Bab's Blog

It's just me, in words.

It’s National Health Blog Post Month! November 1, 2012

Filed under: Cancer,Diabetes,Organic Living — babscampbell @ 3:53 pm
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Day 1- Why I write about my health

I’ve signed up to participate in NHBPM for the last couple of years.  Unfortunately, I never make it past the second week.  I get too busy thinking about other things, projects. . . SQUIRREL!

But, this is an easy prompt to answer.  I write about my health because I want others out there, going through the same struggles, to know they’re not alone, and hopefully share some ideas that have worked for me or others that didn’t.

You’re NEVER alone.
This world is a big place.  There are a lot of people, each with their own difficulties, pressures, illnesses and worries.  You know that great feeling when you run into someone who knows EXACTLY what you’re going through?  It’s magical.

Somewhere out there, there’s a woman who’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer and her Dr. said they’re going to do this. . .this. . thing, with needles and . . .oh, it’s so hard to remember what he said.  I really didn’t hear anything after he said, “cancer.”  Is this going to hurt?  How will I feel after?  Can I go back to work?  I wish I could ask someone. . .  That’s who I write for.  Hi, I’m Barb and I’ve had breast cancer and I’m 19 months out from that dreadful day and let me help you know what to expect and what some of those big words mean.

In another city, there’s someone who’s just been diagnosed with diabetes.   They’re office-mate says; “hey, my grandma had diabetes. . they cut off her feet. . .then, she died.”
Hi, I’m Barb and I’ve had diabetes since 2009.  While it was really overwhelming at first, I PROMISE you will make sense of it.  Take my hand. . .let me show you some tricks I learned from other online writers.

I say it all the time. . but, since this is what I’m writing about today, I’ll say it again.
This journey of health and wellness is like being on a dirt road.  Some people are further ahead, they were diagnosed a long time ago.  Some are behind, they just found out their pancreas stopped working, or they have a lump.  The people up ahead, had others pointing the way and now they turn back to those just starting the journey and call to them. . .”hey, follow me, I’ll show you the way.  Watch out for that rut in the road and the river off to the side.” One day, it’ll be your turn to turn back and help someone else along the way.  Until then, here’s my hand, here’s my heart, listen for a familiar voice. . .follow along, we’ll do this together.

 

#HAWMC Day 6 Haiku, can you? April 6, 2012

 

 

So, I’ve not written a haiku since high school.  This was a fun assignment.  Since I usually write about both diabetes and breast cancer. . I did a series of haikus about each.  I think each stands alone, yet fit together as well.  Hope you enjoy them!  If not, don’t tell me. . I don’t need bad news on a beautiful day like today, and Easter, just around the corner!

I am hiding it
Behind this smile and laughter
Lies a tired, frail girl

You can’t really see
Unless you stare at my chest
The hole that is left

Energy is gone
Taken by the red devil
Fight to take it back

A new day appears
Energy renewed, but wait,
I am still not whole.

One day soon, I’ll see
The new me taking over
Grab the reigns, hold tight.

———————————————-

Invisible ill
Diabetes lives in me
It does not own me

Inconvenient ill
Eat? Not before algebra
Poke, beep, bolus, eat

Incessantly ill
Always here, no vacation
Even as I sleep

The surprising gift
New friends, community love
Hope, comfort, help, hearts

Just a side note of the significance of today:

Today is Good Friday. .the day we mourn the death of our Savior.  With gratefulness, we look back to the sacrifice He made on our behalf.  The wages of sin are death. . He paid my debt. . .but, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord!  Because He died, I don’t have to.  It may be Friday. . but Sunday’s on the way!

 

 

It’s the little things. . . October 27, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — babscampbell @ 8:51 pm
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I can’t believe the little things that I have found myself celebrating:

  • I’ve been able to stand in the shower, for the whole shower AND while drying off.
  • My hair has finally grown enough that it lays down on top of my head. (this was today’s celebration!)
  • I changed both my infusion set AND my CGM sensor last night with no “stingers” or “bleeders.”
  • I reached out with my left arm as I worked on things today and the pain is gone.
  • I stopped by my office yesterday and they were in the middle of a computer conversion.  To help with the stress, the wonderful executive team arranged for a reflexologist to come in and give the employees a foot massage. Talk about being at the right place at the right time! They had one opening available and I jumped on it.
For every moment of feeling exhausted, not sleeping, the neuropathy pain at night, the lack of strength during the day, the appearance of my body. . these moments of celebration propel me forward.  One step forward, three steps back?  Feels more like, one giant leap forward, 1 step back.  It’s sort of like watching the stock market; it’s up one day, down the next, but over time, it continues to go up.

