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, January 23, 2014

Still Marching Forward

And for that I am so very thankful!

We just returned from a 9-day camping trip in our little trailer along the California coast. When the opportunity to take this trip and attend a crab feed near Fort Bragg, then a camp trip with friends at Doran Beach the weekend after, we both thought, "Why not?". Lets RSVP yes, and if I am still not up to it, then we'll make that decision as the time nears. Because I still was not feeling all that well, and the three months of heart issues; i.e., major indigestion keeping me near "facilities", exhaustion, weakness, and just a feeling of malaise, and just not very well, was still lingering, even though each week I was feeling just a tad bit better. And we decided to run the two weekends together and meander down the coast between the two weekends.

Terry, Debbie, Mark & Bob enjoying the crab feed.
So we started out the trip with the crab feed at Pacific Star Winery just north of Fort Bragg, and brought along cousins Bob and Terry. We had a wonderful time camping right there in the field for two nights, had some yummy crab, saw some monster waves along the bluffs the following morning, and just had a lovely time. We were able to help Sally and Marcus with some set up and clean up, or shall I say that Mark, Bob and Terry did most of it. And for that they sent us away with some left over crab and layered polenta. YUM. Now mind you, my appetite is still very small, and for that I am grateful since it has resulted in a 30# lose over these last six months. I was able to enjoy 1/2 crab at the feed, which is far less than I would normally do at a "crab feed", so it was a huge bonus to be offered some to take with us and enjoy over the rest of our camping trip.
And, after a few off times of eating out and getting an upset tummy and more indigestion woes, I finally felt pretty darn good the entire rest of the trip.

We camped a night on the Westport-Union Landing bluffs again, like back in June. The sunsets on the coast are just so spectacular, and the weather this past week was unheard of for January. Then we stayed two nights in the private Westport Beach RV park, since it allowed us an easy walk out onto the beach for me, which is really the only way I can do it these days. From here we spent a night in the very shady Gualala Point Campground. It is right on the river and would be a great place to come back on a warm summer weekend and bring our kayaks to float the river, which is really a lagoon most of the year. And if someone tells you there are no decent breakfast places in town, they are mistaken. Trink's Cafe was delightful and serves a full hot breakfast, coffee of all kinds, pastries, etc.

Next, was back to an old haunt from when I was a girl. And that was Wright's Beach. I'll never forget the camp trip we took there when I was about 10. My dad fell asleep on the beach and got a horrible sunburn to the back of his legs. He was lobster red and even cried he was in so much pain. But I recall camping right in the sand. And we were able to secure one of the premier sites right overlooking the surf. This beach was a bit more of a chore for me to get out to and to walk along, as the sand has hills and valleys. But I did! And we found two beautiful Sea Stars (starfish). One still alive so we placed it back into the surf as the huge waves may have sent it up onto the dry beach; and another that was no larger than 1/2" in diameter and totally dried out. This one I placed on a rocky ledge so it wouldn't be stepped on.

So on Friday, it was basically a hope, skip, and a jump to meet up with friends Ed and JoAnn for a weekend at Doran Beach Campground. We were in Shell Beach sites 6 and 8 and very pleased with these locations. 6 & 7 would have been better, or 5 & 6. But these worked out just fine. We walked the easily accessible beach both days and the weather was gorgeous. Many families were out enjoying the sandy beach and gentle surf. I need to get back here with the girls and grandsons someday soon, as the day use parking is just a few steps from the beach, with no significant hills or dunes to climb. My kind of place, these days! It was pretty cold and damp during the evenings at the other campgrounds, but we were able to enjoy some roaring camp fires here at Doran, catch up with Ed and Jo, and just kick back and relax. Such fun.

Mark, Ed & JoAnn

Ed & Debbie

So, the good news is that I am feeling GREAT! 

Mind you, great for me is not "normal", or "my old self". But I'll take what I can get for now, as the new normal is something we are all still trying to get used to.

I have two cardiologist appointments next week. One with Dr. Dhar here in Santa Rosa. Hopefully the St. Jude tech will have the wifi gadget for me so that next time we travel my ICD can still transmit data daily, especially in case of an emergency. The second one is with Dr. Fowler and the Genetics Counselor at Stanford. We will finally get the results of the genetic tests run from the labs taken back in August. This will be such wonderful information to have, whether a genetic link is found to cause the familial cardiomyopathy, or not.

And I will ask them both if they know the answer to the 20 million dollar question as to whether there is still hope that my meds will improve my heart function and ejection fraction. Or, if instead I need to get a grip on reality and do my best with what the dear Lord has given me, adjust going forward, and continue to be thankful for what I do have and what I can do, and just get on with life.

Wishing for some rain. We really need it.

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