Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Year Ago Today: I Found Out I Had Cancer (Part 2)

During my cancer journey,  I was hesitant to let too many people know before I had all of the facts.  Since I let everyone know I was planning on Joining the Survivors Club, there have been many questions.  In this "A Year Ago Today" Series, I will attempt to answer those questions and also work out what the hell happened this last year in my own head, heart and soul.  Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

A few days ago, I revealed and reflected on  how I was feeling a year ago when I first found out I had cancer.  In order to keep the reading amount somewhat manageable, I decided to break it up into two parts.  I left off at the whole "I found out I had cancer, got ice cream and went back to work" part.

My head was swimming and I was feeling a bit numb.  Mike drove us over to TCBY and I tried to focus on what I would get there.  I'd had been trying to eat better (I'm always trying to eat better, really) and so I pictured some kind of vanilla ice cream with lots of fruit.  Once we sat outside to dig into our ice cream, Mike commented, "After that news, I'm not surprised to see all that chocolate."  Vanilla...fruit...I just found out I had cancer...who was I kidding.

As we ate our ice cream, we finally found ourselves able to form coherent sentences.  We went over what the doctor had said - found it early, got it all out, stage 1a, no chemo, just a follow up with an oncologist.  We could handle that.   We would do everything he told us to do, get the CAT scan, wait until Friday for the report, go see the oncologist.  Figure it all out before telling the world.  After all, if a person had cancer and didn't know it, does it even count?  If a person had cancer and didn't need chemo, are they even a survivor?  If a tree falls in the get the picture.

Mike and I have always seen ourselves as a team.  We try to handle everything with the best attitude that we can, move through the bad and focus on the good.  That is what we decided to do that day.  Move through the bad and focus on the good.  From what the doctor said, the bad was behind us.  When we finished our ice cream and our conversation, I decided to go back to work.  I could use the distraction, I would have to ask for some time off later in the week for the CAT scan and the people I work with are my friends.

I am not sure if going back to work was the right decision.  I felt like if I didn't go back, everyone would worry.  However, when I did go back, I think I shocked them.  I walked into my boss' office and one of my co-workers was sitting there with him.  Seeing me, they figured it had gone well and that it was safe to ask how it went.  I hadn't really thought about how I would answer that question.  I panicked a bit and then did the simplest thing there was to do, I told them the truth. I focused a lot on the "I will be fine part" reassuring them as much as I was reassuring myself.  I would need a few days off for some follow up appointments but all in all, it wouldn't take up too much time.  Mike and I would just do what they told us to do and then move forward, everything would be fine.  They both responded that they were sorry to hear that and they knew I would be just fine (really what else do you say?).  Then I got up and went back to my desk, getting a whole lot accomplished with my new found nervous energy.

To this day, I wonder what it was like to be on the other side of that conversation.  I did my best to coat it as positively as I could, but they must of wondered what I was thinking, why I was back there, if I really would be okay.  The conversation had to happen at some point, so I am hoping that getting it over with right away, as opposed to going home or lying, was a good solution.

 Finding out I had cancer was a complicated situation.  So I kept it simple whenever possible: keep moving forward, keep going for ice cream (we had a lot of fro-yo during this experience!) and when possible do whats normal.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Teal Tuesday - Some Wedding Dress Shopping

A couple of weekends we went wedding dress shopping for my fabulous sister! Even though she hasn't made a final decision in that department quite yet, we did stumble upon an awesome sale on some TEAL bling at Charming Charlies.  50% of off clearance prices???  Don't mind if I do.....

Yup, that's a teal clutch, teal sunglasses, a teal ring, teal and pink bracelet (for September and October) and TEAL FLAMINGO EARRINGS!

Yup, Teal Flamingo Earrings.  It's the small stuff people.

Now back to wedding dress shopping.  She won't be wearing this dress, but I had to show you how cute she is anyway.

And now I know what I'm making for the bridal shower:

The resemblance is uncanny, really.

And of course, we can't forget the real reason behind the Teal Tuesday movement.  Here are the signs and symptoms of Ovarian Cancer again.  If you have these symptoms persistently for two weeks or more or a major change, go see your doctor!

Can you name any symptom of ovarian cancer?

