And So it began

"ONCE UPON A TIME"....there came along this little lump...insignificant really when you compare it to the entire world of lumps. That is, right up to the point that it wasn't...insignificant I mean............... and so began my journey.

A NEWER SHADE OF PINK...now I more then SURVIVE...I am learning to THRIVE...

OF COURSE... we all know things are bound to get a little crazy with a surprise around most every corner...not to mention an assortment of bumps and bruises along the way...but I am ever thankful for them all...they have all made me who I am. So buckle up, hold on tight and enjoy the ride thru what I lovingly refer to as LIFE


Monday, July 17, 2017

QUESTION OF THE WEEK TO ME...
How can you still be smiling???  

The twists and turns of this seemingly simple surgery on June 1st just keep coming faster and more left field the longer we go....keep reading....its gonna take a few posts to iron this all out for you.  I am just beginning since this Troll dropped into my life 5 yrs ago...there is not "seemingly simple" anything when it come to my health anymore.  At least I can honestly tell you first hand....looks can be deceiving....nothing ever ends up being a simple....and you just aren't in control.  What you do with the krap is what will define you to yourself and every single life you touch.

I have had more then a few people shocked at my attitude & and ask "How are you still smiling and positive after all the problems and issues since your surgery?  I would be so angry at this point"   I have never actually thought about it....it's just the way I am.  So I did some SERIOUS pondering on it and this is the best way I can explain it....here goes...

I am just really aware of just how blessed I am that I have never had a second of the "why me...this isn't fair...God must hate me....I must be an awful person".  Those trains of thought never cross my mind.  It is a true gift that God has blessed me with when I was born into this world. He also sent me to a long line of sassy warrior women in my family tree who taught me thru words but mostly example, some very powerful lessons that have kept me centred and focused thru everything.  **When times get tough, you just pull those "big girl panties" a little higher and a little tighter and keep walking forward (or slugging thru the sludgy muck it sometimes feels like), one step after the other...always forward. **No one else needs to suffer from what you are facing. **Always reach out & find who needs you to be YOU to make it thru their krap. **It's NOT about you...it's about you being the spark for someone else to grab tight to for those dark & scary moment they are dealing with. **Always be true to the YOU you know you are outside this bit of muck you are slogging thru right now...it DOES NOT last very long in the grand journey of your life.  It beats the alternative...I am still alive and kicking.

You never know when you are put in the path of someone else...being the answer to their prayer they maybe didn't even know they said but God was listening and answered. This incident shows what I mean...

I was in the Hospital...AGAIN...down in the general ultrasounds area waiting for yet another ultrasound  laying in my hospital bed in a little cubby hole in the wall where 3 beds can fit as we all wait for transport to take me back to my room. This is where scans are done for both in-patients and out patients so there is a high turnover rate in this waiting area. In walks this very nervous 30 something woman to the waiting area...you could just feel the fear bouncing off her,& see her coffee cup shake. She just happened to look over at me and I smiled.  A few minutes later she cautiously came over to the end of my bed and asked how I was feeling.  I said "Fine...how about you"  She gave me the smallest hints a  grin and said she was "fine" then proceeded to tell me what she was there for and that she was really nervous.  I told her I had the same thing done just a few moments before & if they had to biopsy something, I had done that too.  She looked surprised and gave me a more relaxed smile.  I assured her it wasn't that bad and she would do great & not to be worried....she had this!  She let out this sigh and a big smile (and less shaky hands) said to me. "Thank you I so needed to hear that today, I am here alone and it's really scary not knowing what they are gonna have to do....like a biopsy too really freaks me out but I am okay now...If I get scared in there...I am gonna think of you & what you said & know I CAN do this" As they wheeled me out of my little cubby she looked over and winked and gave me a thumbs up and mouthed THANK YOU.  I know the Lord was in charge of that little interaction/tender mercy for her.  I am truly humbled that I could give her that little spark to hold onto in her scary moment then and later if she needed it.

