Sunday, November 20, 2011

Building Boobs...

This phase of dealing with cancer certainly has led to some interesting experiences.  As part of the double mastectomy, tissue expanders were inserted behind Anna's pectoral muscles in preparation for the reconstruction process.  Here is a picture of tissue expanders similar to the ones in Anna.

As you can see there is a small disk, this is how they gain access to 'fill 'em up' as we call it.  When Anna goes in for a 'fill up', 'enhancement' or expansion (to be more technical) the nurses have her lay back on the table and they add about 60 ml of saline into each expander.  Anna can only feel the needles go through her skin on one side as the port is closer to the top of her chest, where there are still some nerve endings, (with the mastectomy her nerves were removed...so no feeling on top of her skin).   The only other pain associated with this is the feeling of added pressure from the expanders getting bigger, except for one side had a drain in for about 5 weeks which added to the discomfort.  Since that drain was removed the expanders haven't been too bad, considering.  The expansion process had to be completed before radiation could be started as once her skin is radiated it doesn't expand as well.
Here is Anna with her syringes...one for each side.

A little relief

As you may remember during Anna's surgery the muscles in her back became very tight and uncomfortable.  After talking with the doctors they suggested Anna visit a physical therapist to help loosen her muscles up.  The other important aspect of meeting with the physical therapist was to understand how she needs to deal with possible lymphedema.  Anna had about five visits with the physical therapist in which she was given a massage and her muscles were 'shocked' to help with the tension in her back.  The therapist also put on something called Kinesio tape.  The idea behind the tape is to trick her mind into allowing her muscles to relax by the feedback the tape is sending through her skin.  Anna was skeptical at first and took the tape off after a couple of days after which she noticed a big difference.  Her next session she kept the tape on almost the entire week.  Meeting with the physical therapist was a good experience.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I am a MOTHER!!!!

Growing up all I ever wanted was to grow up and be a MOM. After graduating high school I left for Snow College thinking that I was ready to find someone and get married. After graduating from Snow 2 years later and not knowing what to do next because school was not my thing, I had a hard time deciding what to do. What I wanted to do was not what the Lord had in store for me. I finally decided and left for 18 months to be a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Rochester, New York. What an amazing time I had in New York. The Lord knew what was best for me. 
When I got home another decision had to be made; What next?? I knew I needed to go to Utah State where after 2 more years I received a degree in Family and Human Development. My dreams came true my last year of college when I finally met the man I was going to marry. Ben Farmer proposed right after I graduated because he knew I would move home if we weren't engaged.



 I married Benjamin Farmer on August 19, 2004 in the Jordan River Temple. We stayed in Logan for Ben the finish his bachelors degree and I went to work with Head Start teaching preschool. I was so excited to finally be a mom. Little did I know that was the not the plan for me at that time in my life. We had a hard time having a child. I had to have surgery first for  a cyst on my ovary and then we had our first miscarriage. This was a very hard thing for us.  A few months later we had another miscarriage... I am so grateful for the added strength from my Heavenly Father to keep going. I never doubted; I knew I would be a mom. Three months later I was pregnant again with my little girl. Daphne was born May 8,  2007. I was finally a MOM!!!


Daphne brought so much joy to my life. I loved being at home with her. We had so much fun together. Ben was in graduate school so me and Daphne were home ALOT together. I loved it. When Daphne was 10 months old I found out I was pregnant again with my little boy. This was a huge surprise for us but we were so excited to add another member to our family.


Ryker Was born December 1, 2008. Another amazing day for me to welcome a little boy into our family. We now had one of each a little girl and boy.



