LIVESTRONG:

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.

WARNING:
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.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Slow Progress

It's been a decent weekend, although I'm still laying low per doctor's orders. I saw my surgeon Friday morning for the bandage removal and reveal (see previous post). He was so sweet to meet me at the back door of their office for a visit, since the office was closed on Friday. Then Mark and I had a lovely lunch out and returned home. By Saturday, the smaller gauze dressing was covered in blood, so another day yet before it is safe to shower. 

The bandage tape is horrible. Maybe it is just because of the type of surgery. I've not had this much pain when removing bandage tape before, and I've had a few surgeries in my life. During surgery, my skin had to be peeled up from tissue on most of my chest so it could be moved to the appropriate area to cover the surgery site and be sutured. It is a large site, and radiated skin has no elasticity, so I have to be very careful so healing continues as it should. I am told that radiated skin can be slow to heal and infection happens more often than with normal non-radiated skin. Whenever I peel off the bandage tape, certain areas feel as though my skin is being pulled away from my body, like it's barely attached (the skin). Thankfully, now I am finally down to a large bandaid. The shower is still on hold until there is less draining and the hole from the breast drain heals up a bit more. 

Saturday afternoon I drove for the first time. I was a bit stir crazy with all the information about shopping and fun holiday events, so I drove down to Sarah's in Sonoma and hung out there, playing games with she and Grandson. Then we took a walk down to the plaza to see the beautiful lights. It was a nice outing. I returned home and Mark and vacuumed the house (Yay!!!) and made chili. I made some corn bread and we had a heart-warming meal. 

By Sunday afternoon, I was finally good to go for a shower. Ahhhhh; that sure felt good.


My artistic hubby. :-)
I'm getting hair. YIPPEE!



















A few Thanksgiving moments...

Cousin love.

Our daughters, their husbands, my brother and his wife.

My nephew with his 3 cousins (our grands). Looks like trouble.


Today is Monday. It is a beautiful sunny morning right now, and  I hope to make it out tonight for a knit night and meditation. Maybe we will even start in on some Christmas decor for the house. We shall see. But I still need to restrict use of my left arm to prevent any edema and swelling, which is a big no-no with the radiated skin and such.

On Wednesday I return to see my surgeon, Dr. Elboim. Hopefully I will get the green light to do the exercises to keep my shoulder loose, and be able to lift over my head and do some light lifting. Then Friday I will return to see my Oncologist to do some labs and see if I am healed up enough and when I can get back on my chemo routine and keep this cancer at bay.

Peace and Love





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

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
B E L I E V E

• I AM STRONG • I AM HEALTHY • I AM LOVED •
THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.



Monday, November 28, 2016

Please Vote For My Blog

My Blog, Deb's Breast Cancer Journey, is once again nominated for Healthline’s Annual Best Health Blog Contest! 

Check it out here: 
http://www.healthline.com/health/best-health-blogs-contest

You can vote once per day until December 12th when the winner will be announced.
AND there is a cash award this year.
  1. Scroll down to vote once you are on page.
  2. Then put Deb's into the search window to find my Blog. (Must use capital D and apostrophe).
  3. May need to confirm email, and look for box you will need to check stating you are not a robot. :-)
  4. Then vote!
Thanks so much - hope you can take some time to vote for me.

~ Debbie Emery


Peace and Love





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

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
B E L I E V E

• I AM STRONG • I AM HEALTHY • I AM LOVED •
THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

So much to be thankful for...

Today is Thanksgiving morning, and I'm thinking of all that I have to be thankful for; and there is SO MUCH!  💟

On Tuesday I had two doctor appointments. One with the cardiologist at 10:30am, and one with my breast surgeon at 4pm; both in Santa Rosa. The conundrum was what to do in between. Would I be up for all day out, shopping for Thanksgiving pie making and homemade cranberry sauce? We left it open.

