2007 Breast Cancer 3 Day

Saturday, December 31, 2005

The End of a Good Year

As midnight quickly draws near, I have been reflective of the year that is about to slip away. I guess some would say being diagnosed with cancer would make for a bad year. I really don't feel that way. We continue to be blessed year after year. We have a beautiful home, overstocked pantry, money in the bank, Ed has a wonderful job and even though I have cancer, we have our health. By American standards we are by no means well off, but to 90% of the rest of the world we are wealthy beyond imagination. How fortunate are we to live in such a wonderful country? So many people have so much less...how can we not think this has been a good year? And how blessed are we to need to make the New Year's resolution to lose those holidays pounds? Yes blessed because we have such an abundance of food that we have weight to lose. As we sit and eat chips and dip and "ring in the new year" is makes me sad to think of those all around the world that would be happy to have just one chip much less dip. It just doesn't seem fair. Well before I get myself in to somber of a mood, I just want to say Happy New Year and may God bless you abundantly in the new year!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Insomnia and Mouth Sores

Well, it is now 3:30 AM...that's right...A.M. I am experiencing my first episode of insomnia due to chemo. I've read that this is sometimes an issue with cancer patients. For all of you out there that have insomnia regularly, my sympathies are with you. I know I should be tired due to my counts being low and our day at the zoo, but I am wide awake. I feel like it is 3 in the afternoon. I've watched a movie already and read a little bit, but sleep is no where to be found. I am hoping this isn't a regular event now. I guess I could take a nausea pill since they make me sleep like a rock, but now it seems pointless since Emma will be up in just a few hours. I will hopefully catch a nap later on today.

The other side effect that is finally rearing it's ugly head is mouth sores. I don't know if you've ever had an ulcer in your mouth, but these are 10 times worse. My tongue has 3 ulcerated spots on it and I have 2 on the inside of my lower lip. My chemo pharmacist mixed me up a little something to help ease the pain, but it only lasts about 15 minutes and I can only take it every 4 hours. It is Mylanta, lidocaine, and some sort of antibiotic. Basically if I am having mouth sores that means my entire intestinal track is suffering as well. The Mylanta drink helps the mouth but also helps the ulcerated spots I may have elsewhere in my system. Needless to say, I am pretty uncomfortable. Eating hurts, talking hurts, and I think it's getting worse not better. My taste buds are shot except for bold flavors such as dill pickles, Doritos and oh, my icky Mylanta drink. The one thing on a planet I wish I couldn't taste is the most prominent. I think I will be shifting to ice cream for the next few days as the cold seems to help if only temporarily. So other than that...I'm doing just peachy. So what's going on in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Yes, I'm still among the living

I am giving my apologies to my faithful readers for not updating sooner. I had lab work done on Friday before Christmas and was cleared for travel so off we went. It was such a short trip though and I never get all of the visits made to my loved ones before we leave town again. By the time we made it home Sunday I knew my blood count was down for the count. I was running a fever (which happened the last round as well). The doctor's office was closed Monday, so I had labs yesterday. My white count was .7, down from 24 on Friday. Apparently this chemo is kicking butts and taking names! I of course received my stomach shots and set up an appointment to come in today for more lab work. Yesterday was a bad cancer day. I just had a hard time coping with all the needles, feeling miserable and just not being able to live my life like I used to. Thankfully those days have been far and few between at this point. On a happier note, our friends from Iowa (Russ and Holly) arrived last night with their two little boys in tow. It was so nice to see them again. It's been a year and the kids have changed so much. Emma is having a field day!

Today I went in for labs and they accessed my port to draw blood. I've been letting them draw from my arms (yuck, but it's not a time consuming), but my veins are already going bad from the chemo and they are having to dig around to get a good one (part of my bad cancer day yesterday). Anyway, they accessed my port today and left it accessed so they don't have to poke me again tomorrow. They don't normally like to leave you accessed overnight when your count is low, but I think the poor nurses took pity on me after yesterday and made an exception. My count was up today to 1.1 so I took two more shots to the belly and went about my business.

