Friday, June 27, 2008


Wednesday was Darci's birthday. but it felt like mine. My friend Michelle came over and gave me a card with a substantial amount of money to use to purchase a wig. The card was signed by over 20 people who contributed. I cried immediately when I read it, and have cried every day since, as has Larry.

I cried for so many reasons. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and family, I was overwhelmed with relief that something that has been causing me a great deal of emotional stress is now going to be substantially easier. I cried with disbelief that so many who have given and done so much already could reach inside themselves and give even more. I cried because I have always been extremely independent and have never accepted anything like this from anyone. But mostly I cried because I just didn't know.

I have spent a good portion of my life feeling I didn't quite belong. Like I was on the outside looking in. Like I had to make it on my own. Like I would be weak if I had to rely on anyone else.

I didn't know that there was that much love in the world for me and for my family. Larry didn't know either. We are overwhelmed with gratitude and love.

To those of you have supported us in the wig fund or in any other way, and those of you who have kept us in your thoughts and prayers, thank you for showing me in no uncertain terms that I am loved and that my family is loved. I just didn't know.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

One Little Angel

I find comfort in being prepared and having some kind of plan so I decided I would go out and look for wigs. I want to have a human hair wig instead of synthetic and wanted to have someone cut it for me so that it is closer to my style.

Human hair wigs are much nicer than I thought they would be. They feel good, they look good and you can style them like you would your own hair. But they are EXPENSIVE! $1600.00-$3200.00 for the ones that I found. I almost fainted on the spot. I did not purchase one and am going to continue to look for other options.

I came home quite discouraged because nothing with cancer is as easy as I would like it to be. I wanted to just go out, find a wig I liked, buy a couple so I would have options and that would be the end of it. But, it was not to be.

Some days are harder than others and yesterday was definitely one of them.

I have always thought that once you have children, you can't ever entertain the idea of not believing in God. They are little miracles and mine bring me more joy than anything else in the world. I am blessed to just have them in my life. So imagine my surprise when Darci (my youngest daughter) tells me that she wants to continue to grow her hair so that she can donate it. Not just to anyone, but to me. She has been trying to grow her hair out for a couple of years. She has beautiful thick brown hair that is just a shade lighter than mine. She came up with this completely on her own and hadn't heard me talk about my discouragement with wigs. I'm stunned....and proud....and more madly in love with my children than ever before.

So, together with my other daughter, we have made a plan. Darci's hair is not quite long enough to donate while still leaving her with a length she will be happy with. I will start losing my hair about 2 weeks after my first round of chemo. I have made an appointment on July 25th to have my head shaved. I will buy a wig to wear for the couple of months that I am going through chemo and then in September, we will cut Darci's hair and take it to this man in Bellevue who makes wigs out of your own (or in this case, your daughter's) hair. I will wear my daughter's hair as mine begins to grow out.

I am amazed and proud of the selfless, beautiful, wonderful girls that I am raising. My little angels!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Good News and Bad News (but mostly good!)

I had my first appointment with my oncologist on Friday. I liked her very much and she made me feel very comfortable. She went through my pathology report in detail with me so I understood exactly what my prognosis is.

In my particular case, there is good news and bad news, but mostly good. My cancer is considered Stage II purely because of the size of the tumor. Had it been smaller, I would have been classified as Stage I because I do not have any evidence of cancer in my lymph nodes or anywhere else in my body. She said mine is the best reason to be classified as Stage II.

I am also positive for Estrogen and Progesterone receptors. This essentially means that estrogen and progesterone in my body are captured by the cancer cells as they go by and cause the cancer cells to grow. Though it sounds like a bad thing because I am a pre-menopausal female and am still producing estrogen, it is actually a good thing because that means there is a relatively easy way to stop it. Just block the estrogen and progesterone from being able to attach to any cancer cells and half the problem is solved.

My cancer is classified as aggressive. On a scale of 1-9, 9 being most aggressive, I am classified as 9. While this is obviously discouraging to hear, the good news is that aggressive cancers are the ones that are most effectively treated with chemotherapy. By design, chemotherapy kills the quickly dividing cells. If I had a less aggressive type of cancer, it is possible that the chemo would not be as effective. If I have to go through it-it better be worth it in my opinion!

