LIVESTRONG:

What started as IDC (Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma) in 2011, then turned into CHF (Congestive Heart Failure) in 2013, probably partially caused by chemotherapy along with a genetic pre-disposition. Here we are now in March 2016 and I am newly diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in the left breast and liver (LMBC - liver metastasized breast cancer).


So the focus has shifted yet again, BUT... I continue to THANK YOU for your prayers, love & support. I receive them with open & loving arms. My wish is that I will gain strength from you, will provide helpful information and strength to others & will help to strip away the fears we each experience.


I am strong. I am loved. I am healthy. I WILL SURVIVE!

Have you or your loved one had their annual mammogram? PLEASE, don't put it off. Speaking from experience, I highly recommend monthly self exam as well. And if you are now cancer free of breast cancer, do everything you can to insist that your doctors follow up with an occasional PET Scan and labs for tumor markers.

WARNING:
Contents may be uplifting, sad, funny, scary, downright depressing ~ THAT IS CANCER .... at it's best, at its worst.

PLEASE ~ Feel free to share this blog with anyone who is interested to learn about my journey. While I welcome their support, I hope that by sharing this experience freely to the universe I may help to support others by breaking down some of the barriers and fear associated with breast cancer and the treatment.

*****************************************************************************************

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Serene Lakes Vaca

Since late Spring, and our trip to Hawaii in June, DH and I have been wanting to find a place (cabin/vacation rental) that we could take our daughters and their families to and start a family tradition of a week away somewhere. We camp with them in April at the coast for Papa's birthday, but it is pretty cold and tent camping in April at the coast with an infant has been hard on them. But the grand kids are getting older so hopefully the April trip will continue to work out.

For this family Summer vacation we considered Santa Cruz, the Redwoods, and then Sierra Mountains came into focus. None of us had been to the Tahoe area in quite some time. So Serene Lakes it was, just last weekend.

We found a sweet place to sleep us all just a block off the two adjoining lakes, and brought our kayaks along, just in case.

Mark and I drove up a week ago Wednesday after my Oncology port draw and office visit arriving around 6:30 pm. Ahhh, the smell of the pine trees and mountain air. And did I say this sweet cabin on a small culdesac a block off Serene Lakes was quite indeed very serene. I think the bald eagle fly-over as we sat on the front deck that evening, and the full moon popping up over the tall pine trees soon thereafter, gave us the sign we needed that this would be a great time.

We, the Grammie & Papa, stayed a full week. The daughters and families showed up Friday; one family noon'ish, the other a couple of hours later. They all left Sunday afternoon. And we enjoyed a few very quiet and relaxing days, and drove home on Tuesday evening.

On Thursday morning after breakfast Mark and I took a drive over the old Hwy into Truckee for some window shopping, lunch and a stop for some groceries for the trip. We returned home just in time to get the groceries up the stairs and put away, and hadn't quite gotten the kayaks down to the lake yet, when a full blown thunder storm broke out with hail the size of large peas that covered the deck and street. There was even water running down the road. It was a fun sight and we were so glad to not yet be on the water. That hail hurt when it hits a bald head. :-)



But we did get out on the lake for an evening paddle and it was divine. 



As soon as Alura and Stephan arrived with Nico and Maddie, we got them settled and then Alura and I drove down to the public beach with the two grand kids for some fun in the water. Nico was not quite expecting the water to be so cold; but we all had a lot of fun and soon the chilly water didn't matter. Mark rode a bike down to join us later, and then we returned to the cabin to find Sarah, Chris & Gaige had arrived and the living room was Lego city. Nico opened his Lego birthday gift from them and the building began.


So we enjoyed dinner all around the table together, some Olympics & Lego's and then it was nighty-night. Nico and Gaige shared the room with the twin beds. I imagine seeing them in a similar situation when they are a bit older and can go to bed own their own at the same time and talk themselves to sleep, and wake each other in the morning.


On Saturday, Papa made one of his big farm breakfasts. He brought his circus waffle iron along and made a feast of scrambled cheesy eggs, bacon, waffles, fruit, juice - YUMMO! Then it was back to the lake for all 9 of us; sand toys and kayaks in tow. Chris and I paddled the boats over to the beach from an easy launch sight. Then Alura and I took Nico (in my boat), and Madeleine (with Alura) out for a paddle. They loved it.





