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, January 27, 2012

Special Times, With Special Friends

This week I was fortunate to have days where I enjoyed lunch out with two special friends.

The first was on Wednesday when my cousin Denise and I had a delicious salad for lunch at Community Cafe in Sonoma. I've been in contact with Denise over the last month or so to see her. You see, she was recently diagnosed with a recurrence of hEr breast cancer from 10 years ago. She has been a real inspiration to me throughout the years, for many reasons, and especially when she was diagnosed with breast cancer back when the treatment and surgery options were different than what I experienced. But now, now that this is happening again to such a sweet gentle person, and to a family member, my heart goes out to her more than ever, and it all hits home, and scares the shit out of me. But much as I must have seemed last year during treatment, atlest outwardly, she is positive, strong, and seems to be dealing with this with all the grace and dignity possible. I'm sure she has her moments, as I did, but she seems to be dealing with the chemo part of her treatment as well as can be expected.

A little back story here, Denise is married to my husband's cousin. I've known her forever as we grew up in the same small town, went to the same catholic school, St. Francis Solano, and both of us are from large Italian Catholic families. Her sister and I were in the same class.

My husband and I live on a beautiful piece of paradise where his Grandparents settled the land many moons ago and then the property was eventually split between their three children, with a small home set aside for his Grandmother's sister. So here we all were, us living in my Mother-in-laws home, just a stones throw away from where Denise, her husband, and two daughters lived in the Grandparents house (well a bit further actually as we couldn't see their house from ours). And during their youth, my husband considered his cousin (Denise's husband) more like a brother, than a cousin. This was because Mark grew up without a father figure in his life. So his uncle was like a father to him.

So you're probably thinking we were close as sisters. Not really. You see, we each had many siblings of our own, and our own lives moving along at that fast pace when you are raising young daughters. We were friends for sure, attending occasional gatherings and celebrations and such. But it wasn't like we hung out together much. I do look back and wish I'd been more outgoing and just dropped in from time to time. But no.... I was the shy girl who was most uncomfortable dropping in on someone, and I still am that way.

Fast forward, and Mark and I are the only Emery's on the original property. Denise still lives here in Glen Ellen with her family. Each of our daughters are grown, married, with children of their own. So I guess what I am getting at is that we are family, are close, but weren't like "best of buds", considering our living situation in those early years.

Anyway, here we are, cancer buddies now. Who'd a thought? Who would have wanted to go there, actually? Not me! Not her, for sure!! NOT AGAIN!!! But here we are.

So we had a lovely lunch talking about cancer, kids, grand kids, husbands, just life in general. We will do it again all very soon, and I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity.

The second lunch was yesterday with my friend, Eileen. Eileen and I are in a group of 6 or so elementary and high school girlfriends who still keep in touch today, having lunch or weekends away once or twice a year. She is not working right now, so we both have the luxury to steal away some week day time and play. And that we did. She has a new iPad and is somewhat new to Facebook. So we met up at her lovely home in Napa and shared iPad knowledge, played around there for a bit, visited with hr hubby, and then headed to Fillipis Pizza Grotto For a yummy salad and meatball sandwich, and then wandered over to the Ox Bow Market to check it out. And we vowed to do this again real soon.

Between the two lunches out, and two days babysitting my grandsons, it was a wonderful week. And I can't thank my dear husband, Mark, enough for giving me the space to do these things.

And did I mention I've cast on for a chenille cardigan for myself. Wish me luck as creating a knit fitted clothing item for myself scares the daylights out of me.


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


Monday, January 23, 2012

Giving Back

Last Thursday was a long day driving, doctors appointments; but a positive one albeit. And I was the one giving this time, instead of receiving.

I'm not sure that Ive mentioned one of my siblings is struggling with a life threatening condition. Eddie, my younger brother by about 11 years (there are 8 of us!!), was diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy, and serious heart failure in early October. We all rushed to his side when he was air transported from Crescent City to California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco. At that time, he was hanging on by a very thin thread. 

