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In Good Hands!

The day of the surgery was pretty remarkable when you consider that I checked in at 7:30am and checked out at 3pm! That’s right I’m not kidding.. bilateral (double) mastectomy! Vomit bowl under chin and cold wash cloth on my forehead and away we went on our way home. Looking back, it was kind of funny when I think about my poor husband who was trying to get me home quickly; the faster he went the more I got sick!

I think the most intimate moment I have ever experienced with my husband was in the recovery room. I remember looking up out of my fog and seeing that wonderful face with his charming smile looking back at me. He just kept saying, I love you. I couldn’t say much because my voice hadn’t returned yet, but I was telling him with my eyes that I loved him too. I made it! Here I am! Almost in one piece and I’m so grateful that you are here waiting for me! There was so much to tell him about my experience since I had last seen him hours ago when he left pre-op. My surgeon picked up my hand and held it like he was holding it as they wheeled my bed into the operating room and once we got there she didn’t let go. The nurse was setting everything up and she just continued to hold onto my hand, caressing it until she leaned over and softly spoke…goodnight Sheri. I remember as they wheeled me in the operating room that it was very cold. The radio was playing oldies and Team Boobie was in good cheer. My doctor, nurse and anesthesiologist were a team who worked together frequently on breast cancer patients. They called themselves Team Boobie, I called them my All Girl Rock Band. The chill of the operating room was sobering. Instantly I snapped out of vanity and became very aware of what was really happening. Team Boobie was not taking off my breasts. They were saving my life. Oh God, I have cancer. Please get it ALL! Take it all! Then Joshua 1:9 ran through my mind and over my lips. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid nor dismayed for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” That’s what I was repeating when the lights went out.
When the lights came back on there was my husband waiting patiently to tell me he loved me. I was only home a few hours when my sisters got in town. One of my sisters is a nurse and going to school to be a P.A. Whew, thank goodness because I tend to be a nervous nilly about everything. But, she was there to keep track of medicine and to help measure and drain the tubes. It was like having my own personal doctor! I was so happy to not be in the hospital! By the end of the day my whole family and close friends had stopped by to say hello. It was a celebration. I am officially a cancer survivor!

First Look

It’s been a couple of days since the surgery and I can’t believe how well I am getting around. Not ready to run a marathon, but still I am walking on my own and can change my clothes. All the instructions say that I can’t use my arm on the side of the mastectomy. So, since it’s both sides I’m using more ab muscles than I remember having in the past. Oh.. I’m so sore!

Time for my first sponge bath. Until now I haven’t had the courage to remove a big heavy sweater that I put on as soon as I got home from the hospital in fear that I might see my profile. With my head upside down in the kitchen sink my sisters and I started with a shampoo. We worked our way back to my bathroom where pretty sheets were hanging over the mirrors. My daughters were so sweet to cover all the mirrors in my bathroom so I didn’t have to look until I was ready. I slowly un buttoned my sweater and started to peel of the security blanket. Then off came the shirt. Wrapped around my chest was a huge bandage that went horizontally from one arm pit to another and reached down to my last set of ribs. The shape was flat. Completely flat. I couldn’t see underneath the bandages, only the shape. None. With my bottom lip quivering one of my sisters started to soap up the wash cloth. I had to unhook the drainage tubes that were pinned to my pants. While the tubes were still attached to me I handed them to my other sister. So, the three of us that day, in my bathroom, nurtured the body that was left after surgery. With little strength I sat down on a vanity bench and allowed to tears to come and the moaning to be heard. I’ll never forget looking up at one sister and seeing her with draining tubes in her hand that were connected to my body and watching mascara run down her face as she grieved for me while the other sister stood behind me softly and gently brushed out my tangled wet hair, telling me that it’s going to be okay. Then my husband tip-toed in with a cup of hot tea, taking over the hair brush. He and I took the time we needed to reassure one another that we made a good decision and that everything was going to be alright. With clean clothes and freshly washed hair I enjoyed a day on the patio in perfect 60 degree temperatures, sun shining on a new horizon.

