Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Return to Normalcy...or Not

President Warren G. Harding, the 29th President of the United States, coined the phrase, "Return to Normalcy" during his bid for election in 1920.  Harding encouraged the citizens of the United States to return to their normal everyday lives and activities, following the conclusion of World War I.  His inaugural addresses stated, "We must strive for normalcy, to reach stability." Harding is often considered one of the worst presidents in US History, but I think his phrase (or that of some prohibition-induced spin doctor) is very insightful.

Harding's inaugural words are something I will remind myself of in the upcoming days, weeks, and months.  As much as I would like to believe that my life will be the same, it won't.  For my family, my children, and myself, I'm going to have to strive to be "normal"...whatever that may be.

Today, I am taking President Harding's words to heart.  I am striving for normalcy. This afternoon, we attended the Clifton Ridge football game.  Go Cougars!  (Griffen and I worked in the concession stand for the first half.)  After the game, we went out to eat, celebrating Griffen's selection as part of the 2011-2012 Gray Elementary Chorus.  Now, it's onto listening to Adelia talk about her day, discussing AP World History Notes,  reviewing spelling words with Griffen, and Barbies with Arleigh.  Amongst that, there's laundry to be done, baths, lunches to be packed and preparation for tomorrow.  For us, that's an attempt of normalcy.

My days of normalcy, however, are dwindling.  One week from now, my mastectomy will be complete.  I will be a patient at the hospital, staying overnight.  My loving husband will assume his role as "Mr. Mom".  My children will realize that Mama won't be coming home tonight.  There will be relief that the surgery is over, but apprehension about the pathology results.  I may be cancer free, but I will only have one breast.  That is far from normal.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment at the Breast Health Center with my Oncology Nurse Navigator.  You can read more about a Nurse Navigator here.   She will spend time discussing breast cancer, the mastectomy, post-op instructions, and what comes next in my journey with breast cancer. Jeff and I look forward to meeting her and the information and knowledge she can share with us.

So, for the next six days, I will focus on Harding's visions of normalcy...but hey, who said that I was normal to begin with?  :)


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Results Show - Part One

My children like reality shows.  Adelia and Arleigh love "So You Think You Can Dance".  (They even picked Melanie as the winner from day one!).  Griffen loves the survival type shows, especially "Top Shot" on the History Channel.  Jeff enjoys  some of the BBQ / Cooking shows.  You might also find our television on America's Next Top Model or American Idol.   Generally, after the season is over, there is a "Results Show".  The show is over-hyped, advertised widely, some entertainment factor, and then you find out who wins.  That was kind-of like my appointment today...

In my mind, today was going to be a traumatic event.  I was going to schedule the removal of my breast.  Through my blog, my fears were shared with you, and I felt your prayers today.  My parents came to the appointment with me, and there was a calming peace throughout the entire process.  I know that my peace came from the blanket of prayers surrounding me.

So, here's Part I of my "Results Show"...

Tentatively (confirmation will be received tomorrow), I am scheduled for a right breast mastectomy on Wednesday, September 7.  The left mastectomy will be performed at the time of reconstruction, at a later date.  My HER2 results are negative, which is great news! (HER2 positive breast cancers are much more aggressive and less responsive to hormone treatments.)  Dr. Martin will perform a "skin sparing mastectomy".  This type of surgery conserves as much of the breast skin as possible, for later reconstruction.

From my MRI, there is an additional suspicious area and lymph node.  Dr. Martin believes that these areas are a result from trauma the breast received from the core needle biopsy.  Regardless of the outcome, the surgical procedure will remain the same.  The surgery will last approximately 90 minutes.  Only the breast tissue is removed, not any of the muscle beneath the breast tissue.  I will stay overnight in the hospital, and then be released.

The morning of surgery, after routine IVs begin, I will be administered a radioactive injection (more glow sticks!), and then during surgery, a medical-type geiger counter will be used to identify the suspicious areas.  They will also take a biopsy of the Sentinel Node during surgery.  This sample will be frozen immediately in the operating room, and then tested.  The results will be known prior to the completion of the surgery.  If the biopsy is positive, then the lymp node will be removed.  This is very important, as it will determine treatment.

