Monday, October 18, 2010

Back to School... I hope!

This morning started out with a new list. What do I need to do this week to be able to register for classes the beginning of November?

1. Fax copies of my transcripts to a nursing advisor at WTAMU.
2. Contact Amarillo College to find out my admissions status.
3. Talk to an advisor at AC to see what else they need so I can register in November.
4. Fax copies of transcripts to AC.
5. Call AC back and go see the advisor this week.

This is my list for this week and I am happy to say all but 4 & 5 have already been accomplished.

The next part of my list will take me leaving the house to accomplish.

1. Buy pumpkins for JB to decorate for class and for at home
2. Find something to wear to the symposium this weekend
3. Date night with Cody
4. Join JB's school PTO program (there is a meeting coming up)
5. and I am sure I am forgetting several things that will be added later this week.

Needless to say though it looks like I will be going back to school in the spring!

Wish me luck!!


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Friday, October 15, 2010

Fox 34 Interview

Here is the link for the Fox 34 Interview.




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Learn a little everyday...

Yesterday was a long day for me, but a good one. It started out behind schedule and very fast and frantic but was latter met with a little down time in doctors waiting rooms. My never ending pilgrimages to Lubbock usually give me something to reflect on during my time driving back home at the end of the day.

I met with both my plastic surgeon and the surgeon who performed my mastectomies. My PS was the first appointment and everything looks fabulous and I do not have to report back for 6 months!! Second appointment went equally as well, next visit will be in June for an MRI. Everyone was very happy with my progress including me.

My moment to ponder on happened while reading posters on the wall at my second doctors visit. There were posters for skin cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer on the wall. I am sure that I had seen the breast cancer poster before, but had not taken in what it really said. One word stuck in my mind "Metastatic." I have heard the word many times and never really given it a second thought.

Metastatic is used to describe cancer that has moved from the primary location in the body to other locations. So this time while I was reading the poster it hit me. During my Mom's first encounter with breast cancer I never heard this word, but doesn't it describe her? I was able to look past this thought in my mind for the time being because my doctor was knocking on the door to see me.

On my way home I made the decision to look up the stages of breast cancer and dive in a little further. After I made it home, played with the kids, gave baths, and got everyone off to bed I sat down at the computer. This blog was waiting for me. It is a very powerful video, and my second source of WOW factor for the day. There it was again "Metastatic." This time it really felt like a punch to the gut. This video really gave me the feeling of being in the dark 10 years ago when Mom was fighting the battle for her life. Was I just naive, not willing to hear the truth, or did they just not use the same terminology back then that they do now.

If you have taken the time to watch the video clip you know that Metastatic Breast Cancer is incurable. When you are given this diagnosis the best option is to give you as much time as they can, but even at that there will come a time when treatment no longer wins the fight. You can still have a quality long life with metastatic cancer, but it will never completely go away. Treatments will be administered throughout the duration of your life to keep the cancer under controll and at bay as long as possible.

In February of 2000, Mom was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. She had two brain tumors, surgery was performed to remove them and radiation therapy was administered. I always thought there was a chance for Mom to once again beat the cancer and be back in remission. Later on that year in November it was back. Ten years later I cannot completely say that the doctors never informed us that Mom's cancer was incurable or that it would be back it was just a matter of when.

So what are my conclusions today? Maybe it should be that cancer can be cloudy. Cloudy in the sense that when we are visiting with our doctors and attempting to hear what they are saying there can be a dense fog present. What we think we are hearing is what we want to hear. We pick and choose specific words that give us the most hope and forget about the rest. If Mom's doctors did say that she could not be cured this time I chose not to put that part in my memory. I wanted her to be fine and live a long life with me. At the same time though there is another lesson here. In the past 10 years cancer perception, treatment, and classification has changed. Technology is more advanced, treatments are fine tuned to each patient, and each case is specific. The knowledge and information our doctors are able to pass on to us is much different than it was back then. Mom's doctors did what they believed to be best for her back then, and Katie's doctors are doing what they believe to be best for her now. Self is a very powerful thing, and in stressful times self preservation kicks in to protect us. All of these factors contribute to why I may not have taken in everything that was said back then.





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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Great Link

Here is a link to a blog that I follow. The post has a video about the JAMA article.




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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

KLBK TV Interview, Lubbock, TX

Here is the link to the interview with Katie and I. It also gives the details for the symposium we will be speaking at. Would love to see all of your faces there!!

Once you get to the link click on News and Info within the Cancer - A Call to Action video screen. We are the interview for October 11th.


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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Race for the Cure - Amarillo, TX

Getting ready to go Walk!



Ted, Connie, Shell & Melissa


Nearly 1/2 way thru, we had just gone under I-40.


There were many lawns decorated for the walk!


Connie & Ted at the finish line!




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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Surveillance

Today was a great day for me. Katie and I were interviewed by a TV station in Lubbock for an upcoming segment on their evening newscast. I will be sure and let you know when it will be airing! While I was sitting back and watching Evan interview Katie I started thinking about some topics I should discuss in the near future. Several of the question in the interview involved what would you tell other people about the genetic testing and your choices. I believe I have touched on that subject in several of my posts, but I have not elaborated much on the subject of my experiences regarding surveillance.

There are different options available for those of us who are not quite ready to have body parts removed. While I have not experienced all of them I do have a something to share with you! Katie said it best today in the interview, and if you are willing to take advice from anyone she is definitely credible.

Today Katie said, "Ten seconds of being squeezed during a mammogram is better than 6 months of chemo any time!"

With that in mind I would like to re-visit a few of my experiences from the past year. In February I had a Breast MRI, this is a newer technique used to scan the breast tissue for abnormalities. The MRI itself is a little intimidating. You are taken into a room with a huge piece of equipment and placed face down onto a table. Your girls are then placed through holes so that they are hanging in thin air. Dignified to say the least, but when considering the other options I'll give up my modesty to avoid cancer. There are two portions of the MRI the first is a thorough scan of your chest area, once this is achieved die is released through an IV. As the die enters your blood stream it can show areas that have abnormal blood flow. Since tumors are body cells that have mutated or changed from typical growth patterns it would be reasonable to expect a deviation or change in blood flow to those cells. MRI can pick up on these abnormalities as well as others.

My MRI did show an area of dense tissue. When looking at the pictures taken it reminded me of a thumb print on one side of my breast. I could not tell you much about it technically other than there was a difference in the way that specific thumb print showed up on the pictures. My doctor decided to follow up with a Breast Sonogram. Using the same instruments we associate with the happy experiences of seeing our unborn children a technician analyzed my breasts. I had experienced a breast sonogram before this so it was not much of a surprise. Just like when we go to see our little growing babies gel was applied and the wand was used to document my breast tissue. Ultimately the anomaly came back to be nothing of concern, but I was able to experience two different methods of surveillance.

The MRI was not relaxing, dignified, or comfortable in the least, but this was one small piece of the puzzle to achieve long-term benefits. It has been documented that mammography, breast MRI, and breast sonogram are all good methods of screening for breast cancer, and it has also been very well researched and proven that early detection saves lives.

In August, I went in to see my gynecologist. It was a good visit, and so far all of my results have come back with nothing to be concerned about. After my appointment I traveled down the elevator to the in house lab and had a CA-125 blood test drawn, which in my mind is the easiest of all screening. I will gladly give a tube of blood anytime. The other scan that was scheduled was a trans-vaginal sonogram. This is as bad as it sounds, but if you are a woman and have regularly seen a gynecologist for yearly exams it is nothing. I am being honest here. In comparison to what you go through each year during your exam and pap-smear this is a walk in the park. At least in my case, it was not painful, took very little time, and gives my doctors another tool in taking care of my health. Let's just say that I will be happier on the days that I go for this than my breast MRI.

So now you have the run down of what I have experienced. With the exception of a mammogram I can say been there done that. Surveillance is not something we should be scared of, getting the results may be a different story. I think it is healthy to be afraid. My experiences were by no means negative. I will be honest with you that during some of these I was scared. My fear was not of the screening, but of the fact that my sister had cancer. The "C" word is what we are really scared of, not the screening. If we will take a minute to really think about it the real reason that we avoid the screening is because we are afraid of what they will find.


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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A few things...

