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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Friday, September 23, 2016

Things... They Are A Changing

That is... breast cancer meds and such.

Chemo Infusion #20, Abraxane #12

As expected from my conversation with Dr. Anderson last week, he has changed things up this week when I saw him Wednesday morning 9/21/16.

First off, both white and red blood cell numbers were down from last week. So it is not only time for Granix injections to improve the white count (4 of them Thursday through Sunday mornings), but also a blood transfusion, which will take most of the day Sunday at Memorial Hospital. But the way it works there is that you have to wait for someone to get discharged so you have a bed. So I will be "on-call", so to speak, Sunday waiting for space for me. The Ambulatory Care offices were also all full through Saturday, so the Hospital is my only option.

We talked about the bit of itchyness I've been having around my eyes and face. And we discussed my breast and the fact that the blister-looking area seems to be drying up again. He could not say whether it is the Abraxane or the Xeloda.

But because of the low blood counts, I had the choice to skip chemo infusion, or take a half dose of the Abraxane. I chose the half dose. When I got home and Sarah and I shared this with Mark. He chuckled and said most people would jump for joy to get the day off chemo. But not me, NO; I go with a half dose instead. LOL

Dr. Anderson wants me to try 3 Xeloda pills am and 2 pm, which is an increase of one more in the morning. We will see how I tolerate this and then he may increase the evening dose to 3 tablets as well. This would then be 1,500 mg each morning and night.

Dr. Anderson said that the Immunotherapy clinical trial at UCSF is about two months out from being approved/finalized (whatever they call it when it is ready to go live, so to speak), so we will keep an eye on that option. Doctors Munster and Agorual (sp) are running the trial and he will look into getting me in to see one or both of them. But for now, he feels the Xeloda is my best choice.

It is with a heavy heart that I received the news of a sweet friend's passing this weekend. Ellen was diagnosed with a rare type of lung cancer about 3 years ago or so. It is one that non-smoking women have been coming down with. It is just so hard to understand this whole disease and why it seems so prevalent in society these days. Sending love and comfort to your family. I am so sorry to miss her celebration of life this Sunday, but unfortunately it is the only day they can get me in for the blood transfusion.

Rest in Peace Ellen, sweet fiber and knitting friend.  
Sending love and comfort to your family.  


Peace and Love




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.



Friday, September 16, 2016

Metastasis: The Ugly Truth

A friend, also with terminal breast cancer, shared a post on Facebook recently with the following article from Cancer Treatment Centers of America


I found the article to be very interesting, and I hope you will read it by clicking on the link above.

But what was most informative to me, was the video that was referenced in the article explaining how cancer works in metastasis. Here is a direct link to the video mentioned in this article: 
     https://directorsblog.nih.gov/2016/02/04/cool-videos-spying-on-cancer-cell-invasion/

And watching this video brought tears of fear. I mean, having this information is great for more research and finding ways to help millions of women with metastasized breast cancer, terminal cancer, like me. But the fact of cancer's ability to do these things indicated in this amazing video is so frightening for me at this very moment in time -- A time when my oncologists are trying their best to stay ahead of my cancer, when they are basically dancing around the cancer and throwing at it an arsenal of the latest treatments available today for treatment of the type of metastasized breast cancer that I have. And doing so in precise increments so that there is still medications and options available to prolong my life as long as those treatments are available. They are basically stretching it out, changing it up when the cancer gets smarter than the latest drug I am on.

When I allow my brain to go to this negative place, which is rare thankfully, I am scared to death (pun not intended) of how much time of "prolonged life" I actually have. And no one knows what that is.

And the "prolonging" is to give me more time with loved ones, but more importantly, more time with the hope that some new miracle treatment will be found to give me even more time, or perhaps, miraculously, a cure for this cancer that at this time is, and will most likely be, terminal. It is the ugly truth I am accepting of, but am smart enough not to allow it to consume me. But for this moment in time, I will be that vulnerable, Stage IV, terminal cancer patient and lay it out there like it is.


