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, February 9, 2016

Share The Journey

Share The Journey: Mind, Body, and Wellness after Breast Cancer 

I've just downloaded a new app, which was shared by my dear friend, Kate Farrell, of Paradigm Shift Therapeutics. And I've already signed up and gone through the questionnaires. This looks like a wonderful tool for any woman, especially those after breast cancer. It's all about mind, body, and wellness after breast cancer. Here is a bit from the site, if you are inclined not to click on the link at this time.



About this Study

How can we better manage the symptoms after breast cancer treatment together? Sage Bionetworks, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit research organization, invites you to volunteer in a new approach to monitor health in women using mobile apps. Share the Journey: Mind, Body and Wellness after breast cancer is a clinical study that aims to understand the symptoms after breast cancer treatment, why these symptoms vary over time, and what can be done to improve them.


New technologies allow people to record and track their health and symptoms in real time. Share the Journey will use surveys and phone sensor data to collect and track five common symptoms that can persist after breast cancer treatment: fatigue, mood and cognitive changes, sleep disturbances, and reduction in exercise. Some participants will be invited to keep a health diary. The app will allow you to track these symptoms and others of your choosing, review trends, and provide your insights to researchers and the breast cancer community about how your symptoms might change day to day. This study is unique in that it allows participants to step up as equal partners in both the surveillance and management of their symptoms as well as in the research process.

How this Study Works


The Share the Journey app will ask you to answer questions about yourself, your medical history, and current health. The app may ask you to perform specific tasks while using your mobile phone, such as to provide a journal about your week with symptoms. To better understand the way that your symptoms are affecting your life, we will ask you permission to collect data from your phone itself, such as how much you move in one day. Providing this information is optional.
Our goals are to understand the causes of the symptom variations after breast cancer treatment; to learn how mobile devices and sensors can help us to these symptoms and their progression; and to ultimately improve the quality of life for people after breast cancer treatment.
If you, or someone you know, is dealing with or has dealt with breast cancer, suggest they check this out. So far, I think it is a great tool.


Here's to our health...


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 comments.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Good News...

... But this infection was a hard one to whip!


It is now 8 days since my last post and the breast infection was vigilant and hard to whip into shape. The antibiotics just kept it at bay until the intestinal issues started in at day 25. So after my intestinal flora had been stripped of all its wonderful healthy bacteria, I spent 3+ days near the toilet and dealt with some other antibiotic side effects (you know, ladies) GRRRR. I know TMI, but hey, you came here to read this Blog about cancer, heart failure, and me. So there you have it.

Mind you, I guess I had a good bit of healthy bacteria to sneak by that long, thankfully. As the doctor warned me several times that this might be an issue and that it was typical with this drug. And added that the drug is absolutely the best to fight a breast infection. So when it first hit, I thought perhaps it was from some rich food I had over the weekend. You see, I've been concentrating on a "Good Gut" ever since I read the book this summer, The Good Gut, by Drs. Justin and Erica Sonnenburg. I make my own Kefir and drink a bit of it every day, take a heavy duty probiotic capsule often, drink kombucha, eat yogurt, and try to get in enough good fruits and veggies. This, I believe helped me to ward of the gut problems for so long.

And thank goodness that a fun camping weekend away on the beautiful Mendocino County coast was had before the issues began. So when on Monday I knew there was an issue, I stopped the antibiotics. By Wednesday evening the breast was pinking up again, but I told myself I would give it until the morning. And the next morning, the breast continued to look just slightly pink and was slightly warm, but not alarmingly so. 

Now backup to Tuesday morning when I placed a call into my doctor to discuss these issues. Additionally, I wanted to run by Dr. Shaw the technique of aa warm compress using castor oil, which is followed by very light oncology massage. My good friend and Certified Oncology Massage Therapist, Karen Cahill, CMT of KBC Oncology Massage, had mentioned massage for scar tissue to me and so she did some research and learned of this technique with the castor oil. (Karen has a Facebook Page too here.)

Unfortunately, my doctor's office was swamped this week due to Dr. Elboim's return from a week off due to a family emergency. He was the one I was scheduled to see this upcoming Monday. Rather than get my questions answered over the phone, they got me in to see Dr. Elboim this morning, January 15th. So I was able to discuss everything in detail with him. He was very patient and thorough with us, heard us out completely and gave me options. I like options.

 

First and foremost, surgery is not urgent.

 

Second, infection has resolved and inflammation calmed to where I do not need the antibiotics.

