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.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Cardiologist - check; Oncologist - check

Yesterday and today we spent driving into Santa Rosa for doctor appointments. Wednesday was for a return to my cardiologist for a new Echocardiogram to see how my heart was doing. Of course both Mark and I were hopeful that there would be some improvement. An Ejection Fraction of 35% or below qualifies one for an implanted cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). That kind of improvement, from the 15-20% I had back in July and August, would have been miraculous in only three months. But one can hope, can't they?

It was disappointing to learn my EF is a"about the same" which means somewhere around 15-20%. I know that expecting much of an improvement was dreaming on my part, but then this all feels like a dream anyway. Mark and I are still waiting to wake up! But the good news is that I feel so much better than I did a month or two ago. I'm down 20 lbs, so that is definitely helping both me AND my heart.
The next step is that I am scheduled for both a cardiac catheterization and then the ICD implant at the end of this month. The cardiac catheterization is done first, to absolutely rule out any blockage or other damage that might be repairable. If a blockage is found, a procedure or stent might be performed to correct an abnormality, which might mean no need for the ICD. My cardiologist says that normally there is a 5-10% chance that this happens during the catheterization. But he feels that with our familial heart history, it is more like a 1% chance for me. 
Cardiac catheterization also might be used if your doctor thinks you have a heart defect or if you're about to have heart surgery. The procedure shows the overall shape of your heart and the four large spaces (heart chambers) inside it. This inside view of the heart will show certain heart defects and help your doctor plan your heart surgery. Sometimes doctors use cardiac catheterization to see how well the heart valves work. Valves control blood flow in your heart. They open and shut to allow blood to flow between your heart chambers and into your arteries. Your doctor can use cardiac catheterization to measure blood flow and oxygen levels in different parts of your heart. He or she also can check how well a man-made heart valve is working and how well your heart is pumping blood.

Click this link to see an animation of cardiac catheterization.
In my case the cardiac catheterization will also be used to locate the appropriate vein(s) for the ICD implant. So more than likely, the catheterization will be immediately followed by the ICD implant. A technician from the ICD manufacturer will be there during the surgery to fine tune the ICD to my needs. 
I'll stay overnight in the hospital so the doctors and nurses have time to make sure everything is operating properly, and then will return home the following day. Recovery is a couple of weeks initially, then a total of six weeks where I can't lift or reach overhead so the ICD and leads have the chance to take hold securely. Then every 6 years or so I'll get a new ICD as the batteries last about this long.
So then today we saw my oncologist for a routine 6 month check up. Although I'm glad the appointment fell when it did because a week ago this red itchy patch appeared on my right breast near the nipple, and I became anxious to rule out Inflammatory Breast Cancer. My oncologist feels pretty confident that these suspicious looking spots are not cancer, but are probably some sort of skin reaction. I'm to watch them for a week or so, and if it doesn't go away, or gets worse, get back in to see him so we can investigate further. That was good news, FOR SURE!
So no more doctor appointments for awhile. That feels good to know, for sure. We all have our challenges, don't we? I'm so grateful for each new day.
Debbie... aka the cancer SURVIVOR, AND now the Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!


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