I thought it was time to let all of you in on a few things. First and foremost next week marks a very important week in the publisizing of Heriditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC).

FORCE, which I have mentioned in previous blogs, has fought hard and achieved the passing of a house resolution deeming the last week of September National HBOC week. Along with this the last Wednesday in September will be National Previvor Day!! This is great news for all of us out their fighting for the widespread publicity of HBOC.

This link gives more information about the new resolution.

Alright, on to my second bit of news. I have decided to take the plunge and go back to school! Cody and I have talked a great deal about this, and the decision has been made. In the spring, I will start taking classes to get my Bachelors of Science in Nursing!! I currently have a Bachelors in Agronomy (Agriculture), and have been able to put it to good use as JB & Taylor's Mommy! Both of the kids will be in school in the next 3 years, so I have decided to put this transition time to good use and pack in as many classes as possible while they are beginning Pre-K and eventually Kindergarten.

I feel that I am being called upon to help others in my situation, and my ultimate goal is to work at the local cancer center in Amarillo. God has a purpose for me, and he is slowly starting to show me what He has in mind! I have been very cautious in making this decision, and we feel this is truly where God is leading us. Wish me luck, but most of all be patient with me! I am sure I will be giving all of you updates along the way. It is also my intention to keep up with my Blog, though it might be more slowly than last winter and spring.

Last, but not least Katie and I have been asked to be a part of several activities during the month of October! Tomorrow we will be meeting together in Lubbock for an interview with a TV station. (I will let you know about the air date when I know more) We have also been asked to speak at a luncheon later on in October at the Joe Arrington Cancer Center in Lubbock. Team Deaton is striving to do our part to educate and get the word out! God is using us! It gives me a great deal of peace knowing that both our mother and grandfather would be so proud of what we are accomplishing!!

Until next time, God Bless!




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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

JAMA Article

I believe I have had adequate time now to thouroughly digest the article pertaining to Risk Reducing Surgery publishind in the last month. It is by no means light readaing, riddled with medical terminology and statistics it could easily be seen as sleep inducing for the general population.

My first several times through were much like a whirlwind. I picked up on the key phrases that pertained to my specific circumstances and that of Katie's and took much relief from a patients perspective. It took me a few days to put aside my excitement in the article from a personal understanding and start to analyze the article as a person wanting to inform others of the overall information provided.

Within the article are several tables expressing the data collected and the numerical evaluations of that data. What does this data say?

1. Preventative surgery works.

I am not saying that if you have preventative surgery that you will not ever get cancer. What I am saying is that a person can make a choice of prevention knowing that his or her overall risk will be reduced.

Preventative surgery is not a cure for our gene mutations, but I do not know many people out their who would not like a little less risk in their lives.

It is so hard to decide what to and not to share, and I can hardly do it justice. If you would like to read for yourself please go to the following link. Also, if you have any questions please feel free to ask.

http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/304/9/967

I had plans to elaborate a great deal more and try to give you more information from this article, but I find myself incapable of the means to do so tonight. The proof is there that preventative surgery is working to reduce overall risk. Improved surgical practices and methods and a better understanding of what we are dealing with has brought us so far in the past 10 years. To many people out their it could easily be seen as a bleek and depressing time to find out your BRCA status, but there is so much HOPE to be had.

We are not alone, and more importantly we have amazing allies on our side. There are thousands of doctors, nurses, research technichians, students, and countless others who are fighting for our better tomorrow. I cannot think of anything more refreshing and hopeful to an Oncologist than the ability to prevent cancer! We are a new kind of army and our batallions are growing daily!

God Bless!


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Friday, September 3, 2010

Publications

Genetic testing for the BRCA gene mutations has been around for ten plus years now. This means that our doctors have had at least ten years to make their recommendations on how best to pro-long and enhance our chances of a cancer free long life. We all know what these options are, and have come to see them as more culturally accepted.

Thus far in my quest to better inform myself I have focused on websites and books to digest the published information from the medical field and feed it back to me in their words. This week my genetic counselor and I have spoken several times and I have had the pleasure of receiving my own copy of the JAMA's newest publication. I am sure you have all heard media reports on this wonderful study this week. There is a great deal of valuable information in here, and I am planning on giving you my own run down of what it reports. Over the next week I am going to be highlighting, note taking, and question asking to accurately give you my best interpretation of this publication.

After reading it thru just once I have already assigned myself a few more publications to track down and investigate. One specifically deals with the use of hormone therapy after oophorectomy. This topic is still very controversial, but I want to know more about it. So in my mind who better to go to when in need of information than our world of medical professionals!

Wish me luck and I look forward to reporting back to you soon!!

Have a great Holiday weekend!


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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A heavy heart.

During our lifetime we encounter many relationships. Typically these are formed in a close proximity to where we live or who and what we are associated with in our daily lives. From time to time though God twists and turns our paths to align us in a way that brings about unexpected friendships. Over the last 9 months I have been blessed to have my path deviated towards a new sisterhood. A sisterhood based upon hope and a fighting chance against breast and ovarian cancer.

Over the summer God blessed me with a BRCA Sister who is very much like myself. We have numerous similarities in our BRCA story that have allowed us to find comfort in each other. This last month has brought with it sadness for her family, and our conversation last night produced many questions for myself.

How do we provide comfort? "I'm Sorry." This universal phrase is the most quickly spoken in times of hurt and sadness, but there should be more that I can provide to my dear friend. "I will be praying for you and your family." A call to action! I can and will be a prayer warrior for my friend and her family. They will forever be on my mind and my prayer list, for if anyone can provide the miracle of complete healing it is my God!!! In the same breath though if it is not a miracle of healing that God will provide it is peace, understanding, and a soft heart. There is still a yearning in my heart to take my friend in my arms, being the embrace that helps to hold her together in a moment of grief. To be able to shed tears for her hurting and that of her family.

I know that God will show me what is the best course for comforting my friend, and I hope to be completely aware of it when He does. In the mornings when we first wake up we do not know what God will bring us throughout our day. Knowing this it is easy to justify being speechless in moments of shock and surprise. I would personally like to be better prepared for times like these in the future. My path is a new one to me, but I feel that I can better prepare myself for instances that would normally leave me with so few words of comfort.

When we give of ourselves we are a blessing to others! I hope to be a blessing more often!

Have a happy Tuesday!

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Summer is over, and the kids are back to school!

Well Hello again to everyone!

I have to apologize for neglecting my blog throughout this summer. After my surgery and recovery in June my summer took on a life of its own and nearly left me behind. So, I guess it is time to give all of you an update and then we can start anew for the fall!

I completely feel that my breast reconstruction has been an amazing success! Just after the 4th of July I went for a check up with my PS(plastic surgeon). Everyone was extremely pleased with my progress and the outcome of my exchange surgery. In October I will be going back for another check-up. When we go back my implants should have had plenty of time to settle into their new long-term positions. As far as Cody and I are concerned we have no complaints. Of course, in comparison with the touch, feel, and look of expander's who could possibly complain? My scars are starting to slowly fade, and I am even more comfortable with my new foobs and body than I have been in years!

For those of you who have been keeping up with my blog you know that my Mother's Day gift this year was an elliptical. I have absolutely loved it!!! Thus far I have lost about 8 pounds, and have a much toner and more physically fit me. The past 9 months have truly been life changing for both me and my family. I feel better, look better, and have a much improved attitude in general.

During the month of August I was also able to re-establish myself with my gynecologist in Amarillo. This was a good visit for me. I had been a little apprehensive about finding a gyno up to the task of my new found demands. My mind had wrapped itself around this task as one that would be discouraging and unpleasant. I was completely ready to visit numerous doctors and not settle until I had found one that was on the same page as me concerning my BRCA status. I had completely talked myself into the worst case scenario. Luckily though, my fears were unwarranted and quickly put aside. My gyno is not completely up to date on the practices concerning women who are BRCA+, but she was very interested in becoming more educated. She was more than willing to take me at my word for the recommendations for screening, and also wanted to visit with my genetic counselor. In my mind this is a win, win, win situation. Not only is my doctor going to become more informed, I will be properly screened, and we can possibly help other women with the same concerns by educating ourselves!!! How could this be a bad thing? Especially since my genetic counselor will be receiving copies of my test results, and in constant contact with myself. Since my doctors visit I have also been informed that all of this months screenings have come back normal thus far. Yeah for me!!