We took the kids to the zoo today which was so much fun. I rested a lot along the way, but am feeling well. It was nice to enjoy the sun on my face and have a little piece of "normal" for a change. I know Ed worried about me all day, but I'm okay sweetheart, really. He is such a blessing to me.

I go back for more labs tomorrow, but hopefully my numbers will be up and I can be free until Monday labs. Russ and Holly are leaving on Friday so we will have a quiet weekend around the house. Next week should be my "good week" so I will spend it taking down Christmas stuff and deep cleaning. The dust bunnies are getting mean around these parts. It may be touch and go as to who comes out victorious in the end!

Good night and may God bless you!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Feeling Green

Yesterday was the worst day so far. I woke up completely nauseous! Everything I smelled, looked at and even thought about eating made me feel so sick. I called the doctor's office and told them I'd be in at 1:00 to disconnect from my chemo bag, and they told me to come on in. They gave me another IV bag of Anzemet for nausea which helped immediately. Then they sent me home with a prescription for Promethazine. I take it every 4-6 hours as needed for nausea. It has worked wonders BUT it makes me sleep like the dead. I slept from 4pm to 7pm last night, woke up for 45 minutes and then went back to bed until 8 this morning. Needless to say I feel well rested! I woke up this morning feeling much better. I took the nausea medication to be safe, but so far I'm feeling human again. I'm going to take advantage of it and finish some last minute shopping today as well as pack for our trip home tomorrow. I hope you all have a blessed day!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Round 2 Complete

I just finished my second round of chemo. Well, actually I'm not finished. I still have this bag of red toxic liquid I have to carry around for the next 24 hours. I will come back to the hospital tomorrow to "disconnect". I slept through most of my treatment today. I brought a magazine and my new portable DVD player (thanks Santa Eddie), but sleep prevailed. I am already feeling a bit queasy which isn't promising for the days ahead. I have my nausea medication ready to take this evening when my current one wears off.

Dr. Q examined me today after chemo. He said that my breast feels normal. If he didn't know I had cancer he wouldn't be able to tell by touch. Yippee! Well, he didn't say yippee...I added that part. He said we will finish up this treatment and then run some tests to see exactly how much of the tumor is left. If it is still bigger than he wants we will do one more round of chemo before surgery. If it is basically gone then we will talk surgery sooner. Obviously this is great news to hear today!

Grandma and Pa are here for the week. They are keeping Emma occupied while I recover from this treatment. Emma is loving every minute of it--all the attention is on her which is just the way she likes it! We are still planning on making the trip home for Christmas this weekend. I am looking forward to seeing everyone and enjoying some Christmas cheer! Hopefully the worst of the side effects will be gone by then. I'll post more when I can.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A Little Christmas Cheer

Here's a little Christmas cheer to brighten your day. I loved this cartoon when I saw it!

There are only 6 shopping days until Christmas. I hope no one has to brave the crowds and do any last minute shopping. If you still haven't found the perfect gift for me don't fret...cash is always gladly accepted at this establishment! Seriously, I hope you all have a great week leading up to Christmas and hopefully I will see many of you in just a few days!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Chemo appointment changed

I thought I'd get the word out that my appointment for chemo on Monday has been changed to Tuesday instead. Apparently there were to many patients scheduled on Monday, so I was bumped to Tuesday instead. It's to bad you don't get cool compensation like when you are bumped from an airline flight. I'd love two free tickets to Hawaii just because I agreed to do chemo a day later. Ah, in a perfect world I guess. I don't mind as it will give me one more day to eat all I can before my taste buds head south for the winter again. I'll update again on Tuesday. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The 12 Rules of Life

I borrowed this from the blog of a new friend, Kim. (I hope you don't mind). http://noteworthystuff.blogspot.com. It made me laugh this morning which is always a great way to start the day.

Sometimes we just need to remember the 12 Rules of Life.

