Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas! Year in Review

I hope all of you are having a wonderful day and enjoying your Christmases!

This has been an interesting year, to say the least. I did some heavy thinking & revised some points of view - and that was early on before I knew anything about breast cancer!

Then we realized our beloved Jake had cancer and it was causing him pain, therefore we felt it best to put him down and now "Toothless Joe" probably has all his teeth again and no painful leg and is running around in dog heaven with his sister Madison and brother George.

Then Cooper arrived in March - the sweetest most docile little creature....for a few weeks. Then all hell broke loose and my canine garbage eater began his reign of terror eating everything he could put his paws on. Even his eye infection medication in a prescription bottle did not go unscathed. After a thorough and frantic search of the entire house, it finally dawned on me to check the backyard, and sure enough, I found the shattered prescription bottle and chewed up ointment tube out there. Not sure EXACTLY what it was that made him really sick enough to keep him at the vet for 3 days on intravenous and rack up a $1500 vet bill in June though.

Then I found the breast lump in June and all that has been thoroughly documented so I won't go into it.

Cam's job came to an end at the end of October, which has been fantastic for getting the house renovated. The place looks gorgeous and I'm very proud of him. The renos have come to a slow-down of late mainly due to the fact that he has been asked BACK to his old job for a 6-month contract so his retirement came to an end on Dec 21. Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas all rolled into one. If it doesn't turn into a permanent job again, at least it will give the economy 6 more months to improve for job hunting in the summer.

And that probably brings us up-to-date. Generally, it sounds like a pretty crappy year, but I don't really see it that way. I consider myself well on my way to recovery, and Cooper has calmed down to a level that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, Cam is back to work - and the only bummer is that Jake is no longer around physically, but we think of him often.

So have a great day, and enjoy your New Year celebrations!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

3rd Chemo Progress Report

Chemo was Tuesday at 2:45. Tuesday night and Wednesday morning were not great - but I woke up early Wed, took drugs and went back to bed. When I woke then, I felt better & had a nice lunch. I felt a little woozy again in the afternoon, took more drugs and then felt ok again.

This morning, I felt great. So I scrambled a last-minute birthday dinner together (not previously planned as I didn't know if I'd be up to one). SUSHI - yum!

I had a nap this afternoon, but I think that had more to do with the 4:30 time I was awake this morning than any chemo fatigue....

I don't seem to have any other aches and pains as yet except for the odd muscle back-ache mid-cycle (chemo, I mean - since I don't get the other kind anymore while on chemo).

40 is not so bad - especially considering the alternative!

Cheers.

Friday, December 11, 2009

As I approach 40....

At the beginning of the year, I announced that when I turned 40 in Dec 2009, I would be FIT and FABULOUS. Well, things didn't work out exactly as planned, however, I can say that I am MORE fit than I was when I said that.... but don't get me wrong... I think I look pretty good - for a bald, one-breasted FORTY YEAR OLD..... HA!

SO, since I didn't exactly make my goal, I decided to harken back to 'the good ole days' and show off when I USED to be fit and fabulous... LOL


This is me on my 19th birthday. To the left is at the beginning of the night, posing with my semi-stripper that was arranged as a surprise for me at a RESTAURANT....


And to the right is the END of the night..... nuff said!

This is me on my way to a Christmas party in the mid 90s...

And this is me partying in my size 9 leather pants that I got when I was 15. I would guess that I am probably around 20ish here. Maybe a little older.

And of course, Halloween 1993. I'm pretty sure that when I saw this picture, I thought I looked fat.

All I can say now is... YOWZA

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Does this shirt make me look bald?

So I promised new pictures when I had more hair gone. I was assuming that since I lost 3/4 of my hair in round one of chemo that the rest would come out in round two. So far, the remaining quarter (or is it an eighth) is staying strong....

