Vernon Volumes

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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sleepaway camp update - Camp Pinnacle

As of today, the children have been at camp for one week. They are a little over halfway done and it has been much quieter around the house without them here. We miss them! Every day the camp website is updated with pictures and news and it's the highlight of my day. I'll go through the pictures to pick out our kids and it's always fun to see what they are up to.

We emailed Connor a couple of times since he was gone and sent him a card in the mail. He was disappointed he'd miss the NBA finals, so I watched the games and sent him the score info afterwards. Sadly, we haven't received any mail from Connor yet.

Paige has sent us two letters so far. She wrote the first one on her first day at camp and she also included a list of activities and her observations about camp. The second letter came in the mail yesterday and we are so happy to hear that she's having a lot of fun.

Mastectomy recovery and Sentinel Node Biopsy results - TNBC/IDC/BRCA2

Andrea has been recovering very well so far following her surgery, I am so happy to see her up and about, without much pain, doing awesome! Andrea was discharged with 4 drains (2 on each side) and prior to surgery we purchased a post-mastectomy top that had built in drain holder pockets on the inside. (Amazon Link to Top) The shirt is cute, purple, and makes caring for the drains much easier. We actually ordered another in a different color so Andrea has a couple colors to choose from.

A couple times each day we will pull a tool along the drain lines to produce suction to remove fluid from around the surgery site and in to the bulbs at the end of the lines. Once each drain is producing under 30mL of fluid in two consecutive 24 hour periods, the surgeons will remove them. One of them is already ready to be removed, but the other three are still collecting quite a bit of fluids.

The great news is that we received the final pathology results from Andrea's surgery. In her right breast, there was no cancer cells or abnormal cells found. In the left breast, all of the invasive cancer cells appeared to be gone and there were only a few DCIS areas remaining that hadn't shown up on the mammogram. The lymph nodes that were removed showed no signs of cancer cells, which is a huge relief. We meet with the oncology team soon, and we will know more about Andrea's treatment options once we go to that appointment.

We are both very relieved and hopeful that the cancer was isolated and removed.

Our friends and family have been supportive and Andrea's received multiple bouquets of flowers and food since we got home. It has brightened up the house and we are thankful for the wonderful people that care about Andrea so much.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Bilateral Mastectomy - TNBC/IDC/BRCA2

On Tuesday, June 11th 2019, we got up at 4:30am to head to Mayo for the Bilateral Mastectomy and Sentinel Node Biopsy surgery. Actually, I was already awake. I hadn't slept the entire night before, I was so nervous. Monday we'd gone to four appointments to get Andrea ready for surgery and we've both been thinking about the surgery for so long. It was super stressful when the time actually came to go to the hospital. When we arrived, we got registered and then Andrea went back to start preparations for surgery. Once she was in her gown and ready, I came back to hang out with her for the final minutes before the surgery started. Once they came in to do the nerve block, I was kicked out, and the process started.

Andrea had 10 shots in her back to block the nerves in the chest and sides of her torso. After the nerve block, they wheeled Andrea in to the operating room, and the last thing Andrea remembers is the clear mask going over her face and taking some deep breaths. I was in the waiting room and right after I kissed Andrea goodbye, I had a super upset stomach and was more anxious than ever. I watched some movies on my iPad and kept checking the tracking board to see where Andrea was in the surgery process. The surgery was supposed to start at 7:30 and at 10:30 Dr. McLaughlin came out to talk to me.

