Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2 down-31 to go

I started radiation on Monday. The first of 33 sessions, 1 per day for six and a half weeks. It is deceptively easy. The whole session takes about 5 minutes. It takes longer to park and undress and redress than it does to actually go through the treatment.

I have not yet experienced any of the side effects though I understand it can take a couple of weeks for them to show up. In comparison to chemo, it should be easier. The two biggest side effects are fatigue and skin issues-something like a sunburn.

It all sounds comparatively easy. However radiation is serious. You can only have radiation once in your lifetime. Because my lump was on the left side, I have the potential to have permanent damage to my heart, my lungs or my ribs. Hopefully this won't be the case but it is a risk. After these treatments, I will have had my maximum lifetime radiation. You know when you have an xray and they put that nice heavy metal apron on to protect you from the radiation? I don't get the metal apron. I get the full effect of something that I have had to be protected against my entire life.

So why do it? It improves my chances of survival by about 7-10%. That may sound like a small amount and some people choose not to do radiation, but for me 7-10 percent is enough to make it worth it. I think I would worry about it constantly if I didn't do radiation. I want to make sure I have done everything I can to improve my chances of survival and reduce my chances of a recurrence. So I will go every day for 6 and a half weeks and I will try every day to remember why I am doing it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


If you have been following the news, you are aware that WaMu was purchased by JP Morgan Chase this week. As an employee of WaMu, this impacts me directly. I chose to work at WaMu for several reasons. I am from Seattle and always want to work for a Seattle based company. I like working for larger companies rather than smaller companies because I like the stability of a large company. When I started at WaMu they were a successful, well-respected company. I always want to be proud of where I work so this was important as well. It wasn't a random choice. I never in a million years thought that I would be part of the biggest bank failure in history.

As of right now I don't know if I will lose my job, but since I work in the corporate offices and JP Morgan Chase's offices are in NY, I find it unlikely that they will retain two corporate presences. I think it is only a matter of time. When I watched the employees at Enron and WorldCom and Lehman brothers, I felt for them, but I still thought it would never happen to me. But here I am. My WaMu stock is worthless, my job is in jeopardy and I will most likely be one of those people you see on the news carrying their belongings out the door in a box.

I never thought I would have cancer either. In an abstract way, I knew that there was a chance, but I thought the odds were with me, not against me. I did not have the typical risk factors, but against the odds, here I am; 43 and diagnosed with breast cancer. I never thought it would happen to me.

So now I have been shown in no uncertain terms that no matter what the odds are, someone is always on the wrong side of them. Now I have to find a way to turn this around. The odds are against me winning the lottery or being famous or finding a cure for cancer. Twice this year I have lost against the odds. Maybe it is time for me to use that to my advantage and find out what I can do to win against the odds. It is more for me to think about while I try to figure out what my lesson is supposed to be.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

10 Things I Don't Hate About Cancer

There are many, many, many things to hate about cancer and believe me, I do hate cancer but for every cloud there must be a silver lining and I have found a few.

#10-No need for an eyebrow wax
I am not sure why this is, but the area where I generally have my brows waxed is as clean as a whistle! My eyebrows currently have the exact shape and arch that they have after I have had them waxed at zero cost.

#9-No underarm nicks from shaving
This hair was probably the first to go and I don't miss it at all! There is something nice about a smooth underarm-EVERY DAY!

#8-Smooth legs all summer long
The hair on my legs also went quickly and I have had to shave my legs exactly one time this summer. I might not have appreciated this as much if I had to have chemo in the winter, but this was definitely a bonus.

#7-Short Showers
With no hair to wash and nothing to shave, there is only so much one can do in the shower-alone!

#6-Appreciation for the sense of taste
There are very few foods that I don't like and I am willing to try most anything. Having my taste buds disappear with each round of chemo essentially making everything taste like sawdust or mud makes me appreciate the fact that prior to chemo I had pretty accommodating taste buds. I can't wait to welcome them back.

#5-Sleeping with my children
When my girls were young I used to be able to nap with them occasionally and thought it was one of the greatest things in the world. Now that they are 10 and 11 I don't ever have this opportunity. Since I have spent so much time during chemo sleeping or napping, I have had the chance to sleep with both of my girls at some point. I even got to catch a nap with my niece the other day. There are few things more personally rewarding than snuggling up with the warm, soft body of a child.

#4-Letting my husband take care of me
Soon after Larry and I met, I remember him telling me that I wasn't an easy person to take care of because I am too independent. I'm not used to allowing people to take care of me, but happened to marry someone who thrives on taking care of people. Being hit by the chemo truck gave us both the opportunity to let him take care of me.

