Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Three Down, Five to Go--and Good News

Good news! The treatment yesterday wasn't so bad, it has been akin to the 2nd one so far :) This means that I am feeling relatively well, and have a fair amount of energy, for which I am so grateful. I may feel a bit crudy over the next few days, but that isn't bad considering what it could be.

A couple of other pieces of good news--I got my genetic test results back on the BRCA1 and 2 genes, and it is NEGATIVE--YEAH!!! That means that my half-sisters don't have any undo genetic risk for breast cancer, at least from our father's side, and it means that I am not at a huge risk for ovarian cancer :)

The other good news is that my dad's wife, Marguerite had a very successful surgery to clamp off the aneurism in her brain. In the last three days, in particular the majority of the pain she was in during recovery has subsided, most likely due to the swelling going down, and she is now planning when she will start with PT, OT and another therapy, I believe it is speech therapy.

All in all, I think this is a great way to ring in the new year! I am ever thrilled and grateful for all your kindnesses and interest and faith exerted on my behalf. I wish you all a prosperous and happy New Year! Love, gf

Friday, December 26, 2008

Yes, she was warned . . . BUT!

Merry Boxing Day to Gretchen's blog-followers!

'Tis been awhile since we blogged here -- just thought you might like a catch-up.

The kidlett is doing just fine . . . NOW.

On her way home from work early afternoon Tuesday, she was suddenly hit with the deep bone pain she was warned about. Just like THAT -- grabbed her outta the blue -- severe pain in the shoulders, spine, pelvis, hips, and down both legs. She made it from the garage into her house but that was IT for the remainder of the day. Couldn't even answer the doorbell when friends dropped by with Christmas goodies. She sat there crying out in pain and just bearing it. Didn't tell me about it 'til Wednesday. Poor kid. These are the times when a single person should NOT be living alone. However, I know there are millions of singles out there who are in both physical and emotional pain who are in just as, or greater, need of comfort and help.

Our patient was finally able to take enough ibuprofen and get to the bathroom for a nice hot soak in the tub to aleviate the pain enough to have a night's sleep.

Wednesday was better. Bone pain, but not as bad as long as that giant ibuprofen bottle was handy.

Overall, Gretchen has insomnia problems, gut pain, and odd eating abnormalities that keep us concerned, but they're all part of the literature and other warnings on the subject, so we're not surprised, just, well . . . you know.

Like everyone reading this, we hate to see a loved one in distress or discomfort. Or pain of ANY kind!

Gretchen's Christmas was happy and relative pain-free. We three had a lazy, movie-watching, relaxing, and Santa-generous day. We went to bed wearing the same jammies we woke up in!

We're expecting family visits today and maybe we'll make it OUT to see one/two of those promising-looking movies in the theaters. Our buddy, Aaron may join us. AND we have a family wedding to go to in Heber. Right now the patient is poaching eggs for Eggs Benedict -- whaddya think about THEM apples?!

Next chemo date: This coming Tuesday. Two families are coming as house guests on Wednesday for extended visits. Gretchen will stay at her house, but I'll go there too, if my help is needed. These crazy treatments. We just don't know WHAT to expect!

Stay tuned . . . AND thank you again for your continued prayers . . .

Lindy-Lou the Mom

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

...Gone Tomorrow

Last night the hair came off! It was good timing too, as just that morning I had a clump of hair come out as I was combing conditioner through. It was the first time that that had happened. Carri, Mollee and Dave, Cindy, Aaron and my mom and Alan all joined me for the big event. We started by Mollee and Carri putting a lot of little pony tails in my hair, and then we all took turns cutting them off with my mother collecting them strait so we could assemble them in a big pony tail to send off to Locks of Love. Then Carri cut the remaining hair shorter and Mollee then used the clippers to get it shorter still, and then Carrie finished it off with a razor and soap. Some parts are smoother than others, but in the end, we got it all off. I was surprised that I wasn't in tears, but with such loving friends and family around, it turned out to be alright. I forgot about a scar I have on the top of my head from a fall when I was six...I had to get five stitches, and it stands out clear as a bell on the smooth top. It was a lovely evening, a great end to a wonderful day...

It was my first day back to work, and I was overwhelmed by the amazing welcome I received from my dear friends there. I was greeted by men who had shaved their heads in solidarity, a lovely pink Christmas tree decorated with pink lights, ornaments and ribbons and a pink stocking with my name on it. Also, Seth had organized a lunch get together where I was able to meet with and chat with such dear friends. A huge surprise was an enormously generous check, a gift from fellow co-workers, which included folks from 3 continents, 4 Navitaire offices, and even some customers. All these amazing things had me in tears, of course, and leads me once again to search for words to express my gratitude. Thanks seems so paltry in the midst of such genuine goodness and love. Over and over again the phrase "your strength is my strength" is what I feel. Any grace I may achieve is because you are giving it to me. Much love to you all. gf

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hair Today...

Another first on this road of many firsts...wig shopping with Santa Alan, Mom and Heidi Ho. Here are some fun pics of the event. We chose two different fun!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Better Week

I just wanted to put out a quick update on this week's progress...I understand now why they give you a week between treatments, as it is a wonderful opportunity to feel better for a little while. No doubt about it, last week was not one of my favorites, but I am encouraged by the increased level of energy and appetite that I have felt so far this week. I don't know if the chemo or the drugs I took to combat the chemo effects were any case, none if it tops the fun list. It has been a time of exploration and trying to understand what the new "normal" is all about. I am trying to find the healthy line between resting and activity, and where it is that makes the most sense and gives me direction and purpose without wearing me out. I have a sneaky suspicion that this line will continue to move as I progress with further treatment.

However, I have decided to return to work on the 15th, and take PTO days for the remaining treatment times. I have been very blessed to work with wonderful and understanding people who are willing to let me explore at my own pace and do what I can. I belive though, that being back in the "land of the working living" will add to my sense of purpose and be a positive change.

I am looking forward to a "get-out-of-sickville" trip to NYC this weekend with dear friend Aaron, where we will see Wicked, and take in the fun Christmas sights and sounds of the big city. I am gearing up physically and trying to build stamina for the trip.

In addition, on Monday night, the 15th, I will be hosting a little shave-my-head party. They say that hair starts to fall out in earnest after the second treatment, so I thought I would cut off the ponytail and send it to Locks of Love and let friends have fun shaving the remainder. Anyone who wishes is more than welcome to come on over...I guess we would get started around 6:30ish. If anyone wishes to participate in the "Brave Shave to Save" effort that my cousin, Miriam has already initiated, this could serve as an extension. You can see a fun video of the Dec 6th event. She has organized these hair shaving/cutting events to raise money for cancer research, and I can send anyone more details if they are interested.

As always, I continue to feel your love and support and prayers and well wishes. I can't imagine facing this all without are an amazing strength to me always, through the good and the bad. Much love to you all, gf

Friday, December 5, 2008

"Cancer Sucks!"

That was the verbage on the button of the clerk's smock at Walgreen's last evening when Gretchie-Girl dragged herself into the store to pick up yet more drugs. She looked at the busy clerk and said, uncharacteristically, "Yeah, you're right -- cancer sucks!"

