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, August 31, 2011

Comments Moderated

Thanks so very much for following my blog. I wanted to let you all know that I have changed the settings of the Comment feature. A few Spam messages have come in through the blog, such as solicitations to sell things and anonymous comments that weren't really appropriate. Which is a bummer, I know; and is always a surprise to me when something like this happens. But in retrospect, I probably should have put these settings in place initially.

And some of the anonymous messages have come from those I would like to respond to but couldn't. It is not very difficult to set up an account and post as something other than anonymous, so I hope this does not prevent anyone from commenting.

So both these settings were changed. Now I moderate the comments frequently (whenever I visit the blog) and approve those that are appropriate.

Thanks for understanding.


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


Friday, August 26, 2011

I dodged a bullet, isnt this great...

At one moment I'm thinking, I dodged a bullet, isnt this great, I feel so wonderful. But then reality hits.

When I went in for my Radiation Teach appointment earlier this month, the nurse sent me home with a DVD to watch. It was very helpful. I mean, after all, I've been thinking all is okay, life is wonderful, radiation is easy, heck I got by with a lumpectomy, chemo sucked but it is over, I guess I dodged a bullet and now I can just get on with being a new grammie and loving life. Then the video chronicled 3 to 4 women who have survived breast cancer and how it has changed their lives and continues to change their lives. But more importantly how it doesn't just all end once treatment ends.

I know that this is not over and done with. But I want it to be over and done with. I know there is still scary stuff to face, like the Femara for five years (if I choose to do it). And I know there will be the fear each time I get ready for a new mammogram or scan or some test. I know there is fear of some sort of body damage from chemo and radiation that may arise at some point later in my life. I know... I know.... I KNOW. 

But for now, I will go on and live my life as a Grammie. I will deal with the rest of it as it rears its beautiful or ugly head. I will take one step at a time, one day at a time. one foot in front of the other. I will change as I need when I need, and I will remain the same as it suits me and my situation. I will research what I need to for the decisions I still have yet to make. I will say those Hail Marys and Our Fathers as I need them. I will meditate when I want, and recite positive mantras when I need them. I will still have a glass of wine when I am with my friends and just want to do so. I will cry when it suits me and I can't hold it back anymore, as that is something that has always come easily and freely and often when I don't want it to. And, I guess, I will just be me, whatever that is. And however that may change. And hopefully I will be around for many more years, to see little Nicolas grow and mature, and Sarah's yet-to-be-born son do the same.

And meanwhile, I will put the steroid cream on to help with the redness, tenderness and itchyness resulting from day 19 of radiation. Only 14 more to go!  :-)

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND Survivor 


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nicolas In All His Glory

I feel blessed and fortunate to have spent Wednesday afternoon with Alura, Stephan and Nicolas. I think I may even have been a help to them all, watering some plants & folding a few clothes while Alura napped, changing a poopy diaper, and just holding and cuddling my grandson to give them both a bit of a break. He is so adorable and beautiful. I'm still pinching myself that we have been lucky enough to welcome this little guy into our family. And to think, we will welcome a second grandson in just a few short weeks. Life cannot get much better than this.

I look forward to next week when I have this wonderful opportunity once again.

Nicolas, 11 days young

Happy momma Alura, and her son, Nicolas

Thank you Alura and Stephan for this wonderful joy in life!

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND Survivor 


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2 Keys to Preventing Cancer...

Some researchers say that there are two key things in preventing cancer- estrogen regulation and immunity boosting.  Dr. Kristi Funk, MD, founder of  The Pink Louts Breast Center in Beverly Hills, CA says that while a genetic change is the root of all breast cancer,  breast cancer is fed and fueled for the most part by estrogen. Dr Funk believes that if we can decrease estrogen in our bodies, we can remove some of that fuel that makes cancer cells multiply and divide.  How do you do that? Here are 7 things, directly from a blog that Dr. Funk wrote, that help suppress estrogen. Dr. Funk also discussed this on a Dr. Oz show that aired in 2010.

