Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Broken Hearted

My cousin Jeff and his lovely wife Rachel lost their beautiful baby girl this week before they even had a chance to know her. It absolutely breaks my heart.

Rest in peace sweet girl.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

25 Things about Me

This "25 things about me" list has been around for awhile, but it is still fun to do. Here are my 25 random things.

1) Though I will listen to almost any music, I HATE country music. When I hear that twang, it makes my skin crawl.

2) I have never found a cheese I don't like and if I thought my digestive tract and my waistline would put up with it, I would become the world's first cheesatarian.

3) When I was 15 years old, I was "banned" from my best friend Shannon, for being a bad influence on her. I think there may have been some confusion about who was leading who down the wrong path. Almost 30 years later she is still my best friend.

4) I met my husband while working in Portland and after a series of conversations found out that he was likely a counselor at a camp I attended when I was in 5th grade---eeewww!

5) In 2000, I traveled to China with my grandmother and had the chance to see the Terra Cotta Soldiers in Xian. It remains one of the most amazing things I have ever had the privilege to see.

6) I have one of the longest college careers in history. I started college right out of high school, but due to jobs that required travel and a lack of funds, it ended up taking me 20 years to finish my undergraduate degree and another 3 to finish my graduate degree. 23 years of college has got to be some kind of record.

7) For my last class in my last quarter of graduate school I went to Italy for 3 weeks. My final grade depended in part on working with a restaurant to develop, eat and share a 6 course Italian dinner. Tough job-but someone had to do it!

8) I am distantly related to Ripley of Ripley's Believe it Or Not

9) I share a birthday with Albert Einstein. I like to think that I take after him in brains and not hair style.

10) I have only one good party trick. All of my fingers are double jointed and I can bend my fingers backward at a 90 degree angle to my hand. I never knew this was abnormal until I was an adult.

11) When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband wanted to find out the sex of the baby. I told him that he could find out if he liked, but I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I would never produce anything but girls. I have two daughters.

12) I also knew without a shadow of a doubt that my sister would only ever produce boys. She has 3 girls. Something went amiss with this theory.

13) I will eat popcorn as a meal at least once a week.

14) I love reality TV. I like anything that shows people chasing and reaching their dreams.

15) In her 20's, my sister jumped out of a plane. It made me wonder if we were really from the same gene pool. There is NOTHING that would make me jump out of a perfectly good plane, unless it was on fire.

16) One of the first songs that my children learned from me was the Oscar Meyer B-O-L-O-G-N-A song.

17) My first car was a green Vega. I plan to print out a picture of it and show it to my children when they start asking for their first car.

18) Both my mother and my sister have a green thumb. Mine is decidely black.

19) I worked for Nordstrom for 16 years and STILL miss my employee discount.

20) I am a Pisces-a sign that is supposed to be creative. I can barely draw a straight line.

21) I once cut my foot on coral while snorkeling in Hawaii and was convinced that I was going to be eaten by a shark while bleeding in the water.

22) I should have been born during the depression-I love a full pantry and freezer. I could feed 20 people at a moment's notice any day of the week.

23) My children are the greatest gift I have ever received.

24) Every animal I have ever had has had a people name, not an animal name...until my husband adopted and named a stray cat-her name is Zingo. My other animals? Lola and Mimi.

25) Last year I was diagnosed with cancer. At the time I was diagnosed, the 25 things about me would have all had to do with cancer. This year I am a survivor and out of 25 things, only one has to do with cancer-and it gets bottom billing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dropping in for a visit

When I was first diagnosed, I searched and searched for information. Beyond medical information, I really wanted to know what to expect, what it was like to have cancer. I started looking for breast cancer blogs and found that there are thousands of them. It is because of one that I found that I decided to start my own. It is a unique way to share information with people near and far.

I originally started my blog with the intention of keeping my friends and family informed. What I didn't expect was that people from all over the world would find my blog and find it helpful and informative.

Kara, aka Foob Babe, is one of those people who found my blog at some time doing her own research. She is a survivor as well and writes her own very informative blog about her own cancer journey.

