Monday, November 29, 2010

Pathology results are back

Hello blog followers, Nate is getting another turn at the keyboard. Allison is out and about for the day, but just called me to let me know she got the pathology results - and she wanted me to post so everybody would know.

First a quick review: When Allison went in for surgery on the 18th, we knew there was a single invasive tumor in her breast, and at least a few smaller pre-cancerous calcifications. However, it was not known if the cancer had spread at all. The plan was to extract the sentinel lymph node and biopsy it, on-the-spot, during surgery - the sentinel lymph node gives an indication of if the cancer has spread or not, and biopsying it during surgery lets the doctors know if they need to take the opportunity to look elsewhere for cancer while the patient is "open" so to speak.

Well, the bad news was that the sentinel tested positive, meaning it was cancerous. Because of that, they removed several other lymph nodes from that armpit/shoulder/collarbone area, to determine the extent of the cancer's spread. (I don't remember the count, but it was somewhere between 10 and 20). These other nodes were sent to a lab for biopsy, along with the (known to be positive) sentinel node and the original tumor.

It was a bit scary that the sentinel node came back positive, so we've been eagerly waiting for the last week to get the results back for the other nodes, to see if the cancer had spread to any of them as well. Allison just got the call - all of the rest of the nodes were 100% clean! Hallelujah!

In addition, the lab was able to tell us that the margins for the original tumor were very clean, which is also good news - this means the chance that it had spread to Allison's skin or chest wall are slim to none - which means the chance of local recurrence is greatly reduced.

So, a very happy day indeed.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Carpe Diem or "Cancer Leverage"

There is so much I have been rattling around my brain lately that I am trying to make a list of topics to blog about and just pluck away at the list as we continue on this journey, adventure, trial, test, opportunity, what have you! One of the things I have been thinking about is that I have all of these crazy ideas and plans that I try to convince Nate are excellent all of the time. Poor guy! I know this husband/wife dynamic is probably present in most relationships whether it is mutual, husband to wife, or wife to husband, it is a major part of every coupling isn't it?

I loved a sermon our pastor did over the summer as part of a series discussing our psychological personas as compared with what the bible says and how it plays out in daily life. He talked about the four personality definitions: optimistic realist, optimistic dreamers, pessimistic realist, and pessimistic dreamers. He then went on to define each and what they might sound like. He said that his wife always had big plans for their home that involved very involved projects etc. and that she was an optimistic dreamer. He also said that he is a pessimistic realist because his answer is always "Nah- I am not sure we can do that." Well we were at church and Nate's mom, Jan, happened to be there with us and we were just cracking up because we had to look at our neighbor and tell them what they were, isn't amazing how we can totally peg our family members and friends but we might have a different interpretation of ourselves? See- I saw myself as an optimistic realist, but Nate and his mom couldn't say quickly enough that I was definitely an optimistic dreamer! I was a little thrown off, come on, I like to dream but I am realistic...right? As our pastor finished the sermon he ended by saying it isn't necessarily important what kind of personality you have, it is what you do with it. If you know you are a certain way and you can get the reigns on it, than you can use it for good in your life...or better yet God can! So what does this mean for us?

For me, breast cancer is fueling the flames of my hopes and dreams! I want to savor flavor of each experience and moment, I want to do things and enjoy life! I have always wanted to, but more so now. I have had some hopes and dreams in the recent past that I just toyed with, now I am feeling like we can DO these things, especially those things we feel God putting on our hearts. A sort of "kick in the pants" I always encourage only doing those things you can do in unity with your spouse.

One of the things that I would love to do someday is adopt whether it be local children or refugee children, it is something that has been on my heart and we are praying about. Of course we have our hands full now and so much going on, but it is nice to focus on the future and dream about how God is going to use it. My new and amazing "bosom buddy" (friend and breast cancer survivor) Laurie sent me some words to encourage me and I looked up some verses that support this optimistic dreamer vision of mine...

