Thursday, November 12, 2009


That's right, everyone. I am D-O-N-E, done with cancer treatment. My five month journey (which actually turned out to be more like 7 1/2 months) has come to an end.

Just to recap the really significant dates:

March 24th: I found a lump in my breast.
March 27th: I had a needle biopsy performed.
March 31st: I receive a call telling me I have cancer.
April 1st: I meet my oncologist to go over what my treatment plan will be.
April 6th: I start the first of 8 rounds of chemo.
July 27th: I FINALLY finish a very long 3 1/2 months of chemo.
August 21st: I have my lumpectomy.
September 23rd: I begin the first of 35 rounds of radiation (every business day for 7 weeks).
November 10th: I have my last radiation treatment, thus completing my cancer treatment.

I'm sure I'll forget these dates someday, but for the moment they're burned into my memory. It has been a very long journey that I have looked forward to the end of for so very long!

Now I just keep asking myself, "what now?"

After my last treatment, the tech looked at me and said, "That's it! You're done! Congratulations! Now just schedule a follow-up for one month from now as you leave."

It's very odd to receive daily attention and treatment and then to suddenly hear, "See ya in a month." It's a little scary that I'm now the proprietor of my own health again. I did such a great job with that the first time....

Anyway, as I've said before, I was foolish to call this blog "Five Month Journey" because this journey is absolutely never going to end. It is life long even though the hardest, most taxing (at least physically) parts are now behind me. A relief for sure, but a source of fear as well.

I would like to thank all of you for your support, your words of encouragement, the gifts and cards that you've sent, the positive phone calls I've received, the visits from friends, the dinners you delivered, the constant willingness to help me in any way you were able, and the prayers whispered on my behalf. All of these things--each of you--are what made me strong through every step of this journey. Your support has not gone unnoticed and it will not be forgotten.

Thank you all!

Now I'm taking suggestions and requests for directions you'd like to see this blog take. It can't really be a step-by-step documentation of my cancer treatment anymore. So...suggestions?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Onward and Upward

Monday, November 2, 2009

This is simply amazing! It seems like daily there is a new article detailing a new advancement! There is so much promise and hope ahead!

Cheers and have a great week! I know I will. This is my last full week of treatment. I'm counting down until next Tuesday!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Final Stretch

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's a rainy, dreary Thursday afternoon, but I really can't complain. My blissful state of ease is largely due to the fact that today, I reached another small goal.

While I have 35 total radiation treatments, the first 27 are a little different than the last 8. The first 27 treatments cover the whole breast--from center of the sternum to the armpit to well above the breast and well below. The last 8 treatments, on the other hand, cover only the small area where the cancer was located.

I currently have a large blue square drawn on my breast that has to remain there until after my last treatment. It's a square directly around my scar and that is where the last 8 treatments will be directed.

Today marks the last of my first 27 treatments. I now only have the 8 more focused treatments to go! Yippee! Small victory!

Throughout the whole treatment schedule my symptoms have been minimal until this week. After last Friday's treatment I noticed a lot more skin redness and discomfort and as of today, my underarm, in particular, looks like I have a very very serious burn. However, if that's the only trouble I'm going to have....I'll TAKE it! I'll say it again...compared to chemo, these 27 treatments have been an absolute breeze.

In other news, my hair continues to grow--slower than I'd like, of course. I'm back at the gym daily, which is making me feel like I can regain some semblance of normalcy after all. And, I'm looking ahead to mid-November when I can finally say I'm done with treatment!

I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hair/Radiation Update

My cancer journey has been relatively boring lately, which is my lame-o explanation for why I'm not posting anything.

I am 17 treatments into radiation, which means I'm about halfway done. I'm still counting down to November 11th as the very end of treatment (also my parents' anniversary, so there are many things to celebrate that day). The radiation front is relatively boring though...

I'm not really having any side effects besides a little fatigue and a little skin redness and irritation. The prescription gel they gave me is working wonders and I'm so used to being tired all the time from the chemo that I barely even notice it with the radiation. Basically...radiation is a BREEZE if you've been through chemo and surgery already. the more interesting point. Hair.

Never in my 25 years of life have I gotten as many compliments on my hair as I have in the last 2 weeks. All of the following terms have been used to describe me and my hair (just in the last two weeks):

1. Chic
2. Adorable
3. Cute
4. Classy
5. Sexy
6. Fashion forward
7. And, one woman even said that I was the perfect example as to why it is such a shame that more women do not go for short hair these days. She said, "If all women looked as good as you do with short hair...that would be the standard."

I personally thought that last one was a bit over the top, but I was in a Starbucks and everyone seems to think of everyone else as a best friend or long lost soul mate when you're in Starbucks...I don't know why. Starbucks frequenters do tend to think of themselves as all things urban chic! Apparently, with this hair, I now "belong" at Starbucks.

Anyway, here's an updated picture. Just as a reminder, I completed chemo at the end of July and my hair had started back in just a little bit before I finished. This is about 3 months of hair growth.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

1/5 down...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

First, happy October. Second, I'm 1/5 of the way through radiation treatment. I'm 7 treatments down and 28 to go.

It's fall and the leaves are beginning to turn. As the leaves begin to fall away, I can't help but equate my cancer journey with the turning of the seasons.

In the spring, as the new growth began, a tumor was growing in my body.

As the summer heat poured into open doors and windows, and roasting humans ran into air conditioned homes to escape the to cold, hot to went my chemo. From extreme discomfort to feeling almost normal, and back again...I pivoted between chemo on and off weeks.

Now, as the fall comes, all that spring and summer had to offer is falling away--my cancer is falling away.

I'm in the final stage of treatment and this experience is fading. The flurry of phone calls, cards, and letters has stopped. The phrase, "I have cancer," has left my vocabulary because, in all technicality, I no longer HAVE cancer.

For six months, no matter how hard I tried to avoid it, cancer dominated my life and controlled my existence. Now, as that period of my life begins to fade away, I find myself temporarily floundering--searching for how I move past this and resume some sort of normalcy. I'm working on it...but for now, I seem to be alternating between elation, frustration, and maintaining the status quo...

Let me stop right there. I apologize. This post was reflective at best, self-indulgent at worst, and the moment has passed. The effervescent, perky optimist will return with the next post...I assure you. For now, goodnight and thank goodness the weekend is near! TGIF!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

And Radiation Begins...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I know, I know, I know...I haven't updated in quite some time, but truthfully there hasn't been anything to tell. Let me catch you up on the last couple of weeks...

Wednesday, September 16: I went in for my initial radiation visit. At this first visit, all they do is line you up and do a CT scan to figure out how you will be laying and where your treatment will be directed. Then...they tattoo you. Yes, I mean actual tattoos. I have four little tattoos, no bigger than a freckle. I have one on each side on my ribs, one on my chest and one right in the middle of my stomach. They aren't obvious or anything, but I will have them forever...they are tattoos after all.

Tuesday, September 22: I went back in thinking that I was starting radiation. I was wrong. At this visit, I simply had more preparation. This time they lined me up again based on my tattoos and took my "measurements." I can only assume that means they did something like calibrate the machine for me so they can put in my numbers and direct the radiation treatment to the right location. Then, they did x-rays and sent me on my merry way again.

Wednesday, September 23: I finally went in for my first actual radiation treatment. They scheduled me for every day at 11:20am, so I will be spending every lunch hour (for 35 working days) at the cancer center. On Mondays, I will see my radiation oncologist right after my radiation treatment and on Thursdays I will have blood work--I must say, I thought I was done with weekly blood draws. Bummer.

In the treatment, nothing touches me and I don't feel anything. I'm in there on the table for all of five minutes and then I'm done for the day. It's sort of anticlimactic. There is so much preparation and then the actual treatments are super short. I didn't notice any side effects after treatment #1.

Thursday, September 24-11:20am: I went in for my daily radiation--treatment #2. I had my first weekly blood draw and didn't bother staying for my results. They'll call me if I should be careful or concerned. 2 treatments down, 33 to go. Still no side effects. At this point, I'm getting pretty pumped and I am totally unconcerned with cancer treatment.

6:30pm: I head off to my kickball game. For those of you who do not know, I play adult recreational kickball. I had been incredibly excited to get back to playing and feel well enough to do so. In the first inning, I score a run and make a catch for an out. In the second inning, all goes well and we're winning 4-1. In the third inning, I kick's a good kick and I make it to 2nd base, but barely. I slide in to second and this is what happened-->

7:30pm: Joe makes it to the kickball field to pick me up and take me to the ER so I can get x-rays of my ankle. The ER doc told me that he didn't "think" it was broken, but there was so much swelling that it was hard to tell. He gave me a Loritab prescription and a brace, slapped an ice pack on me and sent me on my merry way telling me that if it didn't improve in a week, then I should get more x-rays because it might be broken. Thanks, doc. Noted.

Friday, September 25: I stay home from work to keep my foot iced and elevated, so I attempt to telecommute. The internet goes down in my office, so NO ONE ends up working. At least it was a good day to stay home with an injury. I went in for radiation treatment #3....on crutches. Sad day.

