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HEALTH

Cancer Journey/ HEALTH

Mastectomy, Reconstruction and Finding Warmth and Comfort with Elemental

Warmth and Comfort After Mastectomy Reconstruction with Elemental Thermal Bra #mastectomy #reconstruction #breastcancer

This post was sponsored by Elemental.  All words and opinions are mine.

It has been 8 years since my mastectomy and reconstruction due to breast cancer, and it’s been quite a ride. I’ve had several surgeries because of reconstruction complications over the years, which is quite common with mastectomy reconstruction, so I know I am not alone.

It was so it was strange to focus and heal elsewhere with my most recent oophorectomy surgery. It was a much easier surgery than what I am used to and I am so happy to be fully healed from that!

Focusing elsewhere may be shortlived, however, as I will be needing another breast reconstruction surgery in the future.

I am prone to keloids and have scar tissue pushing my implant toward the center, and causing discomfort. The discomfort is bearable, but if it gets worse it will become more than a nuisance. I am hoping to put this surgery off as long as possible!

Warmth and Comfort After Mastectomy Reconstruction with Elemental Thermal Bra #mastectomy #reconstruction #breastcancer

Memories of Mastectomy and Reconstruction

I had 4 different reconstruction surgeries between 2010 and 2014. It has been so nice to have a long 4-year break from surgery!

Oh, the memories I have of reconstruction…from being delighted about my immediate reconstruction right after mastectomy, and nipple reconstruction a month later, to both of those procedures being ruined within a year thanks to a sliding implant…oh yes…that one that gave me bad dreams in 2011!

There was another time when my surgery was postponed, and we were surprised by a phone call while on the road to the hospital the day of surgery.

It was my nurse calling to tell us that my implants were stuck on a plane in Texas due to an ice storm of all things! Surgery was canceled and we turned back around and headed home.

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Cancer Journey/ HEALTH

Vertigo, Dizziness Can Mean a Brain Scan When You are a Cancer Survivor – Health Update

Vertigo, Dizziness & BPPV as a Cancer Survivor

My life journey as a cancer survivor can pivot periodically, and sometimes I’m left dizzy, usually figuratively but lately quite literally. The last 2 months I have had vertigo and will be getting a brain scan on Friday to make sure it is truly a vertigo disorder instead of something more serious.

 

Vertigo and BPPV

So far, all signs point to what is called BPPV.

“Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is an inner ear problem that causes short periods of dizziness when your head is moved in certain positions. … This dizzy sensation called vertigo usually only lasts a few seconds up to a minute, but often makes you feel like the room is spinning around you.” -Shannon L. G. Hoffman PT, DPT

In BPPV,  calcium crystals become loose and go into one of the semi-circular canals. When you move your head a certain way, the crystals move inside the canal, irritate the nerve endings, and you become dizzy.” -Shannon L. G. Hoffman PT, DPT

BPPV is treated with simple neck maneuvers usually performed a physician or physical therapist designed to move the crystals from the canal back into the area where they came from. The most common maneuver designed to fix the problem is called the Epley maneuver, which involves moving the head through a series of 4 positions, staying in each position for about 30-60 seconds. Another maneuver is called the Semont maneuver, which involves rapidly moving the body from lying on one side to lying on the other.

BPPV can return once you have had an episode, and often the treatment is ongoing.

 

My Story with Vertigo

I have had vertigo since early January, and it is now late February. I noticed dizziness when I would get up out of bed in the middle of the night to use the restroom. My gait would be off and the room would shift almost in waves. I also noticed it when horizontal and I would turn from one side to the other while falling asleep. It is a strange sensation to be dizzy while laying down!

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Cancer Journey/ Emotional Health/ HEALTH

14 Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep Especially for Cancer Survivors

bed with rumpled sheets and 14 tips for a better night's sleep

This post was sponsored by a mattress company. All words are mine.

As a breast cancer survivor, I strive to live well in all ways. One of the most important ways to make this happen is to make sure I have a good night’s sleep.

