DIEP Flap Reconstruction

Reconstruction, oh what a word.  Well the next step in my journey, path, process, <insert your favorite term>, is a big step.  On April 21st I will be having my final reconstruction surgery.  I will be having DIEP Flap surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, also known as Penn Medicine.  Penn performs this surgery more than any other facility in the US and has a success rate over 99%.

DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator) Flap is an intense surgery that involves taking tissue, veins, and arteries from my abdomen and essentially transplanting them to my chest.  That is the simplest explanation, I’ll give a little more detail down below so those that are somewhat squeamish can bail out before then.  You may recall that I fainted during my first biopsy so I completely understand, as fate would have it I am not as squeamish as I was two years ago. 🙂

I mentioned that this is an intense surgery, I typically understate things and am probably doing that here. The surgery itself will likely be about six hours long, my surgery will be a bit shorter than some experience, since I already had my bilateral (double) mastectomy, my surgeons will not have to remove any breast tissue.  I will be in the hospital for five days including the day of surgery, the nurses and doctors will follow me closely during the hospital stay to ensure that the blood supply to the “Flap” or transplanted tissue takes and stays working.  Because Penn has such a large focus on this surgery I’m not too worried, I know that I’ll be in good hands, the best, actually.  I will come out of surgery and from the hospital with four drains (an all time high for me), these drains are basically tubes that go into  little grenade-like things, I like to call them blood grenades.  They’re annoying, somewhat uncomfortable, but they perform an important job of preventing fluid build-up in the area of surgery.  I’ll have two drains on my chest and two on my stomach, they’ll remain in for 10-14 days, perhaps a bit longer.  I will be staying in Philadelphia for about two weeks following surgery, I may be able to go home sooner but we’re planning on two weeks.

All of this does leave me a bit nervous. Being four hours away from home, relying on the kindness of family and friends in CT and PA, having another significant surgery, going back into recovery mode, etc.  I don’t doubt that this is the right choice for me, but I know the road ahead will have pain and work to get back into full health.  Before my mastectomy I had no fear but also no firsthand knowledge of the extent of what I was facing.  Now I have a much better picture of recovery.  I’m not fearful, but I’m aware, much more aware, and that’s OK.  Please pray for me, for us, during this time.  God has been beyond faithful to us, meeting our needs and giving us strength when we had none.  We will be praying for a smooth surgery with great veins and arteries to use, good pain management, smooth healing with no complications, and a good transition for all of us.  Please hold our girls in prayer too, they will be cared for by my parents (pray for them too) and some friends.  I expect they will thrive, but it’s been a long road for them as well.  Matt or I will keep you posted as we continue!! 😀

—— Bail Out Warning ——

DIEP Flap has been around for several years now.  It involves cutting a hip-to-hip ellipse shape (or eye shape) on my abdomen.  Then the primary veins and arteries circulating blood are found, these are followed further into the abdomen by cutting through the fascia and muscle and tails to both vessels are cut.  These arteries and veins will be attached to the mammary vein and artery near the sternum.  The tissue (aka fat) will then be used to form a breast or foob (fake boob).  The fascia and muscles in my stomach will then be sewn back together and my skin pulled together.  For the curious, here are a couple links: a basic description of DIEP Flap and a really interesting abridged video of a DIEP Flap surgery.  I actually watched the video and I did not pass out (!!!) it’s really interesting and further confirmed my conclusion that these surgeons (really all of my Docs) are rockstars.

The Long Overdue Update (Chemo Cycle 2 & 3)

Hi all!
I am very overdue in posting an update on how things are going, I’ll try to be as concise as possible.  I’ve had 3 cycles of chemo, we began on 4/7, had our second treatment on 4/28, and today (5/19) is the third.

You may remember from a post following my first treatment that I was dealing with a LOT of side effects.  I describe it this way, “My body saw the two page list of side effects and decided to make the most out of the chemo experience and pretty much get all the side effects.  Except losing my nails, I still have my finger and toe nails.”  My body’s response led my oncologist to reduce my dose of Carboplatin and Taxotere by 15% for my second cycle, chemo has a standard dose that is determined by weight.  Different people process the chemo differently so some need a smaller dose, some need the standard amount, and some need a greater dose.

