Archive for August, 2008

31
Aug
08

More fun on the Antrim Coast Road

I thought when the family and I took a trip up the Antrim Coast Road a few weeks ago, that it would be the last time for a while that I would be making the trip.

However, my mother in law Phyllis very kindly offered to take me and the boys out for the day, to give Ian a bit of respite, and we were all delighted to accept!

We tried to take the road over the Star Bog near Larne to get to the coast, but for some reason ended up taking a wrong turn and wandering (quite happy to be lost!!) around the Antrim moorland for ages before winding our way to the coast. We were totally lost until we happened across Slemish mountain, near Ballymena, where St Patrick is purported to have tended his sheep, and it’s massively distinctive and it was quite a relief to get our bearings once again!!

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We eventually made it to Carnlough, a pretty fishing village, and decided to stop for lunch at the Londonderry Arms, a pretty hotel which I believe has been on the go just about for ever!!

Lunch was lovely, service was slow and it was amazingly hard to catch anyone’s eye. However my food was great, and the kids had a lovely meal too. The boys behaved really well and it was a lovely relaxed meal.

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After lunch, the rain which was so persistent in the morning had cleared up and we went for a walk around the famous and much-painted harbour.

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Northern Ireland has a very close affinity with the sea, you’re never far away- so it’s sad that there are so many sea faring disaster stories littered around the coast. I love that people rarely let these go unforgotten. Here is an example of a beautifully maintained memorial.

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The harbour itself is stunning.

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We then drove round the coast a bit, stopping off on the beach at Waterfoot (or Glenariff, depending on what you prefer to call it!!) before we went home, tired but happy!

That’s Scotland you can see in the background. It’s only 12 miles away! 🙂

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We all had such a lovely day. I really enjoyed the “not driving”- it doesn’t happen very much and I loved looking around me without fear of leaving the road, ha ha!! 🙂

29
Aug
08

More thank you’s, with pics!

Once again I am humbled by the generousity of my friends.

Today, I got through the post the most fabulous crochet blanket from my friend Sara, over at Sarandipity- http://sarandipity9702.wordpress.com

She hand made the blanket herself, and also knitted me some hats for when my hair falls out during chemo! The blanket is a work of art…words fail me. Thank you so, so much for a gift I will always treasure, Sara.

Here are some pics, my neighbours must have wondered what the hell I was doing wrapped in woolies on a mid 20’s/70’s day in August! 😀 My flash on my camera ran out of batteries so my overgrown garden seemed the best place to take the pics!!

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I also wanted to include some pictures of other gifts that people have sent me. I am so touched by all of them, as well as the cards, emails and messages of support that I have been sent by so many people from all over the world. Without your support, I am certain I would not be coping with this nearly as well as I am.

Flowers from my fabulous colleages (and, from what I hear, blog-stalkers) at Fenix Solutions Ltd- the best telecom solutions providers in all of Ireland and damn fine people besides-

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Absolutely stunning landscape photographs, taken and printed by my friend Tina in Virginia-

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Two great books from Kulia at http://papayamom.com

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A variety of great books, including one of all the US States with my friends names marked in it against their states, and some gorgeous get well banners made by Lori’s children-

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Amazing flowers from my friend Bernadette McPolin, who has been a wonderful source of information through this all, as she’s a nurse-

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More gorgeous flowers, from Ian’s employer, Tartan I.S.- greatly appreciated!

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The biggest get well soon card the Ulster Hospital has ever seen, courtesy of Young Ones Day Nursery in Belfast, where my kids go to daycare- wonderful work, guys!!

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Gorgeous flowers from McMillan Estate Agents, who I don’t even know- they work with my partner a lot and I am staggered at their generosity. Buy their houses!!! 🙂

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Flowers from family friends Bert & Eileen, which arrived today- aren’t they beautiful!

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A book from my friend Shannon on the Jan Jubs, and some scarves from Netty!

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Amazing Ansel Adams book from my online friends-

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How blessed am I!! Thanks SO much to everyone who has sent something, even just their positive thoughts and wishes. It all means so very much to me.

28
Aug
08

The most wonderful gift

I posted before how my friend Lori at Fairytales and Margaritas wrote about online friends and the impact they can have on our lives.

I am a member of several private online communities, mainly based around the shared interest of our children. Most of these amazing ladies are from the States and Canada, and we have been sharing our lives since 2004, when most of us were pregnant with babies to be born in January 2005.

These ladies have become such close friends to me. I seriously cannot imagine not having them there, as sounding board, confidantes, sisters. They cheer me up in times of strife, they push me to be a better mother, they help me learn more about myself and about others. We’ve been through everything together- marriages, divorces, births, deaths, laughter, tears and a million things besides. It’s weird, because the forums have something of the sense of the confessional about them- we all know that nothing we say will be taken anywhere else, so somehow I think we share more with each other sometimes than we might with our families or closest offline friends.

