LIVESTRONG:

And in June 2013 we are back in the revolving door of doctors, this time for my heart. So the focus has shifted, 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 strength to others & will help to strip away the fears we each experience.


LIVESTRONG: I am strong. I am loved. I am healthy. WE WILL WIN!

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.

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.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

3 years...

It's been three years since my lumpectomy surgery. Sometimes it feels longer, other times it feels like yesterday. But what is most important to me, is that I continue to be in remission (we are never cancer-free) and continue to feel good, in spite of the severe heart failure. So today -- LIFE IS GOOD!

Thanks to all my friends and family for their love and support over the last three years. It is amazing, and helps me to continue to put one foot in front of the other each and every day.

Life is Good...

Debbie... aka the cancer SURVIVOR, 
AND now the Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
LIVESTRONG

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

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mixing It Up a Bit

So my entire life is not about cancer or heart failure, and I feel the need to mix it up a bit here. Yes, I've shared moments in my life about family and camping; but fiber is also a big part of me. Knitting and spinning to be specific. Once in a while I mix in some dyeing, weaving or felting, but that is pretty rare.

Recently I had the fun opportunity to attend the Valley Ford Wool Festival, put on by the Valley Ford Mercantile and Fibershed, of which Brookfarm is a member. A group of like-minded ladies from my Sonoma spinning/knit group made the trip over to Valley Ford and enjoyed the open air event, mill tour, shopping, and lunch at Oyster Rockefellers.  And guess what followed me home -- some beautiful hand-dyed rovings, buttons, and a pair of earrings. Not to mention laughter and tactile fun.

And if you are one who ask, "Why would you ever use fiber other than alpaca?" with almost a look of disgust and amazement. Well, in answer, I say, "Because I need to support other farms, like-minded artisans, and test other fibers."

The fact is I love all the beautiful colors and love playing with it too, in addition to my gorgeous natural-color alpaca fibers.


Here is of my stash from the event



I have two braids of this color below, which has long runs of solid color.




Here I am just partially into the spinning of the first section of aqua changing into green 



 This is closer to the end of the braid where it turns light yellow into a slight peach color. My plan is to spin the second braid in a similar fashion, ply them together so similar color matches up along side. Then I hope to find a lacey shawl pattern that will highlight these long color runs and subtle color transitions.
 

Life is Good...

Debbie... aka the cancer SURVIVOR, 
AND now the Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
LIVESTRONG

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



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Three Years Later

Saturday, May 17th, marks three years since my last chemotherapy treatment. Has it really been 3 years already. Some days it seems like much longer, and others.... well I think you know how that ends.

Although it has not been smooth sailing all the three years since; especially since the chemo was followed by surgery (lumpectomy) on June 24, 2011, and then radiation that ended late September that year.  It is amazing how those dates do not slip your memory. They are cemented in as reminders of where we've been, what we've been through, and all the loved ones who helped to pull us through it all.

And won't even begin to relive this year. But I'm feeling darn good right now, and sticking to it as best I can!

So here's to another 3 years, then 6, then 12, then....




August 2011 at Relay for Life, as I was undergoing radiation.
This past Sunday - Mother's Day

Life is Good...

Debbie... aka the cancer SURVIVOR, 
AND now the Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
LIVESTRONG

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







Sunday, May 11, 2014

THANK YOU to Healthline for the Honor of One of the Best Breast Cancer Blogs of 2014.

Once again, I am humbled and honored to have my Blog chosen as one of Healthline's Best Breast Cancer Blogs of 2014.

I just say it like it happens, or how I feel. And it doesn't seem to be over yet. I mean, the cancer, SO FAR, is in remission. But the side effects of the chemo seem to be ever lasting. Damn Cancer! But today is a good day, and I have so much to be thankful for and feel so blessed at this moment in time.

