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.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Family Fun

In my last post I mentioned how much I was looking forward to our family gathering at sister Christine's house this past Saturday. It came at the most perfect time for me as this was my "good week",  my week off of chemo and the week when most of the residual side effects and crappy feeling dissipated before the next infusion.  And it was!

But one thing that would be sorely missing was sister Donna from Montana. It just wasn't going to work for her, due to work schedule and other travel plans and time off work in a week. She had been talking about how much she wanted to visit once this new cancer diagnosis happened two months ago. And all four sisters had been wanting to do another sisters weekend getaway, but things were just getting in the way. I was feeling an urgency that we not let another year go by without this fun weekend we have done a few times over the last recent years, even when I was doing so well. Then all this. So you can just imagine.

Low and behold, sneaky sisters Christine and Donna had a surprise for us all. Donna flew in on Friday night and was there to surprise us all, hiding upstairs in Christine's bathroom remodel project to greet us all as Christine drug us upstairs to show us how the project was coming along. What a wonderful surprise!

We had a lovely BBQ outside on Saturday on a beautifully warm Spring day. The kiddos tried out the pool, but it was just a tad cold, or as Nico said, it was "too wet". His face was priceless when he jumped in and immediately said that, then yelled "help" to get out. Poor little guy. Christine & Ken's yard is so perfect, play structure, pool, hot tub, lovely deck, back paved drive for the young-uns to ride scooters and bikes, and lawn area for the teenagers and older cousins to play baseball. It was the perfect day. Too bad Eddie was sick and could not make it. But we thank him for keeping the germs home and protecting the rest of us.

A Dad and his daughters
 
Siblings... missing Ed (& Rich, of course)

Cousins hanging out

Barsun fanily having fun

On Sunday, us four sisters got together to play. We met up at Christine's and proceeded to check out the app Snap Chat. What a waist of time, or so it seemed. Let me know if you use it and love it, or how/why you use it. I am pretty intuitive when it comes to the computer, yes this old broad is, but this app is not intuitive AT ALL. But it was silly and fun for us sisters to try face swapping! :-) Then we proceeded into town for a late lunch on the Plaza at Swiss Hotel and took in some of the Cinco de Mayo dancing in the Sonoma Plaza's amphitheatre. We finished the day off back at Christine's watching the movie "Sisters". Oh my... funny, yet wacky and out there, as any Tina Fey/Amy Poehler movie would be. It gave us all some pretty good laughs.

Enjoying Sonoma Plaza with my sisters.

Monday morning I awoke (been rising at 5:30-6:00am of late, Ugh) and decided I needed to see Donna one last time before she flew home that afternoon. So I became the pest and crashed Christine's home one more time. After dropping my niece off at the high school at 8:00 am, we drove out to Fremont Diner for a yummy hearty breakfast. But on the way there, we drove by our old homestead on Eighth Street and Christine drove in the driveway so we could check it out. We chatted with the current tenant, a painter who lives here with his girlfriend and uses part of the old barn for his business. The yard is pretty much non-existent, but the house and pump-house are still there, and the old barn looks amazing. The rest of the property is filled with vineyard. We told him some old family stories and he took a picture of us standing in front of the old barn. We all have so many wonderful memories of that property.

The barn at the old family home on Eighth Street East, Sonoma

I finished Monday off with my dear friend Beverly with a 2.5 mile walk in her neighborhood, light lunch, and watching Episode 4 of our beloved Outlander.

Needless to say, I returned home exhausted from all the fun over the last few days, but finally feeling rejuvenated and mentally and emotionally prepared for the next chemo infusion tomorrow. And so ready to learn the results of the recent CT Scan with contrast. Today (Tuesday) will be all R&R to rest up and recuperate and prepare for tomorrow's infusion.


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



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


Life is Good... Most of the time.

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!