It was micro matestases

Don’t you just love it when you get the same scripture verse more than once? I do! I recently received a beautiful card in the mail from a  relative who sent her love and some supportive scripture hand written in the card. One of the verses she wrote was: Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

I found it again in my own handwriting  taped to the hutch on my desk. What an incredible reminder that God is with me. I can not describe the fear that over comes me when I forget that simple precept. It’s like Peter who was called to get out of the boat and walk on water. The moment he was distracted by an oncoming wave he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. That’s what happens to me! When I take my eyes off of God I forget the confidence I have in Him who has gone before me and whispers behind me telling me which way to go.

That fear is exactly what I experienced a few days ago when we received some bad news. Originally, the pathologist in the surgery room found no trace of cancer in my lymph nodes and we delighted ourselves with celebration and joy. But, when the official pathology report came back it was indeed in the sentinel lymph node. It was micro metastases. I didn’t know what that meant so I conjured up my own definition, which was not a good scenario. It created fear and trembling and a sleepless night. But after I saw the doctor, I realized that it wasn’t as bad as I had dreamed up. It was a tiny 1mm speck and she is confident that it can be annihilated through radiation. I think I have figured out that when I stay within the realms of what God has prepared me for then I am at perfect peace. When I wonder off in my own imagination then I seem to get on a roller coaster with no seat belt.

The front of the card said, God is before you, God is behind you, God is over you and God is in you.
From here on out I will remember that if I get that frightened again, then God simply isn’t in it. Amen.

Pre Existing Insurance! Yes, I got it!

Just in the nick of time! My application for pre-existing insurance was approved and starting Feb 1 I will have insurance! Thank you God. This means that at the exact time I have to start treatment, I will be insured.
Here’s the information. Please pass it on!
www.pciplan.com  Call this number 1-800-220-7898

  1. You must be a US citizen. I think legal residents are eligible as well
  2. You must have a pre-existing illness
  3. You can’t have had insurance in the last 6 months

The monthly rates are reasonable and the total out-of-pocket cost is approx 7,000. After that 100% coverage. It takes about 3-4 weeks to be approved. This is part of the Obama Health Care Plan.

Moving Forward and Believing God

I read somewhere this week to stop saying, “I have cancer” and start saying that “God has Answers.” What a great perspective to have while moving forward. It’s time to turn the page and begin the next phase of this process and begin to think about treatments with my bilateral mastectomy behind me and new pathology reports in.

There are a few things I am going to hold on to moving forward and the most important is that God has positioned us for a miracle. Here’s the obvious; I found a non cancerous lump and went for an over due mammogram. Right behind that lump is where the cancer was hanging out. Stage II, late but still early. God warned me in His Word before the mammogram that I must take quick action when I hear the trumpet, so I did! I am at the most aggressive cancer treatment center in Las Vegas. My surgeon had never taken an uninsured patient before and found grace to take me, I was fortunate to get in. Miraculously, I will be insured at the onset of treatment. God has provided in every area of our lives. So far, all medical bills will get paid. One of our daughters can stay in college because of the generosity of friends and family. I have seen healing within my family and friendships. Everything is going to be okay.

I’m in a bible study called “Believing God” by Beth Moore. She has pointed out in her study that Jacob was not given the keys to the city so to speak when he came into the Promise Land. He had to conquer it! He had to win it back! Jacob had to believe God, not be afraid and carry out all that God requested. Gosh, that just has not left my mind nor my spirit.

A dear friend of mine makes beaded bracelets which she so sweetly gave me on the day of that mammogram. The bracelet is hand beaded with each bead representing the story of creation and Jesus’ resurrection. I memorized the symbolic meaning of each bead so I could tell other people and walk them through the story as they inquired. Well, I memorized all the beads accept one. I couldn’t remember the bead that represented the Miracles that Jesus performed. Boy, how I studied that bead, looking at it from all angles trying hard to remember what it meant. Then when my friend told me what it was, I knew that I was going to become familiar with Jesus’ miracles.

