Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Month - One Year Later

Wow! I'm sitting here at work. It's only my second day working full time and I am in a complete and utter panic.
It's October... Breast Cancer Awareness month. That's a good thing, right? I thought so too. I thought this month would be a great month for me. I owe my life to this month, don't I? I truly believe Breast Cancer Awareness is what saved my life. It turns out this month is not having the effect on me that I thought it would. Breast Cancer Awareness is everywhere and it is making me more and more aware of my own cancer. I just want it to go away. I want all the articles that tell me how bad Triple Negative Breast Cancer in young women is and how I'm more likely to die than an older women to go away.
It's crazy how I read one article and it completely sets me off. I've been happy lately. Really happy. Stress free. I've been feeling like I've beat this, it's all behind me... then I read a one page article that has the four keywords I never want to see... young, triple negative, die. I'm mad at myself for letting cancer still have any control over me.
My mom literally just sent me an email that immediately brought me back to reality. It read...
"Life is too short to wake up with regrets... So love the people who treat you right...Forget about the ones who don't. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it."
How is it that moms know exactly what to say at the exact time you need to hear it?
I need to remember those words. I was given a second chance. It's now up to me to grab it with both hands. I'm happy. I'm healthy. I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I need to get over ittttt....

So, I need to give you a little background on myself for those of you who don't know me well. I am shy. I've always been this way. In high school a friend of mine said (in the most loving way possible) "Margie, everyone thinks you're a bitch because you don't talk to anyone." It wasn't because I was a bitch... far from... I was just shy. Even my uncle said to me "I didn't even know you had a voice until you were 18."  I started joking with my friends and family that I had a social anxiety. Well, that social anxiety came true when I found out I had cancer. I'm a pretty private person and keep most things to myself or to those closest to me, and I didn't want to be around ANYONE unless they were close to me. And when I knew I had to, I would have a full on panic attack. A huge part of the anxiety was I didn't want people to look at me differently, talk to me differently... 

So now to my point. :) Yesterday I was soooo cranky. I couldn't figure out why... but, I couldn't shake it. Then it clicked. I had Vanessa and Brooke's curriculum night at school that I had to go to and of course wanted to go to. I started to have a panic attack. I hate feeling like this more than anything. If you've ever had a panic attack, it's pretty much one of the worst feelings a person can have and it's not something you can control. I had to be around people who didn't know me... and if they do know me, they definitely don't know me well. You'd think I'd be fine since all these people don't know that I just had cancer... that I just had my breasts removed and all my hair fell out. But, I'm constantly wondering if they are looking at me wondering what's wrong with me... why I look like this. Maybe they aren't. But, to me, I know I look different. I'm self conscious. I don't feel pretty. I can't lose a single pound that I gained from the stupid steroids I was on. Everyone says I look great with short hair... but when I look at myself, the short hair is just a reminder of the cancer.

I know I need to get over this anxiety about being around people... especially since I go back to work on Monday. I work with some really, really great people who I am so excited to see... but they haven't seen me since the day I was diagnosed with cancer. I'm afraid that everyone will look at me differently, talk to me differently. I'm afraid I will start crying the first mention of my cancer.  Most importantly, I want to get over this anxiety because I want to be a positive voice for breast cancer. I want young women to know that they too can beat this. I want my daughters to be proud of their mom.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Just a reminder on how stupid I think cancer is...

Below are some facts on cancer. I know I've shared most of them with you all in previous blog entries.

Honestly, reading this again tonight is depressing. It's a reminder that my life will never be the same. I have to live the rest of my life worrying about cancer and what I do and don't do to my body. I wish I was a kid again and didn't have a worry in the world. Sigh... Anyway, good information on how this whole cancer thing works.

1. Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size.

2. Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a person's lifetime.

3. When the person's immune system is strong the cancer cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors.

4. When a person has cancer it indicates the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic, environmental, food and lifestyle factors.

5. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet and including supplements will strengthen the immune system.

6. Chemotherapy involves poisoning the rapidly-growing cancer cells and also destroys rapidly-growing healthy cells in the bone marrow, gastro-intestinal tract etc, and can cause organ damage, like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc.

7. Radiation while destroying cancer cells also burns, scars and damages healthy cells, tissues and organs.

8. Initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiation will often reduce tumor size. However prolonged use of chemotherapy and radiation do not result in more tumor destruction.

9. When the body has too much toxic burden from chemotherapy and radiation the immune system is either compromised or destroyed, hence the person can succumb to various kinds of infections and complications.

10. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate and become resistant and difficult to destroy. Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other sites.

11. An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply.


a. Sugar is a cancer-feeder. By cutting off sugar it cuts off one important food supply to the cancer cells. Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal,Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in color. Better alternative is Bragg's aminos or sea salt.

b. Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soya milk cancer cells are being starved.

c. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer.

d. A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes to nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells. To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).

e. Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine. Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer-fighting properties. Water-best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it.