I might post again if (when) ALL the hair goes - but this is entertaining because that remaining bit is slowly growing so now I have fuzz-head. Or, as Cam titles it for his own head "Frightened Family Hair".
I knew from the literature that one of the side effects of chemo is 'mouth sores' - but I never envisioned that it would be THE most uncomfortable side effect I would experience (at least so far). Last time I only got one painful canker sore. This time I have three. Ouch! At least it slows down my eating. Maybe that's why chemo patients lose weight - it's too painful to eat!

Who am I kidding - it takes more than that to curb my eating habits....








Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow...

I'm back up and running, obviously...

In assessing round two of chemo well after the fact, it turns out that I was feeling 'off' until around Sunday. That's longer than last time. The good news is that I wasn't feeling wretched - just not quite up to snuff.

And the kicker being that the anti-nausea meds are appetite stimulants.... so I have been gaining weight on chemo instead of what everyone expects. I've put in a better effort this last week to start to get control of that part - actually using my treadmill.... and I stay on it longer than usual because I have company! That's right - Molly walks right alongside me while I'm on the treadmill - no leash or treats - she does it because she likes it. Sometimes a noise will distract her and she'll scramble off, but she jumps right back on again and continues walking with me. It's really cool!

The title of this post is because my head is starting to feel 'toothpicky' again - which I suspect is my scalp gearing up to lose the last remnants of hair that I have. About 3/4 of it fell out during the last round of chemo so I guess that last 1/4 will fall out around day 15 of this round too. So far, I still have eyebrows, eyelashes and stubble.... What the!?!

I'm so happy to see the sun back for awhile!!!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Temporarily Disassembled...

Cam has disassembled our office & set up only 1 computer in the meanwhile of renovating the office space...

And with Suzanne visiting, there are 3 of us using 1 computer making it more difficult to get onto email etc. than all of us would like....

SO - if you're not hearing back from me, it's due to lack of access and not that I'm ignoring anyone!

Probably by Monday or Tuesday we should be back up to speed!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

2nd Chemo progress report

Chemo was at 3pm on Tuesday. Felt fine going home and, sadly, gorged on a spaghetti & caesar salad dinner. I have learned that is NOT the best choice for a post-chemo meal...will be choosing something a little lighter next time.

So I did take all my anti-nausea meds, and I was still what I describe as "almost nauseous". It felt sort of like it did around 11pm at the Halloween party, where I knew I had just sipped one sip too many of my green apple ciders and if I didn't make myself throw up at that point, I would be doing so regardless later without a choice having been made. So, graphic as it sounds, at the party, I made myself throw up (in the privacy of the bathroom - and the bright side being that I was wearing my funky long red wig and rather than require a girlfriend to hold my hair back, I simply removed it for the process....)

OK - well that was a bit of a gross tangent.... HA HA, and the relevant part being that Tuesday night I sort of felt like I wanted to make myself throw up as I thought losing the spaghetti dinner might help me out of the "almost nauseous" mode - BUT - I didn't do it because I didn't want to start something that I might not be able to stop. So I sucked it up - and I haven't felt that way since. I'm feeling normal (as is possible for me....).

Also, I have WAY less hair now than I did in the previous photo post, but I'm not going to bother posting another picture until it's all gone. Not much more seems to be coming off so my guess is that the first round of chemo got 3/4 of the hair and the last stubborn 1/4 will come off around the same time into the cycle (day 15) as it did the first time. At this time, I still have eyebrows, eyelashes (the good hair) and all the unwanted hair as well - although growth seems to have slowed down - less armpit shaving these days and still have that damned stubble on my legs!

