Monday, April 30, 2012

5 Months in it and still going strong!

THIS Friday, May 4th, marks Meladee's FINAL, 8th Treatment! So incredible to be at this point, and see her strength and tenacity keep her going!

Post Treatment 1 and 2 set the pace for how she would feel for the duration of her Chemo. Nauseous, fatigued, and with many side effects, too put it lightly.

Post Treatment 3, she had her first blood transfusion.

Post Treatment 4, Meladee was placed in the ICU, another blood transfusion and also had her gallbladder removed.

Post Treatment 5, she rode the waves of side effects, and was introduced to new ones (mentioned below).

Post Treatment 6, yet another blood transfusion.

Post Treatment 7, best she felt considering all the usual, and was able to be home with her husband and children sooner than previous treatments.

Send Meladee your prayers and well wishes over these next two weeks as she enters her final treatment day and treatment recovery! She is going to make it through this last treatment with flying colors!

A few thoughts Meladee wanted to share:

Blood transfusions
    My mom calls them my vampire parties. It's funny how familiarity with something can change your perspective. The first time I had to get a blood transplant I was so nervous and apprehensive. Somebody else's blood going into my body? A litttle weird and Can it really be safe? The ER doctor left me to make the decision and I agonized over and over about it. It is amazing how much they help, literally amazing to me. They take a long time because you can't have cold blood go into you too fast or you can go into shock. Watching the blood drip from the IV into my port is a litle weird, in fact, I usually try not to look. But the weirdest thing is that I can taste it. Not fully, but the taste lingers in the back of my throat an don the back of my tongue a little and I can smell it, like internally smell the blood. It has a certain smell and a gritty, salty kind of taste. When Katniss in The Hunger Games talks about President Snow smelling like blood I have a very real and vivid idea of what that is like. Now they can seem almost routine to me, although I never like to have to get anything put into my port.
    Throughout this whole chemo process, my red blood cell count refuses to stay up I have yet to even be at the low end of the normal range. That is one of the reasons I have sturggled with fainting and dizziness and extreme fatigue. When my red blood cell count gets really really low it gets hard to breathe and my head gets so foggy and heavy it's hard to think. I get a blood transfuions andvoila! I can breathe again and walk around without feeling like I am going to fall over. I'm still tired and sick but it makes a world of difference. Now my mom jokes that I might start to like blood transfusions too much! Roland has decided that he is a lot more open to donating blood now that he sees what a difference it can make, and how needed it is.
Taxotere and Herceptin
    My second round of chemo consists of Taxotere and Herceptin. The Herceptin specifically targets cells with a specific protein receptor that my cancer cells have. So thankfully, theoretically it does not have the same side effects as the other chemo drugs. Taxotere does though. i am not quite as naseous with the Taxptere but i still have to take my pills once or twice a day, but that is better than every four hours. I am having some neuropathy in my fingers along with some muscle weakness in my hands. My fingernails have developed weird bumps and white moons, and the skin underneath is getting somewhat discolored and blistered. Any bumps to my fingernails hurts, but I haven't lost them yet, although I guess that is still a possibility. My doctor gave me some steroid cream to use on my hands and I am happy to say that although they are still sensitive they have not blistered and peeled again since a little while after the first treatment. My feet did though, but it wasn't as bad as my hands. This drug for some reason makes my eyes water like crazy, and my nose runs a lot too. Each treatment still makes me feel like I have been beaten with a stick and dragged. Every muscle aches, and I get really tired, but overall this round is better than the first round with the adriomyacin and cytoxin. I think the accumulative effect contributes a lot to the fatique and aches, and a lot depends on how well my counts can hold up. One other thing that is weird is that i can now hear my heartbeat  in my left ear almost all the time. It seems like my heart does have to work a little but harder. My resting heart rate is ridiculous, but that could also be due to the fact that I am ridiculously out of shape. Man do I have a lot of work to do when this is all over. But it is nice to have three weeks instead of two between treatments. It gives me a little more time to have "good" days. As of this writing I have one more treatment of Taxotere and Herceptin and then I will continue with the Herceptin for a whole year. The end is coming!
How I am looking
    My hair is all gone, except for some rebellious strands that keep trying to grow back. They don't make it past a centimeter or so. My eyelashes are no more. My eyebrows are stubborn, they are hanging on. They have thinned, but they are still there. I don't even have any more nose hairs! Maybe that is TMI but it's true. The one perk of all this is that I have not had to shave, anywhere :) That is one effect that I hope might linger on for a little bit.  

