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.

Monday, January 31, 2011

To Port or Not to Port

Beam me up, Scotty!

So, you may have read the entry where I mention the Infusion Room. Sounds pretty luxurious, doesn't it? :-) Will I be infusing my hair in a lovely bath to make it dark and silky, or will I be infusing my body into a warm, steamy bath of oils and hydrating luxury. Nope, Nada, Absolutely NOT!

The Infusion Room is where I will have my veins and body infused with chemotherapy drugs. I think I'll stop with that description there so as not to scare you and me both at this moment.

The latest update is things have ramped up this week, as I suspected they might. I have all my pre-chemo tests set up and it will be a busy week. I finish up the week with the outpatient surgery to install/insert the port, which is about a 4 hour experience between prep, light sedation, and recovery.

These tests are to make sure "everything" is operating properly and I am ready for chemo, which will then tear it all back down. The side effects are so very scary, but what choice do I have? We just watched Crazy Sexy Cancer the other day and it has empowered me to bring some better health  practices back into my life. I can't believe where I was 30 some years ago when the girls were young, to where I am now. I mean, we are somewhat cautious about food and such, but I remember the food coop days that we were involved in here in Glen Ellen/Kenwood, using carob instead of chocolate, a sugar-less household, making my own whole wheat bread, and making so many other good (and sometimes not so well-received) dishes for the family. What the _ _ _ _  (heck) happened?

I guess it was just a busy, hectic lifestyle. So, I am on the hunt for a juicer and may try some yoga and meditation again. Can't hurt right???

This week is comprised of three days of different tests, which includes the port. I'm not sure when chemo starts, but it will be a 16 week ordeal, with one week on, one week off. I'll start with two drugs for 8 of those weeks, then they'll switch it to a different drug. Apparently there is all sorts of other stuff I'll be doing, like blood draws before each session to see if I've recovered enough. Then chemo is followed the day after with an injection or pill to bring the blood counts back up, hopefully, or the next chemo treatment may be delayed. Amongst all that, a slew of anti-nauseau stuff, etc. I'm still reading and learning, and a "chemo teaching" session will be scheduled for me before treatment. Can't wait.

I'm hopeful that the chemo treatment will start up next week or sometime soon thereafter. I'd like to get on with it and get IT all over with so I can get back to life as a survivor.

So what the heck is a "Port", you may ask.

Here is some info on the port: 
What is a Port Infusion?
A port infusion uses an under-the-skin (subcutaneous) port that has been implanted by a surgeon. The port is located either in your arm or your chest, (mine will be in my chest) and is connected by a soft, slim catheter tube that goes through your vein all the way to your heart. This catheter protects your vein during treatment. The port is an entry point that your infusion nurse can find each time you come for a treatment, and it can be used for a blood draw, as well as infusion of drugs. Your chemotherapy nurse will use a special type of needle to access your port, and won't have to hunt for a good vein to use. The needle will be taped into place to prevent it moving around during your infusion.

http://breastcancer.about.com/od/lifeduringtreatment/f/port_vs_iv.htm
http://www.breastcancer.org/pictures/treatment/chemo_port.jsp


One reason for the port is this: The chemo drugs are so caustic that if the IV were to leak,  the damage to the skin from the drugs would require surgery, and perhaps even plastic surgery. Ummm, order up a Port for me pronto, please!!!

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior

LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Skype

Donna and I tested out Skype last night. It was fun!! WE WERE SILLY!!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cleaning for a Reason

If you know any woman currently undergoing chemotherapy, please pass the word to her that there is a cleaning service that provides FREE housecleaning - once per month for 4 months while she is in treatment. 

All she has to do is sign up and have her doctor fax a note confirming the treatment. Cleaning for a Reason has participating maid service in limited zip code areas so please check the website to see if there is one in your area. This organization serves the entire USA and currently has 547 partners to help these women. 

It's our job to pass the word and let those in need know that there are people out there that care. Be a blessing to someone and pass this information along.

You may not know someone going through chemo, but someone on your email list might. Please forward!
Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior 

LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Can I Keep Up the Pace???

Can I really keep up this pace of fun? For now I will. As Mark says, "Deb, Do it while you can!"

Last night we enjoyed a delightful evening out for dinner with treasured friends we've not seen for a long time. Della Santina provided a perfect spot to reminisce, catch up, and just have lots of laughter. And boy did we laugh. I think that Mark needed this more than I did. He's been carrying the weight around the farm, as I've been going through all these emotions. And he is a trooper, MY ROCK, and my sweetheart. What more can I say. Thanks Ed, Jo, Mike & Jan. Thanks for the fun time and all the love and support!

And today I plan to spend some time with my local spinning group. We rotate amongst members homes and meet monthly to spin, or knit, visit, talk fiber, enjoy a pot luck, and just gather as girls and enjoy each other's company. I'm working on a beautiful brown alpaca project for a dear friend.

