Tuesday, April 28, 2009

San Antonio

The Alamo

We arrived in San Antonio on Monday afternoon after a weekend in Houston with family. We are staying in an on-base apartment until we find a house.

Sara is healing up and feeling better everyday. The nausea has subsided and she has lots more energy.

Sara had an unplanned appointment today with the surgery clinic at Wilford Hall. I was contemplating not blogging about this, but we've been descriptive thus far.

The site on her back, where the drain tube was, started to look odd on Sunday. Imagine one of this guys ears (in the popped out condition) sticking out of Sara's back. We were hoping that this "ear" would deflate back into her skin, but it did not. So, I called the surgical clinic. They told us to come in and they would fit us in. The doctor at Wilford Hall already knew about Sara's case when we got there. He attended medical school with the surgeon from Misawa, who has been in contact with him. Once again, another seamless transition...

Back to the "popped out ear"... He told us that "tissue granularization" is natural and is part of the healing process. He then said, "Sara, this is what we may consider EXCESSIVE granularization." He applied some Silver Nitrate to the spot and we waited a few minutes for it to be "chemically cauterized." Then unbeknownst to Sara, he took some scissors and cut it off. She now has a flat black area where the "ear" was. This should heal up with no other complications.

We will be back at Wilford Hall on Friday to talk about chemotherapy and then again early next week for an OB appointment and probably the first round of chemo.

Thanks for checking up on us.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Headed to TEXAS...

The pathology report on the tissue removed during Sara's second surgery is done. There were NO cancer cells in the tissue removed, meaning that we are done in Hawaii. We are flying to Houston on Thursday night and heading to San Antonio within the next few days. Sara has an appointment with the chemotherapy doctor on May 1 and will probably start chemo soon thereafter.

We have had a great time in Hawaii, but are ready to get on with the next phase of treatment.

Kailua Bay

We are grateful for the quality of care that Sara received while at Tripler and are so thankful to all the doctors and nurses who have treated her. Thanks again for your thoughts and prayers...they are felt!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Surgery, take 2...

Sara's Stylish Hairnet

After another early morning at Tripler, Sara is home and sleeping soundly (thanks to some pain medication). The surgery went well and we were out of the hospital by 12:00pm. This operation was done under "local anesthetic with sedation." Sara was sleeping and numb, but was not unconscious (as was done in the previous surgery). After the first surgery, she had a difficult time in recovery due to nausea caused by general anesthesia, compounded by pregnancy. Today, we did not have to deal with any of that. She was wheeled out about 30 minutes after surgery and we were leaving the hospital within the hour.

Baby is fine, too. Sara got to see some ultrasound images of the baby after surgery and the heartbeat was strong.

The doctor left the drain tube in, based on the amount of fluid that is still coming out. We will attempt to have it removed again on Friday.

The extra tissue removed this morning will be sent to pathology to check for "clear margins" once again. Surely, we won't have to go back for a third try...

We will be in Hawaii through the middle of next week. I will update the blog when we hear back from pathology and once our travel plans firm up.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
--2 Corinthians 4:18

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pathology Results

Sara's pathology report on the tumor and lymph nodes was completed this morning. We have some good news and some not-so-good news.

Good news... Only 3 of the 10 lymph nodes removed came back positive for cancer. This means that Sara's cancer stays Stage IIB.

Not-so-good news... The margin of healthy tissue removed around the tumor showed some "microscopic calcifications" (cancer cells). This means that there is going to be another procedure next week to remove more breast tissue. We knew that this was a possibility with the lumpectomy, and we were willing to accept that risk in order to do the breast conservation surgery. It will be a minor surgery (Sara will be awake and under local anesthesia), and we will be home the same day. With the local anesthesia, there is no risk to Baby Sulli. They are going to go back in through the same incision and take a few more millimeters of tissue on both ends of where the tumor was.

We were curious as to what the cancer looked like and what the doctors did with the tumor once the testing on it was completed. This IS NOT a photo of Sara's tumor.

