Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Breast Cancer, Surgery Recovery Update – GOOD NEWS!

Breast Cancer, Surgery Recovery Update – GOOD NEWS!

Wednesday afternoon May 25 2011 (twelfth post in this series)

As has been the case all along, we have been spending a great deal of time with Kelly and her family helping out doing whatever we can. Over the past week or so, we are seeing signs of the “old” Kelly coming back. The pain that was engraved on her face is mostly gone and the wonderful smile comes out a bit more often.

As you will see in her update, she is FREE AND CLEAR OF CANCER!!! We could not ask for a better outcome. 

She still faces a great number of doctor visits as the reconstructive process begins. Those treatments, followed by at least two more surgeries are not pleasant to think about. It appears that the final surgery will take place early next year, so it will be a lengthy process.


Pasted below is the update she posted last night:

Hello Family and Friends!

We hope you’re all doing well!

The good news just continues for us!  My drains were removed last Thursday as expected and, although it was a pretty painful process, it was so FREEING to have them out.  I could actually dress myself without any assistance because I didn’t have any attachments!

Sunday was my first shower and that was a wonderful gift!  Spongebaths are fine, but can only last for so long!

This week is a busy one with doctors’ appointments.  Yesterday we had an appointment with the oncologist who had nothing but good news.  It was a short appointment and she hugged me and told me that I no longer need her (she confirmed that I don’t need radiation or chemo).  It doesn’t get much better than that!  I guess we can check that one off our list and know that we’ll have one less appointment to think about.

Today we had a follow-up appointment with the medical surgeon who said that everything looks just as she would hope and that we will see her in a year when we go for the first of our annual follow-up visits with her.  Another one to check off our list!

Thursday we will see the plastic surgeon again to continue the reconstruction process.  It sounds like we’ll continue to meet with him on  a weekly basis for a while.

I feel really good considering the major surgery I had just over two weeks ago.  I’m down to pain medication on a very occasional basis and I really have no complaints!  I haven’t loved sleeping partially upright every night and I’ll look really forward to sleeping on my side soon, but that doesn’t seem like much to worry about.  I tire very easily, but I know that, too, will improve with time.  I’m still working on that ever-important patience!

The girls have three days of school this week plus next Tuesday and then we’ll be out for the summer!  We’re looking VERY forward to moving at a much more relaxed pace and doing some fun things.

Thank you all for being part of this journey!  It sounds like there won’t be many changes for a while, but we’ll continue to keep you updated.

With love,

Kelly and Damon

Monday, May 16, 2011

Breast Cancer, Surgery Recovery Update

Breast Cancer, Surgery Recovery Update

Monday Morning May 16 2011 (eleventh post in this series)

Kelly and Damon have written an update that is pasted below.

This has been a very trying 10 days for us. It is terrible to see your daughter in so much pain and so helpless. To be sure there have been some positive and “funny” events. Obviously, the positive is the fact that the cancer has been removed and there does not appear to be a need for any further cancer treatment.

As noted in this update and from Judy's comment on our prior post, we went to the sock hop with the girls last Thursday. Some of you are familiar with the fact that I have very sensitive hearing. For two hours I was exposed to perhaps a hundred screaming kids {grin}. I was so glad that they were having fun, but I left the dance with a screaming headache (another big grin). Yesterday, we took the girls to McDonalds and the “playplace” was equally loud. Someday I will learn to carry ear plugs.

The other positive is that we have been able to spend some quality time with the girls. They are at that wonderful age where the love to be with Grandma and PaPa!

Here is the update:

Hello Family and Friends!

I’ve been wanting to write this note for a couple of days now, but have been doing LOTS of sleeping so it’s hard to find time to e-mail between naps.

The past week has been one of peaks and valleys. The highest peak was that we received the final pathology reports and all of the cancer has been removed!  We will meet with an oncologist later this month to confirm that and then determine what future scanning procedures will be like since I will have no more mammograms (hooray!).  As we understand it, we have confirmed that there will be no radiation or chemo and we’re VERY thankful for that!

