her anxiety, if only just a bit.....and I really appreciated that.

We gave our last hugs and kisses and then she was off to surgery......

The waiting room monitor displays where Dawn is every step of the way.  It's close to 3 p.m. now, so we should be hearing from the surgeon before long.  I'm hoping she has good news about the lymph nodes and that there was no detectable cancer noted in them.  I will post again when I know more,  For now, just keep her in your prayers.....

Thank you, everybody.

I want to take the time to thank everyone out there for all the prayers and encouragement during the past few weeks, WE are extremely lucky to have all of you in our lives.  

To my co-workers, thank you for your support and assistance in helping me find out information on where to go for the best care possible and for answering ALL my questions about the ins and outs of applying for Family Medical Leave.....it was ALL new to me.  Thank you to the whole IQM department who pitched in and gave Dawn the Breast Cancer ribbon pin...she loved it and wears it daily.  

To Dawn's second family, I want to thank you for everything you have done to ease her mind as she prepares for surgery.  The bracelet you gave her was very thoughtful, and I don't think there's been many days that she went without wearing it.  She will miss you guys, and I know that even it is a while before she returns, she will look forward to returning to work as soon as she is able.  Thank you specifically to the ladies that have been there to provide her with first hand information and experiences, this has been invaluable to her and has really helped encourage her to believe that she WILL be cured of this cancer......you guys know who you are.  Dawn informed me of the gracious offer you guys have planned after her surgery--all I can say is Thank You, Thank You, Thank you.  

Thank you to our church for the beautiful prayer quilt she received today and for the support we received at our first visit to the monthly Cancer Support Group this last Tuesday night.  

From Dawn, Aeden, and myself--Thank you everyone.  Please keep Dawn in your prayers, because we know that he is hearing  you guys from the blessing we have already received.



Mystery woman?

Many of you have probably noticed that I haven't mentioned my wife's name in the blog, mostly because I didn't know whether she would want it out there in the Internet universe.  She has come a long way since being diagnosed and things are seeming to be more normal.  Oh, don't get me wrong, there's definitely no forgetting what's happening next week, but our daily routine has helped keep our minds occupied.  Anyway, to the point....Dawn is my wife's name.  Getting that out will make writing this a lot easier.

It's been a little hectic trying to figure out timing and logistics for everything.  She has met with HR at her work and gotten all the information needed to submit for the time off needed.  I have done the same and now we know, at least financially we should be alright.  Our insurance is AWESOME.  We found out that her surgery is covered 100%--no co-pay or deductible...wow!!!!  One more thing that we don't need to fret over.  Dawn's last day was yesterday--10/10/12.

The breast surgeon called Dawn yesterday and told her that all her tumor markers came back good, except for one that was inconclusive.  The second tumor will have to be tested again after the surgery to get the final result of the HER2 testing.  She also said that the MRI performed to assess an area in her left breast didn't raise any alarms and didn't show any lymph node involvement on the right side where the 2 main tumors are located.  NO LYMPH NODE INVOLVEMENT IS HUGE!!!  We are so excited with this news, however we won't be completed STOKED until the testing of the lymph nodes during the surgery are revealed.  Keeping fingers crossed and praying for more good news!!!

Today she went for and ultrasound of the left breast to further assess the other area she found.  The ultrasound results were in line with the MRI and she was told that this spot was nothing to worry about.....but we WILL be keeping a close eye on it.  She has a genetics appointment in the morning and we are hoping that the results will be NEGATIVE for the Breast Cancer gene.  Then, later in the afternoon we will go for her Pre-op appointment....the final step before the surgery.

Dawn's mother will be flying in from Texas to be here for the surgery and will be with us for 2 weeks to help out immediately after the surgery, which is much appreciated....thank you Grammy.  


The BIG day--Surgeon's appointment.

9/26/12--I took the day off from work and drove us to her appointment.  We got to meet her Breast Care Coordinator before meeting with the Surgeon.  The Coordinator gave her a packet of--yes, more information, but she said that she would be the point person or "contact" if she had any questions or needed moral support.  She would also follow along as she goes through this entire process,

She had a journal full of handwritten questions for the surgeon, which she handed to me at the last minute and asked me to be the one to ask all the questions and jot down notes.   The surgeon came in, introduced herself, and proceeded to explain how the visit would be structured.  Her approach was very calm and direct...you could tell that this wasn't even close to the first time she had this conversation, which kept us both at ease.  Oh yeah, and all those questions I had to ask.....she pretty much answered them all without me ever asking.  

The surgeon explained all the options for surgery, but made it clear that she felt like there was a clear choice.  She said that since there were 2 pretty sizable tumors to the right breast she recommended mastectomy.  Her reasoning was sound and we knew that it was the right choice.  This would mean that she would likely be able to avoid having to participate in radiation, but she felt that it was a strong possibility that she would have to undergo chemotherapy and the Oncologist would make that determination after her surgery.  The surgeon also ordered for Genetics testing to determine whether she had the Breast Cancer gene.  If positive for this gene, she would be recommended to have both breasts removed.  We held it together while the surgeon was in the room....not so much after she left to make all the necessary referrals and arrangements for surgery.  She came back with the date of 10/17/12 for the surgery.  This makes it official.  I think we were relieved to finally have some definitive information and dates, but it also added other issues needing attention.....work, time off, second graders routine, Little League team Mom.....   

Time to call in some reinforcements.....


Back to work.

9/24/12--She returned to work where all of her co-workers were waiting with open arms.  She has so many wonderful people that she works with and I know they truly are concerned and worried about her well being.  A few co-workers have been really instrumental in helping her, because they are Breast Cancer survivors themselves!!  I want them to know that I appreciate them for their ongoing support.  I will do my best to keep you guys up to date throughout her surgery and recovery.  