Mid afternoon we returned to the cabin for climbing up the back hill with Ruby (Sarah's doggie), building more Lego's, and the ladies sitting out on the deck gabbing and enjoying some bubbly. Then dinner, more Olympics, Grammie & Papa's birthday gift to Nico of more Lego's and a SF Giants team-wear outfit, then bed time. 


Alura & I took a nice walk down to the lake with the grand kids after breakfast Sunday morning which gave Stephan, Sarah & Chris time to get things packed up for their drive home after lunch.

Mark and I enjoyed a couple more days in peace and quiet. As much as we enjoyed the cheerful sounds and energy exemplified by our sweet grand kids, it was nice to have this time and to put the place back in order before driving away Tuesday afternoon. But first we got another lovely morning paddle on the lake, and took a drive into Truckee and Squaw Valley, ending with an early dinner. 

It was the perfect vacation; and we all plan to do it again next year!
And if you want to see more pictures, or just friend me over on Facebook, just click the word Facebook for my Page.

Tonight, 8/25/16, I will attend the Relay for Life Survivor Dinner at Hanna Center and remember my sweet, dear cousin Denise Emery, who we lost on Valentine's Day this year to metastasized breast cancer. I will remember many others as well; those fighting this disease, and those who have passed on from it.

Then Relay for Life is this Saturday, 8/27/16, at Presentation School in Sonoma from 1:00 pm Saturday until 10:00 am Sunday. I plan to be there most of Saturday. For more details, click here!

Come on out and walk with me and my family and team!


Thank you all for your continued support and well wishes.





Die cancer, DIE. You are messing with the wrong woman!!

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
B E L I E V E

• I AM STRONG • I AM HEALTHY • I AM LOVED •
THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.





Thursday, August 18, 2016

Oncology Office Visit 8/17/16 & Chemo 8/24/16

Today (8/17/16) was just the port draw and office visit. Rescheduling appointments can be most difficult with my oncologist, and since I took today off to get a break from chemo side effects of last week, and help to make our upcoming get-away more enjoyable, I'm doing the port draw and office visit today, then the chemo infusion next Wednesday on August 24th.

These are the topics we covered. Again, Dr. Anderson takes all the time I need answering all my questions.

Dr. Anderson suggests I continue with a 2 weeks on for chemo and one week off, as long as I can tolerate it. If it becomes too hard for me, then I can switch to 1 week on and 1 week off. The plan is to continue Abraxane as long as it continues to reduce tumor size. The main concern, of course, is quality of life.

My question next time will be about the hair loss with the  Abraxane. I guess being bald for long term is manageable, as long as those tumors all shrink or disappear. I'm kind of getting used to the "no hair" look and less concerned to go without a head cover. I mean when this dialogue happened with my grandsons (aged 5 and 4.75 years), I'm all good with it:

(The following week while vacationing with our daughters and their families - I come out in the morning with big silver loop earrings on, no head covering)
Gaige - Those are pretty earrings Grammie. Are they new?
Grammie - No, I've had them awhile. But I think my earrings are more noticeable since I don't have any hair. Some people think I look younger without hair. What do you think?
Gaige and Nico nod their little heads in agreement that I look younger.
Nico - You look like a baby, Grammie
Grammie smiles with great joy and love for these two darling, sweet boys.
Ok, now back to the review from the office visit...

The Hormone Therapy option would be a combo Ibrance and Faslodex, both used for estrogen-receptive metastasized breast cancer. The problem with switching too soon to this, is results are usually slow and we don't want to lose ground. For now my liver is performing normally, but this could change. So this is still on the back burner, for if I am not tolerating the Abraxane well, or it is no longer effective.

Regarding other possible treatments for my liver, we would need to wait until there was one or few remaining tumors. But there are risks that can also do damage to the liver. So Dr. Anderson will continue to consult with UCSF on all of this.

I do need to watch the neuropathy. If I have difficulty buttoning clothes or with balance, I need to let Dr. Anderson know right away. Because if I let the neuropathy get too advanced, it may become permanent. I am finding that doing Abraxane chemo week after week is causing numbness to toes and finger tips and it doesn't seem to let up a few days before the next chemo, as it used to. So I will keep a close watch on this for sure.

My oncologist will order a new CT scan in about a month to see if the tumors are continuing to reduce. He will double check on the lung as well, which had a suspicious area thought to be some fluid or a mild infection. Of course this makes me a bit nervous. But I have enough to think about, so am not really focusing on this at all.

