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April 20, 2016 Home from Surgery

We arrived home yesterday evening from the hospital. Surgery day went well for the most part. After checking in I was taken to the surgery waiting room. When I was called, a nurse took Lenny and I back to a room where I changed and got into a bed.

Hospital
Ready for some fun.

My first procedure was done at the breast care center. I was taken there by wheelchair. The transport man got us laughing as he said he needed to amp up his fit bit and do some cardio today. He stated he was going to take off running with me in the wheelchair if I didn’t mind. Claimed he was a professional at this and not to try it at home. It was a great start to the day as I had slowly begun to get nervous.

Arriving at the breast care center was like entering my own party. All the nurses now know me and greet me with a hug.  It was a nice welcome to the center once again.

The procedure here entailed running a small wire into the titanium clip (that was inserted at the time of the biopsy of the tumor) and leaving the wire exposed from the outside of the body. This would allow my surgeon to follow the wire straight into the tumor during surgery. After the wire was in place, they injected a blue dye that filled my breast and lymph nodes. Allowing my surgeon to find the lowest 3-4 nodes during surgery for biopsy. When this dye was injected it felt like a horrible burning sensation. It lasted about 5 minutes and slowly let up. I had to have a post mammogram to make sure the wire was through the clip. Both pictures from the mammogram showed perfect placement. I was sent off with a few more hugs and said good-bye.

wire
The small wire that is attached to the tumor.

It wasn’t long once I got back that I met my anesthesiologist and my surgeon came in. They both discussed what would take place during surgery and that surgery would take about 2.5 hours. During surgery Lenny was updated with progress.  Once they gave me the relaxation medication I didn’t even make it into the OR. The last thing I remember was the nurses opening the doors to the OR and seeing the bright lights.

Surgery went well but took longer than expected. They couldn’t find my sentinel-node to take out. She had to search for it for about 40 minutes. Since it was the size of a grain of rice, that indicated a good sign they looked healthy and weren’t inflamed.

The next thing I remember was waking up in pain and nausea. Yuck, I can’t become a professional surgery patient. I never do well coming out of anesthesia and this time the anesthesiologist was going to use a tool that monitored my brain activity, which she said she could gage exact anesthesia needed. Guess that didn’t work. It took 3 hours for me to wake up after coming out of surgery at which time the next 3 hours were spent in nausea, and pain. They ended up admitting me. I was completely bummed as Lenny and I had gotten a nice hotel room just for Monday night to relax and enjoy after surgery before we headed home. Things started to get much better as they checked on me almost every hour though the night. I was exhausted by the time I was released yesterday around 1pm.

We headed up to Evergreen to pick up the kids. They all did great with Nana. This was the longest and first over night stay I have been without Charlie since she was born. She appears to have grown up in her own little role these last few weeks and is doing great without breast-feeding and just in general. It makes me so happy that is has gone so well.

Wednesday Noon: I just woke up from a nap to see I missed my surgeon’s call. She left a voicemail to call her on her cell anytime and she would answer. I know she’s a busy surgeon and it made me think she either had the day off (unlikely on a Wednesday) or she has some important information for me. She had told me at the hospital that I would not get the pathology report back till Thursday but maybe she had received it early.

I called her back and she told me right off she would start with the bad news first and move on to the good news. Don’t worry there is good news involved.  She started by saying she had received the pathology report back. They did end up finding cancer in my lymph nodes but the good thing is it was small. They always categorize stages by lymph node involvement and if cancer is in the lymph nodes it is a stage 2, she said the cancer is smaller than 1mm in the lymph nodes so she is categorizing me a stage 1. The different grades I explained earlier (1-3) about the aggressiveness of cancer staged me at a grade 2 through the biopsy. The pathology report from surgery says I am a grade 3 meaning the cancer is growing fast/aggressive. She then went on to tell me she feels she made some clear margins during the surgery. She has spoken to my medical oncologist and they need to wait on the Oncodx test to determine what is the appropriate treatment from here. She says the partial radiation (the brachytherapy I mentioned in a previous post) is out. She believes I need full breast therapy with I will either have chemotherapy and radiation along with hormone, or I will have just radiation along with hormone therapy. It continues to be a hurry up and wait process. I will have the Oncodx test back two weeks after surgery.

I am recuperating ok. I am feeling very dizzy still, but I believe it’s from the pain-meds. However, I have mild pain and no nausea. I am thankful! I am sorry; I wasn’t able to get an update out until now but hope this finds everyone having a great day.


April 16, 2016 BRCA 1 & 2 Results

The results came in for my genetic testing of the BRCA 1 & 2. These are the two most common genes that if mutated can cause breast cancer and other cancers. I was so excited to hear both were negative!

I called my PCP yesterday morning just to reiterate that I am scheduled for surgery Monday and if at all we can check how much longer the results might take, I would be thankful. This was my third time calling…eke, but what was wonderful is that they had the time now to call and follow-up.