Soon, my house will be unrecognizable to you. Cam is working harder now that he's unemployed than he was when he had an off-site workplace... My living room has laminate and soon the dining room and spare rooms will as well. New paint for all, plus new carpet for the stairs and hallway. And new flooring for the kitchen - I'm angling for updated lino, Cam's hoping for tile which I've vetoed but for some reason is still under discussion... then, new cupboards - and Cam also has a bee up his butt for replacing our bathroom countertops, which I think are fine but he hates. Low priority though. We are 'clean sweeping' as we go and will update furniture etc. after the renos depending on the employment & $$ situation. Thank goodness for line of credit! lol

But it's a catch 22 - whenever everyone's working & the money is flowing, there is NO time. When you've got the time, the money isn't flowing.... for those that do birthday / Xmas gifts for us, Home Depot & Ikea certificates would NOT go unappreciated! Nor would massage certificates from Edgar...no wait - that's just for me - Cam would HATE that.... LOL

Short summary: side-effects tolerable so far, but since I've been thoroughly warned that this is cumulative, I'm fully expecting them to be progressively less so. Expecting worse, but hoping for best! That way there are no surprises. Cheers!

Friday, November 20, 2009

GI Jane...

So Wednesday night I spent an hour fingercombing my hair and thereby removing half of it. So I still had hair left, that looked sort of okay with some careful combing - so I wore a hat out and carried on.

Thursday night, Cam and I went to bed and I couldn't get comfortable because my scalp felt irritated. So lying in the dark just as we're meant to be falling asleep, I asked Cam if he would help me cut my hair off because it was bugging me.

So up we got and pulled out the clippers, and the first bit Cam watched with fascination as I was clipping my hair off, then he took over. At the end, my hair felt REALLY cool - of course I've always loved the feel of a buzz cut under my hand, but I had never felt it with my OWN hair.

Then I had a shower, and OH MY GOD - ladies, one of the best feelings in the world is showering with a bald (or almost bald) head! Now maybe my experience is a little enhanced since I forked out the $100 at the PNE for one of those giant showerheads that is like a foot in diameter and rains down on you, however, it felt wonderful! I said to Cam from the showerstall "No WONDER you take forever in the shower!!). I love a scalp massage and so I thoroughly enjoyed my new 'do' while showering. And so I was feeling pretty good about myself until I tried going back to bed.

I was laying on the pillow thinking that the stupid hair feels like I am sleeping on thousands of toothpicks. So that kind of counteracted the great effect of the shower. I think it's because my whole scalp is feeling really sensitive. I commented to Cam that perhaps it would have been better to use a shorter setting, or perhaps to have shaved it completely. He assured me that I wouldn't have liked it because he has had experience with that feeling and called it 'Velcro Head' - which also didn't sound appealing.

Of course, when ALL my hair falls out I will have no issue with Velcro Head or otherwise, however, right now, it doesn't feel great (except in the shower) AND it doesn't look great either. Although Cam and I had some fun trying to get a decent picture to show off my buzz cut, it was after many many shots that I was unhappy with before I finally realized that it would be like getting blood from a stone - if you don't actually look good, you aren't going to get a good picture now are you??? This struck my funny bone and I started laughing & laughing & laughing until tears were streaming down - and all the while Cam was snapping pictures. It didn't help - now I just looked terrible while I also looked ridiculous and had my mouth wide open and tears streaming down my face.

I finally got one shot that I was half decently okay with - which I am posting for your viewing pleasure....

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

And so it begins...

I had a bit of a headache this evening so I was rubbing my head while reading. Handfuls of hair were coming away between my fingers.

Here we go!!! When I'm bald, I'll post a pic.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chemo progress report

So, it's been 5 days since I had my first chemo. They prescribe heavy anti-nausea meds and give you a strict schedule to take them for the first couple of days. I followed it faithfully. The also give you an 'as needed' prescription and told me to take a pill if I feel ANY hint of nausea, as it is much easier to stay ahead of than try to catch up on.

The first couple of days I felt okay - not great, but not terrible either. I did take a few of the 'as neededs'. For the most part, I have had very few side effects - although I did have a 'thick' feeling in my mouth for a day, and my bacon sandwich didn't taste fantastic like usual.... But I had Chinese food on Thursday night, and enjoyed it (except for the heartburn later on).

