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.