Monday, December 29, 2008


I think my port is failing. I have increasing shortness of breath, and every time I breathe deeply, cough or sneeze I have a sharp burst of pain in my shoulder blade and neck. I'm worried. The good news is that I have a follow-up appt with my surgeon tomorrow.

The other bad news is that I'm worried that Trigger is failing at getting better.

The other news is that most of my hair has fallen out. But not all of it. So my hair is patchy and I look like a serious cancer patient right now. Hurry up and finish falling out already, plskthx.

At least Dumbjoseph still likes to sit on my lap.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chemo #2 + Hair Coming Out

Yesterday was chemo round #2, and it wasn't so bad except it was a 6-hour process. Miles and I arrived & I had my CBC done, which I thought they'd do through my new port. Instead they just pricked my finger, squeezed a bit of blood into a tube, then the tube went in the machine and it spit out my CBC report in minutes. Pretty cool stuff.

Then we met with my oncologist, and then had to wait 2 hours for my actual infusion. Since the onc's office was closed Thu/Fri for Christmas, the office was overflowing with patients, it was insane! I finally got my chair around 2 pm. I got my saline flush, my Aloxi/Decadron drip, my Avastin/placebo drip, the Adriamycin push, and lastly the Cytoxan drip. It took about 2.5 hours. There was a really nice older man to my left that we talked to for a while. To my right was a cute old lady who snored through her chemo session.

We came home and I was fine for a while, and then I crashed around 9 pm and slept til midnight. Then I woke up for a couple hours, then slept another 10 hours. Sleep, sleep, sleep. That's all I want to do the first few days after chemo.

Today was Christmas Eve and my mom cooked yummy turkey dinner. My brother and Miles' Dad came over for dinner. After dinner came our Christmas surprise -- suddenly my hair was coming out! Each time I ran my hand through my mohawk I came back with about 10 hairs in my palm. So my mom shaved my head, and I spent all evening running a lint roller over my head picking up little bits.

I am pleasantly surprised with the shape of my head. :)

Friday, December 19, 2008

This post is for Jane

On TV today they talked about the Chicago O'Hare Airport, and hearing it out loud made me realize for the first time how LOL-worthy it is. That's all!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Joseph has sat in my lap maybe three times in his whole 2.5 years of existence. Right now he's been hanging out for 20 minutes already:

He must know that I had my port insertion surgery this morning. It went well. I got to see Dr. Richards-Awesome. I barfed a lot when I got home, but I think that's because they gave me Vicodin on an empty stomach. I'm still on Vicodin right now, and there's no pain, but we'll see once I stop the pain pills. That's all I'm going to type because my shoulder is sore. Ok bai.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Waiting For My Hair To Fall

I am waiting for my hair to fall out. In the meantime, Miles made this happen:

Oh, and in the spirit of LOL-worthy haircuts, we also made this happen:

I went to the DMV this morning to change my name on my driver's license, and conveniently took my new picture with floppy hawk. It makes me LOL thinking I will have that picture on my ID for the next few years.

Not much to report right now. Tomorrow morning I get my portacath.

I wonder if I'm actually getting Avastin?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hopefully feeling better soon...

So after feeling decent on my first day of chemo, I had a few crappy days. I self-injected Neulasta the day after, and that caused some bad feelings. Neulasta boosts my white blood cells, which normally drop with chemo. So for the past few days I've been incredibly achey all over, and I've also had severe restlessness. When I've been awake I've barely been able to sit still for even 30 minutes. I've been combating the restlessness by taking lots of Ativan and sleeping insane amounts each day. For example, today I woke up at Noon, ate food, slept from 2 to 5 p.m., ate food, slept from 6 to 11 p.m., and now I've been awake since (and possibly starting to feel normal). Earlier today I tried to go to Safeway with my Mom and FAILED, zero energy.

I'm looking forward to feeling more normal soon. I hope. It's been nice sleeping so much and not feeling guilty about it. Normally, I'd tend to feel like a huge loser sleeping so much, but I know that my body requires it of me right now.

Next Wednesday I get to see Dr. Awesome again!! I am so excited! He will be doing my port surgery that morning. I guess the technical term for it is my "port-a-cath," which I think sounds rather cool. It will give the nasty chemo drugs easy access to one of my larger chest veins, rather than having to mess around with the baby veins in my arm. I'm not really stoked on another surgery, but I am looking forward to seeing Dr. Awesome. :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chemo Round #1

Last night I had some chemo anxiety dreams. Then this morning we went in at 9:30 a.m., got a billing consultation, and then headed to the chemo office. I got a chair in the corner inbetween a sweet old lady that kept smiling at me and a dozing old man. My nurse was very nice. She expertly inserted an IV in my hand. I got a saline flush to test the IV, then they hooked me up to 2 anti-nausea drugs Aloxi and Decadron. I declined an Ativan for anxiety, but 2 minutes later I felt faint and went ahead with the Ativan. Then I went up to pee and noticed in the bathroom mirror that I couldn't see one of my eyes when I looked straight at it. I started having a weird ocular migraine type thing with my vision, I could see this spiky shimmering thing blocking my view. The nurses told me the Decadron could have caused it. It really messed with my view and made me feel very weird in the brain, but luckily over the next 15 minutes it moved towards the periphery of my vision and eventually went away.