She has set my treatment up as 4 rounds of chemo once every three weeks with a regimen of two different types of drugs. While I would REALLY rather not do chemo, I knew that I was going to have 4-6 rounds with 2-3 drugs, so 4 rounds with 2 drugs is about the best I could hope for.

More bad news---I will definitely be losing my hair and pretty quickly. I will lose my hair 2-3 weeks after my first round of chemo. While I can't spin this into good news, I can say that she has told me that with my particular regime, I should likely not be horribly nauseous. She said that the day of treatment will take about 5 hours and I should feel fine. I should also feel OK the next day and by the end of the third day will begin to feel pretty crappy-achy and tired as if I have the flu. This will last for about a week and then I will be back on my feet, though tired until the next round. She has promised that she will pump me so full of anti-nausea drugs that I should be OK. I am really hopeful that she is right about this one.

She also said that the chemo will send me into menopause. So while feeling achy and tired and generally crappy and losing my hair, I can also look forward to hot flashes, moodiness and night sweats. My doctor was thrilled with this actually and told me that in my case, going into menopause is just as beneficial as going through chemo. I told her she could just yank my uterus and ovaries out if she would like and I will just forego chemo, but oddly she didn't agree with that plan. Although at a later date, it might be an option.

The last part that was relatively unsettling was that in looking at my history, she wants me to take part in some genetic testing. My dad passed away from pancreatic cancer when he was just 48 years old. Though I have always heard that pancreatic cancer is not necessarily hereditary, she told me that it actually can be related to breast cancer and ovarian cancer, especially suspicious given how young he was at the time of diagnosis. I will be talking to a genetic counselor and doing some tests to determine if I carry the breast cancer gene. What I am more worried about is not so much if I have it because clearly I have breast cancer so it doesn't really matter, but whether my sister has it, my daughters have it, my nieces have it. In the case of my children, my husband's sister had breast cancer at 43 as well so my kids may be getting a double whammy for risk. This frightens me more than anything else so far.

So that is my news. Some good, some bad, but all things considered, I still have a very good prognosis. After surgery, chemo, radiation and hormone therapy I should have a 90% chance of survival. That is about the same chances I had before I had cancer so that is pretty good!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Defeat and Loss

Today I found out that my friend Marty succumbed to cancer. He has been battling cancer for only one year and was only 41 years old.

Marty was a firefighter and a fitness buff. He saved people for a living. He was one of the finest people I have ever had the pleasure and honor to know. He had two young children who went to pre-school and kindergarten with my children. His son Colton has been in love with Darci since he was three years old and used to tell her on a regular basis that he planned to marry her.

I had not seen Marty for quite awhile since our kids now attend different schools, but we happened to see him in December when the girls were taking ski lessons. He was renting skis at the ski school because he loved it and loved being able to be there with his kids.

He told me that day that he had been diagnosed with Thymic Carcinoma. I listened and cried and gave him a hug. That is the last time I saw him. I am incredibly grateful that I had the chance to see him and tell him in person how much we cared about him and his family.

I called him about a month ago and was surprised that he answered his cell phone. In typical Marty style, he told me that he was recovering from his last round of chemotherapy and was getting stronger every day. I told him again how much we were pulling for him and that I was thinking of him every day.

About 3 days later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and found myself grappling with the same things that Marty had been. Since the day of my diagnosis I have mentally put myself in this "team" of cancer fighters. Me, Marty and another friend Michael. In my mind, there has always been the three of us in this fight together. I knew we were all fighting different cancers, but thought if there was the three of us fighting, we would all win our battles.

I am devastated by the loss of Marty. I am heartbroken for his wonderful wife Kris and his two kids Colton and Rylee.

So many people have told me that God doesn't give you more than you can handle. What about Marty? He was physically fit, mentally strong, had a HUGE support system with the firefighters, friends, family etc and was determined to beat his cancer even though he knew the prognosis wasn't good. He was one of the good guys-truly a hero, he was loved by many. Why couldn't he beat it?