My visit with Dr. Dhar, my cardiologist, went very well. So much so, he cut me loose for 3 whole months. He had been seeing me every 6 weeks since chemo can be so hard on the heart. And looking back over the trends from my ICD history in his office that morning, it certainly showed a downward turn from March to June, when the chemo infusions were taking such a toll on me. Thankfully, the Xeloda pill I'm now on is much more tolerable, and seems to be doing the trick. And Dr. Dhar says I'm doing very well now. YIPPEE!

We left there and headed to lunch at one of our new favorite places in Santa Rosa, Collibri Cafe. Then on to Safeway for some shopping. As much as it was totally against my grain, we purchased a large pumpkin pie just in case we didn't get to making one. Which was a good idea since my surgeon later told me that rolling at pie dough was out for me for another week or so. 

We decided to head home for a bit of a rest and to put the groceries away. Then back to Santa Rosa for the followup with my breast surgeon, Dr. Elboim.  When he entered the room, he became very serious, sat down, and proceeded to say just how remarkable it is that the pathology on all my removed breast tissue showed no evidence of any remaining cancer cells ANYWHERE. He even went back to consult with the pathologist and review all my previous biopsies and scans, because he had never seen this happen before. I am truly blessed and thankful. I knew it was pretty amazing, but didn't realize just how awesome it was until he impressed this upon us. GREAT NEWS!! I love it, and will take it over and over again -- the great news. He said the Xeloda is working so keep it up as long as I can.

Dr. Elboim then removed all the bandaging and the On-Q pain pump and tube into my surgery site, which was painless. He said the entire incision looked good, was healthy, and appeared to be healing well. He did not remove the drain though, as that needs a few more days. His concern is that he had so little healthy skin to work with, since the radiation in 2011 and the recent fatty necrosis, and pressure of any fluid buildup could cause skin damage or stitches to pop. So I will wait until Friday where we will secretly meet at the back door, since his office is actually closed. It is so sweet of him to do this for me.

The Big Reveal:
I keep calling it that, but also playing it down saying I am ready, and glad it is behind me now. During the office visit, Mark and I saw my new warrior scar. A large crescent shape incision made to be able to pull skin from the surrounding area so there was enough to do the surgery successfully. I'm glad I did not need a skin graft from another part of my body, or tissue to be rotated from there to here, kind of procedure. And I could see some of the stitches right up to my ICD when the bandages slipped some the last few days. But I'm okay with it. It is what it is, and the cancer is removed from my breast area. This is all very good.

Then out for a celebratory dinner at Sea Thai! Two meals out in one day ~ unheard of!

So all was good until I got cleaned up and dressed for an outing the next day. I put on this cheery red top for the holidays and then looked into the mirror. Tears.... the look of one side very flat, almost concave, and the other plump (saggy from old age and genetics) breast, just hit me. WOW! This IS real and the new me. So I found a baggy loose top to put over the red one, put a smile on my face, and road away with Mark to visit a dear friend who is failing fast after fighting cancer for over three years. The visit was very nice, but very sad. He is in a lot of pain, and sleeps alot. We hope and pray he can go home soon to be in his own comfy space with his dear wife and sweet pooch. We will miss them for Thanksgiving.

Once my incision is healed up enough, I will make an appointment at one of those places that makes the special bras with prosthetic, so I have that option when I want it. And I will get on with my life, and smile through it all.

I am so very Thankful for...
The health that I have at this moment in time. For my wonderful husband who is so good at "Driving Miss Debbie" to all her doctor appointments, infusions, and so much more; and who loves me unconditionally and is my best friend. For our amazing daughters, who bring me much joy and happiness, are married to two wonderful men, and have blessed us with the three most adorable, smart, and funny grandchildren. For my seven siblings and two parents who have blessed me with a wonderful childhood, and continue to bring me much joy to this day (such a goofball bunch we 7 remaining ones are when we get together), and are so supportive and loving, yet all have their own challenges in life, as we all seem to. For all my cousins, and there are a bunch as my Mother has two brothers, and my Dad has 6 siblings. For my dear friends from way back when to right now, loads of great girlfriends and fiber friends, friends from high school, camping friends, farmer market friends, and so many more. And my Facebook friends, and Blog followers.

I am so very Thankful and Blessed 

for all that I have. 

