Monday, November 12, 2012

Renovations and Reconstructions


Both my home place and my body have been broken down, repaired, upgraded, and improved within the last week.  The Fuller Center group and the Home Depot crew began work at 8:00 am last Monday. The deliveries came swiftly...pallets of flooring, doors, windows, cabinets, paint cans, insulation, and other items rolled into my garage without a hitch.  It was an astounding sight as the workers began demolition shortly after lunch.  My nearly Century old house took it like a champ, and braced itself for the royal treatment. I was interviewed by both the Valley Times News and the Troup County News that day and made the front page of both. This project is touching all kinds of people in and around my community in a way that no one could predict. After the second day, I was "banished" and will not be allowed back until it is time for the BIG REVEAL......"Move that bus!" 

After daily trips to Columbus last week (including a normal check-up with Dr. Pippas), I arrived at my home away from home, St. Francis Hospital Thursday at 5:15 am for my implant replacement procedure.

In stark contrast to my previous surgery, this one went very smoothly. I do not remember much between Nurse Pam's generous dose of "joy juice" until I was awakened to move from the stretcher to the recovery bed. I was back in LaGrange on the sofa by early afternoon. Drama-free surgery is the way to go! I definitely prefer it. Mom came down to take care of me in the way only she can, and I am staying with my loving friends The Karrs while my home is being renovated. Today's follow-up appointment with Dr. Jain was uneventful, other than lipo sutures from the fat-grafting, being removed. I will go back next Monday for tape removal.

In other news, I have officially been released from my job at WGTC.  I have to assume there is a bigger reason for this challenging predicament.  As soon as I heal from this procedure, I will be ready and willing to be back in a workplace, full-time, with insurance!!! COBRA has been activated and is so expensive. It will forever baffle me as to why the government expects you to pay exorbitant amounts of money in the aftermath of a job loss. It is a desperate situation, eased only by those of you still generously donating to the CB Hope Fund, and of course my incredible parents: T-Byrd and L-Dog.

I will be sure to update you all after my home is complete! Until then....

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Let there be water!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you CITY WATER. I would like to interrupt your regularly scheduled Tuesday to publicly thank Lindsey Binion for her devoted fundraising efforts that made this epic moment possible.  I also extend my eternal gratitude to those of you in her circle of  family and friends who responded to her plea. While my well water was getting me through (thanks to Dixie Well Boring), the amount of work it was taking me to keep the well working, along with the amount of iron in the water, and rusting galvanized pipes was not an ideal situation for someone constantly recovering from extreme medical situations and a compromised immune system. Today I am thankful for water. What are you thankful for?  Love, Carly XO

Saturday, August 11, 2012

It's been a "weak" two weeks...

5:30am: Awakened by the Phlebotomist to have two tubes of blood pulled from my arm (not my IV or port because that would be too simple)

5:45am: Take my sponge bath and Mom washes and gels my hair...gotta look good for the docs!

6:00am: RN comes in to give me a Lovenox (blood thinner) shot in my tummy, alternating each day between the left side and the right side because it causes severe bruising.

6:45am: I start to doze off until........

7:00-7:30am: The first of 2-3 doctors comes by for rounds. Dr. Pippas zooms in like a character from a Harry Potter movie. Dr. Jain flashes a caring grin and inspects the surgical site. Dr. Scarborough comes by for comfort and some laughs.

9:00-11:00am: Nap time (in between RN coming in to check vitals)

12:00-6:00pm: Sweet nurses coming in to chat and check my pain level (typically between 8-10)

6:30pm: Fever started....and climbed all night.

This was my routine for the past two weeks. The last time I wrote I was about to be released. That occurred on Saturday. I had a follow-up appointment with my plastic surgeon on Monday...after taking one look at me, and hearing my fever remained, he sent me straight to my oncologist. My oncologist took one look at me and my chart (he had been out of the office during my first hospital stay) and sent me STRAIGHT back to the hospital for readmission. Mom and I did not even get to go home first. I am not sure if the SFH staff was more shocked to see me again, or if I was more shocked I was back so soon.  Either way, we got down to business.  Dr. Pippas ordered a CT scan of my chest and thorax to check for an abscess...negative. Then he ordered an ECHO of my arm and neck to check for a blood clot...negative.  We took about a thousand cultures from every part of my body that could be cultured...negative.  Dr. Pippas decided to remove my chemo portacath, speculating that it had somehow become infected, and hoping its removal would provide some relief.  

