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.