With this thought in mind, here is a diet I came across at The Fight Like A Girl Club website.
Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND Survivor 


    Sunday, August 21, 2011

    To Juice or Not to Juice ~ Greens to Go

    I may have a Breville Juice Fountain juicer for sale. It appears I'm struggling with incorporating juicing into my life. You see, I purchased the juicer after being turned on to Kris Carr and Crazy Sexy Cancer and Diet shortly after having been diagnosed with breast cancer. Kris is so positive and infectious, and her initial DVD just spoke to me as it has for so many of us who are unfortunate enough to know cancer intimately, especially women. She puts it all in a new perspective that could help anyone get past the sadness, fright, and depression that the word cancer can instill in us when faced with this ugly word and disease.

    Okay, I got distracted and needed to research where the word cancer comes from. I mean, I "am a" cancer with my birthday on July 1st, but never thought I would "have" cancer.
    Cancer has been described as follows in the Oxford English Dictionary :

    1. “A disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in part of the body.
    2. “A malignant growth or tumour resulting from such a division of cells.
    3. “Something evil or destructive that is hard to contain or eradicate.

    “ORIGIN Latin, ‘crab or creeping ulcer’, said to have been applied to tumours because the swollen veins around them resembled the limbs of a crab.”
    So there you have it. Now back to juicing...

    So I got the said juicer indicated above and have juiced several times using kale, cucumber, celery, other greens, some fruit. It is usually a small glass in the morning on occasion. Mark and I have grown to enjoy it and Donna said it gave her lots of energy. But it isn't as easy and convenient as I would like it to be and I've fallen further and further away from doing it. 

    Wheat grass juice is another thing I wanted to incorporate into our diet. I've purchased the small 4" square tub of the growing grass for juicing and have incorporated it into a kale juice with success. So last week I purchased one of those larger 12" containers of the growing grass and attempted juicing it. by itself. The recommendation is to take no more than a 3" section, and juice up a shot of the drink. When I take that amount and juice it in my juicer, I get about a teaspoon of juice. What am I doing wrong? Is it the juicer, or is it how I am doing it? So, guess who got the wheat grass greens to enjoy? THE CHICKENS! And they gobbled down all those greens (which were slowly turning yellow in the house) in about an hour. They loved them. Perhaps Mark and I will get the benefit of the greens  via the lovely eggs the chickens provide.

    So unless someone has a great tip for me, or can steer me straight as to what I am doing wrong, the juicer may be available for purchase at a discount. It is practically brand new. 

    But in the meantime, I was shopping at Costco last week and came across something called Greens to Go by healthy To Go. 30 packets come in one box, and each packet contains 6 servings of veggies and fruits and one packet makes two servings. All the ingredients look very good for you. And all you do is pour one packet into a 16.9 oz bottle of water, of which you have already removed a few sips of water, shake a bit and enjoy. A lady at Costco commented how much she loves it when she saw it in my cart. She apparently chills it down and even makes a slush out of it. She says it is good warm too if you are feeling sick or feel a cold is coming on. So I have mixed up a bottle and it is chilling in the fridge right now. I did sneak a little sip once I mixed it and I have to admit it was tasty. And, it takes far less room on the counter and is pretty easy to manage -- no worry of kale turning yellow before you use it.

    While on the topic of diet, some of the other things I have changed in my diet have been to stop drinking coffee. I do have a cup on occasion, but without the creamy soy milk in it that was my standard before, it just isn't that appealing. Rice milk isn't making it. I appear to be a bit lactose intolerant so skip the cow's milk. And the soy just seems too risky for me now with the history of breast cancer. Besides, I was drinking quite a bit of soy and coffee pre-cancer and do not want to fall back into that routine. I'm also cutting out wine several nights a week. I've always loved salmon and broccoli and since reading some of Dr. Andrew Weil's material years ago, love to put it together and have it a couple times a month, if not more frequently. 

    And I have more to add to the topic of diet in my next post. Watch for it later today.

    Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND Survivor 


    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    15 of 33 Radiations Complete

    As of Friday I have completed 15 of the 33 radiation treatments. There are 18 more radiation treatments to go, so I'm almost half way there! :-)

    I'll see my Rad Onc on Monday to review how I am doing and ask any questions I have. As I was told would happen, the areas to first show darkening of the skin are under the arm, and just above the breast at the center of my chest. The chest area is due to the fact that I've already received sun exposure there over the years from wearing V-neck tops, swim suits, etc. It isn't red, but more of a brownish color, almost like a tan.

    I have treatment with my arms up over my head, my index fingers just touching tips. When I put my arms up over my head and look into the mirrow, I can see an almost straight line across my chest (just above the breast), which is where the radiation field ends.