The pathology results will be known 2-3 days after surgery. (That will be Part II of the Results Show)  From the results, the oncologist will determine the best treatment plan.  There is a possibility of just chemotherapy, or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation, depending on the results.  The best part is that recovery from the surgery will be less than four weeks, and that pain is minimal...compared more to muscle pain after strenuous exercising.(Like I'd know anything about that!)

Dr. Martin was very reassuring to my parents, and they are very impressed...especially the fact that he shared his faith with them during the appointment.  He stated that God is the Healer, he is only the tool, and that he uses his God-given gift  to help others.   Any surgeon who doesn't believe in God, is just one blood-vessel away from knowing differently!  (How's that for a testimony?)

The Cancer Center is calling tomorrow to schedule my Breast Cancer Gene Test (BRCA).  I'll write more about that in a later blog.  The results of the genetic testing can affect my mother, sister, and daughters, as well as my ovaries!

Dr. Martin assured my Mom and Dad that he would take very good care of me during surgery, and would make certain that the other members of my treatment team would continue in the same manner.

I don't have all of the answers to my questions, but I have the ones that matter.  It reminds me that everything is in HIS time, not ours!


Monday, August 29, 2011

Search for Tomorrow

This soap opera ran from 1951 to 1982 on CBS.
When I was a little girl, my days were spent with my "Grandma McCracken".  Grandma was of no blood relation, but a relation by choice.  My Mom or Dad would take me to Grandma's house in the morning, and pick me up in the afternoons.  She would sit at her dining room table (which was situated so she could see into the living room) in one of her "house dresses", and I would sit or sprawl on the couch.  I loved the couch, because if you sat in the right place, the chilly air from the air-conditioning window unit would blow directly on you.  As you can imagine, she spoiled me, though I prefer to call it "overly-loved". 

Thirty-plus years later, when I think of my days with Grandma McCracken, I think of buttered rice, cake batter (no beaters for me, she gave me my own small bowl of batter), and soap operas.  Some days, we spent running errands in a twenty-mile radius, lunching at coffee shoppes (she with her coffee and me with my hot tea), or visiting with her friends, but generally we were always back home in time for the "Soaps".  Right after the "Mid-day Report" on WCTV,  the stories began.  I remember watching Search for Tomorrow, Young and the Restless, As The World Turns and Guiding Light.  Referring back to my old soap opera watching days with Grandma McCracken, I think a fitting title for this episode of my life would be "Search for Tomorrow"!

Tomorrow is my doctor's appointment with Dr. Martin.  It's the biggie!  The appointment where I find out the official results of my tests, hear my treatment plan, ask my questions, and schedule my surgery.  Jeff is finishing up training out of town, so Mom and Dad are going to the appointment, also.  (I think it will also give them peace in meeting the man who will operate on their "baby".)

I've been researching, emailing other breast cancer survivors, and reading to compile my list of questions for tomorrow's appointment.  This is what I've come up with.  (If you can think of others, please email them to me!)

Shelby's Questions (AKA "Search for Tomorrow")

  1. Cancer Type:  Invasive Ductal
  2. Location:  Right Breast
  3. Tumor Size:  2 to 3 cm
  4. Grade:  2 (medium growth)
  5. Stage:  ???  (I'm guessing possibly Stage IIA, based upon my research)
  6. Hormone Receptors:  Estrogen 100% +, Progesterone 90% +
  7. HER 2 Status?
  8. HERS2 Status based upon what tests?
  9. Lymph Node Status?  (So far, he has said none, but I want to be certain.)
  10. Second opinion for Insurance status?
  11. Length of surgery?
  12. Reconstruction at same time of mastectomy?
  13. Length of Time in Hospital?
  14. Recovery time?
  15. Recovery advice?  (Drains, I know, but what else?)
  16. Chemotherapy details?
  17. What type?
  18. Begins when?
  19. What side effects?
  20. PET scan of entire body when?
  21. What about my daughters?

Please pray for my strength during tomorrow's appointment.  I also pray that my parents and I have a peace about the treatment plan, that all of my questions are answered, and that surgery is scheduled in a way that accommodates all parties involved :)

Tomorrow is as real as it gets, folks!  Presumably, when I walk out of Dr. Martin's office Tuesday afternoon, I will have a date and time to have my breasts removed, and my search for answers will be over.

