Saturday, December 31, 2011

Progress

We had the first appointment with the plastic surgeon Thursday.
Everything looked good with the incisions and he was able to remove 2 of the 4 drains.
Karen was so happy as the two drains they removed had been really uncomfortable for her and prevented her from a good sleep.
She is now able to lay down in be and she actually slept through the night - completely forgetting the pain medication. So I take that as a good sign of her making progress.

It will probably be two more weeks before they can remove the two raining drains which will really make things easier. Right now Karen has to be careful around everything I make sure she doesn't pull on the tubes or stretch too much.

Anyway good progress all around so we should have a good new years eve although I doubt we will make it through midnight. A happy new year to all of you too.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Family picture

Natalie brought home a family picture yesterday. Based on the hair style it is pretty easy to guess who is who.
Karen is wondering how that will change as the chemo will make her lose her hair.
It is a cute little family and we sure enjoy our time together.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I think we dodged a bullet

We just got verbal results back from the surgeon about the pathology of the tissue they removed from Karen.
As the initial results indicated there was no cancerous tissue in the lymph nodes or in the left breast.
However the tumor in the right breast was measured at 3 cm. The initial MRI and ultrasound showed 0.7 cm.
We do not know yet if this is due to uncertainty in the measuring or if the tumor really grew that much in a month.
It is pretty scary if it grew that fast and we are glad that we moved on it early. The scary thing is that Karen was actually about 2 months late on getting the MRI. If she had been on time they would likely not have detected the tumor and it would have had a whole year to grow.
I guess procrastinating does some times pay off :-)
Officially the cancer got classified as stage T2A due to the tumor size.

On the good news side Karen is off the heavy duty pain killers which seems to have eliminated the nausea and she also seems to have a bit more energy.
She got her first sponge bath and her hair washed today. Yes, it did end with water all over the bathroom and me more wet than her as she still has to keep all the incisions dry. But I think she really appreciate the simple things now and I enjoyed being able to doing something good for her.

We actually managed to go to Walmart yesterday as Natalie wanted to spend some of her savings and Christmas money. Karen was in the electric cart and did OK. She was exhausted afterwards though.

Anyway doctor visit is on the 29th we hope that 2 of the 4 drains can come out by then as they ate not really doing anything. They are starting to be really itchy and Karen can't wait to get rid of them.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

No pictures this time - no need need for pictures of Karen sleeping :-)

We had a pretty good Christmas eve and morning here. Karen is still struggling with some significant pain and only heavy duty drugs will help her. Unfortunately that also makes her really nauseous so she got some more medication to counteract that.
When she is not sleeping she is actually doing pretty good as long as she gets the pain killers. She is taking some every 4 hours and overnight we both slept through it until 4 AM. She was one hurting woman at that time, but after the next does kicked in, she was OK.

This was also about the time that Natalie woke up. She was so excited about Christmas morning that she just couldn't wait any longer. Which is kind of fun since she got most of her presents yesterday evening and she does not believe in Santa. At least not really, but I think she still likes the tradition of it and she was excited to see what he left under the tree and and in her Christmas stockings.

So it has been an early morning for all of us and Karen and Natalie are taking a nap now. That gives me a little chance to catch up around the house and maybe actually sit down for a little bit.

Just wanted to give an update - everything is progressing as expected although it is quite a realization of how tough this is. It will be easier when Natalie is in daycare a couple of days next week so I can take care of Karen and still get the house tasks taken care of.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thank you to all our friend and colleagues

The get well cards and nice baskets keep coming in.
Thank you all for your support and kind words.
We truly appreciate all your support and friendship.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thank you Daycare

We just got this one delivered.
We were rather surprised that it was from the staff at Natalie's daycare.

It is just too cute. I am sure Natalie will love it too.

Thank you so much - this really made Karens day.

Home sweet home !

Karen was released from the hospital this morning and we are now home.

She found it pretty exhausting to go on the car ride home but she is doing better after some lunch.

We are picking up Natalie this afternoon and I know that Karen is looking forward to it even though she is also a little nervous about it. We hope that Natalie can be careful and not jump up to Karen.
We will have to be close to her until she learns it.

