Sunday, December 26, 2010

My Reason

Please let us remember Jesus is the Reason! Merry Christmas to all! Hope you all enjoyed your family as much as I did this holiday season. I enjoyed Christmas more than ever before. Then, today we celebrated the Holy Family at mass! Today's scriptures meant a whole lot to me...the happiness in the Holy Family is not because they are perfect, but because together they surmounted their troubles with faith, perseverance, and love. The scriptures also remind us that Happiness can be achieved by accepting Jesus into our lives. And do not forget, whatever you do, in word or deed, do it in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Another year passes and I am ever thankful for my parents and the parishoners at St. Columba that set a great example for me to establish a relationship with Jesus. Jesus has placed me in a much larger "spiritual" family where our hurts are healed, our hearts are mended, and our souls renewed. I guarantee you that we have had our share of hurts in the last 2 years, but they are healed and our hearts are mended and I have a renewed sense of life!

Earlier this fall, Heartland Health promoted Breast Cancer Awareness with the production of a video and local commercial. These can be found on youtube. To view the video, please click this link and look for me in my Pink Santa Hat! Thank you all for giving me a Reason to Dance!

Heartland Health's Reason to Dance

The reconstruction of DaBoob has been very easy. I have been getting a weekly fill of 50 or 100 CCs and it is simply a syringe poke in a port. I have no pain and very little discomfort. The discomfort I do have is from the tightness, but I am still very lucky because it has not bothered me like other survivors I have talked to. We are awaiting the last 50 CCs into the tissue expander. Unfortunately, we will probably have to wait a few more weeks. The last time I saw Dr. Cannova, he encouranged me to do some deep tissue massaging on DaBoob. He informed me that it would be easier and more beneficial if I used a warm wash cloth to warm the area before the massaging. I have never claimed to be the smartest woman in the world...I decided that I could easily warm the area with my corn pad that is heated in the microwave. When I removed the corn pad, I saw 2 blisters on DaBoob and nearly paniced. Apparently, there is less feeling in DaBoob than I realize and the skin is still sensitive from the radiation. I literally burnt DaBoob. I have attempted to massage the areas that I can, but I anticipate that Dr. Cannova will need to let the skin heal completely before he finishes filling the tissue expander. Just a minor set-back. We should hopefully be done in 2-3 months.

Hugs & Kisses to All!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Champagne it is!

Thanks for the idea Steph...I think it is time for Champagne! The Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Cannova, said the "boob" looks beautiful. That is not quite how I would describe it, but I am encouraged by his comment. I was right on the border with my drainage, but he said I was doing so good that he was willing to remove the drain a week earlier than planned. I tried to get him to add some saline to the tissue expander, but he did not want to push our luck. I will make a trip to see him next Thursday for my first expansion. I did get released to drive and that is a relief. I do still have a lifting limitation and am supposed to stay within the 5 lb. range. Dr. Cannova asked me if I needed another Rx for pain meds and Dan told him I had not even taken any. So, then he commented that he was impressed I was able to control the pain with Tylenol and Ibuprofen, but Dan quickly corrected him and told him I did not have any pain and had not taken anything at home. He was completely impressed that I had no pain. I am ever thankful for all the prayer warriors and support!

This may be TMI, but you know me by now...the breast skin on the "boob" is completely numb. We have talked and we guess that the skin will always be that way, but I have made a note to talk to Dr. Cannova about that. It is a very strange sensation. It is also very strange to feel the squishy expander below the breast skin. It just feels like a plastic bag under there. The skin is fairly dark and I blame it on the radiation, but others have suggested that it appears to be bruised. I promise that it does not feel bruised. I have also noticed that the saline in the expander shifts, especially when I bend over to do something. It almost feels like it is going to gush right down to the floor. Funky...that is the best description I can think of. Still no pain or discomfort, just simply getting used to my newest body part and lopsided profile.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

God is Great!

Whew!!! Still not an ounce of pain or discomfort since surgery. I am in the best spirits and continue to pray the reconstruction process is truly this easy. I was elated to hear the doctor say there was NO RESIDUAL CANCER in the breast tissue...NONE. Dan immediately asked if I regretted the decision for the mastectomy and I told him, "Absolutely NOT!" I am simply thrilled to know the cancer has not been in there for several months doing its thing. NO CANCER. I can handle that message.

I will see the Plastic Surgeon on Thursday and hopefully it will be a big day for me. I will hopefully get the drain removed even though I am scheduled to have it for 2 weeks. And I will hopefully be released to drive and lift. We will see what happens. Currently, I am basically helpless and do not get much accomplished. My daily routine consists of a shower and lots of rest while everyone around me pampers me and takes care of my family.

My Mother and My Sister have been Angels of God! No one deserves to go through this alone, but not sure I deserve to have such wonderful care for my family and me. Our mass on Sunday concentrated on Heaven and THIS must be Heaven...Love to Eternity without need! I need nothing because they have already given me more than I could have ever wanted and I do Love them to infinity and beyond. Thank God for the love, support, help and prayers! God is Great!

