Sunday, October 26, 2014

Finished with the hard stuff!

It’s been a long time! Even though it’s been awhile, the time has gone by so fast for me. I feel like I was wanting to blog and write about what I was going through when things were hard. Now that things are better, I am wanting to focus on living my life instead of writing about this crazy journey I have been on. I’ll go back and explain what’s been going on since July.

My last 3 chemo treatments were harder on my emotionally than they were physically. I really breezed through them with out too many side effects, only about 5-6 days of feeling yucky and then I was able to pick back up and get back to normal. The emotional roller coaster I was on was another story. I was seriously a mess and had a really hard time being around anyone. Sorry for all that were or weren’t ;) around me when I went to the US for a visit in July. It was so crazy hard for me to go back to my old “normal” life and see everyone living and doing all the things they used to do. As much as I love you all, it was just way too hard! I was actually relieved to come back to Australia so I could finish out my treatments away from everything. I truly feel it’s been a blessing for us to be here through all this. It’s been my hideaway and I’ve really liked it that way. Being the center of attention for me is the worst, especially when I was sick!!!! 

I finished chemo on August 20 and I honestly feel like my last chemo was my easiest one. I was so ready to be done and over it that I didn’t really let it get me down. After chemo my next step was deciding if I was going to do radiation or not. It was a hard decision, but I decided it was better to look back and say I did everything I could do and I am so glad I decided to do it. I started on September 22. The treatment plan was to go in every day (Mon-Fri) for 5 weeks. I went in the week before and got 3 tattoos so they were able to line the machine up properly each time I went in for treatment. Treatments were super easy. I would go in, change into a gown and then lie down on the machine. The actual treatment only lasts around 5 minutes. My last treatment is tomorrow and my skin has held up perfectly. I’m shocked and the lack of side effects I have had. I feel so lucky! 

I continue to go into the hospital every 3 weeks to receive Herceptin (a targeted drug because my cancer was HER2+). I'll be doing this until next May. There aren’t any side effects from it, so it’s easy. I also started taking a drug called tamoxifin that I have to take for at least the next 5 years because the cancer was hormone positive. I have read some crazy stories about this pill, people call it some crazy names… so far so good though (I’ve been on it about a month and a half) and have had no side effects. Again, feeling lucky. 

My hair is starting to grow back and right now I look like I have a buzz cut…. I’ll post a picture soon. I think my hair has been the most frustrating thing! I want my long hair back so badly.  I miss just throwing it up into a top knot and feeling feminine. I feel like I look like such a dude. 

Although this crazy journey is still going on, I’m putting it as far behind me as I can. I really am feeling amazing and all my energy is coming back. I am so grateful for everyone who has helped me through this journey and prayed for me and my family. We are forever grateful for your prayers and have truly felt them. I’m feeling like there is life after cancer and I’m ready to live it. I have been keeping super busy and enjoying these kids of mine more than ever. They truly are such sweet boys and I feel so lucky to be their mom. My sweet husband has been such a rock for me through all of this, he never for one second allowed me to think that I wasn’t going to be okay. He constantly reassured me every time I worried or felt like I wasn’t going to get better. 

As far as getting back to you if you have e-mailed or messaged me… so sorry if I didn’t get back  to you. Please try again and I promise I will respond. 

xoxo,


Tori

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Treatments 2 and 3

I just took a minute yesterday to read back through with I've already blogged about and the experiences I've had and I am super shocked to read all I've been through. It surprises me how many of the emotions and feelings I've had were short lived and how time has already healed.

Not much has really happened since my last post, we are just soaking up the good weeks and loving spending time together as a family. The boys are doing great in school and have been such big helpers through everything. It's now winter here in Perth so we have had quite a few rainy and cold days, but one thing that comes out almost every day is the sun. It has been amazing to me to watch a massive storm roll in and then buckets of rain will fall and then minutes later the sun is shining. In some ways this is just like my life right now, I'm learning the sun alway will shine again and all we can to is be patient and wait for the storm to pass.

My hair started falling out about two weeks after my first treatment. It would only come out if I ran my fingers through my hair, so it wasn't that bad.... I noticed it really thinning on top so the night before my second treatment I had the boys take scissors to my hair and then Joe buzzed the rest. I really wanted to keep them involved with the whole process so they weren't terrified of me when they woke up in the morning. Their reactions were priceless and I don't think any little boy ever thinks they will be told to go ahead and cut mom's hair. Tate was very into it and Max took a little of a back seat kind of leaving the room and saying he wasn't sure if he wanted to see what was going on. All in all I totally miss my hair, but as long as I don't look at myself in the mirror without something on my head it's fine. I didn't feel sad about it, just like this was the next step.

