The Plan

Monday, December 30, 2013

Every time I start a post now, I have to giggle because I feel like it's a new episode of a soap opera. I feel like I should start off with something like "Last time, on Life with The Odom's...." Haha! We left off a couple of days before our first appointment with the oncologist, which we had about a week and a half before Christmas. It seemed like life was once again on hold until we had that appointment, at least any major plans. We were still plugging along getting ready for Christmas, playing in the snow, baking cookies, and getting in plenty of snuggles and rest, but there were still so many unknowns.

About a week and a half after surgery, we got a call during dinner from the breast cancer surgeon with the final pathology reports. It was the second time we cried tears of joy in our new story.


The lymph nodes were 100% clean.

It seemed like she could have just stopped right then and there. But she continued.

Margins were clean.

Skin was clean.

HER2 Negative.

Tumor measured 2.1 cm in the greatest dimension (which was pretty much what they were guessing).

The only negative result we received was that the invasive portion of the cancer (the tumor) was an Elston Grade 3 of 3. We didn't really know what that meant, or frankly, didn't really even care at the time of the phone call since we were just so freaking excited to confirm the lymph nodes status. We didn't know at the time that the Elston Grade would become a big factor in our treatment plan.

Come to find out, that Elston Grade basically represents the "aggressive potential" of the tumor, so a "low grade" (or a 1 on this scale) tends to be less aggressive than "high grade" (or a 3 on this scale). So it turns out, I have a pretty aggressive form of breast cancer.

Fast forward to our oncologist appointment, exactly four weeks after surgery, December 16th. It also happened to be exactly two months after my official diagnosis on October 16th.

(On a side note, I'm just going to skip over any more "16ths" in the upcoming months. Kthanksbye.)

I wanted to take a picture of the waiting room but I couldn't bring myself to do it. It was all decorated for Christmas, but you could have heard a pin drop in that place. My mom was on daycare pick up duty so Wes came along with me and so did my Dad. It was just one of those appointments where you wanted that extra person to help listen, in case you started to hear things that got you upset. There was just something about this waiting room, and I realized it the minute that we walked in. There were only a couple of other folks there, but no one was there alone. Everyone had a support system. It wasn't a doctor's office where you go alone. It wasn't like going to get a check up. It was just different. There was a couple to our left, where the woman just looked miserable. She had her head on what I was assuming was her husband's shoulder, and she had clearly gone through, or was going through chemotherapy. That certainly made me take a step back. At one point, the nurse navigator came out to introduce herself to me and say that someone had told them I was coming, so they were expecting me. She said that she was sorry that I had to be there, but that she was glad they could try to help. I remember thinking and wondering how she could just talk so freely with the other people all in the waiting room. She wasn't quiet, she didn't whisper. Everyone knew I had breast cancer. It didn't take me long but I then realized everyone there had some form of cancer, so it wasn't ever a secret, or something to hide. The two couples there, came and went and we were still waiting. Cracking a few jokes here and there to keep our minds off of what we were there waiting for. After waiting over an hour, we finally got to meet my oncologist, who is now basically the team lead in my story.

The appointment lasted about and hour and a half, and it was once again like drinking from a fire hose. The first part was a lot of questions for Wes and I, about our lifestyle, family history, kids, where we worked, what kind of people we were. Then it was Dr. W reviewing the final pathology report. There was a point where Dr. W had one treatment plan in mind, then he found the Elston Grade result and the plan quickly changed. There was no doubt in his mind what my plan should be. a 20-week chemotherapy plan followed up by a minimum of a five year hormone therapy. The hormone therapy was pretty much a given for us, ever since we found out we were ER+, but hearing that chemotherapy plan officially was a bit of a blow.

The next half hour or so (that's what it seemed like at least), was spent talking about the Tamoxifen hormone treatment, fertility and the possibility of ovarian suppression. After that, it was on to the chemotherapy plan, which will include four cycles of AC (Adriamycin and Cytoxan), one dose every two weeks for four doses (so a total of 8 weeks), with a shot of Neulasta in the skin the day after each chemotherapy treatment to reduce the risk of infection. This will be followed by twelve weekly doses of Taxol (so a total of 12 weeks). We are supposed to kick things off next week.