12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines become putrefied and leads to more toxic buildup.

13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the body's killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.

14. Some supplements build up the immune system (IP6, Flor-ssence, Essiac, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, EFAs etc.) to enable the body's own killer cells to destroy cancer cells. Other supplements like vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the body's normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells.

15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor. Anger, unforgiveness and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life.

16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Guest post from my boyfriend Eric

A few months back I was googling different things on cancer... something I tend to do often. This particular time I was searching for information on how men cope when their partner has breast cancer. I came across a woman's breast cancer blog who had her husband and other family and friends write entries from their points of view. It was exactly what I was looking for! It helped me understand what Eric was going through... There was always so much emphasis on how I was feeling and what I was going through... I didn't always know and understand what he was going through. Reading this entry from another man's view helped me understand what this all felt like for Eric. It was like a light bulb went on. :) The next day I talked with him about the entry and asked him if he'd be interested in doing something like that. He said yes he would... but then a lot of time went by and he never brought it up again. Today he posted the below entry. You'll notice he's very good with his words... one of the many things I love about him. I laughed and cried while reading this. I hope that his point of view will be helpful to other people going through this ucky cancer business!

Margie has asked me on a few different occasions if I wanted to write something for her blog. And those of you who read this blog and who know me well, know that I’m usually not one who is shy with my words, more often than not has something to say, and more so, is usually pretty adept at crafting those words in written form. In fact, I’ve always prided myself on that. But I’ve struggled to do so now because I wanted to say something profound or unwittingly wise. I wanted to say something that would make the last year seem a little more bearable. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be any of those things now and the next few paragraphs you’ll read have taken me about eight weeks and three or four re-writes. And who knows if they actually say anything really at all, but frankly, it’s probably the most honest I’ve been in a while so that probably counts for something…

I can still remember the day we sat in the oncologist's office planning out the next few months of our lives and the treatment Margie was about to undergo. I felt helpless. I felt useless. Like no matter how hard I hugged her, no matter how many times I told her I love her, I couldn’t fix it. I fucking hated that the most. I hated the fact that she was scared shitless and that no matter what I said, what I wrote, I couldn’t do anything to steal those words from her ears.
Being a typical male, whenever there was a problem I’ve always been one to say “no worries, we’ll fix it.” I’ve always tried to be one to take away other people’s worries. Sure that works when the dishwasher is broken, or you run out of gas on the side of the freeway. But when the woman you love finds out that she has the most aggressive form of breast cancer, there’s not much to say. And though I’ve said some dumb things in my life (probably more than I can count), even I wasn’t dumb enough to tell her “no worries, we’ll fix it.” But goddamn did I want to. There were times when I tried to cheer her up, when instead I should have just shut up and not said anything at all. There were times when I acted like I was a doctor and run the medical show, when I couldn’t even play an extra on Grey’s Anatomy. Shit, I was clueless. I just wanted to make her feel normal again.

nor•mal [nawr-muh l]
1. conforming to the standard or the common type; usual;
2. serving to establish a standard.

The moment I fell for Margie on Mother’s Day weekend four years ago, nothing for me would ever be normal again. The way we met that night, certainly not common. The smiles that she helped me produce when we were together in the weeks thereafter, far from usual. The way she made me feel like there wasn’t anyone else in the room when she was around, in no way conformed to the standard. The hours-long phone conversations we’d have – me in San Francisco, she in Seattle – were undoubtedly not usual. And ever since as I chased her around the schoolyard to get her to like me, our relationship hasn’t been normal. So, after some introspection, I came to the realization that “normal” wasn’t ever a part of our life in the past, so why would I think it would be moving forward? However, the one thing I refuse to do is to talk about things as the "new normal" or "our life after diagnosis." In my opinion, that's letting the cancer win, letting it take over your body AND your mind and I refused to do that.

But regrettably, that never stopped me from asking “Why Margie? Why a mom with two of the best little girls in the world? Why a person who gives more of herself to her friends and family than she'd ever expect in return? Why?” And though I’ve never admitted this to her, there were times I’d just pull over on
the side of the road on the way home from work or the grocery store and just cry uncontrollably. Because though I could never take away her pain, never take away her being scared, I could project an air of calm in a sea of unbelievable madness. I could provide a strong shoulder for her and her girls. But this cancer battle and all the bullshit that goes with it…well…it was hard on me, too. And yes I realize it affected me about 10-percent as hard as it affected her, but it is misery just the same. And though by no means perfect along the way, I’ve tried to be strong and be that infallible person she could count on through all of it. Whether I succeeded, you’ll have to ask her. But I’m proud of my commitment to her and proud that we made it through it still together, as 7 of 10 breast cancer-afflicted relationships don’t.

