Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Everything happens for a reason

Everything happens for a reason - I believe this to be true.  I believe in chance encounters.  I believe in fate.  I believe in destiny.  I fell in love with my husband the very moment that I laid eyes on him (even though he didn’t see me, apparently I was a mild creeper back then).  A week after seeing him for the very first time, I was transferred to same exact floor that he worked on; a mere 50 feet away from each other.  We worked at a 1,500 person company – there were at least 10 floors that belonged to the company.  Everything happens for a reason.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around a reason for Melanoma.  Am I supposed to educate people?  Is this going to bring our family closer?  Am I going to help other newbies in the club?  Am I supposed to jump in with both feet into freaking yoga like my optometrist said that I needed to do 2 years ago?   Am I not supposed to worry about things like I normally do?  Is this going to take away my road-rage?  Will this make me a stronger person?  I think the answer is a big HELL YES to all…well, maybe not the road-rage part.  What?  I can’t stand stupid drivers and the horn is there for a reason – as is my middle finger.

It’s kind of weird how things work out.  Melanoma has already changed some of me and I am certain there is more to come.  I’m opening up more than ever and even though this is not face to face, it's all absolutely coming from my heart.  I’m letting go of feelings and thoughts that would normally pollute my mind and then ultimately my well-being.  I’m still changing, learning and growing (hopefully not yet another size, that wouldn’t be cool).  As strange as it may be, this was my destiny.  I will come out the other side a stronger version of myself.  Everything happens for a reason, regardless how glorious or shitty they may be. 

I've already had something amazing come out of this.  While getting my hair done during my lunch break last week - yes, you read that right, during my ONE hour lunch (if you live in South Orange County and need some help with your fro, let me know and I'll give you her info) - my hair chick said that she made an appointment with a dermatologist and is dragging along her husband, too!  Yeah!!  That made me feel REALLY good.  I may not have physically jumped for joy because at that time even the thought of jumping hurt - but I was absolutely jumping on the inside.  If my little situation can reach my family, friends, friends that I haven't made yet or anyone else that I don't physically know, that is amazing.  Step into the unknown and make your destiny part of your reality and get into a routine of checking your body.  Or, even better - take it to the next step and get into a routine of having a dermatologist check your body for you - it may save your life like it did mine :)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Six years with my best friend

Six years ago today, I married my best friend.  He is the best man that a girl could ever ask for.  It’s amazing to feel truly loved, everyone should have that opportunity.  As I said in a previous post: he’s my best friend, partner in crime, my comfort, my world and now my savoir. 

After receiving the pathology report and coming to the realization that things could potentially be worse than we were expecting (due to the mitotic rate and my way of thinking that anything could happen) – I gave him an out.  I told him that he didn’t sign up for this and if things got really bad he could leave.  I wouldn’t want him to sit around taking care of a sick chick, wasting precious time of his life.  If things were really bad, he had a one-time deal that he could cash in on.  I can’t help that I am a worst case scenario thinker. 
He didn’t budge.  Not one bit.  He didn’t even look to the left…meaning that he didn't even give it any thought.  You can tell if someone is thinking (or lying) by their eyes - they typically will look up to the right/left when thinking of something truthful and then down the left when lying because they are thinking of a made up response. I’m weird like that; I pay attention to little things. 

We sat there and talked about the what-ifs in the midst of several tears.  Lovebird, if shit goes down and you only have a little time left, I am taking you on the most amazing vacation that you could ever dream of.  I would sell my truck and max out my credit card.  I would go broke for you to go happy.”  Hell, we even talked about doing a little Thelma & Louise action.  Being together, holding hands and going down in a blaze of glory.  A little dramatic, but it was really funny to picture.

Now that we were told that the Melanoma did not spread to the nodes, I’m definitely not going anywhere anytime soon.  Luck is on my side and he’s not getting rid of me just yet (neither are you peeps).  We’re only six years into marriage as of today and only nine years being together the end of this coming November.  That is absolutely not nearly long enough when you find your other half.  I married him because I love him to death and I never wanted to be without him.  I rarely am without him, only when we're working.  We are practically joined at the hip and I like it that way.
Honey cakes, I love you with my entirety.  You make so happy I could punch you!  Now you know why I hit you so much, because I am so very happy.  I know that you'll be on my side regardless, through thick and thin.  Even when I am being a complete beast, you grin and bear it until I come to and realize that I am being nasty.  You rub my back at 3am when I can’t sleep, you let me cry when I need to, you take care of me when I need help, you help out around home more than I do, we laugh at stupid jokes until we choke and I love that you don't think cemeteries are creepy - we absolutely 'get' each other.  Every year our bond grows stronger.  You're everything that I have ever wanted and more. I love you with my whole heart and soul, please don’t ever forget that. 

Happy Anniversary, Shuggy.  Here's to a lifetime of love notes, kisses and anniversaries :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I've got an angry nerve!

It’s been a day shy of two weeks since surgery and tomorrow is the day where I am supposed to be “back to normal”.  Yeah, right.  I’m still really sensitive.  Had the follow up appointment with Dr. Surgeon on Tuesday (news still good, still clean) and can you guess what happened?  They ripped the tape off.  As in it violently ripped it off.  As in my back started bleeding when the tape was ripped off.  I screamed.  I cussed.  I swatted hands away.  
I really thought the tape coming off would make things feel at least a tiny bit better.  For some reason, I was thinking that the tape was pinching the skin in a strange way, thus making my nerves act all weird.  Wrong.  The tape is off and the skin/area is almost more sensitive.  I’m still numb on the left side of the incision on my back all the way down to the underside of my left arm.  Now, it’s not all numb; it’s the most peculiar sensation. You know when you’ve slept on your arm and when it starts tingling back to life?  It’s still kind of numb, but it hurts?  Combine that with the feeling of having a big bruise that gets touched.  It’s mixed like that, numb but bizarrely painful. 

