I wrote a letter to His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge in January and received a response late last month. I explained what I was doing - running a marathon for Save the Rhino - and that it would be my first trip to England. I also suggested the marathon - which involved a lot of charities - might be an ideal event for gaining press coverage of the severe poaching crisis. It seems as though that last part may have been misinterpreted, but nevertheless, it was pretty awesome to receive a letter from a royal. Royal mail! See what I did there?
I'm very excited - my first marathon is only 4 weeks away!!!
So, I'm running my first non-Disney race on Sunday - the Gasparilla Half Marathon - which is exciting (and a little nerve-wracking). I'm guessing it's not going to be as organized, but they've done this before, so who knows? I'll try not to let extra worries like that get in the way of a great race. Because it is not a Disney race, that also means no characters alaong the way - and I've seen Tampa before, so probably not stopping for general photos either. Thus, this should be a a PR (personal record) for me - also exciting.
If you are awake at 6am EST on Sunday 2/23 and you'd like to track my progress, you can go here (though you do need to crate an account). My bib number is 27317. Post-race thoughts to come!
So, I applied to be a Big Brother back in November. This has been something that I've wanted to do for a while and even though I'm still pretty busy, I didn't want to put it off any longer. I've since found out over 500 kids are on a waiting list for a 'Big' (as they call it) in the Tampa Bay area. After hearing the requirements to be on this list, that number is truly staggering. I interviewed in December; I know my references were called in January; and I completed my training course a few days ago. The next step is what is called 'Pre-Match' where I will be called about my possible 'Little' to see if I think their description is a good match. They are pretty serious about getting a good match, understandably so - the kids are not interchangeable. I am looking forward to getting a call, finding a 'Little' and making a difference in their life. I won't be an only child for much longer.
If you think you may be interested in becoming a 'Big,' check out Big Brothers Big Sisters for more information.
The pathology results came back on my lymph nodes that were removed - NEGATIVE FOR MALIGNANCY! - no further treatment is needed.
I had my first post-operative appointment this afternoon. I was unsure if this was just a check-up or the results would be back. I waited for an hour - this place is always busy, as I've said - and was finally brought in and met by a USF Resident in Orthopedics. He took off my nasty bandages, asked me a few questions, said the site looked good and that he would go and get Dr. Cruse. He would double check for the pathology results as they were not back when he checked the computer the first time.
I waited another five minutes and they both came back, said "Hello," and started looking at some paperwork. When they told me the lymph nodes were negative, I was so relieved - the results had just come in! I knew there was a chance of a false negative (meaning, the nodes come up as a negative, but the cancer has spread anyway) and he explained to me that there is a 1 to 5% chance of that being true. At this time, no further treatment is warranted. I asked if they could run any further tests, but the answer was the same. I go back in one month for another check-up, and then again after five months, after which I will be referred back to my original dermatologist (the one that decided to send the mole off for tests in the first place - we like her!) and start regular dermatological screenings. Go see a dermatologist!!!
I can shower as normal, treat the area with lotion, and start scar massage in another nine days. I will need to trade out my work shorts for work pants, get a better hat, remember to use sunscreen every day, and possibly get some type of sunblocking agent with which to treat my clothes in the wash. I can start running in a week, which means I miss this Saturday's 14 miles, but I will be good for February 23rd's Gasparilla Half Marathon and certainly for the London Marathon in April.
Many thanks to everyone for their support, kind words, thoughts and prayers.
(Funny) side note: I included a photo of my bracelets from all my Moffitt appointments. After my first visit, I got home and went to cut the bracelet off and cut my 'Stop Rhino Poaching' one off too. Oops. I have since replaced it. The green one is the surgical allergy bracelet. 10 points to Gryffindor if you know the acronym. ;)
The surgery is over (see above right).