Then the nurse pushed the Adriamycin in ("the red devil"). It made my arm super cold, even with a heating pack on it. After the Adriamycin push was done I went to pee and my pee was bright orange already. Then I came back and they hooked up the Cytoxan for 30 minutes. I was drowsy from the Ativan by then. That went quickly and finally they did the Avastin/Placebo over 90 minutes. I slept through some of that.

Then I was all done! Round #1 done! I came home and we had to take Trigger to the vet again, because she was in critical condition again. :( I was super tired waiting there. Finally we came home and I went straight to bed after taking some more anti-nausea meds. I slept for a good 5 hours, and now I've been awake a couple hours about to go to bed again. Not bad for my first day, that is reassuring...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Chemo Soon...

Chemo starts this coming Wednesday. Last week I had an extensive appointment with my Clinical Trial Coordinator. I'm trying to decide if I should join a clinical trial for Avastin. Avastin is a drug that's FDA-approved for Stage IV colon, lung and (most-recently) breast cancer. However, it's only been around for 10 years or so, and not much is known about how it may benefit early-stage high-risk breast cancer patients (hence, the clinical trial...). The scary things are: the long list of potential side effects, including many gnarly-sounding things, and the fact that no one really knows how Avastin could affect the body 30 or 40 years down the line. It's been a real struggle trying to decide, but I think I will go forward with it. My reasoning is that right now my primary concern is that my breast cancer will recur somewhere. If I want to be able to worry 30 years into the future, I have to first make sure I make it 10 years first. If Avastin gives me even another 0.01% chance that I won't recur, I think I'll take it...

So at the same long appointment, I also got a tour around my oncologist's office. I saw the chemo rooms, met my upcoming nurses, and saw some people getting their infusions. It made me very nervous for the first time since I've known I needed chemo. Every time I've been to my oncologist's office, there hasn't been anyone even near my age there. That's the worst part... it just makes me feel very isolated. In the end, I know I will do what I have to, and I know I'll get through it just fine, with a clear head and a positive attitude... but that doesn't mean it still doesn't suck to look around and see that I'm the youngest cancer patient there.

Luckily... I don't have these pity-party feelings very often. I think right now it's the pre-chemo "fear of the unknown" talking, and after getting over the hump of my very first infusion on Wednesday, I bet I will perk back up again emotionally and mentally.

I've decided that I want to get a port. After the trouble I've had with blood draws and IVs lately, and since I'm limited to only my right arm... I think it'll be wise to get a port. I'm looking at at least 16 IVs and countless blood draws in the next few months, so the port surgery seems worth it to avoid some worse heartache.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving! Trigger almost (but didn't!) died!

Happy Thanksgiving! I had a mostly wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! I'm so lucky to be surrounded by tons of awesome and loving family! The only downside was that I couldn't share Thanksgiving with my dad! I hope he knows that he was with us in spirit!!!

Well, the other downside was that poor Triggs was sick all weekend. She really scared us! She got sick on Wednesday night. On Thursday & Friday she barely ate, barely moved, and didn't poop or pee. But then she finally ate a bit of wet food on Friday night, so we thought things were looking up. But Saturday morning she was worse so I took her to All Animals Emergency vets. When we arrived, the front desk guy took one look at Trigger and worriedly whisked her away to the back before we could explain what was wrong. That was not a good sign. It was also not a good sign when the vet said that if a cat's red blood cell count decreases to 10% they normally die, and that Trigger's count was at 5%! And it was also not a good sign when he showed us her blood sample, which looked like diluted pink Kool-aid. All really bad signs, and I was really really scared she wasn't going to make it. We left her there and went home, and when we got home I was really sad I didn't go in the back to say goodbye, in case she passed.

Luckily, she got better! At least for now. She got a couple of kitty blood transfusions (who knew there was such a thing!), and we went back that evening to see her and she'd already perked up! I went to see her again tonight, and she was doing awesomely! She had a cone on her head (covered in dried up wet cat food because she'd been eating ferociously), a bandage on her paw covering her IV, and she barked at my mom and I once she recognized us! The vet said her red blood cell count was back up to 29%, which was way more than they expected! Yaaay Trigger!!

So they still don't know what caused her red blood cells to plummet. So she's not in the clear yet. The answer to that question could be either very good or very bad. But for now she's not in dire straits, and she's also happy and out of pain, and for that I am very thankful. :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pre-Chemo Prep

I've finally caught up and this is about real time now...

Yesterday I had some pre-chemo stuff to take care of. I went to get a echocardiogram, and already knew what to expect. It's pretty cool to see your heart beating on screen, to see the flaps flapping, and to hear the sound of it pumping.

