Saturday, March 31, 2012

Phase One Complete...

In November shortly before Thanksgiving, I rolled over one night and noticed a small "bump" in my breast.  Was it really there?  Could I really feel something?  I had all the holidays ahead and if it was "something", it would cast a huge pall over all the festivities.  I had a mammogram scheduled for January...why not leave it to then to diagnose anything mysterious.
January came, mammogram time and with it all traces of the vague memory I'd had of the mystery bump disappeared.  I forgot to mention it to my trusted friend Joyce,-the mammogram technician.  Results came back in a few weeks clear.  I never gave it another fleeting thought....until one night time with the same position in bed when I noticed a larger bump in the same place and the memory came flooding back.  My mother had breast cancer when she was 66.  I am 62.  My maternal grandmother had it when she was in her 30's. My paternal died of bone cancer which is usually a secondary not primary cancer.  This particular grandmother was very private about her life as were the times so this type of cancer was rarely talked about.

This gene seemed certainly in my family.

The next day at work in surgery, some of us were talking about a younger nurse's newly found breast lump.   I mentioned that I, too, had found one.  Many of my co-workers said "you'd better call and get an appointment ASAP".  And so I did.  That was 2 weeks ago.  The surgeon ordered an ultrasound on hearing about my appointment.  The next day she asked about how it went.  I told her that the "medical vibe" was not good.  While having it done, I questioned the tech about fluid being in the lump, hoping that it was cystic and therefore most likely benign.  She said something that I fuzzily remember and I said "so there is no fluid in it" and she agreed....not a good sign  Soon, two radiologists came in to take a core biopsy and the tone of that was serious and sympathetic. The comment I remember was "we wish you good luck..."
My surgeon said she'd have results soon and we continued our day.  My appointment was at 9:00am on Friday March 16th.  As she walked into the office I looked at her face and knew what the results were as she confirmed, "You were right."  I never wanted to be so wrong in my life. She gave me a few options which we discussed and a lumpectomy was scheduled.  Also an MRI  was scheduled and a full mastectomy would rest on these results to see if it had spread. I was confidant in this area (why?) that would not happen.
The MRI was the following Friday with other pre-op tests...EKG, chest x-ray and blood work. I decided some man thought this one up because you go in face down and place both breasts into two holes designed for them lying flat face down for an hour. That was a little bit of torture.
Saturday morning, there was a knock at my door and my surgeon Dr. Mary bounded into our kitchen showing me the MRI results.  She said "I just couldn't call you on the phone about this".  I will always feel that this was one of the classiest things ever done for me.  Coming to my home to tell me results that she knew I did not want to hear.  I can't even say I was welcoming or warm.  I was just....sad.
Once I knew that the mass was growing toward my chest wall, and could visually see it on the MRI, I knew that a full mastectomy had to be done and then there were the axillary nodes to worry about.  Lymph nodes control the fluid system in this region and without them, the arm can swell mightily.  If one has cancer, it can spread rapidly.  Cancer in one is important enough to remove many in the area to reduce chance of spread.
Surgery was scheduled for Thursday the 29th of March.
I work with an awesome staff of nurses.  When one of us is hurting, the others rally behind and are wonderfully supportive.  I was amazed when I came into work on Wednesday to see that everyone had brought in their favorite dish...a "carry-in" as we call it, to give me fighting spirit.  They had put a banner on the wall with bras hanging down.  It said "We Support YOU!"  I hooted when I saw, what a team!  I went home with an arm full of flowers, a homemade blanket and other gifts of encouragement.
The next day, we went into the hospital and were met by the pre-op nurses who all had pink ribbons pinned to their chests.  I had to go down to x-ray to have radioactive dye injected to "light-up" the sentinal (main) lymph node.  On the way we saw staff from our supply-processing departments who too, had pink ribbons pinned on.  It's an overwhelming feeling to see this.  I started to cry.
That's all I remember until it was all over.  Drugs are a peaceful thing and welcomed relief. I almost lost the farm again when I was told later that once I was asleep, Dr. Mary, my surgeon, asked if the operating room team  could please hold hands and pray over me.  Kathy Starkey, the scrub nurse said that she added a post to the prayer "-and now Lord, thanks for letting me go to work with mascara dripping into my mask..." Ha!
I went home yesterday and think there is nothing to prepare you for this. I'm s.o.r.e but am doing really well and I have to thank all the prayers for that. Cancer was found in just a small portion of one lymph node. (post script...the cancer was found in 6 of the nodes on permanent lab tests)
This surgery is phase one.  I still have work to go back to and then there is chemo, loss of hair and radiation.  I don't look forward to any of it but I can and will live through all of it. If reading any of this can help even one person, it will be worth it.
If there is anything that I learned from my mother, it was her basic philosophy of life.  Whenever anything bad came up she would always say "Just get through it!"  And then she would add, "then we can look forward to the next good thing".  She was always about doing work etc. first and then being able to enjoy the party that came after. I feel that way too.
.....And so I am about to embark on the journey of "JUST GET THROUGH IT".