 

I am to continue probiotics for at least another week. Although I will continue my normal regime mentioned above long term. I can choose to do nothing and see how I do. The lump "might" absorb some on its own, but not 100%. Elboim said maybe 25% is more realistic. All the ultrasounds and mammograms I've had since September, and back into May, show no signs of cancer! But should I choose surgery, a biopsy of the tissue will be performed, as in all surgeries (I was told).  Dr. Elboim stated, "This is not IBC (Imflammable Breast Cancer)". He suggested I reassess my situation frequently to see where I am and how I feel.

Dr. Elboim went on to say that breast reconstruction is not really an option for me, due to radiation 4.5 years ago. Naysayers, please don't go there. I had already decided against it. I do not want reconstruction, nor do I want to get my "good" breast involved. End of discussion.

If I decide surgery is my choice, a subtotal mastectomy is probably the best. Elboim can try to save some breast, but to remove it entirely would be best to allow for a best-fitting prosthetic. Why leave a little nub? No muscle needs to be removed, nor any lymph nodes. I would need a drain for 7-14 days. We took home about a 20-page handout on the subject. I think it is similar to the one I received 5 years ago, but will take a peak later if/when I get to that point. And of course there are risks to everything. 

Dr. Elboim thought there would be no harm in the castor oil compresses & massage, provided the compresses are just warm and not hot, and massage is very gentle. So I will consider this and talk to Karen.

There was another technique called fat graphting he mentioned. It is experimental and performed on non-healing wounds, but it really didn't sound like it would be appropriate or effective for my situation. But I will definitely do some research.

So there you have it -- There is hope. And I am feeling pretty good right now. I will sleep on all this, give it some time, and go from there.

Here's to our health...


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 comments.






Thursday, January 7, 2016

More Tests & Sadly...

... More Surgery


Bottom line -- a mastectomy is more than likely in my future.

The back story is that back on May 11th I posted about some new tests brought on by my oncology check up and exam, which prompted a new mammogram, ultrasound, and then biopsy. All was well and good thankfully. The lump was found to be a fatty necrosis which can occur at the sight of surgery, or after an injury. Why it took 4.5 years for this to form, was unknown to all of us.

Then in September I went in for a repeat check and ultrasound, which I neglected to post about. Sometimes it feels like skipping over some of the worryful moments to concentrate on the happy times and events of life, is much better. The ultrasound that September showed all was good, which again was a relief. At the conclusion of the ultrasound, I asked the radiologist if I should just stop "messing with it", as it was annoying to me and I would find myself massaging the lump (the size of a walnut), to think I might break down the fatty necrosis and help it to absorb or something like that. He said, "Just forget about it all together. Don't worry about it". Well I tried to do that.

When I saw Dr. Amy Shaw, my oncologist, for a follow up on November 9, 2015, we discussed having the lump removed. By now it was 3 cm, fairly hard, and I could feel it when I hugged someone, plus it was starting to hurt when I wore some of my bras. Basically, it was very annoying and bothering me constantly. My question to her was wouldn't it just return again if the prior surgery was the cause in the first place. A few weeks later I emailed her assistant to discuss more concerns, as I could not get it off my mind. We both agreed that it was time to see my surgeon, Dr. Charles Elboim, for a consult. Since this wasn't urgent, I was trying to work around my schedule and some commitments I had during the month of December. It looked like the date that would work best for me was in early January. Then, as I was about to leave my Nurse Practitioner daughter's home, after one of my 2-days of spending time with my sweet two little grandchildren, I asked her to look at the lump for me. And she did. She suggested I needed to be seen the following day and should not put it off another moment. Her concern, confirmed my concerns. And unbeknownst to me at that moment, my whole breast had become swollen, red, puffy, and warm to the touch. This had come on just in the last few days and I'm sure glad I had her take a look for me.

I returned from Alura's late on a Thursday night, and called my oncologist at 8am the next morning, Friday. They got me right in that same morning a couple of hours later on December 18th. Mind you, this was not how I had planned to spend the day before hosting 30 people for our family gathering of all my siblings, nieces, nephews, extended family, and a few close friends. I was supposed to be shopping and cooking and cleaning and.... you get the drift. But no, not only did I have an exam, but as I was sitting in the parking lot telling Mark the latest, and planning to run a few errands for the big day tomorrow, I got the call to come back in as they had a slot for me for an Ultrasound. They followed that with a full Mammogram. And then I went to pick up a prescription. Oh well, the party will happen no matter what, and no one will be the worse from it, or know what is going on until I have the full story, or so I told myself. As I have said over and over again; one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. And so it was.

During this appointment with Dr. Shaw on Friday, it was apparent that I had an infection, perhaps mastitis, which basically is any kind of infection in the breast. She put me on an antibiotic and scheduled me to see the surgeon right after the weekend, on Monday.

