Friday, December 11, 2009


Okay, so I was afraid I would be sick and tired over Christmas because of the way the chemo treatments would land, but guess what?!?!?! I won't!  I scheduled my next chemo treatment for Christmas Eve. (I'll have to bring treats!) So I will be fine on Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, and then tired (possibly sick) the next couple of days. Woohoo! Isn't life grand?!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Halfway done with Chemo!!

Chemo was on Tuesday, December 1st, so I am woefully late for an update. Sorry folks!

So, I got WonderfulHubby and the Big Kids off too school. Then I ran around the house trying to remember what I had planned to do before I left for chemo, simple stuff like washing dishes, and putting dinner in the crock pot. I got that accomplished right before my good friend CH arrived to take me to the hospital for treatment. We dropped the Little Kids off at my most wonderful neighbor's and then went to find parking at the hospital. It was a later appointment, so parking wasn't easy, but we made it. When I was checking in I realized I had left some paperwork at home, and they said I would probably have about a 15-30 minute wait, so we ran back to my house and got what we needed. Got back just in time to have Nurse Jennifer call us back and do the blood test. No worries there.

We waited for a while in the room for Dr. H to come and check in on me, but it's always good to have time to sit and visit with longtime friends and talk about whatever comes to mind.

When he came in, Dr. H asked if I had felt a change in the lump. I told him I hadn't, but that's what I had said before and been utterly wrong. After examining it he said that it had drastically reduced again, and there wasn't really a lump left to measure, just an area that was thicker. In my mind I picture it as a clay ball that had been bashed flat suddenly, and then all the loose bits and debris had been brushed away. Anyways, he says that he wouldn’t be surprised that if by the time they do the mastectomy they won’t find any cancerous tissue left. Neat, huh?!

So then we headed back to the chemo room. It was more crowded this time than usual. Probably from everyone who got bumped over Thanksgiving weekend.

I picked out a couple of new hats, and waited to get hooked up. CH bought me lunch from the cafeteria. (Thank you! So yummy!)

While in the midst of chemo, Ginger came in. She is the person who started the support group Young Survivor Sisters, which I joined a little while ago. She told her story about how chemo was always a long boring, and really kind of depressing day. So she created Happy Chemo. She went to local businesses and asked for them to donate products, which she passed out during a drawing at her chemo sessions. She has continued this, coming into the chemo room on occasion, which luckily included that day. She had a few lap blankets to for the drawing, and then enough candles so everyone who didn’t get a blanket would get a candle. She was so happy, talking to everyone. She even brought in her 3 year old boy who she was pregnant with when they discovered her Breast Cancer. And he is a sweet, cute, perfect little guy.

CH and I had a great visit during chemo, and I am so grateful to her mom who watched her kids so she could come up and sit with me!

The next day was very normal, getting kids off to school and cleaning house and such. I was nervous for the night, because really no one likes to get sick. But, I didn’t! And now, even this long after chemo, I never did get that nauseated. This was almost as easy as the first treatment. I was still pretty tired. My mom came up on Wednesday night to help with the kids on Thursday. I got a few naps in and had a pretty restful day. A wonderful woman from church brought us dinner that night, some super yummy chicken and rice. I think she brought it once before after I had one of the kids. I really need to get that recipe too! The next day I was able to take the kids over to my neighbor’s for most of the day so I could get another nap in. And while I was tired, I was hallucinating tired, like I was last time, so that was a relief too.

So far, the tiredness has started to ebb, the metallic taste hasn’t been as bad (knock on wood!). I wonder if I was getting sick last time when I went in, and getting chemo on top of that made everything worse. I asked the doctor at chemo treatment about how sick I had been, meaning to ask for something more to help, but he said I must have been sick, because my type of chemo doesn’t cause that exact reaction. (A nurse I asked a little later did give me a little something more for the nausea, which I am sure helped.) So, whew! Perhaps it won’t be that bad again. And I only have three more to go. I can do it! Now just to decide whether I want two new boobs, or just the one…

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cute Kids

Today I took the girls with me to pick up a couple of things at the store (I HAVE to have Miracle Whip for those after-Thanksgiving sandwiches!). I was talking to Older Girl, asking her about school, and what she wanted for Christmas. She asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I was starting to think about something she could give to me, and she said "I know mom! For your cancer to be all better!"
I laughed and said that I would LOVE that for Christmas, but it probably wouldn't happen this year.
She is such a sweetie. I love that she is aware enough to know this something that I would want to be gone. I am sad that she has to worry about it at all, because I know she does. But at least she is a sweetie.
Last night I had some energy (after my long autumn's nap) and started dancing and singing with her in the living room. I would lean her one way, and then the other, then twirl her around. Then all the other kids had to have their turn. It's so fun to play with my little munchkins! I'm glad they like me so much. :)

No Chemo Today

I was supposed to go in for chemo today, but I got sick on Monday. I caught the little one's stomach bug. Luckily the on-call Doctor for the Oncology office told me I could take Immodium and Phasyme. (Phazyme is an over the counter that helps with gas. It worked really well, I totally recommend it.)
Anyways, so Tuesday I woke up feeling better tummy-wise, but completely exhausted. So I called my mom, and luckily she was able to come up and help with the kids, so I could take a nice long, semi-delusional nap (another one of those where I could have sworn I was more awake doing things or talking to people, crazy!). Anyways, the Doctors do not like you to come in for chemo when you are sick, so they rescheduled me for next Tuesday.
I am bummed about changing the schedule. I am glad I will be a-okay for Thanksgiving though.
Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 16, 2009

My hair, or lack thereof

Starting about two weeks after my first chemo treatment, my hair started to thin. Now I have alot of hair (thank you dad!), so at first it wasn't a big deal, just slightly more to toss after combing. I was losing a bit more each day, but nothing to be concerned about. And it felt different. Most of the time when you pull a hair, it hurts, right. But more often, hairs I would yank from my head experimentally wouldn't hurt at all to pull, and there was little resistance.