The day after the big cut, I had my second chemo treatment. Everything went smoothly until after. There was a crazy mix up with insurance that we are still trying to sort out. This was the hardest part of the second treatment. I felt super upset, helpless, misinformed, angry ... a million things. 24 hours after treatment Joe gave me a neulesta shot to keep my white blood cell count up. This shot made me tired, but definitely helped with the side effects of chemo and helped me bounce back. Looking back and after speaking to my oncologist, the nausea medicine I was taking was just making me sleep instead of keeping the nausea at bay. I didn't really eat or drink for most of the week, I just slept and when I was awake I felt nauseous. The time line for this treatment was Wednesday, Chemo.. Thursday, frustrated and tired, but doing fine have shot and got to bed. Friday fine until about lunch time then rested. Saturday seriously slept all day (probably 20+ hrs) Sunday slept all day (20+ hrs) Monday slept quite a bit  Tuesday I started to feel a little better and took a nap, but just rested and Wednesday afternoon I was able to pick the boys up from school and things just got better from there. My energy came right back and I felt back to normal. I've learned to really enjoy the two weeks I'm better and maximize what I can do. So far I feel like everything is totally fine when I'm feeling good.

This past Friday I went in for my third treatment. I can't tell you how good it feels to say I'm halfway done! Everything went as expected on Friday, no reactions and the treatments actually go by quickly about 3 hours total. Saturday I did the usual routine and made the kids breakfast and cleaned the house, I was feeling okay but didn't want to push it so we kinda hung out at home all day. I took a nap in the afternoon then we headed to a ward activity. It was fun to be there with the family. I was tired by the end so I went right to bed when I got home. I'm so grateful we changed my nausea medicine... I've actually been able to kind of eat throughout this treatment and it's kept my energy up. I haven't felt the need to sleep all day. I have felt worn out, but nothing like last time. The nausea is under control, I just lack my usual energy. When I wake up I feel like my body weighs a million pounds so it's hard to get up. It's already Wednesday and I can feel myself coming out of it which is so nice. If things don't get worse, I think this treatment will be the easiest one I've had so far.

As far as my spirits, they are up. I know after surgery and even until after my first round of chemo, I was struggling. I feel like I have so much support around the world and the charity and generosity of others is unbelievable. I'm learning so much through all this and really learning to appreciate being healthy. I can't believe how I took it for granted. To live a life of health is such a blessing you really don't even understand until you are sick. To have to schedule your life around dr's appointments and hospitals is no small feat and then on top of it to feel unwell yourself it's no fun. The next 10 months are going to be long, but I know I'm being blessed through all this. 

 My latest look
 Porters favorite thing is to take my scarf or beanie off my head, fine at home, but not so funny when we are out.....
 Tate at the school lap a thon. He ran the entire time and ended up with 27 laps. Max only stopped running so he could jog a lap with Porter, it was the cutest! He ended up with 35, but tells me if he didn't run with Port he would have had 40. I made the mistake of pledging per lap because Max told me he could only run about 10.... Needless to say each time they ran around it was $3, whoops
Max after his school cross country meet. All the year two boys compete in a race and Max had a blast. His big boy teeth are finally coming in and it's so hard for me to get used to. As much as I want time right now to go by fast, I don't want these boys of mine to grow up. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

2nd and 3rd weeks after round 1

It's been awhile since I've posted only because things have been great. There really hasn't been much to post about other than the day to day life of a mom. After about Thursday the 15th I really started to feel like myself again. By Saturday I was eating better and able to really get out and continue life as normal. I spent all last week enjoying time with friends, walking almost every day along the beach, and being a mom to my boys and a wife to my sweet husband. 

I did start noticing my hair falling out more than usual last Thursday.... that's been interesting. I was walking with some friends and we were talking about if I've noticed any changes in my hair. I said no and then decided to try running my fingers through my hair, big mistake, a lot more than normal came out and each day there has been more and more. My scalp hurts when I touch it and especially when I lie down to sleep. It feels like I've had my hair in a tight ponytail all day. Sleeping was hard last night and I'm noticing my hair is just getting thinner and thinner. I'm not sure how much longer it's going to last, so below is one of the last pictures I'm going to have hair in. I just felt like I needed to document it. I've asked Max and Tate to shave their heads with me, and I laugh as I write this thinking back to Max's reaction. He seriously will NOT do it. He says he likes his hair too much. Hilarious. Tate is completely ready whenever I am, so I'm glad one of my boys is willing to do it with me. (I didn't give Porter the option, I like his blonde hair too much!)

