Friday, June 11, 2010

cancer free!!!

Hi Everyone -

So I feel like a kid on Christmas - I was told that my pathology report was the "ideal" result. There are NO cancer cells detected in any of the tissue taken at surgery - WOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! It doesn't rule out recurrence ( my surgeon is kinda of a Debbie Downer) but i have a low chance of it - and the chemo did its job! I feel great, and relieved - like the weight of the world has been taken off my shoulders! It must be horrible for those who go in and don't hear those words. How frustrating and heartbreaking to go through all of this, only to learn that it didn't work! But for me - it was a great day - I got the last of my drains out
(which i have to say - is the worst) - and both surgeons were very happy with my healing. My Plastics guy said "I think you will be happy with your result" to which i commented (to finally get a laugh out of him) "so i will have a good rack!" he laughed & agreed!

I have had a lot of people asking about the surgery that i went through - I have been kinda vague about it - not wanting to give more info or visuals than people want. But i do feel that how far we have come medically is amazing, so i am going describe what they did - if you don't want to know - skip the rest of this paragraph! First, i was told that i have a 40% chance of getting breast cancer again in my life - to me that is way too high - so this was my choice! I had a double radical mastectomy with reconstruction. But i do not look like it did - and this is how! They started by putting a die in my cancerous side to see what lymph nodes filtered the cancer. They then removed them ( 21 in all - but my surgeon said that if i had the surgery before chemo it would have been more like 50-60 - who knew!?) The next step - the surgeon removed all the tissue from the breast, lymph node area and nipples (yes they saved the nipples - again - amazing!!!) T his is where the plastic surgeon came in and gave me a tummy tuck. He took the skin and tissue from one hip across to the other, and made me a new belly button. he used this tissue, skin and a little muscle to rebuild my breasts. they connected the veins and arteries to the new tissue so that it would thrive like my natural breast tissue. the only stitches i have on my breasts are under the breast toward the arm pit. when it heals - really you won't even see it. The tummy incision is long - but he did only internal stitching and should heal well - and i will be left with a very flat tummy ( after 2 kids - yea!) So it was a very aggressive procedure - but amazing! i feel so fortunate to be able to benefit from these advances.

On to a rant of mine -
I am so annoyed with how the media portrays women with breast cancer and mastectomies. if you ever look up what a mastectomy looks like - it really is not accurate for the strides that medicine has made. why are we seeing pictures these maimed women. Is it for those to pity them into giving donation? we aren't seeing pictures of men with one testicle or amputated limbs due to cancer - why are we seeing women with horrific looking breast surgery. I received a Livestrong magazine in the mail one week before my surgery. There was an article on women who have had different reconstruction procedures and mastectomies - they all looked horrible! It didn't scare me because i knew that i was not going to look like that. My question is - shouldn't a magazine like that show how far we have come? - not show these women for shock value! it is offensive and inhumane to me. I will show almost anyone my results ( Tad has forbade me to show people he works with " please don't show them your boobs - i need to see them everyday - ha ha) - I just want people to know how fabulous you can look after cancer! I am proud of what can be done for women who have gone through this unfair disease. But the important message that SHOULD be out there is : You can get through this, and look and feel great! the word "cancer" is not a death sentence. I always hear my surgeon, Dr. Shearburn's voice in my head - " you can beat this - it will just be a crappy 6-9 months" ! - and that is what it has been - i beat it - and am stronger for it. And there were aspects that were actually good for me and my family. it makes you love and appreciate those around you and experiences in life. Life is Great - and i am thrilled that i have a great one to live! Just know that when you see me - i am better to have gone through this - and i am NO VICTIM!!!!

