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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pleasantly Surprised

Yesterday afternoon I had my post-operative appointment with Dr. Elboim. The output from the drain was at a low enough level so that it could be removed, which was a weird feeling. Thankfully he numbed it a bit first. Then it was time to remove the "mega bandage" as the doc calls it. I was so anxious for that, mainly because the tape was very bothersome and then I can fully bathe, AND see the results of surgery.  :-)

So, we (Mark and I) were pleasantly surprised. Mind you there is still some swelling and bruising, making my affected breast a bit larger than it will be when fully recovered and after shrinking expected from radiation, but surprisingly it looks good.

There are two incisions, each about two inches in length. One is just under the arm where the lymph nodes were removed, and one just above my nipple and angled towards the center of my chest. The nipple was not moved after all. The only numbness is in the area where the tumor was removed, and tissue from the lower portion of my breast was moved to fill in the void. It is a dull feeling, not numbness. This is very good since often times there is permanent numbness under the arm and where the surgery takes place, often at the nipple.

Dr. Elboim presented us with the written pathology report and exclaimed how pleased he was with how well chemo worked. He said that the chemo results for me were far better than he expected for my situation.

We talked about the TNBC status (triple negative breast cancer) and he will have samples sent back out to confirm where I stand on this. The first biopsy in January brought back conflicting reports of 5% and then 10% estrogen positive, which may change the TNBC status. This may have a bearing on further treatment after radiation, so we will wait and see the results of this test.

After the surgery. my staging is a T1a. Prior to surgery I could not be staged because we did not know if there was lymph node involvement.

So all in all, I think I can celebrate heartily on my birthday tomorrow, or as my brother calls it, "My life day". Let the Fire Works begin for this holiday weekend. I'm ready for it!  :-)

Wishing you all a safe and sane Independence Day weekend!

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Smurfette & Peach Fuzz

One of the effects of the dye used in the lymph node dissection procedure during my lumpectomy surgery is discoloration. Before leaving the hospital, I used the restroom to pee. I had been warned about the effect of the blue dye, but being so groggy after surgery I had not remembered what it did to my urine. Because I was still so unsteady, the nurse came into the bathroom with me. She brought my attention to the toilet before she flushed for me, and it was very dark blue - shockingly so. The color slowly returned to normal over the next 36 hours as I drank lots of fluid and urinated.

I left the hospital looking near death, which is the "ashen" skin color they warned me about because of this dye. My face was very grey and sickly looking, and Mark said I looked pretty bad. This slowly got better over the next 48 hours. And now I am back to normal color.

And I'm thrilled to report that I have a nice little coating of peach fuzz all over my scalp too. I guess things are slowly returning to some semblance of normal and for this I am overjoyed.  :-)

So today we see the surgeon for post-op. The drain and bandages will be removed. As you can imagine, I'm a bit apprehensive to see the results of the surgery. 

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Drum Roll Please ... Pathology Report In

I just got the call.... Final pathology report is in from surgery on 6/24/11...

Lymph Nodes clear of cancer!

All margins clean of any cancer!!

I guess you can imagine that there is a huge smile on my face right now AND we just finished sharing lots of hugs here.

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Busy Fun Week Before Surgery

It was a busy yet somewhat fun week before surgery. Donna arrived from Montana on Tuesday. It was our plan to take in our weekly farmer's market that same evening after she arrived and after I had my pre-op appointment. Sister Nancy planned to pick Donna up at SFO and come up and spend the night with us. What I did not realize is that after the pre-op appointment I had lab work to have done at Memorial Hospital. 

So as the morning wore on, and I became a bit stressed about the whole day, I decided it would be pushing too hard to take in the farmer's market. I let everyone know, especially since some other family members had planned to join us this week. What I did not realize is that the lab work also included a chest X-ray and EKG. So after 1.5 hrs at Redwood Regional to meet with Dr. Elboim and the NP to go over all the details of surgery and after care, we spent another 2 hours at Memorial Hospital for the tests. We picked up a Mary's pizza afterward and arrived home around 6pm all of us exhausted.

On Wednesday, Nancy headed in to work and Donna and I headed off to tour Luther Burbank Gardens in Santa Rosa before picking up some prescriptions and sports bras for after-surgery, getting lunch, and running a couple of other errands. Luther Burbank gardens are absolutely beautiful. Believe it or not, this was my very first visit there.


