Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thelma & Louise's Detour on the Road Trip of Life (Part Two)

A lumpectomy was scheduled for June 3rd, less than a month after the last surgery. The surgeon was able to remove the 4cc breast tumor completely. It was diagnosed as a metaplastic carcinoma, an aggressive breast cancer. It was no surprise to us when the doctor said it is extremely rare and less than 1% of breast cancers are this type. In fact, this cancer is so rare that there is no data about it. And, like carcinoid cancer, it does not respond to chemotherapy. Yep, that's par for the course for Thelma!

Once again Thelma was told to heal for a few days after the lumpectomy before radiation on her cervical spine would begin. A couple more trips to the hospital for a CT scan and an MRI, then a special mask was made in preparation for the specialized treatment.

The mask is made of plastic that is heated up then placed on the patient so it molds specifically for the individualized treatment. It feels a little like a nice, warm facial at first. Then you realize you can't move anything, including your eyelids. It's definitely not for the claustrophobic!

Who is it behind that mask?
It's Thelma! Swanky, huh??
So Thelma had a week's worth of radiation treatments for the spinal tumor that couldn't be removed because it stubbornly wrapped around a vertebral artery. Side effects are minimal so far. Just some hair loss at the nape of the neck (where she was shaved for surgery, so not much to lose). A little bit of sore throat. And tiredness.

Those treatments will be followed by six weeks of five days a week, radiation for the breast cancer. And in between all of those treatments will be out-patient physical therapy to build up strength lost before the cervical surgery. Using the stairs, typing with both hands, lifting arms above shoulder height hopefully will be simple tasks again!

Yep! That's Thelma and Louise!!
Something we never lost through this journey was our sense of humor. With Thelma on a ventilator, we had a fun time using sign language for a couple days! Thelma played a lot of games of charades with Louise (and did plenty of eye-rolling when Louise just didn't understand). Louise thought getting Thelma to blink her eyes to answer yes and no questions would be a good idea. Through sign language, one blink would be "no"; two blinks , "yes". Louise asked a yes/no question. Thelma blinked twice. "Hmmm...", Louise asked, "Is that yes or no?" Thelma just rolled her eyes as they laughed.

When Thelma was on the ventilator, she thought her cough sounded like a seal barking. Louise didn't find the humor, but Thelma did!

It wasn't long before Louise told Thelma that her incision was longer than planned. And that meant Thelma had been shaved from the nape of her neck to the top of her incision. Her mission was to find out what doctor cut her hair with the intent to tell them, “don’t quit your day job!”

Luckily Thelma has just enough hair
to cover this 8-inch scar
Louise told Thelma that there was enough hair to cover her scar. But, she added, "you'd better stay out of the wind. Your hair will go blowing like an old man with a bad comb-over!"

One of the nurses told us about the scare he had finding a 'dead hamster' in Thelma's medical file! The doctor kept the hair he'd shaved off of Thelma's head and put it in a baggie for safe-keeping!  Nurse Steve explained it was some kind of hospital policy that hair is kept for the patient's discretion. Steve said it just about scared the bejeebers out of him! We laughed so hard we cried!

Although it wasn't funny at the time, we laugh now: Thelma had discovered while in the emergency room that she was paralyzed. She knew she was going to get sick again, so Louise told the nurse. The nurse grabbed a basin and tried to hand it to Thelma. Ummm... hello?! Arms don't work! Louise held it instead, thank heaven.

So what else is in store for us? Well, in between the poking and prodding and radiating of body parts till Thelma glows in the dark, we're hoping to road trip to more places than the hospital and doctors’ visits! You better believe we're gonna find a way to take a few road trips to sample our Illinois wines! We love to meet new people and hear stories of friendship from those we meet along the way. 

Yep! We're gonna keep on moving as long as we can. After all, it's not how many times you get knocked down - it's how many times you get back up. You can count on Thelma and Louise to "Fight like a Girl, Drink like a Lady".

Promotional Poster for fundraiser at Inside Out, Gilman
to benefit Thelma (aka Maureen Rapier)