The hubs is always accidentally touching my back/arms and I wince in pain.  It’s just him being affectionate.  He’ll grab me by both arms to bring me in for a kiss – while I silently cringe.  I guess it’s not so silent; my face always gives it away…  I wish it were warmer so I could wear a tank-top or something that would show the cuts so people are reminded to be a little delicate when hugging/touching. 
The unfortunate thing is this is completely normal.  Based on what I’ve read, I will have these sensations for a few more....months.  There are several LARGE nerves in your axilla region (aka – your armpits).  I doubt that they’ve been severed because I would assume the pain would be outrageous.  I don’t know what the heck was done, but my nerve(s) are a little on the messed up side.  When I lift my arm up, you can feel through the skin (and sometimes see) what seems to be a thick nerve in my pitter.  It seems angry.  My right arm doesn’t have it.  Can nerves get swollen?  How can I make my nerves happy again?  I don’t know.  This is why I don’t like moving my arm around – it also gets angry.  Makes me think of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" ~ I've got an angry nerve!  (If you're into obscure/funny/inappropriate musicals - that movie is for you).

Here are some new pictures of the aftermath.  The incision on my back is actually about 5 inches and the one under my arm is about 4 inches.  I got out of the shower last night and pulled out my mirror and just stood there....staring.  This was the first time that I've seen it bare, without any tape or bandages.  It's still has a bunch of glue on it, but you can see it in it's full gnarly, glory.

This is what my actually left pitter looks like.  See the "swollen nerve" on my left side or whatever the hell it is?  That's what it looks like, feels like and seems like.  That 'line' in my left pit is the one that feels like it's going to snap when I lift my arm up.  It's super cool...

RESPECT THE SUN!  Things could obviously be worse, the cancer could have spread.  I'd much rather have these gnarly scars than have my lungs, liver, kidneys and/or brain being invaded by Melanoma.  BUT believe me, if I could have avoided this shit – you better damn believe I would have.  BE AWARE OF YOUR BODY!

Monday, April 22, 2013

The guilt factor...

One of my biggest fears was cancer.  I also am scared of sharks – but I’m sorry, if I see Jaws coming towards me from the depths of the sea with his mouth completely open, I would probably crap my bikini and pass out in hopes of drowning before I get munched.  Cancer on the other hand is something that I can stand up to.  Believe me, still scary as hell, but I am willing to stand right the F up and look that fear in the eye.  You never want something that you’re scared of to beat you.  That is just complete and total defeat. 

I don’t like the idea of something growing in me, not just cancer either.  I’m telling you, I am a strange bird.  When I see a baby moving around inside of a pregnant woman, it makes me kinda queasy.  I’ve got nothing against pregnancy or cute, little babies – I like kids, I am actually quite good with them.  I think that creation of life is damn incredible.  I just personally don’t want something doing somersaults in my uterus – or something nastier taking up prime territory on my back or anywhere else on or in my body. 
I came to the conclusion long ago that I didn’t want children (sorry, Mom, I know you hate this).  My list is pretty long and one of the many reasons was that my colitis was so bad at times that I wouldn’t even give it to my worst enemy; I didn’t want to pass that on.  But now that Melanoma joined the party, it validated my decision.  I certainly now don’t want to be passing around my lemon genes.  
I mean seriously, what if I did want children?  This would make me reevaluate things on a huge scale.   There is a story of a woman who had been diagnosed with Melanoma and treated 6 years earlier and thought she was “cancer free”.   I am using quotations around cancer-free because with Melanoma, it isn’t really a cut-it-out-and-we’re-done type of cancer.  Possibly for some it may; they may be ‘cured’ if caught in the super early stages and never, ever have any reoccurrence.  That is amazing when that happens and I hope to be one of those very same non-reoccurrence people.  Though for most it will always be a part of them.  Our cells know how to mutate to this terrible disease and it can't be un-taught.  If not a part of my body, it will absolutely always be a part of my mind.  It’s safer to call it NED – No Evidence of Disease – than to sit on false hope of a four letter word: FREE…or even worse, a five letter word: CURED.  

Back to the story – she and her husband got pregnant for the 2nd time around and about three months after birth, she was out for a run, collapsed and had a seizure.  Her Melanoma was back with a vengeance and spread to several of her organs...with no real sign or symptom (a reason why some people call this the particular cancer the “silent killer”).  During pregnancy, the cancer was not only ravaging through the mother’s body but also her unborn child.  That innocent, little baby was born into a cruel word of Stage IV Metastatic Melanoma; the same exact stage of disease that little baby’s mother would succumb to a short 8 months after giving birth.  Baby Addison will be turning 2 years old this June.  She’s still alive and fighting the 12, yes 12, tumors that litter her little body – there are 5 in her brain alone.   
Whoa…. That rocked down to depressing avenue super quick.  Sorry about that!
Obviously, I am stoked on the negative nodes; but it’s hard for me to not feel guilty.  I cried after hanging up with the nurse that relayed the ‘negative news’ to me out of pure joy.   Then 15 minutes later, I went to the bathroom and cried out of guilt. 

It makes me really sad that so many young people struggle with this stupid disease.  They have to make the trips to the hospital to have chemo, radiation or immunotherapy.  Their lives come to a complete halt to deal with treatment.  Then, typically, that very same treatment makes them unbelievably sick.  Their lives could, and sometimes do, end tragically short.  Then their family has to plan a funeral, which no parent should ever have to do that for their child. 
I can’t help but wonder: Why am I one of the lucky ones?  Why do I get to have that luxury?

A Melanoma diagnosis isn’t lucky by any means, however getting negative results IS lucky.  I’m sure this is common – the guilt factor – it’s called “survivor’s guilt”.  Even though at this point I wouldn’t really qualify myself as a survivor, the guilt is still there.  It’s weird because I should be jumping up for joy on the day that I get clear results, but instead I felt blue. 