So while some of these fun get-togethers with friends and family have been long overdue... And while I'm going with the flow while I am up to it... This is my moment to remind us all that we can't wait for the times when we are faced with fear and unknown to make up for that lost time of togetherness with loved ones and long-time friends. We need to seize the moment NOW. Listen to me? I'm not all that good at practicing what I preach. Perhaps that is one of the things I will learn from cancer ~ SEIZE THE MOMENT! And if I am forced to thank cancer for even one thing, although I really don't plan to give cancer that privilege, it may be this ~ Don't take anything for granted AND seize the moment!

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior


LIVESTRONG: I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vocabulary of the week

The thing about cancer is that unless you or a loved one close to you has experienced it, or you are in the medical field, there is this whole new world of vocabulary that comes to you. Some of it is scary, some of it is almost funny, and some just plain interesting. 

So, I'm doing my best to get through my latest assignment of reading, Chemotherapy and You ~ Support for People With Cancer, which is a 60 page booklet to inform me on everything I need to know about chemo.  And then I will later go through a Chemo Teaching session with the NP to learn even more!
Thrombocytopenia: low platelet count

Neo-adjuvant chemotherapy: chemo used to make a tumor smaller before surgery or radiation

Port: a small, round disc made of plastic or metal that is placed under the skin. A catheter connects the port to a large vein, most often in the chest. The port is used to insert a needle into it to to give chemo or draw blood.

Infusion Room: The "salon" like looking room where chemo is "infused" into your body.

Chemo is designed to kill fast growing cancer cells. So it can also affect healthy fast growing cells; which include mouth, intestines, bone marrow, hair growth cells. Side affects: fatigue, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood cell count, hair loss, mouth sores, pain. There is also a risk of danger to heart, lungs, nerves, kidneys, reproductive organs.

Feelings during chemo: anxiety, depression, anger, helplessness, lonely, afraid.    HELLO!!!

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior


LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tests... Playing Around ~ Another Busy Day in the Life

Friday was a good day. I drove into Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for the blood work and to get all set up in their computer. It has been many years since I've had anything done at Memorial, and it is where surgery will eventually take place.

Mr. snoopy greeted me there near the entrance to Memorial hospital.

I also took some time to check up on the rest of the tests scheduled to happen; a Muga, which tests my heart strength and function, and a CT Scan of chest and abdomen. Good News: The insurance has authorized everything, and orders were faxed to Redwood Regional for all the orders. I'm told I should be hearing from them on Monday to schedule these appointments.

Then I learned more regarding the surgery to insert the port. This sounds like it is an all day event, with minor surgery. It will happen after all the other tests mentioned above and will be the precursor to the chemotherapy treatment. So I am very hopeful that the tests and port will all take place next week, the week of January 31st. Then, if the scheduling of chemo doesn't require a bunch more lead time, perhaps we can get this ball rolling the week of February 7th. Although from the looks of the infusion room yesterday, it appears that people are lined up to sit in one of those chairs and hang out for the good part of a day. :-(

The light note for today was spending a girls evening out with my sisters, Christine (aka Tine) and Marie (Matt's wife). We had a lovely evening out in Petaluma with dinner and a movie. As we were leaving for the movie, Tina presented me with a sweet gift from Kiana, my niece: A lovely note, a pen with a hand-made flower top, and some home-made treats (she is quite the cook and artist, all at 10 years young).

You rock, Kiana!

Dinner was "to die for" at a restaurant called SEA Thai in Petaluma. If you haven't been there, and happen to be in the area, you must try it. I understand they also have restaurants in Santa Rosa and Marin. YUM! And the movie was No Strings Attached with Ashton Kutcher & Natalie Portman, which was just what the doctor ordered ~ laughter, silliness, some tears, and a sweet ending. Thanks Tine and Marie. I loved it!

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior


LIVESTRONG: I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I So Appreciate Everyone and Everything

Today I heard from the Oncologists office and they are working out all the details for my scans, et al. I'll be going into Memorial for the blood work and everything else is in the hands of insurance for authorization. I'm hopeful that I'll have a regime of tests next week and chemo treatment will start early in February. 

Let's get on with it, I say!

AND Hugs to you all....

I just wanted to share with you all how much I appreciate the outpouring of love and prayers. Yes, we know we are loved by many. But it is odd how something that can feel so devastating at times reminds us how near and dear we are to you, and you are to us.

I know I keep speaking as "we". And even though Mark is strong and healthy as ever, I feel as though this is "we". He and I are two, but yet we are one. After 37 (nearly 38) years of marriage to my best friend in the whole world, it would be impossible for this to just be about me. It is about "us". He is already picking up the slack when I am on the phone, or reading my "Chemo and I" book, or just feeling down and "woe is me" all bundled up in a blanket on the couch.