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Year Ago Today: I Found Out I Had Cancer (Part 1)

During my cancer journey,  I was hesitant to let too many people know before I had all of the facts.  Since I let everyone know I was planning on Joining the Survivors Club, there have been many questions.  In this "A Year Ago Today" Series, I will attempt to answer those questions and also work out what the hell happened this last year in my own head, heart and soul.  Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

The short story: A year ago today I found out I had cancer, got some ice cream, and then went back to work.

The long story:

A year ago today, I went in for my follow up appointment to Surgery #1.  As I wrote about last time, my doctor typically did follow ups 4 weeks post-op.  Since he scheduled this one for 2 weeks, I had a feeling I wasn't going to like what I was going to hear.  I went to work that morning, Mike picked me up at the office and we drove to my 11:30 appointment in Schenectady.

When I got there, I was taken straight back to the doctor's personal office.  No exam room to sit waiting in, just a desk and a few chairs.  The doctor pulled his chair around to the front of the desk.  He spoke quietly and slowly, oh so very slowly.  He summarized our short history together, from diagnosis to surgery going step by step through the whole thing.  As he slowly worked his way up to what he actually wanted to say my heart was racing and my bones ached with nerves. In my head I was screaming, "Say it, just say it.  I know you're going to say it, just get it over with." I knew what was coming, how could I not? It was just taking so damn long.

The overly kind doctor took my hand, he looked me in the eyes, he said something like the bad news is you have cancer, the good news is, we caught it early.  He diagnosed it as stage 1a, that it was contained and that he got it all out.  He told me stories of his patients who had gone through the same things, how they were healthy, fertile and still alive 20 or more years later.  He assured me his tears were only a match to mine, that it wasn't that I had a terrible diagnosis, it was that he hated to see his patients cry.  He said, "You will be fine, you will do well. Very well."  Over and over.  "You will be fine. You will do well."

With legs that were not my own, I walked back out of the office and to the receptionist.  I handed her the paper with boxes checked and scientific terms scribbled out in the Doctor's terrible handwriting.  There were tests to schedule and appointments to be made.  She looked at the paper, she looked at me.  Her eyes reflected the sadness and fear that must have been in my own.  She filled out another paper for me to take to the scheduling nurse. She wrote that I would need a CT scan and a follow up appointment with an oncologist.  She filled that out and then wrote across the bottom, in all caps just like this:

And that was when shit started feeling real.  It was the first time I really saw and felt the words.  I took my paper back to the scheduling nurse and got the CT scheduled and was told my information would be passed on to the oncologist's office for them to set up an appointment.

We left the office, back outside into a beautiful sunny day, passing by people who weren't in the medical arts building to hear they had cancer.  I looked at them as I walked out, wondering what their news would be, what they were there for.  Was it just a routine visit?  Were they going to hear great news? Would they, too, hear bad news?  How was the world still moving and people still going on with their days?  What would my days start to look like?

Mike and I got back in the car and just sat there, staring straight ahead, wondering what to do.  There was so much to do and so little we could do all at the same time.  He wanted to me to tell him what I needed.  I wanted to fast forward through all of it, so that it was a day I was looking back on, not going through.  But I had to go through it, I had to feel it, I had to make a decision.  So I made the easiest decision I could.  I told him there was a new TCBY and I wanted to go have some ice cream.  Then, I did what was comfortable, routine and familiar.  I went back to work for the rest of the day.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Local Flavor: Park Play House

From time to time, I like to talk about the local flavor of the place I live.  While my city is pretty great, it is also awesome to be so close to the Capital District.  Albany has tons to offer and one of my favorite places is Washington Park.  There are playgrounds, a pond and an outdoor theater.  Each winter brings Lights in the Park, each spring Tulip Fest, and every summer for the past 25 years, amazing productions by the Park Playhouse.

I've been going with my family for as long as I can remember.  We'd pack up the blankets, chairs and card games and get there early to sit in the amphitheater seats that are free to the public.  We'd usually grab subs on the way and once we were old enough, we could to dip into the wine or margaritas our parents would pack.  It was always the one of the best parts of summer. Now that I am older and don't have my parents to plan for me, Mike and I usually end up in the paid seats since we don't have to get there early.  The paid seats are very reasonably priced.  The rows of seats run between $14 and $16.  Just last year, they started adding special "table seats" for certain productions.  We missed out on the table seats that were actually part of the set for Cabaret last year but booked table seats this year. There was actually a Knight waiting on patrons during intermission!

