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.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Good News...

... But this infection was a hard one to whip!

It is now 8 days since my last post and the breast infection was vigilant and hard to whip into shape. The antibiotics just kept it at bay until the intestinal issues started in at day 25. So after my intestinal flora had been stripped of all its wonderful healthy bacteria, I spent 3+ days near the toilet and dealt with some other antibiotic side effects (you know, ladies) GRRRR. I know TMI, but hey, you came here to read this Blog about cancer, heart failure, and me. So there you have it.

Mind you, I guess I had a good bit of healthy bacteria to sneak by that long, thankfully. As the doctor warned me several times that this might be an issue and that it was typical with this drug. And added that the drug is absolutely the best to fight a breast infection. So when it first hit, I thought perhaps it was from some rich food I had over the weekend. You see, I've been concentrating on a "Good Gut" ever since I read the book this summer, The Good Gut, by Drs. Justin and Erica Sonnenburg. I make my own Kefir and drink a bit of it every day, take a heavy duty probiotic capsule often, drink kombucha, eat yogurt, and try to get in enough good fruits and veggies. This, I believe helped me to ward of the gut problems for so long.

And thank goodness that a fun camping weekend away on the beautiful Mendocino County coast was had before the issues began. So when on Monday I knew there was an issue, I stopped the antibiotics. By Wednesday evening the breast was pinking up again, but I told myself I would give it until the morning. And the next morning, the breast continued to look just slightly pink and was slightly warm, but not alarmingly so. 

Now backup to Tuesday morning when I placed a call into my doctor to discuss these issues. Additionally, I wanted to run by Dr. Shaw the technique of aa warm compress using castor oil, which is followed by very light oncology massage. My good friend and Certified Oncology Massage Therapist, Karen Cahill, CMT of KBC Oncology Massage, had mentioned massage for scar tissue to me and so she did some research and learned of this technique with the castor oil. (Karen has a Facebook Page too here.)

Unfortunately, my doctor's office was swamped this week due to Dr. Elboim's return from a week off due to a family emergency. He was the one I was scheduled to see this upcoming Monday. Rather than get my questions answered over the phone, they got me in to see Dr. Elboim this morning, January 15th. So I was able to discuss everything in detail with him. He was very patient and thorough with us, heard us out completely and gave me options. I like options.


First and foremost, surgery is not urgent.


Second, infection has resolved and inflammation calmed to where I do not need the antibiotics.


I am to continue probiotics for at least another week. Although I will continue my normal regime mentioned above long term. I can choose to do nothing and see how I do. The lump "might" absorb some on its own, but not 100%. Elboim said maybe 25% is more realistic. All the ultrasounds and mammograms I've had since September, and back into May, show no signs of cancer! But should I choose surgery, a biopsy of the tissue will be performed, as in all surgeries (I was told).  Dr. Elboim stated, "This is not IBC (Imflammable Breast Cancer)". He suggested I reassess my situation frequently to see where I am and how I feel.

Dr. Elboim went on to say that breast reconstruction is not really an option for me, due to radiation 4.5 years ago. Naysayers, please don't go there. I had already decided against it. I do not want reconstruction, nor do I want to get my "good" breast involved. End of discussion.

If I decide surgery is my choice, a subtotal mastectomy is probably the best. Elboim can try to save some breast, but to remove it entirely would be best to allow for a best-fitting prosthetic. Why leave a little nub? No muscle needs to be removed, nor any lymph nodes. I would need a drain for 7-14 days. We took home about a 20-page handout on the subject. I think it is similar to the one I received 5 years ago, but will take a peak later if/when I get to that point. And of course there are risks to everything. 

Dr. Elboim thought there would be no harm in the castor oil compresses & massage, provided the compresses are just warm and not hot, and massage is very gentle. So I will consider this and talk to Karen.

There was another technique called fat graphting he mentioned. It is experimental and performed on non-healing wounds, but it really didn't sound like it would be appropriate or effective for my situation. But I will definitely do some research.

So there you have it -- There is hope. And I am feeling pretty good right now. I will sleep on all this, give it some time, and go from there.

Here's to our health...

Life is Good...