I did get to come home from the hospital on Saturday as I had hoped, but it wasn’t quite as smooth as I had hoped.  We had some issues with pain medication and thought we got it under control until my pain pump wore off on Wednesday.  Luckily, I was able to endure until our post-op appointment on Thursday and I think we’ve now found a medication that will keep the pain under control. 

As I said, I’ve been doing lots of sleeping, pretty much the opposite of what Damon has been doing since he’s now carrying both of our loads plus getting up to give me meds in the night. 

It’s been GREAT to have my parents “camping” in their bus at Chatfield because they’ve been here every day trying to make sure that we’re all where we need to be.  They had the distinct pleasure of taking the girls to a Sock Hop at school last Friday and I’m sure that was at the top of their list!

The girls have been doing well – between their cousins, their friends and my parents, they’ve had incredibly busy social lives and I know they’ve been enjoying that!
Two quick blessings that I have to be sure to mention:

Before my surgery, I had to have radioactive dye injected into the breast to trace it to the lymph node that was removed.  When the doctor walked in to do the procedure, it turned out to be the same very kind doctor that had identified the abnormality in the second mammogram and very nicely told me that I have to have it biopsied.  I thanked him for being cautious (for catching it so early) and for being so kind to me at what was the beginning of this long journey.  I know this doctor was carefully placed in my path because he is rarely at Littleton for these procedures.

The next blessing occurred with my family in the waiting room.  As the tissue was removed, it was immediately sent to pathology for a first review to make sure that all affected tissue was removed.  As it turns out, the pathologist studying that tissue was a member of our church, someone who is well-known in his field.  He actually took the time to visit with my family twice to reassure them about the tissue.  Again, I know he was carefully placed at Littleton Hospital that day because he’s usually only there about once a month.

I continue to be thankful for so many blessings (especially my husband) as I work through this recovery process.  I am realizing that it is going to be a long process and I will focus on the advice of the plastic surgeon: PATIENCE.

Our next appointment is this Thursday and we are anticipating that the drains will be removed.  I can’t tell you how thankful I will be Thursday night – even though I try really hard, I can’t find a single positive thing to say about them!

I hope you all have a great week!  Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers!!


Kelly and Damon

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hello from Chatfield Reservoir.

Hello from Chatfield Reservoir.

Sunday evening May 15 2011 (second travelogue of this trip).

When I last posted about this trip (5/1), I talked about getting the bus ready for its first trip since last October. Our travel in the bus, since 2006, has been considerable more frequent and we really miss being on the road. As noted in the series on our Daughter's breast cancer journey, we have canceled one major trip to CA and NV planned for earlier this year. We have also delayed a trip to Iowa. There was never any question that we would change our schedule so that we could be a part of Kelly's support system.

On Wednesday May 5th, we made the short trip from our home to Chatfield Reservoir (map). If you look at the map, the subdivision to the left of our location is where Kelly and her family live. That is one of the main reasons we are staying here. As the crow flies, it is a short distance to their house. However, we must drive around the lake, so the distance is about 5 miles.

Chatfield is a state park. It is a beautiful facility. There are a ton of things to do here. Unfortunately, we have been so busy that we have not been able take advantage of the facilities. Today I did ride my bicycle over to the radio controlled air strip and watched a couple of folks fly their planes. Really fun to watch.

The weather has been wet and cold most of our stay here. We even had a bit of snow a couple of days ago. We have had terrible drought conditions for several months, but this week we had over 2 inches of rain. We have been watching some of the folks camping in tents and really felt sorry for them. I am sure it was not a lot of fun. The weather has not been much of an issue for us. The bus is nice and warm and we are not here much. We have spent most of our time at Kelly's house helping wherever we can. For the most part, that was taking care of the girls. Damon has been very good about helping Kelly during her recovery from her double mastectomy. She has had a rough recovery, and has needed a lot of support.

Staying here has also been convenient for my physical therapy. The facility is only a few miles from here. Kelly and Damon lined me up with their physical therapist and he is great! I am amazed about the factors that I must work on to strengthen the knee and prevent any further damage. One example, is that I have had to learn how to walk up and down stairs so that my butt muscles do most of the work.