BELIEVE

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


Thursday, April 28, 2016

These Are the Good Days

Feeling so good; I can hardly recall what that was like. Am enjoying every last second until next Wednesday when the next infusion cycle begins (Cycle #3, infusion #5.

In the meantime, yesterday (Wednesday) was one of my best days for quite some time: fantastic massage, lunch at one of my old Napa haunts, malfatti take out for dinner later, a beautiful drive to Napa and back with a bit of sight seeing along the way (I got out on my own all day), walking with Sarah & Ruby to get Gaige at school today (he is always so happy to see me there and seems so surprised), then a forced stop at the new and delicious ice cream shop on the plaza since rain drops kept us from proceeding home (Well, it was a legitimate excuse for ice cream) and time with them at their house to visit and for me to catch a cat nap. Home around 7pm. Bed time... Nighty night.


Then today Mark drove us out to the beach, Doran Park to be exact. We walked a full 2 miles and enjoyed the sun, waves, birds, and wonderful beach air and smell. I'll tell you, the walking can be exhausting, especially uphill in sand. But I must rebuild my stamina to keep my heart healthy during all this, as the Cardiologist impressed upon us on Monday how he is watching me very closely and has me set with checkups every 6 weeks, and how things could change in a heart beat. (No pun intended)

We topped it off with a stop at the kite shop to inquire about a cool kite we had seen a few weeks back. They are checking into it for us. And then it was the Boat House for some fish and chips (make mine prawns and chips). And home around 5pm.


All perfect sand dollars Mark found for me. We left them there for others to enjoy


Like my new SF Giants hat with furry ear muffs? Toasty warm.
No news on the CT Scan of this past Wednesday yet. I'm going with the plan that no news is good news. I expect that my oncologist is planning to review it with me when I see him next Wednesday. Meanwhile, I am checking my online patient portal daily, just in case.

Did I tell you that I am looking forward to learning more about the Healthevoices conference for next year. They say...
Social media is shaping the way patients and caregivers make decisions about their healthcare, and online health advocates and bloggers are at the forefront of this movement. In an effort to support online health advocates who offer such important support to others facing medical challenges, Janssen has created HealtheVoices™ - a groundbreaking empowerment and leadership conference created for online health advocates and bloggers.

Looks like it could be right up my alley. They have me on their contact list for the future.

For now, it is supposed to be a gorgeous weekend and I am so looking forward to our family gathering at Ken & Christine's home in Sonoma.


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

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


Life is Good... Most of the time.

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!

BELIEVE

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



Monday, April 25, 2016

A "Bye" From Chemo This Week

I do not have chemo this week, on purpose. My schedule is two weeks on (one day each of those weeks), and one week off. YIPPEE. This is my week off!

I told Mark last night that I think I feel normal finally, for this chemo cycle. And while it may not be 100% normal, as there always seems to be a little something going on like indigestion or a mild tummy ache, it is darn close. And I am going to try to enjoy this week as best I can. (Thank god the nauseau and almost vomiting Friday night, after the day went so well otherwise, seems to be behind me -- for the moment).

Yesterday I finally had enough gumption to take a walk to the mailbox and get upstairs to my sewing room for a few hours. Haven't felt like that in weeks now. I thought this chemo infusion B (as in A the first week, and B the second week of each cycle) would be easier and I'd recover quicker. It was easier than the A week, but the recovery seemed no quicker -- it took a full seven days. GRRRR!

The rest of my yard/garden may be a disaster of ivy and blackberries...

... but these sweet pots outside the front door and living room deck, and my rose garden (above)...


... give me joy, and are manageable my me.

And then these wonders of nature greeted me on my walk to the mailbox.
My latest block in the Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt Along. Block #47 Joy
"Joy brings joy, laughter brings laughter, happiness brings happiness. So why not just continue to be joyful, happy, and full of laughter"

I do have appointments the first 3 days of this week, Cardiologist, CT Scan with Contrast, then oncology massage. This will be my first oncology massage this time around. I have a dear friend who is certified and helped me some 5 years ago. So I am looking forward to this.

