Breast Cancer Chapter 2

Breast Cancer – Chapter 2

The following is complied from the posts made on my blog while I was living with my second and third cancer diagnosis:


Could it be happening again? (September 21, 2009)

On Monday (September 14, 2009) I felt a change in my right breast. The same one where I had breast cancer back in 1998.I went to the nurse practitioner for an exam on Tuesday. Although she wasn’t sure she felt anything it was decided to have a diagnostic mammogram and ultra sound considering my history.

The tests were done today. Thankfully I’ve never had an issue with mammograms. Perry was waiting out in the lobby until it was time for the radiologist to come in to give us his findings. Enter the radiologist….followed by the tech and his nurse. Red flag. Why did he need his nurse as well?

Dr. Juenemann is a very nice man. Direct, pulls no punches yet talks to his patients as if they are humans…you know what I mean. No extra medical terminology that leaves you scratching your head. Wasn’t in a hurry. Wanted to make sure Perry and I had the time to absorb what he had said and formulate questions.

So, what did he say? Significant changes were seen in the current views taken. The ultra sound confirmed that there were indeed suspicious masses in both breasts. “Even without your history I would be very concerned.”
Next step is the biopsy. Or shall I say biopsies. Ultra sound guided for that matter. Plural. Wow! First time that has really hit me….saying it is one thing but seeing it in print is another thing.

In case you are wondering….right now I am 44 years old. My first go ’round with BC was back in 1998. Mary Beth (our soon to be 20 year old daughter who still lives with us) is expecting our first grandchild. Her due date is somewhere around the very beginning of the year 2010.

I’m jumping to conclusions and must stop. No one has said I have cancer again as of right now. Need to face tomorrow with that thought in my head.

So…off to watch the season premier of House (whoo! hoo!) and crawl into bed with the hounds. As some very wise folks have told me about life: “It is as it is.”

Biopsies Today(September 24, 2009)

I must first say THANK YOU to my dear friend Laura who took the time to go with me today. I was going to go myself and would have been totally okay. But it was nice to have here there for support!!The biopsies were not that bad! A little pain and burning when the Novocain was administered but even that wasn’t bad. The doc was so good! The procedure itself was painless! I was expecting some pain but there literally was none! I was able to observe via the ultra sound. Amazing how technology has advanced so much in the 11 years since I last went through this.

I’m a tad sore tonight but not bad. Just taking the Tylenol as they directed.

I should be contacted either tomorrow or Monday with the results. The nurse said maybe Monday but the doc said tomorrow. I guess we’ll see! I do think that preliminarily both masses seem a wee bit smaller than my first cancer. That one was 2.6cms. This time the one on the right is about (as far as can be seen via ultra sound) 1 cm. The one on the right is a little bigger but didn’t appear to be 2 cm.

I should be feeling something more than I am right now. For some reason I am feeling relieved? Maybe that’s the wrong word….but in reality there has been a piece of me that always waited for a recurrence. And maybe that’s a really horrible way to think. I certainly didn’t live my life obsessing and worrying! Not at all! Remember when I threw out the “It is as it is” saying? Yep – that is exactly right. It is as it is…what ever happens has to be met head on without fear. Maybe once you are diagnosed with cancer that little fear lingers on and on.

I am full of fear right now. The unknown scares me to death. BUT – there is also power in knowledge. There is power in the love and support of my family.

And again I find myself jumping the gun! Of course I can find out it is NOTHING. It happens! My dear aunt recently underwent the removal of a kidney with the understanding that a tumor was present. Indeed something was there…but it was found to be benign! It happens! Fingers crossed! Forward….MARCH! More when I get the word from the doctor!

And the results are in…. (September 25, 2009)

At 1:00 PM Carol from the Breast Center called with the results. Positive for both masses found. Although I knew it…it’s still kind of ringing in my ears yet.

I had them fax me the pathology report. (Remember that “knowledge is power thing?”) Looks to my amateur eye that it’s close to what I had 11 years ago but smaller. At least that is what I am hoping to find out in the end.

Not much more to say. I am thankful to have an appointment on Monday coming up with the same surgeon I had last time. He was suppose to retire in August. THANK YOU Dr. Lovett for hanging in there a few more months! I’ll know a bit more once I see him and then I’ll pass on the info!

I want to make sure to thank all the great folks I work with! Just keep me laughing and I’ll be okay! My step-mom (the not-so-wicked Miss Carol) and my dad are offering a great deal of support. Of course the basset hound bunch (2 and 4 legged alike) are keeping me afloat. Arroooo to all of you!!

Path report explained (September 26, 2009)

For my own sake I decided to review the path report. I kind of understand most of it but a lot of people have asked me about certain things so maybe this will explain. The Breast Cancer Network of Strength organization has a great brochure that is available to download called “Understanding Your Pathology Report.” Check it out!

Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) – that’s what has been found in both breasts. This is the most common breast cancer. It starts in a milk passage or duct, breaks through the wall of the duct, and invades the tissue of the breast. From there it may be able to spread to other parts of the body. It accounts for about 8 out of 10 invasive breast cancers.*

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): This is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. DCIS means that the cancer is only in the ducts. It has not spread through the walls of the ducts into the tissue of the breast. Nearly all women with cancer at this stage can be cured. Often the best way to find DCIS early is with a mammogram*.  Minimal DCIS noted in the left breast – “1 duct” documented on path report. 

Nottingham Grade III of III:  Grade three is the least differentiated and most aggressive of the breast cancer tumors. The features are not normal and are likely to spread and grow quickly. The tubule formation in grade three is less than 10 percent. There is a marked variation in the changing of the cells. There will also be a notable cell division (15 or more) in grade three tumors.**

Nottingham Score 8 of 9:  It is a total score based on 3 different sub-scores. The 3 sub-scores are assigned based on 3 components of how the breast cancer cells look under a microscope. (The details of these 3 components are not critical for you to understand). Each of the 3 components is assigned a sub-score of 1, 2, or 3, with 1 being best and 3 being worst. Once the 3 sub-scores are added, a Nottingham score is obtained: the minimum score possible is 3 (1+1+1) and the maximum possible is 9 (3+3+3).***

There are still other results pending. Estrogen and/or progesterone receptors as well as the Her2 FISH status. These basically refer to what is triggering or affecting the growth of the cancerous cells can can make an impact on treatment options. I can tell you that my first tumor was negative for all.

The size they have documented is also interesting. 19x16X17 mm on the right and 12x14x10 mm on the left. My first tumor was 2.6 cm. Remember 2.54 cm equals 1 inch. I hate metric and without converting it 1 cm could be 3 feet for all I know! LOL

Sorry if I overwhelmed anyone. It just helps Perry and the kids to be able to see this information to understand. Knowledge is power!!

* From the ACS: What is Breast Cancer page
** From the E-How site on Grades of Breast Cancer 
*** From Nottingham Score for Breast Cancer on Onolink

A plan is taking shape – surgery scheduled (September 28)

We visited with Dr. Lovett (my surgeon) today. After a brief exam he declared I was darned lucky to have found the lump because he wouldn’t have said there was anything there.

My only real option is to have a bilateral mastectomy. The surgery is scheduled for October 13.  I’ll be having the sentinel node biopsy (basically they put in a tracer to find the first lymph node from the tumor site, take it out and see if there is a spread of cancer there). I was in the trial for this 11 years ago which means they not only found the sentinel node but they also removed 14 lymph nodes to determine any spreading. This time they will only need to remove the one.

Possible follow up treatment may be chemo and as long as there is no spreading noted radiation will not be needed. I can’t have it on the right side anyway. But that all is a long way off….the surgery is first.

So now I wait! My first surgery was September 24, 1998. Guess if I keep it all within the same time frame it doesn’t mess up every part of the year! :o)

One week and counting (October 6)

Came home early from work today (THANK YOU Brandee for covering recess for me). Have a bit of the blechy stomach. Can’t decide if I have a touch of a bug or a touch of the nerves. 1 week from this moment I will probably be in recovery…or just getting out. Geez! I hate coming out of anesthesia! (Dad – feel free to come along and keep me warm and stop the shaking again).

Saturday at 2:00 we’ll be having some of our basset friends over. Come along if you’d like for an afternoon of great pot-luck and fun! Need a little entertainment to get me through the weekend.

So…my dear friend Robin asked me a great question to which I have yet to find an answer:  The tooth fairy leaves nice goodies under the pillow….what does the boobie fairy bring?? Hmmm…….

Basset Party! (October 12, 2009)


I invited a few friends over this past Saturday for a little moral boosting party. What a great time we had!! Here are some of the photos!!

The day before (October 12)

Well folks…tomorrow is the big day. I’m getting a bit more frightened as each minute passes. Why? Not sure. This will be a good thing in the end. I know there is a lot I’ll be facing in the future. NOT looking forward to chemo. But, the last time I had it I survived it just fine! What’s a little hair loss anyway??

The surgery is scheduled for 12:30. Mary Beth will be updating the blog. Please do not hesitate to email her at mritchie89@gmail.com if you want to!

I’ll be thinking about you all! Thank you a hundred times over for all of the love and support you’ve given to me and our family!!!

(A bit of a lapse in blog posts after my surgery) 

Catching up! (October 21, 2009)

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to post on the blog. My family had banned me from the computer which was a very good idea (just don’t tell them I said that). Mary did a nice job keeping up with the CaringBridge site. If you go to the journal you’ll see more details of when I was in the hospital. I was going to jot it here as well…but why create the wheel? Suffice it to say it’s all there!

On being Mom(October 21, 2009)

Anna has a full blown case of H1N1. Her temp is running around 103. She is miserable. And there is nothing we can do other than treat the symptoms. The hard part? She wants her mom. That would be me…the one who is suppose to avoid this bug like the plaugue. Do you know how hard it is to not be able to hug her right now? In reality she should be banned to her room in the basement. But I can’t do that to her. Mary Beth is on her way to get some masks, more meds and more sanitizer! And for now she will remain on the couch “being with mom.” Keep my little darling in your thoughts. Keep me and Mary in your thoughts, too! The last thing either of us needs is the swine flu! I suspect that David has it….even after spraying Lysol in front of him whenever he came out of his cave (aka the office where the computer is).