If you remember from a previous post where I mentioned bringing TinkerBell out to help make Meladee some hair, then here is the little fairy hard at work. Meladee is radiant as always!

Get Well Mel!!
We Love You!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fighting like a Girl!!

To begin, I think it's best to let you all know where Meladee is with her treatment today so you can understand fully where she has been. Last Thursday, Meladee had her 7th Chemo Treatment. This means she has only ONE more to go, and the date is set for May 4th. From that point on, she will only receive Herceptin which is a drug more targeted at the cancer cells which fight of the Her2Nue (the aggressive protein that her cancer cell have) receptors in her cells. Because it is a more targeted drug, it is a good thing because it should not have the same affects on her as full blown chemotherapy treatment. June marks the next step in her therapy, surgery (Mastectomy and removal of the lymph nodes in her right arm pit), and at this point they will also put in place the breast tissue expanders. Her surgery will take place at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. After recovery from her Mastectomy, she will have radiation treatment followed by breast reconstruction. The later will all take place within the next 9 months to a year. 

The blog last contributed to her health after Treatment 3. A week or so after that post, Meladee was short of breath, trying to converse with her sister, but laying in bed she found she could barely get a breath out and her energy level was the lowest it had ever been. She soon realized her blood counts were taking a hit, and she found herself with a visit to the ER for a blood transfusion. That helped her to regain strength and get back home for recovery before Treatment 4 began. As you will read later in this post, Meladee had a difficult recovery from Treatment 4, life threatening might be a more appropriate term. Once recovered from Treatment 4, Meladee handled Treatment 5 like a champ, and then with Treatment 6, she found herself back in the ER for another blood transfusion. At this point, her Mom so cleverly named these visits to the ER, "Meladee's Vampire Parties". This last transfusion must have been from someone with an abundance of iron. Meladee felt more energized, and entered Treatment 7 like a champ. Now a week out from receiving Treatment 7, she still feels great (considering). 

Get Well Mel!!
We Love You!!

Now for the nitty gritty of Treatment 4....