Donna and I made it home from the days errands in time for a short nap before heading into Sonoma to meet sisters Nancy and Christine for a girls night out. It is rare that we are all in one town together, and even more so that we take the time for just the girls to get together without spouses and kids and be silly. So we did just that -- we met at Breakaway Cafe for dinner and then took in the movie Bridesmaids at Sonoma Cinemas. Talk about a hilarious movie!! We laughed so much that the couple sitting in front of us moved up a row a few minutes into the movie. I'd say it was just what the doctor ordered for surgery week.

The last required appointment of the day was to meet up with a plastic surgeon in Petaluma that Dr. Elboim consults with and often does surgery with, when needed. Dr. Sommerhaug needed to mark my breast up again so that Dr. Elboim would know where he suggested the incision be made. The idea was that if the lumpectomy surgery did not result in the look I wanted, considering there is so much that needs to be removed, then a follow-up plastic surgery by Dr. Sommerhaug would be more successful if he had input into this first surgery. So we met him at Petaluma hospital for this meeting and then gave brother Matt a quick call to make time to see him and his family since we were in his neighborhood. About this time I got a call from Redwood Regional that they wanted me to have one more test for lemphedema to get a base line prior to surgery. So it was yet another day of running around, when I had originally planned a restful day before surgery.

But all in all it was a good week spending some fun time with family, which proved to be a good distraction.

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!



Sunday, June 26, 2011

Partial Mastectomy, aka Lumpectomy

Surgery is behind me now and it went well, although it was a long day. A Partial Mastectomy was scheduled for Friday, June 24th. This is the official medical term for what many, including me, call a lumpectomy.

Surgery day began for me at about 5am. I had to "frost" my left nipple and areola area with a lidocaine cream 2 hours before the first procedure to get it adequately numbed. Donna arrived from Montana on Tuesday and Alura and Stephan arrived Thursday night. So I had my sister and daughter with me to drive me in for the first procedure appointment at 7:45am at Redwood Regional Medical Center. The plan was that Mark would stay back and get the alpacas fed and meet up with us around 9:30 am before the actual surgery. Stephan would stay back and work from home.

So Mark helped with the "frosting" and taping it in place with plastic wrap, and then the three girls headed into Santa Rosa at 7:00 am, arriving 15 minutes early for the appointment scheduled for 7:45am. We waited about 45 minutes for me to be called for the first procedure, which was the wire placement to mark the area of the tumors for the surgeon to know exactly what to remove. 

Mammography was used for the placement of the wires, and the three clip markers that had been placed earlier in January and May during ultrasound and MRI guided biopsies were used as the guides during the Mammo since these areas had tested positive for cancer. The Mammography room was freezing, and of course it was a nice cool foggy summer day here. So I sat there in the chair for the Mammo technologist to get me all set up for the Radiologist, Dr. Schmidt ,to do the numbing and wire placement. It was very much like a regular Mammogram, complete with compression, although there was a window in one of the compression paddles with letter and number markings. It took about three tries of compression to get things aligned correctly, since one area is close to my chest. The good thing here is that Dr. Elboim assures us that this area close to the chest is nothing to be concerned about. Meaning it is not cancer that is metastasizing, just an area in the breast very close to the chest. Once the area was aligned, which was determined by taking films, then I was numbed by needle, and then the wires were placed with a separate needle. Actually, the wires were two thin plastic pieces; one marking one long side of the tumors, the other marking the other side. Then the radiologist numbed an area right at the areola for the next procedure and some gauze was placed and taped down to make sure I did not bump the wires as I walked a short distance to the Nuclear Medicine department. 

In nuclear medicine, I was asked to lay face up on a table so that a radioactive material was injected into the area at the edge of the areola where the numbing had just occurred earlier. Then two films were taken, each lasting five minutes. One was taken with the camera face down over my breast, the other taken from the left side of my body. 

Both of these procedures were not too uncomfortable. Between the lidocaine they had me "frost", and the numbing med the Radiologist injected, the discomfort in placing the wires was minimal. The most uncomfortable part was the repeated compressions for the wire placement and mammogram films, and the chill in that room while I sat there disrobed from the waist up.

