Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I had my quarterly visit with my oncologist yesterday. As of 2012, I will only have visits every 6 months and annual mammograms! That means I've graduated to the next level of survivorhood!

He switched my drug from Tamoxifen to Arimidex  I told him I will finish out the next 3 months of Tamoxifen first. ( I just got my next bottle of 90 days in the mail!)  That will give me 2 solid years of Tamoxifen and will put me at almost 3 years since my last period. I was heading down that menopausal route before I was diagnosed, but chemo cut my journey short.  Arimidex has it's own set of risks and side effects, however it seems to have a better statisitical rate of non-reoccurance of breast cancer.

Below are some highlights I found while researching this new drug. And new is the key word. Tamoxifen has been around for over 20 years. Arimidex is relatively new and thus not as much research has been done.

In a woman who has gone through menopause, the adrenal gland is the largest source of estrogen. Arimidex works by preventing the conversion of steroids made by the adrenal gland into estrogen.


With an average of four years of treatment on the ATAC study, hormone receptor-positive participants taking Arimidex were 22 percent more likely to be cancer-free than those taking tamoxifen. As more study results become available, the curves will probably continue to diverge, and we expect that over another five or ten years, we’ll see an even greater difference between the effectiveness of the two drugs. We also expect that Arimidex will improve overall survival rates, because we’re seeing fewer recurrences in distant organs among women taking Arimidex.

In the study, more than 5,000 women with hormone-receptor-positive tumors were followed for more than three years after treatment was stopped. The researchers show that an additional 25% of recurrences were prevented by Arimidex, compared with tamoxifen, says John F. Forbes, MD, professor of surgery at the University of Newcastle in Australia.

More than eight years after treatment started -- and more than three years after it stopped -- Arimidex scored better than tamoxifen on almost every measure:

• It lowered the risk of breast cancer relapse by 15% compared to tamoxifen

• It reduced the spread of cancer to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or liver by 16% compared to tamoxifen

• It slashed the chances of a tumor in the other breast by 40% compared to tamoxifen.


There haven’t been many breast cancer-related deaths so far among study participants, so we haven’t yet observed a difference in survival. The ATAC study also indicated that Arimidex is better tolerated than tamoxifen.

Arimidex offers a small but real improvement over tamoxifen, and in general, side effects are minimal.

Dec. 14, 2007 (San Antonio) -- Even after treatment ends, Arimidex beats out tamoxifen in preventing breast cancer recurrence in women with hormone-fueled tumors.

Studies have shown that Arimidex is better at preventing relapses than tamoxifen during the five years that women are being treated with these drugs


Updated results from this landmark trial also show that the increased risk of fractures associated with Arimidex therapy disappears after treatment stops.

During treatment, nearly 3% of women taking Arimidex had bone fractures vs. only 2% on tamoxifen. More than three years after treatment ended, the percentage was about 1.5% in both groups.

Arimidex side effects are often predictable in terms of their onset and duration. The most common side effects of Arimidex are:

Hot Flashes


Decreased energy and weakness

Bone pain


Most people do not experience all of the Arimidex side effects listed

So, as you can see, I could use your prayers.  I hope for none of these side effects, but covet the wisdom to deal with them if I do get any. I was just getting the hang of dealing with Tamoxifen side effects, but hopefully these new ones, which I won't start until about March of 2012, will prove themselves to be less painful and risky. 






Saturday, October 15, 2011

Susan G Komen 3-Day for the Cure - Cleveland July 2011

Early morning July 28th at the Port Authority. These illuminated balloons were guiding beacons for a large group of pumped up walkers ready to walk for a fantastic cause.

Team 'Marcia's Girls' were one of the top fundraising teams. Thank you to all who supported us!

I was a flag bearer in the opening ceremony. What an awesome experience.

Belief was the flag I carried. What an honor to be a part of such a moving ceremony.

Here I am with one of the many fun sweep van teams. These "Elvis's" were there to make sure all the walkers were safe and taken care of.

