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.

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.

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!!!

THANKS for visiting! Comments are good. I look forward to your comment.

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

Life is Good...

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

THANKS for visiting! Comments are good. I look forward to your comment.

Monday, September 21, 2015

It's About Time

Did you know that...

It's About Time...

Metastatic Breast Cancer Facts

30% of people initially diagnosed with early stage disease will develop metastatic breast cancer.
20% to 30% of people initially diagnosed with early stage disease will develop metastatic breast cancer.
Metastatic breast cancer – cancer that travels from the breast and spreads to other parts of the body – is treatable, but not curable. It affects up to a quarter of a million people in the U.S. every year.[i] Those with metastatic breast cancer face daily challenges, continued treatment regimens, anxiety and a whole host of emotions knowing they cannot be cured from their disease. But their stories remain hidden, or get lost, among the better understood realm of early stage breast cancer. These patients are often left feeling isolated and alone.[ii],[iii]

Despite its prevalence, metastatic breast cancer is still largely misunderstood. A recent national survey revealed that 60 percent say they know little to nothing about metastatic breast cancer and 72 percent believe that breast cancer in the advanced stages is curable if diagnosed early.[iv]

The survey results also show that it’s critical that we expand the understanding of metastatic breast cancer to the larger population. What the average person may not know is that, according to a study published in the journal, The Oncologist, roughly one in three – nearly 30 percent – of women diagnosed with early breast cancer will eventually progress to metastatic breast cancer.[v]

Individuals with metastatic breast cancer face the reality that as of 2014, the median survival of those who receive a metastatic diagnosis is only three years after diagnosis.[vi] They’re up against a clock – hoping for advances in the treatment of this disease and more time to live their day-to-day lives.

[i] Silent voices: women with advanced (metastatic) breast cancer share their needs and preferences for information, support and practical service.
[ii] Pfizer Inc. Bridging Gaps, Expanding Outreach – MBC Patient Survey. 2009.
[iii] Mayer M, Grober S. Silent Voices: Women with Advanced (Metastatic) Breast Cancer Share Their Needs and Preferences For Information, Support, and Practical Resources. Accessed on July 11, 2014.
[iv] Breast Cancer Survey, sponsored by Pfizer Oncology, April 2014
[v] O’Shaughnessy J. Extending Survival with Chemotherapy in Metastatic Breast Cancer. The Oncologist. 2005; 10: 20-29
[vi] Metastatic Breast Cancer Network. Most Common Statistics Cited for MBC. Accessed on May 19, 2014.

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

THANKS for visiting! Comments are good. I look forward to your comment.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

New York City to Require Menus to Label High Sodium Dishes

New York City to require menus to label high sodium dishes -- this is absolutely fantastic in my mind. The CBS Morning Show aired a piece on this topic.

You have no idea (or maybe you do if you have heart issues) how I struggle with eating out, or eating prepared food from a deli. Often times I'll think I'm making a good choice with something that seems safe, and then one bite into your mouth tells you otherwise, or so it seems. Of course it is usually just a suspicion until a bit later when my feet will swell a bit, and then I realize I need to take an extra diuretic to be safe.

So, my hope is that this trend will spread, and we can all make better choices when eating out or purchasing prepared foods. Thank you NYC, for paving the way into healthier food choices for one and all.

Life is Good...

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

THANKS for visiting! Comments are good. I look forward to your comment.

Sunday, August 30, 2015


That is... Metastatic Cancer!

Become educated. There are more people walking around with metastatic cancer than you realize. I for one have four close friends with it. And as I typed this number, I first thought it was two, then three. Who knows, it is probably even higher, but I am trying not to dwell on that at the moment.

I'm not sure what is happening that this seems so prevalent now. Is it just me? Is it our world, our food system? I don't think we can put "the blame" anywhere; but we can become educated and compassionate; and especially learn a better way to respond to Mets when we need to.

The few moments it will take you to watch this short video will help. Please take a moment.



Monday, August 24, 2015

So Much Love & Support

On August 18th, I had my follow up appointment with Dr. Sanjay Dhar, the Santa Rosa Cardiologist, bar none; along with Dr. Michael Fowler of Stanford Medical Center -- well, at least in my eyes! There is something about your cardiologist getting excited about your improvement, truly excited, and sting I celebrate with champagne. He did follow that with, "...a sip of champagne, share it with a few people. Don't drink the entire bottle yourself!"