Since things seemed to be moving slow, Alura had already asked the staff of Redwood Regional to call over to the hospital so they knew where I was and that I was in the que, so to speak. So now Alura, Donna and I, with films and CD in hand, walk the one block from Redwood Regional to Memorial Hospital. Parking at the hospital can be a nightmare and there was no need for us to move the car as I was perfectly capable of making the walk. As I was being admitted to Memorial, just after 9:30am my sister Nancy surprised us with a visit. She works in the area for the local Hospice, so was able to take a moment to give me a hug and wish me well. 

By the time I arrived at the surgery waiting room to check in, the attendant said, "You must be..." and before she could finish, I said, "You must be wondering where I was", and checked in. They have this pretty cool system in the waiting room for loved ones to know what is happening. It is almost like at the airport where you have a monitor so you can check on arriving and departing flights. Only the patients first and last initial is used for privacy purposes. The initials are laced adjacent to the surgeon's name and the time of the surgery. In addition, each line was color coded to show whether the patient was in surgery, or recovery, or released to go home. Quite a nice tool for those waiting for someone in surgery. And as I arrived for me it showed, "Not Yet Arrived". By now it was just before 10 am and my surgery was scheduled for 10:30 am, so I am sure they were anxious for my arrival. Honest, I was there early at 7:30am, ready and raring to go!  :-)

So they brought me in and you could tell they had me on the fast track. After all, I was Dr. Elboim's first surgery of the day, and I'm sure they did not want to get off to a late start with the first surgery. So the nurses were very courteous and got me all set up, asking me questions about allergies, what was I there for, when had I last eaten, accessing my port, etc. Once they had me situated, Alura and Mark were invited back into the pre-op room. The anesthesiologist stopped by to tell me his procedures, that he would be loading me up with some good pain meds before they finished up so I would be comfortable until I got home. Dr. Elboim then came by to talk with me, mark my left shoulder, and see the films we brought to him. I could see a bit of a scowl on his face as he excused himself after glancing at the films. He was gone for a bit and when he returned I asked if everything was okay. Apparently the wires were not exactly where he expected them to be and had a bit of a curve to them, when he expected them to be straight. But he said he had called over and talked to them and that he could still work with what he had. So there had been a bit more delay before surgery. But all was still good, I was in a good frame of mind and ready to get on with things.

As they rolled me off to surgery, I noticed a wall clock read 11:15 am, so we were 45 minutes past the originally scheduled time. Other than that, and remembering sliding from the one gurney to the operating one, commenting on the space age lights hanging from the ceiling in surgery, I remember not one more thing. I don't recall anyone draping me or putting a mask on my face. So off to la-la land I went for this much awaited for surgery.

The very first step in this surgery is thy lymph node dissection. Dr. Elboim injects a blue dye into the tumor area. This dye, along with the radioactive solution injected while I was in nuclear medicine, is used by the surgeon to track which lymph nodes are most closely related to my tumors. It is not the nearness that is important, as the surgeon never knows which lymph nodes are those associated to a specific duct, and hence the tumor. So by tracking these two agents, the surgeon knows which lymph nodes to remove for testing. Usually 2-3 lymph nodes are then removed (Level I). These are then immediately sent to the lab for preliminary testing, which takes about 30 minutes. In my case, thankfully there was no cancer in these lymph nodes so there was no need to remove any more nodes, as it is assumed other lymph nodes will also not contain cancer. A member of the surgical team came out to the waiting room  during my surgery, just before noon, to inform Mark of this wonderful news. Not only is it wonderful news to know the cancer appears to be contained in the breast, but also because of the discomfort and lymphedema issues associated with removal of Level II lymph nodes. The lymph node tissue will be examined further and we will get those final results at my post-op appointment on Wednesday. Until that time, this is great, GREAT news.

Surgery ended about 1pm, and I awoke in recovery about an hour later sometime around 2:00 pm. Right after surgery, Dr. Elboim came out, and collected Mark and other family members to walk across the hall to a private waiting room and explain everything in great detail and say that things went just as planned. During surgery, Dr. Elboim took some tissue from below my breast to fill in the large area removed on the inside of my breast. At the same time, my nipple was moved over slightly to prevent pulling from the incision and surgery moving the nipple to an awkward position.  This is called oncoplastic breast surgery, where surgery is combined with a bit of plastic surgery for a better aesthetic outcome of the surgery. Lastly, a drain was placed to relieve fluid build up from the surgery. Then a "mega bandage", as Dr. Elboim calls it, was placed over my entire breast from the center of my chest up over the incision where the lymph nodes were taken and over under the arm. This bandage will remain until my appointment on Wednesday. He discussed my recovery over the next week, what I can and can't do, etc.

