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.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Spoke Too Soon ~ Rads Suck!!!

Did I really say radiation was a "piece of cake compared to chemotherapy"? If not here, I have said it to friends when they ask how I am. Haven't I learned to zip it when I think things are going just too well to be true? I take it all back now.

While radiation may not be as long as, or as debilitating as, chemo; right now, at this place in time, it is definitely challenging.

It is the skin breakdown that is getting me down. I sort of thought that because I rarely burn from the sun, have that Italian/Portuguese olive-toned skin; that I might escape some of the side effects I've read about. NOT! Considering about half of my left breast has lost the top layer of skin, and that doesn't even include the 4" area under my arm that is also raw, tender, itchy and painful; I'd say I'm experiencing some of the worst side effects of breast radiation. My entire nipple and areola are raw and void of skin layer #1. And each time I apply neosporin to prevent infection, or one of my other soothing healing creams, more skin rubs off. Sadly to say, I am now like those I've read about, almost unable to wear much on my skin because even the slightest rubbing of cloth is very irritating. I have found that those soft cotton tanks with the bra shelf, worn inside out so the elastic isn't right against my skin, helps only minimally. Best is a soft cotton sports bra, since then my other clothes aren't moving right over my breast and irritating it. This sure makes the statement Save the Ta-Tas a reality to me.

So far some Tylenol is giving me some relief, and I still have a good supply of hydrochodone as backup, if needed.

A 3-day weekend planned working on projects ended up being one mostly on the couch watching 911 memorials and a movie or two. But as I have surprised my family many previous times, like the Vermont Inn to Inn trip Mark took me on only after I had been cycling for 3 weeks,  and the wonderful REI kayak trip in Ucluelet BC when a storm rolled in and we had to hurry and kayak back to our camp with our guide ahead of us as Mark and I paddled our hearts out to keep inching forward. All this in 3-4' swells -- all the while Mark watching me and my boat dip out of site in the swells and white caps, and worrying about me being able to paddle against the current and make it back. Our guide nicknamed me rowing machine after that journey. And did I tell you that the guide was towing in the other couple during this ordeal. I am stronger than some realize, both in strength and determination -- especially when put to the test... even stronger than I realize. So cancer doesn't have a chance with me.

Radiation scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday did not take place. The equipment could not be adjusted exactly as they wanted. So modifications were made each day to the piece they cut specifically for my boost sessions, and radiation finally took place today, Thursday. My skin appreciated the break in treatment, as did I. So we will add these two days on to the end of the treatment. So I got a 5-day weekend instead of three. Although I made the trip there expecting treatment. Lord knows my skin is very appreciative!  :-)

The comical part of the delay was the emergency evacuation that took place yesterday while I was on the table and the doctor and technicians were making adjustments and trying to figure out how best to get me set up for the following day. I was laying there on the table while they were all out of the room consulting on the situation when I heard an alarm. It was a loud alarm, much like a fire alarm, or so I thought. I'd say it went off for a minute or more, but felt like much longer. I was talking softly out loud to myself saying, "Hello, would someone please come in and let me know what is going on." Finally, the doc and a technician came in and told me they needed to get me off the table (or couch as one technician calls it) because a fire alarm was sounding. The doc reassured me that there was no fire and that I could put something more on than the skimpy cape before evacuating the building with everyone else. As we were leaving the radiation room, she changed her mind and said "they" wanted us to exit immediately. I am familiar with these things. After all, I was in charge of safety at my last two jobs and coordinated the evacuation drills and such. I was more than happy to exit the building. Thankfully one of the nurses brought out blankets for us to throw over our shoulders because it was a cool foggy morning.

Only after a few minutes of waiting two fire engines and their crews arrived to do a quick check and determine that the construction crew working on the remodel had set off the alarm. Thankfully this all did not take too long because this was the day Mark and I were going to Davis to visit the kids and Nicolas. Nicolas is growing like a weed and eating to match that growth.


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


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