Staying at home with my children has brought me so much happiness. I have had hard days and very long days but I have loved every minute of it. We had an amazing neighborhood in Logan where we felt loved and wanted. Ben finally graduated and he got a job in Bountiful and so with a very sad heart we sold our home in Logan and moved to be closer to Ben's work. We had no idea then what a huge blessing our relocation would be for our family.
I was very baby hungry. We had a very scary situation when I found out I was having an ectopic pregnancy in July of 2010. I had emergency surgery and was very lucky that it had not burst. They had to remove one of my felopion tubes during the surgery. I was very worried about being able to get pregnant again. Right after we moved into our house in Bountiful I had another miscarriage. It was hard but I was excited that I could still get pregnant. I really wanted another baby. A few months later I was diagnosed with cancer.
For the first couple of weeks we had so many choices to make. Every day was so overwhelming as we were trying to decide what to do about children in the future.  We talked about saving eggs and other options to allow us the chance to have more children. I don't think the idea of me having cancer even hit home until Chemo started because I was having such an inner struggle with the idea of me not having any more kids. I wanted  more kids SOOO bad. This was not in my plans. Once again my Heavenly Father had something else in mind for me. Everything moved so fast and before I knew it we made the decision to go ahead with treatments and leave things as they are. I had the most amazing experiences and feelings of contentment during this time for the 2 amazing kids I have been blessed with. At that moment my attitude changed, I was going to fight with everything I had to be able to raise the kids I have here.

Daphne is full of energy. She never slows down unless she is in front of the T.V. She runs around from sun up till sun down. She loves to dance and sing and she is very good at both. She sings all the time. Recently she has new names for me on a fairly regular basis. For awhile it use to be "Moma", now she calls me "mommers". I love her excitement around our house. She melts my heart on a regular basis with the words she says or her actions. I love this girl so much.


Ryker is on a totally different playing field than his sister. He is very shy and it takes him awhile in any new setting to warm up and be comfortable. His hands are always in his mouth when he is uncomfortable. He has such an easy going temperament, which has helped so much with all the passing around they are going through. He loves animals especially sheep at grandpas house. He loves to work in the pumpkin patch and ride tractors. His favorite word right now is "why?"
His huge smile will always light up my life.


I have had such an overwhelming love for my family right now and I really wanted to share it with you. I love being a mom. This year will definitely go down in history as a crazy year for us, but I feel so blessed with the experiences I have had. I am so blessed to have 2 beautiful kids that I get to raise. I have so much pride for them right now. I could go on and on about what they can do and what they love. I know this is a huge blessing from my Heavenly Father. I love Daphne and Ryker and I am so thankful that things have gone so well and I will be able to continue to be with them on a daily basis.


My Family!!!
I wanted to share with you how it all come about and how my life has not gone according to my plan but I am so grateful Someone else knows the plan for me. Thanks so much for all your love and support. Thanks for being apart of my life!!!  
Anna

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Last Two Weeks

Anna had surgery on the 26th of September, since then the recovery has gone well.  She started with five drains coming out of her sides, after the first week two drains were removed.  Anna was pretty uncomfortable with pressure in her chest and muscle knots in her back.  After the second week two other drains were removed.  The drain removal process involves cutting a stitch, Anna taking a deep breath and a steady pull by the doctor or nurse and you can watch the tube 'snake' out from underneath her skin.

After the surgery the surgeon called a week later and told us about the results of the pathology that was done on the tissue removed.  There were three main sites that showed cancerous growth.  Before chemo the tumor in her armpit, the lymph node, measured 3 centimeters, after chemo it measured .3 centimeters, which is about the size of a pencil lead.  The other areas in her breast showed minor active cancer cells.  The surgeon said she is very confident that all the cancer was removed in the surgery.  The decision has been made to continue with treatment as Anna will undergo 30 rounds of radiation starting about mid-November.  The treatment team explained that people who undergo radiation following chemo and surgery have a significantly reduced risk of re-occurance in the future.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

To my wife...

It's really interesting to me how the Lord prepares us to deal with challenges.  I think it was around February or March when I first heard the Rascal Flatts song "I Won't Let Go".  I really liked it and would find it on Youtube and listen to it every now and then.  I started reading some of the comments under the videos; to my surprise  most of them were about someone who had gone through cancer of some kind and a family member saying how the song exemplified the situation.  As Anna started to go in for biopsies and tests to see what was going on with her, the message of the song kept coming back to my mind and I started to see that I was being prepared to hear those words; "It's cancer".

It was still really hard when I heard them, but I feel like I was ready to start moving forward immediately and not spend too much time being sad or feeling cheated.  The following song and video started out as a 'thank you' to our family and friends but turned into something for Anna to show her strength and impact that she has had on other people's lives, and to remind her of those people who love and support her.