Kim said...

Donna, you have a great attitude, so I know you can "get through it". I was just awe struck by the loving, caring team you work with. How wonderful.
I'll continue to hold you in my prayers through your journey.

Katya5 said...

You will get through it. You are strong, and you have a great support group... Get well - I know it won't be soon, but eventually.

vicki said...

You are an amazing woman. That you could create this post just one day after a major surgery is absolutely an unbelievable feat --- but not for you. This - THIS - is the person that you are - and nothing - not even this retched cancer - especially NOT this cancer- will take your strength away.

I am with you all the way through this girlfriend. I will be here for every post - every up and down - every bump in the road - and I will pray - every day.

I think you are a hero already for sharing this new "adventure" with everyone in your blogging family. There is NO doubt in my mind that your journey of "just get through it" will end with blessings in abundance.

Love Vicki

Linda P. said...

Donna, I've been calling Debby and Juanita for updates. So sorry you are having to go through this but glad you had your nursing doctor,and staff friends to be there with you in the hospital. You have been and will continue to be in my prayers. Sending you hugs, love, and positive thoughts from Maine, dear friend.

rosaria williams said...

Donna, thank you for sharing this. It is an eye opener for all women, young and old. You are most brave!Sending you big hugs, Rosaria.

Wanda..... said...

So sorry for your having to face this, Donna. You can count me as one of the many that will be here with support, for your 'get through it' journey.

Debby said...

I am so glad that you were able to post this today. That is a good sign. Your support team is wonderful.I live in a small village. A family friend that is 35 had a double mastectomy last spring. Her young friends did everything and they still are. Signs from home to the hospital 40 miles away. Dinners for 6 months, child care, parties, bikeathons. I think it has helped her so much. Someone made flower pins and the whole village it seemed, wore them. I am thrilled to tell you after her radiation and chemo she is CANCER FREE and doesn't even have to see her dotor for 6 months. I wish this for you. With your great support team and your family and of course, your blogging friends, we wil help you kick this to the curb.
I had a mamo this week and they called the next day saying they need to retake to get more of the chest wall. I am not going to worry about it for the time being.
(((((((HUGS)))))) and Prayers.

lesa said...

Thinking of you. You are a good person. Thank you for sharing your positive attitude. I know you will get through this!

karen said...

I'm in awe of your fighting spirit, and I'm so grateful for all of your friends (including me!) who sent up prayers on your behalf. I know they were heard. I thank you for sharing this - just hearing about it brought tears to my eyes, but also a big smile to my face because of all the support you've been lavished with AND your incredible attitude. The soreness will pass, and so will the rest of the nastiness. And THEN we can get to the party! By the way, how is your sweet husband doing? He must be beside himself with worry! Sending lots of love your way from me to you! Let's get through it!

Jilda said...

Donna, your strength and faith will get you through this, so will the prayers and love from all those who know you.
Thanks for such an honest open post.

Cro Magnon said...

Donna. We have never met, and more than likely never will. But via this wonderful machine in front of me, I feel as if we are all part of some huge extended family of humanity. I would recognise you in a supermarket queue, and would know your grandchildren anywhere, so your story touches me.

I seem to be the only male commentator today, so may I send you my very best wishes for your 'recovery'. I KNOW that you are a strong person, and you will, I'm certain, pull through just fine.

Just to let you know that an insignificant little person, in the wilds of Southern France, is thinking of you!

Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes said...

OMG, you are amazing! I'm crying, thinking all the while that after what you've been through you stopped by to wish my dog a Happy Birthday!

I'm adding you to my prayer pot, and I wish you a very speedy recovery!


Tom Stephenson said...

I really think you have done the right thing by telling us this story - putting it out there into the world of Blogtopia.