After the second chemo treatment, it started to thin more, and my hair follicles hurt. Like when you wear your hair in a ponytail all day, and then let it down, or comb it in a different direction than usual. But this was all the time. So I started wearing a hat to catch the stray hairs and to not have to bother with combing my hair or running my fingers through my hair (which is a common habit of mine).

My hair starting thinning even more that week. I would run my fingers through the ends sticking out the bottom of my hat, and come away with what used to be a comb full. And it got so itchy! I don’t know if the skin was dry, or if loose hair ends were making me itchy, but there it was. I wore a hairnet at night so I wouldn’t leave hair all over the pillow. The nurses had recommended not washing my hair as often, so it wouldn’t fall out so quickly. I washed it a week after, because it just felt gross. I lost a ton in the shower, and more to combing. Now, like I said, I had a lot of hair, so now it looked okay still, just like I had thin hair. But, well, even with a hat, hair was landing everywhere. Pretty gross!

On Friday morning I had gone into the American Cancer Society room in my hospital because when I had talked to them earlier, they mentioned that they have free wigs and hats that I could come choose from. A lot of the hats had been donated by the local school district cafeteria workers. I wish I could thank them personally. They had such a lovely variety of flannel and knitted hats that it was hard to resist taking one of each kind! (I did make myself take only three.) And then we walked into the wig room. She had quite a collection of wigs on stands, and then big totes just full of them. I sat down, and as she was asking me what color I wanted, I saw this beautiful wig. The main color was dark brown, like my natural color, with red and gold highlights, like I love to have in my hair. And it was a longer wig, long enough to almost brush my shoulders, cut in long layers. This wig had just been donated the day before, and I could hardly believe my luck!!! She gave me the box it came in, some wig shampoo and conditioner, and a wig brush. She said she’d give me a card for a local wig shop that would help me “fluff” it, but the little kids got a little excited as we were walking out, and we forgot, but I can get it next time I go in, I’m sure.

By Friday afternoon my hair was driving me so crazy I sat down on the edge of the tub, leaned over the garbage can and just started pulling out what would come. Little Boy walked by (I had left the door open) and asked what I was doing. I told him I was pulling my hair out and asked if he wanted to help. So he did. It was pretty cute.

Now I want to interject in here, that I had six weeks to come to terms with the fact that I would lose my hair. I knew it was going to happen, and I was okay with it. I liked my hair, but it wasn’t so utterly lovely that I couldn’t live without it. I mean, I have a good passel of gray hairs, it tends to be frizzy, and before I cut it, it would be in a no-hassle ponytail most days.

Oh, and Big Girl was a cheerleader for me to cut it! When chemo started we told the kids that I would lose my hair, that I would probably shave it before it all fell out. So Big Girl would ask me almost every day when daddy was going to shave my head. I think she asked more about that then how soon Little Girl would get here when I was pregnant!

So Saturday morning I told WonderfulHubby today was the day. While the kids sat in the living room watching Saturday morning cartoons, we set up in the dining area, in plain sight, and he started shaving away. I still had a lot more hair attached then I imagined, so it took quite a while. I few passes with the shortest attachment on electric razor I use to cut the boy’s hair. Then just the bare blade on the electric razor. Then shaving cream and one of WonderfulHubby’s new razors (the kind with 5 or 6 blades), about three times. WonderfulHubby was so good and careful, he was so nervous about knicking my head. Little Girl was in her highchair eating breakfast and watched the whole thing. She just smiled, and thought it was funny.

All the kids had to run over and rub my head when he was done. It feels pretty cool, kinda sandpapery. Of course, that day a big storm blew in and snowed! But that’s what hats are for, right?

I’ve worn my wig a few times. At church on Sunday, people had a hard time believing it was a wig. Hehehehe, I may keep this wig forever. The highlights on the wig will never get gray streaks or grow out.

Well, and that is about that.


On Sunday afternoon we were all doing our thing, hanging out around the house, playing computer and watcing tv and whatnot. I realized I hadn't seen Youngest Girl for a while. I had Oldest Boy look for her downstairs, and WonderfulHubby helped me look for her upstairs. We found her. In the doorway between our bedroom and our bathroom.
With an open box of tampons.
And about 75% of them spread out around her.
Some were out of the plastic wrapping, some were pulled completely apart. She had one each hand, one to her mouth to rip it open when we found her. She looked up at us like "What? These things are FUN to pull apart, and smell good too!"
Thank goodness it was a generic brand I found on clearance, so only about $1 down the drain.
Or donated to "Craft Supplies"
However you want to look at it.  :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Immune Booster shot

On Thursday when I went in for chemo, they checked and my white blood cell count was a little low. Not too low so as to skip chemo, but low enough I would have to get the immune boosted shot again. But they have a different kind that lasts for 14 days, so I wouldn’t have to go in everyday, and that is the one the doctor wanted me to get. So I went in on Friday for that. I just ran up there with Little Boy and Little Girl after the Big Kids got off to school. The Chemo hadn’t hit me yet, so I felt fine. There was a couple in the waiting room that had two therapy dogs with them. Little Boy and Little Girl were ecstatic to see them, and enjoyed petting the gentle dogs. These ones were the Norwegian Water Dogs, so they were big-ish, and had black curly hair. After the dogs left, the kids spent their time moving the magazine table in the waiting room. If they worked together, they could move it just fine. And they remembered where the treat bucket was to get their suckers after my shot. Super cute kiddos.

Feeling a little better

Well, the nausea is mostly gone, and I am just left with the fatigue and funny side effects from chemo. So the nerve endings in my fingers are more sensitive now, so when I do things like run my hand under hot water, I get pin pricks of pain from the heat. I was making Cream of Wheat for the kids for breakfast this morning, and the steam was really bothering me. But Oldest Boy came and stirred it for me, so that worked out just fine. My taste buds are also on the frits too. Since the chemo kicked in, I haven’t really been able to taste salt. In fact, a cup of water WonderfulHubby brought to me tasted so horribly sweet. So I have been avoiding sweets this time around, in order to avoid sugar overload and more nausea.

And the fatigue has been extreme this time around. I just had a nap on Friday and felt okay most of the day, but on Saturday I slept most of the day, and had conversations with WonderfulHubby that only happened in my head. That led to some confusion, but it wasn’t too bad.

