Archive | March 2018

Mastectomy, are you sure?

Christmas is over and we are back in the Doctor’s office. Mammogram, check. Ultrasound, check. PET scan, check. The PET scan not only said that there was no other cancer found in my body, it told us a lot about the cancer itself. I found out that the HER2 protein was negative. That means that my cells are not cancer friendly…that’s a good thing. The growth stage was 1, this is not the same as the “stage” we laymen think it is. Growth one means that it’s simply not hungry and aggressive…. that’s also a good thing. We know what kind of cancer it is so they know how to treat it. It has a 93% chance of responding to estrogen treatment… another good thing! I don’t know what that means exactly yet, but I’m researching. It will get the staging number after it is removed from my body and the lymph-nodes are dissected. But, so far.. I’m thinking this is not so bad. I’m thinking so positively I am talking my self right out of the mastectomy! With this news I began to back peddle on the mastectomy. Maybe it’s not necessary? I’ve been reading a lot about lumpectomys with radiation treatment and I could save my breast. The thoughts of mastectomy have had me in tears non stop! I can’t imagine… I just can’t do it. At this hesitation the doctor orders one more test, an MRI and wants another biopsy if I chose lumpectomy. It’s worth the extra look to save a ta ta!
Leaving the office I got the referral for the MRI and remarkably I had the MRI done within a few hours and stood back in the doctor’s office with MRI results in my hand by 4p that day. I got an appointment the following week to review the results. Bad news this time. There are 4  tumors in my right breast, three appear to be cancer and it appears on the MRI that two lymph nodes have been affected. Although the left breast appears to be clear on the MRI, I will need a biopsy of the two pre-cancer lesion on that side. Okay, time to take some of that anti-anxiety medicine.
New Year’s Eve. the phone rang and the Doctor was calling to check on me. “How are you”? she says.
“Not a good day,” I responded.
“What’s wrong, Sheri”? she said directly.
“It has all just caught me by surprise,” I said weeping.
Boldly the Doctor called me to reality, “No it has not, you did not get your mammogram screening since 2007, why is that? It was because you didn’t want to know.”
Resolved to the truth I said, “You’re right.”
“So we are doing a double mastectomy,”  she questioned?
“Yes,”…. I said simply.
With that we had a few giggles about what party animals we are NOT. She encouraged that I not spend a quite evening at home, but to go out and have some fun. Doctor’s orders. I fell asleep on the couch at 9p on New Year’s Eve. Woke up right at midnight to watch the count down and said to myself… “this is going to be a rough year.”

Surgery Date Set and logistics

New Year’s Eve weekend took sooooo long be over. I couldn’t wait for the first business day after the New Year’s Eve conversation with my doctor. With all of the results at my finger tips, there is only urgency on my mind. Jan 11th, 2012 is The Day. Moving through this is like sprinting up a mountain. Every now and then I need a minute to digest the terrain. Where am I, where am I going and what comes next runs through my mind like a scrolling banner. Did you know that cancer loves an acidic environment? That it can’t survive in an oxygen cell environment? PH balance is important and I should not eat red meat?
That’s nice to know, right? So much to do like filing for a modification on my home loan so they won’t foreclose while I’m recovering from surgery and chemo. Did I mention that I have no insurance? I spared you from the stories of filing for Social Security, Medicaid and social service financial assistance. I first was surprised that there were so many private agencies to give financial assistance and even more surprised to find out that they are all out of money. One organization told me that no organization could help with the medication because it was against the law! Really? The IRS says that I can’t get help from a non-profit organizations to pay for chemo?! The thought is that they can help with  my power bill so I can pay for my treatments. Let’s see how does that work? If I qualify, I can be blessed with $150.00 for my power bill, but the $10,000 Chemo drip is on me? Something doesn’t make sense here folks? I kindly told the lady on the phone from the last organization I called, “Honestly, I really don’t need $150.00 for my power bill, what I need is insurance!
Some good news came from a family member and doctor as well as another friend who is a pharmaceutical rep. The companies that make the chemo will help with the cost if you have a hardship letter. So there is hope. Another friend told us that there is an insurance company called PCIP that will cover pre-existing conditions. I am applying for that immediately! It takes about 4 weeks to be approved and it is the same insurance that our government workers get. I will end up paying for the surgery with deep discounts for cash paying patients. Insurance, if I get it will kick in for treatments. If I don’t get it then I always have the option of relying on the county and UMC. Now I know why they show such a loss every year! Cash paying patients at UMC are charged just 50.00 for treatment and a 500.00 deductible. Downfall is I don’t get to use my own doctors and who knows if the meds offered are the best ones for me? Fundraiser!!!! I would have rather never been the one in need, but I am. There was a moment when I was sitting in the welfare office, I turned and looked at my husband and ask, “How did I get here”? Gosh I must have been day dreaming during the bus ride that dropped me off here. Then the tears just ran and ran and ran… How do I get back to being a giver again?
With that said and my nightmare spoken out loud, I am so blessed.