If I don’t get good sleep, I not only feel unproductive, unfocused and grumpy, but my sweet family gets to bear the brunt of a Mom who is not herself and needs more sleep! This is not ok with me!

Not only is sleep so important for everyday life, but as a cancer survivor, sleep is so important for continuing to do what it takes to pursue my best health.

I so desire to take care of this amazingly resilient body that I have been gifted with, so being purposeful with getting enough sleep is a priority to me.

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Counting Gifts/ FAMILY/ Leaving A Legacy/ Spiritual

When Apathy is No Longer an Option

I am honored to have Katie Polley, writing for Love Justice International, as a guest here today. Please read about the very important work they do and share it if you feel led to help spread the word about this amazing nonprofit. The world needs to know about it!

–Amy


Love Justice International

by Katie Polley, writing for Love Justice International

In 2016, I started helping a nonprofit with their social media and website content for a couple hours a week. I worked with many clients at the time and had little reason to suspect that getting to know this nonprofit would drastically impact the way I desire to live my life.

Love Justice International is compelled by God’s love to fight the world’s greatest injustices—one of which is human trafficking—an issue I had heard a lot about but hadn’t really ever engaged deeply with. It felt far away from my little world. The numbers were so big (in 2016, the Global Slavery Index estimated that 40.3 million people live in slavery), and felt impersonal. And ultimately, I was ignorant.

This all changed as I began to learn more about the people and work behind Love Justice. As I started receiving story after story from the field, I quickly realized they didn’t just see and talk about the issue of human trafficking, but quite literally they entered into the very trenches of it to stop it. God woke me up.

You see, Love Justice is unique from most anti-trafficking agencies in that rather than working on the preventative or the reactive side of human trafficking, they actually intervene at the exact moment when trafficking is occurring, and they intercept the potential victim before she is trafficked.

 

 

So I began reading account after account of young women, from various countries, who were being taken across borders, bus stations, or airports, but instead were intersected by Love Justice’s trained monitors. Young women like Sanjula who was most likely headed into a life of some form of slavery, marked by unimaginable darkness and despair. But instead, because there were justice-fighters stationed, waiting, and seeking out girls just like her, she was literally intercepted and turned around.

Instead of traveling further with her trafficker, Sanjula was educated on the dangers of trafficking and safe foreign employment. She was cared for, counseled and comforted, and then sent to safety.

 

 

These stories of real people like Sanjula¸were oftentimes girls my age. They were children of God—with names, families, beautiful facial features, unique hopes, and dreams. Their stories deeply affected how I thought about human trafficking, justice, and my role in it as a fellow child of God. I was no longer ignorant, and apathy was no longer an option. I couldn’t deny how these stories of faithful people pursuing the vulnerable girl who was being deceived into a life of slavery and darkness, perfectly reflected God’s pursuit of me.

It’s the gospel—the story I’ve been graced to hear throughout my whole life. The God of the universe passionately wanted to save me from the slavery of the sin I was born with. He wanted freedom and a relationship with me so much that He didn’t stay in the heavenly places and leave me to my helpless estate, but instead, He literally moved heaven and earth to come up with a plan, a strategy, the only way to save me in His son, Jesus Christ.

He pursued me! He entered into the mess, the danger, the pain, and came down to earth, taking the punishment I deserved and made a new way for me. He turned my path around and offered freedom, light, and hope.

This is the reflection I saw in every Love Justice interception story I read from across the globe. In the same way, God pursued justice for me and came to save me, Love Justice was literally placing people right where the injustice of trafficking was happening, so they could intercept victims’ paths towards slavery and instead offer them freedom. What an amazing, beautiful picture of how God pursues us!

 

 

And even more than that, He has made each of us in His own image. So the same heart of His that craves justice is in us. He built in our hearts a desire for justice, a hunger for wrongs to be righted, a quest for things to be dealt with. When we truly know God and His love, and we truly know the reality of injustices like human trafficking, our hearts cannot help but be compelled to be a part of stopping it.

