Results 

The bone biopsy came back 100% confirmed they got it in the right spot and it is NOT CANCER. It is normal bone and bone marrow. I will repeat the MRI in 3 months as a precaution but she said continue on tamoxifen and I am good! Ahhhhhhh. Good lord what a stressful and sleepless month. 

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Bone Biopsy

So today (well technically yesterday since it’s 1:30am) was my bone biopsy.  Dan and Nina came with me. I have been a nervous wreck over this for weeks. I was excited about the IV drip though. It was supposed to put me in a twilight state and included fentanyl (which is like morphine), dilaudid and versed. They had to give me the max dose because my eyes just wouldn’t shut and I was awake for the whole thing. The drill was repetitive for an hour. The actual procedure itself was supposed to last 30 minutes but it ended up lasting an hour. The radiologist was wonderful. An extremely smart and acccurate man with a nice “bedside manner”. 

He got 3-4 good bone samples, in the lesion and some right around it too. We will know results by Tuesday after the samples take 40 hours to decalcify and they run pathology.  

Recovery was rough though. I was SO HOT even though I was freezing beforehand and everyone else was freezing around me. I was very nauseous but didn’t throw up until I got home and got out of bed after a while. The spot where they drilled into my bone is swollen bruised bleeding and throbbing. They gave me pain medicine and I’ve been asleep since my appt was over. Hopefully tomorrow (technically later today when I wake up in the morning) will be better. 

The procedure basically involved me laying on my back completely still while they dropped continuous drugs through an IV and had me hooked up to heart monitors and blood pressure devices. My heart rate was 45 again. Not sure why it won’t climb out of he 40’s. They drilled a giant needle into the middle of my upper sternum which stayed there. It was way higher than I was expecting, pretty much right below my neck. Then they would electronically move me in and out of the CT machine while they were behind closed doors to get images. Then the radiologist would come back and do more drilling. I was alert and talking and watched the whole thing. They said the versed drug was supposed to make me not remember or realize what was going on bu for some reason that didn’t work. It wasn’t painful and the drugs were great nonetheless, at least until the end when everything was maxed out, which is why they added the third drug dilaudid. Not sure what that is. I had to stay in recovery a long time. The nurses said they gave me ton of meds which for them would’ve put them in a coma jokingly. I have the tolerance of a train apparently. 

Resting now. Going back to bed. Looking forward to seeing my mom on Sunday. Love all of you!!  And thanks to my family for their help yesterday!  After all that Aidan still had tutoring and they both needed picked up from school. What a day that I’m glad is behind me. 

Radiologist Called

The radiologist called to answer questions before my appointment tomorrow. He answered a ton of my concerns. I will try to keep this short and just highlight the key points. Basically tomorrow we can encounter three possible outcomes. A tumor that is cancer, benign tumor, or something else like focal fat, a granuloma (old infection).

He said he is a little concerned that it wasn’t seen on prior MRI images because that is the main thing that they look at (whether or not it is new).  Since it is new and in the sternum, this causes him concern. He said the sternum is a bone that does not change very often unless due to trauma, which could’ve been my fall but I don’t think I fell that hard. I asked him about the granulomatosis disease and the spots they found on my liver spleen and upper abdomen and I asked if that could be what this is as well and he said it is a possibility.

I will be sedated with Ativan and Fentanyl and then will be guided into a CT machine where they will stick a drill into my sternum and pull out a core 4 to 5 mm deep and 2 to 3 mm wide of bone tissue. From there we wait on pathology which I should have results by Tuesday or Wednesday.

If it is cancer then we reassess with Dr. Kessler and probably proceed with radiation surgery. If it is definitely benign, then we are done. If it is inconclusive, we revisit in three months to see if there is change or growth and retest.

Biopsy Likely Tomorrow

Biopsy will probably be tomorrow and they aligned it to the CT scan so now it’s CT guided instead of MRI guided. Not sure the significance of that. But “guided” means since they can’t see or feel the spot in my bones and therefore don’t know where to stick the needle, they need imaging to assist. I will be sedated. Nina is driving me probably. 

