Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chemo update:

This oncology appointment went well.  I had to go early to get another "gallon" of blood drawn. :)  They put my in a room shortly after to wait for the doctor and we were in so long, I finally laid down and went to sleep on the exam table with the paper pillowcase.  I had never done that before. 

I wasn't sure if I would decide to keep chemo treatments local or if I would go to Spokane where I am already comfortable with their Cancer center.  The doctor came in VERY prepared with my patient history and was great.  I appreciated his attention to detail, his caring demeanor, and how much time he had put into researching my cancer and my case.  I felt peace with using him for this part of my treatment and I am happy that he is only 20 mins away.  It will be perfect!  I meet with the surgeon to put in my port tomorrow and I think that small surgery will likely be on Thursday.  I am blessed that appoinments opened up when I needed them and that this is happening during the best "window of opportunity" where the cancer is compromised from the Heated Chemo that I already had. 

This phase of chemo starts next Tuesday and will last 4-6 hours for the infusion.  I will have to bring home a small fanny pack type pump that will continue to infuse chemo for the next 48 hours.   I will do this routine every 14 days for 6 months.  We did go through the side effects of the chemo and there are some that will be rough...but I CAN DO IT...and I WILL DO IT!  Life is worth all of it...and I just hope it all works!!  I might not have posted, but I think it is important to understand that we now know I have stage 4 cancer.  This diagnosis was finalized during the last surgery where they saw how much it has spread.  It is serious, but I am very optimistic about the treatments.  I can't wait to return to my favorite job of mother and wife...and spend many more years having fun with my family!

Monday, March 29, 2010

More questions...and hopefully more answers!

This afternoon I meet with the leading oncologist in town.  Before my sugery, they rejected me as a patient because they had never treated my cancer (because it was too rare) and it was out of their comfort zone.  Now that I have had that Mother of all Surgeries and the HIPEC (Heated chemo), I am hopeful that they will allow me to stay local and continue my systemic chemo instead of having to drive so far for each appointment..  Today I will hopefully find that out.  I have several questions that I hope to get answered this afternoon, and I will post once I know more.

Touching reminders I am surrounded by LOVE!

I have been receiving quite a few amazing gifts that have touched my heart and have made a huge impression on my family and I.  I am sorry that I am not posting all of them, but please know that they have been SO appreciated.  I have taken pictures of all that I have received and want to put together a small slide show, but it takes more energy than I have at the moment. 

I just want you to know that you have done two things:
1. Given me a small crush on the mail man (well, I think it is a crush, because I wait all day long for him to come and get so excited when I see his mail truck...sorry Larry, I think it is a phase)
2. AND~You have made me feel more supported and LOVED than I ever knew possible.  That has made the bad days bearable.  Thank you so much!!!

This is one of those amazing reminders of love.  I was given this amazing quilt right before I went in for this surgery! So much love went into this quilt, the idea of starting such a prject, the work of gathering squares from families both our old and new wards (church groups), putting them together, quilting the front, finishing the whole thing.   So many hands went into each phase of this great project and when they gave it to me my heart was so full.  Each time I look at it, it brings peace...and I adore it!  Each individual square touches my heart... I am reminded again how blessed I am!

Friday, March 26, 2010

To tell the truth...

I am having a ROUGH week.  I am staying positive, but don't want to lie... this surgery is a big deal and the healing process is going to take a while.  I can do this, but will admit that I am having a really ROUGH week.  Thank you for your continued prayers.  At this time, I need healing and comfort.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It keeps running without a hitch...

It is amazing how my life keeps going while I am not able to participate.  I am so grateful that amazing people step into my shoes and carry on for my children.  This morning my parents took the girls to our neighborhood egg hunt, then they have a birthday party, then Aana has a soccer game, and so on.

It is time that I thank all those who work behind the scenes in my life keeping it together for me while I can't.  My mom cheerfully slept in a miserable cot beside me every night at the hospital taking care of all the things that the nurses didn't have time to or want to do.   Larry and my Dad have juggled work and kid duties to be beside me and have been there every step of the way.  My sister is willing for any task and rescues me when needed.  My mother in law flew out and stayed with my girls while I was in the hospital...and my father in law entered a cancer benefit run and ran in my behalf. 

There are hundreds more behind the scenes that I want to thank.  You keep working tirelessly for me...taking my children to their lessons, making me a calendar for my appts., teaching preschool even on my days, making be beautiful blankets, organizing my pantry while I am in Dr.'s appoitnments, surprising me with lunch, making decorations for my hospital room, sending me packages of cheer, gathering the ward to make a beautiful quilt for me, random acts of kindness, saying just what I need to hear on rough days and SO much more. 

I have always been taught to choose good friends...but recently I realized that my family and friends are ANGELS!  I hope each of you know how grateful I am to have you in my life!!!  

Friday, March 19, 2010

Two steps forward and one step back!