I had also just spoken to my nurse navigator as she explained the importance of post-poning the surgery until I received my results. I had agreed with her since my body doesn’t do well coming out of any anesthesia, and I really didn’t want to resort to possibly a recommended mastectomy after the fact. My surgeon told her just yesterday they want to move forward with the surgery.

My PCP’s office called me back within 10 minutes of my call saying they were receiving the results now and would fax them onto my surgeon, medical oncologist and genetic counselor. (My PCP office couldn’t tell me the results since a doctor must interpret them, and my doctor was out of town.) It was my genetic counselor that called me within minutes to tell me the results. I was so excited as this news tells me I do not require a bi-lateral mastectomy. However, she then explained the importance of a full panel being completed. Just the BRCA 1 & 2 was tested and there is a panel of 19 genes now associated with breast cancer and 6 of these genes have medical recommendations. I will meet with her this coming Wednesday after surgery. She was able to contact the lab in California where my test was completed and the additional panel will be completed but will take another two weeks.

Going forward, I will keep my surgery date of this upcoming Monday the 18th. I will have a lumpectomy with a sentinel-node biopsy.

Charlie is doing very well. The last I breast-fed her was Monday morning and now it is Saturday. She has gone to Nana’s house twice and had a great time. I can’t explain how happy I am that she is doing well with this transition. I am still struggling with the production of milk and hoping the engorgement feeling goes away soon.

Hope everyone has a wonderful snowy weekend. Thanks to everyone for your support and prayers through this journey.


April 15, 2016 Ultrasound Results

Good Morning. Yesterday, I went down once again and had an additional ultrasound on a “spot” that came back on my MRI Results. I have wonderful news to report the spot was nothing. The radiologist believed it was just dense breast tissue. That was great news to hear.

Surgery is scheduled for this coming Monday April 18th. I check in at 9am for a procedure at 11am. This procedure will inject dye into my lymph nodes for the sentinel node biopsy that will be completed during surgery. The dye will be injected and during surgery my doctor will take the 3 closest nodes from the bottom of my armpit. She has explained these lowest three are the first ones the cancer would have reached when draining into my body. The 3 nodes will then be tested for any signs of cancer, which can tell us if it has spread to any other part of my body. They started this new way of testing lymph nodes in 2005. Before then they use to remove most lymph nodes and test them all, leaving 50% of those women with lymphedema, a lifelong condition where the fluids in your arm build up since they can’t drain completely causing swelling of the arm. My mother has lymphedema as a result of her mastectomy surgery.

Then I will have surgery at 1pm. As of right now we might reschedule the surgery, since I have yet to hear my genetic testing results. My doctor has advised me, I really should make a final decision based on these results. It is to my understanding that, if I carry the gene, a recurrence of the cancer is likely to happen within the first 5 years if I do not have a bi-lateral double mastectomy. I have been comfortable with the choice of a lumpectomy but given the statistics of recurrence and my age playing a part I feel best to wait for my genetic testing. It would allow for just one surgery instead of two or three. However, we are praying it is negative as it is rare and only accounts for 5-10% of all breast cancers. I hope we hear back today.

On a side note, I have been researching the benefits of using essential oils vs. radiation and chemotherapy. I know this is controversial but I am excited to possibly attempt a natural approach. I am still doing a ton of research and have yet to make up my mind. On my list to try are sacred frankincense, thyme, chamomile, cinnamon, lemon, lavender & thieves. I am also going to start taking Ning Xia Red (a wolf-berry anti-oxidant drink to help promote normal cellular functions) and Longevity Soft Gels (a mix of orange, thyme, clove, & frankincense oils). Its hard to find exactly how much of each oil I should be taking or how to use it topically or if to diffuse it. As I have approached Lenny with the research he is a bit skeptical of using just essential oils as his Aunt took an all natural approach and she passed just in January of this year (only in her 60’s) from breast cancer.

Here are just a few findings from research regarding breast cancer and essential oils:

  • Chamomile essential oil killed up to 93 percent of the MCF-7 breast cancer cells.
  • Thyme oil was even more deadly on MCF-7 cells, killing them at a rate of 97 percent.
  • Other essential oils that killed the breast cancer cells were cinnamon and jasmine.

I have come across a few different women’s experiences with breast cancer and the use of essential oils without chemotherapy or radiation. It has been exciting for me to read about their success stories and becoming cancer free. I would love to attempt this route but will continue to research and also take my doctors’ opinions into consideration. If you have a friend or family member who had success with the use of essential oils for breast cancer please let me know as I would love to talk with an actual person who has gone through this experience and not just read about it online. Hope you all have a wonderful day.


April 13, 2016 MRI Results

Yesterday afternoon I got a call from my surgeon. She had received my MRI results. She said she the MRI came back as normal and that my lymph nodes looked good, then she said “but” there is a “spot” that we need to look at further. She said it is more than likely nothing, however, “We need to jump through one more hoop to make sure.” So far this is the only results I have heard back.