Bone biopsy 

MRI guided bone biopsy has been ordered. Waiting on insurance authorization and scheduling of procedure. 

Blood Work and Biopsy Update

The blood work that I was concerned about over the weekend, since it was sent to me without explanation and showed five tests outside normal range, was confirmed today that there is “no concern” with the “whole picture”. 

The radiologist who may or may not be doing a bone biopsy was tied up all day with patients so no answers or updates there.  Again they say “hopefully tomorrow”. 

But some good news 

I think my heels are healed (pun of course intended) finally as well as my arm. So I think I’m cancelling the 8 physical therapy appts they made for me at the lymphadema clinic. 8 less appts. Fhew.  I should still go but don’t want to so I’m not. 

Of course more unanswered weekend news 

I received an addendum CT report in the mail from CMC over the weekend that my old oncologist ordered. Of course over the weekend yet again. 
The CT report says I have granulomatous disease, evidenced in spleen liver and upper abdomen. The report mentions it three times. I understand it’s an inherited immune deficiency disease which increases susceptibility to infections. Granulomas are masses of immune cells at sites where infection or inflammation are present. 

It also says mild bibasilar atelectasis. My understanding is this is a collapsed lung sac in my lower lung, which I’m assuming is from radiation scarring but that’s my own interpretation. 
Again we wait until Monday. I am so done with this crap. 

Oncologist Appt

Oncologist appt went okay. She still thinks this might be very early bone metastasis. Now I have to go to two more radiology offices to get ALL my MRI images scanned to disc from the past eight years. Then a biopsy will be scheduled for hopefully next week. If it’s cancer they will look at the pathology again. And probably do radiation surgery on the one spot and then follow.  If the chemistry of the cancer has changed, only then would they do chemo again. The biopsy will either be a core biopsy where I’ll lay on my back and they’ll take images. Then stick a 8 gage needle into my bone to pull out tissue. If that’s not possible due to size and precision then they’ll do a fine needle aspiration which is the same thing but smaller needle and will get less tissue. After that we will know what it is. I will be half sedated for the biopsy. Still could be something benign but she is not reassuring me at all. She also did a CBC (complete blood count) and chemistry panel and ran tumor markers. My heart rate was back in the 40’s and they don’t know why. They think I’m some avid athlete. 😉 ha after I get my images I’m getting a tattoo later today. The sheet music to the words “I’m not afraid” from my fav Eminem song.

Brain MRI

Clear :). Just waiting now to see if bone spot is big enough to biopsy now. If not we wait 2-3 months to repeat scans. Appt with oncologist is Wednesday. 

Brain MRI Done

MRI done. Crazy how they squeeze your head into this contraption and blare these random and different sounds at you for 45 minutes. Then inject with contrast and your whole body warms up. I’m used to it though and actually to me very relaxing like a little comfy snooze fest all tucked in with blankets. They already gave me images on a disc and will have the results for my oncologist between Monday and Wednesday. 

Brain MRI

Brain MRIs at 1 o’clock but I won’t find out results until Tuesday or Wednesday. This doesn’t have anything to do with the bone issue but the new oncologist wanted a full set of scans.

Today’s update

I dropped off all my scans myself today at the oncology office. The nurses at the old oncology place were of no help so I had to go to Radiology physically myself get them scanned on a disc and drive (no pun intended ha – get it – disc drive) them over to the new oncology office. The disc contains images of several scans including my MRI, CT scan, heart echo, mammogram, etc.  

My follow up appointment with the oncologist is Wednesday and I should have a brain MRI sometime before then which is not yet scheduled but hopefully they will call tomorrow. I also don’t know yet if it’s big enough for biopsy which I know my new Oncologist was supposed to ask Charlotte Radiology but she was out today so I’ll call back tomorrow and find out what the answer on that is. 

 Also scheduling my physical therapy for my arm because it still swollen and sore. Those will be twice a week for three weeks.

