Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tick Tock

Like clockwork, something hits me every three weeks.  I don't know if it's remnants of chemo, since I understand it stays in your system for three months.  It could possibly be the Herceptin or something else entirely.  But every three weeks, I get knocked down for several days.

It starts with fatigue, then all over body pain, sometimes so bad I can barely move, dizziness, weakness and shortness of breath.  It lasts 3-5 days and feels almost like when I was getting chemo.  Luckily, it's not nearly as intense.

Thursday of last week, I went to the park, and after climbing a set of stairs, I had to rest to catch my breath.  By the time I got home, I had to sleep for a couple hours just to be able to function again.  I thought I was just really out of shape, even though I've been on the treadmill daily.  But then Friday morning, while sitting on the exam table at the breast surgeon, they clocked my heart rate in the 130's.  I realized that my exhaustion the day before was from Tachycardia not from being out of shape.

I had the same issue when I was on chemo and was the reason I started on a heart beta-blocker in October.  Now that I'm on Herceptin, which can also damage my heart, there is some concern that there may be toxicity issues.  If that's the case, we would need to stop the Herceptin and try to repair the function in my heart.

Due to the elevated heart rate, being short of breath upon small exertion, and even waking during the night to catch my breath, I met with the cardiologist this morning.  He wants to do a more detailed echocardiogram which looks at strains.  It's a newer, more precise imaging tool that looks at the myocardial function of the heart (blood flow and muscle use).  I should be able to do that in the next week and get the results soon after.

Meanwhile, I'm on the way back up with energy.  The body pain is slowly getting better.  And I should be back to "normal" in no time.  One day closer to cancer being behind me. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Day in the Life....

How do I pass the time?  I read a LOT.  I research.  I write, and clean, and work out, and see friends, and sometimes the fatigue takes over and I sleep.  And some of this stuff....

I visit Eliah at school, and he tries "really" hard to tell me stuff....

Some days I visit Natalie at school....

Some days I get to work in the yard....

Some days I sit in doctors' offices....

Sometimes it's because of injuries...

Like this broken vein a couple weeks ago...

I've also had to go back to the breast surgeon twice to drain a seroma (build up of lymphatic fluid) that developed at the mastectomy site...

And today's injury...

A stress fracture in the side of my foot, on top of an old break in the same spot...

I slipped in doggie drool and took a header in the kitchen

Have some more radiation with your injury

But my favorite times are when I get to just hang out with my family and my friends....

Thursday, April 3, 2014

New Boobs for Everyone!! Okay, just me...

Reconstruction surgery is now on the schedule!  May 6th!!!  It will be in Spartanburg, almost an hour from my house.   The surgery will be around 8:30am and will last approximately six hours.  I will be there 3-4 days minimum.

Before the big day, I'll need to do a CT scan for the doctor to see my veins, although with all the radiation talk, I requested an MRI.  We'll see if that can happen.  And then I will have to drive up there for Pre-op the week before.  Then once again the day before, so the doctor can draw all over me.

I'm so excited I could bust! (pun intended)  If you're interested in the details of what they are doing, the following link shows the extent of the procedure.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Take These... You Know You Want To...

Now that I have completed chemotherapy and surgery, I am starting my own ways to help fight cancer. It begins by changing the environment where the cancer grew. It’s intimidating to look at all the supplements out there, knowing they can be powerful, knowing they could make cancer worse, and knowing that they are not approved by the FDA, then to get bombarded with suggestions of everything that is supposed to help.  I can't just guess what to take or go by what someone else took, nor can I sit around and wait for cancer to come back.  

For centuries, people from all over the world have used natural remedies to heal themselves from illness.  There are beneficial plants, fruits and vegetables all around us. But where do you begin? What are you supposed to take? I started reading....and reading....and reading.  I needed to know what will help my specific cancer from coming back.  

Not all cancer is created equal. 

I had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC), Grade 3 (fast growing),  PR+, ER+, Her2neu+ (Hormone receptor positive, which means it grows with hormones).   I know that I am taking targeted therapy, Herceptin, until November, to help my body block estrogen from getting to any cancer cells.  And I will also be taking Tamoxifen for the next five years to prevent my body from making any estrogen.  But there has to be more I can do. I have found that with certain supplements, I may be able to enhance the hormonal treatment of Herceptin and Tamoxifen as well as boost my immune system to fight any remaining cancer cells.  It's all about the chemistry.  

