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, July 29, 2016

Chemo #14, Abraxane #6

I'm moving right along having had chemo infusion #14, Yesterday/Thursday morning, including Abraxane cocktail #6. These are weekly infusions, which have been going on since early March, with just a couple of breaks, and 2 blood transfusions so far for anemia and very low blood counts. Chemo was changed, after little result from first regime, to an Abraxane/Carboplatin cocktail 6 treatments ago.

They say it takes about 6 infusions to see if this treatment plan is working appropriately against the cancer, or not. More infusions, and sometimes the cancer gets smarter than the drug and learns how to work over and around it, tricking the body, drug, immune system, to let the cancer in to do its damage. Cancer is a sneaky and persistent devil. The CT Scan with contrast next week will hopefully show that this newer chemo regime is doing the trick, especially to the many tumors in my liver. While the liver labs show my liver is still functioning in a normal manner, we need to knock the cancer down to keep this so, and perhaps give us other treatment options for the liver, and the hormone therapy we've been discussing all along.

And if the improved look of my left breast tumor(s) say anything, and the positive thoughts in looking at it... from me, my husband, and my oncologist; the CT scan will most likely give us some very good news. One of these days I'll be brave enough to post a series of some of the photos over this last year, to show the transition of how my breast has changed outwardly. From in the beginning with just some slight abnormality, to swollen and red and puffy in December 2015, to wart-like exterior deformities in January, and then an inch square or more of exposed fat, something you have probably not seen before, to very dark outer skin which I thought could have been from radiation, although now I learned it's probably something called "radiation recall". Oh, the things I am learning. And now the area has stopped draining, pain has subsided, and everything has shrunk down considerably. All very positive outward signs. 😊👍

The blood labs and office visit Wednesday show that I am pretty anemic, and my blood counts are very low. Today we were told the labs also showed very low potassium level. So we had to forgo the Lasix IV, which normally happens at the end of my chemo treatment. And I'm communicating with my cardiologist, and when this happened recently he indicated he would put me on a potassium supplement, and over-the-counter magnesium. So I'm guessing that will be the next step until the potassium levels return to normal. The low blood counts have caused ultra fatigue daily all through the week right up until chemo day. Usually I feel pretty good a few days before the next infusion; but that was not to be this time.

I have the next week off of chemo so that will help the blood levels to improve, As they typically do when I get a break.

So, I'm hoping the rashly itchy eyes, face arms, hands and feet don't return, and the neuropathy remains the same or goes away (tingling of toes and fingers, that often progresses to numbness.) The cuticles around my finger nails are starting to feel tough and I'm wondering if it is the start of them going, like the hair. My hair is at the point where I'm hanging on to what little is left for now, as I like the way it looks under a hat. We shall see when I'm ready for Mark to pull out the clippers. Wish me luck on that front.

And the HOPEFUL NEWS is that some Metsters (those of us with Stage IV Metastesized cancer) are often living 5 years after diagnosis, and some as long as 10 years. That is such a huge leap from 3+ years, and gives me so much hope.

I rested in the afternoon yesterday, and then we were constantly impressed that evening as we watched, and listened to, all of the wonderful speakers at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. We are witnessing history in the making, and it pleases me greatly.

So let me leave you here with this sweet story about Soul singer, Sharon Jones. Be sure to listen to her song, "I'm Still Here". And if you get the chance to watch her documentary, click the previous link and scroll down to watch the trailer. And here is one more great link on the story.

Peace and love to all.

THANK YOU for continuing to keep me in your thoughts & prayers.

Die cancer, DIE. You are messing with the wrong woman!!

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!

THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Lead Legs

Boy am I tired these days. I was very anemic as of last Thursday, but then was given the week off chemo because of that and all the skin rash/itch side effects I was having, and a weird heal pain that was probably neuropathy. Basically just all those fast growing cells dieing off from chemo -- WOOHOO!

The tired continues. I was able to get out for a wonderful 2+ mile walk on Sunday with Bev. It's always great fun to spend time together and catch up. She made me a lovely Hawaiian-themed pillow case, so I can dream of ocean breazes and swaying palm trees -- it is so lovely. 

Bev and I (and our group of fiber gals - our knitting/spinning buddy gals) have a dear fiber friend who just lost her young daughter to a rare form of cancer at 36 years of young age. I just cannot imagine what this must be like for our friend, the daughters husband and teen and pre-teen children. It is almost too painful to think of her pain and grief. This cancer is so evil and prevalent. When, where does it all stop?