Table Seats, life is good
The productions themselves are incredible.  Many think of it as community theater but while community theater is well and good, many of the actors in these productions are professionals which takes the show to a whole new level.  This year there are two shows, Monty Python's Spamalot for the month of July and Shrek for the month of August.

  Spamalot was so incredible that Mike and I went back on the last night, braved the rain and sat in the free seats to just see it again.  I feel like we have seen so many "heavy" plays this winter that left me crying at certain points that I was glad this show just produced tears of laughter!

I would totally recommend going to see Shrek in August, which should be just as funny! Take the kids with you, they definitely won't forget it!  Tickets are available online or free if you are prepared to go early.  If the weather is good and it is getting toward the end of the run or a weekend, I would suggest going at least 3 hours early.  Mid week,  you might be able to get away with 1.5 to 2 hours early.  

I didn't take any pictures in the rain,but here are a few from the first night we went.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Teal Tuesday - A Little Salsa?

Well it is Teal Tuesday again.  Last week's post got booted due to the awesome teal cake my coworker and his daughter.  Here is that picture one more time in case you want to drool again!

Today's Teal Tuesday outfit I bought in case I ever find myself salsa dancing.  I love the flouncy top and it is super comfortable.  Best of all, it was on sale at Target!  Maxi dresses two for $22!  Doesn't get any better than that.

 And of course, we can't forget the real reason behind the Teal Tuesday movement.  Here are the signs and symptoms of Ovarian Cancer again.  If you have these symptoms persistently for two weeks or more or a major change, go see your doctor!

Can you name any symptom of ovarian cancer?

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Year Ago Today: Surgery #1

During my cancer journey,  I was hesitant to let too many people know before I had all of the facts.  Since I let everyone know I was planning on Joining the Survivors Club, there have been many questions.  In this "A Year Ago Today" Series, I will attempt to answer those questions and also work out what the hell happened this last year in my own head, heart and soul.  Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

This post will be a little longer because I didn't start it in June, when I first started experiencing symptom.

A year ago today, I went in for surgery to remove a 10cm cyst from my left ovary.  I had been experiencing a lot of strange symptoms, most of all a frequency, pain, and urgency of urination that seemed like a UTI on steroids.  After a little urging (fighting, crying, and insisting) the midwife in my GYN practice agreed to an ultra sound.  After the cyst was found, I was referred to the doctor in the practice who assured me this was routine and necessary for fertility and overall health. He explained that cysts are a natural part of the ovulation cycle and than some do not burst when they release an egg or grow larger due to fluid build up or other abnormalities.  He assured me was too young to be concerned with cancer.  I'd also known  many people who had problems with cysts, whether it be getting them removed or having them burst.  I figured if it would help the whole fertility thing along and make me feel better, I was all for it. 

Read more here 

When it came time to have the surgery, I was extremely nervous.  It was honestly the first really big medical procedure I'd ever had.  There was the uncertainty of how I would feel after, what it would be like to be under anesthesia, what they would find. The doctor told me he would do his best to keep both ovaries in tact, but would have to take the left one out if it looked questionable.  I tried to play it off like it was no big deal, but I honestly wondered how I would feel about having a piece of me missing.

I had a laparoscopic surgery that was supposed to last about an hour. Check in went smoothly and it was no surprise that it took the nursing supervisor to come in and do the IV once my veins decided to hide.  I felt incredibly comforted by the anesthesiologist.  Once they start talking about the different drugs and what they will do to keep you asleep, everything started to feel real and I got very nervous.  She was confident, competent, and really distracted me by telling stories and keeping me calm.  My doctor introduced me to the doctor who would be assisting him and before I knew it, I was wheeled into surgery.

What was supposed to take an hour ended up taking much more (probably 3-5 hours).  I learned later that the doctor found abnormal looking cells during the surgery and called in a oncologist to consult with him.  They decided to freeze a sample and send it to the lab.  It was also decided to remove my left ovary as it was was just swallowed up by the tumor/cyst. My doctor kept my family informed through it all and when I woke up I was in a patient room as recovery was full.

Right after I woke up, I was too tired and drugged to care what happened in the surgery.  I remember waking up, talking to my family then quickly falling back to sleep.  I had never felt so tired.  The goal of the nurses was for me to be able to stand, walk, go to the bathroom unassisted and to return home that night.  I remember begging them to let me stay, I just wanted to sleep and sleep and sleep.  Walking to the bathroom was such a major production that I just could not imagine all of the steps of getting out of the hospital, into the car, drive 30 minutes, get into the house and into my bed.  It honestly felt like they were asking me to climb Everest.

