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.

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, January 19, 2011

1st Appointment with Dr. Elboim

My appointment today is at 10:00 am and we will meet Alura there at the office in Santa Rosa. Alura is there when we arrive and of course there are hugs all around. We check in at the 2nd floor reception desk and decide to wait in the adjoining room, since the main reception area is so full. There is no one else in this room, and it appears to be a resource center with books and computer terminals, as well as lots of puzzles. I’m nervous and distracted, so leave my knitting in my bag. Alura, Mark and I visit freely since there is no one there for us to disturb or overhear us.

The office is very prompt and Julie greets us and takes us back to the exam room. She weighs me, gets my height and blood pressure/pulse. I’m kind of surprised that my BP is very good right now, considering everything rolling around in my brain. Soon thereafter, Marlene (the NP) enters the exam room and we go over any other questions I might have, or questions from Alura and Mark. Then we wait.

It is not bad that we are waiting because we chat and talk about me, breast cancer, and other things. Julie comes back in as it is approaching noon and apologizes saying Dr. Elboim is running behind, she is very sorry, but he will be in soon. Alura asks if he will be bringing lunch. Of course she is starving by now and her snack is in the car.

When Dr. Elboim arrives, he gives me a hug. He is so very thorough, and such a kind gentle soul as well. Dr. Elboim reviews my patient history form with me and has a few more questions. He comments that I have done everything right; had kids before age 30, never smoked, drink wine in moderation, took birth control for only 1 year, never had hormone replacement therapy, etc....., but I am still here with IDC, Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. So we talk about about family history. There is no cancer to my knowledge in any of my 7 siblings, or my parents; not skin cancer, or any other cancer. That too is good news. My maternal great grandmother had a mastectomy in the early 1900’s and my sister’s and I were never sure of much more. I mean, back then, how sophisticated was testing. Did they find a lump and take her breast? Or did they determine it was cancer first? Who really knows.

I have a cousin on my Dad’s side who had breast cancer in her late 40’s and she is now over 10 years cancer free. Then there is a cousin once removed, again on Dad’s side who was about my same age a few years back when she had breast cancer. They have both already shared so much helpful information with me and I know they will be a great source of more info and support as I go through this process. I guess it is my responsibility to make sure my other cousins are informed as well. And I worry about my daughters.

Dr. Elboim also shares with us the risks of drinking, even in moderation. Apparently, 1 glass of wine a day brings a 3-5% risk of cancer. Increasing that to 2 glasses per day takes the risk up to 30%, and 3 glasses per day brings a 50% risk of cancer. I’m not sure if it is just breast cancer, or any cancer. And who knows how large that glass of wine is, probably only 6 ounces. But it is information worth noting.

So after reviewing my history, Dr. Elboim asking me questions, us all asking him questions, he does a breast exam. He does not feel any lumps in my armpit, but that is still not definitive of the cancer invading my lymph nodes. They won’t know this for sure until surgery is performed and sentinel lymph nodes are biopsied. Sentinel lymph nodes are found by injecting a radioactive substance and a blue dye into my breast just before surgery. The dye and radio isotopes will travel to the lymph node(s) most closely connected to the cancerous duct and those will be removed and immediately biopsied. If no cancer in the lymph nodes, then they will not remove any other nodes.

Dr. Elboim also suspects that my chest wall is not affected since the tumor(s) move around, but again, nothing for sure until surgery is performed.

I get dressed and he then takes us down the hall to his office so we can view the mammogram and ultrasound details. What he does inform us is that the measurement taken during ultrasound and mammography did not mark the edges the way he would have marked them. He would have determined the one largest tumor to be larger than the 2.5 cm on the report. The other one is measured at 1.8 cm. There is also a possibility of a third one, or perhaps all three are interconnected and this is one larger tumor. This is the part that has me pretty petrified. Especially since the pathology report identified the size as the size of the cells biopsied. That is the report I’ve been reflecting on since day 2, although I did see the mammogram numbers and wondered why such a large difference.

We return back to the exam room to discuss options and such. It is decided a breast MRI would be best to determine the size of the tumor and if a lumpectomy is possible. As it is, 1/4 of my breast would most likely be removed, given everything as suspected at the moment. At 2pm we leave with more information and to await the MRI appointment and to meet with the oncologist.

Since it is now so late in the day, Alura agrees to join us for lunch rather than return to work at UCDavis Med Center. We enjoy a delightful lunch of salads and pizza at Rosso Pizzaria and talk more about our latest situation.

By the end of the day, I have an appointment scheduled on Monday afternoon for a breast MRI and on Wednesday morning with the Oncologist Dr. Ian Anderson.

The fun begins.
I can only hope that the smile remains throughout most of this process.

Things are progressing at a good pace now, so I feel much better about that. And now I have so much information from books, the binder from the hospital, and websites that I’m hardly able to find time to knit or weave.

But I did make time to ply some beautiful fiber I bought last August at GGFI and hand spun -- half on my Matchless wheel and half on a spindle. It is beautiful and I am looking for a project to create with it. I thought I would knit an alpaca blanket to keep me busy during all the upcoming appointments. But maybe this yarn will be the project instead.  :-)

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior


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