Journal

Journal entry by Kim Nelson

For me, this Thanksgiving will be more memorable than most. After almost six months of fighting (and winning) my own battle over breast cancer, I have every confidence that the final step tomorrow morning will be uneventful. My reconstructive surgery will start at 7:30 at Mercy Coon Rapids, and I should be home in time for lunch (and a nice drug-induced nap)! I'll take it easy this week, then head back to work next Monday (the 3rd).

So far the Tamoxifen seems to have only one side effect - infrequent and mild hot flashes. I'm truly grateful. There will be future appointments of course, to track and monitor my progress. However, the hardest parts seem to be behind me. 

We decided to extend our Thanksgiving with a weekend in Grand Marais (see pics). We relaxed, took some walks, played some card games, read, and even took in some Black Friday events - Grand Marais style!

Thanks for checking in!
Kim
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Journal entry by Kim Nelson

Sorry it's been a little while since I've shared an update... 

There's good news, and then there's good news - again! Admittedly, I've felt somewhat undeserving of these outcomes, especially in light of heightened awareness around the journeys others have and do face - many, very different from my own. I humbly receive the gift of a 'clean bill of health,' and commit to doing what I can to help their cause.

I have been taking Tamoxifen for the past 5 days. So far there have been no side effects (other than a few minor hot flashes)! The oncologist will call me in a month to see how I'm tolerating it, and wants me to come for a check-in sometime during January.

I will only need one more surgery! This is scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving. It's an outpatient surgery, so I'll be home in bed within a few hours afterwards. If all goes well, I'll be ready for work the following week!

As I look at things, my "part time job" is coming to an end. It appears that "seasonal work" will be my only requirement for a while! 

Knowing I had no foreknowledge of my cancer prognosis, I could only determine how I would face my circumstances these past few months. I knew on July 9th that I couldn't opt out and go on a different journey. I also knew that each step would present me with a choice. Despite the "not knowing," I chose to embrace the climb rather than grin and bear it, inviting refinement and transformation along the way. So far there have been... rigorous climbs, essential stops to rest along the way, and some refreshing drinks of cool water. Although I haven't yet reached the summit, I sense it is close. There has been so much to be captivated by along the way: the competent and attentive health care professionals who wisely direct my healing journey, the miracle of healing taking place within me in such a short amount of time, the confidence I've felt that all will be well - a peace that transcends understanding, beautiful generosity from Todd and our kids, and gifts of encouragement from each of you.

I am looking forward to my return to work on Monday (Oct. 1st)! I may not update here for a while given the division of time and responsibilities. However, please check back during the week of Nov. 26th, as I'll be on another short recuperation leave from surgery #2. 

My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are on behalf of each one who is wrestling with all that accompanies this disease. I ponder how my story can eventually bring hope and encouragement to others who may join the ranks, as many of yours have brought to me so far.

I'm incredibly grateful for each and every one of you!
Kim

Journal entry by Kim Nelson

My new oncologist Dr. Lassi, didn't waste any time reassuring me that chemo and radiation would not be helpful with my circumstances. What a perfect avenue into my good graces! Dr. Lassi went on to say that my cancer (invasive lobular carcinoma) likes to come back on the scene again after 15 or 20 years (showing up in various other locations such as: bones, ovaries, liver, colon). Because of this possibility, she wants to put me on an estrogen blocking medication (daily pill) that would minimize the chances of this occurring in my future (from 15% to 7 or 8%). This means my chances of NOT getting cancer again would be 93%... I'll take that!

There are a few options she's considering (Tamoxifen or Letrazole). I need to go for more testing to see which one will be the best fit for me. I gave blood for this purpose on Friday, and also have a bone scan scheduled Monday morning. Once these tests come back and she determines the drug for me, I will start the medication right away. Depending on how my body responds to it, there may be some side effects I will have to deal with (fatigue, tiredness, nausea, etc.). She plans to treat those as they come as well.

I will admit the phrase, "this cancer likes to come back" did scare me just a bit. So, I took a deep breath and then did the math... 1) I'll be REALLY OLD by then, so I'll likely be oblivious anyway! 2) There will definitely be new and improved medications to minimize the possibility further.

So at the start of this journey the nurse who called me with the news, "you've got breast cancer," said this would become my part time job for a while. At the time I had no concept of what she meant. She said there would be a lot of appointments, but I couldn't comprehend why. I was shown a diagram of a typical "cancer care team." There was an entire circle (9, I believe) of doctors and care providers all there to tend to my unique and varied needs. Now that I've met some of them and gone to several appointments, I am beginning to grasp the notion of 'part time job.' There is tremendous collaboration between them, and an incredible collective competence! I'm in such good hands, and have felt nothing but support so far. 

