Saturday, December 28, 2013

Chemo Day

Round #6 of 7. I've been fasting since Christmas night, and won't eat again until tomorrow. I hope it works as well as last time. In the meantime, my port has been causing me a lot of pain, and I'm waiting to see if it has a leak (I think it does). I think something happened to it this last week. The surgeon stitched the port to a muscle, and I think it tore and twisted upward. I'm waiting to talk to the nurse again before she hooks up the chemo. Otherwise, I'm ready to get this one done.

Update #1: They are going to put in an IV in my arm, and they'll send me to the hospital later to get a Portagram (an xray) to see if the port has a leak. We don't want to chance damaging tissue.

Update #2: IV is going, and the hospital will call to set up the xray on the port. If it is leaking, they will have to do surgery again. I'll still have hormonal treatment for a year, so I don't know if they'll put a new one in, or just let me do them in a vein.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Update

All is well today with exception of a stomach bug I picked up over the weekend. I spent all day laying down yesterday, and heading back there now.  My lab work at the Oncologist today looked good.  My Hemoglobin is up (12.9).  My white blood cells are down from last time (4.2), but still enough to get chemo Friday.

The fasting worked SO well with the last round of chemo.  I didn't have any numbness in my hands or feet, my mouth didn't burn, my stomach was better, and I didn't have any pain at all.  In fact, I required no medications this past round of chemo.  I had way more energy this time too, enough to do some walking on the treadmill and even move furniture around.  And I haven't lost any weight from treatments (although I wouldn't mind 5-10lbs to go away). The doctor said to keep doing what I'm doing!

After Friday, I will have only one more round of chemotherapy!! 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Toxic Exposure? Dating with Cancer

What does it mean to love yourself?  Does it mean that you're perfect?  No.  Does it mean that you're better than anyone else?  Nope, not even close.  Does it mean you're happy with your life?  Not quite.  For me, to love myself means that I acknowledge I'm doing the best I can.  I'm not in competition with anyone.  I don't need anyone's approval.  This is the best me that I can offer to the world.

That moment of being given a cancer diagnosis can be one of the loneliest feelings in the world.  It doesn't matter how many people are there to support and love you.  It doesn't matter who has been there before and lived to tell their tale.  It doesn't matter how often you talk to God. When you are faced with your death, it's isolating and lonely.  No matter what you do, when it's your time, nobody can go on that journey with you.  You will be leaving here alone.

Where has that realization left me as of today?  I guess that left me at the final stage of grief....acceptance.  Acceptance of my own mortality one day, hopefully in my old age.  Acceptance of who I am now.  And finally, acceptance that life will never be how I planned, but rather, the most unique kaleidoscope of events and emotions.

Several months ago, I ran across a TED talk on vulnerability by Brene' Brown.  If you get a chance, look it up on Youtube, it's amazing.  But she talks about how, in order to be loved or even to love others, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  For most of us, we show the world what we think they want to see, the happy smiles, the pretty house, and the made up world we wish we lived.  But what we all crave to see is that we aren't alone, that everyone goes through the good, bad and ugly truth of life.  Nobody wants to be alone.

This brings me to my love life.  How on earth could a cancer patient put herself on a dating site?  Well, I did it.  I REALLY put myself out there too.  I put up my bald pic.  I joked about how my low white blood cell counts keep me in on Friday night.  I put that I have a son with brain damage.  And in the first ten words I said that I have breast cancer.  Then I waited patiently, fully expecting to get the typical rounds of ridiculous emails, or worse, expected none at all.

What I got instead was the most humbling of gifts.  In less than two weeks of having my dating profile online....of having myself feel so exposed by my own honesty and vulnerability.... of sharing something so personal with people that do nothing but judge my worthiness in just a moment's glance... I was shocked and overwhelmed by hundreds of emails.  These emails did not consist of "Hey, I wanna hook up with a cancer patient".   They were genuine, respectful, thoughtful, compassionate emails from men that took time to be as honest with me as I was in my profile, emails that touched my heart and gave me even more strength.  These men could recognize that I wasn't putting up a front, and they rewarded me by showing kindness and integrity that is so often lacking in this digital dating age.  I'm beyond grateful for the affirmation that I can be seen and still be attractive, and not just physically attractive, but as a whole person.