Cody, the kids, and myself had a wonderful summer! I finally feel settled in our new home. It took a while considering all of the surgeries and recovery periods, but we are home and it is truly a blessing. I decided in July to take some time off from the everyday demands of life and spend some much deserved time with my family! This decision turned out to be a very rewarding one!

I am looking forward to picking my research notebook back up and re-visiting my earmarks, tabs, and highlighted notes. There is so much that I still need to research and educate myself on. My request from you is that you don't give up on me. We are a busy little family just like all of you, and time is a quickly bought and traded commodity in the Timmons house these days!

God Bless, and I look forward to visiting with you soon!

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Katie's Celebration












Katie has finished her 6 months of Chemo!! I know she is extremely excited! She is also looking forward to having her expanders exchanged for implants.

Congratulations Katie!! You did it!

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Friday, July 30, 2010

In need of team members! - Race for the Cure - Lubbock, TX

Hi Everyone,

It is getting closer to Race Day all the time, and my hopes are that many of you will join our team in support of a cure for Breast Cancer. The world revolving around Breast Cancer has changed so much in the last 11 years since Mom passed away, and even more so in the last 16 years since she was first diagnosed. In my mind it is truly amazing to think that many of these advancements have come to be because of the Komen Foundation and the funds it raises each year.

This year our family has been given several more reasons to be advocates of Breast Cancer Research and fundraising. During the month of August Katie will finish up her 6 months of chemotherapy to fight off her own breast cancer. She will continue hormone therapy for an additional 6 months, but even with the end in sight she will always be affected by breast cancer. Katie and I both tested positive this year for one of the many Breast Cancer Gene Mutations. Both of us have undergone surgery to reduce our risks for the future, but we must still be conscious of our gene mutations and what this new label holds for our futures.

I want to do everything in my power to assist in the advancement of Breast Cancer Research, not only for my self, but also for our future generations!

Please join our family in walking and raising funds for those amongst us who must fight and live with the fear of Breast Cancer! We look forward to walking with you on October 2nd in Lubbock!

Click on the title above to register as a team member, join an existing team - Double D's.


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Friday, June 25, 2010

Foobs!

My new foobs (fake boobs) are in place. Sorry it has taken me so long to getting around to this. I had a harder time with the anesthesia this time, but I am feeling better and better everyday!!

Back to the foobs!! They are better than I could have ever imagined. The nurse at my plastic surgeons had continually informed me that my new foobs would be nothing like real boobs. I know that they did not want my expectations to be too high, but honestly these are great. Compared to expander's I cannot imagine anyone who would not think so.

They are truly a dream come true. They are soft, round, attractive, they give to pressure, and are better than I could have thought possible. I went and did a little shopping yesterday morning, and I was in heaven. Between working out and the perfectly proportioned foobs this was the best shopping experience I have had possible ever. I would honestly have to say that my toner body and new foobs have given me a new confidence! Of course, after living with expander's for three months it is hard not to feel more attractive and self-confident.

All in all, I am continuing to feel like this experience and being BRCA 2+ is a great thing. Little ole me is not only helping myself but others too. My plastic surgeon has asked to use my case to present information and proof in the future. I am glad to be able to help, hopefully giving others a little peace in their struggles. I have also enrolled in a couple of studies to help give more insight into our BRCA future.

I'm still a little tired, but it will pass soon enough. In comparison to all the blessings this experience has provided it is only a slight inconvenience. God is good, and there is a great deal more information to discuss in the near future. I wish the best to everyone in their summer journeys and will be talking with you again soon!

God Bless!

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Getting in Shape

Hi Everyone! It has been a little while and I thought I would let you know how my efforts are going on becoming more physically fit. My Mother's Day gift from Cody and the kids was a Sole E35 elliptical. Three weeks and counting later I love it.


I can honestly say that I have never, and I mean never, been one interested in running, jogging, or various other forms of cardiovascular workouts. Prior to leaving Denver City I had started going to Zumba classes. If you have not tried a Zumba class or work out I would highly recommend them. They are high energy fun classes. If you think you would be terrible or embarrassed, well you can probably find someone else who is just as bad as your are. Zumba is wonderful in my opinion! As far as the other typical cardio workouts though, I have just not been interested enough in bettering myself to put forth the effort required to do them. I guess you could say I have not had anything in my life that motivated me to get in shape. Honestly, I have always been one who needed to loose a little weight, but it was not a high priority.


Four months after my BRCA2 diagnosis I have a totally different reason to get motivated. My overall health long term has become an issue on the fore-front. I have taken away 90% of my previous risk of Breast Cancer by having a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy(PBM), and I say good for me. Unfortunately though it would not be wise of me to say that is all I need to do and go back to life pre-BRCA. The next step for me is to determine when to remove my ovaries. My PBM had virtually no long-term effects on my overall health. At some point in time I will have to get new implants, but that really does not affect my health. Yanking out the ovaries has several very life changing side affects. I will be discussing more of these in a later blog. One in particular is Osteoporosis.

In my Osteoporosis blog I discussed the need for me to focus some of my attention on strengthening my bones. So in the past 3 weeks I have worked my way up to 20 minutes a day 5 days a week on the elliptical. I have also added hand weights, sit ups, lunges and squats to my workouts. This has been huge for me, but I can honestly say I have more energy and love working out. After 3 weeks I can already see a difference in my legs. They are becoming more tone and ready for shorts. My arms are also becoming more toned, and my abs are starting to show some definition. I cannot say much about weight loss, but I know that I am putting on muscle right now so I am not too worried.

I hope you are all doing well, and enjoying your summer! God Bless and hope to hear from you soon.


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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ova 1

http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/health/your_health&id=7473512

I found this article through the FORCE website and thought I should share. I know there are many of you out there worried about Ovarian Cancer. Sounds like this will be a fantastic new tool to help doctors determine when and what kind of surgery is needed.

Ovarian Cancer still needs advancements, and in order to make advancements donations are necessary. Susan G. Komen has done an amazing job with fundraising for breast cancer, but there is still a great need to fund Ovarian Cancer research. If you have the means consider donating.

http://ovariancancer.com/app/index.php?pid=28

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

FORCE

This week I decided to take advantage of an amazing tool for those of us with questions about genetic mutations and more specifically the BRCA mutations. I have mentioned before the website http://www.facingourrisk.org/. FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, is an information filled website with amazing message boards. You can at any time ask questions of your own, read posts of others, or reply to posts. This week I decided to ask a question.

When to have an oophorectomy, or have my ovaries removed. Most of the recommendations for women with BRCA mutations is to remove the ovaries, but when exactly. There seems to be a wide variation of answers given to this question. The sooner the better is usually always implied. Is there a too soon though? After posting my question I received several replies from women who are looking at the same information I am. They are asking their doctors the same questions, and in most cases getting similar answers. What is important to understand is that prevention of breast and ovarian cancer is a fairly new thought process. Studies are being done, but the information from those studies is far from compiled and ready to be released. So, doctors, patients and researchers are all in the same boat. We just don't know everything there is to know about how early prevention can and will affect us 10, 15, 20 or more years down the road.

I am proud to be a part of this prevention mindset, and I know that the women who participate on the FORCE website are as well. We are the daughters, grand-daughters, nieces, and sisters of a generation who did not have the options we do now. I hope that 10, 15, 20 and more years from now the developments that can and will be made will give my little Taylor options that I do not have now.

Back to FORCE, these women are asking questions and making the best decisions they can with the information that is available today. I started my research on prevention in January, many of these women have been at it much longer than me. In my mind I would be a fool not to utilize their minds. Even more than that, everyone needs someone else to re-affirm life changing decisions. Many of the people in our day to day lives are still in shock by what we are going through. Instead of bombarding those who are overwhelmed with us right now, we have another support group at our fingertips.

I am so pumped about trying to make a difference through this whole experience. At times I get frustrated because I do not feel like I am reaching all that many people. This last week with the newspaper article and opening up through FORCE, I have a renewed vigor to stand fast in my determination. I have got to be patient, but I know that God is using me. Knowing that is enough in my mind.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wednesday, May 26th!!