The last year has been a complete blur - from diagnosis to surgeries to treatment. I'd be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about the cancer coming back. But, I always try and remember the following quote I read somewhere, "You can spend all your time worrying about a recurrence. If you never have a recurrence you've wasted all that time worrying, and if you do have a recurrence you've still wasted all that time worrying, when you could have been enjoying life." So, I’m going to make sure that Margie and I and the girls spend every possible moment from here on out enjoying life no matter what.

Through it all, I can say that I’ve never wavered once in my commitment to Margie, to her girls and to giving her and them the life that they so deserve. Though she doesn’t believe in the word, I love her unconditionally. And though this shitty disease has attacked her body, changing it forever, I’ve never once looked at her as the girl with cancer. I’ve always just looked at her as the girl who flashed a ridiculously amazing smile and offered to “share” her lip-gloss with me the one night that forever changed my life. That’s who she was then and that’s who she will always be to me…


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Can't afford Lymphedema Sleeves?


If Tomorrow Never Comes

I have randomly come across this poem over the years. It touched me as I read it tonight just as it did the very first time I read it. It's a reminder to me to live and love in the present.

If I knew it would be the last time
that I'd see you fall asleep,
I would tuck you in more tightly
and pray the Lord, your soul to keep.

If I knew it would be the last time
that I see you walk out the door,
I would give you a hug and kiss
and call you back for one more.

If I knew it would be the last time
I'd hear your voice lifted up in praise,
I would video tape each action and word,
so I could play them back day after day.

If I knew it would be the last time,
I could spare an extra minute or two
to stop and say "I love you,"
instead of assuming you would KNOW I do.

If I knew it would be the last time
I would be there to share your day,
well I'm sure you'll have so many more,
so I can let just this one slip away.

For surely there's always tomorrow,
to make up for an oversight,
and we always get a second chance
to make everything right.

There will always be another day,
to say our "I love you's",
And certainly there's another chance ,
to say our "Anything I can do's?"

But just in case I might be wrong,
and today is all I get,
I'd like to say how much I love you,
and I hope we never forget,

Tomorrow is not promised to anyone,
young or old alike,
And today may be the last chance,
you get to hold your loved one tight.

So if you're waiting for tomorrow,
why not do it today?
For if tomorrow never comes,
you'll surely regret the day,

That you didn't take that extra time,
for a smile, a hug, or a kiss,
and you were too busy to grant someone,
what turned out to be their one last wish.

So hold your loved ones close today,
whisper in their ear,
Tell them how much you love them,
and that you'll always hold them dear.

Take time to say "I'm sorry," "please forgive me,"
"thank you" or "it's okay".
And if tomorrow never comes,
You'll have no regrets about today.

Monday, August 22, 2011

the end... is just the beginning

It's been three weeks since I finished my last treatment. It's hard to believe that it's been 10 months since the day I found the lump... and it has been a whirlwind of events since that day. I am so thankful for everyone who held my hand through every treatment and all my tears and fears. Everyone closest to me was affected by my cancer diagnosis and I've had to continually remind myself that I am not the only victim in this. Everyone had to deal with it in their own way. It wasn't easy for me or anyone else. So, thank you to everyone who not only supported me, but never gave up on me!

"The end... is just the beginning"

I saw this quote just days after my last treatment and it has stuck with me since. It sums up exactly how I feel in just a few words. Yes, I am at the end of my treatment... but that just means I am beginning the rest of my life. If cancer has taught me anything it's how incredibly precious life is. I don't ever want to live with regret and wish I would have done this or that differently. I have this chance at a new beginning and I'm gonna take it. :)

I went to my very first support group meeting last week. I was really looking forward to going until right before I had to leave. I got really nervous and scared. My mind started racing and I began making up excuses of why I shouldn't go... all of which I knew were ridiculous. I was pretty emotional the whole car ride there. I knew I was going to have to talk about my cancer and how it made me feel. I couldn't think of anything worse. The thought of being in a room full of people I didn't know and then to have to talk about my feelings felt like torture. I'm not good with either. The meeting was exactly how I imagined it to be. Everyone sat in a circle, introduced themselves and told their stories. I was overwhelmed with different emotions. I wanted to run out of there as fast as I could, but I also wanted to stay and hear every single word these women had to say. My eyes began to tear hearing the very first woman tell her story. It brought me back to the day I was told I had breast cancer. While it was definitely an emotional night for me, it was one I'm so glad to have had. I left there feeling better than I have in a long time. All these women related to exactly what I am going through and feeling. It was like a breath of fresh air.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I'm Gonna Love You Through It

I came across this song today and have been crying ever since. I immediately thought of Eric. He has been through it all with me and has never once tried to leave... even when I've asked him to. He promised he'd stay by my side and that's where he's been every single day since. I haven't made it easy. I have had every single emotion a person can have during this time... scared, tired, relieved, happy, sad, angry, devastated, strong, thankful.

I'm just a few days away from my final treatment and it's more emotional for me than I imagined it would be. It's been almost nine months since this all started... the day I received the phone call that changed my life forever. All those emotions are hitting me all at once as this is all coming to an end.