So, as I move forward to take back the Promise Land that God promised Abraham and a thousand generations ( that includes me and you) I will commit myself to Believing God for a miracle.

More Resources!

Yesterday I set out to look for wigs and prosthetics. So, I opened my handy-dandy notebook and began to call some resources that were published in some of the reading material found in my “little pink book bag”. Monday morning I’ll meet with my Oncologist for the first time and begin treatment options. Please pray!

First up was American Cancer Society 1-800-227-2345 
www.cancer.orgThere was a cancer specialist on the other end of the line who went over my diagnosis with me. Told me about the typical treatment I could expect and in general gave me more information and perspective about the type of cancer I have. In addition to that helpful information they gave me some other practical resources. 

Support group called Reach to Recover. This is one on one support. I will be matched with cancer survivor who has the same diagnosis as I do. Yeah! I can learn from someone else’s battle how to beat it.
Look Good Feel Better is a 2 hour workshop when beauty experts from the community come together to show patients under going treatment how to maximize and enhance beauty techniques.
American Cancer Society Resource Center for Wigs, prosthetics, Hat and Turbans!
Health Insurance Information Team– There are three types of insurance available for pre-existing.
1. PICP.
2. Local, State and Federal assistance ( Social Services, Medicaid and Social Security) .
3. Women’s Health Connection. You must be diagnosed through affiliation of the Women’s Health connection and Insurance will be available through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act.
 
Susan G Koman 702-822-2324The following resources were shared

Y-Me 1-800-221-2141 www.Y-Me.org This organization is run by cancer survivors. They will provide gently used Wigs and prosthetics for FREE! The intake telephone operators are kind and compassionate
Barbara Greenspun 702-616-4910– Women’s care Center- Support groups and classes
Carol’s Post Mastectomy 702-568-9595 – Wigs and Prosthetics
The Caring Place- 702-871-7333 Free massages!- Support Groups and Classes
Center for Compassionate Care- 702-796-3167

With GREAT Faith!!!

Monday was my first oncology appointment and the weather held perfect expression for me. Rain wasn’t pouring from the clouds that hung low, it was only a slight drizzle that lasted all day long. There was a chill indoors that was somewhat uncomfortable. I wrapped myself in a big sweater, stood at a window that faced the backyard and then the weather and I cried small raindrops all day long. I realized that as the rain was coming down it would bring rich nutrient to the soil  and that’s beneficial… so, it was a good day to cry.

The bright spot of the day was taking a step into the new world of oncology. Who knew that I would love a doctor so much who was going to prescribe poison for my body? Who knew, she would be kind and compassionate, gentle and patient? I’ve driven by this place a million times and never noticed the packed parking lot! There was a little city going on inside of this medical office park. I’ve never seen so many people in one doctors office before. The chemo chairs were full, the waiting room was full and every patient was being soothed. I’m the new girl in town and I think I’ll fit right in. I’m not alone. I had only ever known a few people with cancer and now there is a whole damn building filled with people like me, strolling down the recovery path!

You know you’ve got something threatening when you have a team of doctors! This doctor was selling me an insurance plan called chemicals, that would increase my odds of cancer being killed off systematically. First, twelve to eighteen weeks of chemo followed by six weeks of radiation and then five years of hormone therapy. My hair will fall out, I’ll get sunburned and complete my menopause cycle. “It’s optional,” she said!

“Not for me, hook me up, let’s get this thing started.” I didn’t hesitate one single moment.

With each layer of treatment my odds of survival increase. Treatment can’t start until I am finished healing from the mastectomy. She must have meant physically healing because I’m pretty sure it will be quite sometime before I’m mentally healed from this amputation.

