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Aug 16 10

Round 2 has begun, ding!

by Neil

Hi all… Neil here again. I’ve been recruited to write up a little something to keep everyone up to date on recent happenings… so here it goes!

Chemotherapy has begun:

On Aug. 11, Melanie started Round 2 of her fight… she had her first cycle of chemotherapy (there will be six in all). A cycle of chemo for her is one 3-hour infusion at the doctor’s office every 3 weeks. She had a medi-port device put in during her surgery, which helps in that she won’t have to get stuck in the arm every time she goes in for an infusion. The 3 hours went by fairly quickly. So far she’s been doing well after the chemo. She had one rough day (Friday) that she wasn’t feeling too hot, but other than that she’s doing pretty good.

In preparation of her hair falling out, Melanie decided to buzz it off so that it won’t be too much of a shock when it does come out due to the chemo. Her best friend Rene also buzzed her hair… and I took mine down as close as possible to the scalp. Video and more pictures here.

1 cycle done, 5 more to go! We mapped it out on a calendar, and show that the week of Thanksgiving should be the last infusion for Melanie.

Pathology findings:

During the surgery, part of the procedure is to do what’s called a Sentinel Node Biopsy. This involves finding out with of the Lymph nodes are the sentinel, which is the first node to receive fluids. Once this is determined, they remove that node and do an immediate biopsy of the tissue. If cancerous, then they take the next one and do the same. In Melanie’s case, both of these nodes came back cancerous… so the surgeon then took all of the remaining Axillary Lymph Nodes (under the arm).

Everything removed during surgery gets examined by a Pathologist and is reported to the surgeon and oncologist. There are a few things that are important; how many lymph nodes were cancerous, and the margins of the mastectomy (how close the cancer was to the remaining tissue in the body). Eleven total nodes were removed, including the two that were biopsied during surgery, and those were the only ones that came back cancerous… that is good! As for the margins, those were also good as far as the surgeon was concerned.

The oncologist is recommending the 6 cycles of chemo described above, then 6-8 weeks of radiation treatments, and 5 years or hormone treatment. The surgeon doesn’t think she’ll need radiation, but we’ll know for sure once we consult with a radiation oncologist in the next few months.

Regardless, we’re very glad that the pathology report came back in our favor. This put us on a high note as she started chemo.

Nothing in the ovaries:

As we already knew from the PET scan Melanie had before surgery, there was nothing seen in the ovaries. But, since she is BRCA2 positive, the oncologist wanted to be certain and ordered an ovarian ultrasound. The results for this came back clean. Nothing to worry about at this time.

Race For The Cure, Orange County:

On September 26th, Melanie and friends will be running/walking the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure in Newport Beach, CA. We’re welcoming anyone who wants to join our team, and most definitely anyone who would like to donate to our team… Please do so here: Spread the word to anyone and everyone that you know.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for Melanie, thinking about us, and helping us in any way possible… we truly do appreciate everything that has been done for us.

Jul 30 10

Happy To Be Home

by Melanie

I always imagined that the very first time that I would leave my son for an overnight stay would be to go on a little weekend getaway with Neil somewhere.  Maybe we would go to Vegas or Napa or something.  Wherever it was, it was definitely going to be something relaxing, romantic, and just the two of us.  As you can imagine, a two-night stay at a hospital for a bilateral mastectomy was not exactly what I had in mind.  Well maybe we’ll just have to save that romantic weekend getaway for when this crazy journey is all over with to  celebrate  being cancer free.

After being in the hospital for two nights I had two main things on my mind:

#1.  Smother Brody with hugs and kisses again and again and again

#2.  Wash my dirty, nasty, grease ball, matted down hair (It really was disgusting!)

When I got home and finally saw my little stinka butt (Brody) again my eyes welled up with tears.  It felt like it had been weeks since I had kissed his chubby little cheeks or heard him say “Ma!”  I was SO glad to be home!

Neil also washed my hair for me that day and even helped me empty my drainage tubes (which are really disgusting) without even so much as a flinch.  He’s a way better husband than I could have ever asked for.  I think I fall more in love with him every day. 

The surgery has caused me to have some temporary physical limitations.  I’ve now gained a new appreciation for being able to do some seemingly very simple things in life.  Such as being able to: 

Wash my own hair

Put a shirt on over my head

Sleep in any position other than on my back

Scratch my own back

Reach for a glass or dish up in the cupboard

Hold, carry, or even cuddle with my child (this is by far the most heart breaking one for me)

What simple things I’ve always taken for granted before, but not anymore.  Daily I thank God for even the smallest of victories towards regaining these abilities back again and I celebrate every single one!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your thoughts, prayers, and support during my surgery.  Thank you also to everyone who has been coming to visit, bringing us food, sending us cards, gift cards, and flowers.  I am so incredibly blessed to have so many people in my life that love and care for me.