1. Never give yourself a haircut after three margaritas.

2. You need only two tools: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn't move and it should, use WD-40. If it moves and shouldn't, use the duct tape.

3. The five most essential words for a healthy, vital relationship are "I apologize" and "you are right."

4. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.

5. Never pass up an opportunity to pee.

6. If he/she says that you are too good for him/her - believe them.

7. Learn to pick your battles; ask yourself, "Will this matter one year from now? How about one month? One week? One day?"

8. When you make a mistake, make amends immediately. It's easier to eat crow while it's still warm.

9. If you woke up breathing, congratulations! You have another chance!

10. Living well really is the best revenge. Being miserable because of a bad or former relationship just might mean that the other person was right about you.

11. Work is good, but it's not that important. Money is nice, but you can't take it with you.

12. And finally... Be really good to your family and/or friends. You never know when you are going to need them to empty your bedpan.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Today's Scripture of Encouragement & The Hair Cut

"Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord, no matter what happens. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised." Hebrews 10:35-36

I decided Monday night that it was time for the hair to come off. After dinner Ed and I went out on the back porch with the clippers and buzzed it all off. I have just a little layer of fuzz left and it is falling out quickly. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. We both cried as we watched so much hair fall to the ground. Emma on the other hand thought it was funny. When it was done she rubbed the top of my fuzzy head and said, "Elliott hair". For those of you that aren't familiar, Elliott is one of her older brothers. He keeps his hair cut this way and she rubs his head often, so it was nice that she had a point of reference. Here are the before and after pictures. Drum roll please...

The picture quality isn't great, but you get the idea. So what do you think? It's not as bad as I thought it would be. The little bit of hair I have left is falling out quickly so I am thinking I'll be completely bald by this weekend. On a happier note, the rest of my body hair is falling out as well. I shaved my legs on Monday and not one hair is growing back in! The only hair not letting go is my eyebrows. So once I'm bald I will look like two catepillars died on my face....that should be nice.

Oh before I go, I want to send out some birthday love for my brother Brian and for my sweet sister-in-law Theresa. Happy Birthday!! We love you both!

Monday, December 12, 2005

So how'd you spend your afternoon?

I'm quite sure that no one spent their afternoon engaged in the same activity as me. I sat on my back porch and pulled handfuls of hair out of my head! Well pulled isn't really the right word. I just ran my hands through my hair and it came out. I noticed this morning that my hair was everywhere. It is amazing how much hair is on the human head. I feel like I should be bald already, but you wouldn't even know it's falling out the look at me right now. My scalp is hurting due to the hairs' roots finally succumbing to the chemo. I am now trying to decide if I should go ahead and shave it off or give it another day or two. I can only imagine the mess that will occur if I wait much longer. I'm nervous about buzzing it off, but Ed will be doing that for me. That is probably not something that he thought he would ever be doing--shaving his wife's head. I will post some pictures when the task is completed. I did shed a few tears this afternoon while watching my hair blow away in the breeze from my fingertips. I wasn't sad about my hair loss (well maybe a little). It was a defining moment that brought me back into my body and made me realize this is my life. I seem to be functioning almost third person most of the time. It's like all of this is happening to someone else, but today as my hair drifted away it reminded me that I have cancer and this is for real. It was a very sobering moment. Even as I cried, my dear sweet Emma came over singing Jingle Bells oblivious to all of life's troubles. You just can't be sad with a two year old saying, "Sing Momma...Sing...Jingle Bells...Jingle Bells."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

It's the little things in life...

I went back in for more labs today and was pleased to hear that my white count is now up to 5. That is in the range of a normal, healthy person again. My red count and platelets are still a little low, but they are rising also due to the shots. I was so happy to hear they weren't going to poke me again today! It's the little things that I'm thankful for these days. I now get the weekend off and go back on Monday for labs. Dad is coming down this weekend and we are very excited to see him, but sad Becky can't make it. We will hopefully be able to make it up for Christmas. We will just have to take it day by day. For now, I am healthy and feeling good. It should be a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Is the weekend here yet?