When ever I have had some minor ailment which I have told everyone here about, I really believe that the thoughts and goodwill (which really touched me at the time, coming from 'strangers' as they did) really helped my speedy recovery. A sort of electronic 'power of prayer' thing - it really works.

So we are all thinking of you on your way to recovery. X

becky said...

Still in your corner, cheering you on, Donna!! You are awesome to post much good information here for those of us who have yet to experience this. And you did it the day after surgery? WOW!

Jennifer said...

Dear Donna, Thanks for sharing your story. You will get through! God is with you. God can use this to reach others. He wont give us more than we are able.
HUGS and PRAYERS...Jennifer aka Gigi
Blessed Easter!

Judi Kucera said...

Gosh, Donna..... well told. You know my heart is with you each step of the way.

acorn hollow said...

Donna, you know this path and it is not easy but you will get through it to have the fun on the other side. What scares me is your mamogram did not pick it up.
you are in my prayers you are so lucky to have all the support you do. Stay postive I will keep you in my prayers.

selvageedge said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I'm glad that you had such a great team for surgery and that it went well. My prayers continue with you for strength for the rest of this journey. Having been the recipient of much strength through prayer in my own challenge, I know that it truly does help to have others in your corner that way. What a blessing then that you have so many additional friends via your blog!

And if you need chocolate, I am literally only a few blocks away, so just holler. :)

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

I admire you for sharing your story. How blessed you are to have such supportive friends and coworkers--Please know that you are in my prayers for your continued strength and courage!

A Tale of Two Cities said...

Many prayers and good wishes coming your way as you begin your journey to recovery. With the support of co-workers, friends and family like the ones you describe, you have a winning team behind you. Consider me one of your team, as well, wishing you the best as you continue your treatment.
Saying a prayer for you now,

Molly said...

Donna, I'm having problems on my computer but I really want this comment to get through to let you know that not only your friends at home but the rest of us in blog sphere are praying like mad for your recovery too. Love Molly xx

Grandma Yellow Hair said...

OMGosh Donna honey I was so surprised to see you commented on my post.
I was thrilled to know you were feeling well enough to be on a computer. So of course I clicked over here as fast as my short fingers could and found you wrote this.
You are on quite the journey but one that you will GET Through it. Please Donna know that all of us out here are praying each and every day for you.
I know you are dreading the chemo and radiation but I was relieved to hear your having them. From all my research you are doing the right thing. So you just hang in there and I am here day or night.
Kathy showed us pic's of your friends at the hosp bringing in food. It would of all made me cry too.
I love the picture of the two of you together.
Honey why did I think you were 52. Amazing how young you look. Your only a year younger than me and you look at least 15 years younger. haha
Kathy said she sent me an email but tell her I cannot find it. I wanted your address sweet friend.
When you feel like it I would love to have it.
Just remember to take it easy and be gentle to yourself.
I love you

Julia said...

Dear Donna, I'm so glad that your surgery is over and that you have such a winning attitude. You are following your wise mother's advice and she was right.

I sure didn't expect you to be blogging so soon after surgery but it shows what a caring person you are.

Don't worry about loosing your beautiful hair. You will look beautiful even with your bald head. Your hair will grow back again.

Soon after losing my hair shortly after chemo I sat in bed as I awoke and saw my bald head in the mirror and I came to the realization that "This is MY REALITY and I will deal with it. God giveth and God taketh. I was not ashamed because I didn't do any thing wrong.

I didn't wore a wig and went bald head but wore a mask to protect me from germ and wash my hands often. Since having a blood transfusion was too risky for my situation I was injecting Eprex and Nupogen to build up my red and white blood cells 48 hours after chemo.. My chances were not good but I'm still here and living life to the full almost ten years after chemo.

It's amazing how strong a woman with cancer can be. I'll keep you in my prayers for a complete recovery. You will be just fine. Hugs and Love, Julia

Katherines Corner said...

My hand in yours sweet Donna. xo

Marsha @Spots and Wrinkles said...

Oh Donna,

first, I am sorry to hear you are going through this,

but glad that your attitude is determination to get THROUGH it.

Over the past year I have so appreciated your encouraging comments while I cared for my son - and I will be praying for you - and obviously so are lots of other friends.
God bless you and keep you as you trust his grace to carry you through this life challenge.

Beth Dunn said...

Oh my goodness. What you've been going through. I pray that you stay strong! You are in my thoughts. Love your Mother's attitude.
Lots of love and hugs

Sue said...