Scan Images

Finally, and of course taking things into my own hands, I’m getting all my scan images put on a CD and picking up them up myself from Radiology. No matter who I call no one seems to know where I can get them sent to my doctor directly so I’m going to pick them up myself. I already talked to someone today who has been the most help with this crap. I called the old Oncologist back and they said I would have to go through three doctors to request all the images because it depends on who orders them who can release them. Ridiculous

No new updates

I just wanted to let everyone know that there are no new updates. We are waiting on them to call me for a brain MRI, the doctor is also checking with Charlotte Radiology to see if the spot is big enough for a needle biopsy, and we are waiting on scans to be sent between hospitals.

Cancer Drama

So the past several days have been stressful to say the least.  After all the good news lately, my last piece of recent testing was my routine annual MRI which was last Friday.  Charlotte Radiology called at 5pm that evening and told me they found a 3mm “osseous lytic bone lesion”.  It could be benign or cancerous.  If it’s cancer, that means it spread from the breast and is breast cancer in the bone, and automatic stage 4 metastasis which means terminal or incurable.  That doesn’t mean immediate or any time frame but that’s just what it means.  They can treat it but not cure it.  It’s in the manubrium portion (upper part) of the sternum (breast bone).

So after a needed break I went Saturday to my best friend Kelly’s house in Raleigh.  I felt much better about things after spending the day and night with her.  We went to Harmony Farms and got me some cancer and lymphedema supplements, a salt rock, and other goodies.  I had a better feeling and attitude about things but was calling the on-call doctors all weekend long.  The nurses were calling back but with no answers, just a lot of “I understand why you are so worried but you have to wait until Monday). I was infuriated.  One, because they wouldn’t allow the doctors to call me back since it was the weekend and two because why would Charlotte Radiology call me that late in the day to tell me news like that when I couldn’t ask any questions right then.  I even tried calling them back and it went to after hours.  They do the scans in the morning and read them at 1pm.  I called at 4pm and they hadn’t read my scan, so they say.  Then they call at 5pm with the results.  Thanks.  Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to wait until Monday to get them, but wanted them earlier on Friday so I could make calls and ask questions.

So on another topic for a second, about a month ago, I fell twice.  Once playing basketball with Aidan in the house while wearing socks.  And again I tripped going down the garage steps and landed my tailbone right on the hard wood step.  My primary care physician ordered an x-ray of my tail bone and lower back which came back fine.  Then I went to the beach, got lymphedema and ended up in the ER and at the oncologist when I returned to Charlotte.  Lymphedema is lymph fluid swelling which I got from a sunburn and can happen to people who have lymph nodes removed because there is no way to flush out the fluid.

My original oncologist, who I loved and trusted 100% had left the office, my second oncologist, the one who ordered the routine MRI 7 months ago in advance, was also not with the practice anymore, so they set me up with a third oncologist.  I’ll call her Dr. M.  She wasn’t there so I saw another oncologist who was filling in for another oncologist who is on maternity leave. I really liked her but she’s not staying with the practice so I still had to see Dr. M.  After the front desk accidentally cancelled an apt I had scheduled with her, I had to wait longer to see her and kept seeing the fill-in oncologist, Dr. F.  So I basically have like 5 oncologists now and they aren’t doing well at coordinating my needs.

Dr. F ordered a bone scan for my falls and that came back clear.  She also ordered a ton of blood work including tumor markers, CBC (complete blood count), calcium (which could be indicative of bone mets) and other labs.  My calcium and LDH (Lactate dehydrogenase, which is some sort of enzyme found in living cells) came back high.  I asked them to retest it.  They did and it came back fine.  I went to my primary care, because I also have now plantar fasciitis (heel pain caused from a ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes).  I asked him to retest my calcium and LDH and it came back normal again.  So 2 out of 3 I was happy with and reassured.

So all that was good news.  But then Friday came, and the MRI results.  Since then, I’ve had a CT scan, which also came back clear.  All this waiting though and doctors not calling me back timely, I was getting so pissed.  And I never heard in person from who is “supposed” to be my oncologist, Dr. M.  So I decided to switch.