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

"A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

So that is my altruistic plan for our family. Here is where it gets a bit crazy and funny. My mom is way worse (or should I say better) than me, if I could categorize her it would be..."super ridiculously optimistic dreamer" which I am sure spurred me on. She is such an inspiration because she always sees the glass half full, but honestly keeps me in check. We keep each other in check. One of our dreams is to start a family commune involving anyone on either side of the family including dragging my sister and brother-in-law Jeremy back from Vermont, so that we can buy some land and build our houses next to each other, have a huge organic garden with chickens and other small farm animals running around, maybe having some business involving schooling little ones, or just simply following through with the adoption plan and continuing our homeschooling in said environment. Isn't that fantastic??!! My friend Hannah, sister Becky, mom, and of course our amazing neighbors who have adopted 7 children are the inspiration (you are awesome!) Check out Hannah's blog at Oh and a large greenhouse so I can continue growing kale (super for breast health) and other greens and herbs fresh through the winter months (if that is even possible here!) Nate entertains us with saying that would be great with the tone of "let's be realistic."

This is where I will introduce a concept that I have coined "the cancer pull" which is defined as:
"The advantage you have as a cancer patient to get your way." We were joking about it this morning as my sister was getting ready to go back to VT and she kindly informed me as I was looking for a cute term to coin the phrase "Allison, I am pretty sure that is just manipulation" Ha, ha. She is right, and of course I am joking about using my "cancer pull" (I say as I mischievously smile and tap my fingers together palms facing in...:-) ) Please comment if you have a better title for "cancer pull" because I think we can do better. So then what? Keep dreaming! I am going to make a list of these dreams that I have and bring them to the altar! God has amazing plans for our family and I get so excited to think about them and how we can advance His kingdom, whether it be by taking care of those orphans out there, volunteering for a young women's breast cancer group, going out there and paying it forward like Alissa has inspired in many through her blog, and continuing to do things to fight for social justice with our kids.

Carpe Diem! Use your gifts, have fun, get inspired!! Let me know if you want to join the commune!!

Oh and PS- Please encourage Nate to write some blog posts of his own. Afterall it is our family's journey. I think he is hesitant because of my writing prowess...LOL!! No seriously- he is an amazing writer and I am sure you would all enjoy it! I am hoping to get some segments in from the kids, but we aren't going into detail with them stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


So here we are Thanksgiving week.  Still recovering from surgery which is going fairly well with the hiccup of either having the stomach bug or reacting to the radioactive dye injection. That really was quite unpleasant as you can all imagine, but I am feeling much better now. So to keep on a positive note while we wait for more news I thought it was appropriate to write a list of the things I am thankful for in all of this.

-Having a wonderful husband and young kids. I am so distracted by them that it takes my mind off of just being someone with cancer, and reminds me that first I am a wife and mother.

-Of course my wonderful family and friends who have done so much! Especially the survivors or "pink warriors" if you will that have called and sent cards and have offered so much support that can only come from someone who has been there!

- The ability to read other blogs from young women with breast cancer and all of the breast cancer support out there, it is incredible!

- The sun came through the clouds today as we were on our way out of the doctors office, only for a few minutes, but it was enough.

- Jokes, laughter, especially the fact that I have a list of inappropriate breast cancer jokes that I might share with you sometime if I can get up the guts to do it, but in the mean time I am keeping some of the adults in my life entertained.

- I have the best motivation to exercise, and eat well. I mean seriously? Oh I am just running to get away from cancer...yada yada...I probably won't have a problem keeping up with exercise once I recover! I love exercise, but have a hard time prioritizing it, now it will be different.

-Every moment with my kids, the good, the bad, the ugly. I am not perfect and this won't make me perfect, but I will cherish them more than ever (tears...I have been quite weepy today).

- Ok, I am just gonna say it, fake boobs! It really does make you feel better about the whole thing, at least I do! It was bad enough that I cut my hair short a couple of weeks ago, and then this! My dad asked how I was feeling and I said "Like a boy!" Don't worry I was laughing!

-Now I am going to give the American Cancer Society props. They offer free makeup, wigs, and makeovers for chemo patients. That is going to be nice because I do like the makeup and girly stuff. Plus...if anyone needs to know how to make fake eyebrows I will be your girl!!