This tired stuff is pretty all consuming. (You are most likely getting my drift as I keep coming back to this -- I'm just dragging today). Luckily I was able to take Gaige for a few hours yesterday. He plays so well now, as long as Lego's are present, that I was able to relax in the recliner. And later, Mark, Sarah, Gaige & I all got out onto our deck for pizza dinner and time to hang out in the hammock. 

A lazy afternoon on our deck.

I am so glad I got a chemo vacation last week. I am just dragging (Oops, I say it again). Can't imagine how I would be feeling if I'd had chemo then. Although I'm sure another blood transfusion would have been scheduled, and one may still be in the near future for me. I had planned a fun day this past Saturday to ride into Berkeley with Sarah and see some of her girlfriends from work, especially Tiffany and her new little one, Rowan. But it was not to be. Again, the fatigue was something I could not overlook. So some nice long naps have been happening each day, and not much more than watering plants, a bit of sewing or knitting. Today is not much better. Boohoo.

Not only was Dr. Anderson very pleased with the look of my left breast last week (which is looking much smaller, has little to no drainage, or pain), but it looks even better yet today, even from just a few days ago. When I look at photos from early this year, when we knew there were issues with the fatty necrosis but cancer had not yet been found, everything looks so much different. I'm amazed at how bad it got even after the first regime of chemo had been going on for weeks. Not until we switched to the Abraxane, a Taxol derivative, and not for a good 4 weeks of that, did improvement begin. I'm so anxious and hopeful for the CT scan on August 3rd. Keep your fingers crossed for me, please.

And BTW, for those wondering about my potassium levels; it returned to 3.8 with last weeks blood work, which is well in the normal range. So I am back on my regular twice a day Furosemide (lasix), and my Cardiologist says we will start supplemental potassium should this happen again.
Now, on to fun stuff I haven't told you about over the last week or so...
A few of my Schimberg cousins happened to be in the area on a road trip on July 15th. My uncle, Ed Schimberg, (mom's half brother) and his wife Mary, moved away many years ago, settled in Arkansas, and had a family. We've seen just a couple of the cousins over the years, and the last time was many years ago when they were just wee ones. Anyway, Ed's now exwife, Mary, and two of her daughters, Elizabeth & Leah, along with Liz's two sweet kids, communicated with me and we were able to put together an impromptu meeting at Fremont Diner in Schellville. I invited all my siblings, as Donna just happened to arrive the night before, but it was too last minute, everyone had conflicts, and it was a work day for some, so I met up with them. It was great to meet Leah for the first time, visit with Mary and the crew, and just put a face to these Facebook friendships I've established over the years. Thanks, guys, for making the effort to connect.
Back - L-R: Leah, Elizabeth, me, Mary. Front: Emory & Analise.
Donna & Bruce (sister & BIL from Helena, Mt) and Shar & Eric (niece - Donna & Bru's daughter, and nephew from Bozeman, MT) all arrived late Thursday night on July 14th. We had a big weekend planned and Mark and I were able to squeeze in a dinner here with Donna & Bruce, and sister Christine and her hubby Ken on Friday night. We had a lovely outdoor Summer evening. Later that evening, as the ladies were inside getting desert ready, the phone rang and Eric's voice was soft and hesitant as he told us that they were in the ER. Shar had a crash when they were out mountain biking that day at Annadel Park nearby, and Shar was airlifted to Santa Rosa Memorial. We didn't learn until near midnight, just as she was released, that her injuries included several broken bones to her clavicle, scapula, one rib, and the "nub" of the vertebrae just below her neck. So, so scary; although we were very thankful that it wasn't worse, as it could have easily been. Shar was quite the trooper the rest of the weekend with her ice packs and sling, in lots of pain, but attending our family BBQ at the Jansons, and then the Dallara Family Reunion on Sunday at the Steele's home, including 80 family members. A busy time, and a hard weekend for me, chemo side effects and all, but great fun and times with loved ones. And Bruce hadn't been out since Sarah & Chris' wedding 9 years ago, so it was wonderful to see him out here, and to introduce the grandkids to more family -- although I'm sure they have no idea who all those people were.
Fun with the precious grandkids.

Alura & Madeleine cooling off.

Christine's birthday.

Fun family gathering at the Jansons.

Dallara Family Reunion

And on Monday we took off for a few days in Carmel with great friends, Ed & JoAnn. Nice, relaxing, sunshine, ocean, full moon, and sand between our toes. Perfect!
Fun with the Merritts in Carmel

 Now saving up my energy for chemo this Thursday.

THANK YOU for continuing to keep me in your thoughts & prayers.

Die cancer, DIE. You are messing with the wrong woman!!

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!

THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

I Get a Week Off of Chemo & Another "BEST BLOG" from Healthline

Thank You Healthline. For the 5th year this/my Blog was again voted one of The Best Breast Cancer Blogs of 2016.

I am sad to recall how I told you about this achievement in May 2015, when I was presumed to be in remission, but now looking back realize it was starting all over again right about then. This is how I announced the achievement one year ago, "I just say it like it happens, or how I feel. And it doesn't seem to be over yet. I mean, the cancer, SO FAR, is in remission and I am approaching the wonderful FIVE YEAR mark next year. But the side effects of the chemo continue. Damn Cancer! Although even that seems to have improved considerably over the last year." But I am here! And for that I am thankful.
As Healthline honors my Blog (look for the 7th Blog listed in the this link), Deb's Breast Cancer Journey , they say,

Deb’s Breast Cancer Journey

Debbie Emery has bravely kept blogging through her breast cancer and other subsequent health problems, including congestive heart failure and a new breast cancer diagnosis in 2016. She details her doctor visits and procedures, shares recommendations for helpful smartphone apps as well as other blogs her readers might like, and is open and honest about her thoughts and fears as she continues on her cancer journey.
Visit the blog.

Please do check out the other several Blogs recognized by Healthline. There are some truly amazing stories, and some truly amazing people out there telling these stories.

Thank you, Healthline, for this honor once again.

Apparently, I have a week off from Chemo! Surprise, surprise!

Sarah drove me in this morning with us both fully expecting to go through the usual routine. After describing my symptoms to Dr. Anderson, my Oncologist, he said, "Maybe you need to take a week off."  I really didn't want to, because I had hoped to take 8/4/16 off due to a conflict that week, and so I could get back on a Wednesday schedule. 

Since all my lab numbers on blood for 7/21/16 were low...
... I will take this week off, will have chemo next week on Thursday, and then take August 4th off. Then I will be back on a Wednesday schedule for 8/10/16.

Dr. Anderson was very pleased with the look of my left breast, which is looking much smaller, has little to no drainage, or pain. The lymph node in the right armpit is no longer tender and as swollen too! And now I have an appointment for a follow up CT Scan with contrast on August 3rd. We are all expecting to receive good news. Yippee

So Sarah and I headed over to Parkside Cafe for lunch, then on to the dispensary. I found a good Cannibas topical cream to help with my skin.

Now I am home and hitting the recliner for a much needed nap (3 hours later I awoke). I should get a call soon with my Potassium levels so I can share it with my cardiologist and find out what to do. I just checked online and see my Potassium is back to normal at 3.8. So I will check with my cardiologist,  Dr. Dhar, to see if we return back to the normal dose of Lasix.

THANK YOU for continuing to keep me in your thoughts & prayers.

Die cancer, DIE. You are messing with the wrong woman!!

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!

THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

New Chemo Side Effects

The symptoms from chemotherapy seem to be carrying over farther each week, to where they last right up until the night before the next chemo. They are not unbearable, but not easy either, so I power through and go about doing what I can each day and try to get out and about and do things that make me happy and keep me distracted.

New symptoms that I'm experiencing have to do with skin issues, and it's making me irritable and annoyed. The backs of my hands and arms are very itchy. If I even touch them, I start getting small welts that itch even more. I'm constantly applying soothing lotions and Cortizone creams. I did mention this to Dr. Keiser last week, who was the oncologist I saw a week ago. He explained that this could happen, or I might find bruising that I could not explain.

This week I'm finding that all around my eyes have also been very irritable and itchy. They look red,  as though I have blush on, but do not. And this evening my cheeks also feel pebbly, like a subtle, almost invisible, rash is forming.

For about a week now my left heal feels as though it is dry and cracked. It is very  tender and hard to put weight on, but yet is just slightly pink and not really cracked at all. There is no wound that I can find, but it feels as such. I don't think this is neuropathy, but again need to check in with my oncologist on all of these.

Then here are the nose bleeds. I tend to get nose bleeds in dry weather, such as very hot summer days in the mountains, or winter weather when we spend time in snowy locations. I've had these issues since a child and have had the areas in my nostrils cauterized a few times, but not for many years. I've been having some mild nose bleeds for the last week. But this morning, even though we were in the moist coast air of Carmel, I had a doozy of a major nose bleed from the moment I stepped out of bed, for a good half hour or more. So yet another thing to discuss at tomorrow's office visit before chemo.

I'm not sure what's going on, but I can only assume all of this is connected to chemotherapy.

In addition, the fuzzy head, fuzzy brain, fuzzy vision also seems to be lasting longer and nearly until the next chemo infusion. So some R&R seems to be in order. It is just getting too hard to power through this feeling.