I feel fine now without seeming to need any anti-nausea meds, although I did wake up at 7:30 this morning and then went down for a 2 hour nap at 9:30.... so perhaps a little fatigue is catching up on me.... OR, I'm just a lazy be-otch.... which isn't completely out of the realm either!

It's been nice having Cam home with me. I'm not really sure why since he's holed up renovating our bedroom and I'm napping in the other room.... but when I DO wake up, I can poke my head in and check his progress and say hello. He says he's building me a nest.... it looks gorgeous. New laminate flooring and fresh paint.

My head has been tingling. I'm guessing that is a sign that my hair might start falling out fairly soon. But, as you all know - I am fully prepared for that.... I've been advised that when my hair grows back, I should dye it red.

I've been told that ill effects of chemo are cumulative, so as time goes on, I will likely feel progressively worse - but for NOW, I feel fine! Next week is my 'low immune' week where I have to be extra careful not to get an infection.

I'm trying to keep up with some small level of exercise - so far, mostly by walking the dogs. But when the weather turns really evil, I plan to make the most of my treadmill.

I think that's it for now. I'm sure many of you have been concerned with how my week has been, so I figured it would be a good idea to provide an update. :-)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

1st chemo done - 7 to go...

Well - easy peasy so far. Arrived at the hospital at 1:25, they called me in at 1:30 (my appt time) & a very nice nurse explained the process & 'accessed my port' (which means stabbing a ginormo needle into it that they can hook up the drugs to). We walked out of there at 3:30.

So far, so good - other than feeling a little light-headed due to one of the anti-nausea meds, I feel ok. I am on a hefty regime of anti-nausea meds that is aimed at staying ahead of any potential nausea. If it works, I theoretically won't feel sick.

Of course, that doesn't mean I won't feel like crap. But perhaps just not nauseous... Will keep you posted and will try to keep the gory details to a minimum! (you know, like that close-up pic of my port... ha ha)

Monday, November 2, 2009

What a 'Port' looks like..

Well, I told you all what a Port was in an earlier post. In having discussions since then, many don't really get what it is - so I'm going to show you.

Basically, there is a triangular object under my skin that is appx 1/2" in depth that has a rubber type covering that a needle can puncture to get the chemicals in, but when the needle is pulled out, the rubber covering seals back up again. There is a tube from that 'port' that has already been inserted into a vein in my chest. so when the needle goes into me, it isn't going into a vein - it is going into the rubber thing in my chest which is already in my vein. (I know, it sounds and is gross).

The first picture is the one to give you an idea of where it is located on my chest and how big it is to scale. Then I zoomed in on it to give you the full grossness of it - complete with the leftover adhesive from the bandages that look like boogers on my chest. (I was going to photoshop it out, but then decided it was grosser - and funnier - with them in....)

Enjoy!!! lol

WIGGING OUT

This is me without a wig:

So - the most fun ever to be had is wig-shopping.... for the first 2.75 hours. The last 1/4 hour gets a little harder when you're starving....

Giuli and I spent 3 hours at Abantu on Kingsway trying on mostly every wig they have (including a dreadlock wig).

They had a 'buy one get one 50% off' sale and we took full advantage (meaning I bought 5 and she bought 1).

I knew I was getting a really cute blonde bob style from a friend so I didn't look at many blonde wigs at the store - so now I have the full range.

I decided to take the 'before' picture AFTER I'd had all the other photos taken - so my hair looks slightly 'used' in the non-wig pic... ha!

So here are all my new looks...... (drumroll please.....)



So, any neighbours reading this will think Cam is having affairs like crazy when they see a different women come home with him every day!

I still have my hair and I already wore the smooth red wig out to dinner tonight!

Wigs are FUN FUN FUN!

To see ALL my wig shots, go to the Picassa Web Albums link on the right & select that album.













Friday, October 23, 2009

Phew!

