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.

*****************************************************************************************

Sunday, June 11, 2017

How Many Lives Does a Cat Have?

I'm wondering if I've used up all nine yet! 

I've had a few mishaps over my life, and yesterday as I was doing some routine house things (vacuuming, mopping, and washing windows) I was thinking about those times when I could not even imagine thinking about those things and how much I appreciate the ability to do it now, even if just a little bit now and then, and all the support I received during those times.

There was the time when I was 16 and I had begged my parents to see if I could get permission to ride the horse that was boarded in our pasture. Well, the owners approved and I would ride Lucky around the pasture from time to time. But it wasn't long after I got this privilege that one day Lucky decided s/he was hell bent on "going home", and I could not control her (I think it was a she) and she started bucking wildly. I can still vividly recall flying through the air up over her back and landing right on my tailbone. Needless to say, I could not move and lay there in the field moaning until one of my siblings found me and ran in to get my mother. They put me in the back of the station wagon laying down, as I could not move hardly at all and took me to the doctor. Why on earth we didn't go to the hospital, I'll never know. But the doctor did an X-ray, said I sprained my back and put me on Darvon. I was bedridden for about 3 weeks. The Darvon making me so nauseous and delirious that I barely ate and that made things even worse. I struggled for years with what I called a "weak back", being in pain sitting in the bleachers at high school football and basketball games. Things slowly progressed, but it took years. 

Then in my early 20's, already a mom of two littles, I was helping dear husband chop wood. He had me holding these 1.5-2" diameter long pieces of madrone wood. I was told not to let go as he chopped away with an ax to cut them down to wood-stove sized pieces. Needless to say, it stung my hands so bad with the vibration that I finally let go. Well, that piece of wood took a fly up and right into my nose. That was followed with a crushed nose into many pieces, and much pain. After waiting a bit for the swelling to subside, I had nose surgery to put things back into place. The worst part of which was when they pack your nose with gauze to hold everything tightly in place for healing and you must mouth-breath for the duration. Then the removal of the yards and yards of gauze was an interesting experience too.

Fast forward to the early 90's and I am parking at the usual park & ride lot at Hwy 116/121 intersection near the Carneros Deli to catch my commuter bus into San Francisco where I worked for a time. I would daily cross the street via the crosswalk from the parking area to the bus stop near the gas station. But this day, a tractor was crossing the street in the opposite direction I would cross, so timing was perfect for me to cross at the same time. I looked both directions and began to cross. As the tractor passed by my right shoulder going through the intersection, I heard the sound of an accelerating engine and looked up in time to see an SUV coming at me, apparently the driver had not seen me in the crosswalk as the tractor blocked their view. The rest is history, the SUV hit me on the right side as I put out my left arm/hand across my body as though to stop it or protect me. The impact threw me nearly 30 feet and I landed almost right in front of the line of fellow-commuters waiting for our bus. Not a good or pretty site. I was lucky to be alive.

In that accident I crushed several ribs, and my left wrist (the one I used to try to protect me), broke my collarbone, and had a concussion and dark bruising around my eyes. I had a hematoma the size of a cantaloupe on my right hip, and they thought I had broken my back. They later realized the fracture to a vertebrae, after making me a special back/torso frame to support me for healing, that it was an old injury -- probably from Lucky, the horse, throwing me many years earlier. From this accident, my left wrist had been shortened on one side and after wearing a cast and much physical therapy, I finally gained normal movement, but that took years. After much recovery time, the ribs and clavicle finally healed, and we tried liposuction on the huge thigh hematoma, but a large divot still remains there. I have good sized scars on my knees and elbows as it was described I sort of tumbled through the air and over the pavement, scraping knees and elbows as I tumbled.

Probably the worst part of the accident is the PTSD and vertigo that continued for years -- a fear of riding in a car, crossing the street, and much more. I even still have bouts of the vertigo from time to time.

But alas I recovered again. It was this injury I was especially thinking back on while washing windows yesterday, as I could not do much of anything with my arms and upper body for quite a long time after the motor vehicle accident, as it was called.

So now I come forward to 2011. There was no accident, but the first breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent chemotherapy and radiation certainly took its toll on my activity level. And now 6 years later I am dealing with it's return one year ago in March 2016, the metastases (Stage IV liver metastasized breast cancer) and the tailspin that sent me again into horrible nausea and fatigue for nearly a year.

