Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Christmas Miracle

I've been meaning to update all of my faithful followers for a week now, but got sucked into the holiday chaos and am just now finding a few free minutes (while it's awesome to be living close to my family again, they sure are busy people!!!)

Last Monday, I had my follow-up MRI to measure the tumor. Pre-chemo, it measured 2.5 x 2.7 cm. My doctor called me last Wednesday to inform me that the unofficial report from the on-call radiologist showed that the MRI came back completely NORMAL!!! There was no evidence of tumor remaining at all! This is the best possible outcome we could have imagined...so great to know that the chemo (as not fun as it has been) really worked! I still have a long road ahead, but am that much closer to being cured!

I've now been without chemo for nearly three weeks, and it has been wonderful. I'm feeling really good, aside from lower energy and these annoying hiccups. I kick off my next cycle of chemo starting next Monday. Everything I've heard/read indicates that Taxol is easier tolerated than the AC I was on...I sure hope my body agrees!

My mother and father in law are visiting us for a week, and arrive on New Year's Eve. I'm looking forward to spending time with them and showing off the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Thank you for all of your positive thoughts and prayers...they are obviously working.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The big 3-0

Today is my 30th birthday. People have been asking me for several months how I feel about turning 30, and until September 1st, I honestly wasn't phased by it. I just saw it as another year to have fun and enjoy my wonderful life...after all, these days, 30 is the new 20.

And then I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It changed everything. Instead of being in school on the East Coast to advance in my career, I'm planning my life around chemo treatments and surgeries. Instead of waiting for awhile to have kids (to, again advance in my career...sensing a pattern here?!) I'm hoping and praying every day that I can even have kids.

While I'm so incredibly grateful for all of the gifts that I have in my life, I also hate that I have to go through all of this crap. With that said, I'm much more aware of what a blessing it is that I've made it to 30. Before my diagnosis, every day I woke up was a given...I didn't think twice about it. My birthday is no longer just a special day...it's another day that I'm alive. That's definitely a great reason to celebrate!

Friday, December 11, 2009

No more AC for me, ever!

I finished my last round of A C yesterday. I got six doses...two more than most breast cancer patients and the absolute maximum I can receive in my lifetime (due to its toxicity to the heart.) It's been a tough road, and I'm SO glad to be done!

The great news from my doctor is that I get to wait until after New Years to start my next chemo cycle. This means over three weeks of NO chemo!!!! I get my birthday, Christmas and New Years chemo free!!! I'll start Taxol on January 4th. It is administered weekly for 12 weeks. I still have a lot of chemo ahead of me, but everyone I've talked to says that Taxol is much more easily tolerated than AC. Hopefully they're right!

Thanks for all of your thoughts, support and prayers. They're helping more than you could ever imagine!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

No more Flinstones for me!

I finally went to see the doctor about this annoying reverse hiccup/diaphragm issue that I've been having. I described my symptoms, which were like nothing he'd ever heard before. He didn't think it was an issue with my heart, but just to be safe, sent me downstairs for an EKG, chest x-ray and bloodwork.

I amazingly got through all three of those procedures, plus a trip to the pharmacy to pick up a muscle relaxer in just over an hour! I headed back up to see my doctor for the verdict. EKG: normal. Chest x-ray: normal. Bloodwork: high potassium and calcium. Sometimes electrolyte imbalance can cause heart palpitations, so no more Flinstone vitamins for me (I had switched from my grown-up daily vitamin because my stomach couldn't handle it with the chemo.) My doctor doesn't think that's the cause of my weirdness, but who knows. I'm really hoping that the muscle relaxer helps a bit.

Other than that, I've been feeling pretty good, all considering. We went to Brian's staff holiday party at the Admiral's home (beautiful home in Discovery Park in Seattle with amazing views!) I met lots of great people who were sympathetic and supportive of my situation. We went with my sister's family to actually chop down our Christmas tree. This is our first real tree in years...our home smells so piney and delicious! We also met up with some new friends for a beer fest and some fabulous sushi in Seattle. All in all, a very busy, VERY fun weekend!