There is nothing more to say

but THANK YOU!


And post a few pics of some of the things I am thankful for...
My wonderful husband, daughters, and grands ~ 

Before grandkids




Beautiful daughterts

 

Amazing hubby

 

 





Mark, Mom and the girls.
A fun night Beach Blanket Babylon with Mom.



My fabulous siblings, et al, throughout the years.

With my Noni, Uncle Lou & Aunt Helen, Mom Dad, and the "little kids" as we called the youngest 4.
Tina's college graduation with all but Donna


All 8 of us at Christine's wedding.

Dallara Family Reunion with siblings and families


Moms, sisters, daughters, powerful women!

Sarah's UofO grad with Alura, Mom, Donna & Christine
My Bobo Seestas

Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, family...
Annual family reunion

Cousin Jen at her Idaho cabin
Cousins Terry & Bob


BFFs all the way back to grammar school ~
The girls at a recent gathering; where are you in these Jer?


Many moons ago.
  

















More girlfriends, cancer buddies, fiber besties ~






Me and my sweetie.... so much Thanks...


Long ago memories.




Peace and Love





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

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
B E L I E V E

• I AM STRONG • I AM HEALTHY • I AM LOVED •
THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Feeling Better Than Expected

Can't Believe How Good I Feel 😀



I'm actually doing pretty darn good so far after my mastectomy of left breast last Wednesday 11/16/16. Surprisingly well.

I'm not sure what I expected, but they had me on the best pain meds through Sunday afternoon, and Aleeve since then has been doing the trick. The On-Q pain pump thing worked so well, and was pretty amazing. Check out this cool video, although I did not get a "flow-rate" gadget, as shown in one of the other videos. Mine was dialed in automatically and there was nothing I could, or needed to, adjust. This provides local numbing to just that area. 

While in the hospital they had me on a pain drip in my IV, the On-Q local pain delivery system, and then started me on Norco at discharge when the IV stopped. That, along with the pain pump mentioned above, worked so well that I did not have one bit of pain. There were a couple of times where I had this odd feeling and wondered if it was the "phantom nipple sensation", a feeling the surgeon mentioned in his 13 pages of notes for surgery prep, pre- and post-op, and care after the first week. Who would have thought? There is actually something called PBS, or Phantom Breast Sensation. It kind of felt like there was an itch or something, but it was out away from my body, or at least that was the sensation my brain felt, where my breast would normally be, but where there is nothing now. Perhaps it was the meds being administered from the On-Q pump, but I think not. Oh well, it only happened a couple of times, so hopefully that is now gone, or will be soon with time. 

I kept up on the Norco, lowering the dose and frequency, as I approached Sunday afternoon when the localized numbing would stop from the pump. Then switched to Aleeve, which I am barely taking now. So again, I am amazed by the lack of pain; but oh so thankful for that as well.

I continue to empty the little resevoir attached to the breast drain. This was familiar to me from my lumpectomy back in 2011. It will stay in until the drainage is down to 40 ml per day or less. The amount drastically dropped once the local numbing drug stopped, which makes sense. It was pumping in fluids that needed to drain as well. So I went from about 150 ml drained each day through yesterday, to today where I haven't emptied the reservoir yet but there might be only 20 ml, if that so far. 

I return to see my surgeon, Dr. Elboim, tomorrow late afternoon, after a mid-morning check with the cardiologist. Doctors, doctors, and more doctors. I am thankful for their care for sure, but they are a big part of my life.

So of course the big reveal is tomorrow at that appointment. I don't think I'll be alarmed. I've already been prepped to know that the surgery was complicated as to finding and arranging enough healthy skin to successfully complete the mastectomy. I've seen some of the stitches peak out where the bandaging had slipped some -- bandaging that covers around my entire torso with mummy like stretch bandaging from waist to high up on my chest just under collar bone. As you can imagine, it doesn't stay there very well, and I think most of the gauze underneath has slipped considerably as well. I was a bit surprised to see the stitches up so high as to go a bit over where my ICD is positioned. Dr. Elboim mentioned that he did not have to move the ICD at all, that it is still in is original pocket of tissue, but that he did have to release some of the skin above it to be able to stretch it to cover the area where the "bad" skin was cut away. And I was told that happened below the site too and can feel a bit of tenderness there. 