TTFN, (Literally, only for a while longer!)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Oh, Sugar, Sugar

Happy Anniversary to My Wonderful Parents!
The year was 1969, and the hottest song was by a group of characters...cartoon characters!  Archie, Reggie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica, better known as "The Archies" had a  #1 hit song with, "Sugar, Sugar".  (Now, hum along in your head - "Sugar, ah honey, honey - You are my candy girl...")

This sweet bubblegum pop song, with a catchy tune,was the #1 song of 1969.  "Sugar, Sugar" was more popular than songs by The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Jackson 5 and The Rolling Stones during this momentous year. I was just a "twinkle in God's eye" in 1969, but something even more momentous than "Sugar, Sugar" happened that parents got married!

On Monday, August 29, my wonderful parents will celebrate their 42nd wedding anniversary.  (If that's not a sprinkle moment, I don't know what is!!!)  They give me love, courage, strength and knowledge.  Without them, I know I would not be the woman, wife or mother that I am today (literally and figuratively!) 

There are a lot of questions going through my head before Tuesday's doctor's appointment, but I'm pushing them to the back of my mind, and celebrating the love of my parents.
42 years of marriage...Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad... I love you!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Life's A Country Song

Music is an important part of my life.  Whether it was hearing mom play the piano at home or church, or hearing Daddy sing a "solo" (so-low no one could hear him!), there was always music.  At my home, we almost always have some type of music on.  XM Radio in the car (generally Radio Disney if I'm out-voted), a music channel on the television, or Pandora Internet Radio, my life is filled with music.  Let's also not forget Adelia practicing her flute, Griffen playing the keyboard, and Arleigh thinking she's the next Katy Perry!

I really like country music.  It's like storytelling with a beat.  Patsy Cline, George Strait, Trisha Yearwood, Sugarland,and Alabama are some favorites.  We're always told that the popularity of country music is because it "relates to the common 'folk".  There are some general music themes within the country genre that relate to everyone.  We all go through periods of sadness, heartbreak, excitement, new love, etc.. but then there are also themes that don't relate to dog didn't run off, I'm not drinking beer with the boys, or wallowing in my self misery 'cause he left!

My children also like country music.  Arleigh's favorite song is "Stuck Like Glue", by Sugarland, which certainly describes her relationship with her Daddy.  Jeff favors Willie Nelson's melodic tunes (I like him, but try not to think about the greasy-looking long braids while listening to his smooth country twang.)  Griffen is a huge bluegrass fan, while Adelia likes Taylor Swift's storytelling on her albums.

I was recently told about this video by a "pink sister", a new friend who is a breast cancer survivor.  Over the past week, I have become acquainted with many breast cancer survivors.  Some are the mothers of friends, acquaintances of acquaintances, ladies I have met on breast cancer web sites, and through the power of Facebook.  Even though many of them are strangers, we have one thing in common...we are now "Pink Sisters", bound by the life-changing diagnosis of breast cancer.

So perhaps my life is a country song after all...and it's called "I'm Gonna Love You Through It",written by Ben Hayslip, Jimmy Yeary and Sonya Isaacs, performed by Martina McBride.  This song says it all...

She dropped the phone and burst into tears / The doctor just confirmed her fears / Her husband held it in and held her tight / Cancer don’t discriminate or care if you’re just 38 / With three kids who need her in their lives / He said, ‘I know that you’re afraid and I am, too / But you’ll never be alone, I promise you,’”

When you’re weak, I’ll be strong / When you let go, I’ll hold on / When you need to cry, I swear that I’ll be there to dry your eyes / When you feel lost and scared to death, like you can’t take one more breath / Just take my hand, together we can do this / I’m gonna love you through it,”

Here's Martina McBride's Video:


Thank you for loving me through it all!