And how could I forget our much awaited Dallara family gathering at Christine & Ken's this weekend. Woohoo. Long overdue.

So far my hair continues to thin, but it is still there.  :-) It seems to have stopped thinning right now, so maybe this 3rd week off will give it chance to recover and I won't be bald this time. Although I had fully expected it.

I'm looking forward to getting out in a bit for the cardiologist checkup. I've been very housebound and so looking forward to riding in my sweet CRV (new to us just as this newest journey began exactly two months ago tomorrow. My how time flies when you are having fun. But I love my little car, and haven't been able to drive it much. Thank goodness I figured out how most everything works in it before this all happened; or I'd be lost for sure. 

My Cardiologist is checking me frequently during chemo to be sure my heart is doing ok, considering my heart failure and how hard chemo drugs were on it. Hopefully I will be up for some errands as well, maybe even lunch out. We shall see how it goes.


Please send out all the positive vibes, thoughts, prayers, light some incense... whatever you like - for a positive result from the CT Scan tomorrow. This will be our barometer on how chemo has worked so far from these two cycles (4 infusions) and I'm hanging my hat on DIE, CANCER DIE. YOU ARE MESSING WITH THE WRONG WOMAN!!!

 
This takes us back to Relay Sonoma August 2011

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


Life is Good... SOMETIMES

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!

BELIEVE

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



Friday, April 22, 2016

The New Norm

I imagine you are wondering why I am not posting more frequently. Or at least giving brief updates like, "Hey, I'm alive and doing well just being a slug on the couch for the foreseeable future." So here I am to do just that...

I am alive and well just being a slug on the couch

for the foreseeable future.


Yes, that is really all I have to report. But it is a good thing. You see, I am 4 days out from chemo #4, and days 2&3 are usually the worst. So I will take this. And by "this", I mean pretty much hunkered in the recliner with blankies and a remote, and my phone and water. My brain isn't quite up to doing much more than casual conversation. Even my phone conversations are pretty boring as I don't say much. But I am not nauseous. I AM NOT IN PAIN. I really don't feel bad; I just don't feel good. I think I have already said this a time or two before.

Top right is what I cut and brought into the house. -- It's chilly out there. :-)

But today is Earth Day; one of my favorite days. And my roses are all agog in gorgeous bloom, and this may just encourage me to take a walk out and snap a photo of them for you.

And did I mention that this week Food Faeries keep arriving on my doorstep this week and dropping off boxes of yummy prepared meals. THANK YOU so very much! The freezer is filling fast.

And the best part ever is that next is my "off week" -- no chemo all next week! :-) Two cycles complete, of the six we hope plan to complete. I will see my cardiologist and check in to see how my heart has been doing through all this, as my ICD records everything so we shall have a report to review. And I will get to take time for a lovely massage from my dear friend Karen, of KBC Oncology Massage. I can't wait.

And then, the icing on the cake will be for the CT Scan with contrast next week (chest, abdomen & pelvis) to see just how many millions of cancer cells we have blasted away to smithereens in the last 6 weeks.


This takes us back to Relay Sonoma August 2011

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


Life is Good... SOMETIMES

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!

BELIEVE

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



 


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Why I Love Chemo Infusion

I never thought I would say that I was so looking forward to the next chemo JUST TO HELP RID ME OF THE SIDE EFFECTS OF THE LAST ONE. But I am. And it works. As yesterday was chemo infusion #4; or 2b as we call it (cycle 2, infusion b).

Let me back track a bit... 