And there is the concern for my heart as well. When I had blood drawn last week before chemo, my potassium level was too low to give me the IV Lasix that they do with infusion now. After consulting with my cardiologist, and notifying him my Potassium was at 3.0, he directed me to stop my daily morning and night Lasix tablet dose of 40 mg each day for now. Apparently a low potassium level can be quite dangerous to heart function. So I'm a little concerned that I might have some fluid retention around the heart and lungs without the regular lasix, and I'm trying to be careful and cautious and keep tabs on my body signals. Tomorrow we'll do new blood work to see how the potassium levels are, before going back to the old routine or changing anything up. I'm a bit anxious about all this, but will have a better take on it tomorrow.

I know I've been hinting at total loss of hair for a few weeks now. Well, while in Carmel it got to the point where I needed to wear a hat 24/7, or got chilled very easy. Then there is the fact that there is very little hair left and I'm feeling the need for a hat constantly as well, just for appearances sake. Mark and I have decided I will get through tomorrow's office visit and chemotherapy, and then it is time. It has disappeared much slower this time around, but it is time, all things considered. I sure hope I don't scare the grandchildren too much. I've been trying to warn them of this event, so hopefully they will adjust to it. I know it seems silly to worry about them, but I do. They are the world to me.

The good news is that we returned from Carmel to a voice message on our answering machine asking me to call in and make the appointment for the follow up CT Scan. Hopefully the news from the scan will be that the cancer has retreated significantly, especially in the liver; and then maybe I will be switched to hormone therapy which hopefully is less frequent or has less in the way of side effects. 

After all, I have people to see, places to be, and loads of things to do. 

THANK YOU for continuing to keep me in your thoughts & prayers.

Die cancer, DIE. You are messing with the wrong woman!!
Life is Good... Most of the time.

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!


THANKS for visiting! I look forward to your comments.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I Feel Like a Hairless Dog

I Feel Like a Hairless Dog... La, la, la (hummed to the tune of Joe Cocker's, I Feel Like a Motherless Child.)

You know, one of those dogs that has hair, but there is so little of it that the skin is clearly visible and there are just a few long hairs here and there. Yep, mine is getting there. This mornings shower left another large handful over the drain, and yet more as I towel dried it. And when wet, it appears I have next to none. But there is just enough to fluff up and keep me going a bit longer. I did find a beautiful silk scarf from one of my favorite fabric designers, Jane Sassaman, in Village Sewing Center today when I went in for some Velcro. So I'm getting prepared for the inevitable.

I've had another busy week and am realizing I need to learn how to slow down, especially since I've had few "really good" days this week. But no real bad days. Just exhaustion, metallic taste in my mouth, and that fuzzy head/brain feeling where you feel like you are "on something", but I just can't relate to anything from my past that it is similar too. It usually means I need to take a good nap. And maybe the telltale sign was that I couldn't get to sleep until nearly 4:30am the night of chemo -- dang those steroids I get during infusion. So either that sleep deprivation accumulated throughout this week, or maybe I'm working my way up to another blood transfusion sometime soon. Although it's only been 2 weeks since the last one, where it was almost four weeks between the first two. Time will tell.

The exciting news is that I am sure the chemo is working, or doing something. The breast deformity is shrinking and shriveling up a bit. One 1" square area, that has been very white and fatty, yet has a good blood supply to it, seems to be partially dried up and flaking away. This makes me very excited and hopeful. I'm hopeful that if even this one small area of tumor is reducing in size, then probably the lesions on the liver are also shrinking and being effected by this latest chemotherapy. One needs hope and positivity to all these challenging steps, right?

As I mentioned above, I've been on the go. I've had positive fun things to do almost each and every day, and I've taken advantage of them all. My family and friends are keeping me busy and distracted, and even if I do get tired, or don't feel really great, I am able to continue to have some fun, thankfully.

Friday I had the pleasure to spend some time with Grandson Gaige.

Baskin Robbins with Gaige.
Saturday was an impromptu lunch with Marian and Leslie at Breakaway Cafe. It is so good to see my childhood friend from elementary school, who we've kept contact with each other all these years, with a few hiatus years in there along the way. And her cousin, another breast cancer survivor, who I connected with a few years back; and we have been following each other via Facebook and her cousin along the way. They both have members of their family with new cancer diagnosis, and it is so hard to hear about and watch. One having been taken very quickly from pancreatic cancer and another with breast cancer. Why is cancer so prevalent these days? It just seems like it rears it's ugly head over and over again. I swear I am not focusing on the disease, but it is so hard to get away from it all. It is a part of all of our lives these days, I fear. I guess we just need to buck up, be strong, and help to support each other through the thick and thin of it all. Love is the answer; today, tomorrow, and always.