I am learning how to be vulnerable.  It's nothing but a learning process that concludes this mid-life crisis four years in the making.  It's not about being perfect, but about being able to love myself despite all the imperfections.  I think that's been the biggest role of cancer so far in my life.  Not weighing me down with how I'm broken, but instead, allowing me to be honest with myself and to everyone else.  And whether I'm in the best of moments or my darkest, I'm not afraid to be alone, because I know I am loved just how I am.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Chemo Round #5

Yesterday was round #5 of chemotherapy.  I had three rounds of Adriamyacin/Cytoxan, and now two rounds of Taxotere/Perjeta/Herceptin.  Two rounds left!!  

My tumors have been aching like crazy for several weeks.  Yesterday, I looked for them and couldn't find a single one. They seem to have all shrunken to the point of being too small to feel.

I tried something new this time around with chemo....fasting.  There have been some studies showing how fasting before and after chemo can increase the effectiveness.  I've read all of them.  Scientists have been very successful in rodents and with some volunteers.  They are currently conducting clinical trials that will be finished by 2015.  The premise is that when your body is fasting, the normal cells shut down and go into starvation mode. In turn, they are supposedly not susceptible to the toxic chemotherapy, thus reducing side effects on the body.

With fasting, cancer cells remain active, searching for more glucose so they can grow.  They become stressed with the fast, and then further stressed with the chemotherapy drugs.  That causes more cancer cells to die, and to die faster.

The suggested fasting time is 48-60 hours before chemo and at least 24 hours after.  I did my research a little late, but I was able to eat light the day before chemo, then started my fast at around 7pm Thursday evening, giving me 16 hours before chemo.  I was able to wait another 26 hours after before finally eating some plain chicken and rice.  We'll see how it goes....

My friend Sharon helping me out during chemo

My friend Deana likes to dress me up and embarrass me after chemo

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Supplementally Insane

This is what happens when everyone says, "Make sure you take (insert supplement) will cure your cancer".
I actually researched all of these, and I still have a couple more that I'm waiting on. In addition, I have all the prescriptions the dr gave me. No, I am not taking them all now (although I am taking a couple); I'm preparing for balancing my body's chemistry when traditional treatment is finished.
But please, for the love of all that is holy, don't tell me to take anything else, I've turned into Suzanne Somers. 

Chemo round #5 tomorrow morning at 10am.  After that, only two more to go....

Monday, December 2, 2013

Logging on the Blog

12/2/13.....  As I'm doing more research, I'm becoming very suspicious that stress and my thyroid medicine caused my breast cancer. The medication was recalled right about the time I started having pain, and Pfizer said they are discontinuing it completely, which is highly suspicious. Also, I'm finding that it is a known risk that long term use of thyroid replacement drugs cause breast cancer.

I was on Levoxyl (a generic of Synthroid) since 1998. When they recalled it this year, I had to switch to another generic, Levothyroxine. It's been just a small amount of medication, but I had no idea about the breast cancer risk until yesterday. They did a study just last year of people on Levoxyl. Of the 14,000+ people studied, 99 had reported breast cancer. But that's just what was reported to the FDA. It's believed there are many, many more cases that have not been reported (like mine). They SAID they recalled it because of a funky smell from the packaging, but who knows the real reason. It's odd they would discontinue completely, not just fix the problem.

And from what I understand, it's all thyroid replacements, not just this one, that can cause breast cancer. This one may have just had a bonus factor that sparked cancer growth. After reading all I have, I think it all comes down to Iodine when it comes to fixing the thyroid naturally. If I had known before, I would have tried to fix it myself years ago.

I think by getting my iodine, PH, enzymes and natural bacteria balanced, plus adding omega-3s, Vit D, Vit C, Chlorophyl and a bunch of other stuff....I'm going to be a lot healthier. Then I'll add more exercise to increase oxygen. And I will be working on ways to reduce stress.

Right now, cancer has set up residence in my body because of the environment. If I don't change the neighborhood completely, it will keep coming back.

12/1/13..... Two things:
1. I woke up this morning, looked at the calendar, and realized I have chemo this week. Yuck.

2. I truly believe that my cancer will be cured by getting my body's chemical makeup right. Unfortunately, all of what I research and read goes against the traditional chemo/radiation because they are poisoning my body and can cause future cancers. I even had to sign a paper saying I understand that these drugs may cause cancer. That's not an easy decision to make every time.