But wait, I had to come back a day later and edit this post to add one other very important disability moment in my life (how could I ever forget), and that was the Congestive Heart Failure diagnosis in 2013, when my EF (heart ejection fraction) was down in the teens, where a normal range is 55-70%. All this thought to be caused by a chemo drug two years earlier (Adriamyacin), and genetic factors. I was being schooled for what was thought to be an unavoidable heart transplant, but this had to wait until I was 5-years cancer free. Luckily with loads of medications, and an ICD implanted into my heart to help pace irregularities and shock my heart in case of heart failure, about 12-18 months later I improved enough to escape any additional heroic surgeries. My EF is now up to 30%.

But today I am thankful for all that these situations have taught me, the love and support I have received along the way, especially from my husband, children, parents and siblings, through each of these scares, and most especially the fact that I am alive today. After all, I did awake this Sunday morning to a beautiful Spring day in Glen Ellen on Sonoma Mountain, where Mark and I call home.

As I have said and written many a time, I can only take it one step at a time, one day at a time... step by step, closer and closer.

Let's just hope I have experienced enough excitement of this kind for a lifetime. 

I think (and hope) I still have many more lives ahead of me.
AND, it's nice to have clean windows. 😊
 
~ ~ ~

Filling my life with love, laughter, family & friends!
~ Peace and Love ~






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.

You can also find me on Facebook, Ravelry, and just occasionally on Instagram and Twitter. Just click the word above to go there.

Monday, May 29, 2017

My New Friend

I think I need to name her. She is comfy and a new "very close" friend. You might call her a BFF. She's pretty natural (feeling) too. So what the heck am I talking about, you ask? Well...

Please meet Rosie, or at least that is the name I'm giving her at this moment. She is my new prosthetic breast. She is very comfy and natural feeling. She stays in place like a good girl, unlike the ultra-light Knitted Knocker I was trying out. She has enough weight to keep in place, but doesn't make me sweat or any of those uncomfortable things. She has some great air-flow features and such.

My new friend Rosie... comfy and natural looking.





Rosie is from Enhance by Linda Reib a wonderful place where you can get all things breast cancer related and more. I learned about Enhance from daughter,  Alura Barsun, Nurse Practitioner at the UC Davis Med Center Burn Unit. She has worked with Linda Reib for compression garments for her burn patients, and has a coworker who also highly recommended Enhance. Then come to find out, my cousin, whom I had plans to meet for lunch on the same trip to Sacramento later that day, has known Linda for many years. Small world, I tell ya. 

The customer service by Linda and her team was amazing. I also found some nice bras and tank tops at Enhance. And I may make a trip back there to see some of their swim suits. Mind you, Sacramento was a long way to go, and I know there are similar places much closer to me, but this gave me the opportunity to do some of the fun things below.

By the way, Rosie is a Amoena Light 2s. I highly recommend these to anyone in need. She is water proof and warranted. And Enhance will also adjust any of your garments with a sleeve for the breast form. They are altering my swim suit for me right now.

 Here I am with Curry cousins, Jennifer and Kathy, 
after our lunch in Sacramento. Great to see them and catch up, as well as Jenn's daughter, Sarah, and one of their friends.



Then I finally got to see where my daughter works at UC Davis Med Center Burn Unit.



On this Memorial Day, I bless all our military who gave their service to keep us all safe and free from harms way. Please remember them today. They are all brave, courageous, and wonderful people.


~ ~ ~

Filling my life with love, laughter, family & friends!
~ Peace and Love ~






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.

You can also find me on Facebook, Ravelry, and just occasionally on Instagram and Twitter. Just click the word above to go there.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hand and Foot Syndrome

Hand and Foot Syndrome - it has finally hit me. I was in to see my oncologist on Tuesday and all was going very well. The results from my CT Scan of the previous week showed that all was stable, no new cancer anywhere, the blip in the lung from the last CT (possible sign of infection) was gone. Nothing is smaller, but nothing is growing -- so that is all good.

Then the following morning, I woke up with hot red bottoms of my feet, which felt as though they were blistering and felt very tender to walk on. What the heck!

So I called in to the Nurse Advice line. I know that this is a symptom of the chemo pill capecitabine/xeloda, that I take one week on and one week off. But I had not had anything more than a tender heal in the 9 months I've been on this. But this was very different.

So I have stopped the chemo pill for a day and a half, which is what is left for this week. Then I have my week "off" the pill and hopefully things will be all better when it is time to start up again. 