Follow up with surgeon (October 26, 2009)

Wish the news were better. But it isn’t “bad” in the big picture! Just a let down. It seems I may have a bit of an infection brewing on my left side. Bummer. Dr. Lovett used a syringe to take about 50 ccs of fluid off the right side. When he checked the drainage from the left he was a bit concerned about the coloring so sent me off with a prescription for antibiotics and strict instructions to “lay low and rest.” He also took the stitch off the remaining drain (hopefully to be removed Friday) – it was irritating me a bit (ok, so it felt like an exacto knife whenever I moved).

I also got a copy of the pathology report which I still ave to look over and figure out. I understand most of it. Some of it is all Greek to me. Once I get it figured out I can tell you a little more of what is going on.

Thursday! Thursday! (October 29, 2009)

I’m chanting “Thursday” so I can remember what darned day of the week it is!

All is going along nicely. The infection seems to be clearing up and I’m feeling more energized with each day. Tomorrow I go back to see Dr. Lovett who will (fingers and paws crossed) take the last drain out! AND….if all goes well I’ll be stopping at the school for some very needed hugs from “my kids!”

On another front….Mary Beth saw the baby doctor today. Heartbeat is strong (137 bpm) and she is 32 weeks. YIKES!!! She even got the H1N1 shot! Good thing!

Time for a cup of tea! Denise brought me over lunch yesterday afternoon (talk about a treat) along with the most beautiful tea cup! I’m enjoying Cranberry Orange Spice from the Mad Hatter! It is soooo relaxing! Thanks Denise! And I can sit and smell the flowers sent by my Basset Hound Club friends! A gorgeous fall floral arrangement!

De-Drained (October 30, 2009)

Yippy!! The last drain is out and I’ve been given the all clear to return to work!!

Stopped in at the school and had a GREAT time getting hugs from kids and adults alike. I miss them so much and cannot wait for Monday morning!! (Remind me I said that at 5AM, will you?)

Saw The Oncologist today (November 3, 2009)

I met with my Oncologist this afternoon. Dr. Garino. I love her! Beautiful Italian accent (I think). She took a lot of time with me and explained everything so I understood what was to come. Even though I’ve had my pathology report I decided to not look into it too closely in fear of driving myself nuts needing answers sooner than I could get them. With that said….there are a few surprises.

#1:  This is a NEW primary cancer. Just my luck! I was hoping it was a recurrence. Who the heck wants ANOTHER cancer? But – it isn’t a metastatic cancer so THAT part is good!

#2:  Although the two tumors (which again is rare) were smaller than the original (which was 2.6 cm) they are still big enough to indicate chemo (one was 1.7 cm and the other 1.8). 1 cm is the “cut off” so to speak.

#3:  Both tumors are ER/PR positive which is good! Although grade 3 having them ER/PR positive means they are “easier” to treat. Last time I was basically negative for both.

#4:  Her2Neu is another test they run on the tumors and basically measures the expression of certain hormones or chemicals or whatever. One tumor was negative bt the other is “2+” which means MAYBE I am a candidate for Herceptin – a ground breaking chemo drug that has really changed bc in the last 5 years. We are waiting for a clarification on the results to determine IF I can have it or not.

What this all means….after a slew of tests this week (MUGA scan and CT scan as well as the placement of a port) I will begin chemo on Thursday, November 12 at 1:15 pm. It’s a three hour infusuion. For sure I’ll have Taxotere and Cytoxin. Herceptin might be added dependent on the results of the Her2Neu results. If no Herceptin I’ll have a total of 4 rounds of the T/C meds once every three weeks. If I do have the Herceptin it’ll be the T/C + H once every three weeks for 6 rounds followed by Herceptin itself every three weeks for a total of a year. Hmmm….long time!

So, in a nutshell things just might suck for a bit! BUT – I have so many people behind me and a great group of folks I work with willing to help me as they can. We’ll just take it one day at a time!

Already an update! (November 3, 2009)

Wow! Talk about quick! The oncology nurse (Gail) already called and let me know I will NOT be having Herceptin…that means I’ll have the 4 rounds of chemo totally 12 weeks. I’m a little disappointed that I do not qualify for the Heceptin…it would have reduced my risk of another cancer even more…but it is as it is and it WON’T be a year long!

CT Scan (November 5, 2009)

It took all of 5 minutes to do! Pretty painless. OK, totally painless. The only gross part was the barium I had to drink. Of course the dye they inject was weird! Made me feel a bit sick to my stomach.

I’ve spent the last few days feeling like I was going to throw up (and eventually did). In the end it was the test itself making me sick. Just the thought of it. I feel pretty good now! Results are what should possibly bother me…but that part doesn’t! I suspect I’ll get results fairly soon!

Port is in and chemo begins (November 12, 2009)

Yesterday afternoon I had a same-day surgery procedure to have my port inserted. It is technically called a Groshong Catheter. If you want to read more you can checck out this web site as well:  “Your port advantage.”