You never know when you are put in the path of someone else...being the answer to their prayer they maybe didn't even know they said but God was listening and answered. That...if you come right down to it...that is what this is all about.

Saturday, July 15, 2017



It was my 5yr Blog Birthday yesterday!!!!  

How did I miss that for crying out loud?!?!?!  Well...to be honest, my life really isn't my own these days & I am a lot-bit preoccupied with trying to recover and heal  (45 days so far...and counting)...so for my big sister...who is more on the ball then me...reminded me during our chat this morning.


Thanks for the reminder!!!!  You always have my back
xoxo

Sunday, July 9, 2017

BACK TO MY STORY...

DAY 20-30 - POST-OP

 The Surgical team from the floor I was on definitely had a different idea for my care then the Infectious Disease team had and most of the time they weren't talking to each other.  Lucky for me I had a 2nd amazing nurse (Miss S) who kept the ID team in the loop so they could over ride the silly ideas the surgical team.  They figured that I was getting well enough to just pull the picc line and send me home with oral antibiotics...that was shot down by ID team in record time...lol. On day 20 they decided to sent me for yet another chest x-ray but this time they added a chest CT scan as well....that was enlightening. They discovered that my abscess was over 13cm & pancake shaped....very thin front to back and looked like a intricate beehive instead of one big sack.  They were thinking of trying to drain it but they weren't sure they could drain it even if they wanted to because of all its little pockets.  I had barely gotten back to my room when suddenly they were there to take me down to this fancy X-ray guided surgical room where they do all the tiny vein work so they could put a drain in my chest wall.  It was all hi-tech and sterile & kind of interesting in a "if it wasn't me on the table" sort of way.  Luckily I hadn't had a chance to eat anything before coming down because they can sedate you so they want your stomach empty.  I managed the entire thing with just some "happy juice" so I was awake and interacting with them.  WOW...did that drain work....it emptied out 125ml from the abscess within the first hour & has kept up a solid 50-70ml every 24hrs since.  Yup...I still have "Bubba" stitched into my chest wall (on the right) and "Petunia" the picc line stitched into my left bicep...which are so specifically placed, that the slightest change in position of either lines means a trip back to the hospital so they could be corrected.  SADLY...that means NO showers, NO stretching or reaching, NO med-heavy lifting....which leaves me with binge watching Netflix or reading a not too heavy book.  Oh ya...that hyper nerve glass sensation from elbow to elbow....still alive & kicking.  I guess you could say I am not a ton of fun to hang out with at the moment...but I jumped ahead again....  When I got back from the drain procedure I was sitting in my chair and all of a sudden I felt GREAT!!!  No deep burning in my chest or feeling like I had a cast iron pot sitting on me and I could take deep breaths without even thinking.  I had been on 3% oxygen for the last 3 days because I couldn't keep my sat levels up...suddenly they were back to normal & that boa constrictor around my ribcage was gone.  Who knew that all those issues were due to all this infection fluid in my chest cavity.  I was TOTALLY amazed!!!  Sadly...it only lasted about 4hrs then all the old symptoms began to return, not to the degree they had been but back none the less. I had a really rough night so they sent me for X-rays, ecg & blood work to rule out a cardiac event...yup it was that bad.  I sat up most of the night in some of the worst pain and strange sensations of this entire adventure.  But everything came back clear so I got to "blow that Popsicle stand" and finally go home.   

Here I sit day 31 and feel the same with the addition pain from my skin reacting to the bandaging they have to protect both the picc & the drain. Still no showers (I hate 1800 sponge baths....just sayin) & I have a next door "hairy god-mother" who comes and fixes my unruly mess of curls every few days & even takes me to her home salon for the most amazing hair washes and massages. The plan at this point is a follow up with ID in a few days to make sure the IV antibiotics are still doing their job and hopefully be done with the IV treatments (every 8hrs) by July 14th.  The tricky part is that my drain has to be below 30ml over a 3 day period before they will remove it and at this point I am WAY too far from that number.  VoR has me on "house arrest" & I am unable to drive anyway because of restrictions in my movement...and pain meds...so I am going a little stir crazy.  It has also been pouring rain for the last few days so I don't even get my outside strolls in.  Oh well....this too shall pass.

