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!