Monday, December 28, 2009

Let the Rays Begin!

Monday December 21st began my radiation therapy. I go in daily to work, then at 11:35 a.m.leave for the cancer center, which is located across the street and down 2 driveways. I sit in the waiting room for usually no more than 5 minutes before they call me back for treatment. On Monday’s they weigh me (can you say motivation?) before I slip inside a tiny closet to change out of my top into a lovely hospital gown. I then wait (sometimes not at all) in another small waiting area just outside those tiny closets until they call my name.

The room where the treatment is given is a large room with one of those uncomfortable “beds” in the center of the room. At the head of the bed is a huge machine that delivers the treatments to my body. Once I lie down on the bed and grab the bars behind and at the top of my head, and they place a bolster behind my knees, they begin the process of lining my tattooed dots up with the intersection beams in the room. I keep wanting to scoot myself to help them, but they tell me to lie still and let them do the work. They lower the lights in the room so that they can see the laser beams better against my skin. They then take the sheet I am lying on and slide it to just where they need me to be, then one of the two begin calling out numbers to the other as they line me up perfectly with the beams of the machine as it begins to hover over me. Once they are satisfied that it is “perfect” they turn the lights up and leave the room.

The machine is positioned at two different angles and each angle administers two different doses. The first dose typically lasts about 15 seconds and is accompanied by a high pitch buzzing sound. The second dose lasts about 5 seconds with a lower buzzing sound. I count every time I hear the buzzing begin and each time it is slightly different. Sometimes the first dose is 14 seconds, and at times it has lasted as long as 17 seconds. The machine then angles to the other side of me and repeats the same sequence of doses. The only time the therapists come back into the room is after the machine has switched sides. They insert some type of plate over the dosing screen before the long dose is administered. I asked my therapist about the timing and she said the machine is loaded with my dose. The seconds, or half-seconds’ differences from day to day depends on the humidity in the room, my body temperature and the moisture in my body and even the weather outside. The machine knows the exact dose to administer regardless of the conditions surrounding it, and adjusts itself accordingly.

The entire process in the treatment room typically takes no more than 10 minutes, which is a good thing as my arms are usually falling asleep by then from being over my head. The therapist come back in and lowers the bed while the machine goes back to home plate. They then bid me good day, “see you tomorrow” and I go back to my tiny closet to dress for the outside world.

Every Wednesday I have appointments to meet with the radiation nurse and the radiology oncologist to discuss any side affects and have any questions I may have answered. Last week was my first appointment and already the doctor noticed swelling and some “pink”. He advised taking some Advil to relieve the tenderness but assured me all is well. I notice heat radiating into my coat as I am driving to finish up my work day at home. There is slight irritation and tenderness already, so as soon as I get home and log onto my work computer, I make myself comfortable and apply moisturizing lotion to the affected area. The heat I feel is a real indication to the burning that is happening to both the good and bad cells in my body. I know that radiation is for the best, but it is a little freaky knowing that good cells are getting burned up in this process too.

To date, I haven’t started glowing, so I’m not a dead give-a-way while playing hide and seek just yet. My eyelashes and eyebrows have begun to grow back in as well as the hair on my head. However it will be quite a while before scarves and wigs are put aside to make way for a new short hairstyle. Radiation will have no affect on the growth of my hair, so by late spring/early summer I should be able to don my new “do” to the world outside of home.

I understand that things will get a little tougher before they get better, but Dave, Jenn and I are looking forward to a healthier and happy year in 2010. I pray each of you have a better year too. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 11, 2009

X Marks the Spot!

Monday I met once again in a consult with Dr. C and his nurse and heard again how radiation “finishes” what my surgery started and how fatigue and sunburn are the only expected side affects I should experience. They said the fatigue with radiation is not as bad as chemo, that‘s a plus! The numbers of treatment have declined from the original proposed 33 treatments to now only 31. That’s like a sale where they mark off .50¢….on a leather jacket.

I went in two days later for a “simulation”. This is where my therapist marked me for precision radiation. A simulation is a CAT scan that creates a 3D image of me to map out my heart and lungs so that those are protected during radiation. We don’t want to destroy any healthy cells that shouldn’t be part of the radiation process. First Jennifer, my therapist, lined me up on the “bed”. I have no clue why they call it a bed as it is unlike any bed I’ve ever slept on. It was hard and uncomfortable, but I digress. She then marked me with an X, with a fine tip marker, where the laser beams in the room intersected me. She applied sticky tape with wires inside them to create borders as the CAT scan doesn’t recognize borders, only bones and tissue. Once the doctor approved the lines and borders, she scanned me. After the scan she took all the metal tape off and tattooed the X marks with a tiny dot in the center of each X. I’m living wild now, I’ve got tats!

I will go in again on the 18th of Dec for another simulation. This will insure that the “map” of my body lines up perfectly with me. Providing this is all perfect, I start daily radiation treatments Dec 21st and will end Feb 3rd. If you’re wondering, like I did... no, they don’t “do” holidays. So my first two weeks will be 4 day weeks versus 5 day weeks. I will still have 31 treatments regardless of the Friday holidays.

The nurse let me know that the first two weeks are the easiest. She said the body can repair itself after each treatment and I will hardly notice any difference. However by the end of the 2nd week, the body runs out of steam trying to repair destroyed cells daily and struggles to heal itself from that point on. That is when I will begin experiencing fatigue. They think I shouldn’t begin any discomfort from ray burns until after the first two weeks, however, as I am fair skinned we will have to “play it by ear” as to how quickly I react to the rays.

I am not allowed to wear deodorant or powder or any other topical solutions on the area to be radiated as it will act like oil on a sunbather’s body and enhance the burn. I learned that I haven’t had to wear deodorant under my right arm since surgery as they removed sweat glands when they removed lymph nodes. This was news to me, but there’s another silver lining. It will take twice as long to use up my deodorant as it has in the past. Think of all the money I could have saved if I’d known that earlier!

Thanks for sticking in there with me, only 6 ½ weeks of radiation. Drug therapy will begin once radiation is done, but, one step at time. Love you all.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Overdue Update

I apologize for not updating the blog for awhile. Many of you have called or texted for updates, so I realized I am long overdue. Here's what has happened since my final chemo session.

Dave and I met with Dr. Coffman on Nov 6th for a follow up to my last chemo session. My CBC (complete blood count) showed that my red blood counts had gone up a whole point from 9.6 to 10.6. Thanks for your prayers, (Thank you God), I did not need another Aranesp (iron) shot! I had already began to start feeling stronger and have continued to do so since then. Dr.Coffman released me to go back to work and told me he wanted to give me another month to regain my strength and energy before starting radiation. The front office staff set an appointment with Dr. "C", my radiology oncologist, before we left that day.