The neighborhoods we walked in showed their support of the walkers in several ways.  These little beauties were out in the heat offering lemonade and water along with these beautiful smiles.  I walk to find a cure so little girls like these never have to experience breast cancer.

This guy was sporting a t-shirt his group sold to raise funds. Love the saying!

Morning of day 3, we stopped at the blister tent to tend our wounds. This was one of the busiest sections of base camp each morning.

My new friend Kris and I posed before heading out on day 3. Both of us with blisters and gimpy knees. But we were determined to finish the day and walk into closing ceremonies on our own two feet.

This young man was totally into the fun and  spirit of the walk as he walked for his aunt.

One of the final pit stops, Kris and I were hot and tired and limping, but as one button we saw said.."Limping doesn't need chemo".

My last medical tent stop and I had to get a picture with my buddy and therapist Jeremy. Jeremy made sure I was ready and able to finish walking on day 3.

One of the many chalk messages along our path. These messages were encouraging and inspiring. Thanks to the crew members for writing these every night.

Walking into the closing ceremonies with other survivors and flag bearers. We were all totally pumped. I was thrilled to see my family in the crowd!

Part of the closing ceremony, raising a shoe in memory of those who couldn't join us and those who are fighting the battle.

Closing flag ceremony. An extremely moving event.

I cannot begin to put into words the amazing and moving experience I had during the 3-Day for the Cure walk. I hope if you ever have the chance to participate in an event like this, don't hesitate to sign up. Whether, I walk, crew or just cheerlead, I plan to be a part of this event as often as I can.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In 16 days, I will join 100’s of other men and women in Cleveland on a 60 mile, life changing journey. So many of you have been affected or know someone besides me who has suffered from this terrible cancer. It is for all of us who have been touched one way or another that I am fighting and walking for a CURE!

Words cannot express my gratitude for your support over these past couple of years since my diagnoses. Time is a precious commodity and social economics are even tougher, but one way or another you have stepped up to show your support. Maybe it was your card or note of inspiration; maybe you took the time to walk with me during my months of training or you attended a fundraiser. Maybe it was your words of encouragement or maybe it was a donation you made to support my walks. Whatever your contribution was and is, I am blessed and forever grateful for all you have done.

You know it’s not about the 60 miles, or the 3 days, or the 24 weeks of training, or even the dollars raised…it’s about the research and finding a cure to END breast cancer. It’s about the hope of living in a cancer free world one day.

Thank you doesn’t seem to be adequate, but please accept my HUGE THANKS for joining me in this effort to fight back against a nasty disease that engulfed over one year of my life and still affects me and millions of others every day. Not all of us are fundraisers, or can give the time to commit to these types of events. But today, right now, I CAN! And thanks to your support, you are fighting this battle right along side of me.

I will write again, after the walk with a photo or two to share. Much love and appreciation to all of you.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ten Miles and Tired Dogs

I just wanted to provide an update. After all the set backs I've had recently in preparing for the 3 Day, 60 mile walk, I am proud to tell you that I managed to walk 10 miles recently with most of my team mates.

Four of us met in Mansfield on a Sunday morning and chatted away for about  3 and 1/2 hours and 10 miles. It was a perfect day for a walk. Partly sunny and temperatures in the upper 60's to mid 70's.  Overall I felt pretty good.   Once I drove the hour plus back home I checked out my feet to see how they held up.  My right foot, well, I will have pain in that foot until I decide to take medical procedures serious and fix that issue, but other than the pain due to an injury years ago, the right foot held up well. The left foot had a small blister on the right side of my heel. This is the first time I've worn my orthotics such a long distance so I was curious to see how that would hold up.  I felt the edge of the orthotic while I was walking and figured I'd end up with a blister.  I am surprised that a small blister was all I got.  I think I must need to loosen up my shoe laces because the top of my left foot was red when I took my shoe off and it was sore for a few days. So I still need to experiment with my footwear to find that right balance. At the end of the 10 miles my dogs were tired but I was pleased with the overall results. I will still need to double that distance and do it again for 2 more days after that at the actual event. That's just a little intimidating

After completing my online check in for the walk, Komen wanted me to check with my doctors that it is OK for me to participate in the walk. I checked with my oncologist as well as my cardiologist and both gave me the thumbs up!

