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.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Radiation Teach & Simulation Appointments

Today I had two appointments. The first was the radiation teaching appointment to learn all the ins and outs of my upcoming radiation. That was followed by the radiation simulation appointment to make sure everything was aligned up just so precisely for my radiation, which begins on Monday.

While there, I see that the Phil Poster is new and improved, complete with color photos as examples.
The "teaching" appointment went well. Nancy, the RN, went over all the particulars.... no deodorant with metals, nothing on the radiated area but aquaphor or 100% aloe vera, but no less than 4 hours before radiation. During the treatment expect everything from slight redness, to sunburn, to immediate blistering. Joy - joy. No sun on the area to receive radiation. There may/will be fatigue, but keep active. Get 8 hours of sleep a night. Oh, and here is this huge file of information for you, but you only really need to read this section about radiation to the breast. They also gave me a video to view Nancy had not viewed yet herself. I've just started it and it is much more advanced than the the video we watched at the chemo teach appointment. 

Nancy escorted me down to the changing room, which I had been to once before. She marked a cubby for me and showed me the gowns to use. She explained, like the sign on the wall stated, that I was to take a fresh gown each Monday, use it and keep it in my cubby during the week, and place it in the soiled gown bin on Friday. Then she asked me to disrobe from the waist up, put on a gown, and wait in the radiation waiting room. The same gentleman was there who was there when I went for my CT Planning appointment a few weeks ago. While I was waiting, he was called for his appointment, and then returned soon thereafter. I commented on "how fast" that was. They say it will be quick, only 15 minutes or so. I've been warned that it takes more time to undress and get ready for the appointment,than it does for the actual radiation part.

Then I was called for the simulation appointment. I do not recall the name of the tech who called me. We walked by what she pointed out to be the "Control Desk", where they would return to during radiation because "they could not be in the room". It was an area with computers, a desk, and basically a large office space. Inside the radiation room was a gentleman, again I forget the name, and he greeted me. Unlike the CT Planning Scan room, there was a beautifully lit picture on the ceiling of a tropical setting complete with waterfall, and lush greenery. I was asked to lay down on a table, exactly like the one used in the CT Planning. Then asked to place my arms over my head. She showed me the picture they had taken of me during the Planning and asked that I wrap my two index fingers together just like I had them then. They adjusted me with the light beams from the ceiling lined up with the tattoos I received during that earlier appointment, and used my gown to gently slide me ever so little to get all things aligned perfectly for the simulation X-rays. They also took measurements from my tattoos down to the table to get it all exact.

Before she left the room, the technician explained that they would be taking some films. Then the Doctor would be called in to view everything. Once they were confident that all was exact, they would come back into the room. So there I was, laying on this table, arms overhead. I was doing pretty good mentally, but wondering if they could see or hear me should I freak out or something, which I didn't expect to do. But you never know.  :-) The piece of equipment which was overhead all the time they were getting everything aligned came to life. Occasionally it made a noise to tell me it was scanning.  There was also a sound from the left side of the room coming from something I could not see. All the while I'm reciting The Owl and the Pussycat, or as much of it as I could remember from Fourth Grade, or whenever that was we memorized the Edward Lear poem. And a few prayers too! So this gadget moves around a bit from time to time and I wonder if I should close my eyes when it sounds like it is doing the X-ray, or not. Eventually it moves off to the left of my body. Then, surprising to me, this other piece of equipment moves in from the right and gets up close and personal. Again.... I wonder, can the technicians see me from the other room? Does this new piece of equipment know that my elbows are sticking out and to avoid me? I'm sure it is all so precisely calibrated to do everything exact, but come on... it would have been nice to have a more complete review of what was to happen before now to take all this fear away. Again, I survive!

The female technician returns to the room to tell me that they are almost done. The last thing she will do is draw some lines on my body.  I ask her why that is being done. She states that this is to document the area to be radiated, which they will take a photograph of for their records. Ah, now I understand.

So I leave there with what looks like the state of Maryland. So this is the third time that I leave an appointment with a drawing all over my chest in a dark blue pen, and the drawing extends up above the edge of my shirt so that it is obvious when I am running errands on the way home. Oh well, I'm getting very used to this. Maybe I need a real tattoo that looks like something other than squiggles just above my neckline.

Well.... I survived. I'm still here to tell you all about it and get ready for that first real appointment on Monday. I guess I am ready for the next step.


Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew. ~ ONLY ONE WEEK TILL RELAY

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Today May There Be Peace...

There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror,and noticed she had only three hairs on her head. 'Well,' she said, 'I think I'll braid my hair today.' So she did and she had a wonderful day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head.
'H-M-M,' she said, 'I think I'll part my hair down the middle today.' So she did and she had a grand day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head.
'Well,' she said, 'today I'm going to wear my hair in a pony tail.' So she did, and she had a fun, fun day..