The procedure was about 40 minutes loing and I was pretty heavily sedated (kind of nice) but awake. Very easy recovery. Thanks to Sally S we had pizza for dinner! Thank goodness because I was STARVING!!

Today it feels like I have a heavy weight pulling down on my shoulder/arm on the side the port was put it. The Vicodin help! LOL

In about 1 hour and 45 minutes I’ll be at the clinic getting ready for my first chemo. Taxotere and Cytoxin. Cassie brought be all the episodes of season 1 through 5 of “House” to watch during the 3 hour time it takes for the meds to drip in. I have tomorrow off so I can gauge how I’m going to respond for future treatments.

1st Round of Chemo Done! (November 12, 2009)

The appointment started at 1:15. After the preliminary paperwork and explainations the Dexamethasone (steroid) was administered via IV. From now on I’ll take it orally the day before, the of chemo and the day after. This is to ward off the potential allergic reaction to the taxotere and to help with nausea.

I then had the taxotere infusion which took about an hour. Followed by the Cytoxin which was 65 minutes.

During the dripping :o) I read a bit, looked over the information on the meds I was getting and chatted with the chemo nurses. Very nice folks there!

I was off at about 4:40. I have to go on tomorrow for an injection of Neulasta which is a white blood cell booster. Mary and I stopped to pick  up my meds (Zofran is the most important for nausea control). Took it right away.

I’ll write more tomorrow or whenever I feel better. One of the side effects I had gotten from the cytoxin last time was a strange tingly head ache and some sinus stuff. Feeling that now. I’m pretty tired as well. I know I need to get some rest and stay hydrated to avoid the urka gurkas! LOL More to come!

1 down 3 to go!

I now have chemo brain (November 3, 2009)

Well, I am happy to announce I haven’t gotten it by the nausea! So far. Went in to the clinic for my injection of Neulasta this afternoon (just gotta love the side effect of bone pain). They said the arthritis in my back (which is apparently getting worse according to the CT Scan) might flare up. Oh goodie! BUT – I can call them if I need any good drugs. :o)

The only real issues right now is the fact I have to set my alarm for 1 AM to take my Zofran. Needed the Vicodin for my darned port. Kind of sore! I guess the fact they accessed it the day after it was inserted may have had something to do with that! Today they called in Ativan so I can try to get some sleep and for the break through nausea they said can still happen within the next couple days. Drinking tons of water and Ginger Ale.

I also have the darned cytoxin head ache. It’s the same as I had last time. Feels like a major sinus head ache that Benadryl doesn’t touch. BUT – if this is the worst of it so far that is AOK!

Next chemo is set for December 3rd.

One week later (November 19, 2009)

Well, its Thursday….one week after the first chemo. I haven’t been the blogging queen – just not quite up to par. The first few days the nausea was manageable with the meds but it was there. Kind of like getting off a ride at the amusement park and needing a brief moment to catch your breath and balance.

I did end up with a sinus infection. Monday at work was rough – I just didn’t feel well but wrote it off to the chemo. On Tuesday it started to hit me that I felt as if I had a sinus infection. The pressure, head ache, teeth hurting…called Dr. Garino’s office and they got me Z-Pack (antibiotic). I started it Tuesday so his is the 3rd day. I definitely feel better…. but still slightly blechy.

So, in a nut shell….hair still attached, nausea really getting better (in fact I only take my Zofran at night now), still hungrier than a Hippo (so no fear of me withering away anytime soon)….and the fatigue is amazing! Hits me like a brink wall around noon. But, I am blessed to have a great family who really understands that when I get home from work I need to get to bed! OK, so maybe I’m blessed with a family smart enough to keep their mouths shut whether they understand or no! :o)

Thanksgiving and Hair – what a combination! (November 28, 2009)

Thanksgiving was the best ever!! OK, one thing would have made it better: if Dad and Carol had been there. But, they were with family out-of-town and I know they missed us dearly :o)

What was I thankful for? A ton of things but let me just throw out a few of them because I need to!

  • My hair didn’t fall out during dinner (yes, it started to fall out yesterday – day 14 of chemo)
  • My family rocks! I am the luckiest person in the world! The love and support is amazing! That especially includes Perry and the kids.
  • I have the best friends in the whole world! I can’t even begin to mention specifics because there are too many of them. You all know who you are! Each and every person who has sent me messages, cards, gifts, food, love and even drool have filled my heart!
  • Even though I find myself in the middle of a cancer journey – life is good. For that I am thankful! OK, so the hair is falling out. Happens to the best of us! OK, so I;m tired! Take a nap!! It really is okay!
  • I am also thankful for my job, boss and co-workers. How did I get so lucky?? OK, I do have my step mom to thank for that! I am surrounded every day by love, support and humor! And boy do I need that humor! And that includes the kids at the school!

I love each and everyone of you!! Yes, feeling a bit emotional today. The hair loss has me a bit thrown for a loop. NOT ready for this.