Jul 17 10

Ready to get home

by Neil

Neil here again. After feeling nauseated all night and into the morning, Melanie had her pain meds changed and that seemed to do the trick. She’s feeling much better tonight and is ready to get home. I know that she’s aching to see Brody, and he’s going to be thrilled to see mom!!

Of course, this doesn’t mean she’ll be at 100% just yet. We will have to be very careful with Brody being around her until she’s completely healed. This will call for some creativity on our part. Any suggestions are welcome.

After the diagnosis, she did a lot of reading and learning about the options that she had. This prepared her for what her ultimate decision was going to be. When it was time to talk with the surgeon a few weeks ago about the biopsy results from lumps 2 & 3, she already knew what she wanted to do.

Here’s something to give you an idea of where her priorities are: When the surgeon told her that she must have a mastectomy, she didn’t flinch and just said “OK, that’s what I want anyway.” But, when he told her that she would not be able to lift up her little man… she cried.

That right there is a true mother. The ultimate in selflessness.

Jul 16 10

Round one goes to…

by Neil

Hi all, this is Neil (husband of the sky). I wanted post something really quick to keep everyone updated. Boxing is such a perfect metaphor to use for going up against the big C, so I think I’ll continue on that path.

After 4 hours in surgery, Melanie has taken round one in this battle, easily. She was pumped and ready to go this morning, singing that Rocky theme every now and then to keep up the mentality. That attitude was taken all the way into the operating room with her. As I was leaving the OR prep room, I turned to her and put up both of my fists in front of me and did a few ‘air jabs’. Words were not needed; she knew what I was telling her.

Four hours seems like an eternity when you’re sitting there waiting. But, it took longer because they did a biopsy of two lymph nodes in her armpit during the surgery. Both came back as cancerous, and this meant that all lymph nodes had to be removed from the left side. Obviously, this adds some time onto the whole process. Aside from that, everything else went perfectly.

As you can imagine, even through the fog of anesthesia lifting up after surgery, Melanie was able to crack wise. After most of the grog wore off she said: “Alright… who brought the margaritas?!! Time to party!” If she remembers that tomorrow…  we’ll have to just wait and see.

Of course, any great fighter has to have a team behind them in the corner. And we have such an awesome team.

  • Thank you Larry and Susy (Melanie’s parents) for being there with me all day today, and for taking over Brody-sitting when you were done at the hospital. I’m sure if I was on my own I would have gone batty, and the same for Larry if he was on his own. But together we kept each other busy.
  • Thank you to my mom, Rose, for Brody-sitting all day today, and for teaching him how to count to three in German! You have a lot going on right now, and your support means so much to us.
  • Thank you Shannon for staying with Mel tonight at the hospital so that I could get home to Brody (although it pains me to not be there with her, probably just as much as it pains her not to be with Brody).
  • Thank you Rene, for driving 1.75 hours in Friday afternoon traffic to be there for Mel (and for trading cell phone batteries so Shannon could have a fresh one).
  • Thank you to countless friends and family who have been providing so much support to us throughout this ordeal. Your thoughts, prayers, and messages of encouragement keep us so motivated. You know who you are, and you have to know how important you are as well.
  • Thank you to old friends and new ones who have hands-on experience dealing with the big C, who have been helping us prepare for this fight. You are our trainers who give us nuggets of wisdom that are so valuable.

Oh, let’s not leave out the minor technical glitch today: half-way through the surgery, the power went out in the hospital. Lights shut down, A/C turned off… and we all freaked out for a little bit. Good thing for battery backups and generators!

OK now team, we’ve got this round done with. Now it’s time to get ready for round two.

Ding! Ding!

Jul 15 10

Gonna Fly Now

by Melanie

Great news about my PET Scan results today.  According to the test results my cancer is only in my left breast and in my armpit but nowhere else in my body.  Woo hoo!!!  Hopefully this doesn’t mean it’s in too many lymph nodes, if any.  But we’ll find out for sure tomorrow during surgery.  Prayer and positive thoughts are much needed!

So tomorrow is the big day.  Surgery.  But I’m actually feeling good.  I’m positive.  I can do this!  I’m actually playing the Rocky theme song right now while I’m typing this.  Whatever, call me cheesy.  I don’t care.  It’s working for me!  I’m about to get in the ring with cancer and I have no doubt the big C is going to be going down for the count!  Bring it!