I have my last round of AC on Thursday! I'm really hoping that the two weeks off I'm supposed to have between then and my first round of Taxol will turn into two and a half weeks so that I get my birthday and Christmas chemo-free. I'm pumped to be almost done with the AC, and very proud of myself for making it through almost six rounds of the stuff...two more rounds than most people get...with a smile on my face.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The fifth round has been a doozy!

I've tolerated my chemo really well overall. It definitely hasn't been as bad as Hollywood has made it out to be. The meds are great at controlling the nausea, so the worst symptoms for me have been fatigue and the icky metallic taste...until last week. Now I get to add this strange hiccup-like sensation that makes it hard to breathe, which happens periodically after I eat something. I am waiting on a phone call back from my doc on the issue, since Nurse Mom told me I needed to call him. Hopefully he can shed some light on this weirdness (and really hopefully it's not heart related...the chemo drug I'm on right now is super toxic to the heart, and I kind of need my ticker to work for awhile!)

I had a fantastic Thanksgiving with my family, and a super relaxing trip up to the mountains over the weekend. The fresh air was just what I needed (okay, the naps were nice, too!) Here's a photo of my husband and me enjoying some snow...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giving Thanks

It's been a rough year...I'm not going to lie. I had my tonsils out. I had to move (twice). I had to say goodbye to my husband for the summer. My car was totaled (I wasn't in it). I was diagnosed with cancer.

Yet, here I sit, thinking that I have SO much to be thankful for. I start this list with my husband; he has been nothing short of amazing through this whole process. He's been by my side every step of the way (even when he was back in the Middle East)...he's held my hand, wiped away my tears, driven me to every doctor's appointment and round of chemo, swept up piles of hair the day I shaved my head, asked great questions, brought me flowers, listened, and (perhaps most importantly) never fails to make me laugh. There have been moments in the last two months when I've really worried about how cancer and my pending double mastectomy will affect our marriage (he is a man...he likes my boobs!) He always reassures me that while he does, indeed, like my boobs, he likes me a LOT more.

I'm also incredibly grateful for my family. From the day they all met me at the airport, I've felt so much support and encouragement from them. I've been sick the past couple of weeks, and have received phone calls and get well cards from them. My sister and her husband stopped by for a visit, and my mom came over on Saturday with two bags of groceries just to make me soup!

I'm so thankful to be living in our beautiful home surrounded by my awesome husband and wonderful family. I'm thankful that I'm tolerating chemo well, and that it's working. I'm thankful for the great team of doctors and nurses I see that are diligently working toward my cure.

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for every single breath I take...

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

And the crud has finally caught me :(

I started feeling like I was coming down with a cold last Monday. No biggie...just a sore throat that turned into a runny nose. I have managed to avoid reaching the dreaded 100.4 degree mark, which is the temperature indicating infection that means a trip to the ER for me. I also had good enough white blood cell counts to get my chemo on Thursday, which is good.

But now it's Sunday. The cold has settled into my chest, I've lost my voice and have exhausted myself coughing. This is my first week since I've been in Washington with not a single medical appointment, and I really don't want to spend it sick. I'm honestly surprised it took me this long to catch a cold...I just hope it doesn't stick around much longer.

Friday, November 13, 2009

When they said the big guns...

They weren't messing around! And by "they" I am referring to my medical staff. My first oncologist in Hawaii told me, upon my triple negative, stage IIIB diagnosis, that since I'm young and chemo/radiation/surgery are all I have to beat this, they're going to come at me hard.

This was reaffirmed during my trip to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. I met with an oncologist who's a breast cancer specialist. She recommended that given my status, and the strong probability that I had/have lymph node involvement (this was indicated during my PET scan and MRI, but has never been pathologically proven before I started my neoadjuvant chemo) I should go through two more rounds of the current chemo cocktail I'm on, then start in with 12 weekly doses of Taxol . I would follow all of this with surgery, and the hope is that after all of that chemo, I would go into surgery with a pathologically complete response (meaning no more cancer in my body). This would give me the best chance for cure.