This was following a entire day of sadness, depression, lethargy, no-appetite, some pain, some nausea, yes, but mostly just, "Bleh, I'm just sick of this whole thing -- lemmee outta here!" She was disgusted with herself because she sat, uncaring, before the TV all day with nothing more in her tummy than a small bowl of Cheerios and half a can of soup. The veggie snacks we'd cleaned and bagged the day before lay untouched in her fridge.

You all know this gal as sunny, upbeat, cheerful, and happy. I can take that a step further and can say, honestly, that I've seen her in tears fewer times than I can count on both hands. In her LIFEtime! Neither scraped knees on the playground, a fractured scapula from a nasty bicycle wreck nor a broken heart a time or two produced weeping. Depression? I don't think she even knows how to spell the word. But last night when she called me? Tears . . . tears . . .

It's the drugs, of course. Big BIG guns this time. The chemo? The anti-nausea stuff? Who knows?

Alan told me topack an overnight bag and practically pushed me out the door. I came here to find an untrimmed tree, a messy house, and . . . a crumpled daughter. She didn't answer her phone all day because she didn't want to whine and complain to anyone, she told me. I couldn't get her to eat anything, not even a tangerine! -- so we watched a movie until I fell asleep. I'm assuming she made it to bed just fine because I woke up and checked on her and she had an audio book playing early this ayem. We sat down in the kitchen and she consumed a giant bowl of Cheerios and said she felt a bit better. I took her temperature and she's running a low-grade fever (not unexpected) and complained of feeling hot. I cracked open a window and turned down the furnace and she went back to sleep.

She came down to her office just now in improved spirits. She's headed for a shower and may just face the day a new person!

She's VERY saddened by a message she just listened to from her buddy, Dayle in Dallas. Two close friends of theirs, who worked for the same bank for years, were laid off yesterday. This, coupled with serious layoffs (including Gretchen's boss!)at her own company, Navitaire, is enough to send ALL of us back to bed with depression! None of are immune . . . none.

So let's get that tree trimmed (maybe asking too much) and those yukky dishes washed, shall we? I'm here to help!

What was that I said in my last blog about being flexible? Let's hear it for the foibles of cancer! So here's my sincere cheer:


Friday huggies to you all,
Lindy-Lou the Mom

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Part II post chemo


Ol' Gretchie-Poo was up and cheerful early this ayem. She reported a mild headache, mild nausea, ate some cereal, took more drugs and back to bed she went. Hooray!

We'll be headed back to Huntsman later this ayem for an injection (just a sub-Q, really) to boost her white blood cells. THEN I'll head home and continue the march toward Christmas and its many projects that call out to me.

Before we leave I think we'll throw some lights on Gretchen's very-nice-smelling fresh Christmas tree in the corner of her living room and start the decorating.

This evening she and buddy Aaron will come to our house to catch up on the last three episodes of Amazing Race. Something we've had to put on hold because of Aaron's VERY lingering nasty cold.

If there are setbacks today, then of course we'll change gears. Flexibility is ALWAYS our middle name these days.

BTW, Gretchen is very concerned about her dad, David, in Grand Rapids, Michigan -- whom several of you know. His wife, Marguerite, of about a year, was diagnosed recently with a brain aneurysm. Aneurysms are always diagnosed AFTER they rupture and kill . . . during autopsy. This abnormality was discovered as a "red herring" (a surprise finding during tests for other things)-- she was having a brain scan for other, unrelated symptoms. Her surgery is scheduled for a few days before Christmas. Dave, after all, is a man. Aren't men supposed to FIX things?? Not sit hopelessly and helplessly by watching his wife having brain surgery and his eldest daughter with breast cancer. Gretchen is very concerned about him . . . we three wish them well and pray for both his and Marguerite's families.

Hey! Gretchie-Poo just popped up outta bed, came tripping down the stairs and is anxious to attack the day! Hooray!

Let's hear it for great drugs, many prayers, her peppy spirit and good vibes coming her way!

Love and Wednesday huggies to you all,
Lindy-Lou the Mom

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

One Sick Puppy

NOW I think I have it!

Okay, folks -- this has been a -- well, hm-m-m-m, ah -- INTERESTING day!

I'm in my kid's downstairs office and she's upstairs in bed feeling, well, I'll quote her various comments over the last few hours:

(gasped between shallow breathing:)

"This is all new territory"

"Please bring me my big yellow vomit bowl" (Her faithful companion for seven years since her various serious health issues began.)

"I'm feeling all cold inside -- not chills,exactly -- from the inside out -- never felt this kind of cold before"

"Please turn off the TV -- the food commercials make me want to throw up"

"My head hurts -- not exactly like a headache -- different"

"This is all new territory" (again)

"Yes, I'm feeling the prayers and warm fuzzy thoughts of my wonderful family and friends"

"I signed on for THIS?!?!"

"This is all new territory" (again)

"I'm feeling sorta dizzy -- can you help me up the stairs?"

"Please tell everyone I love them and thank them for being there for me -- in thoughts and prayers"

"This is all new territory" (again)

The infusion itself took less than three hours. Such wonderful nurses! Honestly, in all my 22+ years in the health field (and as a patient for my own minor needs) I've never met a better bunch of health professionals -- from the physicians down to the clerks and the people who take out the trash. Dr. Buys, the oncologist, makes us feel like Gretchen is the only patient she's ever treated -- she's SO concerned and personable. Amazing bedside.

We have no idea how long our patient will feel so crummy or if it's the anti-nausea meds (four!) that are making her feel so bad -- like Gretchen says, this IS all new territory.

Alan keeps wondering why she won't come to our house and be sick. She explains it to us very simply: "Mom, Alan, I've been so ABnormal for over two months. Here in my own home, I feel like I'm sorta normal again. I just want so bad to feel NORMAL again." So, of course, I'll stay as long as I'm needed. We understand and sympathize completely.

Last eve she had some wonderful, crazy friends in to help celebrate the lighting of Candle #1 on her hanging advent wreath. She was feeling SO "normal" for a change . . . it brightened her outlook and made this trying day easier to bear, she tells me.

So, folks, there's the first chapter of Phase II. I'm feeling a little teary right now because I keep thinking of the couple we sat next to in the infusion lab this morning. Scott and Megan. Two little kids at home -- Megan is younger than Gretchen. She had the exact same cancer as Gretchen three years ago, bilateral mastectomy as well. She's back starting chemo again because she has mestastasis to her lymph nodes, liver and bone. I'm just sick thinking about it. So I'll try not to . . .

I'll blog again tomorrow,
Can't thank you enough for your care and concern
Lindy-Lou the Mom

PS -- She said to thank all of you who wanted to visit her in the past few weeks but are experiencing the cold-ish and flu-ish bugs this season of the year always brings -- and stayed away. If she had a cold or flu on top of these miserable post-chemo symptoms, she'd be in bad shape. So this includes a HUGE "thank you!" from me, as well.

PPS -- to end on a chuckle: I recall vividly the day her amazing realtor, Steve, brought her here to see this new house last spring. One of her first comments was: "Wow I just love how this kitchen and bedroom are next to each other. This way, when I have surgeries, I can make my own food and be right next to my bedroom when I have to run to the bathroom to throw up!"

Steve laughed out loud.

Then he looked at all three of us and saw that we weren't laughing.