At the pre-op appointment earlier that week, Dr. Elboim explained that he would for sure be performing a lumpectomy, or in medical terms it is called a partial mastectomy, although it was quite a large area to be removed. That was a relief to learn. Apparently, cancer is not visible to the naked eye. We know it is in just one quadrant of my breast, but to remove all the cancer, a margin area is taken all around the identified area. And the area is identified by the clips that were placed when the ultrasound guided biopsy was performed in January and the MRI guided biopsy performed in May. So these were the clips used to then place the wires. Dr. Elboim removed only this area during surgery, and will send several samples of tissue from the margins to the lab to be studied. This pathology report will also be back by my post-op appointment on Wednesday. 

At the post-op appointment we will learn the definitive news about both the lymph nodes and the margins, hoping for a report of clean margins, at that time. If all is negative (no cancer) then the only other surgery would be if I choose any type of reconstruction on the left breast once I see how things look so far after the bandage is removed on Wednesday.

While in the recovery room, I learned that brother Matthew had stopped by while I was in surgery and brought a lovely azalea and card, although I was not able to see him before he left. He, Nancy, Donna and Alura were able to visit with each other while they waited patiently.

We thought I would be leaving the hospital for home around 3:30 pm or so, but that was not to be. I had a heck of a time getting to the point where I could sit up a bit without getting light headed or nauseous, and keep my oxygen at the level the nurses wanted. Apparently the Delotted (actually spelled Dilaudid)
drug used for pain relief at the end of surgery was the culprit. After soda crackers, ginger ale, slowly raising my head ever so little at a time, 3.5 hours later I was ready to leave at 5:30 pm. I'll admit I still wasn't feeling all that great when we left, but I was so anxious to get home. The drive home went well until we got off Highway 12 onto Arnold Drive in Glen Ellen. A quick stop for me to upchuck the bile in my tummy, and then I felt wonderful!  :-) All in all, it was a very long day, but I think I did very well and was thrilled to be home with family.

Daughter Sarah came by for a visit that night which was very nice. We all had dinner together. My two pregnant daughters look beautiful and are doing very well. Alura is at 31 weeks, and Sarah at about 24 weeks. How blessed we are to have our first grandchildren to welcome this August and October, especially after this year of cancer. I just cannot wait.

So it is Sunday morning as I am finishing up this post. Alura and Stephan left yesterday afternoon. Everyone is taking very good care of me and not letting me do a thing. I need to restrict just about all movement with my left arm, so they have all been a huge help to both Mark and I... cooking, dishes, helping me to open my prescription bottles and empty my drain from surgery... attending to my every need. Vicodin is keeping me comfortable, and the joy of a new cria being born Saturday morning to our boarder's alpaca was a beautiful diversion. Donna and I even walked down to the mailbox yesterday evening.

That's it for now. Stay tuned for news on the lab reports from surgery later in the week.

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Post Surgery

Quick Update,

I arrived home about an hour ago from Santa Rosa Memorial? The surgeon performed a lumpectomy, albeit a large one. Preliminary labs show no lymph involvement - YIPPEE. 

So I'm kinda groggy now and just getting settled.

Hugs,

Debbie

Hair Growing Back In

My hair is starting to grow back in!!! I just noticed a tiny bit of fuzz all over my scalp yesterday.

THIS IS VERY EXCITING!

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

LocoMojo & Debbie's Blasting Crew Relay Donations Collected June 25th

X-Man, aka Tom Xavier is participating in the LocoMojo Festival this Saturday in the Sonoma Plaza. Tom is also a member of Debbie's Blasting Crew Relay for Life Team and this will be his fundraising event for the Relay.

http://www.sonomanews.com/News-2011/LocoMojo-Festival-returns-to-Sonoma/

Music is scheduled from noon to 8pm and Tom is featured at noon. He will be collecting donations for our Relay For Life Team there and also donating proceeds from sales of his CDs too!

Come check it out!