I have a fundraiser planned July 11th at the Brunswick Applebee's. I am so close to my fundraising goal, but still have a little way to go. That night will be fun. All diners who bring in a flyer will have 15% of their meal donated back to my fundraising efforts.  I'll also have some baskets to raffle off and daughter will be giving back massages for a fee that she will donate back to the fundraiser! There will be other fun things planned as well. If you're in the area on that Monday, stop by!

I am seriously excited that the walk is soon to be a reality. I can still only imagine how tired I will be at the end of the 20+ mile days, but am looking forward to experiencing the excitement and weariness for such a good cause.

I will update again closer to the start day.  Stay tuned!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon/10K Walk

I entered my first ever timed race on May 15th and didn't do too bad if I must say so myself. I've been training for the 3-day, 60 mile Susan G Komen walk and thought this would be a good event in which to get some training. A 10K is a 6.2 mile event. As I don't run unless I'm being chased by something that could eat me, I chose to walk.  Daugther walked with me, or rather I signed up to walk with her.  The day was miserably cold and rainy, but we bonded during our time of comparing red cheeks, wet hair and blue lips. Not the fashion statement I was going for, but my cold blue fingernails matched beautifully to pull together this lovely ensemble.

Daughter and I were doing well until we stopped walking, then we both sort of waddled, or felt like we were, as our complaining bodies made us feel like little 80 year old women. But over all, I was fairing about the same as the "kids" who were 20 + years my junior.

A little Aleve and some hot tea made things better once we were back home.

I get to brag just a little about my stats. See below. A walking pace of a 20 minute mile is a good pace and I shaved off a few minutes from that.  My division was my age group, and no, I"m not going to tell you what my age is. The chip time is the sensor that was on my racing bib. The clock time is when our division of the race started, which means we were in the back of the crowds and caught up as we went along.

Clock Time 01:50:58

Chip Time 01:47:36

Overall Place 254 / 13309

Gender Place 201 / 7399

Division Place 26 / 430

Pace 17:19.6

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Training update

I am so excited. My first donations have appeared this week! I am at 36% of my goal so I still need your support!

I went to the Podiatrist this week to be casted for orthotics.  He's recommend surgery, but he and I both know that isn't happening anytime soon. So, in the meantime, Doc thinks orthotics will help ease the arthritic pain in my right foot (thanks to a volleyball injury and an over-anxious team mate)  and relieve the tendinitis pain on top of my left foot. I'll get these in a few weeks. Unfortunately that will set me back on my training schedule as I have to learn how to walk in them.  Below is this weeks schedule. We're up to 8 miles!!

Monday Rest (accomplished)
Tuesday 3 miles Easy walking (didn't accomplish)
Wednesday 15 minutes Moderate cross-training (umm yeah kinda.. if climbing the stairs a gazillion times at home counts and I got in 1 mile of easy walking)
Thursday 5 miles Moderate walking
Friday 30 minutes Easy cross-training
Saturday 8 miles Easy walking  (I'll be walking at the IX Center this day for MDA's Muscle Walk event supporting my nephew Ryan.  Hopefully I get in 8 easy miles during the entire day.  I'll wear my pedometer)
Sunday 6 miles Easy walking

Thanks for hanging in there with me. 

See the post below for specifics on how to donate. I need your support, but know that your donations will also help to put an end to breast cancer!

Friday, April 8, 2011

3 Days, 60 Miles

I have taken on an incredible challenge. On July 29th - 31st, I'll be walking 60 miles over the course of three days. Scary, and exciting.