Breast Cancer Tumor

The yellow tissue is healthy breast tissue and the white in the center is the cancer. The doctor said that the tumor is similar (in appearance and texture) to scar tissue. The surgeon told us that they save most of the cancerous tumors (for research later) and that there is a room in the hospital that is FULL of tumors. Sorry if that grossed you out.

We are looking forward to a relaxing weekend, then Sara will have the drainage tube (in her armpit) removed on Monday and will go in for the additional surgery on Wednesday. We will be in Hawaii through April 21 for sure.

The tests on Baby Sullivan also came back today. There is NO INCREASED RISK for chromosomal abnormalities. More good news.

Sara is feeling better everyday and is recovering nicely. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tumor, be gone!

Happy Sara (pre-surgery)

It is a HUGE relief to have the cancerous tumor and lymph nodes out of Sara's body! Nightly, for the past month, I would reach over and feel "lefty" in hopes that the tumor had miraculously disappeared. We have been ready to get the cancer out of her body, especially after learning that it was "high-grade" and growing/spreading. Mom did a good job of updating you on the surgery last night, and I have nothing to add.

Angie and Sara (post-surgery)

The Fam

We got some sleep in the hospital last night, which was much needed. The nurse checked on Sara hourly and for the first few of her visits, I would sit up and try to help. However, after what seemed like the 10th visit, Sara and I would not budge as they checked her vital signs. They would wrap the blood pressure cuff around her leg and put the thermometer in her armpit. During each check, the nurse would ask Sara, "How do you feel?" By the end of the night, Sara's only response was a grunt.

We had another ultrasound this morning. In the ultrasound immediately following surgery, there was a heartbeat, but no movement. The doctors said that the anesthesia also puts the baby to sleep. Today, they did some gestational sizing and took lots of measurements. With the results from last weeks blood work and the measurements today, the doctors will be able to test for numerous "chromosomal abnormalities." We got to see lots of images of the little guy today. He was very energetic and moving and bouncing around a lot. We were relieved to see that the surgery and anesthesia seemed to have zero impact thus far.

Baby Sullivan - 12 weeks

We were discharged at 3:00pm this afternoon and are looking forward to some recovery time on the beach. Sara has a drain tube coming out of her armpit that is going to require some of my "nurse duties." In order for her to be discharged, I had to agree and "learn" to change the dressings and drainage bulb.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers during the surgery and recovery. We are glad to have this hurdle behind us and LET THE ROAD TO RECOVERY BEGIN!

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
--2 Thessalonians 3:3

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's all good!!!!!

Sara and Brady are staying at the hospital tonight. Knowing that many people will be checking for news on Sara's surgery and without internet access at the hospital, he asked me (his mom) to update the blog tonight. It will be neither as informative, nor as inspirational as his updates are, but all that really matters today is letting you know that Sara is doing great!

Surgery lasted about 3 hours this morning. The doctor said everything went well and just as he was expecting. He removed the lump along with tissue on the outside margin. He also removed all the lymph nodes he could get to in her left armpit. All of this will be sent to pathology to check for cancer cells in the nodes and along the edges of the margin. If more than 4 nodes test positive for cancer cells, she will be considered a stage 3. If that is the case, another drug will be added to the chemotherapy regimen. If the margin of the lump tests positive, it may mean another surgery to remove more breast tissue.

Baby Sulli is a little trooper just like his mama. (Brady made me say "his".) A post-surgery ultrasound was done to make sure there were no problems. With a heartbeat of 154 beats per minute, he sounded just fine.

Sara was awake, talking and smiling within a few hours after surgery. A little soreness and nausea couldn't squelch her beautiful, peaceful spirit. When asked if she was nervous before surgery, she said, "Not at all - and I know it was because of all of the prayers for us." She will be discharged tomorrow morning, then straight to the OB for one more ultrasound. They should be "home" early tomorrow afternoon. At that time, Nurse Brady goes on duty 24/7. He gets to do the dirty work, but since he thinks he's a doctor, it's all in a day's work.

Since they will be leaving within a couple weeks and have no address in San Antonio yet, they have asked that you please send any correspondence to my address, which is:

Linda Sullivan
802 Clear Cove Dr.
Granite Shoals, TX 78654

They both feel so blessed by all of your prayers and are, as always, humbled by and eternally grateful for God's awesome love and protection.

