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, April 27, 2011

We Survived Shearing Day

Yes we did!

I was pretty nervous about this year considering everything we are dealing with right now and the number of alpacas we needed to get shorn in one day. Thankfully our shearing date fell on one of my "good" days.

Thanks to the Brookfarm Shearing Team of 11 people we were able to shear 54 alpacas, resulting in 251 lbs of fiber, with an average of 10.4 minutes per alpaca over the course of the 11 hour day. To see some adorable alpaca photos from the day, click on this link to view the BROOKFARM Alpaca blog page:

Shearing Day  

Now we are taking a couple of days to recuperate before my Friday blood draw in preparation for chemo number 7 next week.

Countdown is getting closer. :-)

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND survivor 
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew


Monday, April 25, 2011

2 Taxols Behind Me

Two Taxol treatments down, two to go; then I should be done with chemo. YIPPEEEEE!!!!

This week has been pretty much a repeat of the week after my first Taxol treatment.... bone aches, some nausea, a bit of numbness to the legs and feet. I did need to resort back to the Hydrocodone, but think I am past it now. And other than not sleeping well the first night after treatment, I've been sleeping very well with my "little helpers". But no hand/arm/leg rash so far, so that is very good.

There still is quite a bit of fatigue causing me to nap for a good 2 or more hours each day. Yesterday we returned from our Easter Sunday with Alura and Stephan and I napped from 6-8pm. The napping always starts out subtly, and then I am surprised to wake from a sound sleep some two hours later and wonder where the time went. I guess my body is in need of the sleep to do its best healing, so I have given in to it. 

I hope Alura and Stephan were not offended when I took a cat nap on their couch after the lovely mid-day meal they fixed for us. We had a very nice visit and traffic to and from was not bad at all. They are gearing up for the new baby to arrive in August and we hauled away a nice mattress and box spring to replace an old one on one of our guest beds. This will make room for a crib in the baby's room. 

Their garden is so beautiful this time of year. Alura certainly has a green thumb and has created quite the oasis of color and green both at their front door and in their sweet little back yard. Here she is standing in the front yard. Isn't she adorable? :-

Alura in her front yard.
So now we are gearing up for our big shearing day on Tuesday. Luckily the sun just broke after a night of rain, and we are hopeful it will remain throughout the day as a wet alpaca cannot be shorn. We have a great crew of helpers coming in for the day to help us get through all of our animals, our agistors alpacas, and a few others that are coming in just for shearing. Mark and I expect to be exhausted come Wednesday. 

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND survivor 
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

6 Down, 2 To Go

According to my cancer Killer Countdown, there are 30 days left of chemo to go! That has such a pleasant ring to me!

Things went very well today for chemo infusion number six. Sarah arrived at 7:45 am to escort me to my chemo infusion appointment, which lasted until 1:30pm. The drugs for each chemo treatment are mixed right there at Redwood Regional Cancer Center in their own pharmacy, made to order for each patient at each appointment, so it takes about 30 minutes for things to get under way when I arrive. The nurse brings out each bag of drugs and has me confirm that my name and date of birth are correct on each one. 

So the first hour of drugs is the premeds like benadryl and a steroid, all to help prevent nausea and other symptoms typical with each chemo drug. This time I am on Taxol, which is also known for allergic reactions, hence the heavy steroids. The premeds also help to suppress my immune system so that the drugs work to kill the fast growing cancer cells. Once the benadryl kicked in I got very hoarse, which has been the case in the past, and very sleepy. But for some reason I couldn't sleep because my legs were very restless -- it was kind of weird. So I knit some more, visited with Sarah,  and then finally slept for the last hour or two. I'm making great headway on a beautiful lace shawl I'm working on from my handspun yarn.

The infusion room is filled with about 10 cozy leather recliners, each with a fleece blanket. They make it very comfortable for us to rest, read, knit, visit with loved ones; whatever we like during the treatment, which can last up to 5 hours. Today I brought lunch with us, so we finished the session with our lunch and then came on home. I was still pretty drowsy so napped for another couple of hours before Sarah drove me down for a quick trip to the store and bank to take care of some business. All the while Mark was able to get some work done on repairing one of our raised vegetable beds in anticipation of planting our veggies, and then spent the afternoon on some book work. So it was a very productive day for all concerned.

I think the early morning appointment allowed me to rest and recuperate during the day so I had some energy in the evening. Sarah and I were able to do chores and give Mark a relief for a change. Then we made dinner and all three relaxed for the evening. 

