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, February 29, 2016

PSTx Dedicated to Development of High Impact & Affordable Cancer Treatment

Paradigm Shift Therapeutics (PSTx) was launched in January 2014 by Teresa Burgess, PhD and Kate Farrell, PhD through an ongoing collaboration with Dr. David Roberts at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) focused on developing CD47-targeting inhibitors-a novel immune-checkpoint target with the potential to radically change treatment for cancer patients.  Thomas Miller PhD joined PSTx as a full partner in September 2014. PSTx's public-private partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was expanded in September 2015 to launch a drug screening program with the National Center for Accelerating Translational Sciences (NCATS).

PSTx is grateful for ongoing funding from the Avon Foundation for Women and for the business development support from BioHealth Innovation.

While that may sound like a bunch of science jargon that is hard to get your mind wrapped around, you just need to know that PSTx is dedicated to the development of high impact and affordable cancer therapies.

Breast Cancer Stakeholders:  YOUR OPINION MATTERS!
Please help PSTx to develop better cancer therapies that maximize patient benefits by participating in a simple survey. Contact Cameron or Sebastian at the email addresses below to set up a quick phone interview.

I did, and I'm glad I did.

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, February 25, 2016

The Dreaded Mastectomy

It seems as though cancer is rearing it's ugly head over and over again in my life. I walked with my good friend the other day, and I'm sure she was getting tired of hearing me say, "and then..." But then, I know she understands fully. 

My uncle's second wife passed the other day in Tucson from lung cancer. She had been ill a couple of years, but I had been led to believe she had a miraculous improvement recently. Even though we were far in distance, and I really didn't know her very well, he is my mom's brother and there are so many fond memories of us all together with cousins and getting into trouble. Then the father of the coordinator of the group we get together with each Valentine's Day passed -- he had been ill with pancreatic cancer for just a short while. Again, a recent diagnosis, and he passed a few days later. Of course there is also my brother-in-law,  with colon cancer. It just goes on, and on, and on.

And on top of all that, to bring you up to speed on me. While it is not cancer, it is still cancer related. The fatty necrosis at the site of my lumpectomy is larger, harder, painful, and downright ugly. It takes over most of my breast, which is now looking larger than the normal one -- not the case after the lumpectomy. Anyway, this is the site where I had the biopsy last May as the very small peanut scar tissue appeared to have enlarged so we did some preventative scans and then decided that a biopsy would be safest to rule out cancer. Apparently that biopsy may have instigated the fat necrosis to get down right mad and angry and flare up. Hence the infection, 25 days of antibiotics, and its continued growth and the pain that ebbs and flows -- some days not bad, others sharp twinges of reminder it is there. So I saw Dr. Elboim a couple of weeks ago to move forward with the mastectomy. I think it was Denise's passing that night and me realizing I needed to move on with this as nothing good was coming of waiting. It never drained as I had hoped it might, and massage became out of the question as the skin is breaking down and blistering. It looks like several large brown warts (radiated skin) all kind of overlapping and gathered around the edges. I think this gives you the picture and probably TMI.

Anyway, this is about the 4th visit to Elboim. Surgery is March 14th. He decided he wanted to do a needle core biopsy the week before to be sure there is no cancer. If cancer is found, surgery will be slightly different as they will do another sentinel node biopsy to see if any lymph nodes are involved, and remove them if they are. Then pre-op will be sometime between the two. 

Mind you, when we left there we felt very good that he is being very thorough about cancer and such, but it definitely gave Mark and I a pause over the whole situation. Elboim went over EVERYTHING. Reconstruction is still out of the question due to my radiation, and now with this example of problems with my tissue healing, it just confirms this is the best choice. And I've been good with this all along. There will need to be an ICD tech there to turn the ICD on and off since it is right there adjoining that same breast. And he will do his best with the scar considering how abnormal a good portion of the breast is with this mass. Medicare may kick me out of the hospital the same day, but Mark and he both hope he can work it so I get one night there. I will come home with a drain, but I'm familiar with this from my lumpectomy, so no worries there. And then recovery should be quick and easy, should my incision heal normally, which he warned could be risky with this latest history I have.