Treatment 4
    I was told that the last treatment of A/C would be the worst. So I was preparing myself for it. The two weeks were almost up and, although I was still feeling extremely nauseous and tired and faint, (you know the usual stuff :). I was beginning to think that I was going to make it through the cycle without any major happenings. My kids were both sick and Roland was sick too, with bad colds and coughs I was desperately trying to avoid. I had been on antibiotics for a week and was thinking I was lucky to have not caught what they had. Although, it was with some foreboding that this was all too good to be true that I had arrived at that conclusion. Sure enough, the inevitable happened.
     It started out as chills. I was so cold my teeth were chattering uncontrollably and I felt like I couldn't get warm. I was also extremely tired, I went to bed early, although I was having a hard time sleeping because I was starting to have some very intense pain in a rather personal area. I woke up in the night, sometime probably around 1:00 or so, and the pain was so bad there was no sleeping. Throbbing, sharp, burning, never ebbing, unforgiving pain. Though I felt weak, I didn't want to disturb Roland, because he wasn't feeling so well himself and was frustrated about not getting enough sleep. I wrested with the idea of getting up myself but just didn't feel I could do it, the medicine cabinet was what, ten to fifteen feet from my bed, I mean come on, but even sitting up was hard. Finally, I had to wake him up and ask him to get some tylenol for me. He wonderfully did so, but I started feeling intensely nausious. Within a half an hour, I was violently heaving the contents of my stomach, including the tylenol I just took, into to the porcelain god - firehose violently. I barely made it back to my bed. I noticed that I was warm and knew the inevitable, but for some reason tried to convince myself that I should wait until morning. I didn't want to disturb Roland again but had the wisdom to recognize that I was in a bad way, and toughing it out was not going to be beneficial. I mustered the strength to stand up and grab the thermometer from the top of the shelves next to my bed and almost blacked out doing so. Sure enough, I had a fever - 101.8. To be truly and completely honest I think I swore, at least in my head, but I wasn't surprised. I woke Roland up and told and broke the news.
    "You don't have a fever," he said. But he took my temperature himself, and then immediately started swearing, which he continued to do as he jumped out of bed and started getting dressed. He knew as well as I did that I was going to have to go to the ER. But of course, I had to call the Doctor just to have them say it to me. We called my brother Matt who was amazing enough to book it over to our house so he could stay with the kids. Roland was trying to get me to put socks on, but I couldn't sit up, I had to lay there while he did it. My head was just spinning, heavy, foggy, and oh, the pain. On a scale of 1-10 this was definitely a 10!
    I had to go to the bathroom so Roland helped sit me up. Then I slid down to the floor and crawled to the bathroom. I didn't make it very far out of the bathroom on the return trip, even crawling, before I just collapsed on the floor. Roland pulled me up, slid a coat around me and carried me out to the car. I will be forever grateful that we live so close to a hospital.
    I was wheeled to a room within minutes of arriving. I could hardly sit up in my wheelchair, I was writhing in pain, bleeding, and by the time they took my temperature it was 105. Right away they were taking blood, hooking me up to fluids, checking my heart, and offering pain killers. The first dose of morphine did not even cut into the pain, so they gave me another, and then another. No dice. So they finally gave me something called dilaudin, which is ten times stronger than morphine. Finally some relief. I mean, I felt like I was going to die. In all reality, I probably could have.
   They wanted a urine sample so they brought me a wheelchair, to go across the room to the bathroom. After an unsuccessful attempt, I tried to get back in the wheelchair but totally blacked out. I couldn't see anything! I was groping around and telling Roland to help me hurry to the bed. "Just get in the wheelchair," he says. "I can't see it." Confused as to why I am not using this necessity, he still tries to get me to sit. "I CAN'T SEE IT. I CAN'T SEE ANYTHING," I say urgently and he whisks me off to the hospital bed before I lose consciousness. Shortly thereafter I am wheeled into the ICU where I spend the next several days hooked up to all kinds of wires, monitors, and other devices.  I was given lots of strong antibiotics, another blood transfusion, and tons of IV fluid. I was also sooooo nauseous. I couldn't keep anything down. They had to give me everything interveiniously. Puking, puking, puking, it was awful.
    My hands were already getting trashed from chemo. I was getting blisters and my skin was starting to peel off and become extremely sensitive. It wasn't supposed to happen until the next regime of chemo, but for some reason I was getting it already. Before I came to the hospital, I was already even losing some mobility with my fingers because the skin was so tight and sensitive, but all the fluids made it worse. I could not close my hands. I could not even bend two fingers on my right hand. It was hard to hold anything like a fork, or a pencil, and I could not open anything. Talk about feeling helpless. But worst of all my ring finger was getting so swollen they had to saw off my wedding ring! That was a long drama!
    So what was wrong with me? I was severely neutropenic. What is that? Well we have a lot of different kinds of white blood cells, but the most important ones for fighting infection are the neutrofils. Normal people have a count of around 5,000 or more. Me, mine was 15. Dangerously low. The doctor thinks I had a mild urinary tract infection, some bronchitis and we discovered within a couple days that I also had an infected gall bladder. With basically no immune system, my body had absolutely no way of dealing with any of this.
    Because I was neutropenic and severely susceptible to infection, my kids couldn't come see me, only 12 and up and healthy. There were all these signs on my door about me being at risk to falling, and infection. People had to wear masks and sanitize. I could not have any fresh fruit or vegetables and no flowers. The food was awful anyway, and I just kept throwing up, so I didn't eat much. The nurses were concerned that I wasn't eating anything and the kitchen staff even came up to my room to ask me what I wanted at mealtimes instead of waiting for me to call. My mom and my sister were gracious enough to bring me ramen noodles several times because that's all I felt I could eat. But seriously, they had me on so much IV fluid I don't know how the nurses could be so concerned about me not eating. How could I even have a chance to get hungry? Mostly, I drank apple juice and had cooked green beans. If the nurses had to eat the hospital food I don't think they would eat either! I was so grateful for my family (and Heather) that came to visit me, watch over me, consult with me, bring me things to do, and help take care of my sweet sweet children. My dad gave me a blessing, which was a very sweet experience.
    When I was strong enough they moved me from the ICU into the regular part of the hospital. I was so glad to get rid of those wires. Hallelujah!! I still had my IV in my port though. I remember when I was able to stand up long enough to take a shower, all by myself! Freedom!! I had to cover my port and IV with a waterproof cover and stay attached to it but it still felt so free after having to be hooked up and hardly able to move to the left or to the right for so long. After a couple days my white blood cells were high enough that I could undergo surgery to remove my gall bladder, which was conducted thankfully, without any complications. I was ecstatic about being able to take out my IV and take a shower unconnected, all by myself. I was excited and soooo ready to leave the hospital. I mean how does one recover and sleep when you are constantly being "monitored" and woken up by nurses or your IV machine beeping angrily throughout the night. I couldn't wait to get in a bed, a real bed.
    Leaving was somewhat bittersweet though, because I wasn’t going home. In order to avoid future hospital stays and to keep me healthy, everyone in my family decided that I needed to be in isolation. I pretty much didn't have a choice. I knew it was for the best, but I ached to be with my kids and home with my husband. My in-laws have been gracious enough to prepare a room for me at their house. My sweet mother in law nurses and takes care of me and I have a bathroom all to myself.  Hand sanitizer and masks are set up for visitors. So it was here that I came to recover from surgery and it is here I come after each treatment until my counts start to go up again and I can go home for a little while. I love my in-laws and they are wonderful to me, but being away from my family is the hardest part of this whole ordeal. But I want to make sure I am around for them in the long run and that means I just can't get sick again. Naomi and Seth had a hard time with the arrangements and still do, but they are adjusting, and they are brave!!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Long time coming...

