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, 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.


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.
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!!!

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

L-R/Top to bottom: Fatty Necrosis/Breast Cancer of left breast Sept, Oct, Nov 2016

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