I am just extremely grateful for all my dear friends who have dropped their own lives to come to my aid & once again, having the Lord watch so closely over me and setting me back on the path toward healing.  This is a drag for sure but WAY better then the alternative!!!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

....continued again...

Wanna talk about feeling KRAPPY!?!?!?

13-19 DAYS POST-OP...

So...not long after getting admitted I was moved 4 times in about 3 hrs & I continued to feel worser and worser!!!  By the time I got moved up to the "surgical floor" ward I was beginning to not really care how I was feeling just being adamant that I had to be home by the 15th 'cause Pragmatically Speaking & Hop were coming to visit for 6 days & I was NOT gonna miss that.  Well....this little chest wall infection had it's own plan & it was racing ahead fast.  Those first couple of days I was REALLY sick...sicker then I can ever remember being.  They were taking blood and giving me pain shots I couldn't care....now we all remember that I have a HUGE needle phobia...so you get the idea of just how bad it was.  The chest wall continued to get redder to the point of almost purple & the heat radiating off it could be felt thru my hospital gown before you even touched me.  Miss B (my amazing nurse) had the great idea of outlining the redness so we could better tell if it was getting bigger...so not really being contained by the antibiotics.  You could see it getting bigger & redder almost by the hour!!!  It spread from just past the centre of my chest to behind my armpit & started to swell so they took 3 huge syringes of fluid out of that chest wall.  I never really realized just how sick I was or just how awful I looked...but VoR was really worried but I was shocked by the fear & worry in his eyes.  He did what he always does & drew strength & comfort from the Lord & passed that peacefulness on to me.  I know that he & Pragmatically Speaking gave me a priesthood blessing but I don't even have a snippet of what was said but I began the long & slow turn & began the long and uphill road of healing.  He was not alone in his worry those first days....the doctors & Infectious disease were very worried too. They decided to put in a PICC line to save my veins & just started dumping antibiotics thru my IV while they waited for the culture to grow so they could hit it with the most effective cocktail.

For me the TRUE bummer was when I realized that VoR had gone to pick up Pragmatically Speaking from the airport & I was in fact NOT gonna be home for the entire 6 day visit.  I figured that by the 15th I would be well on the road to healing & a bit tender still but up & around & being me....WRONG!!!!  On the upside they came & saw me everyday at the hospital, but it gave them some really great bonding time....and as it turns out...a free trip for me to go visit them when I am totally healed...so a convoluted win-win.  Pragmatically Speakings other half came to town to surprise us all too so a real tender mercy # (ah heck...who can even count them at this point?!?!) for that little family & us.


I gradually started feeling a little better....probably aided by some dear friends bringing in some yummy contraband treats for me....THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!  You see...when your a diabetic and have food allergies...the limited hospital menu gets even smaller!!! Poached chicken breast, instant mashed potato & over boiled peas & carrots...OYE!!!!   But I digress...

...days 20-22...to come

Sunday, July 2, 2017

...Continued....

I'm just gonna throw it out there....but that blasted torture trap binder was just the tip of this Titanic size iceberg!!!!

9 DAYS POST-OP...  
 I went into the dr's office and met with one of her partners who was shocked....to say the least....that I was still wearing that torture trap.  Needless to say...we did in fact "ripped that sucker off" and joyfully threw it out. She checked all my blistered and seeping skin from where it had dug into me and said it looked clean & healthy.  She assured me that the roaring pain in my chest & that over-hyper nerves from elbow to elbow (like the arms were bound in broken shards of glass...always a personal favourite sensation) would quickly settle down, but told me to just be patient but if anything changed or concerned me to just call and come back in.  So I spent the next 4 days taking walks and trying to slowly get some mobility back and staying on top of the pain....which, for the record was not getting any better by even a smidge.  Now I am NOT some pain wimp....30 years of migraines almost daily has taught me a ton pain management tricks to help cope without taking pills.  I usually sit at about 6-7 on the "pain scale" on a daily basis...so I just figured out/trained myself to departmentalize the pain and carry on with life..."I have pain...it doesn't have me" decisions a long time ago.