    One additional symptom I'm noticing is a very tenderness to my nipple and more sensitivity to my skin. I had read about other people having a major problem with this, to the point where they could not wear a bra or had to wear one of those tanks with the shelf in it only inside out so the elastic did not touch their skin. I suppose it may get worse to where I am at the point too, but for now it is bearable.

    I'm using Calendula gel on the entire area every night and apply either aloe vera gel or the Aquaphor cream immediately after radiation. Then I wait until after treatment to again apply anything as they want these creams/gels to have at least four hours to absorb into the skin before rads.

    So three weeks down, and four weeks to go. Bring it on!!!

    But I can't close without a couple of new pictures of our new grandson, Nicolas. We visited on Wednesday and Mark was introduced for the first time. Isn't he beautiful?

    The proud mom and dad, Alura and Stephan, with newborn Nicolas at 4 days young

    Grammie and Grandpa

    Auntie Sarah with little Nicolas

    Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND Survivor 


    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Call me Grandma

    I'm in love. 

    In love with a sweet, angelic boy named Nicolas Barsun. My grandson, and first grandchild.

    Nicolas was born on Saturday, August 13, 2011, at 9:05 pm at UC Davis Medical Center to the proud parents of Alura and Stephan Barsun. Sarah and I were there to witness the miraculous event.

    Labor was long and arduous. But then isn't that what it is supposed to be? But now Mom, Dad and son are home and adjusting to a whole new way of life for their family, including 2 greyhound dogs and 2 cats. We will visit them this week so Mark can meet his grandson too.

    Life is good and Mark and I are very blessed.

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    Holy Shit, NOT Femara!!!!!!!!

    I was just perusing these two sights and am now scared to death to take the drug Femara. I already have the prescription written up from my Oncologist. It is in place of tamoxiphen and is something I will take for 5 years since my cancer ended up being estrogen receptive.

    So yet another crappy part of cancer (like cancer is a good thing... Duh). But I will do my research and keep plugging along, putting one foot in front of the other, one day after another... Just keep on keeping on. :-)

    If you dare to see what has me concerned, see these two links below:


    Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND Survivor 


    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Relay Photo Gallery

    Here is one last plug for the Relay for Life Sonoma and our team, Debbie's Blasting Crew. The team hopes you enjoy this photo collage of the event this past weekend.

    And by the way, donations are still being accepted for this year's event through the end of August 2011 at the address below.

    Link to Relay Fundraising Page:  Relay for Life Sonoma ~ Debbie's Blasting Crew


    Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND Survivor 


    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Synchronized Hair Follicles

    When people comment on how fast my hair is growing, and how cute it looks short (???), I usually respond with something about how I'm getting all this facial and arm hair, which seems to be much more than pre-chemotherapy. It used to be that I had peach fuzz on my head. Now it seems I have it around my jaw bone and all over my arms. Mind you, I'm pleased with the lush eyebrows and lashes coming back in. And even more pleased they still have a lot of dark brown color in them. The hair on the head, on the other hand, has loads of grey in it, but still some brown too. Honest, I'm not complaining -- just stating facts.

    Well, my dear friend Kate, who once worked for Amgen and knows all about Neulasta (drug used right after chemo to bring blood count back to normal range) and other such things, helped explain it all to me.

    You see, my hair follicles have synchronized. Normally our hair follicles cycle, or randomly grow at all sorts of different times. Some hairs are short, some long, some have just fallen out and have not yet pushed out a new hair. Often times this is associated with seasons, as we see with our pets. So we never really have a "full" head of hair all at one time. A chemo patient, receiving certain chemo drugs which cause hair loss, on the other hand, has lost every hair on their body. When the hair begins to grow back several weeks after the last chemo infusion, all their hair follicles are synchronized to grow at the same time. Thank goodness for this as the head and eyes look much better with that very short hair coming in all at once instead of a hair here and a hair there. 

    Apparently, this is a similar phenomenon to when you wax hair. So for you ladies considering this on someplace like your legs, remember that then your follicles will be synchronized too and you will have very hairy legs when it starts to grow back in.