We had a great time tonight celebrating sweet Porters 2nd birthday. He is such a sweet little toddler. I really think he was sent to me straight from heaven with the sweetest disposition. He brings us so much joy and is literally the easiest boy. He never gets into anything and is content just being home playing with toys or watching a movie. He is the snuggliest little guy and when he's tired or needs a nap he asks to go to bed. He still takes 3 hour naps! He really is too good to be true, but Heavenly Father knew I needed this little guy and I am so grateful.

Well life is good and I feel ready for my second treatment on Wednesday. I feel like I was in a little bit of a funk before and a little while after my first treatment. I wasn't really myself. Even looking back on the posts I've written, I'm glad I have them to refer to, but I'm grateful to feel how I feel now. This is going to be a roller coaster ride, but if I can remember whenever I'm down that I'll climb right back up then that will keep me going. 


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Days are slow, but life is good


It's now been almost a week since my first treatment. I am tired and I'm not able to eat much. Only really bland foods (cereal, bread, bananas) I'm trying my best to keep drinking fluids, which has been hard and eat anything that sounds good to me. 

Thursday and Friday were the easiest and then the nausea started to get worse Saturday. I had plans to take my sweet mom out for lunch, a pedicure and then to the ward play on Saturday, but we only got to get a pedicure and ran into the grocery store. I was so exhausted. Once we got home and were going to head to the play I couldn't get off the couch to get anything done. I went right to sleep and taking a nap helped. I was able to go with Joe to a birthday party for a friend of Tates and then I even made it out to dinner and a movie with Joe and some friends. 

Sunday was the best mothers day ever. I can't even explain how special my boys made it for me. I love them all so much! Max and Tate were so excited and had their gifts wrapped and ready for when I came downstairs. Tate was first and he made me a beautiful fan and a necklace with stones he painted. Max made me the cutest flower magnet for my fridge and he wrote me a poem. Joe went above and beyond and got me a "mum" mug and a jacket and he organized with a friend of mine to have her make me a beautiful quilt. It's seriously amazing! Thank you Becca:) My mom even got me a darling little tea set that I absolutely love. We headed off to church and since I wasn't feeling well (nausea) I took my first backup nausea pill. It made me tired. I was going to try to stay for all of church, but ended up only making it though sacrament meeting. Porter was having a day and I didn't really have any energy, so my mom and I came home and put him down for a nap. I was able to nap a little and when Joe got home, I was feeling a little down. It was so nice to have him come home and snuggle me while I cried. I'm telling you I am a rollercoaster of emotions right now, one minute I'm fine, the next I'm a mess. Once I got it all out, I felt better so we took the boys on a drive out to Caversham park for a play and to explore. It was a nice afternoon, but again it wore me out and I fell asleep on the drive home and had to rest when we got home while Joe and my mom made dinner. It really was a great day and I have my mom and my sweet husband and my sweet boys to thank for that. 

Monday morning I was feeling sick again and took another backup medicine. I think I've realized that if I am able to eat right when I get up it makes it more bearable (morning sickness). I was able to get ready and take porter on a walk which was nice. I had a dr appointment in the afternoon so Joe came home early and I had to pick the boys up early from school. We took them down so they could play at the park across from the hospital with the huge slide. It started raining like crazy so that was short lived, but it was nice to be together. 

Today has been probably my hardest day so far. I've felt the most nauseous today. I woke up and had good intentions of making the kids pancakes and getting their lunches together. I made the mix and put one pancake on and then I couldn't do it... thank heavens my mom is here. She took right over and got the kids out the door. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with out her, I'm a little nervous about taking over completely. 

I honestly think the hardest part of all of this so far hasn't been the side effects from chemo. It's the emotional side effects. I'm either up or down... it's been hard to stay even and normal. It's hard to look past the next few months and keep perspective on how fast time goes by. The days are moving so slowly and I am trying my best to enjoy each moment I feel good with my kids. I have slowed way down and I know I'm learning so much about myself and about what's important to me. I love talking and hearing from all my friends and family. Your words and encouragement mean the world to me. I'm trying my best to respond to each of you, but know if for some reason I haven't gotten back to you I have appreciated it and it has helped bring a smile to my face or helped answer a prayer. 

xoxo,
Tori

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

One down

Today was a big day and the lead up to it was full of anxiety for me. It couldn't have gone smoother though.