Right now I'm feeling pretty wired, probably from the steroids, so I hope that the Trazodone will allow me to get a full nights sleep and let my body continue to heal, because tomorrow we have another busy day. 

Tomorrow Sarah will come with me for my Neulasta shot. Were gonna check out a cupcake shop in Santa Rosa. I had thought about bringing in a treat for the nurses at Redwood Regional for Easter, but have decided to do some research first and then bring in cupcakes for the nurses just before Mothers Day, which will be near my last chemo treatment. So the tough research will begin tomorrow. Heck... maybe we will find some cute Easter cupcakes that we can take to Alura and Stephan's on Sunday. :-)


Sarah has officially given me the okay to share their news. She and Chris are also expecting their first baby. So this means that both my girls are pregnant, with our first and second grand children due two months apart; Alura is due in August and Sarah is due in October. How exciting is this? We are so blessed and have so much to look forward to this Fall.

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND survivor 
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew


Monday, April 18, 2011

Look Good; Feel Better

Today I attended Look Good; Feel Better  which is an American Cancer Society, non-medical, brand-neutral public service program that teaches beauty techniques to cancer patients to help them manage the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment.

It was a wonderful program; and I highly recommend that any woman going through any type of cancer look into this positive resource available to us free of charge. I spent two hours with three other cancer patients, and two loving volunteers giving of their time. We came away from the program with a goody bag of easily over $1-$200 dollars of beauty products, loads of tips, and a booklet full ideas on makeup and how to tie scarves in some very cute and innovative ways. Meeting these 3 other cancer warriors and hearing about their journeys helped me to better appreciate my journey all the more.
Look Good…Feel Better group programs are open to all women with cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, or other forms of treatment. In the United States alone, more than 700,000 women have participated in the program, which now offers 14,500 group workshops nationwide in more than 3,000 locations.

Thousands of volunteer beauty professionals support Look Good…Feel Better.  Other volunteer health care professionals and individuals also give their time to the program.

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND survivor 
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew

Friday, April 15, 2011

Looking Good!

Blood work normal -- check!
Bone pain gone -- check!
Rash resolved -- check!
A bit of a head cold going on but it seems to be on the mend and I'm feeling pretty good -- check!
Breakfast out with sweetie on his birthday -- check!
A visit to Pier One and REI -- check!
Home to relax and then a margherita before chores -- check!

So, on to a nice weekend, a birthday dinner for Mark with the girls tomorrow, feeling normal for a few more days. And.... then it is chemo 6. Yahoo. Can't believe that then there will only be two more to go.

Doctor Anderson is hopeful that all the bone pain this last time may not be as significant with Taxol 2, 3 and 4 series. We do need to watch for tingling and numbness of feet and hands, though, with the Taxol, as it can be permanent of not watched carefully. So for the moment, I will be waiting for a call from Dr. Elboim, my surgeon, so we can do a new review of the situation and start planning for surgery right after chemo. Depending on what Dr. Elboim recommends, a breast MRI may be next in line. So other than feeling like crap all day yesterday and this morning with this head cold, but now feeling like it is getting better. And then with the good news from the Doc and spending the day with my sweetie; LIFE IS GOOD!

Happy Friday one and all. Enjoy!

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND survivor 
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How to Comment & Follow

Mark and I had the honor of attending the memorial service for well known and much revered local Schell Vista fire chief this week. There was a huge turnout with enough in attendance to overflow St. Francis Solano Church into both Fr. Robert's Hall and an outside seating area, both with large screens so we could all view and be active participants in the service. Needless to say, Mitch Mulas will be sorely missed in our local community and county. 

Since I've been cooped up for so long now, getting out to really no social functions, there were many we encountered who did not know I am on this journey of fighting and surviving cancer. While this wasn't the focus of our day, it did come up several times. I mean.... how often do you see a lady wearing a cotton hat that looks like she has no hair underneath. I guess it doesn't leave much to the imagination to figure it all out. Although several of these acquaintances have seen me out and about around town and it has not come up. Often it is because the conversation does not last long enough for me to broach the subject and we just exchange brief pleasantries. And I really am not one to blurt it out when someone says the standard, "How are you", as if they really aren't asking to know the real truth, but more looking for a courteous way to say hello. But I had thought the word was already out. So now it really is.

One friend came up and commented on how she has been following along on this blog and was very complimentary. She did ask how she might reply to the blog and I mentioned that there was a way to leave a comment at the end of each post. So I wanted to go into a bit of detail on this for anyone else who may have wanted to "reply" or "comment" but did not see how to do it.

