Thursday, November 25, 2010


Today is Thanksgiving. I have reflected all day long on what I'm thankful for, and I wanted to share a few of those things here.

I am so thankful for the health I have at the moment. As I worked around the kitchen today, I couldn't help but remember the days that I was too weak or fatigued to do much of anything. My strength has returned and it feels good to feel normal again.

I am thankful that the journey I've been on for the past few months has been as manageable as it has been. I'm thankful that the hard stuff is over with and that the end (hopefully) is near. And believe it or not, I'm actually thankful for the journey itself. I've learned a lot about myself and the God who loves me.

And last, but definitely not least, I am thankful for my family and friends - and that includes blogging friends - who have supported and loved me through this challenging journey. I considered joining a support group in the beginning, but it didn't take long for me to realize how much support I was getting from those around me. Encouraging words, offers to do whatever I or the family might have needed, flowers, cards, and most importantly, prayers, helped me get through it all.

I have to say that I have a lot to be thankful for and I feel very blessed.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


... with radiation!

Yesterday was my last day for radiation treatment. I'm glad it's over with. Not only for the fact of having to drive to the office every day, but for the two side effects I am enduring. They told me I would feel fatigue and that I would have a radiation burn. They were right - I have both.

Fatigue hits me the hardest late afternoon and if I can get in a nap, I usually feel better and can make it to bed time. Some times I need to head to bed early and other times I'm able to stay up quite late. If I don't get a nap in, I'm exhausted by the time my head hits the pillow.

The burn I have got to the painful stage last weekend. Yesterday they prescribed a burn cream and I'm hoping that helps quickly. They said my skin won't be back to normal for another couple of weeks.

Even though it was tedious to go into the office each day and go through the exact same procedures once there, I enjoyed getting to know the technicians (Mary, Tina, and later, Karen), the nurse (Sharon), the receptionist (Kathy), and the rotating group of doctors (4 of them). I appreciated their smiles each day as we greeted each other and the kindness they showed to me each and every day. I won't miss the daily trek nor the treatments, but I will miss these friends and the relationships we formed.

Here are a few pictures to show you how things looked for me.

Monday, November 1, 2010


... at the end of the tunnel.

This poor little blog sure has been neglected, but that's mainly because I haven't had much to update about.

Since my last post...

=> I have had eleven more rounds of radiation. It should have been 13 but I was given two days off last week because the machine broke down. They'll just add two days to the end of my treatment plan.

Things are going well with the treatment. I have felt very little fatigue, but they tell me it's accumulative and I will probably feel it the most during the last two of the six weeks. My breast is pink and the skin is tight and sensitive (kinda like a sunburn), but it's manageable. It's a little tiring having to go to the office every day, but it is what it is and I'll be done here in a couple of weeks. If you've ever seen Groundhog Day, you know a little of how I feel. At 3:20, I relive the same 20-30 minutes each and every day.

=> I started back up on Herceptin and will continue on a 3-week cycle, which means my next one is this Thursday. I experienced no (at least none that I noticed) side effects and I was in and out of the office in 55 minutes. If I can stay on schedule, I should be done around the beginning of June 2011.

=> I am feeling great. I have regained a lot of my strength. This is most likely due to the fact that I'm eating more since most of my appetite has returned and my taste buds seem to be working normally again, and the fact that there is no longer the harsh chemo drugs coursing through my veins. I'm sleeping well, and I'm not having to deal with any side effects. It feels good to feel [mostly] normal again.

=> My hair is slowly growing back. Up until a week ago, I would have described the look of my hair as sparse, fuzzy, and light (gray) in color, but what I had was growing in length. In the last week, I have noticed a lot of new growth - a bunch of little dark nubs springing forth, which is very encouraging. I'm so sick of wearing hats and a wig. Plus, with the growth (however little) that's occurring, my head is always itching - more so when I have a wig or hat on.

I think that's about it. See... not to much to report. As always, though, I appreciate your good thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Today I celebrated my birthday, my 51st birthday. I did some reflection on those 51 years as well as where my life is today and all I've gone through this past year.

I am so thankful for my life. I see each and every day of my 51 years as a gift from God. Not every day was a good one and there have been hard things I've had to go through, but that doesn't take away from the gift that God has given me - my life.

I hear people, mostly younger people, say they hate their life or "F*** my life." This bothers me. Maybe most of them would say, "it's just a saying, I don't really hate my life." Maybe they need to realize what they're actually saying then, and how much power words like these can have in their lives. I think what they are really needing to say is, "my life really sucks right now." Guess what? Life sucks some times, maybe even a lot of times. But that doesn't mean that we should let it affect our attitudes, our outlook, and the fact that our lives are gifts and full of blessings.

This issue has been bothering me lately and I'm unable to articulate exactly what I want to say. The more I think about it, the more complex it gets. I just want people (not necessarily my readers here, but yes if it applies - you!) to see how incredible life is, how their attitudes are a choice they make, and how much they have and should be thankful for. I want to say that we can't let our personal challenges and struggles color our world to a dark and dismal place. I want everyone to know that God gave each of us a life that He wants us to live to the fullest and with joy - each and every day, year after year.

Thank you, God, for the best birthday present I could ever ask for.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

3 DOWN, 27 TO GO

Right now, the hardest thing about radiation is driving over to the office every day, but that will probably change. The side effects I can expect are fatigue and skin sensitivity. The fatigue usually starts after the second week and the skin sensitivity could be any time - every woman is different. I have felt a little bit of tightness and a burning sensation every once in a while.