    So now we have solved the mystery of the peach fuzz and synchronized hair follicles. Let's then get on with other important issues of the day, like fixing the economy of the USA. Good luck on that one.  :-)

    Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND Survivor 


    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Radiation & Skin Redness

    Today I saw Dr. David after my radiation treatment. He is one of the Radiation Oncologists at Redwood Regional Cancer Center, but not my normal Rad Onc, who is Dr. Scharfen. Dr. Scharfen is on vacation this week.

    I am seen by my Rad Onc once each week to review how I am doing and ask any questions I have. Dr. David explained that redness will most likely occur in three areas; under the arm, under the breast, and just above the breast at the center of my chest. Under the arm and breast will get red because of the fold of the skin there. The chest area will most likely get red from the radiation because of previous sun exposure from wearing V-neck tops, swim suits, etc. So I need to be very cautious to keep this area covered from sun exposure during treatment.

    The good news is that the redness will stop two weeks after treatment and then healing will begin.

    I've added Calendula to my regimen of creams to promote healing. So my routine is to apply aloe vera gel immediately after radiation. Once that dries and before dressing, I then apply the Aquaphor cream. then in the evening I apply calendula gel. I cannot apply anything then until after treatment as nothing should be applied to the skin of the radiated area four or less hours before treatment.

    Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND Survivor 


    Monday, August 8, 2011

    2nd Week of Rads

    My second week of radiation started today. So far all is going well and I'm not having any skin problems. My Radiation Oncologist is on vacation this week and my regular weekly check up is scheduled for tomorrow. So I will see Dr. David tomorrow, instead of Dr. Scharfen. 

    I am having some fatigue, but that may well be related to the Relay for Life event and team I lead this past weekend (see previous post). I'm still dragging from the Relay so perhaps a nap is in order this afternoon.

    Did I tell you I yarn bombed my cubby. It just needed a little pizzazz in my mind. What is yarn-bombing you may ask? 
    Yarn bombing, yarnbombing, yarnstorming, guerrilla knitting, or graffiti knitting is a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted cloth rather than paint or chalk. While yarn installations – called yarn bombs or yarnstorms – may last for years, they are considered non-permanent, and, unlike graffiti, can be easily removed if necessary. Nonetheless, the practice is still technically illegal, though it is not often prosecuted vigorously. While other forms of graffiti may be expressive, decorative, territorial, socio-political commentary, advertising or vandalism, yarn bombing was initially almost exclusively about reclaiming and personalizing sterile or cold public places.

    Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND Survivor 


    Huge Success at Relay for Life

    We survived Relay for Life, Sonoma, walking for 24 hours straight. Because, as you know, cancer does not sleep! Our team, Debbie's Blasting Crew, made it our focus to blasting breast cancer to smithereens; and we lovingly decorated our camp in an array of lovely assorted colors of pink bras. What fun it was. And for such a good cause.

    Thanks to you, we have raised $5,500 at this moment in time. And that does not count all the off-line donations we turned in. Way to go Debbie's Blasting Crew; AND to all of you who so generously donated to the cause to Fight Back against cancer!!!

    What a fun and dedicated group we had! I can't thank them all enough their love, support, donation efforts, tireless walking, fun, laughter, and all that yummy food too; homemade cookies and cupcakes!!! It was a blast. And they drove from afar to be a part of this magical day too.

    Most of the crew ~ Susan, Carolyn, Susie, Sue, Donna, Debbie, Tabitha, Tom, Christine, Mark

    We had a very special time during the afternoon of the event when one of my chemotherapy nurses, Jill, came out to join us. Jill makes the most delicious chocolate and caramel covered pretzels and sells them at nearly all the Sonoma County Relays. She sold and donated to our team's effort $55 worth of pretzels. Thank you Jill!
    Susan, Jill, Christine, Debbie, Nancy, & Carolyn

    And such a worthy cause ~ Both the opening ceremony, with survivor lap and doves of flight, and the closing ceremony and final lap were so heartwarming and tear filled. Then of course our very entertaining camp, and just hanging out with all of you and collecting our beads each time we made a lap. Not to mention Sue Petersen's efforts to travel all the way from Loomis and then leave and travel all the way to and from Pleasanton for the wedding she was committed to during the day, and then for her to walk most of the night. And Tom Xavier and Tabitha came all the way from Lake County. The entire team really gave their all making sure we had someone on the track at all times and often times the entire team was walking. They did such a fantastic job and stayed till the very last moment to make sure we cleaned the place up spotless.