I started back to work the following Monday, November 9th. I knew it would take awhile to acclimate to a work schedule, but I didn't realize how exhausted I would be. Even now I am still coming home tired and typically falling asleep on the couch by 8:30 at night. Thankfully my boss has allowed me to work from home when I feel I need to, so I have taken advantage of that option a few days a week. Mentally it has been a real boost for me to go back to work. I am no longer a patient 24x7, or thinking about cancer or treatments or the next doctor's appointment all the time. My teammates have been great helping me catch up on what took place during my absence and have helped me remember policies that I have forgotten so that I can assist my stores.

Wednesday before Thanksgiving I had my first port flush. I had forgotten to put my Lydocaine on before leaving the house, and I drove myself, along with my SIL Donna, so I couldn't put it on in the car. I did put it on once I pulled up outside the cancer center 5 minutes early and waited to go in until the last possible moment. Once inside the nurse told me that we would do a CBC to check to see if I needed another Aranesp shot. I told her I was under the impression that I was there just for a port flush. She looked in my file and said she didn't even have that down. (OK, scary). Then I told her that I shouldn't need another Aranesp shot as my counts were up to 10.6 the last time I was here. She again looked at my file and said she showed my counts at 9.7 the last time I was in on Oct 13th. (Getting nervous now). I informed her that Oct 13th was my last chemo session and that I had been in since then and my counts were up when I was in last. She finally figured out that when I visited Dr. Coffman those nurses put everything in the computer and didn't print things out to put in my file.

By the time we got all the reports figured out 20 minutes had passed by and I was hoping the Lydocaine would be working. The nurse punched the needle into my port and I realized quickly that 20 minutes is not enough time to numb sufficiently. Ouch! Then to make matters worse nurse Barb couldn't get my blood to flow. After lying me back, having me turn my head, pushing on my port and trying for way too long to get blood for the CBC, she was finally successful. My red blood counts came back at 10.8. I was disappointed that I had only gone up 0.2 points but it did explain why I still feel so tired at the end of a day. 45 minutes after we arrived we finally left. I had told Donna that we would only be there 10-15 minutes. Sorry Donna.

Chemo continues to wreak havoc on my body. I have rings on my fingernails and like rings on a tree tell how old it is, the rings on my fingernails tell how many treatments I've had. My fingernails have also begun to lift which make the tips of my fingers tender. I just recently lost the last of my eyebrows and expect to loose what's left of my eyelashes soon. Now that I've gone back to work, I've had to start actively managing my lymphodema (swelling of the lymph nodes). Sitting around, along with gravity, makes my right arm swell. I've had to get a compression sleeve to wear while I'm at work to keep the swelling at bay. On the upside, my energy is improving, my taste buds seem to be fully repaired resulting in putting 5 lbs back on, and I'm getting peach fuzz on my head, so hair is forthcoming!!

My next doctor appointment is set for this coming Wednesday, Dec. 2nd with my surgeon Dr. Levy. This will be my 6 months follow up. It's hard to believe it's been 6 months since my surgery. Next Monday, Dec. 7th is when I meet with Dr. "C" to begin the radiation preliminaries. A mold will have to be made, tattoo's for precision line up have to be gotten and other preliminaries will be administered before I actually start radiation. Once I know when the treatments begin I will let everyone know.

Thank you all for the support you've shown throughout all of this. It's almost done and then I can begin counting my anniversaries of being a survivor.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I Want to Know You More

My final chemo session has been administered. As I posted on Facebook, after waiting for blood counts and approval from the doctor for an agonizing 30+ minutes on Tuesday the 13th, (closer to 45 minutes) the doctor finally approved my final chemo session. Chemo is done! My anemia is still in effect, and the iron shots have not quite kicked in yet, so fatigue is a constant battle. Radiation will not help matters as the rays will continue to take my red blood counts down and keep the anemia going. The cancer center will continue to give me iron injections until my counts reach 10 points. If they reach 8, I was told a blood transfusion takes place. The lowest I’ve been is 9.3. Lets pray my counts remain above 8. They were 9.6 on Tuesday but then chemo will take them lower again before they begin to rise.

I don’t have a radiation schedule as of yet, but have been told it will be about a month after chemo is done, so I am expecting early to mid November before radiation begins. Before I start actual treatments, I will have examinations, pictures taken for precise line up, tatoo’s to “mark the spot” for the same line up each time and who knows what else. So my “break” before radiation begins will be busy it sounds like. Once I start, I will have daily treatments Monday through Friday for 6 ½ weeks. 25 rounds to my upper right quadrant and the last 8 rounds are “boosts” to the surgery sites. I am praying for nominal side affects to radiation. The doctor says everyone is different, but did say if they didn’t make my skin pink they feel they aren’t doing their job correctly. So I expect some burning to take place. I am just hoping that we can keep it down to just “pink” and not the sunburn that my skin is so used to getting when exposed to rays. My pale white skin doesn’t like sunrays much.

I keep wondering and asking the Lord to tell me why He’s allowed me to have to go though breast cancer and the treatments that seem to be so hard on my body. I don’t have that clear blueprint I am wanting, but His word still comes back to me in Jeremiah 29: 11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 12 “Then you will call upon Me and pray to Me and I will listen to you.” 13 “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”

Verse 11 was Linda’s favorite scripture and Dan and Linda’s pastor expounded on vs. 11 during Linda’s memorial service. I wish I had a tape of his topic it was so good. But God has brought it to my mind over and over again during this entire journey. There is so much to these words. He knows the plans He has for us, for me. I have to trust that plan until He decides to share parts of it with me. But in vs. 12 and 13 God always gives us the other end of the bargain, our part. We are to call upon Him, talk to Him, ...conversations take place here. He listens. Then another promise: “We will find Him when we look for Him with all our hearts. “ This relationship cannot be religious, cannot be half hearted. It has to be with all of our heart. If we approach our relationship with God the way many of us do with our spouses, it just won’t cut it. We have to be more honest and open with God than we allow ourselves to be with our spouses, way more for some of us. We fear retribution or vulnerability when we let down our guards with our spouse. Words shared can be used against us; we don’t dare open up too far. It can’t be so with God. His word says “You will find Me when you seek me with all your heart.” We only get from God what we allow Him to get from us. When we hide, we cannot see God. It’s only when we are more real than we believe we can be that God will reveal Himself to us in like measure.

I don’t have any answers here, just bits and pieces of what God is allowing me to see, allowing me to grow with if I take it to heart. I know I’ve not gone on to share all of my heart with Him. I still cling to what I think He doesn’t know. He knows, He’s just waiting to have that conversation with me, when I can trust Him enough to share it.

What should I fear from God? He promises not to harm me but to prosper me, to give me a hope and a future. What part of this is scary?? My part, letting go, trusting God, letting go of MY control. Trusting someone to not use what is said between us to hurt me. Trusting someone at their word, trusting that someone really is looking out for me, besides me. Sin is the culprit for the human reaction to love, mistrust. God never intended it to be that way. God is calling us to as close to a perfect relationship we can experience here on earth, to trust Him. It’s really hard, but I want that. Don’t you? And in that, I believe God can help us in our earthly relationships too. As we draw closer to God we draw closer to his creation, our spouses, our church members, uniting us to do the will of God without fear of failure or the response to that failure. Imagine having the confidence to go out and do what God has asked us to and not being afraid of failure or the reaction to possible failure. So many times we don’t even get started doing what God has asked us to do, because of our fear of failure. I know I can’t count how many times I’ve stopped or not even started something because I didn’t want to screw it up. We all do that.