- Of course, I am thankful as you all know to my awesome God who has given me the ability to take this both seriously and humorously, after all he made me so we know He has a sense of humor! My faith is carrying me. I am on a raft on the rapids but it is anchored securely and I am not going to stray from that!

So, that feels better to get that all off my chest (no pun intended)! Happy Thanksgiving and please hold your families close, don't stress, enjoy it and every moment! Also check out Alissa's blog on Thanksgiving- she is doing Thankfulness stories all day and mine will be posted at 1

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reflecting on Hope

So Nate gave you the post surgery update and I of course have been swimming in thought about all of this since surgery. Some things I'd like to share. I want to tell you how therapeutic it is to get this all out and share it. I am a talker and it really helps a ton! Thanks for listening to me babble :-)

Of course I was a bit disappointed to learn that my lymph node was positive. I actually told people ahead of time that it was going to be negative, but optimism never hurt, right??!! It was one of the first things I asked and then of course I just changed the subject because I could see it wasn't an easy thing for the closest people in my life to tell me. My doc had gone home after a long day and I wasn't waking up too soon, so they were left to give me the news. I am not complaining about that one bit, all of my doctors and care have been fantastic! Like Nate said, we will know about the other lymph nodes she removed hopefully by Wednesday. We will also know whether or not to get a second opinion from an oncologist at a young women's breast cancer center to decide the best course of treatment. I really like the oncologist I am seeing but she said not to hesitate to get a second opinion. She really is wonderful. My brother actually has a contact at the Dana Farber Institute in Boston who has helped me a lot and has offered to help me get set up with a consultation there if I want to. So we are thinking and praying about all of that.

One of my wonderful friends Marni, sent me a little care package the night before surgery and when I woke up in the morning and opened it, there were several bible verses written out and laminated. This was so great, because of course I was a bit anxious that morning, the timing and verses were perfect. I brought them with me and read them after surgery the next morning and all of my anxiety went away. Especially now when there seems to be a little more of a challenge to the situation than we anticipated. I'd like to share some of the verses that are seeing me through and keeping me positive!

"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like Eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:31

"...And we REJOICE in the hope of the glory of God. No only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character, hope." Romans 5:2-3

"Yet I call this to mind that therefor have HOPE: because of the Lords great LOVE we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3: 20-24

"And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philipians 4:7

"Let us hold UNSWERVINGLY to the hope we profess, for He who has promised is FAITHFUL." Hebrews 10:23

"For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies." Psalm 57:10

"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.: Psalm 31:24

So I guess what I am trying to get across is something that I have told others who have been suffering from different trials in life and need to take my own can't go on what you see, you have to go on what you know. I know God's word to be true, because it has been so real in prayer in circumstance throughout so many times in my life. I know God is GOOD and wants GOOD for me. I know He holds me in His hand and counts every tear. I know He is crazy about all of us! I know that it would be just as true even if the circumstances seem so much more extreme. I hold onto this hope even more  in this situation! Although there is lymph node involvement it doesn't change the hope that I have in this situation because God doesn't change, and there is nothing that he can't change for good!

There has been so much evidence throughout this trial of God providing me with the best care, love, and joy. Emmalise (our 5 year old) is a big time worrier about all things medical. She heard me say surgery when I was on the phone with the doctor and she said "Surgery, Mommy who, me?" Without thinking I said "No honey, Mommy." Thinking that she would freak out she said "Oh, ok!" with great relief, so I thought that was pretty funny. A couple of weeks later before bed she asked why I was having surgery out of the blue, so I told her that something bad was growing inside of me that the doctors needed to take out and that was pretty much the end of it.

So for us this was pretty amazing...When Em first woke up the morning of surgery the first thing she said was "Mommy I am going to be praying for you today and that your surgery goes well." Then she promptly said "OK everyone, come over here, Mommy you sit in the chair and everyone else sit around her, we are going to pray!" "Dear Jesus, please take care of my Mommy today and heal her. Please make her as well as possible and help her to get better quickly! Amen!" It was no surprise that she wanted to pray, but the depth that she prayed and the way she executed the whole thing left us with our jaws on the floor! She normally would just avoid these stressful situations, which is understandable! We were all so proud of her. I looked at her and said "Em, no worries ok!" and she looked at me and said "No Mommy, no worries!" with complete confidence. I am glad that God used our girl to confirm the confidence that we need to have in this and in all other things in life. He used the one that we were worried about to expel of all our own anxieties!