Joe and I dropped the older boys off at school and headed straight to the hospital to meet with my oncologist. I will continue to meet with her every 3rd week before my treatments. She gave me 3 different back up medicines for nausea (to use after my treatment) and told me not to hesitate to use any/all of them if I'm feeling any nausea. In the week leading up to my treatment I had to do a blood test and a heart echo. She told me both came back good, I'm just a little vitamin D deficient so I have to go on a supplement. No big deal really. She's pretty amazing and when we said goodbye to her to head off to chemo she told me I would do great. I don't know why that was so reassuring to me, but it helped me feel super positive about everything. 

Joe and I then headed down to the pharmacy so they could fill my drugs and send them over to the hospital (which is next door). Ironically when I checked in for chemo I was admitted to the last room I was in when I was at the hospital for my prior surgery. Yes, you read that right, I got my own hospital room to sit in while the chemo was administered. This made it so much nicer and easier. I was really able to rest, watch tv, and visit with Joe, my mom and a friend who came in to see me. The nurses told me I can request a room every time since my treatments every week will be 3+ hrs with the chemo combo I'm being given TCH. I'm super happy about that! The actual chemo room is small and cramped and I would be the youngest one in there by years. Not fun.

Once in the room they accessed my port by inserting a huge needle. It hurt so bad! The nurse ended up giving me numbing some cream I will be able to put on before they access it next time. Getting that port accessed was literally the worst part. The nurse then started my series of drugs with an antihistamine. Next went herceptin for 90 minutes. This first treatment will be my longest herceptin treatment, from here they go down to 30 minutes every 3 weeks. I was told I could get chills with this one, I didn't. While the herceptin was being administered I had extreme restlessness and was kinda freaking out. I wanted to pull out my port and was super annoyed. When I asked the nurse what was going on she said it was from the first antihistamine and some people can react the way I was. She told me to see if we can change up that drug next time. I think I will. I was freaking out for a good 1/2 hour.

Next was my first actual chemo drug and they had to start this one out slowly. It's the one people most commonly react to. I was told to look for back pain and redness/flushing and fever. Luckily I had none. There is a possibility that I could still react next time, but I don't think I will. My third drug was easy and went quickly. After my third drug they flushed my port, took out the needle and sent me on my way. Super easy and luckily I felt the same leaving the hospital as I did going in.

It was a long day. We arrived at the hospital at 9:40 am and didn't leave until 5:30 pm. Poor Joe didn't eat lunch while we were there, so we decided to head to dinner after. We tried a new place near the hospital called the Varsity which was the most american food I have ever had in Perth. It was super yum. They even had all our american sodas including rootbeer, cherry coke, dr. pepper and hawaiian punch (this is pretty much a huge deal for us) and they served them with a TON of ice. I felt right at home and it helped with the homesickness I've been feeling. 

I do feel like am one lucky girl and feel so grateful to have such a wonderful supportive man at my side through all this. He truly inspires me and makes me know I can do this and I will get through it and be okay. One more person I could not have made it through the past 5 weeks without is my sweet mom. She has been here and has been my cook, cleaning lady, babysitter, driver, and most of all my friend. I love her and am so happy I get to spend this mothers day with her. It's the best gift I could get for mothers day, having her here. 

I truly feel all of the prayers that are being said in my behalf. It's one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. The power of prayer is real and a friend of mine just sent me an email I just have to share what she wrote because I know it is true she said "The beauty is the influence of prayer is not restricted by geography, time zones, income, or public image and knowledge." Thank you Jen! You inspire me every day. The power of prayer has reached me and I know it's real so thank you for all your prayers. They mean the world to me and lift me up and inspire me. I have faith I will be healed and I will be okay. It may not be easy, but I know it will be worth it. 

Thanks for sending this to me Georgia. I love it!


Sunday, May 4, 2014

This is real

These past few days have been hard. I have found myself getting down and feeling very emotional when I think about my life before cancer. I yearn for it. I miss home and my life before. I struggle when I think about what the near future holds for me, what to expect, how am I going to get through it. 