Peace and Love




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, September 15, 2016

Chemo #19, Abraxane #11, 1st Week on Xeloda

Today I had a pretty late chemo infusion appointment, preceded by the usual port draw and office visit. But only after we slipped away for three nights Monday - Wednesday camping in our cozy camper at Doran Beach Campground. And I think we lucked out with some of the best Fall beach weather; sunny all day, with a slight breeze. Mind you, I was all bundled up, but then I am cold all the time these days; even in 70 degree weather. And the day we hiked the Bodega Headlands, I was taking off layers and wishing I had short pants and a short-sleeved top on. I even enjoyed some time out at the campfire after dark. Another rare treat.


The scarf and sweatshirt didn't last long. Weather was beautiful.


But I survived and we returned Thursday morning in time to prepare for my appointment later that afternoon.

Thankfully the two Granix injections I received earlier in the week helped to bring up my blood counts ever so slightly, but enough so that I could continue with chemo today.  And I learned that the blood transfusions are to improve red blood cells, and the Granix injection is to improve white blood cells. There is always something new to learn.

I shared with my Oncologist how I had been having some discomfort in my upper left chest/neck area. Upon examination, he said there didn't seem to be an obvious problem, so we will keep an eye on it.

After we talked a bit, and Dr. Anderson examined me and my breast, he said it may be time to mix up the chemo again. Because the breast has become more active (blistering-like areas returning, some drainage and bleeding again, where this had all pretty much disappeared a month ago), it is a sign that perhaps the Abraxane has done the best it can already and it is time to give it a break. He said that once the chemo gets knocked down, it shouldn't be hard to maintain. A week off in August should not have made this kind of difference.

He wants me to continue the Xeloda for one week on and one week off. I started it this past Saturday and will finish up on Friday evening. Then a week off the Xeloda pills. If I tolerate this well, even through the week off when side effects can still show up, then he may up my dose to 3 pills each morning and night (1,500 mg each am and pm). Although I will still get the Abraxane infusion today until we work through this coming week.

Dr. Anderson will do some research on medications. He indicated there may also be another infusion drug to try; and he will look into other options such as immune therapy. Apparently UCSF has a Immune Therapy clinical trial coming up that may be suited well for me, but he needs to make sure I meet the requirements, especially where my heart is concerned. It may require a more current Echo. 

And I will be scheduled for a new CT Scan in a couple of weeks as well. 

So things are switching up again, and I'm okay with that. There always seems to be something new to try. As long as it keeps the cancer at bay and I can tolerate it well, then I'm okay with that.

Peace and Love




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, September 13, 2016

After Mastectomy ~ Reconstruction or Not

Nearly six years ago, when first diagnosed with breast cancer, the first thoughts of considering reconstruction after mastectomy occurred, if that became my surgery requirement. 

Then, back then in July 2011, even with what was expected to be a lumpectomy, reconstruction came up again. The thought was that to conserve as much of my breast, a plastic surgeon should be consulted, which I did. And I decided against any extra surgeries, implants, or any of those options. But the plastic surgeon was very perseverant. So much so that soon after my lumpectomy, and before radiation (as reconstruction cannot be performed after radiation as the skin becomes too damaged for good results) he called personally himself yet again almost insistent that I come in to see him. I tried to turn him down, but then decided that another consult wouldn't hurt.

During my appointment with the plastic surgeon, he showed me many pictures on his camera of breasts that he had successfully reconstructed. (Go to the link above for the Blog post on this in July 2011, although I really down played his persistence back then.) I had to be pretty forceful and explain to him that I was happy with the look I had while dressed, my nipple was preserved, and while my breast was reduced in size considerably and deformed in shape, it filled my bra out pretty well, and I was good with that. I mean, I was 57 years old, overweight, and rarely wore a tank top. As I told him, "I didn't plan to wear a bikini any time soon." Reluctantly, he stopped calling me and let me be. I knew he was a professional, and apparently a perfectionist at his profession, but his persistence was a bit over the top, in my mind.

This subject arose again recently when I met with Dr. Elboim to discuss the upcoming mastectomy, if  my breast had healed up enough for the surgery. First off this won't be happening any time soon for reasons mentioned in this previous post. And it is apparent that there are new complications to prevent any further talk of reconstruction, which is quite fine by me.