P.S.  The Greyhounds lost last night 27-20, but the band was great!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Night Support

Tonight, friends and neighbors will proudly put on their purple and gold and relish the fact that they can spend several hours sitting on hard, metal benches.  The weather will be moderately uncomfortable and bugs will flock to the football lights in swarms.  Fans (possibly obnoxious, depending on the score - or lack of), cheerleaders, football players, coaches, students, and band members will gather together as part of a hallowed, Friday night tradition.  Friday night, you know what that's "Marching Band Season" across America! (and here you thought I was going to talk about football!  LOL)

The Jones County High Greyhounds have an away game at Luella High School in Locust Grove.  Parents will be making the sixty-mile drive North, just to be there.  Showing support for their children and friends that participate in the Friday night ritual.  Do they need to clean house?  Do laundry?  Prepare for the week ahead?  Catch up on sleep?  Yes, to all, but they're not.  They are going to show their support ...

When I think about how much my life has changed in the past seven days, I am truly speechless.  My reference is not to the fact that I was diagnosed with cancer, will have a double mastectomy or chemotherapy, but to the responses I have received from you.  The outpouring of encouragement, prayers and love that has been expressed to me is beyond comprehension. 

This week has been an highly emotional, as you can only imagine.  I've always been an empathetic person (you know how I cry at commercials, greeting cards, movies & books...Hallmark & Folgers commercials get me the worst!), but the posts, emails, messages, cards and phone calls I've received this week are unforgettable.  Not a day goes by that I don't cry.  My tears are not for my diagnosis or fears, but from the overwhelming words of support I have received.  I have received encouragement from students (past & present), co-workers, classmates, retired educators, my favorite "Sunday School Ladies", family, friends of friends, breast cancer survivors, and even strangers. 

On this Friday night, I feel your love and prayers.  I know that you are cheering for me, regardless of what team uniform I'm wearing, or what day of the week it is!


*Yesterday, an IBEW Electrician was killed on the job in Americus.  Please be in prayer for the family of Sean Scott for their sudden loss. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Tale of Two Boxes

This actual MRI machine was used today for my Breast MRI.
Today was a tale of two boxes.  You would think that the two boxes refer to the Breast MRI that was scheduled for today, but actually, that's only one of the boxes.  (Ok, go on and thought I was talking about my breasts, didn't you? :)

I arrived at the MRI Center a little before 7:30 a.m.  Went through registration and was handed paperwork to fill out and present to the technician when my name was called.  You know the paperwork...attached to a clipboard with a cheap pen.  Routine questions that normally I don't give a second thought to.  I just go down the lengthy column marking no, no, no, no, no no.  Heart disease, high blood pressure, seizures, diabetes..and then I stopped.  There it was with a box beside it.  CANCER.  For the first time ever, I had to mark yes in the "Cancer Box" on a form.  Still, hours after, I can not find the words to describe how surreal that moment was.  I, Shelby Marie Hobbs Henderson put an "X" in the Yes column by cancer.  I've been told by the surgeon that I have cancer.  I told my children I have cancer.  I told my family and friends that I have cancer.  I've shared my soul on this blog about cancer, but putting an "X" in the cancer box was reality, beyond measure for me!

I was then taken back to the MRI waiting areas by a very nice MRI technician, Victor.  He had a great personality, and when I asked if I could take a photo of the MRI machine for my blog, his reply was, "Wait a minute and let me tidy up!".  It was quite humorous standing there with my phone while he got the wrinkles out of the sheet on the MRI machine!  The photo on this post is the actual machine that was used for my Breast MRI.  You can read about the Breast MRI process here.  I was face-down for the process. The MRI machine utilizes a type of breast plate with "boxes" for your breasts.  Wendy (the other great technician I met today), positioned my breasts in the boxes.  I thought of them almost as little coffins for my boobs!  Your arms are above your head, with an IV in, as contrast is administered.  During the process, you are told not to move. The table is then moved into the MRI machine feet first.  Trying not to breath too deeply, earplugs in, IV in your arm, breasts in the boxes, and then the loud clicking noises start!  Images were taken before the contrast began, during, and then after the contrast had fully reached the area in question.  The purpose of the MRI was to see if there were any additional occult cancer, or cancers that are not visible on a mammogram or ultrasound.