I get to spend a day in Sacramento today to get a breast prosthesis at Enhance by Linda Reib, visit dear daughter and tour the burn unit at UC Davis Med Center where she is an NP, then lunch with cousins, and watching the grandkids at their swimming lessons. so hopefully the feet will hold up through all of that. The good news is from what I've seen online, my case of this is very mild -- no skin breakdown, thankfully.


~ ~ ~

Filling my life with love, laughter, family & friends!
~ Peace and Love ~






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.

You can also find me on Facebook, Ravelry, and just occasionally on Instagram and Twitter. Just click the word above to go there.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Hair Growth Progress

I am documenting my hair growth here and will bring this post forward each time I update it.

AND HERE WE GO AGAIN!
As you know, the cancer returned last year with a diagnosis on 3/1/16, and at that time was found in both left breast and liver, all considered Stage IV Liver Metastasized Breast Cancer. So now there is a new Hair Growth Progress report to make since that time. I have updated the old post of June 2011 through September 2012, to now include my 2016-2017 hair loss due to new chemotherapy , the chemo still ongoing over a year later, and my regrowth. It looks like my eyebrows have taken a beating from all this and there isn't much left there. But oh well, just a bump in the road.

Similar photos, only 5 years later...

May 2016 - 3 months into chemo, and hair just thinning a bit

The following photo is shocking for me to see, 
but it is the reality of it all. And the next two show you just how hard chemo can be on the body -- exhaustion, nausea, dry skin, wrinkles, pale from low blood count and many transfusions, etc. 
Taking it all one day at a time.


August 2016 - It is time to take it off. The only reason I waited this long is it gave me a little fluff under a hat. I did not go out in public like this without a hat!
September 2016 - Baldy
November 2016 - It's slowly returning


February 2017 - With my Surgeon, Dr. Charles Elboim, a real sweetheart


The curls will probably disappear in about a year and my usual wave will return

May 2017 - full of curls.


    
And lots of new freckles from the meds.






































And now we go back in time five years to the first diagnosis, rounds of chemotherapy, and hair loss...


9/9/12: It's been nearly 1 year since I finished all treatment now, except for the "five-year pill" and 16 months since my last chemo. I've had three hair cuts so far over the last four months, but each has been just to barely trim off the dead dry ends and shape it a bit. You cant see it here, but I continue to have quite a bit of new growth. There is a nice crop of brand new hair which is all about 3/4" long. The extra curl that came in post-chemo has disappeared and I'm back to the natural wave. But my hair is ultra soft and fine, which I think is still a change from what was once normal. And I think my eye brows are finally back to what was normal pre-cancer treatment. So things continue to improve, I'm feeling good, and look forward to my one year anniversary and getting past my follow-up oncology appt, along with blood work and bone density scan.





5/1/12: First haircut in over a year.
 
4/8/12: 11 months of growth since last chemo of 5/17/11.

The curls are softening up a bit. My hair seems thinner than before and the tips are brittle. it is probably time to get it trimmed and get rid of the ends from chemo, especially now that there is a bit of length.

This is Easter Sunday. I am holding Gaige (Sarah's 5.5 mo. son), and Alura is with 8 mo. old Nico. Such a joy.

12/17/11: 7 months of growth since last chemo of 5/17/11.

I thought for sure I would have more hair by now. At least it is almost to the point where I can get it trimmed and cleaned up a bit. I mean, it is barely 2" long. But look at that sweet 7 month old Gaige, my grandson. So much to celebrate now!

Grammie and Gaige at our annual holiday celebration.


11/13/11: Nearly 6 months of growth since last chemo of 5/17/11.

Wow! Has it really been two months since I posted an update about my hair growth? Well, I suppose that may be because it grows so slow that there really isn't much to share about it very often. I will say that I definitely have more curl than before. The hair all over my head ranges a whopping 1.5 to 2 inches long. You can see from these recent two pics with my grandbabies, that it is more fluffy and curly on the top and sides now. I definitely need to look in the mirror before going out or it may look all messy -- which is a good problem to have -- one I haven't experienced in about nine months. My head does still get pretty cold with the cool Fall evenings we've been having, so a good knit cap is still a must. But that is fine by me. Below are some close ups.