My oncologist phoned to let me know that my heart scan was GOOD and I have nothing to worry about. And he phoned today because he didn't want me worrying over the weekend.

What a nice man!!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Chemo Date

So I met with my oncologist today who informed me that my heart scan has showed my heart's ability to constrict to be on the 'low side of normal' and because of that, he wants another test to confirm if the reading was accurate.

Consequently, instead of chemo tomorrow, I am having another heart scan - and then a heart ultrasound on Monday. My new chemo date is November 3.

He assured me several times that this is nothing for me to lose sleep over and I am not to be alarmed. Even though it's low, the heart function is still normal. He is just being extra cautious because delaying chemo for a week or so will make no difference whatsoever to my overall treatment, but just wants to be sure he knows what he's working with as far as my heart goes.

Apparently, chemo drugs can dimish heart function so they need to know exactly where they are starting so they can monitor whether the heart is being overly taxed by the chemo.

So - another couple of weekends of non-chemo freedom. Of course, just getting this started and therefore overwith is even more appealing - but I guess I don't want to risk my heart for the sake of a week or so....

AAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH!

Important Chemo Info

Chemo starts tomorrow for me (Thursday). Cam and I attended a 2 hour 'chemo teach' a couple of weeks ago to learn about what's going to happen.

For the particular type of drug combo I will be getting, my first 4 chemo sessions will be about 2 hours of 'chair time'. For the final 4, it will be about 4 hours of 'chair time'. I go every 3 weeks.

The chemo drugs are designed to kill rapid-growing cells - which is why your hair falls out. It also kills white blood cells and platelets, which is basically my immune system. It is vital that I not be exposed to anyone who is sick in any way as I will have no way to fight off anything. Although the anti-nausea drugs are supposedly really good now, if I DO have any nausea, it will happen the first few days after chemo. The white blood cells are at their lowest in the 2nd week after chemo so that is when I have to be EXTRA cautious.

So if you are thinking of visiting, you must be absolutely certain that you are not coming down with anything - and also I will be avoiding physical touch like hugs and smooches. Even if you aren't sick, you may have been around someone else who is sick so following the normal advice like lots of handwashing and not touching your hands to your face will be helpful.

I guess they think that if you might be sick but don't realize it, and if you are touching your face, you might touch something else like a faucet or magazine or something that someone else (namely me) could then touch and be exposed.

Cam is under pressure to stay healthy as well so he will also need to cautious around others, so he doesn't bring any sickness home.

I am just not entirely certain how 'dire' this would be - I know that many people work through chemo so I don't know how they ensure their health. It could be overkill for sure - but I'm just passing on the info that we were given....

Will keep you all posted, as usual, on how I'm feeling....

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wonderful Whistler!

So I had a 'fill-up' on Wednesday, and when I came back from the doctor, my hubby was home from work and I was being handed a brochure for a hotel in Whistler that my in-laws had arranged for Cam and I to enjoy for 3 nights!

Cam had packed my bag while I was at the doctor and whisked me away to a VERY nice place called Summit Lodge. King size bed, fireplace in the room, deep comfy bathtub... The place was fantastic and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves doing basically nothing for 3 days!!

It was my 'pre-chemo' retreat - and was it ever appreciated! (Thanks again, Bob & Sandie!!!)

Lots of reading, bubble-bathing & movie-watching. And eating.... (sorry to say TOPS gang...)

First chemo treatment is Thursday. I keep telling myself that I'm going to be one of those who isn't hit AS hard by chemo..... I hope it's true!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Port is in

So we arrived at the Royal Columbian hospital at just after 9am for a 10am procedure appointment.... or so we thought! As it turns out, the procedure was scheduled for 11am. Cam was with me from 9 - 11 and then asked when I might actually go in. He was told that everything was on schedule and I should be getting the call any time. With that info, he went on his way to perform the errands I asked him to run while I was in hospital (meaning, go to the computer store and buy more ram for my computer).... (PS - it isn't that I'm bossy, it's just that I know what he should be doing..... ha ha I read that on a pillow).