Today I am very nauseous and am feeling a bit weaker than yesterday, but that is pretty normal.  There will be good days and bad days...  it is helping me to think about where I was a week ago.  The change during that time is absolutely amazing.  I am not sure if it was posted or not, but I actually coded the first night in the hospital.  The CNA came in my room to do vitals and found me unresponsive.  I remember waking up to about 20 doctors hovering over me busy, yelling, and anxious...I couldn't hear them over the loud ringing in my ears, but the looks on their faces scared me.  I remember trying to say, "am I going to make it?" I had a tube in my throat and could barely mumble words, so they couldn't hear me.  They didn't know I was awake, I guess, and I couldn't tell them.  It was a very humbling experience.  I couldn't talk for quite a while and finally found comfort in my Savior who let me know that if I wanted to continue on...I would.  And I wanted to so bad!!!  So much has happened in the last 11 days... I am so grateful to just be nauseous!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Waking in my own bed is an AMAZING thing!

I have to post to tell you of my most exciting advancement.  I am HOME!!  And this morning, I woke up in my own bed, with my husband and daughters snuggling me. 
Addie was so excited I was home that she couldn't take her eyes off me...
she was completely giddy. 
I felt the exact same way! 

I could have had to stay in the hospital for several more weeks, but I was so fortunate to have passed all of the requirements quickly and didn't run into the complications that occur in so many of these cases.  I feel SO blessed!!!!  

The past two weeks have been the hardest weeks of my life, without a doubt.  There were several points where I had to stop and think...."can I really do this?"...I am tempted to explain, but probably shouldn't, but believe me when I say it has been brutal.  Through it all, I was fortunate to have my family, my friends, my support system and all of you in my mind rooting me on and giving me the strength to carry on.  It was truly amazing!!!

I am too tired right now to post more details, but wanted to share my JOY! I AM HOME!!! It will still be a LONG road, but now I have that huge surgery behind me...and it feels good to have one thing DONE!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Slow recovery

Hello everybody, I thought I would make a quick update on Shanda's progress in the hospital.  It has been about five days since her surgery and to be honest, she is having a very hard recovery. I think a lot harder than we all envisioned, yet she is getting stronger each day and slowly progressing. She has finally been able to drink clear liquids, which she was very happy with.  As expected, biopsy reports came back with some cancerous lesions present in various parts of her abdomen and liver, very small, but they were there.  The important thing is that they have been removed and it confirms even more how vital it was to have this surgery.  We don't know when she will come home, hopefully later next week.  Per Dr. intructions, visitors are out of the question, plus I just don't think she wants to be be seen in her present condition, maybe early next week.   It has also been hard for her to talk on the phone, However, she would LOVE emails and text messages, she has her phone next to her at all times.  If you need her phone number or email address, please email me at larrybraithwaite@gmail.com.  It is the highlight of her day when she hears from someone.  She continues to need your prayers and support.  Thanks again to all.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Out of Surgery

This is Larry and I just wanted to give a quick update on Shanda.  It was a long day with a eight hour procedure. Overall, everything went as well as we could have hoped for.  Our Dr. did find several very small questionable deposits in various areas of her abdomen. This was expected because we knew the cancer was not contained after her appendix had burst.  Those were removed and will be biopsied.  They could be nothing or could be cancerous, regardless they are all removed and that is the important thing.  He did some peritoneal stripping, removal of her omentum and more of her colon and any scar tissue from her previous surgeries.  Finally, they poured and stirred heated chemo throughout her abdomen for 2 hours.  The idea is that the chemo is supposed to kill any of the leftover microscopic cancer cells.  It is amazing what they can do these days.  If this was five years ago, we wouldn't have had this option. 
     Shanda is now recovering, many tubes coming out everywhere, but she seems comfortable.  It helps that she will have a epidural for the next several days to help with the pain.  She is in good spirits.  I just want to take this moment to thank everyone for their prayers and kindness.  Shanda tears up daily thinking of all the support she has, it has been amazing.  She didn't say much after her surgery,  I can obviously understand, but she did mumble something about being greatful for having this trial because it has made her a better, stronger person... I know, crazy, my wife finds the positive in everything, she is awesome and I lover her so much.

Anyway, we feel like everything went very well.  I will try to keep this updated, she is better at this than i am, but I will do my best.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Time has Come!

Today I leave for Spokane and will stay the night as I do the preparations needed for my surgery.  I report to the hospital at 6 am and my surgery starts at 7.  It is a LONG surgery, but when there are updates, Larry will post on the blog to let everyone know how things are going...I am nervous (insanely nervous), but ready! 
I feel strong, supported, hopeful, loved... and I am ready to kick cancer's butt!

You are ALL adding to my strength and your prayers are being answered...please keep it up and know how much I appreciate you!!!

Grins, giggles, and TONS of fun!

We had a blast and needed it.  I can go into this surgery with my childrens giggles in my mind and their grins permanently emblazoned in my memory. It was perfect! 
We went to Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, Disneyland, and California Advertures, and saw some wonderful family.  We were there when the parks opened and stayed until they closed.  We enjoyed every minute of it!