Love to all -

PS - My hair is starting to grow back - woo hoo! - Coop looks and feels it everyday to keep track of the progress - very cute! Tell me this though - why does leg hair grow back first? - yet another unfair thing - ugh!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

tough week

hi all-

So some of you have known that last week was pretty tough. Tad got the stomach flu -(badly) - so both of us were out of commission! Tad was quarantined to the guest room in the basement ( so the kids and i wouldn't get it). Poor guy!!! in our 11 years together - i have never seen him so sick! Great timing! Honestly though, i think the stress and exhaustion caught up to him, and his body couldn't take anymore.
My amazing mom stayed a couple of nights with us due to needing round the clock help! Love you Mom - we don't know what we would do without you! Also thank you to Sara (who went above and beyond by taking me to Penn), Debbie (the cutest house cleaner ever!), Tootie, Peg, Becky E, Shanan & Mary Kate - they really got us through! We were also brought some beautiful meals that really helped out - thanks Jeanne, Kim, Karen and Patty! A Huge thanks to my cleaning lady - Alda - our house sparkles! And to all those who sent gorgeous flowers - it makes me happy to have so much beauty and color!

Today - Tad is feeling better and will be returning to work tomorrow, and i am getting better everyday. My grouchiness comes and goes - which is good - i am getting feisty - a good, yet annoying, sign. This sitting around is getting on my nerves - but like i said, that means i am starting to feel like myself - ha ha!

SO hopefully this week will be better and run smoother (can't really get any tougher). I got 4 of my 5 drains out last week and the last one comes out on Wednesday. I will also get the pathology reports from the surgeons that day - so everyone think healthy thoughts. i will update again next week-

thanks and love,

Sunday, May 30, 2010

doing well

Hi everyone! thanks to all of you for your well wishes, flowers, food, and of course love and support. I am doing better every day - I'm walking by myself & even physically able to laugh - woo hoo! that was a tough one for me! i get my drains out (hopefully all of them) on Tuesday - which i am counting down - i really hate them! But for being only a little over a week after surgery - i think i am doing great!

Tad is being wonderful - taking care of all of us. Max has a cold - but is still adorable even with his runny nose. Coop is obsessing over Star Wars Halloween costumes - so pretty much everything (but Mommy) is back to normal.

Not much else to report - but I wanted to let you all know that i am healing well - and will be back to normal soon.


Monday, May 24, 2010

hi from the hospital

hi its Sam - Tad and mom are here with me - so thought i would update everyone. I checked my email,facebook - and blog - thanks everyone for your thoughts and prayers.

OK - so where to start - Surgery day was not the most fun day of my life - but it is over! There are a couple of unpleasant things that i remember - the pain, the dry mouth, and the guy snoring soooo loud in the recovery room. A nurse would go over and yell -" breath Christopher" and hit him on the chest - i wanted to laugh- but it hurt too much! i have to say that since then every day makes a huge difference. i am now "speedy" with my walker making my painfully slow lap around the ward. The nurses have been Great! i want my night nurse Gigi to meet Trey - so cute!!! They are taking great care of me and it would be a lot rougher with dry mean nurses. I never knew so many tubes can be put in a person. At the most i had 6 drains, oxygen, 2 IVs, and a honken pump that requires its own purse! The one good think i will say ( guys stop reading if you don't want this news) MY BOOBS LOOK LIKE BOOBS!!!! those aweful mastectomy pictures are NOT me - i really think it is amazing. It looks like a truck ran over me - but you would never know that i had a double radical mastectomy. the tummy hurts more than anything that i have experienced - but it will be pretty when it heals - Can't wait!!!

so - i am coming home tomorrow - can't wait to see my little guys. I will be on the mommy chair with my remote and phone - and when i can some kind of yummy drink! miss you all - and hopefully will touch base soon! Coops having a great time with his cousin - but i will definitely take advantage of the play dates offers next week!

xo to everybody -

Friday, May 21, 2010

Surgery day!

Well, I will begin this by stating that I just got word that Sam is out of surgery and in recovery. Which means I am now 2 hours away from seeing her once she is moved to a step-down room. They said she is doing well and everything went smoothly. Having said that, I feel that I should update everyone on how the day began and what occurred to get to this point.