The reading of material alone is almost overwhelming. My vocabulary is increasing in leaps and bounds, but not with all the lovely fiber/knit/spin/weave terms I would prefer.  The kitchen and living room are filled with breast cancer books and pamphlets, medication sheets, support leads. My knitting bag, spinning wheel, and looms are sitting there calling to me with one little tear droplet sitting at the corner of their eye. They are telling me, "Not to worry, Debbie. We are here waiting for you and pulling for you. We know you will have plenty of time for us, when you are up to it, in the next many weeks of chemo."

So back to the "we"... This is "our" new life for the next several months and probably a good part of 2011. And I think I am okay with it, or at peace with it all. Is Mark? I think so, but I wish I could spare him from it all. I think it may be harder on him to watch me going through all this. He is my rock, my soul mate. Without him I am not whole. We were just but kids when we married and immediately started a family. It really doesn't feel all that long ago when we were wed. He was 20, I 19, turning 20 in a couple of weeks. We have been together for 64% of our lives. Wow, I've never thought of it that way before.

So don't forget about him. When I am getting all this attention and invites to movies and lunch, and all sorts of fun stuff while I am still up to it. Check in on him now and again to see how he is doing. He really does enjoy a quick chat on the phone. Don't tell him I said so, and hopefully he won't read this post. Of course he will refuse your offers, so you must be sneaky and not act like it is about him.

So for now we take it one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. Step by step, inch by inch, closer and closer.......

Let's get on with it, I say!

AND Hugs to you all....
Debbie... aka the cancer warrior


LIVESTRONG: I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Unity is Strength, Knowledge is Power, and Attitude is Everything.

In the fight against cancer, we believe unity is strength, knowledge is power, and attitude is everything.
..... As my buddy Lance Armstrong personally wrote to me today.
Okay, Lance didn't write it to me personally. But I did get a packet today from LIVESTRONG with a guidebook and journal. And the first page of the guidebook contained a letter from my "buddy", Lance:
Cancer is a long, hard road. But if there's one thing cancer has taught me, it is that we are stronger than we think. The journey may be frightening and challenging. But when the way gets tough, we find the strength to go on. That's the message of LIVESTRONG.
 Cancer may leave your body, but it never leaves your life...
 ...Life is messy and this illness is messy...
We believe attitude is everything. Every day, you have choices about how to live. How will you spend your time and energy? Who will you spend time with? What will you do? LIVESTRONG, means living rue to yourself, your ethics, goals and dreams. 

Lance goes on to say how the LIVESTRONG Guidebook was created to help me (and you) not only live, but live life on your terms.

Thanks, Lance!

And especially thanks to Mark's coworkers for sending this packet to me. The people he has spent countless hours on the routing and signs team seeing that riders have their course carefully marked, the people who are up before sunrise to get out on the road and spend a long day with hardly a break for lunch. Then return late at night and get ready for the next day before getting a late night's dinner and then hit the sack. Thank you to them, the team he will sorely miss this year as he takes a break to be with me and care for me during this year of 2011, "this long, hard road".

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior


LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ready, Set, Go ~ Treatment Plan In Place

We have a plan! Which is a huge relief.
 I'm in the Que, and it feels good.

First off, I am pleased to say that the 7.9 cm tumor size reported to me yesterday after the MRI was a bit inflated. Actually, I probably misunderstood. The overall length of the tumor area is 7.9 cm, rather than the actual diameter. The number the doctor says we should refer to is actually 3-6 cm. While this sounds huge. It is not as "huge" as the 7.9 cm number I received yesterday. So I guess this is good.

So... Mark and Alura and I met with Oncologist Dr. Ian Anderson, of Redwood Regional Medical Group, for a good 2 hours. He reviewed my patient history form, asked some questions, then performed a physical exam. He returns after I dress to tell us about the MRI results, which I've summarized above. One thing I did not know is the MRI scanned the lymph nodes and they look clear. YIPPEE!!!!!

The appointment with Dr. Anderson was very positive. He talked and walked us through all the options, the pros and cons, what he felt was the best for me now considering the tumor size, fact that my cancer is estrogen negative, Lymph nodes do not er to be involved, etc. After about an hour or so, it is apparent that Mark and I are kind of overloaded with information. Alura takes up the note taking and we all continue to ask questions. 

After two hours of consultation with Dr. Anderson, I have decided that chemotherapy is my next step . In a nut shell, there is a 30% chance that my tumor could disappear altogether with chemotherapy, shrink somewhat, or stay the same. Chemotherapy will also tell us if my cancer is responding to the treatment. Chemotherapy will last 16 weeks and  be followed with surgery. Depending on how the cancer responds to chemotherapy, surgery will involve a lumpectomy or mastectomy. Once chemotherapy begins, I will be monitored. If at any time, the tumor size increases, chemotherapy will be stopped and surgery will take place. Surgery will most likely be followed by radiation.