So away he went and had been told that I should probably be ready to go home by 2pm or so. He didn't actually get a call from anyone so he returned to the hospital around 2:30 and was surprised that I wasn't around..... That is because I never actually went IN for surgery until almost 2pm...! So much for being on schedule.

I was then set to be released at 5pm and was feeling great, no nausea and ready to rock and roll. And so the nurse removed my IV, and then I promptly dropped blood pressure and almost passed out. So I had to lay back down and wait it out - with some apple juice to restore me. So about 10 past 5 my colour returned and my blood pressure got over 100 (barely) and they let me go.

So I have this device in my chest that allows them to poke the IV in for chemo without having to find a vein every time. And, I'm supposed to be thrilled that they installed the 'super' port which would allow me to have a CT scan with dye really easily...

Next stop - plastic surgeon tomorrow for a boob fill-up. That's not too exciting so I'll post more next week after my next oncologist appt (which happens the day before my first chemo)

Cheers!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Having cancer AND a husband....

It seems so unfair, doesn't it?? HA HA JUST KIDDING!!!

Many of you have asked how Cam is doing through all of this. He has been fantastic for me. He has a great sense of humour that I have always appreciated and always manages to make me laugh even in the most bizarre circumstances. Let me give you some examples of this....

Before my formal diagnosis, we had many conversations of 'what if it's cancer'. At Denny's in Langley, we were having yet again another one of these where I asked that question again and he answered all the appropriate things (which unto itself is quite amazing)... But after a short pause, he then went on to tell me that after one of our previous conversations, he did actually confirm that we have life insurance. Then after another not QUITE as short a pause, he further explained that it was simply a response to the previous question I had asked another time - not that he was sitting there rubbing his hands together in hopeful glee at the possibility of using it since he firmly believes it wouldn't be an option anyway. (as do I, in case you're interested).

When I was going in for my fine needle aspiration (aka biopsy), Cam was convinced that when my boob was poked with the needle, I was going to fly around the room like a balloon with air coming out. (not true, as it happens)

And of course, there has then been the now-infamous post-surgery email he sent explaining to everyone that he is a breast expert and hence can confirm that my newly reduced breast looks good (I'm paraphrasing - I'm sure his explanation was much more clever). And even better - the subsequent Youtube ad for breast exams that I found and emailed out. But just in case you missed it, here it is again - it is worth a second watch (or maybe 15 or so, like I did with tears streaming down my face in laughter) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TstWoVHBAwU&NR=1

Then, I had some trouble with the incision on my mastectomy breast and there was a 'hole' there that was pretty nasty looking and was concerning. Cam told me that I had better get to the doctor because 'what if it's gangrene and your boob falls off? Oh WAIT a minute......' As a finish to that story, I did have a scar revision to have it re-sewn and everything is in good shape now as far as that's concerned).

I had mentioned to my mum-in-law that my memory is terrible these days and that it is a little scary since chemo hasn't even started yet. They tell me I'll get 'chemo brain' and forget things.... but I'm already doing it!!! Being a helpful and supportive mum-in-law, she explained that I have SO many things rattling around in my head since the diagnosis that it is only natural to be forgetful right now. Being a CAM, he said that they probably took my memory instead of my mammary.....

And the last one I can remember at the moment, is the other night when I wanted to have a hot bath. Jenns asked if I was 'allowed' to do that (meaning with my incisions) and I explained that it's ok if I don't submerse my boobs. Cam corrected me by saying BOOB. I was only half paying attention to what he said (you know, the typical response of wife to husband) so he repeated it until I actually acknowledged what he was saying.... so imagine it... boob....pause..... Boob...pause....BOOB..... - whereupon I had to respond, OK OK - I meant incisionS (I emphasized the pluralness of the word)....

