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.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Mammograms are Not the End All, Be All

I came across the reminder notice from my oncology center that my Mammogram was due in January. Been there, done that. So that was good. Results great! Time to shred the document.

But as I scanned it quickly to determine shredding was warranted, I realized just how appropriate the words were. The words that said Mammography was not "everything" (my words), that annual exam, monthly self exam, were also very important. Oh how true this all is. Especially in light of a week ago.

I went in for my scheduled annual gynecological exam. During the breast exam, the Nurse Practitioner commented about one of the scar areas from my lumpectomy. This area always feels very lumpy bumpy to me and there isn't much breast tissue there anymore from the surgery. So it is very hard for me to know what to look for in that spot, or worry that something doesn't feel right. None of it feels right. The NP thought one of the spots seemed a little larger, and I agreed. So she recommended I see my surgeon for a second look, as her notes from last year gave her reason for concern. Of course my first thought, was, "Oh shit, here it comes!!! I'm nearly 5 years clean, and my world is gonna be turned upside down again." I mean, how can one not go there in their head after cancer. Even the most positive person gives pause to moments like these. Trust me, I am speaking from the heart here.

I was able to get in the next day, Tuesday; not to the surgeon as he was out at a conference, but to another Oncologist in the office I have seen for other cancer related issues and really like, Dr. Amy Shaw. Dr. Shaw also felt that this was somewhat enlarged from past records but that it was most likely a fatty necrosis and 99% nothing to worry about. This is typically fat tissue that occurs at an injury site or after surgery. She felt an ultrasound would help us to know more and decide for sure. Luckily, I was able to pop downstairs for the ultrasound right then and there. The radiologist concurred that it was most likely a fatty necrosis but sent me back upstairs to consult with Dr. Shaw.

I was having a bit of fun by now. The office normally does tumor boards on that afternoon and since the surgeons were away on conference, it was a quiet day. Dr. Shaw invited me back into her office and showed me several past mammogram films, including the ones with full blown cancer. It was very interesting to view all of these while we waited for the radiologist to consult with her so we could make a plan of attack. I mean... I had nothing better to do and wanted to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible.

By the time she had heard from the radiologist, I had decided a biopsy would be my first choice of next steps. And when they said we could wait 3 months and recheck as the chance of cancer was slim, or biopsy it; my reply was a resounding BIOPSY, please. Especially when blood was detected just above the area. Cancer usually has blood feeding to it, and the purpose of the ultrasound would be to check for this.

After a few visits upstairs, downstairs, ultrasound, examinations, we sat down and talked. And then I headed back downstairs to schedule the ultrasound-guided biopsy. You see, the blood near the questionable spot was most likely a nearby vein, but biopsy would rule out cancer for sure, or not.

And low and behold, they had a cancellation the following day, Wednesday at 12:45pm. So now we are 3 days into this saga, but everything is moving quickly and everyone is being very responsive, and assuring me that "this is probably nothing to worry about". Why did it not move like this when I did have cancer? It is all water under the bridge, now; but...

The ultrasound-guided biopsy went well. I'm not very squeamish about these things anymore, and found it all interesting. I did have an ultrasound guided biopsy before cancer was diagnosed, but don't remember it being quite like this. But then a lot of time has passed since then, thank goodness. It was January 2011, so just over 4 years ago. Anyway, all went well! It took about an hour. They located the spot with Ultrasound (US), numbed me and then numbed deeper. Then they did an US picture right before and after each of the 6 samples and placed a tiny metal clip in the sight so it can be identified and found easily in future US and mammos. The actual sample, which is the part that seems a bit different, is taken through a needle, but is almost like a little gun. Not in appearance, but in how it acts. It makes a snap sound as it shoots in and out in nanno seconds all while grabbing a bit of the suspect breast tissue. I went home with an ice pack tucked into my bra, some steri-strips and bandaging. I was able to make a quick Costco trip in prep for a fun girls dyeing weekend (as in dyeing fiber) should all be well in the breast. If not, I guess I would have cancelled and gone home and cried a ton.

So by now you know the good news. Thursday afternoon I got the call and that everything is benign - NO CANCER. I am fine. Doing the happy dance for sure. But that week had been a bit on edge for Mark and I and the girls. I kept it all to myself otherwise, as it all happened so very very fast and they said from the get go 99% no problem. Thank the Lord!

So on Friday morning I headed out for a fun fiber weekend with some girlfriends very relieved.

But the reminder of how it can turn out and how cancer is like Russian Roulette always lurks out there somewhere. Cancer does not discriminate and hits the least suspected. And some close and dear to Mark and I know this all too well as we lost a sweet angel right around this same time to a short 30-month fight against breast cancer. She is a dear friends sister and a local Glen Ellen "boys" wife - Molly Cahill Singleton. A sweet guy that Mark helped to train as a firefighter, and a loving companion to his beautiful young wife. And then a few days later I learned of a sweet friends husband losing his battle to kidney cancer Curtis Mattison - A Veteran serving our country who had been fighting the VA to acknowledge his claim and provide his VA benefits; a father of middle school triplets, another child, and a blended family of other children as well. I mean, how do we make reason of all this. We don't. We offer our help and sympathies, and if you are like me, you cry A LOT! And wonder when and where we will find an end to this evil thing called cancer.

And then a week later, we go one with our lives. We put a big smile on our faces and thank some higher being above for three angelic faces I am blessed to call my grandchildren. So I spent a lovely Mother's Day weekend with some very special little humans, and their parents, of course!


Goofy Grammie with Nico, Madeleine and Gaige -- the loves of my life.

The moral of the story is that you cannot depend on mammograms alone. I just had mine in January. When in question, take it the next step. Better to be safe that sorry. Mind you, I haven't seen the bills for this yet, but I would not have made any other choices along the way regardless.

Life is Good...

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

THANKS for visiting! I look forward to your comments.

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