Saturday, September 26: Today, I have mostly just laid on my couch taking Loritab every 4-6 hours. I'm in quite a lot of pain, though it's nice that my pain is no longer cancer/cancer treatment related. I am VERY disappointed, however, that just as I get back on my feet playing kickball, playing soccer, and joining a bootcamp class at my gym, I get injured and have to take to the sidelines once more. I'm sick of the sidelines. I have never been a sidelines kind of girl. I'm one of those people who likes to be in the midst of the action, in the heart of the game. The sidelines don't feel right to me. I suppose I just have to get ALL of my medical setbacks out of the way in 2009 so 2010 can be a perfect, flawless year! :) So...hoping ER doc was right and it's just a bad sprain (no breaks), because I'm ready to be back on the horse figuratively speaking.

Just as a note, here are a couple of pictures of how the ankle is looking today....icky, I know. In fact, I think it looks considerably worse today than it did at the ER. The picture up above was taken at the ER. In the picture from the ER, the ankle is swollen, but it's just a knot on the outside. Now, it's black all over--down on the foot and on the inside and outside of the ankle. On top of that, the whole foot and ankle is swollen....I mean, it's huge. Here's one more picture (just below) for you to see the comparison. Both feet, side by side. Ewww....

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hair Regrowth Update

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I don't really have much to report at the moment. I met with my radiation oncologist on Thursday and we set up my first appointment for radiation treatments. It's scheduled for this coming Wednesday. The first appointment isn't really a treatment, it's when they mark you up and figure out where the radiation beams will be directed, but radiation will begin pretty promptly after that happens on Wednesday.

The only real update I have is a hair regrowth update. I've posted some pictures below. The first picture was taken 3 weeks ago and the second and third were taken today...that should show you just a little about the pace of growth. I tell that it has started back in, it can't grow fast enough. :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Labor Day Weekend

Sunday, September 6, 2009

This will be a very brief and quick update because there isn't really much to report yet. I had my first full week (last week) since March when I went all week without seeing a doctor. A little crazy to think about that actually....

I spent the week recovering, taking antibiotics to fight off what appeared to be a bit of an infection, and mostly just babying my new scars.

In the week to come, I have a follow-up appointment with my oncologist, who I haven't seen since my last chemo treatment at the end of July, and I have an appointment with my radiation oncologist. I'm told radiation traditionally starts 2-3 weeks after surgery and 3 weeks will be this coming Friday. My appointment with the doctor is Thursday, so who knows....I could be starting radiation as early as Friday or next Monday.

I'll know more about what is to come after my Tuesday and Thursday appointments, so I'll wrap it up here for now! More updates to come later in the week!

Oh....and in totally unrelated to cancer news...I got promoted at work! Cancer free, a promotion, and a raise, all in the same week! I've said it before and I'll say it again...after how the first 7-8 months of 2009 went...things can only get GOOD from here! It appears, so far, that good is going to be VERY GOOD! I can't wait for the rest of 2009! Bring it on!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Post-Surgery Updates

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Okay, so I was waiting to share this with everyone until I had all the information, which didn't actually happen until yesterday!

My surgeon got the pathology back and it definitely looks good! I am 100%, absolutely, cancer-free!! My surgeon got VERY clean margins in all directions...except one. It wasn't a large margin (larger margins are good) in that one place, however, it was still a clean one. In that one particular spot, my surgeon was within 5mm (yes, millimeters) of some precancerous cells. Though very small, 5mm still counts as a clean margin. The reason it has taken so long to determine this is that my surgeon wanted to wait until he had consulted with my radiation oncologist as to whether she believed it was enough of a margin to begin radiation. Had she disagreed, I would have needed to go back in for more surgery so they could take out more tissue.

After double checking with my radiation oncologist, she gave the go-ahead to start radiation because she feels that margin, though small, is plenty.

The pathology also showed some new and interesting stuff about the cancer itself. Everyone kept telling me that the cancer, as it appeared on the MRI, ultrasound and all other tests, had shrunk (due to chemo) down to about 1cm x 1cm. Well, pathology shows that the area amounting to 1x1 actually included that precancerous stuff I mentioned before. The good news is that precancerous cells are not technically cancer and there is no guarantee that those would become cancerous at all--they are a pretty good indicator, but it's by no means certain. Additionally, that 1x1 area included some other stuff that wasn't actually cancer--just darkened areas that appear on the tests. As it turns out....the actual cancer was only about 1mm!!! That is HUGE news! It speaks volumes for how effective the chemo was.

It is just so amazing to me that such a teeny tiny thing can cause so much trouble and fear!

Anyway, yesterday I went back in for a 1 week after-surgery follow-up and most of my sutures were removed. Some are internal and will just dissolve, but the ones on the ends of each incision had to be taken out. As a result, I'm pretty sore and uncomfortable today, but overall I'm healing up nicely.

My surgeon also seems to have done a FANTASTIC job of balancing the....aesthetic, if you will... with the necessary. I'm going to have two pretty rockin' scars, 3 inches a piece--one in my armpit and one across the top of my breast, but I really think they're not going to be that noticeable! And just between us...and the rest of the internet-reading can't even tell I had an area of 9 square cm removed. :)

So, what's next, you may ask? Well, I meet with my radiation oncologist in 2 weeks and will start radiation 2-3 weeks from now. In two weeks, I will be released to resume all normal physical activity (soccer, running, etc.) and my hair seems to be growing back quickly and filling in pretty well! I'm looking forward to rockin' the pixie hair cut this winter! I hear it's in these days.

I am not sure of what my radiation treatment schedule will be or how many treatments I will need quite yet. That will be something I find out at my upcoming appointment on the 10th, but so far...the good news keeps coming, we're keeping the positive vibes flowing, and I'm hoping to continue healing up nicely!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

In Recovery

Sunday, August 23, 2009

One more stop along the journey is complete! On Friday, as planned, I had my surgery--a lumpectomy with sentinel node biopsy. The result? The best one could hope for.

After completing the surgery, my surgeon reported that he believes he got clean margins around the cancer, though we will not know that for a fact until later this week when the pathology comes back. If for some reason the samples of the surrounding tissue do not come back clean, I would have to go back in for more surgery. At this time, however, the surgeon seems optimistic in the belief that the cancer is out and the margins are clean.

As for the sentinel lymph nodes and other lymph nodes in the armpit, they look good. The sentinel node biopsies showed no cancer in the lymph nodes! They remove the sentinel nodes anyway as a precaution, but it was not necessary for my surgeon to remove any more of them due to the fact that the biopsies were clean!

In short, I had the least intrusive, most successful surgery one can have when it comes to breast cancer. I will be keeping my fingers crossed that all samples come back looking good this week and if they do, it is on to step 3--radiation treatment.

In other news, my hair is really starting to come back now. The first picture was taken in the midst of chemo treatment and the second and third were taken today. It's still very short, but it's definitely coming back--and it's coming back brown. Of course, I have no idea what it was naturally before, so this may or may not be a change. :) It's very wispy and fine and it seems to be almost wavy since it doesn't seem to be inclined to lay down in one direction. We shall see.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

T Minus 24 Hours

Thursday, August 20, 2009

6:30am: In exactly 24 hours, I will be arriving at the Medical Center for my surgery. Needless to say, I could use your thoughts, prayers, and good vibes between now and tomorrow afternoon when I wake up from the anesthetic! Send them my way if you have a few to spare! :) I'm getting pretty nervous about the whole thing.

In totally unrelated-to-cancer news...I got a promotion at work! It's something I'm very excited about and I'm anticipating starting in the new role as a healthy, strong breast cancer survivor.

Again, I hope you'll keep thinking about me today and tomorrow. I truly believe...really, I KNOW, that it is all of you--your prayers, your kind thoughts, your well-wishes, and your confidence--that have helped me through this!

Have a wonderful Thursday and a fabulous restful weekend, All!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Another Reason for a Daily Glass of Wine

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

After I complete the second step in this process, the surgery, I will need to move on to Step 3: Radiation Treatment. If you've been following the blog then you know I had pretty extensive and pretty awful side effects with chemo, so needless to say, I've been a little worried about what the new side effects will be with radiation.

Well, today I found this article, which discusses the fact that a glass of wine each day can help reduce the intensity and severity of radiation side effects in breast cancer patients. Awesome.

Read it! It's very interesting.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Step 2: Surgery

Monday, August 17, 2009

Last week, I underwent all of my follow-up testing, which I believed would be entirely NOT interesting and totally expected. I was mistaken. What resulted was a stressful week that ended well, but was pretty emotionally tumultuous as it happened.

Friday, August 7, 2009: I arrived at the Medical Center (different than the Cancer Center) early in the morning expecting to check in at Outpatient Registration, head to the Breast Center, have a mammogram, followed by an ultrasound, followed by a breast MRI up in Radiation. This didn't exactly happen. I arrived, only to be told that I would not be having my ultrasound that day and would need to reschedule for the following Tuesday. "They" explained to me that "they" prefer to do the ultrasound after the mammogram and MRI results are received and interpreted. This made sense to me, but it inspired the question: Why did my surgeon's office schedule them all on the same day if I shouldn't have them all on the same day?

