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, May 25, 2011

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Some of the time we are; some of the time.....

Oh my, has it really been six days since my last entry. Maybe that is because the last 4-5 days have been my crappy days, maybe because I am still in a quandry about surgery and have had more tests and appointments this week to try to figure it all out, or maybe because we have been doing some fun things in the garden and I have had some wonderful support from friends. Regardless, I do not mean to keep you hanging and wondering how I am doing. I am fairing well!

I am on the mend from my last of the 8 chemo infusions and over the hump of the 4-5 days of bone pain, constipation, all over achiness and fatigue; or so I hope. I stopped the vicodin yesterday and the tylenol seems to be keeping things under control.

Earlier this week Mark spent some time getting our raised vegetable beds ready for planting, and I got to be the supervisor standing there leaning on the shovel and providing water breaks. It just was not the time for me to be physically active. He has turned two of our 15 X 5' beds over and worked in a lot of wonderfully composted alpaca manure. You should have seen all the lovely worms. Those two beds were then mulched heavily with straw to keep the worms lively until we plant. And low and behold, yesterday was another rainy day here in Sunny Glen Ellen, so all is ready and waiting for planting. There is one more bed to work, but the Moss Rose has gotten so large in the adjoining corner, that there is considerable shade in that section. But still a great place to plant something requiring less sun. So, hopefully tomorrow we will get out to the nursery for some seedlings. Any suggestions??

Although I was pretty depressed all day today, there were three very bright spots in my day. My dear friend Cathie has had a standing invite out to me to go to a restorative yoga class with her, which is on Wednesday mornings. Due to medical appointments and such, it just has not worked out so far. But yesterday morning was the first one we attended, Cathie's treat. We went to Energy, a yoga studio in Sonoma, and attended the class taught by Leslie Murphy. And I really enjoyed the session and hope to squeeze it in periodically, especially now that chemo is over. Actually, now that chemo is over, I'm hoping to bring into my life some of the healing things I could not do then because they may have interfered with the chemo process.
Restorative Yoga is more of a relaxing technique. It helps lower heart rate and blood pressure and boosts the immune system by calming the sympathetic nervous system and stimulating the para-sympathetic nervous system. It allows you to move from the fight or flight mode into the relaxation response. Anxiety, depression and fatigue can all be addressed with restorative yoga. Relax and let go...
I definitely needed this.
Then I dropped in on Sarah and Chris for a couple of hours. Of course I was very sleepy after the yoga and drifted off into a nap after arriving. Sarah is always so sweet and accommodating and provided me a cozy alpaca blanket and fluffy pillow, which was just divine. She and I are planning a baby shower for Alura so we spent a bit of time on that before I headed home. I was anxious about a call I've been expecting from my surgeon based on the appointments of Tuesday.

No call from the surgeon today. So I found an email address for Cary, the Breast Care Coordinator at Redwood Regional Medical Center, and left her a detailed message. She has confirmed that Dr. Elboim did get my Ultrasound results before heading out of town for 10 days. Now we just need to find out what he would like done as the next step after reviewing that report. Further ultrasound guided biopsy to determine type of surgery so report is in his hands when he returns... ??? Cary, will do her best to make contact with Dr. Elboim for me. So for now I have put aside all the decisions about surgery, which include options for breast conservation/reconstruction, and all that is involved with this. I've been pretty down with this whole decision making process, but there really isn't much I can do until I get additional information. So I just need to sit tight and relax.

Then this evening, Susan, my dear friend and hairdresser, brought over a pizza and styled the two wigs that Joan, another dear friend and breast cancer survivor, gave to me a couple of months back. Well, they look pretty darn cute now and I will just have to try them out some time very soon. Maybe one of our farmer market group meetings will be just the place. :-) Mark and I had a lovely visit with Sue and just thoroughly enjoyed her company.

This is my opportunity to be a redhead!
So now we are on "wait and see" detail. Wait to hear from the surgeon, and then see what I decide is the next step.

Meanwhile... The Love/Avon Army of Women offers women the opportunity to partner with the scientists who are conducting research that will end this disease--once and for all.

Breast cancer has been around for decades, but it does not have to be our future. We can be the generation that stops breast cancer once and for all by figuring out what causes this disease and how to prevent it!

Sign up for your sister, mother, daughter, granddaughter, best friend, and the woman you met last week. This is YOUR chance to be part of the research that will end breast cancer.

It takes a just a minute to join. But the impact we will have will last a lifetime.