My Aunt Marilyn is planning to come home from the hospital today and we continue to prayer for her health and happiness. She, too, is fortunate to have a strong family and support system and we will continue to be her prayer warriors!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Power of Prayer

This is Mary's sister. Wow, my sister is AMAZING!! Surgery is over and the tissue expander is in place. What a wonderful feeling it is to know that all that stupid monster is out of her body. The surgery was two hours long and recovery one hour and it went really fast. The surgeon told us that he didn't see any tumor but would have to send off and hope to have the pathology report back next week. He really feels all they will find is scar tissue or dead cells but to have it out of her has eased all our minds! It will take a couple months of putting solution in the tissue expander and then they will remove that and put in the implant. Both the surgeon and plastic surgeon told us she would be very sore and warned her that it would be very tight and uncomfortable. She had to prove them wrong and when we got to see her she had a smile a mile long on her face and just relieved that the monster was out of her!! She tells us that she has no pain and she finally took a pain pill at 9 p.m., just so we could go for a walk and she did absoultely great! I left the hospital and came over to our cousins apartment for the night, thanks so much Kim and Amy for letting us bunk with you a couple nights, and am excited to get back this morning to see how her night went. They told us that she could go home after dinner today as long as she didn't get sick, so I pray we will be on the road home around 2 p.m. I know Mary is very excited to be home and see the kids, they are her life!! Please say a extra prayer for our Aunt Marilyn, she is at KU having surgery today as the monster has reentered her body. It is up and down her spine and has broke her vertebrae. We pray that all goes well with her today! Thank you all so much for the prayers, they really do work. Fr. Emil Kaupan Please watch over and heal my baby sis and Aunt Completely, AMEN!

Monday, September 27, 2010

New Boob Coming Soon!

November 3rd cannot get here fast enough. The mastectomy and immediate reconstruction is scheduled for Wednesday, November 3rd at St. Luke's South in Overland Park. I will have a single mastectomy of the left breast. I will be in the hospital for 1-2 nights, then several weeks off work to recover and heal.

The plastic surgeon is focused on gaining symmetry with the right breast...still not sure how he will build a saggy boob, but guess we will find out soon. I will be glad to have a cancer free boob and I am thinking I need to lose some weight so I will look good with a new boob.

We talked back in July that there is not a good time for this. Dan's football regular season will be over, but the Bulldogs should be in the State Playoffs and will have a game on Saturday, the 6th. I am hoping my sister (Oh HELL, I KNOW my sister) will get the kids and me to the game on the 6th. I will be basically useless, but know she will take great care of my family and me. I love her to the moon and back!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

God's Presence

I have felt the presence of God several times during this fight, but never more than today. I had my final consult with a 3rd Plastic Surgeon in Omaha. I saw 2 in Omaha and 1 in Kansas City over the last few weeks. After my consult today, I was prepared for one of the hardest decisions ever. I have the strongest loyalty to Dr. Silva in Omaha and the Plastic Surgeon in Kansas City is the best by far. The optimal situation for me is to start reconstruction immediately after the mastectomy in the same procedural setting. Unfortunately, immediate reconstruction is nearly impossible with the Oncologist Surgeon in Omaha and the Plastic Surgeon in KC. Dan and I had met with a surgeon and plastic surgeon in KC and liked them both, but I was struggling with the idea of betrayal.

Fortunately, Dr. Silva's nurse called and said they would see me today while I was in Omaha. I visited with his Case Manager first and explained to her how heart-broken I am to make such a tough decision. She reassured me that Dr. Silva would be very supportive and understanding. She reminded me that this is MY FIGHT! Dr. Silva was completely supportive and he was very pleased to hear the surgeon's name that I had consulted in KC to perform the mastectomy. Dr. Silva and the surgeon in KC are medical friends and have a respectful relationship. When I sit back and truly think about it, there is no other explanation other than God's Presence.

The KC surgeon's office called while we were on the way home from Omaha and they had already received a referral phone call from Dr. Silva and they are scheduling a pre-op appointment for me. The end is near...Glory Be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Not the option I was looking for

Shame on me! I should have went to the appointment with more of an open mind. We did meet with a plastic surgeon last week in Omaha. But that is not exactly the option I was looking for. His proposal is to use the Latissimus Dorsi flap from my back AND a tissue expander with implant replacement. It seems to me that people typically do one or the other, not both. He also indicated that if he did anything at all to the right breast (the healthy one), it would probably be a reduction to obtain symmetry. He is the first doctor to warn us that radiated breast tissue does not expand. Not that I want to fill out the DD bra Dan bought me for Christmas, but I really do not want to end up in a training bra either. I was also prepared for an over night stay for the surgery and an 1-2 week recovery. But, this would be a 3-5 day inpatient stay for the surgery and a minimum 4 week recovery. He continually reminded us this will be a year long process and does not just happen overnight.

I am planning to meet with a Plastic Surgeon in Kansas City and a different one in Omaha in the next couple weeks. Dr. Silva's nurse encouraged me to get the other opinions. She said this needs to be the exclamation point and when the fight is over, they want me to be comfortable and confident in the decisions we made.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Road to a Cure

Finally the road to a cure is paved. The road ends with a single mastectomy of the left breast. Dr. Silva has scheduled a consult with a Plastic Surgeon in Omaha and I will meet him at the end of August. He will go through all the options and details of the reconstruction.

Disclaimer...This is all subject to change and is dependent on the consult with the Plastic Surgeon.

The plan is for Dr. Silva to perform the mastectomy and during the same surgical setting the Plastic Surgeon will start the reconstruction process. A tissue expander will be placed under the muscle and over a period of 2-4 months, they will increase the size of the tissue expander. Once symmetry with the right breast is reached (not sure how they build a saggy boob), I will have an outpatient procedure to replace the tissue expander with an implant. Once I have had time to heal, we will explore options to tattoo a nipple. As of today, I am thinking forget the nipple, but guess I will know more as time goes on. I do not expect that to bother me (or Dan), but who knows, maybe it will!

I do want to share with you that Dr. Silva and staff indicated he worked with 3 Plastic Surgeons in Omaha and asked if we wanted the 1st one we could get in to. Dan immediately responded, "NO! We want the Best One!" We discussed for awhile and then Dan said, "On second thought, maybe you better send us to the one that will put up with us!" We all chuckled. I will wear my boxing gloves and see how the Plastic Surgeon responds.