We can't believe the amount of support we are receiving from friends and family. I feel so spoiled! I haven't for one moment worried about my kids. They are having a blast with their friends and Nana. My daughter was actually having a count down to surgery because she couldn't wait to sleep over with her friends that are like sisters (Grace and Morgan). Thanks to the Kingsley's for loving our kids like your own! Thanks to the Riedl's for taking Bubs too and your willingness to help us out! Thank you to all my beautiful and supportive friends from the Caz Mom's Club and MOPS for meals, care packages, encouragement, prayers, etc. The realization is that the tougher the trial the more I feel loved! We are totally encapsulated by this love that you are all sending to our family. Thanks for having the faith like a mustard seed that can move mountains! 

Much Love and Blessings!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Report from Surgery

Hello everyone,

Nate's turn at the keyboard to give a live report from the surgery center. We checked in this morning, at which point Allison met with various doctors and nurses to discuss the procedure and do more imaging and testing. Afterwards, they checked Allison in to her room (a nice private room with a real window!). More doctors and nurses in and out to talk about the procedure, sign forms, and so on. Before long they had Allison in a bed and were whisking her away. Those of us in attendance were allowed to hang out in her room, which was a nice change from a public waiting room.

During surgery, nurses stopped in and gave us updates, asked if we needed a drink, and so on. The entire staff here has been excellent.

When the breast surgeon was finished with her part of the operation, she came out and gave us an update. Things went a little slower than planned but there were no serious complications with the surgery itself. They did pathology on the sentinel lymph node during the surgery, and it came back positive. This meant that several more lymph nodes on that side were removed, to allow for more pathology. We are praying that they come back negative - we'll get the results in about a week. These results will play a big role in determining the type and duration of chemo that Allison receives (as well as officially "staging" the cancer). At that point the plastic surgeon was still working away, so Allison still had about an hour of surgery left.

After things were finally wrapped up, the plastic surgeon spoke with us, letting us know that everything went well. He commented that he thought it was a very successful operation and that things had gone well. Allison was moved to recovery, where she came to and was monitored for about a half an hour, before being returned here to her room where she will spend the night. She's here with us now talking about how things went - she seems to feel fine other than being really thirsty!

We want to thank everybody for the overwhelming support we have received - Allison's facebook and email accounts are overflowing with positive wishes and prayers. Our chest freezer is already loaded with meals, and we've got plenty of people lined up to help with the kids. Thanks for everything and stay tuned for more updates. Allison will be busy recovering over the next few days/weeks but I will post updates as we know more info.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jennifer Wolsey Photos- Chasing Faries

Appropriate Blog Title

This week so many people have been reaching out to me, asking how I am, etc. before surgery Thursday. It is hard to explain in a few words the process. I was diagnosed almost six weeks ago and I had three weeks to wait after getting the surgery date. Some people were kind of frustrated by that (waiting so long) and asked me if I was upset. At first I was kind of frustrated but then came to the realization that I had already handed this over to God and I just needed to continue doing that. God's timing is always perfect.

I decided that we were going to be "better than normal" for the few weeks until surgery. By that I mean do lots of fun things, go on some field trips hang out with friends and family as much as possible, and that's what we did! It was so nice to be around all of the people that feel so invested in this with us and are there to support us but also not have to talk about this too much and just enjoy every minute of it.

There are times when fear and anxiety try to creep in, but with God's help I just shut that door and don't go down that road. This is our story, and our story is going to have a different ending than some others that I have heard. I have been reading the Psalms because they offer such encouragement. I was thinking about all of these things the other day and then read Psalm 5 and the end of the psalm stood out Psalm 5:11-12:

"But let all those rejoice who put their trust in you; Let them ever shout for joy because You defend them; Let those also who love your name be joyful in you. For you, O Lord, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield."