I looked up Dr. Limentani and found out he’s now overseeing a second opinion clinic in Charlotte and back from his research time spent in Asheville (where he moved when he originally left).  He called me immediately after I called their office and left a message.  He told me the spot was likely not cancer but gave me a new oncologist since I was so mad at mine.  Again who I’ve never once met or talked to.  Can you sense my rage?

So I met with the new oncologist today.  She’s with Novant and getting scans switched between different hospital affiliations is like an act of congress.  I didn’t walk away feeling as good as hearing from the various nurses calling me telling me my scans were coming back clear.  She was concerned about the MRI even still.  She said she wasn’t as affirmative that it wasn’t bone mets and wants to do a MRI guided needle aspiration biopsy.  Another appointment, yay!  She also wants to schedule a brain MRI so she has a complete picture and also repeat the MRI, bone scan and CT in 2-3 months.  I see her again next week after CMC gets the images over to her.  Oh and she also said she didn’t think I needed to be on Lupron, which I went on last week at my now “old” oncologist’s office.

Also had my lymphedema clinic apt today.  That went well.  Minimal swelling now but still swollen.  The swelling was growing a half inch a day until finally my gynecologist of all people finally ordered a prescription for a compression sleeve.  So I basically cured that on my own.  The oncologist wouldn’t write the prescription but my gynecologist did in a matter of seconds.  I was annoyed and mad yet again.

So now, we wait on a few things.  One, my new oncologist (Dr. Kessler) who I met with today and liked very much, is going to ask Charlotte Radiology if the lesion is big enough at this point for a biopsy.  That would be ideal.  If not, we wait and repeat in 3 months to see if it’s grown and go from there, probably with the same round of testing.

I am exhausted, and like when I was first diagnosed, keeping everyone up to date who know what’s going on is exhausting and stressful so I wrote a blog post and will keep updates here instead of 20 individual back and forth texts.

I have a feeling everything will be okay.  My best friend and I said cancer wasn’t “my path” anymore and my family and closest friends who I’ve told are praying, hoping and even resting assured for the best.  We need to focus on the clear scans and low likelihood that it could something this far out (8 years) and my response to original chemo (however I learned today I didn’t have a complete response and there was a little bit left after chemo), but mets can happen at any time so I won’t be at ease until we have all the answers.  Also found out recently that the reason I have annual MRIs unlike some other survivors is because my breast cancer was so close to the muscle.  Didn’t know that either until recently.

Future posts should be way shorter but everyone has questions so I am trying to answer them here instead.  I can’t keep up with my texts.

Oh wait, some good news…….I am signing up for a breast cancer lunch with Cam Newton and Greg Olsen from the Panthers.  Pray I get in and don’t have an apt conflict!  Greg is my favorite hottie football player.

2016 Cancer Update

So it’s the beginning of breast cancer awareness month and I’m going to make this short. My mammogram is coming up on October 19.  My maternal PapPap’s birthday is that day.  He would have been turning 96.  My childhood memories at Sarie and PapPap’s house are forever treasured (and yes my grandma’s name was Sara, where SaraGrace came from – Grace means Gift, in our case for adoption).  And while we’re talking about names, her middle name Jane, came from Dan’s mom who passed when he was 3.

So back to the subject of my blog, I don’t have much to write about cancer days. I’m 7 years out and you’d think it was a thing of the past. However I’ve been taking a drug called Tamoxifen for 7 years now.  It’s an antiestrogen pill, also known as an estrogen suppressor, medication. It is a popular selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM).  In the beginning, back in 2009, I was supposed to take it for 5 years to prevent the cancer from coming back.  Last year, research showed taking it 10 years was more beneficial.  However, it comes with a lot of side effects.  The most common are fatigue, weight gain, mood swings, depression, headaches, hair thinning, etc.  I won’t go into the details of the side effects that are embarrassing but just know there are more.  There are other less common side effects including uterine cancer.  Let me also say that not every woman has this option, because some cancers do not have the estrogen component, so the fact that I was able to take this drug for the past 7 years I am grateful.