I went in for more labs this morning and I am now up to 1.5 for my white blood count. They stop worrying about me at 2.0. I have to go back in tomorrow for more labs to see if I've made it there yet. They gave me 2 more shots in the stomach for a total of 6 so far this week. I'll be happy to see the weekend get here so at least I can get a reprieve from these darn shots! I am feeling good today almost normal in fact. I haven't started losing my hair yet, but it's still early. I give it a little tug each morning just to see, but it's holding on for dear life at this point! I'll update again tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Just call me "Pin Cushion"

I went in for my weekly labs yesterday. My white blood cell count was extremely low which is normal for this phase of treatment. It should be between 5-10 and mine was .5! I took 2 more shots in the stomach to help boost my blood making marrow. I went back in this morning for more lab work to see if the shots were working. Well they are, but not fast enough so I took 2 more shots in the stomach. I go back tomorrow for more lab work. I'm starting to feel like a pin cushion! Thankfully they've been taking my blood from the port in my chest. They put some cream on to help numb the skin before they insert the needle, so that has made it bearable. It's starting to get sore from so many sticks though so I may have to break down and let them draw from my arm tomorrow. I hate giving blood for labs! You would think all of the years I've been through shots and surgeries I'd be ok with a little needle stick, but it still ranks right at the top of my list for "Most Dreaded Things". So, I will post again with more labs results tomorrow. In the mean time, I am taking Levaquin (an antibiotic) as a precaution since I have practically no immune system right now. Cold and flu season--not a great time to be without white blood cells! All of this is normal though and the shots should start boosting cell production. Talk to you all again soon!

Forever yours,
The Pin Cushion

Sunday, December 04, 2005

So how am I feeling? The million dollar question....

Well I am happy to report that I am doing well. The first few days were just yucky. I never did get sick, but I felt queasy off and on. I feel fairly normal today, but fatigue is an underlying issue always these days. I never feel like I have energy to do much. As far as side effects go, I feel pretty fortunate. The only major thing I have gone through so far concerns my mouth. Do you know how it feels when you burn your mouth on a piece of pizza? The skin starts peeling off of the burned area and you can't taste your food? Well that has happened to the entire inside of my mouth and tongue. Thankfully there hasn't been any pain involved. I have probably 5% of my sense of taste left. Most things I put in my mouth have ZERO flavor. It's very strange. (I guess now would be a good time to go on Fear Factor and eat all that nasty stuff!) The few things I can taste don't even resemble what they are supposed to taste like. I had a York Peppermint Patty yesterday and it tasted like dirt! Such disappointment! I don't know if I will regain my sense of taste before the next chemo treatment or if it is just shot until this whole process is done. I'll keep you posted. So holiday tip #1 for Fran...don't buy her yummy stuff because it with be money wasted. On second thought, Ed would probably enjoy the yummy treats on my behalf so bring 'em on!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hittin' the sauce and I don't mean alcohol :o)

Yesterday I had my first round of chemotherapy. We arrived at Dr. Q's office and went back to the chemo area and I plopped down in a nice cozy recliner. The head RN, Pam, came and sat with us and started explaining the process. At each session they will begin by drawing blood through my port for lab work. They are mainly looking for low red and white blood cell counts (mine were normal of course). When the lab work came back good she then gave me some medicine to prevent nausea (Anzemet with Dexamethasone). I then received Benadryl which quickly knocked me out. I was awake long enough to see her hang the first bag of chemo drug (Taxotere) and woke back up an hour later when she was putting up the next drug (Cytoxan). I stayed awake through this bag. I did make a few mental notes along the way. 1. Back a lunch...you're going to be there awhile and get hungry. 2. Bring your own blanket (thank you Robin and Tracey)--the little thread-bare one they supply is worthless. 3. Lots of reading material is not necessary as the Benadryl will knock me out for 1/2 of the treatment.

