I got more stares at the beach than ever before, and something tells me it wasn't my beauty! This shaved head turns more heads than I have ever seen! A couple of teenagers were making fun of me and I heard some kids talking about me, but it really doesn't bother me. They just probably don't realize my situation, and if they did, I'm sure they would feel terrible...so, such is life. It was nice not having to worry about Racquel or a hat. To just walk out the door and just be me! That was great. Today, I also didn't wear Racquel to church this morning. I was nervous about it, but it turned out to be ok. I was just me- no Racquel, no hat, just me:) I'm glad the first time of being in public with a shaved head is over and it should be much easier from here on out. Just bear with me as I go through some "boy cut" stages!
We left from the beach and headed to Houston and had my mammogram on Wednesday with my ultrasound and a bunch of tests on Thursday. A mammogram generally takes a day to get any kind of results back, so no immediate feedback on that. So, I had my ultrasound the next morning. The lady who did my ultrasound was the same lady who did my initial ultrasound, back in October, and she is really sweet. She remembered me and my long hair, so that was comforting to have a familiar face doing the ultrasound. She told me that the radiologist would be in shortly to do another ultrasound and go over the results. (the results are good for those that are anxious:))
Well, a radiologist-in-training walks in and introduces himself to me and I can tell he is very nervous. I had my hand over a towel that was on my chest, and I thought my heart was literally going to beat out of my chest. He explained who he was and then said, "Well it looks like the lymph node is a little smaller." and I can finally breathe. Everything about his body language and the way he was talking showed "bad news." I later assumed that he was a student and was probably just nervous to come in my room and practice being a "radiologist." But his nervous energy definitely transferred over to me. He said that his "boss" the main radiologist, would be in in a minute. After he left, I cried and thanked the Lord and prayed that the radiologist would be a personable person that would be kind and explain to me what she sees on the ultrasound- God answered my prayer with a big, "yes."
The radiologist that came in gave me a full explanation of what she saw in the ultrasound and showed me what she is looking for. No other radiologist went over things like she did with me, so that was very helpful. She was very positive and kind. All of the other radiologists that I have dealt with have not been this way. I have come to assume that they must be trained to show no emotion- whether positive or negative, since they are dealing with such serious diseases as cancer. I can imagine if they gave a patient any hint of positive or negative feedback it could have negative repercussions if it conflicted with other tests or other information that their oncologist might know. But it does not make it fun for a "cancer patient" when all you are wanting is that radiologist to come in with a huge smile on their face and say, "everything looks great!", but I don't know if they would even say that if everything looked perfect.
The radiologist basically confirmed what the student said in that my lymph node looks and measures smaller than before and looks more normal as well. It still is not completely normal looking on the ultrasound, but more normal than ever before. She showed me what is supposed to look like and what it did look like and answered many of my questions, so it was very helpful. I was just so thankful I was still responding to the chemotherapy. I have trusted that God was healing me and the chemotherapy was doing its job, but I hadn't had a "check up" by a test since February, so I was definitely relieved.
After the ultrasound, I headed to an appointment with a genetic counselor. Because of my age and the aggressive nature of the cancer, many would say that genetics must be involved. As many of you probably remember, I was tested for the main genetic test, which is called BRCA and tested negative for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene, which is amazing news. Had I tested positive, I would have an increased chance of recurrence and an increased chance of developing ovarian cancer, but my test came back negative back in November, so I am SO thankful for that. During my meeting with my genetic counselor, she recommended 2 more genetic tests. One is called the P-53 test and the BART test. The P-53 test checks for a particular gene that has been proven to cause all different types of cancer. When one tests positive for this gene, it is basically just knowledge and doing things preventatively to help prevent a cancer from occurring. The BART test is a part of the BRCA test, but it is not included in the regular BRCA test. The normal BRCA test looks for sequences in the gene, while the BART test looks for chapters. (confusing, I know!) But, basically she recommended these 2 tests to just see if there was anything else that could have genetically played a part in me developing breast cancer. By looking at my family history, she did not see any patterns or anything that would make her think there was something genetically involved, but with my age, a genetic link is common.
I truly believe these tests will come back negative. As I've said before, I believe that God allowed me to have cancer to accomplish His purposes. I do not believe a "gene" played a part. I don't think I will have to worry about passing this down to my children or other implications of having a genetic condition. I just don't believe it. But, I was tested for the BART gene and should have the results to that in the next couple of weeks. Please pray for it to be NEGATIVE! I believe that it will...please, please believe and pray with me. We are waiting to take the P-53 test until the results of the BART come back.