Monday, August 10, 2009: I had a relatively restful weekend. I wasn't really worried at all about my results as I wasn't done with the testing yet. In the afternoon, I received a call from my surgeon's office (not my surgeon) and was told that my MRI and Mammogram were clean and good. I asked what they showed in terms of progress and shrinking the tumor. She said, "I'm not sure." That seemed silly to me as I thought that was one of the primary purposes of the follow-up testing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009: I go in for my ultrasound. Again, I'm totally not worried because my surgeon's office has already told me that I'm fine--nothing new or questionable.
Note: It is so important to remember that "surgeon's office" is NOT synonymous with "surgeon." I like my surgeon. I trust my surgeon.

To my shock and less than thrilled amazement, I am taken back to the procedure room and the tech says to me, "Now, we're going to do a bilateral diagnostic ultrasound and we're going to focus on the area where the cancer is and on the suspicious area in the other breast." Hold the phone! Suspicious area? No one had said ANYTHING about a NEW suspicious area until this point. I was pissed. I was scared. She does the ultrasound with me freaking out. She asks me to wait (due to the fact that she KNOWS I'm freaking out) and she has the radiologist review the images right then and there. The tech comes back in and tells me the radiologist looked at it and determined it's just a cyst--definitely fluid filled and nothing to worry about. I breathe a deep sigh of relief.

I then went up to the surgery department to get my pre-surgery blood work done. I was told that if my white blood cell counts were not 3.0 or higher, I would have to postpone surgery. At this point, I'm totally not worried. I'm still a week and a half out from surgery and my counts never rebound until 3 weeks after chemo, which was still a week away.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009: Again, I am 100% not worried about receiving a call from my surgeon's office. I have already been told we're fine. I was looking forward to discussing whether we would just remove the cyst or aspirate it. That is the ONLY reason I was waiting on the call from the office. In the afternoon, I get a call, again, not from my surgeon, just from the office. I am told that the ultrasound has caused concern over what "might be a cyst" on the right side. I am told I need to go in for a "biopsy" the following morning. She also throws in there the fact that my blood counts are too low and we may have to postpone surgery. More stress!
Let's pause for a moment: This is when I freak out. I am fully aware that you need solid tissue in order to perform a needle biopsy. That would suggest that it is NOT actually a cyst and upon further examination, the radiologist must have determined that there was solid tissue, not just fluid. I spend the rest of the day and night crying and not sleeping, thinking that I am starting this horrible process all over again.

Thursday, August 13, 2009:
I arrive for my "biopsy" holding back tears, and the tech says to me, "So you know why you're here? We're going to aspirate the cyst and if it doesn't aspirate fully--if tissue remains--then we will need to biopsy that, but I don't think that will happen." At this point, I am confused. I tell her what my surgeon's office conveyed to me and that I thought I was there for a biopsy. She tells me I'm not. The procedure is actually called a "full aspiration with possible biopsy."Notice that word--possible--in there. Yeah, that makes a huge difference. Once again, a little annoyed with my surgeon's office, but not my surgeon.

They fully aspirated the cyst--and yes, it was absolutely a cyst. It's gone now.

Monday, August 17, 2009: It wasn't until today that I got a call from my surgeon's office asking if I understood that everything was fine now--in reference to the NOT biopsy cyst removal. I said yes. I think I only got the call because I had faxed them the blood work I had done at the Cancer Center this morning. The good news? My blood counts are high enough to go ahead with the surgery on Friday.

So, in short, after over a week of stress and worry over blood counts, new lumps, and all kinds of things, turns out I was right from the beginning to NOT worry. My blood counts are fine. The cancer is less than 1cm x 1cm. The total area of tissue they will remove will be about 3cm x 3cm and there are NO NEW TUMORS! Good news all around.

I'll see you next week, on the other side of surgery. Surgery will be this Friday--a lumpectomy, as planned, with sentinel node biopsy! See you soon...cancer free!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cancer: The Grand Motivator

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Today I had lunch with the Susan G. Komen Public Policy Coordinator for Kansas. Not only did we discuss my desire to get involved as an ambassador--to speak to young women and groups across the state about my experience and the Komen mission--but we chatted about my story. We chatted about what I can share.

My God, if no reason can be found in this experience--and it can't, for the very disease is senseless--then I should at least be able to help others as a result of my journey.

Today, I also found this quote:

"Women agonize... over cancer; we take as a personal threat the lump in every friend's breast." ~Martha Weinman Lear, Heartsounds

After lunch today, never have I hoped so much that this quote rings true for all. For the women I know, young or old, I hope that my experience has, if nothing else, reinforced that this disease is age blind, color blind, and blind to socioeconomic status. We are all in this together. I want my experience, my challenging and painful experience, to mean something to those who know me.

If just one woman--just one of you, or your mothers, or your sisters, or your friends--remembers this blog and remembers my story when they find that devastating little lump, then this has all been worth it. If just one of you remembers my experience when your mammograms come back with irregularities, then this has all been worth it. If just one of you remembers my experience and it inspires you to take control of your own medical destiny, then this has all been worth it. And, if just one of you, particularly those women in my peer group, are inspired to start doing monthly self-breast exams, then this has ABSOLUTELY all been worth it.

I am motivated and I am committed.

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face." -Eleanor Roosevelt

Happy August, Happy Wednesday

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Today marks exactly 4 months since my first chemo treatment and a little over 4 months since I received my diagnosis on March 31, 2009. Sadly, my "five-month journey" is going to be a little longer than that if I include the radiation after surgery in the count. As it stands now, I should be totally done with all treatment by the end of October.

This coming Friday, August 7th, I have my after chemo, follow-up tests: a mammogram, an ultrasound, and an MRI. I must admit I'm not looking forward to any of these tests because they're a bit uncomfortable, but I'm also anxiously awaiting the results. It's sort of driving me crazy not knowing exactly how effective those 8 chemo treatments were. I'm relatively sure I won't know anything on Friday. I'm sure I'll have to wait a few days for the results, but I'm ready to have that next step out of the way.

When the results are in, I will have one more follow-up appointment with my surgeon and then the surgery itself, which is now only 2 weeks and 2 days away--but who is really counting?

In the meantime, I'm trying to stay relaxed and stress-free (it's only kind of working) and keep myself in good health in preparation for surgery. My blood counts were very low this week, so I'm avoiding sick people at all costs and washing my hands so often they're raw...but it's 100% worth it if I can avoid any more health concerns before surgery.

Tonight, I'm taking relaxation and health to a whole new level and I'm going to take a yoga class. I'm pretty excited about it. I've also started running again in an attempt to start getting back in shape. I'm slowing stepping back into life as usual--predictable and normal never sounded so good!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Medical Fun Facts

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I'd like to give a shout out to my friend, Jeremy, in L.A. He sent me this article detailing exciting prospects for cancer treatment in the future. Though the bulk of the article is regarding colon cancer, the final paragraph mentions the potential implications on breast tumors! I highly suggest it. It's an interesting read.

Thanks Jeremy! And check out his blog here! He always has an interesting take...always a fun read!

Monday, July 27, 2009

That's All Folks!

Monday, July 27, 2009

That's right, my friends...I am 100% done with chemo. I have, as of today, completed 8 of 8 chemo treatments and my doctor thinks very successfully so.

I must say, it feels odd to celebrate this moment when it's only the completion of the second step of this process--assuming that the first step was the road to diagnosis and my treatment plan. I know I still have surgery and radiation to get through, but this was the longest and most draining portion of the whole process so I can't help but be a bit elated.

At the same time that my giddiness has overtaken me, there are somber undertones to my mood. All along the way, I thought that the fear I was experiencing--fear of this unknown process--was about as intense as it was going to get. Now, as I near the end, and make my surgical decisions, it's the fear of making the wrong decision and having to live this experience all over again that literally keeps me awake at night.

As I stand in these shoes that so many women have walked their journey in before me, I stand fearful. I now completely understand why women make the decision to do a bilateral mastectomy whether the statistical advantage supports their decision or not. I can see how it would be worth it for the peace of mind and a life lived without daily fear--and of course, there is the resulting tummy tuck when they do the reconstruction since they take the tissue from your abdomen! :) I suppose it has its advantages, but it also means that you undergo two very serious surgeries--the bilateral mastectomy and the reconstruction. Even with a single mastectomy, it's the same story--two serious surgeries.

What I'm essentially sharing with you is my realization that this will be a lifelong struggle to not live in constant fear of experiencing this again. "Five month journey" naive of me. Five (a little more really) months of treatment, yes, but the journey has no end.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to be done with chemo and to have my Picc line out--they pulled it out right there in the chair when I was done--but let's just say that I feel as if I'm jinxing myself if I celebrate this victory TOO much. That said, I plan to celebrate a little! My dear friend, Kristen, surprised me with balloons, cookie cake, and a necklace. Joe, Kristen, and I had a little party amongst ourselves and Joe and my mom took me out to dinner afterwards to celebrate as well.