When I saw Dr. Charles Elboim on Monday December 21st, we discussed many options. He reported that the size of the lump had increased from 3 cm to 4 cm in one month. He told me that the blood supply to this area of my breast was likely reduced considerably due to surgery and because of this my breast could not maintain healthy tissue. Why it had taken 4.5 years from surgery, he could not say. He repeated that all things pointed to this lump being benign, but that only surgery and biopsy of the removed tissue could tell 100% that this was not cancer. He seemed concerned that the area was still somewhat inflamed, but much improved from just a few days earlier. He did encourage me to get a refill on the 10-day antibiotic in case it did not subside completely and we were in the midst of a holiday or weekend. Oh was he ever on target here. He went on further to say how it might start to drain on it's own as this sometimes happened. We also talked about surgery options; further breast reduction, or full mastectomy; and his concern for surgery with my serious heart condition and how he would be sure not to put me at further risk in this area.

I left Dr. Elboim's office with the paper script for a refill if need be and proceeded about our holiday preparations and such.  It was Monday, December 21st, I would spend 2 days watching my adorable grand kids in Davis to help out while there sitter was away for the holidays; then return home to prepare for a special Christmas Eve dinner for our daughters, their husbands, and our three most adorable members of the family -- the three most adorable grankids in the world (no bias here). :-)

All went well, and I continued the script of the antibiotics. We had the most wonderful holiday with the most precious people in my life; and they even all stayed over and awoke with us Christmas morning to the wonderment of two 4 year old boys, and one precious 1.5 year old little angel. But later Christmas Day I noticed that the breast was completely red and hot and inflamed again; even with the antibiotics. Dr. Elboim was spot on in suspecting this would happen, and I refilled the script after the 10 day supply.

So here I am, on January 8th after being on this antibiotic for 22 days; and while the infection is better, the breast is still inflamed. After seeing Dr. Shaw on the 5th, as Dr. Elboim was away, she told me how she and Dr. Elboim discussed everything and they both feel mastectomy may be unavoidable. While he could possibly save some of the breast, the size of this fatty necrosis has grown to a point that there is not much breast left. So I am continuing on the antibiotic for the time being, until Dr Elboim returns. This antibiotic is the best available for treating beast infections. But I cannot stay on antibiotics forever. Dr. Elbows will do my surgery with the a sedative, rather than full anesthesia, so as to prevent any risk to my heart.


And as I do a bit of online research about fat necrosis of the breast, I am learning it is somewhat common in breast cancer patients, after either radiation, biopsy, or surgery. While it can often be treated with massage and/or hot compresses, it appears mine is much too large, and with all the inflamation, I may need to resort to mastectomy. But I will do more research with this time.


I know it sounds very selfish, but one of the things I am saddened about is that now that I'm finally at a weight where I feel comfortable dressing in things that are a little more form fitting, I will need to wear a prosthetic to hide the deformity. And this really pisses me off. And NO, I have no interest in reconstruction. I know that I need to be grateful for my health. Especially when I see others who are not doing so well. I guess it is a process of grieving that I will get through in time.


I am so over this breast. Maybe I will just screw it all and go commando. The discomfort of this huge hard rock in my chest, and all the issues it is causing, are not worth the pride of having two boobs.


That is it, my friends, in all the gory details. I am blessed to have my family and loved ones. I am blessed to not be dealing with serious cancer issues as my brother-in-law, cousin and other dear friends are. I am blessed to still be here on this earth and to be enjoying my sweet grand kids and family. So I will embrace this new change as it occurs, and put one step in front of the other, go one day after the other, and live life to the fullest.



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 comments.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Did I Say We Had a Wonderful Holiday...




A Wonderful Holiday in pictures...


A lovely Thanksgiving with family at my brother's home in Petaluma:

Marie, our wonderful hostess & sister-in-law, Mark, and sister Christine

Christine & the grandsons mucking it up - Gaige & Nico

Me and most of my siblings; L-R is Nancy, Christine, Eddie, me, Matthew & Dan. Donna is missing, sadly.

 

A fun family day we host annually the Saturday before Christmas -- This year we enjoyed the company of our girls and their families, most of my siblings along with their children and some extended family, some neighbors and a handful of friends.

Guess who??? in the kitchen prepping for the gathering.

Alura with her Auntie, Marie Dallara

Me and sister Nancy Ann

Papa as he sent Gaige off that night in his reindeer jammies.

We were blessed yet again with both our girls and their families joining us for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, sleepovers with all 7 of them, and a joyous Christmas Day of toddlers and all the joy and laughter and energy that they give.

Alura, Grammie, and our little princess, Madeleine

Sarah and all the grandkids, Nico, Gaige & Madeleine
Sarah and all the grandkids, Nico, Gaige & Madeleine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then we topped it all off with New Year's Eve dinner with Sarah and family and another sleepover with grandson Gaige. Life is very good, and we are both so blessed.