After we met with the genetic counselor, Dr. Litton met with us for just a few minutes to basically echo the genetic counselor in getting tested for these genes. She is the head researcher of many genetic conditions, so she is very knowledgable about all of these tests. She also officially okayed the port to be removed during surgery:)
Then, we met with Dr. Babiera, my surgeon, and we had a lot of questions for her. She examined me and agreed to take the port out during surgery. We asked a lot of questions about what exactly she would be doing during surgery and what she would be looking for. The plan is to take all of my left breast tissue out, as well as my lymph nodes. She will also be looking at other lymph nodes closer to my collar bone and if they look suspicious, she will take those out as well. I am praying and believing that she will not have to take anything more out than required. Ultimately, I am praying that everything looks completely normal during surgery. Please pray this with me.
About a week after surgery, we should have the results back from the pathology of the breast tissue and lymph nodes. Apparently in the breast cancer world, this is referred to as the "burden." 20-40% of cases come back completely clean of cancer after chemotherapy, and the other 60-80% of cases have some sort of burden left (the cancer that is left). A burden is ok, as long as it is low. It is when it is a high burden in which other treatment needs to be done in case the cancer may not be contained in the area in which is was removed. So, it is ok to have a little burden left, but I am praying that no cancer will be found in the tissue and lymph nodes removed. I want to have unwavering faith in this. I know God will heal me either way, but I am praying that the cancer will be completely gone before surgery.
After my meeting with Babiera, I headed to participate in a research study that will eventually help those that plan on having reconstructive surgery. They will take 3-D pictures of me before, during, and after reconstruction to give future patients an idea of what they will look like after reconstruction. I was happy to participate in this study, because it would be something that would have helped me a ton. Even though it has no direct benefit to me, I was happy to do it and to know it will help others.
After that, I went to have my blood taken for the BART test and some other viles of blood taken for another research study. Josh's parents came to Houston for my appointments and it was great to spend some time with them, even though I had a pretty packed day on Thursday. We headed home and got in late on Thursday.
So, tomorrow will be a week from my surgery. Wow- that's crazy. It will be here so soon. I will have all my pre-op appointments this Thursday, which include blood work, an EKG, chest and lat X-rays, doc appt with my reconstructive surgeon, oncological surgeon, and anesthesiologist. It will be a packed day, but not a super interesting day- just doing protocol type stuff before my surgery on Monday, the 23rd.
So, our plan is to leave on Wednesday for my appointments on Thursday. We think we are going to stay until my surgery on Monday. We really want to come home before surgery, but it just doesn't make much sense to drive back to just head back on Sunday. We love our home so much. I just wish we could actually live in our home! We don't feel settled yet, as there is much more to do around the house and we just want to live here. But, soon enough, we will:) I am hoping to come home the Tuesday after my surgery on Monday. I just have to stay in the hospital overnight on Monday and then I am free. Dr. Babiera suggested staying until Wednesday, but once again, I am ready to be home. So, we will see how I feel and hopefully I can just come home on Tuesday.
Thank you to all of you that continue to message, text, and call us. As time goes on, we know others' lives go on. As ours stood still, others lives keep on moving, and we understand that. So, for those who continue to encourage us, THANK YOU. My journey is far from over and those who realize that, thank you. There are still many days when we struggle. God is our stronghold- our rock and fortress. I will rest in his sanctuary forever- safe under the shelter of His wings- where the enemy cannot come close to me. I imagine myself scared and running from the enemy, crying to the Lord for help. Then I see my Savior and run to his arms and I am safe. I crawl under the Lord's wings, and I am completely safe and sheltered. All fear is gone. He is my protection and comfort- the ultimate healer. I am so thankful. Our joy is coming...soon, very soon:)
"From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemy cannot reach me. Let me live forever in your sanctuary beneath the shelter of your wings!"
This week, the Lord spoke to me through a verse in Exodus. It is when the Lord has told Moses to take the Israelites to the promised land and Moses is questioning how he is going to be able to do all of this.
And the Lord says in verse chapter 33 verse 14, "I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest--everything will be fine for you."
As I read this, the Lord spoke to my heart and said, "Aly, everything will be fine for you." I cried during my quiet time and praised the Lord for him speaking to me. Just as he personally went with Moses, He personally goes with me and tells me everything will be fine.
Love you..remember to pray that BART test comes back negative and that cancer is gone before surgery. Thank you for being faithful to me!! Enjoy some pictures below of the great time we had at the beach.
This was at dinner one night
Our last day on the beach:(
We got to spend time with the Worley's/ Hinton's. The next are some pictures of some of our best friends', Jason and Alicia's babies--I LOVE Jackson!
Can't forget my sweet girl, Brookelyn. This girl is so much fun and I LOVE her so stinking much!
Ready to go back already!