Dr. Silva did warn me there is always a possibility that pathology will not find any DCIS in the breast tissue. He indicated that he would be devastated to share that news with me if that is how all this plays out. I tried to reassure him that I am (we are) completely comfortable with the mastectomy and are simply ready to end this journey with a testimony of the Power of Prayer! I will be completely relieved to have the cancer out of my system!

Thanks so much for the continued support and for including us in your prayers!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Torch of Faith

My Torch of Faith burns bright! I have prayed for early detection of cancer for others and myself leading to more and more cures. I wasn't quite expecting it this soon, but I am so thankful it was detected quickly and will be cured. The MRI did confirm that I do not have invasive cancer, so that means NO MORE chemo or radiation...shouts of joy to the Lord!!! Several doctors have every reason to believe that I do have DCIS, Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, which is cancer contained inside the milk duct. Unfortunately, DCIS can become Invasive Cancer. Treatment for DCIS consists of surgical removal without chemo or radiation. The only proof will be a biopsy, but I have recommendations from my chemo and radiation doctors to bypass the biopsy and proceed with the mastectomy. After the mastectomy, pathology will evaluate the breast tissue and cells and determine what the calcifications represent. The problem with the biopsy prior to the mastectomy is the results could come back negative, giving us false hope that no cancer remains in the left breast. However, the doctors that have reviewed my mammo and MRI are convinced that DCIS remains. The mastectomy will provide the comfort I need to sleep at night.

We do see Dr. Silva on Tuesday in Omaha, so I am anxious to see if he agrees. I definitely have some research ahead of me because there are several options for mastectomy and reconstruction. I am hoping to get some sort of timeline from Dr. Silva on Tuesday. As of yet, I do not have the impression that we need to rush into this and make a quick decision. I think I will have some time to find the option, the physician and the timeline that works best for us!

Dan starts football practice tomorrow. He says I need to do my mammogram in some other time of the year to avoid all the chaos! With all the support, we will not have a problem.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Results are Inconclusive

Dr. Silva was not ready to perform a biopsy after reviewing the mammogram results. Instead, he ordered a MRI of the breasts and he is hoping the MRI provides him the information he needs to reach a conclusion. He was disappointed with the mammo results, but determined to identify exactly what the calcifications are before formulating next steps. Several people were upset that we did not come home with answers, but I am comfortable that he is taking every precaution to do what is in my best interest. He was adamant that he wanted to get as much information to me as possible by Friday so that we do not have to go through another weekend of hell.

Thanks to a dear friend at Heartland, I am scheduled for a MRI on Thursday afternoon. I should be able to fax the results to Dr. Silva and hopefully we can discuss them over the phone on Friday before the weekend.

My head is spinning and the situation is overwhelming to say the least. I am continuing to pray for a cure, for the love of family, for the support of friends, and for the guidance from expert doctors. I am in great hands...God's hands!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

To Hell and Back...And Back AGAIN!!!

No! No! No! All in a year's hell and back! And NO! I do not want to go back again!

I was pumped up for July 24, 2010, the one year anniversary of my initial mammogram and diagnosis. I spent the day at Lake Viking with a Best Friend from high school and our families. I had warned her we were celebrating and drinking lots of champagne. We had an eventful weekend at the lake and enjoyed every minute of it.

I am still utterly amazed to think of everything we went through in just a short year. I am so thankful to have a head full of curly hair, to have my health, to have my family and friends, and to have my job. Last fall I received a card from my sister's friend and she shared that her husband's battle was now but a faint memory. I was beginning to think that maybe some day this would all be a faint memory. Then...

July 28, 2010. I be-bopped into the mammography room with not a care in the world...feeling great and looking healthy. Ready for my first, routine, annual mammo...ready for my first cancer-free mammo. Tonight, as I sit here "in a fog", shaking my head "no", I still cannot believe her words..."how much do you want to know today?!?" "NO! NO! NO!", was my internal response. Immediately, I felt the life get sucked out of me. I don't know how well you know me, but I wanted the whole truth and nothing but the whole truth. I got just that.

The mammogram report reads...There is a persistent collection of calcifications medially in the left breast possibly 3.8 X 2cm in the CC projection and in the ML projection 4cm in length. These were present before and persist. In addition, there are some linear calcifications just deep to the nipple. IMPRESSION: BIRADS 5, highly suggestive of malignancy. This is a residual appearance post lumpectomy. From the distribution of the extensive calcifications I do not think the patient is and may not have been a lumpectomy candidate.

I am still having difficulty understanding. My heart says its ok, its a false alarm and my brain says the expertise of the Radiologist is hard to deny and my gut says %#*@!!! After they shared the results of the mammogram, I immediately called Dr. AJ, my trusted chemo doctor! He called me back and when I answered the phone, he said, "Mary Collins. Slow-down, take it easy, we know nothing for certain." AJ had talked to the radiologist that read the mammogram and shared that the calcifications truly could be benign, but the radiologist indicated they were very similar to the findings on my first mammogram. There is hope that this is a false alarm and there is hope for a cure if this is for real.

I am scheduled for a biopsy on Tuesday, August 3rd, in Omaha, with Dr. Silva, my surgical oncologist. I am anxiously awaiting his intuition and final diagnosis! Tuesday cannot come fast enough.

Thank-You for all the prayers and well wishes! I will get my boxing gloves back out and I will be ready to fight!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Time to RELAY

YAY!!! It's time to RELAY! Tonight is the American Cancer Society Gentry County Relay for Life in Stanberry and I am bubbling with excitement! It is one of my favortist events of the year. My girls call it "Sashy's Walk". But, tonight, I will be PROUDLY walking that Survivor Lap with my Big Sister in our purple survivor shirts.