We have had the granddaughters stay over in the bus a few nights. We had them over night last night and had planned to do some fun outdoor things today, but it was just too cold and wet. We still had a lot of fun.

The camping limit here is 14 days and we will need to pull the bus out Wednesday morning.

That is all for this “trip”.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Breast Cancer, Surgery Recovery

Breast Cancer, Surgery Recovery

Tuesday Evening May 10 2011 (tenth post in this series)

The past few days, since her surgery, has been rough on Kelly.

She did very well the day after her surgery. She was able to eat dinner Friday night as well as breakfast and lunch on Saturday. The doctors took precautions to make sure she did not get sick from the various anesthetics and/or medications. She was released Saturday afternoon.

Just before they released her, they gave her two Vicodin. She really did not tolerate the medication well. The doctor then prescribed a non-narcotic medication (Tramadol). She is not having reactions to that drug, but it is also not as effective in pain mitigation.

As I looked at our last post, I realized that I did not report the initial pathologist report. It was an excellent report that suggested that the surgery got all of the cancer. As I was writing this blog, Kelly called and she got the detailed/final report. They got all the cancer. She will NOT have to have any secondary treatment – radiation, chemo, or other medication. What good news!!!!

She has a pain pump and two drains. Those are cumbersome, but a part of the process. She has extremely limited movement of her arms (normal) and has quite a bit of pain at times. She has been doing quite a bit of walking and has been going to school with the girls in the morning (Damon driving).

A double mastectomy is a terrible procedure, but it was the correct decision and resulted in a very positive health report. We are all grateful for that outcome.

As we have said many times, we are amazed at the tremendous response from her family and friends. One friend set up a meal calendar online, and a large number of people have signed up to furnish meals for the family over the next six weeks! That is a huge help and so appreciated!!

That is all for now.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Breast Cancer, Surgery Today

Breast Cancer, Surgery Today

Friday Morning May 6 2011 (ninth post in this series).

I will add several updates to this blog today and the events unfold.

Most of you know that I am an engineer and I have dealt with facts all my like. So, here as some facts:

Our family is lucky in that we have not any of the really bad events in our life – at least compared to what some other folks have had to endure. Another fact is that we have three daughters and they have all had some pretty major heath issues. Lisa has recovered from hers. Judy has some pretty significant health issues that she will have to deal with for the rest of her life (seizure disorder and pretty significant back issues). We are glad that Lisa is in good health and that Pat and I are in pretty good health. Our heart breaks for Judy as she deals with her problems, but she is managing pretty well with the cards she has been dealt.

Some more facts. A huge number of ladies (and a few men) will have breast cancer. The technology has improved greatly and the long-term survival rate has improved significantly over the past several years. Further, double mastectomy surgery is performed thousands of times each year.

The other major fact is that Kelly is healthy and detected the disease early.

So much for the facts. Lets talk real world. The whole ordeal has simply and completely kicked our a**es. When it is your daughter all of the facts fade and the word “Cancer” becomes overwhelming.

Now our healthy 43 year old daughter is facing a terrible procedure and and a few more followup procedures. She has dealt with this situation with a tremendous amount of dignity. Damon, her husband, has been very supportive. All of the family (close and extended) has been an extraordinary support system. We have been blown away by all of Kelly and Damon's friends and associates who have offered all kinds of help/support/prayer.

Kelly and Damon's girls are at their aunt Lisa's house and seem to be handling the situation well. Lisa and Dan have texted a couple of pictures and they are hunkered down with their cousins and their dog, Toby. Toby seems to understand that something is wrong and is staying pretty close to the girls.

Judy, our youngest daughter, made a special trip down from Bailey to say HI to her sister. That really meant a lot to all of us. We are fortunate that we are a very close family and that really helps at a time like this.

Kelly is being prepped for surgery now. She will go into surgery at 11:00 and the surgery is expected to take 4-5 hours. It will be performed by a oncology surgeon and a plastic surgeon.

I will update this post in a few hours as we learn more.