As that was done, I had to scurry to a different location to get my first PET/CT scan. I was nervous about the claustrophobia part. My CT nurse (Anabell) was very nice, and explained every step of the procedure to me beforehand. The first step was my IV. Ugh. By now, I'm very used to needle pricks, and I also think my pain tolerance is pretty high. But this sucked. She tried the large vein in my elbow area, but missed it on the first poke. With the needle still in, she poked in/out/around 5 more times trying to get in the vein. It hurt a lot! She finally gave up and pulled the needle out, and I finally turned my head to see -- and what I saw was my arm covered in blood and more blood pooling in my hand. Grus! She cleaned me up, and tried IV #2 in my wrist. Whew, she got it on the first try. In the meantime, a courier came in carrying two big lead boxes and Anabell explained that one of the boxes had my medicine, specially prepared in Gilroy the evening before and overnighted for use that day. From inside that lead box, they brought out a syringe containing my radioactive glucose and the syringe was covered completely in lead! Crazy to think that this radioactive stuff they're protecting everyone else from is going right into my bloodstream!

After they injected the stuff into my IV, the next step was to sit still for an hour in my own little private room. It was pretty awesome. I watched The Price Is Right in a comfy recliner, wrapped up in a blanket, with a space heater blowing. This allowed the glucose to travel around my body and work its magic by sticking to any potential itty-bitty cancer bits.

Then finally came the scans. The CT/PET machines were not as claustrophobic as I was thought they'd be. There were two separate tubes with a gap inbetween, and each was only wide enough to cover half my body, so it helped with the claustrophobia knowing that I could move at least a part of my body freely at any given time. They ran the PET scan from my knees to the top of my head, moving in sections. I fell asleep. I drank water all morning hoping to open up my veins, so halfway through I needed to pee. They let me go inbetween the PET and CT scans luckily. But after the CT scan, they had to re-do the PET scan of my bladder because it was so full earlier. Hah. The scans took about 75-90 minutes. And then I went home! Easy as pie!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

IVF Cycle & Embryo Freezing

(I'm almost up to real time now...)

On Dr. Awesome's recommendation, we met with a couple fertility doctors. The first doc we met -- DO NOT WANT! We met with a second private clinic and liked them a lot. We quickly decided to go ahead and freeze some embryos as an insurance policy. Yes, it was expensive. Yes, we could always adopt. And yes, since I'm still in my 20's my period will probably come back some time after chemo. But still... we decided it was worth it. I always thought I'd have my first child around 30, but it looks like nature has it's own plans for us. We've been told that after chemo, we should probably wait 2 years before trying to conceive naturally. That puts me past 30. Oh well. There are worse things in life!

After blood testing and a marathon 5+ hour appointment at the fertility clinic, I finally got started with the IVF cycle. The clinic was very accommodating for cancer-treatment patients, and put me on a "fast track" so I was able to do what was needed within a couple days, when it would have taken a "normal infertile couple" a few weeks. My first Lupron injection was a few days before the wedding. I did the first injection myself. It was a cinch! The key was to not hesitate in sticking the needle in -- the quicker it went in the less I felt it. I did about 10 days of the Lupron shots, and Miles and my mom took their turns too. No big deal!

Then I had to stimulate my follicles to grow. My daily injection changed to 3 daily injections: Lupron, Menopur and Follistim. The Lupron was a walk in the park because I was used to it. The Follistim was a little weird because of the pen-style needle, but was still a breeze. But the Menopur was awful, especially the first time! The awful burning as the injection went caught me off guard. But after I got used to it, it was a breeze. I did those 3 daily injections for the next 9 days.

No big deal!:

Oh, and somewhere in there I cut my hair once I knew that chemo was a definite. Here's how long my hair was before:

During the 9 days I was on stimulation meds, I had to get periodic ultrasounds to see how large my follicles were getting. They monitored them closely because I had to stop the stim meds once the follicles got to a very specific size. Here's a photo of my follicles that my sneaky mom took. They are almost ready!:

Once the follicles reached the right size, they sent me home with one last (whopping) injection that I had to take at a precise time that night. The HCG had to be injected in my butt, and it's purpose was to trigger my body to release the matured eggs. So exactly at 8:30 p.m., this happened:

So I guess technically it wasn't my butt, but the muscle right above my butt. I was really nervous for this one because the needle was 1.5 inches long, so I iced my skin for 20 minutes. Then I laid down, told Miles I was ready, and then reminded Miles to pinch the skin... only to discover that the needle was already in & I hadn't felt a thing! Awesome!!

Everything had to be really precise, so my egg retrieval procedure was exactly 36 hours later at 8:30 a.m. I showed up early to the clinic and they prepped me. My IV went in my elbow area without a hitch. They said I'd be under sedation, not completely out, but that I probably wouldn't remember a thing. Since I'd conquered general anesthesia fear during my lumpectomy, I wasn't nervous at all for this procedure. They injected the sedative, and I was out like a light. About 30 minutes later, the anesthesiologist woke me up by shaking my shoulders saying "Teresa..." and then they wheeled me out to my spot where Miles was waiting. No biggie!