Gaige is a great helper with morning chores.

Time to get more sand for the sandbox on New Year's Day.


Wishing you all the Happies of New Years...

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 comments.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Mindfulness & Tai Chi

Mindfulness

Anderson Cooper tells us how a story he did on Mindfulness changed his life. I found it very interesting and enlightening. View Anderson Cooper's short video here. You'll also find the full 60 minute program on this CBS webpage. But I think more importantly, listen to this short clip about  how Anderson Cooper really felt during all this.

I'm not meditating, YET, but I am taking Tai Chi classes and hoping this will bring me some of the mindfulness I seek to continue to bring me better health, mental attitude, and awareness. After all, Tai Chi is called moving meditation.

Now if I can just get down all the steps, that is the real challenge. I'm half way through the beginner class, and hear it takes 2-3 beginner sessions to get it all down.


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 comments.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

2 Years Ago Today -- ICD Surgery

It was two years ago today, October 28, 2013, that I had my trusty ole ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) surgery. I can say I could not be happier in looking back at this event and now knowing what it all really meant. I have never been shocked, thankfully; but I have been paced a few times. And the wealth of information that the device captures, tracks, and provides to my two Cardiologists is pretty amazing.

The best part of it all is that I am far improved, compared to two years ago. That probably has nothing to do with the ICD, but it is a good thing anyway. My Ejection Fraction is up to 40.2% and I am feeling much better. It's good to stay active, and I try to get out to walk a few times a week. Of course there are days when I don't have much energy, but I've learned to slow down when I need to. 

Thanks to the life-saving ICD, I was able to shed the Life Vest I was required to wear 24/7, and which prevented me from any water activities. So this past weekend, I was able to do a few laps in the pool and enjoy the hot tub at our hotel, instead of just sit on the lounge chair and observe.




And the best lesson I've learned is about taking my medications as prescribed and avoiding all sodium; or as much as possible. 

Oh; and to live life like there is no tomorrow.



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 comments.


YSC Tour de Pink 2015

In October, Mark and I r spent several days as part of the Cadence Sports Crew working the Young Survival (YSC) Tour de Pink (TdP), West Coast. It was hard work, long days, but a wonderful cause and felt so good to be involved.

200 miles ~ 3 days - hard work and dedication by young women diagnosed with Breast Cancer and their supporting friends and family. Also those who have lost a loved one from this terrible disease. It is really emotional to watch the participants interact with loved ones, and friends old and new.

And the icing on the cake was being able to see niece Jonnie, who drove up to see us at the finish line near San Diego.


And then we got in lunch and a visit with cousins Paula & Bruce.





A wonderful trip all around.


Until next year, enjoy these pics of the ride and event from the Tour de Pink website: Tour de Pink images, Days 1, 2 & 3.



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 comments.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Lunch Bunch

 


And I know of three of them just off the top of my head. Two are dear friends who I see once a month. We get together for lunch each month with a group of cancer survivors & metsters, and another friend who lost her husband to cancer. Then there is a blogger from a neighboring town who I have been following since I had breast cancer in 2011. She has MBC. And I wonder how many others I encounter on a daily basis who I don't even know about.

It's pretty sad how our group of 6 who meet monthly for lunch, as mentioned above, is growing. This summer we added another local gal who went through breast cancer treatment. And I just learned there is another local gal who may be joining us when we get together next week. We all would prefer to not have new members in our little "club"; but the odds seem to be against us. We can only hope that they go through their own "lost year"(as my husband called it when I was going through breast cancer chemo, surgery & radiation), and then are in remiaaion and get on with some form of normalcy to their lives. But statistics show that 20 - 30% of people initially diagnosed with breast cancer,  will later have a recurrence and develop metastatic breast cancer. And that frightens the heck out of me.



By bringing awareness to this subject through my Blog, I can only hope that future research will eventually find a way to prevent breast cancer before it even begins. Wouldn't that just be the best thing ever. But for now, it's all about time.And that is why I'm participating in the #ItsAboutTimeMBC #breast cancer awareness campaign. #ItsAboutTimeMBC highlights the importance of time to #metastatic patients. 


Did you know...

  • An estimated 155,000 Americans are currently living with metastatic breast cancer.
  •  Metastatic breast cancer accounts for approximately 40,000 deaths annually in the U.S.
  • Early detection does not guarantee a cure. Metastatic breast cancer can occur 5, 10 or 15 years after a person’s original diagnosis and successful treatment checkups and annual mammograms.
What does time mean to you? To me it means time with family, friends and loved ones. And tonight I did just that.

To learn more about the #ItsAboutTimeMBC campaign, and how you can get involved, visit http://itsabouttimembc.com/home/



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.