Pictures from Turkey Day!! Of course my camera battery died so I only got a couple photos. Darn! I LOVE Holiday Family around-the-table pictures!

Aunt Rita and her friend, Don

Joe, Perry, Don, Rita & Mary Beth (friend Ashley in foreground)

Difficult day (November 30, 2009)

One of the hardest days we have faced as a family yet. My hair started to fall out Thanksgiving. Noticed it as I was taking a shower and looked down at the wad of hair on the drain. I immediately thought “those darned girls!” My daughters love to color and treat their hair and with Mary being pregnant a little hair loss is typical. I bend over to pick it up when, to my horror…it was MY hair!

Got through Thanksgiving with minimal shedding (blamed the dogs if anyone noticed). By today I was a wreck. It was falling out in wads. Perry offered to shave my head and just get it over with. In all honesty…we both sobbed as he did it. It was not easy for him!

Here I am pre-shaving (thanks for mentioning the hair was flipping out, Perry!):

Here I am with head shaved:

And with the glorious bandanna:

I do have a really neat wig that my dad and Carol got for me 11 years ago. I need to get it “reconditioned” before I wear it! Looks like my Lhasa apso on a bad hair day right now!  I can’t look at these photos too long. I’m so puffy from the darned Decadron (my nightmare at this point).

Wild Hair (December 2, 2009)

I ended up leaving work early today. I cannot thank my co-workers and the boss man for being so darned understanding!! Wow! Am I lucky or what?

Started the Dexamethasone this morning. I have to take it every 12 hours from today through Friday (next round of chemo is tomorrow). Check out the side effects:  Difficulty sleeping; feeling of a whirling motion; increased appetite; increased sweating; indigestion; mood changes; nervousness. Yep! That’s what I’m feeling! Decided that rather than become a raving lunatic (no comments please) I had better get home.

Got a wild hair (the ONE that is left) … so I am sitting here in bed playing with the blog. Doing a bit of re-arrange and reorganization.

I’m hoping to get some of BuckBasset to this as well. Can’t keep up with it but just don’t have the heart to get rid of it.

So, have mercy if things are a bit goofy!!

Half Way Through! (December 3, 2009)

Chemo round 2 of 4 complete! Woo Hoo! My blood work is great. My visit with Dr. Garino went very well! She is concerned that the Zofran is giving me the head aches so now I am going to be doing Reglain and Kytril to control the nausea. We also decided since I am not sleeping we’d try the Trazadone at bedtime. I think this will help a lot since it is also a anti anxiety med.

The next chemo is on Christmas Eve and I’ll be done by about 12:30! That will give me plenty of time to get to the family celebration before the “crash.”

Today was a pretty darned good day all things considered!

Side Effects (December 9, 2009)

One of the lovely side effects of chemo is bowel issues. Yep! I’d say that is true! Last night I was hit with uncontrollable cramping (as in I was screaming for an epidural) which then triggered throwing up. After a couple hours it finally subsided enough for me to fall asleep. This morning I’m still cramping if I eat or drink and my stomach feels as if I was hit with a baseball bat. I guess this is what it feels like when one “works on their core,” huh? LOL Only time I’ll ever feel that!

Perry touched base with the on call doc last night who suspects it is something called Pseudomembranous Colitis. Because I wasn’t (and still am not) running a fever and not dehydrated they felt it best to stay put and not drive into the ER in the winter storm. THANK YOU!! I just wanted to be wrapped in my pillows, blankies and hounds and NOT go anywhere! Unless something changes within the next 24 hours we’ll just discuss this at my next appointment.

Today’s commands from the doc:  stay home, drink a billion gallons of water and avoid anything that might irritate my stomach. Guess I will call this my “snow day” and just play with the computer. Perry is home today just in case something happens and I need to go in….he is also going to take Mary Beth to her baby doc appointment later this afternoon.

Genetic Testing (December 9, 2009)

I met with the genetic counselor yesterday afternoon to discuss my possible ability to qualify for genetic testing. It’s a go!

I technically have had 3 seperate cancer occurences. The first one being 11 years ago. The most recent were actually 2 different cancers thereby being numbers 2 and 3. Add that to the fact that I have had these before the age of 45 and that the newer tumors are estogen sensitive (I supposedly had my ovaries removed in 2000) it has been deemed inportant to try to figure out what the heck is going on!

I will mention that no matter what the outcome we will be determining if I have a hidden ovary (only one was found at the time of the hysterectomy) or where the possible left over ovarian tissue is. At this point I am very prone to an ovarian cancer which I don’t like the sounds of!!

The next step is the blood test. We’ll do it after the first of the year. If I test positive for being a mutant (LOL) then we need to figure out from where the mutant gene is coming from….maternal side or paternal side. This might prove to be a bit difficult considering I was adopted! Hmmm….might also be something very interesting! It really won’t affect me if I don’t find out. It would affect my kids and any possible siblings on whichever side the mutated gene is traveling.

Once I find out more you’ll be the first to know!