Now, here's the kicker...the surgery was not exactly pre-meditated. We found out at 8:00am they would be taking me down around 11:00am. I was going on three days with a massive migraine and had forced down some yogurt around 7:00am to try and absorb some of the medications (did I mention I was on three antibiotics??) know when they say "Nothing to eat after midnight the day before surgery"? Well, I learned the hard way that is what dictates the amount of medication/sedation they can give you for your procedure. The small amount of undesired yogurt I digested prevented my sedation. I received local anesthetic and lidocaine to the surgical area but was frighteningly awake through the whole event.  I am sure it would not have been half as traumatic, were it not for the four drains sticking out of my side and the sickening throbbing pain of my migraine.  I cried through the entire procedure...I never cry.
I came home last Friday and the fevers seemed to have vacated the premises.  On Monday I went for my first expansion with Dr. Jain (100 CCs) and every staff member commented on how I looked like myself for the first time in a month. I felt more like myself too. Real clothes instead of a hospital gown...not having to view the world through the slits between my fingers due to my migraine, hearing sounds instead of muffled noises through earplugs, and breathing fresh air instead of hospital air. The expansion caused a bit of burning due to the stretching aspect, but I have done this before so I am familiar with this situation. That does not make it any less painful, but at least I do not have the anxiety of the unknown.

We met some true angels at SFH this time, just as we did during the first stay. On my first day back, I was escorted to my scan by a caring but quiet nurse who was initially just interested in getting me where I needed to go. Something touched her though because she came back to give me her Jesus fish pin, which I immediately added to my already stylishly adorned allergy bracelet. :) The next angel I met was named Harriett. She was tasked with figuring out how to run an ECHO scan wand across my tattered body, minimizing my pain. She was amazing. She kept the room dark since my head was aching and I was nauseated. She was so gentle, and worked so hard to keep me comfortable that it was almost a peaceful experience. She held my hand and prayed for me. Needless to say it brought me, Mom, and Harriett to tears!

DRUMROLL PLEASE........................................................................................................................
I FINISHED CHEMO ON AUGUST 9TH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
I was treated for the past 14 months, at first weekly then from January till now every three weeks. Even though this journey is still far from over, I am relieved to turn the page on this particular chapter of the story. I cannot brag enough about the wonderful nurses at JBACC. As you can see from the photo, they have been so supportive from the beginning and have remained some of my greatest cheerleaders.

I will close with mention of my precious puppy. My sweet Tatum has been the most loving caring soul and does not let many minutes pass without reminding me how grateful he is to have his mama home. I don't know what I would do without my sweet little Tot!
Thanks to all of you who have been SO supportive during these trying times. I am still in recovery and appreciate the balance of quiet time with visits, meals, etc.

Until next time,
Carly XO

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Greetings from Room 407

It has been a week long stay in the ever so lovely St. Francis Hospital.  The surgery to remove a latissimus muscle from my back to correct the damage done by radiation to my left breast has been successful.  However the impact of surgery while still undergoing chemo treatments has made this one of the most difficult weeks of my life, physically.

I have battled a pattern of pain, migraine, exhaustion, and fever this week that has baffled all of my doctors. This seems to be one of my hidden talents...baffling my doctors.  However it has been an incredible week of relationship building also. My mom, endearingly known as "L-dog" arrived last Wednesday in time to accompany me to my pre-op appointments and has not left my side since.  It is so amazing to be able to have one person that I trust whole-heartedly to defend me to the death! Haha. The great thing is we are both able to appreciate the kindness and compassion of the precious people we meet in these extenuating circumstances.  We can communicate with eye contact and have the same intuition. I cannot speak highly enough of 99% of the nurses at SFH. I meet so many people in the medical profession that have lost their love for the practice and more importantly the people they encounter.  But these women have involved themselves in my well-being and I know their life stories. From Geralda, a jovial New Yorker who relocated to the south, to Jenel-a soft-spoken caring nurse named after her beloved grandmother, to our favorite nurse Laura...who brightened our day with her thousand watt smile and cheerful laughter.  Laura, if you read this, thanks again for the fresh gripper socks :)

As a cancer patient I hardly ever have just one doctor, and this week is no exception. Dr. Jain performed my procedure and in classic plastic surgeon fashion, is cool, calm, charming, and upbeat.  Dr. Jiang has been my substitute oncologist as Dr. Pippas has been vacationing in Greece. I had one previous interaction with Dr. Jiang in the chemo room when my Adriamycin was pushed too fast and my body reacted with an immediate all over rash. It was a memorable first encounter so his was a familiar face. He has truly become part of our medical family this week with his quick wit and caring ways. He always leaves us with a clearer view of the mystifying situation and a plan of action. Tonight he even brought me a French vanilla cappuccino, just to cheer me up because he has been so worried! A small gesture that meant more than he will ever know. I have also been visited by my old buddy Dr. Scarborough this week as he is making his rounds here at SFH. I never tire of his sweet and sarcastic comic relief. Our daily banter keeps me "Carly" through these tough times.