We have a date! Looks like the article will be printed in Section A of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal tomorrow. I will post a link in the morning!

God Bless and have a great day!


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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Article in the Works!

Today Katie and I met with a journalist from the Lubbock Avalanche Journal. You have no idea how excited I am about this!!! Just the thought that our families story could have an impact on other women is amazing to me.

I hope that we are able to inform, encourage, and give hope to those out there who are not sure what steps to take!! It was great to get to sit with Katie and tell our stories. She had alot to say that was very encouraging to me. My big sister is an inspiration and a true warrior in her fight against cancer. Even more importantly though she is an awesome Mom for her kids. If you don't know Katie you are missing out.

In addition to talking with Katie and I, they also spoke with several of our doctors. The article should be running in the next week or so. I will difenetly post a link to the article for everyone here.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Surgery is scheduled...

Well, it has been a little while. I almost feel as though I have been neglecting my blog, but I can honestly say we have been busy little bees and I have not had a topic worthy of sitting right down and pounding out a post. It is 9:30pm Monday the kids are in bed, and we have a topic to discuss!

Last Thursday was my weekly trip to Lubbock, but this trip was not for a fill. I met with my plastic surgeon and we discussed if it was time to schedule my next surgery. After my fill on May 3rd, Cody and I both felt we had reached a size we were happy with for my new breasts. My expander's could still hold an additional 100cc each of saline, but I believed we were big enough. The next step was to schedule an appointment with my plastic surgeon and see if she felt the same way. At my appointment we were all in agreement that things looked good. I did have some questions though.

My first question was quickly answered. How did they determine what size implant to take to the operating room? While I was in the room, my doctor started rattling off a list of items to be taken to my surgery. The first of these was a saline sizer. After my expander's are removed and my tissue is shaped and stretched a little more to form an ideal pocket, a sizer is placed inside the pocket. Saline is added until a desired shape and contour is reached. My doctor will determine during surgery what she feels will be the best look for me. Next on her list was a plethora of memory gel implants of differing volumes. Implants starting at 350 cc all the way to 450cc will be taken into the OR. What is even more amazing is that they will be hauling 3 of each of these with them. That adds up to a total of 3 sizers, and 18 memory gel implants. That's alot of materials for two breast.

After scouring the web and countless websites I figured out that I won't necessarily be receiving the same size implant on both sides. It is not uncommon for women to have greatly differing volumes from one breast to the other. Why? Well, our bodies differ in outward appearance as well as inward appearance. There are a great many factors on the inside that can affect the projection and shape of our implants. To achieve symmetry between both breasts different sized implants can be used.

Question number two was more tuned to my specific situation. When my mastectomy was performed my surgeon removed all of my breast tissue and left behind the fat that bordered it. In my specific case I have a protruding pouch of fat by the crease of my left underarm. If you just looked at me wearing a tank top or bathing suite you probably would not notice it. When I raise my arm up to reach an item up high though, it looks like I have a knot in that tissue. My doctor said that could easily be remedied with a little liposuction. I know that this is more aesthetic than absolute necessity, but at the end of this process everyones goal is for me to be as satisfied and happy with my body as possible. If this little thing bothers me now, I know it will probably continue to bother me in the future. So, I don't feel like I am being unreasonable.

My visit with my doctor was over, and the next step was to set a date for surgery. A minimum of 6 weeks is recommended between the last saline injection and the exchange of expander's for implants. This is to allow time for the expander's to settle in my tissue. If this time is not allowed, after the implants are placed settling may occur and additional surgery may be required to correct the problem. Adequate time is being allowed, and I will be going in for surgery #2 on June 18th. This will be an outpatient procedure, and recovery time is typically between 2 and 3 weeks.

Wish me luck, and I have a few new topics that we will be discussing over the next month!




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Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Life Breast Cancer has handed me.

Fifteen years ago breast cancer changed my life forever, and I didn't even know it. Nine years ago it altered my whole world. Losing my Mom did not just affect me it rotated Earth's axis and set it to spinning in a different direction. And now in 2010, breast cancer has once again pushed not only me, but my entire family in different directions. So how do you deal with this?

I have not ever been one that is a roller coaster fanatic so lets say that each one of these events has landed me on a different roller coaster. The first was not so bad, it definitely put me out of my comfort zone but it was bearable. We were able to quickly mark that experience off of my list and move on. The second encounter was the worst imaginable: forward, backward, feet hanging out there and free-falling like a crazy person. It makes my stomach turn just thinking about it.

This second experience was torture though, it was worse than the first from every angle. Emotional, physical, and intellectually this event in my life was forever changing who I was. That was not the worst of it though. Over the next few years after my Mom passed away, I would continually revisit the same roller coaster. Why? I think I can answer that question now.

God allows us to have good and bad times in our lives. During the good times we can easily say that "God is good," and not question our faith or his greatness. On the other hand though, He also allows us to encounter bad times. It is during these bad times that our faith and trust in God truly grows. I believe that during this time in my life I was continually taking the wrong approach toward God and allowing myself to travel down the wrong path. Don't get me wrong here, I never hated God or turned away from my faith in Him. My actions and my mindset were not that which would please Him. I would take my anger and aggression out on those that I loved. I didn't physically harm anyone, but I was quick to say hurtful things. My self esteem was down the drain, and I did not care about the relationships that really meant the most to me. God allowed me to continually revisit my roller coaster as a reminder that things were not right yet. It was a constant reminder that I was not Happy, and that something needed to change. As a human, I repeatedly tried to fix myself.

It took me a few years to really come to grasps with what had happened and figure out that the only person who was against me was ME. People who were coming into my life for the first time were encountering a person that was not truly me. I forever set in stone their perspective of who I was as a person, but more importantly as a Christian. One thing that I have learned from all of this is how important first impressions are. I am continually trying to repair what damage I put forth in those years in other peoples minds, but I am also having to prove in my mind that I am and can be the Christian I want to be. Sometimes it is easier to convince other people than it is yourself. I am fortunate enough to serve a very forgiving God, and even if I don't always believe in myself whole-heartedly I know that God believes in me.

My most recent visit from breast cancer has been the easiest. I am no longer afraid or apprehensive about the roller coaster I am on. God is right beside me. He will be afraid for me, which allows me to close my eyes and throw up my arms and enjoy the ride. I can ask as many questions as I want, be frustrated with the information I find and am given, and at the end of my day rest my head easily on my pillow and sleep. God is in control. He has picked my surgeons, doctors, nurses, anesthesiologist, hospitals, and insurance companies. He has perfectly planned my road to recovery and the timing of each step. All I have to do is pray and ask for his guidance.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I think, maybe?

I think that I have made a decision? Monday was another fill day, and another day of me asking questions for the entire 20 minutes while being filled. We discussed further the subject of how much bigger I want the girls to be. I knew when going in Monday that I wanted to be a little bigger, but I was not sure how much bigger. The nurse and I discussed the fact that my current "snow balls" would look different when they were replaced by implants.

Since I had already looked at as many pictures as I could find on the Internet I knew that my current expanded breasts would look much different when they are exchanged for implants. As we have discussed before there are many factors that will contribute: profile, saline or silicone fill, textured or smooth, and shaped or round implants. It is not time just yet to make the decisions about all of those. That will come a little later closer to implant exchange time. Hopefully that will occur about 6-8 weeks from now. Now is the time to decided if I want an additional 50cc added to each breast on a weekly basis. I have been considering this decision very seriously each week.

I have tried to get input on this matter to help me make the most informed decision possible. Cody of course is one of the most important opinions, but I also have a really good fried who works in the clothing industry who has given me a great deal of input. I have been able to unload on her all of my questions about bras. From how you take proper measurements to what really looks proportionate. It is very important to me not stand out like a sore thumb but look natural and pleasing to the eye. This mother of two does not really want people to look at me and say, "those are implants." Even with this in mind I have to be realistic. The girls are not real, and they never will be again. So I can, under the mask of clothing, look completely natural and achieve my goal of not calling attention to myself. On the other hand though, when bathing suit season comes around I don't believe I will be fooling anyone.