Dr. Anderson will also contact Dr. Elboim's office since he feels that the breast may have improved enough to consult with Elboim about mastectomy surgery. This was in the plans for March before cancer was diagnosed. And if not now, perhaps soon. At least we can begin to discuss options.

The bit of a break I was feeling between chemo infusions each week seems to be disappearing. I was already a day in to what should have been a new chemo, and I was still feeling a lot of tingling and numbness in my toes and fingers; and just a bit of that brain-fuzz I get, sort of a grogginess. So it was good I took this week off to get away with family to Serene Lakes. Then there is the left heal again. I lost a large piece of multi-layered skin off my heal, about 2 X 3". I noticed it after swimming Saturday and then it began to peel off. This is the same heal I had the pain and tenderness a few weeks back. But all this makes me wonder about going forward. I guess I'll just have to take it one week at a time. 

I've also had quite a bit of light headedness, very low blood pressure, and then a more elevated pulse. At my oncologists suggestion, I contacted my cardiologist. After a phone consult, he had me reduce all my heart meds and cut the dose in half to see if this helps. I see him in two weeks so he can interrogate my ICD at that time to see how my heart is doing. I also need to ask when he will request another Echo cardiogram, since I has been a full year since my last one at Stanford. Now it has been a full week on the reduced heart meds and I am seeing a change for the better. So hopefully I can continue on these new doses.

And now it is Wednesday, 8/24/16 and I just finished chemo for this week (Chemo #16 (Carboplatin) & Abraxane #8). I'm feeling well so far, even with reducing the Dexamethasone in half to 20 mg, which is the steroid. So all is good so far. And we get to have dinner out with some dear friends tonight at Yeti. So all is well.

In my next post, I'll give a bit of a review of our fun week at Serene Lakes with our daughters, their hubbies, and their adorable kids, my angelic grand children. What fun it was. Stay tuned...

And Relay for Life is this Saturday at Presentation School in Sonoma from 1pm Saturday until 10am Sunday. I plan to be there most of Saturday. Come on out and walk with me!

Thank you all for your continued support and well wishes.





Die cancer, DIE. You are messing with the wrong woman!!

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
B E L I E V E

• I AM STRONG • I AM HEALTHY • I AM LOVED •
THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.





Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The End of An Era for Brookfarm

On a sad, but inevitable note, our last four alpacas, and Maurio, were delivered to their new home in Healdsburg yesterday. Sad; but it was time. Time to focus on family, friends, our property (it has been let go over the last 6 years of my ill-health), and getting away to enjoy life while we can. 

So we said good bye and best wishes to my love and first cria, Rocky, aka Brookfarm's Rock of Gibraltar, Ace, Keeleigh & Rochelle, and to our wonderful male Maremma LGD, Maurio. They have a lovely new home in Healdsburg on the most beautiful ranch and property. Best wishes to Sarah Shaw on her new adventure. She is such a caring and loving animal lover. We know both Sarah and these wonderful critters will thrive and succeed.

The girls on their new ranch.

 
Ace had never been trailered and he wasn't quite sure what to think about walking up the ramp



Having a little one-on-one with sweet Rocky. I will miss him!

Off to our new adventure

Sarah and Andre take to the alpacas like naturals.





We will miss you our big lovable furr ball, Maurio

What the heck are these? - the horses and Rocky look at each other in wonderment.


But, we do have a few years of fleeces to get processed into yarn, so will have gorgeous alpaca yarn for sale in the coming months. If anyone is interested in raw fleeces, lets talk.


Each one of us never knows what tomorrow will bring, so live life to the fullest each and every day. And that is what I try to do on my "good" days. 

Thank you all for your continued support and well wishes.





Die cancer, DIE. You are messing with the wrong woman!!

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
B E L I E V E

• I AM STRONG • I AM HEALTHY • I AM LOVED •
THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.











Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Chemo Delay and Relay for Life 8/27/16

It's been a very tiresome week. The chemo break just before each new transfusion seems to be disappearing. So yesterday I called and cancelled chemo for this coming Wednesday until next Wednesday, and I will take an unexpected week off. Dr. Anderson indicated that this might be the case, but I was determined not to skip a beat. Then this past weekend, I was so very tired, and napping frequently, that it made more sense to take a break.

I guess I was feeling like taking a break might set back the good progress of shrinking tumors. My plan was to transition to two weeks on, and one week off. I will go in this week for labs and an office visit with my oncologist. I'll bring up how I'm feeling with him and see if he thinks I should switch to every other week chemo infusions instead. It becomes very challenging to reschedule appointments, since this office is swamped all the time, which is pretty sad in itself.