I'm beginning to wonder what my life will be like after cancer. My life has changed and I feel myself continuing to change. I keep saying "I want my normal life back". The truth is... I'm not sure what that is anymore. I'm looking forward to finding my new "normal". So, everyday from this point on, I'm going to live my life wide open to new possibilities. I'm going to open my mind to the lessons I need to learn after cancer. Life is a precious gift and I'm going try and live every single day thankful I'm here living in the moment, not looking back.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I have a hairdo... kinda...

I'm excited to say... I finally have enough hair to (maybe) call it a hair style! :)


Just a quick little update...

I am down to just four more radiation treatments. WOO HOO! I'm not sure my skin could take anymore than that. I am burnt to a crisp and it may just get worse over this week. Yikes! The pain from the burn may even be worse than the mastectomy surgery. But, I see the end in sight and that is keeping my spirits up. I even have a special day planned for my final appointment. The girls, Eric and I are staying at a hotel downtown and having a pool partyyyyy (weather permitting, of course).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

HATE cancer.

It's been awhile since I've written. I said this in my last post too... but it's been really hard for me to write how I'm feeling because it changes so much. It seemed much easier to write when everything was so fresh... the words and feelings just came pouring out.

I've been feeling ok with the radiation treatments, but have my days of exhaustion both physically and emotionally. I've finally reached the point in the treatment where I'm feeling the effects. My skin is getting irritated and red... my energy level is hitting some low points. It's the kind of exhaustion that a good night sleep and a nap during the day doesn't help. It's been affecting my mood and I'm finding myself becoming very irritable. I'm taking it out on the people closest to me and that makes me feel even worse. I've been trying to take some time by myself in the evenings so that I can find some peace and calm... That seems to be helping a little bit. I have to keep reminding myself that I have just two and a half weeks to go and then I will be done with all of this! I'm really, really looking forward to that final day.

I had a bit of a set back emotionally yesterday. I found out a dear friend of mines sister is losing her battle with cancer. She has been fighting this awful disease for several years and has done so with so much grace. It hit me very hard for so many reasons. My heart is broken for her, her family and most of all her children. She is a mother of a young boy and girl. I don't know how you prepare yourself and your children for this. It's my worst fear. There's not a day that goes by that I don't have a tinge of fear that this could happen to me. Just a few months ago, I was talking with my friend about her sister and how she was doing. She told me about a conversation she had with her that has stuck with me ever since. She asked her sister if she was afraid to die. Her sister said she was not afraid to die, but she was afraid to leave the people she loved. I cried when I heard that and I'm crying now. That is the most profound thing I've heard since I've been diagnosed with cancer. It's how I feel. I'm not afraid to die... I'm afraid to leave my daughters, my family, my friends... who are my family.

Cancer is unfair and I'm really mad at it right now!

If I can send any message at all... Every day, tell the people who matter to you that you love and appreciate them. And love your children unconditionally, no matter what. Tell them you love them EVERY DAY.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


My life is starting to calm, but the calmer it's getting the harder it is to process my thoughts enough to share them. I began radiation last week and so far so good. I wasn't sure how I would feel about having to go to the doctor every single day, but I find myself looking forward to the visits. I've found some comfort in being there, in a room full of people going through something very similar to what I'm going through. It's a much more intimate setting than chemo was. Everyone is very open to what they are going through and sharing their experiences. Until recently, I haven't felt the need to get involved in support groups because I've had so much support from all my family and friends. I didn't really think it was necessary. But, I realize now the support you get from people who are or who have gone through this fight is a very different kind of support.

My life seems to slowly be getting back to normal. My hair is growing back (I may even have a cute pixie cut in the next couple of weeks), I'm getting some more energy and my body isn't giving out like it had been. I am feeling more like myself every day. It feels really good. :)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Race For The Cure

On Sunday, I walked for the first time in the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure with "Team Margie." It was a fabulous day with some fabulous people! I was surrounded by so much love, I didn't even know what to do with myself. :) It was an honor, to say the least, to have my name attached to such an amazing foundation. I am proud to announce we raised over $18,000 and came in first place for the largest friends and family team with just over 200 people!

I arrived to the event an hour-and-a-half before the race began to personally thank each person who came out, but there was just no way. Everywhere I turned I saw a Team Margie shirt. I was so excited and happy to be surrounded by so many of my family, friends and fellow survivors. :) I had to wear my sunglasses all morning to hide the tears that seemed to be a constant in my eyes. Every person at this race knows someone who has been affected in some way by breast cancer or who is suffering from it right now. It was such an emotional feeling to see all these people come together in the battle against breast cancer.

The best part of the day was getting to the finish line and seeing most of my team waiting there to cross with me! Wow is all I can say. These people are really something else! I'm getting teary eyed just writing about this. I AM ONE LUCKY GIRL!