Have no fear! I will relish the happy moment and I will hope and pray that my good fortune continues. It is much to ask, but I hope that all of you will do the same. I know when it appears that the eminent danger has passed, it is easy to relax away, but I continue to need your prayers and positive thoughts. I hope I have them! Each of you are absolutely in mine! The kindness all of you have shown is overwhelming and I will never for a moment forget that it is all of you who are carrying me through this.

My love and respect to each of you!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I'm Going to Be On TV!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

So, I've said this before...this cancer thing presents interesting advantages and opportunities. One such opportunity is occurring today.

It figures that the only time I'd ever be asked to be on TV, I'd be out of shape, bald, and missing my eyebrows and eyelashes. Today, Tuesday, July 21, I am going to be on the mid-day show on our local Channel 41 (The Spot) to promote Mammopalooza, an event for my kickball division. I'm supposed to be there at 10:45, so maybe it's an 11ish type thing...I don't really know.

I was the inspiration for Mammopalooza, so they want me to go on and tell my story of dealing with breast cancer (at least that's what they told me...who knows what will really happen).

Anyway...I'm going to be on TV, so if you're around and able, tune it to watch and then tell me later that the camera does NOT add 10 lbs and I looked fabulous! :)

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Thursday, July 9, 2009

I wish I could say I'm just writing one of my usual updates, but today, I have other motives!!

As many of you may know and many of you may not, my husband and I used to live in Los Angeles. When we moved there, we quickly found the world of adult kickball as a means for social interaction and basically just something to do on a Monday night. Through our division in L.A., we found a great deal more than we expected--we found a fun activity, a social circle, and lasting friends. For this reason, it was only natural that when we moved to Kansas City a little over a year ago, we would seek out the same kind of activity and social circle. Indeed, we found that Kansas City also had a World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA) kickball division and we promptly signed up. Joe and I participated in one full season last fall and as spring 2009 approached, we were greatly looking forward to playing another season on a brand new team called El Guapo!

Sadly, as you can guess, just as the season began, I received my diagnosis. I have been unable to play in this kickball season (though I did make it to one game), despite my name still being on our roster. That gosh darn breast cancer--always getting in the way and screwing stuff up. It's always the damn cancer! :)

WAKA kickball, though a fun and social activity, also requires each division to select a charity each season that they will raise and donate money for. When I had to withdraw from the season, I made a suggestion to our division's president that our charity for this season be Susan G. Komen for the Cure-the Kansas City affiliate!!! They took my advice. This season we have been raising money for this charity that I now hold so very close to my heart. What's more...THEY'RE DOING IT IN MY NAME, so what I'm about to ask of you is even more important to me!

As you may or may not know, Susan G. Komen raises money for breast cancer awareness and research to find a cure. You SHOULD know since I frequently mention this particular charity on this blog...but this brings me to my point!!! Our kickball division is doing something called Mammopalooza in order to raise money for the charity! Check out the website below for the details.

Just click on the "Donate" button to donate. Make sure you include your name AND my husband and I's team name in the "purpose" field.
Joe and I play for "EL GUAPO"! It is vitally important that you include our team name so that our team gets the credit, because yes...there is a reward. They primary reward is the good feeling you get from giving to a good cause, but you're also helping Joe and I to get our next season of kickball free!

It's incredibly easy to donate...just click a button and input some info online. You just input your credit card info and it's completely secure. I assure you!

So yes....I am totally that person who asks you to donate money to the cause I'm supporting, but really please consider it!!! You can donate $1.00 or $100.00...or more if you want! :) Anything you can afford and want to share is appreciated! Trust me, I totally understand if you want to let this one pass you by! Just making you aware of the opportunity to give!

Thanks everyone for humoring me on this one! Consider it! THE DEADLINE TO GIVE IS JULY 31, 2009!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Inevitably Long Catch-UP Blog Post

Tuesday, June 23, 2009: I make the most amazing discovery as shown to me by my mother-in-law. On the Ithaca Sports website, she found a vacuum sealed water proof sleeve made specifically for picc lines like mine. I immediately ordered it and had it overnighted with the hope that it would allow me to get in the pool and ocean during our Mexico trip without worry.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009: I go in for Picc care/line flush and to get my dressings changed on my arm before heading off to Mexico for 5 nights. I ask them what they think about my find (in the mail at that time), and they tell me, "Oh yeah, we've heard of those...we just don't ever mention them because we used to and people didn't like how expensive they were." For reference, it was $37.00--well worth it if what it claims is do is what it really does.

Friday, June 26-Wednesday, July 1, 2009: Joe and I meet his parents and several of their friends for a 5 night stay in an all-inclusive resort 15 minutes outside Playa del Carmen. It was a much needed vacation, as the only decisions I had to think about or make were what to order for meals and what drinks to order from the swim up bar. We had a couple of days of clouds and a couple of days of sun. It was a nice balance that kept me from overdoing my sun exposure. It was FANTASTIC!

Saturday, July 4, 2009: Happy Independence Day to everyone! I hope everyone had a fun and safe July 4th celebration. I joined friends of ours for a low-key, children welcome, cookout from one friend's parents' house in Lenexa where you can see 4 or 5 fireworks displays from their balcony. One of the husbands made the comment, "Wow, our get-togethers have really changed. We now spend more time keeping the babies and kids alive than we do drinking and talking about ourselves." How right he was. We had two 2-year-olds present and three babies. Children, children everywhere.

Monday, July 6, 2009: After three weeks of feeling progressively better (since my last chemo treatment on June 15) and ALMOST forgetting that I'm in cancer treatment, I returned to the Cancer Center for chemo treatment #7 of 8. I had mixed feelings about this one. While I am really getting impatient and really ready to have them over with, I was felling SO MUCH better than I could remember feeling in a very long time. I knew that a treatment meant the end of that feeling for a while. This was my first 3 week break between chemos--this occurred for two reasons. Originally, when I was supposed to be taking Taxol--recall that's the one I had an allergic reaction to after my first treatment, so they took me off of it and moved me to Taxotere--they were just going to push my treatment back a week to let me go to Mexico safely with high white blood cell and red blood cell counts. However, now that I'm on Taxotere, it doesn't really matter. On Taxotere, you have to wait three weeks between each treatment anyway. So far, there is simply not enough research out there for my doctor to feel comfortable giving me a more concentrated treatment (i.e. the two week apart treatments like I've been used to). There is research to that effect with patients receiving Adriamycin, Cytoxin, and Taxol--all the other drugs they've had me on--but not this one, not Taxotere, so the three week apart treatments will be my standard for what remains.

I was not aware of this until I met with my oncologist at yesterday's treatment. Therefore, I am torn about this. I mean, I know a lot of breast cancer patients traditionally have to wait 3 weeks between EVERY treatment, so I have been fortunate to have it go so quickly for this long, but I've had this thought, "I'll be done with chemo on July 20th" in my head for WEEKS now, so to learn that it will be pushed back a week--8th and last chemo treatment will now be held on Monday, July 27th--is a little disappointing (I might have cried, just for a minute or two). This also means my surgery will be pushed back a week to the week of August 17th. It's tentatively scheduled for that week and we'll be able to firm up an exact date very soon.

I suppose that's the "bad" news if you can even call it that, so what's the "good" news you might ask? The good news is that my oncologist can now not find the lump on a physcial exam either. He was the last remaining one (of myself, my husband, my surgeon, my nurse practitioner, and my oncologist) who could still find the mass. He officially, as of yesterday, could not find it and had nothing to measure. It's now time to just let these last two treatments shrink it further and let the MRI that will come later tell my surgeon what he needs to take out.

The last time I saw my oncologist was prior to my 5th treatment and this time I saw him just before receiving my 7th. This means that after letting treatments number 5 and 6 take their effect and do their work, the affected area, which before treatment 5 measured at 3cm x 3 cm on a physical exam, can now not be measured AT ALL on a physical exam. Remember, the "affected area" is not the cancer--it includes scar tissue, etc. around the cancer. We won't know how big the cancer is until we see it on an MRI. This is very excited news--with my doctor doing physical exams every 2 or 4 weeks, we have gone from 8cm x 8cm affected area prior to my first treatment, to 3cm x 3cm prior to my fifth treatment, to being able to find nothing at all on my physical exam prior to my seventh treatment. And...don't forget, we still have the effects of two full treatments to shrink this puppy down further. My doctors couldn't be more pleased with my progress!!!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009: As for today, I have an appointment with a radiation oncologist. At this point, it appears that a lumpectomy is still going to be the best option for me, but I'm essentially getting a third specialist's opinion on this--the first woman's opinion I might add. She will talk to me about what to expect after either having a lumpectomy or a single mastectomy--timelines, side effects, etc. I will learn how long after my surgery I could begin such treatments and so on and so forth. After today's appointment, I will be able to call up my surgeon and get on MRI scheduled for sometime between around August 3-August 14. That will be one to two weeks prior to surgery and it will allow my 8th treatment, to be held on July 27 take some effect before we get that FINAL picture. Assuming that MRI reveals nothing surprising--KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED AND KEEP THE GOOD VIBES, THOUGHTS, AND PRAYERS COMING FOR THAT MRI TO GO WELL AND REVEAL NO SURPRISES! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!--then my lumpectomy will proceed as planned.