His excitement was over my Echo Cardiogram performed in July at Stanford, which reflected an Ejection Fraction (EF) of 40.2%

When I asked if he thought I might see further improvement down the road, Dr. Dhar went on to share that he is limited with the tools at his disposal, and that sometimes results such as mine just cannot be explained. He asked me to keep doing as I had been, and to be thankful for all the love and support I have received from family and friends to help me get to this place.

As we walked from the office after my appointment, Mark and I reflected on my condition the first time I entered this office. The fact I walked very slowly, and had to stop to catch my breath. I was in very, very poor health with an EF of 12-18%.

Needless to say, it was time to celebrate with a sip of champagne.

Life is Good...

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

THANKS for visiting! Comments are good. I look forward to your comment.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cancer Support Sonoma

If cancer is part of your life, or a loved one's life, and you live in or near Sonoma, check out the wonderful cancer support program at Sonoma Valley Hospital, right in our own back yard --  Cancer Support Sonoma.

Cancer Support Sonoma is a new program to help people with cancer find support and improve their quality of life. 

As their Home Page states...
"The program is operated by the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation in partnership with the North Bay Cancer Alliance. It is located within Sonoma Valley Hospital and operates on a twice-weekly schedule, with appointments available from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The program offers complementary therapies to help cancer patients reduce the symptoms of treatment such as fatigue, nausea, depression and anxiety. We offer a variety of therapies including acupuncture, oncology massage, nutrition counseling, naturopathic counseling (vitamin/herb/medication review), jin shin jytsu (Japanese acupressure), Feldenkrais, guided imagery, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and sound healing.

Services are provided in a private suite of rooms, located on the third floor of Sonoma Valley Hospital, which has been remodeled to offer a healing environment. Our goal is to help cancer patients get back to more fully living their lives."
Please review the center's FAQs for more detailed information about the program.  If you are interested in participating in Cancer Support Sonoma, they ask that you fill out a patient intake form and contact  707-935-5244, or email to to schedule an interview.

And I'd like to add that a very dear friend, Karen Cahill, CMT, provides the oncology massage services at Cancer Support Sonoma; and another dear friend's daughter, Dr. Danielle Schwaderer, ND, provides Naturopathic Medicine for this wonderful program.

Please share this information with anyone you feel may benefit from this wonderful program right here in our Valley.

Life is Good...

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

THANKS for visiting! I look forward to your comments.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I'm Walking On Sunshine, Whoa.oh....

HOLY MOLEY... 40%!!!  It is so hard to believe it is possible. Am I dreaming?

That is a 40.2% EF (Ejection Fraction)

Which is up from 15-18%!

On Monday I had my routine followup visit at Stanford Medical Center with my Cardiologist, and well known and respected Stanford heart transplant surgeon, Dr. Michael Fowler. Also scheduled was an Echo cardiogram test of my heart, which had not been performed for nearly 18 months, and which previously reported an EF of 18% both in August 2013 and January 2014, not to mention the Echo with my Santa Rosa Cardiologist, Dr. Sanjay Dhar in July and October 2013 which reflected an EF of about 12-15%.

And all of these previous numbers, as well as other exams of me, my heart, and failing condition, made me a sure candidate for a heart transplant; as hard as those words were and still are to say and type. But, you see, I was not a heart transplant candidate because I was not yet 5 years cancer free. So the LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) procedure was being planned, which is considered a Bridge-To-A-Transplant therapy. Mark, Alura & I even went through the LVAD training in April of 2014. Yes, just that short time ago, a little over a year ago. The funny thing was, that from January to April 2014, I had started to feel oh so much better.

As I look back now, from my diagnosis in June 2013, right at the end of a wonderful trip we had taken to celebrate our 40th anniversary, it really wasn't that long of a time. But the way I felt, and how quickly I declined, from that June until January 2014, was something I hope to never EVER experience again. Not being able to walk up a half flight of stairs, or make the short walk out to our alpacas, or do really anything for that matter other than sit around, with terrible edema, bloating and indigestion, hardly any appetite, unable to sleep without several pillows, gasping for air. Oh my, these memories are almost too much. But it is good to remember and reflect, AND be oh so thankful.