Girlfriends from elementary school. And we are all still friends, with the exception of one who now soars with the angels. This was my 16th birthday at Johnson Beach on the Russian River, with sister Donna as our chauffeur and chaperone. Great friends, fun times, wonderful memories then and now.
Did you know I am a huge Outlander fan? And now it is Droughtlander; meaning we have to wait a year or so for Season 3 to be released. I've read all of Diana Gabaldon's books, and a group of my fiber friends are huge fans as well. We've been getting together at the beginning and end of each TV Season to share an Outlander-themed potluck, and watch one of the current episodes. Our host, Maureen, usually has a series of Outlander trivia questions for us, and we talk knitting and spinning projects and everything Jamie and Claire. It's great fun. So on Sunday we spent most of the day at Maureen's home doing just that and watching the last episode of Season II, Dragonfly in Amber. And it was a wonderful episode with great friends, even though I was dragging and the fuzzy head prevailed. 

My apple galette for our Outlander gathering.

On Monday I had lunch out again with my "cancer sisters", as I call them. The group I get together with once a month who have all been affected by cancer. We enjoyed a fun meal of several different curry dishes at Dehli Bely in Sonoma. Yum. It was fun to see them all and help to support each other. One is about to begin a whole new chemo regime for Stage IV breast cancer, which she has been fighting for a few years now; a recurrence from five years earlier. She had a Power Port inserted for the first time last week, and it was very painful for her. And then today I learned that they were not able to access the port for her first chemotherapy. I think there was some issue with the new port not working properly, or something. She was so frustrated, as I would be too. She doesn't need this on top of all that she is going through trying to make decisions about which chemo, etc. She and I are on a similar path of treatment and such at the moment. Her metastases is in a different part of her body, other than her breast, but we face the same types of decisions and indecision, confusion, challenges, what-if; all so similar on this path we have been forced to travel. I'm glad we have each other to talk to, vent, console, etc. Thankfully Bev drove us all, as I returned home for a nice long nap, yet again, as it has been my routine nearly every day this week.

I finally got into Cancer Support Sonoma yesterday for an appointment for Energy Work. I must say that they could use some improvement in the accessibility of their office when one needs to schedule or cancel an appointment. I was supposed to meet with their nutritionist on Friday, but had to cancel due to other commitments. Trying to notify them with advance notice was impossible. I left two phone messages and an email with no reply until this week, which was after the scheduled appointment. But when I went in for the energy work, I was given a cell number so that I should have better luck making contact next time. The energy work was interesting. Basically the therapist had me lay on a massage table and placed her hands on different areas of my body. It was very relaxing, and I dozed off during the hour appointment, where lovely soothing music played in the background. I felt very good afterwards and returned home to nap yet again. I'm looking forward to rescheduling the nutrition appointment soon and maybe take advantage of some of the other therapies, especially the support group every other Monday.

You may recall that I mentioned in my last post that the results were in from my genetic testing, and today I had the appointment to get the results. The good news is that of the seven genes tested, they found no gene mutations known to cause breast cancer. No BRCA 1/2, or the other five genes tested. There is an additional gene panel that I may have them do as well, but it is unlikely that my breast cancer is caused from a genetic mutation or variant. It is still considered familial since there are 3 other cousins on my Father's side with breast cancer. The counselor said that what this means is there are usually similarities in families, lifestyle kind of things, that could still have a bearing on this. But I will go into more detail on this in my next post.

At the moment, Mark and I just returned from a lovely dinner at our neighbor's house, just a short walk down the road. They are wonderful friends and neighbors; loving, generous friends that we are so happy to have as our neighbors. It was a delightful evening talking families, Kauai, and all sorts of things, with great laughter. Thank you, Debbie & Joe!

I am tired now, and tomorrow I have chemo very early in the morning. So I will sign off at the moment and hit the sack. And I am working on saving up enough energy for a fun family weekend. My sister and hubby, Donna & Bruce, and my niece and hubby, Shar & Eric, will be here from Montana. Our Dallara family reunion is on Sunday with lots of cousins and extended family, and they have not been able to attend one of these annual reunions for many years. So of course we will have a smaller reunion of my siblings and our children and grandchildren on Sunday at Ken & Christine's. Wish me luck in having the stamina to enjoy all the fun. And if I poop out, I'll just find a comfy chair to hunker down into and take another little nap.

THANK YOU for continuing to keep me
in your thoughts & prayers.

Die cancer, DIE. You are messing with the wrong woman!!
Life is Good... Most of the time.

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!


THANKS for visiting! I look forward to your comments.