Most of you know I switched oncologists when mine moved to Asheville to research. Both he and my new oncologist said my cancer was advanced and aggressive enough to stay on Tamoxifen for the 10 years they are now suggesting.  But here I am at year 7 and I’m over it.  For me, the worst side effects have been anxiety, hypothyroidism, moodiness and weigh gain.  I’ve decided that 7 years is enough.  I’ve been having withdrawl symptoms for the past week which are not fun.

I am grateful to be where I am. Just a tad anxious if I make the wrong decision, but for me, in the now, it’s the right decision to make.  I will still be continue to have yearly MRIs and mammograms on alternating six month intervals and I am passing it over to God from here on out.  Please continue to donate to the breast cancer orgs, pray that I made the right decision, pray for my mammogram apt, and pray my withdrawl symptoms go away quickly.

Cancer already took a lot from me.  It took my life in 2009.  It took my hair, my health, my eye brows, my eye lashes, my family’s sense of safety, my family’s perfect story, my ability to carry children, etc.  But I can’t say all that without acknowledging it gave my children, for which all of the above is worth it and meant to be.

I’ll leave it with my favorite lyrical quote “When I find myself in times of trouble, mother my comes to me, speaking words of wisdom. Let it be. Let it be.  And in my hour of darkness, she is standing there in front me.  Speaking words of wisdom, let it be, let it be.

Genomic Testing

This man. This story. This interview. Absolutely fascinating. Got me wandering back to my blog to see what my genetic results were. My particular cancer diagnosis (stage 3 HER2+ invasive ductile carcinoma) was scary but I had the benefit of the drug Herceptin, which for years has been one of the biggest advancements in the fight against breast cancer. HER2+ breast cancer used to be a death sentence. It’s an aggressive and fast growing cancer. But because of the hormone and protein status of my diagnosis, I had the benefit of taking Herceptin, a targeted cancer drug.

I had a mutation in one of the BRCA genes but it was one of unknown significance. The latest in the cancer world is not only testing your genetics (or the genes you inherited at birth), but the genetic makeup of the cancer itself. I will be very interested in seeing how all this pans out over time. I’ve heard some critics but interesting and fascinating nonetheless.

Here is a link to the 60 Minutes interview.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/billionaire-doctor-fights-cancer-in-unconventional-way/

Late Stage Breast Cancer Panel

I went to a late stage (stage 3 or 4) breast cancer panel tonight. Didn’t know this before but apparently Mecklenburg county has a higher rate (9%) of late stage diagnoses than surrounding areas and they are trying to find out why by linking stories. They are not finished but from what I observed tonight, my take is the following:

1- It doesn’t have anything to do with race, education level, or income, which has been shown in other studies to be true. I’m sure that plays a part for some but not this group.
2- Three of us were in our 30s. I knew all of the 30 year olds. One was my friend Anne Marie who I knew before cancer (we were diagnosed a year apart). Another was a mom from Aidan and SaraGrace’s school. A couple other women were in their 40s and the rest older.
3- Almost ALL of us had similar stories about going misdiagnosed for a while. Presenting the first lump and months sometimes years later getting that mammogram that was first dismissed because of another perceived more likely cause. For me that was the “implant ripple” and “pregnancy cyst”. Maybe instead of blabbing to the public about pink ribbons and self exams, we should educate the doctors and insurance companies about how to listen and not dismiss lumps when you can’t see them and always get at least an ultrasound. No risk in that.
4- This is the most encouraging but I actually met many stage 4 women women who are still holding on strong and some in remission 10-15 years out. Holding onto this for my stage 4 friends! Please pray for them. Tracey, Janet and Gift. Tracey is the girl who I met through my blog and we both had the same kind of breast cancer and both went on to adopt. Janet, who is the wife of a friend from college. She also has a young son. And my Thailand pen pal who I met through my blog when we were first diagnosed. Very sad and scary that a lot of my breast cancer friends are battling stage 4 disease and recurrences now. And while you’re praying please add my new friend Colleen to your list. She was diagnosed last week and is waiting on body scans.