I was so nervous when we went in to the consultation room, adjacent to the waiting room. Dr. McLaughlin told me that the surgery was going very well and that her part of the surgery was complete. During the surgery, they examined the breast tissue and the lymph nodes that serviced the left breast, and found no signs of cancer. I was so relieved. I went back to the waiting room and sent texts to family and friends and teared up. It felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and with its absence I could feel how much it had been taxing my nerves. I answered some texts, then finally laid my head down on my backpack and I think I drifted off for a few minutes here and there. The plastic surgeon Dr. Terkonda came out at around 1pm to let me know that his part of the surgery was complete. Andrea had a hard time deciding between "direct to implant" or "expanders", but opted for the expanders in the end. Dr. Terkonda opted for a "wise" procedure which left a vertical scar and initially filled the expanders with 100cc fluid each. He was very pleased with the result and said that Andrea was all stitched up. After talking to him, I went out and got some lunch and then waited for them to call me so I could see her. It took another couple of hours and by 3:30 I noticed that her info was no longer on the tracking board. I talked to the receptionist and we figured out that she'd been transferred to a room. I got to the room shortly after Andrea did and I was so happy to finally see her.

Andrea was very groggy at first and went in and out of sleep for the next couple of hours. Eventually we got her propped up and she ate some crackers and had some apple juice. Andrea decided she wanted to get up and about, so we sat her up on the edge of the bed, got her a walker, and we stood her up. We got out of the room and about ten feet down the hallway very slowly, when Andrea said she felt dizzy. We turned around and just as we got to the doorway of her room I noticed she was having trouble focusing and it looked like she was staring at something very far away. I asked her if she was ok and she said she was getting very dizzy. I could tell she was losing consciousness and just as we got her in to a sitting position on the edge of the bed she went a bit limp a couple of times. We called in all of the nursing team and got to work on her. They elevated her feet, checked her blood pressure (which was low), and we noticed that Andrea was clammy and pale. Eventually Andrea's color came back and the head nurse advised us to have Andrea sit in the chair for an hour or so before trying to walk again.

We took it easy for the rest of the evening. I got us both a smoothie from Tropical Smoothie cafe, and we eventually got Andrea in to the chair. We went very slowly, had a wheelchair close, and made our way down the hallway and back. Andrea did awesome with her walk and she felt much better that she was able to get up and out of the bed to get her blood moving.

After her walk, we started getting the room ready for the night. I folded out the couch and made it as comfortable as possible with one of our Costco blankets from home. I was so tired. I think by the time I laid down I'd been awake for around 40 hours, so it didn't matter that the bed wasn't too comfy.

My eyes were pretty bloodshot, I think I looked worse than Andrea. I snapped a selfie of my super red left eye before bed.

During the night, Andrea's nurses came in and brought her meds every four hours and eventually removed her catheter and changed her drains at 4am. In the morning, Andrea ordered some food and we got her up for a few short walks around the room. She was feeling a bit of pain, but she looked great and we both felt much better after getting some sleep.

By 11:30 we'd gone through the discharge instructions and I pulled the car around and got Andrea loaded up. We stopped by Chipotle on the way home and got some burrito bowls and guacamole and we got Andrea comfortable in her new recliner. After lunch, Andrea walked around a bit, we read a letter from Paige, watched a little TV, then Andrea took a nap. It was so nice to be home and I felt much better after a shave and shower. Andrea still can't shower until tomorrow, but she washed her face and I made a couple attempts at brushing her hair. Thankfully Andrea's friend Michele stopped by with a pillow and some food she'd made for us, and she was able to brush out Andrea's hair. 

It's evening now and we're just chilling on the couch watching the Blues try to win the Stanley Cup. Andrea is doing much better than I'd expected at this point and she looks great. She's talked to a few people on the phone and got caught up on text messages. The medicine is definitely making Andrea super sleepy and she is waiting for 11:00 so she can take her last meds of the day and go to bed. So far, so good, we have all been praying for Andrea and wishing her well, and we are so happy to get some good news about the cancer. We should receive the final pathology from the surgery in 2-3 days (hopefully by Friday) and we should know for sure if the lymph nodes were clear of any cancer cells.  It is likely she will still have to undergo chemotherapy, but for now we are just focusing on her recovery from the surgery and we are counting our blessings. 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Camp Pinnacle Sleepaway Camp - NC

This morning we dropped the kids off at Camp Pinnacle for a 12 night sleepaway camp experience. We drove to Spartanburg SC on Saturday and stayed the night in a hotel and this morning we drove the last hour to camp and arrived at 9am. It rained almost the entire drive on Saturday, and the camp was super wet when we arrived. One of the staff members said it was the wettest check-in day they've ever had, but thankfully Andrea had packed rainboots and we were prepared.