Read it again. Jeremiah 29: 11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 12 “Then you will call upon Me and pray to Me and I will listen to you.” 13 “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”

Father God, help me to open up with all my heart and to seek You, trust You, love You, without any fear. I want to know the plans You have for me. I want to have a hope and a future in You. I don’t want to waste this journey of breast cancer or the impact on the lives of the people You have brought into my life through it. Help me to let go of myself, my control and to open up to You like I never have. I want to know you more.

Monday, September 28, 2009


It is with deep sorrow and yet peace of heart that I must tell you that Linda passed on to heaven yesterday morning. Please take a moment to read the Caring Bridge update that Dan posted yesterday as it speaks so beautifully to who Linda really was. She wasn't just a cancer patient, she was so much more and her message will continue to inspire all of us. Linda truly was one tough chick. She never stopped loving our God and never stopped encouraging others to do the same. Please click to read Dan's posting.

Dave's Uncle Chuck was also very recently diagnosed with brain cancer and sometime Friday night passed away. His battle was brief. He will be missed. Please pray for Chuck's wife and family as they mourn his passing.

Needless to say, this has been one very trying year. And now, Dave and I are reeling from yesterday's events as we try to prepare for what to do next. This last round of chemo has left me weak and I've battled fevers and chills. I believe God has allowed my fever to break in order to make arrangements to pay our respects in person to our extended family. Please pray for wise decisions and God's strength in us in the face of adversity, so that we may be a witness to those around us.

Monday, September 14, 2009

4 Down, 2 to Go!

I had my 4th chemo cycle August 31st. I wasn't as fortunate as last time with the side affects, but God has still been with me. I did not have the need to take any sleep aids and have taken very few anti-nausea pills this time. However, my blood counts have taken me to new lows and I am now anemic. This results in low energy levels and having to watch when I stand up too quickly, bend over, turn my head...... The first week and a half after this treatment, passing out or almost passing out was a bit too common. I think I'm over that part for now.

My birthday was just a few days after this last cycle and Dave wanted to take me out to dinner to celebrate. Not that I felt much like celebrating, but I did want to get out of the house and have a nice meal. Jenn blessed us by joining us. As I was walking out to the car, yet another episode of "Brought to you by Chemotherapy" moment occurred when I almost passed out again. Once that moment passed, Dave asked if we should continue and yes, by golly, I was going!! We arrived at Main Street Cafe on the square in Medina and ordered our meals. When our food arrived, it looked and smelled so good... but lo and behold my taste buds failed me. I could barely taste the food, and the little bit I could taste was tainted by chemotherapy mouth. I have experienced odd (downright nasty) tastes to no taste at all for the past 2-3 cycles and was really hoping that it wasn't going to happen this time, but it did. And on my birthday. How dare it! The good news is, I regain most of my taste before each new sessions, albeit, slightly tainted, but I've learned to deal with it.

Now we are down to 2 more cycles!! My next cycle is Sept. 22nd. I will really begin the countdown then!! My last cycle will be sometime mid October and I should begin to finally start feeling better about 2 weeks after that. During this "time off" I begin meeting with the radiation oncologist for education, molds and pictures.

Thanks to all of you for your continued prayers during this long drawn out process. The end is in site for chemotherapy!! I will continue to keep you updated. Thanks for sticking in there with me.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Round 3

Round 3 of chemotherapy was completed on August 10th. That means I am halfway through!

This cycle began with a visit with the oncologist. Dave dropped Jenn and I off at the cancer center as he had a meeting at another hospital. He assumed he would be back in time for the actual chemo treatment. Jenn and I waited for Dr. Coffman to come into the room for awhile. When he finally made it in, he performed his exam, asking questions about how I reacted to the last treatment and assuring himself that my side affects weren't extreme. He listened to my heart and belly sounds and was satisfied that I was healthy enough to take on the next round of chemo. When we left the examination room, the nurse told me to pick a chair and they would be with me soon.

After waiting about an hour, a nurse that was not mine that day, took my blood pressure and temperature and accessed my port for blood. Normally, this part is no big deal. That day I felt the full wrath of the port needle as it pierced my skin. I had applied the Lydocaine to my port right before leaving the house, as always, however the Lydocaine had been on for over 2 hours since leaving the house and had lost it's potency. Ouch! Once that nurse had finished, Jenn and I waited for about another half an hour before my nurse, Rhonda, finally came to begin administering my pre-meds. I had texted Dave and told him not to rush as I had not even started my pre-meds yet, but he arrived shortly after she began administering them. Once my nurse hung the first drug of Taxotere, I told Dave and Jenn to go get some lunch as that would take about an hour to infuse. I didn't want them sitting there watching me while their bellies were growling. Thankfully they complied and left to grab some Thai food just down the road.

By the time Dave and Jenn came back from lunch the second batch of meds had just begun being administered. Dave took several phone calls that day and spent almost the entire time outside on the phone. Jenn brought a book and read. Other than our rocky beginning, the rest was uneventful.

Each cycle has been different for me and this one was no exception. I had the normal queasiness (the drugs they give me to take at home work really well against this nasty side affect), however nothing else about this cycle was normal! But this is a good thing!! I never once lost my energy during this cycle!! I kept waiting for the ball to drop, so to speak, but it never did. I praise God for answering prayer. The last cycle was horrible to my energy level to the point where it was hard to get out of bed. I laid around most days not even having mental energy to want to do anything. I know many of you prayed for me and God was generous in His mercy! Thank you for your prayers.

My next treatment is August 31st then after that one I only have 2 more left!! Thank you all for your prayers, encouraging words, texts, phone calls and cards. You have given me the encouragement to keep on keeping on!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Caution! Serious Pondering Ahead.

With my next chemo cycle quickly approaching, I have been thinking about how God answers prayers. Some prayers have been answered just as we have asked them to be, as in the evidence of the lack of nasty side affects for me, especially during this past cycle. Other prayers are being answered but not in the way we hope for. It's during these times I question my trust in God. I have friends that are faced with job loss, I have family and friends in the midst of serious illnesses some of which are curable, some are not. I have asked God, "How can this bring glory to you?" I don't have the answer but I realize this is where I have to trust God to do what is best. I have to keep in mind that God sees the big picture, where I am selfish and only want what is best for me and mine.

I have read about martyrs in the past and present who have been willing to sacrifice their own personal safety and lives in order to carry out the "big picture" for God. I admire them... from afar. I've never been in a position of being threatened with my life or being beaten and demanded to deny my faith in God or to stop telling others about God. These people have great faith that God has placed them in that exact position for a purpose. I have wondered if I were in that position, would I crumble and do what my captors were demanding of me? Could I trust God that He had placed me in that position to do His will and would I be brave enough to carry it out regardless of the known outcome?