So Blessed

One last entry today that will catch us all up to speed. I have promised to blog then it took a few weeks to put it into action. Boy, do you see a pattern here in my personality. I do. I must tell you about all the blessings. I was sitting at the dinning table with one of my daughters the other day. I had a million things on my mind and two million that needed to be done, but for that moment there was nothing more important to me than to just sit with her and talk about nothing as we talked about everything. My husband always tells me, slow down and smell the flowers. I always retort, pick up the pace!
My kids have been right there ready willing and able to do what ever I need. My friends are another line of defense that have come to our aid. Our family members are holding us up in their love. All I could think is that there is no way I can accomplish all that I need to accomplish in such a short amount of time. I took a strong look at everyone who stood up and said I’m ready and I’m here for you. For one of the very few times in my life, I asked for help. I was able to delegate my needs to my family and boy; they came through with flying colors. I have many sets of eyes now to help me understand nutrition, reports, chemo treatments, organize prayer supports and fundraisers. I have been upheld spiritual, mentally and physically. As I write this my husband just brought in the mail. He placed an envelope on my desk and when I opened it there was a message inside along with a check. We don’t know the person who sent this gift of help to us. We are so grateful and this is not the first time treasures of information and resources have been shared with us. I can only hope that I can give of myself so freely when I see the need.  I Trust in the Lord my God!

Sacrifice

IDC is the diagnosis. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Five years ago the cancer or atypical cells (really not cancer apparently to my original doc) were in a tiny lobe just sitting inside of it. Now it has spread outside the lobe, into the duct and beyond into the breast tissue. There is no cure, I’ve been told.  That’s why I have to remove it; ’cause it has no boundaries and doesn’t know how to stop.
Yesterday, when I was doing my morning chores, my mind slipped off to that lofty place. Why have I choose mastectomy? Is there someway around it? Gosh, for a day there I  had a moment of denial. Someone must be playing a trick on me. This just can’t be possible. This happens to other people, not me. Besides it’s just not fair. My husband’s sister just passed away 4 months ago after living for 10 fighting years with this thing.
Where are the cameras? I’ve been punked. You can come on out now and call off the bluff. I fell asleep with that level of  hope only to pop  up in the dark, panicked and announced to my husband that they are taking my TaTa’s in 6 days! I found a comfortable place in his arms as he soothed me back to sleep.
Today is ANOTHER busy day with pre-op procedures at the hospital and more retirement liquidation. I’m pulled and tugged to think of long-term decisions and make sure the car registration gets done before we begin this process. It’s all a whirlwind. I still need to say good-bye to a part of my body!
Good-Bye Ta Tas. Thank you for helping me feed my babies and enjoy the incredible bond that happens when a mother nurses her children. There is no way to describe the joy and affection a mother feels. I remember how I waited for you come then hid you during those Jr. High showers. I remember all the times you grew with me when I over indulged in food and then disappeared when I was fit. It was just the last few years that I really enjoyed your maturity, your shape and familiarity. The disease that grows inside of you has an insatiable desire that can not be quenched. Thank you for taking the sacrifice. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to have you with me for 47 years. You’ve been awesome. Let’s say good-bye in peace.
As much as this sacrifice hurts, how do I comprehend the sacrifice of Jesus? It’s in Him that I can find my comfort. He knows about sacrifice and how there can be new life because of it.

