Friday, February 27, 2009


Over the past couple of days, the radio station that I listen to was having a radiothon to benefit Seattle Children's Hospital. I have been giving to Children's hospital each month for several years because I think it is an important resource for Seattle. My children listen to the same radio station with me and yesterday, my oldest daughter was listening and came to ask me if she could call in and donate some of her own money. She pulled out 5.00 in cash of her money and called in. I was very proud of her. She has never needed to go to Children's Hospital and she doesn't know anyone who has been there either. I let her make the call and donate her money because I think it is important that my kids understand that even if someone doesn't have a lot of money, they can still make a difference.

My husband has decided to participate in the Big Climb again this year. It is a race up the Columbia Center which is 69 flights of stairs. This particular event benefits Lymphoma and Leukemia. Once again, we have been lucky to not be directly affected by either one of these but I am proud that he is supporting this cause.
I think having been diagnosed with any type of cancer has made my family realize that ALL cancers should go away. It is very difficult road for an adult to go through chemo and radiation and I think my kids realize how very difficult it must be for a child to go through. I'm proud that after going through a very grueling year of our own, my family still wants to give to others.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Aunt Mae

We will miss you terribly. All our love, Larry, Tracy, Cailey and Darci

Friday, February 20, 2009

Studies and statistics

This week I had the opportunity to be interviewed for a large study that Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is conducting to help understand why some young women develop breast cancer and others do not. At 43, I am definitely considered young to have developed breast cancer. Though women are certainly diagnosed at any age, the majority are diagnosed after the age of 50 with the average age being well into menopause at age 61.

It was a very intensive interview going back to when I started menstruating (14), specifics about my pregnancies, birth control methods, drinking habits over the years, work habits and eating habits. They also took a blood sample and will review the tissue samples taken during my lumpectomy. Though certain things have a prominent place in my memory (the day I was diagnosed for instance), other things have gone by the wayside. I don't remember for instance which pharmacy I might have used for various birth control methods or at what age I might have changed brands.

The interviewer said they hope to have over 7000 people interviewed. It saddens me to think there are more than 7000 people who are in my shoes and have been diagnosed with breast cancer at an early age. I wish there were none. Unfortunately, I know a few personally and sincerely wish we were not in this club. But if we have to be in it, then I am glad that Fred Hutch recognizes that it is something that requires more study. I know that the basis of the study has to do with hormonal changes in women. I can't imagine that I am necessarily that different than anyone else in this regard.

After 90 minutes of questioning and much mental anguish about what I could and could not remember, she asked me her last question. "Do you know what caused your cancer?" I wish I did.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Year of the Snake

Two years ago today, after taking a nice long walk with my children and the dog, I came back in through the garage, slipped on a plastic bag and broke my wrist. I had never broken a bone before and it wasn't a pleasant experience at all. I broke it in such a way that it wasn't going to heal with just a cast and ended up having to have surgery. I have a titanium plate and 9 screws in my wrist. 2007 ended up being the year of "the wrist". I broke it in February, had surgery in April and was in physical therapy from May when I got my cast off until the end of August. Everything was difficult that year. Working was difficult as I could only type with one hand for several months, getting dressed was difficult and I couldn't tie or button my own pants for several months. I thought 2008 couldn't possibly be worse than 2007.

In 2008 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and it became the year of "the breast". I was diagnosed and had a lumpectomy in May, had chemo from July to September, radiation from September through November.

2009 is the year of the Ox according to the Chinese. I don't know what this year will bring for me. I will work my last day at WaMu on March 31st, will take a few months off and then will be pounding the pavement looking for work, so maybe it will be the year of "the job" for me. I am also working on writing a book this year so maybe it will be the year of "the book". In September I will be walking in my first Susan G. Komen 3 day walk and am already training and fundraising. Maybe it will be the year of "the walk"?

On the other hand, I was born in the year of the Snake and for the most part, it rings true for me. I will wait to see what this year brings.

People born in the Year of the Snake are deep. They say little and possess great wisdom. They never have to worry about money; they are financially fortunate. Snake people are often quite vain, selfish, and a bit stingy. Yet they have tremendous sympathy for others and try to help those less fortunate. Snake people tend to overdo, since they have doubts about other people's judgment and prefer to rely on themselves. They are determined in whatever they do and hate to fail. Although calm on the surface, they are intense and passionate. Snake people are usually good-looking and sometimes have marital problems because they are fickle. They are most compatible with the Ox and Rooster

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Last night I had the chance to go see the Lion King at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. I have seen it before but never with my children so I was really excited to go. The show didn't disappoint at all and was thrilling from beginning to end. My sister went with us as well and spent the entire show being cold as it was a bit chilly in the theatre. I told her that a nice hot flash would take care of that for her. Certainly it took care of it for me. I had a coat on when I went into the theatre and about time the second act started, I started sweating and had to remove my jacket. 10 minutes later, I am cold. Aaargh!