But all is ok!
So what if I have a bit of a scar to show what a warrior I am.
This is a fight, after all.

And then I can, AND WILL,  get on with life and living.


It's not the prettiest of pictures, but it is my reality today. Thankfully this will all change late tomorrow.
 


Again, thank you all for your continued support, love and comfort. I can't imagine going through something like this alone. Because of the love and support from my dear husband, loving and caring daughters and their families, such a large loving family of siblings, their spouses, their kids, my cousins, and so many friends near and far, plus you; it is all just a bit easier.


Peace and Love





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

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
B E L I E V E

• I AM STRONG • I AM HEALTHY • I AM LOVED •
THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Bye Bye Breast & Good News

Wednesday 11/16/16 -- surgery day-- mastectomy of the left breast.

I'm doing very well so far. I returned home yesterday afternoon, Thursday, after one night in the hospital. They had me in a private suite in Peds. Apparently that's where they had rooms, so I was feeling kind of special. It was a very quite space, and everyone at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital treated me with excellent care. The large group of attendees in the OR, and my surgeon, did an excellent job, from what I know so far. He felt he got all of the cancer, and says I will find an interesting incision next week when he removes the dressing, kind of a crescent shape. I think it must be a Super Moon!  :-)

He did not need to remove any lymph nodes, and I was expecting a call with pathology results soon.

THEN MORE GOOD NEWS!
😋

Dr. Elboim called today to check in and he was excited to tell me that they could not find any residual cancer in any of the tissue of my breast that they sent to pathology. He was excited, I'm excited, the girls and Mark are very excited. He followed up to say that doesn't mean there isn't a cell or two that they missed, but that's always a possibility. And Of course there's still the liver tumors. But this news, and the recent CT Scan showing reduction in size of the tumors in the liver, tell us that the treatment I'm doing seems to be working. So click up your heels for me this evening when you get together with your loved ones because this is very good news as far as I'm concerned, FOR SURE!

Me, a little goofy as I arrive at my room.
So now that step is over, it's done, the breast is gone and finally I can get on after it. It is quite a relief. This has been going on far too long, the anticipation of "when to" have surgery, "is it possible", etc. Although the actual surgery came about very quickly.


Such an adorable card G made for me.

A couple of months ago surgery was not possible. You see, the fear was that the cancer/tumor(s) had attached to the chest wall and could even be into the muscle. So it would be a challenging procedure. Then there was the fact I still had open wounds on the breast and was going through chemotherapy. My immune system, was suppressed from these treatments and blood counts were often pretty low. So timing had to be right and we were watching for that. My surgeon said to make an appointment a week after my next CT Scan and we'd go from there. Which I did. I met with him last Wednesday. Stopped the Xeloda chemo pill (Once I heal up, I will restart it). Then met with my oncologist on Friday and both felt very positive with me going ahead with the mastectomy. So the following Wednesday was the day. And that has now come and past.

Mark drove me in to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, and daughter Sarah arrived while we were in pre-op.

Surgery ended up taking about three hours, one more than expected. They were very cautious about my heart as they had to turn off my ICD during the procedure since it was right there where everything was happening, the left breast. An Electrophysoliogist Cardiologist (EP) was with me during surgery, and had me hooked up on my back and chest in case they did need to defibrillate me. I wasn't too concerned, as the ICD has never fired so far in the three years I've had it (knock on wood). And as luck would have it, both the EP who did my ICD implant, and my cardiologist, Dr. Dhar were nearby as well.

The Anesthesiologist, Dr. Margaret "somebody" (sorry Margaret), took time with me to get my entire history, and was just a gentle soul . I felt I was in good hands once they got the IV in using Ultrasound. The first stick in the back of the hand was the most painful I have ever had. Tears streaming as the Anesthesiologist was trying to consult with me -- not fun! 