Update 12:15: We got to meet both the surgeon and the plastic surgeon and visit with Kelly just before they took her to the OR. The surgeon was about 45 minutes behind schedule, so our updates will be delayed a bit. Kelly seemed to be in pretty good spirits. Like all of us, she is anxious to get this ordeal behind her.

Update 1:15: Dr. Kercher just came out and told us that Kelly's surgery went very well. She said that she went to sleep with a smile on her face and patients tend to wake up the same way they went to sleep. She said that she did not find any signs of cancer in the lymph nodes and that was the preliminary finding of the pathologist. She still has about 30 minutes or more of plastic surgery. 

Update 2:40: Dr. Bateman (plastic surgeon) just came in and told us everything went very well. She will be in recovery for another hour or two and then will go to her room. The hope is that she will get to come home late tomorrow.

Update 5:17: At 4:17 Kelly arrived in her room (456). .She is still pretty groggy, but seems to be doing pretty well. The nurse said that all vital signs are good.

I forgot to say that she is at Littleton Adventist Hospital. This is a wonderful place. The folks are very friendly. We were surprised that there were not many people in the surgical waiting room. At times we had the whole room to ourselves. There was a great table in the room in a little bay window-type room. Damon and I were able to work on our computers there and had a great view of the main entrance.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Breast Cancer, The Journey Continued

Breast Cancer, The Journey Continued

Thursday Morning May 5 2011 (eight post in this series).

I have attached Kelly and Damon's latest letter. As you can see, the surgery is tomorrow. We are all very emotional right now. Tomorrow we will post a couple of update blogs as we get information about the surgery while we are at the hospital

Jim and Pat

Hello Family and Friends!

The weather in Colorado this week is spectacular – it’s beautiful spring weather!

It’s been an interesting week as we prepare for my surgery on Friday.  Some of you may know that we had a little excitement with Molly earlier in the week, but all has turned out well.  Molly has been having some quirky little symptoms which we were attributing to anxiety but our pediatrician and a neurologist felt that we needed to rule out a brain stem malformation.  The MRI went very smoothly on Monday and we got the great news on Tuesday.  Yet one more thing to be thankful for!

The reality of my surgery is setting in and we’re preparing for the challenges of the next few weeks.  Surgery is scheduled for 11:00 at Littleton Hospital on Friday and should last about four hours.  The plan is for me to spend one night in the hospital and come home late Saturday afternoon or early evening.  I’m really looking forward to having the surgery behind me and moving into the recovery stage.

The girls will go to my sister’s house tomorrow night and stay until Saturday or Sunday.  We’re thinking they’ll be too busy to miss us because one of our nephews doesn’t have school on Friday so they’ll have a great time.  There’s also a school carnival that night so that should be so much fun for them.

Some interesting parts of the recovery process include:
No showers for two weeks
No driving for 2-3 weeks
Very little range of motion with my arms
Weekly doctor appointments

Maybe this means I’ll have time to catch up on some reading and computer projects.

My parents have brought their bus down to Chatfield campground for the next two weeks.  It will be nice to have them so close!

We thank you for all of the prayers and well wishes!!


Kelly and Damon

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Getting the Bus Ready

Getting the Bus Ready

Sunday May 1 2011 (First travelogue of this trip).

What? You thought we were not going to travel for the foreseeable future based on our last several blogs.

Well, we are taking the bus down to Chatfield Reservoir this Thursday. We have reservations for two weeks. The trip will be all of 30 miles, but at least we will stretch her “legs” a bit.

Kelly will be having her surgery this Friday and we thought it would be convenient to have the bus about a mile from their house. That will let us come and go and perhaps have the girls stay with us a few nights. We will be right by the lake and close to the playground.

Today we really scrubbed the interior of the old girl. And she needed it. We are looking so forward to staying in the bus for a couple of weeks. We really feel comfortable in it and have all the comforts of home.

I just looked at our travelogues and was amazed that we have not had the bus on the road since October of last year. No wonder we are kind of homesick to spend some time in her.

We will give you updates on Kelly's surgery and our little camping trip as time permits.