All along I'd been told by multiple people that my egg count and ovaries were "phenomenal," and they'd also counted about 30 follicles at the previous ultrasound, so I was disappointed to hear that they only got 12 eggs from my retrieval. And I was a little more disappointed when they called the next day to report that only 9 eggs were mature, and that 1 of the 9 had a chromosomal defect, so in the end they only fertilized and froze 8 eggs. Ahh, well. It could have been worse! And still, we have 8 potential little babies on ice! I gotta think that at least one will take if we ever have to use them...

Recovery after egg retrieval was not that bad. I had some cramping, but it was tolerable with Tylenol. The worst part was discomfort. I had gained some pounds and was about 10x bloated than a regular period. Every time I took a step I could feel the bloating and stuff actually moving around. It was like I was carrying a bunch of delicate eggs in my belly. Come to think of it... I was!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Surgical Pathology Report

(Written in mid-November)

November 4th was an election day for the history books, but it was also a memorable day in my breast cancer journey. My mom and I were at Safeway when I got a VM. It was Dr. Awesome saying my post-surgery pathology report was in, and it was good news all around with no surprises. I love a doctor that gives you a heads up to expect good news on a VM, rather than keep you in suspense until the actual conversation.

I called him right back, and he reported that he removed the 1.4 cm tumor with clear margins all around (which meant no 2nd surgery!) and that the 2 lymph nodes he removed were confirmed as cancer-free! Yaaaay! Even though he'd told us immediately after the surgery that there weren't cancer cells in the sentinel lymph nodes, I'd been holding my breath til the lab completely dissected them to make sure. Whew! What a relief! I called Miles to tell him the joyous news!

Knock on wood... but I'm so thankful that since the awful diagnosis on October 6th, we haven't received any additional bad news. Let's keep it that way. Plskthx!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Get Married... Then Get Cut Open!

(Still written in November)

My lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy were on Thursday, October 30, 2008. I showed up at 8:30 a.m. at one hospital to get a radioactive substance injected into my breast. On the way there, we saw FIVE separate golden retrievers out for their morning walk! Five!! Miles & I decided that was a great sign. At the Nuclear Medicine Department, I laid down on the table. Before we started, the man told me I could scream or kick or do whatever as long as I didn't bite him. Hmm, guess that translated to "This is going to hurt..." Ah yes, it hurt A LOT. It was one of the more painful things I've ever felt. They injected three (slow) times into my left nipple and areola. I didn't see how long the needles were, but they sure felt long going in. That hurt already, but once each one was in it just kept hurting worse and worse. Finally, they were finished and 3 minutes later all the pain and soreness was already gone, whew! He then took a scan of my breast, and sent me on my way.

We showed up at the separate surgery location around 9:30 a.m. for my 10:30 surgery. But they told us there was an emergency surgery and I'd been bumped til 1 p.m. Bummer. So we went to the Lucky Penny and I watched with envy as Miles, my mom and my dad ate b-fast. We went back to the medical center, and got comfy in my waiting/post-op room. I'd never been in a hospital bed or room before, and it was pretty nice! Everyone was very kind and they made sure we were all comfortable. Then Miles' dad showed up to join my support team as well, which was great. The more, the merrier!

My nurse had trouble finding an IV vein in my hand, but another nurse finally got it. Then all of the sudden they told me it was time. This was my first surgery and general anesthesia, so it was all very new and nerve-wracking. I said goodbye to everyone, and my bed was wheeled out by a gruff nurse. She confirmed my name and birthdate, and it felt very sterile and surreal. She took me downstairs and dropped me off in the waiting room. Surprisingly, I wasn't as freaked out as I thought I might be. I remembered to breathe and that helped. The anesthesiologist showed up -- he was very kind and eased my nervousness a bit. He also told me that he had sent many patients to see Dr. Awesome, including his wife! That eased my anxiety even more. And then Dr. Awesome came cheerfully into the room, patted my legs and said "Hi Teresa! So where'd you guys have it?!" (talking about our wedding ceremony), and that made me feel even better. He has a way about him like Santa Clause, he is awesome!!

Next they wheeled me into the operating room, and I had to crawl from my bed to the operating table, and things felt even more surreal. Then suddenly everything happened at once. My arm was pulled out to the side, they put a blood pressure cuff on, they put a pulse-checker on, and they injected something into my IV. My other arm was pulled out to the side, my gown was unsnapped, and someone wiped down my skin. Both doctors fired questions at me about the wedding, and someone talked about the orchids at his own wedding. And the anesthesiologist said that I should be getting drowsy. I felt really out of control, and wished everything would slow down so I could see what everyone was doing. But that thought lasted for 5 seconds only. Then I remember saying I was getting drowsy, and that was the last thing I remember.