The joy and meaning I’ve found in being able to work alongside and play a small role in what Love Justice is doing have been immeasurable. Simply put, God is using this ministry to bring more of His Kingdom here on earth—to destroy injustice and usher in freedom for the oppressed. To date, they’ve intercepted over 16,000 lives to prevent them from being trafficked. And each one of those interceptions results in powerful intelligence that allows them to assist local police with criminal investigations and arrests of the perpetrators.

 

 

When you see God moving like this, the same God who saved you from spiritual darkness, it’s hard to not jump at the chance to be a part of it. So today, at the very end of Human Trafficking Prevention Month, I want to invite you to be a part of Love Justice with me! Allow your life to be impacted by the beauty of leaning into God’s heart for justice with action. Go to LoveJustice.ngo to learn more about how you can get involved with your time, treasure, and talents.

{Please Pin!}

human trafficking

Cancer Journey/ HEALTH

My Oophorectomy Surgery Story | How To Prepare for Surgery

pillows on a bed for surgery

I’m going to write my Oophorectomy story in a couple different posts, to remember it as part of my cancer survivor story, and also to help anyone else that may be facing this surgery.

Having organs removed (especially ones that affect the entire endocrine system) is not a light or easy decision, and knowing what to expect or the story of someone who has been through it might be helpful.

I did a lot of googling and research before my decision to have an oophorectomy and really desired to read more personal stories of those who had been through the surgery and their experience. They were hard to find.

An oophorectomy is the removal of the ovaries. A Salpingo-oophorectomy removes both the ovaries and the fallopian tubes. This was the surgery I had and it was done laparoscopically.

Read this post for more details as to how and why we decided that an oophorectomy was for me.

This first post will be the story of surgery day, and I will end it with some tips for someone who will be undergoing an oophorectomy, too. I’ve learned a few things along the way!

There will be future posts to come on my healing journey, too. You can subscribe to New Nostalgia to have future posts delivered right to your inbox so you won’t miss them if you are interested.

surgery center

My Oophorectomy Surgery Story

December 2018 6:00am

We check in to our local brand-spankin’ new outpatient surgery center. It is just a 5-minute drive from our home and I was surprised at how happy I was that it was a new, modern and ‘pretty’ facility.

If you know me, you know that atmosphere matters to me.  I appreciate and notice how my surroundings make me feel. I loved the newness and esthetic of the building.

The parking lot was empty and dark, except for a few lingering piles of snow. My 18-year-old Teagan and my husband Todd woke early and came with me.

It touched my heart that my Teagan wanted to come. She is a first-year college student who wants to go into the medical field either as a nurse or a PA.

She was so grown up and supportive through all of this and I felt like I had my own little personal nurse, not just at the surgical center, but also the days of healing at home.

She often checked on me all throughout this past week, asking if I needed anything and how I felt. Be still my heart!

There was no one else in the waiting room that early, and they called me back within minutes.

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Cancer Journey/ HEALTH

Oophorectomy Surgery Next Week {Cancer Prevention Update}

oophorectomy surgery

It has been a long time since I have written a post with ‘surgery’ in the title. I’m very grateful for that. My last surgery was in 2015, and I have always brought you along for the journey, so I am writing to fill you all in.

You have been so supportive and kind in this cancer story of mine, and it does my heart good.

I also write about it to bring a sense of purpose out of all of this. I’ve always said if my posts can help someone feel less alone or help cancer fighters make decisions with ongoing cancer prevention, then I will keep writing.

 

Getting Used to the Idea of Surgery

I remember a settled confidence about surgeries from 2010-2015. I was in warrior mode (especially the first 2 years) and just did what needed to be done.

I feel that confidence is missing now and frankly, it is frustrating.

Shouldn’t I be more grounded as I get older? I did just have a birthday (43 years!) and I’m so thankful for the years, but yet I feel a little nervous.