I know I described last Wednesday as hell day on the typical chemo schedule. But as that week progressed, yes it was better than the first week, but it was still oh so challenging that I really don't even want to go in to detail. I think one of the hardest things for me is trying to decide if what I'm feeling in my low-gut and back are pain or nausea.  Because these feelings are somewhat similar at times and come in waves from one area to the next.  It also comes in severity of feeling -- like I'm going to throw up or have dri-heaves, or it's just painful to the point where I can't stop fidgeting. I'm probably not making sense, but then that is hard for me to do for these 3-5 days post chemo.

Chemo cycle 2b is now over as of yesterday (Monday). So two cycles down (four infusions), and the CT scan is scheduled to happen next week. Hopefully the news from this scan shows that all of these challenging days are going into the "vault" as those days to blast this cancer to smithereens.

All the great anti-nausea and steroid drugs that I got in the infusion yesterday will help see me through these next couple of days. Then I get a whole week off next week. So hopefully (another new favorite word) I'll be feeling up to at least taking a walk or doing something just a little more active. I'm ready and eager for this to happen.

What I am forgetting to mention is that last Thursday we headed out to Doran Beach Campground. I had hoped to be feeling better. The plan was to celebrate Mark's birthday weekend, as we had for the previous two years there, camping with the kids and grand kids, and our friends the Merritts. It is a beautiful, calm, long, shallow beach, most of the time. No huge hike from camp or parking to beach. Nice level sand for kids to play for hours. We are so happy to have re-found it after many years. 

Papa and his two best buds.


But my "good times" were fleeting. (maybe 1 good day for this trip, although "good" is a bit over exaggerated). Anyway, I was able to enjoy Saturday with the family in between a few naps. The walk out  that morning to the beach to see the kids romp in the sand and waves, and hear their voices -- it was worth the struggle of that walk. We enjoyed time sitting in the sun facing the Bay too (it was a beautiful day) watching the kids hide & seek in the reeds and fly kites. Then enjoyed a nice grilled dinner contributed by all and some singing of the Happy Birthday song. I felt like I had accomplished a monumental task.



Tall Ships re-enacting a battle off Doran Beach, Bodega Bay, CA

We have a jogger in the family

Contemplation... "So what really is the meaning of life again?"

We returned home a day early (Sunday) at my request, especially knowing I had chemo Monday.  I was not looking forward to this chemo. All I could think of was "how do I get feeling well enough to accept that "today is the next chemo again already," and I still feel like crap from the last one!!!!!" What Gives???

Sarah was my companion today. I apologized the whole way in as I would not be as entertaining as I was last week for Christine. And I was most definitely not. But then, as my Infusion Nurse, Matt, is pulling each bag for me to confirm my name and DOB on each, I check the drug names and start to remember that everything will be okay in a few minutes when I get those steroids, and then the anti-nausea drugs. Yes, this is why I come back -- to get a day or more in some form of relief before the next one. 

So this realization helped to turn the tide for me,
and get me out of a funk.

We made a stop for more provisions at our favorite dispensary, and then Sarah suggested Cafe Citti takeout on the way through Kenwood. What a grand idea. Especially since my appetite just returned again, after losing nearly 5 more pounds this past week. And dinner was yummy, and I had a normal-sized portion for a change. Many reasons I am thankful.

So the plan this time is to stay on top of pain and nausea better and perhaps Cannabis will be my saving grace again. If it works, and doc has recommended, then....


This takes us back to Relay Sonoma August 2011


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


Life is Good... SOMETIMES

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, no longer a SURVIVOR, 
AND a Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!

BELIEVE

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



Wednesday, April 13, 2016

It Was Better Than the Last ... But...

Wednesday of this week is what was "hell day" for this day of the first cycle of chemo three weeks ago, which was 2 days after the infusion. And while this time around is about 80% better than the  last time, it was still not a very good day. I awoke thinking it was better, and it was. And while it has declined somewhat over the course of the day, at least I have been upright and napping in the recliner all day. And the best part was I was able to navigate myself around the house in an almost coherent state. I did avoid talking to anyone on the phone, or making any important decisions, though.