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Surgery Update

Good news about surgery this week is that it will definitely be a lumpectomy. My surgeon tells me that there is no way for him to see cancer. So until the pathology reports come back 3 days or so after surgery, we will not no if all the margins are clear of cancer and if the lymph nodes that are biopsied are also cancer free.

So it will be wait and see until mid next week to see how successful surgery is.


Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Surgery Scheduled

I now have surgery scheduled for late next week; a lumpectomy. I'm so glad to finally have it on the calendar and be headed in that direction. My sister Donna, is flying out from Montana earlier in the week to spend some time with me, and it will be so nice to have her here. All four sisters hope to get together for a girls night out before surgery and be silly. I'm so looking forward to it.

Thankfully, my surgeon feels optimistic he can do the job with a lumpectomy, which is an in and out procedure with no overnight stay. As with any surgery, who really knows until they get in there and see what they find. And until the tests come back three days later to see if he got all the cancer and there are clear margins, and results from the sentinel lymph node dissection, it is all a crap shoot. For now I am very hopeful and feeling good so far.

One more week to go!!!

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Nails

I know it may seem trivial, but it looks like I will be loosing a few finger nails from the chemo. Both Adriamycin and Taxol are the culprits, which I received, as well as some other chemo drugs. I've had pretty discernable ridges growing out from my nail beds for some time. Now, from those ridges to the nail tips the nails are either very white or very dark; both looking like the nail is barely attached tat the ridge.

This photo doesn't really do it justice, but this is another one of those side effects that isn't really discussed. I wonder why that is? As a matter of fact, this wasn't really mentioned at all to me and when I saw some evidence of the ridges a few months back, my Oncologist did not seem too concerned.


Thankfully the ridges have grown 1/3 to 1/2 out, so what I do lose will only be a partial nail. The nail on my left index finger is just barely hanging on. So I wear a bandage to protect it as long as possible and keep it from tearing off. The two thumbs are pretty bad too, but I think the middle finger on my right hand may be the next to go as the old and new nail are starting to separate from each other.

I just recently learned about a technique being used at some infusion centers for nails which makes sense to me. You may have seen something on the news last year some time, like I did, about a technique designed to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy. It is called a cold cap, or ice cap, and is used to prevent total hair loss if used at the time chemo is administered. It works by cooling the cells of the hair root and restricting the flow of blood to them so these cells are less likely to be affected by the toxic drugs. But it doesn’t work for all patients and some say the unpleasantness of the ice-cold cap on their scalps is worse than any other aspect of their chemo. Apparently this technique is also very expensive and not covered by insurance so you don't hear about it much or see it being used.

The technique for the nails I'm referring to is holding the finger tips and toes in an ice bath during chemo. Apparently it has a similar effect as the cold cap does on the scalp and hair. One website tells about all the patients in their infusion centers using bags of frozen peas. Another patient messages that she was instructed to use this technique for just the first and last ten minutes of infusion. While the technique may be more painful than the resulting loss of nails, it would certainly seem to pay off for patients I just read about who ended up with oosing nail beds from their chemo. I guess I will need to ask my Oncologist about this when I go in for my check up. It may be something to at least inform chemo patients about and let them make the choice for themselves.

Oh the things we go through...

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Benefits of Lemon Juice and Cancer

Go to this link to learn more about the Benefits of Lemon Juice and Breast Cancer.


Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Hopeful...

Yesterday I made a special delivery from my surgeon to the consulting plastic surgeon. I picked up a CD and printed reports from my last few breast MRIs and the resulting biopsy. 

I had received a call from surgeon Dr. Elboim on Sunday, and discussing the fact that he still felt a lumpectomy may be possible, but that he wanted to consult with the plastic surgeon first. I then received a call from the office on Monday about the files going to Dr. Sommerhaug, the plastic surgeon. At that point, to expedite the process, I offered to make the delivery from Santa Rosa to Petaluma myself. Besides, it gave me the opportumity to deliver some farm fresh eggs to brother Matthew and shop for those sports bras I have been advised to have on hand for post-surgery. Not to mention it was a 90 degree day here and Kohls was nice and cool inside.