After the 2nd drug was finished, Pam hooked me up to Mr. Nasty otherwise known as Adriamyacin. This is the mean one that will make all my hair fall out and feel the worst. It is so nasty they have to send me home hooked up to it with a pump to drip it into me over 24 hours. So I am sitting here typing with my little bag of nuclear waste dripping into my veins. After explaining how the pump worked, Pam then had to give me two shots for my red and white blood cells. While they are in good shape right now the chemo will quickly begin to destroy them. The medications are designed to boost my blood cell production so they never drop to low. She offered these to me in either my stomach or my arms, but said most people prefer the stomach as they hurt less there. So like a sheep in the herd I followed the crowd and took them in the stomach. Wow! If they hurt more in your arms--forget that! I'll be tough and take them in the stomach next time too. Those medications for you medical minds out there were Aranesp (for red) and Neulasta (for white).

We then headed home after scheduling an appointment to come back today to unhook me from the pump. I also go back in on Friday for more lab work to check my blood counts. I will be doing that twice a week through this process.

She sent me home with 3 prescriptions. Emend for nausea, Coumadin to thin my blood the keep it flowing through the port, and Levaquin which is an antibiotic. I don't take the Levaquin unless my blood counts drop to low and then they will tell me when to take it. I just want to say thank the Lord for good insurance! The Emend is 3 pills for $300. We only had to pay $40. I don't know what the others run, but I'm sure glad we didn't have to pay full price. We walked out of the pharmacy paying $75 as is.

As for how I'm feeling, well basically normal so far. I had a couple of hot flashes last night. Those were fun! I had some tingling in my feet which is also a side effect of the chemo. I haven't felt sick thankfully just a little uneasy. You know how you feel when you have a bad chili dog? That pretty much describes me right now. Not really sick but feeling like...Oooo, I shouldn't have eaten that. I'm hoping that's as bad as it will get. I am a little run down this morning, so I'm canceling grocery shopping and snuggling on the couch with Emma instead. Not a bad trade off in my mind.

1 treatment down....5 to go! We're on the way to the cure! Thank the Lord for modern medicine!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

There is always a ray of light in the darkness

I had my first round of chemo today. I am pretty tired and heading to bed, but I will update in full tomorrow. I just wanted to encourage everyone to look for the bright spot in your day even when you think it's not going so well. While dealing with all that comes with cancer and chemo today we received such wonderful news. Today Ed became a PawPaw! Olivia Dawn arrived at 2:39 p.m. weighing 8 lbs. 2 oz. and 20 inches long! EJ called to say that Tiffany and Olivia are both doing great! What a blessing to give you some perspective on life...it's easy to forget about the great moments in our lives when walking in the valley of the bad ones. We are hoping to get to see Miss Olivia in a few weeks at Christmas and are already chomping at the bit to get some photos of that sweet grandbaby!

I did have a few minutes of guilt today. Ed wasn't able to be there for the birth of his granddaughter which I know is a dream he's waited for all EJ's life. While I know having cancer isn't my fault, I couldn't help feeling guilty that "because of me" he missed one of the great milestones of being a parent--seeing your children become parents. It's hard not to feel that way, and Ed (to his credit) has not let me see anything but concern for my well-being today. I know he's sad he missed it, but this is the road that we have to walk down right now unfortunately. I'm so blessed to have him in my life and thank the Lord each day that Ed was part of His great plan for me!

Congrats EJ and Tiffany and Happy Birthday Olivia! We love you guys and hope to see you in a few weeks!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The update delayed by the Thanksgiving rush

Due to the Thanksgiving rush I haven't been able post the latest events. Here is a brief rundown with a bit of description when appropriate.

Friday, November 18th: Had MRI of both breasts (with contrast injected in my hand) to have a baseline reading for monitoring the tumor's response to chemo.

Monday, November 21st: Had a "clip" (yes that is the medical term they used) inserted into my breast near the tumor. This procedure was just like the biopsy (pain included). If the tumor responds so well to chemo that is disappears, the clip is used to show the area the tumor was located for surgical removal of surrounding tissue. They like to take some healthy tissue around the tumor "just in case".