First and foremost, an apology for taking so long to post an update!! The last couple of treatments for Meladee have been a roller coaster of events, and we have just had time to lay out all of the details so they can be shared online with all of you. As we finalize a few things, here is one post that will warm your heart, and make you smile!

I had the pleasure of visiting Meladee about six weeks ago. During this time we revisited our days in high school. We had her incredible mother-in-law, Janet, cook us delicious meals, and we slept in until 10 some days. We looked at pictures from 10-15 years ago, and laughed about stories from our past. It's amazing how time has helped us develop into who we are as young mothers today! Spending that short week with Meladee at the beginning of March gave me the opportunity to see who she is as a mother and wife. I loved get to spend time with her children and visit with different members of her family. On one special day, Meladee and I took time to capture pictures of her with her two babies. As you scroll down, you will see a wonderful love and bond between them. I hope you enjoy, and we will be back soon with the treatment update!

Get Well Mel!
We Love you!!

This next bit is a special surprise I just shared with Meladee yesterday. It was cut a little short because of the length allowed on my iPhone, but special nonetheless. Meladee did not know I was video taping them. I probably should have titled this blog post: A Whole New World!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cancer is a Big Old Mean Monster!!

As promised, here is another blog post for this week. However, this post is different. This post is not from Meladee, but FOR Meladee. This story comes with direction from my three year old little girl, and for me has so much emotion. I hope you all enjoy reading my story for Meladee.

If any of your have a story you would like to share that could be said better in a full post than in the comment section, please private message me! Meladee has touched so many of you is so many different ways. Sharing your story will help inspire her, and give her more ammunition for her fight against Breast Cancer!!

Inquisitive doesn't begin to explain Elsie. We watch Cinderella a lot (she has seen probably 50 times since Christmas). Every time I sit down to enjoy the movie with her, I get the same questions each time, and I think maybe it's because I can't give her a good enough answer the showing before. I mean without jumping into the actual picture and befriending one of the wretched step sisters, how am I supposed to know why they wear their hair in those curls, why does Anastasia like to play the flute or why did the Step Mother name her cat Lucifer?? Creative juices flowing, I just can't come up with a satisfactory answers, and so the words "just because" have to suffice some nights!

I love my girl to pieces, but she takes "Why, Mommy" to a whole new level. This is particularly true as she gets older and more confident, especially when she is familiar with her surroundings and the people in it. Just this week we had a friend over, and this particular friend is very close to me and my family, more like a family member, and while my girls know she is my very very good friend, they also know there is a big difference between us. She is 76, and I'm hanging on with fine threads to the final year of my 20's. Many questions and conversations evolve between this said friend and my oldest, but never had I known her to be so comfortable that the question which came this particular afternoon would actually ever happen. Just as our friend was leaving, she sweetly gave both of my girls a hug and kiss good-bye. My girls reciprocated, and then Elsie took her soft hand, and stroke our friend's face. (Ok, that happens, a little puppy love from a child) Elsie's question came:

"Do you know you have scars on your face?" (me, in the background bent over trying to find my breath in laughter, did my daughter really just say this?)