Don’t get me wrong or take anything that I am saying as ungrateful – I am absolutely, 1,000% gratified and relieved for these results.  This particular case of the lucks is amazing in my book.  It now makes sense why I wasn’t lucky any time I went to Vegas (or I suppose I should say ANY time I’ve gambled).  I’ll take this luck now and hold on to it for as long as I possibly can.  I have always wanted a four leaf clover tattoo on my side…  I certainly do have luck on my side. 

Good News Monday!

So, I get a phone call from UCI this morning and I am thinking that they are just going to be confirming the appointment for tomorrow. I had an automated appointment confirmation call yesterday, I am thinking maybe it's just another one.  I answer it and it's a live person.  She asks me how I am doing, to which I respond that every day is getting better.  She says that she has my pathology report results from the surgery...

Shit.  Why is she calling me?  I already don't like it when doctors (or their staff) physically call me with results - this is how I was told about the Melanoma.  Shit, shit, shit, shit, SHIT!

She proceeds to tell me that the sentinel node was negative for malignancy.  I repeat - NEGATIVE!!!  The cancer hasn't spread. I repeat - the cancer HAS NOT spread!!  Exhale.  She said that the skin removed from my back was also negative which is good because if it were positive they'd have to remove MORE skin and I seriously wouldn't want that.  I, of course, waited until we hung up before I started to cry.

I was absolutely hoping for this news - this is the by far the best news that I could have asked for.  I absolutely did have paralyzing fear of the opposite end of the spectrum.  And I'd be lying if told you that I wasn't in a way expecting the doctor to say "um, yeah - one of the nodes was positive for Melanoma".  It could have been that I was mentally prepared for the worst like I tend to do.  It could have been that I've been completely worried with the fact that I knew about the change in the mole for a full year before doing anything about it (that really bothers me, if you couldn't tell).

I am completely ecstatic, but a bit leery of the results - if that makes any sense?  I told my Aunt that I feel like I have dodged a bullet - and I can't explain it any better.  I still want a scan to be 100% certain of the outcome (headaches and every other pain make me nervous!).  We still have my follow up appointment tomorrow at noon and we will go over the results and what to do next.  From what I know, I wont need any further surgeries.  I will probably just need to be monitored by seeing the dermatologist once every 3 months for a year and I would assume blood tests to check for LDH levels. 

Thank you everyone for your positive thoughts and prayers, it worked!!  As of right now, I know that everything is negative.  Today, the word "negative" is positively beautiful! 

Friday, April 19, 2013


Well, it's been 7 days since surgery and I'm still a bit sore.  Not sore like I was hit by a truck anymore, but still pretty sore.  I saw Dr. Surgeon on Wednesday morning - he probably asked me to come in real quick because the nurses kept on calling him.  I talked to a nurse on Monday and basically told her that the pain meds (Vicoden - aka glorified Tylenol) aren't touching it.  I have to take at least one & a half before it barely takes the edge off and that lasts for maybe an hour if I am lucky.  We called the hospital again on Tuesday to ask if I should be ripping the tape off of my skin that is covering the wounds; it's completely stuck on there and I was crossing my fingers that the answer wasn't "oh yeah, that needs to come off so it can breathe" because that shit is stuck on there and I'm still pretty damn sensitive in those areas. 

Anyways, Dr. Surgeon called me back on Tuesday afternoon, which I thought was totally awesome that I was physically speaking to him.  He said "You know what, why don't you just stop by tomorrow so I can see what you're looking like".  So you know what I said?  OK!  The hubs and I got up early to get to the hospital by 7:15am and we were seeing him as a walk in within 20 minutes.  That's really good because Wednesdays are new patient days and I personally know that those can take quite some time.

There is some swelling, which is normal.  The bruising is normal, too.  He told me that I should be moving my arm around a bit and not keeping it in the "invisible sling" like I have been.  That's the only way that it's somewhat comfortable; I literally hold my arm bent at the elbow and tucked into my body like there is a sling there.  Invisi-Sling, I should trademark it and sell it... He wants me to be able to pat myself on my back by next week.  My follow up appointment is next Tuesday, I don't know how I am going to pull this one off.  What's David Blaine's phone number?  For those that don't know he's an amazing magician - or shall I say illusionist.  He is one of the people that I would love to sit down and talk to - or just stare at while he does magic for me - whatevs.

Now, I have been moving it around, but it's a double edge sword.  The more I move it, the more it hurts - but then again the more I move it, the better it is for me.  Dang.  Stupid!  I definitely don't want it to become frozen where I would need yet another surgery to get it mobile again.  When I stretch my arm out, it feels like a tendon or something deep in my left pitter is going to snap.  The crap thing is you don't know HOW BAD I want to get a good stretch in.  I love stretching, especially while at work - I (used to) stretch my arms out forward, up, to the sides - every which way my little heart could think of.  I can't do that now :(  Boooo!!! 

Even just sitting here I can feel it.  I can only assume it's whatever nerve that was touched, moved, cut - whatever the hell happened to it - recovering.  My underside of my arm and to the left of my incision on my back is completely numb, but not?  It feels like I have a tourniquet tied at my shoulder - cutting off blood circulation - thus making shit go numb.  I shaved my pitter for the first time since the surgery though yesterday morning!  That was a weird sensation, it was like shaving someone else since I couldn't physically feel it....I am NOT into that. 

Anyways, today is FRIDAY!!  YAAAYYY!!!  My mind is good, legs are good, right arm is good - the rest of me....ehhh. But that's not going to stop me!  The hubs and I are going to the Angel game tonight and I totally made a sign for Torii Hunter (Angels are playing the Tigers).  I've never made a sign for anyone before; I feel kind of juvenile...though if I had enough time last night I would have glued some glitter on it.  Sparkles!  I'm sure there are going to be lots of Hunter fans there and I am going to show my favorite player that he is absolutely missed.  I can taste the hot dogs and beer already....