Why my apprehension?

 

Maybe because I was younger then.

Maybe because I had 6 surgeries in 5 years and all that practice brought an almost ‘normal’ to it.

Maybe because I am a 2 on the Enneagram and it is in me to be a helper to others, less in me to be the one being helped.

Maybe because back then anxiety was not as much in the picture…I think this one is the main reason.

Maybe because I hate adding to our medical bills and feel guilt over this, even though my sweet husband says we do what is necessary and is so gentle about this.

 

I think it is all of the above.

Not only was I younger then, but so were my girls. Now that I am thinking about it (processing while writing) I think this is also why this surgery feels different.

When they were young I could protect and hide pain from them to an extent.  I put on a brave face when they got home from school and tried my best to keep things normal.

Now they are old and smart and there is no hiding realities of cancer from them. They have been in this cancer world, and have loved the same people I do who have experienced great loss due to cancer. They know.

My oldest is studying to be a nurse and is learning how the body works. She will probably read all about the details of my surgery and maybe even watch a YouTube video of the surgery…eek!

She definitely has a medical brain that can handle this…but as her Mom it is my instinct to protect.

Really I just don’t want them to experience worry or pain because of me, but I know that is not realistic. That would make me a perfect Mom and this life a perfect life and we all know that is not the case!

I know a good God who loves them more than I even do and who has promised to use pain in their life for good so I will choose to believe Him in this!

As far as being out of practice and my anxiety…yes, these are two very real things contributing to my apprehension of surgery.

My oncology nurse asked me about depression and anxiety a few months back and told me that it is a very real struggle and that I can blame her and the very thing she held in her hand…a Zoladex injection.

These injections have shut down ovaries chemically for almost 4 years now, which shut down hormones that can feed my type of cancer. Shutting them down enables me to take a cancer medication that can only be taken if you are in menopause.

She said they shut down happy endorphins and make anxiety and depression a struggle in her patients. Her words help me feel less alone but very sad for others who are getting them too.

I struggled with these things before the shots, but not to the extent that I have (with anxiety) the last few years.

These monthly Zoladex injections are very, very expensive, (almost $2,000 per injection!) and the grant we received to pay for them ran out, so I had to quit them. I’ve had a 3-month break from injections and cancer medications and I have so enjoyed it!

It has brought some relief from joint pain, hot flashes and several other fun side effects that I will spare you from the details of.

But, it is time to become protective again. I always knew it was only a break. I have 3 more years of treatment.

Now, instead of shutting my ovaries down chemically, we are going to remove the ovaries instead, hence surgery.

 

Breast Cancer patient collage{2010 & 2011}

 

Cancer Prevention Surgery – Oophorectomy

There are several ways this surgery helps with cancer prevention. Like I said before, my cancer is fed by estrogen, so suppressing estrogen is important. Ovaries are a key player in estrogen production, so they gotta go. 

Also, in order to continue taking the aromatase inhibitor which is a cancer prevention medication I’m on (I take it for 10 years, and I am in year 7), one must be in menopause, so this surgery (Oophorectomy) will make this happen immediately.

Lastly, my ovaries have misbehaved over the years, causing us to try on different cancer medications and switch from Tamoxifen to Aromatase Inhibitors.

I constantly grew painful cysts on my ovaries while taking Tamoxifen and had to have regular ultrasounds to make sure the cysts were not cancer. We switched up my meds after 3 years of that.

I’ve recently had pain since being on my 3-month medication break, an indicator that my ovaries are misbehaving again, or trying to switch back on, which we do not want.

Stubborn little suckers! Makes me kinda proud…not really but sorta. 🙂

After much debate with my Oncologist and time in prayer, I’ve decided to submit to her strong opinion of just getting them out for good. I’ve always done what she has suggested and trust her completely, even despite my anxiety about it all.