I woke up groggy in a big room. A nurse fluttered around me, really busy. I talked to her, but don't remember what I said in the beginning. I asked her name a lot (Susan), and kept saying "Susan? Oh, okay! Thank you so much, Susan, you've been so helpful!" She kept asking me what my pain was, and kept pumping morphine into me, and so my response went from a 4, to a 3, to still a 3, to a "1 or 0 probably!" I think I said the same things over and over to her. I must have told her about our wedding, because later on I heard her on the phone saying "...lovely girl... did you know that she just got married a couple days ago?!" Some time passed and all of the sudden Miles was beside the bed, and I was so happy to see him! I was so out of it, I hadn't even wondered about my lymph node status or how many were taken out. But the first thing Miles said was that my lymph nodes were clean! I remember it didn't really register in my brain, I knew that Miles was really happy and smiling so big, and that made me happy too.

After maybe 20 or 30 minutes, someone finally took me back upstairs to my original room where mom, dad and Miles' dad were. I was so relieved, and they all told me how quickly it went. I was out of it for a while still. I talked to my brother on the phone, and apparently I kept saying "I feel great!" We finally decided I was okay to go. I got as far as the hallway and almost blacked out, so they set me down in a wheelchair and put me back in bed. We stayed another hour maybe, and I drank chicken broth and ate crackers. We tried again with me in the wheelchair and made it out and home safely.

At home that evening I felt surprisingly good. The pain was definitely manageable. I became more coherent, and was up and moving around. I was back to playing Gin Rummy with mom an hour or two after arriving home. I took Vicodin that day and all day the next day. But after that, no Vicodin and I was fine. There was never any sharp pain, which surprised me. Just a lot of dull pain and general soreness on my left side. I also came home with a new BFF called a drain. The drain liquid went from red to dark pink to light pink to yellow-orange over the course of a week. I had bandages over the incision and the drain. I took the bandages off after 2 days, and still couldn't see the incision because it was covered with Steri-strips. I was shocked but interested to see that the drain was just a plastic tube sticking out of breast. It was pretty cool. As gross and annoying as the drain was, it was also kind of awesome to see my bodily liquids and tissue coming out.

Here is a picture from a couple days after surgery:

And here is a picture of my lovely drain. (No, that is not pee!):

A week later I saw Dr. Awesome. He removed the Steri-strips and I got to see my incision for the first time. I expected to see a bloody mess, but there was only a lovely, already-healing scar in the shape of a smile! Then he told me to breathe in deeply, breathe out, and breathe in again -- and somewhere in the middle he yanked really hard on the drain and it popped out without hurting! Instead of a circle-shaped hole there was just a tiny line incision that just needed a bandage for 24 hours. He also told me I could take a regular shower the next day, which was a relief!

The pain and soreness has gotten slowly but steadily better. The sensations and the numbnesses change day to day. But I definitely can move my arm around more and more every day. Supposedly it takes 6 to 8 weeks to fully heal, including the scar tissue going away. I can't wait. Right now there's a large chunk of hard scar tissue right where my lump used to be... I can't wait for the day I can poke around and only feel soft tissue where my awful tumor was. Yay! :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wedding Day!

(Still written in November)

Miles & I got married on Monday, October 27, 2008. We'd originally picked a spot in Tilden Park, along a Jewel Lake trail. It was this pretty little, long, narrow wooden-deck walkway that led through a tangle of bushes and greenery. We went there once during summertime, and it was charming and we loved it but it wasn't suitable for the wedding we were planning for next April. But all of the sudden, we were now planning an intimate 10-person wedding and
the spot was perfect. We re-visited the spot with my mom a week before, and we were all underwhelmed. It wasn't green anymore, and the brush had been cut around the walkway. It just wasn't as pretty as before. We found another underwhelming spot next to Jewel Lake. And we left that day feeling a little disappointed, but still alright with our choice.

We re-re-visited the park on Sunday before the wedding with both my mom and dad. Miles and I weren't too impressed with the Botanic Garden one time before. But Miles had the brilliant
idea of checking the Garden that Sunday, and we found multiple perfect spots! We must have completely missed that left side of the Garden before. We settled on a grove of bare aspens, and picked a couple of backups. But then we learned that we needed a permit for a Garden wedding, and I was scared we wouldn't be able to do it so last-minute.

The next morning, I called first thing in the morning and finally reached a helpful lady who told us she couldn't get a hold of the park planner to get a permit, but said we should go ahead
and do the wedding wherever we wanted anyways!

We all met in Tilden Park at 2 pm. Our wedding party was: my mom, my dad, my brother, his GF, Miles' dad, Miles' brother, his wife, their two awesome kids (ages 5 and almost 3), and grandmother. A total of 12 people, including the bride and groom! We had the people we loved the most, and I was so thrilled! The only outsider was the photographer I hired last minute based on 27 five-star reviews on Yelp. Once she showed up, we all headed to our spot in the Garden. Other than a lone gardener, we didn't see a single soul the whole time. It was
perfect! It was a cloudy day, which was kind of a bummer since we'd just had 2 straight weeks of gorgeous weather... but I wasn't going to let a little thing like that bring me down!