Five Tips for Financial Aid in Nevada

My time to track down assistance as an uninsured cancer patient has left me little time to consider the reality of the cancer itself. If you know of someone who is in the position of being uninsured, under insured or will need assistance of any kind please pass on this blog. Although the task of applying for assistance is daunting and it is hard to find organizations who have funds to help, there are some worthy resources available. I found possible insurance this late in the game, help with utility bills, house payments, rides, companionship, counseling and the list goes on. I know not one agency who has all the answers but collectively they make an impact in the lives of those who are struggling with an illness.

 

1) For the uninsured with pre-existing illness. PCIP insurance was initiated as part of the Obama health care plan. If you have a pre existing illness and you cannot get health care coverage, have not had health coverage for the last 6 months or been denied health coverage because your illness and you are an US Citizen, you are eligible for health insurance. Go to www.pciplan.com. Phone # 1-800-220-7898. Make sure to call this number.

 

2) Federal, State and Local assistance. This one  is tough to get and you have to apply for it in the right order or else you may find yourself starting all over. Make sure you have all the documents they request. You will need to disclose all of your retirement funds, cash on hand, bank account balances and assets. The workers at the independent agencies do not always know how the system works. Keep all your paperwork in a three-ring binder. Record names, dates and conversations.

 

  • First, make an appointment for the Social Security office. File an application for both SSI and Disability. Make sure you apply for both! It may take up to 6 months to be approved for SS, but you can be approved for State and Local assistance sooner. You just need to be in the system.  If you have any additional medical procedures make sure to send your information in for your case worker to keep in their file. You will not be able to get any assistance if you don’t start here first. Clark County will not help you if you didn’t ask the State of Nevada first, and the State of Nevada will not help you unless you ask the Federal Government first.
  • Second, Medicaid programs are found at the Nevada State Welfare Division. There are several physical offices you can go to. You can print the application online and then go to the office to submit it. Your approval at Social Security will help with the approval at Medicaid. Medicaid will issue you a letter in 7-15 days. You will receive at case number and PIN number to track your information.
  • Social Services is Clark County’s program for assistance. Social Services requires the most paperwork by far, so be ready to start gathering all your documents. The will require an appointment to bring in all your medical and financial records which takes approx 3-4 weeks to get. You must apply in person to get the appointment. You will need to be in the Medicaid database before you can see Clark County Social Services at your scheduled appointment.

 

3) Negotiate your bills! Doctors, Hospitals and other medical facilities can and will negotiate better prices with the uninsured. Some may want cash up front and others will allow you to make payments. They want to help but it takes a little pre planning. Call ahead, tell them who you are and negotiate ahead of your appointment. I was able to negotiate 80% off of my hospital bill.

 

4) Hold a fundraiser. You don’t have to do this all on your own. Everyone has someone in their sphere of friends and family who has the perfect personality to help out in this area. Think creatively and have fun with it.



5) There are hundreds of Non-Profit cancer support groups that have funds and man hours available to help. Here are a few I found helpful

 

  • Susan G Koman, not only has funding but has resources to help your families with counseling, wigs and prosthetics to massages. They provided that pink book bag I spoke of in an earlier blog post
  • Access to Healthcare- 877-385-2345. They are a patient advocate group. They will help you with negotiating medical bills and finding financial aid. Their program has been so successful that they have now gone before a federal committee as a model program for national needs.
  • State of Nevada Consumer Health Assistant Program. I called them last and when I did, I wished I had called them first! They had all the information I dug up, including the information about PCIP for pre-existing insurance.
  • Your treatment facility will have social workers who can also help you with medical needs, other financial needs and emotional needs. Use them, that’s what they are there for!

