OVERVIEW OF MY BATTLE AGAINST CANCER (from Kim herself -- posted on June 10th, 2016):
A diagnosis of cancer creates complete terror. The future we anticipated evaporated; it becomes a complete unknown. All former plans and expectations vanish as you begin the fight of your life – FOR your life. Cancer is not just a disease, it’s a condition. It doesn't go away. I will be monitored and tested for the rest of my life. Cancer can and often does come back, or it migrates. Cancer will be a fact of life for Vic and me forever. It is now our reality.
From the date of my diagnosis, April 8th until my surgery on May 9th, I underwent massive tests and met with Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) staff to map out a medical plan to give us back a future that is not centered on this disease. For the rest of 2016 and at least part of 2017, my life (and Vic's) will revolve around hospital visits. Vic and I feel like DHMC is our second home! It’s lucky for us that we live so close.
Two of the first tests I had were the CT scan and the bone scan. I was thankful that my bone scan showed no metastasis. The doctors are vigilantly monitoring all questionable lesions in other parts of my body that might need attention in the future. Who knew a human body over sixty-five could have so many “unexpected” findings?
My surgery [bilateral mastectomy] on the 9th of May was completed successfully and quickly. I was home by 9 pm the same day and I was generally doing well within days with discomfort but very little pain. It helped that my sister, Sandy, was here to help Vic for the first five days. Following surgery, I felt thankful that the large cancer mass and infected lymph nodes were out of my body. I was glad to hear from my surgeon, Dr. Richard Barth, that the margins of those areas were clear of any questionable tissue. DHMC also has extensive physical therapy programs to help patients recover mobility and strength following surgery. The physical therapy staff will help prepare me for the next phase, which will stretch into 2017.
I know that this next phase, chemotherapy, will be even more intense than what Vic and I have already been through. Chemo will start on the 20th of June. I will receive infusions of drugs to slow the growth of cancer cells and subsequent injections to help keep my white blood cell count up. I am guaranteed hair loss and a host of other possible side effects which sound generally unpleasant. These treatments will be going on for several months and then, starting in the fall, I will receive infusions of a different cancer-fighting drug.
How sick I get from chemotherapy depends on my particular biological response. DHMC will analyze my reactions to the drugs and provide anti-nausea and other medications to help my body cope. They have told me to avoid contact with anyone who might be ill or have allergies, since they can seriously injure a chemo patient due to the compromised immune strength. This phase will be difficult for all of us since it requires a continuance of a necessary isolation. The final phases will be radiation and hormone therapy which will continue for years. Radiation will be done in 2017.
Vic and I have been“living cancer” ever since my diagnosis and I have to admit, we crave normalcy. It is difficult to be normal when you need to protect yourself,even from friends and sometimes family. Thinking and talking about cancer just makes life more tiring. However, the message of the beautiful poem “The Warrior,” sent to me by my friends Martha and Danny Hoodak, is to remember we are not alone. All our friends and family add to the incredible support we have in a stupendous hospital and medical community. So Vic will continue to play golf in the senior league of Bradford Golf Club (VT)every Tuesday and hopefully get at least one more day of golf per week with his friends. I have planted a small vegetable garden and pulled some weeds. DHMC has lots of programs and studies which will keep me busy.
Vic and I are so lucky to have each other, our family, and friends who love and support us every minute of every day. Know we love you back, forever and always. I’ll try to add progress reports or my sister Sandy or niece Heidi will if I’m not up to it.