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.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Putting it All In Perspective

I like the social part of radiation better than chemo. Not that people weren't friendly at chemo, but I was usually there with a support "team" and so we visited among ourselves more than with other patients. And chemo patients are often times napping through the several hour treatment due to fatigue from the treatment or just the length of the treatment.

But at radiation... there seems to be much more communication and comparing. For one thing, the waiting room is separate from other patients waiting for chemo and such. When I arrive, I walk directly back to the radiation treatment department without checking in at the front reception area. Then I go directly to the ladies changing room and get into my gown. That is when we then wait in chairs to be called for our treatment.

I met a very nice older gentleman who finished up his treatment last week. His name is Paul. Funny how we all just have first names. You hear it each day as we are called in for radiation, whether we do introductions or not. He was in for prostate cancer. When he learned I was from Glen Ellen and attended Sonoma Unified School District, he asked about an old childhood friend from Southern California who was also a college buddy. It happens that this gentleman, Thomas Seal, was Mark's drafting teacher. Paul and Tom had lost touch after college. Since my reunion happened while Paul was getting treatment, I was able to do some research about Tom and share it with Paul. It is a small world sometimes, isn't it?

It is interesting how most men seem to be treated on the lower extremities, and women on the upper. You can tell by the way they have left some street clothing on and which gown they choose for treatment. I usually wear one of the capelets. 

So Paul is no longer in the mix, but now I am getting to know Kathy. Kathy is also in for breast cancer. She had another type of cancer 30 years ago at age 28, and now this. She did not have chemo this go round, but did have surgery. Now she is in for radiation and is a few treatments behind me. So she asks me how I am doing to get a feeling of how she might do. The other day I showed her the skin breakdown in the ladies changing room. 

Often times we barely get a sentence out with another patient in the waiting room before they are called back for treatment. That's just how it is in the radiation waiting room.

So today I met two new women in the waiting room. Well, we didn't actually introduce ourselves, and I forget the one's name who was called ahead of me, but perhaps we will run into each other again next week. One woman I saw as I walked into the facility and her hair was shorter than mine, which gave me a clue as to where she might be in her treatment. Turns out she was there today for her radiation setup/tattoo appointment. I told her how I was having more skin breakdown than I expected. She asked if I normally tanned easily, which I do. I thought this might protect my skin better. She had learned just the opposite... that fairer skinned people have less skin breakdown. She is fair skinned so I do hope that is true and she has less skin breakdown than I am experiencing. 

The other woman in rads waiting room is an African American woman I've seen there once before. Apparently she is back for a recurrence of cancer treatment and chemo from a year ago. She has triple negative breast cancer and told me that her chemo did little to shrink her tumor. So she had surgery, and now the cancer is back only a year after treatment. I will learn more about her situation when I see her next, but this really puts it all in perspective when I am apprehensive about taking Femara for the next five years, once radiation is over.  

Femara is a form of continued chemo. Although I was found to not be triple negative, which is why Femara has been prescribed (my cancer is estrogen receptive after all), this just puts things in perspective for me. It reminds me that cancer is now a part of my life. It won't just go away because I have finished chemo, surgery, and radiation. There will be continued tests and worries. But I will not focus on this "c" word. Instead, I will live my life knowing that I need to be careful about how I treat my body, and be on top of any symptom that may be of concern. And I will follow my doctors prescribed protocol but will ask all the appropriate questions so I am well informed. After all, they are the experts. Who am I to question their years of training and expertise. Ask me about alpacas and I know a lot. Ask me about medicine, and... :-)

So for now I will meet with Dr. Anderson in a couple of weeks to learn more about Femara and better understand why it is being prescribed. And I will ask him about this prickly pins-and-needles feeling I have experienced a few times just recently in my upper body and limbs, which may be a form of neuropathy from the chemo.


Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!


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