BUT...The plan is to do what the doctor says, then as soon as they are done, do everything I can the natural way.

11/30/13...  Have the sweet kids again for the night.  Unfortunately, I have caught their cold and I'm struggling to maintain energy levels.  I don't know if this will affect the chemo schedule. I'm making chicken soup and drinking hot tea to help.

11/29/13...  How super cute is this hat that my friend Erica made for me?! I love that it has my blonde streak in it too. I can even wear other hats with it! I love it, thank you! 

11/27/13...   Now THAT is what makes a happy Thanksgiving!!!.... an overnight with the little loves! 

11/25/13...  My dear friend of 25 years, Emily, flew down from PA to take care of me.  And knitted a Wonder Woman hat for me too! What a gift, thank you!

11//21/13....  So, the status on the chemo is, it has yucky side effects. My hands and feet are tingling and numb, my nose keeps bleeding, I have new a mysterious rash on my neck, my tumors hurt (plus new pains), I feel like I've been swishing acid around in my mouth and I keep spitting blood, I'm nauseous, and anything I eat makes me sick. My white blood cell counts are at about 1.5 (which is extremely low). This makes me highly susceptible to catching something, so I should NOT have been at the DMV of all places. I have to call immediately if my temp goes over 100.5. BUT, as of right now, I'm okay and in a really good mood, just really worn out.

11/20/13...  On the phone, my daughter says, "I wish you didn't have breast cancer so that I could see you."  (my heart officially broke)

11/19/13...  All is well for now.... Just got back from a visit to the Cardiologist, and he's happy with how I'm doing. The effects of chemo are sneaking in a little at a time. Three nosebleeds, lots of stomach problems, nausea and muscle pain so far. But the worst is supposed to happen in the next week. The good news is, I still have energy and strength. 

11/15/13....  Finished chemo finally, and heading home with my princess attire...

Started at 10am....still going (at four hours now)...have at least an hour more of chemo to go, maybe more. Took a short nap, woke up to an old Indian woman staring at me

11/13/13...  I start new chemo drugs FRIDAY (Taxotere/Perjeta), as well as beginning my one year of hormone therapy (Herceptin). The doctor tells me that the effects will most likely hit on days 7-10, with flu-like symptoms and all over body pain. Also, these drugs will cause neuropathy in my hands and feet and very low white blood cell counts. I will have four rounds of this one every three weeks.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oh What Fun It Is To Ride....

I was driving Natalie to school this morning and we got into a car accident.   Nobody is hurt.  Ironically, it was Natalie's teacher that hit us.  Van is probably totaled.  Natalie is at school, shaken but okay. 


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Stupid Chemo

Met with the Oncologist today. He said, "Remember that fine line I said we were going to walk between killing cancer cells and killing you?  We're crossing that line."  I cried, he cried, we hugged. We agreed not to do the next round of Adriamycin/Cytoxan because it will do more harm than good, especially to my heart.  I also have some sort of infection, like strep, but the antibiotics will treat that.

He also feels that my blood pressure is too low at the moment, and with the new heart medication, that will lower it even more.  So, I'm currently in the infusion lab getting pumped full of more fluids to try and increase the blood volume in my body.  Also, the muscles in my neck and back are so tight and painful that I can hardly move.  He suggests going to get massages as much as possible to help with that.

We are taking this week off from chemo, stopping the A/C completely, and planning to start a different chemo next week assuming I'm able to get back up before he knocks me down again (the dr's explanation).  The chemo may go to every three weeks.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Health Update

I received a call from the Cardiologist this morning, and based on my event monitor readings, he is putting me on a heart beta blocker called Metoprolol. This will help keep my heart from racing (Tachycardia) every time I move. It also causes fatigue, but not much I can do about that. I'll meet with him Thursday morning to see how it's working.
I've had a sore throat, swollen glands, cough and persistent headache since Friday evening, so after talking with the Oncologist this morning, they are putting me on antibiotics for an infection. I will go in tomorrow and have labs done and discuss how this will affect the chemo schedule for this week.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Matters of the Heart

October 29, 2013
Just spent two hours getting a detailed Echocardiogram done due to dizziness and shortness of breath. Plus the heart monitor I'm wearing has recorded 31 "events" so far. The tech isn't allowed to say if anything is wrong, but she did say I wasn't crazy when I'm feeling weird stuff happening. And then when it was over and I sat up, she asked me if I was okay about 62 times. The test results will be sent to the Oncologist and the Cardiologist today, and they'll call me if it's urgent. Otherwise, I'll see both doctors next week.