The confused look on our friend's face brought on the next statement and subsequent questions like a loaded gun being fired:

"You don't have as many scars as my Grandma."
"Why do you have those scars?"
"Do they hurt?"
"How many are there?"
"Do you need a bandaid?"
"Why doesn't my Mommy have those" (THANK YOU, GOD BLESS YOU my little girl)

Deep breath from me, and I looked at my friend to begin her explanation.

First off, these aren't scars, they are called wrinkles. Wrinkles show up on your face the more you smile, and the more wrinkles you have, the happier your life has been. So first off, your Grandma is having a wonderful happy life, and second, your Mommy may not have them now, but she will because you and your sister make her so happy!

So thankful Elsie took her explanation as a valid answer, and I'm relieved my friend is as wonderful a person as could be and she took no offense to the naiveness of my inquisitive 3 year old.

Speaking of friends, I have the best one, the one that's more of a soul mate than a friend, her name is Meladee. She just gets me and I get her! We live across the country from one another, and talk maybe every 6 months. At least this was the case until this past November. I had just found out the due date of my third baby was July 4th. July 4th happens to be Meladee's birthday, and I found this to be excitingly ironic. I had to call her, but before I had the chance, she called me. Talk about irony! I had this wonderful news to share, and was hoping she might add to the irony of all of this, and tell me she too was expecting, but my excitement soon died when she alternatively told me she had Breast Cancer. WHAT? HOW? WHEN?? WHY is this happening? To her of all people??

Holy Crap, I sound like Elsie! Now I guess we no longer have to wonder where she gets it from!?

We may be across the country from one another, but in my heart I think I need Meladee now more than she may need me. I need to support her, help care for her, and do everything I can from afar to make sure she survives this brutal disease! My husband and I finally came to a decision, our whole family is going out to Utah, and we are going to spend just short of a week with Meladee and her family to help with anything we can. I'm so excited, and it's going to be wonderful to meet Meladee's two beautiful children and have them and my girls forge new friendships. Since Meladee has now been going through Chemotherapy for a month, her physical appearance is going to be different from every picture I have of her, she no longer has a full head of beautiful blonde hair.

I recently told Elsie we will be getting on an airplane to go visit Meladee and her family. Elsie knows Meladee through the photos I have. She can point her out in pictures. To her Meladee is a princess. (We are obsessed with Princesses right now) Meladee was a bridesmaid in my wedding, and Elsie believes that weddings are a special event for Princesses and if you are in a wedding, you automatically become a Princess. (Oh I hope my little girls dreams are filled with many opportunities to be as beautiful a Princess as Meladee was for me). At this time, I feel it's important for Elsie to understand that Meladee doesn't look like the pictures right now. I shared with Elsie the fact that Meladee does not have hair. "Why, Mommy?" and the conversation developed:

Me: Meladee has Cancer.
E: What is Cancer?
Me: Cancer is a disease that makes you sick.

From her facial expression I knew this wasn't working, I had to change the direction of my explanation.

Me: Cancer is a REALLY mean Monster that can get inside our body.

Her eyes said tell me more...

Me: The Monster tries to kill you by eating all of the healthy part of your body.
Elsie: Why?
Me: Because it's mean, but we can take even meaner medicine to kill this Monster.
Elsie: WHAT!?
Me: The medicine eats the Cancer Monster and takes it all away. This medicine is so mean it makes your hair fall out. Meladee doesn't have any hair on her head.
Elsie: How did a BIG OLD MEAN MONSTER get inside Melwadee?
Me: I don't know how that happened, but it unfortunately it did, and Meladee needs us to go help her fight the Monster. Can you do that?
Elsie: Yes, I'm going to bring Tinker Bell. She has special powers! She might even be able to make some hair for Melwadee.
Me: Oh Elsie, I love you. I can't wait for you to see Meladee and I know she would love to meet Tinker Bell too!

Get Well Princess Mel!!
I can't wait to see you in March!

Much Love,
Leigh (and Elsie)

**As an update to this story, my family will not be able to join me in Utah to see Meladee. Elsie has already offered to put Tinker Bell in my suitcase so she can still help. How sweet little ones are. I can't wait to arrive, and I will be sure to share wonderful pictures of my trip out West to see Meladee!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Three Treatments Conquered!

Meladee, Seth, and Naomi just before her first Chemo treatment!