All things considered, they will do some diagnostic tests, blood work, CT scan and bone scan, check my heart strength. Then a port will be inserted into my chest for chemotherapy treatment to begin soon thereafter.

I'm not sure yet when my chemotherapy will start, but it will involve 4 rounds of treatment with one med, for every other week. for 8 weeks. Then a new med is used for another 4 rounds for 8 more weeks. This means a 16 week period of chemotherapy. Each treatment is preceded by blood work to see if my blood counts are as is expected and needed for the treatment. The next day I go through a 3-4 hour chemotherapy treatment. The third day I will return for a drug to be administered that helps to bring my blood count back up to normal. The rest of that week I have off to recover, as well as the following week. The third week I return and start all over again. Doesn't sound all that bad, does it. :-) There are many side affects of course, but the alternative is one I can't consider. So I'm prepared for nausea, baldness, and exhaustion. I'm confident that everything will fall into place as far as scheduling within the next few days.

A funny story is that Dr. Anderson took us into the chemo treatment room so a nurse could check my veins to see if a port would be better for me. Both Mark and Alura looked around and said, "Wow what a great view." You would have thought we were in a spa or restaurant. Common guys, I'll be spending 3-4 hours here for chemotherapy. This ain't no spa. But YES, the view is very nice! :-) Besides, I have some knitting projects all lined up so don't expect to be gazing out the window all the time I'm there.

One new tidbit that the MRI showed is that my tumor is close to, or may be attached to, my chest wall. As Alura puts it, "That is why they are doing chemo, Mom". So logical and to the point. I love her to death. She makes it all sound so perfectly expected and "okay". 

When we three arrive home, we find Sarah here with lunch prepared for us. It was nice to spend the rest of the afternoon with our girls, talk about "things" and snuggle on the couch.

I AM BLESSED AND LOVED! 

I'M READY. BRING IT ON. I have my warrior suit all pressed and ready to go into battle. And Basooka Bear is ready at my side.

My hope is that everything will move quickly from here.

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior


LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

MRI Results

Yesterday was a mixture of happiness, healing, fun, and WORRY! After morning chores, I drove into Sonoma to spend the day with Sarah. We drove down to Sonoma Quilt, the new quilting store. It is fantastic. If you haven't been there, not only do they have loads of quilting supplies and patterns, but there is a huge selection of the most beautiful fabrics I have seen in a long time. I will surely be back when I feel I can take on a new craft.

I could say that Dr. Elboim saved me from spending money, but then I would have rather been shopping than to receive his call to share that my tumors (there are 3 for sure) are considerably larger than the mammogram or ultrasounds determined. Today's appointment with the oncologist will give me the opportunity to share more news in that regard.

After that call, Sarah and I walked into the Plaza for a lovely lunch at Basque Boulangerie where we talked and relaxed. Then Sarah and I browsed and shopped at Readers Books and returned to her house to knit for a bit before I returned home.

It was a very melancholy day.

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior


LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thank You

Thanks to all my family and friends for their love and support. I have never received so many offers of love, prayers, and support.... from massages, to restorative yoga, free housecleaning and meals, hand delivered flowers and healing and nutrition books, cards, help with the farm and animals -- you name it, it has been offered. And we aren't even into surgery and treatment yet.

Please know that even though I am not able to physically respond to all your emails, calls, and communications, Mark and the girls and I know you are there on our team, cheering on all the healthy cells and helping us to get ready for this next phase of the war. Don't you worry, we will be ready and willing to accept and receive all the good wishes, and offers once we have our plan of surgery and treatment in place, which will be very soon since my appointment with the Oncologist is tomorrow.


My beautiful pink and white beaded bracelet gifted to me by my adorable niece, Kiana.

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior


LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rat, a tat, tat, Tat, TATTTTTT !!!!!!

That is the sound of a lovely MRI machine for my breast MRI today.

But it's over - YAHOO!

I didn't realize how nervous I was until I got in the room.  Perhaps because I've had one of these fun MRI's about 15 years ago, but on my head. The thing with an MRI is the noise and the claustrophobic feeling. This was much different though.

You remove all your clothes but undies and socks, and dress in one of those lovely hospital gowns. For once, this one was large enough to cover me. Thank goodness! Then the attendant/nurse put in my IV. You see, for this MRI, they feed a dye into you. I imagine it gives them a better image. The nurse (I forget her name already) then escorted me into the room with the MRI machine and very carefully explained everything to me. Then I got up on the table, dangled my boobs through the two holes, rested my head and chin on a comfortable area, and had my legs covered for some warmth. She explained that if at any time I was uncomfortable, to press the grey button she had put into my hand and she would stop and give me a break.