Make it a great day people :)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Never be ashamed of a scar

I’ve always hated getting new scars.  I burned my arm on a cookie sheet that I pulled out from the oven about 4 years ago and I was sooooo bummed.  My poor, little, pretty forearm.  Nooooo!!!  Now that I think of it, I have the same scar from a damn cookie sheet on my stomach.  I know, it sounds weird.  I pulled out the tray from the oven, leaned over the counter to grab something and my stomach touched the tray.  It burned like hellfire, I sucked my stomach in and backed away and the tray straight up stuck to my stomach.  Apparently I have issues with cookie sheets. 

When I first had the biopsy, I didn’t want to show it.  I guess primarily because I was walking around with a band aid on it for a little over 2 weeks.  Even after when it was completely scarred up, I still didn’t want to show it.  It looked like child abuse at its finest – like a cigarette or cigar was put out on my back.  A bright pink, circular scar.

My bright pink, circular “cigar” scar is now a giant line down my back.  It was originally supposed to be diagonal across the left side of my back because of the looseness of the skin in that area, but instead I awoke to a vertical line.  I think they went that way to take out another mole that was in that area, which is completely fine by me.  Take those little fuckers out – I don’t care.  I don’t want them growing up and taking over like the last one did. 

The incision on my back is around 5 inches long and pretty sensitive.  The skin is SO tight.  The incision under my arm is the one that hurts the most out of the two.  The one under my arm is almost 3-4 inches long, too – which is much larger than I thought it would have been.  Dr. Surgeon said that they had to make it bigger because they were having a hard time finding the nodes.  I’ve got some nice bruising going on from them digging around in there.  Ugh, it’s sore and hideous.  It’s not like purple bruising (although there are touches of it), but more like the yellow/greenish tail-end of bruising.  I can’t wear a bra because it’s too sensitive.  This morning while getting ready for my first day back at work I was testing the mobility of my arm which I am thinking wasn’t such a great idea; I’m kind of paying for it now.    Again, I can’t reiterate this enough – I wasn’t expecting it to be this bad.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but definitely not this.  Numbness, pain, tingling from the nerves growing back and overall tension from my skin being pulled tight in conjunction with a little bit of swelling…it’s completely bizarre.  

I like the scary, the ugly – the not so pretty part of situations.  It’s the scary that makes people worried – scared for themselves or loved ones; worried they will have the same thing happen to them.  It’s the ugly that opens people’s eyes.  My eyes have irreversibly been opened.  I hope the ‘no-so-pretty’ scars on me make people think twice before going to a tanning salon or even leave the house without sunblock, especially if you have a family history of skin cancer (I have a family history of skin cancer in general, though I am the first one in my family that joined Club Melanoma). 

Once the wounds heal and become scars, I will proudly show them and tell anyone that asks how the scars came about.  I will never, ever be ashamed of them.  I will embrace the soon-to-be pink, jagged lines.  If I am feeling particularly feisty that day, I may make up some heroic story.  Although I am beginning to believe that my story is completely heroic enough as it is…

I am bigger and stronger than some silly, little mole.  I am bigger and stronger than you, Melanoma.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Surgery Day Festivities

The day after surgery is much worse than I anticipated. For some reason I thought this was going to be easy, peasy.  Luckily my hands aren't sore, I figured I would get this out since it's fresh and I don't feel like lying down anymore because it hurts.  Hopefully this isn't too scattered, my brain is a little foggy from the meds, but you'll at least get the idea of what went down yesterday. 

Physically, I feel like I've been hit my a truck. That's the only way to explain it. My entire upper body (front/back/sides), minus my right arm, is completely and utterly sore.  It hurts to breathe; it hurts to expand my chest.  Not that I know what this feels like, but it feels like they were doing chest compressions on me.  Maybe it hurts from the ventilator.  I don't know.  How in the hell did my neck get so sore?? 

We got to the hospital super fast yesterday.  The traffic at 7:30 and 8:00am is totally different. It seriously took us like 12 minutes to get from our place to the hospital.  We parked the car valet in front of the cancer center so after surgery I could just be wheeled right on out of there.  The hubs and I navigated through the hospital center and found the radiation injection place - building 20. This place is HUGE.  They even have "you are here" signs scattered around like Disneyland. I pulled out my phone as we were walking up to the building so I could call my folks to tell them that it's a little hard to find, but as I look up to make sure the number on the door is correct, I see them already in there.
I sign in and there are a few other people waiting.  This particular building does MRIs and nodal 'mapping' which is what I was there for.  Besides the cute, scared, little 6 year old girl there, I was the youngest one.  I wanted to share my ipod with this little girl.  I wanted to give her a hug and wipe away her tears.  I wanted to tell her that everything was going to be o-kay.  Her parents didn't seem nervous, but she was scared and almost angry.  I tried smiling at her several times, she just stared back with a "what are you so happy about" look.  I know she was scared and it sucks when you can't or don't know how to help.

Finally, I am called back and I bring the hubs with me so he can document this part of the journey.  The nurse tells me what I already know - they are going to inject me with a low dose of radiation and also lidocain so it helps with the pain. They are going to inject it right around the biopsy site with a little, teeny needle.  She said it's similar to a TB test, where they inject it right under the first layer of skin.  Again, this is to find out what/where the sentinal (primary) node is.  If the cancer had spread, it would have gone to the sentinal node first and foremost. I get into the highly fashionable backless gown and luckily I am allowed to wear my comfy pants.  She sends the hubs away because he can't be in there for the injections, which of course, is what I wanted to document...

I'm sitting on the table, in my gown listening to my 'surgery soundtrack' and in walks two doctors.  I will call them Dr. Red and Dr. Lightspeaker.  They also explain what I already know and ask me if I have any questions, to which I respond with "Nope, let's do this".  I wanted to get started already.  I lie down on the table and they begin.  And by the way, the stories were true.  It felt like bee stings.  Luckily the radiation had the numbing stuff because that shit stung! They injected me four different times around the biopsy.  I'm glad that it was already healed because could you imagine having freaking bee stings around an already super sore spot?  Um, no thank you!