But thinking back on this whole experience has reminded me what it was like. I am here to say that it is OK to chose it one way or the other, reconstruction or going flat. We as women have that choice, and no professional, plastic surgeon or otherwise, male or female, should try to make us feel like we don't have that choice, or that one way is the "right" way. But to help those torn with the decision, here is a wonderful article at Breastcancer.org to help you. Just click on the text below to navigate to this article.


I hope this helps!




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.



Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ladies Lunch

Our local group of ladies, kind of a cancer support group so to speak, got together recently for our monthly lunch. This time we each brought a bag lunch and met at Meg's special private picnic spot under a large grove of gigantic Redwood trees at a lovely shady spot overlooking Glen Ellen. 

We had time to share cancer updates, talk about family, and just have a lovely afternoon in this special spot. Although we were missing two of our group this time.





We are truly blessed to have each other for support.


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, September 7, 2016

Chemo #18; Abraxane #10

It's hard to believe that I've been back to this cancer center and infusion room 18 times so far now for chemo infusions since March 1, 2016.  18!!! I never thought I'd be back here when I completed "the lost year" in 2011, a year of breast cancer treatment (chemo, surgery, and radiation). And then that year quickly morphed into a few more with heart failure to the point I was being counseled for a heart transplant. Thankfully my heart has improved significantly, but it will never be the same. And the heart failure is thought to be brought on partially by one of my chemo drugs from 2011.

You just never quite know what to expect when you hear those words "liver lesions consistent with metastases", especially when you went in thinking you had a kidney stone or stones. How will you react to the report that you have Liver Metastasized Breast Cancer? I don't think anyone really knows what they will do, how they will feel, or how their spouse, children, siblings, and loved ones will react. 

But when life throws lemons at you, you must make lemonade. And that's what life has thrown at me, so I'm squeezing them lemons. And no, I do not feel like I did anything to deserve this. I know this is just the luck of the draw; that cancer has no plan and can strike anyone at anytime. What I do not like the most, though, is the fact it came back the way it did. Because I know there are millions of other unsuspecting women who think that they have dodged a huge bullet when then complete their Stages I through III treatments, and feel so relieved that now they can get on with life. And then, just maybe, WHAMMY!!! But, maybe not, too. So we must go on living each day to the fullest.

Now I didn't intend to start out this Blog post with this. I had planned to go over my office visit details and changes. But when I sat down to write, and that first sentence hit the page, the rest just followed.

So now I will get onto my original intent...

I saw the Nurse Practitioner, Teresa Mortensen on Thursday. Dr. Anderson had a meeting. I've met with her two other times, and have always been pleased with our discussions, so no problem for me. Since I don't see her regularly, she went over recent history very thoroughly. I explained how the Capecitabine/Xeloda was approved and I was waiting on delivery. 

Capecitabine/Xeloda
  1. She suggests I be sure to tell my pharmacy I am taking it, since it is coming from a "specialty" pharmacy as it is not carried "by just any regular local pharmacy", in case of any conflicts with other meds. She reminded me of the most serious side effect, which is severe diarrhea, apparently to the point of dehydration causing hospitalization. If any diarrhea occurs, I am to stop the medication immediately and call my Oncologist. It may be that I'll just need a break for a couple of days, and then can resume.  
  2. I need to be sure and drink lots of fluids.
  3. There is a strong potential for hand & foot syndrome; so I need to slather hands and feet twice a day with lotions, such as, lubriderm or bag balm (a low alcohol, low perfume lotion). She also recommends I keep a close eye on the current heal peeling and tenderness I have been experiencing.
  4. Because of the hand and foot syndrome, I need to be careful of constricting clothing, jewelry, or doing any posture with knees or elbows resting on hard surface for prolonged period.
And there is a two-page list of other warnings that just arrived with the drug on Friday. Scary stuff!! 