He said that was the very first time he'd ever heard THAT reason for a client to like a particular house he'd shown them.

Little did we know what lay ahead . . .

(Matt -- you may want to forward this PPS part to Steve)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday: "Wow! Am I ever happy THIS day is over!"

Yep! Those are the very words our patient uttered as we headed south on the freeway toward the barn this evening. (My car knows the way from the Huntsman Cancer Center to my house by heart now. No need to use the steering wheel.)

Lo-o-o-o-ng day! In our twelve hours there li'l' ol' Gretchie-Poo:

1) Had surgery
2) Had a heart test
3) Had a CT scan from knees to chin.

Short recap:

1) Surgery to insert the port just under her left clavicle that will be left there until the first of April when her chemo ends. Beats the heck outta having an IV started every other week when she begins chemo a week from tomorrow.

2) The heart test (nuclear medicine) took about three hours and tested the contractability of her heart. Gretchen's oncologist told us that the heart is sometimes in danger of being damaged by chemo. This test gives her (Dr. Buys) a baseline to track possible damage. (Br-r-r --- my own heart suddenly went cold at the very thought.)

3) Two quarts of barium later . . . the CT scan tested for possible metastasis that may already have taken place. Notice the cavalier way I typed that? That's because I refuse to acknowledge anything so dastardly could already have happened. Nope. Uh-uh. Nada.

"Super Gretch" asked me to take her home this evening. She said she could take care of herself tonight because she's aware I'm wa-a-a-a-y behind in my Turkey Day weekend houseguests preparations, and she'd be just fine.

Too bad.

I stopped by her house, locked her in her seatbelt, picked up her mail, her drugs, and her toothbrush . . . and brought her home!

So there.

She's now lying in the guestroom bed listening to her iPod and licking the dregs from her plate of the delicious beef stroganoff that thoughtful Alan made for us. And sadly, we must keep the excitable Miss Polly off her bed -- that little black fur-person just gets too spastic for our patient.

Miz Fegel is pretty darned sore from yet two more chest incisions for the port. As I just now snipped the plastic hospital ID bracelet from her arm, I asked, "So, Gretchie-Poo, have you been keeping track of how many of these I've cut off your wrists in the past several years?" No guesses.

Again, we're grateful for your many thoughts, prayers, invitations, good deeds, cards (Dayle, yours just crack us up!), emails, treats, etc. YOU are what keeps that girl going.

On to Phase II.


Loss of hair, yes . . .

. . . but not of spirit.

Monday huggies to you all,
Lindy-Lou the Mom

PS -- Miz Mary Beesley -- I just can't thank you enough for the truly fun jewelry-making party you invited us to last eve. AND the photo session (FOUR photographers!) you organized last week to capture the final locks of You-Know-Who. It's thoughtful people like you who warm the cockles of so many hearts . . .

Friday, November 21, 2008

Chemo Update

Hello Dear Ones!

Yesterday my mom and I were at Huntsman from 10:30 to 3:30...getting the low-down on all things chemo. The appointment included meeting a myriad of new people, including a social worker with a funny laugh, kind nurses, and Dr. Buys--who is wonderful. She sat down with us and went through a breast cancer 101 worksheet and drew diagrams, and explained all the reasons why chemo is a good idea for me...the two biggest factors are the size of my tumor, (anything over 5cm, and mine was 6cm) and the fact that it was found in 2 lymph nodes. She was very thorough and answered all questions. During teary moments she even gave us hugs :)

Before I start, she ordered a CT scan from neck to knees to see if there are any mets. She also ordered a MUGA test which will test the health of my heart's ability to pump well, as chemo can negatively affect that. These two tests will happen next Monday, the 24th, along with a port placement under my skin under my clavicle for easy access for chemo. Dr. Nelson, my surgeon will also do is a proceedure which takes no longer than 30 mins and while they don't put me completely out, they give me local and amnesia drugs...i love the idea of forgetting I was ever surgerized!

Then, Tuesday, Dec. 2nd will be my first chemo treatment. I will be given 3 drugs, the first two administered together, Cytoxan and Adriamycin, 4 total doses administered every other week. These two drugs will cause me to loose my hair after the second treatment. This will be followed by 4 more doses, administered every other week of Taxol. After each of the 8 treatments, I go back the following day for a dose of Nulasta, which will help keep my white blood cells in check, and hopfully prevent any infection. She said that often times this drug causes deep bone aches.

She also offered me the opportunity to participate in a study, which would give me more drugs, alongside of the chemo that they think will add to the chances of avoiding a recurrance. As she mentioned one of the possible side affects (the jaw bone can get infected if a tooth is pulled, or there is big dental just doesn't heal) I asked if it could possibly affect other bone healing processes, as I still have the big foot/ankle surgery ahead with bone and cartiledge grafts. She wasn't sure and will check with the ortho guys to I may or may not participate in that study.

After the 8 weeks of chemo, then comes the 5 weeks of my calculations I should be done with the treatments by mid-April. Then I will do 5 years of Tamoxifen (a pill you take every day), as I am ER+, PR+ and Her2-...all of which make it possible to take this estrogen binding drug, which is the best combination to have :)

I also got my first "fill-up" at the expander pump station, 60ccs of saline, which though not painful, is certainly noticeable. My nurse said that she took someone from an A to a DD size...that's not for me, but my, what a little saline can do.

Finally, at the end of day, the nurse took us into the treatment room and walked us through the process of checking in, and then we toured the room. I think after a long day of information gathering and processing, this was the most sobering of moments...the reality hit that this is really going to happen.

One last note...I attended a genetics counseling workshop on Tuesday, and decided to have the test done to see if I have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, which based on the fact that one cousin on my dad's side had breast cancer at a young age, makes it feasible that I have the gene. If they do find that I have it, then my dad should get tested next, as it could have significant impact on my two half-sisters as well. It would also put me at a significantly high risk for ovarian cancer. It will take 6 weeks to get that report back.

I never anticipated entering the world of cancer, but I guess no one really does. However, I am constantly amazed and impressed and grateful that there are so many skilled, caring and empathetic professionals with whom I am associating. I am also grateful to be in SLC, close to my angel mother who is willing to give up her days spent in appointments and care and who also sheds tears along with me. Continued thanks to all of you for your support, I couldn't do it without you! Love, gf

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Good News!

Just a quick report on the dr. visit yesterday, the path report came back negative, meaning that there wasn't any more tumor cells in the tissue they took...sad to have had it verified by surgery, but better safe than sorry. Also, I got the drain removed---Yeah!

I am now officially moving on to phase II, chemo. I meet with my oncologist for the first time on the 20th and will get the low-down on the treatment plan. An oncology nurse we talked with yesterday said that it may be possible that the dr. will put me on an every-other-week treatment plan for the treatments, which would shorten the duration, which would be nice. She also confirmed that I will get the type of drug which will make me loose my hair. A bit of good news though, she said that it is not acceptable to them for patients to be vomiting or have nausea...a little queeziness they can live with, but that they have drugs to combat the really icky I am hopeful that that will be the case.

Right now the biggest hurdle is getting the scar tissue to break up in my arm to prevent a frozen shoulder, which I have no need of :)

Much love and gratitude to you all. gf

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Weekend Report

Howdy out there, blog-followers!