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

THANKS for visiting! Comments are good. I look forward to your comments.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

More Tests & Sadly...

... More Surgery

Bottom line -- a mastectomy is more than likely in my future.

The back story is that back on May 11th I posted about some new tests brought on by my oncology check up and exam, which prompted a new mammogram, ultrasound, and then biopsy. All was well and good thankfully. The lump was found to be a fatty necrosis which can occur at the sight of surgery, or after an injury. Why it took 4.5 years for this to form, was unknown to all of us.

Then in September I went in for a repeat check and ultrasound, which I neglected to post about. Sometimes it feels like skipping over some of the worryful moments to concentrate on the happy times and events of life, is much better. The ultrasound that September showed all was good, which again was a relief. At the conclusion of the ultrasound, I asked the radiologist if I should just stop "messing with it", as it was annoying to me and I would find myself massaging the lump (the size of a walnut), to think I might break down the fatty necrosis and help it to absorb or something like that. He said, "Just forget about it all together. Don't worry about it". Well I tried to do that.

When I saw Dr. Amy Shaw, my oncologist, for a follow up on November 9, 2015, we discussed having the lump removed. By now it was 3 cm, fairly hard, and I could feel it when I hugged someone, plus it was starting to hurt when I wore some of my bras. Basically, it was very annoying and bothering me constantly. My question to her was wouldn't it just return again if the prior surgery was the cause in the first place. A few weeks later I emailed her assistant to discuss more concerns, as I could not get it off my mind. We both agreed that it was time to see my surgeon, Dr. Charles Elboim, for a consult. Since this wasn't urgent, I was trying to work around my schedule and some commitments I had during the month of December. It looked like the date that would work best for me was in early January. Then, as I was about to leave my Nurse Practitioner daughter's home, after one of my 2-days of spending time with my sweet two little grandchildren, I asked her to look at the lump for me. And she did. She suggested I needed to be seen the following day and should not put it off another moment. Her concern, confirmed my concerns. And unbeknownst to me at that moment, my whole breast had become swollen, red, puffy, and warm to the touch. This had come on just in the last few days and I'm sure glad I had her take a look for me.

I returned from Alura's late on a Thursday night, and called my oncologist at 8am the next morning, Friday. They got me right in that same morning a couple of hours later on December 18th. Mind you, this was not how I had planned to spend the day before hosting 30 people for our family gathering of all my siblings, nieces, nephews, extended family, and a few close friends. I was supposed to be shopping and cooking and cleaning and.... you get the drift. But no, not only did I have an exam, but as I was sitting in the parking lot telling Mark the latest, and planning to run a few errands for the big day tomorrow, I got the call to come back in as they had a slot for me for an Ultrasound. They followed that with a full Mammogram. And then I went to pick up a prescription. Oh well, the party will happen no matter what, and no one will be the worse from it, or know what is going on until I have the full story, or so I told myself. As I have said over and over again; one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. And so it was.

During this appointment with Dr. Shaw on Friday, it was apparent that I had an infection, perhaps mastitis, which basically is any kind of infection in the breast. She put me on an antibiotic and scheduled me to see the surgeon right after the weekend, on Monday.

When I saw Dr. Charles Elboim on Monday December 21st, we discussed many options. He reported that the size of the lump had increased from 3 cm to 4 cm in one month. He told me that the blood supply to this area of my breast was likely reduced considerably due to surgery and because of this my breast could not maintain healthy tissue. Why it had taken 4.5 years from surgery, he could not say. He repeated that all things pointed to this lump being benign, but that only surgery and biopsy of the removed tissue could tell 100% that this was not cancer. He seemed concerned that the area was still somewhat inflamed, but much improved from just a few days earlier. He did encourage me to get a refill on the 10-day antibiotic in case it did not subside completely and we were in the midst of a holiday or weekend. Oh was he ever on target here. He went on further to say how it might start to drain on it's own as this sometimes happened. We also talked about surgery options; further breast reduction, or full mastectomy; and his concern for surgery with my serious heart condition and how he would be sure not to put me at further risk in this area.