I probably should apologize for my lack of posts to my blog spot, but it is true...I have been CELEBRATING and I am not sorry for that! I finished my radiation treatments on April 2nd, which was the Friday before Easter. Timing is everything and it was great to also Celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior that same weekend. For me, it was truly a celebration about LIFE. I had an appointment with Dr. AJ on April 15th, and he gave me instructions to "put my boxing gloves away" because my FIGHT IS OVER! I was elated to hear those words. Brings tears and emotion still today...IT IS OVER! I saw Dr. Silva in Omaha on May 6th, and his nurse said, "What? No boxing gloves?!?" Dan told her I had permission to put them on the shelf and she simply beamed! She was proud to be a part of my fight as well! She told us that Dr. Silva had used my Boxing Glove Story as the introduction in some of his presentations and speeches. Dr. Silva had a couple residents with him and was providing them the background on my case and looked at me and asked if this had been 2 years of hell? I quickly responded that I was not sure I could have handled 2 years of HELL and that it had only been 9 months since my diagnosis. It is truly amazing what can happen in less than a year.

As I prepare for the Relay tonight, I vividly remember last year's Relay. I was in one of the best "places and spaces" of my life. Dan and I had celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary in St. Croix just weeks before. I had signed up for the Cancer Prevention Study the week before at the Buchanan County Relay (silly me...didn't even think about receiving a breast cancer diagnosis weeks later)! The night of the Relay, I was able to bond with my cousin and we shared life's perspectives. Lisa, Kim, and I kept our Relay team on the track until 6AM. Here I am a year complete amazement! I didn't know so much could happen in one simple year!

One year of ups and downs, tears of suffering and joy, busy yet exhausting schedule, and appointments upon appointments with various physicians. I literally had ONLY 2 weeks between July 24, 2009, and April 2, 2010, that I did NOT see a doctor or receive a treatment. That is crazy! I could not have survived without the committed support from family, friends and co-workers. I will be thinking of all of you tonight as we walk and raise awareness.

Praying for the CURE!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Breath of Fresh Air

AHHHHH!!! It was so refreshing to play outside after dinner tonight. We are finally experiencing some gorgeous weather and the mud puddles are nearly gone. No complaints from me about the sunshine!!

Can you believe it?!? 31 treatments done and 3 more to go...yes...3 more left, that's it! Friends at work commented this week how fast the time has gone. I guess it has, but I will be relieved to not have a daily commitment looming on my calendar. I really have been going to the Radiation Cancer Center for 7 weeks. More often than not, I think timing is so important. The timing of the completion of my radiation treatments could not be more timely for me. After Friday, I will truly consider myself a SURVIVOR, fighting for LIFE. What better timing than Easter weekend when we celebrate LIFE?!? This will be an extra special Easter Jubilation for me!!!

We have been in the mode of celebrating lately. My niece's basketball team, the Jefferson Lady Eagles, placed 2ND in the State Basketball Tournament. Our 1990 3rd place team was able to sit court side during the championship game and it was very special to cheer for our very own team. I am so proud!

The ride home was not so much fun and definitely nothing to celebrate. It was the scariest ride I have ever experienced. The snow storm and winter weather advisory was awful and we drove right through it. The trip home from Columbia is normally 3 hours and it took us 5 1/2 hours. I rode with a blanket over my head and Mother and I prayed the Rosary for most of the trip on I-70. We made it all the way to our driveway and then had to stay all night with Mother because our driveway was drifted shut. Dan was not thrilled that he drove the entire way in the storm "to sleep at my Mother's house". We were planning on sleeping in our own beds, but were grateful that Mother let us stay with her.

On Saturday, we attended the Benefit Volleyball Tournament and it was too much fun. Thanks to my Corporate Challenge teammates for coordinating and sponsoring the event. Thanks to all the participants and donors. It was a successful day. Friends from Maryville won the tournament. If I was organized, I would post a picture. Sorry.

We were in Seneca, KS on Saturday night to celebrate 60th Birthdays for my Uncle and Cousin. We had an absolutely wonderful time. Even my girls asked why we do not see those cousins very often...shame on us. It was great!

Life is Good! The Countdown in on! Celebration of LIFE this weekend!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

State Bound

I am just finishing the packing for a weekend trip to the State Basketball tournament in Columbia. The Jefferson Lady Eagles are playing in the Final Four of Class 1. My girls may be more excited about "vacation" and the opportunity to swim than the basketball games, but they are young...there is still hope for them.

I think I mentioned our 20th anniversary of our 1990 Class 1A Basketball 3rd place this year. Last year was our 20th anniversary of our 1989 Class 1A Basketball State Championship. How rare is this...the Jefferson Lady Eagles qualified for the Final Four last year and this year. Both years that we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we have the distinct honor to cheer for our own Blue and Gold. Now that is VERY IMPRESSIVE! I wish I could say we are heading back next year to celebrate another 20th anniversary, but we were left on the Quarterfinals court my senior year...3 points short of a 3rd trip to the Final Four. One of my nephews is a senior and they lost the Quarterfinal game last Saturday night by 3 points. I tried to tell him that I know exactly how he feels! Life goes on, but it is a memory I hope to never forget!

We will stop in St. Joe for my radiation treatment on the way to Columbia. The techs are excited to finally meet Bo. Malia and Maggie have both gone to a radiation treatment with me, so the techs have met the girls. Now, they will get a chance to meet the "big guy". I warned one of the techs that she is not allowed to keep Bo...I am almost certain she will want to. Every person that works at the Cancer Center is completely genuine, very talented and damn good at what they do.