Dr. Red asks if I am going to have the surgery today and if I have Dr. Surgeon - he says that he's also a patient.  I told him I was curious about that because of his red hair - he laughs.  He's a club member, too.  Dr. Lightspeaker spouts off things about radiation and Melanoma - I have to listen really hard because, as you guessed it, he's a light speaker. The dose of radiation is so low that every 6 hours, 50% of it disintegrates   But, they will also cut out a big chunk of it anyways with the surgery and node removal. 

I get moved over to a different room, looks like an MRI table sort of - but it has this Xray type thing that rotated around you while you lie there.  I have to lay on my back with my arms up over my head so the Xray thingy can take pictures of where the radiation traveled. The hubs comes back in and gives me kisses while I am in this machine and he's videoing the curious events going down.  It's bizarre, the images are coming up on the screen showing the radiation and the injection site on my back was lit up like the sun.  There was only one node showing up in my left pitter.  THANK YOU, BABY JESUS!  I was nervous that the nodes would be not only in my left pit, but also my neck and right side.  Such a HUGE relief, huge - BIG relief.

Dr. Red & Dr. Lightspeaker come back in and turn on this "probe" that makes almost Orca like noises when it gets near the radiation.  I couldn't help laughing.  They take a highly, specialized piece of medical equipment (as Dr. Lightspeaker called it) - A Sharpie - to mark an "X" where the node that was playing the highest radiation rock was.  Unfortunately the node was little close to the boob, but somewhat deep in my left pitter; at least it's not in my neck like I was worried about.  Oh, I found out that I am allergic to a certain type of tape that they use.  That was fun, having super sticky tape ripped off your already agitated skin.  Luckily there are alternate tapes, as apparently a lot of people are allergic.

I'm given the images of where the node is and sent on my way.  Luckily the "limo" driver was there and we hopped on the shuttle and he took us right over to the cancer center.  Hmm, they've finished some of their remodeling, looks totally different now.  We go up to the third floor where the surgeries are and it seems they need to work on remodeling there, too.  The check in desk is a cubicle.  A little strange, but it gets the job done.  I think I'm the only one there waiting for a surgery, at least I am the only one with the nifty hospital bracelet (which now I am thinking of it I think they cut it off and I totally wanted to keep it).

My name gets called and I get lead to a little changing room by someone that shares my name. Once I get prepped and everything, the family can come hang out with me for a bit. I get changed into a paper gown that is lined with plastic for some reason (my guess is heat retention) hair cover and socks with those skidders on the bottom...and the top for some strange reason.  Why were they on both sides?  What person wouldn't realize that the skidders go on the bottom?  I guess I shouldn't ask that, there are some strange birds that we live among.  Really strange.  Anyways, I again get lead, this time to my little piece of paradise (aka waiting area with curtains that divide sections), lay down on the gurney and then the worrying starts.  Shit just got real.  I'm getting hooked up to IVs, heart rate monitors, leg circulation attachments, being asked questions, seeing the anesthesiologist, Dr. Surgeon and several nurses.  

My family is now allowed back with me, this time dad seems to be the worried one.  He's not talking too much.  The hubs has the camera and is taking pictures since when I get out of surgery and will be in recovery, I will probably not be so happy.  We wait for a good 45 minutes or so then a little nurse comes in and says "Amber, you're next".  Oh shit.  Here we go. I say good-bye to the loved ones and I am wheeled into surgery.

Dr. Surgeon is there and I am a little sleepy from the Benadryl that they gave me just in case I am allergic to the blue dye (which by the way my sinuses are totally fine now - maybe I DO have allergies). Maybe they had already given me something to calm down with, I don't know - there was a lot going on.  Dr. Surgeon is sitting next to me, holding my hand - I tell him I want to be referred to an ENT after all of this because I've been having headaches.  He looks at me and says "Don't worry, we'll get you a scan".  I say thank you - this is what I want.  I want to make sure it's not anywhere else in me and you can only tell that by scans.  One of the several nurses tells me basically that it's time to go night-night and that's all that I remember.

"Amber, it's time to wake up, honey".  OWW!  Holy shit - something hurts.  My arm pit hurts REALLY bad.  My throat is sore, but my arm pit hurts REALLY bad. I look down and see tape peeking out from under my arm.  Why is it 3:00??  I thought I would be out of surgery by 1:00!  Dr. Surgeon comes over and says that it took a little longer than expected to find the correct nodes and that they took out two for testing.  Apparently it was 12 when I went in for surgery.  The surgery was supposed to be 45 minutes and I am thinking it took quite a bit longer.  Based on the time I went into surgery, I estimate the surgery to have been around 2 hours. Ugh, I am SORE.  This is not fun.

The nurse asks me on a scale from 1-10 where the pain is.  7 - 7.5 at least.  They give me another shot of Dilaudid and it's not doing much.  The family comes in and my mom starts crying a little bit.  I was crying, too, because it hurt.  I wasn't really crying like I thought I would be because of the anesthesia, but there were a couple of tears.  It.  Hurt.  It still does hurt; being only a little more than 24 hours after surgery I am really, really fucking sore.  I ended up having three shots of dilaudid before the pain was somewhat tolerable.  Apparently that's a lot...I'm sure I will get billed for that later. I get dressed with the assistance of the hubs and put into a wheelchair.  Why don't they make the wheelchairs more comfortable?  We just had surgery, can't they put more comfy cushions on it or something?  I understand the seats need to be vinyl or something easily cleaned, but seriously - it should be more comfortable.  

Anyways, Dr. Surgeon sees me and comes by and says that he's confident that I will be fine.  He said that he will eat the nodes if they come back positive.  I wouldn't want him to do that, I would like to see them though.  I wonder what those little buggers look like.  Plus, they were a part of me for 31 years.  I'd especially like to see them if nothing has spread because they stopped that nasty bitch from taking over my body.  If it has spread, then I don't want them because then they failed...they failed their job.  

