Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas... Eve!!!

Merry Christmas Eve everyone! I'm trying to write this post on my phone so please bare with me I've only done this on my computer. Autocorrect here we come!

Let's start with yesterday, the day of testing. And I mean day, we were there from 9-5! I should be getting paid for this.. ;) The Pulmonary Function Test was first, which I went to with my mom and she ran into a friend from bonco who talked to us for a minute. Then the male nurse took us back and made me do all these weird breathing tests. I kept laughing at first because it was just awkward and I had to wear the ugliest nose plugs. (Did I mention this was by far the hottest technician of the day??) Anyways my awesome mom
 got some pics of everything. 
Doing the PFT with the weird noseplugs
Then on to the Echocardiogram where the tech put on about four or five stickers on me that hooked up to this machine and then he used that awfully cold gel they use for ultrasounds and did an ultrasound of my heart. This was by far the coolest thing! And from what they both said I have a healthy heart and lungs. (The reason they tested me for that stuff is to make sure I am strong enough for chemo and to have a starting point to see how much damage/if any the chemo will do.) Easy day so far! 
This is an upside down view of the four chambers of my heart
Then my dad met up with us and up to the bone marrow appointment we went! While we were waiting in the waiting room a bunch of people came up and the cutest little girl handed me a blanket and said, "Merry Christmas!" They called it a Christmas blanket and it was seriously the sweetest thing.
My Christmas blanket <3
 Back to the bone marrow, it was a nurse practitioner that did it, and she was really sweet but really tiny. I kept thinking, "YOU'RE gonna stick a needle into my bone? Are you even strong enough?" Well she was! She said she had done at least one of these probably everyday she's worked for the last seven years. She was awesome and numbed me up pretty good, I couldn't feel a thing! My mom, however, didn't do as well. She was trying to videotape it so I could watch everything after and ended up passing out onto the floor! I had my head turned away from her and my dad so I could talk to the doctor so she gave me a play by play. "She's laying on the floor right now." "She just passed out.." Needless to say we had a little laugh about it! The whole procedure was a walk in the park. I'm a little sore today but I think that comes with the territory, it's not horrible pain. 

That's the NP drawing my bone marrow and my mom laying on the floor waking up from passing out!
Then we went to the PET scan and they made us sit in the waiting room for a half an hour before I told my dad to go see what's up. Turns out the lovely receptionists were too busy gossiping to let my doctor know I was there. I won't lie I was not being very nice at that point. Anyways I go back with my doctor finally and she apologized probably four times and then pumped me full of radioactive sugar through an IV, took away my phone, turned the lights off and said okay I'll see you in 75 minutes! Try not to move very much. Um hello best news I've heard all day! Finally a nap!! It was seriously awesome. Then she came and got me put me on this skinny bed with some blankets and strapped me down. The bed moved in and out of this tube for about 25 minutes and then I was free to go home, eat, and of course take another nap. Listen, this cancer stuff is exhausting. Literally, even on days when I don't have to do anything, I am so tired I just want to sleep all day. That's probably my main symptom right now, headaches are pretty frequent, my whole body is so itchy, and the best part.. Night sweats! It's not too bad but I wake up every night so hot and sweaty. ;) haha literally. It generally doesn't take too long to fall back asleep though. And that's it! So if you want to know how I'm doing, I'm still pretty normal. Just little annoying things!

So this morning I had my surgery to remove a lymph node and do a more in depth biopsy so the lab can get an exact idea of what's going on. I was first on the schedule so we got there at about 6 AM and they started drugging me up at about 7 am and off they took me. Before they wheeled me off though the doctor came in to give an overview of the procedure and all of that fun stuff. Just as he was leaving so the anesthesiologists could get started he said, "Hey for your trip this weekend you wouldn't happen to be flying delta would you? I have these free meal tickets that expire at the end of the year. I was going to throw them away but then I remembered that you were about to go on a vacation so I brought them for you just in case." Well turns out I am flying delta and turns out I have the coolest Dr.! He literally brought them just for me! 
This was tonight on our way to Leslie's Xmas Eve party!

I'm so unbelievably thankful for everyone's kind words! It's so humbling and I am so grateful for each and everyone one of you!!!! Xoxox


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Specialists, Tests, and Warm Weather

Yesterday I met with a lymphoma specialist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute to schedule all of my appointments for next week. We also met with another doctor, which I think will be my main man for the rest of this whole thing. They were so sweet to schedule all of my tests on this coming Monday (Christmas Eve's Eve) and I'm glad to get it all done as soon as possible so we can start getting some results back but they are also making me fast for it all! So let me break that down for you...