At the time, Dr. Dhar immediately referred me to Dr. Fowler at Stanford. And I know why. He too knew that a heart transplant was my only hope. Thankfully, though, the latest technologies and medications helped me so much, and my very strict regime (on doctors orders), of treating sodium as an allergen and keeping it to a very minimum in my diet. Then there was the recommendation to be as active as my heart would allow. All this, and the horrible indigestion, helped me to drop 40 lbs, and I know that was a huge contributing factor in my improvement as well. Less weight, meant less work for my failing heart.

While all this was going on, I went through test, after test; and several changes and increases in medications. Then there was the Holter Monitor, and the three grueling months with the Zoll Lifevest, which is an external defibrillator -- a cumbersome gadget, worn 24/7 like a back pack, with a huge controller over my shoulder and a long "tail-like" cord attached to the vest which hung down off my back. It was uncomfortable to sleep in, and just depressing to wear. But it had a job to do and I was glad to have it there just in case. Finally, after 3 months of the vest, Insurance approved an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator), which is surgically implanted into the chest wall, just above the left breast, and has two leads (wires) that go into the two chambers of the heart. Mine was implanted on October 25, 2013.

The ICD is not a pacemaker. It is a defibrillator calibrated to shock the heart back to life whenever alerted to do so, based on settings individual to the patient. I later learned that this gadget also took all sorts of readings that the technician and doctor would "interrogate" at each appointment, and read to see all the history captured since the last appointment. An ICD will also pace the heart back into rhythm, should that be necessary, trying to avoid the shock if possible. Fortunately, I have never been shocked. I hear it can feel like a horse kicking you in the chest - YIKES!

The ICD surgery went well, with the exception that I caught a very nasty cold right afterwards, fever and all, and my ICD immediately had to pace my heart and I felt absolutely horrible for quite some time. As a matter of fact, I felt very bad for the next 3+ months. It was not until I saw Dr. Fowler in January 2014, when he made adjustments to all my medications, and then talked very seriously that we prepare for transplant or LVAD. The thought on the LVAD is that it would then move me into the transplant wait list, even with the cancer history; and keep me going until transplant, or possibly even without transplant. These were some pretty scary times. The LVAD training alone was enough to scare me out of my skin; not to mention Mark and Alura, who were there with me for the training in April 2014.

But low and behold, the changes in medication, and possibly some new probiotics I began to take, along with the continued lifestyle changes, all took effect and I began to feel better immediately. I began to walk a bit when I could, sometimes only to the mailbox. But heck, that was a huge accomplishment. I had lost some weight. And, I began to sleep better. So even though we had the LVAD training, we all knew, even Dr. Fowler, that the procedure probably would not take place, at least not right away.

So dial ahead about 15 months, and here we are today. Sorry for the long recount of things, but it just seemed important to tell this story and share with you how instrumental this new EF number is in the scheme of things.

The left ventricle is the heart's main pumping chamber, so ejection fraction is usually measured only in the left ventricle (LV). An LV ejection fraction of 55 percent or higher is considered normal. An LV ejection fraction of 50 percent or lower is considered reduced. Experts vary in their opinion about an ejection fraction between 50 and 55 percent, and some would consider this a "borderline" range.
Keep in mind that ejection fraction is just one measure of heart function. Even with a normal ejection fraction, overall heart function may not be normal.

So you can imagine that my previous EF of 18% was quite low and very serious. But an increase to 40% is HUGE, and makes my heart sing. AND, so much more closer to the normal range.

So I'll take it, and be very grateful for all that I have -- a loving husband and best friend, amazing daughters and SIL's along with the three most adorable grandchildren in the world. And oh, did I mention the most supportive sisters and brothers, and all their families. And then there are amazing cousins and friends galore. You are all so wonderful and have supported us both during the last five years of cancer and heart disease. We love you all and thank you for standing with us through thick and thin.

 Mark and I doing the Happy Dance at Stanford Medical Center.

 Celebrating Madeleine's 1st birthday this past weekend. 
There will be many more for me to share in!

Life is Good...

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

THANKS for visiting! I look forward to your comments.