So, I guess you could say, my stock is rising.  I like that.

It’s easy to focus on the badness; the pain, the fear, the setbacks, the bad A1c, the high BG, the low BG, the feeling that you’re out of control. . . .

Or, you can realize that things go up and down and up and down, but they’re always trending up.

Think back over your life and think of some times when you were really feeling low.  Aren’t you better off today than you were back then, even on your worst day?

So, I can think back to 2009 when I was diagnosed with diabetes, my A1c was 13.8, I had no idea what to do or if I was going to die.  I changed Drs., got on insulin, met some people who’ve really helped, done alot of research online, read a few books. . and today, I’m managing quite well with an A1c of 6.8.

Then in March of this year I was told I had breast cancer.  Again, I had no idea what that meant, what was in store for me or if I was going to die.  Guess what? I’ve made it through the worst of it. I’ve been told I’m going to live a long and healthy life and now we just work on getting my body back.

Up, down, up, down. . . and so it goes.  Celebrate the “moments of wonderful,” (to borrow a phrase from Sara) even if it seems like a tiny, little accomplishment to others.  In fact, it’s the little things that propel us ever upward.

 

So, that’s a new experience. . . October 15, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — babscampbell @ 12:25 pm
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I went to see my plastic surgeon yesterday.  Have I told you how much I adore her?  She’s fabulous.  She lets me be a big baby, teases me about it, but doesn’t make me feel stupid.  “So”, she says, “let’s deal with one breast at a time.”

Okey Dokey

The left side has the tissue expander in it. (The right expander was removed due to the post-op staph infection.  .see previous posts)  She looks at the incision, says it’s healing nicely, tugs on the synthetic suture sticking out on the end of the incision and says, “yep, let’s yank that out.”   The last time she yanked something out of me, my body went into some sort of tailspin. . shaking, hot, freezing, hot, shaking some more, dry heaving.  I told her, I don’t think I like it when you yank stuff out of me.  She opted to locate the loose sutures and cut them so they don’t snag on clothing, etc.

Then she says. . let’s start expanding this side.  So, here’s a little medical lesson (with pictures) discussing tissue expanders and VERY LARGE NEEDLES.

So, this is what the tissue expanders look like. They are hard plastic, filled with saline and the black circle is a port, through which the Dr. may fill them with MORE saline.  The purpose of this is to allow the skin to grow so that when they finally switch out with regular implants, there’s enough room to stitch ‘em up.  They also keep the skin from shrinking up too much during radiation treatments.
Dr. Young gets out this little magnetic “port locator” because, of course, it’s under my skin and you can’t see it.  She located the port and asked the nurse for a syringe with 50ccs of saline.  She turns around and the needle on this syringe looks at least 8″ long!  You’re going to stick that into my CHEST?

She laughs and says. . “I’d hold your hand, but I need them both to do this.  Lean back and look up, you’re numb from the waist up, you won’t feel anything.”  The nurse, Dana, rushes over to grab my hand and, of course, Dr. Young is right. I can’t feel a thing.  She pushes 50ccs of saline into the expander and then pulls the needle out of the port.  Then, noticing some swelling, she starts poking the needle around to aspirate some of the fluid that’s gathered in the tissues around the expander.

I had quite a bit of bruising and my left breast looked like I’d been hit by a truck.  She had removed the two drains a day earlier than she normally would’ve because she didn’t want cross-contamination with the staph infection.  That left alot of fluid pooling in there.  She ended up aspirating 60ccs of fluid, which actually left me with a net -10ccs.  After making a funny remark about me being the first patient to “self-expand”, she gets another syringe and injects another 50ccs of saline.  This now leaves me with a net +40ccs in there.  So, my left side is the same size as it was when I went in, but it’s much less bruised and it’s full of “the right stuff.”  I’ll go in next Friday for another fill.

She then examined the right side.  She poked around a bit and announced with a mischievous grin on her face, “I’ll yank out those stitches next week.”  Did I say, I really hate it when she yanks stuff out of me?

 

Posting Palooza October 11, 2011

Filed under: Diabetes — babscampbell @ 5:46 pm
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Alot has been written about “SimonPalooza” over the past few days and those, not attending, are apparently either thrilled to read about it, or completely irritated by it.  I wanted to chip in my two-cents worth.

