Journal entry by Stacey Van Lente

Well, I had my (hopefully) last reconstructive surgery last Tuesday, Jan 8th.
Was about 1 1/2 hours total.  Fixed the right breast scar...made it into a circle instead of an oval (and got rid of the darn FRECKLE that came from my belly!). Also fixed the dog ears at each end of my abdominal scar, removed the rib cartilage that was placed in my belly for safekeeping, and finally, completed part 2 of the last surgery and did the autologous breast fat grafting (AFG). The fat grafting involves liposuction of fat, processing of the fat (Prior to fat grafting, the harvested fat is processed to eliminate tumescent fluid, blood, cell fragments, and free oil. By eliminating these contaminants, It helps the graft take better with lower chance of necrosis of the transferred tissue.) I know...WAY more than you ever wanted to know. But you all know I over share :)

Right now,It feels like they took me in the back room and just beat on me...and yes, I look like it, as well. I'm now 3 days post op and still feeling like a speed bump.  I'm sure this will take a few weeks to heal where I'm not hurting so much.  I get to wear a binder again for at least a week. But all in all, I'm really glad I did this.  So worth all the pain and frustration.
Thanks for all your good thoughts, prayers, and words of encouragement over the past few years.  Hopefully I don't have to go down the cancer road again, but I know it is always a possibility.  If so, I'll plan on kicking its butt again! But for now...Just breathe.
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Journal entry by Stacey Van Lente

After 5 days in the hospital, and admittedly day 2 was all about that little green button that provided the nector of pain relief and La La land, I made it home safely and am healing well.
I am now 3 1/2 weeks out, the incisions are looking pretty good. Still wearing an abdominal binder for another 5 weeks. Apparently it is holding my insides together. Guess I'll keep it on. Still no lifting, pushing, pulling or anything that uses abdominal muscles. They had to cut the fascia and muscle in 2 places ( each side) in order to get the blood vessels they needed for the reconstruction so those stitches are what is most uncomfortable at this point, and what I need to avoid damaging).  
Although I have one more operation to go, I cannot believe how much  better I feel after this one. The damaged implant is gone ( well, all the implants are gone) and with it, the constant pain it was causing). The muscle is back against my chest wall so that discomfort is gone. Everything feels so much better. ( and now I have a great new tummy!)I am so glad I had the DIEP flap procedure. Unbelievable.
But on the humorous side, this procedure uses the abdominal tissue, skin included, to create new breasts. On each side, where the areola would be, the skin from the abdomin is sewn in. Well, the week before surgery we spent 3 days on lake Oroville and my belly got a little tan. Needless to say, I now have circles of tan skin on my new breasts. Bahahaha. Only I could have something like this happen!! It took me about 2 weeks to figure out why the skin color was so different. Leave it to me.

Journal entry by Stacey Van Lente

Well, scratch that last entry.  LOL! Change of plans. I'm still going in for surgery, that part has not changed.  But everything else has.  I told my surgeon what was going on and she referred me to a micro surgeon, Dr. kind, in San Francisco.  I went in to see him, get an opinion from him and my options. 
We are now going to do a Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator (DIEP) Flap Reconstruction.  You really don't want Pics of that. It's not pretty.  Basically, they take the tissue, skin, blood vessels and some of muscle from my abdomen, and they create new breasts from my own tissue.  No Implants. No foreign objects to get encapsulated.  Lower chance of infection using my own tissue. Tummy tuck for free. And no going in every 10 years to replace implants.
6-8 weeks after the DIEP Flap procedure, I will go in for surgery again for a fat grafting procedure...totally trying to convince Dr' Kind to take that fat from my Butt!!  Good heavens, I think I could go up to 44DD with that! LOL! But I won't. YIKES. No Thanks.

I am scheduled for Sept 11th. Surgery will take 6-7 hours. It's in San Francisco and I will remain in the hospital for 4-5 days. This surgery is going to suck. He was honest and said that the pain I had from my Cholesystectomy (Gallbladder removal) was nothing compared to what this will be. Not looking forward to the healing phase but I still think it's the right thing for me to do. Hoping it's going to fix my issues and pain and it will be worth it in the long run.
New Boobs that don't hurt and hang in different hemispheres, a tummy tuck and a Butt reduction (I hope).  Hey, there ARE silver linings! 