Saturday was also Oldest Boy’s Ninth Birthday. My mom, Grammie, left a present for him to open when she was here to help on Friday. He could hardly wait until I was awake enough to sit and watch him open it. It was clothes for church and a Bionicle. He was so cute, and happy to get all of them, I guess he had noticed he needed new church clothes too. Hehehe We didn’t do much else to celebrate his birthday on Saturday, what with me being so out of commission and all, but the weather was so nice the kids played outside a lot.

On Sunday I got up to help get everyone off to church. Then I took a little nap until it was time for me to get ready. I just came to the last part of the meeting because this week all the kids were putting on a program. Singing songs and talking about families in the gospel. Both of my big kids had a speaking part along with singing in a smaller group. My local family came up for the program, and then back to my house. They made dinner (Dad had brought up a super yummy roast, and I had thawed out some roll dough I had made a while ago), while I rested. More family from WonderfulHubby’s side came over and we ate dinner, opened presents and let the kids play for a while. I mostly just sat. Everyone had fun, and Oldest Boy really enjoyed all the presents he got. KE (my older brother’s wife) made a cake for him all decorated like a scene from the game Plants vs. Zombies. She and AR (my bro) did a GREAT job. Very talented, she is. I didn’t eat any because I didn’t want my sugar only taste buds to rebel, but everyone else really liked it. And I appreciate the time she put into it. I had planned on making him a cake, but accepted when she offered and now know I never would have had the energy to make anything.

Well, that should sum up pretty well right now. Today I am feeling much better, very little nausea, and the fatigue is under control. Little Girl just didn’t want to sleep all snuggled with mommy this morning, so oh, well, life goes on.  :)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rough night

Well, last night was rough with kids waking up and me actually getting sick. But we made it through. I slept most of the morning, dreaming I set up playdates for all the kids, and being surprised when I woke up and walked out to have them still here at home! WonderfulHubby was a real trooper with the kids this morning, getting them to get all their chores done. I am still pretty tired, and a little dazed, but have been eating carefully today.
Just a short note today. :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

One-third done with Chemo!!

Well, today WonderfulHubby took the day off again to go to chemo with me. I had a great sister-in-law lined up to come to chemo with me, but hubby volunteered to come, and who wouldn't want their eternal companion with 'em, right? And it worked out good for her, she has a busy week!

So we got the Big Kids out the door, then I got ready and walked the Little Kids around the corner to a neighbor's house they love to play at, and WonderfulHubby picked me up and we went to the hospital. When we got in, Nurse Jennifer checked my blood count again. The White blood cells were a little low, but high enough to still get chemo today (if they are too low they will postpone chemo and give you immune boosting shots). But I have to go in tomorrow for a shot, but this one lasts two weeks so I don't have to go in today. And I got permission to use my Lortab leftover from my porta-cath operation when the shot kicks in in two or three days. Nice!

So after the blood test, we waited in a room for Dr. H to come in. He asked me if I thought the tumor had shrunk at all. I said maybe a little... So he pulled out his plastic caliper thingys, telling us it had measured at almost 10 sonometers (about 5 inches, it's like doctor's version of cm) across and top to bottom the time before. He measured the tumor, and told me it was about half the size it was before! Oops, my bad! He did say it was softer and more difficult to find the edges, so maybe that is why I had a harder time, but you'd think I would notice... Oh well, Woohoo!!! So when he said the first visit that the tumor might disappear completely, he wasn't being overly optimistic! Oh and WonderfulHubby remembered to ask how long the tumor had been growing, and he said only about a year or two. So it’s not like it has been there for years and the doctor missed it at my annual screening. There was just no way to tell what it was while pregnant and nursing. Also, looking at a chart in the exam room, my cancer would really be classified a stage II, because it is only in the breast and the lymph node, but they had to call it a stage IIIA because of the size. Lots of boring info, I know. ;)

Let’s see, then into the chemo room. We got there early enough that I found a chair off to the side so WonderfulHubby could sit more out of the way. And no shake spilling this time! When they give me my chemo, they give me a few pre-chemo injections that help with potential side effects. One of them is Benedryl. So after looking through a magazine a bit, I had a nice little nap for about an hour. Then just waiting. We found out the hospital had free wi-fi, so WonderfeulHubby brought the laptop so I could facebook and play my online games (lucky he knows his way around a computer, it took some looking for him to find the wi-fi signal, I woulda had no clue!). It was very nice. WonderfulHubby went out and got us Arby’s for lunch. All in all a good visit.

Last night (Wednesday) I had a Scentsy party. It really helped to keep my mind off the coming chemo treatment. I had one about a year before with the same consultant, and she does one of my friend’s shows (that’s how we met). Well, when she heard I had breast cancer (and go ahead, tell anyone you like. I announced it on the internet, I don’t care ~smile~), she raffled off the cute October jack o’ lantern shaped warmer, and handed me a card with a check on the way out the door. It was pretty good size. I just feel so blessed when things like that happen.

And I had such a great time visiting with all my friends at the Scentsy party. One who had moved up to Ogden came, and I tell you, she is a hoot!!! And a good dear friend I went to high school with came up from South Jordan. And lots of good friends who live close by! It was fun.

Well, I should really go to bed now. Love you all! ;)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Boob Job

Hehehehe, that title makes me laugh. Think about the Plastic Surgeon, she does have a boob job. Hahahahahaha

Anyways, I met with her on Thursday, October 29th. I had a bit of a time finding the actual office I was supposed to go to. There was a sign on the outer door, but once you got in you faced an elevator and stairs going up and stairs going down, with no sign about which floor the office was on. So I guessed, and went down first. No luck. So up I went. The surgeon’s office had sent me a letter with paperwork to fill out and instructions to pick up any mri’s or x-ray I’d had done. This probably applies more to the patients who were coming to her for hand reconstruction (she specializes in both). I had picked all those up from the office, along with the reports for each of them. The office staff scanned in the reports, but didn’t want the rest. Oh, well.

