2007 Breast Cancer 3 Day

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.