Oncologist Visit

I saw Dr. Garino yesterday (January 26). It had only been 7 months. Yes, I know! I know! Far too long to wait in between visits but alas, it is what it is! And, to be honest, I was just feeling a bit off-kilter about things and needed a break.

Things are fine. She did notice right off that I have some lymphedema in my left arm. Lymphedema is a blockage of the lymphatic system. Basically the lymph fluids collect and do not drain appropriately. Because I had lymph nodes removed this can happen. I’ll be going to Sister Kenny Institute for some rehab. Should prove to be interesting!

I mentioned a few posts ago that I had osteopenia. That is when the bone density is lower than normal but not quite to the point of osteoperosis (so…I’m not as dense as I thought). The Arimidex I am on (treatment for breast cancer) is known to decrease bone density and I’ve been menopausal for 10 years which also doesn’t help. We considered the use of meds to help increase the density but have decided to wait a ear. I will be taking the vitamin D as well as Calcium supplements. Exercise is also a HUGE help. And not smoking. So….we
ll see what I can take care of on my own before adding one more drug to the mix.

Other than that is seems all is AOK! I’ll be seeing Dr. G again in 4 months (a compromise between her 3 months and my 7). I’ll post about the lymphedema treatments in February!

Anna & JT

Anna will be graduating from AIT on January 31. After that she is will be going to her duty station – Hunter Army Air Field in Savannah, GA. JT will be joining her in Georgia and they will be getting married! They promise us a big wing-ding party once they come home in about a year or so. We are so proud of both of them!

Gigi goes home

Since mid November (2010) we had the honor of fostering Gigi. She is a basset (?) mix rescued by Basset Buddies Rescue, Inc.  and the Central Dakota Humane Society.

This news article details the rescue of 200 dogs after their “owner” was evicted from the farmsted she rented – leaving all of the dogs abandoned without adequate food or water.

Gigi was a mess when she came to us. Afraid of her own shadow. Afraid of the leaves falling from the trees. Afraid of the sound of the telephone ringing. Afraid of the television. Her instinct was to run and find safety. Thankfully she bonded to Perry. It took her nearly a month to finally become comfortable enough with me to stay in the same room without barking and growling. In fact, her barking and growling soon turned into a game and over time we watched this frightened creature slowly begin to become a dog learning how to play, trust and relax.

One fear was never finding the perfect family to adopt her. How long would she be with us? We really weren’t in the market to adopt another dog. Thankfully we did find that perfect family and today we met them at the PetCo store in Eau Claire, WI. It was absolutely heartwarming to watch her shyly investigate this new family. Gigi was always wonderful with other dogs so we knew meeting her new basset “cousins” wouldn’t be a problem. It was hard for me to watch her pleading eyes watch Perry as he walked away. I could see her anxiety level begin to climb and at that moment I felt that it would be best if I left as well. No matter what it is hard to say good bye.  We did really love her. She was fantastic with Cailin! She was the silliest little character….but we know in the big picture adopting another dog right now isn’t the right plan. She is where she needs to be. And that is what makes the little heart ache worth it.

Bear’s First Christmas

In honor of the birth of Lily the Black Bear’s two new cubs Cailin and I read one of my most favorite books: Bear’s First Christmas. As I read the story we listened to the gentle noises coming from Lily’s den as she, her yearling Hope and the new babies cuddled together.

Bear’s First Christmas
written by Robert Kinerk
Illustrated by Jim LaMarche

Lily the Black Bear

The most amazing thing is happening as I write this. Lily the Black Bear (who came to fame last year after giving birth in her den via webcam to an amazed WORLD WIDE audience) is quite possibly in labor again! It was unusual but she went into heat last spring even though she’d just had a cub. Now she is in her den with her yearling (Hope) and may possibly be adding 2 or 3 more little ones to the family!

Can’t really blog much right now in fear of missing the blessed event!

Check it out!! The webcam to view the bears in the den LIVE is and you can get to it by clicking here!

To learn more about Lily, Hope and the other bears here are a couple awesome sites:
The Wildlife Research Institute 
The North American Bear Center – Ely, Minnesota

Genetic Testing

At the beginning of December I had gone to see my Genetic Counselor (Denise) to finally pursuit the testing. Basically, there are two genes that have been found to suppress tumor development – BRCA1 and BRCA2. Obviously there is more to the story (and if you click here you can read the thrilling details) but lets just simplify it by saying that by testing to see if there is a mutation of either gene than it can be said there is an increased rick of developing breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer.

Why would I care at this point? It is more of a curiosity for me at this point. I’ve had 3 non-related primary tumors giving me about a 30% chance of having a mutation (no comments from the peanut gallery, please). I would have thought the risk was higher so that in itself was interesting to me. IF I ended up with a mutation the biggest issue would be to look into ovary removal
which has already been done so that is just another “fun fact” for me.

My motivation was for my kids – and, yes, this included David because there is a thought that a positive BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation in the family could increase his chance for prostate cancer…not to mention if he has children they could be at an increased risk of breast cancer.The most urgent reason for the testing was for the girls. If I tested positive they would want to be tested AND they would need to begin screening early (10 years before my diagnosis so when they are 23). The screening for them at this young age is not the mammogram but breast MRI.

There are three basic test results: Positive for a mutation, negative for a mutation (both of which are very concrete answers) or the good old “we don’t know” result…which I ended up having. The test showed something not necessarily normal but also not something ever seen before. Until the same result is found while testing others there is no way to know exactly what it means and that could happen tomorrow or never. 

I think it is pretty crazy – having three incidents of cancer at a pretty early age…no known history (I think I have some background that is pretty solid to trust in)…and no real reason. And I think ‘reason’ isn’t really what I mean. Maybe ‘insight’ is a better word to use. But then again – even insight isn’t going to change anything. It is what it is.