Both docs agreed that if I go without fever tonight, I can finally go home tomorrow. We are very anxious to get home because we get to go home to.....ONNIE'S HOUSE! I have officially moved in and renovations have begun. It is a very exciting time in our family...a time of homecoming and new beginnings. I have been awarded a "Greater Blessings" housing grant through the amazing folks at The Fuller Company and Charterbank. I will be blogging more about this later as we are still in the very beginning stages, but I will share some images to whet your home improvement palate. :)

I'm going to let the Demerol kick in now and pray for a fever free night. Thanks for all of the posts, comments, calls, and texts. I still need and appreciate everyone's support more than words can say.

Over and out from 407,

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I'll Take Care of You

At the end of a long lazy Sunday, I am reflecting on the importance of support. My thoughts are consumed with the amazing array of ways we can and more importantly choose to express our love, compassion, and concern for each other.  As I was parking at the grocery store earlier today, a father and his two daughters caught my eye.  I watched as he revealed himself to be a thoughtful daddy, keeping the girls near his small truck as he loaded their groceries.  I noticed the two girls were probably 2-3 years apart and the time warp back to a simpler time overwhelmed me.

A family friend of mine took the bracelet right off her arm Friday night because I was admiring it and placed it on mine.  A long distance friend of mine (without even knowing I'd had a emotionally draining day) suggested today I get myself out of the house and have a mani/pedi "on her." Another friend made sure I ate something decent for dinner and even threw in a few laughs for good measure.  My mama made the statement that I had been "quiet" today.....and the fact that she let me be quiet shows her understanding and support.

This past Friday was Relay for Life. I am sad to say I knew even more participants this year than last but I am also proud.  The people, especially the women, are resilient, beautiful, and stronger than most.  They glow from the inside out and it is almost blinding when everyone is in one collected place.  In case you are not familiar with this event, it is as much for our caregivers as it is for us. We take a symbolic "Survivors' Lap" and spend the rest of the evening with those who walk along side us in our arduous journeys: nurses, radiologic technicians, coworkers, friends, and family.

Chemo has been very smooth in recent weeks. Physically, I have been bouncing back for the most part with the exception of what I call "side effect days"...and my spring weekends have been packed with my BFF's daughter's soccer games and excursions like National Record Store day with buddies.

Stay tuned for some pretty cool updates. The summer promises to bring newness and excitement.

All my love,

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The "Sting"

March 14th-18th is just about the hardest week of the year for me. I lost my beloved Grandad on Wednesday, March 14, 2007 four days before what used to be one of my favorite days...his birthday.  My grade school friend has helped aptly title it "Grandad week."  As my family reminiscences, we all come to the same conclusion. That God took him before he had to watch me suffer through the past four years.  As my biggest fan and main source of unconditional love and strength, it would have literally broken his already damaged heart.  A longing, a sting, for what used to be and nostalgia almost overtake me, but I am so thankful for each and every precious memory.

Also in the same week, two of my friends that have unfortunately been inducted into "the club" finished their chemotherapy sessions.  I am so genuinely happy for these ladies! On the other hand, it is sometimes hard to watch people who were diagnosed after me, finish before me.  It creates a stinging torn feeling in my gut.  That is as honest as I can be. They now will face the decisions I've already made in previous years: surgery options, radiation, etc. I pray that their paths lead them to a life rid of this horrible cancer lifestyle we have been forced to embrace. My last chemo session produced an extra dose of the skin irritation they affectionately refer to as "radiation recall." IT STINGS.

I inquired again about a position at work, and much to my dismay nothing is available.  I often wonder if they know that getting back to work, back to a routine would bring so much normalcy back to my life.  I truly do not think they have connected the dots between my mental and emotional well-being and the effect of being productive in the workplace. That stings.

March is also the time of happy things...birthdays and weddings seem to be celebrated every weekend.  We had fun dressing as late musicians for Lindsey's party (can you guess my costume?) and then I had a great time with Debbie at our favorite hotel. My longtime friend Emily got married this past weekend in a perfect intimate local ceremony. And any reason for my fun mama and her husband to come to town is okay with me! Finally, I am looking forward to celebrating with Lori this weekend as she marries Chuck....rainbows through a storm.

April holds a couple of things to look forward to, but I will save those for a later post.  I would be remiss not to mention my new Hunger Games obsession. Please do not think the movie replaces the need to read all three books.  THEY ARE PHENOMENAL. I've become an avid reader as of late, so if you have suggestions bring them on.

Much Springtime love to all,

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ups and Downs

So I have good news, and I have bad news....the good news is that Tuesday's chemo session was a smooth one with no major complications that day. The bad news is the complications came on Wednesday.  I am experiencing "radiation recall." That on top of the severed nerves from my lymph node removal last spring makes for a burning sensation that on some days is simply incapacitating.  What makes things worse is that the pain pill causes a migraine every.single.time.  Therefore, I'm left choosing the lesser of two evils. I knowingly invited a headache last night because the burning was so intense which resulted in about two and a half total hours of sleep.  Thank goodness it is such a beautiful day. I have all of the windows open, and the spring like breeze feels amazing and very soothing.