It's so exciting how close I am to getting to the end. One more chemo, one HOPEFULLY simple, out-patient surgery, and an indeterminate number of rounds of radiation (I'm told this will be a walk in the park as compared to what I've already been through with chemo). My challenges with daily feelings of stress and anxiety, and my daily struggle with battling away low feelings that would do nothing but hinder my healing seem so close to coming to a close. Intellectually, I know that fear and anxiety about this ever happening to me again (or to someone I love) will NEVER really go away--and that neither my physical nor emotional battles are over yet, but I can't help but feel a little elated! Just one more! Just one more!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sad, Pathetic, Little Eyebrows

I've never had much brow to speak of, but over the last two days, my eyebrows have fallen out significantly. Has anyone ever seen "Delirious" with John Candy. If not, go out and rent it immediately. It's hilarious.

There is a moment in that movie when one of the characters (due to a prescription drug he's been given) is rubbing his eyebrow and it falls off entirely....that's how I feel over the last few days.

It's a whole new face to look at all over again. The reason losing the hair on your head is so traumatic is that you don't recognize the person in the mirror. Well, this isn't nearly as much hair and isn't quite so dramatic a change, but as the eyelashes and eyebrows fall out, I just look less and less like myself. Fortunately for me, the blond wig has bangs that cover the eyebrows and giant sunglasses are in! Looks like I'm going for this look from now until my eyebrows grow back-->
Well, maybe not the weird 1920s-esque headband or the extensive use of blue, but you know what I mean.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer Days...Slippin' Away

Monday, June 22, 2009

So, call me lazy...and you'd likely be justified in doing so...but I'm reducing my postings to once each week on Mondays. I'm simply not interesting enough to post more than that. At first, as news was coming in day by day, every day, I could keep up with it, but this is simply no longer the case. As I truck along, chipping away at chemo treatments one by one, the action is really only on a weekly basis.

The latest:

On Thursday, I had my first follow-up surgery consultation. This is very exciting. It is a follow-up because my initial consultation was back at the end of March when all of this started, but it's really my first surgery appointment leading up to the actual surgical event.

My surgeon has been getting updates from my oncologist all this time, so he was up to speed and "very excited" about my response to the chemo. Guess what!!! He couldn't find it on a physical exam!!! I have no doubt that my oncologist will be able to find it--he apparently has an uncanny ability to track down cancer lumps, no matter how small or difficult to find--but my surgeon couldn't find it. This is awesome news!

The surgical schedule:

So, we discussed date and surgery plan. They like to wait three weeks after a chemo treatment to do surgery. This lets your body recover--your body is better able to fight infection (i.e. white blood cell counts go back up) and you stop bleeding and bruising so easily (i.e. red blood cell counts and platelet counts go back up). Three weeks after my last chemo (July 20) puts us at the week of August 10th. For any of you who have spoken to me about this, I'm REALLY ready to have this thing out of my body, so if we're looking at the week of August 10, I'm hoping it will be scheduled for Monday, August 10, first surgery of the day.

The surgery itself:

My surgeon agrees with my oncologist--I am a good candidate for a lumpectomy. So, barring some crazy occurrence like more cancer showing up in the same breast between now and August 10 in the midst of my undergoing chemo treatment, then lumpectomy it is. While I am under anesthetic, they will also take that opportunity to biopsy the sentinel lymph nodes. Sentinel nodes are the lymph nodes in the closest armpit that most commonly the cancer would spread to first. They will biopsy nodes to determine whether any nasty little cancer cells have moved in to your closest nodes--if yes, then they will biopsy and remove as many as they need to until they get clean and healthy ones only. They do all this--biopsy, run pathology, and remove if necessary--while you are under anesthetic so you only have to do under once. Obviously, the more lymph nodes they have to remove (if any), the more serious the surgery and the longer recovery time.

Best case scenario: Lumpectomy and node biopsy only.
Recovery time: Outpatient surgery, back at work 48 hours later.

Keep your fingers crossed that we land on best case scenario!!! Keep those prayers and well-wishes coming!

Between now and then:

I will be having a consultation with a radiation oncologist in two weeks to discuss how radiation works and what the after surgery plan will be and I will be getting an MRI scheduled for a week or two after my final chemo just to see where we stand. That will give my surgeon a clear picture of what we're dealing with going in to the surgery. There will also be a radiologist present during surgery with an ultrasound machine so they know what they're looking at. They need to be able to see what's going on so they're sure to get all of the cancer and enough of the surrounding tissue. There is some amount of guess work involved in it--unfortunate but true. In short, July is the month when stuff will start to happen. My last two chemos will be in July, my second MRI, my radiation oncologist appointment, another surgical consultation and getting my surgery on the schedule.

We're nearly there! I'm hanging in there, but getting antsy to be cancer-free!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Rain in Maine Falls Mainly....Everywhere

Monday, June 15, 2009

As Joe said in his previous guest post, I spent all last week (June 6-June 14) in Maine staying in a the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. Yes, I really did stay in a working lighthouse. While this was a very cool experience, internet and cell phone service were not readily available. Therefore, no posts. Let me also go ahead and inform you that there will be a lull in posts at the end of this month as well. So...if there's a week later on this month in which I go one worry...I'm fact, I'll be more than fine. I'll be on vacation again on the beaches of Mexico.

As for the cancer updates. Yes indeedy folks, today I had my 6th...count 'em...SIXTH...chemo treatment. That means there are only two to go. It went off without a hitch, but of course there are many more days for me to develop problems and side effects. I say this because while on vacation in Maine last week, I developed some unfortunate side effects as a result of chemo treatment number five which took place on June 1.

It has been a trend throughout the treatment cycles that I have treatment on a Monday (every other one to be exact) and by the following Thursday or Friday, I have developed some odd side effect or problem (recall the tales of elbow incidents, odd infections, flu-like symptoms, and now...rashes). Yes, it's true, I developed a rash just a day and a half before I left for Maine. Being the vacation party animal that I am, I made it a point to go running into the doctor on Friday to make sure I could get it taken care of before leaving for Maine on Saturday morning. I did NOT want my first vacation since my honeymoon to be ruined by red blotches and feeling itchy all over my arms, legs, hands, feet, stomach, and chest. It was a pretty mild rash...kind of I wasn't too worried about getting it taken care of with a quick steroid. Sure enough...Doc prescribed me a steroid pack (one of those where you take 7 pills the first day, 6 the second, 5 the third...and so on until they're gone) and I was on my way.

Skip forward to day 7 of the steroid pack when you're supposed to take only 1 pill.

On day 7, also known as Wednesday while in Maine on vacation, I broke out in the rash again, except this time it was way worse, truly covering my whole body in ugly, LARGE, red blotches. Additionally, my hands and feet swelled up and on my hands and feet, the bumps kind of merged together into huge red blotches and started to raise up. This is not good.

Me being resourceful as I am, I called the cancer center from the one corner in the lighthouse where I could find cell phone service and awaited a call back. I described in detail what I was experiencing and according to the Doc, I was having an allergic reaction to the Taxol (yes, that is the same drug I went on and on about because it was SO MUCH better than my A/C treatments). Sad for me...I am allergic to that particular chemo drug. He prescribed another 7 day steroid pack to be started same day. They called in the prescription to the closest RiteAide in Maine for me and I began the pack same day...if you're following along on my day counts, that means it was Day 7 of pack 1 and Day 1 of pack 2, which means I took 8 steroids in one day and several Benedryl tabs to stop the itching.

By day 6 of pack 2, my rash was finally gone. It was gone from my chest, back, head, face, and stomach by Day 2, gone from my legs by day 4, and finally left my hands by day 5. My feet were the hold outs. Day 6 (also known as yesterday)...the rash was finally gone from my feet.

Today was Day 7 of the second steroid pack and Day 2 of my pre/post chemo steroid prescription. Yes, more steroids. Doc prescribed steroids for the day before, the day of, and the day after chemo as well, just as added precaution. One tablet, twice daily, the day before, day of, and day after. On top of all those steroids taken by mouth, they administered a bag of steroids intervenously at chemo today as well. I should be able to hit like Manny Ramirez by this point.

Note: My husband just asked me (in all seriousness) if I knew I was getting a different kind of steroid. Yes. I am aware. It was a joke...clearly lost on some people. Sheesh...tough crowd.

Okay, on to the actual chemo from today.

So, after all those drug reactions, the doc decided Taxol is not the drug for me. Therefore, I am now on a different chemo drug very much like Taxol, but about 10 times the cost. Fortunately for me, I have met my annual health insurance maximum, so it is my insurance company, not me, who will be disappointed by this news.