With the help of my super nurse sister, my superhusband, and the hospital nurses assuring me I did not want to sleep there all night, I made it home around 8pm.  I believe I slept most of the night and spent the next few days recovering.  My surgery was on a Tuesday and I was back to work on Monday.

The doctor scheduled the follow up appointment for two weeks from the surgery.  Pre-surgery he told me it would be scheduled for four weeks post-op.  I had a nagging feeling that something was just not right, and this change in schedule reaffirmed that feeling.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Teal Tuesday - Birthday Cake!

Since you are what you eat, this Teal Tuesday I am wearing my teal on my hips, and butt, and stomach and chin....

Yesterday was my birthday (click here for shameless plug for Team Kelly and Fundraising )!  I am officially one year away from my favorite number (33).  Thank you to my great co-worker Joe and his sweet daughter Livi for baking this cake for me.  When Livi wanted to make the inside pink, Joe suggested she look up the color for ovarian cancer.  She did and the result was this teal and chocolate master piece (that only got confused with a gender reveal cake once)! 

Every Tuesday I blog, tweet, and facebook teal and link up with some great groups.  You can too! Here are some I recommend...

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Reason To Celebrate

A little chocolate

A little awareness

A Little Birthday!

A year ago today, I was celebrating my birthday by working at a BBQ for a local Democratic Committee. It was a very hot day spent with so many friends, two cakes, Mad Jack beer, and a bounce house.  In the end, it turned out pretty well, a birthday party I didn't have to pay for and a fundraiser for my organization all in one day...killing two birds with one stone.

This year I thought I would do the same...celebrate the day by working and raise some money.  Given all the changes this past year, my fundraising has a different focus.  On September 15th, my friends, family, fellow cancer survivors, the medical team from my Oncologist and I will be running (jogging, walking, crawling) at the Caring Together Inc Run/Walk for Ovarian Cancer Support and Awareness  in Albany's Washington Park.   My amazing crew has created "Team Kelly" and we are hoping for a beautiful fall day to enjoy each other, celebrate survival, and bring awareness to the most deadly gynecological cancer. 

So want can you do in August to celebrate the day of my birth?  First, I would love it if you would join our team!  You can join us through facebook and sign up officially online and join Team Kelly.

This year, I've learned a lot about gifts.  The gift of health, the gift of family, friends, and support, the gift of all of you.  The gift of you all reading, listening, reaching out and supporting me this past year has certainly been enough. However, if you would like to give a little something to the Ovarian Cancer cause, a donation on my 32nd birthday would mean a lot.  You can find that here:

Thank you for giving your time, support and kind words to this endeavor.  I hope you will join us in the fall!

Oh, and here are those symptoms again...



Thursday, August 1, 2013

Do You Follow??

So I am a little late to the game on this one one (big surprise there!).  On July1 st Google Reader, my favorite way to keep track of all the blogs I love out in blog land, turned off.  They gave us plenty of notice on this but I just didn't want to believe it.  I figured people would freak out and Google would change its mind, come to its senses, and keep it going, but alas they did not.  So I had to find a new way to follow blogs.  At the very last possible minute I chose Blog Lovin because it was so simple.  I liked how in Reader everything was is in lists and I could organize the blogs by category.  I looked at some other options that wanted to make all the blogs appear as magazine pages or add "suggested" blogs into the mix.  I'm not visual and I have way too much to read as it is so I passed on those. Blog Lovin seems to be the closest to Google Reader that I can find, so Blog Lovin it is!

Wait...What is this following you speak of? 
Good question!  There are a lot of ways to make sure you see all the updates of the blogs you love, it also works for newspapers and some magazines.  When a website you are following has a new post, it is shows up in bold on your reader.  You can then click on it and read it right there.  No keeping track of bookmarks and checking each and every one each and every day.  Easy peasey just the way I like it!   If you look over to the right sidebar ------> (yup, right there) you'll see some choices.  There is Blog Lovin', Facebook, Pinterest, my email address contact or Twitter.  Every time my 'followers' number goes up a do a little happy follow me today ppplllleeeaaassseee!