So, we go home and I slept for pretty much the rest of the day.  Only waking up to eat some mmmm mmm good soup, take some pills and eat ice cream, which I finished it off - I need more.  I almost had the hubs take a picture of my pee because it was blue from the dye.  But, who am I kidding, I probably wouldn't put that on here.

I woke up this morning and was completely sore.  Seriously from my chin down to my waist.  My neck muscles are really sore.  I've had whiplash before and this takes the gold on neck pain.  I looked in the mirror down my throat and they must have jammed that trache-tube down there - I have red marks on the sides of my tonsils from it.  Thanks for that!  Thanks for not being gentle, it's really appreciated.  Trying to take deep breaths is difficult.  I feel like I was man-handled then hit by a truck.  I wasn't expecting this much pain.  Vicoden isn't doing much and I don't want to take it excessively.  I want it to last, but then again I think 'this is what they are here for - if you need two at a time, then take two!'.  The nerves that they hit when taking out the nodes affect the underside of my arm, it's completely numb.  It's weird because my hands are really cold and I can't feel a thing when I touch it.  The incision sites themselves are really, really sensitive.  My left boob is getting a nice bruise from where they were digging around, I'll post photos later.  

But, at least the surgery is over.  This was the day that I have been waiting for since diagnosis.   I'm going to TRY to get comfy and lay down now... Hey, at least I slept, right?  Albeit 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Surgery Soundtrack

Don't judge me on the format - it has a damn mind of it's own...

As I’m sure you’re all aware, the surgery date is THIS Friday!!  As in tomorrowI’m stoked!  I've had the pre-op phone interview with the anesthesia person.  I got the call from the scheduler and surgery is set for 11:15.  Shit just got REAL!  I’ve been waking up with that ‘feeling’ in your belly when you’re about to go on vacation.  Seriously, I am totally weird like that.  I’ve never had a “big” surgery like this before.  I’ve been put out for my wisdom teeth extraction and my lovely colonoscopy, but that was more of a twilight sleep than this.  I didn’t need to have a trache-tube or be on a ventilator.  I hope this type of anesthesia doesn’t make me bawl like a baby when I wake up like the ‘twilight-sleep’ crap does.  It's awkward to wake up crying for absolutely no reason.
  • 311 - "I'll Be Here Awhile": Motivation, 311 style.
  • Bob Marley - "Three Little Birds": This was the VERY first song that came to mind when thinking of songs for a playlist.  This is an absolute must for me,
  • The Clash - "Rock the Casbah": I just love this song; this is probably in my top 10 songs.  Several years ago, when I had my civic with the super loud subwoofer in the trunk, I drove to Irvine (for some Spectrum shopping of course) and I pulled up next to an old, white couple.  If looks could kill!  Rock the Casbah was definitely NOT in their top 10.
  • The Church – "Block", "Luster" & "Numbers":  I LOVE The Church.  They played at the Coach House about 4 years ago and I found out 3 days after their show!!  If I recall, that was their last show of their American Tour. I shed one, single, tear.  True story.  Totally bummed that they don’t come to America more often. 
  • Death Cab For Cutie – “I Will Possess Your Heart”: I like the album edit vs the radio edit.  The instrumental in the beginning is MUCH longer, and I like MUCH better. 
  • The Doves – “Firesuite”: It’s just a totally chill, somewhat trippy song.  Maybe they'll let me listen to this song when they give me the ‘calm-the-eff-down drugs’.
  • Echo & The Bunnymen - "The Killing Moon": I debated putting this in here because of the title has (*gasp*) 'killing' in it, but the fact is I really dig this song.  Not really a fan of the chorus, actually I think the chorus almost ruins the song, but then once you're like "Ugh, this chorus sucks", the song picks back up. Then the crappy chorus comes again, but then it picks back up.  Yes, that's my explanation.  
  • Foster The People - "Helena Beat":  Yeah Yeah and it's o-kay   ...I'm sorry, I really like these guys.  I've been trying to figure out who they were, I could never understand the lyrics enough to write them down.  Obviously, I got it figured it out.  Still kinda tripping out that they're the 'pumped up kicks' dudes.
  • Jason Mraz – “Make it Mine”: I'm not really a huge fan, but I want some positive among all of my favorites.  I was going to put another song (“Remedy”) because he wrote it for a friend that had Cancer…and you know what I said?  that shit!  I want something happy AND non-cancer related, G-damn-it!  Remedy IS a happy song, but I would rather listen to something uber-happy, (or calming) sans cancer, which I will.
  • M83 – “Midnight City”: This song calms me down for some weird reason.  So, it’s totally going to be included.  
  • MGMT – “Electric Feel”: This is another song that I just love.  When I used to work out – many, many moons ago, this was the very first song that I would listen to.  Why?  Because at 5am this is a fantastic song to get you moving.  
  • Nada Surf – “Beautiful Beat” & "Always Love"Now, the first part of the song is about being alone, which I can relate to – not that I want it, but I get it.  The chorus (and the harmony of the actual song) is what gets me.  Beautiful beat get me out of this mess.  The other song, "Always Love", is just a totally happy song.  
  • Naked and Famous - "Youngblood": I forgot about this song and while going through iTunes I remembered it.  It makes me feel happy :)
  • Peter Gabriel - "Solsbury Hill": Another song that makes me feel happy.  Makes me feel like I am driving with the windows down through a random meadow...or something like that.  
  • Queens of the Stone Age - "Medication": It's titled Medication, which I will be on and because I want it in here, k?  
  • Stone Roses – “I Wanna Be Adorded”: I tend to forget about this song, hear it a year later and still love it.  And that’s exactly what happened; haven't listened to it in forever, still love it and I wanna listen to it.
  • Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Won’t back down”: Motivational song at its finest.  I may have this song twice on the playlist.  Why? because it’s my playlist and I can do what I want! :)
  • The xx – “Intro”:  This doesn't have any lyrics…but I really dig it. 
  • Zero-7 – “Destiny”: I think this song is beautiful and the lyrics are equally as beautiful.  You can’t beat these chick’s voices.   
A lot of these songs are kind of mellow-chill songs.  I like maudlin type songs - songs that can sound dark - gets me in the gut.  I actually like a very wide variety of songs and unfortunately I just don’t want to listen to some of them right before going into surgery.  I don’t want any songs that will tug on the heart strings or that aren't inspiring in the way that I need them to be.  Right now a lot of songs pull at the strings.  One in particular is Noel Gallagher’s “If I Had a Gun”.  The hubs played this for me on his guitar one Sunday morning and I immediately started crying.  If you listen to the song and actually hear the lyrics, you’ll understand why (or at least put yourself in his shoes giving our little 'situation' and all).  I still can’t listen to the song more than 15 seconds without my chin quivering and frantically searching for the "next" button. 