The process was not pleasant.  If you've ever had a scan with contrast, you know that it feels very weird.  The contract used in Breast MRIs is not iodine based, and therefore is supposed to be more tolerable than that used in CT scans.  I could feel the contrast as it traveled through my body.  I imagined it kind of like a sparkly florescent glow.  First my head, then my shoulders, chest, abdomen, etc...  It was not pleasant, but I kept telling myself that this was miniscule compared the challenges that I will be facing in the next month and beyond.  When Victor let me know that there was only about seven minutes left, I thought I was going to lose it.  Not go crazy, but literally lose whatever contents were in my stomach (only a few sips of Coke Zero).  My breasts were probably lit up like a "Lite-Brite" on their monitor, and I felt like I was going to vomit all over a million dollar machine!

Thanks to God that I didn't vomit, and the procedure was finally over.  Wendy and I had a nice conversation about my proposed treatment, and she said she would add me to her prayers.  As soon as the procedure was over and images saved, they were immediately available for Dr. Martin to pull up, but he most likely won't receive the official radiologist report until Friday.

I was able to return to work, but have felt rather weak and nauseated all day.  Hopefully that will subside with a good night's sleep. Even with the way I've felt, my day was filled with unexpected "sprinkles"...literally and figuratively.  The outpouring of love, concern and prayers that I am receiving is unbelievable.  Unexpected cards and tokens of love are lifting my spirits higher.  Upon my arrival at work after my MRI, I had a large bag of sprinkles waiting for me in my school mailbox, with a note!  I love my sprinkles : )

Dr. Martin called around 4:30 p.m. with more news.  Thank God my left breast is cancer free and there are no other cancer cells visible on the MRI!!!   He also said that at my appointment Tuesday, we will schedule my surgery. Thank you God and my Prayer Army!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Television "Medical Drama" Day (& The Results!)

Today was my medical drama day!  It's the day that my surgeon presented my case at a breast cancer symposium.  I've tried to picture all day what it was like...surgeon, physicians, oncologists, plastic surgeons and other medical professionals gathered together.  They are gathered together in a room, coffee and a danish on the table in front of them (I would have preferred cream-cheese), and then the spotlight is on me...or the C-sized parts of me. 

I've been thinking of medical drama episodes on television:  Grey's Anatomy, House, and ER...might even add in some Guiding Light, General Hospital and Young and the Restless. McDreamy, McSteamy, House, George Clooney, and Rick Bauer all sitting around discussing my case.  I suppose as films and ultrasound results of my chest are flashed up for all to see, someone says, (I think it might sound better if you imagine this is in a deep, masculine voice -kind of like Chief Webber on Grey's) "... 38 year old female, recently diagnosed with IDC*. No family history, no alcohol use, no drug use, no tobacco use.  Breast-fed three children, with first live birth at age 24.  Patient is not peri or post-menopausal."  Then they use a lot of terminology that I haven't learned yet (or don't know the results of yet), and then proceed to discuss how they believe my journey should proceed.

IDC is Invasive or Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma.  The "I" portion refers to the fact that the cancer has spread outside of the duct, invading the surrounding tissues.  With this type of cancer, the cells may travel to other parts of your body or lymph nodes. (We don't know if mine have yet.)  The "D" portion refers to the origin, which means that the cancer originated in the lining of a milk duct within my breast, and I think you can figure out what the "C" stands for.  

More than180,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with Invasive Breast Cancer each year, according to the American Cancer Society.  The majority of those diagnosed have invasive ductal carcinoma.  Generally two-thirds of the women diagnosed with  invasive breast cancer are aged 55 or older when diagnosed.

It has been my prayer today that God utilize the knowledge and wisdom of the physicians gathered together, and that collectively, harmoniously and unanimously they decide the best course of treatment for my cancer.  (Think otherwise; Who wants to hear that by a vote of 8-6 your treatment was decided ???) 

 Earlier this evening, I was ready to publish this post, and Dr. Martin called with great news!  Thanks to God!