Back to the point! Cody and I mutually agree that we like the look of the girls this week. Next Monday I will be going back to get an additional 50cc on both sides. We feel like we need to go just slightly larger than our ultimate goal in order for the more relaxed and spread out implants to have the gusto that my expander's currently have. I am so excited that we are so close to having the expansion process behind us. It is such a wonderful feeling to know that Cody and I both agree on this decision. I have immersed myself in research and opinion seeking to ensure that we are happy about our decision. After a few days of living with this weeks expansion we both feel confident in our decision! Whew!!


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Friday, April 23, 2010

Osteoporosis

I have decided to start looking into a few of the other aspects involved in the prevention process. Back in February I talked about Ooporectomy which is the removal of the ovaries. It is considered to be an important part of preventing breast and ovarian cancer in women who have the BRCA mutations. While important, ooporectomy brings about a whole other thought process. If I remove my ovaries at 28what repercussion will I face? The onset of surgical menopause comes about immediately after the ovaries are taken from the body, so more specifically what are the side effects of surgical menopause?

Today, I would like to discuss osteoporosis. We have all heard about this diseases, but do we know what causes it or what we can do to prevent it? One of the major side effects of surgical menopause is loss of bone density. Over time the loss of our bone mass can result in osteoporosis.

During our lifetimes we have a large quantity of years devoted to building our bone mass. In women specifically our bone mass continues to increase up until around our 30th birthday. During the time period of 0-30 years of age our bone mass increases faster than that of our bone loss. I am nearly 29, and this is the first I have heard or at least absorbed this information. My years of increasing my bone mass are all but up, so what do I do now? In most women, after the age of 30 you will begin the process of slowly loosing your bone mass. That is until you enter menopause. Once a woman enters menopause the slowly turns to rapid deterioration of our bones. This is bad news for women overall. With this little tid-bit of information it is not surprising that so many women end up with osteoporosis.

Here is my next question. How many women out there these days have a hysterectomy years before they would normally go through menopause? Ok you are not completely signing yourself up for osteoporosis many women can take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to help with the rapid bone loss. So what are we losing by removing our ovaries that is vital to maintaining our bone mass? Estrogen, a hormone that helps prevent bone loss. You yank out the ovaries and you take the main estrogen producer out of our bodies. Like I said above, many women can take hormone replacement therapy to help with this but not all women can. This is a very important detail for carriers of the BRCA mutations. Why? Well, there are some types of breast cancer that have rapidly growing tumors when estrogen is present in our bodies. My mothers and Katie's tumors were both estrogen positive. As long as, their ovaries were in tact their cancer tumors had a chance of more rapid growth. This is also important when considering ovarian cancer. Studies have shown that some women who were taken estrogen as HRT after menopause had a higher overall risk of developing ovarian cancer. Those of us with a BRCA mutation are at high risk for both breast and ovarian cancer, therefore it is highly recommended for us to have our ovaries removed. This also means that once the ovaries are removed there will not be any estrogen put back into our bodies.

Back to osteoporosis though. I am 28 today, in July I will turn 29 so what can I do now to help myself knowing that I will be having a oophorectomy or hysterectomy before too much longer. Cody and I visited with a Gynecological Oncologist at the end of February. We asked alot of questions: from his recommendations to what will I be facing if we do go forward? Osteoporosis came up and he made me feel that my risk is manageable if I choose to be proactive. What does this mean? I need to start now, not after the procedure. My next move was research. I had a doctors recommendations, but what did the world wide web have to say. We have all heard of the next company and I found their website very informative. Boniva is of course trying to sell their product, but they are very informative about what osteoporosis is. "Porous bones," I don't want them so at 28 I am going to be proactive.

Step 1: Am I getting enough calcium?
http://womenshealth.about.com/cs/osteoporosi1/a/osteoporosispre.htm?p=1
The above website has the following recommendations for
"How much calcium do you need?"
Children from ages 1 to 10 - 800mg daily
Teenagers - 1200 - 1500mg daily
Women 25 - 50 - 1000mg daily before menopause and 1500mg after surgical or premature menopause
Women over 50 - 1500mg if not taking estrogen, 1000mg if taking estrogen

So lets ask ourselves, are we getting enough calcium in our daily diets? I'm not, and probably haven't been for some time. Especially since 28 months out of the last five years I have been pregnant or nursing and requiring an additional 400mg per day. That's not all though, we cannot just go out and buy a single 1000mg calcium supplement to take once a day. Our bodies can only absorb 500mg of calcium at one time, so we must take two or more supplements at different times throughout our day. Next we must be very specific in what supplement we choose. Not all supplements are equal. We need calcium carbonate, and on top of that research now states that we need vitamin D3 in our supplement to allow for absorption of our calcium. Uugh, ready to scream yet?

Ok, so we have faced our calcium shortage woes, but there is still more work to be done. I would rather not spend the rest of my life with a pill box in tow. Ready for another question. What can I do to reduce my chances of another pill? Exercise, specifically weight bearing exercise. This does not mean weight lifting. Walking, low-impact aerobics and others are recommended.

Step 2: Exercise

I love taking the kids for walks but is an occasional walk really going to make an impact. The gym would be extremely beneficial, I'll be honest though it is not convenient and there may be weeks that it does not happen. What to do, what to do? Enlist someone to keep you accountable, and who better than the person I live and share my life with. An elliptical will be part of our home soon, not just for me but for him too. He will know if I have met my quota for the week, and he can also distract the kids long enough for me to get my workout in. Our plan is in the beginning stages, but we will be doing it for each other.

Step 3: Keeping an eye on things

Either before, or immediately after the hysterectomy I will be undergoing a bone density scan. My doctors and I will be monitoring my progress. As long as, I am able to reasonably maintain my bone mass I will be able to avoid the pill. At some point in time there may come a day that the pill is necessary, but my goal is to put it off as long as possible.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Decisions, decisions...

Well, I believe I have done a somewhat adequate job of flooding you with information on breast implants. Who would have thought I would be able to come up with three complete blogs worth of information. I am sure I could have elaborated more, but there is a point that it just becomes monotonous and boring. I guess the next thing to do is tell you about some of the questions that I have.

Today is Monday, April 19th, I should have just completed my third fill, but Taylor was sick with a stomach bug all night. Therefore, after waking up from the bulk of last nights sleep at 9:30 this morning I called and rescheduled today's appointment for next Monday. I cannot say that I am all that disappointed, the weekly drive to Lubbock is becoming a bit longer each time. Also, if I end up with Taylor's stomach bug I would much rather not be sore from an expansion while hugging the porcelain thrown. So lets talk about the questions I am asking myself, and the thoughts going through my constantly thinking mind.

At last Monday's appointment I asked several questions. The easy one was, "How long after the expansion process is complete can we exchange my expander for implants?" Easy question, easy answer. We will have to wait six weeks after the final expansion before we can do the exchange. The next question was easy to ask and answer, but brings about a whole new list of questions. "Do I have to fully expand my 550cc expander?" NO. So here is my next question, "How big do I want to be?"

The black sheep in the room, "How big is too big, and how small is too small?" If you can give me an answer to this question that you feel completely certain about you may be in for a reward. I, personally, am clueless. There are so many factors to consider it makes my head feel like I am the girl from the Poltergeist movie. What are the factors? The one that seems the easiest and hardest right now is what my breasts look like right now after two expansions. Today I have a total of 300cc of saline in each of my breasts. They are very perky, hard as rocks, look a bit unnatural, and well they stick straight out. Remember though, these are expanders not implants. With that in mind, I have looked through so many pictures of before, during expansion, and after implant pictures. I would say that about 85% of the expansion photos closely resemble what I am experiencing. That puts my mind at ease a bit. Then we get to look at the after implant photos and they look very appealing, YEAH!! There is a considerable difference between my hard as rocks unnatural expanders and the soft curvy implants. One of the most prominent differences I have observed is that the expanders are compact and do not spread out like a natural breast does. It just sits somewhat like a snowball cake on your chest. The implant on the other hand has a much more natural flow. It's softer shell allows it to spread out and more closely resemble a woman's breast.

