May 24, 2016 Too Blessed to be Stressed

I’m a bit past due on updating this blog and I apologize. Life has been giving us more and more curve balls and by the time I get the kids in bed each night I think I will sit down and write but I just end up going to bed myself. This isn’t an excuse, ok maybe it is but excuses were made to be used right?

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Since my last post my treatment plan has changed. As you will recall I was going to do the brachytherapy, a five-day radiation treatment followed by chemo. I was going to start yesterday May 23. A few days after the initial plan, I received a call from my surgeon that she was not on board for this treatment. She explained to me that there is practically no research for anyone under the age of 45 (which I knew) and that she felt with the possibility of cancer else where in my body (due to a positive lymph node) that I need to have traditional radiation where we can treat the full breast and armpit and not just the area where the tumor was removed. She felt it was necessary to receive chemotherapy and radiation since the type of my cancer is aggressive. She then explained by doing the brachytherapy she believed it would put me at a higher risk for a recurrence since we wouldn’t be treating it fully. I completely understood and was disappointed at the same time. I had been looking forward to conquering at least one treatment quickly. She went on to explain she was not present at my treatment meeting and that the board was also trying to accommodate for less travel since I live over an hour and half away. I let her know we would be moving to Arvada soon and my commute to treatment would be about 20minutes. She was relieved to hear that since I will eventually need to attend daily.

 

Due to the brachytherapy not in play this week, they wanted me to start chemotherapy sooner. I explained my concerns that I would still be driving down from Granby and with it possibly making me sick I would not be able to help move or get things settled. They have agreed the longest I could push off chemo would be till June 13th and so it is still scheduled for my first chemo treatment to begin at 9am on the 13th. I will have a total of 6 treatments, one treatment every three weeks. I then will start radiation five days a week for a total of six weeks. My surgeon also allowed me the option to receive a port on my chest wall for the chemo. She said it would be my choice. A port implant would allow for easier access for the chemo and I would not have to have an IV line for each treatment. The downside is the port would stay on my body for the 5months. I said no thanks, I am totally fine being poked each time for the treatment and I have pretty good veins too.

 

I am happy to announce Lenny arrived home last Friday. This last transition with the kids and him gone went smoothly. Each time Lenny leaves it has taken all of us a few days to adjust and this time the kids knew what was expected and it went a bit better. We Face Time every night at book time and bedtime and it feels like he’s with us. What would we do without technology? It amazes me how far it has come. I grew up with a two dial black and white TV that we had to put a penny into the dial to hold it perfect without static and I don’t feel like I am that old at all. J Anyways, I was thankful it was just two weeks this time around. After picking him up at the airport we took a tour of the kids new school. (The school we are assigned to by location of our house.) It gets a 10 out of 10 at greatschools.net but it was much larger than we thought. We know moving to the city will count for bigger schools and this school has 750 kids. The lady giving us the tour even stated they move the kids around like cattle. We weren’t too impressed and the kids want to tour some more schools so hopefully I will get that arranged for this Friday. I know we wont have the small community feeling we have here but we are looking for a more personable school and maybe we need to give that school another try as well.

 

After the tour we got busy working on our new house once again. There is still a lot of work to be done and we are conquering it little by little. Lenny helps me not to get overwhelmed by telling me it’s like a book, just take it page by page. We never try to attempt a large book quickly it takes some time.

 

I have grown a lot in my patience these last few months. I am a planner and I like to get things done well and as soon as possible. It almost feels like we are preparing for a birth. I always wanted everything perfect and clean for when the baby arrived we could just relax and enjoy our time with our family. We are approaching crunch time but I know we won’t even be close to having everything unpacked and perfect. What I care about most is the kids rooms are done and that they can feel comfortable. I am praying chemo doesn’t put me out of commission for longer than a day because I have work to do and kids to care for. No one has time to be sick. “Aint nobody got time for THAT!” (There is a lady who is famous for saying this, and I keep picturing her…LOL, just Google that quote.)