A HUGE thank you to our team captain, Janette Connelly, for her hard work and countless hours to make this event so amazing! I also want to thank my very talented cousin Melissa Ceja for creating our team shirts. Thank you to everyone who came out to not only support me but all the women and men who have been affected by breast cancer!!!!!!!!

Lastly, I wanted to share a few important facts about breast cancer and why the Susan G. Komen Foundation is so important in our fight against breast cancer.

·         75 percent of net funds raised are invested locally in breast health education, screening and treatment support

 ·         One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
·         Every 69 seconds, someone, somewhere in the world, dies of breast cancer.
·         Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women ages 40 to 59.
·         About 2.5 million breast cancer survivors are alive in U.S. today.
·         Early detection is the key to survival; the five-year survival rate, when caught early before it spreads beyond the breast, is 98 percent. Thirty years ago is was 74 percent.
·         Three simple steps for early detection:  1) regular mammograms, 2) clinical breast exams, and 3) breast self-awareness.
·         The greatest risk factors for breast cancer are being female and growing older.
·         Breast cancer knows no boundary, be it age, gender, socio-economic status or geographic location.
·         Washington state has one of the highest breast cancer incidence rates in the country.
·         $150 can fund a lifesaving mammogram through Komen’s community grants program.

Monday, May 16, 2011

life after surgery...

I've started writing a blog entry at least 10 times since my surgery. It's been tough for me to write about how I'm doing because it changes from day to day... even minute to minute. I've had a lot of good days and some not so good days. It's been 3 weeks since my surgery and even with the tough days, I am doing better than I ever imagined I would. I feel good for the most part and happy the cancer is out of my body. I have a lot to be thankful for right now and I really am thankful. But, I have days where this is hard for me. I look at myself in the mirror and don't recognize the person looking back at me. I don't look like myself and some days I don't feel like myself.

I have a Pet Scan scheduled for tomorrow. This scan is to check the spots found on my liver and lungs. My doctor has not seen these spots as a concern, but just wants to make sure there hasn't been any changes since my first scan in November. I trust my doctor that these nodules are not cancer, but I can't help but feel anxious. I will keep everyone updated.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The best news!

I wanted to update everyone on the best possible news I could have gotten. I received a call this afternoon from both my oncologist and surgeon to tell me the pathology report showed no residual cancer in my breast or lymph nodes! I am beyond happy and relieved. I don't think it has fully hit me yet, as I'm still pretty fuzzy from all the pain meds. :)

I also want to thank everyone for all the very sweet messages sent the last few days. Eric read me each and every text and email that was sent and they definitely helped keep my spirits up. I couldn't have gotten through this without all your support and prayers. I have said this over and over, but it's more true everyday... I have the most amazing people in my life and feel so incredibly lucky.

When I'm feeling a little more clear minded I will write more about my surgery and how I am feeling.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

appointments... and more appointments

It's been awhile since I've written and I wanted to update everyone on how my appointments have been going since my final chemo treatment.

Last Friday I had two doctors appointments. My first appointment was with the Radiology Oncologist. Going into this appointment I really didn't know a lot about radiation except that it's supposed to kill what is left of (if any) the cancer cells inside me. I was called back to talk with a nurse who asked me a long list of questions. Most of the questions seemed pretty standard until she asked me if I had a living will. (blank stare) No, I don't have a living will and honestly until that very second it had never occurred to me to have one. Not one single person had ever brought this up to me before. I literally stared at her for what seemed like forever before I told her no. She then asked me if I'd like information on obtaining a living will. I wanted to tell her no but instead I said yes. When she left the room to get me the information, I began to cry. I immediately thought she was asking me this because she knew something I didn't know. My mind was racing. At this point I still hadn't received the results from my latest MRI. The doctor finally came in and of course the first thing I asked her was about my MRI results. She very happily told me the MRI showed continued improvement, which means the tumor was continuing to shrink! Siiiiigh! This was music to my ears. :)

My next appointment of the day was with the plastic surgeon. Again, I didn't really know what to expect except the Radiology Oncologist did tell me in my earlier appointment that going through radiation doesn't make me a good candidate for breast implants when undergoing reconstructive surgery. At first I wasn't sure how I felt about this. I'd always just assumed that that's what I would do. The plastic surgeon did confirm this same thing. We went over a few different options and I have a lot to think about... but I have a lot of time to make decisions. I won't even be able to begin reconstruction for a minimum of 6 months after I finish radiation. So, I'm putting this in the back of my head for now.

I had my pre-op appointment today. Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous for it. I think I've gotten to the point where I'm ready to get the surgery over with. I'm not saying I think it'll be easy, but I'm not scared like I was. Well, let me rephrase that... I am no longer scared of the surgery... I am still very much scared about the pathology report I will get back after surgery. I want to keeping moving forward with my treatment plan. No setbacks! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

round 16 - the FINAL!!