When I finally met up with her, she had a laptop in the exam room to type in her notes as she went. Interesting approach, but hey whatever works. So she started out talking about using silicone implants instead of saline because it feels more realistic, not hard, like the saline does. And they are using new silicone implants that are more like the consistency or gummy bears. So if they do rupture, they might bulge a bit, but will not send silicone worms all over your insides like the old silicone implants would. In the booklets I had picked up about breast reconstruction, they had much linger paragraphs on other options, like the tummy tuck/boob job. She said she can do that too, but it is a longer recovery for the tummy part. But, she said that she will be there for the mastectomy to insert the tissue expander, and we don’t have to decide on what exactly we want until radiation is all done. So that’s good to know. I guess I can stop letting myself over eat to make sure I have a good amount of tissue to reconstruct with. Darn it. Hehehehe

Any questions, let me know, I am just all typed out this morning… :)

Genetic Test

Starting the last week of October, I still hadn’t heard the results of the BRCA test the geneticist ordered for me. I called Wanda, the Breast Cancer Care coordinator, and she hadn’t seen the results, but said she would ask the geneticist when she came in on Wednesday. By Wednesday afternoon, I hadn’t heard yet, so I called every doctor on my list to see if they had gotten the results. I wanted to know right away because I had my visit with the plastic Surgeon late Thursday morning, and I wanted to be able to tell her if it would be a single mastectomy or a double. No one had any news, and the geneticist hadn’t answered her phone when I called.

But Thursday morning when I got home from getting my shot, the geneticist called me! She had the results; my cancer was not a genetic form of breast cancer. So, my family is not as high of risk, and they will only need to do a single mastectomy. She was very nice about answering questions, and said she would send me a letter with the results and to call her back if there are any more questions.

So far, everyone who has worked with me has been very nice. No gruff doctors or nurses who are too busy, everyone is friendly and willing to answer any questions and I am just thankful! I know it would be hard to work all day with people who are dealing with cancer, and they all just have kept their upbeat attitudes. What a great team they have at my hospital!

Shots, shot and more shots

Hi Y'all. ;P

On Monday (October 26th) I went in to get my blood cell counts checked. I took Little Boy and Little Girl in with me after the two Big Kids got off to school. I kept them entertained by looking for pictures of kittens and babies and such in the magazines from the waiting room. In a "Readers Digest" we found a cartoon of a lady stuck in a clamp next to an article about stress. Little Boy kept going back to look at the picture and asking why she was getting squished. I told him someone just drew the picture that way. A few minutes later, he said he would GET the man who was squishing that lady. He's a cutie. Little Girl wanted to see the baby and animal pictures. She likes to coo and pet the pictures. They kept me and the other patients who were waiting quite entertained.

Anyways, simple finger prick to get a little blood that the Nurse (Jennifer) collects in a little tube then holds it up to a metal tube that comes down out of a big machine on the counter, which sucks it up. It whirrs and then prints out a paper with my blood counts on them. The White Blood cell count was a little low, so she went to show the Doctor. When she came back she said the doctor wanted me to have an immune boosting shot that day and Tuesday, and then would check my levels again on Wednesday morning. The shot just goes in my upper arm. It stings a little, but not for long, like a tetanus shot would. Shoot, when was the last time I got one of those? Oh, well… no more immunizations for me for a while…

The shot stimulates my bone marrow to produce more white blood cells. The main side effect is that it makes my bones ache. The first night it wasn’t so bad, but Tuesday I had a hard time falling asleep. And sometimes in the morning, or when I got up from laying down, my lower back would kind of give me a quick jolt of pain, but just a quick thing, and then it would calm down.

When I went back in on Wednesday, my white blood cell count was up, but where I have kids with runny noses already, they wanted to continue the shots through Thursday, and then check again on Friday.

The nurse was always way nice with the kids, the first day when we had to wait longer, she gave them each a package of fruit snacks. The other days they could get a sucker out of the basket they kept by the door. On Friday we had a longer wait in the waiting area, and the desk next door had a basket of candy out for Halloween. So they each got one of those, and our front desk ladies had a coloring book and crayons they could use. Little boy can really get into coloring, and loves it when I will sit and color with him (which I did). Little Girl would color, or wander or try and get in his way. She is a sister, after all. ;) When Nurse Jennifer called me back to check my count, Little Girl saw a couple of little Halloween bag on the counter. Nurse Jennifer had put together a goodie bag for each of them! The kids were so excited. And was excited because the doctors said my white blood cell count was high enough I didn’t have to get another shot! Whew!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Oh, yeah...

My tongue is feeling/acting/tasting pretty much back to normal. Woohoo! Just in time for Halloween Candy!


Hello all!
I went in for my blood cell count this morning.  (thanks to Wonderful Hubby for calling to remind me about it!!!) It was kinda low, which is to be expected with the Chemo. The nurse didn't seem too concerned. She showed the doctor the printout, and he had her give me an immune boosting shot, and then I'll get another one tomorrow, and then she will check my levels again on Wednesday. This will get my bone marrow working overtime, producing more white blood cells, and so on, thank goodness for modern science! She said I might be a little achy the next couple of days, but I can take tylenol and Ibuprofen for it. So that's good.
I took Little Boy and Little Girl with me, and they were so good. We looked at magazines, trying to find pictures of puppies, or anything interesting. While flipping through a Readers Digest we found a drawing/cartoon of a lady in a clamp, next to a picture about stress. Little Boy kept going back to that page to look at it. He said he was going to "get" that man that was squishing the lady. What a cute boy!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Funny Side Affects

So I am feeling pretty much back to normal, have been since Thursday. The one thing that isn't yet is my tongue. You know how when you fall asleep and breathe through your mouth, when you wake up your tongue feels funny? That's how my tongue feels. And some things don't taste the same anymore. Like I used to be just fine drinking tap water as long as it was cold. Not anymore, it tastes yikky. And so does the filtered stuff in the fridge. But bottled stuff is okay, and so is milk and apple juice.  The doctor (Dr H) warned us about this, and now I see what he was talking about. Not that it's horrible. I'll take this over puking any day.
And WonderfulHubby was so sweet, when I mentioned it the other day he said, "Well, you need to keep drinking, should we get you some water flavor packets." I love how supportive he is. And really, everyone is so nice. I have a wonderful family, and super great friends. Thank you all!!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I was tired (took two naps on Friday, thanks mom for watching the kids), kind of groggy. My head felt pinched, I was kinda naseus. I felt flushed frequently. It was kind of a cross between being morning sick and right-after-baby-easily-overwhelmed-with-noise kind of feeling.
I just kept saying to myself as I went through my day, "So this is what it feels like to be poisoned..."