Tuesday, November 22nd: This was the first big procedure I've had done so far. They inserted a PortaCath. This device will be used to administer chemo as well as draw blood. It helps to save my veins from the trauma of chemotherapy medications. The device is about the size of a quarter and about 1/2 inch thick with a rubber area for a needle to go into. It is placed under the skin in my chest and a tube runs from it into a vein and then down into the vena cava in my heart is what I believe they said. This is a large vessel that has so much blood moving through it that the chemo isn't as damaging as it would be to little veins elsewhere in my body. It also saves me the pain of having my arms poked each time I go in for treatment. The nurse now will poke the skin in my chest and find the port sitting right under the surface. This will then take the medication straight into my system.

It's not a great picture, but it will give you the general idea.

I am recovering nicely. I felt like I had been punched in the chest for the first 48 hours, but now it's only tender if I touch it. The procedure itself wasn't so bad. If anyone would like the medical details of that procedure just let me know. I'll spare those of you that may be a bit squeamish about such things.

Now it is Saturday evening and we just arrived home from Terri's house. We had a great time. In my mailbox was a package. It was from a charity website that I had visited last week. www.heavenlyhats.com
Please visit the website and consider making a donation. I gave them my diagnosis and age and they sent me 5 adorable hats FREE! I will definitely be giving to this organization in the future! My favorite hat is a baseball cap that is bright pink (breast cancer awareness color) and has the word FAITH embroidered in black letters across the front. What a great encouragement that my faith is strong and not in vain. I love how God shows Himself to us each day if we just pay attention.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Ok, so we have a plan

We met today with Dr. Q and he brought in an associate that he thinks very highly of. Dr. R is affiliated with MD Anderson and has been around for decades. He examined me and then the two of them formulated our attack plan.

I will be going in the first part of next week to have a Port-a-Cath placed in my chest. This will be to administer the chemo through so they don't have to find a vein each time. They will also be placing a marker on the tumor. This will help to show us the area of the tumor in case the chemo destroys the tumor totally. I will begin chemo after Thanksgiving. I will have 2 or 3 rounds of chemo at first. If the tumor responds well and shrinks we will then do surgery to remove the rest of it. If it doesn't respond well to the chemo then a mastectomy will still be on the agenda. I am scheduled to have a total of 6 rounds of chemo--1 every 21 days or so. I will have the first 2 or 3 prior to surgery and the remaining treatments after surgery. I will still have radiation after chemo unless I have a mastectomy.

We feel good with the plan. Dr. Q said he would administer chemo as a systemic treatment regardless of our surgery options due to my age. It just makes sense to try to shrink the tumor and remove a small part of the breast as opposed to just going in and removing the breast entirely in the beginning.

Thanks to everyone for your love and support. We appreciate the phone calls and cards. We are doing well with all of this so far. We are just ready to get the show on the road. The sooner they cure me the sooner we can get our lives back in order.

Oh and the good news for today is that all of my scans came back normal. As of right now the cancer is still contained in the breast. We won't know if it's in the lymph nodes until surgery, but we are encouraged that we did catch it early and I will make a complete recovery!

Something to make you smile

This isn't related to cancer, but it made me laugh first thing this morning which is a nice way to start the day.

This will make you keep and eye on your children while shopping this holiday season!

On a cancer note, we meet with the oncologist to find out my test results this morning. We met with a plastic surgeon for a consult yesterday. I will give a complete update when we get home this afternoon.

Hope everyone has a beautiful day today. Enjoy this wonderful fall weather!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Change is constant

I'm quickly discovering the world of cancer is ever-changing. I'm not talking about advances in medicine. I'm referring to each new doctor's plan of attack. As you know we met with my surgeon yesterday. His opinion is completely different from my oncologist. Dr. McBath said that since the tumor is located in the center of my breast behind the nipple there isn't a good way to remove it and leave me looking nice. He feels the best option is mastectomy with reconstruction. Basically that translates to removing my breast and the cancer and giving me a nice new perky one in it's place. Not a bad trade off in my mind.