If you would like to watch the video the link is below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5947SMU0vGk

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Post Surgery- day 4

Day 4 was our first full day at home.  The first night in bed wasn't too bad but it did take some experimenting to find Anna a comfortable way of laying in the bed, but overall Anna was able to rest comfortably at different times.

One of the things that threw a kink in our day was I had scheduled my Family Therapy Licsensure exam a few months previously and I needed to go and take it.  Nikki, Anna's cousin was nice enough to come and spend most of the day with Anna while I went and took the exam.

Anna had a few visitors throughout the day and it was nice for her to be able to visit with her cousin Amber and her Aunt Lori & cousin Kate.  That night Anna felt the effects of being more active and was pretty sore.  The biggest thing bothering her is muscle tension in her back.  She has knots that are really painful and are preventing her from relaxing.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Post Surgery- day 3

The third morning in the hospital was spent getting things lined up for Anna to head home.  The stream of medical students and professionals continued as in the previous two days.  Huntsman is really an amazing place full of very caring and supportive staff.  We really appreciated the help of nurses who helped Anna with any kind of issues or concerns she was having.  Thanks again Nicole, Amanda, & Bridget!

I was taught how to help take care of Anna's drainage tubes and things to watch for that might indicate a problem.  Anna was a little nervous to go home because the nurses did such a good job of meeting her needs and helping answer her questions.  They gave us numbers to call and helped to alleviate Anna's concerns.

We headed home on what Anna probably thought was equivalent to a logging road given her reaction to the various bumps and jostlings along the way.  We made it home and it was nice to be able to relax and be in familiar surroundings.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Post-surgery day 2

The first full day after surgery was pleasantly uneventful.  Anna rested and visited off and on throughout the day.  There had been such a big build up of trying to get things done the previous two weeks that Anna said how nice it was to finally be able to sit and not have anything to do.  Anna's incisions are looking good and the doctors have said they are very pleased with the way things look a this point.

Anna was doing so well in fact that they talked about possibly discharging her that day, the 27th.  She had a little bit of trouble sustaining her oxygen levels but otherwise was doing amazing!  We were trained on how to maintain and take care of Anna's drainage tubes and talked about things to look for that would indicate problems.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Surgery Day One

Anna and I arrived at Huntsman around 5:45 am to start the surgery process.  We were taken back to a small room where they placed Anna's IV and she was dressed in her hospital gown.  The various doctors came in and talked about what was going to happen.  Anna's parents came up to sit with me as we waited.  They started around 7:30 and it seemed like we were in a time warp in the waiting room.  It seemed to go really fast while dragging on forever!  A family friend, Shirley dropped by and brought bagels for us in the waiting room.  Her and her daughter have both had breast cancer so they are kindred spirits to Anna now.  It was so nice and thoughtful of her to come and spend time with us.  We have truly been blessed by people's goodness through this experience.

The surgery went really well as both doctors came out and talked to us about each of their parts.  It was a two part surgery in which they removed all of her breast tissue and some lymph nodes and then tissue expanders were placed to prepare her for the reconstruction process.  Anna said she had a hard time waking up in the recovery room.  She was eventually brought into her room around 4:00 pm.  The night went well as Anna was able to rest...kind of.  It seemed like there was a steady stream of medical staff coming through Anna's room to check on her or observe how she was feeling, etc., etc.  Being so close to the U we had a lot of residents and medical students come and see Anna.  At one point there were 7 various medical staff in the room at one time.  It got to be a little too much at times.
Anna has had some knots in her shoulders and back from being on the surgery table for so long; it was a challenge to relax.
Resting peacefully

As a side note, Anna has said that many of you have e-mailed her that you have been unable to post comments on the blog.  I have gone in and changed some settings; if you have tried to comment in the past and it wouldn't let you please try again we love hearing from you all.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Circus & Family Celebration

On the 22nd we were able to go to the circus with my brother Matt & his family.  We were really excited because it was kind of like our last hurrah before surgery.  The kids loved it!

Daphne was a little unsure of the clown, as was Ryker

It was a late night, but well worth it as the kids loved watching all the different acts.  Daphne was a little concerned about the tigers and Ryker was all about the elephants.  
Daphne & Joel loved the noses that were given out

What would the circus be without the elephants?