The oncologist and surgeon both agreed with my desire for a double mastectomy. With my genetic mutation and triple negative tumor, a double mastectomy drastically reduces my chance for recurrence or a secondary breast cancer developing. If I were to opt for a single, my risk of developing a secondary cancer in my non-affected breast is as high as 60-80%!

Even though I have loved the care I'm receiving at Madigan, I'm going to switch to SCCA for my surgery, reconstruction, and radiation. The plastics department at Madigan just don't see patients my age for breast reconstruction, and, quite frankly, I want someone who does. The distance issue is another factor. My awesome husband has been driving me 60 miles each way for tests, follow-ups and labs, and chemo appointments. SCCA is less than half that distance away, which will make a HUGE difference when I have to go for daily radiation for six weeks!

My fourth round of chemo went without a hitch. The best part of the day was receiving a beautiful new scarf from the Good Wishes program at France Luxe. This company specializes in beautiful head bands and hair ornaments. Their Good Wishes program offers a silk scarf or head wrap, free of charge, to any woman experiences hair loss because of illness. They sent my scarf with a card signed by employees of the company to encourage me! It was so touching. Perhaps the very best part about this great company is that they donate proceeds to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, which is what I have. So if you need a new headband, please support their cause!

And here I am, proudly displaying my new scarf:

Friday, November 6, 2009

My Letterman Post

Let's face it...breast cancer sucks. No matter the stage or treatment protocol--all of the medical appointments, screening tests (mammograms?...ouch! PET scans?...nothing says fun like getting injected with radioactive fluid and keeping your arms scrunched up over your head for an hour!) chemo, radiation, and having to make more decisions (or maybe worse, NO decisions) than one should ever have to about her body--there isn't a whole lot of room for positive thinking.

While I've had to deal with a lot of breast-cancer related crap (being bald isn't really that fun), I've also felt very blessed in many ways. It was actually hard to narrow down the most positive aspects of my experience with breast cancer to a list of ten! And here they are, in no particular order...

10. I got to move to Washington, and into our new home, 8 months sooner than I expected.
9. I only had to spend a summer, instead of a whole year, away from my husband.
8. My job right now is to get better. I get paid my full salary while on medical leave.
7. My medical care is top-notch. My oncologist is amazing. It's all completely free.
6. No expensive trips to the salon or hair products means more money for decorating our new home (and new shoes!)
5. It's amazing how nice people are (specifically military movers), and how quickly they can get things done when they find out I have breast cancer.
4. It takes me considerably less time to get ready in the morning.
3. I get new boobies (and maybe a smaller butt) out of the deal!
2. I've met some wonderful women who have been so generous with their support
1. I'm surrounded by an incredible family who have all made this journey easier for me.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Moving Day!

We moved out of our condo in Hawaii at the end of April. Our stuff has been in storage in CA all summer, and was supposed to be here several weeks ago. Of course, as is typical moving on the government's dime, it took longer than we expected to get it. When the local receiving office called us this week to tell us our stuff had arrived, we naturally wanted it as soon as possible. This was a slight oversight on our part...our household goods were delivered the day after my third round of chemo. And since that didn't sound like enough excitement for us, we also scheduled our cable hook up and the drop off of my small shipment from HI on Friday also.

Usually the first day after chemo isn't too bad as far as fatigue and symptoms go, so I actually held my own, although Brian did a great job making sure I directed the movers from the armchair. Unfortunately, he didn't get a photo of me sleeping on that chair in the middle of the living room with three movers hauling furniture and boxes around, and the cable guy doing his thing about 10 feet from where I was!