Tomorrow will be treatment number 24. I will have 4 regular treatments and 6 boosts left after tomorrow. I do get to take Friday off, which is probably a good thing because I am starting to burn. I peeled for the first time yesterday...not bad...about the size of a quarter. It does not hurt and it does not bother me so I am truly blessed to be so lucky. The prayers continue to work in my favor.

Speaking of prayers...please say a prayer for a special friend and his family. He was diagnosed with colon cancer today. He is our rock. We have always been able to depend on him and he has taken great care of our family. Now it is our turn to help him for a change. Prayers for a complete cure!

Monday, March 15, 2010

VB Benefit Info

We have a request to post the Volleyball information and roster on the blogspot. Please click the link below to access the document.

Volleyball Benefit Information and Roster

Saturday, March 13, 2010

20 Treatments done

WOW! How time flies...Dan said something to me this week about finishing up week 2 of radiation treatments. I just stared at him and finally said, "How about you try WEEK 4?!?" He was in shock and could not believe that we were in week 4 already. So, 20 treatments done...8 more regular treatments to go, plus a few "boost" treatments!

I did get to see Dr. AJ this week! He is very pleased with hair, my health, my weight...response to scan results...everything! Of course, my cat scan results could not have just simply been the same as the scan I had back in July. As we laid in bed the night I received the results, Dan squeezed me and said, "You just cannot keep anything simple, can you?" Dr. Johnson had indicated he was not concerned when he shared the results with me, but there is something about that second opinion, especially coming from AJ that I truly needed. The scan shows I have a 2 inch cyst on my ovary, but AJ is not the least bit concerned. He indicated it is probably connected to my menstrual cycle. Sorry, this may be TMI...I did start a period on February 12th...2 days before starting the Tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is the hormone suppressor that is supposed to keep my body from having periods. I take it every day for at least 5 years.

The radiation treatments are going great! My skin did start to peel this week for the first time, but I think that was because I failed to apply my lotion at bedtime a couple nights in a row. There is definitely a pinkish color to my left breast and chest area. Other than that, nothing. I am not tired and I am not nauseated. It simply takes about 30 minutes - 1 hour of my time every Monday through Friday. No problem. Walk in the park!

We will be cheering loud tonight at the Quarterfinal basketball games in St. Joseph. The Jefferson Lady Eagles play the Stanberry Lady Bulldogs and the winner advances to the MO Final Four tournament next weekend. The Jefferson Eagle Boys also play tonight. We will have a fun night!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mary Loves March Madness

The Jefferson Eagles won District Championship games on Friday night. My niece plays on the girls' team and 2 nephews play on the boys' team! I loved it! I am so proud of them! Both teams play tomorrow night in the first round of state playoffs. The Stanberry Bulldog Girls (Dan coaches football at Stanberry) won their District tournament as well! Way to Go, Dawgs! If the Jefferson girls and Stanberry girls win their respective games tomorrow night, they will play each other on Saturday and the winner will advance to the Final Four. This is such an exciting time!

Our 1989 3rd Place State Basketball team will be honored during the state tournament this year in Columbia, celebrating the 20th anniversary of our trip to state. Last year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our State Championship and it was a great weekend! I cannot wait to enjoy the company of high school teammates again this year!

I am still doing radiation every skin is starting to get a tint to it and I am half-way through. So, I hope I can manage to avoid the burns! I did have a CT of the abdomen on Thursday and have the results that I will be discussing with Dr. AJ tomorrow. The weeks fly by so fast! This will all be over soon! And with March Madness going on, I do not have time to slow down and rest!!! Gotta Love It!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Volleyball Fun!

Hi all, This is Mary's sister and some of her co-workers was wanting me to let you all know that they are going to have a volleyball fund raiser for Mary. Please let them know if you are interested in putting a team in. I'm sure it will be a fun time and lots of visiting!

Recreational Volleyball Benefit
Silent Auction
Mary Collins

4 -6 team members for co-ed FUN (limited to 16 teams)
Saturday March 27, 2010
Savannah Middle School gym (old-701 W Chestnut)

Fax Team registration form to 676-0763 Att: Aileen
Doors open at 8a, tournament/auction begins at 9a.

First place trophy provided, proceeds to support Mary’s cure. For donations please contact Cindy at 262-0659 or
Aileen at 390-0791

$60 per team fee

Hope to see you all there and THANK YOU all so much for the prayers, THEY WORKED!!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Back from HIATUS

So Sorry! I am officially back from hiatus! I cannot believe it has been a month since I posted! Time flies when you are having fun! And it truly has been a wonderful month.

So many things have happened in the last month and yesterday's events were icing on the cake. I am afraid I will miss something, but here is the month in review...

Getting rid of that drain was the best thing that ever happened. I received almost immediate relief from the pain in my arm and every day kept getting better and better. I worked my first FULL week of work during the first week in February. I would like to say it felt great, but it was one of the saddest weeks for me because it was the last week of work for my boss at Heartland. She advanced her career and became the Vice President of Finance at Northwest Missouri State University. For the last 10+ years I have had the opportunity to report directly to her or up to her through the organizational chart and she truly is a class act. She is an invaluable mentor. We learned so much together and I was heartbroken to see her go. However, I am so excited for her and so PROUD of her!