Our patient had a pretty good weekend. Saturday she not only got up smiling and happy, but she made breakfast for us AND cleaned up the kitchen!

Yesterday she went to church but only for an hour. The drain from her incision is driving her nuts and she was quite tired (all that pot-scrubbing from the day before, no doubt!) so she rested for the remainder of the Sabbath.

Today is her follow-up appt to last week's surgery. Her doctor will remove the drain-that's-no-longer-draining and I'm sure she'll be a lot more comfortable. She still gets stabbing chest pains now and then and that right arm is only slightly above shoulder level when she lifts it.

I'm being a Simon Legree in making her do exercises to get that arm up there. She does this finger-walking up the wall thingie to s-t-r-e-t-c-h out that scar tissue. Makes her break into a sweat to do it. But she'll get there, never fear! She blow-dries her hair and everything else with her left arm/hand. Alan was born a south-paw so he thinks that's perfectly natural!

We should get the final path report today as well. Stay tuned . . .

Lindy-Lou the Mom

PS -- Oh! Gretchie-Girl is telling us this will be her last week as our houseguest. I know she's anxious to get home to her cute, new little house, but SHEESH! What'll we do without her cheerful spirit and upbeat personality??? sniff . . . sniff . . . sniff . . .

Friday, November 7, 2008

Challenging Week for "Super Gretch"

Dearest Friends and Fam;

While we knew this second surgery would be easier than the original, of course there are bumps along this road as well.

For instance:

Our patient spent an agonizing day-after with a horrific headache from the big-gun drug -- oxycodone. We keep asking each other -- "Why on EARTH would anyone pay BIG MONEY on the streets for such misery??" To Gretchen, back on the big-gun = horrible headache = time to stop taking them. She tried to back off gradually, but the head pain was still there, so now they're a no-no.

So now it's OTC ibuprofen for our patient for pain -- but unfortunately ibuprofen doesn't cover it. For some odd reason she has left "Frisbee" pain -- coming off the sternum(cancer was on the right). Also back pain from being in bed so much, stomach pain from who-knows-what and just general misery.

Our lovely fall finally turned into winter with that wonderful snow storm Wednesday. I played Christmas music all day and we drank Pero and stayed warm inside. Yesterday, Gretchen got cabin fever and ventured out with her new baby sister, black fuzzy little Polly -- br-r-r-r-r to all of us. With no fat on her (Gretchen's) chest, even tho she was bundled up, she began to shiver. The shivering causes her muscles to spasm and that equals great pain. So back inside we went.

She has a drain coming from this incision and I empty it regularly, but there isn't much fluid there -- unlike last time.

Overall, this week-after is quite an improvement from the first week-after a month ago, but still not fun.

Your continued care and concern is what keeps her going. That and audio-books. She received a box of great ones yesterday from her buddy Dayle in Dallas and can hardly wait to dig in and listen up. TV doesn't hold much interest for her, even tho we record everything we like in order to FF thru the commercials. Must be that trip down the stairs to our new TV room. Occasional movies are fun, however. Last night it was "Rush Hour III" Silly stuff -- I fell asleep but the others made it thru.

And, oh. That famous smile of Gretchen's you all know? It never ceases . . . even while she's wincing in pain. Personally, I find it difficult to wince and smile at the same time. I should snap a picture next time -- sorta contorts her face in an odd way, but she manages it nevertheless . . . poor girl.

(BTW, you folks give me far too much credit for her well-being. You see, it is I who gets the up-lift and inspiration from my patient, not the other way around . . . )

Lindy-Lou the Mom

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Our Patient is Home!


This procedure turned out to be a one-day surgery. Yahoo!

She's a bit dizzy, light-headed, but not nauseated. She's in pain but the big guns should handle it for the next few days.

The surgeon was able to leave the tissue-expander in after all, but he told us she'd be even MORE sore, of course, with the skin stretched so much further over it. She already refers to them as "feels like two Frisbees shoved into my chest" -- sounds so awful!

I'm happy about the expander being left in because that should reduce the number of plastic surgery procedures down the road . . .

The doctor thinks he got all the tissure he needs, but we'll have to wait probably another week for the full pathology report. Waiting . . . waiting . . . waiting . . .

One concern: Her right arm.

She can't lift it past shoulder level and last night we discovered why. If you were to look at her armpit where the lymph nodes were excised(such a thrilling prospect!) you'd see what looks like a huge tendon has formed there, preventing any decent range of motion.

She showed it to the doctor today and he said it's scar tissue. Given Gretchen's history with scar tissue(adhesions galore from a few addominal surgeries seven years ago), that's not good. She's going to have to work really hard and do many stretching exercises to get that arm straightened out so she can use it.

So that's the next project after she heals from today's surgery.

And the beat goes on . . .

More later,
The Mom,

Musings of a Sunday...

posted on a Tuesday.

One of the good things about going through major challenges, those which you know you cannot possibly face or complete or even contemplate on your own, is the immediate marshalling of force by loved ones and dear ones in your behalf. It really is amazing. I have been so fortunate to know and associate with wonderful folks from so many different walks of life who embrace and espouse various religions, beliefs and lifestyles. I love the variety! It has been delightful to be the recipient of everyone's unique methods of service and love. It reminds me of a concept recently talked about by Dieter Uchtdorf in an address of the October LDS conference.

He related the story of a time when he and others were trying to move a heavy piano from one room to another, and how they tried various methods, all of which failed until someone suggested that they all stand close together around the piano and then lift where they stood. By doing this, they were able to use their combined strength to successfully move the piano. While this story has many applications, I immediatly thought of my own situation. I feel like my burden of cancer and its attending fears, woes and pains is like the heavy piano which needs to be lifted and moved. It is a burden of such magnitude, one which I would never be able to lift alone, let alone with only a couple of helpers.

It really is a miracle that I have had you, dear family and friends who have stepped up with willing hands and hearts to help lift my burden. You have done so in such unique ways, reflecting your own unique talents. You have called, brought lunch, sent flowers, organized a shave your head campaign to raise cancer research money, visited, leant a blue tooth, provided dinner, sent cards, made a halloween costume and a lovely blanket, delivered apples, offered blessings, gifted books, organized a weekend getaway on a lovely ranch, fasted, sent good thoughts, made me laugh, brought thoughtful gifts and prayed. Truly, you have all lifted where you stand, and your strength has "moved" my burden. Without you I would certainly despair and remain "unmoved".

While the journey ahead still looms long, I know that with the support you have given me and that which you have already pledged to give in the days ahead, I know that all will be well. So much thanks to each of you who have so willingly lifted where you stand. Love, Gretchen.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Gretchen's Terrific Halloween Weekend


Our patient acted almost like a non-patient these past few days.

She partied two days in a row!

We paid a surprise visit (to all but Anja, who knew beforehand) to Gretchen's LDS Conference Center buddies at a potluck dinner on Thursday. They were so happy and amazed to see her up and about! Such lovely, caring people -- I was thrilled to finally meet them all.