Here's the breakdown. New drug called Taxotere (or Docetaxel). All the same potential side effects as Taxol, though they are less likely with this one. I can only assume the difference is something comparable to drinking moonshine versus top shelf vodka. Both mean you'll have a rough morning, but you might make it out of bed with the top shelf. The usual will occur...decrease in white blood cell, platelet, and red blood cell counts, bone pain, flu-like symptoms, fluid retention, tingling in the hands and feet, mouth ulcers, and hair loss--as always. The more uncommon side effects are allergic reaction, nausea, and other such stomach and skin problems. This is all very good news. The bad stuff is unlikely and I'm supposed to be much less tired on this one!!!! Yippee!

Also on a note of good news, I don't have to get my Neulasta injections anymore. For all 5 treatments prior to today (treatment #6), I had to go in the day after chemo and get a Neulasta injection, which would help rebuild bone marrow and restore white blood cell counts. Well, when I went in today and they did my bloodwork, my WBC level was about 29. For reference, your WBC is normal between about 4 and 10. This means, mine was about 3-7 times what it should be. I usually run at about a mine was about 4 times what I normally am. Result? No more Neulasta for me. No wonder I spent about 2 full days after treatment number 5 crying on my couch in agonizing bone pain. Sheesh!

Basically, another chemo down, another doctor visit resulting in positive news, and Thursday I look forward to finally meeting again with my surgeon. I haven't seen him since April 1, so it will be nice to get back in there and get a surgery date set. We also will discuss whether a lumpectomy or a mastectomy is the way to go for me and he may order some tests so we can get a clear picture of what we're dealing with. No one has actually SEEN the tumor since April, so it will be nice to see the progress. Keep your fingers crossed for a PET, MRI, ultrasound, or mammogram being ordered!

Well, I think that's it. That's the news as it stands and I leave you with my favorite couple of pictures from my 9 days in Maine. If ever you find yourself in a mentally draining period of your life, consider going there. It was rejuvenating to say the least. I took close to 300 pictures, but I'm going to share just a few of my favorites with you.

The flowers are called Lupines. They are wildflowers that grow all over Maine. I saw pink, purple, and white ones and I'm absolutely obsessed with them. I wonder if I can get them to grow here.

The building is the lighthouse where we stayed and the ocean is off behind it in the picture. It was unarguably quaint and had a flawless view of the Atlantic. At night, it was pitch black except for the moon reflecting off the water when there was no cloud cover. The only other source of light was the one rotating beacon of light about 50 feet from my window, which shone in at about 5 second intervals.

The final picture is of the view up one coast from the lighthouse, which is where we spent a great deal of our time. I would sit and drink my coffee each morning, looking out at the sun splashed water, and at the lobster fisherman collecting their traps just off the coast. The seagulls would swarm around them in hopes of catching a bite, and the cool, crisp, ocean breeze would flow in the open windows and doors. Flawless.

The Chronicles of the Spouse - The Mainening

I just wanted to let everyone know that Megan is doing fine. She hasn't updated her blog in like, forever, because she didn't have access to the internet all last week. We took a little vacation up to Maine and apparently the Intertoobs haven't reached all the way up there yet. I'm sure she's got something in the works for everyone, probably a few words about a weird rash that she got from the new chemo drugs, but I'll let her tell that (I know, I know, cliffhangers suck) story on her own.

I think I've said this to everyone, but while I wouldn't ever wish cancer on anyone, I would certainly hope that any cancer experience is a lot like ours. We have been extremely fortunate to have great doctors and awesome friends to take care of us. Cancer isn't fun, ever, but the situation has been made exponentially easier because of the people who surround us.

Anyway, she has her 6th chemo today (6/8), so we're getting close to the end of the First Act. Surgery (Second Act) will be in August and then 30 more days of radiation (Third Act) will follow that. We're not done yet, but there is a pinprick of light at the end of this tunnel.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Progress for Everyone, Progress for Me

Monday, June 1, 2009

I have mentioned Susan G. Komen for the Cure on here before and I have mentioned American Cancer Society as well. These are by no means the only quality organizations out there raising money for cancer research, but they are two of the best. Susan G. Komen for breast cancer specifically, and ACS for cancer in general, are causes that ANYONE could get behind and really who of us couldn't use another tax write off?

So...if knowing someone with cancer and your wanting to do good and give something back isn't enough of a reason for you to donate to such a cause, read this article that I found today on my Google news feed.

This is the kind of research that your money goes to when you give to these types of organizations. Please read the whole article because this is a truly exciting breakthrough.

For those of you who don't really have a clear understanding of what chemo does, let me break it down. Chemotherapy attacks rapidly reproducing cells, which basically means it attacks your DNA and destroys the cells that aren't supposed to be there (i.e. cancer cells). This has been shown to be very effective obviously. Radiation works in much the same way, it's just more targeted. But Megan, you may ask...why does cancer come back if chemo and radiation kills all the cells? Cancer is very agressive because it's basically a has evolved. Enzymes called PARP enzymes allow cancer to remain because they repair the damage done to the DNA by chemo and radiation. Damn those PARPs!

The drug discussed in this article is the first effective one of its kind, designed to block those PARP enzymes. Thus...chemo and radiation kill the cells and damages the DNA (On purpose! It's a good thing!), this drug blocks the enzymes that WOULD be there to repair the DNA, and ideally prevents the cancer from ever coming back. It basically ensures that the chemo and radiaiton can do their job and do it for good!

Anyway, read the article. It's enlightening and exciting. And...the research was specifically done on breast cancer patients so it all ties in! Enjoy! For now, I'm off to chemo treatment #5.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

If you're confused at all by the double post, don't be. I started that one yesterday, went to chemo, promptly fell asleep and stayed that way for the remainder of the day and night. Therefore, I never finished yesterday's post. Now, we've moved on to the bi-weekly post-chemo report get two posts combined into one today.

Yesterday was chemo #5, which for those keeping track means that I am MORE than halfway done with only 3 treatments to go. I saw the doctor yesterday, which is always an enlightening experience! Yesterday I learned the following:

Originally, my tumor measured 1.9cm x 2.0cm x 2.1cm on an MRI and ultrasound, but in physical exam measurement, it measured 8cm x 8cm for a 64cm tumor. It measures larger on a physical exam for a couple of reasons: scarring, tissue inflammation, thickening, etc. The actual cancer is reflected in the 2cm measurement, whereas, the affected area is reflected in the physical exam measurement. Yesterday, my affected area measured just 3cm x 3cm! We have not yet seen another MRI or ultrasound measurement for the actual size of the cancer, but it's reasonable to believe that the cancer has also been reduced in size by well over half!

My oncologist has also encouraged me to go ahead and make a follow-up appointment with my surgeon and get on the schedule for my surgery right after my 8th chemo treatment. Looks like chemo will be over and this thing will be out of me by the end of July! I was starting to worry that I may have to re-title my blog to six or seven month journey, but it looks like we're potentially sticking to five!

I've also discovered that this chemo drug, Taxol, is SOOOOO much better than the last two I was getting. I have no nausea, food sounds and tastes just fine to me, and I don't have my killer headaches. Mind you, my worst day was never the day after. It has also been 2 days after, so I'm holding out my final verdict until tomorrow, but so far I feel much better on this one--much less sick. Here's hoping that keeps up!

All around, more good news and we're truckin' toward the home stretch! Courage...I've got. Serenity...I'm working to maintain. Wisdom...I never feel like I have, but people tell me I'm succeeding with that one. Prayer for the ongoing thing, so keep 'em coming!!

Love to you all, as always!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's true. My posts have been more infrequent as of late. Part of that is the fact that very little of what is happening now is new. I'm in the middle of treatment and I've kind of hit a rhythm. We're not waiting on any test results and we're too far from the end of this to start talking with any seriousness about surgery or anything after. Rhythm, rut, whatever you want to call it...we're there.

Tomorrow, I will see the doctor again, but I'm not expecting any excitement. It's basically just a follow-up appointment. He'll do a physical exam and measure the size of the lump with a tape measure. I keep hoping that he won't be able to find it (since I can't find it these days), but sure enough, dammit, he appears to know what he's doing and finds it every time.

In the meantime, I have spent this weekend operating under the impression (perhaps a flawed impression) that I am capable of ignoring cancer and chemo all together and living my life on the first really summery day in KC doing exactly as I did before cancer or chemo. Yesterday, I woke up early, went lawn and garden shopping with a friend, and helped her do yard work and plant flowers out in the sun all day. We washed my car as well and didn't go in until 5:00. I then went home and Joe and I went for a 3 mile jog. This is all damn impressive. Of course, today I am BEYOND sore, but I plan on trying to go again this evening.

Today's plan is to go out to my friend's country club and spend the day by the pool. I realize I'm supposed to be sun sensitive due to the chemo, but if I head off to Mexico at the end of June as pasty as I was in addition to the sun sensitivity, I'm going to hurt myself. I'm attempting to build up a base and I'm having a lot of luck with it! All in all, it's a great 90 degree, cloudless, humidity-free weekend in KC and I've been taking full advantage...cancer or not.