Please Join Me in Being One in a Million!


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

Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ultrasound & Reconstructive Surgery Consult Appointments

Just another busy day here for this cancer warrior and survivor. What can I say?

I started out with a 7:45 am Ultrasound appointment at Redwood Regional Medical Center in Santa Rosa. My surgeon is looking to see if the Ultrasound will provide him with the view he needs to then to an ultrasound guided biopsy. In doing so, he will take samples from the furthest ends of what is showing to be residual tumor and determine if this is actual active cancer cells, or dead tissue from the previous biopsy or from dead cancer cells. The Radiologist, Dr. Popovich, also came in during the ultrasound so I explained the urgency of the results getting to the surgeon since he is going out of town tomorrow for several days. The tumor board is to be held this afternoon and both doctors should be there and hopefully will discuss the situation. My hope is that my surgeon will be able to get me on the calendar for the biopsy to occur while he is away and results in his hands when he returns. Then we can get on the surgery calendar based on all this information.

I returned home for a bit and then Mark and I drove over to Petaluma to meet with a Dr. Sommerhaug, who is a plastic surgeon specializing on breast conservation and reconstruction. He went over the options that are a available to me, both with lumpectomy (partial mastectomy) and mastectomy. He actually drew diagrams on my breasts to show two different types of surgeries and projected process. Of course, I can elect not to have any plastic surgery and settle for the straight lumpectomy or mastectomy as it is with no reconstruction. At the moment, I am confused and perplexed about the choices and have not come to any conclusion. But I am studying up on Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book, which goes into everything in great detail. Once I get more information from my surgeon, hopefully later today, then I can make a better informed decision.

Our day ended with a brief visit to brother Matt's to drop off some eggs and get/give hugs, and then home to finish preparing blue devils, a deviled egg with blue cheese and bacon, and finally off to the Sonoma Farmer's Market with our blue devils to meet up with friends and family at our Tuesday night meet-up. It was a bit bit cool and I was not well prepared, so Sarah brought down an extra hat, scarf, and blanket for me. It was wonderful to see Steve and Debbie and share his wonderful news of being cancer free, and good to give everyone my updates and plan to go to Restorative Yoga with Cathie in the morning.

All in all, a productive day. But still things to figure out. Time.... I just need to give it time.


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

Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ahhhh... Oncology Massage

Karen does the best oncology massage. I mean... I've never had oncology massage anywhere else, but I love her's. Always so gentle, caring, and specific to my needs that week. I came home and had lunch with hubby, then a nice soothing nap.

Click here to learn more about Karen Cahill's Oncology Massage service.

I was just waking up when my surgeon called to discuss options. Many of you know that I have been so perplexed with what my decision will be; especially since I did not know yet what was really needed. You see, the last breast MRI still showed a long enough area to make me wonder whether conserving the breast was still a possibility. Well, it may be. I'm waiting for another call, but Dr. Elboim is looking into another ultrasound guided biopsy to better identify the length of the active cancer cells, since the MRI was not conclusive.

I will keep you posted. But for now am anxiously sitting by the phone.


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

Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hip, Hip, HOORAY.....

Did you see the chemo countdown? It has zeroed out. 
That is because I just finished my last chemo, chemo number 8, TODAY!

You surely can imagine what a huge relief this is. 3.5 months of chemo; 4.5 months since diagnossis, 5.5 months since finding the lump and all the wondering and waiting began.

I was chilly so Mark grabbed me the blanket behind my chair. I told him I was feeling like a "human banana" in the yellow blanket. When Dr. Anderson stopped by the check in on me since it was my last infusion, I told him the same. It wasn't until he was walking away and looked down at me and then grabbed my shoulder and gave me a squeeze.

The journey is not over yet, and surgery decisions are looming and confusing. But once I get my head around how I want surgery to go, that is once we see what they really find in there, I believe the hardest part is behind me.

I am clicking my heals with joy.

And sister, Tina, came by tonight for a huge hug, visit and stayed for dinner.
Life is Good. LiveStrong. :-)

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

Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.


Friday, May 13, 2011

I Never Did Like Roller Coasters...

And I'm not real fond of this one right now either!