She was very nice and explained every step of the procedure, which lasted only about 20 minutes. The dye is automatically inserted from another machine at precisely the correct moment, which is very near the end of the MRI experience. It felt a bit cool when it entered, but otherwise was no problem.

Probably the most comfortable part of the process is the little mirror below your head so you are always looking through the window at the nurse, who is watching a computer monitor and telling me each time the MRI will start back up, for exactly how many minutes and/or seconds, and when I can take some deep breaths before the next session begins. So you never really notice that you have been lifted up, and the table slid back into the large round MRI contraption. She also placed ear plugs in my ears.

BUT THE NOISE. I still have a bit of a headache from it. I tried singing to my self, Do Re Me Fa So La Ti Do, and Singing in the Rain, and I Want to Hold Your Hand. But the darn thing really distracts you to where you can't even remember the words, or order of words, to a silly simple song like Do Re Me.

I'm so glad that is over now. The MRI will give the oncologist and surgeon a better idea of the size of my tumor(s), and will help us all to make the next plan of attack -- mastectomy, or lumpectomy. More on that later I'm sure -- Joy, joy!  :-)

Tomorrow I get to spend the day with Sarah, and Wednesday Mark, Alura and I are off to the Oncologist. We will know much more by then. Wish me Luck!


Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior


LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In a Funk

This too will pass...


Today was a difficult day.

I was in a funk all day. Awoke with vertigo from sinus issues, kind of recovered and made a nice breakfast and started some beans cooking. Then it was just weird.

I finished plying some lovely handspun I’ve been working on since August when I attended Golden Gate Fiber Institute. I spun 2 oz. on my spindle, and 2 oz. on my Matchless wheel. The spindling is what took so long. But it is a very lovely turquoise and green variegated merino/silk blend. Those are MY COLORS! And I am anxious to create something beautiful. So I searched and searched for something of 368 yards or less, in a fingering/lace weight yarn. Something pretty, but intermediate. Maybe a lace type shawl or scarf, or something. But I’m having no luck. I’m open to ideas and suggestions, so don’t hesitate to offer them to me.

I read a bunch more in my “breast” books. Learned that the breast MRI should not be too difficult tomorrow. But I’m just feeling crappy. And I suppose that is to be expected.

The sun’ll come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow....
Well that helped a bit. :-)


Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior


LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

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


LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Appointment with NP

The juggling has begun. Juggling of time and appointments. BIG TIME!

First off, it felt like an eternity when I first made the call on January 12th to set an appointment with Dr. Elboim and they scheduled me on January 26th. How could I possibly wait all this time??? Then a little angel named Jan, a dear friend who I originally called to get some advice on where to have the biopsy, and then I called her to update her with the diagnosis. She works in the medical field and said she would see about getting me in to see the doctor sooner, as she agreed that waiting over two weeks was just way too long to wait to get some answers and get the ball rolling. AND SHE DID!

So on Friday we got the word of an appointment today at Redwood Regional Medical Group with the Nurse Practitioner at 2pm. And before I left the house for this appointment, they called to say I had an appointment with Dr. Elboim tomorrow, January 18th, which is a full week earlier than originally planned. This gives me great relief as I have researched as best I can with what I know and was now in a holding pattern. I’ve called Alura, an NP herself, and although she took today off to go to the NP appointment with Mark and I, she knows it will be more advantageous for her to be with us tomorrow instead.  So we have a plan. :-)

We arrive and check in at the 2nd floor reception desk. There are a few others in the office, all much older than me, and they are filling out their patient history forms with other loved ones. It appears that Tuesdays may be the day for initial appointments for new patients, and I am glad to see there is no one younger than me, and no bald people in the room. I’m guessing that will be happening sooner than I realize.

I’m nervous and distracted, so leave my knitting in my bag. Mark and I sit and wait.

The meeting with the Nurse Practitioner today goes very well. Marlene reviews the complete patient intake form, asks me more questions, and answers all the questions I have as best she can. She then explains how the appointment will go tomorrow with Dr. Elboim.

When we arrive home, I bomb out of chores (again), and DH picks up the slack and I sit inside reading through the binder I have received from Redwood Regional Medical Group until if fall sound asleep on the couch. I seem to be doing more of that these days. What gives?

Sarah and Chris join us for dinner tonight, and it is nice to have their company.

I am relieved and anxious to get going with whatever is the next step!


LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why Blog

This is a dream ~ Someone wake me up. This is a dream, right?


So Why a Blog About Breast Cancer

I say, Why Not?

My sisters encouraged the whole blog thing last week. You know me.... it seemed like a natural.

So now that I have a better grasp on things.... larger lumps than originally thought, chemo and radiation for sure, needing to decide on surgery options -- lop the whole damn thing off now --- go with chemo first to try to shrink the tumor for breast conservation, and wishing I could wake up from this dream right now but it just ain't happenin!  :-(

 .... it is feeling more like a natural, the blog that is. Not that I want to spend more time at the computer, but it seems to be what it all is right now.