I know that all of you have been keeping me in your thoughts and prayers. Can I ask each of you a favor? Can you pray for Marty and his family too? I will be doing the same. (see the link below if you would like to read about Marty)

Marty, you have inspired me, made me laugh and raised really great children. you made an impact on the planet and saved lives in the process. I am blessed and honored that I had a chance to know you for so many years. Go with God Marty and may God bless you and your family.

Anticipating Visibility

This past week has been very quiet. Almost like my life is back to normal. I am recovering from surgery nicely and have had no complications at all. My surgeon is happy with everything and has told me he does not want to see me for another 3 months.

The next step is to see the oncologist. My appointment with her is this Friday morning. I am both excited and nervous to meet her. I am excited because with the surgery I feel like I have started on my path to surviving cancer and I can't continue on that path until I start my treatment plan. I am nervous because this next part of my treatment is the one that is the most frightening.

She is the person that is going to tell me which poisons will be in my body, how often I have to do it and what all the potential complications and side effects will be.

I have decided to be proactive about losing my hair. I am getting my hair cut by several inches next week. I am also going to a new person that I am hoping can give me a great hair cut (probably my last for the year) and can duplicate it on a wig. I would love to be able to say that I will be one of those bold, brave people that just shaves my head and shows a bald head to the world, but I don't know if that is what will happen. It is the single most visible thing about me that will announce to the world that I am a victim of cancer. I have spent my life being relatively invisible-I don't seek the spotlight and never have. Cancer has and will change many things about me. I don't know if accepting the visibility that comes with this disease will be one of them-maybe I will surprise myself.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Last Bit

My surgeon called yesterday to tell me the pathology results from my surgery. Of the four lymph nodes that were removed, 2 had zero cancer in them and 2 had a "trace". This still classifies me as "no lymph node involvement". This is a huge relief and something that I am very grateful for.

They also tested the mass and the surrounding tissue around it to see if there was any cancer in the "margins". The closest cancer is 6mm away from the edge of the tissue with most of it being at least 1 cm away. What this means is that they got enough. If the margins did not come back clear, they would have had to go in to remove more tissue.

These are the last bits that I have been waiting for. I needed to know that there was truly nothing else in the lymph nodes or in my left breast before I could start to relax a little bit.

I have always felt like I have been blessed with my health, my family's health, great friends etc. but this last bit of news makes that feeling of being blessed almost a physical sensation. I feel it down to my toes. It is the most grateful I have ever felt. I found myself alone in the elevator saying "thankyou". Thank you God, thank you friends, thank you family, thank you universe, thank you Swedish Hospital....just sincere, heartfelt Thank you.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mind and Body

I am back to work and my surgeon was right, the recovery for this surgery is not bad. I have been up and around for a couple of days and though still sore and lacking a bit in energy with some very colorful bruises....I am feeling pretty good.

While I don't like pain any more than the next person, I am finding that the physical pain of recovery is exponentially easier than the mental anguish of knowing that I have cancer in my body. It is something that I couldn't shut off for one minute of the day.

My mental state is 1000% better knowing that I no longer have a tumor that is growing and spreading every day. I understand that there is still a risk that there are some cancer cells. I also understand that I am now at a higher risk of getting cancer again than someone who has not had it. I understand all of that but it is still easier than hearing the "tick, tick, tick" in my head that I have had for the last three weeks.

Everyone has told me to be positive and I have tried very hard to do so, but now for the first time I feel hopeful and active in my recovery. I think I can do it now. In fact, I know I can. I am under no illusions that chemotherapy or radiation will be easy, but at least I know I am actively improving my chances.

I would have to say that even though I say that I try to be healthy, I have actually been quite cavalier about my health up until now. Getting a breast cancer diagnosis shines a very bright light on how I am actually taking care of my body. I now am very aware that this is the only one I have so if I don't take care of it-who will?

My body might be preparing for battle, but my mind has already begun to overcome it.