Gaige, about 9 days young


Nico, about 2.5 months; preparing for Halloween
back
side
I definitely expected more grey, so am pleasantly surprised with the amount of color. Yippee for the little things.  :-)


9/10/11:
While the hair on my head seems to be in a very slow growth patter, my legs are hairier than ever. I've forgotten about shaving them regularly since I am so out of the habit. Yesterday I looked down at them while wearing a pair of capri pants, and oh man... that hair is growing like a weed. Well the things we "liked" about chemo must quickly slip away, just like the things we did not like about chemo.

On the topic of head hair regrowth, I've studied up a bit and it appears that my hair will return at a much slower rate than normal hair growth. My hair stylist and dear friend, Susan, tells me hair normally grows about 1/2 inch per month. Considering the first month after chemo nothing much happened. And then looking at this picture below on 8/27/11, you can see that this is definitely not the 1-3 inches of hair expected. After talking to some other chemo patients, apparently it is a good 6 to even 18 months before hair comes back in looking good and normal. I have such empathy for the woman in radiation the other day who asked how long my hair had been growing. She was wearing a scarf and seemed to have such hope in waiting for my answer. Her chemo just ended 3 weeks ago so she wasn't quite as excited when I informed her it had been nearly four months since my last chemo. 

Give it time dear one. It all takes time.

But look at this. Pretty impressive in my mind. :-) (Yes, there is another ear there, just hidden)


4 months post chemo.



8/27/11:
Hair growth 3.5 months post last chemo treatment.


8/27/11 3.5 months post-chemo
 


8/17/11 3 months post-chemo
 
7/31/11:
Hair growth 2.5 months post last chemo treatment.


Mark calls this his summer look. I call this my chemo look.
I actually have enough eye lashes and brows to where I feel I have the same color around my eyes as pre-chemo. And look how my head of hair is growing in. I'm surprised there is as much brown in there as there is. Talk about a crazy way to transition from coloring your hair to your natural color. 


7/13/11:
I am nearly 2 months past my last chemo infusion, which was on 5/17/11. And there is enough fuzz on my head for me to barely grab it between two fingers. The hair on the back, near the nape of my neck, is a tad longer than on the top. Most of it appears to be grey, but there is a hint of brown sprinkled in too.

All through chemo I had a few eyebrows left near the center of my brow, and enough eyelashes to barely grab them between two fingers. Now that I have new hair growth, those few straggling hairs have disappeared and made room for the bit of fuzz in both places.





I wish I could say that the annoying facial hair was not coming back; but heck, I'll take what I get at this point.

6/23/11:
It is about five weeks post my last ACT Chemotherapy infusion and I'm starting to feel just the tiniest bit of fuzz on my head. You can't really see anything, but it appears to be coming back in.


Hugs,

Debbie... aka the cancer warrior ... AND SURVIVOR!!!

LIVESTRONG
I AM STRONG. I AM LOVED. I AM HEALTHY. WE WILL WIN!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Another Scan Bites the Dust

Yesterday was CT Scan day. There is always a bit of anxiety around this quarterly test, but I'm feeling very, very good and so am pretty relaxed about it this time. I'm hopeful that the breast cancer tumors in my liver have shrunken even a bit more from last time, and maybe even some of the smaller ones are gone. Wouldn't that be just the best! That's what I'm sticking to, FOR SURE!

But the best part about CT Scan day, is when Mark comes with me (and he almost always does), and then we go out for lunch and play a bit. So today, we had lunch at Sea Thai in Santa Rosa and it was delicious. We had the fire cracker prawns as a starter. Mark had the black noodles with pork, and I had a fire chicken curry. Yum!

I just love the gorgeous light fixtures at Sea Thai. The following collage features just of few of the beautiful pieces, as well as our yummy lunch.
 



After running a couple of errands, we then headed over to Sonoma County Fair Grounds for the Santa Rosa Quilt, Craft & Sewing Festival. It was great fun. At first I thought it was a quilt show, but we soon realized it was more of a vendor event, with lots of fabric, sewing machines, and much more on display and for sale. I picked up a couple of batik fabrics, about four adorable quilt patterns I hope to get to someday, and a cool new couple of gadgets for my sewing machine that should make life much easier -- Creative Feet and Octi-Hoops. The demo was very impressive.

These quilts were on display at the event, mainly as examples of patterns one can purchase. Mermaids, VW bus, ocean and trailers, what's not to like about all of there?

Always a great time when we can take in some beautiful art by such creative people.


~ ~ ~

Filling my life with love, laughter, family & friends!
~ Peace and Love ~






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.