On Friday, it was off to the annual Navitaire costume chili cook-off. Gretchen wore her "Super Gretch" cape her friend made, and was hugely welcomed and hugged (carefully) by the large crowd. And not only were the 20 pots of chili fabulous -- we tested them ALL -- but the rock band, made up of Navitaire employees, was just awesome! Sid-Mary-Tom and others -- you guys ROCK! The costumes -- with super-friendly folks under them -- were so fun! (Sterling, YOU are one of a kind!)

Friday night, Gretchen even sat on the porch for awhile and helped hand out treats to nearly 200 spooky visitors.

So Saturday -- did Gretchie-Girl pay a price for prancing around the countryside for two days? Of course . . . but it wasn't too bad. Another jammies-only day and we three lounged around with hot chocolate and popcorn watching BYU take Colorado State in a close and exciting game. Cozy homestead days are good too.

Yesterday morning Gretchen took over the kitchen and made two pumpkin-chocolate-chip-cream-cheese pies and some yummy stew for dinner. And then she drove herself to church 20 minutes away in Draper. She didn't last the whole time there but she did really well. She's off the "big gun" drugs now and can lift her right arm to shoulder level, so Alan let her drive. (I'm sure this grown-up woman just loves to be told by her step-dad when she can drive and when she can't!)

Of course, tommorow it starts all over again.

We don't know the surgery time yet, but I know I won't be dragging our laptop to the hospital. We'll arrange for someone who's blog-savvy to post the results of the surgery immediately. The surgeon doesn't know beforehand if he'll have to remove the tissue-expander on the right side in order to get all the tissue he needs -- or not. Stay tuned . . .

Speaking of this blog . . .

In our travels about the countryside and from many emails, we're learning just how many scores of folks are following this blog. Omigoodness! It's just amazing to us how many caring people are out there. Gretchen has talked to a couple of private-personality women recently who've experienced breast cancer in the past and chose to do it without the knowledge of others -- chemo, radiotherapy and all. While we understand and respect their desire for privacy, we just don't know how they did it! The love and support of family and friends is the Number Two thing that keeps this gal going. Every get-well card brings tears of gratitude. YOU, dear ones, are precious to both of her caregivers.

I love and cherish you,
Lindy-Lou the Mom

PS -- My good buddy, Eileen Roberts in San Diego, tells us we need to change the phrase "breast cancer survivor" to "breast cancer REvivor" -- we LOVE that!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Slight Delay in Surgery Date

Good Saturday to you All!

In talking with my Dr.'s office yesterday to ask what time I need to show up for surgery on Monday, I learned that there had been a miscommunication with the scheduling girl. Because of that, we had to reschedule surgery to the following day, Tuesday, November 4th and it will be at the Uiversity hospital rather than Huntsman. That's all for now...happy choring, footballing, camping or whatever else your Saturday holds for you! Love, gf

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pink Ribbons Galore!

Boyoboyoboy, does my kid have fabulous friends! Take a look at some of the lover-ly and thoughtful things she's received! And we've concluded that if a gal MUST have breast cancer, October is certainly the month to have surgery. A plethora of pink-ribbon items bedeck the many stores about!


Good friends at the LDS Conference Center where Gretchen volunteers and gives guided tours on Thursday evenings by the name of Denny and Francine Beecher sent her this wonderful hand-made quilt. Hard to tell from the photo, but the pink side is all pink ribbons with words like love, play, smile, peace, faith, etc throughout the spaces between the ribbons. We just cried when we opened the box.

The matching bracelets are from our great friend in Oregon, Chris Low. They're matching promise bracelets -- one for me, one for the Gretch..

And would you believe a Halloween costume??? It's a handmade super-hero cape! Gretchen's good friends in her old ward, Pat Ogden, and Carri Hulet came by today. Gretchen's new name: "Super Gretch!"

Your continued prayers, cards, thoughtful meals, treats, and fun fun gifts are greatly appreciated by all of us in this household!

(I apologize for including the photo of Miss Polly, the newest member of our family. She was a gift to me from Birthday Claus last week. She's adorable. Alan stuck his "I voted" sticker on her forehead. Non-dog lovers, please ignore this one!)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

2nd Surgery is a GO

Hi all,
I just had a very good discussion/visit with my radiation oncologist, Dr. Gaffney, and after talking with him, have made the decision to go ahead with the second excision on Monday, Nov. 3rd. After reciting statistics and studies about the efficacy of doing a second surgery when the surgeon knows exactly where to target the surgery, in addition to my young age and positive margins, it only makes sense to do everything possible to make sure that we get every cancer cell out.

The program will be as follows:
1) Nov 3rd, second excision
2) Chemotherapy which will take approx 24 weeks to complete (though this could change as I haven't yet met with Dr. Buys, who will be my medical oncologist.) I hope to start this approx. 3 weeks post-op.
3) Begin/Continue expansion via the tissue expanders throughout Chemo treatment.
4) After expansion is complete, radiation therapy for 5 weeks, every day. M-F for 10 mins each day.
5) Reconstruction surgeries....

So, though this isn't my favorite news to share, I think it is the wisest choice to make given that my goal is to live another 50 years at least---without seeing another cancer cell ever :)

As for the family fast, if you would like to participate, we will hold it on this coming Sunday, Nov 2. As I have already made the decision to go ahead with the surgery, the purpose will be focused on a successful surgery and quick recovery.

Continued thanks for all your support and love, your strength is my strength. Love, gf

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Confusing

Hi all,
Today is the day that we have all been waiting for as to further news on a treatment plan. I can best summarize it into the three categories: the Good, the Bad and the Confusing.

The Good--I saw my surgeon on Monday afternoon, and he said that the incisions look great and that I am healing really well. Additionally, I am feeling better and stronger each day, and am approaching real person-hood again.

The Bad--On the same day, he also informed me that he thought I would need to have further surgery on the right side, as the margins were bad. What that means is that when they remove a tumor, they like to have a 2 millimeter margin of healthy, non-cancerous tissue on the margins of the tumor, which insures that they got it all. When the path repport came back with my results however, it showed that they had less than a 1 mm margin, as the tumor was so large. His suggestion therefore, was to do a second surgery to take more tissue/skin from the right breast. I refrained from mentioning this on Monday, as he wanted to see what the cancer board had to say about it as well. He also promised to represent my wish to not have to have radiation if at all possible to the board, which he did. I figured once I got the definitive recommendations today, I would post the results.

The Confusing-- After talking with the surgeon, Dr. Nelson this morning following the board meeting, he said that everyone agreed that I needed radiation, and that they thought I should have surgery as well. When I questioned him about whether or not I could get away with just radiation and skip the surgery or whether the radiation would be less if I were to do surgery in addition, he wasn't able to answer me. He said I needed to talk to the radiation oncologist, Dr. Gaffney, to get those specific questions answered. After spending a fair amount of time on the phone trying to convince his assistant to have him just talk to me on the phone about it (after all, he was in the board meeting that morning and familiar with my case) she was successful in her gatekeeping role in refusing my request to chat with him on the phone for the consultation, and I ended up making an apt. with him for Tuesday morning. In addition, I am trying to schedule with the medical oncologist, Dr. Buys, and am having a little struggle with her schedule.