That’s about it for the study. They will keep us in the loop as it progresses. I have my five year mark coming up on March 24, turn 36 on March 25 and have my next oncology follow up and MRI in a couple weeks. First time I’m not flipping out with anxiety. Well maybe just a tad. But way less than the years past.

2013 A Year of Ups and Downs

So I don’t blog much anymore. Those of you who are friends of mine on Facebook know my life pretty well because I post status updates and pics all the time but thought I’d take a moment to recap 2013. Since this started as a breast cancer blog and has remained mostly about that subject, I will start with that.

My friend Sara who I met in the waiting room of Dr Limentani’s office was emitted to the hospital just soon after or perhaps shortly before the new year of 2013 began. Five days later on January 5th, my friend Amy passed away. Four months later after almost that entire time in the hospital, Sara passed away.

Amy and Sara were both unique and special souls. Both great friends with positive attitudes and great outlooks on life. I met their families and thank goodness for Facebook that I can stay connected with them through technology that everyone so quickly degrades.

Dan and I had been thinking and debating for over a year about whether or not we wanted another baby. Aidan was 3 and was in “terrible three” turmoil. Saying NO and screaming at us. Hitting us. Etc. We struggled with ways to discipline and nothing seemed to work. Until he turned four and then miraculously he is now a saint. Most of the time. He usually just misbehaves now at dinner. He is the pickiest eater. Another struggle point for us. He likes to call people his best friend. Niko is my best friend. Ibraheim is my best friend. Luke is my best friend. Jacob is my best friend and so on. His new thing is telling me I’m NOT his best friend and that I am bad when I tell him he can’t watch Ninja Turtles for the tenth time in a row or he can’t have pretzels and Popsicles for dinner.

Ok I just got way side tracked. So back to Dan and I debating about a second child. The day Amy passed away, it just clicked. I had decided. How long are we going to sit here and question it? Let’s just do it already. And after Christmas and the low key nature of Aidan opening his presents all by himself on Christmas morning, I had made up my mind. Dan was on board immediately and like I do with everything I jumped into Home Study mode. We got approved and began submitting profiles. The first four or five birthmoms chose other families. I was a stress case. We decided we needed a vacation. We had not done anything with just us two since Aidan was born. We booked a flight on a Tuesday for that Thursday sometime in mid March. The next day I realized my passport expired. So we changed our flight to St Thomas and St John. We got a call the day before we left about a birthmom due in a month with a girl!! That’s what we really wanted. We went on our trip after hurrying off our profile and had a blast. Met anther couple who was also adopting. They had been waiting a year. We clicked with them immediately and remain in touch often. The day after we got back, we found out we were the chosen family! A week or so later, our St John friends got an overnight call of a baby girl born in NY! Such an amazing time. Rushed down to Florida in early April, met SaraGrace’s birth family, including her birth parents, sister, paternal grandparents and maternal grandmother. Such an awesome experience just like Aidan’s four years ago. Got to be in the delivery room. Dan got to cut the cord and I had my own hospital room for a couple nights. Then a week and a half in a Disney themed condo and we were headed home!! Now we’re one big hectic happy family! 🙂 I stay in touch with SaraGrace’s family through Facebook just like Aidan’s.

March and October mammograms and MRI scans came back clean. Lost a third friend to breast cancer late summer and have met WAY TOO MANY other young girls diagnosed this year. Have my next MRI in about three months.

Still taking my Tamoxifen pills daily which I hate. Have hot flashes every so often but other than that the cancer is almost five years in the past.

2013 – full of ups and downs. Most of the downs were the passing of friends. Most of the ups were the starting new friendships. But most of all it was SaraGrace joining our family!!

Happy New Year everyone! May 2014 be filled with more ups than downs!!

Just a Random Vent

So I feel like I hold back many of my opinionated thoughts on Facebook because I know for a fact that many would disagree and I don’t (usually) like to stir up controversy when it’s obvious everyone has different opinions. For example, I usually don’t broadcast my opinions about politics, religion, abortion, etc. because I know we all have the right to our own opinions and I don’t want to upset people that I care about. And even so, my opinions on certain topics have changed over the years and are not one size fits all and apply to all situations. However, last night, I posted an opinionated comment in a private mommy Facebook group after being a little fed up with something. It was in regards to breast feeding and this evolutionary parenting philosophy. Well, let me tell you, did those people let me have it!!