Some of you might find this kind of stuff insensitive, but you'd have to know Cam and also know our relationship.... To give you the set-up, when we were first together, I was reminding Cam that the next day was garbage day and please not to forget to take out the garbage like last week. He responded by asking me why I couldn't do it. I said 'Do I LOOK blue??' (in reference to a family phrase where some chores are 'pink' work and others are 'blue' work. He then wrapped his hands around my neck and said 'JUST A MINUTE'..... And to think - I still married him....!

This kind of humour keeps me going. All single women always say they want a man that can make them laugh. I can honestly say I have one of those. Cam is the funniest person I know (besides me, of course....LOL...) and I love him for it!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Radioactive again...

Well, it's confirmed. I DO have a heart, despite Cam's prediction for my heart scan. They take a 'before' pic and then during chemo they take more scans so they can monitor what effect, if any, the chemo is having on my heart. Once again, I've been given a sticker that proves I've been injected with radioactive dye in case I want to cross the border in the next week. Apparently, radioactive things can make bombs so if you get scanned at the border and it beeps, you could be in serious trouble without the sticker. (I got one of these stickers when they injected my cancer boob with dye to follow the lymph node path)

In the next 2 weeks, I have six doctor appointments which will teach me all about chemo and having a port-a-cath and also some plastic surgeon appointments for my expander fill-ups and another pre-chemo appt with the oncologist. And of course, next Tuesday (right after Thanskgiving), I will be having my Port-a-Cath installed at Royal Columbian Hospital. MORE surgery - yay!!!! (and in case there was any doubt in anyone's mind - that's sarcasm...)

One thing is sure, with breast cancer you get over your needle phobias in a hurry.... you don't have a choice! I hate intravenous anything - going in or out. But I had to get two injections for the damned heart scan. The guy was gentle. Unlike the lab woman who took blood from me last week and left an enormous bruise on my arm.

And here's a hint for any of you who might need to visit a hospital this fall/winter - take your own reading material. Due to H1N1, there are NO magazines in the waiting rooms at the hospital. If you forget your own book, you get to wait around reading brochures on a gazillion scary sounding diseases and procedures...

So that's the latest... not nearly as fun and upbeat as the Run for the Cure or the Bird Sanctuary!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Run for the CURE! 2009



Cam's flyball team was cool enough to enter in a 'Team Shana' to the CIBC Run for the Cure - which we did today! I know you all know about it since I have been harassing you for donations (it's not too late.... LOL).




It was another gorgeous sunny fall day in Abbotsford - a bit windy, but nobody's toupee blew off.... We did the 5km route, and took the dogs with us. Our team alone raised almost $4000 (so far) and a lot of that was from you lot reading this blog!!


Afterward we went back to Colleen's place for a delicious chili lunch where all three chilis provided were EQUALLY wonderful.... What a great day!

Our team members: Natalie (captain extraordinaire), Colleen, Gary, Mark, Cindy, Vikki, Pat, Sandie, Bob, Jennifer, Chris, Cam, Shelly, Peter, Eileen, James and Sandra.


THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR YOUR WONDERFUL SUPPORT!

Reifel Bird Sanctuary Sep 26




My sister-in-law, Jennifer, is in town from Scotland and so we took her and Cam's dad (Bob) on an adventure last weekend to the bird sanctuary. The weather was fantastic and we had a great time!




Check out the attached video of the Carp Frenzy.... and some other cool pics.


video

Friday, October 2, 2009

After the Oncologist...

So yesterday I met my oncologist who explained that I would be having 8 courses of chemotherapy - one day on and three weeks off. So for the first 4 courses, it takes about an hour or so for the treatment, and the final 4 courses take appx 3 hours for the treatment.

I meet separately with a radiation oncologist who will talk to me about whether I'll be having radiation or not - and that won't be for ages because if there WILL be radiation, it won't happen until after the chemotherapy ends and therefore there is no rush for that appointment.