It's so nice to be close to family. My uncle came over and helped Brian add an electrical outlet in the closet (which is soon to be his "wine cave") and reroute a coaxial cable for the TV in our sitting room. My mom helped me unpack the whole kitchen, and is coming back on Tuesday for more. Perhaps the best part of the day was my sister's surprise visit with my nephew so that we could see him all dressed up. He makes the cutest Superman around, in my not so humble opinion. I've included a couple of photos for your viewing pleasure. I will post more of the house when it's more put together...

Our first trick-or-treater at our new home!

Chatting with my mother-in-law on our new sofa!

GREAT news!!!

A bit of delayed good news from this week (what can I say, we moved into our new house on Friday...I'm up to my ears in boxes!)

I had my second PET scan on Wednesday. You can read about the details in this post. The whole idea of having another one was to make sure the chemo drugs are doing their job and my tumor is shrinking. The resulting uptake number from my preliminary PET scan (that's how much glucose the tumor sucked in) was 14.7; the uptake number from this scan was 2.5!!! Not only that, but it appeared from the imaging that my tumor has shrunk in size by roughly half!!! The chemo is kicking this tumor's butt!!!!

Needless to say, the great news made it a whole lot easier to go in for my third round of chemo on Thursday! I haven't felt great the past few days, but knowing that the chemo is working so well definitely makes all of this a lot more tolerable.

Thanks again for all of your thoughts, prayers and well wishes. This great news is proof that they're working.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I renovated!

Thanks to a friend who suggested a free blog background site, I now present to you my renovated format! I must admit that I'm pretty impressed with my technologically-challenged self to have figured this out.

I'm flattered by the amount of followers I now have. I thank you all so much for your constant thoughts, prayers and support. It really means the world to me.

Busy week for me...blood work and another PET scan on Wednesday to determine how well the chemo is working to shrink my tumor, and my third round of chemo on Thursday. Hopefully (although I'm not holding my breath) we will be able to finally move into our new home on Friday. Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Pretty New Jacket

It's been a busy week getting things ready at the house for our pending move in, which has been great for keeping my mind off of the inevitable. I feel like making appointments is my new part time job--between window treatment measurements and plastic surgery consultations, it's a good thing that I increased my cell phone minutes last month!

I had an appointment today at my new salon for my eyebrows. I'm supposed to lose those, too, so I met with their make-up artist to learn how to draw in my brows. It was nice to be pampered. The only thing that made my day better was my new jacket! Brian and I were at Nordstrom shopping for a birthday gift, and I spotted what just may be the cutest jacket ever. Even though we both agreed earlier that we needed to curb our spending until our credit card closed since we've been buying so much for the house, Brian was kind enough to concede when he saw how happy I was with it.

As I was buying it, the saleswoman said how nicely the cream complemented my dark hair (my wig!) And here it is...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My New 'Do

My doctor and the literature both stated that breast cancer chemotherapy drugs cause hair to fall out between days 14 and 21. While I had no reason not to believe them, even at day 13, I wasn’t losing any more hair than normal. When I woke up on that 14th day and showered, I knew my luck had ended. Every time I touched my head after that, more hair would come out.

I had scheduled an appointment with Kathy, my breast cancer guru who also, amazingly enough, is a hair stylist, to cut my hair short to lessen the dramatic impact. She actually made a house call since it was just a couple of days after my second round of chemo, to cut my hair (see, I told you she was awesome!) I was looking forward to my short new hair cut, thinking that I could rock a Halle Berry look for a couple of weeks until it got too patchy and I’d have to let it go. That morning in the shower, I was horrified to feel a huge clump of hair wash down the back of my body as I rinsed my head. I got out of the shower and sobbed in Brian’s arms.

Kathy arrived and started cutting. The more she cut off, the more we both realized that already, in just a few short days, I had lost too much hair and the short hair cut wouldn’t work. She brought out the clippers and buzzed away. Even though it was hard to see my hair go, it was much easier than seeing clumps of it come out every time I touched my head (plus, Brian was relieved not to have to sweep any more hair off of our clothes and the bathroom floor!) After Kathy cut my hair, she fitted my wig, and gave it a nice trim. I really like it a lot…it will be nice to have straight hair for a change without having to go through all of the effort to get it that way.