13 DAYS POST-OP...
I noticed, but didn't give it much thought, that I was just really feeling dehydrated even though I was drinking a ton of water...but just couldn't get over that "mouth full of cotton balls" feeling & I noticed that my right (original mastectomy side) chest wall was getting red.  Went to bed that night...(okay...let's be honest...I have been sleeping in a recliner since surgery because of the boa constrictor feeling of my chest & rib cage) and got up to go to the bathroom about 1:30am and realized that there was something running down my body hitting my foot.  Yup...my incision had sprung a leak and it was draining down the front of me!!!!!  Sure freaked me out for a second but it was clear(ish) so I grabbed some Kleenex and called my Homecare nurse.  They said to just keep it covered and come in first thing in the morning...so you can bet that 8:30am I am sitting in the office with the nurse.  She put a dressing on it & noticed that my chest wall was kind of red and warm so she told me to phone my doctor. Then just as I was getting ready to leave she had a hunch to just check my temperature....37.4*c (99.32*F) a very low-grade fever but told me to check it again in 2 hrs at home & to be sure to tell the doctor and call her, the nurse, back & let her know if it changed. So my dear friend (AB Chick) drove me back home & waited while I phoned the doctor, who told me to go directly to emergency!!!  I HATE going to the ER cause 9 times out of 10...they don't find anything and just send you home....always a HUGE waste of time....So I gathered a few things and AB Chick drove me the 30 minutes to the hospital & waited with me till VoR got there.  When they checked it at the ER....less then an hour later...it had jumped to 39.7*C (103.46*F)....THAT GOT THEIR ATTENTION & BAM! I was sent to observation.....maybe this time was gonna be different.  They immediately checked my chest wall which by this point was  so red and really warm...you could feel the heat radiating off it & it had spread a bit from when I had seen the nurse.  So they started taking the usual samples to run tests on including a swab of the fluid that was running down my chest & the blisters.  Next thing I know, an Infectious Disease team show up at my bedside telling me they were working my case & following me closely. I don't remember a ton of details other then...they were admitting me!!!!  Guess this trip to the ER wasn't such a waste
...to be continued...AGAIN


Saturday, June 24, 2017


Who would have ever guessed that coming out the other side of my surgery adventure included dumping blinders on and a cargo net over my head to find my way out....OYE!!!  
YOU JUST CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP?!?!?!

STAY TUNED...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I MADE IT THRU TO THE OTHER SIDE...

Let me tell you....it was not as easy as it sounded!!!  I have acquired a few more HUGE scars and I am VERY sore and really quite limited in my movements.  I guess I forgot from the first time just how debilitating this can be for a while....but in truth...when I did the first side, I still had full use of the other arm with no restrictions.  This time they took off the left over boob but they also opened up the old side to remove scar tissue and add some fat to where the skin was stuck to the chest wall (ribs) as a result of radiation.  You really are mostly helpless when neither arm can do too much & bending down or reaching up are mostly impossible.  I have been VERY blessed this time by having VoR in my life supporting everything I do and is the first to jump in to help me if I need anything & dear friends who have dropped everything to comejumped in and "babysat" me while VoR had some work commitments he couldn't get out of....they are my angels for sure...THANKS A MILLION!!! 💗