Since diagnosis, chemotherapy has certainly been one of our biggest unknowns but pretty much for the entire time, I have been mentally trying to prepare myself thinking it was going to be a part of my treatment plan. I would never say that I wanted to go through chemo, but from Day 1 I have told myself that I would do anything, no matter what it was, to keep me around for as long as possible. If it sucks now, but means that I'll be here to pick out wedding dresses with Emma, I'll do it. If it sucks now, but means that I'll be here to watch Jack become an amazing father to his children, I'll do it. If it sucks now, but means I'll be here sitting next to Wes on our 50th wedding anniversary, I'll do it. So although it was certainly a shock to hear it, and a shock to hear that it would be four months worth, and a shock to officially be told that by the time you arrive for your second treatment your hair will be gone, there is no other option in my mind. After hearing the percent chance that my cancer could come back without treatment, and then hearing the percent chance it has after treatment, there's absolutely no question.

We ended up leaving the appointment at about 6:30PM, tired, nervous for what was to come, but I think also feeling confident in our path forward. We felt confident in Dr. W. He didn't sugar coat things, but was trying to get to know us, so he was personable too. We weren't a number to him. We were a young couple, with two very young kids. And he flat out said it was his job to keep me around for the long haul. And he sounded like that's exactly what he was about to do.

So that's the plan! I've been busy getting lots of appointments and check-ups out of the way before starting chemo (you can't do things like go to the dentist on chemo, etc, anything that has a risk of an infection). I even started back at work which felt amazing!! Next on the list is to get a major haircut, which is pretty much the first recommendation I'm gathering as it can be pretty traumatic when it starts to fall out, and maybe even pick out a wig for those days back to work.

You know, at first I felt like I just wanted to skip over 2014 since it was going to start out so sucky. But now, I think of it as the start to the rest of my life. Any mom out there would be eager to start whatever it was, that was going to keep her around for a very long time. 

I've Been Looking At A Blank Screen for Weeks...

Friday, December 13, 2013

I don't know what it was that was keeping me from blogging over the past couple of weeks. Outside of the obvious surgery recovery. I sat down so many times with my computer open, a new post ready for words, feelings, thank yous, anything. But nothing ever seemed to come out. The odd part, was that there was so much I wanted to say, so much I wanted to write about. Sometimes, on tough sleeping nights I would lay awake just thinking about everything I wanted to say about the past month, but the next day I would open my computer, and I just didn't know where to start. So you will have to forgive me because who knows where this post will go and how long it might eventually be! I just am going to sit down, and start typing and see what happens!

It feels like it was forever ago that we started our new journey, our new story. There are so many notes and cards and messages and phone conversations that have happened over the past month that will probably all trickle out in different posts, but there was one that stands out to me a lot. It was an email that Wes and I received the Saturday before my surgery and it's what I thought about every time I sat down to try to write about our latest journey. It was about how this was our story. Even though everyone has a story about a neighbor or a cousin or a friend or a coworker, this was going to be our story and was just about us, and eventually this big net of friends and family that are gathered around us to catch us. The email said "we all have to acknowledge that this is your story." I don't know why that had such an impact on me. Maybe its because as soon as we got our diagnosis, all the other stories started pouring in. Sometimes we needed to hear them, sometimes we didn't. It was always coming from a good place in someones heart, that just wanted to help. But it was often very overwhelming. Over the past month, I have just been constantly reminding myself, that this is our story, so ultimately, that's what I decided to sit down and write about. I can't thank that family member enough for that email to Wes and I that day. It meant more than you will ever know.

It seems like so long ago that we got the actual diagnosis. At first, it seemed like it was a lifetime between diagnosis and surgery. But now, it seems like it went by in the blink of an eye. The weeks in between were very odd. Mostly, extremely good and very normal. It was odd and exactly what we needed at the same time, to go back to normal life, even though we knew what was coming. Work was what I needed during the day to take my mind off of what was going on. In the evenings, it was the babies that kept us busy like usual. They were our lifesavers. We talked to them about what was going to happen. Honestly, I really didn't know what to tell them or not tell them, but in the end, we were open and honest and used words like cancer and surgery and hospital, just because we knew they would over hear them in conversations anyway. Of course they didn't understand much, especially Jack, but I think Emma understood as much as she needed to. We told them that Mommy had cancer and that the doctors needed to take the cancer out so Mommy wouldn't get sick. We told them that cancer was like weeds in our flower garden. If you don't take the weeds out, they will spread and make the flowers sick. It actually ended up being perfect because they love to help Mommy and Daddy take the weeds out of the garden in the summer. They have been absolutely amazing through all this. 