There was a line at 5:15 am to check in - I didn't expect that many people there. We were in the pre-surgery waiting room until about 6:30 when they brought me into the pre-op area - where I wore a nice purple papery robe. They made me take my cute underwear off. :( I don't remember saying "Goodbye" to my parents, but I do remember being in the operating room for a bit. Then, next thing I know, I'm waking up in recovery - and not feeling great. I'm guessing it was the effects of anesthesia - definitely a little nauseous every time I burped. I put on one piece of clothing at a time over like 15 minutes - and I just had to get out of there once this woman came into recovery - she was in a lot of pain and wouldn't stop crying; it was pretty upsetting. I felt bad for her, but at the same time, when you feel like I did, you're pretty blunt about how you feel. I was wheeled out, got in the back of my car, and my parents took me home. I got into bed and "slept" for about 6 hours - I say "slept" because I had to pee about four times. I'm guessing it was the IV saline. My friends - Sara, Morgan and Christy - stopped by with flowers and dinner and I hung out with them and watched some Hollywood Game Night. I went to bed at about 11pm - pain killers about every four hours.
I woke up today, feeling much better - I took a shower, being careful not to get the bandages wet, and shaved too. I took one last dose of pain killers and plan to transition to Tylenol later today. My Dad and I painted one of my living room walls 'Victorian Purple.' I have an interview for my college later this afternoon - I'm a Middlebury Alumni interviewer, meaning I interview applicants to my alma mater since they don't have on-campus interviews for everyone - it will be nice to get out of the house.
I had my vitals and blood taken yesterday - I was there 45 minutes before my appointment time and was admitted another hour after that - so, I think they're always busy. After the wait, I was in and out relatively quickly - I spoke to a nurse practioner about my anesthesia. Of course, when they drew my blood, I asked about what gauge needles they were using (21) in order to compare with what we bleed the rhinos (23).
Today was my lymphoscintigraphy - a process by which the lymphatic system is mapped through use of a radioactive isotope that was injected into my neck/jawline in four areas proximal to the melanoma. The needles here were 25 gauge. After several minutes passed - letting the isotope spread through my lymphatic system - a few five minute scans were taken using a SCENT CT (google failed me on that one) in order to find the sentinel lymph nodes (lymph nodes closest to the site of the melanoma and if my cancer has spread, the most likely to indicate as such). I will not know if the cancer has spread (or not!) until the tissue and lymph nodes are removed during surgery and tested (I've been told results will take a week). The technologist marked the two sentinel lymph nodes with blue paint (as shown below). I then had a 20 minute 3D full body scan - during which I fell asleep...hehe. This gives a much clearer image...blah blah blah. I asked questions, but it was a lot of information.
Surgery is tomorrow at 7:15 am. We have to be there at 5:15. Yay! My parents flew in just before my appointment today and we had a great dinner at Gino's. I'm very glad they will be there tomorrow. Time to pick out some cute underwear for tomorrow in case a nurse gets curious. ;) Who knows? Maybe I'll meet the love of my life.
I'll post another update as soon as I'm home.
I have finally finalized the design! They are ordered and on their way.
If you would like to donate $20 (or more!), e-mail Sean@RunningForRhinos.com (or go to Facebook) with your preferred size. I will then give you instructions on how to pay and when you can expect your shirt.
I have pledged a certain amount of money to Save the Rhino International - if I am unable to raise that much money, I must cover the difference myself. Thus, proceeds from the shirts will go to Save the Rhino International in the event that I do not have enough donors through my Donate page. Got it? Good. :) Ipso facto, if I do raise enough money through donations, the proceeds from the shirts will go to paying for my $1,000 flight to London.
I suppose the alternative title for this post could be "I Had Cancer, Part 1," but that remains to be seen. My surgery has been scheduled - it will be Friday 1/31 at 7:15 am. My parents should be getting here on Thursday. I have two pre-operative appointments this week - one on Wednesday for bloodwork and normal pre-op tests, and one on Thursday for lymphoscintigraphy - a procedure involving radioactive staining of my lymph nodes, so the surgeon can detect those closet to the melanoma site. It appears to involve multiple stinging injections, so that sounds fun! In any case, I'm glad I was scheduled so soon and hopefully all goes well and they do not find anything in the removed lymph nodes (though that apparently does not mean it hasn't spread...going to have to ask about this).