 

This last weekend was full of cleaning out things and preparing the garage to hold all of our stuff that will be coming down from Granby. We are having most of the flooring replaced in the house and Home Depot will be installing the floors June 6th-June 9th. I was bummed it was not sooner but very thankful it will be done and it will still give us the weekend to set up bedrooms before the 13th.

 

Austin played in 6 baseball games at a tournament this weekend as well. The great thing is that all his games are in the Denver area since it is a travel team. We were able to come watch 3 of his games between some of the work. He has played on his current baseball team with the same group of boys for a few years now. It going to be hard not seeing him play with these same boys but the great thing is we can come watch the same team next year at a game or two and root them on.

 

I have been driving down at least twice a week to bring a load of things and then work on painting and getting the bedrooms ready. Last Wednesday I went down to get more painting completed and I received a call that my mom was being taken down to the hospital from Evergreen. I was glad I was already down so I could go see her and pick up her dog. I knew she hadn’t been feeling well but she waited a few days to see her doctor. She learned she had a bad case of pneumonia that needed some medical intervention. Throughout the weekend we stopped in to see her after Austin’s games. We received good news yesterday that she would be able to go home. I drove down again with Charlie (she hates these long drives) and was able to bring her home. She currently is on O2 but with the days ahead she will gain her strength and health back.

 

I feel things lately things just continue to pile on. I feel the weight of so much and then I remember to breath in and breath out, God is in control and I must surrender. There is no purpose in getting overwhelmed or full of stress or anxiety. I know I am too blessed to be stressed. This honestly continues to take a lot of practice and self-control. Over these last few months I have been trying to surrender my own wants and control to God and having been praying for his protection and guidance with every step and now it feels I have more and more things happening in my life some of which I want to throw my hands up and scream and say I cant handle anymore. I know life could be a whole lot worse, what am I complaining about? “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as member of one body you were called to peace.” Colossians 3:12.

 

I am reminded that it shouldn’t not surprise us if life is hard or we are handed hard situations in life, especially if we love Jesus because we also have an enemy who is trying to destroy us just because of this love. It is through these pressing times there is a bigger purpose God has for us. I have been able to change through these challenges already and God is allowing me to change for the better. I am able to see a lot more beauty and I look for that beauty in every situation. I am trying my best not to be consumed with hard feelings or anger that can arise from external circumstances. The joy of the Lord is a filling from within, it’s more about what is happening through us and it is a choice. I read just recently JOY can be looked at as J- Jesus O-Occupying Y-You. Wow, isn’t that what joy really is? That certainly is all it can be within me. If you haven’t chosen joy, try it!  God is there for you and there isn’t any time like the present to start.

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So there is my quick update. I’d love to write more but hopefully will this week. I thank you again if you’re still reading this and know I care. I want to thank all the ladies at my bible study as well, this last week they came together to make me a bunch of frozen Pampered Chief meals that we can have on hand. It was a huge blessing and I thank you all. Thanks to everyone who continues to pray for our family and me. P.S. I am still working on thank you’s!


May 11, 2016 Treatment Plan

Today went well. The drive down over the pass this morning was beautiful. Charlie threw up and we once again stopped for new clothes at Wal-mart. I met my Mom who took Charlie while I went to my appointments.

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Drive on Berthoud Pass this morning.

My first appointment was with my radiation oncologist. I was taken back today by a nurse who I previously worked with at Middle Park Medical Center in Granby. It was great to see a familiar face. My oncologist explained how the tumor board met yesterday and decided I would benefit from chemotherapy, radiation, and endocrine therapy. He told me they would allow me to do the brachytherapy also known as the SAVI implant for my radiation. (I went into detail about this type of radiation in my April 11 post.)

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Savi implant with external catheter wires. This is what I will have.

There is not much research on women under the age of 45 receiving this type of treatment but my oncologist believes I will get the same benefit from it the same as the traditional therapy. The best thing about it, is that it is completed in 5 days (twice a day)  vs. 6 weeks (5 times a week).  I will have an implant inserted directly into my breast where the tumor was removed and then will come for treatment twice a day M-F and be done with radiation. The plan is to start Monday May 23rd as long as my surgeon is available to do the initial procedure for the implant.