She has started a separate blog, <Incredible Women
and has decided that in October she would like to feature different people with different viewpoints of breast cancer. I am thrilled and honored that she has asked me to be one of the people that she is featuring. I will be dropping in for a visit tomorrow (October 21, 2009). I hope you will drop in and visit Kara's website as well. Thank you Kara. You are an incredible woman.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Information Unleashed

In general, I think I do a pretty good job of staying informed about the latest in breast cancer research as well as in my own personal cancer journey. There is information that I have about my own diagnosis such as my prognosis, the survivability rate, etc that I don't particularly like, but I have them.

When I was first diagnosed, I chose to take an Oncotype test that is pretty darn reliable at indicating recurrence rates in breast cancer patients. It is a simple test and in some cases it is used to determine if people are a good candidate for chemotherapy. In my case, my pathology report came back saying that my diagnosis was a Grade 3 out of 3 which is aggressive so my doctor agreed to the test, but indicated that she would be VERY surprised if it came back with a low score.

The test results take several weeks and come by mail. I got my big white envelope in the mail and found that I couldn't open it. Though I knew that my cancer was aggressive and that there was no chance I was going to avoid chemotherapy, I found that I couldn't deal with an actual number saying I had x% chance of recurrence. I know roughly what my chances are of a recurrence, but didn't want to carry a number around in my head.

I gave the envelope to my oncologist, told her I didn't want to know what was in it, but wanted to know if we were on the right path as far as chemo, radiation etc. She said we were definitely on the right path and that the oncotype score did not change our treatment plan at all.

Yesterday I went in for a regular check up with my oncologist and asked her about having my ovaries removed. There are several reasons for this, mostly to keep the estrogen level in my body down, but also to decrease my chances of developing ovarian cancer. We talked about the pros and cons of having it done and I asked her if I should be doing it earlier than later. She answered that there was no need for me to do it right now, although with such a high oncotype score I should plan to do it at some point. Wait. Stop. "High Oncotype score?" I literally felt my head pop out of the sand.

She did not tell me my actual number so I still don't have to carry a number around in my head, but I do now have to carry that "High Oncotype score" in my head and try to figure out what to do with it. I like to tell myself that I am doing everything I can to keep my recurrence rate down, but that isn't entirely true. I am still not getting enough exercise and I am still carrying around some extra weight. These are two of the easiest things a woman can do to reduce her risk and I am still at an increased risk. I also now have to wonder if my treatment was aggressive enough. I had 4 rounds of chemo-the minimum amount that anyone has. While I certainly didn't want to do more, I thought it was enough. Now I don't know if I have done everything I could.

Information is powerful. Sometimes too powerful.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

National Mammography Day

October gets the honor of celebrating Columbus Day and also Halloween. While my kids would argue that Halloween is the most important day of October (and maybe even the year), I would argue against that.

Tomorrow, October 16th is National Mammography day. Who knew? I certainly didn't. I obviously know the importance of mammograms but didn't have any idea that there was a day dedicated to a test. I did a bit of poking around and found out that President Clinton first proclaimed the third Friday in October of every year as National Mammography Day back in 1993.

So when should you have a mammogram? The standard answer is once every 12 months once you turn 40. However, if you have any breast cancer history in your family you should start getting annual mammograms when you are 10 years younger than your youngest relative at the time of diagnosis. I was diagnosed at 43, my daughters will need to start getting mammograms at 33 years old.

I think to say once a year is confusing. Once a year doesn't mean you can have a mammogram in January of 2008 and then December of 2009. It means every 12 months. I had just had one in December 2007 just 5 months before my diagnosis. While there was nothing found in that mammogram, all of my doctors looked back at all of my mammogram films to see if there was anything that was missed.

I had mine in September of 2009. I have another one scheduled in March of 2010 because I need to get them every 6 months.

Have you scheduled yours? If so, congratulations. If not, walk away from the computer, pick up the phone and do it now. I'll wait.