Surgery was at 10am, and I was in recovery at 1:30pm, then to my room just before 3:00pm, and was greeted by my sweet Mark, and two lovely daughters.

I then had one sleepless night in the hospital with a continuous drip of pain medication and a button for me to push every 10 minutes should I need more. Those IV pain meds were removed before discharge. During surgery, a On-Q Pain Relief System was oinserted, which infuses a constant pain med all around the surgery area, lidocaine I think, for about four days. Then there is a drain I empty  about 4 times a day until output is reduced. I'll return for a followup next week to have dressing, etc. (a wide swath of bandaging around my entire chest area, tape, pumps, drains, and tubes) removed. 

Some have asked, Why only the left breast? Because there is no need to remove the right. Why go through that added trauma to my body for no reason? You see, I do not have the BRCA genes, or any other known breast cancer gene. This is a misconception that so many have. Removing my right breast would do me no good. 

A little history...
You may remember that my left breast has been in a huge flare up scenario since the fatty necrosis was first found April 2015. The breast had issues, but all were manageable for a few months. By December 2015, it was time to do something. But then things got worse, and mastectomy was on hold to try to heal things up. A few rounds of antibiotics had little effect. Then the kidney stone scare late February 2016, right before I had the scheduled mastectomy all ready to go, which then turned into a much greater issue of liver metastasized breast cancer. And here we are today in November 2016 and I'm finally ready for the mastectomy. 

I'm also finally ready to share some of what I've been through. I've been very forthcoming with all of my treatment, the good, the not so good, cute pictures, not so cute. I've had a hard time sharing some of the photos of what I've been going through with my cancerous breast. I'm not sure why, because there is a way to show it without making it too personal or intimate. So now I am finally there and comfortable. Maybe it is because I was ready for it to go too.

WARNING: Brave people scroll down below the footer for some pics. (I cropped the pics so it isn't too bad.) But you will get an idea of what fatty necrosis and this breast cancer ended up as, or can look like, or evolve into. This encompassed about 1/3 of my left breast, but my doctors have told me they've seen it cover a full breast, and even cross over covering both breasts and in between. Apparently these were in cases that were not treated. This all happened kind of quickly a few months after April 2015. It was all internal for months, but then became very inflamed in December 2015. That is when the blistering and open wounds/drainage began, and increased. Here we are almost a year later.

I did not have this experience in 2011. I've learned that fatty necrosis often follows an injury, surgery, reconstruction, radiation, etc. so perhaps this all came about because of the surgery and radiation, but it took five years to appear, maybe once the cancer returned unknown to us at the time.

This surgery does not guarantee 100% that a similar skin break down won't occur at this surgery sight sometime in the future, or that infection, poor healing, or other issues won't occur. But then there are really no guarantees with any surgery. But those things are unlikely to occur. You will see the swelling and blistering that occurred, the leathery dark skin that happened just since 2015.

So that's it for now. I got a bit of reading accomplished on my book while at the hospital, and my three nurses took great care of me. The food, once I was able to eat on the second day, was pretty good too -- yummy blueberry pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast, and a nice Caesar chicken salad for lunch.

And I returned home to wonderful deliveries of food, cards, gifts and some knitting books I had ordered. All very nice surprises and things to brighten my day.

Thank you all for your continued support, love and comfort. I can't imagine going through something like this alone. Because of the love and support from my dear husband, loving and caring daughters and their families, and so many close friends, plus you; it is all just a bit easier.


Peace and Love





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

Debbie... aka the cancer FIGHTER, AND Cardiomyopathy warrior!!!
B E L I E V E

• I AM STRONG • I AM HEALTHY • I AM LOVED •
THANKS for visiting!        I look forward to your comment.


This area was about 2 X 3" in size, quite large compared to the photos.
L-R/Top to bottom: Fatty Necrosis/Breast Cancer of left breast May, June, July, Aug 2016

Here you see the great improfement over the last three months, FINALLY!
L-R/Top to bottom: Fatty Necrosis/Breast Cancer of left breast Sept, Oct, Nov 2016