I left Dr. Elboim's office with the paper script for a refill if need be and proceeded about our holiday preparations and such.  It was Monday, December 21st, I would spend 2 days watching my adorable grand kids in Davis to help out while there sitter was away for the holidays; then return home to prepare for a special Christmas Eve dinner for our daughters, their husbands, and our three most adorable members of the family -- the three most adorable grankids in the world (no bias here). :-)

All went well, and I continued the script of the antibiotics. We had the most wonderful holiday with the most precious people in my life; and they even all stayed over and awoke with us Christmas morning to the wonderment of two 4 year old boys, and one precious 1.5 year old little angel. But later Christmas Day I noticed that the breast was completely red and hot and inflamed again; even with the antibiotics. Dr. Elboim was spot on in suspecting this would happen, and I refilled the script after the 10 day supply.

So here I am, on January 8th after being on this antibiotic for 22 days; and while the infection is better, the breast is still inflamed. After seeing Dr. Shaw on the 5th, as Dr. Elboim was away, she told me how she and Dr. Elboim discussed everything and they both feel mastectomy may be unavoidable. While he could possibly save some of the breast, the size of this fatty necrosis has grown to a point that there is not much breast left. So I am continuing on the antibiotic for the time being, until Dr Elboim returns. This antibiotic is the best available for treating beast infections. But I cannot stay on antibiotics forever. Dr. Elbows will do my surgery with the a sedative, rather than full anesthesia, so as to prevent any risk to my heart.

And as I do a bit of online research about fat necrosis of the breast, I am learning it is somewhat common in breast cancer patients, after either radiation, biopsy, or surgery. While it can often be treated with massage and/or hot compresses, it appears mine is much too large, and with all the inflamation, I may need to resort to mastectomy. But I will do more research with this time.

I know it sounds very selfish, but one of the things I am saddened about is that now that I'm finally at a weight where I feel comfortable dressing in things that are a little more form fitting, I will need to wear a prosthetic to hide the deformity. And this really pisses me off. And NO, I have no interest in reconstruction. I know that I need to be grateful for my health. Especially when I see others who are not doing so well. I guess it is a process of grieving that I will get through in time.

I am so over this breast. Maybe I will just screw it all and go commando. The discomfort of this huge hard rock in my chest, and all the issues it is causing, are not worth the pride of having two boobs.

That is it, my friends, in all the gory details. I am blessed to have my family and loved ones. I am blessed to not be dealing with serious cancer issues as my brother-in-law, cousin and other dear friends are. I am blessed to still be here on this earth and to be enjoying my sweet grand kids and family. So I will embrace this new change as it occurs, and put one step in front of the other, go one day after the other, and live life to the fullest.

Life is Good...

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

THANKS for visiting! Comments are good. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Did I Say We Had a Wonderful Holiday...

A Wonderful Holiday in pictures...

A lovely Thanksgiving with family at my brother's home in Petaluma:

Marie, our wonderful hostess & sister-in-law, Mark, and sister Christine

Christine & the grandsons mucking it up - Gaige & Nico

Me and most of my siblings; L-R is Nancy, Christine, Eddie, me, Matthew & Dan. Donna is missing, sadly.


A fun family day we host annually the Saturday before Christmas -- This year we enjoyed the company of our girls and their families, most of my siblings along with their children and some extended family, some neighbors and a handful of friends.

Guess who??? in the kitchen prepping for the gathering.

Alura with her Auntie, Marie Dallara

Me and sister Nancy Ann

Papa as he sent Gaige off that night in his reindeer jammies.

We were blessed yet again with both our girls and their families joining us for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, sleepovers with all 7 of them, and a joyous Christmas Day of toddlers and all the joy and laughter and energy that they give.

Alura, Grammie, and our little princess, Madeleine

Sarah and all the grandkids, Nico, Gaige & Madeleine
Sarah and all the grandkids, Nico, Gaige & Madeleine













And then we topped it all off with New Year's Eve dinner with Sarah and family and another sleepover with grandson Gaige. Life is very good, and we are both so blessed.

Gaige is a great helper with morning chores.

Time to get more sand for the sandbox on New Year's Day.

Wishing you all the Happies of New Years...

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

THANKS for visiting! Comments are good. I look forward to your comments.