I am SO LUCKY!!! (December 12, 2009)

This past Thursday at the school we were having rehearsals for the winter program with the kids in grade 1 – 8. I was sitting in my room talking to a parent when Dan (the administrator) came in and said “we need you in the gym.” Figuring it was to help monitor the kids (who tend to get a bit wiggly during rehearsals) I go down….only to realize EVERYONE in the school was in there. OK, so sometimes I recall the kids in Children’s House (which is the Montessori “pre-school”) so not that unusual…until it hits me that they are all looking at ME. Hmmm…what is going on??

Denise was standing at the front of the gym with Dan holding a large bag. Inside it contained the most beautiful quilt that Denise and Sally had created….with the help from the kids! I can’t even begin to explain how wonderful it is!! And did I start crying? Of course I did! LOL After Denise gave her little speech….I had the honor of getting a group hug from ALL of the children!

I am still speechless! There are photos of the kids from the school, photos of me, Snickers and my family! The kids at the school and staff signed it! There are no words to describe what it means to me!!

Pictures are the only way to explain it!

The centerpeice of the quilt

The quilt is full of pictures of the students and staff!

 

 Isn’t to AMAZING???

I can’t that everyone at MRS enough! Not only for this wonderful quilt….but for the never ending support and friendship! Kathy for helping me get my bandanna on each morning, Sally for the never ending supply of dinners and friendship. The kids for their constant hugs and keeping me smiling. Dina for just being Dina. Especially Char and Dan who have to deal with “me!” You guys know what I mean! And of course every single other person I have the honor of working with at the school. You guys have made the treatments and “other stuff” so much easier to tolerate!!

Chemo round 3 of 4 done! (December 30, 2009)

Today I my 3rd of 4 rounds of chemo. As it stands my last one will be on January 20th!! Such major happy news! In the mean time I will be having blood work for the possible breast cancer gene mutation.  We do know that no matter what the possible “missing ovary” needs to be located and removed. Something is triggering this cancer and this is the best option to pursuit right now. I’m not looking forward to another surgery…but its better than just sitting her wondering when the next cancer will appear!

Baby Cailin is doing VERY well! We are so proud of Mary Beth and her mothering instincts! She is an amazing young woman! Cailin has grandpa wrapped around her little finger. Go figure! Even uncle David has been seen holding her!

Some new photos! These were taken at the hospital when she was about 1 day old.

 

 

The Side Effects (January 7, 2010)

I guess when they say that the effects of chemo can be cumulative I should listen! My last chemo was on December 30th and it is kicking my butt! The fatigue is the worst. I think I could sleep 3 days in a row without batting an eye! But, that cannot happen. I’m having some stomach issues which are a side effect from the chemo. I’ve been on antibiotics three times since the beginning of chemo and now it seems I’m suffering those consequences. Funny thing, too many antibiotics can trigger an intestinal infection! Tomorrow I have an x-ray to make sure the tummy is okay. My blood counts look ok – although my white blood count is pretty high. But that is actually normal – I get an injection of Neulasta after each chemo which stimulates the white blood cells. This time it is a wee bit higher meaning I probably have an infection brewing somewhere. Tomorrow we should have more answers and a treatment plan.

Long time no see! (January 15, 2010)

Oh my!! I’m bad. I haven’t updated the blog – but that is a good thing! I’m feeling pretty good (just the minor little tummy stuff that is NOTHING in the big picture of life)!

This Wednesday is the LAST CHEMO!! To celebrate Perry will be going with me. He wants to see what they do. OK, I sit down…the poke me…I sit more…and more…and then go home. LOL Not sure what he thinks! Maybe he wants to get into the wild game of cribbage we had last time.

I’m sitting here watching the news about Haiti. And I think I’m having a bad day? Sometimes it takes this to really shake a person back into reality! Its given me the chance to count by blessings! Family, baby Cailin, friends….everyone in my life. Nothing material means too much when you think about it. It can all be gone in the blink of an eye.

Hug your loved ones – and hug your hounds!!

It’s Official! NO MORE CHEMO!! (February 2, 2010)

I had my appointment with Dr. Garino this afternoon and it was decided that I will not need any more chemo! YIPPY!!! Boy does this ever feel great! It is so hard to believe how quickly time flew by! I am happy to report that I am doing well!

There are a few little “loose ends” to take care of.  I will be having a Bone Densitometry
done.  It is also called a dual-energy x-ray absorptiome

try (DXA) scan. Basically they scan the bones to determine the possible degree of bone loss that may have occurred from the chemo and from the past 10 years after my hysterectomy. If bone loss is found then I’ll probably start on the Fosamax which help regenerate bone growth.On February 8th I’ll see the gynecologist to help try to solve the mystery of the missing ovary.

Back in 2000 when I had the hysterectomy I also had my ovaries removed. Funny thing – they could only find one! My doc at the time was a bit befuddled by the fact that it was just GONE. Apparently it looked as if it had been there at one time. They looked and it was just written off as “gone.”

Over time we’ve determined it must be there somewhere (based upon certain blood levels and symptoms) and this a cause of concern. My original cancer (in 1998) was estrogen negative. This time both tumors were estrogen positive. Estrogen is being produced somewhere and could very well be the trigger for the cancers.