October 30, 2013
Today has been rough. I have been very weak and short of breath just standing, walking or showering. And I've been throwing up all day. I've uploaded a total of 42 "events" on the heart monitor, and the when I talked to the Cardiologist just now, they indicated my heart rate is in the 160's when I'm not doing anything but standing up. They said it's called Atrial Flutter. So, what that means is, if I continue to be weak or lightheaded over the course of the evening, I am supposed to head to the ER and be admitted to have my heart treated.

October 31, 2013
A big thanks to my friend, Brenda for taking me to the ER last night, even though she didn't appreciate my singing or Forrest Gump impressions.
The latest update:
My big accomplishment was taking a 10 minute shower yesterday, which took 30 minutes to recover from the activity. I could hardly move the rest of the day and couldn't keep any food down. I decided to go to the ER last evening after many attempts to stand up resulted in losing my vision and not being able to breathe. I almost passed out as soon as I walked in the ER, and they immediately wheeled me right back to the Chest Pain unit.
My blood pressure was really low, around 89/50, but every time I changed positions, my heart rate would jump from 80bpm to over 130bpm, sometimes in the 160's. I got really lightheaded and short of breath. They were fairly certain it was a pulmonary embolism (blockage of the artery to the lungs). But after an Xray and CT scan, they determined that wasn't the case. They didn't really address the heart monitor readings that the Cardiologist provided, so that still may be an issue. The Echocardiogram came back fine from Tuesday, but I've had 18 more events on the heart monitor since last evening (for a total of over 60 events since Friday). I'm still waiting for the Cardiologist to call back today to tell me what to do.
When the blood lab report came back, they told me that my white blood cell counts are around 4 (which is low), and my Hemoglobin is 10 (which is also low, but not terrible). They don't usually do a transfusion until the Hemoglobin level is below 9, so they just pumped me full of fluids to increase the fluid volume in my body. The labs didn't show I was dehydrated, and even with two bags of fluid, my blood pressure remained really low, so I don't know what that means. They just told me to move really slowly (sitting up for a minute before standing....standing up for a minute before walking).
Being that yesterday was day 6 after chemo, the blood levels will lower even more over the next 4 days, with day 10 usually being the worst. After talking with the nurse at the Oncologist today, they may or may not be able to do chemo next week. But the Oncologist will look at the reports from last night, and I'll meet with him on Tuesday to discuss my options.
It was a LONG night, and we finally got home around 3am. And so far, today is just more of the same, shortness of breath and weakness. Thanks for all the good thoughts and prayers!!

Saturday, October 26, 2013


ROUND 1:  The fear came from not knowing what to expect or how my body would react.  But I went in with a strong attitude and made some friends along the way.
9/26/13 (Just ten days after my diagnosis)

This is where I started to get nervous

This is called The Red Devil

The treatment center

Cytoxan, another chemo drug

Then I had to get a shot the next day to stimulate white blood cell growth in my bone marrow.  This causes bone pain.  The shot itself is excruciating.

Then came the effects of chemo......It's all a blur for me....

ROUND 2:   And I was terrified...

Eating ice chips because the chemo burns my mouth

Leaving with my brain feeling sloshy

The chemo cape gives me momentary strength

Eating popsicles to try and get the chemo taste out of my mouth

Then the shot....

Days of this....

ROUND 3:  Supposedly the worst (and I can attest that so far this has been the worst)

I was strong and ready to take this round

A friend sent miracle fruit to help with the chemo taste
Port has been accessed and I'm ready (I think)

The Red Devil is extremely dangerous

The nurse has to "suit" up in a gown and gloves.  She indicated that if
it touches your skin, it will eat through she pumps it into my heart

The effects hit me immediately and there is no way to describe how it feels

The best way to describe it is the flu times 100

It immediately makes my eyes bloodshot and puffy to the point of
barely being able to keep them open without pain

Another 30 minutes with Cytoxan 

This round is kicking my butt

Before my painful shot on Friday, I had to head to the Cardiologist.  I've had lots of dizziness and lighthheadedness when I stand.  And I have shortness of breath with any physical exertion (like walking).  My blood pressure remains in the low range, around 90/50, and I'm having heart palpitations that make me feel like I'm going to pass out.  I'm not dehydrated, and my labs look great.  So to be safe, the oncologist sent me to have my heart checked out.