It's been a month since last updated, and a lot has happened. Expect to see several posts over the next week.

First and foremost, Meladee has successfully conquered THREE chemotherapy treatments!! YEAH!!!

Round Two (January 12, 2012):

I discovered that plugging my nose and holding my breath is the best way to get through the nasty skunky saline. Well after telling the doctor about my experiences the first time, he gave me an additional anti-nausea drug that I can rotate with my other prescription every four hours. I also made sure to take it right away after my infusion and that made a difference. I only threw up a few times. Yay!

The port, an hour before chemo she numbs it with cream and has to cover it with cellophane.

The feed of the medications, and the previous mentioned Red Devil.

I also took Aleve and Claritin right away to help with the bone aches. That really helped. I still felt weak and wasted but it wasn't as painful as the first time. This time it took me longer to be able to get out of bed though. I kept having a problem with nearly passing out when I would try to walk more than like ten steps. And also for whatever reason my back would spasm when I would stand up and that was a little bit painful. I also got really bad mouth and throat sores. It hurt really bad to swallow and eat. Certain foods were worse and I could tell with one bite if I could eat it or not. Bland foods are still the best for now. I also can't taste food very well anymore and water tastes a bit like metal. Weird. Well some foods I can taste, its all just a bit different now. It's a bit like being pregnant how certain textures and smells cause nausea. But hey, I had been trying to lose weight, you know get back to my pre-pregnant bod, so I should consider this an upside!

The first time I also got these horrible headaches that kept me awake at night and luckily I didn't get those those this time around.

But I definitely started losing my hair. My head got so sensitive that just touching my hair hurt. As soon as I noticed it coming out in a chunk I decided to take a shower so that at least it wouldn't get all over the place. That was the itchiest mistake I have ever made. The longer I stood in the shower the more hair fell out all over my face and body and while trying to rinse it off more would fall out. After standing in the shower so long I was feeling lightheaded I had to get with hair still all over me. It's much easier to get the hair off when it's dry I've noted. Since it was so late I threw a hat on to try to contain the hair and went to bed. My sister came over the next day and we shaved my head G.I. Jane style. I probably should have totally shaved it but my head was so sensitive and I was afraid of cutting myself since I have to be careful about that sort of thing. But it's much more manageable even if it is still falling out all over the place.

G.I. Jane

Laura and Lauren (two of my sister in laws who are both due with girls the first part of March) had their baby shower on the 21st and I was able to go. It was the first day since my treatment that I had been able to be up and around. Roland drove me and it was nice to get out of the house. I wore a wig for the first time! You know wearing a wig isn't bad at all. It makes fixing your hair so easy. It's already styled and everything and looks fuller than my real hair. Maybe I will just convert permanently:).

Beauty in a Red Wig!

One of two diapers cakes Meladee made from her bed.

Round Three (January 26, 2012):

We also celebrated Naomi's third birthday. I can't believe my baby girl is three years old already. How time flies. Her birthday is on the 27th but we celebrated it on the 25th since I had my third treatment on the 26th. I had lots of help running the party which was nice. It was of course purple- themed since she adores anything in purple. The kids also got to go to bounce house called Kangaroo Zoo. Naomi had a blast and it was fun to see. I have some really incredibly cute kids!

Naomi's gift, a new kitchen, and Seth is enjoying it just as much!

After the third round, it took several days to come out of my Chemo funk. I can get out of bed for a little bit at a time now, but I think my body is starting to develop like an immunity to my anti-nausea drugs. Its so weird to feel my body so weak. And I can feel it affecting my cognition. I have to concentrate harder to talk for the first little while after chemo.

Meladee has an incredible support group. To give credit to her amazing relief society she wanted to share a picture of the beautiful quilt they made for her. She takes this quilt with her to every treatment, and finds comfort knowing the love and prayers that went into making the quilt for her.

And last but most certainly not least, here is a great picture of Meladee and Roland. They had a date night just before Chemo began, and this picture was taken while out to dinner!

Get Well Mel!!
We Love You!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Red Devil

Chemotherapy is a big word to swallow, verbally and emotionally speaking. Meladee was scheduled to begin Chemotherapy on December 21st. With the help of her Sister-In-Law and Naomi, she aesthetically prepared for the first step in her regiment of treatment. She was going into this with a rebel yell! As you can see in the pictures that follow, she is Hot and Rebellious as ever! I mean who could really pull off a do like this and look as great??