We discussed that due to the fact that I am young, I have an increased chance of getting breast cancer again in the remaining breast. I asked about removing it as well for prevention's sake. He said it isn't uncommon, but it is aggressive. I may never get cancer again so we'd be removing it for now reason. If by chance more breast cancer is in my future though, this would help to eliminate that possibility. I am leaning towards this option. I would rather have them both removed and reconstructed and have peace of mind. I know if I didn't I'd always be worried and checking my remaining breast daily probably. And hey, who are we kidding? Two new breasts is much better than one new one and one droopy, shriveled up, breastfeeding boob. It really is a no-brainer for me.

We have an appointment with the plastic surgeon today. She will go over my options for reconstruction and help to decide whether we'll be reconstructing at the time of mastectomy or wait until after chemo.

We have an appointment Thursday with Dr. Q to discuss my scan results as well as this new development with mastectomy. I will discuss with him taking both breasts and whether he thinks that is wise. We will probably discuss chemo treatments too. I probably won't have to have radiation now as there won't be anything left to radiate. Normally they direct the radiation at the site where the lump was removed, but no breast means no area to treat.

Dr. McB said we need to do surgery before November is over so I fully expect for them to set up surgery for some time next week. I don't know if they put Thanksgiving into the equation, but to me the sooner the better. I just want to get on with this process and get my life back.

For those of you worried about me losing one or both of "the girls"--DON'T. I'm not losing my breasts, I'm losing cancer! Assuming it isn't anywhere else in my body, when they remove my breast the cancer goes with it. I will be instantly cured. The chemo will be to kill any cells that may have slipped under the radar. I can be cancer free in a matter of days and that gives me such peace. I don't have to worry about it invading the rest of my body while we try to treat it.

So that is the plan as of this moment. As I said before, things seem to change quickly. I'll post as I know more.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Thinking about hair loss

As a post script I wanted to let you know I have been thinking about losing my hair. I know they say not everyone loses it, but I have yet to meet a cancer patient that didn't. I'm not really worried about it falling out as I know it will grow back. I am concerned about what my head will look like. I am hoping that I will get lucky and have a beautiful Sinead O'Connor look, but I'm afraid it will be more of an Elmer Fudd. Anyone want place their bets now?

I'm radioactive!!

On November 11th I went in for my first round of tests. Dr. Q ordered chest x-rays, a CT scan of my abdomen and a bone scan. We arrived and they took me back for the chest x-rays. The nurse then started an IV and gave me a large glass of stuff to drink for the CT scan. It was horrible! It tasted like flat strawberry soda only it was slightly bitter and tasted like it had metal shavings in it. She cheerfully told me that I would get to drink another glass in about an hour. Lucky me! Now a different nurse came in and injected radioactive isotopes into my IV for my bone scan. After my second strawberry drink the nurse took me back for the CT scan. After getting on the table she informed me that she would be putting "contrast" into my IV. This could make me feel warm all over. She said many patients say that it makes you feel like you are wetting your pants. She was right! It is a warm sensation throughout your body, but it seems to focus in your bladder area. Strange! I then went next door for a bone scan. This was a simple test. I just had to stay still for about 20 minutes while the machine scanned me from head to toe. I can see how people with claustrophobia would have an issue with this test. It is a tight space and you can't move, but I just kept my eyes closed and made it through just fine.

We will be meeting with the surgeon today to find out what he thinks and I have an appointment on Thursday with Dr. Q. We are hoping we will get the attack plan on Thursday.

In light of the pending doom and gloom we decided to put up the Christmas tree on Sunday. I normally don't put it up until Thanksgiving weekend, but by then I should be recovering from surgery or chemo. It is nice to see the tree up. I just love Christmas and it definitely has helped my mood the last few days. It's strange how you start planning and thinking differently when diagnosed with cancer.