For a moment, can we revisit the fact that I ran 3 miles yesterday. It may not be the 6 or more that I was used to running before....but it's a start. If these next 4 treatments are less hard on me as the nurses have suggested they will be, I could start getting back on a workout schedule!!! I've been missing it so much and the plan is to be back in shape to do a boot camp course starting in October! I basically can't wait!

Anyway, for now I'm coasting through, but June promises to be a fabulous month full of vacations, days in the sun, and jogging with my husband. I can't believe June is here, but if it is, I'm going to take full advantage! Hope you all do too!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

OOOO, we're halfway there...OOOO livin' on a Prayer!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hello dearies. Today, I write to you from my parents house in Oklahoma as I am visiting for the Memorial Day holiday while my husband parties it up all weekend at the bachelor party of a dear friend of his. I hope he lives through the experience because that 5 1/2 hour drive back to Kansas City really sucks when doing it by yourself.

I realize I have again fallen behind on my posts. I blame this in part on the fact that this was by far the roughest chemo week yet. Not only am I accumulating exhaustion and toxins in my system, but I'm having some sort of allergy/sinus issue as well. Not a good combo.

On Monday, I had chemo treatment number four. This is exciting for two reasons, the first of which being that it marks the halfway point for me. Yes, that's right, 4 down, 4 to go! The second reason that this is exciting is that I now switch over to a different chemo drug for the remainder of the treatment schedule. 

For the last four treatments, I have been getting what they call A/C treatments. A/C refers to Adriamycin and Cytoxin. I get both drugs each treatment and my oncologist initially scheduled four of these for me. I have now completed my A/C treatments! Now, it's time to switch over to Taxol treatments and I will have four of those as well. I'm told by the nurses that some of my side effects may be much diminished for the next four. I will still be tired of course, but there's a chance that my killer headaches won't happen anymore and I won't have to spend three straight days tanked on Vicodin. This is exciting for me.

In addition to hitting the halfway point, I also set up all the dates for my treatments from here on out. At this point, it looks like my last chemo treatment will be July 20! It's nice to have a date in mind and have a focal point to shoot for. For those keeping track, that is less than 2 months away! This is also exciting for me.

So, rough as this week was, it was nice to have hit another landmark...the halfway point. Although, that said, I have had an interesting development this week. I'm not sure whether it's the mixture of the Adriamycin, Cytoxin, Vicodin, the 3 anti-nausea drugs I took this week, and the Benedryl I'm taking for the allergies/sinuses, or whether I'm just totally mentally losing it, but I've started having relatively disturbing dreams about cancer. I'm going to go ahead and say it's the drug combo because I've always had messed up dreams on allergy meds and with all that other stuff thrown in, it's not really surprising.....

Anyway, so these dreams I'm having are essentially my subconscious (and conscious but unspoken) fears rearing their ugly heads in dream form. I never remember dreams all that vividly so the retelling of this will be subpar, but here is an example from last night. Last night I had a dream that I went in to see the oncologist (who up to this point in real life has been very positive about my progress) and he explained to me that the chemo was actually having an opposite effect on me, increasing thickening in the breast tissue, and subsequently causing the cancer to spread to my lungs. 

Now, I'm relatively certain it wouldn't (and couldn't) happen that way, but I woke up freaked out in a cold sweat nonetheless. Mental quandary brought on by this experience: 

Option 1: Deal with allergies/sinuses and feel crappy all the time or 
Option 2: Wake up irrationally terrified about cancer

I suppose I'll go with option 2 based on the fact that I feel crappy enough already. Sigh.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kicking Cancer's Ass

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I had been looking forward to going to Ladies' Night Out at Kaufman Stadium for weeks and weeks. It did not disappoint. This year, a portion of the ticket profits from the game went to Susan G. Komen, so OBVIOUSLY I had to go. It is my organization of choice these days. Heather, Katie, Kristen, and I had a little too much fun culminating in Heather asking our "waiter" (we were in Diamond Club seats where they go get your food and beverage for you...very fancy...huge thank you to Kristen's parents!!!) to go find us frozen blue margaritas. We're pretty sure he had to run to a concession stand far far away, but sure 15 minutes, he was back with frozen blue margaritas.

Basically, we went to a baseball game, but were surprised by the score every time we remembered to watch the baseball game. You can see this for yourself if you're savvy when it comes to finding videos on the internet, as we were on Sports Center the next morning. The Royals were playing the Orioles and our seats were directly behind home, every time they showed the batter, you could see us....not watching the game! It was beyond enjoyable! We must do it again.

Friday, May 15, 2009

10:45am: I went in for my every other week follow-up appointment with the oncologist. I was hopeful that he would do the physical exam, take the silly little measurement, and look and me and say, "Well then, that's amazing progress...let's take it out now." That didn't happen...well, at least not the last part.

My report was great though. My doctor said he's really pleased with the progress and that he likes what he sees in terms of the tumor shrinking. He also has determined that we will wait until August to do the surgery. That will be after the completion of all 8 chemo cycles. Tough that means I will have to be patient knowing that it's still in there all the time, at least now I know when to expect that portion of it.

I also asked him to talk me through the genetic test results since it had been the nurse practitioner who gave me the results the first time. He basically told me what I reported here last week...I don't need to have my ovaries out and there is no reason at all to do a bi-lateral (double) mastectomy. I already knew that, but I needed it verified!

Lastly and MOST importantly, he told me that I get to go on both the vacations that I have planned in June!!!!! They had both been booked before March when this business began and I was worried that he wouldn't let me go...particularly since one of them is to Mexico. But...he has told me I get to go! This is fantastic news. Now I just need to keep my white blood cell count high and stay healthy so I don't end up having to stay home at the last minute while everyone else still gets to go! We're working my treatment schedule around the trips and everything is looking good.

Basically, all of this means that I'm kicking cancer's ass one week at a time and doing it successfully so far.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

In totally unrelated to cancer best friend, Regan, who I grew up with and who now lives in New York, is here to visit. She got in yesterday (Saturday) evening so we went to dinner then came back to the apartment so she could change before we went out. Well, we never actually left again, mostly because we started drinking margaritas...then we drank more margaritas.....then we had one more.

This morning, I am pounding back water and trying not to move my head to0 quickly. I have a horrible headache, not so much brought on by the chemo, but by the tequila. Below, I have included some of the silly fun that we had last night. The pictures of Regan and Joe are taken with them in the same wig as the one I'm wearing above. Oh my....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Some Good Info

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

So, I'm straying from my norm, which has tended to be a long and wordy post, and giving you a short, sweet one. Today, I found an interesting article debunking 10 breast cancer myths. Check out the article here and follow some of the links off in the sidebar content.

Breast cancer is a very scary thing and it helps to have good info.

Check this out for information about causes and read this one for information about symptoms. For reference, my only symptom was the lump. If I experienced a thickening of the breast or armpit, I didn't notice. On the other hand, I had been working out with a personal trainer before all of this and I did feel like I was getting some rockin' pecs...could have just been the cancer. Damn it.

Read up and educate yourselves ladies (and gentlemen)! Peace out for now.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Emotionally Cumulative Too

Sunday, May 10, 2009

When I began this blog, I promised it would be an honest recounting of this journey that I'm on, and so far it has been for the most part. If I'm being honest with all of you and with myself, however, I've been holding back a little. I've received so much praise from all of you regarding my strength, my courage, my wisdom...and a slew of other characteristics that I wouldn't necessarily use to describe myself. Don't get me wrong...I thank you for the praise and support. It is what I need most. The problem is, I think I've been so worried about remaining positive, not only for myself, but for everyone else, because it is what everyone has come to expect of me that I have forgotten to mention some of the other emotions I've been feeling.

I've said before that the effects of chemo are cumulative...well, it's not just the physical ones that are, but the emotional effects too. It's becoming increasingly difficult to stay positive and upbeat through the "on week" when I feel so completely like crap all the time. It's true that I feel a little better over time during chemo week and I feel quite a bit better in the off week, but I never feel quite right. I always feel a little off.

I'm frustrated. I miss the gym. They gym had become a daily ritual and a release. I drive by and I miss it because I don't have the energy to go.

I miss going for a jog or a walk just because I feel like it. On Friday, it was beautiful out and my husband wanted to take a walk...just a simple walk with me in the nice weather. I couldn't do it. I didn't have the energy.

Believe it or not...I miss having the energy to clean my apartment. I would really like to give it a nice spring cleaning, but it's not going to happen. I'm simply too tired.

I miss the time when walking to the back of the apartment to grab something didn't seem like a long, hard journey. It does now.

I know this is temporary. I know it will be over before I even know it. I'm already 5 weeks into my 16 week chemo treatment schedule...but I'm tired and I'm frustrated and yes, I'm still a little (a lot if I'm being honest) scared.