My first chemotherapy is booked for October 22. Between now and then, I have several other appointments to prepare me for that, such has having a 'Port-a-Cath' installed. That is a valve thing that gets installed into my chest on the right side where the IV can hook up without me having to get poked every time I go there. Apparently, it helps ease the discomfort because the drugs go directly into a large chest vein and they get diluted quickly before touching the walls of the vein. When you get the IV in your arm, it can be uncomfortable - and since I wimped like a baby having saline in my arm before surgery, I felt that the port-a-cath is a better option for me...

The oncologist gave me a prescription for a wig already. He says I'll probably notice the hair loss beginning a couple of weeks after my first chemo. So, I definitely WILL be bald for my 40th birthday.... (I made this comment already in front of a bald male friend who will also be 40 soon.... surprisingly, I didn't get much sympathy from him... HA HA)

Earlier this week, I had a simple scar revision procedure done on my mastectomy side. Part of the incision wasn't healing well and there was 'hole' in my skin. So he cut out the poor tissue and re-stitched it together. It looks much better now!

One interesting thing he said is that the cancer that was in my lymph node was a "Micro-Metastisis" - because it was only 0.4 mm in size. He said that 10 or 15 years ago, that may not have been caught at all and I would have been diagnosed as node negative, but these days, the technology is more detailed and they can see that small of a size. That tiny amount of cancer puts me in a 'grey area' for radiation. And that's why I have to talk to the radiation oncologist about it. So I don't have any idea if they are going to recommend radiation or not.

It was a bit of a sobering day - but I've bounced back now. I don't want to waste these 'non-chemo days' feeling sorry for myself. I suspect I'll have plenty of time and inclination for that when I am actually suffering the effects of the chemo!!


On a different topic.... I did buy a couple of cotton bras at Wal-Mart that were 36Cs!!! (although my first post-op bra was a 36D, but that was La Senza and I think they have vanity sizing). I LOVE my smaller breast!

Love to all - hope this blog thing works for everyone!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The 'so-far' summary...

My 2009 summer....
June 12: lump found while showering
June 13: panicked visit to local clinic
June 26: ultrasound
July 23: meet with surgeon who recommended a fine needle aspiration
July 30: fine needle aspiration (like a biopsy)
Aug 07: meet with surgeon for diagnosis confirming cancer
Aug 13: mammogram
Aug 20: MRI
Aug 26 : Surgery to remove left breast, insert a tissue expander on the left side to prepare for an implant, and to reduce right breast
Oct 01: meet with Oncologist to find out the treatment plan

So my diagnosis showed overall Stage 2 because my lump was 3cm in size and one lymph node was involved. I was ER, PR & HER2 positive which basically means that hormones affect the tumour and will be part of the determination of the treatment plan.

Stage 2 is still considered 'early' for breast cancer - but of course, not as early as it could have been. It means I will have more extensive treatment than if I had been diagnosed at Stage 1.

Every couple of weeks, my tissue expander has saline added to it so that it slowly expands to make room for an implant. To do this, the plastic surgeon uses a device like a 'stud-finder' to find where the valve is on the expander, and then sticks a big-ass needle in there to inject the saline. It doesn't hurt - but it looks like it will hurt when he comes at me with a giant needle. Once the expander is the size that matches my newly reduced right breast, they will stop injecting saline, and then it stays that way for several months. I won't get the implant until after my chemotherapy is all finished with.

Just so you know, the right side breast reduction has little to do with the cancer diagnosis - it was something I had always wanted to do but was too scared to. So that was the 'good' side of getting cancer.... although, it probably helped the cancer part of it in that reconstruction of a breast to match a smaller opposite size is likely easier than it is for a bigger size.

At this point, the plan is that I will be off work until all the cancer stuff including chemo & reconstructive surgery is done with; however, one never knows for sure how all this works or what might be best for me, so nothing is written in stone. My work has been extremely supportive and has made this process for me as stress-free as possible!