    So many friends and family came out to be with us too, and take some laps around the track, including cancer survivor friends Denise and Steve who walked the survivor lap with me. It was so heart warming, and a tearful moment. I also met a young woman, named Andrea also with Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. We have all the same doctors and surgeons. We recognized each other as she is just about a month ahead of me and our hair is of similar lengths. It was so nice to visit with her and share experiences and stories. I'm hoping to look her up real soon.

    So today it is Monday and I've decided to have one more day with the Relay for Life theme... one of my bras I dyed pink, the regular Relay shirt (not my survivor purple one I wore for the event) that Mark dyed for me when he dyed his, and my pink Life is Good Hat. It's back to the 5 days of radiation routine and this is my locker from the "Ladies Changing Room" at Redwood Regional Medical Center:

    This afternoon I think a nap will be in order. Until next year...
    Love and Hugs!!

    Debbie... aka the cancer warrior; AND Survivor 


    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    Relay for Life ~ Debbie's Blasting Crew

    Click here to link to my Relay Team ~ Debbie's Blasting Team! Via this link you can make a donation, order a luminary in honor or memory of someone who has been through cancer, or join the team!

    Either way, just come on out and walk with me and my team to help blast those cancer cells to smithereens. The event is open to the public and there is lots of entertainment and opportunities to purchase things throughout the day. The luminary ceremony at dusk is quite beautiful to see as well.

    Relay for Life Sonoma
    Sonoma Valley High School, 20000 Broadway
    Saturday, August 6th, 10 AM Opening Ceremonies
    Sunday, August 7th, 10AM Closing Ceremonies

    We have dedicated our team booth to breast cancer and will be decorating with pink bras.

    I'm thrilled to be at this point of my treatment with chemo and surgery complete and radiation just started this week. Thankfully there has been no fatigue or other side effects with the first two treatments as of today, so I should have the energy I need for Relay.

    If you don't hear from me for a few days, that is because I am concentrating on radiation and Relay for Life. So if you do make it out, please look for us.

    Let's celebrate together!

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


    Monday, August 1, 2011

    1st Radiation Complete & Facebook Love.

    I did it!  I survived! Survived my first radiation treatment that is. And it wasn't bad at all -- I really didn't feel a thing, but nervousness. My Radiation Oncologist says she doesn't expect much redness for a few weeks, so that is good news. 

    Oh it was much easier than chemotherapy for sure. But instead of reciting The Owl and the Pussycat poem, which I didn't quite get memorized before the treatment, I used Simple Gifts, thanks to Bev Prevost. Bev used this same verse when she went through radiation and suggested it to me recently when Sarah and I stopped by to see Stacia Brady at her study. Bev's study is in the same building. "Simple Gifts" is a Shaker song written and composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett. It goes like this:
    'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
    'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
    And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
    'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
    When true simplicity is gain'd,
    To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
    To turn, turn will be our delight,
    Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.
    It helped me to relax and concentrate on something other than the noise of the radiation equipment.

    See all the Facebook love about my cubby

    Essential Radiation Supplies: Aloe Vera, Aquaphor, knitting project.

    I just have to say, isn't Facebook darn amazing? Just to read all the love and support from people I know and see frequently, to people I haven't seen in years, and those I've never even met... Family, good friends, old friends, Facebook friends... just a loving supportive family. All in response to my cubby post from the radiation changing room this morning as I was about to have my first treatment.
    And I love my cubby! :-) Love you all too!!


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

    The Owl and the Pussycat

    When this post is viewable, I will be undergoing my first radiation treatment at 11am on Monday, August 1, 2011. And I will be doing my darndest to recite some or all of this poem during the process.

    The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear.

    The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
    In a beautiful pea-green boat,
    They took some honey, and plenty of money,
    Wrapped up in a five pound note.
    The Owl looked up to the stars above,
    And sang to a small guitar,
    "O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
    What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
    What a beautiful Pussy you are."

    Pussy said to the Owl "You elegant fowl,
    How charmingly sweet you sing.
    O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
    But what shall we do for a ring?"
    They sailed away, for a year and a day,
    To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
    And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
    With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
    With a ring at the end of his nose.

    "Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?"
    Said the Piggy, "I will"
    So they took it away, and were married next day
    By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
    They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
    Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
    And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand.
    They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
    They danced by the light of the moon.