So I came home resolved with the next step and happy to have made the decision and have it all in place. And to think I could get it in right after my few days needing to watch the grand kids in early March, and before some plans we have in mid-April. Win-win. But then I was upstairs in my sewing room, working on my quilt blocks, watching the White Queen series (Starz TV), when I couldn't peal my eyes from the screen, and the phone rang. Julie, Dr. Elboim's nurse assistant called to say that since we had so little time between biopsy and surgery, he wanted to calendar a PET Scan in there, but only if the biopsy showed cancer. Someone would be calling to do so and she didn't want me surprised when the call came in. A few moments later, she called back and we scheduled it for a few days before surgery, followed by the pre-op appt. And if the needle biobsy is clean (benign), then we sill skip the Pet Scan. Of course, this got me thinking and wondering, AND worrying. I'm sure he is just being precautionary. But your mind goes to dark places sometimes, and I thought, "what did he see that might have him more alarmed". Regardless, I am ready and he is the best.

So onward we go...

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.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Remembering Denise Emery

It's been a bit of a down month for me. I keep learning of friends or acquaintances with new breast cancer diagnosis, ones very similar to mine, and it just makes me angry and sad, and feeling helpless. Then there is my own situation still pending with most likely unavoidable surgery in the near future.

On top of that, my dear friend and cousin, Denise Emery passed away pretty suddenly Valentine's Day. Denise is married to Mark's cousin, Dick Emery, but Mark and Dick grew up more like brothers than cousins. After Dick and Denise married they moved up to the Ranch, as family calls it. We were on what some might call a family compound. On 33 acres sat five homes.  Dick's Dad's house, Wilson Emery, was right next to Grandmother Dasie Wilson Emery's home, the original homestead. This is where Mark grew up with his mother and Grandmother Dasie. Donna Emery, Dick's sister, had a trailer for she and Eric very near Grandmother's home & Wilson's home. Mark's mom built her home the farthest away, but he never lived in it until after we were married. Dick and Denise moved into the "old" house when we moved into the home Mark's mother, Eleanor Emery (Kitty) built, and Kitty finished off a part of the home as a studio apartment of sorts for herself. The fifth house was Great Aunt Reit's home (Margareitte Wilson Brent), Grandmother Dasie's sister. Hope you have all that straight, since it is a bit complex.

Throughout the years, we've gotten together with Dick and Denise as families for special events, and some fun times and such, as cousins and families do, especially when that close in proximity. I fondly remember a houseboat trip we all took when our girls were quite small and trying to learn how to water ski. Lisa recently shared a couple of cute photos when Sarah and Lisa took their First Holy Communion, and another one of the girls one Easter. But with Denise's large family of siblings (the Secchitano family), and all my Dallara siblings, large family gatherings were few and far between as the girls grew and moved away. In time, Dick and Denise moved away, all the elders passed away,  and our two families were all involved in raising families and jobs and such. Mark and I are now the only Emery's here on Sonoma Mountain Road.

Denise was first diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years or so ago. I don't recall a lot about her first diagnosis, as sad as that seems and feels to me now. Maybe it is just old age, bad memory, or chemo brain. Call it what you like. Time and years passed. We'd get together as a foursome from time to time, and we even made a fun trip to Tucson Arizona in 2001 for Aunt Elsie Emery's birthday, which is Mark and Dick's Aunt.

But in more recent years Denise and I became much more close. You see, we had that common bond of daughters, grandchildren, husbands who are cousins/brothers of sorts, and the dreaded breast cancer. We attended all our daughters weddings and showers, there were baby showers, a few holiday parties, etc; and the dreaded breast cancer. About a year after I was diagnosed in 2011, Denise had a recurrence. Breast cancer is not always in the breast, especially with a recurrence, and that was Denise's case. But we started to get together for lunch on occasion since we both had the time now, aside from doctors and such.

Looking back, I remember how lonely I felt going to my first Relay for Life Survivor dinner. It felt odd to be there as I didn't feel like a Survivor since I was in the midst of treatment that August and would not finish my radiation until the end of September. I had no hair, I didn't really know anyone there, but it felt like I should go. I remember asking Denise if she would be going, hoping I'd have her company. But she had attended many in the past years, and was cancer free and just not into it that year. Little did we both know that we would share a table for the next 4 years at the Survivor dinner.

Then eventually Denise and I started getting together with a group of local ladies like us. Originally there was just 3 of us and we would pick up sandwiches and meet at our homes. Then the "club" grew year after year, and we are now up to eight lovely ladies. Most are from Glen Ellen, one from Sonoma. Five of these women have all been been dealing with breast cancer, some for a few years and some for many years, two with other cancers, and one has lost her husband to cancer. Some of us are in remission, some are dealing with metastasis and ongoing lifelong treatment. We meet for lunch once a month and support each other. We talk about cancer, kids, grand kids, gardens, recipes, husbands, and cancer. Once in awhile we take in a movie or meet for coffee. We welcome new members to the club, as much as we hate to have any meet the criteria -- cancer. But mostly, we are there for each other.