 

basket of items used while healing from surgery

{remember this ‘by the bed’ basket post I wrote? To keep things within arms reach while healing.}

The Forced Slow of Surgery

One thing I am pretty used to is having surgery during the winter months. I had my mastectomy the week between Christmas and New Years in 2010, and have vivid memories of arriving back home on New Year’s Eve.

I had one of my reconstructive surgeries on Halloween—I remember being in and out of sleep when my girls kept coming in my room to show me their costumes and candy stash. Such precious memories…they were so young!

Another reconstructive surgery was in December before Christmas…my “special” implants got stuck on a plane in Texas because they got snow there and all of Texas shuts down when snow comes! Lol.

You..my readers, made jokes about where they were stuck because everything gets “bigger” in Texas. Ha!

I used that postponed surgery to do all my Christmas shopping in one day (online shopping was not the norm back then) and have precious memories of my sweet sister-in-law Tanya helping me wrap them all so I wouldn’t have to worry about it after surgery. 

It really was a God-kiss and perfect timing to have surgery postponed and get all my Christmas stuff done before surgery!

 

God’s Hand in the Midst of Surgery

Here is the thing. As I look back, I see God’s hand clearly on me and he has always guided my path. I know he will do the same this time, even if it takes my emotions some time to catch up to what my brain and heart knows. God’s got this.

I will be ok and I know I will find the strength within to be brave…because He is in me! I know I will use the “forced- still” of healing (4-8 weeks of healing they say) to really lean into the meaning of the Christmas season.

I will choose to see the gifts!  I will find my thankful and list the gifts…healthcare! A doctor I trust! Sisters who create meal trains and friends/family who bring meals! No surgeries in 3 years! No cancer for 8 years! So, so many gifts.

And yes, you better believe I will use surgery as an excuse to hygge!

Prayer Requests

Are you are one who prays for others? If so may I ask you to lift these things up?

  • That surgery would go smoothly, healing would happen quickly, and God would protect my people from worry.
  • Pray specifically for the protection of my literal heart. There are studies that show an increase of heart attacks in women down the road who have had this surgery. I already have a chance of increase due to chemo and radiation, so pray protection and a strong heart….and that I would be faithful in doing my part in this — meaning regular exercise and good diet!
  • Pray specifically that I will not react to sutures, bandage adhesive or anesthetic, (I have sensitivities and history of this) and that my lungs will stay clear after surgery….I got pleurisy after my last surgery and it was not fun.
  • Pray that my IV will take right away. I have a history of my veins being stubborn and it can take a bit. I also have a history of IV being blown right as they put me to sleep and it was very painful. Not a good way to fall asleep for surgery. I remember panicking for a few seconds, but then the sweet relief of sleep came as they quickly used my port instead…

As you can see, I have so many good memories of God taking care of me, but also have these memories that create anxiety in me, which is why I ask you to pray.

Again, thank you for the prayers, and always coming along with me.

Follow my Instagram stories for updates!


UPDATE: I had the surgery and am healing well. If you want to read about my oophorectomy surgery story and learn some tips and tricks for preparing for surgery, then see this post.


You might also like:

My Cancer Story

My Oophorectomy Surgery Story | How To Prepare for Oophorectomy Surgery

7 Years Surviving Cancer – A Slow, Steady, Apprehensive Dance Celebration

A Bump in the Road on this Journey of Breast Cancer

Counting Gifts/ HEALTH/ Spiritual

What Have I Done To Deserve Love Like This?

Driving through Monterey, sunroof open, coastal air in our hair.

I’m nestled into the passenger seat of my Karen’s car.

 

It is one of my most favorite places in the world to be.

She brings a soft blanket and pillow for my head, just in case I am tired after my early morning flight.

She brings nourishment in a cooler, just in case I am hungry.

 

“What have I done to deserve love like this?”

{Push Play On Song, Maybe Listen While Reading?}

 

She is my beauty from ashes friend, and I cannot help but think how tangible that is, all throughout this 4th trip of mine to California.

All 4 trips have been a gift, plane tickets and more paid for.

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