As most of you know, I was diagnosed in March of 2009 with breast cancer. This diagnosis came out of left field for me as I did not fit the criteria at risk for breast cancer. I don't practice risky habits. I don't smoke, I don't drink excessively, I'm not overweight (so they said), yet I got the shocking news anyway. I had children in my early twenties and breast fed them both, became a "young woman" at the average age and lead a relatively healthy lifestyle, all of which are good things. Then why did I get it?

With an ever-increasing diagnosis for women who are at risk and even those who are not, like me, the reason behind breast cancer needs to be found so that we can put an end to this disease. Susan G. Komen for the Cure® funds research focusing on decreasing breast cancer incidence and mortality in the next decade. This organization also funds research to discover new drugs to stop the disease from progressing any further. The drug therapy I am on for the next several years was discovered with research funded by Susan G. Komen for the Cure®

I have started training (I'm really stretching that a bit) by walking at home on the incline trainer and outside around the neighborhood and local forest preserves. I have also attended some sponsored training walks. This week we're walking 6-7 miles, in the cold and the rain....barefooted.  OK, so I lied about the barefooted part. I've also started paying attention again to what I'm putting in my mouth. Not that I have horrible eating habits, but there is always room for improvement.

The thought of walking on average 20 miles each day for 3 days is very intimidating. But I look back to where I was this time last year and I barely had the energy of an 80 year old woman, not in good shape....who smoked... all her life.... you get the idea. So why am I doing this? Because I can. I didn't think I could endure treatments for breast cancer, but I did. I have pondered if I can walk 60 miles. The last time I walked 20 miles in one day I was 19 and a fitness instructor. But here I am now, alive and healthy, and I will walk as far as I can, hopefully completing the daily mileage every day, because I can.

Please consider making a generous donation. If you can't give what you would like all at once, the 3day for the Cure website allows you to spread it out over four months using the payment plan option. (Click the Donate Button on the side bar and donate for me, Mindy Howell) You can also ask your employer if they will double your donation with a matching gift. I have this website up on my other blog as well. (See The Howell Blessings).

Those of you who know me personally know that asking for donations is not my thing.  But this cause is very important to me. I can't do this alone, I need your support.

When you think of supporters like support hose, supporting jock straps, support bras....think of supporting Mindy  :) And if you're in the neighborhood, come by and cheer me on!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Training Schedule

April 4-10 - 17 weeks out

Mon -Rest
Tue -3 miles; Easy walking
Wed- 15 mins ;Moderate cross training (Biking, Basketball, tennis, etc)
Thu -5 miles; Moderate walking
Fri -30 min; Easy cross training (swimming, water running, rowing, etc)
Sat -4 miles ;Easy walking
Sun- 3 miles; Easy walking

Stay tuned and I'll tell you what this is all about soon.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

No Way!

You’ve got cancer said the doctor to me.
No way! I said. This just can’t be.
I fell to my knees.

Lucifer taunted me, you’re gonna die.
No way! I said. God is on my side.
Get thee behind me Satan.

You’ll lose your hair, just wait and see.
No way! I said. It won’t take it from me.
I’ll beat this thing by shaving my head.

You’ll burn really bad with your fair complexion.
No way! I said. I have great protection.
God words are the balm protecting my hide.

The nurses said I breezed through the therapies,
No way! I said, considering the calamity.
It was God that got me through it all.

Cancer is vicious, it may come back to haunt.
No Way! I said. I will not daunt.
I trust in God and won’t worry for tomorrow.

Matthew 6:34 tells me I am not to worry.
Excuse me a moment my eyes are blurry.
My battle and blessings are still fresh in my mind.

This month I am a one year survivor.
No way! I said. I am praising with fervor.
God please use my battle to help others.

Mindy Howell

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. NIV…Jer. 29:11

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Happy (Really Happy) Anniversary

I am a ONE year SURVIVOR!
February 3, 2010 was the date of my last radiation treatment and the begining of being a survivor. I am looking forward to a bright future.  It has been a long journey that isn't completely over, but I have come out the other side stronger than I went in. Funny how God uses our dark times to allow us to see our great need for Him.