My day began at 3:45 this morning abruptly as my alarm reminded me that it was time to get up, since Sam had to be at the hospital by 6:00 AM. Why so early, besides the fact that we live about an hour from the the hospital - Univ. or Penn. Let me explain. You know when I set my alarm last night and reluctantly entered 3:45, it didn't seem so bad. You think, no big deal - I can get up. And suprisingly, I think with the anxiety and anticipation of the day, I popped right out of bed! Proceeded to shower, get changed, do last minute stuff that needed to be done, prepare Max's bottle, wake Max to feed him, change him and get him back to sleep. Actually, Sam can take credit for getting him back to sleep. By this time, Sam was dressed and came down and wanted to rock him to sleep, since she will be unable to for the forseeable future. All this was done and we were out the door by 4:45 am. We made record time to Philly, (if you ever want to travel to Philly, the optimum time is 5 am - just in case anyone was wondering!), and arrived at the hospial at 5:45. Sam was admitted and brought up to the pre-op area. I was able to sit with her while they prepped her for surgery and did some last minute checks and drilled her with last minute questions.

You will notice a break in my blog timing, because as I was finishing that last sentence last night, they called me in to see Sam for the first time.

What a day yesterday! I will pick up where I left off from last night, but before I do that, I just talked with Sam and she is doing ok. She had a rough night in the ICU and she is in a lot of pain, but other than that, she is alert and able to talk and communicate.

OK - yesterday's timeline:

They wheeled her away at about 7:30 AM to go to the operating room. They said that I should not expect her to be done until 3:00 or 4:00 at the earliest. So, I collected her personal belongings and headed to my car in search of something to eat somewhere and something to do for the next several hours. I found my way to the mall where I got some breakfast, browsed some shops and believe it or not, got a much overdue eye exam. I checked in at home to see how the kids were fairing and everything seemed to be pretty good. My mom and my nephew flew in from Florida to be here to help while Sam was in the hospital. They have already been a huge help and I know will continue to help over the next week. Thank you MOM and KATHAN!!!! I received a call at around noon that they had finished the first phase of the surgery and everything went well. At that time, they were starting the second phase. I made my way back to the hospital at about 2:00 pm and went to the family lounge waiting area. There were many families waiting at that point and a very useful electronic board where they tracked every patients progress. I found a seat in front of the screen, so I could watch for any updates on Sam. 2:00 went into 3:00, which turned into 4 and 5 o'clock. A quick browse around the room made me realize that there were only a handful of families left along with me. At 5:15, I got a call from the second surgeon stating that they were finishing up and they would be taking her to recovery in the next hour. At 5:45, the update showed up on the board that she was finished and moved to recovery at 5:41. Her estimated 8 hour surgery took 9 1/2 hours and was finally completed. They said it would be approximately 2 hours before she would be moved from the recovery room to ICU. At about an hour and a half into the recovery, they called and asked if I wanted to visit her for a minute or two. About that same time, Sam's mom called and had arrived at the hospital after a day of helping my mom with the kids. So, we both went to see Sam in recovery and it was great to see her! She was not very coherent at that point and was in an extreme amount of pain. She did not feel any pain in the chest, but was in an extreme amount of pain in her abdomen area. They had to change her dressings and do some other things, so Sam's mom and I went back down to the family lounge. By this time we had the room to ourselves and they were preparing to close. So, we were moved to the ICU family lounge, where we waited for her to be moved and settled in. Finally at 10:00 PM, we were given word that we could go see her in her room and actually visit with her. Jennifer and I sat and talked with her for over an hour until I finally pulled myself away, because I knew I needed to drive back home and be here for the morning stuff with the kids. Jennifer stayed at a friend's house in Philly, so I dropped her off and headed home. Of course, there was an extreme backup on the highway back home. I eventually got off the highway and took backroads back home. I laid my head down on the pillow at 1:45, a short 22 hours after waking up from that same spot the morning before. Sam did well in surgery from what they said, it is just a tough surgery and it puts her body through a lot! In talking with her this morning, she had a very tough night and she said it is more pain than she could have imagined. They check on her every hour in the ICU, so any sleep she could even begin to have, was interrupted frequently. She has a hard time even moving her arms at this point, because of the pain. She had a very hard time moving her left arm because of the lymph nodes that were removed from under her arm. She has to do some lung tests to make sure her breathing stays adequate which is tough because she had a hard time even taking a deap breath with her abdomen being so sore. They said they want her to get up today and walk. She does not know how that will be possible at this point, but we will see. I told her everyone is thinking about her and she appreciates all of the support. I will try to keep everyone updated on her status and she is scheduled at this point to be released from the hospital on Tuesday.