I just want a day between now and that first drip of chemicals where I don’t have to think about my life, my fight or my prognosis. I wanna go to the San Diego Zoo. I wanna laugh at the monkeys and be awed by the tigers. I wanna eat pop corn and watch the towering giraffes. I wanna be surrounded by life and at a simplistic level.

It’s with great faith that I press on. It’s a new kind of faith, one that I’ve not known before. It’s bigger than the comfortable knowledge that God is with you or to coin the phrase, “things happen for a reason.” It’s so big that there is a force behind it. Momentum? No, more like exponential power, I’d say. In the book of Mark Chapter 9 there is a story of a man who brings his child to Jesus to be healed of demons. The father asks Jesus if He would have compassion on them and heal his son.   Here’s their interaction. Mark 9:23-24

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Here’s Sheri Page’s response, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Here’s what happened next… Mark 9:25

When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!”

Here’ what happened next in my faith,

When Jesus saw that the people came running together ( who prayed for Sheri) , He rebuked the unclean spirit,( the cancer) saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, ( cancer) I command you, come out of him( her) and enter him ( her) no more!”

With GREAT FAITH, In the name of Jesus!!!

I like Sunrises more than Sunsets

I like sunrises more that sunsets.

Jan 28th, 2012- 11:50pm, 12:10am, 12:28am, 1:30am, 1:45am, 2:10am, Bible study read Isaiah 41:10 and pray it back “Please strengthen me and Help me“ , Tylenol PM, 2:30am, 2:50am, 3:10am, 3:28am, 4:15am, 4:35am, 5:20am, 5:30am, 5:28am, 5:34am, 6:10am, 6:20.… bathroom, 6:30am Bible study again. Thank you God for another day of sunlight!

As I heal I’m beginning to realize that the numbness across my chest may be permanent. I can’t sleep a wink as my mind considers all things. Mostly, bad things. I’m taking clippings and excerpts from one line sentences throughout the week to battle my bad thoughts. Officially I‘ll call it living hell. I tried to convince myself over the long night that everything would be okay with verbal evidence I picked up during the week. I’ve heard, “This is beatable”, “ you may still get feeling back” “reconstruction can come later” , “You’re beautiful”, “You’re courageous.” God’s Word says, “He will strengthen me”, “He will Uphold me”, He loves me”, “He will help me.” I wrestled all night long with my bad thoughts which I don’t even have the nerve to put in writing right now because they were so morbid.

Perpetual optimism used to be my husband’s most annoying attribute in my eyes. I laid there awake doing mental gymnastics hoping that he would wake up and share his Good Ship Lollypop opinions with me. I was hoping he’d find me stirring and remind me that the birds were chirping in another part of the world or remind me of all the cases where someone else was worse off than us. Better yet, that he would point me back to Jesus. Instead, I tried to lay still so I didn’t wake him up, with my eyes facing the clock and waiting to fall asleep.

This is “The Fight” or at least part of it. It was a rough week meeting the oncologist deciding on the treatment plan and returning to the surgeon to get all the drains and tubes removed. I am trying to hurry and heal from the surgery so I can start treatments. Honestly, I don’t want to start treatments. I don’t want to lose my hair and I don’t want to be numb across my chest anymore . The fight is getting through all of this mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

It’s time to deal with stuff! You know the stuff I’m talking about. The stuff crammed in that outdoor shed that you’ve been meaning clean out for years. It’s dealing with the control freak within and the abuse taken as a kid. It’s handling insecurities and stubbornness. It’s an opportunity to let God in those self protected heart places. Breath, just breathe Sheri. It’s time for the next step.

Chemo starts today. Come,pray with me for a total and complete healing.

Hello gang, so sorry I haven’t written in a long while. I’ve been trying to digest all that has happened. It’s been like drinking a cup of water from a fire hydrant. I grew up here in the desert and was told somewhere along the way that the reason we have flash floods is because the land is so dry and hard that when the rain finally falls it can not be absorbed because the land is not porous. When the rain falls it quickly runs over the hard surface of the desert landscape causing a flash flood. The Diagnosis back in December hit a hard surface. The constant pounding and sometimes dripping of reality have softened the hard ground and it’s beginning to sink in one slow day at a time.