Let me re-cap for anniversary sake:

March 16, 2009 - Biospsy and diagnoses of breast cancer, stage 1 non-aggressive.  Radiation and 5 year drug therapy were suggested therapies.
May 21, 2009 - surgery to remove tumor and 3 lymph nodes. Discovered cancer in one of the lymph nodes. Chemotherapy now added to the therapies.
June 19, 2009 - PET scan
June 24, 2009 - MUGA scan
July 1, 2009 - began 4 months, 6 cycles of chemotherapy of Adriamycin, Taxotere and Cytoxin.
July 9, 2009 - got my port implanted
October 13, 2009- finished chemotherapy treatments!!
December 21, 2009 - began 31 daily radiation treatments.
February 3, 2010 - last radiation treatment!!
February 25, 2010 - Port removal!!
June 2, 2010 - 1st PET scan and 1st mammogram since surgery
December 17, 2010 - 2nd PET scan

Almost 2 years have passed since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and as you can see, they have been event packed. I continue to follow up with my oncologist every 4 months and for now PET scans every 6 months as well as daily drug therapy for another 4 years.

This journey was not of my choosing but I am grateful for the lessons I've learned, friends I've met, relationships strengthened and most of all growing closer to God. Had I not been forced down this path I would have missed out on some massive blessings.

Happy Anniversary to me!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Update on Connie

I just got news that Connie is out of surgery and doing well. A bone scan was taken and she was told no further treatments are needed!  Connie will have drains in for about a week and will be sore for quite a while, but now she can begin healing.  Thank you all for your continued prayers.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My Friend Connie

 This post is about my friend Connie.  Connie recently celebrated being cancer free for 6 years.  Like me, Connie had breast cancer.  When I was going through my treatments, Connie sent me cards almost every week encouraging me to keep my eyes on Christ. She gave me a painted block of wood that simply said "Trust in the Lord". I still have that on my dresser. She was helpful to me explaining what to expect during the treatments and what type of side effects I could expect. She even gave me a book called "Just Get Me Through It" which was very helpful. Having already gone through breast cancer treatments, she was able to recommend lotions and even shampoos for my bald head that had helped her during her treatments.

There were times when I was having "good days" that she would pick me up and take me to lunch, or we would go to the theater and watch a movie. She was there for me when I needed someone to just to understand what I was going through.

The picture below was this past September, 2010 at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland for the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure. Connie encouraged me to join the race and I'm so glad she did. She literally took me by the hand and showed me around. We had a good time at the race. 

Later that day Connie learned that her brother passed away. I felt useless as she sat in my driveway processing the news, but I was glad I was with her and was able to lend her my shoulder to cry on.

 Shortly after I began my chemotherapy treatments, Jenn threw me a "hat and scarf party". I had pictures taken with every guest and had them wear the hat or scarf they gifted me with. Below Connie is sporting the black bowler hat she gave me. She also gave me a scarf that she had obtained at a another Race for the Cure walk she had attended.

Connie has been a good and supportive friend.  Now I will be returning the favor of being supportive as she has just found out that her cancer is back. Connie is scheduled to have a mastectomy January 11th.   Please join me in prayer for Connie as she is about to begin a fresh journey through breast cancer.  I will continue to update you as she allows me to when new details present themselves.  For now, please pray for peace for her and her husband, and for wisdom for the doctors to make the right decisions on her behalf.

I love you Connie. Trust in the Lord

PET Scan Results

Dr. Coffman called me Thursday evening with results of my PET scan. He said there were no new spots, however I am still showing activity in the same places I had them last time.  He explained that the scan shows abnormalities like Christmas tree lights and the brightness of the lights are measured.  He went on to explain that although there is still activity, the numbers have improved since the last scan.  The last scan had 2's and 3's (cancer would throw up 12-15's and higher).
Dr. Coffman sent my results to my surgeon for his opinion also.

He finished our conversation encouraging me to relax and enjoy my New Years celebration and that we would follow up with another PET scan in 6 months.  My next visit with him will be in February.  I'll keep you posted.