Anyway it is great to come home although I am sure my cooking does not quite compare to the hospital. But we will do our best and get through it.

Karen still has some significant pain but she is actually progressing pretty fast so far. She is able to get out of the chair herself and could even make it to the bathroom and back with minimal help.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Food !!

Karen is up now and moved at least over to the recliner.
She did not really know if she was hungry so for lunch she just ordered about one of everything.
She is picking away at it but we have determined that she is in the Goldilocks stage. One thing is too salty the other is too sour. So it is really water and bread that works the best so far.

The goal for today is to get her up and move around down the hallway. It seems a little ambitious right now but rumor has it that Karen is a wee bit stubborn. So if she believes in that goal she will make it.

Morning after

Well this is the morning after.
I think Karen also feels like the morning after too.
Everything went OK over night but it was still somewhat rough. Due to the late time we were up here there were checkups every two hour until 3 AM.

Karen managed to get up at 2AM for the first time to go to the bathroom. It was about a 1/2 hour project for 10 feet. It helped after she got some medications for nausea and this morning it only took a few minutes.

The plastic surgeon just stopped by and checked her out. Early to say but so far it all looks good. He was able to put in 300cc in each expander to start the reconstruction. I know Karen appreciates that as it is the first step on a long path.

The biggest issue for now is pain management. Karen is on the morphine drip that is self administered which means that she has to push a button when she needs it. It works good when she is awake but sleeping she kind of falls behind and wakes up with some serious pain. Once she starts eating they can give her some longer lasting oral medication.

The surgeon also confirmed that it will be a Thursday discharge as it would be too early this morning.

Thanks to all for the outpouring of support - we are truly grateful.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

She is awake !!

Karen is starting to be more coherent now and is starting to drink water.
It will be a while before she eats a steak dinner but we will take it a little at a time.
As mentioned earlier everything went good with the surgery but Karen is in a good bit of pain right now.
She has the morphine dispenser with the push button and it seems to manage it OK.

I will be staying with her overnight in the room here.

All done - waiting for Karen to wake up in the recovery

All done !!!
Just talked to the plastic surgeon.
Everything went pretty much by the book and they got the expanders inserted.
They also used a pretty cool piece of equipment that measures the blood flow in the skin to ensure proper healing. Everything looks good on that front too.
Karen will have 4 drains to deal with for the next few weeks to help keep the wound clean and reduce the liquid buildup.
I have not been allowed to see her yet as she is in recovery but once she wakes up should be allowed in.
At this point it looks like a Thursday discharge from the hospital since the surgery brought us into the evening.
Rather stay a day longer if needed so she can get the best possible care until everything is stable.

One more hour to go

Just met with the surgeon that did the initial work for the cancer removal.
All the lymph node tests came back negative bases on a sampling of one on the left and three on the right (the cancer side)

So he is done for the day and now we are just waiting for the plastic surgeon to finish up. He has already closed one side so there is one to go.

Everything is progressing according to plan so far. Hopefully or will continue to do so during the long road of recovery ahead.

Good news in all of this

Test came back already from the initial lymph node biopsy - it is negative for cancer on the right side which is the side with the tumor.
This is an initial result and it will have to be confirmed with a more thorough lab test after the surgery but it is a very good indication.
This is what we were hoping for and one of the reasons we rushed to get the surgery done as soon as possible.

Update: the left side is clear too which is great news. This will leave many of the lymph nodes intact and hopefully reduce the risks and discomforts that often arise when the lymph nodes are removed.

Going into surgery

Karen got wheeled into surgery around 12:30 PM.
Now it is just waiting for me. I still need to be around just case there are any issues that require decisions to be made. But at least I can go to the cafe and get some lunch.
The estimated procedure time is around 6 hours.
Thankfully there is a good wifi connection and Hulu.com has enough to keep me entertained - at least for a while.
I should be getting an update about halfway through the procedure. The biggest concern is to get the results of the lymph node biopsy - hope it has not spread outside of the breast tissue.