The next week led to more doctor visits. I met with Dr. AJ and started the 5 years of Tamoxifen (hormone suppressor). Yes, I will take a pill a day for at least 5 years. We also had a conversation about an additional prescription that Dr. Silva suggested. The medicine is only offered to participants of a Clinical Trial Study. I was in turmoil for several days trying to decide whether or not to participate in the Study. Thanks to Dan and a wonderful friend that is a breast cancer survivor and lots of prayers, I chose NOT to participate. In the end, Dr. AJ discovered that there was a mix-up in the name of the prescription medicine that Dr. Silva wanted me to take. Dr. Silva wants me to take Zometa. Zometa is FDA approved and there is no need for me to participate in a Clinical Trial Study to receive the medicine, but Dr. AJ is validating coverage with my insurance company.

I also met Dr. Johnson, my radiation doctor, for the first time. He and the staff are amazing! I started radiation on February 15th. I go every day, Monday through Friday. I have a 1:30 PM daily appointment that is a 15 minute slot on the radiation schedule. I am scheduled for a total of 28 treatments PLUS 3-7 boosts. That equates to 7 weeks of treatments. Prior to my first treatment I received 7 tattoos. They are itty, bitty pin points that allow for consistent alignment of the radiation entry points every day. Now I know why I have NEVER had a tattoo...yikes! My reaction was to laugh hysterically because I had never felt anything like that. During the actual treatment, I cannot feel does not get warm or hot or does not cause pain of any kind. I simply lay perfectly still on a table for a few minutes and wait until they tell me I am finished. I do wear my boxing gloves during every treatment and one of the techs said to me that in the 20+ years he has been doing the same job and he never had a patient in boxing gloves. So far, I do not have any redness on the skin. My armpit did feel a little swollen for a couple days at the end of this week of treatment, but that is gone today. SO...2 weeks down and 5 weeks to go! So far, it is great! It merely takes time. Thank goodness it is convenient. It is actually a department in my hospital where I work, so I only have a couple minutes to drive across town to the Cancer Center. So far, they were truthful in the statement that radiation is a "walk in the park" compared to chemo.

I was able to attend the Alumni Reunion for the Women's Bearcat Basketball program and witnessed the Bearcats scoring 103 points against conference rival Missouri Western. There were several friends that came back to town and I truly enjoyed the event. I felt as if we had seen each other yesterday and had not missed out on the last 15+ years. It was such a blessing to reunite with such wonderful people.

I know several have asked and it truly is Fight Like a Girl MANIA around here. Hardly a day goes by that I do not see a Fight Like a Girl shirt. The awesome shirt that my ex-boss and co-worker designed is a popular item and I continue to get compliments and requests wherever I go. They sold 2,200 shirts! Overwhelming!

Due to the extra efforts from a long-time friend at Northwest, I was able to meet Jacob Soy. Remember, the wide receiver for the Bearcats that I absolutely adore?!? My friend arranged for me to meet him in person. He gave me a framed, autographed picture of him scoring the winning touchdown in the National Championship game and a message reading, "Mary, Congrats on the good news!" He really is a genuine kid and has a heart of gold. I was also able to spend some quality time with my friend and catch-up from lost time.

I do need to share that three of my "chemo buddies" passed away during the last month. That was extremely hard for Dan and I to handle. We believed every one in that room was going to survive just like me. I also found out that cancer has returned for a friend at work. I was also introduced to a co-worker at Heartland that is recently diagnosed. My aunt had surgery on her breast cancer and awaits additional testing results. It makes my heart ache!

We attended the PINK OUT basketball game between Jefferson and DeKalb. It is wonderful to see the kids, school and community get involved in such a great cause. Cancer sucks and there have been too many lives impacted by it. But, I truly believe that the CURE is closer than ever.

I am completely honored to have been selected as the Honorary Coach for the Northwest Women's Basketball game yesterday. At the alumni reunion a few weeks ago, I had the chance to meet Coach Steinmeyer for the first time. I played for Coach Winstead at Northwest who lost his life to cancer, so I had never officially met Coach Steinmeyer. Coach Steinmeyer and his staff chose to use the Northwest Women's Basketball Program and a Survivor Alumnus to promote Breast Cancer Awareness. They went to a ton of work in a short time and sponsored Mary's Fight Night! It was a dream come true. The girls basketball team wore pink warm-up shirts with my fist-pumping picture from my Bearcat playing days. They autographed the shirts and then set them out for silent auction. The event raised $1,000 that will be donated to the Northwest Women's Basketball program. Coach Steinmeyer allowed ME to give the pre-game motivation speech! So, with my boxing gloves on (if you don't know by now, I don't go anywhere without them), I shared with the team how blessed I am to say I am a Bearcat and so many of the values and qualities I hold today were strengthened through my participation in that program. I advised them to prepare themselves for anything...position themselves to be ready to put up a fight. I shared that I have a couple mottos in life. One is to BELIEVE! I asked them to believe in themselves, in their teammates, in their coaching staff, and in their program. The other is Once a Bearcat...ALWAYS a Bearcat! I was introduced with the starting line-up and enjoyed some fist bumps and chest bumps with the girls. The Bearcats won the game and will play in the conference tournament on Tuesday. After the game, I thanked the girls and congratulated them with their own Fight Like A Girl shirt. I was able to take a group picture with them, so hopefully I will get a copy of those pictures to share with you. Coach Steinmeyer is a genuine guy and I am truly grateful to him, his staff, and the girls for allowing me the chance to help them promote Breast Cancer Awareness.

We ended the night with an annual outing with friends and memories that will last a life-time for me!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Drain Free

Hallelujah, the damn drain is out! Finally! Dr. Silva and crew were able to remove the drain tube that I have had since surgery 2 weeks ago. I am so happy to get rid of that thing and hoping to get some restful sleep tonight. YowZaa...thank goodness the burning and stinging did not last but a few seconds during the removal of the drain tube. My labor and deliver relaxation method did not get me through the removal, but I was able to grit my teeth and made it without screaming. Wow, that stung!

