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, November 20, 2013

It Was Fun to Have Guests

Last night we had company for dinner. I think this was the first company we've had since the diagnosis of the cardiomyopathy/congestive heart failure in June. Sure we have people drop by to see  Brookfarm from time to time, or things like that; but not a real dinner party. 

The opening of Dungeness crab season hit a couple days ago, and our friends John and Pat, and their friend Beth, were visiting from Annapolis, Maryland. We thought, what better thing to do than to enjoy some crab for the first of the season. Two other local couples join us too, and it was a lot of fun.

I've still not been feeling very good of late; and up until the time people arrived, wasn't really sure how I would feel. Several days back when we planned this,  I told Mark to go for it, that it would all work out fine. I knew it would. But I really didn't think I would be able to eat much of the crab, and would most likely skip the wine too.  I put on a happy face, though, and enjoyed. And I think it was very wise to take some diuretics late that afternoon as it sure helped with all the bloating and indigestion. Sometimes, just having others around, with interesting discussions and laughter is a wonderful change of pace. And it certainly was this time.

And we even have some yummy left overs.

The problem I seem to be having right now is my digestion, or lack thereof. Which all stems from the heart failure. Ever since catching the cold and bronchitis right after having my ICD implanted, I've just not been the same and have been setback quite a bit. I know, I'm sounding like a broken record again. I do feel a tiny bit better from time to time, but ever so tiny, and oh so slowly. So the fluid build up in my entire system is caused from the heart's poor ability to pump efficiently. This causes swelling and pressure in the abdomen, and just about everywhere. We are keeping tabs on it, and there is nothing that needs attention so far, but it is just tiresome. Too much of that, and not able to walk very far at all and definitely not up stairs or the slightest incline, not sleeping very well -- but thankfully that is starting to improve.

Mark is so understanding and supportive. I've had a few meltdowns lately and he is right there to support me. We both know this will take some time.

Tomorrow, now that the cold symptoms are nearly gone, I'll be heading down for the flu and Pneumonia shots.

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


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Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Common Cold and Congestive Heart Failure/Cardiomyopathy

This past week I've seen both the Cardiac Electrophysiologist, who installed my ICD, and my regular cardiologist, who did the cardiac catheterization and will follow me from here out.

And the timing was optimum as this cold lasted a good 12 days. Thankfully, I am finally feeling human again. That's not to say I am back to my "not so vibrant" new me. It set me back dramatically. But at least I'm not feeling so stuffy, bloated, coughing a lot, and not sleeping well. Although I am still out of breath at the slightest activity, like walking anywhere.  :-(

So it has been quite a setback for me. I was walking a mile and going to the mailbox and back before. And feeling like I could start to do more. This recent cold did work into bronchitis again.  It has set me back to where I can walk around the yard a bit if I limit it to the flatest areas I can find, and pause often whenever the slightest incline. My cardiologist tells me that colds may be hard for me to handle going forward, so I need to be careful and dilligent when out in public. I had not gotten a flu shot since surgery was so close. But next week I am marching myself down to get flu and pneumonia shots pronto!

So that's the latest. One day at a time.... Two steps forward, one step back. Patience, for sure.

More about Congestive Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy here. And click the link to read the entire test:
The American Heart Association estimates that 4.7 million Americans have congestive heart failure (CHF) and that 400,000 new cases will be diagnosed in the coming year. Heart failure is the leading cause for hospitalization in people over the age of 65, and the risk for developing the disease increases with age. The risk for developing heart failure is slightly greater in men than in women. African-Americans are twice as likely to acquire the disease as Caucasians, and mortality from the disease is also twice as great in this group. Since the 1970s, heart failure has been on the increase because the number of people aged 65 or older has grown. Approximately 20% of CHF patients will die within 1 year of diagnosis, and 50% will die within 5 years.

Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood throughout the body (but not all patients with heart failure have congestion). There are two categories of congestive heart failure: systolic and diastolic. In the systolic type of the disease, blood coming into the heart from the lungs may be regurgitated so that fluid accumulates in the lungs (pulmonary congestion). In the diastolic type, the heart muscle becomes stiff and cannot relax, leading to an accumulation of fluid in the feet, ankles, legs, and abdomen.