All this to say, I feel like I have talked with more people, but that I have not really gotten more information. I hope though, that after meeting with Dr. Gaffney, I will have enough data to make an informed decision. My approach to this entire process has been to be as agressive as I need to be so that I never see another cancer cell in my body again. Dr. Nelson described having surgery and radiation as having a belt and suspenders too. So, if that means that I need more surgery, then I will do that. On the other hand, when you are a surgeon, you are a hammer and every case looks like a giant nail, so I think to get a more complete picture, I must first talk with Dr. Gaffney. However, I have a surgery date for Monday, Nov 3rd at Huntsman for this second excision if I decide to go that route.

So, it looks like we continue to wait again, at least until Tuesday for the information that I need. At that point, I hope to have all the possible data I can gather, and those added to prayer and fasting will be how I make the decision. We will be holding a family fast, and would invite any of you who would like to participate in that to do so. I will post more on the timing and purpose of fasting as we determine a good date.

Thanks to you all for your love, your prayers, your good thoughts, your calls, your cards, your flowers, your food, your service and your interest in my well-being. You cannot know how much I rely on you, and thank God everyday for your support. My heart is indeed full of gratitude for you. Much love to you all. gf

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Last Rose of Summer . . .

. . . not the the GIRL, Silly People, the FLOWER!

Our patient was able to get up and out to Walmart yesterday! She splurged on a mani-n-pedicure. (Notice the cute pink ribbon on four of her nails!)

Gretchen walks every day (sometimes twice) to the end of our street, Sandalwood, and makes a point of smelling and admiring the most incredibly fragrant very last rose of summer. The bush is in the front yard of the "other" Petersens' (even spelled the same) on our street. Have you seen it, fellow Sandalwoodites? Go take a sniff! She even attempted one of her famous jumping pictures (that's a fake jump, of course. Laurie, we'd love to know the variety of that rose.)

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part II of our visit to her surgeon on Monday. She's waiting for a phone call in the ayem and then we'll post the latest news.

Take care,
Linda the Mom

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday Ayem

Our patient is making slow but sure progress . . .

Friday night good buddy Aaron came and we followed our weekly tradition of soup and the Amazing Race. We four have been big fans for the past several seasons. We just record the show and watch it during the week when Aaron is available. (Any fans out there? Do you like siblings Nick and Starr this season?)

Unfortunately, Saturday was a down day for the Gretch. In bed all day, not even rising to shower. She did venture forth to the back yard where Alan was planting a new batch of perrenials to say hello and cheer him on, however.

But yesterday!

Gretchen was determined to attend church, so I got her dressed and off we went to her own church in Draper, twenty minutes away, rather than ours, just down the street. She felt at home there, but she lasted only about 45 minutes. So we came home and she had a nice long nap.

Last evening brought a very special event: Friends Matt and Summer Beecher came and brought supper! Yum! If I can get their recipe for Harvest Stew with Dumplings, I'll post it here. It was absolutely fabulous, topped off with their pumpkin cookies with chocolate chips. Even MORE fabulous, however, was the caring and beautiful spirit they brought into our home. I almost tied them to the sofa -- so reluctant were we to let them out the door when the time came.

Gretchen is using her left arm for many things. She can now raise it to shoulder level. She's surprised to find herself a fairly good "south paw" and eats left-handed. She can't shower and dress herself yet, but she gets herself to a rising position on her own about half the time.

Her right arm -- a lot of the tissue from the armpit gone and still healing -- is still pretty much glued to her side.

Her beautiful hair is strictly at our mercy. (Alan blow-dried it once when we were in a pinch for time -- hilarious "do" that day!) I never complain about her very particular way of drying and styling it -- all those products to keep it shiny and wavy! The last time I styled my daughter's hair it was in puppy-tails at the age of three. I know it won't be long before it's all gone. But only for a season . . .

Has she told you what her plans are when/if her hair begins to fall out? After the first strand lets go, it's off to the barber to shave her head. And no wigs, she tells me! She plans to go "au natural" except for scarves and hats to keep her head warm. She may get lucky and receive the kind of chemo that lets her keep her hair. Stay tuned . . . you'll be the first to know!

We're off to her surgeon this afternoon for her first check-up. I'll let you know what he has to say.

Meanwhile, please know we're feeling your prayers and good thoughts. This very special young woman always has a serene smile on her face and good and positive things to say to us and about others. (No different than she's always been!)

Love and much gratitude to you all,
Linda the Mom

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I got a call from the Dr's office today with some dissapointing news...the cancer board decided not to meet today because there are so many of them out on is fall break time around here for schools, so that may be the reason. Anyway, that means information on a treatment plan will be delayed for another week. Though this is somewhat annoying, it doesn't affect my schedule, as they would wait the 3-4 weeks post surgery anyway until I am healed up enough to start treatment. I did ask if I could request Dr. Sondra Buys as my oncologist, and she said that it would be no problem. So that is some nice news...she has been recommended to me by a handful of people as a wonderful dr. I will keep you all posted as I know. Today bodes well as another good day. Thanks to you all for your wonderful prayers and good thoughts. Love to you all. gf

Tumor Board Meets Today . . .

. . . we'll have results of their decision on how to treat our patient late this ayem. Will post results before bedtime . . . thank you ALL for your concerns . . .

Linda the Mom

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Well, We Always Suspected That Gretchen Fegel Was a Druggie, Didn't We?

My step-son Andrew, who's a physician, told us years ago: "All drugs are poison with a few good side effects." I think about that often -- and he's right!

I would be happy to report that all is well and our patient is making steady progress. Actually, all IS well -- it's just that we wish she could be pain-FREE in the process! We'll eventually get this drug-thingie figured out. We suspect there's a long drug road ahead with chemo and all . . .

Monday my cousin in Alpine came and dropped off a marvelous bag of goodies which we were reveling in when, toward the end, Gretchie-Poo suddenly had to depart for bed. She tires instantly and regrettably. We hope dear cousin Julianne wasn't offended!

Yesterday was a day of pain trial. She's now at that point where the pain is reducing on its own, but the "big guns" are still needed and the question is, just how many? Too many give her headache, nausea, and dizziness. Too few mean big pain. For the first time yesterday she skipped a daily shower but she insisted on taking two walks -- morning and early afternoon. No visitors yesterday and that was good. She seems to alternate between vim-and-vigor days and just-let-me-lie-here-and-grit-my-teeth days. Poor girl.

Yesterday late afternoon and on in to the evening we three sat in the living room listening to the audio-book, Peter and the Star Catchers. Are you familiar with it? It's three volumes -- the prequel to Peter Pan -- how he actually BECAME the Peter Pan we all love. The patient and I always manage to doze from time to time as we listen to books, and have to keep backing up to keep up with the story. Patient Alan, who's a night owl, not an early bird like we two, has heard the entire Disk Four of Volume Two several times now. After the fourth re-wind, he finally got disgusted and went downstairs to watch the news! Gretchen wanted no supper and just lay on the sofa with a bowl handy because she felt so nauseated. She finally opted for cream of mushroom soup and beddie-bye at ten. (With some important details of Peter's first visit to London missing.)

We're expecting a visit from another Alpine cousin today and she's looking forward to showering -- we promise! -- and a good breakfast. We agreed during our early ayem drug visit (see? I told you she deals -- with her mother no less!) that we need to post a few pictures to make this blog more interesting. We need to choose some subjects: Walking? Maybe. Smelling her lovely flowers? Yes! Opening get-well cards? Fun! Showering? No! Downing those drugs? Probably not. Scars? DEFINITELY not! Modeling her new pink ribbon outfit? FER SHURE!