Now for the rest of the story....cause you know my 2% curse is gonna cause something whacky....this time was no different.  I had an amazing surgical team who have phoned and checked up on me  for the first few days....above and beyond (you ROCK Dr. K). My surgery itself went without a hitch...for the most part...but Dr K did inform me 3 days post off that I was VERY difficult to intubate"!!!...which means, they tried 3 times and then finally had to go fibre optic with the glide scope.  He suggested that I note that on my medical history and in my allergy list so IF I ever have to do something again in the future they will be aware of it.  Now this little nugget of info would have been good to have remembered before I coughed up blood on Sat and freaked out the Home Care Nurse...& ended up in emergency.  It was because of my super irritated throat, which had not been helped by my 36hrs of deep coughing, which I had been instructed to do post op.  You see....I am  naturally a shallow breather and so when I came out of surgery and my O2 saturation levels were 88-93% (ideal is  between 98-100%)... they weren't very happy & Dr K. (with a wicked sense of humour  that I loved) informed me that "it would just suck if after all this for you to fall asleep and drop dead cause you forgot to breath"  I had to agree with him. When they got to 94% they decided not to keep me overnight to monitor things IF I promise to sleep in a chair, get up every hour and walk, cough & deep breathe for 10 minutes till at least the next morning. Ya....that was a ton of fun.  Poor VoR....he was just exhausted but got me up like clockwork all night long... I on the other hand wasn't sleeping anyway...I read an entire book  that night. He has had to step in and do everything thru this process cause if it isn't at eye level...I can't reach up or down to get it.  I have run him ragged with all the things I have needed....never a word of complaint...helping me in and out of chairs, filling my water bottle and even bathroom runs at 3am.  VoR....you are AMAZING!!! 💖

They had done a nerve block on my back again so I stayed frozen for just over 72 hrs.  I was feeling great...even managed to get 6000 steps in (thanks to those hourly strolls) my first 18hrs at home. Then the block wore off....SIGH!!! Up to this point I was only taking regular Tylenol but when that freezing came out....WOWZER!!!  I kept having to remind myself that I had wanted this for 5 yrs & it would be over soon!!!  We hit the good stuff and continue to do so but at longer intervals...so we moving forward.  Now..the majority of my pain, especially in the beginning wasn't my incision at all but from all my huge mess of broken down skin from the "girdle" compression wrap they put on you.  It just dug in left my skin rubbed raw and blistered. But being the good patient I stuck with it because  according to the surgical residents discharge paper form the hospital, this binding had to stay on for 21 day....I almost lost my mind!!...but I can handle pain really well so I was sure I could just struggle thru it like I do with other pain...WRONG!!!  By Friday (9 days post-op) my body hit that wall where the pain is just too great to cope with it....for me to get to that "hot mess" point you know it was HORRID!!! I just began to shake and sob about midnight and couldn't stop.  VoR was so supportive....gently hugging me as I sobbed and then he noticed that the home care nurse, after checking my dressings, had actually put it on over an inch tighter then it had been before.  So we readjusted it and agreed to call the surgeon's office in the morning....I knew I couldn't do 1 more day of this.  She wasn't in so they had me go see her partner at the clinic. As I was leaving the house her nurse called back and said she had felt too bad she had called my surgeon directly to let her know.  The surgeon was shocked because I was only supposed to have worn it for 48 HOURS post-op!!!  "RIP THAT SUCKER OFF"!!! UMMMMM....WHAT?!?!?!?!  I was too beyond mad at that resident who wrote the instructions wrong to even see straight....can you imagine if I hadn't hit that wall!!!!! 😡. As much as I would have rather not hit it....it's good thing I did....or I would still be wearing that awful torture wrap!! Tender mercies are sometimes really well disguised & come in all different way...but they do still come!!    
TO BE CONTINUED...