And it is sometimes a challenge to keep everyone updated via phone calls and email and such. This will be my way to journal my experience, and keep those informed who wish to follow along. I don’t plan to bug you with emails about this but maybe once to let you know it is here. Not that I won’t continue to call and email when I can, but if you want some immediate info on the latest.... and maybe aren’t hearing from me due to appointments, treatment, or just not up to it ...

...this would be a good place for you to bookmark or sign up with an RSS feed, or whatever works for you. From there, it’s up to you to check back if you wish, or not.

And I always enjoy hearing your voice on the phone or getting a personal email message!!

So “Why”, because it works for me.

Hugs, Debbie
     ... aka the cancer warrior



LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

...The Sky is Pink

Even the Sky is Pink for You Tonight

We were out doing our chores tonight, something I’ve not been real good about participating in the last week, and Mark said, “Look Deb, even the sky is pink for you tonight!” How did I luck out with such a sweet man. Even going on nearly 38 years and he is still my sweetheart.

He knows that pink has never been “my color”, but it appears that as fate would have it, pink may just become my color, like so many other breast cancer survivors. Perhaps it has already become my color.

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior


LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Nice Distraction

Whenever I feel down and negative thoughts about the cancer, I’m visualizing the little Pac Man character gobbling up all the cancer cells.

This weekend was a nice distraction. We spent the weekend with Alura and Stephan in Davis and attending the annual UC Davis Camelid Symposium at the Veterinary Hospital complex on campus. Nice distraction because we were learning about our lovely alpacas and all the latest and greatest on husbandry, health and more. And we were with a great group of friends and fellow alpaca lovers. But best off was the night over with Alura and Stephan and talking over dinner at their lovely home.

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior


LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dear Debbie's Breast Cancer

I have decided that I need to step down as a Sonoma County Farm Trails board member to concentrate on me, my healing, and whatever this may all mean to me. So I contact my board and let them know of the situation and that I won’t be attending the meeting the following day. Everyone is in shock and so caring and sweet. One of our board members, Lynda, is a writer herself and he husband a cancer survivor. She gets some strength and sends her love by writing this very sweet letter to my breast cancer. Thank you, Lynda!!!!!!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Dear Debbie's Breast Cancer:

I regret to inform you that you have tangled with the wrong woman.  Not only are you trying to grow on one of the most efficient, wonderful board members around, you are also trying to grow on a woman who really knows her HR.  Luckily, Debbie caught you with the background check, but unfortunately you had already signed your contract.  You should reread that contract, as it clearly states that it is a violation of company policy (see: section 34C) for you to impinge upon the overall health of the company.  Hence, you need to leave this company effective immediately, and your contract is rendered null and void.  Let me make this perfectly clear: no unemployment benefits for you.

If you choose to put up a fight, I would also like to inform you that you won't just be fighting Debbie the Super-HR-Woman. You will be fighting the full force of her family, friends, and community, who will all be praying like crazy and sending healing thoughts, foods, and gifts to fight you.

But of course, you might say, that's true of anyone.  You're always fighting with people's family and friends.  Well, let me tell you why you have truly chosen the wrong woman.  You picked a FARMER, who fights not only with the force of friends and family, but a cavalry of fierce alpacas and a battalion of ferocious Maremmas.

On a farm, healing is a way of life.  And those Maremmas might look sweet, but only until a predator comes around... so, breast cancer, you'd better look out!  Because if you ever try to come back once you're kicked out the door, those Maremmas -- and sweet-looking but fiercely spitting alpacas -- will get you.  And after that, you'll be torn to shreds by a bunch of angry women farmers shaking shovels & pitchforks at you. So if I were you, I'd start running NOW.

Sincerely,
Lynda




LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sisters Rock

My sweetie presented me with a Livestrong bracelet and ball cap today!

Last night, Nancy and Tina came by with Mexican take out dinner and visited with my while Mark was out doing chores. It was so nice to see them and hug. And I know it so hard for Donna to be so far away right now. But we are very close and communicate almost daily. I miss her very much, though.

We looked over my pathology reports and talked about so much. They were both so excited to see that the two tumors listed on the pathology report were under 2 cm.

One of the bright notes was to learn all about Cameron’s upcoming graduation on Friday, and how it is just for him. An assembly with one graduate! How cool. He has made such strides over the last couple of years. After they leave, I decide I may try to attend after all. Besides, we’ve gotten to hug and get some tears out, so hopefully I won’t spoil his day and it will be all about Cam. I’ll check in with Tine tomorrow to see what she thinks.