How to Comment:
Look at the bottom of each post just below the LIVESTRONG pink border. There you will find in turquoise type a line that reads "X comments" followed by a pencil icon. The X represents the number of comments already left, which could be, 0, 1, 2, 3, etc. This is where you may leave a comment or view other comments. Click on the "X comments" line and a small window will open up. Below any other comments that may have been left, you will see "Post a Comment" and a dialogue box where you type in your comment. This box is followed by an area, "Comment As". If you happen to choose "Anonymous", it would be great to sign your name to the bottom so I know who is commenting. There... it is pretty simple once you give it a try.

How to Follow:
Following is just as easy. Scroll down the right hand column until you see the "Followers" section just under the Special Links and Labels sections. This is pretty self explanatory too. If you have any difficulty, leave me a comment and I'll help to walk you through it.

Meanwhile, thank you for all the positive comments and my Followers. I do appreciate it very much. 

For now, the rash I spoke of in the last post seems to be subsiding due to Aveeno Creme and a new steroid script I'll be taking for a couple of more days. And I've stopped the hydrocodone/vicodin as the bone aches have now subsided. This is my "good week" in that I'm usually far enough out from the last chemo that I am experiencing some better days. I'm looking forward to my blood draw/count and appointment with Dr. Anderson on Friday to learn more about the upcoming Breast MRI to determine if the tumors are shrinking as they feel like they are and better determine our surgery options in the next couple of months. On the down side, a hint of what I thought was seasonal allergies the other day may have actually been the early stages of a cough and cold that I am trying to nip in the bud as best I can since my low immune system does not need any more challenges at this time.

That's it for the moment. I send my love to you all for all your love and support, your cards and food deliveries, your friendship and kind words. You help to move my journey along a little faster and for that I am grateful!

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND survivor 
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew


Monday, April 11, 2011

Did You Know That...

... All of us have cancer cells in our bodies. But not all of us will develop cancer.

I'm reading a new book that is very interesting (Thank you Pat for sharing this with me), and I wanted to share it here with you, as well as the website:
Anti cancer, A New Way of Life; by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD.
Probably the quickest, easiest hint on the subject of his book can be found in Dr. Servan-Schrieber's 20 new anti-cancer rules here. Basically, he stumbled upon his own cancer years ago when working on a project with some colleagues. The book tells the story of his "15-year journey from disease and relapse into scientific exploration, and finally to health."

Remember, all of us have cancer cells, but we will not all develop cancer. Why not take a few minutes to learn how you might better boost your body to be one of those who stay healthy and do not allow those cancer cells to grow and survive and turn into cancer.

My latest update is that the Vicodin seems to be keeping the bone pain in check for the moment. There is a full blown itchy rash that has erupted on my arms and legs and I have a call into my doctor to see if he has a miracle cream, since what I have at home doesn't seem to be doing the trick.

The good news is that the Vicodin is helping me to get a full night's sleep. :-)

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND survivor 
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew


Friday, April 8, 2011

Bone Aches

It is now two days after my last chemo infusion, which was series number five on Tuesday. Chemo number five was with the new drug Taxol. And apparently the fatigue and bone aches that I was warned about, was an accurate accounting of what to be prepared for. 

Wednesday was a good day, with Sarah spending the day with me to head back into Santa Rosa's Redwood Regional Cancer Center for my Neulasta shot. We were also able to take in the Wednesday Farmer's Market and get some greens for juicing and the Maitake mushrooms for an omelet this week. We also had lunch and made a stop at REI where I found a couple of tops. As is usual when Sarah spends this day with me, she stayed for the afternoon and dinner. I needed a bit of napping when we returned home, which felt good.

Come Thursday, I was back to the sleep issues. I woke at 3am and could not get back to sleep. Hopefully we can cut the steroids in half next time, as Dr. Anderson indicated might work out if no allergic reactions occurred from the Taxol, to help me get a better nights sleep. After a morning nap, it became evident that the bone aches would be serious enough to warrant something more powerful than Tylenol. Thankfully we had some Vicodin in the house to help manage the pain, which is fairly significant from the knees through my mid-section; with concentration in the hips and thighs. Also a bit in the shoulder and neck area. I suppose some of this could also be from the Neulasta, which causes bone aches as the drug is drawing from the bone marrow to help return my blood count to something close to normal.