As Healthline honors my Blog, Deb's Breast Cancer Journey , they say,

Deb’s Breast Cancer Journey

It’s a troubling reality for many breast cancer patients: Even after successful treatment, more and seemingly unrelated health problems develop. Deb's Breast Cancer Journey blog’s subtitle, “My Journey Past Breast Cancer and into Cardiomyopathy,” represents that challenging layer in Debbie Emery’s story.
But this indomitable Californian recognizes what her blog posts do for her and for those who read them. She writes, “My wish is that I will gain strength from you, will provide strength to others & will help to strip away the fears we each experience.”
Please do check out the other 24 Blogs recognized by Healthline. There are some truly amazing stories, and some truly amazing people out there telling these stories.

Thank you, Healthline, for this honor once again.

Life is Good...

Debbie... aka the cancer SURVIVOR, 
AND now the Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
LIVESTRONG

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



Monday, May 5, 2014

Interesting Breast Cancer Stats...

Some very interesting breast cancer statistics:

A woman whose breast cancer is detected before it has spread beyond its original location is more likely to survive than a woman whose cancer was detected at a later stage. If breast cancer is detected at an early stage, women will have a longer survival time after diagnosis, but their lives may not actually last any longer than they would have with a later diagnosis. A woman whose tumor is going to end her life by age 50, because no treatment will be effective, is not helped if her treatment begins at age 42 rather than at age 48. However, if she is diagnosed and begins treatment at age 42, she will be counted as having survived longer than five years. If she is diagnosed and begins treatment at age 48, she won't. For this reason, widespread detection of breast cancer at earlier stages can make survival figures look better than they actually are.

Source: http://cbcrp.org/publications/papers/BCinCA/page_12.php

The five year statistics are misleading, because treatments have gotten better, and women, even those with mets, are living longer. Women with bone mets particularly skew the survival stats as they sometimes get many extra years. But they all die, and so the number of people dying of cancer hasn't changed.  40k women a year on average have died from breast cancer since they started keeping track and it's not a number that's changed much if at all.
http://cbcrp.org/publications/papers/BCinCA/page_12.php
One way to measure the harm breast cancer does, and the progress medicine makes against the disease, is to look at how long women survive after being diagnosed.

Life is Good...

Debbie... aka the cancer SURVIVOR, 
AND now the Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
LIVESTRONG

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

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

More Good News, Oh My!

It's time to share more good news we learned just this afternoon when we met with my cardiologist. Maybe it was all too much to take in, but Mark and I are sitting here talking and the light clicked on and I remembered a very important piece of info.

Basically, all blood work was great. My BNP, which was at 700+ before, is now at 107. 700 is severe heart failure, 50-100 is NORMAL!!!!  There is no new echo until August, so I won't know those numbers. But I'm feeling pretty darn good, almost normal, so this is all a very good sign. Of course I'm on a bunch of meds. But I'll take it.

From Wikipedia:
BNP is a measurement of an enzyme produced in the blood. Brain natriuretic peptide (BNP), now known as B-type natriuretic peptide or Ventricular Natriuretic Peptide (still BNP), is a 32-amino acid polypeptide secreted by the ventricles of the heart in response to excessive stretching of heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes). 

From Web MD:

Why It Is Done




Time will tell what this all means. But for now, just had to share. 

Life is Good...

Debbie... aka the cancer SURVIVOR, 
AND now the Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
LIVESTRONG

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

Friday, April 4, 2014

Good News Continues & I Have a Road ID

But first an update on the previous post about vertigo. Because of the profuse sweating, my ENT does not think it was benign positional vertigo. Apparently the episode had something to do with blood pressure, and moving from a prone position. Mark described the symptoms of like someone in shock. So we will keep an eye on this, and from a discussion with my cardiologist today, I will most likely give up on yoga for the time being.

Today, Mark, Alura and I returned to Stanford Hospital and Clinics for a follow up with my cardiologist, Dr. Michael Fowler. We met Alura along the I80 corridor and she rode with us, which turned out to be a beautiful day, with intermittent drizzles, almost iridescent green grasses, amid gorgeously blue skies and bursts of the whitest billowy clouds. A great time for us all to visit and catch up without toddlers crawling all over us and making demands for juice and milk and such; adorable as they are.

Gorgeous drive home from Stanford
So off we went...