The game plan

So, while we were in getting ready to get the first chemo treatment, we met up with Dr. H, and here's the plan he gave us:
Chemo every three weeks.
Six sessions of Chemo
Chemo drugs are: Taxotere and Carboplatin
Also given: Herceptin for one full year (this is the drug that blocks the receptors on my cancer cells)
Then onto Masectomy (no word on wether it will just be the one side or a double) along with the lymoh node removal on the left side (need to ask if it will be ALL lymph nodes or just affected one(s)).
Then maybe more chemo.
Then Radiation.
Then boob job that may include tummy tuck, depending on where they take the tissue from. Here's to hoping!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chemo Update

Well, here we are at 4 days after the first chemo session and everything is still going well. Over the weekend the symptoms could best be described (according to SweetWife) as mild morning-sickness and fatigue. Other side-effects have included some tension that has made it difficult to get to sleep at night.

We feel fortunate at this point that things have gone so well. We hope they will continue to progress in such a favorable manner.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

1st Chemo + 36 hours

So far, so good. Thus far, the side-effects of the chemo have been very mild nausea (she said something akin to mild morning-sickness) and fatigue (two naps yesterday and about 10 hours of sleep last night).

We had a visit from P&C (my brother and his wife) yesterday. It was really good to see and visit with them and their family.

A neighbor brought us dinner again last night. We appreciate the love and kindness that are being shared with our family. It has been great to read all of the supportive comments that are being posted and to receive e-mails expressing love and concern.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Heart (Muga!) Scan

It occurs to me that I never wrote about getting my heart scan. They did this to get a baseline reading on my heart and to make sure it is okay, before giving me some of the chemo drugs that can possibly damage it.

So I go in, and they put in a pic line thing, and draw some blood. Then I go out and wait for half an hour. While I am waiting, the blood they drew is getting radiated. Then they give it back. (Reinsert? Inject? Yes, inject!) So they inject me with my radiated blood and I get to go lay down on this skinny table that goes into the donut shaped part of this big machine.

Oh! And the techs who helped me with the heart scan were the same two guys who did the pet/ct scan.

Apparently that pet/ct scan machine is so expensive it is in the trailor so they can drive it to different hospital sites so the hospitals can share the cost. (Or maybe they just like people who have a scary diagnosis to go into a windy trailor to put them at total ease...)

Anyways, back to the Heart scan.

They slide the table into the donut hole, and then rotate the sensor thing around until it is right over the area where they are scanning. Again, it is good I am not that clausterphobic. (get me at a table crammed with side dishes, and that's another story). It helped that the donut sides weren't there. Hmmm. I guess a better explanation would be two sets of hula hoops with white boxes sliding around in between them.
Anyways, the tech is getting the scan box in the right place, and it's about 3 inches away from my nose. He says "Don't worry, I won't hit you with it." And he didn't. Good aim.

So they did about three scans. Then they let me go home. Easy peasy.

Now these scans were to track and measure the amount of blood my heart puts out with each beat.  I got the results from Dr. GG this week, and the scans affirm what my mom has always told me, I have a good heart. (har har, sorry for the bad pun).

Chemo Session 1 (by WonderfulHubby)

I convinced SweetWife (how I will refer to mommyinpigtails) to let me be an author on her blog. I am pretty sure that my posts won't be nearly as fun to read as hers are, but I figure this could be useful as treatment progresses and she may not feel up to writing. This also helps me feel involved in the conversation.

Today was the first session of chemotherapy. The appointment was for 10:30 a.m. A wonderful neighbor watched YB and YG, while OB and OG went to school and stayed with another great neighbor after school.

There was the filling out of all the paperwork. One of the questions was about what problems are you experiencing as a result of your condition. I couldn't help but mention financial demands, stress, exhaustion, the need for surgery, chemotherapy, and a mastectomy. I think she wrote something about tenderness and a bit of discharge on occasion.

As she was finishing the paperwork I moseyed down to the cafeteria to get her a shake (someone mentioned that drinking/eating something cold during chemo could help with the side-effect of blisters/sores in the mouth). They had strawberry (which is what she asked for) and I bought her the biggest one they had.

When I got back she was still waiting to be called back to meet with Dr. H. and then get going on the chemo. At about 11:15 we got called back to meet with Dr. H. He did a quick physical, reviewed the medications and side effects, answered our questions and we were off to the infusion room.

The infusion room is a room (I know, stating the obvious) filled with recliners for the patients, chairs for friends and family members, bookcases with books, a radio playing a local easy listenting station, a candy bowl, blankets, and lots of friendly and kind people. While the Dr. was prepping the chemo, SweetWife got settled in her recliner. She set her strawberry shake next to her chair and I promptly set my bag next to the shake and knocked it over. Strawberry shake everywhere on the floor.

I helped clean that up and the nurse started prepping SweetWife for the meds. They have a special "IV" needle they use for the port-a-cath. It looks like a bent needle. They numbed her and slid it in. It looked like the most discomfort was from the pressure applied to insert the needle.

They then injected a series of meds through the port. One was benadryl, one was an anti-nausea medication, and the others I can't recall what they were for, but I think they were to manage the side-effects. The regimen she is on consists of three different "drugs". Each is infused separately with each taking anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. Total infusion time is about 4 hours. The drugs they are using are: Taxotere, Carboplatin, and Herceptin.