#3-Understanding I have choices
Getting a Cancer diagnosis is overwhelming and debilitating. It seems that everything is happening TO you. I realized that I have choices. I can choose my attitude, my outlook, my treatments. I can also choose to have my body work against me or work for me. I intend to make it work for me.

#2-Friends near and far
I knew I had friends, I really did. I just didn't know how caring and supportive they would be or to what lengths they would go to support me. I gained friends as well. I even received support from people that I would have guessed didn't even know that I existed.

#1-Having my health
Most people probably wouldn't say they were healthy when diagnosed with cancer, but besides that little fact, I am actually pretty healthy! Being healthy has helped me to bounce back from each chemo and withstand potential infections. I don't have any allergies or other illnesses. I can't imagine having to tackle cancer with high blood pressure or kidney disease or severe allergies or a compromised immune system. Now I know I have done everything in my power to insure my health and I am going to do everything humanly possible to hang onto it. I am worth it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Chemo 4 of 4 done!

Yippee! I finished my last chemo yesterday and I am so glad! I still have to get through this week and I can't say that I recovered very well from round 3 so we'll see how it goes. I am also pretty anemic which is not helping much. My oncologist recommends that I up my iron for at least the next 3 months to get those counts up.

I had quite a crowd with me yesterday, my mom bought me to my appointment and brought both of my girls. They have been curious about the whole process and I decided that if they wanted to watch drugs drip into me it would probably help rather hurt. I think they found that it was boring and not that scary so it was probably a good thing.

Also my friend Mary Kay came to sit and visit which was nice. She brought pictures of her recent trip to France which was good and distracting and made me want to go back!

My friend Angie came at the end and drove me home. Who knew it took so many people to get me through?

I got my tattoos for radiation this week and will start radiation on September 29th. I will do 33 times, every day for 6.5 weeks. I am doing my radiation at Valley since it is closer to the house. I understand that each appt is only about 15 minutes so I will spend more time driving there and walking into the office than I will actually at the appointment.

I am glad to be nearing the end of the treatment journey so I can get on with my life.

Speaking of getting on with life, I want to wish Annie, Lisa, Trude and Pam good luck with the 3 day that starts tomorrow. I hope you know how much you are doing for Breast cancer and I appreciate everything you are doing for the cause and for me. Keep putting one foot in front of another and keep your head high. You are doing important work!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Statistics and Fundraising

When you are diagnosed with cancer, you find that information is everywhere. While information is powerful, sometimes it is overwhelming. Take these statistics for example:

1 out of every 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
1 out of every 5 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
1 out of every 2 men will be diagnosed with some kind of cancer in their lifetime.
1 out of every 3 women will be diagnosed with some kind of cancer in their lifetime.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States.

Daunting isn't it?

Luckily there are many who are trying to change these statistics. I know 3 of them personally. Annie Searle-a coworker at WaMu, Lisa Mocquet-a third grade teacher at my daughter's elementary school and Trude Haines-a fellow soccer mom. This is what I want you to know about the three of them. None of them have had breast cancer but all of them are willing to walk 60 miles in the Susan G. Komen 3 day taking place September 12-14. Between the three of them they have raised about $25,000.00 that will go directly to breast cancer research-and that is just this year. Both Annie and Trude have done this event before and raised money each year. Can you believe they walked 60 miles in 3 days and want to do it again??

I applaud each of them for their efforts and have included links on the left side of my breast cancer blog to their fundraising pages. If you have not yet donated to this great cause, there is still time and I know that any of the three of them would be very grateful for the additional donations. Being a direct recipient of the research that is done, I am also grateful.

My dad died of pancreatic cancer 19 years ago so not only have I been personally affected by cancer, I have lost a parent to it. When my dad died, I started giving money to the American Cancer Society each month out of my paycheck. Their focus is broader than Susan G. Komen as they have programs to help anyone diagnosed with any type of cancer. I have included their link here as well if you are interested in donating there.

Finally, if you turn on the television tonight to any network channel, you will find a show called Stand Up To Cancer. It is a one time fundraising event taking place tonight only.

If you want to do something super easy, I have included the link to Click to Give. This is a site that gives away free mammograms just by clicking on the website.

I support all of these efforts for the simple reason that I want cancer to go away. Not just mine, not just breast cancer, all cancers. I have lost a parent and a friend to cancer. I have personally given up quite a bit to cancer. I'm not willing to give up anything else-certainly not my life. I don't want anyone else to give anything up either.

Find yourself in these statistics. Everyone is affected by cancer.