Setting up all the appointments Monday they had blocked out a time for me this Thursday just in case there was anything further that needed examination. I go back to the Breast Care Center at Lutheran tomorrow at 10am to have an ultrasound of the spot. If need be they will do a biopsy immediately following the ultrasound. Hopefully that will not be needed.

I have been patiently waiting for my genetic testings. I called again yesterday to follow-up even though my PCP said she would call me when the results were in. It has now been 3 weeks, when I was told 2 weeks. I hope to receive those results before the end of the week.

As I continue to do research it is my choice if I decide to have a mastectomy or a lumpectomy. If the genetic tests came back positive I would be highly encouraged to have a bi-lateral mastectomy and an oophorectomy. At this time I personally would like to keep my breasts and research says the combination of a lumpectomy and radiation is more aggressive than mastectomy without radiation. According to statistics lumpectomy with radiation has only a 6% chance of the cancer ever returning. I do believe it is a tad bit higher if you carry the gene. Given only what we know right now, I feel comfortable going ahead with a lumpectomy.

Life has seemed to change so quickly recently. God chose me to have this cancer and for what reason, I may not ever really know. What I do know is he is showing me what really matters most.

I do know I am going to allow this experience to build my relationship with God. I will put my faith in him as he knows the plan that is ahead of me. My Pastor calls what I have been experiencing an awakening.

An awakening can be considered something similar to what a new believer who is saved experiences when they truly accept Jesus as their savior and are ready to surrender their life to God.

I grew up knowing the facts about God. I have been raised a Christian and a follower of Christ. It wasn’t till my Junior year in college that I fully understood the meaning of allowing Jesus into my life and accepting him as my savior. Lenny had invited me to his church TNL (Tuesday Night Live) and I accepted Jesus.

Its not as though I have ever fallen away from God. Its just been recently that I started to fully surrender my life to him. Everything seems to becoming more clearer. I feel his presence more in me. When I read in my “Anything” study, that we are to love God more than we love people, I felt I was not on track. I have loved God for many years but to love him, “with all my heart, soul, and mind” (Deut. 6:5) was not what I was doing. I questioned what that would be like to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind. Wow, it seems so powerful yet so amazing and I wanted to be able to do just that. As Jennie Allen stated, “I loved God, but I loved un-invisible people more.” I fully understood this and felt I could relate. I had all my love wrapped around the people who mattered most in my life, as I will also continue. But what did it mean or what would it look like to love God more. All I could do at this point was to continue to pray and ask God to teach me how and to help me stay focused on him.

Its easy to get off track as life gets hectic. There is always a busy calendar full of activities and to do lists. Its been a learning process for me to include God in everything and not just when I need him. I am constantly reminding myself, I must let go and let God in. It helped for me to look to him as a person not just an invisible God I turn to when life gets hard. A person I can talk to, love, and respect. He is someone I have decided to spend more time with to build and learn from and can hurt with. He is someone I must choose over anybody else, over anything else. He knows everything about me and my life and I must decide to let him in and surrender to him.

There will be hard days and easier days that come and I am trying not loose my focus from him. Just as I have to make time for all the mundane things in life I must make time for him. I am however talking to him and praying for him to be in my heart and with me every step I take. I have chosen to take that huge step in faith and to surrender. I do feel that in situations that would have caused me stress just a few months ago, I have a sense of comfort and peace. I use to feel my life was busy and hectic and in a sense overwhelming. These were the times I would cry out to God for help. Now Im sure my life is even more hectic however I feel at peace and take every step with confidence that He is right by my side. I am not saying I don’t get stressed but it (my heart) has changed dramatically.

 

 


April 11, 2016 A Full Day of Appointments

I am currently in the truck on the way home from a long yet successful day. After dropping the kids off at the bus stop at 6:45am Lenny and I headed down to Evergreen to drop Charlie off with my mom for the day.

My first appointment was with a Medical Oncologist. Going into the appointment I was not sure why I would need two oncologists. He explained to me he takes into account the entire body and how cancer has affected the body and radiation is just about the exact location and treatment of the cancer. He took the time to review my biopsy report and go over the same things my General Surgeon had explained. He explained each section with diagrams and great detail. He took over an hour with me to explain the importance of chemotherapy along with the two different types and to answer all my questions. I have an aggressive cancer where he believes chemotherapy may be part of my treatment. We have to wait on the pathology report from surgery to compare further results before I know for sure. He went over the short term and long term effects of chemotherapy.

  • (Further detail on exact findings. This is for the friends and family who are asking exact percentages and details.) My estrogen receptors are 95%, progesterone receptors are 5%. I will be put on hormone therapy for 5-10 years. More than likely I will be on Tamoxifen. My Her2/nu cells are negative or not present. Her2/nu responds the best by chemotherapy. My KI-67 is 70%. Anything over 20% is unfavorable and anything over 40% is considered aggressive. This number alone can add chemotherapy as part of my therapy but the Medical oncologist wants to compare it to the Oncotype-DX test that will be conducted on the tumor once it is removed and will be included in the pathology report after surgery. Oncotype DX test can tell us the likelihood that I may benefit from chemotherapy, as well as the chances if the breast cancer will return.