Feeling incredibly grateful. Hmmmm... have I said that before?!

Journal entry by Kim Nelson

Tuesday was the first day of school, and I felt a bit sad not to be there with my CBPA family to welcome our students back. I found myself checking the time throughout the day, wondering how some of my frequent office visitors were doing with lunch, recess, their new teachers, and their classmates. The rainy day didn't help my mood much. So after going to the plastic surgeon, I took a good long nap in the afternoon.

It's funny how our bodies work - how simple rest and minimal exertion can restore energy and heal wounds within just a few short weeks. Last week after my bout with C-Diff, I felt so good! My friend Greta came with me to the post-op appointment with the plastic surgeon on Tuesday. They removed one set of the drains along with some of the tegaderm covering my surgical site. (Look up Jackson Pratt drains if you want a visual. I had four drains altogether.) I had loads of questions for Jen (Dr. Cantwell's PA), and left feeling optimistic about my recovery (even given the setback from the weekend in the hospital)! Needless to say, I overdid it that day. Greta kept trying to caution me to rest, but I just felt so good, and she was so accommodating. We went out to eat, and even stopped to shop at two stores! I paid for it the next day, of course! I was warned (sorry Todd and Greta) - but I guess I had to learn for myself the hard way.

Fast forward to yesterday. I had my second appointment with Jen and Dr. Cantwell. They removed the other two drains and the remainder of the tegaderm. Dr. Cantwell is very pleased with my progress. I feel "free" after feeling like a borg for 2 weeks - so grateful there are no complications! I'm told that even though I feel good, rest is still the avenue to recovery. Although I miss my CBPA learning community and look forward to getting back to work, I can't assume that a day of feeling great here at home will compute to the same energy I will need there (especially given a typical day as an AP). And so I will engage with the call I have on me now... rest! 

I await Friday's appointment with the oncologist. It will be there that I find out my projected plan for medication/s. I hope it won't entail chemo. But if it does, I'll take that as it comes too. So far the doctors and health care professionals who have worked with me have been amazing. I've felt fully heard, supported, and competently cared for. I have no doubt I'll experience the same in this next phase toward recovery. I'll keep you posted once I know more.

Thanks for checking in with me. Your support and prayers have been tangibly felt. 
With incredible gratefulness,
Kim

Journal entry by Kim Nelson

WOKE UP WITH AN APPETITE!
After four days of turning my nose up to the sight or smell of food, I woke up ready to eat this morning. I could tell I had turned a corner on this infection. Aside from a pretty nasty headache, I felt so much better 
(no wonder, after lying in bed for three days!). Dr. Agujiobi, who treated me this weekend, confirmed it later during his rounds. I was given the go ahead to come home, where of course, I had to clean and tidy a bit before sitting down to write this entry! Having been too sick to care about how serious this infection was (still is), I started to read just a bit about it online this morning. GROSS! I'm so thankful I went in to the ER on Friday morning. It's good to know the antibiotics that caused it are off my medications list now, and that I don’t have to be quarantined to one small room for the rest of my treatment (about 7 more days).


I AM CANCER FREE!
Dr. Hamilton stopped into the hospital today for my post op appointment and shared this wonderful news! All the pathology reports came back negative. The margins (look that up if you’re curious) were clear of cancer, as was the lymph node they took from my right armpit, and the three they took from my left. The tumors themselves were also about the same size as predicted (that’s good - no surprises). There were no other signs of cancer in either breast. Dr. Hamilton predicted correctly, that my cancer is a Stage 1A cancer. AND, I'm down to only taking tylenol and ibuprofen for pain every once in awhile. I'm doing some BIG "Thank you, Jesus'" today!

 

NEXT STEPS:

1)    Post-op visit with Dr. Cantwell’s PA tomorrow morning (hopefully I’ll lose two drains and find out about next steps on reconstruction.)

2)    Post-op visit with my own family practice physician.

3)    Wait for oncologist to set up a consultation to talk about medications based on the pathology report.



Journal entry by Todd Nelson

This is Todd.

Kim's progress after surgery has been good, and very well received by the the surgeons. She came home Tuesday evening and we feeling pretty well through Thursday.

Friday morning a fever and gut problems took over her world. I took her to the ER. Turns out she has a bacterium called clostridium difficile (C. diff). Likely brought on somehow by the use of antibiotics (ironically). You can Google it, as my understanding is rather limited.

It is a relief to at least have the diagnosis and treatment. But as you can guess, that doesn't make it any less miserable for her to have to contend with during her recovery from the bilateral mastectomy. She is remaining in hospital for observation till at least Monday. If you are in the neighborhood, we suggest that visiting at a later date (after she is done dispensing with C.diff). This is a contagious and nasty bacteria.

Kim is full of strength and faith and grace. Your thoughts and prayers are coveted.