Since our wedding was so last-minute without time to plan, we were stoked to learn that in California any person can pay a fee and become a one-time marriage deputy commissioner. It was great! We didn't have to waste time looking for a last-minute officiant AND we got to have one of our loved ones marry us! The
Alameda County Clerk-Recorder's office was kind enough to squeeze us in. But we had no choice of the exact time/date in a 2-day window, so out of all our loved ones my brother had the most flexible schedule, and so he happily went to get deputized.

So back to the wedding... Miles, my brother and I got in position for the ceremony. Stella looked so adorable in her little blue dress, and she threw rose petals on the ground by our feet. I gave my vows first. I was crying before I even began, and I completely blanked on the rough notes I'd written down, so I just spoke to Miles from my heart
(which is what we planned on anyhow, rather than writing scripted vows). Then came Miles' vows (which were wonderful), and about two sentences in I suddenly noticed the sun beaming down on us for the first time all day! You know how people talk about "peak experiences"? That was the #1 peak experience of my life. Miles was telling me how much he loved me, we were surrounded by our beloved families, and the sun was emerging to shine down on our love. It sounds so dorky saying it like that, but that was the best single moment of my life. :)

Then all in a tearful rush, my brother was telling us we were married, Miles and I had our first married kiss, and everyone was snapping photos... but all I felt was my wonderful HUSBAND's forehead pressed against mine & all I could see were his proud eyes looking back at mine with love. It was T H E B E S T ! ! ! ! ! ! !

Then took a ton of photos around the Botanic Garden. That was fun. I can't wait to see the photos! After photos, we went to the big meadow right next to the Garden, spread some blankets, and had a picnic! It was the most super-duper wonderful bestest day
ever. I wouldn't have changed a thing!

And here we are, the newly married couple!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pre-Surgery Madness & Doctor Selection

(Still actually written in November)

A couple of days after my diagnosis, my mom flew out to help take care of me and Miles. The three of us together formed an awesome, unstoppable team! The only way it could have been better is if my dad hadn't been so far away. In the 3 weeks that followed my diagnosis, I had a flurry of doctor's appointments and medical tests. My brain absorbed more information in a 3-week period than ever before. I read and re-read every pamphlet and breast cancer brochure. I read stuff on Internet that was informative, and I read some stuff on Internet that I had no business looking at. Three days after my diagnosis, I met with my assigned surgeon, Dr. Peter Richards (but let's call him Dr. Awesome!) and he was finally the first to make us feel at ease with my diagnosis. He just had this great way about him; he was completely confident, yet he didn't dodge any of the hard questions. The first thing he said after "hello" was that we'd better get on the ball and see a fertility doctor because of potential infertility from chemotherapy. And that made us feel so good... that the first thing this doc was telling us was that we had a FUTURE. (Incidentally, our fertility doctor later said that we had a wonderful surgeon to have been so quick on the draw regarding fertility.)

After Dr. Awesome we covered our bases and got a second opinion from a UCSF surgeon. All he did was confirm that Dr. Awesome was something special.

Then I got a breast MRI and a full set of mammograms (which I'd never done before). For the breast MRI, they first put an IV in my arm. I laid face-down on the sliding platform, with my face hanging down into a shiny white toilet-bowl looking thing. My breasts hung down into two holes in the platform. Then they slid me into the tubular machine. Luckily, since I was face-down I couldn't see how claustrophobic it was. They gave me earplugs because the MRI machine is very loud. I was in there for 30+ minutes, and about halfway through I got the contrast liquid in my IV. They warned me I would feel coldness running up my arm (which I did). It made me feel strange. Then, the mammograms were fine. They took a regular set, and then did a few close-ups of my lump. The nice mammogram technician lady let me know afterwards that they didn't see anything suspicious other than my original lump. That was so nice to hear.

Dr. Awesome also discussed the BRCA genetics test with me, I went ahead and tested for it, and 2 weeks later I learned I was thankfully negative!!

In the meantime, I saw UCSF fertility doc. He was "not my favorite." When I showed up with My Team, he made us feel like we put him out by needing one extra chair. Also when we asked questions, he made us feel like we were putting him out then too. So we went to a second fertility doc at the Pacific Fertility Center. They impressed us with their care and attention. Since I was a chemo/cancer patient, they put me on a special "fast track." All the pre-treatment stuff that takes normal couples 2-5 weeks to do, they were able to do for us in a matter of days. We had a 5+ hour appointment (!!!) with PFC during which they bombarded us with info.

So all of this info-gathering happened in the first couple weeks after diagnosis. Then we had the task of trying to juggle and schedule everything to happen at the correct time, and somehow it all worked out perfectly! My dad wanted to be here for my surgery, but was only available to come to California during one particular week. Miles and I decided we wanted to get married while my dad was here. We also wanted to do my lumpectomy as soon as possible. And lastly, we had to schedule the fertility/freezing cycle someplace in there at the proper time, which in turn depended on my menstrual cycle.