I stare at my healing chest and recognize that this is a process. Step 1, surgery behind me. I remember that when I considered my options for surgery I couldn’t cope with more than that. I remember thinking that I couldn’t consider Chemo treatment or even research it because I was already overwhelmed with the decision of mastectomy.

It’s been several weeks of healing and preparation for Step 2, treatment. Along the way there have been a few bumps in the road. I’ve had to have the tumor slides retested because there was a conflict in results. That delayed the treatment by a week. More than the aggravation of delay was an incredible uncertainty and acceptance of a different treatment plan…. A longer treatment plan. We walked all the way around that block to have the test results remain the same and the decision to continue down the original path of treatment after all. Now, I have had time to read about the treatment plan and side effects which have hit hard ground once again. There is so little time for acceptance before treatment starts.

Later today there will be an IV drip hooked up to me and the chemicals that scout out and kill cancer cells will be on the hunt. Unfathomable that just two months ago I thought that treatment wasn’t an option because I didn’t have insurance. I need to remember that this is a gift and God came through. I believe… I believe that God and cooperation with the doctors plus my faith will find and kill every cancer cell in my body. Come, pray with me for a total and complete healing and that the side affects of this treatment will be few. With all my love, Sheri

2nd Opinon

I must have read in every cancer book that part of this journey is to make sure you seek a second opinion. Doctors are brilliant, talented and above average decision makers. They are also human! I love my doctors and trust them very much and believe that they have my best interest at heart. With that said, I am seeking a second opinion from the Mayo Clinic on Friday March 2nd. Oh how I wish this was a simple clear-cut black and white battle, but it’s not.
“It’s rather several shades of gray, ” one doctor quoted.

There have been many issues about the facts of this diagnosis that are borderline and bothersome! Where one doctor says treating a slight HER2 positive issue is not worth all the consequences of possible side effects another doctor says that even a slight positive score must be treated! All of that is complicated by two different tests; one reports a negative presence and the other a positive presence. So, off to Mayo Clinic we go looking for the tie breaking vote.

The Mayo Clinic sent us a checklist of all the tests they want to review. I am completely impressed that they want to see the diagnostic tests for themselves, they also want the original tissue slides and written reports. It seems to me that they are going to take a fresh analysis approach to the case and file. I am so relieved! I consulted another breast cancer group who only wanted the written reports. I believe we’ll be in great hands when we arrive in Scottsdale AZ.

Meanwhile the Chemo treatment I was supposed to get last week, will be done this coming week. Then when Mayo determines we are on the right track, fantastic! If not we’ll change it up, but we must get started.

The local doctors office where I go continues to impress me with their financial aid. Before the insurance kicked in they guided me to call ahead and negotiate cash prices with the service providers. What would have been over $55,000 paid out in cash was reduced to about $15,000. With the generosity of friends and family, a large chunk of that has been paid. Just the other day they sent me paperwork to fill out for the Patient Advocate Foundation Co-Pay Relief Program, who will help us with the co-pay payments. They really have been remarkable with helping facilitate the assistance needed to get the proper care.

Mornings like this when I wake up and feel nervous and scared, all I have to do is think about everything I can be thankful for and it settles me. I am so thankful that I’m not alone, that I have been well taken care of, that I still open cards and letters every single day, phone calls from friends,  that my husband holds my hand even while I’m sleeping, that two of my daughters and my mother have journeyed many miles to spend some beautiful sunny days with me and another daughter and another sister are on their way. I am thankful for cancer research, for the Mayo Clinic, for the pink ribbon tattoo my niece put on her chest, for my new dammit doll, for a song my sisters dedicated to promise to love me through this, for the joy all my grand children have given me, Good morning.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.