You may recall that at the appointment end of January, Dr. Fowler said he would have a transplant team ready to meet with me at my next appointment of April 4th, to educate us on this probable next step and help relieve my concerns over the procedure. My reference bank is from my brother Richard's heart transplant back in the mid-1980's and all I can seem to remember is all the medications and his struggles, even though it gave him nearly 10 more years of active and fulfilling life. And at that appointment in January, Dr. Fowler made some med changes which helped me to shed 8+ lbs of fluid retention in just a couple of days!

So a few days ago I received a call from RN Marie at Stanford stating she would like to see me before my appointment with Dr. Fowler to do the Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) education. If you check the link, this is the implantable type device we are talking about. By the way, as a refresher, this device is often used as a bridge to a transplant, but Dr. Fowler says that some people find it so easy to tolerate that they decide to live out their life not going through with a transplant. And, should I get an LVAD, then I am automatically moved up on the heart transplant priority list. But mind you I am in no hurry for one or both of these procedures, so will be having some serious conversations with God and my heart to be good and improve. 

I had done some online research, so was prepared to hear about the open-heart surgery, weeks in ICU, then weeks living somewhere nearby in case of issues with a full-time caregiver to support me, then returning weekly at first, then slowly less and less until I could be seen every three months from then on out. But Mark had not heard any of this yet. I knew that the pump was implanted into the chest and that there was an external part to the device too. But I was not quite prepared about the daily dressing changes to prevent infection, and to see the whole gadget, the power pack, and the two batteries that must be worn 24/7 (obviously), not to mention the additional gadgetry (for lack of a better word) that is kept at home for charging, storing data, etc., etc, and must travel with me whenever I leave home. Then there is the inability to ever be submerged in water again (no baths, swimming, spas!!!) Not to mention that this would probably give me five more good years. I mean, I'm feeling so good now; and I'm expecting to be around a lot longer than five more years, let me tell you! But I also knew that this was precautionary as well. Because if/when I need this, it may come on sudden, and I need (we need) to be educated so we are ready to make the decision pronto. But let me tell you, it was all very, very scary for both Mark and I.

We then sat and chatted as we waited for Dr. Fowler to meet with me. His nurse, Erin, is very sweet and also pregnant, so she and Alura, as well as me, chatted about pregnancies and babies and such, once she finished gathering pertinent information and updating my data file. Another nurse came in to interrogate my ICD. That is what they call it when they gather all the recent data it has recorded. There was nothing alarming from the day of the yoga class, so they made adjustments to my device so it will record normal heart rates of 160 and above, which is much lower than it is set to pace or shock my heart.

The follow up visit with Dr. Fowler went well. He is such a fun and entertaining guy. He was thrilled to see that I have been doing so marvelously the last two months, and is very hopeful that this might (accentuating "might" here) mean there could be even the slightest improvement in my heart muscle. He was pleased with my recent blood work, and agreed that we could increase the afternoon diuretic just a bit, as this is when I seem to get a bit congested on most days. Apparently my dosage is still very low. He informed us that the LVAD usually significantly helps 1/3 patients. Another 1/3 feel somewhat better and get a bit of energy. And the rest see little if any improvement in their quality of life. All in all, this was a great appointment, with Dr. Fowler suggesting that yoga might be a bit too much for me at this point; but to stay somewhat active, "Maybe a movie one day, then a walk another, perhaps a nap another day." I like this guy. He even joked that he might come out and join us camping at Doran Beach soon.

Before leaving, we met with yet another nurse about a clinical trial that I will most likely take part in. I'm not sure I have all the details memorized, but they will put my heart diagnosis data into a data base, without any of my personal data, and through a simple blood draw, they will replicate my heart cells and use this along with my genetic testing information to further test dilated cardiomyopathy and its causes. I know there is a lot more detail to this, but this is it in a nutshell at the moment. They will do the blood draw at my next appointment and go from there.

The most important tip I took away from this visit, is when I feel lax about my salt intake (or as he said, when I think about having a pepperoni pizza - NOT), just think about the whole LVAD idea and then choose the low sodium choice. This, I will most definitely do.