Somehow, miraculously, everything worked out so perfectly. And then the next thing I knew my Dad was here, I was planning a last-minute wedding, I was doing last-minute pre-surgery prep, and I was giving myself subcutaneous injections in the stomach everyday. Whew!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Diagnosis Day

(Actually written in November)

All of Sunday evening, October 5th, I was in a great deal of unrelated pain that kept me from sleeping, and I only got 30 minutes of sleep that night. Thus, the morning of Monday, October 6th I planned on staying home to try to sleep a little. However, all hell had broken loose at work & so Miles drove me to work and I TCB-ed for 30 minutes. We went back home, and I finally managed fall asleep. I was woken up by a call from the Breast Health Center asking "Did you get your results yet?" I said "No, are they in?" and they said "Yes, your results have come in - your OB/GYN will be calling you later today to let you know your results." I was just plain confused at this point (and also groggy), so I didn't argue and went back to sleep. An hour or two later I was woken up by another call -- my OB/GYN. I shot up in bed, tried to un-grog myself, and pressed the Talk button while I prepared myself for the worst. "Hi Teresa, this is Dr. Dimsdale..." (Not good... I heard the hesitation in his voice.) "I'm afraid I have bad news... your biopsy shows that you do have breast cancer..."

I lost my voice, I lost my breath, I stared at Miles (for what felt like a lifetime but was probably only 3 seconds), I thought about how the look on my face at that moment must be devastating him, and then after an eternity I think I said "Okay..." Then, I can't recall what else was said, but it wasn't much. The OB/GYN told me that someone would schedule me an appointment with a surgeon & would call me later that day to let me know when. He also told me the Breast Health Center had nurse counselors, and that I could call them to schedule a free counseling session. I wish I remember what he said to me in parting, but I don't. I hung up the phone and felt totally numb. I think Miles and I hugged a lot. I don't remember if I cried, but I don't think so. I remember having a really hard time catching my breath. Especially after being woken up abruptly, I remember hoping with all my might that I wasn't really awake yet, and wondering if I was having a dream within a dream. I remember being afraid of dying. I remember being afraid of losing Miles. I remember being afraid of Miles losing me. I remember thinking that it would be so insanely unfair for Miles to lose me after already losing the other most important woman in his life. I remember being deathly scared. I am crying right now just thinking about that 5 minutes of my life...

We finally composed ourselves as best as we could. I called my parents right away. I don't really remember that conversation either. I remember my mom said she always thought I might get breast cancer because my paternal grandmother died of it. After a little bit, we called the Breast Health Center to see if we could talk to a counselor that day. We scheduled an appointment for that afternoon, and then we went to Miyabi to get out of the suffocating house. Lunch didn't go over so well. We sat in front of our barely-touched meals and took turns almost crying. The nurse educator from the Breast Health Center (Leslie) called and asked if we could come earlier so the licensed clinical counselor (Carol) could join us. We left our uneaten food and headed over there.

What awaited us there was the single most awful experience of this whole ordeal so far:
We got there and sat down across the table from Leslie and Carol. For a moment, they both just stared at us with these pained looks. The first thing Leslie said was "We're all in shock, you're very young..." And it just went downhill from there. Carol (the supposed "emotions" part counselor) eventually chimed in that she had to leave in 15 minutes for her 3 p.m. appointment. Leslie flipped through my biopsy report and some pamplets, brochures, and other junk. She went through the pathology report telling us a bunch of stuff that didn't make any sense yet. She did make sure to clearly point out that my 80% proliferation rate was "very high." So far, we hadn't heard anything encouraging or reassuring, nothing about how breast cancer treatments are constantly improving, and nothing even remotely in the vein of "you're not alone." She continued on, and we continued to feel blind-sided. Abruptly, Carol cut in to mention that she had to leave in 2 minutes, so Leslie let her talk. I don't remember anything Carol said (which was not much anyhow), except she said I should join a support group. Hmm, well okay... but as for support, I thought that was YOUR job at this present moment... yet all you're doing is saying have to leave and telling me there is this foreign thing called ... a "support group"? Then Carol was gone. And there was Leslie staring at us with that pained expression still. Then she pulled out a binder about breast cancer, with some glossy category dividers like "Your Diagnosis" and "Resources" and etc. She flipped through it for us, and towards the end she came to the "Inspiration" category.

Leslie: "Heh, well, funny thing, the person who put together this binder forgot to copy the pages for the 'Inspiration' section... so we're just going to skip this section!"

What?!!? Are you telling me that there is no inspiration for me? What are you saying?! Miles & I were completely dumbfounded. Soon after, she left to go do whatever was more important than our scarred, emotional "well-being," and told us we could sit in the room for as long as needed, and that we could call her if we had any other questions or just needed someone to talk to (hah, fat chance I will be calling her!). Miles & I sat there for 15 minutes, both feeling 100x worse than when we walked in. We went to the counselors thinking we would come away feeling better, but they FAILED bigtime. We both cried. It was my first real cry since the news. We finally went home. I had nonstop butterflies in my stomach. I felt completely drained and tried to sleep, but sleep was impossible.