Thanks so much for catching us up on the surgery, Donna. You have been in the prayers of so many, and your attitude is going to bring you back to good health.

You are something else, and I am so glad that only one lymph node was affected.

This is great news. Of course, I know treatment and recovery will not be easy. But you are clearly up to the challenge.

Sue =)

Tammy@Beatrice Banks said...

Oh my! I had no idea. This made me bawl. You are such a brave woman. Thanks for sharing this with us. You have a beautiful attitude and your mom's advice sounds like my mom's. Just get through it. I know you will. If it helps just a wee bit, please know I'm adding you to my prayer list. I read a quote the other day that said "sing not b/c things are good but sing b/c you have a song." I hope you find yourself humming a little tune today. We are all rooting for you!

Jen said...

I appreciate the words that you left on my blog, and think that you are right about the way one goes about handling things. I appreciate your fighting spirit, and your willingness to "get through" to the next big party.

I am glad to hear that you are doing so well... It sounds like you have a wonderfully supportive team surrounding you and lifting you up... Every patient needs that, no matter what the procedure.

Please know that you and your family continue to be in our thoughts... And we look forward to more updates. It must take superwoman strength to go through what you are going through, and we admire your determination. The Proano's love a good party, and we look forward to celebrating with you!

Much love,

Kerri said...

Donna, you are such an inspiration to many...and I bet you can feel all the love and support from everyone pulling and praying for you. I found a little lump about a month ago in my armpit...but we've been really busy and I have neglected to get it checked out. I started getting mammograms when I was 35 because my grandma (maternal) and my aunt (maternal) both had breast cancer. I genes are definitely no in my favor, that's for sure. Because of you, I will call today and make an appointment for myself. I hope your recovery from your surgery is a quick one. You are in my prayers.

Wander to the Wayside said...

So sorry to hear that you have to go thru this! I'm definitely sending best wishes your way ...

Deb Shucka said...

I'm so sorry Donna that you're going through this, and at the same time inspired by your spirit and courage. Sending prayers and love and light your way.

Darlene said...

I can't believe I didn't even know about all of this until tonight. I am so very sorry for all that you have been through and all that you will still have to go through, but I know you are a very strong lady, Donna, and I know you will come out just fine.

Isn't it neat that you have such a great "support system"? I love that all your team know you so well, and being a nurse yourself you are so up on everything that is happening to your body. I have never heard the facts of breast cancer explained so well.

You just have to know that you have SO MANY people that love you (me included) praying for you, Donna. I am amazed that you were even able to do this post so soon after your surgery. Ouch, it must have hurt a lot, but, as eveyone has said, you are a strong one.

Sush said...

Oh Donna...I've been off blogging for the Lenten Season and had no idea you were going through this. I am so amazed at your clarity and honesty with all of this. Thank you so much for sharing, we need so many more brave souls such as you to make sure we women all do the things we need to do to stay and get healthy.

Prayers and love are beaming your way...much love~

MrsSudz said...

Donna a friend of mine told me about your blog. I too have gone through this. I am a 42 year old mother and I underwent a double mastectomy on September 7th, 2011. If you need someone to listen please do not hesitate to contact me. My blog is
I will pray for you!

Stacy Crawford said...

You are an amazing woman Donna! What a great team you work with. Prayers work! I'm glad you are recovering. I hope you feel the love of the Lord as you go through each phase and "get through this!"

Hollie said...

I had no idea. All of our Chance family love being sent to you & the whole Starkey family.
-Hollie Chance

Hollie said...

I had no idea. All of our Chance family love being sent to you & the whole Starkey family.
-Hollie Chance

Hollie said...

I had no idea. All of our Chance family love being sent to you & the whole Starkey family.
-Hollie Chance

Grandma Yellow Hair said...

Woke up thinking of you this morning.
Hope honey your doing okay. Sending you lots of love and prayers

Mrs Catch said...

I've been thinking of and praying for you since I read Kathy's post. I'm so sorry you have to go through this. Hope that your soreness gets better quickly. Your attitude is wonderful and I'm glad you have good friends to help you through.

Linda Vaughan said...

Oh Donna! I'm so sorry you have to go through this cancer journey!! It seems as though you have an awesome attitude and that sure makes a difference! I will be thinking of you and will keep you in my daily prayers!!!Hang in there babe!!!

Jacqueline said...

White light...healing thoughts...strength to you.
Whatever I can contribute, I will.