My Estrogen Receptor (ER) is positive at 100%, and the Progesterone Receptor (PR) is positive at 90%.  I'll share more about what this means tomorrow (as I research myself), but apparently it's great news!  HER2 results are not available.  My tumor is between 2 and 3 cm.  Dr. Martin was very excited and said those were the best results we could have received!  He said he called Saturday with bad news, but wanted to call today with great news : )

He also reported on the symposium.  The symposium was held this morning, with surgeons, oncologists, plastic surgeons, and radiation oncologists (I think that's what they were called?).  They were all unanimous and agreed with Dr. Martin's proposed treatment plan of a double mastectomy followed by chemotherapy.  If my lymph nodes are indeed negative, there is a high chance that after my mastectomy, I will be cancer free!!!

Chemotherapy would be done as an added measure to prevent possible recurrence.  "If you have a garden, you pull the weeds, but you still might spray the garden after", said Dr. Martin.

Tomorrow is my MRI, and I pray that the results of it will be as positive as the ones I received today.

It was a "sprinkle day" after all...THANK YOU for your support and prayers!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Life's Better With Sprinkles

I love sprinkles! Jumbles of brightly-colored sugar that decorate festive little sweets. I don't really like the way they taste or crunch, but somehow they always make me feel like celebrating. My love for sprinkles has always been a joke in my family. So much, that I laughingly say, "Life's better with sprinkles"!

Today I am having a "sprinkle" kind of day! I'm celebrating what's right with the world. During pre-planning, my principal shared with us an inspirational video, that really had an impact upon me. After eighteen years of motivational speakers, speeches and videos to start the school year off, I realized that this one was different. The video was by National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones. During this brief twenty-minute video, he encouraged viewers to "choose to see the possibilities". Often, we find too many faults with the world, and instead need to "Celebrate what's right with the world".

Today (as corny as it may sound), I'm celebrating what's right in my world! I'm celebrating that Adelia was selected as one of the first chairs in the flute section out of four band classes at the high school. I'm celebrating that I have a husband and family that love me. I'm celebrating that old and new friends have reached out to me. I'm celebrating Ronald and Helen, my wonderful parents. I'm celebrating the many people are lifting me up in prayer. I'm celebrating that Griffen is so excited about auditioning for his elementary school chorus. I'm celebrating phone conversations with old friends. I'm celebrating that my husband enjoys cooking. I'm celebrating that Arleigh makes me laugh with her singing and dancing. I'm celebrating my Salvation. I'm celebrating a stranger (who will soon become a new friend) who sent an email today to offer her support and experiences. I'm celebrating phone calls and emails from my children's principal and teachers, assuring me they will give my children "extra love" during this time. I'm celebrating the support that my wonderful CRMS family is giving me, my new book on reserve from the public library and even celebrating my new prescription for Xanax! (LOL)

As I begin my unknown journey with breast cancer, I know that it is going to be so important that I remember to celebrate what is right in my world. The alternative would be too dark, depressing, and unhealthy for everyone. I know that difficult times are ahead, but the unconditional love of God, my family and friends will put "sprinkles" on the days ahead.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Split Personality

Today, I feel as if I have a "split personality". There are two people living within: Regular Shelby and Cancer-Diagnosed Shelby. Will there always be two of me from this point on?

Regular Shelby is a wife, daughter, sister, friend, media specialist and mother to three wonderful children. She wakes up, gets dressed, wakes children up, makes breakfast, drops off at daycare, and goes to work - all by 7: 25 a.m. (Ok, maybe 7:26 or 7:27, if I'm running late!) Then, she works eight hours with wonderful co-workers and great students, and begins the afternoon shift. After school, it's time to run errands, cook supper, homework, baths, laundry, housework, prepare for the next day, and then bed. Somewhere in there, I try to spend quality time with my loved ones, laugh, learn, and celebrate the "little things". Regular Shelby relishes the unexpected, yet manageable events that make each day unique. Whether it's an unexpected funny at lunch time with co-workers that results in belly-laughs, a child's milestone, confession, or a quiet moment to relax...they are all part of Regular Shelby's day.