I then met with a Radiation Oncologist. He too wanted to provide me with detailed information about what was going to take place and even stated he wanted me to leave feeling comfortable and knowledgeable about the road up coming. He told Lenny and I he was about to ask me a bunch of silly questions. Lenny responded well we are silly people. He chuckled. After the lengthy questions (which he only had a pad of paper and a pen to record all my answers.) he went over the certain types of radiation. Even said I may be a good candidate for a 5-day radiation (this would only be if chemotherapy is not involved and only if I have a partial mastectomy/lumpectomy vs. mastectomy). This 5-day radiation also known as brachytherapy or more specifically the SAVI implant. This would entail creating a cavity where the cancerous tumor will be removed. Then an implant of multiple wires/catheters would be inserted into the cavity and be left to hang outside of the body. It would deliver individualized radiation treatment from inside the breast vs. radiation from the outside in. It minimizes exposure to healthy tissue and reduces complications. (picture below shows an example breast with the cavity that has been created around where the tumor would be removed. The white marker in the middle of the implant represents how far it would go inside the body. The wires left outside would range from 7-14 channels.)image1-1

I would come to his office two times a day (6hours apart) for radiation treatments, which deliver the radiation through the external wires into the cavity. The bonus of this is that it is only 5 days vs. 5 days a week for 6 weeks, and that it allows for the radiation to be done only inside the body. This treatment has usually only been for 45 years and older but now they are doing a study for younger women. It sounded like a great option if it turns out I can go this route. He took one and half-hours with us, to explain so much and to answer all my questions. This was impressive to me and he had radiation patients coming in every 15 minutes and certain ones required his attention and he would politely excuse himself and quickly return. He gave me a hug when we departed and asked me how I was feeling. I felt like I wasn’t just another patient to him but one who genuinley cared about my health. He made me feel comfortable and I left his office feeling confident he is going to be yet another great doctor to work with.

It was approaching 1:30 and I was already behind on my appointments as I was to check in at the hospital for my pre-op appointment at 11:45. I had called before going into the radiation oncologist’s office as I was thinking I might get behind. My patient navigator was very flexible and said she would arrange the pre-op appointment around my other appointments. So I went straight to the Breast Care center where I was checked in for my first Mammogram. As I waited to be called back a lady came in and asked me if I was Tara. It was my patient navigator. She told me she wanted to come meet me here (claimed she was stocking me..lol) and asked me if I needed any lunch. We just went through the drive through but yet another reason I have been thankful to work with her. She had a huge bag of goodies for me. Ranging from a nice plush robe, 2 pillows to help with the seat belt and ride home after surgery, to many hand sewn bags I may need for drainage tubes if I have a mastectomy and a camisole that will help for comfort after surgery. She has been so helpful with so many things. She asked how my kids are coping with it all and said cancer is a big deal and kids need resources as well. I told her we have been treating this whole situation as just another obstacle in life yet not a big deal. She explained the importance of including the children. I know it has been affecting Austin a lot. I look forward to learning more about how to better accommodate our children’s needs. She sat with me also speaking about the importance of meeting with a genetic counselor if the BRAC 1 or 2 tests comes back positive. I explained to her I am starting to feel overwhelmed and am feeling rushed with so much packed in. If it turns out the best surgery is a mastectomy I will also need to meet with a plastic surgeon this week as well. She completely understood and said I will get all answers back this week in time for surgery Monday, just seems hard to digest if certain things go one way. The hard thing is just not knowing what surgery I’ll have and what treatment I will need. Everything seems to piggy back on the next thing. She hugged me as I was called back.

When I was taken back to the Mammogram I was again given the nice warm pink gown. Loved that part. I have heard how awful mammograms can be and was expecting pain with how hard the machine will press my breasts. She took 8 pictures total and in all honestly there was no pain just a slight discomfort but not bad at all. However, I was glad when it was over. The nurse who conducted the mammogram then waited for me to get dressed and said she would take me straight over to the MRI check-in. As we walked the hospital halls she told me I must have a “guardian angel in heaven.” I told her I believed it.

At this time I waited by myself to have the MRI. When the tech took me back I again had to change (4th time today). This time I had to put on scrub pants, two gowns and the awesome fall prevention socks. I felt fashionable! I then had to have an IV for the dye that would be administered during the MRI. The machine had two large cut outs where the breasts are to be inserted. The tech explained how to get onto the machine and left while I got situated. I had a lot of pressure on my face as most of the weight was distributed there since there was no support under my chest. It was awkward. I asked him if I was on the machine correctly as it was a bit uncomfortable. He said I was. He asked what type of music I would like to listen to and I said I don’t mind not having any. He said the machine makes a ton of noise and so I accepted the headphones. I have had one MRI previously when I tore my ACL in 2008. I completely forgot how loud the machine could be. There was no point in the music; the machine was louder most the time. I had to laugh, as I would catch some music every few minutes. Even going into the machine with my head down and eye closed I felt the closeness of the machine and by the way I was to be in this machine for an hour. I started to feel a bit anxious at the thought but just prayed and took a few deep breaths. Before I knew it the test was over. As I peeled myself off the machine, I felt sore and achy. I had to tell the tech my age is catching up with me.

image1-3

 

I asked him when I would hear back with the results and he said my doctor would be calling me tomorrow. I asked how the IV dye impacted breast-feeding and he told me I was to pump and dump for the next 48 hours. There it was the hardest news of the day. Boom, just like that I can’t breast-feed. There would be no reason to return to breast-feeding in 48 hours as I am to be completely done by surgery. I thought ok, this is it, but it will all be ok.