When all the tissue is removed they will change surgeons to let a plastic surgeon start the reconstruction. I am hoping to talk to the first surgeon once he is done.

At the hospital waiting

Got to the hospital this morning and got all checked in.
Now we are just waiting for the nuclear department to be ready for us.
They will inject a low dose radioactive chemical that will concentrate in the lymph nodes. This enables the surgeons to identify them in the operating room.

Lots of paperwork and needle poking so far. Can't believe that surgery is not until noon. Wonder what we will all be doing until then.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cancer

I (Karen) have breast cancer.

I will be just fine.

Here’s a little more info:

For those of you that do not know my family history, well, let’s just say it’s not pretty when it comes to cancer. All of the women on my mom’s side of the family have had breast cancer or ovarian cancer or both, usually at a rather young age.

Because of the family history, I’ve been having yearly mammograms since I was 26. Last year the mammogram showed a “dense area” on the left side. We did a biopsy and found that it was benign, just some fibrous tissue. To be extra sure, and to have a baseline, we did an MRI.

This year, we skipped the mammogram and went straight to the MRI. My family doctor called me with the results. There was a mass on the right side of about 7 mm that was “indicative of malignancy”. So, off to another needle biopsy.

We got the results of the biopsy on Tuesday, Dec. 6. It is cancerous. We met with the surgeon on Friday the 9th, and he went over the pathology report. It showed that – based on the needle biopsy – it hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes yet. Of course, we cannot know for sure based only on the needle biopsy, but that is good news. And as the surgeon said, that was about the only good news on that piece of paper. Some of the things they look for are three different receptors for various hormones. My cancer doesn’t have any of those, in other words it’s “triple negative”. That’s not very good news, since it cannot be treated with hormone therapy, and this type of cancer often is somewhat faster growing than others. In other words, it is a rather aggressive form of cancer.

On to meetings with a plastic surgeon for reconstruction, an oncologist, etc. To make a long story short, here is the plan: I’ll go in for surgery on Tuesday the 20. It will be a double mastectomy with placement of a port (we’ve jokingly dubbed it the USB port) that will make it easier to get chemo afterwards. They will also do a procedure where they trace the lymphnodes to the nearest one under my arm that could get infected. Based on this procedure, they will remove tissue under my arm if it is needed.

At the surgery, the plastic surgeon will put in what they call “expanders” under the chest muscle. These will then be expanded with saline over time to create more skin and muscle, so that there is a place for the permanent saline or silicone implants later down the road.

I’ll have four weeks to heal, then the chemo will begin. It will be six cycles with three weeks between each treatment, for a total of 18 weeks.

So, that’s the somewhat short version of a long story. We’ll post more details as we go along, and we’ll post updates after surgery etc. on this website, too. Since I expect to be “out of service” for the first few days Karsten will make a few update posts for a change.
So in all this tumultuous time we find that we’re doing okay. We can handle this.

We’ve had a huge outpouring of support, and for that we are truly grateful.

Stay tuned…

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The pumpkin patch

Like last year, Natalie and I went to the pumpkin patch. We had such a great morning:

The rubber duck races were still a big hit...
... As were the beanbag toss...
The corn maze was still amazing (pun intended)...

The view on top of the hay bales was stunning.
I think this expression says it all...
That's a big pumpkin!
A very tired girl...
The final result of the pumpkin patch trip - our jack-o-lantern.

Haunted House

Who says it has to be Christmas before you can make gingerbread houses? This year, we made a Halloween Haunted House!

The kit came with lots of different candy to be attached with the frosting "glue"
We also used the frosting to decorate the house itself.
And of course, we had to taste-test the candy as we went along!

Great activity for a weekend morning.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween was awesome this year! Natalie was Rapunzel:

We started out walking door to door.
Of course, Natalie liked the candy...

And of course, we all dressed up. Here's the Queen and King of our royal family.
After a while, Natalie let us use the stroller to walk some of the longer distances...
The loot... Or at least some of it.
We were out from just a minuted or two after four, until a quarter after seven when the last house turned their porch light off. It was such a great family time. 