I have a bit of a queasy stomach occasionally when taking medication so I have learned to take everything at night when my stomach is full. Every night I take out my collection of pills. I really don't like taking any type of medication so mostly my pile of pills consists of vitamins and supplements, but then there is that tiny little white Tamoxifen pill.

Tamoxifen is what is currently responsible for my hot flashes. It is a hormone blocker and blocks the estrogen in my body. Each night when I take it I have some different feeling about it. Some nights I hate it. It is a constant reminder that cancer is going to be part of my life for a long time. Some nights I take it and am thankful that I am done with treatment and ONLY have to take one tiny white pill. Some nights I am in awe that a tiny white pill can do so much to hold cancer at bay and improve the survivability rates of so many women.

I know that it is saving my life and I'm grateful that if I had to have cancer, I had it in a time when this particular drug is available to women with my diagnosis. I also know that the side effects could be much worse and that I am lucky to have minimal side effects. I know all of this, but I still hate being dependent on medications and I'm not all that fond of hot flashes either. However, like I told my sister last night, if you are female, then at some point you will go through menopause. I just happen to be going through it earlier than I might have otherwise. So when all of my friends are in their 50's and having hot flashes, I will just smile and say "Yes, I remember".

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I registered for this year's Susan G. Komen 3 Day Walk in Seattle about 3 weeks ago. This is something that I wanted to do last year but couldn't as I was in the midst of chemo and radiation. I am excited to be able to do it this year and struggled with what my fundraising goal should be.

Each participant has to raise 2300.00 in order to participate. This is certainly a lofty goal but I felt like since breast cancer was something I am intimately familiar with that my goal should be higher. I ultimately decided on 3000.00. 1000.00 for me as a survivor and 1000.00 for each of my daughters in the hopes that they won't ever have to face breast cancer themselves.

As usual, I am stunned and amazed at my friends and family. After just 3 weeks of fundraising, I met my goal. I hadn't even sent out all of the emails that I plan to send out. I am thankful for each and every donation that I have received and hopeful that the 1 in 8 statistic will soon become 0 in 8. Wouldn't that be fabulous? Zero. Nada. Nothing. No one. No Breast Cancer in the world. That is my real goal.

A special thank you to the special teacher who was the first to donate and to my friend who saw my goal and decided to put in the remaining amount. She has inspired me to reach higher. I have now changed my goal to 7000.00. Thank you to everyone who has donated and to those who will do so in the future. We have to change our goals so that breast cancer isn't just the most researched cancer, but the one that is the first to go away.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Because my company is vacating some of its office space in Seattle, I have spent much time this week gathering and donating office supplies with my coworkers. Yesterday we delivered to a local school in Seattle that is the lowest income school in the district. We delivered over 100 boxes of paper, pencils, file folders etc. There was a very nice man who I assume is the custodian who helped us carry all of the boxes into the school. We had said in passing that it was such a waste to have all of these extra supplies just sitting around. His response was "It's a blessing to us". He's right. As employees, we take for granted that every day we can find a pen or a pad of paper. But at his school, they can't assume that those basic needs will be there every day and they are extremely grateful that we could help change that.

This week I also had the chance to bring a meal to a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer and thyroid cancer last fall. She is actually a friend of a friend and we have only met a couple of times. She thanked me for bringing the food and we talked for quite awhile. She told me how grateful her family was for all of the meals that have been prepared for them. We had meals brought to us from July to November through chemo and radiation last year by many caring friends and family. I told her that I was grateful to be able to pay it forward. I realized that something as simple as preparing a meal for someone is a real blessing. When you are healthy you take for granted that you can prepare your own meals or even prepare one for someone else. But when you are battling cancer or any other major illness, you just can't take it for granted that you will be able to provide this basic need for your family let alone provide it for someone else.

I realized in both cases, delivering school supplies and a meal, that as humbling as it was to have to accept help all through my treatment, it is a blessing to be able to give that help right back.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Menopause=No sleep!

One of the things that my oncologist was most excited about was that going through chemo put me into menopause. Since I am estrogen positive, this is a good thing for me. Menopause equals less estrogen production which equals less potential for a recurrence.

So far, the only real side effects to menopause are hot flashes and night sweats. I started having these after my second round of chemo. They were decreasing and I was mostly having these side effects at night, but add Tamoxifen to the mix and I am back at ground zero with hot flashes during the day and sweating at night.

One would think that since it is the middle of winter, I wouldn't mind having hot flashes just to keep warm, but it is actually worse. I still get cold from the weather and really want to bundle up in a cozy sweater or a nice soft blanket. So I do this, get all comfortable and cozy and then WHAM another hot flash.

This might be OK if I was one of those people that got the cute little dots of sweat on their nose and that is it, but no, I am not a pretty sweat-er. I sweat everywhere.

I used to be one of those people who hit the pillow at night and never woke up until the alarm went off in the morning. Now, I am tossing and turning all night long, throwing blankets off when I get hot and putting them back on when I get cold.

I should be glad that I am in chemo-induced menopause and I am I guess. Menopause equals less estrogen, but unfortunately, menopause also equals no sleep. I miss sleep.