When we arrived and parked, the staff took the kids' trunks and labeled them and got them ready to deliver to their cabins. We went to the gym to check in and do a mandatory temperature and lice check. We got the kids some camp chairs and then we went to the outdoor basketball court to meet the counselors.

Connor's counselors are Peter and Jackson. Paige's are Kait and Malia.

After meeting their counselors, Connor's counselor Peter took us over to Connor's cabin "Graveyard Fields". Connor got lucky that his cabin is one of the newer ones and has a bathroom and shower attached. He picked out a bunk, dropped off his things, and we checked out his new place.

Next, we went to Paige's cabin "Hiwasee". She picked a top bunk in the corner that had an awesome view of the lake, field, and cafeteria area. I told her it was probably the bunk I would have picked. Paige's cabin was in a great spot at the top of the hill near a bathroom and treehouse.

We went back to the main basketball court area, gave the kids a few more hugs and kisses, and then Andrea and I drove home. We will definitely miss the kids, and we hope they have an awesome time at camp, make lots of friends, and have some memorable adventures.

Friday, June 7, 2019

First weeks of summer

The kids have been going to tennis camp since we got back from KC, and they've been staying fairly active. We've let them veg out a little extra lately since they won't have any electronics for the next couple of weeks at sleep-away camp.

We got a cute picture of them when I dropped them off for tennis camp this morning, and a couple of pics of them at dinner tonight at Cheesecake Factory. We are going to miss our kids while they're away!

Preparing for surgery - TNBC/IDC/BRCA2

We went back and forth on whether to post anything on the blog about Andrea's cancer, or create a different site to track her progress and share updates. We decided to post here and I'm going to mark all of the posts about her cancer with "TNBC/IDC/BRCA2" so we can search for the term later on and find anything related to her treatment.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and stress. Andrea and I have both been learning so much about her diagnosis. The pathology on her cancer showed it was a combination of IDC (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma) and DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ) and the pathology showed that it is Triple Negative, so three most common receptors are not present in her cancer, which makes it harder to treat. We met with multiple doctors since her biopsy and her surgery is scheduled for June 11th. We are thankful we were able to get in so quickly for surgery, and we're crossing our fingers for good news.

Last weekend we went shopping for a recliner for Andrea. After her surgery, she will need to sleep on her back while she recovers, and we've heard that a recliner might give her some relief and be comfortable. We looked at a lot of options and found a nice silver/grey colored recliner that rocks and is super comfy. We rearranged the master bedroom for her, and we're trying to get everything possible prepared well in advance.

Andrea's friends have been so sweet and supportive. Many of our friends have asked if they could cook for us, or help out. We've got everything pretty well taken care of at this point, but a few of Andrea's friends couldn't resist and her JCP friends pitched in to get Andrea a bunch of gift cards to local restaurants. Anna and Rachael got together a cute basket with sweet tea, candy, PJ's (pictured) and goodies.

Preparing for summer

Andrea has been getting all kinds of things for the kids' sleep-away camp for June. We really struggled with whether we should send them to camp, but since we'd canceled pretty much all of our summer plans due to the cancer, we decided to go ahead and let them go to camp. Andrea had already gotten everything the kids would need and it should be an awesome opportunity for them to get out, enjoy nature, disconnect from video games and electronics, and have a new and awesome experience.

Last night we went through everything we'd packed in their trunks, and tomorrow we will be setting off to drive them to NC for camp. Can't believe it's almost here!