FAMILY CELEBRATION
On the 24th Anna's family asked all to come together to have a 'Celebration of Life' as there were a lot of events coming up during the week of the 26th.  Anna's aunt Debbie planned the activity and talked a lot about being a united family.  As part of the activity there was a balloon release that was to represent hopes and prayers that the family has offered and is offering on behalf of each other.
Daphne LOVED releasing the balloons
The balloons stayed together as they rose into the sky 
video



Sunday, September 18, 2011

CHEMO ROUND 8--LAST ONE!!!!!

It was a very emotional day. Our usual schedule on chemo day was first to get the port accessed. Then we would meet with our Doctor and would have a detailed discussion about blood counts and how the previous round of chemo went. Last we would head to the Infusion room and sit for 4 hours on a drip. The infusion room consisted of many chairs of others having infusions too. Anna really enjoyed meeting so many people and having a chance to talk with them and share their stories with each other.

Daphne had been asking to be able to go to the Huntsman again to see what 'Mommies chemo' is like. We decided to let her come with us for most of the day. Daphne went in with Anna while she was having her port accessed. The nurse had her wear a mask and Daphne thought it was the greatest thing ever. Daphne was full of questions and the nurses were so great to answer them. She didn't want to watch Anna get poked. As we have gone through this experience there are a couple of words and phrases that just about break our hearts at times some of these things are; 'My mommy is tired because of the chemo', 'Look Ryker that's a cancer ribbon', 'My mommy has cancer', and probably the toughest of all 'When I grow up I want to be a mom without cancer'. She says these things so matter-of-factly that we realize she will probably never remember her life before her mommy had cancer.

The nurse put a bandage on Daphne just like Anna had, she thought it was pretty neat. Here they are sporting their matching bandages. We took the opportunity while we were alone each chemo to have lunch at the Point Cafe on the top floor of the Huntsman. This time Daphne got to join us.

We overwhelmed the nursing staff as our 'on call support team' (aka; family) all came to check out this chemo thing that Anna has been going through (the nieces and nephews were especially curious). Everyone was so great to let our family come in and see how chemo works. This was very emotional as you can see in the video. Chemo was a hard time for us. We had so much help from so many people to be able to make it through it; THANK YOU. We just couldn't believe we had made it to the end. On your last chemo the nurses sing a song right before you leave. This moment will always bring a tear to Anna's eye and CHEMO IS DONE!!!

video

PET Scan Round 2

On Friday September 9th Anna went in for her PET scan post-chemo to see how the cancerous cells responded to the treatments. We were a little nervous but mostly curious about what the results would show. Prior to the scan during various exams the doctors were unable to find the lumps under her arm and so we knew something was happening.

On that following Tuesday the nurse called and told Anna the results of the scan. She told her that our Oncologist, Dr. Cohen and the surgeon, Dr. Neumeyer both saw the scan and were 'thrilled with the results, we couldn't ask for a better result than this from chemo' our understanding was that there was no sign of cancerous cells. Anything from the first PET scan that was of concern or questionable was resolved and put to rest after the results of this second scan.

Since Anna was diagnosed with cancer this was the most excitement and relief she has had at the results of a test and she feels like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. She is ready to beat cancer.

Horse-pull


A family Anna grew up with, the Palmers, asked if they could do something to show support for Anna. During her childhood Anna would go around with this family at different times and watch them participate in an activity they really enjoy; horse-pulling. Their idea was to dedicate one of their competitions to Anna and ask for support from the audience. They asked if Anna would be present that night to 'cheer them on' as they competed. Anna was really honored and excited to be able to join the Palmers during this time.

Finally when the night came we had asked our families to come to the horse-pull and as a way to show their support we asked them to wear pink shirts. Here are a couple pictures of the crowd of family that came that night.
The Cousins (Fun & Trouble all in one convenient place)


It was a really fun event!! The Palmers all wore pink t-shirts that read 'Tough Enough to Pull Pink' on the back while they were out on the track. They also went throughout the stands and collected donations after the announcer explained what they were doing. It was a truly humbling experience as we came into contact with these great people. Not only did the Palmers donate their winnings to Anna but a few of the other teams did as well and even the announcer gave his pay for the night to Anna. It's amazing to see the goodness of others as they generously gave of themselves.