Happy Halloween!

Zoo-Boo

As in previous years, we went to the Zoo-Boo. It was a little on the chilly side, and of course we forgot to bring a jacket. So we complemented Natalie's Halloween costume with mommy's sweater. 
Pretty as a princess - and ready to go!
There were lots of fun games, like this bean bag pumpkin toss.
"Roar"
But one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time was in the water where the penguins usually are - real sea-monsters! They were divers dressed up and moving around under the water. They would swim up to the window and put a hand on the window, and Natalie would put her hand on his on the other side of the glass. She was totally fascinated, and spend a lot of time there. Pretty awesome!
Sea-monster!

Halloween Party at Daycare

This years Halloween party at daycare was awesome! Natalie decided she didn't like to wear the wig, but I still think she was the prettiest princess at the party:

There were lots of fun games.

Of course, Natalie had to decorate a cookie...

And we spent time goofing around with friends.

It was a very tired girl that came home that night!

The Halloween Costume

For the longest time, Natalie told me she wanted to be a princess for Halloween. No problem, I thought, she has plenty of princess costumes in her dress up bin. Then, two days before her first Halloween party, we were shopping at Walmart. The check-out lady asked her if Natalie had her Halloween costume yet, and Natalie said no! Turns out, she didn't just want to be any princess, it had to be Rapunzel!

Well, I went to a couple of second hand stores, and came up with this:

Rapunzel!

A purple dress (just like Rapunzel's), a kid sized wig with long hair, and a purple tiara. Ta-da!

Now, next year I guess I'd better ask some more questions so I can be a little better prepared!

Natalie's First Heart

Natalie is so proud of this picture - it contains the first real heart she ever drew:

I love how she labeled each person "Dad", "Mom", "Natalie". Great place to put her hearts!

Best Friends

This is one of my favorite pictures... Natalie and her friends Aubriella and Brayden, just watching TV together - hanging out under the coffee table, of course...

Great times!

Rainbow hair(pretties)

At school, Natalie had many different color days. And to have a fun end to all of those, she had a rainbow day. Of course, I promised her to put pretties in her hair - one of each color, to be exact. She had twenty-two pretties in that day:

That's a lot of pretties!

Every color of the rainbow!

We were at a party at daycare a few days later, and when we walked in to one of the rooms one of her teachers said "there's the girl who always has a party in her hair!" I think that's a pretty accurate description...

Natalie, the Scientist

Natalie got a science kit some time ago. We spent hours and hours of fun, playing with all the experiments in it. Natalie is such a scientist, she loved the included experiments, and added a lot of her own ideas as well. We literally played until we had to stop for food, otherwise I think we'd still have been playing!

Making a colorful volcano
So proud! She made several other volcanoes on the plate.

Hmm, I wonder what is happening in this test tube...

...And what will happen if we add more baking soda...

She's definitely the daughter of two geeks!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A picture walk

On a beautiful fall evening, Natalie and I went on a picture walk. We both brought our cameras:

Master photographer at work
Here are some of my favorite shots:

Mommy's flower picture

Natalie's flower picture
Mommy's sunset picture
Natalie's sunset picture
I don't know what these things are called, but they look really pretty.

My favorite picture of the day. Such a cute little explorer.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Natalie wants candy...

I think this is one of Natalie's favorite Halloween songs:

video

Come to think of it, after this video, I think it's one of my favorites, too... 

Just wish I had that kind of energy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pink hair(pretties)

Natalie had Pink Day at school. Of course, she had to have pink hair pretties to match her outfit! We put as many in her hair as we could - I think there were close to twenty!

Pink hair pretties - you can never have too many!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A kitty cat

Natalie and I made a puppet theater out of a box, and we made our own puppets. Here's Natalie's - she made it all by herself!

Natalie's puppet - a cat!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mommy's kitchen helper

Natalie is such a good helper. I recently got her a kitchen knife, just for her. It's plastic and not all that sharp, but it works great for softer things such as watermelon and cooked beans:

Helping Mommy cook.