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior


LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

T Day

I have already called my 6 siblings and a handful of close friends and am somewhat exhausted for now by talking about it. So this is the letter I craft to send out to a few friends, asking that they share the news for me.

And of course the love, prayers, good thoughts, and advice all begin to pour in.  :-)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Today is T Day. What, you may ask, is T Day?

First let me say that I have to approach this with levity, it is just what I must do.

So T Day is "Tell Day". I was finishing up chores this brisk morning and came to the realization that today is the day to tell my friends and loved ones that I am setting off to war. War against the villain. The Maremmas are on guard and the alpacas are loading up spit. Mark is damn mad, and our girls and their guys are loving and supportive as ever. And my sisters came by tonight to remind me they are are suiting up too. We are all getting our arsenals ready to battle cancer; breast cancer to be specific.

So now you know -- I have breast cancer. That is a hard thing to hear myself say, for sure. And I would have preferred to communicate this differently ... to call you each individually. But it was a larger, emotional task than I am up to right now. I was just diagnosed Monday morning and have learned just itty bits of information since then. I will know more in a couple weeks once more lab work is back and I have my consultation with Dr. Elboim, a renown  Sonoma County breast cancer specialist and surgeon.

For now I can tell you it is IDC - which is Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. But more importantly, I want to share that I have a wonderful group of loving family all supporting me and helping me to navigate through all this. And I know that you are all there pulling for me too.

For you ladies who need more info, I found a lump in early December and realized I had missed my last mammo 6 months ago, so was not that overdue. My first thought was, "Did I get bruised when working with the alpacas or something?" Immediately I scheduled my appt and first had the routine mammo, followed by ultrasound, and then a core needle biopsy on January 6th. The rest you now know.

So that's it for the moment. I am feeling absolutely fine other than the sore breast from the biopsy. We are doing our research so I am prepared with appropriate knowledge and questions when my consultation appointment comes up on January 26th, although that seems like light years away right now. Alura, my Nurse Practitioner kiddo is pulling out her books and getting up to speed on breast cancer, since burns are her area of expertise at the moment. And Sarah arrived for a girls day yesterday with my favorite scones and a Nutritional Healing book about the size of 2 phone books put together. Oh.... And I am lining up my knitting projects for the duration.

I am sending this out to just a few close friends, but I have no problem with you sharing this with others. All those positive vibes will be something I welcome and cherish during this time.

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior




LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Making THE Appointment

Today I do finally hear from my OB/GYN, but only to say the words again, Infiltrating/Invasive Breast Cancer, that he cannot interpret it any further, but that I have been referred to Dr Elboim, well known breast specialist and surgeon in Sonoma County. And, I need to make an appointment with him. So I immediately call Dr. Elboim’s office at Redwood Regional Medical Center and get their voice message and many options of buttons to push to be redirected to the line I need. But I’m not sure which line I need. Am I a new patient (I’ve seen him before for unrelated issues), am I scheduling surgery, or am I calling to talk to the nurse breast specialist, or some such thing. Heck if I know -- just give me a live person. So I connect to the line I think I need and leave a message. About an hour or two later I do the same thing and leave another message.

Sarah arrives later in the morning with scones and a couple of books, one on Nutritional Healing, which is about the size of 2 phone books put together. And she brings her lovely smile, and some much needed company. What a wonderful daughter she is. I’m feeling better, but still so anxious. By now I’ve already researched Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma a bit.

Around 4:30pm, Alura calls to check in and we talk about “things”. She is always so practical and logical, asking very direct and sensible questions. What a wonderful daughter she is! I’ve told her about my frustration in getting my first appointment scheduled and she says, “Mom, call the number again and press 0.” Hello, why didn’t I think of this? So as Alura is researching Dr. Elboim online while we are talking, I ask her for his Santa Rosa number, rather than the Sonoma phone number I was given by my doctor. Since it is late in the day, I anxiously call again. The number Alura provided gets me through to a radiology office downstairs from Dr. Elboim but they eagerly offer to transfer me. And they do!

A man answers, but not with an official greeting as one would expect from a receptionist at a doctors office. After apologizing and saying I am trying to reach Dr. Elboim’s office, I ask, “Is this Dr. Elboim?” And he says, “Yes”.

Well missy Alura, your trick worked, even better than you thought it would. Dr. Elboim quickly hands me off to one of his staff and we set up an appointment. But as she is saying, “My next appointment is Wednesday, ...”, I’m thinking she is going to say January 19th, which is next Wednesday, and how can I possibly wait a whole week to learn more and get going on this horrible news I have received. Instead, she says, January 26th. “JANUARY 26TH! no way!!!!” I think. Of course I start to cry, practically sob. She is very apologetic and says she will call me if there are any cancellations, and to call in if I have any questions.