The actual procedure is nothing. There's a set up that takes about 5 minutes. I have to lay in a cradle type apparatus that was custom molded to my mid-body. They line me up using three small tattoos (yes, now I can say I have tattoos) they gave me at my simulation appointment. They then take a scan and line that scan up with the original scan (again, at the simulation appointment) to make sure I'm in the right position.

Once they have confirmation that I'm lined up properly, they start the radiation, which takes all of 6.3 minutes. I have to lay perfectly still but I don't feel a thing and I walk out of the office about 25 minutes after I've walked in, which is at 3:20 each day.

And I received a phone call from the cardiologist's office today telling me the results of the MUGA-scan came back showing my heart normal again. They didn't give me the number that they use to clarify how normal, but I'll find that out when I meet with my oncologist on Monday.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


As you can see from the lack of new posts here that I took "having the next 4 weeks off" literally, and have been enjoying it.

I've done as little as possible except to catch up on some projects around here and spend time with friends and family. I was finally able to go to the dentist (teeth cleaning) because it wasn't allowed while I was going through chemo. And I did meet with my radiation doctor and then go through a radiation simulation.

My initial appointment was at a small satellite office but the simulation was located on a large complex where several hospitals are located. After my first appointment, and without going up to the main campus, I had to decide which location I wanted my daily treatments at. I chose the smaller office even though it's about the same distance to both of them, and boy, am I glad I did.

The freeway drive to the large campus is under construction and I can't imagine myself driving each and every day of the week. And once I finally made it to the complex, I spent nearly 15 minutes looking for a parking space. The smaller office is in an office park and I can park right in front of the door.

But the hardest part of going up to the main campus would have been the environment. It's a cancer center and it's hallways and waiting areas are full of cancer patients. I saw patients with patches over various parts of their bodies, patients and/or their companions crying, and others who stared blankly out the windows. It's a large complex, therefore, there were a lot of patients. Needless to say, it was a little depressing. It wouldn't bother me as much if I were to be there every once in a while, but I think it would get to me having to go every day.

And, yes, I have to have radiation therapy every day, Monday through Friday, 15-20 minutes each day, for six weeks. My first treatment will be this Tuesday (10/5). I will also have another MUGA-scan Tuesday and then meet with my oncologist next Monday. I'm hoping that my heart has healed enough and that I'll be able to start back up on the Herceptin that same week.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


What a difference 15 minutes in your oncologist's office can make.

Last Friday, I had a routine appointment with my onc and ended up walking out a little dazed and confused. It started out as they always do, with my doctor making sure I was feeling okay and there was nothing different than normal (normal chemo stuff) going on in my body.

He then asked me if I had had the MUGA-scan done yet. After informing him that I did a few days earlier, and him checking to see if he had received the results, he left the room and asked one of the nurses to call the office where the scan was done to get the results that had yet to be delivered.

He came back and then asked me about my appointment with the radiologist. I told him it was scheduled for the 21st (of September). He didn't seem pleased with this and asked me why so late. (He referred me to the doctor three weeks ago.) I told him there were scheduling problems on both sides and why did it really matter since I wasn't to start radiation until January (or after the last chemo treatment). He gave me a weird look and said, "no, I was hoping you would be starting radiation by the end of the month." WHAT?!

It turns out that radiation is to start after the "super" treatments ended and can be done while receiving herceptin treatments. Okay... so it looks like I'm shooting for the beginning of October. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just that I'm not prepared mentally for this. I thought I wouldn't have to think or worry about this for months.

Then the doctor told me my Herceptin treatments will continue on for a year. WHAT?! A year?! No, for 6 more treatments (I'm thinking). No, for a year (he's saying). He shows me the treatment plan page in my file and it says, "continue for a total of a year." As I write this, I'm thinking I need to call for clarification. I'm still not sure if he means a year from now or a year from when I started them back in May. Either way, I'm not going to be done in December and if it's a year from now, it will 17 more treatments. 17!!

By now, the nurse comes in with the results from my MUGA-scan. It showed that there has been some damage to my heart. My score from an echocardiogram back in May was 63. Now it's down to 48 and anything under 50 is a cause for concern. The doctor wants to hold off on treatments for four weeks and have another MUGA-scan at that time. I was surprised - but happy - to hear that my heart can heal and that it should be in better shape in just four weeks.

So, to summarize: no herceptin treatment tomorrow and none for at least four weeks. MUGA-scan in four weeks and praying that my heart is repairing itself. In that time, I should be starting radiation treatments and I don't even know what that looks like yet (time, duration, etc.). And my herceptin treatments will either last for a whole year starting whenever I can start them or will continue to May/June.

I won't lie, I had a small melt down when I got home. Mostly because of the thought that I'm not going to be done with all of this by February or March. I was looking forward to having it all behind me by spring and celebrating that fact. There are days when I'm just so sick of being a cancer patient and Friday was one of those days before I even met with my oncologist.

Now that I've had a couple of days to process all of this, I'm feeling less anxious about it all. I hear radiation is no walk in the park, so there's a little apprehension there, but it will be nice to get it over with. Even though I don't want to have any delays in my treatments, it's kinda nice having a break when there's nothing being pumped into my body. I'm glad for technology that can show there's something going on with my heart and thankful for my doctor who cares more about my health than pushing forward with treatment.

And the biggest blow - continuing herceptin treatments longer than I had planned for - may be a blessing in disguise. Who am I to know how much of this drug my body needs to kill off all the HER2 proteins in my body? The only one who would know such a thing is God. I'm hoping it's HIS plan that my treatments are to continue... for however long.