Well Friday has come and I have this darn nasty cold. Or is it the residual of the cold that has been lingering for a month. I only have myself to blame. I mean, I've been traipsing around in public and out to cold Farmers Market nights, acting like I am a normal healthy woman, rather than the cancer patient with the blood count that fluctuates all over the place from day to day and week to week depending on my treatment. But I just want to be that normal woman. Mark says it feels like my treatment has been flying by. Well... Uhummm... I on the other hand feel like it has been dragging on. I started out this year anxious for it all to be over so I would be past my treatment and into survivorship. Then I found I would be a grandma to two wonderful babies due late this year, one from each of our two daughters, and this gave us both much to be hopeful and thankful for. So that is still where I am now, anxious for the Fall to arrive, have treatment almost complete and grand babies to bounce on my knee, spoil, burp, change a poopy diaper, kiss and hug!

Mark and I got through both appointments at RRMG Fountaingrove after three and half hours. I just wish I was as excited as I was earlier this week. The cold, cough, congestion has a lot to do with it; but there is more...

The first appointment was my initial consult with Dr. Scharfen, the Oncology Radiologist. What a delightful, focused, thorough woman. She took all the time with us we needed, seemed interested in who we were as people, our interests, and even shared a bit about herself. She had the breast MRI results and we discussed all the particulars of the radiation treatment and process, which will last 5.5 to 6.5 weeks depending on whether I have a mastectomy or lumpectomy, five days a week for about 15 minutes each session. The radiation will begin about two to three weeks after surgery, once I have recovered from surgery, and once the initial radiation appointments take place to get all the measurements to direct the radiation to just the right spot.

We finished up about 2 hours after the appointment began with Dr. Scharfen, and returned to the front reception desk to check in for my usual blood draw to check blood counts, and subsequent appointment with my Oncologist, Dr. Anderson.
My  blood work was good; but like us, Dr. Anderson was concerned about my cold, and the 100.7 temp I was running by the time I saw him. When you are going through chemo, they warn you to notify the office if your temp is anything over 100.5. My lungs and chest appear to be clear, but if this thing does not clear up before Chemo, we will need to check blood work again and possibly postpone my last chemotherapy. So he prescribed an antibiotic called Z-Pak to help zap this thing and get me back up on my feet. Thank goodness, because by the time I returned home I continued to cough and sneeze, and just feel all over cruddy.

So the "there is more" is that while the MRI came back that the tumors have shrunk by 80-90%, (YIPPEE), and both doctors were very excited by this result, the mass is still possibly long enough that I'm not quite as excited that a lumpectomy may be possible. It was originally 7.9 cm according to the first MRI and is now 6.3 cm. When I heard 6.3 cm from Dr. Scharfen, my heart sunk. What happened to the 1 inch (2.5 cm) that the doc estimated on Wednesday when I was ready to do the Happy Dance and shout out to the world (Oops, I think I did that already). 

Guess I will find out if the boob is still there when I recover from surgery, which will take place some time in late June. Damn boob... One minute I don't care if it is there or not, the next I'm relieved not to have to make all the choices that come with mastectomy... Lop it off and leave it alone, or reconstruct. GRRRRRRR!!!!! But I will have another appointment with Dr. Elboim in a week or so to review the MRI results.

So Dr. Anderson helped to put it into a positive light. Mind you, all these tests and exams are not exact rocket science... Oh how I wish. What is it that they say about doctors practicing. I guess their predictions are better than the weather people. :-)

An MRI can overstate and understate what it reports. Until the surgeon gets in there and takes and tests tissue samples of the area, he will not know what is actual active cancer cells and what is dead tissue left over from the cancer or even the biopsy. So it is still a wait and see situation. 

A good thing, I hope, is that this latest breast MRI again shows no sign of lymph node involvement and both doctors could not feel anything upon physical exam. But, I remind you, this is still not definitive. A Sentinel  Lymph Node Biopsy will also be performed during surgery.
A sentinel lymph nodes (SLN) is the first lymph node to which cancer is likely to spread from the primary tumor. The sentinel is identified with special dye and contrasts during surgery. Cancer cells may appear in the sentinel node before spreading to other lumph nodes. In some cases, there can be more than one sentinel lymph node.
A SLN biopsy is a procedure in which the sentinel ;lymph node is removed and examined under a microscope to determine whether cancer cells are present. SLN biopsy is based on the idea that cancer cells spread (metastasize) in an orderly way from the primary tumor to the SLN(s), rather than to other nearby lymph nodes.
A negative SLN biopsy result suggests that cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes. A positive result indicates that cancer is present in the SLN and may be present in other lymph nodes in the same area (regional lymph nodes). This information may help the doctor determine the stage of cancer (extent of the disease within the body) and develop an appropriate plan.