It is tough to see Sam go through this pain, but it is for the best. Before going into surgery Sam had an MRI done and it came back very positive. No signs of the tumor remaining in either the breast or the lymph nodes. Very exciting and what a relief!

Thank you once again for all of your support and keep checking back for updates!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

All Done ( in a sing-like baby voice)

Hello everyone!!!
I have been meaning to update since my LAST TREATMENT (Woo Hoo) - but haven't had the moment to sit and think about what i want to say. But now i do! but first an update: the last one wasn't so bad - i was over the hump in less than a week, and it has been sooooo nice to know that i don't have to do it again! I sometimes forget, and then it dawns on me at weird times - like when i am drinking my coffee in the morning and remember that my tastes are going to stay and not get crazy again - LOVELY!!! I want to thank one of my best buds Becky for going to the last treatment with me ( tad was in Texas on business - so she went with me to keep me company) We had a grand old time chatting and we even watched "Mame" from back in high school days - who said you can't have fun having chemo!!! Ha HA!
to fill you all in on surgery - i am having a double mastectomy with reconstruction on may 21st ( everyone think "perky" thoughts - i need something out of this deal - right?) Tad's mom is coming up with our nephew to watch the boys - this way my mom will stay in Philly with her friend (i am having it done at Penn), and Tad can go back and forth visiting me and taking care of the boys. Thank you Pam and kathan - XO! I am not upset to be having it done - but am dreading the healing process. I cannot wait to feel good and have it behind me - they say it will take about 6 weeks -but we will get through it like we have been! following surgery, i will start radiation in July for about 5-6 weeks - but honestly that is nothing in comparison to everything else - so in my mind after the surgery - the worst is over - hip hip hooray!
I recently had a discussion with my mom - and i realized, as crazy as it sounds, a lot of great things have come out of this experience.(Besides my showers taking record breaking time and never having a "bad hair day") I have learned a lot about myself and others, like who is really there for you - and what "being there" means. i have had so many reach out from anything to wonderful, caring words to giving their time and energy to the betterment of our family. Sometimes it is surprising who reaches out. you think you know who truly cares about you - but when something like this happens in life -you really find out- and it means the world!
i have also realized true priorities in life - and again - not always what you would think. So many talk about a "bucket list" - but i have found that the big stuff is not the important stuff. To me it is little things like playing on the floor with Max and knowing that the dishes in the sink can wait. Like going to T-ball practise and having Cooper joyously wave to mommy and daddy while Max giggles at his big brother. Like dinner at my Moms on a Sunday and watching "funniest home videos" as Cooper is falling over himself laughing. Like laughing at my husband's funny comments in the car til there are tears streaming down my cheeks and my smile hurts. Like pizza with friends while kids play. And there are so many other times that you don't realize are amazing until you can't do them. i love my life and the people in it- and feel so fortunate to enjoy every day. And no cancer can take those times away!!!

I will update again after surgery-
love to all

Thursday, April 8, 2010

one more down - one more to go!

Hi everybody -

we haven't updated in a while with Easter and the beautiful weather - we have been trying to stay busy with the boys! BUT - this last treatment wasn't so bad!!!! Every time i think that i know what to expect, i am wrong - but happy to be this time. It hit me right away - but by Saturday i actually could go to the egg hunt with coop, and had pretty good energy for Easter the next day - so we had a very nice Easter with Mommy not so yucky!

Yesterday, Tad and i had appts with the surgeon and the plastic Surgeon at Penn who will be doing my surgery in May. It will be a tough month of recovery - but the silver lining is: new "twins" and a tummy tuck - Not so bad! we feel very confident in both of them - and anything to reduce dealing with this crap again - is the right choice for us! They told me that i have a 30-40% chance of having breast cancer again - and the surgery will take me down to 3% - a no-brainer huh?! sooooo like i said - healing will be tough ( i can't lift Max for 6 weeks!!!) - but the outcome is worth it. I will be looking for daily help with the boys - so if any of you would like to be put down the "schedule" let me know. I would appreciate it - and it takes some of the pressure of my mom!