After over a month of hospitalization, many tests and procedures to bring back most of his other failing organs, fine tuning his medications, caring for a recent broken ankle with metal pins in it, and much more, he was finally discharged. Our sister and her husband, Nancy & Nat, so graciously offered their home as a temporary recovery station for Ed so he would be close to his doctors. At least I think we all thought it was temporary at the time of discharge. Ed also planned to relocate to the Bay Area when able to get himself situated on his own soon thereafter. So he's been with Nancy for about 3 months now.

And the result of all the hospital tests is serious, non-reversible, heart failure. The kind that requires a heart transplant once insurance allows the procedure. So Ed was discharged from CPMC with a Groshong catheter so that he can have a continuous infusion of Melrinone from home, which is a medicine to help his heart continue to function. The medication is administered continuously via a pump system that he wears in a back pack.

Ed was also discharged with a Zoll Life Vest, which is a wearable defibrillator  worn by patients at risk for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). The website states that the LifeVest allows a patient’s physician time to assess their long-term arrhythmic risk and make appropriate plans. Although Ed's cardiologist would disagree somewhat about this. He is very adamant to explain why we do not want our politicians involved in health care decisions. You see, the only reason Ed is wearing this vest, rather than having a device implanted into his chest, is because insurance does not believe that a cardiologist would make this decision wisely and so has Ed waiting months for the implant. Even though there is absolutely no chance of his heart improving and the implanted defibrillator not being needed after all. But thankfully, it is nearing the time for this implant to occur and we are just waiting for the word from his doctor.

So we are in the wait and see mode, since insurance also requires that Ed must wait six months to receive his heart transplant. I am able to help out by taking him to his appointments in San Francisco which have been bi-weekly since discharge. But that frequency may stretch out to a month here soon.

Needless to say, this whole scenario was very shocking to all of us, but especially Eddie.You see, my older brother Richard died of heart rejection from a transplant that he received when he was 31. His diagnosis was similar to Ed's and so far the doctors believe that this may be hereditary. Rich's transplant gave him another 9 years and he passed away at the age of 40. So you can well imagine that each of us are talking to our doctors about getting and echocardiagram, as Ed's cardiologist has recommended.

I, for one, had a Muga Scan about 1 year ago in preparation for chemo and the damage it can cause to the heart. At the time, my ejection fraction was within normal ranges. But you can imagine that this will be one of the things I again discuss with my PCP when I see him next month, just to be sure.

Each visit with Ed he seems a bit stronger and more himself. But he has quite a long road ahead of him. He is still very weak and frail. And all the medications, and fluid restrictions are very hard.  I also know it is very hard having his teenage daughter so far away and not able to visit during his illness. I can't imagine how that would be for me.

For now, it feels good to give back a bit by helping Ed and getting to spend the time with him. I hope and pray that he continues to improve, and that all goes well with the procedures he has in front of him over the next few months.


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


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1 Year, And Many More to Go

Today I will celebrate the anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis spending it with one of the special men in my life, Nicolas Frederic Barsun, my grandson. And it will be a wonderful day for sure.

Nico, as he is fondly called by us all, is a mere 5 months old. His momma is recently back to work and I am blessed to be able to watch him one day a week. It is about a 1.5 hour drive to where they live, but well worth the effort. We will get out for a long walk of an hour or more, play around the house, have a few bottles, hopefully a nice nap, and just enjoy each other's company.

It was just about the time I was ready to start my chemotherapy last February that Mark and I received the very welcome news that our oldest daughter, Alura, was pregnant for the first time. We had all but given up that she and Stephan would have a family and had stopped mentioning children. After all, they had just adopted their second greyhound so that must have sealed the deal, right? So it was much to our surprise when Alura appropriately waited until after I had my treatment plan in place, coming with me to all my initial surgeon and oncologist appointments to help us navigate the system, as any good Nurse Practitioner daughter should/would do, to tell us of this happy and exciting news. 