At this point I went down to the cafeteria and grabbed lunch (she can eat & drink during the infusions) and brought it back. We ate and then settled in for a long afternoon of sitting. We chatted a bit with the patients around us. A couple of them noted how young SweetWife is. It was great to be surrounded by such nice, positive people. One of the conversations turned to my hometown. One of the nurses was from a small town in the same state I am from, a couple of patients and their families nearby had been to the area I am from. It was a small-world experience.

I also managed to sneak down to the Family Clinic we go to and get my flu shot and chat with Dr. GG. He commented on how pleased and proud he was of how SweetWife is handling all of this. The receptionist that checked me in said the same thing.

A patient later in the day came in and as we were chatting with her, SweetWife asked about where to get wigs. She shared a couple of places that she got hers from. We will need to check with the insurance about whether or not they will foot the bill for that. SweetWife is unsure if she wants one or not. I will support her either way. However, I think she might enjoy having a wig or two.

The infusions were finished at about 4:30 and I took her home. I then ran a couple of errands and picked up YG and YB. They had been really good for the sitter and had lots of fun playing.

We cannot express enough appreciation for all of the kindness and support we have received. It sounds like the chemo is going to take about 18 weeks to complete (depending on how the cancer responds) and then it will be on to surgery.

Tomorrow, SweetWife's mother is coming to spend the day and help out, for which I am very grateful. They said the nausea and other side-effects (if there are any) would start 24-36 hours after the infusions. Once we start to see the side-effects then we will have a much better feel for what we are in for in the next few months.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

So, on October 7th, I got my Porta cath put in. This is the semi-permanent IV like thing that they will use for my chemo therapy treatments.

My wonderful mom came up to watch the kids. My hubby is a teacher and had to go in early that morning to write sub plans (bless his heart, he’s going to be writing a lot of those), so I got the kids up and out the door. Being very careful not to eat or drink anything was the hardest part, and having the normal routine in the morning was very helpful. When hubby got home I showered. Then mom showed up and we went to the hospital. When we got there they said we had been bumped up, so they took us right in (again, whew! I hate waiting).

After registering and changing into the beautimus hospital gown, the OR nurse stopped in to say hi, I got an IV put in (yay! Not!) and the Anesthesiologist asked me how I wanted to be during the surgery. I told him that the surgeon had said it would only be a local, but I REALLY didn’t want to be awake to hear and feel them cutting and prodding me. He understood and said he would take care of me.

They wheeled me into the OR, and I put a warm blanket on me, and some cool compression socks. They tucked my arms in so they wouldn’t fall off the narrow bed, had me breath the oxygen, and I was out!

The next thing I remember was waking up to the Anesthesiologist telling me it went well. The anesthesia wore off quite well. When I got my tonsils out when I was younger, I remember it taking forever for my eyes to be able to focus.

So I dozed in “recovery one” for a while, then they took me to “recovery two.” This was basically where I came in initially. My hubby met up with me there. And we waited for my pain to ebb. Apparently they made two incisions. One by my collar bone to insert the port, and one on my neck to direct the tubing into the vein that goes to my heart. Dr C had told my hubby that my neck had been stiff, so I would have some bruising there. And that’s where most of my pain was, in my neck (a “hardy har” for the pun there).

I stayed in “recovery two” for quite a while, especially after a combo of pain pill and shot made me feel woozy. Since I hadn’t had more that day beyond some soda crackers and canned chicken noodle soup, and hubby hadn’t eaten since his early breakfast of frosted flakes, he treated me to a late lunch picked up from Denny’s. I had another woozy spell as we were getting there, but I stayed in the car while he brought me a takeout menu, and everything went great.

My mom had taken the kids to the park and to get ice cream, so I was able to eat my toast and soup in peace. Then they came and gave me gentle hugs and ate all the offered French fries that came with my sandwich.

I retreated to my room, while hubby ran to pick up my pain prescription, and mom made dinner. Then hubby took OB to his cello class, while I rested and watched TV in my room. I LOVE our pillow top bed.

I got through the rest of the night with no more woozy spells, and was able to take my pills at 4 hour intervals because the kids woke up around those times. Hubby got up and took care of the kids, then after they were settled, I got up and took a pill and ate a go-gurt. Yum.

The nurses said when they were checking me out I would need someone with me for 24 hours after the surgery. We hadn’t realized that, so hubby hadn’t written sub plans for Today (Thursday) as well. So arrangements were made with my mom, and then my sisters-in-law (KE, my big bro’s wife, and KA, my hubby’s little bro’s wife, who just happen to be best friends). They worked it all out, and my SIL’s came up early in the morning to hang out with me. KA walked the big kids to school, and KE took care of the little ones while she was gone and I laid down for a nap. When I woke up we ate yummy Portuguese Tacos that KE had brought, and I made chocolate Tapioca pudding for dessert. KE also oiled my sewing machine for me, and KA gave me advice on how to make the quilts I am planning for YB and YG. All in all it was a great visit, and I really appreciate everyone’s help. Especially hubby not growling last night when he found YB’s wet bed that I had forgot to change yesterday morning.

And now, I am all caught up on everything.

Oh, and here is a link for those who are interested in seeing more info about the porta-cath.

PET/CT scan Results

Monday I talked with Wanda again, the nurse in the Breast cancer office. She told me the results from the PET/CT scan. Hubby and I had been worried that since the cancer had spread to my lymph node, that had taken it on a free ride throughout my body and I'd have pockets or masses of it everywhere. But it hasn't mutated that much! So I might have some cancer on an ovary, or it could just be a cyst. So they told me to make an appointment with Dr. GG to figure that out. (Pap smear? who knows)

She also told me the result of the test for the receptors on the cancer cells. As I wrote before, they could have Estrogen, Progesterone or HER2 receptors, or none of those. Mine came back as HER2 positive, which is good, because there is a good medicine out there called herceptin (sp?) that I will take over the next year or so that will block all of those receptors on the cancer cells to keep them from hooking up with other good cells. Or something like that.

She also said to get a flu shot, and to avoid taking vitamins or herbal medicines until I check with Dr. H when he is giving me my chemo treatment, because some of these can inhibit the chemo working as well as it should.