For Ryker the highlight of the night was watching these HUGE horses work.

Horse POWER

Tough Cowboys in Pink

We would like to express the deep sense of appreciation we have towards the Palmers for helping to create such a nice memory.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

7 year Anniversary


On August 19th we celebrated our 7 year anniversary. In talking with many of you and discussing some of the challenges that we have gone through we would like to take this chance to also say how many good things have been going on in our lives. We feel like we have grown closer together through all of this, we have discovered a small inkling about the amount of love people have for us and our family, and we have felt the hand of the Lord in our lives at so many steps and turns it has felt like He has been guiding us most of the time.

This anniversary may become one of our most memorable as we were able to enjoy some time alone and talk about this crazy adventure we call life. Our tradition has been to go to P.F. Chang's because they were one of the first restaurants that we found that offered a Gluten Free menu. We talked about the kids, our marriage, our friends & family, and the future. We are looking forward to many more anniversaries to come.


Surgery is scheduled!!!

During August we have met with Anna's plastic surgeon and oncological surgeon and have scheduled her surgery for September 26th. Anna has decided to get a double mastectomy after consulting with the surgeons and looking at the various factors involved. We are trying to do as much as possible to prevent any chance of the cancer coming back in the future. From the beginning Anna has felt like this is the right thing for her to do.

After the surgery Anna won't be able to lift anything over 8lbs for 4-6 weeks. This generally wouldn't be an issue if Ryker & Daphne didn't weigh 30lbs each. This is going to be tough. This is going to coincide with Mabey's Pumpkin Patch and Anna is going to be limited in the amount of activity she can engage in during that time. She really will miss not being able to work the patch. This is something that she really enjoys.

Chemo's round 6 & 7

On August 2nd and August 16th Anna went in for chemo. These two were uneventful (YAY) as she dealt with the normal aches and pains that come with Taxol. On the up side of things Anna has been able to resume a somewhat normal life as she takes a few days to get back on her feet and then it's off to some activity for the day. Daphne asks each morning "What day is it?" Anna or I will answer her and then she asks "What do we do on Tuesdays (or Wednesdays...)"? Ryker thinks that every time we get in Anna's car we should be going to grandma's house and will say "This way! Grandma's house" Oh yeah, he cheers out loud when we take the 106th south exit. (Hence the posts being several weeks behind). Anna has a lot of numbness/tingling in her feet and hands. Her thumbs have been numb for about four weeks at the publishing of this post. If any of you get mis-spelled text messages from her she is officially blaming the numbness in her thumbs. :-)

August was a really fun time as we were able to spend a lot of it with Justin & Betsy's family from Texas. They brought with them: fun cousins, an unforgettable song (na na na na na na na na), and a really nice distraction during these two treatments. Matthew and J.D. had some trouble adjusting to Anna when she would take her wig off; if any of you need some pictures of a perfectly shaped bald head, Matthew can hook you up. He had no shame getting right in her face to snap the photos.

Garage Sale

Anna's family offered to put on a garage sale as a fundraiser to help with some of the medical expenses. As plans were developing it so happens that Anna's friend Stephanie has had a lot of experience with garage sales and offered her services in what turned out to be a big undertaking. It started by sending out e-mails and notices to family and friends for items that people were willing to part with. We were not prepared for people's generosity. The response was overwhelming as the week proceeding the actual event was filled with car, truck, and trailer loads of items people donated to help us out. Janet and Steve would come home each night to their porch and driveway filled with various items (clothes, T.V.'s, couches, toys, etc., etc., etc.). One ingenious neighbor even borrowed Steve's own trailer to park in the driveway filled with their donated items. It is hard to put into words the generosity we experienced. This has been such a humbling experience to be on the receiving end of such charity. We are so grateful to ALL those people who helped out; but an extra special thanks to Anna's family, especially Sarah, & Anna's friend Stephanie.