Lately I've had interesting thoughts, emotions and feelings as I look through Instagram and Facebook. Something I used to and still love to do has become harder and more painful to me. It makes me miss my family and my friends like crazy. It also makes me feel a little jealous and unsettled, everyones lives seem perfect. I know this isn't true and everyone has their own struggles, but its sometimes hard to keep perspective. The ability to see the good in others lives is so much easier than seeing the good in our own especially over social media. I'm trying to focus on seeing all the good in my life. I have been truly blessed and no cancer diagnosis is going to take that away from me. I have a wonderful life and I want to be able to be grateful and remember that through all of this. 

Everyone has their days where life is going to suck and be hard and get you down, but the important thing in those moments is to not shrink. I keep trying to remind myself this. I just finished reading an excerpt from Elder Bednars new book where he talks about Elder Maxwells battle with cancer. He says.... In his October 1997 general conference message, Elder Maxwell taught with great authenticity: “As we confront our own . . . trials and tribulations, we too can plead with the Father, just as Jesus did, that we ‘might not . . . shrink’—meaning to retreat or to recoil (D&C 19:18). Not shrinking is much more important than surviving! Moreover, partaking of a bitter cup without becoming bitter is likewise part of the emulation of Jesus.” (Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ,’” 22).

It's all going to become a reality this week. Chemo starts Wednesday. This is my life right now and I'm struggling with being okay with it. It's hard. It's hard to think about my life before all this. I pray I can be like Elder Maxwell and not shrink. I pray I can learn from this trial I have been given because learning and growing will make it all okay.

xoxo,
Tori

Monday, April 28, 2014

It was a good day

Today we set out to go to 2 different Dr. appointments with the 3 boys in tow. I made the appointments under the impression Max and Tate would be back in school, but it turns out they had an extra day of school holidays. I was so grateful they did. I wasn't ready to send them back. I had a pretty emotional Sunday and still wanted to spend time with my boys before school started up. 

Going to church for the first time since my surgery was harder than I thought it would be. The entire time I was sitting in sacrament meeting, all I could think about was everyone feeling sorry for me. I know I was just being silly, but it's seemed so real in my head when I was conjuring it all up while sitting there. Just as the meeting was coming to a close Porter started to get a little antsy so I quickly told Joe I would take him outside and to meet me at the car.... I guess it was basically to avoid talking to anyone. Then Joe left around 12 that afternoon for a work trip. It hit me how much that guy means to me. I was having separation anxiety with him going for the first time in a long time. I need him and I feel so lucky I have him. It was a hard day for me, I was thinking about the next few months and getting overwhelmed with what's to come. I'm one of those people who thinks their life is in shambles after dark when they can't sleep, this is the feeling I had the entire day..... I knew if I could make it until this morning everything would be okay, and guess what, it was even better than I could have thought. 

I arrived early to my first appointment so I decided to walk across the hall to get my blood work taken (I have to do this before I start my chemo). That was easy. Then onto my physical therapist. She's amazing and calmed all my fears of lympedema. I'm healing normally and she says my range of motion is getting back to normal. I still can't lift more than 5 kilos for 2 1/2 weeks on my right arm and 3 1/2 weeks on my left arm. She gave me this crazy compression garment I have to wear 4-6 hrs per day so the fluid will stop building up in my back. It's ugly. 

We then drove around a little, took the boys to lunch and made it back to the hospital just in time for my appointment with my plastic surgeon. He says I'm healing well, and I agree with him. I'm very surprised at the results of everything already. He also gave me the go ahead to drive, this made me so happy. He drained some fluid from my back and took off all my tape. Then he asked if I wanted to be blown up (a fill of my expander implants) of course I said yes and watched as my boobs grew before my eyes. Pretty cool! He put 100 cc of saline in each side. It was super easy and painless, now it's a little tight, but manageable. 

While I was in my appointment, my mom was supposed to be taking the boys to the park across the street. I went outside though and they were no where to be found. After walking around for about 15 minutes I finally see my car come around the corner.... I guess my mom got stuck driving and couldn't get back to where she wanted to go because of a bunch of one way streets. It turned out to be a good thing for me though and I think it was supposed to happen like that so I could go play at the park with her and the boys.  The sun was finally out and it was a pretty awesome park with a hill top slide (maybe 100 feet down the hill) The boys were in heaven and it was so fun to listen to their laughter and to watch them enjoy being little boys. My mom even got in on the action and went down on the slide with them quite a few times. I love being a mom and these boys make my life better. They make me better and they make me know everything is going to be okay.