Then, there's the newly discovered Cancer-Diagnosed Shelby. She's the one who has been overwhelmed with love and support from family, friends, classmates, co-workers and students. The one who is surrounded by prayers from Alaska to South Florida, who has the constant thought of "what's next on this journey?" She has turned into an emotional wreck (when no one is looking), but feels like she has to put up a strong front for her family. She had to ask about Family Medical Leave Act Procedures and discuss where her "Teachers As Advisers" class will go on Thursday mornings, during her leave. Cancer-Diagnosed Shelby had to answer, "Will you die, Mom?", from her son. She also has to learn breast cancer lingo, and had to answer an email from a former student asking, "Mrs. H, Is it true you have cancer?"

The challenge is merging the two. I know that Cancer will not define me, but it will forever change me and my family. I know that there will be days when one personality will be stronger than the other...but in the end, I'll still be just "Shelby".

* As a side note, my MRI is scheduled for this Thursday, August 25th at 8:00 a.m. and my appointment with Dr. Martin to discuss my treatment plan is Tuesday, August 30 at 3:50 p.m.*


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Waking Up with Cancer

Yesterday, I woke up, I woke up knowing. I have cancer.

I spent time yesterday telling family, sorority sisters, friends and loved ones of my test results. Event though I felt the blanket of the their prayers, it was still a different feeling. Today I know for certain. My family knows. My children know. The outpouring of their love and support has been overwhelming. To know that my life is blanketed with prayers is very humbling, but it doesn't stop the questions.

Has it spread? What will my treatment be? How will this affect my family? Insurance hoops? My wonderful school family and students? Why did I not get AFLAC when I moved? Finances? Prior obligations? Are my daughters at risk? Can my husband fix Arleigh's hair when I can't move my arms? When will I have the answers?

As I have tearfully read texts, emails, and Facebook messages from loved ones today, I realize that even though I am trying for "normal", my life will soon be abnormal, and it is beyond my control!

A dear friend sent me this verse in a message today, and it was just what I needed...
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:6

As I wake up tomorrow with cancer, I don't have all of the answers, but I know someone who does!


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Today's the Day

Today's the day...the phone call that will either eliminate my fears, or create a whole new set. Around 10:15 a.m., the phone rang. I immediately knew that the strange Macon cell number showing up on my phone was THE CALL.

After the niceties and apologies, I was told what I already knew..."You have cancer". It's amazing how three words can totally change the path your life takes.

I have been diagnosed with "Invasive Ductal" Breast Cancer. The tumor is a type 2 tumor, meaning that its growth is described as medium. It's not fast growing, but not slow growing. Additional pathology reports will not be available until Wednesday. From there, we will know about the estrogen, progesterone, and HER 2. The next step is to have a MRI, which the nurse will call to schedule on Monday.

I am relatively young in terms of breast cancer, have no family history of breast cancer in my family, and breast fed all three of my children. How did I get breast cancer?

Fortunately, my surgeon serves as chair of a Breast Cancer Consortium. This Wednesday, surgeons, oncologists, plastic surgeons, and more from the Southeast will gather together for a consortium meeting. By God's hand, my case will be presented to these great minds. According to Dr. Martin, it's like getting twenty free second opinions all at the same time.

Based upon the remaining pathology results, MRI results, and consortium discussion, a treatment plan will be devised. Dr. Martin did say if it was his wife, he would recommend a double mastectomy. This is the same advice that my sister and physician already gave. Dr. Martin also said that he works with wonderful reconstruction plastic surgeons, and that with treatment, I should live a long and healthy life!

Friday, August 19, 2011


It's like a black cloud hanging it, or isn't it??? Today I notified my co-workers and friends of my situation. I kept thinking back to my conversation with Dr. Martin yesterday, that it is TREATABLE, if the biopsy reveals that it is cancer. Based upon his estimate of 80% that the tumor is malignant, I began trying to prepare myself. I am very sore from the procedure, but determined to go to work and make the situation as normal as possible for my children.

Today was a big day. It's Adelia's debut with the JCHS Greyhound Marching Band. I am extremely tired, bruised, and swollen, but attempting to remain "normal" for the children, even though they know Mom had a procedure yesterday. Mom, Dad and Brock came for a previously scheduled weekend visit. Fortunately, they will also be here for "the phone call".

At the game, I share my present situation with several of the band parents I have had the opportunity to spend time with over the summer. One immediately asked if she could pray for me, and while standing amongst the crowd, in a world or purple and yellow, she laid her hands on me and prayed.