Monday, June 12, 2017

So...when I started this journey in 2012, I started drafting them in journals so I could work off the rough edges before I posted them....never would I have guessed that 5 yrs later I have just begun my 3rd journal.  I never really thought I had anything to say or that I would be any good at the whole writing thing.  I thought I would jot a couple of things down, maybe, and then it would just die a slow and quiet death....who would want to waste any time reading my babbling....seriously!?!?!?  Not once did I expect to be still dealing with side effects and issues of this little troll...but alas....here we are...19 days away from the 5th anniversary of my diagnosis & still getting surprised by stuff.  I admit I wasn't too faithful in posting much after the chaos of treatment was over....I settled into a quieter, stress managed existence & so there just wasn't much to talk about at all.  I was getting tired of just simply documenting all the little hiccups and "left fields" that kept showing up so I just withdrew and quietly continued to step ever forward.  BUT THAT HAS ALL CHANGED!!!

In January of this year I came across a project that really spoke to me so...I took a big step and got majorly involved with it.  It is called "the *Blinging it Forward* project."  It supplies unique and original bracelets & key chains to women who have taken refuge in a battered women shelter.  The goal is to help them remember they are beautiful, brave and not ever alone.  It just really touched me and so I jumped on board and began to learn how I could help.  What I thought would be a casual little hobby has turned out to be working with them almost daily...and I LOVE IT!!  It has taken over and refocused my life in a really great way, toward this special group of women.  If you are interested to find out all about them or how you can help (they collect used jewelry)....here is their website. blingingitforward.com. that has all the links for the these other places too.They also have a Facebook page (The Blinging it Forward project) and FB group (*Bling*...The Group) & an Etsy shop (BlingingitForwardCo)

Okay...so back to this final (I hope) step of this girl's cancer story...I have been waiting 5 years to FINALLY have this last boob removed....not for any risk factor....but because I wanted it GONE!!  I know some of you would have a really tough time with this and probably not be where I am....we women tend to be deeply attached to the boob=womanhood thinking....I am NOT one of those... My attachment to my boobs ended the day they tried to kill me!!!  I also have been blessed with the most amazing Hubby who, right from the start said to me..."you alive sooo out weighs having boobs!!  I support you in whatever you feel you want to do".  AMAZING right!!!! What's more, is that he has stood by his word and loves me and tells me I'm beautiful daily.  I could have done NONE of this without VoR at my side...he has had my back for over 35 yrs...he is my rock and my anchor through everything in my life.  I LOVE YOU!!!!

I have spent the last 5 years as a loud and proud UNIBOOBER.  With nerve & radiation damage on the original side I have been unable to wear a bra with a dummy boob in it....I did once for Random Wisdom's wedding but that really was the rare time I did.  It was painful and just not me but gravity being what it is...with each passing year my remaining boob lost hope and began to fall further & further south until it really became that ball in the end of a tennis sock. (I know that's an image you will all carry for a day or two.  To quote one hunky man "you're welcome".....yup...I too have watched Moana.). My plan had been to do the reconstruction thing with the end result of tummy tuck & perky boobs but once again what I wanted and reality slammed head first into each other....reality won.  So for a few vitally important reasons that option was taken from me.  1) I am diabetic 2) my blood vessels are not strong enough to support that kind of tissue transfer 3) it's a 14 hr surgery with a LONG recovery time.  They did look at the old site and see if they could even do implants (I DID NOT WANT) and discovered that the tissue damage from the radiation was just too bad...but they could go in and do some removal of scar tissue and clean it up a bit...that was just fine with me since I had been telling them since day one...."just whack the sucker off". At this point I am just soooo beyond tired of it just hanging there making clothes fit weird, trying to disguise it, it effects my swimming and just generally just weighing my psyche down....it is past time to move on.  So on June 1st I finally got my wish and became the UNBOOBER & I feel GREAT about it....
...and so the story continues....

Thursday, June 1, 2017

---UNDER THE KNIFE WE GO AGAIN---


Here I sit the night before surgery trying to get something posted before I am out of commission for a few days/weeks.  I am going in for my final mastectomy, what I hope is the final step in my healing,  this morning and I couldn't be more thrilled!!!  It has been a long 5 years waiting for this day....I will check in with you on the other side. Soooo very much to share with you...I can't wait!!!

-Etta May-