The worst part of losing my hair is that now I actually look like I’m sick. There’s absolutely no denying now, every single time I look at myself in the mirror, that I have cancer…there’s no denying that I’m in the fight for my life.

He's Finally Home!

It was so hard for me to take Brian to the airport in Hawaii for him to return to the Middle East. Even though I knew I’d see him again very soon, with all the challenges we now faced, I hated letting him go.

His couple of weeks to pack up his stuff turned into a month of him being gone. Because of the end of military fiscal year money, he didn’t get formal authorization to come home until 02 October. It took a week after that arranging to pack out his things and getting a flight back to the US. Finally, on 11 October, almost exactly a month after I left him at the airport in Hawaii, and more than 50 hours of flying, Brian was finally home.

It was amazing to see him and be back in his arms! We were able to enjoy a nice week together before I had my second round of chemo. I was so happy that he made it back while I was feeling good and still had hair.

Round One

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous for my first round of chemotherapy. While I was anxious to get the party started, the idea of poison coursing my veins and all of the side effects I’d been told of were frankly less than pleasant.

Of course my doctor and the nurses told me what I should expect—how nice of them considering they’ve not had cancer or been through any of it personally! My best source of preparation was from Kathy. Kathy is the daughter of my uncle’s golf buddy in Eastern Washington. She had breast cancer six years ago, so when my uncle told his friend of my situation, she got my phone number and gave me a call. My conversation with her was pivotal. Sure, I had all the support I could want from my family, and a great medical team, but until I actually talked to someone who had been through what I was going through—who got every feeling that I was feeling—I still felt unsure of my journey ahead.

Kathy described the drug concoction to me in detail, and while we were given the same drugs, a lot has changed in six years. Where she had a 24 hour drip of adriamycin, mine lasted only 10 minutes. The anti-nausea medication has improved a lot, too. She warned me that the chemo and the meds would make me feel fatigued, but she also gave me hope, telling me that she worked throughout her treatment, and even went on vacation to Hawaii!

I got to the hospital eager to get started. The whole process was pretty uneventful, and I even felt good enough afterwards to stop by the wig store and pick out my new ‘do. I was really happy with the wig I chose, but not ready to debut it until I actually needed to.

For the next few days, I felt like I had a combination of the flu and a bad hangover. I never got sick, but didn’t feel great. By day five, I was feeling much better…almost completely back to pre-chemo normal. I had enough energy to walk every day. I even did a Making Strides Breast Cancer 5k ten days post treatment!

Madigan…My new home away from home.

While I was on the plane flying to Seattle, my new Medical Oncologist called me a few times and left messages, giving me directions to arrive first thing the next morning to start my check in process at my new hospital—nothing like hitting the ground running!

My mom and I showed up bright and early, and met with my new doctor, got checked into the oncology unit, and had a tour and a brief on the chemotherapy process. I spent the rest of the day making appointments for my upcoming mammogram, PET scan, MRI and port placement surgery, which would all occur on Monday and Tuesday of the following week.

I was nervous about my PET scan…this test is to show if I had cancer anywhere else in my body. Since I had received so much bad news in the past few weeks, I just couldn’t allow myself to even think past my current situation. Metastatic cancer would be an absolutely devastating diagnosis, one that I just didn’t want to consider. My PET scan was Monday morning. I had to follow a carb-free diet for 24 hours leading up to it (no fun when watching the Seahawks game with no beer or chips on Sunday!) It was an interesting process. First, the tech injected my with a radioactive glucose isotope. Then I was required to lie very still in a dark room for an hour for the isotope to work its magic (this was a great nap, by the way!) The idea is that since cancer is a mass of rapidly dividing cells, it needs lots of energy and sucks up the glucose. Once in the scanner, the tumor, and any other cancerous cells in my body, light up nice and bright.