I ask God "Why isn't that person being healed?" or "Why is this other person being put through a job loss and financial hardships?" These people believe in God. In my selfish world, God makes us comfortable, He heals us, makes sure we have enough money...right? Instead of wondering why God isn't doing "good things" for us, I should be wondering what it is I can do for God. Is there a reason why I have to go through breast cancer, or a reason my friend may loose their job, or someone else their life? Are we making the most of the hardships God is allowing by sacrificing our desires to be healed or be financially stable in order to be a part of the bigger picture? It's hard to think that way especially when we don't understand how our circumstances could possibly help God's plan? Are we willing to sacrifice our life for God? If we're honest, most of us would say "No!" It's uncomfortable to think about, yet think about it I do.

I must admit, I've gotten angry at God for not answering my prayers the way I want them answered. I do not understand why He allows certain things to happen. After I've thrown my temper tantrum, God always restores peace to me. Not answers, but peace in the fact that He does love us and like any good parent, only gives us what we can handle. I am always left with the reality that it's not about me (I know it's hard to believe, but it's true), but it's about God and reaching those who have not yet seen the need for a relationship with Him. Reaching those who have not come to the realization that we fail miserably as humans yet God loves us anyway and wants us to have purpose on earth, and to live out eternity in the greatest love that we have yet to experience.

There is a song that I sing that contain the words below;

Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.

Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.

I want to be filled and used by God, but I have to learn to trust God during the melting and molding stage that what He is doing, as painful as it may be, is for the best. How can we become willing vessels to be used by God if we aren't willing to be shaped into the vessel He needs us to be? Is someone watching me as I go through this hardship and if they are, are they seeing God, or seeing me whine and complain? Am I able to set aside my selfish desires long enough to be used to show God's love to someone else?

God speaks to us in the bible to trust Him:

2 Samuel 7:28 O Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.

Ps 4:5 Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord.

Ps 9:10 Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

PS 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped...

Ps 37:5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:

Ps 56:3 When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

There are many, many more scriptures that speak about trusting God, but for tonight, Psalm 84:12 speaks volumes " O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you."

Oh Lord, I want to be that woman who is blessed for trusting you. Forgive me for making it about me. Forgive me for not trusting that You have all the answers and that you will reveal them to me only when I can handle it. Forgive me for thinking that my life should be perfect when there are so many lives in this world that are not. Father make me the vessel You need me to be, then fill me and use me as You see fit. Help me to not complain during the melting and molding process. Use me Father to reach someone else who needs to see You as a loving God and come into a personal relationship with you. Amen

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ok! Ok! So I stretched it a little......

My apologies for those of you who have talked to me lately and aren't convinced my blog is accurate. Right after I posted the last blog, fatigue kicked in pretty heavily. My energy level took a nose dive and I have been pretty much a couch potato since then. I really didn't mean to sugar coat what is going on with me, but do know that Dave and Jenn are taking very good care of me, making sure I eat and don't over exhaust myself. Please rest assure, even if I had the energy to over do, I wouldn't be allowed.

Thank you for all your concerns. I will get some energy back before the next round of chemo (scheduled Aug. 10Th). Until then, keep those prayers lifted high! I love you all.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust (boom, boom)

I had to choose this title this time. This song was playing in Jenny's and my head as we left the cancer center this week. Round #2 is now done. Thanks to all of you for praying. God was definitely with me this week.

The accessing of my port was relatively painless thanks to some awesome Lidocaine and nurse Barb. There were also no nasty allergic reactions to the medicine this time. We arrived at 10:30 and was out by 2:30, much better than the 7 hour stay the first time. They added to my pre-meds to combat any reactions which included quite a dose of benedryl so that made my head feel really weird and I just wanted to sleep. However, just like when I'm on a plane with lots of people around me, I couldn't sleep during chemo either. I really wanted to, but too much going on around me kept my eyes coming open. Jenn brought a book to read this time and Dave kept busy reading papers and working on his Treo.

The after affects aren't quite as bad this time either. So far the nausea has been minimal, and the fatigue doesn't seem to be as energy zapping as it was the last time. I feel more sleepy rather than drained this time...if that makes any sense. Either way, I'll take it over the first go round.

Jenn threw me a scarf party the Saturday before my chemo session, so that helped to alleviate the fear and anxiety I had been feeling toward my next round. Many ladies showed up and a few sent gifts who couldn't physically attend. We all had a really good time. If you facebook, you can see all the pictures posted there. I will try to post more on my other blog, The Howell Blessings.

Again, I cannot say thank you enough for all the prayers I know you are praying. I do feel them and appreciate them mightly.

I will leave you with a scripture that one of the ladies from the Pink Chain Gang sent me. Psalms 103:17-18 (CEV) The Lord is always kind to those who worship Him. And He keeps His promises to their decendants who faithfully obey Him. Thank you all for obeying Him.

Love, Mindy

Connie (a breast cancer survivor) and me at my Scarf Party

Saturday, July 11, 2009

He Restores My Soul

First off, my apologies for not updating sooner. I know many of you depend on this blog to keep updated on my progress. I will try to be more dilligent in timely updates.

Since my last posting ( June 24th, MUGA scan), much has happened. July 1st was my first chemotherapy cycle (Cycle is what they call it, although I refer to it as a treatment). We arrived at the oncologist office at 8:15 in the morning and left at 3:15 that afternoon. It was a very long, tiring day.

When we (Dave, Jenny and I) first arrived, we were taken to a conference room by nurse Barb and, for about an hour, she pumped us full of useful and scary information. She told us about the medicines I would be getting and all the common side affects and how to best handle them. Most of the information I was already aware of by researching on my own, but some of it was news.

After we conferenced, Barb led us to the chair I would be occupying during my treatment and brought chairs for Dave and Jenn to sit on. I had brought my chemo kit that my friend Sue so lovingly provided for me and opened up my new blanket to cover myself with as it was chilly in the office. Barb started an IV in my left arm and began administering my "pre-meds" to help combat different side affects such as nausea and allergic reactions. After those were finished Barb left to gather my medicines. It was at that time I had a "moment". You know, one of those, "this is really happening and I don't want to be doing it" moments. I have to admit, I felt slightly panicky while waiting on Barb to bring out my doses. I thought I was going to be sick. One of the other nurses, Mari Kay, asked me if I was ok. She must have noticed that flight risk look in my face. I told her I thought I was going to be sick and she brought me a bucket and some saltines and reassured me that this reaction is common and real. It's called "anticipatory anxiety". "Anticipatory anxiety is the physical symptoms of increased heart rate, increased pulse, shallow rapid breathing and increased tension which can cause upset stomachs and headaches and perhaps increased sweatiness, all of which arise when thinking about an upcoming event." (Ezine Articles) Thankfully that moment of nausea passed, although I'm not sure if the feeling of "I don't want to be here" ever did.