She also said he wanted to start me on chemo a week after I get my porta-cath in. Not looking forward to that, but I am looking forward to shrinking these lumps!!

Telling People

Telling people I have Breast Cancer sucks. I hate to tell them. Seriously, I don't feel sick. If it weren't for this big ole lump (I have 1 firm breast right now, haven't had that in years, lol) and some occasional aching and the discharge (ew), I wouldn't know I had anything wrong with me.

Mainly I don’t want to tell them because it makes them sad. When I told one friend this she said “A, it’s because you are such a people pleaser!” Not that I am upset at their reactions. I mean if someone else told me they had breast cancer I would react the same way. Somehow, because it is me, I am better able to hold it together. Just ask, “what is the next step to take?” And say “Let’s do it!” I actually feel I would be more worked up about this if someone else had it. And after talking to the doctors about how we are going to beat this, and all the great friends who know someone who has beaten this or some other type of cancer (or my mom’s super friend who has beaten back THREE types of cancer at different times and still leads a great life), I know I can do this. I DON’T look forward to chemo, or major surgery, or this borg-like porta cath. But I know I can make it!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

PET/CT scan

This was the next day, Thursday. I was supposed to go on a low carb, high protein diet starting 24 hours before the scan and not eat anything after midnight. Though they wanted me to drink as much water as possible and stay as calm as possible. No exercising (no worries there). Hubby took that day off from work, so I hid in the bedroom reading all morning while he wrangled kids. Luckily the kids had that day off too, so he didn't have to get them out the door for school. My mom came up and watched the kids so we could go.

The Pet scan is in a trailer in the parking lot of the hospital. They are very adamant in the instructions that patients are not to walk up the stairs to the trailer. They are to call when they arrive. So we did. They had a platform with a wheelchair on it, which I walked up to and sat in while I enjoyed the jerky ride up.

Then the tech had me sit and drink the CT scan drink. A chalky, berry flavored mixture that tasted great at first (because I hadn't eaten all day), but not so yummy by the time I finished it. He gave me an injection of radiated stuff (I guess). Then asked me to lay back and try to sleep, and to not listen to my ipod, if possible.

Amazingly enough I did fall asleep.

After about half an hour he took me into the PET scan room. I laid down on this long narrow table with my arms above my head. He put a blanket on me and tucked it in around my calves, and another over my arms (so thoughtful, because it was a cold day and that trailer had gaps in places.

So then one scan for the CT part of the machine, to create and outline, then a series of 4 or 5 scans with the PET part of the machine to track blood flow. These scans were staying in one spot for about 5 minutes, then suddenly moving into the machine farther for the next section. I didn't fall asleep then because I didn't want to jerk awake when the machine moved and possibly mess up a scan. I just hoped I had my eyes closed and still when they scanned my head. (heck, maybe they didn't, I don't know.)

That night my neighbor who had watched the kids brought us dinner. Rotisserie chicken, cheesy potato casserole (SUPER GOOD), veggies and rolls. If I get the recipe from her I will post it here.

The next step

So the next step was the Cancer Clinic at my local hospital. It's pretty neat; they have a group that meets early Wednesday mornings and goes over all the new cancer patients (without names, of course). As a group, the surgeons, oncologists, radiologist, etc., discuss your prognosis and decide the best course of action. Then the cancer patient comes in during the day and meets with each of their doctors. They each tell you the same cancer treatment plan, emphasizing their specialty.

First came our Surgeon, Dr. C. We were warned that he wasn't friendly, but other than not making much eye contact, he was informative, and nice enough that I'll trust him with my chest. ;) I don't think he is usually first, but gave us the full run-down. He said I would get chemo therapy first, then he would perform a mastectomy and also remove my lymph node (Lymphectomy?? Not to be confused with Nymphectomy hehehehehe). Then they may opt for more chemo therapy or just go straight to radiation. He also explained he would insert a Porta Cath. This is like a semi-permanent IV hook-up, but it is a port placed beneath the skin in the upper chest (just below the collar bone), with a tube running into veins that feed into the heart. This is the thing that made me shudder the most. If you have ever watched Star Trek the Next Generation, it made me think of a Borg. Luckily, it will be beneath the skin, so no one who doesn't know it is there will notice it, I can even go swimming! But still, it will be in there, and I'll be able to feel it (shivers!).

Then he left and in came our Radiation Doctor. I can't remember her name. She won't get me until the tail end, so it won't really matter until then anyways. She did suggest having a plastic surgeon coordinate with my surgeon so that when I have the mastectomy, they can place tissue expanders. They don't recommend doing the breast reconstruction or implants before having radiation, but the tissue expanders will be okay and set the way for regular sized boobies later on. Halfway through her visit, Dr GG came in to listen to what the doctors had to say, and for moral support. He had been in at least part of the early morning meeting.

Third was our Oncologist, Dr H. He was very friendly. He walked in and said "I know everything about your case, and we know just what to do." He explained what exact kind of breast cancer I have: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. So the cancer cells started in a duct, overflowed from the duct, and traveled to the lymph node in my armpit. (Road trip!) This is a fairly aggressive form of cancer, but responds well to chemotherapy and the plan that they outlined. He said we were still waiting on a test to see what kind of receptors the cancer cells have. They can have Estrogen, Progesterone and/or HER2 receptors or none of those (known as triple negative). The first two I know what they are, the last I don't. They want you to have something be positive, because then they can give you medicine to block those receptors. Interesting, huh?! He said we would also do a full body scan, called a PET/CT scan, to see if the cancer had spread to anywhere else in my body. He talked about different chemo therapy options. The one that is most aggressive to my type of cancer can damage your heart, so I would have a Muga scan to determine the amount of blood flowing out of my left ventricle. More specifically, the valve between my ventricle and the artery there.

When Dr H left, Dr GG talked with us a bit about what had been said and went back to his clinic. What a nice guy!

After he left the geneticist came in and asked a bunch of family medical history questions. The interesting thing is, the only other person in my family that has had breast cancer was my dad's aunt. And since my dad is an only child, if this is an inherited genetic predisposition, it may not have shown up in his family until now.