TWO WEEKS AND A DAY!!!. How can I wait this long? What will the cancer do during all this time. I am beside myself, but have sweet Sarah sitting there with me, who is another very level headed daughter during all my anquish. Sarah calmly says, “Mom, why don’t you call your doctor and ask that they fax you the pathology reports so you will have some more information to research”. We then do just that and the report is faxed to us by Dr. Amara’s office within minutes.

We end the day with the 3 of us having a nice dinner together.



LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Diagnosed

Bazooka ~ The first day I was diagnosed, Mark disappeared for a moment over to the dining room where our small farm store is located. He returned with this pink alpaca teddy bear for me from our shop. After Sarah described her as bubble gum colored, Mark and I named her Basooka. She sits with me in the living room, while I read and spin. She has gone with me to each appointment since that day, waiting me in the car to bring back a snippet of good news to her after my appointment.

It’s 8 am on Monday, January 10th 2011, and we have slept in a bit. I’m up, just barely, and the phone rings. I rush to it, and the Pathologist is on the phone and the first thing he says is, “I’m sorry...” As he’s talking, Mark jumps up and runs to be next to me. He knows what this is all about because we have been waiting since the Thursday biopsy for some news.

The Pathologist must have said it 15 times during the call, “I’m sorry”... sorry to be calling you but your doctor is in surgery most of the day, sorry to tell you this over the phone but you called several times on Friday asking for a call.... sorry to tell you that you have breast cancer..... sorry.... sorry”. I’M SORRY! MARK IS SORRY! THIS SUCKS!!

So, after some immediate sobs, I thank the Pathologist and ask him to repeat what he has said to me so I can write it down... Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. He tells me that samples have been sent to another lab to test for hormone receptivity and those will take about a week. “Your doctor will be calling you soon, but he is in surgery right now.” I get off the phone, and think he also said something like “invasive”. What the F___! This does not sound like something I am willing to hear or accept right now.

So Mark and I hug, we cry, we wonder, we worry, we hug some more, we cry some more. This sucks some more.

Of course, when you get a call like this you are ready to charge into action. I’m thinking, “WHAT NEXT?” and yes... I’m shouting it. Let’s get in to see that doctor right now, let’s get this “stuff” out of me. Hurry. hurry... no time to waist.

We spend the day calling the girls, and doing research. I call my doctor’s office to learn he will be in surgery most of the day but will call in and they’ll have him call me today. Later they call to say he is not comfortable calling me until he has the written report of diagnosis, so it will be tomorrow morning.

So we wait some more and wonder, and worry, and read, and research. Sarah tells me she will come up tomorrow and spend the day with me, which puts a huge smile on my face.

I’m reluctant to tell anyone else until I have more information....


LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Intro

This all started in early December 2010, when I found a lump myself.

So I find this lump and wonder, “Did I bruise myself while workinng with the pacas recently. Since I bruise somewhat easily, and can never remember when/where it happened, I paused on this idea for a moment. Or was this the scar from the breast biopsy and tumor removal (benign) five years ago? Nope that was the right side, this was the left breast.

I realized I had missed a recent mammo, and other female check ups, but was not that overdue. It was actually July 2010 when I should have been rechecked. So I started with my OB/GYN for the exam within just a couple of days. Then we scheduled the routine mammogram. Well, that was promptly followed by an ultrasound a couple of days before our Dallara holiday gathering. Of course, all through this I told myself to be positive, that it was probably like the experience 5 years before and not to let it alarm me. Because of this, I kept it to Mark and I as I did not want to scare my girls for sure becuase it was probably nothing to worry about. But when the Radiologist came in after the US and said I needed to be sure and schedule a biopsy because the two lumps were concerning.

So about two weeks later, on 1/6/11 to be exact, so my new HIGH DEDUCTIBLE insurance would not be met first in December and then again a few days later if something more was going on I had the core needle biopsy with mammotone assist performed. Both the Radiology Tech and Radiologist at Sonoma Valley Hospital were wonderful, caring, and gentle. Boy was that needle to numb my breast GIGANTIC, and then the “chop stick” looking cylinder used to take the samples fun to watch on the ultrasound screen. Not to mention the tugging of the cylinder as he had to use force to work it into the right spots. Dr. Chin took samples from two nodules, although we bot clearly saw what looked like a THIRD, bump between those two. Yes, I said THREE. Holly shit - can’t this get better instead of worse? Enough already!!!

So that was on Thursday, and Dr. Chin said I would be notified on Friday. After a couple of calls into the hospital on Hospital on Friday, it was evident he was being much too optimistic and it would be Monday before I learned more. So it was time.... time to tell my sweet daughters what had been going on for the last month. Time to get it off my chest and let them be there for me. Of course Alura and Sarah were concerned but assured me that all would be okay. Donna too was in the loop because we were both talking about mammograms recently and such and she was anxious, yet positive.

So Monday morning at 8am I get a call.....



LIVESTRONG:
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!