And then I woke this morning light headed with s high pulse and intestinal woes. All when we are making 2 trips to Healdsburg and back to deliver our last 4 alpacas and our Maremma LGD, Maurio, to their new home. A sad moment for Brookfarm, but a necessary one. Mark thinks the high pulse is overcompensating for a very low blood pressure. I will contact my cardiologist for a phone consult. 

On a more positive note, I'm participating in the Relay for Life Sonoma team, Denise's Darlings. Team Leader is Jenise Emery, Denise Emery's daughter. We lost Denise, my cousin, to breast cancer on Valentine's Day this year, and this year we walk in her memory and to help fundraise for the American Cancer Society.

Won't you please consider coming out to walk a lap or two with us; to create a luminaria bag in someone's memory or honor, or to make a donation to the cause?

The details are:
Saturday, August 27-28, 2016
1 p.m.-10 a.m.
The Presentation School
20872 Broadway, Sonoma

Click here to visit my PERSONAL Relay page.


Sarah, Gaige and I at a previous Relay for Life.

Thank so very much!




Die cancer, DIE. You are messing with the wrong woman!!

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
B E L I E V E

• I AM STRONG • I AM HEALTHY • I AM LOVED •
THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.





Chemo Delay and Relay for Life 8/27/16

It's been a very tiresome week. The chemo break just before each new transfusion seems to be disappearing. So yesterday I called and cancelled chemo for this coming Wednesday until next Wednesday, and I will take an unexpected week off. Dr. Anderson indicated that this might be the case, but I was determined not to skip a beat. Then this past weekend, I was so very tired, and napping frequently, that it made more sense to take a break.

I guess I was feeling like taking a break might set back the good progress of shrinking tumors. My plan was to transition to two weeks on, and one week off. I will go in this week for labs and an office visit with my oncologist. I'll bring up how I'm feeling with him and see if he thinks I should switch to every other week chemo infusions instead. It becomes very challenging to reschedule appointments, since this office is swamped all the time, which is pretty sad in itself.

And then I woke this morning light headed with s high pulse and intestinal woes. All when we are making 2 trips to Healdsburg and back to deliver our last 4 alpacas and our Maremma LGD, Maurio, to their new home. A sad moment for Brookfarm, but a necessary one. Mark thinks the high pulse is overcompensating for a very low blood pressure. I will contact my cardiologist for a phone consult. 

On a more positive note, I'm participating in the Relay for Life Sonoma team, Denise's Darlings. Team Leader is Jenise Emery, Denise Emery's daughter. We lost Denise, my cousin, to breast cancer on Valentine's Day this year, and this year we walk in her memory and to help fundraise for the American Cancer Society.

Won't you please consider coming out to walk a lap or two with us; to create a luminaria bag in someone's memory or honor, or to make a donation to the cause?

The details are:
Saturday, August 27-28, 2016
1 p.m.-10 a.m.
The Presentation School
20872 Broadway, Sonoma

Click here to visit my PERSONAL Relay page.


Sarah, Gaige and I at a previous Relay for Life.

Thank so very much!




Die cancer, DIE. You are messing with the wrong woman!!

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
B E L I E V E

• I AM STRONG • I AM HEALTHY • I AM LOVED •
THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.





Thursday, August 11, 2016

The New Me

The new me. It was long overdue for sure. I kept hanging on since I thought a few hairs hanging out of my hats looked better. But the photos tell a different story. Seems like the only hair left was at the bangs and back. Oh well; on to new things -- hats and scarves when I'm too timid to rock the bald.

Just a few eyebrows and lashes left too. A little pencil helps with the brows.

The new me.
Not very pretty; I know. Not sure why I waited so long. Seems as though the only hair left was at the bangs and back.

Much better; don't you think?

Nail & Hair Loss Goes Along With Carboplatin
I'm starting to see some evidence of nail loss too. Which is no surprise to me. The chemotherapy that causes hair loss does this too. You see, all the fast growing cells are affected, hair (all of it, everywhere - YEP), skin, nails. 

I'm also experiencing the softest facial skin ever, like a new born baby almost. Each time I wash my face I can feel the granularly feeling of the skin sloughing off and this ultra soft layer left behind. I just wish the wrinkles would wash away too. Oh well, more wishful thinking for an old broad.  :-)

This is today; 8/10/16
This is today; 8/10/16
In the above picture, you can just begin to see the reddening of the nail bed, and there is a bit of chalkiness like it is starting to break away from the old existing nail at the moon of my index finger, to the new nail forming underneath.