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that there wasn't a single hair on her head
'YAY!' she exclaimed 'I don't have to fix my hair today!'

Attitude is everything.

Be kinder than necessary,
for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle..
Live simply,
Love generously,
Care deeply,
Speak kindly,
and pray continually.

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...

It's about learning to dance in the rain.
It's not what you gather, but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you have lived.
Life is too short to wake up with regrets.
Love the people who treat you right and pray for the ones who don't.

Today may there be peace within you.

Thank you, Carol!


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

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Relay Survivor Dinner Tonight

Tonight I am attending the Survivor's Dinner put on by the Relay for Life Sonoma. It is at Sebastiani Winery and is just for survivors, so DH is not included. But, I am being a brave girl and venturing off all by myself. I'm sure I will see some other people I know, but always feel awkward walking into something like this alone. 

So the test will be, do I wear a hat or go hatless. Last night, for the first time ever, I went to our City Party/Farmer's Market without a hat. Later, as the evening cooled, I put one on. But for most of the evening I was without a hat. That was very brave for me. I think it is feeling more appropriate now because just enough hair is in for me to not feel totally bald.

So here I am.... ready for the evening. What do you think? Hat, or not hat?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Four Things You Can Always Say to Someone Who Is Sick

You Look Great, And Other Lies

Having been diagnosed with Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma in January, better known as one of the many forms of breast cancer, and dealing with the comments that come from loved ones when they are faced with a sick friend or relative, I really enjoyed listening to this great article on the radio a few weeks back when returning from one of my appointments. It so hit home to me, as apparently it does to so many who have been in my shoes, or sick for some other reason. I thought, "So it isn't just me who is a bit put off when someone says, "You look great", while you are undergoing chemotherapy." I think they meant to say, you look great considering what you are going through, in spite of having no hair anywhere on your body, and even though your face is grey and lacking color and you have very dark circles around your eye. I know they mean well, but it just is not something you enjoy hearing at that moment in time.

But now, now that the color has returned to my face, I have a hint of eyebrows and a flurry of tiny eyelashes, I have energy and feel almost normal even though there is just a tiny bit of fuzz covering my head.... Now I enjoy hearing, "You look great".

Some gestures are just more helpful than others, and a few are downright annoying. So at the risk of offending some well-meaning people, here is the New York Times article with... 


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

Friday, July 22, 2011

Persistent Plastic Surgeon

When I met with my surgeon during the post op appt, we discussed that it might be good to follow up one last time with the plastic surgeon to discuss options regarding any kind of reconstruction I might need or wish to have. I indicated that I really didn't think I needed any reconstruction, and that if anything, perhaps i might need reduction on my other breast if the affected breast reduced in size considerably after healing and radiation was complete.

About a week after that appointment, I decided I was perfectly happy with my lumpectomy breast, as it is now, and probably even if it gets smaller. So I decided not to see the plastic surgeon. His office left a message for me the other day to come in and see him. I returned the call after hours and said I was happy with things as they are and would need nothing further at this time. A couple of days later the plastic surgeon himself called, so I answered and agreed to an appointment to see him and hear what he had to say.

I saw the plastic surgeon today. It was a good appointment, but it was as if he was offering me a deal that if I did not take, he couldn't help me. When he showed me what he could do to help take care of the divit I may end up with, I replied that I was willing to take that risk. I explained I would not be upset if my breast got smaller. You see, the problem is that it is difficult to work with radiated skin, which becomes very dry and almost brittle.

So... I am thankful he took the time to make sure I knew what I might expect. But as I told him, the important thing is that the cancer is gone. And the plus is that I still have a breast.

Life is good!


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

Friday, July 15, 2011

CT Planning

Today was my CT Planning appointment. This is the appointment where they position me for radiation and take a CT scan to check on the placement.

It took about an hour with several scans and readjustments of my body position.  The Radiation Technologist made several marks on my chest until she got it just right. Then she had the doctor come in to check on things and sign off on the positioning. Once all was good, she placed about four tiny tattoos on my chest to mark exactly where I will be positioned and lined up with the equipment for each radiation appointment. They were like little bug bites, so not really a problem. But laying there with both arms overhead, chin raised, and staying very still, was tiresome, but not impossible. 

See the itsy bitsy tattoo - the little tiny blue mark?
What I learned is that I need some kind of mantra/poem/prayer to recite during radiation to help while away the time. I remember this challenge during my MRI guided biopsy. I kept trying to recall a song or something and was at a loss. Of course I said many Hail Mary's and Lord's Prayers, but I was looking for something else as well to keep me positive and focused on something other than the procedure. So I have two weeks to come up with something.