I've had a couple of episodes the last few days of light headedness and slight nausea. I think I have just been overdoing a bit, pushing myself back to "normal" activity levels. This combined with the quick summer heat that has arrived, and I think I have just been going too fast. So another episode of this while shopping brought me to my senses and cut my excusion short on Tuesday. Besides, I needed to return home to rest up and prepare a dish for our weekly farmer's market gathering of friends that evening. And it was a gorgeous Summer night on the Sonoma Plaza for that. So good to see a large crowd of friends and many more out to enjoy the first of the monthly Jazz events in the ampitheatre during the farmers market.

So the outcome of this post is to say that I am still hopeful that a lumpectomy can be performed, and am waiting for "that call" from the doctor; which will hopefully be to schedule surgery. I do need to ask about my concern of the cancer that is located near the chest wall, as that does wear on my mind right now.

But otherwise; I am hopeful! Be hopeful for me too!! :-)

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Update to "Bummer" Post of 6/10/11

UPDATE TO PREVIOUS POST OF 6/10/11:

I should probably clarify a bit. This third area has been suspect to be part of the overall 2-3 tumors all located in the same quadrant of my left breast. It is just that this spot was not found in the original Ultrasound which was biopsied back in January, so we did not know for sure if it was malignant until now. So it is not like it is some new cancer spot, it is just that it would have been easier for the surgeon to say, "Yes, we can do a lumpectomy", if this area was benign. Wishful thinking, I guess. It is the furthest away from the nipple and so makes the whole area to be removed longer than hoped. The other concern is that it is very close to, or right at, the chest wall. So I am trying not to worry more about all this until I hear from the surgeon. Hard to do, though!

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bummer!!!!

So, Dr. Popovitch called late yesterday afternoon to check in on me. He is the Radiologist who performed the biopsy the day before. The formal written report is not yet complete, but he also had the news that the area they biopsied is cancer. BUMMER!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BIG TIME. :-(

So, I'm not sure if that means a mastectomy is in order, as I need to hear from my surgeon, Dr. elboim, to see what he thinks. Dr. Elboim had hoped it was not cancer, since this is the area furthest away from the other areas already biopsied when I was first diagnosed. This area is deeper and was not visible via the ultrasound, but was via MRI. That is why they chose an MRI for this biopsy.

The scary part is that the word cancer seems to be getting easier to say!

I may not hear back from Dr. Elboim until Monday. Again... Another weekend of confusion. And just when I thought I had this all figured out.

Thanks, everyone, for keeping me in your thoughts. I do not know how I would get through all this without you all!

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

2 Ultrasounds, 3 MRIs, and 2 Biopsies Later

Today I had an MRI guided biopsy. The purpose of this is to help the surgeon better determine what the recommended surgery will be for me. I was very curious as to how this would all work. You see, I've had two breast MRIs this year and they are performed with the patient lying down with breasts dangling through two openings in the table. Then the table is raised and moved back into the MRI chamber for the image. So I wondered how the biopsy part of the procedure would happen.

Well, the images are taken of the breast only this time there is a grid used so the exact areas of the tumor are identified. Th imaging took about 20 minutes or so and a contrast was used again this time since it had been used on the previous MRI. Then the Radiologist numbed the area in question. Because my tumor is on the inside of my breast, this procedure required access from the outside of my breast. So whatever was being done, required them going through my entire breast all the way across to the inside of the breast. You see, when you are lying face down for the MRI, there is no way for the Radiologist to get to the inside of the breast without coming in from the outside of the breast. I guess if they used some mechanism like when they work on cars.... Maybe I will suggest that next time I am there.  :-)

So the numbing started on the outside and the needle was inserted all the way across to the other side, numbing along the way. This was uncomfortable and I almost moved during the process.

Then comes the large hollow needle that allows access of the vacuum that removes the tissue for pathology. This tugs and again was pretty uncomfortable. So by now my shoulders and forehead are pretty uncomfortable as well. You see, your arms are held straight up over your head, and by now we are going on an hour. It felt like my weight was carried by my shoulders and forehead, and of course I could not move even the slightest bit until the procedure was complete. Once the Radiologist had the needle in place, then another image is required to be sure they are in the right spot. He confirms that we are on target! 

Now another instrument is used to take the sample, and it performs more numbing as it is inserted. There is some discomfort during this step, but heck, I've made it this far -- no backing out now so I manage. More images are taken and the Radiologist decides he wants to go a bit further to make sure he gets the right spot, which he does.