After the game, even as tired as I was, I walked back to the band room to get Adelia. As we waited for the band to return, I once again had the opportunity to speak with several of my new band mom friends. They were very reassuring, and offered words of comfort. As I apologized for possibly having to shed my new role as an active band mom for marching season, they quickly comforted me and encouraged me to take care of me this season, and they would help take care of Adelia. Just waiting....will I be able to attend weekend band competitions, or will I be waiting to recover from a mastectomy, as I hear the football crowd and band on Friday nights?

As a parent, I find myself thinking about how my wonderful parents are feeling. As I wait for the phone call, so are they...waiting to find out an answer that no parent should ever have to seek.

Jeff, Griffen, Brock and Arleigh

Adelia (middle) in her band debut.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Today was the consult with the surgeon, or so I thought...

Jeff and I went to our appointment with Dr. Martin. As if we weren't apprehensive enough, several procedures had thrown the schedule off, so waiting for our appointment time seemed to take forever. Dr. Martin performed another ultrasound, and then a core needle biopsy. During the ultrasound, I could immediately tell that he was concerned, and he verbalized his worries. From one angle, the tumor appeared to be a benign fibroadenoma, but another angle showed a very suspicious tumor with malignant characteristics.

I refused to look at the needles during the biopsy, but it was not an enjoyable activity. Jeff was instructed to sit down, so they wouldn't have to pick him up off of the floor! That part still makes me laugh. A hollow needle is placed into the breast, and then core samples are retrieved through the needle. I explained it to Griffen like a really big straw or tunnel, that is used to transport tissue samples through. The portion was deadened prior to biopsy. The first two samples were uncomfortable, but not painful. The same couldn't be said for the third one. It was extremely painful, and even the doctor realized it. After the tissue samples were collected, they were placed in a specimen container, and apparently sank rather quickly. Just like the Titanic, that is a bad thing.

Our previous experiences with Dr. Martin when he removed Adelia's appendix, is that he is a "tell it like it is" Southern gentleman. His reputation and experience is that he can pretty much call it, prior to the official results. You can only imagine how we felt as Dr. Martin soberly told us how worried he was about this tumor, based upon my age, and the characteristics and density of the core samples. Not taking away complete hope, but his professional opinion is that my tumor is 80% malignant. There's still a slight change that it is a fibroadenoma, but not likely.

Because of the kind and caring nature of Dr. Martin, he immediately began making plans to rush the biopsy to pathology. After speaking with the Pathology Department, the results will be rushed, and he will be notified early Saturday morning with the results, which he will then pass onto me as soon as possible.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

This Can't Be Good...

Several months ago, during a self-breast exam, I felt something unusual in my right breast. It was near the end of the school year, so I kept telling myself it was probably just a hormonal change, and said I'd get to it later. I am in my late-thirties, and there is no history of breast cancer in my family.

Due to the love of my husband (or so I like to think), he shared this with my sister, who then shared it with my Mom. When my Mom first started in with the "Do you want another woman raising your children?" kind of reprimands, I wasn't very receptive. Jeff was on "The List"! How dare he tattle to my mother on me.

I had my first mammogram the day before pre-planning for the 2011-2012 school year began. Adelia went with me, and waited in the lobby for what was to be a brief visit. I told the technician that I felt something. After taking films, she asked me to wait in a small room, as the radiologist may like to perform an ultrasound. Within a few moments, I found myself in an ultrasound room. After the tech finished the ultrasound, I was told that the Radiologist would come in and see me.

"This can't be good." What should have been a regular mammo visit, has turned into an extended visit, and my fourteen year old daughter is sitting in the waiting room. The radiologist came in and explained that I had a tumor. Based upon my age and lack of history of breast cancer in the family, it is most likely something called a "Fibroadenoma". He will share the results with my doctor, and they will refer me to a surgeon. Different surgeons have different procedures. Some would just look and leave it alone, some would biopsy, and some would remove.

As Adelia and I were leaving the facility, my physician called. This really freaked me out!!! Not a nurse, but the doctor herself, asking which surgeon I preferred. Here I am not even to my vehicle, and my doc already knows. This can't be good!!!