I also have many co-workers that have been really supportive and concerned about my wife.  It means a lot when people who have never met her tell me that they will be praying for her and will add her to the prayer list at their church.  You guys will never know how grateful I am to work with awesome group of people.  Family comes first, as I always say, and it's nice to know that your employer supports that mentality.  It definitely makes what's to come a little less stressful.

I spoke with another colleague to see if she could take the information that we do know and somehow help me understand the process and get her input on my wife's case.  She's an Oncologist.  My goal was to be able to somehow prepare her for more concrete probabilities, because I wasn't sure at that point what my wife was expecting to hear OR hoping to hear from the upcoming Surgical appointment.  I proceeded to tell the Oncologist all that I knew--2 tumors in the right breast--both close to 3 cm in size, Estrogen/Progesterone receptive, no HER2 results back yet, but no evidence of lymph node involvement on the ultrasound.  It was as I feared.  She told me that, assuming no lymph node involvement and with 2 tumors close to 3 cm, she would stage her cancer as Stage 2A.  She went on to say that they would likely recommend mastectomy instead of lumpectomy because there were 2 tumors.  She said this would be better because she would likely only have to have Chemo and not radiation.  Radiation is ALWAYS recommended if lumpectomy is performed.  She sounded very optimistic about the chances that she would make a full recovery.  I appreciated her time and the information she provided, but now I had to decide whether to tell my wife.

I reasoned with myself on the drive home....I'd want her to share the information with me if it was the other way around, but how do you broach the subject of..."oh yeah, by the way Honey, I spoke to one of my Oncologist friends today and she said she feels that having your breast removed is going to be the best thing for you".  Oh boy, what a pickle I had gotten myself into.  I called her and told her that I had some information that I wanted to talk to her about when we got home.  "I don't know how much more information I can take right now" was her response.  Oh boy.  But luckily when we both arrived home she was ready to hear what I had found out.  She didn't say much.  She didn't cry.  I knew that she was smart enough to know that this information was likely true, but I also knew that she and I wanted it to be wrong.  We hugged each other and got on with the nights routine of dinner, bathing, and bedtime stories for our 7 year old.  We would find out the definitive plan in 2 days....no more research, just be there when she needs me.  

The next day...

9/20/2012--She assured me that she would be OK and that it would be useless just to stay home to sit with her, I returned to work.  Working as a RN in a hospital has its perks.  I contacted one of my physician friends to ask her if she could recommend a breast surgeon.  She made a few phone calls and provided me with a name of a highly recommended surgeon.  Later that day, my wife was contacted by her Breast Care Coordinator, who arranged the Surgery appointment for 9/26/12....another week, but at least she was able to confirm that the recommended surgeon was available and added "she is my favorite and the best around".  A little good news in the midst of the bad.

She admitted that she had broken down a few time throughout the day, between calls checking on insurance coverage, setting up other various appointments, and speaking with friends and family.  Keeping herself busy seemed to be the best distraction for her, but then night came again.  The second night of her being unable to sleep past 3 a.m.--her prime hour of waking up with her mind racing and not being able to go back to sleep.  

9/21/2012--I awoke to find her downstairs at the computer doing what I am sure everyone else out there would be doing....trying to decipher the endless information, relating to personal stories of other women, and cringing at the worst case scenarios.  I encouraged her to e-mail her MD and request something to help her sleep and she agreed.  We hugged and I reminded her that we would get through this thing together.  She knew that I meant it too.   I went to work and she had another day of trying to arrange things and make preparations for surgery.  Her MD ordered her Restoril, which she was able to pick up that same day.  She slept a lot better that night!!  


Let me catch you up....

9/19/12 was a whirlwind of emotions, as you can imagine.  I dropped everything and rushed to pick my wife up to go find out more information from her gynecologist.  On the way to pick her up, I thought about how she must be feeling because I know that I was SCARED AS HELL and just wanted to see her ASAP.  Once I picked her up the tears started flowing......and she cried too.  Our conversation on the way to the doctor's office was a blur of tears, anxiety, fear, and dread for what we were going to hear from the MD.  I reassured her that she would not fight this battle alone and that I would be there every step of the way.  I meant it and she knew it.

Her Gynecologist explained that 1 in 8 women will have Breast Cancer and she happened to be one of the unfortunate ones.  Hers was diagnosed as Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma.  The doctor explained that while she could provide us with basic information, she would placing a surgical consult ASAP to determine what surgery would be recommended.  It wasn't all bad news though, her Cancer was Estrogen/Progesterone receptive--GOOD and no evidence of lymph node involvement--GOOD.  However, we would have to wait for the results of the HER2 which determines the aggressiveness of the cancer and will rule out certain treatments if it was POSITIVE.  NOW MORE WAITING.....

On the way home from the MD visit, we discussed strategies on how and when we/she would tell our 7 year old son the basics of what was going on.  She had already told him about the biopsy and having some "bad tissue" checked out, but this was going to be a lot harder conversation.....we decided to hold off until we ourselves had better and more accurate information.  We picked him up from school and finished the evening as we normally do....bath time for the boy, reading books before bed, prayers, and hugs and kisses goodnight.  

She cried in the shower.  I knew that she needed time to process everything and that it would surely involve many more tearful times....I just reassured her that everything would be OK and that I loved her.  If she ever needed me.....it's now.  

I stayed up until 2 a.m. researching and educating myself on Breast Cancer reading other women's experiences.  Boy, talk about eye opening and scary, but I quickly saw that it was not as simple as doing a GOOGLE search--we would have to wait for the Surgical appointment and the other lab work results.

I'm not very good at waiting......


    My name is Barry, other's know me as Robbie.  This Blog is my way of trying to shed some light on how husbands also experience and fight Breast Cancer.


    October 2012