Next, I met with my medical oncologist.   He took his time to go over my Oncodx results and percentages and explain how I would greatly benefit from chemotherapy because of many factors. 1. My Ki-67 score was 70% (anything over 20% is unfavorable) that is the rate at which my cells are multiplying. 2. My OncoDx score being 27 indicating a high intermediate recurrence rate. 3. My age, younger people with cancer benefit more from chemotherapy. He wanted to start chemotherapy one week after my radiation treatment would be completed and I ask if there was anyway we could push it until after June 9th. He had to calculate the days and didn’t want to push it any farther and said I could start June 10th a Friday… Oh geez.. I then had to explain I was moving and if there was anyway we could start possibly the following Monday June 13th. He said I needed to start then and no later. So my first chemotherapy session will be June 13th. We also close on our house June 13th, and our kitchen remodel begins on June 13th. It will definitely be a full day, but I am thankful we could wait until the kids were out of school, the big move was complete and I would only be minutes away from where I will receive the treatment. He explained he would like to see me have 6 treatments; 1 treatment every 3 weeks. He explained many people can only tolerate 4 treatments. With each treatment the intensity of side effects increases and by 4 treatments some people’s bodies can not tolerate any more. He said his goal for me is 5 if not 6. Younger people can tolerate the chemo a bit better than older people he said. However, I don’t seem to tolerate anesthesia well, pain medicine, I can’t even take tylenol PM because I experience sleep paralysis, so I have no idea how my body will take unknown chemicals pumped through it for hours. Yikes!  What was a shock to me is each treatment will last 4-5 hours. He went into the biggest side effects being nausea/vomiting, fatigue, hair loss and the loss of finger nails and toe nails.

He also explained after chemotherapy I will start endocrine therapy for 10 years. This will entail taking a pill daily. I will have ultrasounds of my uterus once every 3 months for the first year then twice a year after that to monitor for uterine cancer. With endocrine therapy also comes the concern of bone density loss because it can force me through menopause early (only for 10 years and then my body may have regular cycles again until I reach menopausal age and get to go through it a second time.. oh yippee). Just being on one type of drug for endocrine therapy should reduce my risk of osteoporosis and hopefully won’t be a concern he explained.

After my appointment I went to meet my Mom and Charlie and headed to our new house to meet with the kitchen contractor. I then had almost two hours to remove more wallpaper. As much as its been tedious, I enjoyed it today. It was something I didn’t have to put any thought into and could do while listening to music and having Charlie play near me.

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My crazy busy bee helping me with wallpaper removal.

I just looked at a calendar and I should be completed with chemotherapy by the week of September 26th. Just in time hopefully to go on a trip to celebrate Lenny’s 40th birthday. (October 15) Yah!! (although I may not have any hair, it will be time to celebrate a few wonderful events.)

I’m not sure exactly what to think of everything but I know I will get through it all. It truly has amazed me how God is working in my life. Its hard to explain it but he has provided me with wondrous strength to rise above the muck and mundane. I can personally attest that He’s real and He is powerful. I thank everyone who is reading this and again thank everyone for their continued support and prayers.

“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:18-19


May 10, 2016 Big Day Tomorrow

Chemo

It seems that life is coming at me too quickly these days. I’m doing my best to keep up with everything. So another big day tomorrow. I will be updating my blog hopefully by tomorrow night if everything goes my way.

 

Sunday May 8, 2016 (Laptop died yesterday, finished writing Monday.)

 

Today is Mother’s Day. I celebrate today in peace. Literally, peace and happiness. There is no “Mom… Mom…Mom’s” being spoken much today. I am not needed and not taking care of my young kiddos. Lenny and Austin are beside me as we drive a U-Haul to Arizona. Nonetheless, I do miss Bailey and Charlie but a small break is also relaxing in its own way.