But in this example of nail loss back in June 2011, with my first round of chemo, you can really see what happens. Click on the link here and then click on the photo so it enlarges.

Other than the great news of yesterday, this is the latest on me at the moment. Other than chemo going well yesterday and now I'm feeling the effects of the steroids. I'm taking my regular anti-nausea med today and tomorrow, as I always do for the two days after chemo. Then back at it next Wednesday provided side effects aren't too debilitating. The neuropathy and blood counts are something my Oncologist is watching closely.



THANK YOU for continuing to keep me in your thoughts & prayers.


Die cancer, DIE. You are messing with the wrong woman!!

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
B E L I E V E

• I AM STRONG • I AM HEALTHY • I AM LOVED •
THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

So Thankful For Some Good News!

Today was a good-news kind of day; and I am so thankful for this kind of day. I really needed it about now. 

But first a little tease from the fun update near the end of the Blog...

YIPPEE - I'm paddling - Big Lagoon near Humboldt

 Was it perfect news? Probably not in my mind; but then perfect news would be NED (No Evidence of any Disease), and the cancer is gone forever and ever. But then I guess that is a pie-in-the-sky kind of dream. We can dream, can't we?

But the good news is that the CT Scan with contrast of a week ago shows significant tumor reduction in the left breast, and good reduction in the liver and the lymph nodes; one near the liver, and the one under the right arm. I'll take it. I'm not quite there yet for Hormone Therapy as the liver needs more work; so I will be on a 2 on chemo (once a week for 2 weeks), and one week off. If that is too much, such as neuropathy worsening in the fingers and hands, or issues with blood levels, then we will go to one week on and one week off. But I wanted to try the two weeks on and one week off for now. I really want to zap the liver so that perhaps surgery or one of these treatments where they place something right into the larger tumors to kill the cancer in that exact spot. Time will tell.


But more good news is that I will get to go back and see Dr. Elboim and talk about possibility of mastectomy, or at least see if I am getting closer to that point, and what it will exactly mean or what is possible with my skin and such. All positive information going in the right direction.

From the Office Visit and Port Draw we went on to chemo infusion; the first one Mark has attended so far. Lucky guy that so many of you have offered to transport me from time to time, and I've been able to take a couple of you up on the offer the few times when Sarah was not available. Not to worry, I have the others on a wait list to call when I need. It was a very early appointment for me at 8am, and the entire place was empty. The waiting room chairs all vacant, and even no one in the reception area. When I did get checked in and headed back to the infusion room for the port draw, it was just Oncology Nurse extraordinaire, Jill and me. But things had changed by the time we finished the office visit. 

We were out of there about 1pm and celebrated our good news with the most delicious Caprese Piadine (which they had just brought back on the menu for the Summer) and fried calamari at Rosso Pizzaria. Very fresh and delicious.

Some details from the CT Scan report, so you can see how good the reduction in tumor size is:



Now this part below about lung was a bit disconcerting, but my oncologist said it was not cancer and not to worry about (yep, heard that one before!), but probably some fluid from heart issues -- "had I had a fever or been congested lately?" NOPE! Well, gotta trust, and I'm sure we'll keep a look at it in future. Just part of the whole experience.



Now the fun news to report for those who don't follow Facebook.

Happy Newlyweds - Charlotte Dallara Bartley & Travis Bartley
We just came off of nearly a week of camping and attending a lovely BBQ up in Gasquet, CA (on the Smith River right near the OR border) for my Niece Charlotte's marriage celebration with her new hubby Travis. 


Siblings: Me, Ed & Christine


Family: Charlotte, Travis, Christine, Ken, Kiana, Mark, Me & Ed

We met up with sis and hubby Christine & Ken and niece Kiana to caravan and camp along the way. What fun! 


Great camp breakfast at Big Lagoon near Humboldt

And we finally got our kayaks back in the water for a couple of paddles along the way; something that was about a year or two overdue -- and I think I managed well. The hard part is transporting the boats to and from the truck to the water.



THANK YOU for continuing to keep me in your thoughts & prayers.


Die cancer, DIE. You are messing with the wrong woman!!

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
B E L I E V E

• I AM STRONG • I AM HEALTHY • I AM LOVED •
THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.