Tomorrow, Wednesday morning at 7:30a I check in at Summerlin Hospital for a 9:30a surgery

I can hear the beat of the drums and the battle cry from Heaven! I have heard the promises from God in Psalm 91. I believe that He is near and going before me on every occasion. The prayers of His intercessors have reached my ears and I know they have reached His ears too. Thank you to my sister warrior friends and our bible study group for your prayers. I have been like a child so little in my faith, but I am borrowing yours. Thank you for your certainty about a miracle and healing. Thank you for the burden that God has given you to pray. Thank you for your praise and your worship to Him, as you have me and my cancer on your minds. Thank you for pointing me right back to Jesus. Thank you for reminding me of my Faith. I was stunned on the battlefield and lost my armour. You brought back all the pieces and strengthened me again. Thank you for the whispers of love in my ears and the touch of our hands. Thank you that it is about you too. Thank you.

Tomorrow, Wednesday  morning at 7:30a I check in at Summerlin Hospital for a 9:30a surgery. It’s an outpatient surgery believe it or not. The surgery will only take a few hours and the skillful hands of my surgeon will carve out the breast tissue which holds the poison in my body. A bittersweet good-bye. It will take about 10 days for the pathology report to come back in and then we will know what strategy and how to plan the treatments. And I still can’t believe that I have cancer!

Update

Hello Everyone! This is Sheri’s daughter Monika and I wanted to give a brief update after her surgery today. It went PERFECT!!! We were blessed to hear that although we had heard that the cancer had spread into the lymph nodes, the doctor came out to announce to my Dad that the lymph nodes seem to have NO problems. She did remove a sentinel lymph node just to check it out in the lab and confirm that there is indeed no cancer. They have a follow-up appointment on Thur to review the pathology reports and to discuss possible ongoing care. She is surrounded tonight by family, friends,food and laughter. Those are all things sure to get your spirits up after a long day. She is smiling and cracking jokes already. We are all believers in the power of prayer and thank you so much in advance for your continued prayers. Sheri sends out her love and I myself would like to thank each of you for following this blog and supporting Sheri’s fight. She is courageous and made a huge sacrifice today for her family. But small compared to our Savior. Thanks everyone! God Bless and Happy 2012 🙂

Fear and Love can’t be present at the same time!

I woke up this morning and walked to the kitchen slowly on my own for a glass of water. Passing the living room, I glanced at the couch and noticed the empty room. Dark and quiet again after the fullness of life and activity camped out for a week. Everyone has gone back home now. All that’s left behind are two refrigerators full of food, a heap of blankets, pillows piled on the couch and half empty water bottles standing by crumpled candy wrappers. It was a seven-day slumber party with loved ones who were brave and willing to lay on the couch with me. The doors were left wide wide open to let the cool breeze in. We snuggled under blankets, watched movie after movie and ate ALL DAY LONG! I can’t imagine recovering from a double mastectomy any other way. Who else besides sisters and brother can make fun of the way you got yourself out of trouble as a teenager or how bad you stink because you haven’t had a bath in two days? Pictures were pulled out, the camera lens cover is still off and there are DVDs longing for their place back in their cases. All reminding me of the love, laughter and strength found in a family. The last flight left yesterday at 6pm with a final good-bye text from my brother who said that they were flying over our home. Yes, the angels were flying over us and he is one of them. It’s four days after surgery and there is so much to report. I hope I can straighten out the flurry of events that happened last week and remember everything. It was a week that I was completely buffered from the reality of cancer and surgery. I found out first hand that love and fear can not be present at the same time. God opened up the flood gates from Heaven and showered His love upon us as His people were stirred to be near us and pray for us. We were sheltered as a family and covered. Every need that I could hope for was met; even the needs that I didn’t know I had were met! So please bear with me as I walk you through the last week of events that will amaze you as they have amazed us!