I’ve met some of them in “real life”- one of them in Ireland several times when she’s been visiting family, and some of them during a trip to Chicago in 2006, memories of which I will always treasure. I hope I will meet more of them in time, even though we’re geographically so far apart.

They’ve been a massive source of support during my recent trials, and continue to be a wonderful cheering squad as I continue to fight with cancer.

Today, I received a huge parcel in the post. It contained so many wonderful goodies- chocolates, headscarves (thanks Netty!!!), inspirational books, cards…I could go on! There were also two very special books, one being a children’s guide to the US States, into which Lori had written the names of my friends against their individual state. There’s also the most FABULOUS book of Ansel Adam’s incredible photographs of the American West, as they know I love looking at landscapes, which I can’t wait to get properly stuck into!

Best of all though- and the bit which touched me the most- was a huge collection of photographs. My friends had all made “get well soon” banners with their children and took pics of the kids holding them up. These have then been collected up by Lori from all over North America and sent to me in Ireland. I freely admit to bawling like a baby over those, and will treasure them for the rest of my life.

So, to anyone who questions the validity of online friendships, I hope you can see how much these incredible women mean to me. They have been a huge source of help, companionship and advice, love and encouragement. They have championed my cause and stood behind me. And I love them all. Thank you, a billion times over, to those special, special women.

24
Aug
08

Surgery is complete!!

I know most of you won’t really want to know about my surgery- you just want to know that I am through it. Well, I am, and got home today! I feel OK, a bit sore and tired but that’s to be expected. I’m so happy to see my children- even if playing with them is a bit painful and tiring, but they were touchingly pleased to see me. I love them so much, seeing their smiling faces would make anyone feel better!

Emotionally, I am still doing fine. Fret not! 🙂

Now- there are also those of you who want to know everything. I know myself that if you are going through this yourself, you find blogs just to read about other people’s experiences. Therefore, I owe it to other women (and men!) out there to write more about the surgery and recovery. Those of you who prefer to leave it at the above, are very welcome to stop reading here. I won’t love you any less! 😀

When I arrived at the hospital, I had to wait a little while in the day room before they would fit me in. I got changed into a gown and went to the ultrasound department for a minor operation to put  “marker” (a piece of wire, I believe) in the tiny lump in my left breast. Apparently, it was so small (about half a centremetre) that they would have had trouble removing it otherwise.

That was done via ultrasound under local anaesthetic, involving yet another large needle! It didn’t hurt and went ok, though they told me that the lady before me had passed out. I am made of sterner stuff and walked back to the ward! 😀

I went down for the actual surgery at about 2pm. This came as a bit of a surprise, because I wasn’t expecting to go down until about 5pm, so it was all a bit of a rush, maybe no bad thing, though I’d been enjoying reading my book, lol!

Can’t tell you much about the surgery. The anaesthetist told me he was giving me something to make me drowsy- yeah- I guess they’ve abandoned that whole “count back from ten” thing because the next thing I knew I was in recovery! 😀 It hurt a lot, but they gave me some morphine and that sorted it out. I felt pretty unwell the rest of the evening but was feeling OK by the morning.

The nurse came in and asked to check my dressings. I took off my top and to my surprise she whipped off most of the dressings. I was shocked, and had expected to be warned a lot more than that before seeing how I looked. However- it isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. My left breast has a few small scars around the nipple but it doesn’t really hurt despite the bruising, and I think once it’s healed, it won’t really look any different. My right breast again doesn’t lookas bad as I thought it would. It’s actually more that they’ve removed my armpit than my breast from what I can see! There’s a big scar radiating from my nipple out towards the top of my armpit, and then there’s a big gap where normally there’s be more flesh…it’s a bit hard to describe, but no way am I posting pictures, ha ha! I do want a few of you to read again!!! Again, once it heals I bet it won’t look too bad. The worst thing is the lack of feeling in my right arm. They’ve removed all the lymph nodes in my armpit, so I am thinking most of the nerves are damaged or missing, and the inside of my arm has no sensation right down to about half way down the inside of the lower half of my arm.

I felt sick and achey for a few days and didn’t want to go home with the drain in. I gather that in the States, they make you go anyhow, but luckily here they were happy for me to stay in as long as I wanted. I got the drain out today. I was scared about it, as I got a drain taken out of my c-section wound after I had Robbie and it hurt so much that I couldn’t speak for five minutes! It still felt horrible, and the drain appeared to be in my shoulder or thereabouts, where I somehow expected it to be in my breast- drain came out just below my breast on my side- but I am happy to report that although it was uncomfortable, it didn’t hurt to get it out.