That's it from my perspective on a Friday the 13th. As Mark reminds me, I am joyous to be alive!

Have a fabulous weekend!

Huge Hugs....

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Busy & Hopefully Exciting Week

Mark and I have one busy week ahead of us. Tuesday started out with me having the honor to go with Sarah to her 16 week prenatal appointment and we got to listen to the babies heart beat. That was such a thrill. I returned to her place for the afternoon where we took in a lovely lunch at El Molino Centro, and then put together some goodies to join our regular group down at the Farmer's Market on the Sonoma Plaza. Mark rode his bike down to meet us and we all held on as long as we could through the cold night, as we had not dressed quite appropriately since the earlier part of the day was pleasant and warm. 

Tuesday has come and gone as well and it ended with what we hope proves to be some fabulous news, I must say. I had a pre-surgery consult with Dr. Elboim. Of course I was anxious, but also feeling good as the tumors seemed to have reduced in size considerably, in my mind and my oncologist, Dr. Anderson agreed. So we talked to Dr. Elboim about my options and such and then he did a physical exam. He was very pleased and estimates that the original 3" length of tumors is now down around 1" in length. He estimates that a lumpectomy may be a possibility for surgery in about a month. But first I go in tomorrow for a breast MRI. While the MRI is not definitive either, it should help to confirm, or deny what Dr. Elboim found upon his exam. Dr. Elboim sent me home with some hand outs for the different surgery options, as they really don't know what they'll find until they get in there. They also won't know if any lymph nodes are involved until surgery is performed and the sentinel node biopsy takes place, but so far that looks good as well. So for now, things are looking up and I will hang on to the good as it comes my way.

Mark and I felt that this was worth some celebration so we enjoyed dinner and a glass of wine tonight at Rosso Pizzaria near Memorial Hospital and the Redwood Regional Medical Center.

So tomorrow is the Breast MRI. We understand that an MRI can over estimate, as well as under estimate, a tumor. So again, there may still be u knowns when the week ends. From there, we will meet with him again to make more plans for surgery. Dr. Elboim did refer me to a plastic surgeon as even a lumpectomy, considering the location in my breast, could require some reconstruction as well. This may be done during the original surgery. So there is much more to start thinking about and planning for.....

I finish the week off with an appointment with Dr. Sharfen to start planning for my radiation treatment, which will occur about a month after surgery. And right afterwards, I meet with Dr. Anderson for my last bi-weekly blood count check and check-in before chemotherapy. By the way, my last chemo is next Tuesday!!! :-)

So I am feeling really good right now. Good that I did not need any vicodin or tylenol today. This has been the longest time that I've required pain meds for one infusion; but since I am nearing my last chemo, it is just fine by me. And good because my belly is full of caesar salad, pizza and red wine and a bite or two of Mark's pasta and meat balls. Good because of all your love, support, prayers, well wishes, etc., etc. It takes a village, ya know, and you are all a part of "my village".

Huge Hugs....

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
And don't forget about my Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew. We have 10 team members so far. If you aren't able to join the team, you can still help by contributing on my behalf or behalf of one of my team members. And of course you can just come out and drop by and say hello, give a hug, or even walk a lap. It would be great to see you then.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


To all the beautiful, courageous mothers in my life.

You are all a true inspiration to me and to us all.

This morning I awoke to the smell of coffee and bacon. I know, not the most cancer friendly diet, but all things in moderation... right? Besides, the Maitake mushroom in the omelets should counter-act the bacon. :-)

Mark was up early cooking for me and Sarah. She has already come and gone, but not before we enjoyed a gourmet breakfast courtesy of chef Mark, and spending time in the rose garden to pick a bouquet for her to enjoy and share at work today. After all, she is a mom-to-be now.
Very soon now, Alura and Stephan arrive for a visit and early dinner. I am truly blessed to be able to share this day with my soul mate and two lovely daughters, who are both about to become mothers themselves and learn what this thing is all about... The joy, the tears, the love, the sweetness, the sleeplessness... all of it. And all this along with my journey of health, war, and survivorship.

Sarah & I picked roses for her work.

Alura & Stephan here for the afternoon and dinner.
Alura seemed very pleased with dessert; homemade strawberry shortcake which reminds me of my mother, who is sorely missed.

I am truly blessed and loved, and thank you for traveling this journey with me. May you have the most lovely Mother's Day.

