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!