A few months ago, I started seeing postings on twitter about a D-meetup in KC.  I live just outside of KC and whenever I hear of a D-meetup, I’m inviting myself along.  If you don’t want me there, you’ll have to be brutally honest and tell me so.  My take is. . whenever I can meet up with other PWD, share stories, encouragement, support. . I’m going to.  I had just started following @STroyCrow aka: Simon, on Twitter and while I really enjoyed conversing with him, I didn’t know him as well as others did.  That really didn’t matter to me.   The important thing to me?  30 PWD and their loved ones were coming to KC and I wanted to be a part of that.  I want to meet the people who have mentioned me in their blog posts, encouraged me through the toughest year of my life and have allowed me to share a bit of myself with them over the past 2 years.

I’d been looking forward to this weekend for MONTHS.  When suddenly, plans changed for me and I was hospitalized.  As my readers know, I recently underwent surgery; double-mastectomy, left lymph node dissection, right sentinal node mapping and removal, insertion of alloderm and tissue expanders, and removal of a port-a-cath.  On Monday, I spent the night in the emergency room with an unknown infection brewing somewhere in my body.  By Wednesday, it was apparent it was in my right breast and I had immediate surgery to remove the tissue expander and alloderm on the right side.  They would try to grow cultures of the infection to determine the correct antibiotic to use to battle it.  However, nothing was growing, due to the antibiotics I’d received IV in the emergency room.  My weekend plans were slowly slipping away.

Friday night, the party went on as planned at the Collins’ home and I was stuck in Room 412, knowing that all those DOC friends of mine were having a great time.  I was so happy they all kept tweeting!  I couldn’t be there, but I sure felt part of the party by following the twitter feed.  Pictures were being posted, funny statements were shared. . I was still part of the action.  I sat in my hospital room, giggling, and tearing up, and so grateful that social media let’s us be in so many places at the same time.  Later that night, I was thrilled to see a post asking if 10am was a good time to meet to go see @babssoup.  HEY, THAT’S ME!

I expected a few people to show up on Saturday morning, but just as the DOC does everything. . they ALL came.  They ALL CAME together.  What an amazing thing to see 25 people streaming through the halls of Menorah Med Center, all headed to MY room.  Not because they had to or were specifically invited. . . but because they knew I needed it and they gave of themselves, their encouragement, hugs, support, cheering, laughter. . . everything they have they share. As always.

My Dr. came in with the news that the infection had been identified and an antibiotic regimen had been determined and the room erupted in cheers.  The Dr. wasn’t sure he wanted to deliver news to a crowd. . but he was soon feeling like the hero of the day as he announced I could go home and join the party. . . finally.

It reminded me of when Kelly Kunik had her horrible experience with her vision and everyone added an eye patch to their profile pictures.  I’ve never met K2 in person, but I was so excited to be a part of something that made her laugh, let her know we are all praying and fighting for her.  This time it was my turn and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that one day in which I felt like it was Babsapalooza!

I was finally released from the hospital, came home for a nap and then jumped in to the festivities with wild abandon.  We met for the big BBQ dinner at the Plaza. We stayed at the hotel that night and didn’t get to our room until 1am. (probably a bit too late for a surgical patient) We all met for breakfast the next day and had a great time taping our “You can do this” piece, saying our good-byes and really sharing what each of means to each other.  All of these people inspire me every day.  They are the “rock stars” I admire and look up to.  And some of them shared that I have inspired them . . and I am in total disbelief that I have done so.  But, why not? I’ve learned from the best.  You love, encourage, support, share “lowering BG” vibes with each other, share inspirational thoughts, important scripture verses, all that you are. . you lay it out there and it will be given back to you.

So Simon, my dear friend, thank you.  Thank you for making this weekend possible.  Thank you for working so hard, so many hours and saving all you could to come to America to meet those people who have had an impact on you.  Thank you for sharing your feelings for me and the impact my journey has had on you.  Now, I know you and adore you as much as all these other DOC’ers.  We are related you know. . children of the king.  So brother, I love you and hope the rest of your visit is amazing.  I hope you are showered with love in NYC and you take all that home with you and spread it around.  Until we see you again in 2013. . .we’ll be sending life and love your way via Twitter.

The one thought I leave with is this:
Scott Johnson made a great point this weekend; you can either be a fountain or a drain.  You can either shower others with love or suck the life right out them.  I choose to be a fountain.  Watch out!  You might just get drenched!

Thanks again to all of you for visiting us here in KC!  You’re welcome anytime.