One day I noticed that our favorite photographer was having some fall mini-sessions. She usually books up fast and it was only a week away but on a whim, I thought why not? It was something I was thinking about doing in the spring, but given that our immediate future was somewhat up in the air, I took a shot and turns out she had the perfect opening. Boy was it cold that day and I wouldn't say that we were exactly prepared with proper outfits but she always makes us laugh, and the kids adore her. It was the perfect thing to do, and I am so glad that we decided to capture this exact time in our lives even in just a few photographs.

I love these three so much, that I can barely even stand it.  

Before we knew it, it was Halloween and time for the babies Halloween parade at school! Of course Emma was another princess this year and it only took us about two hours in the store to decide which one! Jack on the other hand went as the most handsome Peter Pan known to man. Clearly.

The Halloween parade must be so overwhelming for the kids because the shopping center just gets lined with parents with cameras and store owners and shoppers all clamoring to see the cuteness. After seeing so many little ones pass, we finally got a glimpse of  Peter Pan coming down the sidewalk.

It took him a few minutes but he finally saw Mommy when he was about two feet away from us. Before we could blink, Cinderella was charging along and was so excited that she barely even acknowledged us! And yes, here hair usually looks like that when she goes to school. Ha!

Round two on the other side of the shopping center, came Peter Pan once again! Talk about Mr. Serious once again!

Then, Cinderella made another appearance, and finally flashed that little beauty pageant smile and princess wave. My heart just melted.

After heading home to meet Mimi for dinner, we quickly got dressed and headed out for some trick or treating. I will say, that this was just about the perfect Halloween night. The kids were completely into trick or treating, it was the perfect weather, and everyone just had a blast. It was exactly what I was hoping for and needed. It just seemed like such a bright spot in our lives and I was so thankful for such an amazing day.

After Halloween, life seemed like a blur. I had to attend a couple days of training for work, so I ended up being on travel during our wedding anniversary (sorry babe!), then the day after travel was my pre-op appointment, which is a whole other story. Then there were fun birthday parties, a very busy last week of work and eventually, getting ready for Gigi to arrive to help during the week of surgery.

It was an indescribable feeling, going on about life normally, knowing that I had cancer. I think that is when I started to emotionally detach myself from the parts that I would soon be having removed.

Because there has been so much that has happened over the past couple of weeks, I'm starting out small, and will skip over the actual surgery and recovery for now, to give you an update on how we are doing this week. (More to come on all that other not-so-fun stuff).

Everyday is different. Most days have been really good, but I would be lying if I said I didn't have some of the "everything about this sucks" kind of days this week. I think what got to me so much this week was that I was just having a tough pain day, and couldn't help get the kids dressed to play in the snow. And what was worse, was not being able to play in the snow with them.

But, I was able to go and keep with our annual tradition of cutting down our Christmas tree this past weekend! The weather turned out great, and despite the usual cranky babies, we had a blast! Emma has an incredible memory so she remembered a lot about the farm from last year, and most notable remembered the free candy canes. :)

Hugging a little baby Christmas tree...

Like usual, The Squishy took off running through the rows of trees!

I was pretty much zero help to Wes, but then again, he usually does all the work when Christmas tree hunting anyway, and I am usually on kid duty. So I guess this year was really no exception.

Finally, Emma got her free candy cane, which didn't last long.

I seriously don't know what I would have done without these two crazies over the past month. They are our world. We still don't know what treatment is next, but I will do absolutely anything to make sure I am around for the long haul with these two.

A couple days later, we got a few inches of snow and it was like Christmas morning to the kids. About two days after that, we got a little bit more! So I broke out the camera and tried to snap a few pictures from the steps as Wes and the kids played in the snow.

It's really hard to tell, but our snowman actually had two tiny little arms. He is like the Tyrannosaurus Rex of snowmen. :)

While Daddy and Sissy were building T Rex the snowman, Jack was busy doing some yard work.

He eventually took a break to do some snow angels...

So his big sissy picked up on the yard work right where he left off.

So there you have it! I finally got something out and hopefully this will end my writers block! Today was the first day I ventured out by myself and drove, so I'm thinking about ending on a good note and heading to surprise the babies at school. More to come, hopefully sooner rather than later!!
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