Alright, in my mind I have a coconut coated snowball cake in one hand and a water balloon in the other. The water balloon moves when my hand moves, and flexes when it is squeezed or pressure is applied. The cake on the other hand when you move it remains stationary. Instead of squeezing the cake I will just tell you that the expander is rock hard. This analogy is more about shape though. The cake and the water balloon are the exact same volume, but as we learned in physical science shape depends on the container. So my snowball cakes are a tighter fixed size, and the water balloons flex and can change shape somewhat. My point here is that while I think my expanders are starting to look quite large when replaced with the same volume implants they will most likely not look as full.

The question, unfortunately, has not been answered yet. The one thing I believe I have learned by the above rantings is that I am probably going to end up being a little larger that I would be comfortable with overall in order to reach a size I will be happy with in the end. YIKES :(

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Implants - Part 3

As if there were not enough choices already... Today we are going to talk about profiles and pre-filled vs. adjustable implants.

Profiles
Most of the implants available come in either 2 or 3 different profiles. The Mentor company offers the largest variety I have see thus far. I found the following link to be very helpful and descriptive.

http://www.loveyourlook.com/Breast-Implants/breast-implants-styles.aspx

Profile in the sense of breast implants refers to the amount of projection from the chest wall. The higher the profile the more your breasts will stick out. I had always thought that the amount of filling was the main factor to having breasts that projected out well. There are a few other factors that you need to take into account besides just how far they stick out from your chest. High profile breast implants are also narrower at the base than moderate. Because of this high profile implants are better suited to women that have narrow chests. The lesson here is that just because you want them to be large does not mean you necessarily need a high profile.




In the above picture we can see the different profiles side by side. From left to right we have the Memory Gel Moderate, Moderate Plus, and High Profile implants. The moderate profile has a wider base than the other two, and less overall projection from the chest. Each subsequent implant has a narrower base and a higher outward projection. All three profiles are offered in Memory Gel and Smooth Round implants from the Mentor Company. They also offer a textured round implant in the moderate profile.

Mentor also offers contoured implants. Contoured implants resemble a teardrop shape. This shape is considered to more closely resemble the mature breast. The best description I can offer is that some women's breast tissue can reach up close to our collar bones. We do not realize this because the higher tissue is much thinner. If you place two fingers about an inch below your collar bone and run them down towards your breast you can feel the texture of your underlying tissue change. As you get closer to your nipple the tissue becomes fuller and takes on the shape of a protruding breast. The contoured implants have more of this natural shape than the round implants. These shaped implants are only offered in saline with moderate and high profiles.

Pre-filled vs. Adjustable
The next thing to consider in my mind are the options available in pre-filled and adjustable implants. Pre-filled implants are filled with either saline or silicone at the manufacturer and come sealed to your surgeon. These cannot be adjusted at the time of surgery or anytime after. So what you choose is what you get. For some women this simplifies their decision. Silicone implants all come pre-filled from the manufacturer, so if your choose silicone this is your only option in this section.
There are many options for saline implants. You can always choose a pre-filled set volume saline implant, or you can go for an adjustable. Adjustable implants are empty at the time of surgery, therefore; they require a smaller incision to insert. This is important if you are just considering breast augmentation. In the case of breast reconstruction we already have an incision from our first surgery to remove our breast tissue. Incision size in this case is a mute point. Once the implant is placed it is filled with a pre-determined volume that you and your surgeon decided upon. After surgery the volume can be increased or decreased within reason. Once you are happy with your implants the tube attached to the port under your arm will be pulled out an the implant will seal itself. The adjustable implants are available in smooth round, textured round, and contoured.

The examples I gave today are all from the website listed above. There are slight variations offered by different manufactures that I listed on my first implants blog. I would encourage you to look at all of them.

In the next several days I will start revealing some of the questions I have been asking. I will also let you know that I am considering and why. My most controversial question to come is, How big is too big, or not big enough? This is a decision that I am going to have to live with for a very long time. My thoughts are I need to get it right the first time! Until next time, God Bless!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Implants - Part 2

What have I learned so far? Lets start from the outside and work our way in.

The outer shell
I would be willing to bet that the majority of you out there did not know this next piece of information. The outer shell of a breast implant is made of silicone. So whether you choose saline filled or silicone filled you are still getting a container made from silicone. Thats not all though, you can also choose a smooth shell or a textured shell. The smooth is to be as expected a completely flawless rubbery casing that will contain your flavor of choice. I would love to be able to give you a personal description of the textured, but I have yet to touch or feel one myself. From what I have read these implants have a rougher feel to them. The purpose of the textured implant is to help with capsular contractions. Each of our bodies have reactions to foreign material when it is place inside of us. Capsular contraction is when the scar tissue that forms around the implant tightens and squeezes it. In some studies it has been found that textured implants reduce the possibility of this happening.  If a capsular contraction occurs the breast implant is typically removed and replaced.  Not too many options to choose from here.

The Filling
Silicone vs. Saline?  Lets start with saline implants.  Salt water is already a large component of the human body so it is a very logical choice to fill a container that will be placed inside of us.  Breast implants do not last forever, so it is easy to assume that a rupture may occur at some point in time.  When the implant ruptures it will be much like a water balloon deflating.  When the fluid leaves the silicone shell it is easily absorbed by our bodies without any problems.  If rupture does occur surgery will be necessary to remove the silicone shell and insert a new implant.  Overall, having saline implants poses very little risk.  So why would someone choose silicone over saline. 

The breasts we are born with are very soft and ply able.  I like to use the idea of a hug to give you a picture.  When someone approaches a woman and gives her a hug her breasts typically compress and give way to the body to body pressure.  The sense of feeling overall is very soft.  When a woman post mastectomy with saline implants gives a hug there is very little compression and softness due to a lack of natural breast tissue and fat.  Therefore, it can feel a bit like you are hugging a couple of grapefruits attached to a chest.  This hard and unnatural feeling is commonly associated with saline implants in women post mastectomy.  The post mastectomy is very important here.  Women who are choosing saline implants for breast augmentation will most likely not experience this exact same outcome because they still have natural breast tissue on top of the implant.  Over the years this unnatural feeling has been reduced by placing the implants under the pectoral muscles and the use of overfilling techniques.

Silicone implants have come a long way in the last several years.  In the beginning, many women believed that their ruptured silicone implants had caused health issues for them.  The FDA  decided to take silicone implants off the market until studies had been completed regarding these issues.  During that time many improvements were made and we now have a newer and improved silicone breast implant available.  When a silicone implant ruptured liquid silicone would ooze out and enter our bodies, and it was thought that this foreign silicone was the cause of many health problems in the women with implants.  Many implant manufacturers have moved away from the liquid silicone to a more cohesive gel.  The new implants can literally be cut in half and held upside down without any leakage of material.  The new cohesive silicone gel holds together very well.  If the outer shell is ruptured the implant can become deformed, and left unattended long enough can even break apart.  The days of silicone liquid migrating to other areas of the body are behind us though. 

The major benefit of the cohesive silicone gel is that it much more closely mimics the natural feel of breast tissue.  Think about a gel stress ball.  When you squeeze it the ball gives and flexes in other directions.  So when you are given a hug your breasts have a little more give and are not as noticeable.

Ultimately, the choice is yours.  My recommendation is ask to touch and feel the types of implants yourself.  You know who you are and what you will be comfortable with.  My second suggestion would be to include your spouse in the decision making process.  You make not be completely sure as to what your favorite choice is, but he may have some very good input for you.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Implants? - Part 1

I think I will start out today with, WOW!  If the choice were only silicone or saline it would be easy, or maybe easier.  This week I have started my research on implants.  From flipping thru the pamphlet at the plastic surgeons office I knew there would be several choices, but I was astonished at how many are available.  In the end, I believe your plastic surgeon will help in the final decision as to which implants will be best suited for you.  My intent is to give you as much information as I can, and hopefully teach both of us something we did not know.