Later that night Miles & I decided there was now no reason to wait until April to have our wedding, and that we wanted to do it ASAP. We got so excited about the idea that we took out our wedding bands and had our own private impromptu ceremony in our bedroom. Miles put a shirt and tie over his boxers, and I put on a dress over my pajama pants. We held each other close and said vows so tender we couldn't have recreated them in a million years. We had our first married kiss, and then we danced to Sleepwalk on the iPod. We also took a set of "just married" Polaroids that are my favorite PHOTOS ever. Somehow, we turned the single worst day of our lives into the single best day of our lives. I love you with all my heart, Miles.. thank you so much for that night. :)

No more tears now thinking about that day, I'm just beaming from remembering how it ended!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pre-diagnosis Re-cap

I am actually writing this post in November 2008, but I'm re-capping the events that led up to my diagnosis:

In early September this year, Miles & I were watching TV and he wrapped his arm around my left side, and all of the sudden pulled back and said "What's this??" and poked at the place my armpit meets my left breast. I touched the area and felt a small hard lump, and my heart skipped a beat. We both tried to keep calm, and decided that it was probably nothing but figured my OB/GYN look at it anyhow. I remember this happened right before my firm's attorney retreat, because I worried about it all Friday night alone in a nice hotel room in Santa Cruz that had deer grazing outside my patio door.

On Friday, September 12th I went to see my OB/GYN and Miles came with me for support. He poked around, felt the lump, and told me that given my age it was probably a fluid-filled cyst & nothing to worry about. He recommended I get an ultrasound anyhow, just to be sure. Thank goodness I had a doctor that was not eager to just dismiss me because I was too young for breast cancer...

On Wednesday, September 17th I had my ultrasound. My parents were in town, and that was comforting. I laid on the table, the ultrasound technician lady did her thing, and I watched on the screen. I could see my lump large & clear. It was a big black oval. She moved around & took some images. Then she told me she had to talk to the doctor, and left me to wait there. Judging by the tone of her voice, I could tell something was at least a little amiss. I laid there in agony for 5 minutes wondering what I was about to hear. I came to the conclusion that black meant solid mass (not fluid like the OB/GYN thought). She finally came back with the doctor, he took a look, and finally told me he thought I had a common benign lump called a fibroadenoma. He told me I shouldn't be worried at this point -- that it was incredibly common in young women my age -- and he even wrote down "fibroadenoma" so I knew how to spell it. Then he said that in the "1 in 100... well, 1 in 1,000 chance" it was malignant, we should have a biopsy done just in case. He told me to schedule my biopsy with a nurse on my way out. I spoke to the nurse and the soonest possible biopsy appointment was not for another two weeks. That was a big bummer ... I knew I was in for an awful two weeks of worry.

The day of my biopsy finally came (Tuesday, September 30th). Miles & I showed up at 7:30 a.m. and we had to wait for the elevators to start running. I had to leave Miles in the waiting room as much as I wished he could be with me for the biopsy. The nurse laid me on the table with my left arm propped up, and then she cleaned me off and started prepping. The doc from before came in and got started. He stuck me with the lidocaine needle somewhere in my breast (I made sure not to look), and that wasn't so bad. I felt it get instantly numb. He explained that I wouldn't feel any pain from the biopsy tool, but that it made a loud clicking/shooting sound each time it took a sample, and that he'd probably have to get a few samples. I was okay with all of that. They did it in conjunction with an ultrasound (called an ultrasound-guided core biopsy) so that he could see my lump on the screen to see where the needle needed to go. He warned me he was about to take the first sample... there was a loud click, followed by excruciating, shooting pain! I also saw the whole needle thing happen in real time on the ultrasound screen! I yelped in pain, and he immediately gave me more lidocaine. The pain instantly subsided, whew!, and he got 2 more samples without any trouble. Then that was it! Doc told me that the Breast Health Center would be calling me on Friday with the results. The nurse gave me an ice pack, told me reassuringly she was sure it was a fibroadenoma, gave me a mini-bottle water and Kashi bar, and said I was the best patient of the day. (Oh, by "best" patient of the day you mean first, right?) I took the rest of the day off and iced my little wound for a few hours. There was a some soreness and bruising, but nothing outrageous. Miles and I had a nice, lazy day of TV in bed, and we did pretty good at not worrying. What was done was done, and we knew we wouldn't get the results sooner by worrying.

Friday, October 3rd came around and I was at work, wondering all day about my results. By afternoon I called the Breast Health Center and left VMs for 3 different people. Someone finally called me at 4 p.m. to say my lab results weren't back, and that I'd have to wait til Monday. Bummer. Another excruciating couple of days trying not to worry...