A lot of you know that the high school had Hello Dolly last weekend - and the kids and production staff did a great job - we were and are so happy for their success -- we sure know how hard the ALL worked! Congrats!!! I wanted to share what the kids did for us: Every show the students have, what they call, "spirit week" - where they dress up in some theme to advertise the upcoming show. Well, the kids decided to do Pink Breast Cancer days and went around all day with jars asking for donation. The kids raised enough money to bring our Livestrong donation to $1000! Tad and I are so touched that they thought to do this - and the teenagers actually gave!!! thanks to all of you - it means so much! We really missed doing the show this year - and wish all the seniors the best in their new chapter in life!

well - there is the update for now - i am feeling pretty good and will enjoy the next 2 weeks before the last treatment.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

MAY cannot get here soon enough!

I think the title of this blog says a lot! The theme in the Brannon house right now seems to be "let's just make it to May!" Sam had her 4th treatment on Tuesday - that's right number 4. For those of you that may be keeping count, that leaves two more treatments. March 30th and April 20th. Which is why May is looking so good to us right now. The treatments seem to be hitting Sam harder each time. The typical schedule is treatment on Tuesday - superwoman on Wednesday - bed ridden beginning late Wednesday evening. This time I came home for lunch on Wednesday expecting Superwoman to have organized every sock drawer, every cabinet in the kitchen and cleaned out the fridge twice. You see, they give her steroids the day before treatment and in the actual treatment, which gives her tremendous energy up until Wednesday evening (see above). Well, yesterday I came home for lunch and our good friend Becky was in my kitchen feeding Maxwell - which I am sure he enjoyed for his 9month birthday! (As a little side note - Max turned 9 months old on Wednesday!!!) There is certainly nothing wrong with Becky at our house and there is certainly nothing wrong with her feeding Max his wonderful lunch of single grain rice mixed with some sort of fruit in a jar and water. It was just surpising, because I didn't expect it. She said Sam was upstairs in bed and had asked her to hang out until I got home for lunch. Sam was very sick and the chemo was hitting her hard. This is expected, just not expected to happen until Thursday. I guess perhaps it is an accumulative reaction with the number of treatments? They (the doctors) did not say this would be normal, but they cannot really say it is not either. They continue to regurgitate my new favorite quote in this whole process, "everyone reacts differently - we don't have a crystal ball!" I think the hardest thing for those of us that have to witness this on a day in and day out basis is there is not much we can do to help her. Sam's mom and I share the majority of the load of taking care of the kids and the house, but that is stuff that needs to be done. And of course, we help Sam with staying hydrated and making sure she gets the rest she needs - but unfortunately that is about all we can do. I cannot speak for Jennifer, but it is a bit of a helpless feeling. I wish I could snap my fingers or give Sam a magic pill and make it all go away. I know it is easy to say this, but as a husband who loves my wife as much as I do, I wish I could trade places with her. It is just hard to see someone you care about go through such a difficult time. So, that is why I say, the month of May cannot get here soon enough. Having said that, the month of May begins the fun of surgery, followed by recovery followed by 5 days a week for 5 weeks of radiation. We do not know the extent of Sam's surgery at this point and therefore we do not know the extent of her recovery. But regardless, I think we are both eagerly awaiting the moment in time that Sam can walk out of that Oncologist's office knowing the chemo is behind her. Don't get me wrong, I do not think May is going to be easy, but I think it will be wonderful to feel like we are nearing the end of this Lump in the Road.
I know we have mentioned it before, but we would like to thank everyone who has helped us out and everyone who has sent us well wishes! We are not able to get back to everyone, but please know we are reading every card and e-mail we receive. We are listening to every voicemail and it is a great boost to Sam's spirits. We feel very fortunate to have such a wonderful support system. I just mentioned the other day that for at least the last two months, I don't think there has been a day that we have not received a card in the mail from someone sending their well wishes for Sam. We are very blessed to have all of you in our lives! Thank you from the bottom of my heart - we will remember the support we have received for the rest of our lives! As you know, Sam is one tough woman and she is fighting this awful disease to the best of her ability! She is an amazing person and I feel very fortunate to be called her husband. But as strong as she is, the support she receives only makes her stronger, so please continue to keep her in your thoughts and prayers!
- Tad