When Barb left me, she entered the pharmacy room, which was directly across from my chair. She donned a gown and gloves which raised my anxietes slightly as I realized it was because she was about to handle my drugs and was protecting herself against the dangers of handling them. After checking and re-checking the drugs and doses with the dispensing nurse, she brought them out to my chair table and laid them out. First she administered the Adriamycin. This red liquid has the most potential for making me lose my hair, get mouth sores, ruin my heart and destroy my veins. Oh yeah, it's pretty wicked on cancer cells too. This particular drug is administered through an IV push. During this time Barb was standing directly beside me, slowly pushing the Adriamycin into the IV tube. While she did this I sucked on a Popsicle (also provided by Sue) as this has been shown to help prevent mouth sores.

Next came Taxotere. Barb warned me that if I feel ANY difference in the way I was feeling right at that moment to let her know. She said that this particular drug has a tendency to cause allergic reactions, so if I was going to react to anything it'd be this one. I was good for about 10 or 15 minutes. Mari Kay had just asked me if I was doing ok and I answered yes, then all of a sudden my face felt like all the blood had rushed out of it and my heart started pounding hard. I called out for Barb, who was in the pharmacy room and by the time she stepped out to me, I was beginning to feel heavy in my chest, like someone was pushing on me. Immediately Barb and Mari Kay pushed my chair back, stopped the drip and started administering.....benedryl I think, some drug to stop my reaction. By then I was also shaking so Barb ordered another drug to help that which pretty much knocked me out. She stood over me and monitored me for about 20-30 minutes then started the Taxotere drip again, this time more slowly.

The last drug administered was Cytoxin, but by then I was spent and on drugs which made me sleepy so I barely remember Barb switching over to that one. The rest, as they say, is history. I am sure Dave and Jenn were excited to sit by me and watch paint dry, but they stuck it out, bless their hearts. After we came home, I slept much the rest of the day. I remember having a headache and feeling just slightly queasy.

The first six days after chemo were the hardest for me. Thankfully the doctor had given me prescriptions to help combat the side affects. I never once lost my stomach, but felt queasy daily. I could barely make myself eat, but Dave kept reminding me I had to eat to keep my strength up. Fatigue was another side affect that I wasn't expecting. I had no physical or mental strength at all during the first 4-5 days. I felt like a wet washrag, just laying around and not being able to function or think.

I also experienced "chemo brain" during these same rough few days. I had evidently spoken with someone on the phone, written down their name and an appointment for a pre-admission test for a surgical implant of a port. Later when my mind was mine again, I saw on the calendar "1:00 Tuesday Strongsville Surgical Spe" written in my own handwriting, but could NOT remember writing it, what it was for or when I spoke to someone. Thankfully the hospital called on Monday morning to let me know that my port was to be implanted on Thursday and I confirmed with them what Tuesday's appointment was for.

This past Thursday I went in at 1:00 to the hospital to get my port. Adriamycin is extremely rough on veins and, breast cancer patients especially, due to lymph node removal, have limited options to what arm, if any, and veins can be accessed. If, when inserting the IV needle, the needles pokes through and any of the Adriamycin leaks out, Necrosis, or tissue death, can occur. Not that this is common, but it is a risk with this medicine. If that were to occur, among many other issues, I would not have an arm for blood draws, injections or any other type of medicinal procedure in the future. Therefore I got a port to administer my medications through. The port is implanted surgically under the skin just under my collar bone and threaded up through my juggler vein. This access through a larger vein helps dilute the drugs immediately and speeds their access through my system. There is no room for accidental vein sticks when administered this way either, so it is a safer option for me. And I no longer have to endure the painful IV stick every treatment. The Dr. has prescribed a Lydocaine ointment that I will apply over my port area before going in, so the when the port needle is inserted, it's relatively painless.

So now, I am recovering from this surgery and am anxious for it to heal so I can remove this tape which is pulling on my neck and chest. My chest is quite sore, but I have been reassured I will be thankful to have this port. So, I am thankful. Once chemo is all done, it will require more surgery to remove the port. I will be thankful then too, to have it out. Yesterday we visited the oncologists office for a "mid-cycle check-up". This is where the doctor asks me how I handled any side affects and checks me out physically to make sure I am enduring everything ok. Blood is drawn and all counts are monitored. I wasn't expecting it, but Mari Kay accessed my port for the blood work. I'm sure it will be better next time, but accessing a very sore site the day after surgery, was a little traumatic for me. I'll just say it wasn't a pleasant experience for me this time. On the upside, all my blood counts were quite good, so the Nuelasta injection I received the day after chemo was doing it's job. That is making sure my white blood cells are being regenerated.

They say the last week before you go in for your next chemo cycle is your best week. This time it will also be the week I am expecting to loose my hair. However, I am looking forward to having a good week coming up. Jenn and Sue are throwing me a "Scarf Party" on Saturday, so that will give me something positive to look forward to before I go to my next cycle and start this process all over again.

Thank you all for your prayers. I am convinced that God is with me and have felt your prayers. I will leave you with a scripture my sister Laurie sent me in the Complete Jewish rendition which really has administered peace to me this past week or so.

Psalms 23:
Adonai is my shepherd; I lack nothing. He has me lie down in grassy pastures, He leads me by quiet waters, He restores my inner person. He guides me in right paths for the sake of His own name. Even if I pass through death and dark ravines, I will fear no disaster; for You are with me. Your rod and staff reassure me. You prepare a table for me, even as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil from an overflowing cup. Goodness and Grace will persue me every day of my life; and I will live in the house of Adonai for years and years to come.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Passed!

Well, I have ordered my "cranial prosthesis" and a few head pieces and have now had all the preliminary tests before I begin chemo. Today was the MUGA scan (heart scan) to determine the strength of my heart. My results came back normal. Normal results indicate that the heart squeezing function is .......well.......normal. A normal value is above 55% and mine was above that. I was teasing Jenn that I was disappointed that I didn't get a 100% because I always strive to get A's in school.......I plan to graduate from breast cancer survivor school with honors!

My next step along this journey is my first chemo treatment, one week from today. I plan to celebrate after each treatment is over, marking each one off with joy as it moves me closer to being finished. If you're so inclined......celebrate with me!!

Thanks again for your continued prayers as I begin chemo soon. I am praying for minimal side affects and no complications.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Good News!

Good news. My PET scan results came back normal! As my friend J says Praise God and cross that off your list! Thank you all for your prayers. I am doing a happy dance!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Radiation Consult

Although a bit early, we were scheduled to meet with my radiation oncologist Dr. "C" this past week in Independence ,right behind where I'll be having my chemo.

Radiation is a highly targeted, and effective way to destroy cancer cells in the breast that may stick around after surgery. Radiation can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence by about 70%. Although I had surgery, that alone cannot guarantee that every last cancer cell has been removed from my breast area. Radiation therapy uses a high-energy beam to damage cancer cells and normal cells as well. However, cancer cells cannot repair themselves, whereas, normal cells are better able to repair themselves and survive the treatment.