Getting ready for the Runway!

Saving for a fancy hair piece!

Naomi wanted her pony cut off so badly (talk about support)!

Meladee and Seth!

Can you hear her Rebel Yell?!

As her luck would have it, she received a call the day before "Chemo" was to begin. Meladee was told her blood work was positive for Hepatitis B! Her first thought, "REALLY? I have Breast Cancer and now your telling me I have Hep B!" She still went in for her scheduled appointment to discuss the impact on her treatment plan. The Oncologist made the decision to redraw her blood, but for the time being, her Chemo was put on hold. Good news, her results came back positive. Meladee was immune to Hepatitis B, and she could move forward with her treatment. Her first appointment was now going to be on December 30th.

Meladee recounts the events of that day, and the days that follow her first dose of treatment.

My first chemo treatment:
I am told that everyone reacts differently, so my story might be very individual, but nonetheless, here's an account of what it's like through my eyes.
The first thing they did was draw blood from my port, which is a round plastic device placed surgically underneath my skin below my collar bone that allows direct access to my artery. This negates the need for repeated IV placement. Of course the numbing cream I had applied earlier decided not to work; either that or the nurse poked me extra hard. I could feel the needle somewhat uncomfortably in there and thought, "well next time I am going to use way more cream!" In any case the needle was attached to my port.
After meeting with the Oncologist briefly, I found a seat in the treatment room which is a big open room with a bunch of recliners and TVs and people hooked up to IVs through their ports. I am so glad that Roland was with me. Everyone else in the room besides the nurses was probably at least twice my age.
The first thing they gave me was a combination of anti-nausea drugs along with a steroid. The worst part is the taste. You wouldn't think that stuff going in your veins could cause such a foul taste in the back of your throat. Especially the saline - gross!! It's kinda plastic-y and chemically. I almost felt as though I could smell it. So nasty. It's cold going in.

Now it's time for the big stuff.

The first round of my chemo is two drugs called Adryamiacin and Cytoxin. Adryamiacin is nicknamed the Red Devil because it is red and it is so nasty. The nurses have to push it in manually because if it gets out it causes severe tissue damage. It's weird to feel it going through my veins. At the end I got a neulasta shot in my stomach to help boost my white blood cells.
So far so good. I feel weak and lightheaded but not too bad. 'I can handle this!" I'm thinking. After I'm all done, we go to get some lunch since it's now the afternoon. My immune system is down and I can't be around crowds so I wait in the car while Roland grabs me a hamburger from five guys, a "fresh" hamburger joint. Probably a mistake I won't be making again.
I felt okay for a few hours and then I started feeling like I needed to lie down and nausea started kicking in. I was able to help get the kids to bed and we went down to watch a movie.

WHAM! BAM! It hit me.

I'm pretty sure I know what being poisoned feels like. I could feel it cold and unnatural pulsing through my veins. It made my heart beat faster and my lungs work harder. The back of my throat was burning and my stomach was an ocean trying to heave its bounds. Everywhere from my waist down felt achy to my bones and my muscles weak. I went back and forth from hot flashes to chills. Roland had to carry me up the stairs to bed. I couldn't stand up or I felt violently like puking or passing out. I had to crawl to the bathroom.
I didn't throw up the first night but I did all night the second night. It was harder to eat or drink anything. It has changed the way food tastes. Sleep was on and off and I have to say that I cried the first night because it was so horribly hard. I stayed in bed for two and a half days straight. I'm still weak and nauseous but now it's more like morning sickness. I can get out of bed, but not for too long. Today (Jan 3) I have been able to eat! Yeah!
This chemo is sure kicking the crap out of me but hopefully that means it is kicking the $@&! Out of my cancer!
I am so lucky to have such a wonderful husband who has been taking great care of me and our sweet kids and they have been so great!

On a side note. Naomi also threw up one night so I am also hoping that maybe next time won't be quite so bad since maybe I also caught a bug with my immune system being down. But I don't know. They say it has an accumulative effect and could get worse as the treatments progress. But I only have to the Red Devil three more times.

Meladee's treatment schedule is every two weeks at this point, and will eventually go to every three weeks. She is gaining strength by the day, and has been enjoying the time with her husband and family. While Chemotherapy makes her days harder to chew, the love and support from family and friends makes it easier to swallow!