Saturday, February 27, 2010

good news

well - due to being upset for the last couple week - i made appointments with my specialist at Penn ( who i haven't talked to since all of my tests were completed) and my primary care doctor - Dr. Kuhar- to get an unbiased opinion of what i need to do now and with surgery. Wow am i glad that i did! Dr. Fox at Penn told me that he could no longer feel the tumor in my lymph nodes - " it is gone!" which of course is great news since i still have 3 treatments left to kill any little stubborn cells. He said that i am responding better than they could hope for and they are hoping for me to be cured - so i am headed in the right direction - woo hoo! of course they all tell me that they have no crystal ball and that they can't rule out recurrence - BUT they are "blasting" me with the strongest chemo and they will watch me like a hawk for 3 years (after that chances of recurrence drops significantly) so that if i do have recurrence they catch it early. i , of course, will have worry in the back of my mind for a while - but we are thrilled that i am responding so well - and i need to just focus on that right now!
As far as surgery is concerned - we are not 100% sure until i have talked with everyone - but after Tad and i have talked about it - i will do whatever i need to do to reduce my chances of EVER dealing with this again - which could be rather extensive. i will keep you posted on details as we are closer to that time. right now it is looking like surgery following the end of chemo in early May.
So that is the update for now - i feel so much better about things - and will continue to kick this crappy cancer! I just cannot wait to have the chapter in my life done. On the other hand - Max is SOOOOO cute and i want to freeze him in time - so i guess i will enjoy the adorable and good with the bad!
On a fun note - i booked a beach house for the last week in June to celebrate the worst being over - i cannot wait to have a fun week with my girls - i will need it like i have never needed it before!
Love to all -
ps - sorry for the grammar - i do this when i have 5 minutes - doesn't happen to often!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

half way there!

hello everyone - tad was right - it is Sunday and i am ready to slowly join the world again. so here is the newest.

It hasn't been the easiest week or two. it started last week when we were snowed in - i was drinking my morning coffee and watching the Today show. There was a story about a fox news reporter( about 40ish with young children) who was going through chemo for a rare type of breast cancer called Triple negative. As i listened - i thought - this is ME! None of my MANY doctors had ever labeled me as triple negative - but her details were exactly mine. It means that you are NOT estrogen responsive, Progesterone responsive or Her2 positive. This kind of cancer is particularly aggressive and has a high rate of reoccurring. Tad came in from shoveling (again!) and i told him. He agreed that it sounded like me , and i left a message for my oncologist to call me. when he finally did - he confirmed that Yes i am triple negative - but "i was so hopeful that they didn't want to spoil my upbeat attitude". so now i feel like the wind has been taken from my sails. i know that i will beat this ( it doesn't change anything about this round), but i know that i have to make some changes in my life so that i can keep this monster away! Where i was thinking that all of these "negatives" where a good thing - not so much! so it has been an emotional roller coaster as well as a physical one this time around. I am frustrated that my doctors thought it was their choice of what to tell me and what not to. Did they think that i would NEVER find this out?! And isn't it good to know so that I can take care of myself the way i need to! SOOOOO i am going to really research some homeopathic ways since they tell me " there is nothing they can do to keep it away". Not the words that i want to hear - or that i will accept! I WILL be here for my kids and i WIll do what ever it takes to keep myself healthy - and if this happens again - i will kick its ass again! so that is where i am at now - back to being feisty. Christy and Debbie - get ready - you are going to have one strong willed girl to train this summer!

As tad said before - this is starting to feel like FOREVER! - but we are making it and will be stronger for it!

So - i know - lots of exclamation points this time - but i think kinda appropriate!!!!

after i get moving again - there isn't much to tell - so i will write in a couple of weeks. in a month i will start to discuss surgery options with my "team" so i will keep you all posted on that.

thanks - as always- for all of your loving words and thoughts - our family loves you all