I am home now, four days from surgery, with only steristrips on the wounds. 🙂

I’m not supposed to pick the kids up for 6-8 weeks but don’t see how in practical terms I can work that. I feel like my left arm is strong enough.

I’m not allowed- ever- to get my right arm sunburnt, use a disposable razor on that underarm, have blood taken,  loads of stuff I never thought about…it’s mad. The shaving thing is a pain- they suggest using a man’s electric shaver or a cream to remove hair, but as I am not really confident in using either of those options in the next week, my surgeon is going to have to bloody live with it at our next appointment on 1st September, ha ha!

By that appointment, the cancers should have been thoroughly investigated so I should then have a full picture of what I am dealing with. I also have to see physio to make sure my arm is recovering as it should.

Love to everyone who is going through this, and everyone who is sticking with me through this. We can all do it!

Next stop- chemo! Joy!!! 😀

18
Aug
08

Hopefully- a proper plan of action!

I had my CT scan this morning, and thankfully it showed nothing new.

I asked to speak to my surgeon, which was readily granted, so we had a meeting with him today.

I will be having surgery on Wednesday. At this point, they will just be removing the affected tissue. The reason for this is that he wants to get the chemo going as soon as possible, and any complications from the reconstruction would delay it. So, for now, we are simply removing the two lumps on the right and the now-apparently-benign one on the left. We might go for a double mastectomy down the line once my treatment is complete.

With regards to the “false positive” on the benign lump, he says they misinterpreted the initial results and that they were all very upset about it- he showed me reports going back several years and apparently it has never happened in Northern Ireland before. In the whole of the UK last year, there were only 5 false positives. He says the consultant who analyses these things is considered to be the best in the UK and is beside himself. He has offered to meet me to discuss what went wrong, and I will probably take him up on that after the surgery.

I will only be in hospital for a couple of days, which is great news.

So- all systems go! This will probably be my last post until the weekend when I get home. Thanks again for everyone’s messages and positive thoughts. I am quite certain that they have contributed greatly to my ability to keep smiling through all of this! 😀

16
Aug
08

An apology and clarification!

I must have, in the heat of the moment, not written my post yesterday about the trip to the oncologist clearly enough.

I’ve received a lot of messages to the effect of “thank God you don’t have cancer!” but sadly this is not the case.

The right breast still has two cancerous tumours. Those need to be dealt with immediately.

The left breast has a lump in it- they did a biopsy on that lump which apparently showed cancer cells, so they initially told me it was a cancer too (of course). They then took larger biosies of both sides on Wednesday. The one from the right side confirmed the cancer, but they are now saying that the lump on the left side does not show any cancer cells.

So- that’s why I am feeling so confused. I’ve heard of false positives on mammograms and MRI’s before, but don’t understand how they can find cells one minute and then not the next.

Many apologies to anyone who got confused by my last post! I don’t think I was thinking too clearly, because even though one boob has apparently got a reprieve, I felt very angry about the results. I still am, mainly because I don’t understand how this has happened.

Also, I just want them to treat me! We’re nearly three weeks from my initial diagnosis and I feel like no progress is being made at all, whilst the evil cells are merrily dividing away as I sit here and type!! AHHHH!!!

OK, thanks for letting me get that out!! I am heading up to Coleraine for the day to spend some time with my Aunt, who will spoil me rotten and treat me like visiting royalty!! 😀

15
Aug
08

Good news, but mixed with frustration

Well…I think it is good news, but I am massively confused!!

I went to the oncology department this morning as planned, and they took bloods etc and a history with a view to starting my chemo next Thursday.

THEN- the oncologist calls me in and told me that they have got the results of the core biopsies that they did on Wednesday.

They are now saying that I do NOT have cancer in my left boob. Whilst this is good news, I cannot understand how cancer cells were apparently found in the first biopsy they did, but now they can’t find any. They weren’t willing to speculate on why that might be, and I am extremely confused.

They say now that they won’t be doing the chemo first after all, but want to do the surgery first.

I will meet with my surgeon again at some point next week to discuss.

Confused? I sure as hell am!!! I feel very frustrated to be back at square one with no plan of action and a lot of unanswered questions. I don’t know when I will be getting my surgery, or even what the surgery will now be. They are talking about doing a lumpectomy to just remove the two lumps on the right, but I don’t know if I am now happy for them to just do that. I had reconciled myself to a double mastectomy and actually felt like I had peace of mind to some extent because then this can never come back. As I am so young, there is a good chance that this will come back at a later date, as far as I know, and I feel a lot of confusion and upset over the lack of a clear plan.

Anyhow, it is good news, but I still feel annoyed and frustrated, if that makes sense! 🙂




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