I had told my doctor that I didn’t want the news of the PET scan until I came in for my first chemo appointment on Wednesday. I didn’t need any bad news over the phone. He called Monday night…the PET scan showed no metastases and also revealed limited lymph node involvement! Finally, some GREAT news! I was ecstatic. I celebrated with my parents that night over champagne and oysters. It was a good night, and I knew I was in good hands.

My Family Rocks!

Seriously, they do. As soon as the news of my diagnosis spread, I received lots of thoughtful emails and phone calls with words of encouragement and love. And I’m not just talking about my relatives…I consider my Hawaii friends my family, too.

It was really hard for me taking Brian to the airport after we found out my surgery was cancelled. Knowing that I would need chemo and this was going to be a long road to my recovery, Brian had to head back to the Middle East to begin his check out process so he could be here for me. My mom had planned to come out after Brian left to help get me home, but since the cancelled surgery bumped up Brian’s departure, there was almost a week of overlap with no Brian and no Mom. Enter my amazing friends. I had all kinds of support from my second family (they definitely got more than they bargained for when they agreed to take me in for the summer!) It ended up being a pretty challenging week, as I had to undergo a second biopsy, and also had a horrible allergic reaction to the pneumonia vaccine I needed for my compromised immune system. They didn’t miss a beat, driving me to and from the doctors I had to see, and letting me borrow their car. Amazing, really…a true blessing in my time of need.

When my mom arrived in Hawaii, we were in big time transition mode. I had to rearrange all of my household goods shipments, as well as redirect my car. I had several medical appointments to make sure that my move to Madigan from Tripler would be seamless. Finally, after more than four years in paradise, it was time for me to say goodbye. My mom and I wore matching breast cancer shirts to the airport, courtesy of my sister. I noticed people looking at us, and said so to my mom. Her comment was that they all probably thought it was she, and not I, afflicted with cancer. Funny the way life works.

The flight home to Seattle was uneventful. It felt surreal to be moving back to my roots after 11 years of being gone. It was an absolutely beautiful fall afternoon when we landed…the trees were just starting to change colors, and Mt. Rainier was out in all its glory. I gathered my things and joined everyone in the aisle anxious to disembark the plane and hug my sweet nephew.

As I rounded the corner of the jet way, I was greeted by a sea of pink at the gate. Everyone was clapping and cheering…for ME!!! My family—28 members of it—was standing there at the gate with roses and balloons and t-shirts that said “Erin’s Support Crew.” I felt so incredibly loved. It was the coolest thing ever.

We topped off the night by having a great big family dinner at the Spaghetti Factory. It was awesome to see everyone, talk and laugh. It was great to tell my story, and great for them to hear it. I am on the biggest journey of my life right now, and have all the support in the world to help me. It’s an amazing feeling.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Three Strikes...

The day of my diagnosis was followed by a whirlwind of tests and exams. I was tested for specific breast cancer-causing genetic mutations. I had to have an MRI and talk to a medical oncologist and radiation oncologist. I definitely saw a lot more of the inside of a hospital than I cared to.

I learned a lot, too. I'm a reader, so as soon as I was diagnosed and given a great handbook (Your Breast Cancer Treatment Handbook, by Judy Kneece) I immediately devoured it and learned everything I could about what I was facing. It's definitely not a subject in which I'd choose to be an expert, but I'm a firm believer in being my own advocate.

From what I learned by the doctors and through my reading, I was a good candidate for a simple lumpectomy (breast conserving surgery only removing the tumor and marginal surrounding tissue) since I was right at Stage II (which is early stage breast cancer.) Opting for this surgery would buy me radiation, but that was a small price to pay for me to keep my breast.

And then came the following week...two days before my scheduled lumpectomy, my genetic test results came back. I tested positive for the BRCA-1 mutation. You can read about it on the link I provided, but in layman's terms, this mutation carries an 87% lifetime risk for breast cancer, and 44% lifetime risk for ovarian cancer. It also increases the risk for recurrence of existing cancers. Strike One.