This speaks volumes into my situation. I have prayed that God would guide the surgery and I have a vision of God hovering over me and protecting me through surgery and everything that is to follow, shielding me.

It seems that in the moments that I feel vulnerable or that I start to feel down that God provides me with someone, the angels on Earth that help me. It is my friends calling to say "Hi" or ask us over to play. It is the song or verse that someone sends, it is my kids coming to give me a big hug or kiss for no apparent reason. It is our friend from church calling about setting up meals. It is a friend who calls to say they have a freezer for us to put all of those meals in! Amazing blessings and love pouring into our family sent from God above through you!

I want to share a couple of things that especially stood out this week. My new friend Jen, who is an amazing photographer, came to take our family pics up at on relatives beautiful land and the series of pics is called "Milkweed Magic." It was such a nice and special time. My daughter, who is usually SO difficult to take a picture of was captivated by "chasing faries" in the milkweed with Jen. When said our goodbyes and got in the car to head off to Friendly's My daughter said "Mama, I think I made a new friend!" It was so cute. Jen just wanted to "pay it forward" and do something nice, and it was amazing! I am looking forward to paying it forward after being so inspired! I hope you enjoy the pics :-)

I asked my friend Sara about some worship music that she would recommend listening to, because that totally makes my day and she posted this link on my facebook page which made me cry, in a good way. It totally has been stuck in my head and is keeping my mind where it needs to be! It is nice to be flooded with tears that come from being filled to bursting with love that is heaven sent! This woman has an amazing voice as well!! Check it out...

So to bring this post full circle, the title that Alissa so appropriately suggested "Fueled By Love" isn't just a cool name, it is such a reality right now.

Just so you know, Nate will post the evening after surgery to let everyone know what's going on!!

 Love you all...thanks for everything!

Monday, November 8, 2010

One of many opportunities to grow

Thanks for visiting my blog! Before I jump into anything I want to send out a very special thanks to my sister in law and good friend, Alissa, for setting up this blog for me! I am so grateful for all of her help and advice so far in this process. She is a wealth of knowledge and encouragement!

Also, I want to thank everyone who has jumped without hesitation to our sides during this "bump in the road" with care packages, cards, goodies, words of encouragement, hugs, prayers, and the list goes on and on. I keep saying that this is really going to be as easy as it can possibly be because of the tremendous support that we are getting from family, friends, church, and our community.

So I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma on October 5th. I actually had to look up the date because in the chaos I totally forgot or just didn't take note, for those of you who know me well I am sure you aren't surprised ;-)  Of course we were caught off guard, but my wonderful husband Nate said when I broke the news "Well we are just going to do what we need to do to get through this." He has been such a rock through all of this, which is no surprise! You can read more about my diagnosis, in the "My Diagnosis" section of the blog.

My surgery (bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction) is scheduled on November 18th. I will only be there overnight and then I come home. I have a no lifting restriction for 6 weeks so friends and family and going to help take care of the kids.

Following surgery I will have chemo (they will know specifics after surgery when there is a detailed pathology to determine the course of treatment). It will be IV chemo probably every 2 weeks for 4-6 months and then a drug called Herceptin every 3 weeks for a year. I will lose my hair during the IV part of chemo and have some of the other symptoms such as fatigue and nausea, but I am hopeful that I won't feel sick at all because many survivors tell me that they didn't feel sick.

There are many other things that help you get through. Also I have read that diet and exercise are key in making treatment successful, so I have been working on that as well. I have been doing mostly pilates, wii fit, and I will try to get outside as much as possible! Also, I am putting all my trust in the Lord, I believe that He is my divine physician working through the doctors, treatments, and giving my all the peace and strength to get through this. Reading scripture, inspirational quotes, and prayer are keeping my mindset positive and uplifted.

This is what I will be using to keep everybody updated so please sign up for email updates to stay in the loop! Also, thanks so much to everyone who has offered to help with meals, etc.  Our church is going to set up a calendar for people to go to if they want to do a meal. We so appreciate the help and although it is hard to accept it, I am told to just do it! Thanks again to everyone for supporting us through this!