Cancer is a roller-coaster ride of emotions and physical responses--sometimes you feel like your soaring and rising and fighting back, but sometimes you feel like you're on a climb and at any moment the tracks are going to fall away and you're just going to drop...hard. Please, please, do not call me a pessimist. I am far from it. But, every now and then, I can't help but worry that things seem to be going TOO well for the situation I'm in and I'm not through this journey yet.

So, to all of you...I apologize for this post being a bit of a downer, but I think it's important that I keep this thing honest. If you have it in you today or this week, I would just ask that as you're sending positive thoughts and prayers my way for my physical health, send a few my way to help me stay emotionally strong. It's getting harder. I will have many more good days and some more bad, but the last few in particular have just been a little tough.

On a positive note, it's Sunday and a new "off week" lies ahead full of the promises of baseball games, more energy, and a visit from my best friend who lives in NYC! So, stay strong and healthy out there, and have a great week!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Delightfully Optimistic Yet Cautiously Realistic

Thursday, May 7, 2009

6:15am: Woke up early today, which is strange and shocking for chemo week. I attribute it to the 28-30 or so hours of sleep I've gotten since I came home from work on Tuesday afternoon. It's just means tiredness will hit me around lunch today at work instead of around mid-afternoon. The Thursday of chemo week (as long as my treatments remain on Mondays) is the day I start to feel a little less foggy. I'm still tired on those Thursdays and I still have the headaches through about Friday mid-day, but I start to feel a little more normal. I don't truly feel myself until the following Monday (well, as "myself" as I can feel these days), but Thursday is what I might call my "turn-around" day.

As difficult as this treatment was--I had more nausea, more distaste for food, more headaches...

Side note: Headaches this time were brought on by the chemo and worsened by the fact that the city chose to test the tornado sirens 4 times yesterday in the middle of the day and there is one not even a half a block from my apartment--for those of you who don't live in a place where they have tornado sirens, let me just say...THEY'RE LOUD!

...more tiredness, and more side effects in general. I was warned that each treatment would be cumulative so this is to be expected. Despite all that, the good news that I got at the beginning of the week overshadowed everything and made it VERY HARD to be too upset about chemo side effects when one of those side effects is that the tumor is shrinking!!!!

I haven't had a follow-up MRI, mammogram, or ultrasound yet, so there is no HARD evidence that it is indeed shrinking....but.....let me just remind everyone that I found this in the first place myself. It was a hard knot that felt very near the skin and I could truly feel the whole thing on all sides. Now...I'm having a hard time finding the thing at all!!!! I can feel and feel for it and I gotta tell you...if this is what it had been like a month and a half ago when all this started....I NEVER would have found it. I know it's still in there, but it's absolutely not as prominent at all after only 3 of 8 treatments.

As positive as I'm being and as positive as things seem to be going now, nothing is certain yet, so I'm trying to stay grounded and realistic. Things look good, but I still have cancer. It's still in there and until it's gone, I plan to stay grounded--optimistically grounded.

For now, I'm going to work on rebuilding my strength for my coming good week. I'm really planning on hitting the gym--very lightly hitting the gym--a few times this coming week. I'm feeling squishy these days and I was getting so toned before this began. If I can't pull off gym work then I may just try some yoga or pilates, but I need something for sure!

Everyone stay healthy out there and I'd like to wish a slightly early Happy Mothers' Day too all of you mothers out there! Everyone remember to call your mothers this Sunday. I know mine has gone above and beyond her motherly duties so far this year driving back and forth from OKC to KC, cleaning my apartment, feeding me when I'm too tired to get up and get it myself, driving me to appointments, and being generally awesome! So, an early Happy Mothers' Day, Mom!

Love to you all!

Monday, May 4, 2009

If It Weren't For That Pesky Cancer...

Monday, May 4, 2009

8:00pm: Today, I had my third chemo treatment. It started out like any other normal day and I was truly having a hard time staying positive about treatment number three. I really wasn't looking forward to it at all. However, I got some AMAZING news today that made getting a chemo treatment almost exciting and I absolutely had to share with you all.

I got my genetic testing results today and it turns out that I DO NOT have the genetic mutation!!!!!!!! All my genetic tests were negative, suggesting that I am not genetically predisposed to cancer!!!!! This is the best possible news that I could receive at this point. This may mean that a lumpectomy followed by radiation treatment is what I'm looking at and that is the best possible surgical option that I could hope for!!!!

It seems that this was just a fluke thing--there is no rhyme or reason to it. There is no explanation for it. It just is. My dad put it best when he said, "If it weren't for that pesky cancer, you'd have nothing but good luck!!!"

Anyway, I'm pretty exhausted at the moment so this is about the extent of the post, but I had to share this phenomenal news. I truly couldn't be more thrilled. Keep the positive thoughts and prayers coming! They're working!

Thank you all!!!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Truth About Side Effects

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I will begin by apologizing to the readers who have been clammering for more--it's been days since my last post. I will warn you in advance, however, that this will likely be a far cry from my a last post, which I lovingly consider to be a brief tribute to our own version of the movie Outbreak, except without any real medical problem to fear. Today, it's back to cancer...primarily.

This week is an "off week" in my treatment schedule and though my term seems counter-intuitive, that means it's a "good week." Chemo weeks are "on weeks" and since I have 8 treatments over 16 weeks, that means that I have one "on week," one "off week," one "on week," one "off week," and so on. Now that I am fully through two full cycles and prepping to go in for chemo again tomorrow, I feel I'm becoming well-versed in all the many side-effects that my pile of prescription pharmaceuticals can and do cause.

That said, chemo is a little different for everyone in a lot of ways, both emotionally and physically, but it appears to be pretty standard for everyone in a lot of ways as well. So, today, I am going to give you the truth about side effects as long as you keep in mind what I just said..."chemo is a little different for everyone..."

As I said, this week is an "off week" and just as was true in my last "off week," I'm battling random infections and general aches and pains (recall the elbow incident). This time around, it is not my elbow, but my left thumb, my lower back, and a silly infection that I'm going to refer to as a "pre-kidney" infection because there are limits to what I will publicly discuss (take from that what you will). All these problems combined become worrisome after a few days and it inspired me to go in for an appointment with my doctor's nurse practioner, whom I LOVE, by the way.

Just as I thought, all of these are NORMAL and EXPECTED side effects!!! My thumb appears to be arthritis, which now makes them believe that my elbow might have been as well, thus suggesting that I may have rheumatoid arthritis (as brought on by the chemo)...we're keeping an eye on that in coming weeks. My lower back, which hurts so badly ALL THE TIME that it can only be managed by mixing meds--half a Vicodin with two ibuprofen, lather, rinse, repeat--is a totally normal side effect of my Nuelasta, a drug that is supposed to rebuild bone marrow and wide blood cells. It's supposed to be good for me and I an only manage the side effects with Vicodin. Nice. That one causes bone pain, particularly in one's hips and lower back, thus, my lower back pain. Additionally, it causes my hips to pop out of place and back in and causes intense shoulder joint pain. Fun AND exciting! As for the random infection...I'm suppposed to expect that to happen EVERY off week. We're managing that with MORE prescription medications and some over-the-counter stuff as well.

All that is apparently pretty mild. In order to prevent this post from being too ridiculously long, here's a list of my side effects from on and off weeks so far:

"On week" -
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • A 4 day headache that can only be managed with Vicodin
  • Extreme exhaustion which causes me to sleep about 10-12 hours each night and take naps during the day
  • Lack of appetite
  • Strange taste in my mouth at all times
  • Constipation (sorry...getting a bit graphic)
  • "Chemo brain," a real thing, not a term I made up, which basically refers to my inability to remember details and the fact that it takes me much longer to process what is going on around me--general confusion and forgetfulness, basically
  • Bone and joint pain brought on my the Neulasta
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Extreme sensativity to the sun
  • Hot flashes
  • A general screwing up of all things hormonal - changes in body temp, breakouts, etc.
  • Susceptibility to illness due to WBC being low
  • And of course, hair loss
"Off week" -
  • Exhaustion
  • "Chemo brain"
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Sun sensativity
  • Hot flashes
  • Hormonal changes
  • Susceptibility to infection
  • Susceptibility to illness
Now, with all of that, would you believe that I consider myself very fortunate???? These are all NORMAL side effects--managable side effects--and hair grows back. There are plenty of scary things that chemo can cause (long-term heart damage or infertility for example), but at the moment I'm taking each one as it comes and so far everything that has happened can be fixed easily with meds. It's the ones that can't that you need to worry about!

They truly get better and better and minimizing the side effects for the patient and chemo isn't always as bad as what you see in the movies--they play it up to enhance the drama as they do with everything. Yes, I'm a little more delicate (and I don't think ANYONE would have referred to me as delicate before), but I am by no means frail! So for all of you who have a family member going through this now or in the future, or God forbid for all of you who are going through this, or will go through this yourself--take it a day at a time. It IS manageable! Find doctors you trust and a treatment plan you can get behind and you will come out on top!

Take care all...I'm out after a lengthy post. The in-laws are in town and we have a fun day ahead of waffles, plaza shopping, and spending time together! A perfect Sunday!

Love to you all.