I had an MRI done the same day. I had an appointment with my surgeon the following day, one day before surgery, to discuss the MRI results. Unfortunately, when I went to see the surgeon he didn't have the results and sent me home prepped to arrive at 6:30 the following morning for my surgery. Imagine my surprise devastation when the surgeon called at 8 that night to tell me that my MRI results showed that my tumor was sitting directly against my chest wall, and that he felt even a full mastectomy would not allow him to completely remove it. Strike Two.

Following that phone call was the first time I really, truly cried since my diagnosis. For the first time since this saga started, I felt like absolutely nothing was in my control...I absolutely hated it. I had to dry my tears quickly, though...my cancer needed a new plan of attack, which included neoadjuvant chemotherapy (chemo before surgery) in hopes to shrink the tumor away from my chest wall for safe removal. Since I had planned to have surgery in Hawaii and subsequent treatment after I transferred to Washington, I had to expedite my move to start my chemo as soon as possible.

The Navy was able to get me transferred in less than two weeks (nothing short of amazing!) In that time, I had more tests and appointments to get more information about my cancer. I had to have another biopsy, since my first wasn't conclusive enough for the pathologist to determine my tumor markers. The day before my biopsy, I had flu and pneumonia vaccines for my soon-to-be compromised immune system. I ended up having an allergic reaction to the pneumonia vaccine and developed a nasty deep skin infection of my arm and a really high fever (topped out at 103.5!) all while healing from biopsy #2. Luckily, my mom came at the end of the week to take care of me.

Two days before my transfer, while meeting with a Gynecologic Oncologist to discuss my ovarian cancer risks (nice to be talking about risks of other cancers when I'm fighting a different one right now!) my biopsy results came up. My tumor was triple negative. This fact, combined with my positive BRCA-1 results and my MRI imaging meant that my tumor was Stage IIIB Invasive Ductal Carcinoma--advanced stage breast cancer. Strike Three.

And so the stakes were raised...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thank God I felt my boobies!

I, like many women, was definitely not a once-a-month breast checker. I’m young, very healthy, have never smoked, and have no breast cancer history in my family.

One lazy weekend morning in March, I randomly felt up my chest. I happened to be laying in bed with my arm over my head…I felt a small lump under my armpit. After carefully feeling around both my boobs to make sure this wasn’t just my typical perky breast tissue, I ran to google breast lumps. I can’t tell you how BAD of an idea that was! Lucky for me, my husband was of sane mind, and told me it was probably nothing, but to see my doctor. I made an appointment, recapped my story to my doctor and let her feel me up. I had just seen her for my annual exam in December, and she didn’t feel any lump during that appointment. She chalked it up to my fibrous breast tissue and hormones…told me to wait it out for a few months and it would probably go away on its own.

I waited. And it didn’t go away. In fact (I thought it might have been my imagination since I touched it a million times a week even though my doctor said only check it once a week!) it seemed that it had even gotten bigger. I went back to the doctor. She measured the lump and compared it to the last results. The lump had grown…it had more than doubled in three months. She referred me to ultrasound, still convinced it was most likely a fibrous cyst and nothing to worry about.

The radiologist confirmed that my lump was a solid mass…I had a tumor growing in my breast, and a biopsy consult was scheduled for the following week. That was some really fun news to break to my husband–literally on the other side of the globe–over Skype. Lucky for me that he got on a plane that night to fly here. I had my biopsy, during which my surgeon told me that he would guess 95% that my lump was a fibroid tumor and nothing to worry about.

The following week, on September 1st, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to do about the c-word in the last 10 days. I know that I have a long, hard journey ahead of me as I fight this. I’m sharing my story because it helps me to get it out, but also in the hopes that it might help make women aware of the importance of feeling your boobies and following up with your doctor. I was incredibly ignorant to this disease; I am hoping I can dissuade others from feeling the same.