Stand by for pix! (My knowledge of getting pictures from the camera to the blog would be taking the photo, holding the camera in front of the monitor and smashing it in, hoping the photo and the blog site will collide somewhere in cyber-space. I'm sure there's a more technical and successful process. Be assured that "Techie Princess" will set me straight long before I destroy this monitor!)

Gretchen feels bad that she has go keep her phone off most of the time so she can rest. She absolutely LOVES talking to all you wonderful well-wishers. She's so thrilled that so many care. Last evening she tried to return some calls, but the nausea took over and she gave up. I'm sure today will be a better day and she'll return all the calls she's received in the past couple of days. Don't give up on her!

My apologies to my darling dodder for posting this prior to her editing it. She says she likes to edit because I tend to be a little dramatic.

Wherever do you suppose she gets such outlandish opinions?

With my love and great appreciation to you all. You obviously care for this young woman very much,

PS -- Gretchen has a supply of thank-you notes she intends to write and mail. She especially loves Sid's "lemon crack", Mary's wonderful cabin photos, Julianne and Auntie Jewel's amazing goodies, and Celeste's stylish hat to wear during her future "bald days" (I must admit I shed a few tears when I saw that one.) Oh, and all the flowers! (Eric, your little pinkies arrived and are thriving.) You will receive the notes -- just not immediately . . .

Monday, October 13, 2008

Alan Petersen -- Drug Dealer!

Saturday was a hilarious day -- well, "hilarious" only if you're NOT Alan Petersen!

So, just WHERE is our patient's mother's BRAIN these days? We took that trip to the plastic surgeon Friday, as Gretchen noted on her last blog. For out-of-staters, the U of U hospital is an hour away from us here in Cedar Hills in GOOD traffic. And yes, I DID know her "big guns" -- oxycodone (cousin to oxycontin, the popular street drug) was very very low. About four left on Friday.

Did I think to take the pill bottle with us?

Did I think to ask the plastic doc to refill the low scrip?

Or did I walk to the surgery clinic down the way and ask her surgeon for a refill?

No-o-o-o-e-e-e-e-. . .

So Friday, when we were done with the doc, she was in a great deal of pain so she asked him for a scrip for TWO "oxies" to get her home. Alan took the scrip to the pharmacy in the hospital -- waiting in line while I got the patient a Sprite for her upset tummy (too many bumps and curves on the ride up). When he presented the scrip, the pharmacist said they didn't carry the dosage the doc ordered so Alan had to go back to the plastics clinic, sign back in, wait for him between pts, and get a new scrip for the correct dosage. Then after waiting in line at the pharmacy AGAIN, there was another snafu! The doc had scratched out the dosage and written in the new one -- a no-no! This time the pharmacist himself came out of his cage and marched down to the doc and got it corrected!

Meanwhile mom 'n' kid are sitting in the waiting room (so aptly named), Sprite bottle long empty and Gretchen really hurting by now. Alan appeared and she gulped her two new precious oxies and we made the trip home with that bed and her special pillow looking mighty inviting.

But that's not all.

No-o-o-o-e-e-e-e . . .

Saturday ayem I showed up in the wee hours at her bedside for her early morning "fix" and looked at the four remaining oxies and realized what a slug I was for not asking for a big refill while we were at the hospital the day before. You see, because oxycodone has such a huge street value, and it's a narcotic, it can only be handwritten and handcarried by the patient (or family member) directly to the pharmacist. No exceptions. I called the hospital surgical resident on call (it was Saturday after all) and begged for an exception. Couldn't he just call it to say, another DOCTOR -- mine, for instance (or his partner on call) -- and have HIM write the scrip? No, he could call it only to an urgent care center and that would involve a trip for Gretchen to Orem and a big fee not covered by her insurance.


So off faithful, good step-dad Alan went for the two-hour round trip to the hospital -- TWO days in a row now -- to see the resident and p/u the scrip.

But is that the end of the story?

No-o-o-o-e-e-e-e-. . .

Alan finally got home to our local pharmacy and dropped off the Rx. He then called me and asked if he should pay for it (rather pricey) or should he charge it to an accout somehow? I'd forgotten to give him Gretchen's medical charge cards! Dummy me -- AGAIN! I told him to come home and I'd go back with the cards later and pick up the drugs. Meanwhile, our favorite patient has taken her last "big gun" and clearly will need relief when she wakes up from her afternoon nap. Alan came home, saw that I was involved with some project or other, and volunteered to go back himself. What a dear! I gave him the cards and off he went.

End of story? Hardly!

When he got back to the pharmacy and tried to pick up the pills, the pharmacist called out from the back -- "Sorry sir, the doc forgot to write the date on the scrip -- you'll have to go back to the hospital and get him to write the date in!"

Alan was incredulous, of course. The pharmacy assistant at the window, however, was sympathetic. She whispered out of the side of her mouth, "Just take the darned thing, write the date in yourself and take it to another pharmacy. You can't bring it back here unless you wait two hours because 'Dr Pete' over there will know you wrote it in yourself."

So off our hero went to Walgreen's ten miles away, filling in the date himself, for still ANOTHER wait in line and


A FILLED prescription! . . .

Home JUST in time for the waking princess/patient to have her much-needed relief from pain. And just who did she have to thank for the relief only a narcotic could bring?

Her forgetful, mush-brained mother?


It was the knight on the white horse in the white hat who saved the day!

Hooray! Kisses and kudos to our drug-dealing hero!

Friday, October 10, 2008


Just a short note, I hit a milestone today, which is one week post-surgery: I got the two drains which were draining my wounds taken out from under my arms. I visited with the plastic surgeon who, after looking over the numbers we have been dilligently recording on the output, and he proclaimed that they were ready to come out...yeah...this will make showering much easier :)

Two trips to SLC in two days has been a little taxing, so I will look forward to staying home for the next couple of days at least :) I still love seeing dear friends and family though, so if you are in the neighborhood, please feel free to stop on by.

The next bit of news will come on Thursday after the cancer board meets to determine, based on my final path report, the best course of treatment (I am going to try to weasel out of any radiation suggestions...though I will aquiesce if they really push) at which time I will be setting up appointments with oncologists.

All my love to you all, the prayers and good thoughts and positive energy are really working! I feel very upbeat, and am grateful that the path report was what it was, as it could have been SO much worse. Love, gf

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thursday afternoon -- this is Mom checking in and updating . . .

. . . wow, what a day!

We three started the day with a trip to SL to the church office building. Gretchen's friend, Aaron, was able to arrange a mtg with Elder Denis Neuenschwander of the Seventy. He was her mission president in Hungary and a big fan of hers. He paid her mother the highest compliment a missionary mom can receive -- "Gretchen was the hardest working and greatest missionary I've ever worked with -- and I've worked with a LOT of missionaries -- hard-working and not-so-hard-working." Yes!

Elder N's wife passed away last year of breast cancer, so the disease and its victims are near and dear to her heart. He tried to get to see her in the hospital Sunday but we'd already left. They had a sweet, tearful reunion and he left all four of us (Aaron too) with some amazing words of counsel and hope.