 

Surgery, another stop along the way October 3, 2011

On September 22nd, I entered the lobby of Menorah Medical Center, knowing that this day would change me forever.  We arrived at 8:30am to begin preparation for the surgery, scheduled for noon.   This had been a long morning as I was told to fast from midnight.  I often have low BGs during the night so I was really worried that I would crash overnight and have to cancel the surgery.  The anesthesiologist was very helpful with this and suggested I cut my basal rate by half overnight and keep watching for my BGs to drop.  If  it dropped, I would lower my basal rate a bit and if it started climbing, bolus a correction to get it back down.  It was a bit nerve-wracking but it worked.  Once I was on the table and unconscious, they checked my BG every 30 minutes and corrected as needed.

Once I arrived, I was whisked away to the prep room, leaving my DH waiting in the lobby.  I was hoping he could stay with me, as I always feel much stronger when he’s holding my hand.

First, I changed into the coolest (literally) gown.  It completely wrapped around, was below my knees and had a connection  at the knee that looked like you would hook a vacuum hose to it.  Apparently, a hose DID hook to it and the hose blew either hot or cold air into the gown.  The first climate controlled gown, I’ve ever worn.

Next, they started an I.V. (yuck), drew some blood work, then, took me down to Nuclear Medicine.

 

Note:  I’m explaining this next procedure in detail, because I couldn’t find anyone else’s description online when I searched for it.  I almost cancelled doing it because it scared me to death.  My description is, hopefully, to encourage other women facing this, to proceed with this procedure and not be fearful.

Since my right breast was being removed as a precaution, the surgeon suggested removing the sentinel lymph node and sending it to pathology.  The node could then be examined for microscopic cancer cells.  If cells existed, it would mean that some cancer existed in my right breast and I would have radiation on my right side as well, following surgery.  If no cancer cells exist, they would know that either the chemotherapy did its job, or no cancer had ever been present there.  In order to find which node is the ‘sentinel’ node, they inject radioactive isotopes into four areas, surrounding the areola.  They can then watch on a monitor to see where those isotopes travel through the lymphatic system.  The first lymph nodes identified are the ones they remove.  This procedure is called Sentinel Lymph Node Mapping.

As this was explained to me, all I heard was ‘FOUR INJECTIONS SURROUNDING THE AREOLA’.  I got so obsessed about those words, for 2 weeks, and several times decided I wasn’t up for it.  I couldn’t imagine having this done. . I’ve had enough pain and uncomfortable procedures done. . isn’t there any other way?  PLEASE, PLEASE. . if your surgeon has suggested this procedure, please follow through with it.  My surgeon prescribed EMLA cream to be placed on my breast 1-hour before the procedure.  I used half the tube and made sure it was thoroughly coated.  I then, placed a piece of saran wrap over the area to keep it off my clothes.  If you use gauze or dressings, it’ll be absorbed and won’t work.  I promise you, I felt absolutely NOTHING.  I braced myself as the radiologist came in, closed my eyes, a tear rolled down my cheek as I waited for the expected pain and he said, “ok, all done then.”  I DIDN’T FEEL A THING!

The next step is to massage the area to make the isotopes start moving.  It was actually amazing to watch it on the screen.  What started as a large, bright mass, turned into individual specks of light spreading and then forming straight lines.  The technician came over and made some dots on me with a magic marker to show the surgeon where these lymph nodes were.  During surgery, they use a Geiger Counter to locate the specific lymph nodes and four of mine were removed.

I then returned to the prep room and my DH was able to join me.  The Dr. came in and reassured me that everything was ready and I would be well taken care of.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared out of my wits. . . but, I kept smiling and saying I was ready.  Just before noon, two surgical techs came in and said that they were ready for me.  One added some medication to my I.V. and I started feeling really tired. . . Pastor V. and some men from church came and prayed for me. I hugged and kissed my Mom and my DH and was wheeled away into the surgical suite.

The next thing I knew, I was being told to breathe. . wake up and breathe deep.  For the next few hours, I was in recovery, trying to put a number to my pain.  On a scale of 1-10, how do you rate your pain?   I can’t imagine what a 10 must feel like, I mean really, that’s the worst pain ever, right?  So, I stuck around 7-8. . I mean it hurt pretty badly, but not like. . like. . having your leg cut off while awake, or having your head slowly cut off by a dull blade, that must be what a 10 feels like. I’m nowhere near that.   Eventually, I was brought to a regular room and was greeted by my DH and Mom.

I was surprised I didn’t hurt as badly as I imagined I would.  I refused the pain meds a few times, but the nurses talked me into taking them, explaining that it’s much better to stay “ahead of the pain” rather than letting it take over.  So, I swallowed the pills and slept quite a bit.