Then it was a little over a month later that younger daughter, Sarah, announced that she and her husband Chris would be welcoming their first child just a couple of months after her sister. 

Yes, we would finally be blessed to wear the title of Grandparent!

So you see, The Lost Year of cancer was not to be. While a good part of the year was not pleasant, actually down right miserable, the anticipation of welcoming two grandsons to our lives gave us the hope we needed to help endure the months of chemo, surgery and radiation.

And I am also honored to watch Gaige, our second grandson (Sarah and Chris' baby) once a week too. And on Sunday, we spent the evening with Sarah and Gaige, who is just 10 weeks old. So I continue to celebrate so very much, AND life does continue after breast cancer, and it can be good. AND IT IS VERY GOOD!


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


Friday, January 6, 2012

Celebrate ~ We Bought A Zoo

What you say? "You already have a zoo!" Or so that is how Alura responded to my text that we were celebrating early today and part of that would be to see the movie, "We Bought a Zoo".

So you see, on Tuesday, 1/10/12, it will be my one year anniversary since diagnosis of breast cancer. It was that morning that I received the call. But it was on 1/6/10 that the biopsy took place, which was after an exam, two mammograms and an ultrasound.

When I reminded Mark of all these dates yesterday, and then we realized that we had other commitments on Sunday and Tuesday, we decided today was the day to celebrate this achievement. We talked about lunch out, a drive to the coast, a movie, a nice long walk., etc. But then we had a leisurely morning and I fixed greens, chorizo sausage, and poached eggs in my new poaching pouches.


By the time chores were done and we leisured over a late breakfast, it was almost noon. So I started to check out the films playing in our surrounding area. We watched the trailer for Mission Impossible, and Mark was very surprised by my interest in the film. The iPad does not have Flash and so some videos won't play on it. So I came in to the office to pull up the Sherlock Holmes teaser. He gave me some guff that he was pulling it up on his MacBook so I came back out to the kitchen. He started what I thought was the Sherlock Holmes trailer, but it was not. He had We Bought A Zoo uploaded, and that did it. My sweetheart knows me too well and made sure the movie we went to see was one suited to me. All when I was trying to please him with my previous interest.

Off to Santa Rosa we rushed and the movie was wonderful. Such a beautiful setting which resembled Sonoma County so much. The cast and story are heartwarming and sweet. The animals so beautiful. Rosie, the young daughter, played by Maggie Elizabeth Jones (of Atlanta, GA), stole the show, which is a true story of the Benjamin Mee family of the UK. We both left the theater in tears.

We then headed to Montgomery Village, where I thought Village Sewing Center was still located, but it is now in Coddingtown. I had heard about, but not visited, Penzey's Spices. We wandered in and sniffed so many of the wonderful spices and purchased a sampling. The store is pretty amazing, and there are several free recipe cards located throughout the store. From here we headed in to Coddingtown so I could pick up the class list from Village Sewing. I'm looking to take their beginning quilting class in March.

And by now it was dinner time so we settled on Sea Thai Bistro back in Montgomery Village and had a delightful dinner with some wine.

I am thrilled to be starting anew and putting cancer behind me. I'm feeling so very good, and have so much to look forward to and be thankful for in my life. And I will begin a 3 week Nutrition Program being coordinated by Dr. Amy Shaw of Redwood Regional Medical Center in a couple of weeks. So I'm on track and plugging ahead.

But I must share the two loves of my life. Above is my first day babysitting Nico as Alura is now back to work. He is in the Bjorn carrier on my chest in this photo. The next picture is of Gaige while we watched him on Wednesday when Sarah was away at work. He is watching football with Grandpa. I have the honor to watch each of them one day a week and I'm looking forward to each and every one of those days.

Here's to a New Year of Health, Happiness, Prosperity AND Grand Babies!

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