The back of my left arm from my elbow to my armpit has been very sensitive since surgery. It already feels much better and I can finally handle some bumps from the kids. It is not great, but MUCH better. I can easily raise my arm to a 45 degree angle in a couple directions, so getting that drain out helped a bunch.

The girls went to Omaha with us and were able to stay with cousins last night and we loved every minute of it. We did not get much sleep for a "school night", but the kids do enjoy playing together. The girls met Dr. Silva and his nurses today and they liked "Mommy's Breast Cancer Doctor". Maggie sat on the exam table when we first arrived and I asked her if she was going to let Dr. Silva look at her boobs. She looked at me like I was from a different planet. I am not sure what goes through the mind of a 4 year old, but I still do not think she understands why Dr. Silva looks at my boobs. She is too funny!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dr. is Impressed

I saw Dr. AJ on Monday. I think I wrote that Dr. Silva was thrilled with the results of chemo and surgery. WELL, Dr. AJ is ECSTATIC! He is elated with the results of the chemo and the shrinkage of the invasive cancer and excited that Dr. Silva was able to perform a lumpectomy! The man was nearly doing cartwheels. Then he asked to see my incisions. The look on his face was priceless. Prior to surgery we saw Dr. AJ nearly every week and we had several conversations with him regarding mastectomy vs. lumpectomy. He was upfront and honest with us in preparing us for a mastectomy due to the size of the cluster. One look at my incision and he could not believe his eyes. He stammered and stuttered and finally said, "That Man (Dr. Silva) is a genius! I cannot believe he salvaged your nipple too!" He immediately picked up the pathology report and re-read the surgery outcomes. Dr. AJ is thoroughly impressed with the expertise and surgical lumpectomy that Dr. Silva performed!

The bummer of the situation is I still have the damn JP drain. I was not able to get rid of it yesterday due to output volume and they rescheduled my appointment for Thursday morning. I have an appointment at 8AM in Omaha and Malia has her first dental/orthodontic prep procedure at 12:20PM in Maryville. I am sure that is exactly what Dan had envisioned for his 43rd birthday...toting his girls to doctors. Simply praying that all goes well and the healing continues!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Our God is an Awesome GOD!

Oh Yeah! Our God is an Awesome GOD! Thank You Prayer Warriors! Thank You Emil Kapaun! Thank You Saint Padre Pio, Saint Peregrine, Saint Jude! Thank You Miraculous Mother! Thank You Family! Thank You everyone! Thanks for standing ringside and rooting me on to a Victory! We did it! The cancer is OUT of my body! Chemo was a success! Surgery was a success!

The invasive cancer had shrunk to 0.7 cm and was contained in the lump that was removed from my left breast and the Dr. Silva obtained SUPERIOR margins (he removed enough healthy cells surrounding the damaged cells). The original non-mass like enhancement was estimated by MRI back in July to be a 5.5 x 6.1 x 7.3 area. The area contained DCIS (cancer inside the milk ducts that is not impacted by chemotherapy and does not reduce in size), Invasive Cancer, and cells my body produced in defense. So, they really do not know the original size of the invasive cancer. But, what we do know is the non-mass like enhancement that was removed during surgery was 8.0 x 7.0 x 3.5 in size. There was ONLY one lymph node that contained cancer of the nearly 20 nodes they removed. The size of the cancer in the one lymph node was 0.3 cm. Needless to say, Dr. Silva was proud and we are elated! I cannot even describe what the tears streaming down my face mean...what a bottled mix of emotions! I did ask Dr. Silva what the risk of NOT doing radiation is. He quickly put his forehead on my forehead and stared into my eyes and demanded, "THAT is NOT negotiable! Get those gloves on and finish this FIGHT!"

So, off I go! Just as the doctor ordered...I will wait to heal completely from surgery and then I will wear my boxing gloves and fight my way through radiation. Dr. Silva estimated that I would have 5 weeks of radiation, but I will be under the Radiation Oncologist at Heartland so they will conduct the final radiation plan.

I did not get my drain tube removed because the output is too bloody and there is still too much output daily. I have an appointment scheduled next Tuesday to remove the drain tube, but we may have to wait until Thursday depending on how the output progresses the next few days.

Prayers of Thankfulness and Praise!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Prayerful Healing

This waiting game is full of prayers and more prayers! I have a follow-up appointment on Thursday to get test results and remove the drain tube and another appointment on Monday to get the next steps started. I am sure you have experienced the craziness of time...time is so precious. I complain about waiting so long for these results and then realize that Thursday is ONLY a couple days, where did the week go?

I went through the same thing on was the 11th anniversary of my Daddy's death (and the 53rd anniversary of my Biggest Sister's birthday as Mother reminded me). Sometimes it seems like Dad has missed EVERYTHING and been gone FOREVER, then in an instant I can re-live Monday, January 18, 1999. I know where I was sitting on the couch with Dan when the phone rang and I know we were watching Melrose Place (haven't watched it since). I remember waiting in the ER at the hospital because we lived in Maryville and beat the ambulance to the hospital...nothing about that wait went quick. But, one thing is for certain...the existence of prayer. The waiting game for me is always full of prayers and more prayers!