Monday morning, first thing I have is a Pulmonary Function Test, PFT, which seems easy enough. All I have to do is breathe in and out of this tube, normally, as hard as I can, just a bunch of breathing tests to see the capacity of my lungs and how well they are functioning. Next is an echocardiogram. This one is easy too, all I do is lay on a table while they hook up all these things onto me and monitor my heart. Then I have a Bone Marrow Biopsy which is the only test they'll do that actually involves needles or any sort of pain, luckily. What they'll do is stick a huge needle down into my bone and take out a portion of my bone marrow (which is a spongy tissue inside your bones) to check for abnormal cells and to see how far the cancer has spread. Finally I'll have a PET/CT scan to finish of the day. For this they'll inject me with a radioactive substance (creepy) and make me wait until it gets throughout my body. After that happens, they'll lay me on a table and send me into this little tube where I'll have to lay still for about 30 minutes. This test is used to see what organs of the body have been affected by the cancer. Keep in mind that I have to fast for all of that! Talk about a long hangry day. (hangry = hungry + angry)

Then Tuesday morning we're right back at it for surgery to remove one of these lymph nodes! Fasting again for this one but hopefully it won't be for too long. The nurse said I'm first on the list for surgeries that day, so hopefully I'll be able to get going around 7 or 8 AM. They'll do anesthesia, knock me out, take me back and cut out one of the lymph nodes in my neck, stitch me back up and send me home! This is to determine exactly what kind of cancer it is, (there are over 70 different types of lymphoma) and what stage it's in. The results won't be back for about a week because of the holidays so that won't be fun, but honestly I''m so impressed by how quickly all the doctors have been! 

Then we've got christmas day, (finally some good news right?!) and them I'm off to LA the 28th-31st! I made an appointment to take a campus tour of FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) a couple weeks back, before this whole cancer mess took place, and the timing couldn't be better for a mini vacation! Even if I love the school I probably won't end up attending until 2015 because of chemo and everything but it will still be cool to go check it out and see if it's something I really am interested in. Honestly I'm just excited for some sunshine and warm weather! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

How do I start this?

Wow where to start! 

So this all started about a month or so ago when I noticed a lump on the side of my neck right above my collar bone. A week later and another one appeared, neither were painful just these weird bumps. Well I had never seen anything like that on my body before so I made an appointment to get it checked out. The doctor was booked for about three weeks but I wasn't in any hurry really, I honestly thought I was just being paranoid. 

So fast forward three really long exhausting weeks where I probably slept double the amount of an average person, not to mention itching like crazy and waking up in the middle of the night covered in sweat, to the morning of my appointment. I was so eager to finally find out what was on my neck, only to get a phone call from the doctors office saying my doctor called in sick and needed to reschedule for the following week! At this point the bumps haven't gone away at all, still not painful but I noticed the one seemed to be getting slightly bigger so I started getting a little worried. PS don't ever google any medical symptoms because all that comes up are a bunch of scary things like cancer, lupus, HIV; just a billion weird scary things. So for this period of about three weeks I've been thinking great I'm gonna die. 

After my original Dr. had cancelled I called a new doctor and thankfully he was able to get me in the next day. So I got to meet with a real doctor finally, actually three doctors. They gave me a whole team of them. They all came in and started feeling my neck, my armpits, one of them threw on some gloves and even felt out my groin. (Don't worry she asked politely before putting her hand down my pants.) Well they decided that I needed blood work done and some chest x-rays so they sent me to phlebotomy and then downstairs to radiology. (Yay a familiar face, my stepmom's cute friend Brittany was my X-ray tech!)

A few hours later I get a call from my Dr. saying that my blood work looked normal but he found some more swollen lymph nodes in my lungs so he referred me to a general surgeon at the University Hospital to get a biopsy scheduled which brings us to this morning. Actually, rewind to yesterday when the receptionist called to my confirm my appointment and let me know it was just a consultation, I wouldn't actually get a biopsy yet. Okay yay, another step before getting anything answered. And of course I went alone because I'm a 'big girl' and it's not like I would learn anything about what's going on yet right? Well turns out wrong..

I get to the office, and am taken to my room to wait for the general surgeon. Well not too much longer he comes in, feels all over my neck and armpits (not the groin this time) and sits me down. He says, "Okay Alexis, we have a few options here." He then proceeds to tell me that theres a possibility it could be about four different kinds of cancer, or it could be benign and nothing at all! Sweet. So he decides to call in the FNA team to come do a biopsy in my neck to test for a few of the cancers. In case you're not a medical expert, FNA stands for Fine Needle Aspiration which basically means they stick a needle in my neck, pull out some of the cells, and look at them under the microscope to see if the cells are cancerous or not... All right there in front of me which I thought was pretty cool. Not to mention the four doctors and pathologists they brought in were so nice. Well they did it once, (they told me they would need to pull about three samples originally) and said okay that's all we need. The results are abnormal, your Dr. will be back in to explain everything. And then they leave and all of the sudden I'm freaking out. Luckily my awesome Dr. came back in very quickly and proceeds to tell me that the pathologist believes it's Hodgkin's Lymphoma. "You'll need to come back in the morning of the 24th (that's Christmas Eve for those of you that didn't put that together) and have surgery to remove one of the lymph nodes for another biopsy just to double check." They also scheduled me an appointment with an oncologist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute to kind of go over everything with me in detail, to explain what the future looks like, and perform a few more tests to better understand what's going on.

And that's about where I'm at right now. Still really confused and just trying to catch my breath. A lot to take in over a week right? So I made this blog to keep everyone updated and to kind of get all of my crazy thoughts and emotions out there. I'm so grateful for the support system I have, my amazing family and friends. I love you all! Let's kick this cancer's butt!!