Waiting for the Cardiologist

Meeting with the Cardiologist

 They did an EKG in the office, and I'm currently wearing a heart event monitor for the next ten days. I have another Echocardiogram scheduled this coming Monday.  The chemotherapy I'm on (Adriamycin) can cause serious heart damage, so everyone wants to make sure I'm safe.

For now, I go back to fighting the nausea, pain, and fatigue.  This round is rough.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Undefining Moments- Going Bald

With cancer comes chemotherapy, with chemotherapy comes hair loss.  It sucks.  But why is it such a big deal?  Everyone says, "It's just hair"...."Hair is overrated".  Am I so vain that I let my looks define me? Well, yes, I did.

It's hard to let go of the security blanket my hair provided.  Losing it is the equivalent to losing a part of me.  It's part of who I am.  It's practically a body part!

But I knew when I started chemotherapy that hair loss was a side effect.  I read that day 14 after the first treatment was the magic day.  No matter how much I kicked my feet and held my breath, it was going to happen.  So just like I always say and try to do, let's make the best of it.

After my first chemo treatment, my friend Brenda drove me straight to a haircutting place.  I wanted to do three things:  First, if I can no longer use my hair, let somebody else.  So I wanted to cut as much as possible to donate to Locks of Love.  Second, I wanted a short cut to transition into losing it all.  Plus, I figured that it would be less hair to clean up.  And lastly, this was a life-changing moment as I began my fight, so I wanted something I could visibly comprehend as major change in my life.  Regardless, it was and still remains surreal.

Then, after the shock and acceptance of my new "do", I started to get excited about it.  I felt like I was back in high school with my short hair.  Bring on the Pat Benatar look.  I was rocking it.

A couple days later, my friend Heidi and I made a trip to the Cancer Society to try on wigs.  It was overwhelming to see the love and compassion of all the people and businesses that donate to those with cancer.  And it was also a bit intimidating to sit in a little room with thousands of wigs, trying to decide who I will be now.

I almost cried when she put the first wig on.  Why does new fake hair make me so emotional?  It wasn't just the hair affecting me, it was a moment of realization that this WILL happen.  This IS happening to me.  It was hard to swallow that pill of reality.

Then, I let go of the fear.  I put a smile on my face. We made the best of it, and we laughed and had a good time.

Okay, I had my new hair in hand, along with hair nets to catch falling hair and turbans to wear at night so my head doesn't get cold.  I still had my real hair for now, so I was able to let that moment go and get back to day by day.  Then came day 14, right on schedule.

It was terrifying enough to go back in for another chemo treatment.  I was sick to my stomach and shaking at the thought.  But then to add insult to assault on my body, my hair started to come out faster than I could catch it.  It started in the shower.

I spent more of my shower washing the hair off of me than I did actually getting clean.  I hated that moment.  It was a sickening feeling on top of already feeling bad from chemo.

When I got out, I looked for that special bag from the cancer society that was filled with hair supplies.  I found one of the hair nets and put it on.  All the while thinking, when will this be over?  When can I go back to what I knew?  How do I get out of this?

More and more hair kept coming out even through the hair net.  It was on my clothes, my furniture, my pillow, everywhere.  I didn't care how ridiculous it was, I took the vacuum hose to my head to try and get all the loose hair so that I could have a moment's peace from the reminder.

And then I gave up, gave in, and accepted the inevitable.  My friend Deana brought a pair of clippers to me, and even offered to throw a party to send off my hair.  But this was a very personal moment for me.  This next task was something I wanted to experience alone.  The magnitude of what I was about to do was again, overwhelming.  To let go of my identity as I know it, to undefine who I am in the mirror, to change what the world sees, and to feel like I still have control over anything was a moment I had to acknowledge, appreciate, and document by myself....

I am still here, FIGHTING.  I am not a victim.  I have been undefined and redefined.  I will no longer be defined by how I look, but by who I am, Anncredible.