Radiation treatments will not begin until about a month after chemo finishes, but when I do start, I will have 33 treatments of radiation. 25 of those will be directed to my entire upper right chest from just below my breast, over to my sternum, up to just about my collar bone and all underneath my arm to include the lymph nodes. The last 8 treatments will be a "boost" to just my scar site areas (by then they will be a scars). These 33 treatments will take 6 1/2 weeks to complete, going in daily Mon-Friday for about 10-15 minutes each treatment. Once a week I will meet with the Dr. and once a week I have a consult with the oncology nurse to cover skin care, side affects and other issues that might arise. Sunburn and fatigue are the most common side affects to these treatments. Although the doctor did say that some people experience nausea, he didn't expect that to happen. Some damage to the remaining lymph nodes may occur which will increase the risk of lymphodema. The most serious risk I face is scarring on the tip of my lung. That scarring will remain a "monitoring" issue for the rest of my life.

Dave seemed to be comfortable with the nurse and doctor. Maybe I was just having an off day, but I didn't get warm fuzzies with this group. So far, everyone we've met at the Cleveland Clinics have been warm and compassionate and experts in their field. It's not that Dr. C and his nurse, weren't, but .....I don't know, I just didn't have the peace I've had with the others. I may continue to search for a radiation oncologist. I have time.

In the mean time, I have a PET scan this Wednesday (June 17th) at Hillcrest Hospital (a Cleveland Clinic branch). I am praying that there are no surprises. A PET scan is a Positron Emission Tomography nuclear test. A radioactive solution (tracer) will be injected into my veins and then I get to "rest" for about 45 minutes while it travels throughout my body. When they scan me, the dye puts off energy so they can see all my organs and tissue. If there is any cancer present it will light up like Christmas tree lights. I'm hoping my technician doesn't dream of sugar plums while watching my scan.

I will update again once we get results back from the test. Hopefully we know something before I go into the MUGA scan. More on that later.

Thanks for all your prayers as we continue on this journey.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Be Still My Soul

It’s been a rough week. We met with the Medical Oncologist on Friday the 29th. Dr. Coffman read over my report and informed us that chemo would be needed. We told him what Dr. Levy had informed us of, about the study showing chemotherapy not adding much value than taking Tamoxifen alone. He said that once cancer enters the lymph nodes, it enters the lymph system. To ignore that would not be wise. Chemo cuts down the chances of re occurrence by 50% between women who take the chemo and those that do not. That is a significant percentage. His argument was convincing. So…..I get chemotherapy.

I will have a cocktail mix of Taxotere, Adriamycin and Cytoxan which will take about an hour and a half to infuse into my IV. Before those medicines are given I will get a mix of medications infused first to help me combat side effects of these drugs. That is another half hour. I will receive 6 treatments spread out about 14-21 days apart, beginning July 1st with each treatment lasting about 2-3 hours. Due to the nature of chemo and the way it compromises the body, these treatments may stretch out farther. Treatments may be delayed if my white blood counts drop too low, if I get a cold, if I get some of the common side effects or if any of the common side effects turn serious.

I was told that my prescribed drugs will make me lose my hair and that “being sick” wasn’t inevitable. I am trying to find the upside to all this. Dr. Coffman told us that that when my hair grows back, it will be thicker and curlier than before. ..Thicker is good. Until then, I’ll be like my great Aunt Cleta..”Let me grab my wig”! (inside family memory). Another benefit to chemo, I won’t need to shave my legs for awhile! Pat S would LOVE that side effect with summer coming!

Before I begin chemo I will have a few more visits to doctors and hospitals. I meet with my radiation oncologist, Dr. “C”, on June 8th to discuss radiation treatment, when it begins and how long it will be once chemo is over. On June 17th I will go to Hillcrest hospital for a PET scan to check my entire body for any cancer that may be lurking. On June 24th I go back to Hillcrest for a MUGA scan. The MUGA scan (MUlti Gated Acquisition scan) is a test that produces a moving image of the heart. From this image, the health of my heart’s major pumping chamber (the left ventricle) can be assessed. Adriamycin, one of the drugs that will be used on me, can be toxic to the heart muscle, and can lead to heart failure. This scan is to establish a baseline on my heart, and to rule out pre-existing cardiac disease.

As if the chemo blow wasn’t enough, one of the possible after effects to surgery reared it’s ugly head this week. Lymph fluid has been building up under my arm. Because they removed 3 lymph nodes, the lymph fluid is having difficulties finding their super highway. They have yet to ask direction to the nearest node. I became so uncomfortable with the swelling and hardness under my arm that I finally called the doctor’s office. No one had told me to expect this, so I was just sure something was terribly wrong. Debbie, one of Dr. Levy’s nurses, informed me that this is not uncommon, and to come on in and they would “stick a needle in it and drain the fluid”. (Well didn’t that just sound lovely). She assured me that I should still be numb and won’t feel it. Well the good news is she was right, I didn’t feel it. The bad news is, she says this could occur again for up to six months, but I should tolerate it as long as possible before coming in again. Here’s the scoop, I was told I have to avoid blood sticks, blood pressure cuffs, bug bites, cuts, burns, and even manicures on my right side from here on out as my lymph nodes struggle to process infections in the absence of a few nodes. So sticking a needle in my armpit is not ideal. Last night I noticed the fluid is already beginning to build up again. ...Drats.

Between the news, the discomfort, and the emotional toll we’ve been taking lately, it really has been a hard week. I have been struggling to get my focus back on God and give it all to Him. Today I was finally able to pray and begin to give it to Him. I’m still working on it. I’ve been playing praise and worship songs all day on my iPod and on the house stereo. Then one of the songs spoke to me. Be Still My Soul. That is a command. Hush, settle down soul and listen to God’s promises.

Be still my soul! The Lord is on your side!
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide in every change, He faithful to remain.
Be still my soul! The waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Oh what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Why does it always take so long to run into my Father’s arms when I hurt, when I fear? I suffer needlessly because I don’t carry EVERYTHING to God in prayer. Be still my soul the Lord is on your side! I hate feeling sick, I’ll look horrible bald, I really fear IV needles… Be still my soul! God is on your side. “Fear not, for I am with you”. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life”? “You of little faith, why are you so afraid”?. “ I sought the Lord and He heard my voice; He delivered me from all my fears”. Be still my soul! The Lord is on your side.

Forgive me Abba Father for not running to You when I am afraid. I run and hide letting fear and doubt torture me when all the while you are calling my name to come to You. Oh Lord, hold me close. Help me to seek You quicker in the midst of this and deliver me from all my fears.
Be still my soul. Hush! The Lord is on my side.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Perfect Timing

I had my follow up appointment with Dr. Levy today. First, a doctor came in that I had met shortly while being sedated in the pre-op room and gently investigated my incisions and surrounding area. I wish I could remember her name, as I really liked her. She then covered the report she held in her hand, stating information we already were aware of as well as some new information. The cancer they removed was 1 centimeter (2.5 centimeters is an inch) it was a grade 1, which is slow growing. They removed 3 lymph nodes, which upon initial biopsy looked to be all clean, however, upon closer inspection, the first lymph node removed contained a “carcinoma”… Ok, that was news. She then proceeded to inform us that typically they recommend medication at 1 centimeter or more, none for less than 1 centimeter and because I also indicated cancer in a lymph node she was sure they would recommend medication. I, being na├»ve, assumed the medication she was speaking of was Tamoxifen. Dave on the other hand asked “Chemotherapy?” to which she replied “yes”, … I could not tell you what else she said after that.