So here I am again on Friday at 3:00 AM wide awake. I think I will work on my weaving project a bit with the hopes I will get sleepy and catch a few more winks before the morning breaks. Wish me luck that this just lasts a few days, although some online research is telling me it may drag on for days.  :-(

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND survivor 
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

THREE TO GO!!!!! :-)

I am in the infusion room in the midst of chemo series 5. There are only 3 more chemo series to complete!!!!!

The difference about today is that the infusion lasts 4-4.5 hours rather than 2.5 hrs. Today's drug of choice is Taxol, which brings with it the possibility of an allergic reaction. So one of the pre-meds will be benadryl to help counteract any allergic reaction. The pre-med drip is now over, which took about an hour. Lisa, my nurse for today, started the Taxol on a very slow drip just to see how I reacted. She moved up the drip two more times before setting back up to the normal speed. I think it is time for a little nap from the Benadryl. Nighty- night!

And now it is 3pm and Lisa has started the final flush of saline before we head home.

All went very well, I did some knitting, some blogging, some reading, but MOSTLY napping.  :-) And Mark got in some reading and surfing of the web. I'm a little fuzzy headed, and hopeful that the major side effect of the Taxol, fatique, is manageable. Somehow I misunderstood the doc and thought there was less fatigue with Taxol. Oh well, it is what it is.

So when I got home, I made an appointment for an American Cancer Society Look Good, Feel Better program later this month, left a message about a free creative writing class in Sebastopol for cancer patients, and ordered a free head wrap from Good Wishes program. So all in all we both had a very productive day.

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND survivor 
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew


Chemo, Yoga & Crias, Oh my

Today is Chemo Number Five day, and I am truly looking forward to it. This puts me over the hump on the few last steps of the chemo process as there will only be three left to go after today. I am also excited to learn what the Taxol brings to my life; both in the healing process, and the fact there should be fewer side effects from this drug than from the drugs administered during the first four chemo treatments.

But I must share that the yoga class on Sunday afternoon was wonderful. And I'm not sure if the yoga is what helped, but I slept until 7:30 AM the following morning. That has not happened since Chemo started on February 10th, and boy did it feel good.

And our last cria of the Spring arrived Sunday night. I have to watch what I wish for because I shared with Deb that afternooowed yoga how crias usually arrive by early afternoon and we've only had one night time birth so far. She commented how hard it would be to have a cria arrive in the wee hours of the morning with everything else we have going on in our lives right now. Low and behold, Mark goes out Sunday night to close up the chicken houses as is done later these days with the long daylight hours, and he decides to take a peak at the two latest crias (one week old, and two days old). He returned to the house to peak inside as I was trying to find something to watch on TV and said, "Carmen is in labor and it doesn't look good. Come on out!" So I did. This was at 8:30 PM mind you. Carmen  was struggling and had delivered the head and neck of her cria.

With a little intervention, Mark and Carmen delivered a healthy dark brown female cria. Whew! That was a scary moment. So by 11 PM all was well at Brookfarm, cria dried off with a warm cria coat on for the night, she was walking around and trying to find the milk, so we turned in for the night. By morning, mom and cria were doing fine and little girl was nursing well and continues to thrive! :-)

We have had such lovely weather lately, and I've been feeling so good that I was able to spend some time gardening on Monday and planted some petunias and begonias near the front door. Later that evening we had a lovely dinner out with Debbie and Steve. Yes, there are a lot of Debbies in my life! And no, we usually don't eat out very much but are taking advantage of the "good" days and accepting these fun invitations.

And..... here's a plug for my Relay for Life, Sonoma team ~ Debbie's Blasting Crew (8/6/11)

I can't thank enough those who have already signed up to come out and walk a lap with me, on August 6th and some who are even planning to spend the whole night and help me keep someone on the track for 24 hours. Then there are those who are helping me meet our goal by making a donation or reserving a luminaria in honor or memory of a cancer victim. 

Being on an American Cancer Society Relay For Life team really is an amazing experience! The positive attitude, the camaraderie. It truly is a celebration of life. I especially like to walk at dusk when all the luminaria are lit. It is such an overwhelming feeling to see the entire track lined with the bags of sand and candles, each marked with someone's name and decorated in their honor or memory. You just have to be there to understand.

It would be an honor to have you on our team for this year’s Relay For Life.

Are you ready to join with me in the fight to blast cancer to smithereens? Besides, it is a lot of fun!

Just click on the Debbie's Blasting Crew link to visit the team site.
Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND survivor 
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Glorious, GLORIOUS, Sunday!