I had three drains inserted, two on the left side, one on the right.  These are used to catch all the fluid that accumulates during the healing process and keeps the area from swelling too much.  They’re a minor inconvenience, but, I’ll be SUPER STOKED  to have them removed on Wednesday.

On the left side, I had a modified radical mastectomy with 14 lymph nodes removed, dissected and examined.  On the right side, I had a skin sparing mastectomy with 4 lymph nodes removed, dissected and examined.  We received the pathology report this last week:

I AM CANCER FREE!

The chemo worked!  No tumors were physically visible.  The tumor clip was located with nothing attached to it.  No cells were evident in any of the 18 lymph nodes.  God is good. .

Now, we board the train for some recovery time. . .next station. . radiation therapy.

I, again, want to thank everyone for your kindness and love.  I have received so many beautiful flowers, thoughtful and funny cards, visitors who made me laugh.  Now, I’m being blessed by food deliveries and house work being done for me.  I can’t thank you all enough.  Blessings to you all!

All aboard. . .

 

At least it’s not cancer. . . September 16, 2011

Filed under: Diabetes — babscampbell @ 4:30 am
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Awhile back, my friend George, aka Ninjabetic posted a story related to a co-worker being diagnosed with breast cancer. Here is the link for reference:

http://www.ninjabetic.com/thebadblog/2010/1/15/you-are-allowed.html

You’ll notice, I commented on his post that day.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I had two dear friends battling cancer. K has since lost that battle and we miss her very much! T was able to try a new stem cell transplant treatment and is now doing quite well and just received another “all clear” scan. I tell you that to say this. . .at the time that I received my diagnosis, my first reaction was to think of these friends, what they were going through and say, “well, at least I don’t have cancer.”

In March of this year, I WAS diagnosed with cancer; invasive ductile carcinoma of the left breast and axillary lymph nodes. I was surprised to learn some new facts about both diabetes and cancer along this journey and I’ve got to say, I really wonder if that statement holds any truth to it at all for me.  BTW. . If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, or any life threatening disease of that nature. . .please allow yourself to grieve and get a grip on your condition, without discounting it or ignoring it.

I know my two conditions are my own, and this may not be the case with every cancer, or every case of diabetes, but for me. . .I’d take this cancer over diabetes, any day of the week!

Statistically, I am more likely to die of diabetes than from my breast cancer.  People with diabetes often experience low blood glucose levels, and in my case, in the middle of the night. If I were to sleep through one of these episodes and have my blood glucose continue to drop, I simply would not wake up.   I could also end up in a coma from DKA (Diabetic Keto-Acidosis).  This happens when your blood glucose rises so high that your blood becomes acidic. Then, there’s the heart failure, kidney failure, etc.

My cancer responded extremely well to chemotherapy and has crumbled away to the point of being undetectable. 8 treatments later, the Dr. pokes and prods and feels nothing but normal breast tissue now. I will have surgery and radiation in the coming weeks, but, I also expect to hear the phrase, “cancer-free” VERY soon.

My diabetes will last until God chooses to touch me and rebuild my pancreas, or give someone the knowledge to transplant or build an artificial organ.

It’s a strange phenom, but saying the words, “I have cancer”, suddenly escalates you to celebrity status. Suddenly, everyone at church knows who I am. People talk to their friends and refer to me as “this good friend of mine, with cancer. . .” everyone wants to help, be part of your journey and support you in your battle. I can’t tell you how much that helps. The sudden lifting of prayers, cards and letters sent and offering of assistance is what got me through this thus far. However, this didn’t happen with my diabetes announcement. I happily admit, my closest friends and family have asked how I was doing, and wanted updates, but generally, diabetes is invisible and you fight it with your closest allies at hand.

The visibility of cancer changes everything. I’ve not once had a person watch me test my blood sugar in a restaurant and then come over to offer me encouragement. However, one look at my shiny dome and there will be at least one person who will do just that. Total strangers come to the table, offer a hug, share their stories and assure me that I will beat this.

I guess what I’m trying say is. . .until the NFL wears light blue in honor of Diabetes Month in November, PWD will continue to battle their diabetes with their closest friends/family close at hand.  All the testing, basal rates, bolusing, worrying, overnight lows, late afternoon highs and algebraic computations will happen silently for the rest of their lives.

I’ve never felt so loved, so blessed, so surrounded by an army of warriors until I muttered the big “c”, and I’m so grateful.  This will be the year I hold in memory as the year I experienced being cured.  I will take all that strength and march forward until I am cured of diabetes too.  Now, at least, I know how it feels. . .to be cured. . .when it happens next time, I’ll recognize it right away.

 

 
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