He then waited for me to change before he took me to the pre-op office. The volunteer at that desk explained the nurses were gone for the day, as it was nearly 6pm. I did explain I was told to come straight here after the MRI, as someone was to do my lab work. She found a nurse for me and it was the nurse who said she had been waiting for me. Everything had gone so smoothly today it was wonderful. Since this appointment was to take place at 11:45a I had skipped checking into the hospital so we had to back track and the nurse said to come back after we had checked in. The check in process wasn’t just checking in, it took another 30 minutes, as I had to sign many more consents for surgery and go over the expected expenses. The business associate asked me if I had any recent falls. I told her I had fallen in love just recently with this guy (pointing to Lenny.) She didn’t seem to be in the mood for humor. We both laughed however.

I then met with the Nurse who had been waiting for me. She seemed so kind and thoughtful. She too said I know it’s been a long day for you and I hear you have a ways to travel home still. I told her I couldn’t explain enough how great everyone has been today and how appreciative I was for everyone to get me in and get everything completed in one day. She too had such a lengthy health history to go over with me. I have been asked a lot of questions today, many, which I don’t think, I’ve ever been asked. She then started another IV in the arm that wasn’t used for the MRI IV. I had labs taken and she went over instructions for surgery. I will have a procedure done first to inject dye into my lymph nodes before they are to take a few out during surgery on Monday. After my visit with this Nurse I was then to meet with a Physical Therapist. She too was great and had to take about 45 minutes to go over exercises for either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. I felt confident Ill be able to do these exercises. The biggest draw back is with either surgery I can’t lift over 10lbs, which means no lifting Charlie. This is going to be a double whammy in her world; no breast-feeding and I wont be able to pick her up. However, we are praying I only need a lumpectomy as I can then carry her with my left arm within a few days after surgery. That will be grand and will work out well.

Lastly was a chest x-ray. I was taken by wheelchair there. Really? I surely didn’t need a wheelchair but its how things work there they said. So I asked Lenny if he wanted to ride with me as the wheelchair was like a mini loveseat on wheels. The chest x-ray was the quickest and easiest thing I did all day. Saved the best for last I guess.

We left the hospital closer to 7:30pm. I was hoping to be back to Granby no later than 6:30p. We grabbed a quick bite to eat, and that’s when it all hit. The day went perfect and now I was left with a bunch of mixed emotions. I felt the tears coming. I just needed a hug is all I told Lenny. I think the hardest part is just knowing Charlie won’t understand I can’t breast-feed her any longer. I’ve drug it out longer than expected. With plane rides and a busy schedule last week it wasn’t the time to try to wean and now I will stop cold turkey. The thought of my last breast-feeding was earlier this morning was to be the last was hard.

Charlie did wonderful all day with Nana. It was the longest I have ever been away from her. She took a long nap and went to bed for the night on time. She had a great time with no tears through the day. That was wonderful news. We grabbed Charlie from Evergreen and headed up the mountain.

I took the time to start this entry on the drive back and Lenny and I just spoke of things to come and things we need to get done as we are also going to be moving. It was a huge decision and really hard but its going to be the best thing for our family at this time.

We got back to Granby just before 10:00pm. Austin and Bailey were at our friend’s house. They took them home after school, let them play, do homework, read and cooked them dinner. Great thanks to Amy and James who were a huge blessing to us yesterday. They even cooked Lenny and I dinner and baked cookies.

I should be receiving answers today (Tuesday) and hope to get more things under way. I can’t even explain how appreciative Lenny and I are to have been treated with exceptional care yesterday. I thank everyone for the texts, support and love. The unknown of what surgery, and treatment lies ahead I still feel I am at peace. I know God is in control and has a plan just for me. The overwhelming part is the “to-do” list but taking one day as it comes with the patience God has given me, we will get through it all. I hope this entry finds everyone having a great day, and thanks to everyone who is reading this, please know you matter to me.

 

 


April 10, 2016 Big Day Tomorrow

We arrived home yesterday from Arizona. It was a nice relaxing trip. One that I feel allowed the kids to enjoy and have fun before things begin to change a bit more here at home.

Tomorrow will be a big day of testings’. I am very thankful Lenny is able to work from Colorado these next few weeks. He would have still been in Arizona. Tomorrow, I will meet with my medical oncologist, my general surgeon, and I will have a mammogram, a MRI, chest-xray, and additional labs done. I am thankful they were able to combine so much in one visit saving me additional drives down.