Todd

Journal entry by Kim Nelson

Whew!

I didn't think I would be ready to go home after just one day, but I was feeling better by Tuesday afternoon and decided it was time. We came home to find Nola (our youngest) packing for her move to Bethel for freshman year. Almost the entire upstairs was full of her stuff! (It brought back some of my own memories.) I'm so grateful not to have missed this part, even though I didn't get to go with her today for welcome week check-in. Todd has texted pictures of how she's fitting it all in... no small feat, I'm sure.

Here's what I know about my own "packing..." 
Both surgeons stopped in to check on me Tuesday morning. They taught me how to tend to my drainage tubes and 'grenades' (my term for the containers that catch fluids). They explained how I should care for my dressings. And, they shared their enthusiasm for the outcome of my surgery. Implants were able to be placed, so there was no need for expanders. YAY! They said I could go home as soon as I felt ready, and scheduled follow-up appts. for early next week. Dr. Hamilton shared that the biopsies she did on the lymph nodes came back clear of cancer, but that the pathologists report on the other tissue won't be back for several days. I should know those results by Monday when I go see her again, and I'm praying for the all clear (with no chemo needed)!

I am shocked that the pain management is keeping me fairly comfortable. The hardest part of this is just keeping track of which pills to take at any given time in order to avoid escalated pain. So far it's working! I'm trying to move about gingerly, and with the speed of a tortoise. For most of you who know me, this is a great accomplishment! (I'm a fast walker, and I don't like sitting still.) I'm even sitting outside right now, enjoying this beautiful day.

My heart is full of gratitude...
...for each and everyone of you who have shared your encouragement, selflessly offered to help during recovery, and prayed continuously on my behalf. 
...for the incredible medical care I have received throughout my entire cancer journey so far. NO ONE has shown any indication of impatience, and ALL have answered each of my ignorant questions with complete grace and genuine sincerity.
...for the lovely gifts and bouquets of gorgeous flowers so many have blessed me with. I feel doted on, and wonderfully loved!
...for my incredible family - bending over backwards to take such attentive and gentle care of me (not just my physical body, but my heart as well)!  

Thank you again for visiting my site, and holding me in your thoughts/prayers! I'll be checking in again soon with any new updates.

Journal entry by Cora Franze

Hello everyone, Cora here. For those of you who don't know me, I am Kim's oldest daughter and I am just popping on to give a quick update on how the surgery went and what things will look like moving forward.

Both Mastectomy and Reconstructive surgeries went perfectly! Moms' surgeons were pleased with how things went and have optimistic outlooks for her recovery. They are quite sure that they got all the cancer tissue and were also successful in getting what they need to run some tests in the next few days in order to make plans should any further treatment be necessary. 

We would like to thank you all for your prayers and support. Moving forward please pray for cancer free results from the pathology as well as a smooth recovery. Mom is staying at the hospital tonight and your prayers and comments in the well wishes section of her page would be a great comfort as she rests after the surgery. Keep an eye to this site for any updates.

Signing off,
Cora

Journal entry by Kim Nelson

Thank you for visiting my new CaringBridge site. I'm a little late to get this up and going, but just in time to ask for your prayers and well-wishes on the most critical day... Surgery day. I will be having double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery at 1:00 today, a month and a half after finding out I have invasive lobular cancer (and a more recent diagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ). Because my surgeon believes that I'll likely have more issues down the road if they don't take the breasts, I've elected to have them both removed.

No one ever thinks this could happen to them, and I'm no exception to this! I am hopeful, however, that this won't take me down (for too long, at least). Today's surgery will tell us if there is any spreading to the lymph nodes. My surgeon Dr. Lisa Hamilton, believes they caught this early, and has high hopes that the cancer is contained.

Cora Franze (my oldest who lives in just outside Philly with her husband, Blake) will be the main author of my site for now. Check back again later this evening for an update on how my surgery went. 

I have felt nothing but love and support from so many since being diagnosed with this disease. Your prayers and well-wishes on my behalf have miraculously kept me optimistic and at peace. 

James 5:16 says that the prayers of righteous people are powerful and effective! I'm in good hands... my Jehovah Rapha heals me, and I'm lifted before him by each of you. 

With heartfelt thanks,
Kim
Kim’s Story

Site created on August 18, 2018

Welcome to my CaringBridge site. I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma and ductal carcinoma in situ during the early part of July (breast cancer). It’s the start of a journey I hadn’t planned for. However, I know I will be transformed both physically as well as spiritually. I intend to press into all that this holds for me.


Because it can be difficult to remember who’ve I updated along the way, we are using this CaringBridge site as a way to keep family and friends updated on my progress. We appreciate your support, words of hope and encouragement, and prayers. Thank you for visiting my site.

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