After she left the room, I sat stunned for a moment, managed to blurt out “Crap”, grabbed a Kleenex and hopped back on the table to await Dr. Levy. Dave came to me and gave me a hug then we both sat stunned. Eventually Dr. Levy came in, washed his hand, and began to poke around my incisions forgetting that I was under them and still fresh from surgery. After satisfying himself that no lymph node fluid was building up inside or infection was present, he declared me “looking good” and proclaimed I could begin to resume “normal activity”.

Dr. Levy then began to restate what the previous doctor told us, and informed us he would get phone numbers to oncologist in the Independence branch (as it is a bit closer to home). He said the oncologist could recommend removal of more lymph nodes, although he doubts any cancer would be in any more nodes and would note it that he does not recommend any more to be removed. He also informed us there is a test that could be done, a genetic mapping, that would show if the cancer tissue removed will likely come back in the future, or not. (I will insist on this test!). Dr. Levy said there are some studies out now that suggest that Chemotherapy does not add any more value than taking Tamoxifen alone. However, he was careful to remind us he was not an oncologist and we should consult with one before we make any decisions. Each cancer is different. I have made an appointment for this coming Friday the 29th, in Independence, to consult with a medical oncologist that will handle any treatment that I may need now that surgery is over. Chemo or not, I will still need radiation and most likely Tamoxifen. Needless to say that I spent the majority of today trying to process this information.

Later this afternoon, a friend from church brought over dinner and dessert for us. (Thank you to Donna (and Angeli), Kacie and Joann for wonderful meals that were lovingly and thoughtfully prepared for us, all were delicious!) Shortly after Joann left, a beautiful basket of violets, butterflies and vines, as well as a box of chocolates, were delivered from the local florist sent from my co-workers at Verizon Wireless. My brother, Tim, called to check in with me just about the time the flowers and chocolates arrived, and my other brother Rick stopped by tonight to see how I was doing and to give me a much-needed hug.

I have received prayers, cards, texts, e-mails, comments on my blog, meals, flowers and chocolates, and calls during this journey and I want to let you all know that each and every one have come at a perfect time, when I needed them the most. I cherish each of you and feel humbled by your generosity and spirit of compassion. Thank you just doesn’t seem to be enough. Thank you for allowing God to work His perfect timing through you.

Flowers and chocolates that arrived today from my friends at Verizon Wireless.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

She's Home!

Hello All,

This is Jenny, writing in place of mom today. I want to first off thank ALL of you for your prayers, calls, texts, e-mails and comments! They have meant so very much to Mom, and us, you guys are wonderful!

I can sum up the surgery in two words...are you ready...? PRAISE GOD. :)

Yup! It went well. We had to have Mom at the hospital at 7:30 this morning, to which we arrived a bit early - and then waited. Brian and John (our pastor and friends from church) arrived shortly before they called and took Mom to the back...without me or Dad! There, I am assuming, they went over the check list (did you eat, do you have contacts in, this is what is happening...) and they had her change and put the IV in her. After that Dad and I were allowed to go back and join her, where we were then told about how long we should expect to wait, and when we would talk to people afterwards. After this, and the introductions to the nurses, I went and retrieved Brian and John from the waiting room and they got to come back and see Mom and pray over her. They had given her some anesthesia when I had left, so by this point, she was starting to get sleepy. The doctor came while we were praying, so when the prayer was done they had her get into the wheelchair and they took her off.

Fast forward an hour and a half later and Dad and I were called back to recovery to watch Mom wake up. The doctor came in with a smile on his face and said that the surgery went well and he was pleased. They got a clean margin around the tumor, they had to take out 3 lymph nodes, but each was cancer free, and she had no drain! WOO HOO! Her vitals were all normal, and they had her munching on some shortbread cookies and a ginger ale...what a breakfast! After all our updates Dad went out and told John and Brian the news, bid John goodbye and Brian came back to check on Mom himself and pray over her again. After Mom had woken up some more, and the nurse went over the precautions and wound care information with us, we were able to bring her right home! No over night stays! Mom is currently sleeping in her own bed.

I bet you understand now why I said it could all be summed up with the words "Praise God"! Every step was an answer to prayer... and you, our dearest family and friends, have been a blessing with all of your love, prayers and support. I thank you all for your diligent care of Mom.

God bless you all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Time has Finally Come.

The time has finally come to remove this cancer from my body. We need to be at the hospital tomorrow (May 21st) at 7:30 am. Although I am not looking forward to surgery, I am looking forward to starting the process to be well again. First

When we met with the nurse last week she told us of all the issues we may encounter. I may need a drain under my arm if my lymph nodes produce too much fluid or don't re-route right away, I may have to spend the night due to pain, bleeding, etc. I am asking for prayer that I come out of this surgery in the best possible shape I can be in and will not need a drain or need to spend the night.

Thank you all for your prayers through this process. I have felt encouraged and focused on God through it all.

I will have Jenn update the blog tomorrow to let you all know that things went well (speaking from faith!), until then thank you for continued prayers.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

All Shook Up

I'm all shook up! No, I'm not singing an Elvis song.

J received some news this week that really shook me to the core. My heart is aching for her as she walks down this newest path that is being put before her. She shared with me yesterday and it really hit me hard. First my heart was breaking for her and her husband as they weigh options, make plans and figure out how to deal with this news.

Next Satan came at me hard, toying with me that this "thing" that my body has to host for another 3 weeks is growing out of control as I wait and wait. I woke up yesterday with shooting pains and experienced them on and off all day. So of course ole Beelzabub takes the very real and twists them into lies to torture me. And I was too tired to put up a good fight. I let him taunt me.

That was yesterday.

Today I'm fightin' mad! Hebrews 4: 14-16 says (CEV) 14We have a great high priest, who has gone into heaven, and he is Jesus the son of God. That is why we must hold on to what we have said about him. 15Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin! 16So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help.

In Mark 4:40 (CEV) Jesus asked this simple question. "Why were you afraid? Don't you have any faith?" I admit, I had none yesterday. Hebrews 11:1 says Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. And if we back up to chapter 10, the writer encourages me by saying "35Keep on being brave! It will bring you great rewards. 36Learn to be patient, so that you will please God and be given what he has promised." And the promises of God are many!

God, forgive me for doubting that You are in control, and as my father I should know You want what is best for me. Your mercies are new every morning. I know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him. (Rom 8:28) Help me Father to daily put on the armor that You give me, so I can defend myself against the devils tricks. I am not fighting against humans, I am fighting against the forces and powers in the spiritual realm. Help me learn to run to You first, to have faith in Your word, so that it becomes my sheild against the flaming arrows of the evil one. I want to be standing firm when this battle is over. (Eph 6)

Run and hide Satan, I'm doin' the shakin' now!