Meeting Dr. Q (oncologist)

On November 9th we met with Dr. Quesada for the first time. He reviewed my pathology reports and walked us through them step by step. I appreciated this so much as he didn't talk "doctor speak" to us. He told us exactly what each item meant and the application of it to the cancer. Here is some of the technical information for those of you that like to research.

I have infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC) in my right breast. I also have areas of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). The IDC is the scary one as it is on the move. The DCIS is cancer, but it is still contained in one place and not spreading. Other pathology information--the cancer is:

IDC-high grade (this means it is aggressive and growing quickly)
Estrogen Receptor: Positive
Progesterone Receptor: Negative
GCDFP: Negative
E-Cadherin: Positive

As of this report my lab work is still pending for my Her-2 results.

We discussed the preliminary attack plan. He said due to my age and the size of the tumor (approx. 4 cm on palpitation) he feels that we will do chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor. I will then have surgery to remove the remaining tumor (lumpectomy). Radiation and possibly more chemo will follow the surgery. He said I will meet with a surgeon and then they will talk to discuss the best course of action. He scheduled some more tests to have run before I meet with the surgeon.

We left his office feeling very confident in his abilities and very positive about my prognosis. We don't know how my cancer is "staged" yet, but Dr. Q feels good that we caught it early and will beat it.

My story begins

Most of you reading this already know how my story begins. I want to include it for anyone that may be surfing for other people with breast cancer stories.

In August 2005, I had a breast exam as part of my annual GYN check-up. Everything was normal and life went on as usual. One month later while putting on deodorant I noticed a dimpling in the skin on the lower portion of my right breast. I reached up to touch it and discovered a lump. I honestly didn't think much about it, but made a mental note to "keep an eye on it". Unfortunately, I found this lump at the same time Hurricane Rita was roaring into the Gulf coast. I had evacuated with my daughter leaving my husband behind due to his job. I was so worried about something happening to him that I forgot about the lump.

Fast forward one more month to October. While in the shower I "found" the lump again. I was now concerned because it was still there and felt bigger. I talked to Ed and he urged me to call my doctor. I did the next day and made an appointment.

At my appointment my OB/GYN examined me and assured me that I had nothing to worry about. "He sees this all the time in women my age." He said he felt it was a fibroadenoma or cyst that could easily be taken care of. He sent me for a mammogram that same day. For those of you that haven't experienced a mammogram yet let me paint a picture for you. Take your breast and smash it in the refrigerator door as hard as you can! That pretty much sums up the mammogram experience! Yikes! I was expecting the radiologist to come in and reassure me that "it's just a fibroadenoma...don't worry". Instead I get, "I want to biopsy the mass." Okay this didn't build confidence in me. We scheduled the biopsy for later that week.

The biopsy wasn't bad. The doctor gave me a local and then made a tiny incision in my breast. He then placed an instrument in that grabs pieces of the tumor for testing. He took 3 pieces for pathology. It was over fairly quickly and other than a little soreness I was no worse for the wear. I was told to call in about a week for the results.

One week later I called and heard the words---It's Cancer. I can't explain it, but somehow I knew that was going to be what I heard. I was prepared and honestly it didn't even upset me. I had been in prayer since I found the lump (the second time) and I know God prepared my heart for those devastating words. Ed called and made an appointment with an oncologist for the following week. So the journey begins...

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Disclaimer

Before I dive into a long drawn out story, I want to thank all of my family and friends that have shown their support already. I thought that I would start this journal to keep everyone informed and as current as possible. I am thankful for the many phone calls I have received, but I can see how they could be overwelming on days I'm not feeling up to speed. I want everyone to continue to feel welcome to call, but please don't get your feelings hurt if I don't return your call right away. I've already had moments where I just don't want to think about cancer one more minute. Please know that I love you all and appreciate your prayers and love, and I hope this helps keep you connected. Ed also wants to add that you are welcome to call him any time for information.