Beautiful grounds, and beautiful Alura, in front of Stanford Clinics.


 Family gathering last weekend to celebrate Sarah's birthday.

 



I HAVE A ROAD ID. Thank you, sweetie!!


So now, on to some family time, camping in our sweet trailer, and just enjoying life as I know it at this very moment. AND thank you all for your continued love and support. It does take a village.

Life is Good...

Debbie... aka the cancer SURVIVOR, 
AND now the Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
LIVESTRONG

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Vertigo, Oy Vey

I've had some vertigo issues over the last 25 years ever since a very serious head concussion when hit by an SUV as I was walking in a crosswalk. Yes, I am lucky to be alive after being tossed through the air for nearly 30 feet. Hmmm, maybe I do have nine lives.

What happens is usually turning to my left side while lying flat on the ground, or in bed. It was much worse for several years after the accident. I would go into a nauseous head spin just from looking straight up at a plane or bird, and have to grab something to steady myself. It's happened less and less over the years, thankfully, and now seems to be more prevalent when my sinuses are bothering me. And that appears to be more frequent since the cardiomyopathy diagnosis. Not sure if fluid buildup adds to this issue, but it seems to. So I went in to see a Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) specialist in January and he wanted me to have a Sinus CT scan. I've been putting it off because my insurance has been so screwed up until just recently. I feel so bad that insurance still hasn't processed the ENT claim from early January that I wanted that resolved before going back. Insurance assures me the claim will be processed by week's end. (Yeah, sure, I've heard this far too many times this year -- Damn you, Anthem Blue Cross)

So last week I started my first of an 8-week session of yoga classes; Gentle Yoga, to be precise. I really enjoyed the class last Wednesday and the upper body stretching. Then we got down on the floor and all went well until.... yes, until I rolled towards the left to grab the belt used for leg stretches, and my head went into a horrible spin that set me sweating profusely from the head, feeling horribly sea sick and not able to stand, for about 10 minutes or more, as I knew I could not keep my balance. Mark came to rescue me and I got home and crawled into bed for a bit and was pretty much affected until mid-morning the following day. This was the worst episode I'd had for quite some time. It was not fun!

I did email my cardiologist latter just to be sure it wasn't heart related. The sweating was different and it did have Mark and I concerned. Thankfully, he said it was benign positional vertigo. Which is due to a disturbance within the inner ear. The inner ear has fluid-filled tubes called semicircular canals. The canals are very sensitive to movement of the fluid, which occurs as you change position. The fluid movement allows your brain to interpret your body's position and maintain your balance.
Benign positional vertigo develops when a small piece of bone-like calcium breaks free and floats within the tube of the inner ear. This sends the brain confusing messages about your body's position.
It is said that a prior head injury (even a slight bump to the head) or an inner ear infection may make some people more likely to develop the condition. There is a procedure that one can do on their own, or with the aid of a physical therapist, to reposition the calcium. That will be a question for my ENT, as I have read about it before and it seems like a complex exercise for one to do alone and get exactly right. Besides, it sends you back into vertigo, maybe even several times during the exercise. YUCK!!!


Now I was much more incentivized to get the scan and follow up with the ENT. Anyway, I had the scan today; and only had slight head spinning as I layed down on the table for it. This was the first time I've had to tell a doctors office about my ICD in case there was any conflict with it and the scan. 

I will see see my ENT next week and skipped today's yoga class for obvious reasons. Now, hopefully we can get to the bottom of all the sinus trouble and also the vertigo. Then I can get back to doing things that are good for me.

These Snoopy's can be found randomly positioned around Santa Rosa, CA; the home of Snoopy Ice Rink 
and Charles M. Schultz Center.
Dr. Joe Cool ~ Heart Throb

Looking forward to my next Stanford appointment in early April. Not sure if they will do another Echo, but am so hopeful that my heart EF may be improving.

Life is Good...

Debbie... aka the cancer SURVIVOR, 
AND now the Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
LIVESTRONG

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