I have an appointment this coming Tuesday with Dr. Pippas to discuss a possible steroid regimen to hopefully keep the pain in check. We are also switching back to Tamoxifen, solely based on the fact that the new drug was $80 as opposed to $20!!! That unfortunately but realistically makes a big difference to a gal with no income.

In other news, my client Kati and I had great success in our shopping adventure this week.  Within the realm of only three stores we expanded her wardrobe exponentially. I ran into her husband and he paid me the ultimate compliment by saying "TLC's What Not to Wear has NOTHING on your skills!" I will of course be requesting his official client's spouse's testimony after we finish the coordination phase tomorrow. ;)


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bone scans, closets, chemo, and Mardi Gras

Happy Fat Tuesday everyone! As I apply my Lidocream to my chemo port, I can't help but wonder if the chemo room will be decorated in shades of purple, gold, and green.  Considering the nearly provocative yet mandatory placement of my port, I should at least score one set of beads, riiiiight??? :)  I've never been to New Orleans but have been very seriously contemplating changing that this year.
So many good things to report in one post! For starters, my bone scan results were NEGATIVE! That is a great thing! Here is the direct quote from my favorite nurse:
Hi Carly, Dr Pippas looked at your bone scan from yesterday (2/8/2012). He said: "It's negative! No sign of metastatic cancer". GOOD NEWS!!!! Take care, Lori

As with other scan results, this does not mean my existing cancer is gone, only that it has not spread to my bones (A.K.A. metastasized) so my family has been jumping for joy ever since.  We are still working out different drug combinations with Dr. Pippas.  The Tamoxifen has made me very nauseated so we are switching to its "kissing cousin" Toremifene.  This one utilizes a different enzyme in my liver and therefore may not affect my metabolism as directly. *crosses fingers*

I spent some time in two different closets yesterday through my "Style Guru" role.  My first true client Kati is a fun one. She is a beautiful girl with two beautiful children that make my job all the more fun.  She is far from having a full closet but we made some of her existing pieces look new again through belts and jewelry. We are also planning to expand her collection in that arena.  Stacey needed some "spring wardrobe sprucing" so I took brightly colored tops and cardigans and mixed them in fresh new ways to give her some added cheer.  She will be escorting me to chemo today so we might have to squeeze in a brief shopping trip while we have access to more than two stores! Ha, unlike LaGrange.

I have received two very special visits recently from my sweet friend Phyllis Bruce. Her Sunday School class has given me a love offering on two separate occasions, and she always brings a home cooked meal and a warm hug to go along with it;  it means so much.  I would also like to acknowledge the local breast cancer support group Breast Friends For Life.  Those sweethearts paid a substantial amount towards my rent this month.  My heart is full to you who continue to reach out.  Your kindness and generosity mean the world to me.

Gotta run...I have to finish my chemo prep. 
Happy Mardi Gras!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Growth

Sitting down to type this latest blog post has been harder than having a tooth pulled.  It is one thing to have certain feelings but to express them in written form takes it to another level.

However, I was recently told I should celebrate my triumphs, as much as I focus on my trials (even more so actually).  So we will begin there...with new growth.  My hair is growing in! Rather rapidly in fact, along with my eyelashes and eyebrows.  I have received many compliments on the new "hairstyle" which always makes me giggle, but I take as sincere flattery either way.

Without a job to go to everyday, I have been pondering ways to use my natural talents to stay busy. With the urge of some of my close friends, I am offering my wardrobe coordination consulting skills to the general public.  I have created a logo and intro forms if anyone is interested.  It is officially called "a Byrd in your closet"...pun definitely and adorably intended ;-)

And now for the rain it cabin it it the old fashioned blues.  Whatever you call it the months of December and January were emotionally brutal. I started taking Tamoxifen in December and it has affected my hormones, and appetite and nausea, but I am fighting hard to keep my positive outlook.  To say this is the time for encouragement is an understatement.  It seems that in the midst of chemo you are too busy slaying the physical beast to realize the toll it is truly taking on your heart, mentality, life plan, stability, well-being, etc.  Only recently have I begun to actualize what I'm referring to as "the fight behind the fight." I have learned that I cannot control external circumstances and that has been a hard pill to swallow. I have also learned to accept more help.  As you are most likely aware, I am an independent gal.  I like nothing more than marching to the beat of my own drum most days. But lately, friends have popped in, drug me out of bed, and dusted me off to keep me in the loop of life.  They have intruded with the best intentions, and I graciously appreciate it. You know who you are :-)

As this post concludes, I ask for specific prayers, prayers that allow me to truly trust in God's plan for my life this year as I transition from my tumultuous twenties to what I hope will be my thriving thirties!