The whole family thanks you for your love and support. Keep praying for this precious family of three.

Linda (aka Mom)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ocean Front Property

We got checked into our cabin at Bellows Air Force Station on the Eastern shore of O'ahu on Friday afternoon. All day long we were very excited about getting to the beach. We were told that we had an "ocean-front cabin" reserved and were pleasantly surprised.

Bellows Cabin

Bellows Beach

Sheryl and Angie (Sara's mom and sister) were scheduled to fly in to Honolulu on Friday evening. They were using standby passes from Eddie (Sara's dad) and the flights ended up being oversold. They were unable to get on any of the flights to Honolulu, but hopped a flight to Maui. From Maui, they flew to Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines late Friday night (we booked them tickets online for only $28). We met them at the Bellows Gate at 1:00am to get them on base.

After about 4 hours of sleep, we woke up early on Saturday morning. After seeing the sunrise on Saturday morning, even after the jet-lag wears off, I'm still going to wake up early.

Saturday's Sunrise

On Saturday morning, out-numbered and out-voted, guess who chauffeured the luxury rental car (a white Toyota Corolla) to the famous Aloha Stadium Flea Market. After 3 hours at the flea market, I could not take it any longer and we left.

Shopping at Aloha Stadium Flea Market

Sunday's Sunrise

This being Sara's final day prior to surgery, she opted to relax at the cabin and lay on the beach for a few hours. Angie and Sheryl went to the beach for a few hours, and my mom and I toured the North Shore. We ate garlic prawns, bought fresh fruit from a local, watched surfers at Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline, and then had some Shave Ice from Matsumoto's in Hale'iwa.

Fruit Stand Lady

Dumb Tourist

Sara has to be at the hospital at 5:30am on Monday morning. Her surgery should start about 7:30am (2:30am Japan Time/12:30 pm Texas Time). We will be staying at the hospital on Monday night and should be home by Tuesday afternoon.

We are confident about the success of the surgery tomorrow, but ask that you would pray for the surgeon (Dr. Smith) who will be operating on her and pray for Baby Sullivan's protection during surgery.

Thanks again.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
--Hebrews 4:16

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Aloha again...


We arrived back in Hawaii on Wednesday morning after a busy 2 weeks in Misawa. We had our "closure time" in Japan and were ready to get on with this new stage of life. My mom flew in on Wednesday afternoon and Sara's family is arriving on Friday.

We had an appointment with the surgeon this afternoon to discuss plans for surgery. Prior to our departure for Japan, the doctor told us that a lumpectomy was an option for Sara. He assured us there was no long-term health benefit to a mastectomy vs. a lumpectomy, based on the fact that Sara is going to have a round of radiation either way. We decided to go with the breast conservation therapy, and Sara will spend one night in the hospital after her lumpectomy and axillary lymph node dissection. I asked the doctor if Tripler has the operating rooms with the viewing theater up above (I was hoping to watch). He told me that patient confidentiality has become more regulated and the operating rooms that they show on the medical TV shows are no longer around. I kept waiting for him to ask me if I wanted to "scrub in" for the procedure, but he failed to offer.

The pathology report on Sara's tumor has been completed. The formal name of the cancer is Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. Her lump is a "high-grade" tumor and is hormone receptor positive. The "high-grade" terminology means that the cancer is fast-growing, spreading (metastatic), and aggressive. The "hormone receptor positive" diagnosis means that the cancer cells are "fueled by estrogen and progesterone." This also means that her treatment will consist of a regimen of Tamoxifen (1 pill taken daily for 5 years). This drug blocks the hormones from getting into the hormone receptors of the body’s cells. All of this is what the doctor predicted.

We have an appointment tomorrow morning with the obstetrician to get Baby Sullivan's chart started and then we are meeting with the anesthesiologist to discuss risks to the baby and final plans prior to surgery.

Sorry for the delay between updates. Look for the next one on Tuesday after we get home from surgery. Our specific prayer request is for protection of the baby during the surgery and that the risk associated with anesthesia will have no effect on him (I still think it's a boy).

Thanks again for the prayers.