Lets start out with breast implant manufacturers.  I did a google search and came up with the following list. 
Mentor Corp. - http://www.mentorcorp.com/
Allergan - http://www.nutrella.com/
Sientra, Inc. - http://www.sientra.com/
Eurosilicone S.A.S - http://www.eurosilicone.com/
Nagor - http://www.nagor.com/
From the above websites I found the most information from the Mentor Corp. and Allergan; these two where by far the best in informing their consumers in my opinion.  A great deal of the information is very similar, but they both do a good job in getting the point across.  The Sientra website is mostly pictures.  They did have a details sheet attached, but I felt like I needed a doctor by my side to interpret.  From looking at the Eurosilicone S.A.S website I believe they are FDA approved for use in the United States.  In 2009, Nagor was in pre-market approval to be sold in the US.  My list also produced two other companies.  Poly Implant Prosthese, which I found has been red-flagged by the British counterpart to the FDA.  On March 31, the MHRA advised surgeons not to use this companies implants.  The other company mentioned was Cloverleaf Medical.  Their site sent me directly to the MHRA website as well, but I was unable to find any other information.  So I will leave it up to you to look into things further on these websites.

There are so many aspects of breast implants to discuss.  My plan is to break it down over several posts and give you as much information as I can.  Over the next couple of weeks I will do my best to give you all of the information I have come across.  I am also hoping to stir up some questions in my own mind to ask my doctor.  If you have any input, or come up with a question you think we should ask please let me know. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Phase 2 of Expander Reconstruction

Yesterday Cody and I loaded up our crew and made the lingering drive down I-27 to Lubbock.  Our goal was to leave by 9am and take the kids straight to Gigi's house just south of Lubbock.  Overall, we did very well, and made it to Gigi's before lunch.  She had lunch ready for the kids and Pappy so we did not stay long.  The two of us headed off to town for lunch and to make a quick stop at Little Foot Prints.  (I have yet to find a good kids shoe store in Amarillo, so this is a usual stop for us.)  Tummy's full, shoes purchased, and we were off to the plastic surgeons office for a check-up.

We have officially begun phase 2 of reconstruction.  My stitches were removed, and 50cc's of saline were injected into each of my expanders.  I thought it would be nice to let all of you in on my experience.  As a whole it was extremely uneventful.  By this point I have very little modesty left.  Each and every time we go to see any of my doctors I am instructed to take the top half of my clothing off and put on a timeless hospital paper vest shaped smock.  This little contraption is literally a one-size fits all paper vest.  Very attractive, my favorite part is that the bottom of the vest hits at about the waistband of my jeans.  Regardless of how much the vest covers or does not cover modesty is still out the window.  As soon as the doctor or technician comes in its time to open up and take a look.  I was encouraged to hear that everything was looking great, and yes I would still be sore for quite a while longer. 

Procedure time, first on the agenda was removing the stitches!!  Lets just say that since the surgery I have very little sensation or feeling.  I can feel pressure, but not much else.  I was not able to see exactly what was happening, but the nurse made a few clips and pulled out one long string looking stitch.  When the nurse first started pulling there was a little bit of pressure, but it quickly went away when the stitch pulled loose and freely came out.  Both sides were completed in a minute or two. 

Fill time.  The second part of my day was increasing the volume of fluid in my temporary expanders.  To do this the nurse used a contraption that was held above the expander.  It had a moveable pointer that rotated on the end of a plastic handle.  When it was held above my skin in the area of the port it would rotate somewhat like a compass to find the exact location of the injection port.  They knew the approximate location of the port placement from surgery, but there are times when the expanders can move after surgery.  The pointer would wiggle around until pointing straight down when it was directly above the port.  After locating the port, pressure was applied to the pointer on my skin to leave an indention.  I did not feel the pointer at all, just the pressure that was applied.  My skin was cleaned, and we were on to the injection.  I was told to look away or close my eyes while they inserted the needle into the indention.  I did not feel the needle going in at all.  They said that they ask for you to look away because some people flinch if they watch the needle going in, and this can cause them to miss the port.  Once the needle was in place they started pressing the 50cc of saline into my expanders.  If any of you have ever wanted instant gratification this is it.  You could literally see my breasts getting larger.  While the last 10-20cc were going in I started to feel pressure.  My expanders had taken on enough extra fluid to start stretching my chest muscles again. 

Around 7:30pm we finally made it home to Amarillo.  I slowly lowered myself out of Cody's pick-up, after 2 hours of riding my body was stiff and my chest was sore.  We got the kids off to bed, took a few ibuprofen, and went to bed.  This morning I was once again sore, a few more ibuprofen and a great deal of movement later I am feeling pretty good this afternoon.  I think by tomorrow around lunch I will be back to where I was Monday before my fill.  All in all, a very minor set back in my recuperation. 

For the next five weeks we will be making a weekly trip to Lubbock to add saline to my expanders.  The goal is to reach 550cc in each of my expanders; today I am at 300cc.  I am still a little worried about what I will look like with 550cc breasts, but I do have the option of saying I don't want to be any larger at any point in time.  After we reach the desired size or 550cc we will begin preparing for Phase 3.  Phase 3 of reconstruction is an outpatient surgery to trade my expanders for permanent implants.  So, it looks like we have 6 weeks to discuss and decide on saline or silicone implants.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

It's time to reveal...

Over the past few days I have started envisioning a picture that I believe will be taken soon.  It is a little bitter sweet thinking about it, but "It's for a good cause" can probably take the edge off a bit.  I can see it now in my mind, Katie and I sitting together smiling for the camera.  In my mind though, Katie has little or no hair and my blonde highlighted curls are still crazy and poofed like I want them.  Katie with no hair, its no longer in my imagination it has become a quick reality.  Last night Ronnie, Katie's husband, oiled up the shears and went to town.   

It's so familiar, but something I thought we would never have to be a part of again.  I remember vividly the day Mom finally decided to shave her head.  The night before she had let me cut her long hair into a bob, first thing the next morning we went to Lubbock.  After a day of shopping and Mom's hair trailing her in the wind she was ready for a shaved head.  I believe it was embarrassing for Mom that day in Lubbock.  There is no way in my mind to understand what Katie is going thru right now. 

Back to the picture!  Katie and I have been asked to be part of something very special.  We are going to be able to educate, encourage, and give hope to so many people out there!  In the coming weeks Katie and I are going to be interviewed for an article about breast cancer, genetic testing, and all the other things involved.  What an amazing opportunity.  Think about the impact of two sisters dealing with breast cancer in two totally different ways.  Not only sisters, but one 31 and the other 28.  I know that God is using us, and I pray that we are up for the challenge. 

Please be thinking about both of us, and I will keep you updated as things progress with the article!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Another perspective...

While preparing for surgery and the time thereafter, I purchased several books to occupy my time. Last week I finished one of them, and have decided to elaborate a little and ask a new question.

You already have breast cancer, but should you undergo genetic testing?

My response is "YES." The book I read last week was, Apron Strings: Inheriting Courage, Wisdom and Breast Cancer, by Diane Tropea Greene. In this book Diane the author discusses her families history of breast cancer. She gives great detail about her family and their struggles with the disease. It is very disheartening to read about their loss and pain due to breast cancer. Ultimately Diane and her sisters decide to be tested for the breast cancer mutations.

Why would it be beneficial to know if you have a BRCA mutation if you already have breast cancer? For Diane it answered the questions of what options to choose and when. Diane was diagnosed with breast cancer prior to making the decision about genetic testing. At the time she was given several options to choose from as to what she should do with her breasts. She decided to have a lumpectomy, but after further testing ended up having a unilateral mastectomy. Diane now had one reconstructed breast, and one natural breast. After a year of surgery, chemotherapy and doctors visits Diane revisited the idea of genetic testing. She and her three other sisters were all tested. Three of the four came back positive for the BRCA 2 mutation.

In many cases, breast cancer patients undergo surgery and treatment and can then have a little peace of mind that their cancer is gone. Unfortunately, those of us with a genetic mutation face a higher risk of reocurrence in the opposite breast, the possibility of the cancer spreading, and a higher risk of ovarian cancer. Diane had conquered what was visibly apparent, but what about the stuff that could still be hiding? When undergoing chomotherapy many women can experience "chemically induced" menopause. Diane had experienced exactly this so she made at the time a "simple" choice to have a preventative oophorectomy. Since her ovaries had become useless she had them removed. This was a much easier decision due to the effects of chemotherapy. She was still faced with the decision to, or not to remove her remaining healthy breast. After another lump was discovered Diane ultimately made the decision to remove her healthy breast. The pathology report came back clear, but not everyone is so fortunate.