I also learned I need to be extra cautious of sunburn to the chest these next two weeks. The Rad Tech warned me that if I get lots of sun in the tattoo zone, then they will delay radiation. Sunscreen and caution with V-neck shirts for sure!

While changing into the gown for the CT Planning, I realized that I will use one gown per week for radiation, based on the signs in the room. My gown will be kept in a "cubby" for me. Then on Friday I will place it in the "soiled gown" bin and start anew on the next Monday.

On July 29th I return for the teaching appointment where a nurse goes over all the particulars. That is immediately followed by the simulation appointment where they simulate radiation to make sure everything lines up as expected. Then that following Monday, August 1st, I start radiation. 

It is scary, AGAIN, but I am anxious to get on with it. So your positive words, thoughts, encouragement and prayers are welcome again. As it takes a village, for sure..... and you are all my village.


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

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Radiation, Here I come...

On Monday I met with my radiation oncologist, Dr. Scharfen, to get the ball rolling on radiation. I'm actually very excited to get this started, even though I know that the good feelings and energy that I now have, may subside somewhat as the daily radiation treatments progress. But this means that I am that much closer to finishing treatment. AND... this is very good in my mind!

The appointment was a quick one, as we had met before chemotherapy ended to go over everything in great detail.

Friday I return for an hour appointment for CT Planning. This is where they will do all the necessary preparation, CT, etc. to line up my radiation exposure to only get what it should and miss my lung and heart. Yep, unfortunately the left side is where these vital organs are. But to survive and live a long life so I can enjoy my two grandchildren soon to arrive in the next few months, this is a necessary part of my treatment.

Stay tuned for an update on when the actual radiation begins, and what it is like. It will take place Monday through Friday for six consecutive weeks, but each session only lasts 15 minutes.


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

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Egyptian Magic

Does anyone know about the use of Egyptian Magic cream to aid in healing of scars and the side effects of radiation?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's Not All About Doctors, Hospitals & Infusion Centers

So.... who says having cancer is all about doctors, infusion centers, hospitals, fatigue, nausea, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, baldness, and on and on?

You know, there comes a time when there is some fun to be had. And I'm about at that stage... the stage between surgery and radiation. The stage where we had a 38th wedding anniversary, Donna visited for a week, I had a 58th lifeday, celebrated our country's independence and started to prepare for our first grandchild by hosting a baby shower for Alura this weekend. I say it's about time! don't you?

Donna visited for a week over my surgery. We got to have a bit of fun before surgery and here we are touring Luther Burbank Gardens in Santa Rosa.


Basooka and I heading our for my post-operative check up June 29th

Mark and I take the Ferry into SF to celebrate my Lifeday of July 1st.

Fun Independence Day taking in Sonoma's parade in the am; then out that night for a brief stop at the Wyngard's party and then on to Sarah and Chris' to watch the fireworks.

Alura's Baby Shower July 9th

The boys return near the end of the shower.

Hugs, Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; soon to be survivor LIVESTRONG: I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence to you and the world, but especially to my other ass-kicking breast cancer survivor sisters! A day like today has me feeling grateful to be here and celebrate with loved ones, and thankful for a wonderful team of clinicians.
So far we've had a lovely day. Alura and Stephan came to stay last night so they could attend her 20th Sonoma Valley High class reunion. We watched the grand-doggers for the evening. It was a real hot one, but the review this morning was that they had a lot of fun and were really glad they went. Alura looked absolutely adorable at 32 weeks pregnant. I'm sure she did not think so, but I'm so glad she went as she was very apprehensive until the last minute. I think my pressure worked, and she seemed very pleased to reconnect with her childhood friends, many going back to kindergarten and before. They headed back home early to beat the heat and take in the festivities close to home.
This morning we took in the fabulous Sonoma Fourth of July parade. It was another hot day sitting there on the pavement (in a chair, of course), but great fun to spend time with our dear friends the Sperrings, and their daughter Jen (& family), who is Alura's good friend from Jr. High all the way through rooming together at UC Davis. Sarah walked down to join us too. I must admit that the heat made me a bit light headed before the 1.5 hour parade was over, but it is always such a fun event and great time to see friends. 
Meeting up with Jen, David & Elena before the parade.
Then it was home to rest and recoup from that hot setting for a little lunch and to make some deviled eggs for a couple of events this evening, one being dinner and watching the fireworks from daughter, Sarah and Chris' front yard with family and friends.
Life is good ... Another day with both my lovely daughters. Let the fireworks begin!
Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!
Sonoma Relay for Life Team (8/6/11) ~  Debbie's Blasting Crew.