I still have not received the results back from the genetic testings. After waiting two weeks and calling my doctors office to follow-up, I received a voicemail stating they will call when the results are in.

I continue to feel that this whole diagnosis isn’t real. I look at random people everywhere, especially older people and just wonder what their life story entails. If possibly they have gone through major health battles or if they have lived a long healthy life. I look at people who aren’t visibly healthy and wonder what kind of lives they may be leading and if they have taking any steps to change. I know this cancer is something I cant just change myself. I am going to be relying on the medical field and doctors. As I read my new “Breast Book” bible the steps I can take to help my own health is exercise and diet. These two things have always been important to me. I feel I have incorporated both exercise and a healthy diet for many years. I also have taken up using essentials oils a year ago, and love reading on the benefits of using them. I also drink Holy Basil tea once a day and have done this for nearly six months now. I know I cant dwell on things I feel I have done right or wrong although its been on my mind. Only God knows why I have this cancer and something great will come from it.

On a side note, weening Charlie hasn’t happened yet. I have been trying and Lenny has taken the role of putting her to bed without breast feeding. However, she just is able to get herself in certain situations where I resort to feeding her. Its been harder for sure this third time around. It probably didn’t help when the Doctor told me even if I stopped the next day after seeing her that the tests (being done tomorrow) would still be hard to read because it takes a full six to eight months for the milk to dry up completely to get a clear read. Therefore, a part of me is dragging it out only for Charlie’s benefit since she has no desire to stop anytime soon, but stopping cold turkey right before surgery isn’t ideal either.

 


April 4, 2015 Stats, Percentages & Understanding

April 3, 2016

I apologize for not writing a post these last few days. As many of you reading may know, I am currently in Arizona enjoying time off for the kids’ spring break. It definitely has been a nice break. The best part is just being together as a family with Lenny as he has taken some time off as well. I wanted to go on vacation without thinking too much of my diagnosis and what will take place.

I did receive a call on Friday from the general surgeon’s office. They wanted to know how long I was going to be gone and arranged all my testing for the first weekday I would be back. I am now scheduled to meet my medical oncologist, have my first mammogram, have an MRI, and a Chest x-ray and lab work completed on April 11th. They then have a time blocked out for me April 13th for a biopsy only if there is anything further that is discovered. I will then have surgery on April 18th. I am not sure what surgery will be performed but that is what lies ahead. At this point a lumpectomy would be the best fit if nothing else arises.

Ever since this news I have felt in a bit rushed as it was to  my understanding surgery would follow a few weeks later after the additional testing. I also have wanted to read the book my doctor recommended so I could be completely informed. This is the bible of breast cancer however, and I personally feel it is important to know all my choices as far as surgery goes and what treatment will be best. I had a friend actually gift this book to me and I was going to start it once I returned home since it was still in the mail before I left. I recently have downloaded it on my mother in law’s kindle to get started to get started now.

April 4, 2016

I began reading the “Breast Book” by Susan Love. So much information to take in but I love it. I’ve been skimming the chapters trying to gather an overview and to understand my diagnosis a bit better. I come upon a lot of statistics that I continue to share with Lenny as I read them. I find the statistics and percentages interesting. Had I read the information I’ve touched on so far in this book just a few months ago, it would have put me at ease that my risk of developing breast cancer would be pretty low to my understanding. There was a list and I was able to put myself into almost every category which stated, combined, would drop my risk significantly. However, all those categories, stats, and percentages don’t matter now in my case. I have the cancer and obviously my cancer wasn’t the cause of any of these but possibility the exposure to external risk factors or possibility I may be a carrier of a mutated gene for cancer. What matters now is treating it and treating it in a way that will lower my chance of it returning.

Learning more about the genetic testing regarding the mutated gene referred to as BRCA 1 and 2 has also been interesting. As I mentioned in a previous post, only 5% of all breast cancers can be attributed back to being a gene carrier of the disease. There are women who will get tested before ever getting cancer to make their own conscious decision on what they will do if it does come back positive, as Angelina Jolie did. Not everyone with the gene will develop breast cancer but those who inherit it will have a higher risk. What I did not know is the same mutated gene accounts for ovarian cancer as well. My doctor did explain if for any reason I am a gene carrier they will want to proceed with a double bi-lateral mastectomy along with an oophorectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries). I do have a first-degree relative, my mother, who had breast cancer, and both of my Great-Grandmothers on my mother’s side also had breast cancer. You might think I have inherited the gene based on family history. What I have come to learn though is there is a much larger group of women whose cancer is polygenic. This means there is a family history of breast cancer that isn’t directly passed on through each generation in one dominate gene. Some members of the family get it and others don’t. This category would suggest the cancer is actually genetic but it is not noticed as the BRCA 1 or 2 gene. Hopefully we will begin to see further discoveries on genetic testing.

