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, October 30, 2013

Feeling Liberated

In my last post, I talked about the procedures I had done on Monday, October 28, 2013 at Memorial Hospital. Thank goodness all went very well and exactly as expected. Mark, Alura and Sarah were all there with me for the day which was wonderful. 

As with any surgery, there are risks, and while I really didn't want to divulge them here ahead of time, kind of like jinxing myself, they were serious and deadly, but in  low percentage of possibility. But when you are talking about the heart, that just causes more anxiety than I hope to go through again.

Since I had already been through a stress test, my cardiologist, Dr Dhar, was 99% sure that there was no blockage or other abnormalities. But he said he has been surprised before. And those things could mean stents, or even open heart surgery to correct the irregularity while doing the catheterization. They had to go through the groin to access everything, since my hand didn't seem to be working for the nurses and doctor. Now I have a serial-numbered dissolveable plug there. Oh the techno things available to us these days. And during the procedure, I was somewhat awake, but couldn't feel a thing. So I watched along on the monitors, not really knowing what I was watching. But it was interesting! :-)

Once the cardiac catheterization procedure was done at about 9am, Mark, Alura and Sarah came back in to see me and visit before the ICD Implant.  But first Dr. Dhar showed them the video of my heart and the catheterization to show there was no blockage or issues needing correction. For the ICD Implant, I remember being wheeled into OR, meeting all the nurses, anaesthesiologist, etc; chatting with them, etc. But I do not remember seeing Dr. Chang-Sing or anything more about the procedure, which is just as well as far as I am concerned. And yes, this had severe risks too, but a necessary step in me getting on with my life, hopefully in some sort of normal manner.

Like I mentioned in an earlier post, an ICD is not a pacemaker, as most people think. It does have a pacing function, if need be; but it is a full blown defibrillator. It will "treat" me at any time it feels the need. But it will first attempt to correct any irregular rhythms in a more gentler manner. So unlike the exterior Zoll Vest, I cannot reset it should I think it is treating me unnecessarily. It will just do it! But apparently this vice emits a vibration first as sort of warning, so I can sit or lie down, or be somewhat prepared. Oh fun!!!

There is a bit of a recovery with the ICD procedure -- no driving for two weeks, some bathing precautions to prevent infection, no lifting or reaching overhead or heavy arm use for 6 weeks to allow the device and leads into the heart to take a solid hold. But by the first of the year, I'll be back to lifting those sweet grandsons.

But the liberating part is no longer needing the Zoll Vest. It is all ready for return, along with the cloth vests, once the shipping box arrives in a day or two. I've almost stopped turning around every time I get up from a chair or the car or something, to grab the controller box that I'll set off to the side to give my shoulder a break. And having it lay in the bed between Mark and I at night was no fun too. Not to mention the times it would alert me and almost scare me out of my wits, thinking it was about to treat me. And this happened a couple of times in the middle of the night.

Then there was the bathing restrictions, no hot tubbing, or swimming at all, needing someone with me when it was off -- so scheduled showers. The inconvenience of having this convenience. But I am so grateful to have had it available to me for the past 3.5 months.

We are both very relieved to send it back to Zoll where it can be cleaned and prepared for another patient with this need.

While I am out of the woods, I am far from back to normal. My EF was found to still only be at 15% during the catheterization, which was disappointing to say the least. But in time, and with the medications I am taking, I hope to get it back to something more normal and remove the thought of future heart transplant or VAD Ventricular Assist Device surgery from my mind. 

For now, I have the safety net of my St. Jude ICD Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator to help me go about my normal routine and not worry so much. On to bigger and better things, for sure...

Debbie... aka the cancer SURVIVOR, AND now the Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!


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