I looked for a motivational Motorhead song and I just couldn’t find one.  Why you do this to me, Lemmy?  Though, I totally may have a post-surgery soundtrack including “The Ace of Spades” and other songs that make me want to drive fast.  The Stooges - "I wanna be your dog" is definitely in that same 'drive fast' category.  Don’t worry, I won’t be driving.  Even if I wasn't hopped up on vicoden, I think it will still be a little difficult due to the location of the cuts with steering/turning corners/backing out/basically everything that comes with driving.  I will just pretend that I am driving fast with a paper plate as my steering wheel...as I am chauffeured around like a weirdo...a weirdo pretending to drive with a paper plate. Okay and on that note, I am ending this now before it gets any stranger...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Worrying will NEVER change the outcome

The surgery is scheduled and I try not to worry.  Of course, coming from a worry wart, NOT worrying is really fucking hard.  Let me clarify that I am not worried about the surgery - I'm just a touch worried about the follow up.  I notice that I tend to worry more after a few days of sleepless nights.  I had to call in sick basically two days last week because I was so tired and was scared to drive.  Every time I stood up I got light headed. I'm not about to get behind the wheel of a 2,000 pound missile when I can barely stand up! It was super fun...  :/  I hate calling in sick, it makes me cry every single time. 

After sleeping the whole night through, or even just a solid 5-6 hours, I feel extremely strong and extremely confident.  Like, “Come at me, bro!” confident.  And by the way, sleeping up until 5am is absolutely included in the ‘whole night’ category – even if I wake up a few times to move into a new sleeping position.  Weird how something you take for granted (closing your eyes at night and letting your body take the wheel) vastly impairs your daily functions and your thoughts if your mind is holding the wheel as opposed to your body.  Stupid controlling, head! 
Speaking of that stupid controlling head of mine, last week I was mentally preparing for the surgery.  O-kay so no Vitamins, Antioxidants, Ibuprofen…wait a second, I had written on the forms that I only take Ibuprofen on an ‘as-needed’ basis.  I had scanned over the last week or so, at least as far back as I could go, and I every day was an ‘as-needed’ day.  I have had a headache at one point or another every day.  Worry Wart – straight to the rescue!  “Have no fear?  You’ll have it now!” That’s Captain Worry Wart’s slogan.  Kind of catchy, don’t you think?

Most of the time, it’s a dull ache right at the front of my head.  I’ve just presumed this whole time that it’s been a byproduct of a sinus infection that I had last year (Feb – March, 2012).  Every night, either one or the other nostril get plugged up, which is why I assumed its sinus related.  I did mention this to Dr. Surgeon and he said that it’s probably chronic sinusitis and that he could refer me to an E.N.T.  He also said that sinus infections do a number on your sinuses, since there are so many nooks & crannies in there.  I'm sure it's stress manifesting itself in all kinds of ways.  As I am typing this, that pesky worry wart is slouching away, but he still scares me a bit.  
I was talking to the hubs, not this last weekend but the weekend prior, and I completely went straight into freak out mode over it.  Every little thing since the diagnosis has been in the back of my mind – or should I say the front of my mind with this dull ass pain.  Every chest pain.  Every little heart flutter.  Every lower back pain.  Every sneeze (which I've been doing a lot of).  And of course, every headache.  It could be stress.  It could be a complete lack of sleep.  It could be a cyst in there.  It could be allergies, too - which I actually think it may be.  I mean, it’s not like I can feel something literally ‘moving’ in there.  It’s not like a pinball machine – though the thought makes me giggle (picturing my eyes lighting up really bright, blinking with bells going off when ‘whatever-it-is’ touches a certain part of my dome).  It could be a combination of a ton of things, which I absolutely don’t want Melanoma to be a part of.  That would suck…that would suck BIG time.

Most of the time, when I am worrying, I get this wave of calmness.  At least at this point, I can’t change anything.  I can’t change the fact that I sat on this growing mole for over a year.  I can’t change the diagnosis.  I can’t change any future diagnosis, either.    What I can change is my mood, my attitude and my overall outlook.  Worrying will never change the outcome.   That will become my mantra until April 23rd – the day of the follow up appointment to find out results of from surgery day.  Ohhhh.....surgery is 3 days away, I'm weirdly SUPER excited for it :)
Good thoughts, people!  No positive nodes!  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mole Biopsy Video & Before Photos

The other day, actually...who am I lying to - the other WEEK (or two, or three - whatevs), when I was totally zombie-ed out, the hubs was being the great husband that he is and was straightening up.  I was completely out of it on the couch, not much strength to do anything other than cry or go to the bathroom.  Getting around 3 hours of sleep for several, several days does not work for me...at all.  I swear, I think I had a total of maybe 15 hours of sleep last week?  And I think I might even be a little generous on that.

Anyways, the hubs pulled down a photo of us in a frame and was cleaning it off - then stopped - handed it to me saying look at how small it was.  I pulled down my robe asking if he was sure that little, teeny mole was THE one.  Yup.  Yup, it sure was.  We compared it and it matched up.  Weird because now that I am healed from the biopsy (looks like I had a cigarette put out on my back), I completely forgot what it had originally looked like before it decided to take over territory on my back.   Here is that photo.  Tiny, right?  This was from August 2010.