Before, I was unknowingly creating an ideal environment for cancer to grow. I allowed myself to forego breakfast and just have coffee for the first half of the day, which created an acidic environment. I would skip meals, or just eat something fast, like a protein bar, which didn't allow my body the proper nutrition to function. I was stressed, which added to the acidity that cancer loves. I wasn't active, so my body didn't have a lot of oxygen to detoxify and get rid of rogue cells. My hormones were out of whack from my thyroid medication. And I ate sugar, like everyone else. Did you know that when you eat sugar, your immune system basically shuts down? And finally, while I wasn't at all diabetic, my blood glucose was on the higher side. Red blood cells, brain cells, and cancer cells all use glucose to grow. But with an elevated amount in my body, and creating a nice, comfy, acidic place to grow, I was giving cancer a big ole welcome party. I put my body in a situation that it could not fight and kill the free radicals (free radicals are damaged cells that refuse to die, but instead mutate to become cancer cells).

I always thought I was healthy.  I rarely ate fast food.  I rarely drank soda.  Most every dinner was homemade from scratch.  It didn't even matter though, because I was doing too much other stuff so incredibly wrong. 

I was putting everything and everyone else ahead of taking care of myself. No more.

I'm going to do what I can to create a healthy environment. The following is a list of supplements, most I have been taking for just over a month, and some I haven't begun yet.  There are specific supplements that help with the type of cancer/treatments I've had.  There are also links to medical articles and studies that pertain to each supplement or derivative.  In most cases, I have only included one article, but there are many more out there.  I could probably spend the rest of my life reading all of them. But many people have asked what I'm taking and why, and I wanted to be able to back up my choices with useful information. So, here you go!

* Disclaimer-  If you decide to take anything, please do your own research and talk with your doctor to determine if any of these are right for you.  I’m not a doctor.

Bitter Melon/Gourd-
Her2+, inhibits tumor growth, induces apoptosis (normal cell death)


Curcumin (Turmeric)-
Her2+, cell cycle arrest and apoptosis

DHA (when combined with Curcumin)-
Her2+, apoptosis and inhibition of metastasis (spread)

Inhibit breast cell invasion….free radical scavenger
Also prevents and treats Estrogen-dependent tumors

Ginger Root-
Inhibits metastasis and fights cancer

Inhibits cancer cell growth and induces apoptosis in Her2+

Grape seed-
suppresses cell migration and invasion… free radical scavenger

Antioxidant, protects against tumor growth, especially while on Tamoxifen

Vitamin A- (Retinoid)- used in combination with D3
Her2+ and ER+ cell apoptosis when combined with Herceptin

Green Tea extract (EcG)-
Antioxidant, inhibits metastasis

Flax Seed- (although a phytoestrogen, it helps in Her2 and ER+)
Reduces tumor growth, sensitizes Tamoxifen and Herceptin

Stop cancer growth and induces apoptosis

Rhodiola Rosea-
Anti-oxidant, protects left ventricle of heart against damage, cell arrest and induces apoptosis

Sodium Bicarbonate and Water Alkalizer drops
Reduces body acidity and balances PH, reduces metastasis

Probiotics 25billion
Beneficial bacteria builds immune system to fight cancer

Omega-3 Fatty acids
Reduces tumor growth and protects against metastasis in Her2

Balances hormones and thyroid function
Antioxidant, antiproliferative (stops cancer cell growth)
Many other articles available, although not many are conclusive either way

Cayenne Pepper capsule
Cancer cell inhibition and apoptosis

Garlic capsule
Enhances chemotherapy response, cancer cell apoptosis, helps liver damage from Tamoxifen

Berberine (barberry)
inhibits growth and spread of highly metastatic breast cancer cells

Chemotherapeutic, antiproliferative, antioxidant

DIM (This affects hormones, so I need to talk with dr before starting)
Enhances effectiveness of Herceptin


The following is a list of things that I would not take very often, especially not daily.  I will update as I find more information.

Vitamin D3- (I only take this weekly)
Prevents cancer (although there are many contradictory studies)

Calcium (weekly)
(contradictory studies)
More research needed

Vitamin C (weekly)
(contradictory studies, may hinder chemotherapy effects)
More research needed

NO NO's!!
Folic Acid- makes ER+ tumors grow

L-Glutamine- makes many types of tumors grow, depending on what the cells consume

Hydrogen Peroxide- contributes to oxidative stress

Friday, March 21, 2014

Radiation Debated

I met with the Radiation Oncologist today to discuss whether or not radiation will be the best option for me.  In preparation, I spent hours researching and reading as much as I could to present arguments against radiation.  My hope was that the doctor would be able to quash each argument and explain why radiation was necessary.  I needed to know that it was necessary and why.