As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit.  ~Emmanuel

I completed my final round of chemo yesterday. It was an emotional day to say the least. I spent a lot of the day in tears, happy and sad. It was a bittersweet feeling for me to be completing my final round. I had anxiously awaited this day to come from the beginning, but, as I've said before you really do find such a comfort in being at the hospital, getting the chemo and knowing every time you are there it is saving your life drip by drip. Chemo was my security blanket. I felt safe with it. I think I'm ready to end my relationship with chemo now. The relationship has run it's course and I need to move the heck onnnn! :)

My first appointment of the day was a rehab appointment. We discussed the walking exercise and light weight training I will need to continue doing to prepare for the surgery. These exercises will get my body strong enough for the surgery and make for a much quicker recovery. We also went over some exercises I will do after surgery to continue with recovery and also prevent and take care of Lymphedema. Lymphedema is the build-up of fluid in soft body tissues when the lymph system is damaged or blocked and causes swelling. It is a common problem caused by cancer treatment and the removal of lymph nodes. These are exercises I will have to work into my daily life. Lymphedema can pop up even years down the road, but I just look at it like positive changes I'm introducing into my lifestyle.

My next appointment was with Dr. Ellis. I'd been waiting all week to talk with her and ask her some questions I'd been worried about. Last week was a very tough week for me. I hit my all time low point. I was completely overwhelmed with anxiety and fear and there was nothing I or anyone could do to subside it. Last Monday when I couldn't sleep I began reading a woman's blog. Her blog was beautifully written and so inspiring. She seemed to have a very sweet and special spirit about her. I related to her on so many levels. We both had children, we both had triple negative breast cancer, we both had stage 3 and we both wanted desperately to live. Well, in the end this beautiful woman lost her battle and I felt like I was losing mine. I took it very personally. I had spent hours reading her every word and feeling what she was feeling on such a deep level. I know her story is not my story, I know this. But, the fear set in and I didn't know how to recover from it. When I saw Dr. Ellis, I began asking her many questions in what felt like desperation. I needed her to reassure me that I was going to be fine and we were doing everything we could to make sure that was going to happen. She'd never seen me like this and even said so. I asked her about the nodule on my lungs and the cyst on my liver. (two things I have never spoken of with anyone except for her.) I didn't intentionally not discuss this with anyone... or maybe I did. When she first spoke to me about them she reassured me they were not worrisome. I trusted her and still trust her. I was scared though and felt like if I talked about either of those things it may really put me in a place I didn't want to be. So, I kind of buried it until yesterday. She again reassured me that she was not concerned with my liver and lungs right now. She said we need to focus on what we know to be true and that is I am making enormous progress in my breast cancer. I believe her. I have an MRI scheduled for this morning and should have the results back within a day or two. I'm wishing, praying, crossing fingers and toes that they won't even see the tumor this time. I hope that anyone reading this can say the same prayer for me tooooo! :)

My brother, Josh, went with me yesterday. I was really happy to get to spend the time with him. We got to talk a lot... actually I talked a lot. He's a lot like me in the sense he's more of a listener and a processor. I obviously had a lot on my mind. Ha! But, he knew just the right things to say. :) I even got to see one of my longest friends, Malissa. She stopped by the hospital and I was so excited to be able to catch up with her. I haven't seen her in a few years, but it felt like just yesterday. She has been through cancer with her dad and had a lot of inspirational things to share. She is one of the most positive people I know and I hope some of that rubs off on me. I was able to open up to her about some fears I've been having and she completely understood them. We shared some tears and some great laughs. I left treatment feeling so lucky to have got to share my final treatment with two wonderful people. Thanks to both of you! :)

And to end the day on a great note, last night Eric planned a dinner with my family to celebrate my last treatment. It turned out so well. I truly feel like the luckiest girl in the world to be surrounded by such a supportive and loving family. There were some that couldn't make it, but I know they were thinking of me and wishing they could be there. I love you all from the bottom of my heart and down to the tips of my toes! Thank you to Eric for planning this. You have been an amazing partner through this challenging time.

Tonight I will get to celebrate with some of my girlfriends who I also consider my family. These girls are my rocks and get me through every day. I'm looking forward to seeing their lovely faces tonight!

My days are filled with doctors appointments this week. Treatment yesterday, MRI today, therapy tomorrow, and then Friday I meet with my Radiology Oncologist and Plastic Surgeon. It's going to be busy, but next week Vanessa is on Spring Break and I will get to spend the entire week with both of my girls before I have surgery. I can't think of a better way to spend my time!  


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Round 15

Energy spent worrying about tomorrow's problems is energy taken away from enjoying today.