And then this one below is from May of 2009. 

I tried to load the video of the biopsy here, but I was running into "issues".  Issues as in "sorry your video didn't load and there are no instructions to help you so you CAN load it". So, I did what any other person would - throw that bitch on YouTube!!  If this doesn't work to click on the link, then copy/paste it to your browser.  It better work because this is straight up almost 5 hours in the making...


ALL I ASK IS THAT YOU WATCH IT.  Just check out the beginning part if you're weird with this type of stuff.  Just so you can see that the biopsy itself is no big deal. Just so you can see what the little mole once was to what it became.  I'm not going to lie -  IT IS GRAPHIC.  Not in a bloody, gory way - but there is a needle, a scalpel and we can't forget to mention - skin being removed. 

I want to share this so other people wont be afraid.  I waited and waited and waited because I was scared.  I was scared that it was going to hurt.  I was scared that they were going to cut into me while a nurse had to hold me down.  I was scared of the "what if".  My hope is that other people don't make the same mistake that I did by trying to ignore it, thinking that it's nothing.

After watching the video, after realizing that the mole was so tiny, it made me feel horrible & embarrassed   Abso-effing-lutely horribly embarrassed   How could I have let a sleeping giant lie for so long?  I tried to look for other photos of my back after 2009/2010, but unfortunately these are really the only photos of my back that I have...    I noticed the complete change in the mole, I think, around February/March of last year only after I had cut my hair (again).  Aaaaaand I sat it for a whole year. Who knows when it actually started growing - how long it had been growing.

Anyways - be aware of your body, people!!  Don't sit on this like I did - handle it, put on your big girl/boy pants and get it done!  Or, take it one step further and take your ass to a Dermatologist for them to check your body for you if you feel uncomfortable doing it yourself.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


I was reading this Melanoma blog from a girl who is now  25-26 years old now – she was diagnosed when she was only 23 years with Stage III.  Maybe some of you have heard of it: My Adventures with my Enemy Melanoma.  Her outlook has helped out tremendously.  She mentioned in an early post from year or two ago that the cancer is consuming her.  Not as in spreading throughout her body “consuming” her, but mentally.  It’s mentally consuming.  And it’s time consuming.  I can’t get it out of my head.  It’s almost everything that I think of – from the point that I wake up in the morning at 3am because I’m not sleeping to the point that I fall asleep on the couch at 8:30pm because I’m not sleeping. 

I’m currently in freak out mode, again.  I’m freaking out over the results of the surgery that I haven’t even had yet.  I’m really nervous.  This is the most nervous that I have ever been in my life.  I can’t help but to worry for the worst case scenario.  I worry, that’s what I do.  It’s my way of coping for the ‘just in case’.  I don’t want to be kicked in the side when I am skipping along thinking that everything is going fine and dandy.  My back muscles are so tight they feel like they could snap.  My knees hurt…which is super lame. My theory with the knees is because of the colitis; I’m stressing out so much that it’s manifesting itself in other auto-immune ways…which is possible.  Annoying and possible. 

I know I should be positive right now – but it’s difficult on days that I am extremely tired, like today. 
I know I should try to imagine myself healthy and clean as a whistle – but when I do my “white light scan” in my mind, visualizing that everything is normal, it stops at my shoulders. 
I know I should get the rest that I so desperately need – but I can’t and it’s terribly frustrating.
I know I shouldn’t say/think/write this – but I have a bad feeling.
And I know I am getting off work shortly and nothing makes me feel better than driving home to see my handsome husband with all windows down, music up and sun on my skin.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Statistically Speaking

When I was first diagnosed, I of course, read everything that I could get these little hands on.  Blogs, cancer sites, question and answer threads and then the worst of all – statistics.  I swore to myself that I wouldn’t become a statistic.  The unfortunate thing was that I already had the day that I was diagnosed. 

Statistically speaking, when I physically tell someone new that I have Melanoma their response will either be one of three routes:
  • They have it (haven’t run into that one yet),
  • They know someone that has it (I've run into a LOT of that - thanks everyone for the input! :)),
  • They say “Oh good; that’s the kind you want - it’s just skin cancer.” 
Really?  You KNOW what kind of cancer I would like to have?  What is this, a freaking cancer vending machine?  Oh – I need to insert more coins for Breast Cancer, but I have just enough for Melanoma – don’t worry, it’s just skin cancer.

I actually agreed the first time someone said that to me.  “Yeah, I guess you’re right.  But have you googled anything about this, it’s totally creepy!” 

Statistically speaking, Melanoma diagnosis has increased 15% in the last 40 years, thus making it the fastest growing Cancer in the USA.  It’s the 2nd most common form of cancer among young woman ages 15-30.  If not caught early, it can absolutely be fatal.  It’s the leading cause of cancer deaths in young woman ages 25-30 and a close 2nd to breast cancer in women aged 30-34.  And we can’t leave out this beauty: Tanning before age 35 increases your chance of diagnosis by 75 percent.  Seventy-Five-Effing-Percent! 
Anyways, enough with all of that joyful noise.  The reality is it’s hard to not come across statistics during ‘research’.  Practically every website, blog and/or thread talks about statistics sooner or later.  Damn it, I’ve totally just contributed.  Oh well.  Peeps need to know what the hell is up!!  Along with not wanting to be a statistic, I definitely don’t want to be a Debbie Downer (one of my favorite SNL skits: “Feline AIDS is the number one killer of domestic cats!”).  I’m not going to quote statistics at every opportunity.  That would be weird. 

Today – Debbie Downer is not allowed.  Today is World Autism day and I’m wearing a blue dress for Autism! Even the Empire State building will be switching out their standard lights for blues.  Light it up BLUE!  And I will totally quote something I said this morning:

“I’m becoming a Motivational Bi-otch!”