The evening I found out I had the cancer, my PCP wanted me in the next day to send away for the genetic testing, as long as I agreed with it. I did. The only thing I wanted to know was if my insurance company could discriminant against me in the future. I know of the act I believe that went into play in ’08 or ’09 but I do know there are variations of it determined by the state you live in. I obviously did not have the time to research this before heading into the office the next morning. The rush in getting it completed so quickly was because it would take two weeks to get the results back. The positives of it will allow us to know either way what precautions to take for our girls and it will allow for the correct treatment for myself. Lenny and I were both for it. I should be hearing back this week, as I did have the test completed two weeks ago this Wednesday.

I will be writing hopefully again tonight or tomorrow to share more on my experience of what my Pastor calls my, “Awakening.”


March 31, 2016 First appointment with my General Surgeon

Today’s appointment went great. I was glad Lenny was able to come with me today. I had no idea what to expect as this doctor was a general surgeon and it seemed to me I would need to get more answers before meeting with a surgeon but of course I go the route I was told.

Before I met with the doctor, the nurse who brought me back was comforting and explained she was a breast cancer survivor now cancer-free of 4 years. She stated the doctor I was about to see is highly recommended and extremely knowledgable about breast cancer. If she had known this doctor when she had cancer she would have used her “hands down”. The patient navigator through Lutheran also highly recommended her. I was looking forward to meeting her. I also have had a good friend recommend a general surgeon who I was going to see if I did not feel comfortable with this doctor.

She first asked me to tell the story of what I have experienced so far. After I spoke, she went into a full explanation going over all the results of my biopsy. She first explained the name of my cancer, where the cancer started and the different types of grades. (I spoke of these things in my entry from March 28th, these parts are the only things I knew before today). She then explained my estrogen and progesterone along with Ki-67, and Her2/neu results. These are two hormones along with two characteristics of the cells that can be present within cancer cells. These results help to identify at the clinical stage (where I am now) which therapy may achieve the best result. She informed me that my estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor are positive which indicates that hormonal therapy will probably be part of my therapy. Hormone therapy is a one-a-day oral pill that will more than likely cause my body to go into early menopause. All I know about menopause is hot flashes. That will be something that I will research as well.

However, she wants to get all the answers before we decide on a treatment plan since the gene testing and the results of further testing play a huge role. I will be set up with a medical oncologist and after meeting with her I feel confident the specialists she recommends I will go with. She also would like me to meet with a radiation oncologist, and its up to me to also meet with a plastic surgeon (again depends on what route is taken.) Next on my agenda, I will be scheduled for a mammogram, MRI, a chest x-ray, some more blood work and a liver function panel. I am to stop breast feeding as soon as possible ideally within one week. Charlie is not going to like this. What’s great news is she is going to get all these tests scheduled in one day. Sounds like a fun day spent. At least I don’t have to study for these tests right?

There are three types of surgeries she explained which are the single and double mastectomies and a lumpectomy. With any of these surgeries I will be having a sentinel node biopsy which they will remove lymph nodes to see if there is any sign of cancer in them. Through examination by a doctors hand my lymph nodes are not inflamed which is a good sign.

Depending on the type of surgery she sees a possibility of 7 weeks of radiation 5x a week. There is also a possibility of chemo followed by radiation. She does believe either treatment will include the addition of the hormone therapy as my hormone levels would respond well. Again, is still unclear until I have the further testing completed and even the pathology report from surgery. She did explain being diagnosed at a young age will be a factor in treatment. She said having a 60 year old diagnosed with my same circumstances would results in a different treatment due to age.

She was very informative and took her time. We were in the room with her for over an hour discussing everything and she took her time to answer all my questions. I didn’t feel like I was just another patient to her, I felt like she truly cared for my health. She recommended the book, “Breast Book” sixth edition by Susan Love. She said starting with this book, is like the bible of breast cancer. Being the most informed of what it all entails is important. Knowing me I love to research just about everything I take interest in or plays a role in our lives. I hope to pick up a copy tomorrow.

I did ask if it would be ok to take one week off before starting the tests and the next steps. She thought it was a good idea to enjoy spring break with the kids before life becomes crazy. I am looking forward to taking the kids and flying with Lenny back to AZ for the week. We are hoping things get arranged fairly quickly so he can work from CO.

While we were at the appointment Miss Charlie went to her first babysitting experience. A great friend from my bible study watched her and along with her two children. Anyone who knows Charlie knows she doesn’t go very easy to anyone. We have been trying for some time and she will stay strong and cry. I felt so thankful to hear Charlie didn’t cry at all and we were even gone longer than expected. I feel this was a huge milestone and hope this continues as she will need to start being watched more by others.

I again want to thank everyone who is reading this and tell you I so greatly appreciate your support. All the messages and even phone calls has showed me what an amazing support team I have. I am still working on getting back to each and everyone who has reached out to me, so please know if I haven’t contacted you yet I am working on it. Thank you all so very much!