I finished round 15 today and have just ONE more to go. I'm still having the same mixed feelings I had after completing round 14. I talked to Dr. Ellis's nurse today who told me those feelings are completely normal and most people do feel this way. If chemo was a little easier on my body I'd maybe consider asking for a few extra treatments. ;) One thing that surprised me about chemo is that you're body (or at least mine) never got used to it. It has definitely got tougher the further along I get in my treatments. The side effects have became more frequent and harder to take as time goes on. I'm scared about the next phase... surgery. I so want all of this to be done with and behind me as much as possible. On the other side, my prognosis and plans for the future depend so much on what they find when they do the surgery. My understanding of the kind of cancer I have (triple negative) is that generally it is more likely to metastasize and has a poorer prognosis than other types of breast cancer. However, if I achieve a complete pathological response at the time of surgery, my prognosis improves to about the same as other types of breast cancer. Complete pathological response means that the chemotherapy has completely eradicated the cancer. Studies show that about one third of triple negative patients achieve complete pathological response. Siiiiiiiiiigh... I really do believe in the quote above. It's just difficult to do in the quiet moments alone each day or lying in bed awake at night. Of course I am worried about a bad outcome, but I think the hardest part is the unknown. So, the surgery coming up is a very good thing. At least I will know what I am dealing with.

My very good friend, Jen, went with me to treatment today. She, like pretty much everyone else who has come with me had an idea of what a chemo treatment would be like. It really sounds a lot more intimidating than it is. Plus, the nurses and doctors at Swedish make the experience so much easier to take. Gosh, I remember how scared I was before I went for the first time. I think she was pleasantly surprised at how it went. One of my favorite parts of going to chemo is the one on one time I get with the wonderful people going with me. Life gets so busy and it becomes more difficult to find the time to catch up with the ones we love. I've really enjoyed the time I get with everyone who has come with me.

Brooke's daycare is closed this week and and I'm very much looking forward to spending some one on one time with her. :) Being with the girls brings so much comfort to me.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Alcohol and Breast Cancer... not worth it.

Since being diagnosed with breast cancer in November, 2010 I have had just a few glasses of wine. After reading the research in the link below, I'm reminded how not worth it it is.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Round 14

I completed round 14 Monday, March 28th and have just two more treatments to go! I'm having mixed feelings about ending chemo. Part of me is completely happy and cannot wait for that final day, but then there's a part of me that isn't ready for it to end. Every week when I go to treatment I find comfort in being there and imagining the chemo entering my body and killing any bit of cancer left in me. The end of chemo also means the end of this phase of my journey... which means I'm getting closer to the next phase of my journey. I'm a little afraid of that next phase. I know what chemo feels like. I don't know what not having breasts feels like.

My appointment yesterday went well. I met with Dr. Ellis and we scheduled the last MRI I will be having on April 12th. This will give the surgeon a good idea of what she's facing when she performs the surgery. Of course, she won't know the full story until she gets in there and sees for herself. The surgery is going to take about 3.5 hours. I opted to have two surgeons instead of just one. This will cut the surgery time in half. It seemed like a no brainer to go this route.

I haven't felt that great this week... I've been really tired and weak. I think this is all just taking a toll on me both physically and mentally. I just read an article about depression and cancer. It said it's almost impossible for you to be touched by cancer and not then be touched by depression. Just knowing you have cancer alone is tough enough, but then every single medicine that you have to take to fight the disease causes depression and anxiety. I think that is the #1 side effect listed on each medication I'm taking. Sigh... I don't mean to sound like a "Debbie Downer" because I do feel like I have been pretty positive throughout this whole thing. I think I'm just anxious for this all to be over and to have my life back to normal. 

I started the Active Program at Swedish last week. I met with a rehabilitation doctor who started me on a work out regimen. This will help me get the strength to be able to recover from the surgery much quicker. I went again on Tuesday and met with another doctor, Dr. Zucker, who went into a much more detailed plan for before and after the surgery. I thought the appointment would be more about physical care, but he talked with me about my mental care as well. He had such a calming effect on me that I started crying almost immediately after he began talking to me. When you have cancer (at least for me) you always try and make the people around you feel better about it.  But when I met with Dr. Zucker he made me feel like he really knew what I was feeling on such a deeper level than any other doctor I've met with. Here is a link to Dr. Zucker talking about his role in helping people living with cancer, live well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BYK0Eedvu4 I recommend this program to anyone fighting cancer.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Round 13

Round 13 down and 3 more to go. That is nothing! I can totally do 3 more rounds. 

I went into round 13 very calm. The weekend before was incredibly relaxing. Friday night I spent a much needed day and night all by myself. I missed the girls and Eric, but still enjoyed my time alone to do nothing or anything I wanted. I ended up cleaning, but if you know me, you know that actually relaxes me. I'm weird... I know. ;) It pretty much took up my whole day as I still get very tired on Friday's with any sort of activity. I also rented a couple chick flicks, started watching Burlesque and fell asleep halfway through. The half I did see, I did enjoy. But, I fully admit I have horrible taste in movies. I'm a sucker for happy endings and will watch any movie that has some sort of happy ending. 