In my mind I still believe that knowledge is power. Without knowledge and understanding we have very little to base decisions off of. So why is it important to have genetic testing done? In many cases where a strong family history is present genetic testing can provide information necessary to making informed decisions. In Diane's story she knew there was a strong family history, but found the need to fill in the blank. Now that her family has the information provided from genetic testing they will be able to make more informed decisions now and for generations to come.

My sister Katie has also had genetic testing done. Her positive results give her the opportunity to not only deal with her current diagnosis of breast cancer, but also help to possibly prevent a reocurrence in the future. Katie and her doctors will make decisions based upon all of the information they have available to them. Hopefully this information will lead to Katie outliving all of us with a cancer free life from now on.  Katie and I can also use this information to educate and inform our relatives, our children, and someday God willing our grandchildren.  With the information we have available today we can change our lives and those of our future generations.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Betsey's thoughts for the Day!

Felt like sharing, Hope you enjoy!


If you make big plans, plan for kinks along the way.

Take time to snuggle - with your spouse, and with your kids!

Tickles and giggles are worth every second.

You are loved by someone, even if you don't feel it right now.

There is always someone worse off than you.

YOU are the reason you cannot find your car keys.

Little girls are adorable, but they can also be evil.

Older siblings are usually innocent.

Smile at a stranger everyday, it makes both of you feel better.

"If your happy and you know it, clap your hands"

God Bless and happy thoughts!
Betsey

Friday, March 19, 2010

Oh, What a day!

It's time to celebrate!! My pathology report came in yesterday just before 5pm. We are cancer free!! Talk about a weight lifted off of my shoulders. I have decreased my chances of getting breast cancer by 90% over the last week.

Cody and I went in last Friday morning to Covenant Lakeside Hospital in Lubbock. Amazingly enough, I was completely calm. Between my own prayers and those of all of you who care for us, God was there beside me through the entire experience. We checked in down stairs and where escorted up to the surgical floor before 6am. I was first in line for surgery at 7:30 so the nurses where busy prepping me. My surgical nurse was a gentleman with a British accent. He kept me smiling and cutting up with him. After he put my IV in he walked out of my area saying "Jesus Christ, Superstar." I knew then that God had put together a great team for me! On the other hand, I think my Dad needed a few sedatives to get him through the day.

Most of the rest of the day Friday, I was incoherent. I remember hearing peoples voices, but not much more. Saturday was less of a blur, but I really enjoyed it when everyone left and I could just sleep. Sunday came around quickly and we were off to my Dad's house before noon.

Overall my pain has been tolerable with the help of muscle relaxers and pain medicine. The part that has bothered me the most is the swelling. The fatty area in the crease of my arm is extremely swollen, and my surgical bra tends to rub on it. Not much fun. I am also required to wear the surgical bra for about 6 weeks to keep things from moving out of place. Lets just say it feels a bit like they have tried to squeeze my medium size chest in to an extra small sports bra. Every new day is continually better than the day before, so I can easily say recuperation is in full swing.

Yesterday I had my first post-op visit with my plastic surgeon. They said everything looked wonderful, and removed two of my four drains. Talk about an eerie feeling. The two drains removed were located on the topside of my chest. They ran from a small incision on my side up and over the top of my new breasts and into the area that separates my boobies on my chest. I would say that there was about 18 inches of tubing inside of me. The nurse cut away the small stitches that attached the drain to my side and pulled the tubing out. I honestly do not have words to describe this feeling. Needless to say though, Cody could see the drain as it was moving across my chest and out of my side. I shiver just thinking about it. It was not painful just wierd.

During my down time I have been reading a few books. I can't wait to start into my list of topics I still want to discuss with everyone. One of the books that I have finished is Apron Strings: Inheriting Courage, Wisdom and Breast Cancer, by Diane Tropea Greene. From her book I have a new question to digest. Why people with breast cancer should be tested for the breast cancer mutations?

Until next week, God Bless!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Simple Triumph!

I did it! My goal was to start folding laundry by mid-week, and I did it! Yesterday I was able to fold two loads of laundry then Cody put them away for me. On an even more positive note, I am feeling much better this morning. A great deal of the tightness in my arms and shoulders is so much less. I cannot say that it is completely gone, but is so much better than yesterday. It is amazing to think about how many muscles you use when executing simple tasks like folding laundry. I did obey the rules of not raising my arms above my shoulders. It seems like such a simple victory, but I am very proud of myself for pushing foward.

I am expecting a phone call today from my doctor with the pathology report. So lets keep on praying for good news! Thursday afternoon we will be going to Lubbock to see my plastic surgeon. I am hoping that we will be able to remove some of my drains. Overall, things are very good. I have enjoyed the many visits from friends and wonderful food.

Monday, March 15, 2010

It's Monday!

Today is the Monday after my Friday surgery.  My doctors let us out of the hospital Sunday morning.  What a relief.  A full nights sleep was such a blessing to me and Cody.  We will be staying with my Dad in Denver City for most of this week.  It is nice to have all of the help with the kids.  Terry drove me home yesterday and Cody  went to get the kids from his parents.  I was very impressed at how gentle they both were when they got to Dad's house.  JB came up to me and told me that I was going to be OK and patted me on the shoulder.  Taylor laid down beside me in bed and held my hand for about 30 minutes.  Taylor is a little upset that I cannot snuggle her in my lap and carry her around.  Overall though it is good to be out of the hospital with all the beeping machines and interrupting nurses. 

I am well on my way to recovery.  My oncologist was able to remove all of my breast tissue leaving a great deal of bruising on my upper chest.  The plastic surgeon placed the implants under my pectoral muscles and also attached a tissue flap to my muscles.  The tissue flap reduces the overall time that it takes to finish reconstruction and also reduces the amount of expansion that is necessary.  My plastic surgeon was able to fill my expanders with 250cc of saline each.  With Katie's surgery they did not use the tissue flap and were only able to fill her expanders with 120cc each.  This means that my whole process should take a little less time than Katie's.  The goal is to fill my expanders with a total of 550cc's each.  I am going to have perky breasts.  Cody told me in the hospital that the girls where much perkier already. 

My pre-surgery experience was wonderful.  Cody and I got up at 4:30 am and where at the hospital by 5:30.  We went to admitting answered a few questions, and were off to the second floor to a waiting room.  From the waiting room we went to the surgical prep room.  I changed into the basic boring blue hospital gown and perched myself onto the moveable gurney.  My nurses then started prepping me for surgery and we signed a mountain of paperwork.  I was able to visit with a nurse from the SPOC program.  This program will take the extra tissue from my mastectomy and use it to try and grow tumors for research purposes.  If the tissue is able to grow tumors, specifically cancerous tumors, they will be able to use it for all kinds of research.      

The best part of pre-op was my nurse.  He was British and such a hoot.  I think he made everyone in the room smile.  He was singing songs, and talked to Cody specifically about what his goals for my surgery where.  D, DD, or maybe even an H.  My anesthisiologist  was also wonderful.  She was a little petitie thing with glowing red cheeks.  Her gifts to me were little pink cocktails before and after my surgery.  Whatever my cocktail was made of was wonderful.  I came out of surgery without being sick, and slept a great deal of the day on Friday. 

Both of my doctors where very happy with the overall results, and feel like my end results are going to be very good.  I will be going back to see my plastic surgeon on Thursday, and my oncologist will be calling me with pathology results sometime before Wednesday.    God has truly been there for me throughout this process, and gave me a true peace on Friday. 

God Bless, and many thanks!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Day After

Hello everyone,

It is now the day after surgery. I slept alot yesterday, and don't remember much about it. Sometime last night the elephant that had been sitting on my chest decided to leave. There is still a great deal of pressure, but I am looking forward to getting up in a little while and walking around. We are now on the road to recovery, and that is where I have wanted to be.

My doctor visited this morning, and said everything was looking good. I have alot of bruising on my chest around the tops of my breasts, and the pressure that I feel comes from the expanders. They placed the expanders under my muscle tissue, and will be streching my muscles out over the next couple of months. So I will feel pressure each time they do this. Katie has told me that the expansion is not as painfull as what I am feeling today.

Overall, I think I am doing very well. I am especially looking forward to my shower in a little while. I wanted to thank all of you for your prayers, and I know God will be helping me through the recovery process too.