After the garage sale was over Daphne went shopping and put her treasures on display

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Chemo Round 5

July 19th we went in for round 5 of Chemo. The protocol at this point for Anna's type of cancer is to change from the Doxorubicin or Adriamycin or hydroxydaunorubicin or AC (I swear they have 5 names for everything) chemotherapy to one called Taxol. This kind of chemo doesn't cause as nausea as much but it can cause nerve damage. We were really excited about making it to the half-way point of chemo!

The side effects were....different. We don't really know if they are better or worse at this point because Anna's legs ache often and her feet will tingle and itch at various times throughout the day. The day after chemo Anna had a slight rash on her face and neck.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pain in the arm...

Well it seems as if it's not one thing then it's another. The 4th round of chemo as described wasn't too bad, however Anna started to experience some pain in the top of her forearm. She really noticed it when she would pick up Ryker or bump into something. When Anna called the nurses they told her to come in and get an ultrasound of her vein. She has a blood clot. Totally scary; so we thought, apparently there are such things as 'superficial blood clots'. These are the kind of blood clots that aren't very nice, only care about how you look, and will talk behind your back...Just a little humor for ya. Actually, superficial means there is a very remote, sleight, limited, unlikely chance of the clot moving to places it shouldn't be. The doctor wasn't very concerned and told Anna to put heat on her arm and to take Aleeve to allow the clot to be absorbed more easily into the blood stream.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chemo Round 4

This was probably the most chaotic infusion we went through. July 5th was the day that we went in for the infusion. Daphne & Ryker were able to go with Ben's parents to Logan for that week to spend time with Grandpa & Grandma Farmer. As they were leaving Daphne seemed a little more irritable than usual and we suspected that she was coming down with something. Ben's mom called on the 5th to say that Daphne had a fever around 101 through the night of the 4th. We watched for that day and she continued to have a fever so Anna made arrangements for Daphne to see her pediatrician in Logan. The doctor didn't find any problems in her ears, nose or throat and said that means it's probably a virus so we just had to let it run its course. Not only was Daphne experiencing issues but Ben had a rough week at work. Each month Ben complies summaries of each of his clients that are due by the 10th of each month. With the 4th being on a Monday and then Anna's infusion on Tuesday and a commitment for Thursday Ben only had two full days of work in order to get the summaries done along with the other responsibilities he has. Because of the busy week Anna opted to spend the week at her mom's house in South Jordan. It was a rough week because we felt disjointed and 'spread apart' from each other. It was tough knowing that Daphne was sick (her fever lasted the whole week) and away from mom & dad, it was tough that Ben was scrambling to meet his work responsibilities, and it was tough that Anna was having a hard time emotionally with all that was going on. Due to the emotions her physical symptoms kicked up more and it was kind of a rough week. We were all able to be reunited on Friday which allowed the nerves to settle. The next week things went very well and Anna felt as good as she ever has since starting the Chemo process.

Farmer Family Pictures-4th of July weekend

The 4th was an exciting holiday as we were able to celebrate the blessing of our new little niece Sarah, have Luke (Ben's brother) home for a quick visit, and enjoy the festivities while Anna was feeling relatively well. The follow pictures were taken at a bbq on the 4th of July.

Proud Grandparents

The Farmer Grand kids

The Whole Fam-Damily

Matt-Charity-Joel-Sarah, Matt is on the right

The picture required bribes and threats...look how happy we are!

My favorite thing about his picture is Daphne's cheeser.

Monday, July 18, 2011

4th of July weekend in Logan!!!

Daphne and Ryker sporting their patriotic outfits.

Anna made Daphne's Skirt. Anna has been making Daphne a skirt for every holiday this year. Daphne would wear a skirt every day if we let her.

Ryker has found a new love

We went to the Fireworks in Logan with the Farmers.
Cousins
Ryker-Daphne-Sarah-Joel

The girl cousins


Grandma Farmer with the grand kids waiting for the fireworks to start.

The Farmer Family!!

Anna and Daphne
We went with our good friends the Carlsen's to the Car parade in Logan.
Daphne and Wyatt watching all the cars go down the street.

Ryker was loving all the treats that we brought.

Here is Charlie crawling all around.

To top off our fun night the kids ate awesome cupcakes.
Thanks Melanie!!
We had so much fun in Logan. It was the first time we had been back since Anna was diagnosed. We have really missed everyone.