The dose reduction made a huge difference!  I still had many of the same side effects but they were less serious and passed by more quickly.  The two symptoms that seem to be compounding are the nausea and the fatigue.  This is not uncommon since the drugs do build up a bit in my system, and both symptoms are manageable.  The nausea seems to last around 7 days; the fatigue lasts almost the entire 3 weeks but I’m still able to get out and, especially by the last week, it is easy to manage.

So we showed up in the AM for my treatment.  First we meet with my oncologist so that she can evaluate how I am doing and make any changes that need to happen.  I have my port accessed so they can draw blood for testing (to see how my red and white blood cell, and platelet counts are) this preps my port to receive the medicines that I’ll be receiving.  Everything looked great so we went ahead with treatment and a mere 6 hours later I was finished.  It can be a long day but we are meeting some nice fellow patients and all the nurses are fantastic!

I am feeling very hopeful that the treatments will continue to be manageable albeit with some side effects, it is chemo after all.  It’s also hard not to be hopeful when I just finished my halfway-chemo dose and the tumor has shrunk noticeably!  This is good news!!

Please hold us in your thoughts and prayers over the next week as I face the worst of the side effects and Matt picks up the slack and juggles Carey and kid care with work and house needs.

Love, Hope, and Laughter!

A special lunch

I realized as I was about to make lunch that we have community dinner at church tonight (read: I don’t have to cook supper) so instead of our favorite peanut butter and jam I opted for a little more special lunch.  Matt will come home for supper so he can get some studying in while the rest of us are at church so I made more than we needed giving him a supper that isn’t something he’s already had.

I started with 2 boxes of Annie’s Shells and  Cheese, some leftover cream of mushroom soup (about 1 cup), 1 can of tuna, drained (I love the no salt added Trader Joe’s tuna) and a large handful of baby spinach (I have long fingers/big hands so it might be more like 2 handfuls).

I cooked the shells and drained the water.  After returning to the pot I added the soup and the “cheese” mix to the pasta.  Once that was combined I added the tuna and mixed that in as well as breaking the chunks of tuna I finished it off with the baby spinach which I tore a little as I was adding it.  I covered the pot and let it set (off the heat) for a few minutes to let the spinach wilt.

Viola.  A not-completely-unhealthy, warm and yummy lunch.  The kids gobbled it up and had seconds and we have leftovers for a side dish or (more likely) Matt’s supper tonight.

Tuna Shell Lunch

Saturday

So my Love is off with the Littles to our local children’s museum (The Lutz Children’s Museum) and I am left to a quite house except for Pup’s pattering and the radio.  To my fellow moms is there a nicer thing after a week of kids all the time and lots of snow?

Quiet…

Peace…

OK that was nice now its time to shower and run errands.  We are out of milk and our old house is leaking cold air like… well like old houses will do in the middle of winter.  So the day keeps going albeit a bit more quietly.  I hope you’re having a great weekend and enjoy whatever quiet and peace that you have in your day.

Skipping Thanksgiving

When  I started this blog I fully intended on writing often.  I was pretty confident that I would not write daily but I found myself hoping to write a few times a week.  I have a ways to go.

Thanksgiving was about 1.5 weeks ago and we are full into Advent and all the preparations for Christmas but I want to revisit Thanksgiving.  This season is my favorite time of year, beginning with Thanksgiving and continuing through Christmas and the New Year.  So here is my little “I’m thankful for…” list.

I’m Thankful for …

my family. This begins with my husband, continues on to my littles and extends to my parents, sibling(s), in-laws, nieces and nephew, etc.  My family is amazing.  They are smart, funny, punny, creative, inspiring, forgiving, gracious, loving, nurturing and mine.  And I love them.

my friends.  Every one of them make my life more full and rich.  They show me new things about myself, they listen and empathize and encourage.

my home.  Its over 100 years old, probably more like 150 years.  It has little drafts and all the quirks that come with old homes.  But it also has tin ceilings, a cool front porch, a great yard, some new flower beds (put in by me), a large kitchen, a coziness that comes with age.  These walls have survived the Great Depression, 2 World Wars, probably the Civil War and the abolition of slavery.  They have protected families from hurricanes, nor’easters, snow, rain, hail, wind, sun and heat.  I have more in my old cracked home than most people in the world.  I am thankful for these walls and I would love to hear the stories they could tell.

my life.  Life is a precious gift, it can be hard and painful but it can also be glorious and beautiful.  It is always precious and sacred.

There is so much more that I could list but those are the big things.  Now to carry those with me into Christmas.