Someone Special to Prepare Me

It was the Saturday morning before surgery when the phone rang in the morning. Really all I had to do for the day was a little laundry and house cleaning. I knew that we would have company over the week and in typical fashion I wanted the house to be clean. Mom was on the other end of the line letting me know that she was at the airport ready to board her flight for Las Vegas. That doesn’t seem unusual, but I actually thought she was coming the Saturday after surgery. Oh my gosh! I was so happy! What a surprise. The days were all so full of details and decisions that I couldn’t be happier that I was shocked. I had planned to fiddle around the house the whole day only to make an hour chore out of it and quickly get to the airport for our special arrival. Before she hung up she murmured that we had her for a week! I whispered to myself that it was my turn, finally my turn…. unfortunately my turn. My mom is really my step mom. We really don’t go into full explanation when we introduce one another to our friends and acquaintances. Instead, you will see that we make direct eye contact with one another and smile BIG when someone questions; your mom looks so young? I’m really only 12 years younger but, she’s still the only woman who dared to love me during those rebellious teenage years. She gave me years of belonging as she took me in her fold and claimed me as her own. My mom helped me understand and forgive the woman who gave birth to me, because my birth mother didn’t have all that it took to mother me. God had a perfect plan to match us up. Because of the power of  her unyielding love, I have made it  my purpose to keep my wings open wide, pay it forward and love every child as my own who finds themselves in my reach. My mom came to Las Vegas early to prepare me for the sacrifice I was about to make. She listened more than she spoke. She took my side. She took up my defense. She reminded me who I was and turned the last few years of defeat into strength. She told me the truth, I am defined by my boobs, that was my womanhood…. until now. Now, more would be required of me. She told me that she came so I could cry. She prepared me for battle, sent me off with a note pinned to my chest telling of her mighty prayers that had girded up more than one of her children over the years. She has six. Now, we have all had our turn to have her by our side during life’s threats. I’ve watched and learned and I want to be that kind of mom.

The Battle Inside of Me

Embracing cancer is like putting together a 5000 piece puzzle. It takes more than a week. You put it together one piece at a time and each piece is examined to find its perfect fit. Brief moments are taken to refocus on the big picture and gain perspective. If I accept this mastectomy that means that I accept that I have cancer. That’s like putting together the inside pieces before you put together the border. By the way, that’s cancer will a lowercase c. I’ve decided that it doesn’t deserve a capital c. The surgery marks the beginning of the battle inside of me. I can hardly believe that I have the little “c”. How do I wrap my mind around a mastectomy when I can’t even believe that  I have c….? Hum.
It’s the eve of my surgery and I’m not ready yet, not ready I tell ya!!!! I don’t want to do this. I’m just not ready. Oh my God! Big picture, cancer un treated kills. Little puzzle piece, I’m alive today and don’t feel anything. Big picture, it’s going to be a long year of treatment, maybe hair loss and hopefully reconstruction. Little picture, they are going to CUT OFF my boobs tomorrow?!!!!
It’s the eve of my battle and new troops have flown into Las Vegas to bring support. My brother, his wife and children have arrived. We’ve busied ourselves preparing for their arrival by assembling taco night! No one was very hungry though. We shelled out small plates, made small talk and small bites were taken before we cleaned up. Looks like we’ll be eating tacos and that chicken enchilada dish  for days to come!
After my brother took his  family to a hotel for a night’s rest I sat up with my husband, daughter, son and mother and made my last not ready yet plea… I’m still not ready and there is no more time to get ready. We held hands and prayed. I heard the most gentle requests from our kids that Jesus would help me because I was seeking Him. I don’t think I will ever forget the power of their prayers that night as I lay down to sleep and apologized to my husband that cancer in my breasts was about to affect our life as husband and wife in a gigantic way. He told me that one day I would understand how much he loves me and how little it would  affect our life as a couple.
There was little sleep that night. I fell asleep around 1am and woke up again at 4am. What the heck, I was about to be knocked out and get plenty of rest for the next few days! Early in the morning I stumbled to a computer and found a message on Facebook from someone who knew of me but didn’t know me personally. She said that she couldn’t sleep and that she was awake and praying for my surgeon. I gratefully responded to her that I was up praying for my surgeon as well! Boy, I was glad that the Lord woke someone else up to pray with me! I came to find out that several people were up that morning praying for my surgeon. In the midst of it all I remembered a scripture that one of my friends shared with me in Joshua 1:9  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; Do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
That was it! That was what I needed. I could hear the power and reprimand in that scripture. It was God convincing me to Trust in Him. I repeated over and over… ” Have I not commanded you?…” At last, I found the right puzzle piece to move forward. Just in time to leave for the hospital.