Today I had an FSH test done (another blood level). I had one done about 6 months after the hysterectomy. At that time the results showed “ovarian functioning.” With no ovary?? I think not! The results this time will determine if nothing else if I will be put on “anti-estrogen” meds for the cancer (and which one will be appropriate). Being that chemo may have put me into menopause (and by the amount of hot flashes I have I think I already know the answer to that one) the results may not really help us determine if there is an ovary or not.

Saw the GYN today! (February 8, 2010)

And do I LOVE this guy!! He was the doctor who delivered baby Cailin. He also did his homework! He asked how Cailin and Mary were doing and if being a Grandma was going ok!

The task at hand is to determine whether I have an ovary that might still be functioning enough to give off estrogen and therebypossibly being a source to trigger another cancer. His rule was that if the FSH test came back under 50 I was to have an MRI to see if the could find the ovary. My FSH levels are at a 45. Barely under the wire! I have an MRI scheduled for next Monday. Once found it will be removed laparoscopically.

The test results will also determine which medication I will be on for the next 5 years. I’m hoping it isn’t going to be Tamoxifen. That really didn’t work well for me. If I understand my oncologist correctly Tamoxifen shouldn’t be an option being that I am technically more menopausal that not. Does that make sense? :o)

I suspect I’ll have one of the following three as options:  Femara, Arimidex or Aromasin. There is another on (Herceptin) but we already know I don’t qualify for that one.

This is exciting news for me! I see light at the end of the tunnel! It is so good to be able to tackle what I see as the road blocks. I am especially happy that I can have the MRI! I really need to have an answer to the “missing ovary” mystery once and for all!

Happy Birthday to me – I had an MRI! (February 16, 2010)

Yesterday I celebrated my 45th birthday by having an MRI. May I suggest that no one chooses to have one for their birthday? :o)

I am VERY claustrophobic. The strange thing is that I never was until my first cancer diagnosis back 11 years ago. I’ve had 2 other MRIs since (and various other “close” tests) and did fine with a little help from the versed (which I happen to really like) so I wasn’t too worried. This time I was given Xanax instead of Versed. Hmm…wasn’t real sure how that was going to work when it seemed like it didn’t do anything to calm me down. AND Perry wasn’t allowed in to hold my hand. That kind of threw me for a loop.

This time I went in feet first so I could look up a bit and see outside. OK, I think I can do this. So in I go and I immediately hit the button to get me out. Nope! Not gonna work! So we try adding another pillow because I also have issues with laying too flat. Back in I go…and back out I come! LOL I finally realize the issue was that my arms were crossed over my chest and I had the sensation of being constricted. I was picturing myself being squished into a toilet paper tube.

Now by this point I am getting a bit worried because I wasn’t sure I could do it. But the two techs were WONDERFUL and came up with the suggestion of putting my arms over my head…and it worked!!

When all is said and done it went very well. I should get the results later this afternoon. I am having a bit of a reaction – but from what I do not know! My joints feel slightly swollen and my asthma is really acting up. I also am finding it necessary to visit the bathroom every 10 minutes. (BLECH) Maybe from the contrast? Maybe from the Xanax? Perry and the doctor on call (yes, I did call) think its stress and anxiety. Maybe – but I’m excited to get these results so that doesn’t make too much sense to me. This will tell us IF there is an ovary that needs to be removed. If it is there we yank it out! If it isn’t…well, we don’t. It will also help determine which med I will be on as far as the continued treatment for the cancer. So, no matter what, I see nothing but good news either way!

Perry was worried about them finding more cancer but I absolutely do not see that as a possible outcome. After all, I did have a CT scan a couple days before chemo started and there was NOTHING more found at that time. He’s just a worry wart! :o)

So, I’m home from work and laying in bed with my computer – watching the rebroadcast of the Westminster dog show from last night (and NO – the Basset didn’t win although she was by far the most beautiful dog of all) – and getting some obviously needed R&R.;

Interesting turn of events (February 18, 2010)

As my last post indicated I had an MRI on Monday the 15th. Yesterday afternoon I received the results which were a surprise to everyone.

Indeed the “missing” ovary was located. The doctor said it is located near a large artery in the pelvic area. He did review the ultra sounds done at the time of the surgery and confirmed that the ovary was not seen so he suspects it is surrounded by scar tissue or something.

OK, so that is what I was hoping for – it answers a lot of questions!

Here is the strange part – there is also an indication that part of the right ovary is also present. WHAT? OK, so I know darned well they told me they at least got that one! The whole point of my surgery back in 2000 was to get rid of the darned ovaries and the resulting production of estrogen to reduce the risk of a recurrence.

On March 5th I have an appointment with Dr. Tan who specializes in GYN oncology and surgery. Both my current GYN and Oncologists have reviewed the last MRI and agree that she is the person to see. They feel it is appropriate not because there is any concern for a cancer being present, but because she will have the best understanding of all the various possible resolutions and consequences to the choices to be made.