 

Life continues to throw curve balls. Just last week my in-laws were due back in Colorado after spending most of the winter in Arizona. They recently bought a new house in Arizona and had planned on coming back to their CO house to pack things up and move to AZ full time. My FIL got sick this last week and has been in the hospital since last Tuesday evening. (He is out of the hospital and is recovering and doing better.) He has an inflamed liver and gallstones and doctors have been trying to find the cause. This is why we decided it would be the most helpful to drive a U-Haul with their belongings down to AZ before Lenny left for two weeks and before I start treatment which may not allow for us to help them much in the future.

 

I have been trying to prepare myself for the possibility of chemotherapy and for my upcoming appointment on Wednesday.  I will know if chemotherapy will benefit me or not along with being provided my exact treatment plan. Praying for the best news. Appointments are with both my medical and radiation oncologists. My surgeon and both oncologists will be meeting on Tuesday to discuss my treatment plan.

 

Before going into surgery and only having my biopsy report; my medical oncologist already stated chemotherapy is likely due to my age and the aggressiveness of the cancer. This was when my biopsy report indicated a grade 2 cancer and now after surgery my pathology report indicates I have a grade 3 cancer. I’m staying optimistic however but also feel it necessary to prepare for chemo mentally just in case. As I have continued to learn being young with breast cancer is an independent predictor of adverse outcome. Extensive research indicates the younger you are the more aggressive the tumor and the higher the recurrence rate along with the higher mortality rate.

 

Most people will know this but quick down low on chemo. Chemo targets rapidly dividing cells. Since it cannot differentiate the difference between the rapidly diving cancer cells and the rapidly diving healthy cells it ends up killing both and wreaking chaos within the body.

 

Almost all side effects of chemotherapy sound dreadful. It seems the only thing good about chemo is that is will kill the nasty cancer intruder and clean house, hopefully for good and to never return. However, that is the most important fact I need to just stay focused on for now. I have my list of questions and hopefully won’t need to ask any of them because I am praying this treatment will not be necessary.

 

What we understood from my surgeon is that if chemotherapy is beneficial for me then every 5 years my recurrence rate will increase very little over the course of my life (picture a line graph slightly increasing over the years remaining almost horizontal) vs. if chemotherapy is beneficial and I do not opt to receive treatment my recurrence rate will increase every 5 years at a much significant rate. My current recurrence rate is 27, which falls at the high end of the intermediate risk, 30 is the cut off for high recurrence . I tend not to try to focus too much on percentages and statistics because I was already able to snag cancer in my 30’s while being healthy and having a very low .4% risk of developing breast cancer.

 

I have been reading up on the use of certain essential oils, particularly sacred frankincense, frankincense, thyme, and roman chamomile and the radical effects these oils have to kill cancerous cells. I have also been given information about cannabis oil and the same effects. As I dive more into success stories and the research behind each I am also weary to try them internally without exact medical recommendation. Peppermint oil helped me with nausea while I was in the hospital. Frankincense has the power to kill cancerous cells without killing your healthy cells however when doing chemo one must stop the use at least one week before treatment and wait 3-4 weeks post treatment to begin again as the EO can protect those cancer cells during treatment allowing for chemotherapy to have little affect. I have been thinking I may just use EO’s for the side effects post all treatments regardless of which treatment plan I am given.  As for the cannabis oil I have read it can be tricky with breast cancer and if your cancer is estrogen driven which mine is, you must be careful as the oil can cause the cancer to grow rather than eradicate it. My medical oncologist is open to discussing the oils and I will discuss it further with him Wednesday. The EO will also help with the side effects of radiation and hormone therapy.

 

During this long drive today I have been able to read more and even out loud to Lenny and Austin. At one point reading about all the side effects I had to stop because the tears start to run. I have been in tough mode since I was diagnosed and as the next step arrives I feel ready yet also nervous and more emotional as it continues to feel more real. (Crazy I know but somedays it just doesn’t seem real.) I want to be prepared for any scenario and especially mentally which I’m pretty sure I’m only about a quarter of the way there.