The last step is to place a tiny marker into the breast at the point of the biopsy, and then one more image is taken.

I was so relieved to sit up and move my arms. My shoulders were very uncomfortable by now. The technician checks the opening, gives me my followup instructions, applies steri strips and a protective covering, and then there is one more thing to do. I get to put on my pants and shoes to go down he hall to Mammography. A couple of images are taken so they can also record the marker for future reference.

When all is said and done, I was there for exactly two hours, which is what I was told to expect.

On the way home I could feel the pain starting and took a couple of Tylenol. We picked up pizza along the way and I promptly iced my booby when I got home. I could already feel a very hard area having formed where the biopsy was taken. So after icing for about an hour, we will have some pizza.

I should get a call tomorrow with results from the biopsy, and presume that then a surgery date will be on the calendar very soon.

I'm glad that this is now over. It was manageable, but not something I would look forward to again anytime soon. But heck, it is a bit of a precursor to surgery, isn't it?

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sunshine!

Yeah... Sunshine!

This has been one of the wetest Springs I can remember. Maybe because I have been less active so I am noticing it more. The good thing is I still do not have to water any of the garden. But I am happy for some sunshine today. Especially since Sarah and I are meeting this morning for a walk. Maybe we can make this a weekly routine.

Dr. Elboim has returned and he confirms that an MRI guided biopsy is the next step. So I have this on the calendar for later in the week. We shall see what they find and then what the surgery recommendations will be. Thank you for all your well wishes, prayers, etc. 

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Friday, June 3, 2011

ONE-in-8

One-in-8... women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Very Sweet Story

Today I had a very nice lunch with two of my sisters, Nancy and Christine. (We missed you, Donna) We met in Santa Rosa where they both work and had a good, relaxing visit.  I finally got up the gumption to wear one of my wigs out too, and they had fun with that.


As we were chatting up a storm, as sisters do, Nancy was recalling her recent visit to upstate NY to visit with her in-laws. She held out her wrist to show off a very cute breast cancer bracelet, and told this story.

As she was on the flight to NY, she struck up a conversation with one of the flight attendants who was wearing the bracelet. Nancy complimented her on the bracelet and asked if she was a survivor. The attendant replied that she was not, but that she was the only member of her family who had not been struck by cancer. The flight attendant went on to say that she made the bracelet. Nancy then told her how she has a sister who is going through breast cancer right now. Then they both went about their journey; Nancy reading, the flight attendant taking care of her passengers.

As the flight ended, Nancy and her husband gathered their belongings and started to exit the plane. From behind, Nancy heard someone say, "Just a minute!" It was the flight attendant who was handing the bracelet to Nancy, as Nancy was saying, "I can't take this from you". The flight attendant explained that this was for her sister, so that when she/I was finished with chemo, I could say I am a survivor. As Nancy told this part of the story, she slipped the bracelet off her wrist and handed it to me. Of course, Tina and I both had eyes welled with tears at this point. 

There are so many kind, sweet, and generous people I have met through this journey. This is yet another one of those instances. I have no idea who this sweet angel was, but I will always remember her, this story, and will cherish my Survivor Bracelet.
 
I am a survivor!

I will close this entry in saying that I returned home to receive a call from the Breast Care Coordinator of Redwood Regional Medical Center. She has gone with my suggestion and after talking a bit more with the Radiologist who reviewed my latest ultrasound, put in an order for an MRI guided biopsy. In this way, it will be on the schedule for next week. If my surgeon returns from his trip on Tuesday and says this is not what he wants, we can still cancel it. But at least we won't lose another week in the interim.

I also had a good appointment with my oncologist yesterday and reviewed all the statistics and asked lots of questions. He confirmed that the recurrence is not greater with lumpectomy and radiation, as it is with mastectomy. After really grilling him with lots of other questions and concerns, I feel very close to making a final surgery decision once my surgeon returns and we have the opportunity to discuss everything further. I think I am over all the uncertainty and confusion and more at ease with everything. Ahhh; this feels much better.  :-)

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

So Much To Be Thankful For

It is June 1st and raining here again today in my beautiful part of the world. But rain is okay... it gives us some down time from most outside chores and slows life down a bit; or at least it should. I think we could all take a moment to slow down a bit. I know I have been forced to slow down over these last five months, and it has been a struggle at times. But I do believe I have learned a lot from it.