March 30, 2016 One week later

Its been exactly one week since my diagnosis. Together as a family we are managing just fine. Nothing has changed for the most part. I still am expecting a call to tell me everything was a mix up, it still doesn’t seem real to me yet.

The children continue to ask some great questions. They’ve asked me if it hurts, how did I get cancer, will I loose my hair, and does it make me sad to have cancer. They have actually taken the news alright. Both Lenny and I are trying not to make it a big deal. Austin takes things very personal and when Lenny is gone for work, Austin tries to take things upon himself. That first day of knowing was hard for both of them at school. I told them if they needed to speak with their teacher or the school counselor then that would be fine. I want them to have someone they feel they can confide in.

Telling them of course wasn’t easy and both found out at different times. I ended up telling Bailey in the car as I got off the phone with my doctor, she was the only one with me (and Charlie too). We were on our way to pick up Austin from Lacrosse practice. I looked at Bailey and told her that was my doctor and she said I have cancer and please don’t worry I am going to be just fine. She broke into tears and I held her hand. I tried to explain this was going to be an experience but we all will get through it together. I told her it does sound scary even to me but we shouldn’t worry. Right away, she asked me if this was the same cancer Aunt Elaine had. She was concerned I might die and I had to explain to her I won’t. She knows cancer can kill people as we recently attended Lenny’s Aunt’s funeral in January who passed away from breast cancer. I let her know many people also live and get passed cancer. Our Nana is a breast cancer survivor.

Next, was calling Lenny. It just didn’t seem real, he answered and I calmly told him the results came back as cancer. His voice dropped and said, “I am so sorry Tara. I am going to be home in a few days and cant wait to hug you.” I wanted so badly to have a hug from him right then. My children however filled that need as I hugged them both with all my heart. Telling Austin after lacrosse was hard as Bailey told him right away that, “Mom has something to tell you!” After telling him he just kept saying, “No, no, no.” All I could do was hug him and tell him, “Everything will all be ok.”

That night I took the time to talk and pray with the kids as they both were visually upset. I read James 1:2 to them and let them know we should consider this a joy as it will all allow us to build a strong faith and stronger relationship with God. It was a great time to talk about how we need to live a life surrendered to God, where we are obedient and focused on him. Although we pray as a family every morning and night I felt I wasn’t being as focused on him as I need to be. It was through prayer that I have been redirecting my control and focusing on God’s will and God’s plan for me.

Tomorrow I meet with a new doctor. She is a general surgeon. I hope to learn a lot more of the road ahead.


March 28, 2016 Initial Answers

After posting my link to this site on Facebook last night, I became sick to my stomach. It was a bit overwhelming and I wasn’t quit sure I had done the right thing. I felt vulnerable as I am never one to really share much about myself. This morning reading all the wonderful comments and support made me realize it touched more people than I expected. I felt as if I had just possibility embarrassed myself. However, It truly was so kind to read all the supportive messages and responses. I feel blessed to be going into this journey with such a great support group. From now on people can visit this site and read my blog as they wish which allows me to feel a bit more at ease without having to post anything to Facebook.

Today I received a call from a nurse at Lutheran explaining more information about my diagnosis. She was very informative and was able to give me some initial answers we have been waiting for. She explained I have Invasive ductal carcinoma grade 2 cancer. What does that mean? Invasive means that the cancer has invaded or spread to he surrounding breast tissue. Ductal means that the cancer began in the milk ducts, which are the “pipes” that carry milk from the milk-producing lobules to the nipple. I was shocked to hear the cancer began in the milk duct. I asked her if this meant I got cancer from breast feeding because to my understanding breast feeding lowers your risk of developing breast cancer. She then said it could have been but that its very rare. I have breastfed three children for a combined total of 3 years and four months. I would think that would be a huge reducer…lol. Anyways, she went on to explain the different grades. There are three grades of cancer. Grade refers to how different the cancer cells are from normal cells. Grade 1 is a low grade and looks a little bit different from normal cells and is usually slow growing. Grade 2 is an intermediate/moderate grade. The cancer cells do not look like normal cells. They are growing a little faster than normal. Grade 3 is a high grade. Cancer cells look very different from normal cells. They are fast growing.

Grade is different than the stage of cancer. Stage refers to how far the cancer has spread. I have not had a full exam at this point only a biopsy of the one lump (tumor) I had felt. I will be getting a full exam this Thursday. The nurse also said I might not get the full understanding of what stage cancer I have until after surgery.

After the “big news” call from my doctor last Tuesday evening. She asked I come into the office the next morning to have some lab work done (only time I have been to the doctor since the news). I was recommended to have the gene testing done to see if I am a carrier. This test is called the BRCA test which I understand to carry the gene mutation for breast cancer is very rare. It only accounts for 5% of breast cancers. Having this knowledge however will inform us further on the treatment plan and the likely hood of me developing cancer again n the future. I should have my results on this test by April 6th.

I want to thank everyone once again for your thoughts and prayers. I have received many messages and phone calls and if I haven’t responded yet or called you back just know I will!