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"...how 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!