First, let me say that I have complete respect for this doctor.  She is intelligent, kind, and understanding.  She knows what radiation does to the body.  She knows the short and long term effects.  She knows the benefits of it's use in cases of cancer.  I absolutely respect her opinion.

As she dutifully pointed out, EVERYONE that comes in there is "cancer free", by chemotherapy and surgery.  So my coming in there with the attitude that the cancer is gone, so I shouldn't need radiation is complete crap in her mind.  Makes sense...even though "complete pathologic response" is not addressed here.

My next argument was, "Now that I'm cancer free, shouldn't I be working on building my immune system, strength, body chemistry, etc to fight off cancer? Won't radiation break down what's healthy and further expose my body to the risk of recurrence?"  But as she explained, they have studies and science-based evidence to prove that radiation prevents recurrence of cancer.

Based on the information that is out there for doctors to use, plus her own experience with my type of cancer and it's staging, she recommends radiation......not strongly though.  She explained that the information doctors have in regard to radiation is outdated, especially when it comes to breast cancer.  Now that there are targeted therapies, like the ones I'm on, and new chemotherapy that offers complete pathologic response, like the ones I took, they don't know if radiation is necessary.  There are no new studies to refer, no previous experience to relate to my particular situation.

The choice to do radiation is completely optional, not necessary.  She even explained that if I were a little older, they wouldn't even recommend radiation for my case.  They just want to take every single precaution to prevent recurrence, and so do I, but how we get there may be different.  I want to include natural ways to create a healthy body, and doctors don't incorporate that or use that in factoring survival rates/outcomes.

The doctor does want to get new information in the works for other doctors to utilize going forward.  She asked if I wanted to be a part of a study of women in my situation.  I qualify with the type of cancer, treatment, and outcome.  In this trial that starts in the next two weeks, half the women will receive radiation, the other half will not.  I won't know which side I would be chosen for until after I signed up.  Their health will be followed for the next ten years to determine if radiation was necessary.  That would leave the decision to someone else on whether or not I receive radiation.

Over the course of the past couple hours, I've struggled, thought, prayed, and then decided to just get practical.  Maybe this decision can be made with one simple question, "Can my body take the radiation?"  It's been proven that large amounts of radiation can cause cancer.  We know that the amount used for breast cancer is considered safe.  But what about the cumulative effects of years and years of exposure?  Just with my son, Eliah, I was exposed to more than 17 CT scans in the past few years.  That doesn't include all the tests that I've done in the past year.

I decided to do the actual math.  With the help of the American Nuclear Society, the National Institute of Health, and a website called Xrayrisk.com, that calculates your radiation exposure based on the medical tests performed, I was able to come up with my radiation exposure for the past few years.

The following chart does not include exposure before few years ago, nor does it include environmental exposures.  This total is medical tests alone.  And these are only MY tests.

Add in Eliah's 17 Brain CT's with me in the room = 34 mSv.  Then add in 30 breast radiation treatments at 1 mSv each = 30 mSv.  All totaled, I would now be exposed to over 130 mSv (just in the past few years).

What do these numbers mean, you ask? I will tell you. Based on the following chart, which I realize is a guide only, the EPA says the average person safely absorbs about 3.65 mSvs (or 0.00365 sieverts) of radiation annually. The above calculated amount is far above that. But the issue is not the immediate consequence. The issue is the long term exposure and the cancer risk. And we already know that I will have CT scans and PET scans in the future. The bottom line is, it's just too much. MUCH too much for me to be comfortable doing something "optional".

If this chart is too small, there is a link at the bottom of the post to a larger version

Now I realize that was a lot of numbers, new information, and assumptions I made regarding radiation exposure. I hadn't even considered this risk before now.  No doctor has asked what I've been exposed to before.  Nobody tracks that information.  We know radiation causes cancer, but who makes sure you don't get too much?  Right now, I have to do that for myself.

One thing the doctor said that stuck with me, "Whatever decision you make, do it with no regrets.  Don't look back and wonder."  And I didn't feel comfortable making this decision on just a gut feeling.  I needed information to make the decision.  Unfortunately, the only facts that were offered by the doctor were outdated and not ideally related to my situation, so I was on my own.

I feel that, based on the above information, and what I have learned over the past six months, I have made an educated decision that I am comfortable with.  I have thoroughly weighed all options.  I will forego radiation.  I will have a week to mull over my decision before I call the doctor and tell her.  But I feel I am making the right decision for me and my personal case.  And going forward, I will do everything in my power to make my body healthy and create an environment that naturally eradicates any future cancer.