You can also find me on Facebook, Ravelry, and just occasionally on Instagram and Twitter. Just click the word above to go there.




Thursday, May 18, 2017

Best Blog Again - THANK YOU Healthline


This just in from Healthline...
Hi Debbie,

Healthline would like to congratulate you on making our list of the Best Breast Cancer Blogs of 2017!

Our editors carefully selected the most up-to-date, informative, and inspiring blogs that aim to uplift their readers through education and personal stories. We’re glad to have you on the list!

Congratulations and keep up the great blogging!

Warmly,
Maegan Jones | Content Coordinator
Healthline

Healthline goes on to say...
We’ve carefully selected these blogs because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with frequent updates and high-quality information.

Over the course of a lifetime, about 1 in 8 American women will develop an invasive form of breast cancer. In 2017, about 252,710 women will be diagnosed with new invasive cases of breast cancer, while 2,470 men will receive the same news. 

If you or someone you love has a breast cancer diagnosis, connecting with people who have walked in your shoes can make a world of difference. The blogs that have made the Healthline list this year create supportive communities and inform their readers on their journeys. Take a look at the best of the best here!

And this is how their website introduces my Blog.

Deb’s Breast Cancer Journey

Engaging and full of positive energy, Debbie Emery shares her one of a kind journey. Her story begins with a breast cancer diagnosis that became congestive heart failure and, more recently, a metastasized breast cancer diagnosis. Her no-frills posts about what happens during doctor visits, treatments, procedures, and everyday life is so refreshing.

I am honored and humbled once again for this special acknowledgment.

~ ~ ~

Filling my life with love, laughter, family & friends!
~ Peace and Love ~






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.

You can also find me on Facebook, Ravelry, and just occasionally on Instagram and Twitter. Just click the word above to go there.




Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Having Lots of Fun

Monday I attended the Cancer Support Sonoma group at Sonoma Valley Hospital for the first time. The organization offers all sorts of programs, but this was the ongoing support group that meets twice a month on Monday mornings 11-12:30. The setting is very warm and welcoming and I felt comfortable listing and sharing about all of our journeys. I will return for sure, and hope to share this wonderful resource with a few friends. 

Yesterday afternoon I made my monthly trek to Santa Rosa for a port draw/flush and labs. It is starting to feel a bit more normal not needing to be there every week for nearly a full day of infusion. And the chemo pill I take daily for a week (then a week off, and repeat), seems to be tolerated pretty well by my body -- only a few minor side effects that are totally manageable at this time. The CT Scan with contrast is tomorrow, and happens quarterly to see how all my tumors are doing -- and HOPEFULLY they are shrinking. Then an appointment with my oncologist is scheduled for next week to go over the results and consult on how things are going. The Xeloda chemo pill I am currently taking has about a one year expected effectiveness. About then is either when the cancer figures out how to devilishly sneak around it and start growing again, or my body may begin to not tolerate it. Then, we will look at other chemo options, if need be, and I understand that there are more out there, thankfully!

But meanwhile, life moves on, a cancer friend has passed (very sadly), and reality of it all is still there in the back of my mind as I meditate, knit, learn to play the ukulele, and enjoy family and friends. Not to mention finally having the energy to do a bit in the garden. So life is good right now, and I'm trying to grab it by the horns and take a good long, fun-filled, joyful, thankful, ride of my life.

Here is a snippet of the fun stuff  from the last few days in photo form.

Gaige and Tessa giving each other sweet hugs.

Gaige at his Woodland Star Charter School's May Day/Grandparent's Appreciation Day Celebration.
 
Getting into a healthier diet and it is feeling so good. Only veggies, fruits, and lean meats -- NO dairy, NO sugar, NO flour products of any kind, NO alcohol. We take a break when need be, but still try to hold true to most of these guidelines. Pounds are dropping!  :-)

Happy Times for the grandkids with Opa and Grammie Rita visiting from Indiana.
And we got to spend a lovely day with them too.

Camping with cousins ~ Great fun!
Amazing sand dollar colony at low tide.



Mother's day with these three sweethearts.



Catching mosquito fish from the troughs and depositing into pond.



So now it's on to the CT Scan tomorrow and whatever next adventure we can find.

~ ~ ~

Filling my life with love, laughter, family & friends!
~ Peace and Love ~






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.

You can also find me on Facebook, Ravelry, and just occasionally on Instagram and Twitter. Just click the word above to go there.