Congestive heart failure is in itself not a diagnosis. Rather it is the physiological result of damage to the heart caused by some underlying condition. Therefore, it is not enough to say that a person has congestive heart failure. The CHF has to be due to some underlying process, and that diagnosis is important in terms of treatment and prognosis.

Cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the heart muscle is damaged and no longer functions properly. It is divided into three categories: dilated, hypertrophic, and restricted. Dilated cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle becomes thin and stretched, may be caused for unknown reasons (idiopathic), by alcoholism, and by endocrine or genetic diseases. Restrictive cardiomyopathy results when some disease process restricts the movement of the heart. This may be caused by amyloidosis, prior heart surgery, and diabetes, for example. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle becomes enlarged and thickened, is due to high blood pressure and failure of the heart's valves.

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


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Monday, November 4, 2013

It Works!

The ICD (Defibrillator), that is!

The ICD implant is probably the best thing I could ask for right now. Never thought, or hoped I would be saying that but.....

I've worried about colds with this new heart condition. Especially how hard it was to stay well last winter -- Now looking back, I'm sure they are all ll intertwined, weak heart/hard to fight colds. But, I did not expect to get sick from the hospital. And maybe it was not the hospital. But I remember the cleaning person coming out of my hospital room bathroom one time and had a big wet sneeze. I thought then, uh oh, she better not be sick. Then....

I felt it coming on Thursday evening, a bit of throat stuff Friday, some sniffles on Saturday. But I thought I could nip it in the bud with fluids, and lots of home remedies. At least I was able to go to Train Town for my grandsons 2nd birthday. Wouldn't miss that for the world. 

Then, Yesterday was not a good day here. I slept like crap Saturday night, was up in the recliner several times, just didn't feel well in bed and was wide awake! I took some diuretics in the morning as I was starting to get a rattley cough and emailed my cardiologist with what was going on. He is really good about email and I knew I'd hear back quickly. And if not, I'd call in. My temp was only 99, but Blood pressure was up from "my new low norm" since all these meds, but still "ok" . Then around 10am my pulse got to 140 and above, I thought I felt some kind of treatment from the ICD; gentle, but something for sure. So I just rested and tried not to worry, and hung out in the recliner all day, drinking fluids, etc. 

My Dr. called soon after and checked in. I have this new modem device that goes with the ICD. It transmits information to my cardiologist on a regular schedule, and I can send data whenever I need to. And he asked that I do that and use the Merlin@home to transmit data to him and to watch my temp. With the ICD so new, we need to be very careful about infection. I was taking my temp again to double check when he called back and it was 100.4. He said that, yes, in fact I had been treated, and sent a copy of the report he received later in the day. He said to continue what I was doing, but be cautious with diuretics. He immediately got me on antibiotics 3X day. The pulse stayed high all day till about 8pm, and I felt horrible during that whole time. I could hardly even enjoy the wonderful chicken soup that Mark made for me. Then when the pulse dropped to 100, I finally started feeling better. 

The Hallmark Channel is great in these situations. I watched Thanksgiving and Holiday "love" type stories all afternoon. 

I got to bed early and slept very well last night!!! :-) So today is a much, much better day, all vitals in much more normal ranges.

That pulse in the 140 range for several hours was very scary. I wonder if just the cold/virus (whatever it is) was the cause of that spike. 

This is a copy of the Merlin "Alert" my cardiologist received. (see below). There was additional detail available through a URL, but it appears to be password protected for only his eyes. I really wonder what it says. He mentioned we may need to do more EP studies in future if this continues. I don't think they had identified any VTach on me previously.

Transmission Date: 11-03-2013
Alert(s): VT/VF Episode Occurred; Successful ATP Therapy Delivered (ATP - Anti-tachycardia Pacing)

This is a pretty amazing little tool to have - both the ICD and the Merlin modem.

So, YEAH for my St. Jude ICD!! dancehearts Keep up the good work, pal.

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


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