The second big event of the day: the pathology results.

Hm-m-m-m -- about what we expected. The tumor was "multi-centric" throughout. That means there were several tumors about .2- 6 cm in size. The borders were indistinct which means it was a good thing she chose mastectomy over lumpectomy. Dr. Nelson removed 17 nodes and there were two with tumor. In the out-dated way of staging CA, this is a Stage II CA. In the updated way of staging breast cancer she's a T3-N1. The "T" stands for tumor, the "N" stands for node.

And here's a bit of surprise: The left breast was semi-involved. They call it a "busy breast." That means there were calcifications and "suspicious activities" (trying to picture how that ol' flesh could sneak out at night and party on its own!) Dr. Nelson said it was a great choice to have bilateral removal.

Our patient, if she were writing this, would tell you she's doing great and healing well and life is just fun, fun, FUN! (You know Gretchen.) In reality, as her nurse, I see her in a lot of pain, certainly helped by drugs, but struggling. Physically, but not emotionally. Elder N referred to her optimistic character often and said it would see her through this huge challenge.

What's next?

Chemo/hormone and possibly (darn!) radiation therapy. No word on that until she meets with the oncologist and that won't be until she heals from the surgery itself. No appt yet -- we'll keep you updated. Tomorrow is her appt with the plastic surgeon. Dr Agarwal will check the expanders and I HOPE remove the drains, tho I doubt it. A lot of drainage going on still.

Gretchen is just whelmed-over with your emails, both personal and to this blog. Your cards, flowers, notes and phone calls -- plus your prayers -- are keeping her (and us!) afloat. Don't stop!

She'll survive this new enemy and make it her friend -- just like she's done several times in the past. All her physical setbacks had better watch out! Once again, God (and Gretchen Fegel) is in charge here! I just know she'll come out smelling like a rose and healthier than ever.

My thanks and love to you all,

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Home and feeling good!

Dearest friends and family,
It has been so heartening to read your kind and dear comments, receive your lovely gifts and cards, and hear your loving voices on the phone. I can't tell you how much your communication to me has meant, and how far it goes in progressing my healing!

I have just woken up for my second day at home, and all is going well. I am thankful for pain drugs and a mother who is always available--even in the early morning to adminster them to me :) I am walking around without much trouble, and have been able to shower, all of which make life nice. They said that I should be feeling pretty well in 2-3 weeks, and at this rate, I would concur with the professionals.

As for what's next...I have an apt. with the plastic surgeon on Friday, as he is the one who is caring for the immediate healing, and will continue to meet with him as we progress down the reconstruction path. The remaining potentially scary bit of news that we are awaiting is the final pathology report, which we hope to get towards the end of the week. This will determine the stage that the cancer was at and consequently which treatments we need to do next. My dearest hope and prayer at this point is that there are no metastasis anywhere in my body, and that the cancer only made it to the lymph nodes, which they have already removed. If you would like to be specific in your prayers, I would love some help with this request. I will let you know as soon as I know what the outcome is.

I have loved your visits and calls, I am sleeping sometimes during the day, but am up and about on walks around the house, and today will venture beyond the backyard. If any of you would like to come and walk about with me, you are more than welcome. My mother and Alan continue to care for me here in their lovely home, and I said a sad goodbye to my dad who is headed home to MI this morning, what a blessing to have had him here throughout the diagnosis, waiting, and surgery phases.

I can't emphasize enough how you have all lifted and supported me...I have felt a strength that I know is from your petitioning to God on my behalf...He has heard your prayers and is answering them every minute. A mere thank you is so inadequate, but it is all I can say to you, please know that it is said with every heart-felt muscle I have. I love you all! gf

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Out of Surgery

Gretchen is healing, and welcomes visitors. She let me add this post since she is unable to use her arms at this time. The surgery went well. However a tumor was found in the lymph nodes. Further treatment is to be determined including possible chemotherapy and radiation. She will meet with her oncologist in one week.

Gretchen’s positive attitude is reflective of her deep faith in Christ in whose hands she has placed herself. I was surprised to discover that Gretchen loves visitors, even this close to the surgery. She has a little Bluetooth earpiece, and can accept your calls if whomever is in the room can press the “call accept” button. She says not to worry about waking her, as her caregivers (her Dad when I was there) are taking the calls if she’s sleeping.
She is grateful for all of our prayers, and says our faith is making a difference.
She is scheduled to go home to Alpine tomorrow, but she will miss the super galactic chair/bed that she’s presently enjoying, helping with the effort to get out of bed.

Knowing that everyone wants to know what they can do, I offered a bunch of possibilities, of which she welcomed any and all. A few ideas: Foot rubs, manicures, pedicures, (especially with nail decals. If anyone can find a breast cancer decal, that would rock!) CD music, books on CD, reading books to her; but more than anything, just the connection and support of friends.
You might also be interested to know that she has no dietary restrictions. But she is focused on eating healthily, and wants to learn about a diet that is most supportive of healing cancer.

Gretchen asked me to remind all of us women to get a mammogram. One in eight women get breast cancer; and the highest percentage come to those without a family history of breast cancer.

I know I speak for all in that we love you Gretchen and are pouring out our hearts and faith for you.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Countdown

Those of you who are viewing this are mostly likely aware of my recent breast cancer diagnosis; I have been diagnosed with two different types, Invasive Lobular Carcinoma and Ductile In-Situ Carcinoma.

While a tumor was found only on the right side, I am electing surgery for both sides, as my particular type is often found bilaterally, and I have decided to be aggressive in preventing this from recurring. Surgery is scheduled for this Friday, Oct 3rd at the University of Utah/Huntsman Cancer Center. I will have two surgeons initally, Dr. Ed Nelson, general surgeon and Dr. Ray Agarwal, plastic surgeon. I will go in early and start with a nuclear med dye to be used during surgery to determine lymph node involvement, and then wait a few hours while it drains into my lymph system. I will then be taken into surgery in the early afternoon. During surgery, they will test lymph nodes and will be able to determine stage and grade of the cancer. This information will determine what type of treatment I will need to go through post surgery, radiation and/or chemo. Following surgery i will be in the hospital for two days, with a release on either Sunday or Monday. I will then continue recuperating at my mom's house in Cedar Hills.

As the day draws neigh, I find myself more and more sober about possible outcomes, but though it is scary and sad I continue to feel peaceful to my core. I have received so many wonderful calls, emails, cards, flowers, and plants from so many dear and loved ones. Prayers, fasting and temple attendence in my behalf have occured, and all of these efforts have made a wonderful difference in how I and others in my family have felt...truly prayer is powerful and such a kinetic force, it preserves me and lifts my spirits from day to day and hour to hour. I expect it to continue to do so in the coming days and months.

I love to hear from you and will update this blog as I get more info. For those of you who have enquired, following are my address and my mom's as well as our phone numbers. My apologies to those to whom I may have given a bad address for my mom, the correct one follows:

Linda and Alan Petersen
4119 W. Sandalwood Dr
Cedar Hills, UT 84062

Gretchen Fegel
14914 Ox Cart Lane
Draper, UT 84020

Love to you all, and eternal thanks for your love, concern and prayers. gf