Besides, in the bigger picture, who cares if it is raining on June 1st. For one, we don't have to worry about watering our flowers or newly planted vegetables. Then there is some new green luscious growth for the alpacas to nibble on. And everything is green, clean, and so fresh smelling. I know, I know, I'm sounding a bit Pollyanna at the moment, you say. Well, I'm feeling that way too. Or at least I am trying to.

You see, I've been in this big old quandary about upcoming surgery and the choices I may have when all is said and done. Yes, I've been feeling sorry for myself, a bit depressed (which is not normal for me), and just all out confused. Not only about the surgery options; but, where is my life going right now? Am I being the best I can? Is there something more, something different?  (I guess I shouldn't have watched the Master Classic piece about Oprah's life on OWN the otehr day). I suppose these are not very different thoughts than most of us have from time to time, especially at my age. But after/during breast cancer...

So Sunday night, after a fun day hosting my spinning gals (so good to finally feel up to having some company), we qued into the National Memorial Day Celebration broadcast. At first there was lovely music with wonderful artists like BB King. But then it turned depressing, but REAL. Actors would portray a real story of a soldier, and the injuries and devastation they endured. Of a mother who lost a son to war. So many sad, but very real stories. Mark and I paused for a moment as to whether we would continue to watch the program and then both agreed it was something we needed to watch -- it was touching, honest stories of those who have gone to war to defend our country and protect each and every one of us. As I watched this program, I came to the realization that my journey seemed so very trivial in comparison. Yet it is very real for me and my family. But still, so small, so inconsequential. After all, I'm talking about loosing a breast, or just part of one. That is nothing compared to losing a limb, serious brain damage, losing a child, a spouse ... a life. What was I so worked up about in choosing options for my surgery. 

Yes, these are important choices for ME. But things are starting to fall into perspective. I had gone over and over in my head the appointment with the plastic surgeon. The appointment suggested to me by my surgeon so I would have all the knowledge needed to make the right decision to me. when the time came. You see, they can do so much now right during the initial surgery. 

I remember the plastic surgeon first stating that I was having a mastectomy. Apparently he did not have the whole story on me. I corrected him, and then he went on to talk about plastic surgery options as if they are my only options. He drew on my left breast (where the tumor is) showing how he would cut around my nipple and move the nipple up. Then the skin and tissue under the nipple would swing around and fill in the area where the tumor would be removed. I did not reflect  my feelings to him on my face, but inside, in my mind I was saying, "Holy Jesus... move my nipple up! Just hold on a minute, doc!" He told me how then later I could choose a second operation to have my right breast reduced to match the left, but not until after radiation and time for the size of the breast to settle in.

I know, I know. This may be TMI for some of you. But it is real life breast cancer. Sorry!! It is my life right now. 

So then the plastic surgeon moves onto the right breast. And he draws more and describes what he would do for the left breast should a mastectomy be the recommended option. Both of these options all include breast reconstruction details. When we get home, I leave the drawings for a couple of days so I have a good memory of what we discussed. At that time I try to wash all this off, and it is hard to remove. 

Well, I'm well past that appointment, even though it was only a week ago. And I am much further into my online research, and studying Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book and all her details on types of breast cancer surgeries and radiation. I've also talked with some people who have first hand experience with this too.  And of course Alura has been a huge help, and even consulted one of her surgeons for input too. This has all been so very helpful. And I am really thankful that my surgeon is out of town this week, as this gives me the luxury time to do all this research, thinking and soul searching. I haven't made any definitive decisions yet, but I feel I will be ready to make my decision once I get the word as to whether a lumpectomy is possible. 

So I thank you all for your love and care, understanding, and especially your listening to me these last few weeks. I know it must be hard to hear over and over again, especially for my close family members. Just know that it is a process, and I'm feeling positive now about the process and well equipped to make that final decision here soon when the time is ready.

Oh, and it may have helped that I had a lovely distraction yesterday of being invited to go with Sarah and Chris to her ultrasound appointment. And, they have given me permission to spread the news -- IT'S A BOY! Their baby is to arrive late October, just two months after Alura and Stephan's squirt arrives, but the sex of their baby will be a surprise. As I said.... SO MUCH TO BE THANKFUL FOR.

Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.
LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!