Denise was always the one to bring little jars of cranberry sauce or pesto to everyone at our gatherings, or a bag of lemons. She was always all smiles, very positive and just a joy to be around. As her cancer progressed, I was able to be more involved and take her to some of her appointments, out to get some groceries, or just sit with her and visit and talk. I treasured that time, but wish I had done more, or could have been more involved; but I am thankful that I was able to do what I could.

Up until the last minute, Denise was planning to attend our lunch earlier in February. But then her sister was ill and it was not a good day for her at the last minute. A few of the girls went by afterwards to visit with her for a bit. I am so glad they did as things took a turn very quickly then.

Just a few days before she passed, Denise introduced me to someone as her sister-in-law. I was taken by the association. I didn't know if it was a slip up, or how she really felt. After all we are technically cousins. But I was tickled that moment she called me her sister-in-law. 

It felt as though Denise went very quickly. She had been in and out of pain for some time, and in and out of chemo. She would have a spell where she felt much and better and I think this gave her hope for more time. We talked about the fact the end was near and how her girls and husband were doing, or how hard this would be on the grand kids. It seemed as though she had that glimmer of hope up until just a week before she left us. I saw her on Wednesday, and was in communication with those close to her from then on. When I learned on Saturday she might not make it through the night, I prayed as I sobbed  that she would go quickly and be out of pain. That she, or God, or some power, would be with her and guide her family to stay close and support each other during these sad and trying days and more to follow. I was shocked and yet relieved when I got the word Sunday evening that she had passed.

Here are few more recent fond memories we had together ...

Lisa, Sarah & Alura, Easter Sunday.

Sarah & Lisa, First Holy Communion

2001 trip to Tucson for Aunt Elsie's birthday

2003 - Our 30th Anniversary Party

Lisa's bridal shower

A few years of Relay for Life

 Alura's Baby Shower

2014 Holiday party at our house

2012 Relay for Life Survivor Dinner

Rest in peace sweet Denise. Soar with the angels. You fought a long, hard battle, and now you can rest. You will be missed and remembered by so many, including me. Watch over your dear husband, children, and grandchildren. It was very fitting that you left this world on Valentine's Day, as you had such a huge heart.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Share The Journey

Share The Journey: Mind, Body, and Wellness after Breast Cancer 

I've just downloaded a new app, which was shared by my dear friend, Kate Farrell, of Paradigm Shift Therapeutics. And I've already signed up and gone through the questionnaires. This looks like a wonderful tool for any woman, especially those after breast cancer. It's all about mind, body, and wellness after breast cancer. Here is a bit from the site, if you are inclined not to click on the link at this time.

About this Study

How can we better manage the symptoms after breast cancer treatment together? Sage Bionetworks, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit research organization, invites you to volunteer in a new approach to monitor health in women using mobile apps. Share the Journey: Mind, Body and Wellness after breast cancer is a clinical study that aims to understand the symptoms after breast cancer treatment, why these symptoms vary over time, and what can be done to improve them.

New technologies allow people to record and track their health and symptoms in real time. Share the Journey will use surveys and phone sensor data to collect and track five common symptoms that can persist after breast cancer treatment: fatigue, mood and cognitive changes, sleep disturbances, and reduction in exercise. Some participants will be invited to keep a health diary. The app will allow you to track these symptoms and others of your choosing, review trends, and provide your insights to researchers and the breast cancer community about how your symptoms might change day to day. This study is unique in that it allows participants to step up as equal partners in both the surveillance and management of their symptoms as well as in the research process.

How this Study Works

The Share the Journey app will ask you to answer questions about yourself, your medical history, and current health. The app may ask you to perform specific tasks while using your mobile phone, such as to provide a journal about your week with symptoms. To better understand the way that your symptoms are affecting your life, we will ask you permission to collect data from your phone itself, such as how much you move in one day. Providing this information is optional.
Our goals are to understand the causes of the symptom variations after breast cancer treatment; to learn how mobile devices and sensors can help us to these symptoms and their progression; and to ultimately improve the quality of life for people after breast cancer treatment.
If you, or someone you know, is dealing with or has dealt with breast cancer, suggest they check this out. So far, I think it is a great tool.

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.