I then got to spend some time with two of my favorite people in the whole world, Jenny & Justine. They have been my longest and best friends since we were young. We took a drive to La Conner,  walked around the shops and ate out at some cute restaurants. We had lots of laughs, a little tears and more laughs. I needed this time with them to get my mind off my reality so badly and it worked. The weekend ended with a nice family dinner at Eric's moms house. It was a perfect weekend. :)

I planned to go to my treatment on Monday by myself (I really, really don't mind this). But, Eric does mind this. So, Melissa (Eric's sister) came with me and we had a nice time. She, like a lot of others really wanted to see what I go through during chemo. I think it puts a lot of peoples minds at ease. All the nurses and even the receptionists are amazing at Swedish. I am beyond happy with my decision to get my treatment there. 

My blood counts were good and have been almost every time since I've been on Taxol. When I went in to see the doctor, we talked about some upcoming things. I will be doing one more MRI before surgery to get an idea of what my tumor/lymph nodes look like. I will also be joining the "Active" program at Swedish. This is a program for cancer patients going through/after chemotherapy and also rehabilitation after surgery. They will put me on an exercise regimen designed specifically for me. Until several years ago, it was thought that exercise for cancer patients was harmful, but now they have found it crucial to recovery.  I wish I would have began this program much earlier, but hoping it's better late than never. I have been walking as much as I can. If it's nice out I'll take walks outside, but living in Seattle those days are few and far, so I found a walking video "on demand" that I do. I've also been taking Brooke with me to the mall and we just walk. She loves it and I love spending the one on one time with her. Although, this has gotten her in the habit of going and she's now asking to go daily. Oops! I may have started something there. As the doctor and I were discussing an end to chemo quickly approaching and how great that feels, she did let me know there is a chance of needing chemo again after surgery. We won't know if this is even an option until after the surgery and they see exactly what's going on inside me. I'm of course hoping this will not be the case, but am open to anything to treat me. She also mentioned a 20% chance that when I'm in surgery they will find no sign of disease at all. This would not change the plan of action to have the double mastectomy and she stressed how uncommon this is, but how great would that be! I'm hoping and praying this will be the case. 

After seeing the therapist the last few weeks, I have been having fewer panic attacks and the anxiety isn't as bad. Getting my fears off my chest is a huge relief and I recommend it to anyone going through this. I have a lot to still work on, but I'm doing the work and that feels really good. I'm still scared and likely will be until this is journey is over. I do realize this cancer shmancer business is something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life in one way or another, but I'm gaining the strength and knowledge everyday to continue to get through this. I truly believe the changes have to be mind, body and soul. I will get there!!!  

I also want to share something with you all. This was sent to me from a very sweet woman I've never met, but feel as if I have. A very good friend of hers was also diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer a few years ago and two years later is cancer free. I relate to her words so much and feel like they could be mine.

Dear Cancer,

You came into my life a few months ago and caused me great pain. My heart was broken when I heard you were attempting to take my life. Many tears were shed and many screams into the nearest pillow I could find. To rid your disease my body was cut, poked and run down. I did not understand why you chose me. You caused extreme fear and worry for those that love me. You created a world for me that I did not want to be in. Your goal is death, but I would fight you hard. How can you stand the thought of taking a mother away from her two small children and leave her husband alone? Did you think I would allow this to happen? You made me sick and very tired and some days I could not sleep. You kept me up thinking what if..... You took away precious time from my children and family, time I cannot get back. You left my family helpless to watch me endure your motives. My mom and dad couldn't even fix this, they used to be able to fix everything. You took my sense of security of health and my hair. Most of all, you scared my children and I hated you for that. But not anymore.

It took some time, but I realized you are not in control. I am in control of how I remedy and handle what you have attempted to do to me. Although you are not a person, you are capable of doing what some people do to each other every day. I want to call you evil, but evil you are not. You taught me many things on this journey. Things I never knew before. You woke up my senses. Made me more appreciative for life and family. You allowed me to meet new friends to last a lifetime and build stronger friendships with those already my friends. Helped me see what true friends are all about. You made me humble. You showed me how loving and caring complete strangers can be. You made me realize how precious life is, and really how short it is. You taught me to not sweat the small stuff, there is always a bigger fish to fry. You made me want to get to know God, and place my faith in him. You are helping me be a better and a healthier person. You taught me patience and endurance. You made me want to help other women also embedded with your disease. You made me stronger, I can do anything now. You made me realize life can change in an instant, step back and enjoy the moment. You helped me get my priorities in order, what is more important. You allowed me to not take those I love for granted. I've learned that there are other people far worse off than me and not to feel sorry for myself. I've made you part of my life now, because you are. I will never forget what this journey has taught me. Better days are around the corner. It won't be long and I will have the ability to soak up my children's energy and appreciate it, my health, a new head of hair, and my head held high. Cancer, thank you for the lessons. Should you someday feel the need to come back and visit me, I will be ready for you.