The hardest part, as if I haven't sounded pretty negative so far, is the left breast pain. Tylenol wasn't quite enough so I progressed to the Tramadol, a new pain med prescribed after the cycle one. That helped to keep it just bearable. 

I firmly believe that this pain is a sign of the chemo blasting the cancer cells to smithereens. 



So "Believe" and "Die, Cancer, Die" are my focal points today.


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


Life is Good... SOMETIMES

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, no longer a SURVIVOR, 
AND a Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!

BELIEVE

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

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Chemo Infusion Went Well & the Day After Too

Chemo infusion went well on Monday. My sister, Christine, drove me and we had a fun day together, believe it or not. It gave us a nice opportunity to catch up and run some errands as well after wards. We got a window seat this time, and Matt was my infusion nurse. He is fairly new to this medical group, but not new to oncology/infusion nursing. And Mark always packs me a nice snack/lunch bag so we enjoyed some ginger cookies and such.

They did as my oncologist told me to expect. And that was decreased the steroids from 20 down to 12, whatever that means. And added Emend, which is a 5-day anti-nausea medication. So I'm hopeful for an easier time of it in two days when the worst has happened before.

We sat and chatted for the 3 hours of the infusion and caught up on family and kids and work, and me, etc. That was great. There was a sweet older lady to my left who Christine was able to help with her chair (the recliner foot can be hard to put up and down) and getting her infusion pump rolling bar thingy back in place when she took a bathroom break. And there was a nice man to my right who we chatted with a bit too. He was there for an iron infusion.


3rd chemo in action.

We left there around 3pm and headed to check on counter tops for Christine's bathroom project, and then to CVS to drop off my prescription for pain meds, just in case I need them. Then it was off to a Vietnamese restaurant next to Trader Joe's for Pho Soup. Yum, it was good. I think I found a new place for Mark and I to try when we frequent Round Barn. We didn't get back to home until 6:30pm with some take out Pho for Mark and Ken, but I was doing fine, just fuzzy headed and full of steroids.

But look what I received via text from Alura during the day to make me smile. This little girl, in this adorable outfit, dress courtesy of her big brother's preschool garage sale fundraiser, her bike helmet, and adorable shoes. She is quite the scooter girl, I might add. And when she isn't pushing it around the neighborhood backwards like a dolly stroller, she is riding it like a pro, all at 20 months young.




20 months and she rides a scooter like  champ, when she isn't pushing it around like a stroller.

So now it is Tuesday night and today has gone very well. I've actually gotten out on my own this morning for some lab work in Sonoma, a visit to the bank, and to see Sarah. I returned home around 2pm ready for a nap, and now we are about to sit down for a bit of TV at 9:30pm. Tomorrow is usually the bitch of a day, but I'm feeling very positive that it will be much better than the first chemo, which was really bad. 

So "hopeful" is my mantra at the moment.


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


Life is Good... SOMETIMES

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, no longer a SURVIVOR, 
AND a Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
LIVESTRONG

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


Monday, April 11, 2016

Anxiety

Let's just say I'm a bit anxious about today's chemotherapy infusion. This will be the first infusion of cycle 2. I go in three week cycles; 1 chemo 1 week, 1 chemo the next week, and then the third week off. During each cycle, the first chemo of each cycle is a two drug cocktail -  Gemcitabin (aka Gemzar - an antimetabolite) & Carboplatin (aka Paraplatin - an alkylating agent). AND the first chemo of the first cycle was hell, putting it mildly. So you can see where the anxiety is coming from.

But my oncologist has mde some changes this time, reducing the steroids in the infusion today, and changing the infusion anti-nausea drug to Emmend, which is supposed to have a 5-day effectiveness. Hopefully these changes will help my poor body to deal with the Gemzar and Carboplatin today.

Wish me luck!

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


Life is Good... SOMETIMES

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, no longer a SURVIVOR, 
AND a Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
LIVESTRONG

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