 

I believe I will try to take the same mental approach I do when I train for half marathons or when I have trained for fitness competitions. If I set the goal and have the determination to train and stick with it, it becomes a way of life, as most call it now a “lifestyle change”.  As long as I tell myself I can’t give up and I train daily and put forth the adequate and necessary determination in my workouts I manage to run the race even through the uphills in a relative easy manner. If I don’t train or prepare I get anxious and most of the struggles aren’t smooth and end in a battle that reminds myself the importance of training. One step at a time, one day at a time, positive attitude with God by my side and I’ve got this!

 

I pray tonight that God can teach me the glory in and through this experience and that I can continue to feel at peace through this journey. Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

 

These days are passing quickly and I’ve learned to be content and more grateful for the here and now. The laughter of my children, the closeness of my husband, the beautiful sunrises, the beauty in each new day. The kindness of friends and complete strangers. The fun life gives. The love life gives. I have learned how to focus on life’s sweetest moments more so than ever before, and to never forget how truly blessed I am.

 


May 1, 2016 No appointments on May 3.

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Thursday, I received a call from my surgeon’s office informing me that my OncoDX results would not be back before May 3rd. This was the day I had previously been scheduled to meet with both my medical and radiation oncologists. They said the results would be back sometime May 6th a Friday so I needed to reschedule the meeting with both doctors beginning the week of May 9th. The earliest they could both meet with me was May 11th.  I was a bit disappointed but the good thing about waiting and pushing the appointment off longer would allow me to heal a bit more and give me more time to pack and get things done before starting treatment.

 

Friday, I had my post surgery check up. There is something about my surgeon that I just love. She is very caring and understanding, takes her time with me yet gets straight to the point. Lenny left from work to meet me and we had Charlie with us during this appointment. We weren’t expecting much but a check up on the two surgery incisions. I had a bunch of pain this last Sunday and was worried I had done too much or possibly had an infection as I have had pain since.

 

When my doctor entered the room. She asked how we had been and how things were going. She let us both know how disappointed she had been that my OncoDx results were going to be delayed but then she said they stepped up their work after one phone call and that she had my results on her desk first thing this morning. (Wow, awesome! Way to go Dr. she obviously carries some weight around here…lol). We then went straight into the results. At this moment I wasn’t exactly prepared to receive them.  We briefly discussed the results. These results are mainly for my medical oncologist to explain and inform me what treatment I will benefit from most.

 

I then had an exam of my two incisions and I explained I have been having pain and was worried I might have an infection. She explained the pink and white spider like web across my breast was not an infection but was lymphedema. Lymphedema is most commonly caused by the removal of your lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment. It results from a blockage in your lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and the fluid buildup leads to swelling. It mainly occurs in the arm where the lymph nodes were removed during surgery. It occasionally will occur in the breast. There is no cure for lymphedema. To help express the build up of fluid you must apply pressure, for me it would entail wearing a tight fitting sports bra for a few hours or through the night. She was not sure if it would be temporary or long term. The joys that I am already starting to experience. 🙁

 

I sit here now with an 8 page pathology report that we went over but feel a bit clueless at the same time.  The OncoDx result was a score of 27. The OncoDx tests a panel of 21 genes in the tissue of the tumor. The end result is a number that determines your recurrence result. Now that I read all the small print my percentages are based from a study of 367 post-menopausal patients with node positive and estrogen receptor positive tumors. I’m not sure why I was compared to women that are post-menopausal. I will have a better understanding of my results when I meet with my medical oncologists.

 

Now that we have the results back sooner and my appointment is set for May 11th I was hoping to switch it back to this upcoming week so that Lenny could be with me but no luck. He put off going back to Arizona till the following week now, which means he will not be there for my May 11th appointment.

 

I hope everyone is having a great end to their weekend. I continue to thank everyone who is supporting us and continues to pray and share their love with us. We continue to be blessed by so many and again I greatly appreciate everyone!