Did you do it? Good. Early detection saves lives. Don't forget it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

1st Order of Business

OK, I admit it, I am a little behind on filtering through the junk piles at home. With two kids, it just seems like the junk piles tend to multiply. Could they possibly bring home more paper and projects from school??

I hate to admit it, but just today I went through a pile of papers that came home with Darci in June on the last day of school. Most of it will be heaped into the recycle bin, but some things are special. Apparently at the beginning of the year, the kids were asked to write a letter to their new teacher telling them a little bit about themselves, what they wanted to accomplish during the year, goals etc. This is how the beginning of Darci's looks.

Dear Mr. L.

The first order of business is that my mom has been going through chemo all summer and now will be doing radiation. The next thing you should know is that I play soccer and have practices twice a week and games on Saturday.....

I don't know whether to laugh or cry! I think it definitely reflects that the most important thing going on in her life is what was happening to her mother at the time, but I love that it gets the same attention as the fact that she plays soccer.

I unfortunately know several kids in this general age group who have parents who have been or are currently fighting cancer. I don't know how they are all handling it, but I think there is a certain resiliency to kids that as parents we don't always give them credit for. I know when I was diagnosed, my first thoughts were about how it was going to affect my children, would I die and leave my children, how would my children deal with their mother losing their hair, etc, etc, etc.

As I always say, I am utterly amazed by my children. While I was absolutely consumed by the fact that I had cancer, I am glad to know that my daughter was taking it in stride along with the other stresses in her life. It was just a small blip on her radar. While I know that my girls are at an increased risk for breast cancer and that they will eventually have to deal with that knowledge, I think I am glad to know that maybe this will all just become a distant memory for them.

Kudos also to the teacher who wrote a note back to her that was very sweet. It said that he had gone through something similar with his mother and if she ever needed to talk about anything, he was there for her. I don't know if she took him up on it, but I'm glad that she was in a place both physically and mentally where she felt comfortable and supported.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Damn Boobs

October has been deemed Breast Cancer Awareness month. In a month that used to be all orange and black for Halloween, now everything is pink. Pink at the grocery store, at the gas station, on our soup cans, our kitchen gadgets, I even saw pink on the football uniforms of the Seattle Seahawks yesterday! It is all a little crazy sometimes to see so much pink, even for a breast cancer survivor such as myself. But it is still a good cause and there are lots of ways to help make a difference.

When I did the 3 day walk, I found that one of the walkers on my team had lost a good friend to breast cancer and had started a line of clothing in her honor. You can read Trisha's story about how the company and the company name came to be here The entire team honored her memory by wearing one of these shirts for the 2nd day of the walk. They definitely get a lot of attention and if you want to have a little fun with this pink month, these t-shirts and hats are a good way to do it. Trisha donates a percentage of her proceeds to breast cancer research so the money all goes to a good cause. Go check out Damn Boobs for yourself! I have a DamnBoobs tanktop and I know she has men's shirts as well. If you don't see what you are looking for on her website, drop her an email and ask if she has. I'll bet she can find you exactly what you are looking for so you can be in the Pink!

Friday, October 2, 2009

What Cancer Looks Like

I spent this last weekend in Las Vegas with an amazing group of breast cancer survivors. Besides my friend Kristina, I had never met any of these women before. I found them on an online forum for breast cancer survivors;

I didn't know what to expect but was surprised and thrilled to learn that these women were just like me. They have families and children and jobs, and they have cancer. We had so much fun together, laughing and dancing and being together celebrating the fact that we are all survivors.

From these people I learned some new words to describe cancer and its survivors:

Young, strong, hopeful, amazing, courageous, attitude, faith, beautiful, genuine, knowledgable, realistic, incredible.

Take a look at this photo. Breast cancer is not just your mother's disease. I think if you look hard enough, you will find reflections of yourself in the faces of these amazing women. The youngest member of this group is 31 years old, the oldest 50. We all face recurrence concerns, survivability concerns, subsequent health concerns, but each and every one of these women has taken their health care by the horns and is doing everything in their power to keep cancer at bay.

I am thrilled and honored to have been part of this group and look forward to doing it again for years and years to come.