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


Friday, May 6, 2011

Up and At 'Em With the Birds

Yep; I'm back to the sleepless routine, even with taking a sleep aid. But it shouldn't last but a day or so if I follow the last few chemotherapy series. Been awake since 3am thinking I could fall back to sleep and then finally got up. Hopefully a good nap is in store for me today. Those darn steroids!  GRRRRR!!

Yesterday afternoon the bone aches started back up as I fully expected. They are intense enough to require Hydrocodone (Vicodin) for about 4 days or so and are concentrated in my hips, legs, joints, shoulders -- just about everywhere. I'm usually a bit slow to jump on the meds and feeling pretty miserable by the time I realize that Tylenol isn't enough to do the trick.

I can still get a few things accomplished, but concentration is limited and driving is out of the question. So I muddle through the day with a bit of easy and mindless household chores, some knitting, a game or two of Solitaire, maybe a bit of Botany of Desire, which is the audio book I'm currently enjoying. But not much more. Anything physical exhausts me. A simple walk to the mail box requires a stop or two to catch my breath.

There is so much to do in the yard and with the alpacas. I feel so behind in it all. But healing is at the top of the list right now so I must continue to remind myself that the weeds can wait, the vegetable garden may or may not get planted, skirting fiber will get done when it gets done, etc., etc. And yesterday was a hot one here in the 80's. So even the thought of sitting on the rock wall and slowly pulling weeds, was not one I was up to. Especially since the ground is already getting hard.

Step by step, inch by inch, closer and closer.... All in good time!

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


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Post Chemo # 7

Chemo went well on Tuesday. As is usual, once they gave me the pre-med Benadryl, I slipped into a good nap for an hour or more. That was after a bit of knitting and reading. When I awoke, Mark was gone. The Taxol treatment is a long one of 5 hours, so some heavy snacks or a meal are usually in order to get us through the session. Mark soon returned with a couple of sandwiches from a nearby deli, and his timing was perfect. 

We had a lovely drive home over the top of Fountaingrove Drive -- this is such a pretty season for us -- everything is so green and flowers abound everywhere. 

Our plan was to take in the first Sonoma Plaza Farmer's Market of the season tonight. So after another good nap at home, and then waking in time to make a batch of cookies for the market, we headed out. We meet up each week with a wonderful group of friends, most of whom are also home wine makers. Our friend Gene arrives early and sets up a couple of tables for the group. Everyone brings wine and an appetizer to share. Karl made this great pizza shaped like a wine bottle, and it was even labeled with the vintage! 

Karl's Pizza
The Plaza was bustling with lots of new vendors and crowds of people taking it all in. I was not able to enjoy any wine, but that was fine with me. Thanks to the steroids they load me up with on chemo day, I usually am feeling fairly well that same day so was able to enjoy the evening.

Then on Wednesday morning it was time to return to Redwood Regional Medical Center for my Neulasta shot. Sarah drove me in and we stopped off at the Santa Rosa Farmer's Market for a few more goodies, especially some enchiladas. I had picked some roses from my garden to bring into the nurses today, which they seemed to really enjoy. The rose garden is bursting with blooms and it felt good to share the beauty.

Then we returned home to visit, catch up, and have a lovely enchilada lunch with Bobbi, Sarah's mother-in-law.

Donning my new hat from Paula; making salad to go with enchiladas.

So... I am down to one more chemo treatment to go. You just cannot imagine how good it feels to finally be nearing the end of chemo. There are so many little annoyances that I try not to whine about here, but I will be so happy to have them all behind me. I know that it will take some time for things to return to normal, and know that with surgery and radiation still a head of me, that all this will take time. But just to have this one stage of my treatment behind me will be a very good feeling indeed. And I thank all my family, friends, and loved ones for all their support and well wishes.  And especially all my doctors, nurses, and support staff. It certainly takes a village, where cancer is concerned, and you have all been my village. 


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


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Today is the Day!

Chemo day that is. We have a bright and early appointment so I am a bit groggy this morning getting ready to leave the house. But it makes me so happy to think that after today there is only one more chemotherapy infusion left. And before that last session arrives, I will have met with my surgeon Dr. Elboim so we can come up with the plan for surgery. 

So all is good for me right now. Spring is in the air, my roses are blooming beautifully, our weather in Glen Ellen has been warm and summer-like, and last night I was able to attend knit night at Murphy's Irish Pup with some girlfriends. Paula gave me a beautiful knit hat she made for me and we had a nice time knitting and visiting.

Countdown is getting closer... As of this moment 16 days, 17 hours... Chemo is almost complete.

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