I think my healing process is going great. The pain has subsided and I get yelled at a lot for "doing too much". I have two is about 3 inches long and about an inch above my nipple on the left breast (kind of curved around the nipple) and the other is under my armpit (I cannot see much to know the details of it). That incision has been the source of all the pain I experienced. If it wasn't for that incision, I may not have known that anything happened. There is also a drain tube in the armpit and Dan gets to measure and rid the gunk twice a day. Dan helped me with my first bath yesterday. I am laughing as I think of it because it was basically a circus and took entirely too long, but it felt good to finally be refreshed. I do have lots of help from family, but Dan has been amazing. This is really not his calling and we both lose our tempers, but he is mastering the extra duties and responsibilities. The first night we were all home after surgery (remember, I was basically helpless and as needy as one of the kids) and Dan finally had everyone in bed, he sighed and slumped into his favorite chair and said, "Damn, I feel like I have just been in a bar fight!"

I will continue my fight. I am prayerfully awaiting the test results. I was so saddened yesterday when I heard my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. She, too, is awaiting results. It makes me so sick to think of my loved ones fighting through this, but I do know that my aunt has a lot of fight in her and she will put up a strong fight. Sending Hugs and Kisses from MO. We will surround my aunt with prayers!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Post Surgery!!!

Update from the waiting room: WOW, what a long day! We got here to the hospital at 6 this morning and they didn't really do anything til 8! She went for her dye test and Dr. Silva was there and she was all decked out for his birthday, with beads, horns, hat and a HAPPY BOOB day song for him; he absolutely LOVED it! She left for surgery at 10, they started at 10:30, and we didn't hear anything til 1 when they were closing. At 2 Dr. Silva came out and told us that everything went fine. He did find some cancer in a lymph node under her arm but they will do further testing on it and we will know the results next week, but this DOES NOT change any course of treatment. Next step is to get the pathology report, radiation and hormone blocker medicine. She will have a drain tube from her lympth nodes that will be removed in a week and we are anxiously waiting for her to wake so we can see her and know how she is getting along. If Dr. Silva says it's ok she can go home today. We are planning to stay at our Uncle Harv and Aunt Diane's tonight if she gets out today. Thanks so much for all the prayers and please keep them coming. Fr. Emil Kapaun, PLEASE KO THE BEAST AND HEAL MARY COMPLETELY, AMEN!!! Thanks again!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Power of Prayer

I hope that each of you have been able to witness the power of prayer in your life (hey, I guess you are a witness right here and road from diagnosis to complete recovery is a true testament to the Power of Prayer). Not because I hope you have witnessed suffering, but because I wish that you have been blessed to be a part of something so special. The Power of Prayer is truly a life changing event. I am currently surrounded by several friends that need the support of prayers and I am asking that you join me in keeping them in your thoughts and prayers...

A special Bearcat fan is recovering and healing after heart valve surgery. My 'favortist' Kindergarten teacher is hopefully coming home from the hospital soon after falling on the ice and breaking her hip and having surgery. A wonderful father in the community needs prayers that his broken arm will heal on its own without the risks of surgery. An elderly gentleman in our parish also fell and broke his leg. And God called a precious 3 month old baby home last week. Please help me pray for his parents (they have faith that could move mountains), his Big Sisters, and his Daycare Provider and family.

I thank you for the continued support and the extra prayers heading into surgery tomorrow and I am sharing those prayers with my friends that are bearing their own crosses. We will try to get to a computer later tomorrow to share the surgical outcomes with you. I am thrilled the time has finally come to get this crud out of my system...a giant step on the road to complete recovery. Father Emil Kapaun, Servant of God, Pray For Us!!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

We have a Surgery Schedule

I AM ready for the next BIG KO! Today reminded me just how confident I am in the team of physicians that are taking care of me. Dr. Silva was thrilled with the progress we made with the chemo treatments. He seemed very pleased that he could not feel or detect any lymph nodes today. He was encouraged by the shrinkage and the improved mobility of the cluster. I have always trusted his strong intuition and he indicated this is where he expected to be...he believes the invasive cancer is gone, he believes he will discover some DCIS (cancer cells inside the milk ducts that do NOT respond to chemo therapy) and some scar tissue of cells my body created in defense. We feel well prepared for the next round in the

Surgery will consist of a lumpectomy and removal of lymph nodes...yes, a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy. The chemo did work because lumpectomy would not have been a choice if I had surgery in August. Dr. Silva is a huge advocate of conserving the breast. Surgery is scheduled for Friday, January 15, 2010. Dr. Silva will perform the surgery on an outpatient basis. They will take a mammogram and run several tests of the cluster that Dr. Silva removes to ensure they have removed all the damaged cells. The lymph nodes will be tested as well. I will have a drainage tube for a week after the surgery. Once I am completely healed after surgery, I will begin radiation treatments. As of yet, I do not know any specifics about the number and frequency of the radiation.

We discussed several things today, and again, I am reassured that my physicians have similar philosophies and care patterns. I will be talking to Dr. AJ about joining a trial/study for breast cancer survivors. I will start taking a hormone suppressor and Dr. Silva hopes to keep me in menopause which will offer me better protection against recurrence and against the spread of cancer because my cancer is estrogen receptor positive. Dr. Silva seemed impressed that I was able to complete my chemo treatments on the original schedule. I do feel fortunate my levels remained high enough, I did not get so sick that I could not get a treatment, I was not hospitalized, I did not have the nasty numbness and tingling from the Taxol, and I am very luck to have completed on schedule. Now, I hope my health continues in preparation for surgery next week.

This may be Too Much Information, but I simply have to share that Dan is not so thrilled about the breast conserving lumpectomy (nor the menopausal crap, either). Considering the DD bra he gave me for Christmas, I think he had high hopes that HE would get new boobs out of this deal. He's been to Hell and Back for me, with me! I think he was hoping to get some special reward, but that is not the plan!

I do have some pre-op junk to complete this week, so I hope the winter wonderland forecast cooperates and I am able to get all of that out of the way. Thanks for standing ringside with me as I continue this fight. Keep Warm! Safe Travels!