Get Well Mel!!
We Love you!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Life is Full of Surprises!

If one thing is certain in life, it's a surprise. By the age of 30 most people have had the opportunity to have a few wonderful surprises....a birthday party, a graduation party, a marriage proposal, or perhaps even the moment when you find out you are having a baby! Those are great surprises, and many more could be added to the list. On the flip side, life can also throw you surprises that do not make you so happy, and perhaps the worst to date for me is finding out my best friend of the last 15 years, Meladee, has Breast Cancer.

Now that's a surprise I can do without for the rest of my life!

Those of you reading this who know Meladee may know her as Meladee Burnham, and others of you know Meladee Kirton. Regardless of her last name, what we all know is that she is radiant, beautiful and has undoubtedly brought a smile to your face or tickled your heart. In 2002 Meladee married the love of her life, Roland, and in January of 2009 they joyfully welcomed the birth of their daughter Naomi. In April of 2010 they were excited to announce the arrival of their son, Seth.

After graduating with her Masters, Meladee quickly developed what I would call her own School of Music. She teaches children music from her home where she is also able to be with her children during the week. Meladee effortlessly devotes herself to her children, and more specifically to her oldest, Naomi. Meladee noticed a speech delay with Naomi at a very young age, and she was able to get an early diagnosis. Naomi has Childhood Apraxia of Speech, but they are fortunate Naomi's case is mild. Meladee's early intervention and tireless hardwork has been able to propel Naomi's delay, and therefore, she will no longer be limited by her diagnosis as she approaches school age.

As any Mom knows, you can quickly spread yourself thin, and in doing so, you put yourself last. Meladee had notice a knot in her breast which she attributed to a clogged milk duct, but had put it aside as she was so busy caring for her young family. Thinking more about it, she then figured it was just an adenoid she had developed while breastfeeding her youngest son. This same thing had happened in her other breast when she nursed her oldest. However, as time went on, she noticed that the "knot" was growing, and it had become more uncomfortable when she would sleep on her belly or hug someone. Finally, she knew she had to get it checked out. The opportunity came the week leading up to Thanksgiving. Meladee had her initial exam in the evening, and after analysis, the doctor had his nurse call to get Meladee into outpatient services at the hospital first thing the next morning. Outpatient services performed an ultrasound, and subsequent biopsy. Unfortunately, Meladee had to wait for the results until after the Holiday weekend. Finally the phone call came in Monday morning, it wasn't good news. Her lump was malignant. The doctor quickly told her the facts: it has been there for a while, so the cancer has probably spread and because of it's size, she is looking at a mastectomy, perhaps bilateral. The next week was full of meeting with cancer specialist, more biopsies, MRI's, and other body scans. The week of December 12th, Meladee, was fortunate to get into the Cleveland Clinic for further evaluation and advice.

Sitting here today, she knows this:
  • Her Breast Cancer is Level 1 (slow growth) which is good, but due to it's size, medical professionals believe it has been there for a while. It is big at 5.2x3x4cm with a bunch of satellite nodules.
  • She is Stage III. Her cancer has spread to some of her lymph-nodes. PET scan shows it is not anywhere else.
  • She has no genetic predisposition for this to have happened to her. The BRCA test was negative (genetic mutation). This is good news for her sisters and more so, her daughter.
  • Her cancer is estrogen positive, progesterone positive, Her2nue* positive.

Because of this, and the size of her tumor (especially in relation to her current breast size), the course of action has been outlined as follows:

Chemotheraphy (approximately 5 months)
Second: Mastectomy (they are still in discussion as to whether or not this will be just her right side or bilateral)
Third: Radiation
Fouth: Reconstruction
Fifth: Anti-Estrogen therapy for five years
*Her2Nue positive also means Meladee will receive Herceptin treatments every 3 weeks for a year.

Meladee's devotion to her family and church offers her strength any one of us could hope and pray for. She is courageous and tenacious, and with the support of family, friends, and all of you, she will fight this battle with all she has! Let Meladee's next surprise be a happy one. Let her hear from you! Leave her a note or word of encouragement on this blog (post a comment). Meladee will be following this blog, and she will look here to help her through this difficult road ahead! If you have more to say than just a comment, please message me as I would be love to post a story you have about Meladee for all to see. She has touched so many lives and made so many people happy! Please share her story and show your support!

Get Well Mel, We Love You!