Since my mom and both of her parents have many siblings, and only 3 out of all those and their children got breast cancer (two of whom got it from eating eggs laid by chickens eating irradiated grain), it is not likely it came from her side of the family. Anyways, she gave me a kit to take to the lab to test my blood for the genes that make me predisposed for breast cancer. She said if this comes back positive, I will have to have a double mastectomy. In theory this is okay with me because then I could get them lifted and filled to match. But, that’s also double the pain, so either way will have its benefits.

Then we talked to the office Nurse, Wanda. She is great. Nice, informative, informal, friendly. Good things when you are dealing with stressed out cancer patients all the time.

Then down to the lab to get blood drawn, and then over to set up the porta cath surgery and follow up appointment. Then home we go.

Now this took from about 9 am to 1 pm. We have great neighbors, and the one I had told about my diagnosis had this day off from work. So she watched the little kids when we left, and the bigger kids walked home to her house. She kept them while we went out to lunch to talk things over. I couldn't ask for a better friend. Of course I have a lot of friends like that, and I am sure I will be taking advantage of them for quite a while. hee hee hee

Sunday, October 4, 2009

How I got here

I gave birth to our youngest daughter (YG) and breastfed her as I did our other three children. About 8-10 months in I had a duct that just didn't seem to empty all the way, ever. But everything else seemed fine, so I ignored it. When I weaned her in June, the right breast dried right up, and the left did too, except one duct that just still felt full, but it didn't drip. And it was a little tender. I just figured it was taking its own sweet time to dry up, so no worries.

Now, usually, YG falls asleep snuggled into my right arm as I rock her to sleep. One night in August she decided to fall asleep on my left side. When I laid her down, I noticed I had a few drips and went in the bathroom to see if the last of my milk was finally expressing. Nope. It was a bloody discharge. I went in to show my husband, to ask what he thought I should do. He freaked out a little, asking me if I had ever heard of breast cancer. I smiled, and reassured him it was probably just an infection, just a no-fever mastitis, and promised I would go into the doctor the next day.

I did get into the doctor the next day, not my regular doctor, Dr. GG, but one of the 3rd year residents who is in the same clinic. The resident had another doctor come in to confirm it was mastitis, gave me a prescription for antibiotics, and had me schedule a follow up appointment for two weeks later. When I went in, it had not changed, so we figured it was a stubborn infection and he gave me another round of antibiotics, a different kind. I scheduled another appointment in a week because he said to come back if it was still there then, and I didn’t want to have his schedule be too full. It was still there, so he scheduled a mammogram and ultrasound. The next day my daughter had a checkup scheduled with Dr. GG. When she was done I explained my situation and asked if he had time to check it out as well and see if he would offer a different course of action. He concurred that I should get in for a mammogram, and made arrangements to get me in sooner.

The day of my mammogram started out completely normal. Hubby went to work, kids went to school. My mom came up to watch the kids so I could go get my appointment. I have never had a mammogram, and those little cape things are, well, interesting. I told the radiologist tech who did my mammogram that they should put a superman symbol or batman logo on the back. At least for the under 40 set. ;) Anyways, she was very nice, and the mammogram itself was not as bad as I expected. I have never been squeezed at so many different angles before. And it was interesting to look at the scans while she was setting up the machine for the next scan.

So when that was done I went back to the waiting room, where there was another lady in a cape waiting with her adult daughter. The rad tech came back into the room in a few minutes to ask if anyone had come with me today to go into the ultrasound with me. I laughingly explained that my mom had come to watch my kids so I could come without an entourage. I should have had a hint then.

When I got into the ultrasound room, the ultrasound tech did her job and went and got the Radiologist doctor. This doctor sat down and told me I probably had breast cancer, and that we would have to do an MRI to check the other breast for microscopic cancer areas, and a biopsy to confirm and find out what type. She was fairly nice about it, but straightforward, which I prefer. The first thought to run through my head was “Well, I will actually get new boobs!” This has been a wish of mine for years.

I asked her if it wasn’t cancer, what it could be. She said it really wasn’t likely it was anything else.

When we finished I sat down with a scheduler and got the MRI and biopsy scheduled (of course, Dr. GG stepped in and go them rescheduled for as quickly as possible so we could have the results in time for the next week’s cancer clinic on Wednesday). Then I changed and walked out to my car. Hubby called while I was on the way to my car to ask how it went. I hated telling him on the phone, and briefly thought about lying to him so he wouldn’t have this stress for a couple of days. But I told him, and he took it quite well. Then I had to call my mom to tell her I was coming home. She took it harder than either of us had. But hubby and I are more reserved, and I definitely didn’t mind that she was upset.

So the MRI was on Friday, and it was not comfortable. I had to lay face down, and the cushion for my head started out feeling great, but after 15 minutes in, it was killing me. But I was very good, and made it until we were all through to ask if I could move.

Then a weekend of stewing. I was sure I was going to die. I mean, it was a good size lump, what were my odds going to be? At first it didn’t seem so bad. I am secure in the fact that I will see my loved ones that have already passed away will be there to greet me when I die. But then I thought of how much of my kids’ lives I would miss. I mean, YG is not even a full year and a half old! That made me mad. And sad. But I was good at shoving that to the side and ignoring it most of the time. I did have a hard time falling asleep. Our kitchen has never been so consistently clean!

Monday was the biopsy. I was nervous about the needles and stuff. But they had me change, then brought hubby in to watch a video about the procedure with me. There was one line in the video when the Radiologist doctor in the video was talking about the possible risks and that most blood vessels are “squishy,” so they are easily healed with pressure. I wondered if that was the technical term.

Then the doctor and nurses came in to ask if we had any questions. I asked if I was going to be numbed. He assured me that I would be, and we pointed out that was the only flaw in the video.

Then hubby went back out to the waiting room, and I went back into the ultrasound room, where they used the ultrasound to locate the affected areas, and drew with markers where they would need to be going. It tickled when they marked my lymph node.

Then more waiting. Dr. GG called early Tuesday evening to tell us that it was cancer. Specifically Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Stage 3.

And that was how I got here.