Journal entry by Stacey Van Lente

Well, I made it 8 months. I've been having quite a bit of pain on the left (cancer) side since early in the year. So we tried the 3 months of Singulair along with 3 laser treatments.  It took a little bit of the ache away but just not enough for me to maintain like this.  
So, we go in for surgery again :(  Currently waiting  for approval from insurance then will make the surgery date. 
The left implant is the one with Capsular Contracture (severe scar tissue tightening around the implant making it hard and rocklike). We are removing that implant and putting in a new one. Hoping I won;t need the Alloderm for this one but won't be surprised if I do. He'll have it ordered and ready just in case.
But if this implant causes infection like the last time, then its back into surgery to remove it and go 6-12 months with NO implant on that side to allow everything to heal properly. Then another surgery to get another implant and hope for the best.
Not a perfect world but, hey, at least MY part of the surgery is easy. I get to sleep the whole time!

Journal entry by Stacey Van Lente

surgery was on Wednesday morning . I woke up at 5:31 a.m. when Brian ask what time are we supposed to be there? The answer was 5:45 am. Yep we're late. I've never gotten ready so fast in my life. But we got there by 6:15 they rushed me through pre-op and all was good.

Surgery went for 3 hours as expected. Plastic surgeon decided that he did not need to use the alloderm which is a good thing because there are some inherent issues that come with using that like increased chance of infection and seromas along with other possibilities so I'm glad we were able to avoid that. And because he did not use the elevator room I ended up not needing drains. The first thing I did when I woke up in recovery was look for the drains and freaked out when there was nothing there. I thought something went wrong because I fully expected to have at least two. So it was actually a good surprise that I don't have any. I had pain meds during recovery but used my Essential Oils when I got home and did not have to take any medications so I've been feeling pretty decent. Hail Copaiba Oil!! So now I'm home, relaxing. Took a walk today to get iced tea at Starbucks. Wiped me out and I had to take a two-hour nap when I got home but it felt good to exercise a little. Still don't get to shower until Monday but this is so much easier without the drains to deal with. And not nearly as painful.

It's going to be a few weeks before I start to see what it's really going to look like. Right now with the inflammation and where it's sitting up by my collarbone it looks a little odd but eventually it will drop down into place and things will smooth out. Told the doctor bottom line I wasn't looking for perfect I was just looking for better and I fully expect I'm going to be happy with that. Personally I've had enough surgery and I'm feeling confident that I don't need to go in to be filleted anymore in the near future. Yahoo!!

Journal entry by Stacey Van Lente

So apparently the results of my EKG were not good. I have to go In For another one. They didn't tell me what they just guessing it's the right bundle branch block that has been there for a long time. It's basically a problem with the electrical signals sent to the ventricle to tell it to pump. One branch of nerves is completely blocked and does not get the signal. Only causes issues on occassion. AND a new and fun side effect of the Tamoxifen...i have a UTI...RIGHT BEFORE SURGERY-seriously!? So now I'm on antibiotics trying to get rid of that. I'm a hot mess! Ha.

Journal entry by Stacey Van Lente

Well everyone, surgery is scheduled for Sept 27th. That's a week and a half from now.  We have to be in Roseville at 5am (blech) for a 7am surgery.  I expect to come home the same day.  I have a surgery follow up appointment the next day.  Nothing strenuous for 6-8 weeks.

The plan is to remove the right implant, attach the alloderm (cadaver tissue) along the bottom and side of the capsule (along the sternum) then replace the implant.  Unfortunately, he said that this will likely be more painful than the other surgeries because the alloderm has to be attached to the chest wall.  I will have several drains in the one side in an effort to keep an infection from happening like it did last time when my drain clogged on the first day.
 The left side, which is the one that got infected last time, we are expecting to leave alone.  If he replaces that one, there is an even higher chance of infection since it happened already.  Although things could change once he gets in there and sees it himself.  Guess I'll find out when I wake up, won't I?
Not feeling good about this surgery but need to get it over and done with.  I'm tired of the pain and the discomfort.  I expect this to be my last reconstruction for at least 10-15 years, at which point they will have to be replaced  anyway.  Crossing my fingers.  Keep good thoughts coming my way!! 

Journal entry by Stacey Van Lente

It was a fun summer with the kids...Sunsplash, six flags, museums, swimming.  But school is back in session and now is time to get to the reality of daily life.
I got the call today saying that my next surgery has been approved by the insurance. Now to schedule surgery and pre-op appointments-hoping this is all completed by the end of this week. 

Here we go again. Excited to get it over with but always nervous about surgery again. I don't like surgery, Sam I am. And I REALLY don't like drains...UGH.  

I'm hoping for surgery at the end of September. 
Then, If all goes well, I should be able to get my tattoo by next spring.  My girl in SF designed it for me...see attachment!

Journal entry by Stacey Van Lente

Well, I started out the summer with a bang...19 day motorcycle trip across the country. 4500 miles, 11 states, hail, storms, flood, heat, humidity...nothing keeping me down.  I did have some moment of being more tired than I wanted (luckily I can sleep on the back of the bike). But overall I did great. It was an awesome trip and I'm so happy that after 5 years of planning I was able to do it!