*IF* there is to be a surgery it might be a little more complicated that originally thought. In addition to surgery we’ll talk about the use of meds to control the estrogen. Who knows? The meds will certainly be less invasive than a surgery. On the other hand, at my age that means I might have to be on them for a significant amount of time so the side effects will need to be considered very carefully.

I think I’ll write a book. The title will be: “Are You Kidding Me?!?!” LOL

Lymphedema (February 19, 2010)

I find this interesting. 11 years ago I had 14 lymph nodes removed from under my right arm. I was strongly cautioned that I needed to be very careful to avoid lymphedema. For those of you who do not know what that is here is the definition from the Mayo Clinic:


“Lymphedema refers to swelling that generally occurs in one of your arms or legs. Although lymphedema tends to affect just one arm or leg, sometimes both arms or both legs may be swollen. Lymphedema is caused by a blockage in your lymphatic system, an important part of your immune and circulatory systems. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and as the fluid builds up, the swelling continues.”

I will admit I wasn’t that careful. I didn’t have blood draws, blood pressures or anything like that – but being right handed it was hard to avoid lifting more than 5 pounds and even the occasional bruise or cut (yes, I am a klutz).

The surgery back this past October I had 2 nodes removed. Nothing major. I have been careful to not lift with that arm, no blood draws and so on. This morning I realized I have a touch of lymphedema in that arm! Nothing major at all! Just some swelling and tightness. I did notice the palm of my hand has felt bruised for a bout 2 weeks and I guess that is a symptom. I have some direction from the doctor to avoid it getting worse. So all is fine!

I just find it interesting that I can go 11 years basically not even thinking about it with 14 nodes removed only to have 2 little ones removed and it happens. But again, it certainly isn’t bad at all. Just a reminder that I need to be aware of what my body is trying to tell me: slow down!

FINALLY! (March 5, 2010)

On Wednesday, March 10, I will be having on Oophorectomy by robotics. WOW! Sounds kind of funky to me!

I met the GYN/Oncologist surgeon this morning. She is wonderful!! Younger gal who is very sensitive and understanding of my needs. She spent about 45 minutes with me explaining everything that will be happening…and then some!

Here is what is planned:  after reviewing the MRI, CT scans and the rest of the history Dr. Tan is confident that she will be able to remove the left whole ovary and whatever is left on the right side laparoscopically. Because this might be a bit more delicate she will be doing it with robotic assistance: “Laparoscopic oophorectomy may also be robotically assisted in certain complicated cases. During robotic surgery, the surgeon watches a 3-D monitor and uses hand controls that allow finer movement of the surgical tools.”

Of course there is no guarantee it can be done this way and if not then we’ll have to go through the abdomen. Best case scenario I will be back to work the following Monday!

It is so good to know that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel. Once the ovaries are really gone I can then start on the right meds as follow up to the cancer.

Although a surgery is NOT something to look forward to, in the bog picture it is good to know we are able to really take some steps to take control of my body!

It’s been awhile! (March 20, 2010)

Life is grand! I had my surgery on the 10th of March. The left ovary was removed. On the right what we thought was a piece of the right ovary ended up being a cyst. That was removed as well. The recovery as been ok. Not great. I was expecting to get back to work the following Monday but that was not to be. I needed a few days more. I have a “lazy” bowel right under the area of one of the incisions.  Although it seems to be working it is still pretty sore. But, in the big picture of life it is nothing to worry about! The pathology report from the surgery is back and everything is GREAT! Whew! I wasn’t worried yet I was. Does that sound silly?

At the end of April I have a bone density scan to make sure my bones are behaving. I suspect we’ll find some abnoramilites. Why? My oncologist called this past week to let me know my Vitamin D is out of wack. This is interesting since research shows that people with low vitamin D also have certain cancers. Hmmm….I am outside at least 1 hour per day (I do recess at the school) and the doc feels this *should* be adequate for someone in a northern climate. But the test showed pretty low levels. I’m on a high dose vitamin D supplement once per week for the next 8 weeks to try to take care of the issue. Vitamin D is important for bone growth so I suspect there might be some issues with the bone density scan. Like always, this too shall pass. I’m young enough and sitting outside in the sun is something I just might consider doing!

I’ll post to let you know how all that goes!

On another note – many of you know we will be needing to move. GOOD NEWS! We found a house! Thaks so much to JC to hooked up Perry and a gal from their job. They have a house very near us and need someone to take it over for them in July! It is a great place and we look forward to starting out life a new. A new chapter in the life of Perry and Lisa will begin! And it will be the best chapter ever!

We’ll let everyone know what happens (not until July).

Thank you for all of the good wishes and prayers. Your love and support pulls me through each day!

This completes what I feel is the 2nd chapter of my journey with breast cancer. Now chapter 3 begins….the recovery and “getting on with it” part! A couple notes: On March 10 the missing ovary was recovered and removed. The surgery was a breeze! And, instant menopause is a truly amazing thing to experience. Yikes! The bone density scan (actually done a few months later than expected) showed 25% bone loss. That isn’t considered osteoporosis but it is getting too close for comfort. Weight loss, exercise and supplements are what the doctor orders for now!   

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