I told NP Mortensen about the breast change, and how the blistering effect seems to be reappearing after it had shrunk down to almost nothing by early October. I expressed concern in my wanting to be able to keep up chemo on a weekly basis to get it back under control. She examined me and listened to my heart. Then we went over my blood work and apparently all the numbers were even slightly lower than last week: White blood count - 2.94 (normal is 4.6-10.2); Platelets 129 (142-424); Neutraphils - 29.1 (37-80); Hematocrit 26.9 (37.7-47.9); and Red Blood count - 2.65 (4.04-5.08);  HGB 8.9 (12.20-16.20).
Her concern is that I won't be able to do chemo next week at this rate. So we discussed the option of an injection to help my body boost up my blood levels so they don't fall further. Apparently there is some thought of doing less in this area, and Dr. Anderson has expressed such to me. But after consulting with her on this, we both felt it was necessary at this time. So I will return on Sunday and Monday mornings for a Granix injection each morning. Granix works by stimulating bone marrow to make more white blood cells. This effect helps lessen the risk of serious infections after chemotherapy. This injection can cause pain from the effect of pulling from blood marrow. Claritin is known to reduce the bone pain, or any of the other arsenal of pain meds I have should work as well. Hopefully when I return for chemo on next Wednesday, blood counts will be better.
NP Mortensen also asked about my appointment with Dr. Elboim, so I filled her in on these details as well.

Lastly, we discussed the thought of taking melatonin; both as a sleep aid and as another thing to help work on the cancer, after my consult with Danielle Schwaderer, ND. She did not see any contraindications with my other meds, but did suggest running it by my cardiologist as well.

So you can see, we covered a lot of information and again my head was swimming as we left her office and Sarah and I proceeded into the infusion room for my chemo infusion. And all went well there. I was very tired and thought for sure I would nap. But since chemo only lasts about 1.5 hours these days, we visited a bit, and I did some knitting on my Stonington Shawl. Then we headed into scheduling to set up a few more appointments and the Granix injections for Sunday and Monday.
 



YIPPEE... When we returned home from chemo, I received a call from Diplomat Pharmacy with the approval for my Capecitabine tablets (chemical name for Brand drug Xeloda. UPS should be delivering this special chemo drug Friday; and I will take two tablets morning and two tablets night, for one week on. Then take one week off; and repeat this regime. I have met my prescription dollar max for the year, so the drug is 100% covered by insurance, which is another "Yippee" in my mind. Now I just need to leave a note out since they require an adults signature to deliver this drug, and we may be both be away when it arrives.


And on Friday, the Capecitabine/Xeloda was delivered as anticipated. It is kind of scary to consider taking this drug, with all the warnings about side effects and symptoms. But on Saturday morning I will begin taking it.


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.





Naturopathy

I was very inspired and excited after my first visit with Dr. Danielle Schwaderer, ND at the Cancer Support Sonoma office and Sonoma Valley Hospital last week.

She gave me some suggestions of changes, recommendations on supplements, and took down all my information so that she could do some research and get back to me with more detailed ideas of how to better my health and deal with the breast cancer that has also ravaged my liver. I am so hopeful that her guidance, along with the guidance from my trusted Oncologist, will help to give me more quality time with the ones I so dearly love. Thank you Dr. Danielle!

So here is what I am doing for now:
  1. I sent her my recent blood work reports. 
  2. I will be looking for a new multi vitamin with B's and folate in active forms; such as methylcobalamin, 5-MTHF folate. Brands to look for are Thorne, Designs for Health & Pure Encapsulatums.
  3. Try to have smoothies five times a week for one month, include chia seeds for fiber.
  4. Have 3 servings of veggies per day; even if they are all in my smoothy.
  5. Consider melatonin protocol (both for sleep and breast cancer) - visit Sonomaroots.com/blog for more details on breast cancer benefits. Start slow and work up dosage.
This all seems very doable for me, and I think I am on track so far.

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.





Monday, September 5, 2016

The Sexual Aftermath of Cancer

The sexual aftermath. Did I just write that?

It is not something many of us really want to talk about, but it is the raw truth that those faced with this disease need to know. Medication plays havoc with all parts of our bodies, not just the hair and boobs.

Fred Hutch shares the raw truth in this very telling article, The Sexual Aftermath of Cancer.


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.