Now on to a great summer with the boys.  Sunsplash,  Wake Island, pool parties, Museums, six flags, BBQ's, outdoor movie nights in the yard...having a great summer!  Ill be ready for Sept when the time comes.
Hope everyone has a great summer and I'll be back closer to Sept with all the updates.  

Oh, and I got my first tattoo.  Can't get the boob tattoos yet but I had this one done on my arm and I LOVE it! 

Journal entry by Stacey Van Lente

Results came in from the PET scan...Not a single cancer cell in my body! YAY me!! Now we just need to stay that way, but I'm doing a lot of things my Alternative medicine specialist has said to do.  Started doing cross-fit (lost 15 lbs), started changing my eating habits for the better, reducing and eliminating some things from my diet, taking stress managements classes, reducing the overall stress in my life...and I think I'm on a good path.  Feeling good about myself and where things are at.  Next surgery will be in Sept 2017 and hopefully that will be the last for at least 10 years.  Will be asking for yearly PET scans if possible.  
This whole thing has really just been super sucky but I cannot say how humbled and appreciative I am to all of my family and friends for all the support you have given to us.  The prayers said for us did their job, I have no doubt!  I knew how wonderful all the people in my life were, but this just proved it once again.  You all have the most wonderful hearts and I love that you are a part of my life. Thank you.
Now I'm ready to have a fun summer. Bring on the sun and fun!! 

Journal entry by Stacey Van Lente

My beast is called Invasive Lobular Carcinoma...its a less common form of Breast cancer.  It is not affected by Chemo, therefor surgery is the only option.

  The Cancer is currently designated as Grade 2, Stage 1. They base the stage on the size of the tumors -there are two- as they can see it currently, that are both less than 2cm in size.  I will be having MRI's next week to determine if they are, in fact, 2 separate tumors or if they are connected. If they are connected, it becomes stage 2 as this will make it larger than 2cm. Stage 3 is if it has spread to the lymph nodes and stage 4 is if it has spread to other parts of the body (we won't know that until after surgery).
I will have MRI's to determine if there is more cancer than seen in the mammogram. Weather there is more in one side and if it has spread to the other side.  This type does not normally show up on mammograms so in a way, I was lucky that a small portion did.  If more is seen, I will likely have more biopsies of any areas of concern to determine if it is cancer.  These tests will help to determine if I have a lumpectomy (take out the cancer only) or if I need a single or double mastectomy.  The other issue with this type is that if it returns, it will likely be on the opposite side from where it originally occurred. Awesome!
So I have some big decisions to make in the coming few weeks.
In the meantime, I will see a plastic surgeon regarding reconstructive surgery.  My surgeon is also trying to get me in for genetic testing.
The end result of all this...I WILL have radiation no matter what.  I will also have to take a medication that blocks estrogen and progestrone (these hormones feed this type of tumor).  I will need chemo if it has spread to the lymph nodes and most likely removal of ovaries at the least.  I have not asked the surgeon if more than the ovaries will need to be removed.   I was still in overload at that point and more questions are piling up but I suppose in the end, I'll do what I have to do.

This is NOT what will kill me. Period.

 It will be a very difficult and emotional journey.  I have shed many tears in the last week.  I am trying to find my strength and I know I will but it won't come without more tears.  I have several people around me that have been touched by cancer and I am leaning on them for insight and to help me understand and make peace with my diagnosis.

 I have so many friends and family to support me, it warms my heart.  Thank you all for being in my life and helping me through this journey.  I ask for all the prayers and good thoughts that can be sent my way. 

Stacey’s Story

Site created on June 9, 2016

Ok, so I have Cancer. And that really sucks.  BIG.  Some days are bad.  Some are good.  I certainly NEVER expected that my doctor would call me on a random morning and tell me I have the big C.  My life forever changed in that moment.  Nothing in my past and I'm sure in my future will ever change me like that phone conversation did.  Once the tears pass, and it finally sinks in, we get down to business.  And this is my story of how we get this business done.  I will have some good news, some bad news (hopefully not a lot of that), some random venting, and even some I am trying to keep my sense of humor as much as possible through this whole thing.  It's the only way I can cope.  Really. So hopefully this will serve to keep all of our family and friends updated on progress and setbacks and general stuff going on.
    Hopefully this may help someone else at some point as well, who may be travelling this same crummy journey. One who begins a site of their own and needs some insight, information or just to read someone else's story to know they are not the only one to go through this mess. To know that they CAN do it.  There is a light at the end of this tunnel and it's gonna shine bright. I cannot thank my family and friends enough for all of the help and encouragement.  It means EVERYTHING.