Glorious... because it is Sunday, and it is sunny, and I'm feeling good. Besides, just saying glorious always makes me think of my dear sweet mother, Gloria. What she wouldn't do to be with me now helping me through these days, praying, cooking, hugging, watching over me. It reminds me of my home birth of Sarah some 35 years and a few days ago. The midwife was in the bedroom with us, it was nearing midnight, the room was lit only by candles, and I was in hard labor. Mom, Dad, Kitty, and siblings were here in the house, not to mention Mark and Alura, OF COURSE! Mom would peak in from time to time and I recall that very worried look on her face when she was there for one of my contractions; as I was trying to concentrate and do my Lamaze breathing to get through the contraction (they told us it was not pain; it was a "contraction"). Oh my did she concern me with her concern. I guess a mother never loses that love and concern for her children, not matter the age. Love you, Gloria. Miss you immensely!!!

Oh how I digress -- this was not what I sat down here to write about; but it does feel good to express.

So, glorious Sunday! The frittata with our lovely Omega3 farm-fresh, free range eggs is almost ready. And then I will spend a bit of time outside before heading off with friend and neighbor, Deb, to a yoga/meditation/breathing workshop. She has been so helpful and supportive, sharing tips on yoga, cancer-fighting mushrooms, good reads, etc. It will be nice to spend time with her and finally get out to one of the classes with her. Wish me luck in that this out-of-shape body doesn't really stretch all that well. :-(

Happy, glorious, Sunday to you! I hope that the sun is shining on your day too.

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND survivor 


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Happy & Gearing up for 5

On Friday I had my bloodwork done in anticipation of chemo treatment number five. Five has a good ring to it because then there are only three left to go of my total eight treatments (16 weeks). Dr. Anderson reports that I am still a bit anemic; but that since the next treatment will be with the new drug, Taxol, which is less likely to cause anemia, we can wait a bit to see if this improves. If it does not, a blood transfusion would be in order. So I am very hopeful that all will be well on this front.

The appointment was filled with good news, in my estimation. On physical exam, the tumor continues to appear to be shrinking. In a few weeks, a new breast MRI will be performed to confirm the size of the tumor and I'll meet with Dr. Elboim to discuss my surgery options so we will be ready to rock and roll with the surgery as soon as possible after the last chemo infusion. Dr. Anderson did caution me that sometimes even though it appears the tumors have lessened in size, the chemo might have attacked the cancer in a swiss-cheese-like fashion (his words), where it kills little pockets of cancer cells. If this is the case, then a mastectomy may still be in order because of the amount of breast tissue that would be removed during surgery. Time will tell on this, and I am not alarmed with this news. I am just glad that the chemotherapy is doing its job and starving the cancer cells. Die, cancer, die!!!

More good news is that many of the side effects I have been experiencing do not necessarily happen with Taxol. So hopefully there will be less fatigue, the rashes will subside, less pain in the hands and feet, etc. Although there may be some neuropathy in hands and feet with the Taxol. Dr. Anderson also indicated that if after the first Taxol treatment I do not have any allergic reactions, we may be able to cut the steroids in half which will help with my insomnia. Considering how anxious I have been that all those symptoms might continue to cover more days as the chemo compounds in my body, this was a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. I mean HUGE! So it was a great appointment!!! 

And this was our first early morning appointment so Mark and I had researched someplace to get breakfast afterwards. And.... we found our new favorite breakfast place in Santa Rosa. Dierk's Parkside Cafe on Santa Rosa Avenue. I had the warm poached egg salad, and Mark had Friday morning Joe's. Yum!!!

Miski X Memento Cria

My sweet sister-in-law, Marie, arrived about then and watched as we got the new mom and cria settled into their own pen for bonding, gave mom a ration of mineral pellets as a treat, dipped the cria's navel, and weighed the little guy. So our 2nd cria has arrived and one is yet to be born any day now.

Marie brought some yummy sandwiches and stayed to visit for a bit before buying some eggs and heading out. Then a couple of hours later, sister Nancy dropped by for a nice visit and to drop off some great reading material. Nancy is always very helpful with ideas on ways to sell farm product. She was so impressed with the quality and softness of the Basooka Bears that just arrived into inventory, that she took two with her to show the ladies at work (Santa Rosa Memorial Hospice) and see if she might sell a few. Go Nance!

That was our wonderful Friday. AND, did I say it was another glorious sunny Spring day! I was all smiles.

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND survivor