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Lighter Side

My brother Tim has helped me see the silver lining in having breast cancer. A conversation we had via e-mail started after he read my last update in which I spoke about the technicalities of my surgery and the removal of cancer, some lobes, nodes, etc.

Tim's response was : "You don’t need all those lobes and ducts and lobular milk stuff anyway, its way overrated. Probably make you run faster. "
True! And IF I ran, I'm just sure I would notice the difference.

While trying to explain to a friend why the Dr. wants me to take Tamoxifen, I told her "...Tamoxifen is an estrogen blocker, kinda like a histamine blocker, but not... my cancer eats estrogen for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so we are putting it on a diet. "

From what I read, I'll be the envy of every woman when I gain curves in places I've never had them. My aunt Billie has always told me I'm too skinny. She always says "You need some meat on them bones"! Well Aunt Billie it appears you may get your little hearts desire.

To quote Tim again....."See, there’s always a silver lining."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Update: Met the Surgeon

Dave, Jenny and I met with Dr. Levy today. He is a very patient, gentle, man. We all liked him.

What we found out is that my cancer is less than one centimeter, which is just under 1/2 an inch. It is estrogen positive. The cancer tumor is mixed in ductal and lobular areas which means that the tumor is in the duct but is also in the lobes. (Lobes produce milk and then the milk flows down the ducts to exit the breast). This will make it more difficult to get a clean margin of tissue as there are many lobes. He didn't say it, but this will most likely mean a larger area will need to be removed.

While in surgery Dr. Levy will perform a sentinel node biopsy in which he will inject a blue dye and will follow that dye to the first lymph node and then the second, etc. He will then remove 1-3 nodes for biopsy. A second incision will be made under my right arm to remove those nodes. The results from the node biopsy will come back while I am still in surgery and will determine if they can stop or have to take more nodes.

Dr. Levy suggested that I should take about 1-2 weeks off to recover from surgery and then about a week after that begin radiation treatment along with the drug Tamoxifen. Dave and I will begin researching these treatment options to decide if this will be the path that we decide to take. (I am not a fan of Tamoxifen and it's many side affects, some of which can be worse than breast cancer).

As of right now, surgery will be a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy and is scheduled for May 21st. (Yes another month to wait).

Due to Dr. staffing issues and the fact that my cancer is non-aggressive, Dr. Levy needs to put us off for about 3 weeks. That puts us right at the time of Kelly's graduation from Medical school. He agreed with us that is important for us to attend the graduation and important to Mike and Kelly for us to be there, so we should attend, but "get in after that". I then tried to push my luck by telling him that two of my best friends were coming for a visit on May 20th and leaving Memorial Day morning..and they already had their plane tickets. He just said, "well it's never a good time. We need to get you into surgery". Drats. Sorry Chris and Celia... I tried.

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement. I wish we could get through this faster, but that doesn't seem to be my destiny. Thank you bearing this wait with me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In Jesus' Name, We Press On

When the valley is deep
When the mountain is steep
When the body is weary
When we stumble and fall

In Jesus' name, we press on
In Jesus' name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on.

When the choices are hard
When we're battered and scarred
When we've spent our resources
When we've given our all

In Jesus' name, we press on
In Jesus' name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on

I heard this song on the radio this morning as I drove into work. I immediately thought of J and what she is having to endure this morning. Hang on tight J, and press on.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I have peace about this journey with breast cancer. I have moments or hours when I feel no peace, and I become nauseous thinking and worrying about what is to come. But most days, I have peace.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary describes peace as “a state of tranquility or quiet, freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions”.

There are parents and spouses all over this world with loved ones off to war. Parents have children involved in drugs or other destructive actions. Some have family members who have horrible diseases. Too many of us know someone who has lost their job and are worried about where the money will come from to put food on the table or pay the next bill. Some struggle with aging parents and aren’t sure how to cope with role reversal, or a serious illness, or even just the demands on time due to Mom or Dad’s loneliness.

How do we have peace, true peace, when situations that are out of our control are not peaceful?

The bible says in John 14:27 (CEV) “I (God) give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace this world can give. Don’t be worried or afraid”.

Philippians 4:6, 7 says (CEV) “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel”

Ah, there it is. Pray about everything and then, because I belong to Jesus Christ, God will bless me with His special kind of peace. The kind of peace where people ask me “How can you be so calm about this”? I cannot explain it any other way, except that I belong to Jesus and I know that no matter what happens, He will see me through each situation so that when it is finished it can be said that God was in the midst of it.

I have always loved the old hymn by Ho­ra­tio G. Spaf­ford,
It Is Well with My Soul. One verse in particular seems to fit very well during this trying time. Like Horatio , I have the peace that passes all understanding. I hope you find the following verse and refrain as comforting as I do.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Superwoman!... NOT

I was diagnosed in March 2009 with breast cancer. I consult with a surgeon at Cleveland Clinic on April 15th to find out what is next along my path. Although I am not looking forward to the days ahead, I am anxious to find out what my journey is going to look like.

Just a few weeks before I was diagnosed, a friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer also. She (J) has already had surgery to remove the mass from one of her breast. She has started a 5 year regimen of Tamoxifen. She was told it makes you gain weight. Great! Just what every woman wants to hear. She recently underwent a breast MRI that revealed 2 more lumps in her other breast. J met with her surgeon again today. Afterwards I got a text from her... "Can't do this"! I immediately sent her Ph 4:13 I can do ALL things through Christ which strengthens me. I then called her as I sensed she needed to talk. Uh yeeaah! They informed her they were not going to biopsy this one, located behind her nipple. Instead they were going to perform a wire guided surgery to remove them. That is, they insert wires to surround and pinpoint the lumps so that when they go into surgery they know exactly where the lumps are. (click here for more information) I've had one of those years ago for a benign lump. It was not pleasant. They also informed her they cannot numb her. Wha...??!!! Are you crazy?? I thought torture was illegal in the U.S.! It was bad enough under the guise of being numb (insert needle, shoot numbing stuff, insert wire...not exactly numb when he started). J, I will be praying for you.

Which brings me back to the scripture I sent J. I used to think that scripture said, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Well to my surprise it doesn't say that. It says I can do all things through Christ WHICH strenghtens me. Which means I will be able to do these things (with Christ by my side) and because of what I will go through I will be strengthened. Like iron in the fire. Hmm, I need to ponder that. I 've always been in the mindset of 'superwoman"! You know, Christ will give me supernatural powers to be faster than a speeding bullet and all that stuff. (picture Superman, not feeling the bullet, but catching it!) So, I'm still just me and I still have to endure what I go through, but I will come out the other side stronger for having gone through it. That means I HAVE to trust Christ to get me through it.

God, I believe. Help my unbelief.
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