There was a prior post that a girl posted asking how she should transition her 10 month old from breast feeding to formula without feeling guilty. All people did was rant and rave on her post about how she shouldn’t stop and gave her all these things/ideas/ways to do to keep going – on and on they went. I simply commented, “Do what you want and don’t feel guilty. My kids are formula fed and they are just fine.” They were well intended comments from the others, but I just felt like they were all so biased and not answering the question she was asking.

Welllllll, that got me all fired up so I created a new post to simply vent that I was offended by the majority of people within this group ridiculing people for not breast feeding or deciding when they think an appropriate time is for others to stop. I then decided to throw in a sentence about an ex-coworker of mine whose wife breast fed their 6-7 year old (yes, years) and that they all slept in the same bed as a family (4 children) – this is known as “co-sleeping” or a “family bed”. First, I am not educated in this area, nor do I care to be. I am purposefully posting this on my blog and not facebook because I don’t care to hear anyone’s ridicule or educational tone about me not knowing what I’m talking about (especially after the earful I heard last night). But, anyway, hello?!?!?!……. does this not remind you of “Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory” when the whole family, grandparents and all, got all cozied up together in their nightgowns and nightcaps all sleeping in the same room? I remember that scene vividly and thought it was weird but knew it was because they were poor and only had one room. I was intending to be witty about it but oh the number of people that blasted me and took my statement way out of its intended context!

Putting the “co-sleeping” and “family bed” aside for a minute (because I find it perfectly fine for your child to sleep with you if they are scared, sick, crying, young, etc.) – I was only referring to the Willy Wanka style idea that seems to have gotten some momentum among these attachment parenting enthusiasts that have their whole families sleeping in the same bed well past their youth. One girl commented that her 15 year old son still slept with them and that he was very popular in school. Um, I’m not sure I get your point lady, but to each their own – hello weirdo though in my opinion.

Another girl said it was selfish of me and others to choose not to breastfeed and that we should find any possible means to breast feed because “it is a FACT that breastfeeding is better” – she kept saying FACT over and over again and then added that you should find a way to breast feed even if you are not able (e.g., if you adopted, which I had mentioned in my post). I obviously understand the facts about breast feeding and its benefits (who doesn’t). All I was saying was that those people that are so glued to it, should give people a break if others can’t (like me) or choose not to for whatever reason they decide (e.g., they tried and felt exhausted, they were too tired, the baby wouldn’t latch, they were in pain, they worked full time and didn’t like pumping, whatever). But everyone completely flipped their lid on me – I seriously felt like I got jumped on facebook. Every 30 seconds a new notification would pop up from another woman blasting me.

One suggested that since we adopted, I should hire someone to pump and give me their breast milk. She then said her friend does this and actually has 7, yes 7, different mothers that pump and provide breast milk to their adopted children. Not only is that gross, weird, and probably never something the FDA would approve, it just shows how people have SUCH differing opinions on the subject – that would have NEVER even crossed my mind – call me selfish I guess – I think it means I’m logical, and not a complete weirdo. Who wants 7 random women’s bodily fluids in their fridge and fed to their baby? Ok, I am trying to be a little humorous here, so don’t jump all over me and suggest that I think breast milk is a nasty bodily fluid, but come on people, who does this?!

I was obviously outnumbered on the feed. It got so heated so fast that the Admin of the group was called in to delete the string. However for the record, I must add that she messaged me privately and said she agreed with me and that it was my choice to have it taken down. I told her to delete it because by that point I was in tears. These women were just cruel.

I have since left this mommy group and will never join such a group again. I obviously don’t fit in and am too outspoken for my own good sometimes. I wanted to vent this though on my blog though, because it really upset me last night and still has me fired up. I will also add that there were TONS of people on my side that privately messaged me about them agreeing with me and not to be worried about all the blasphemous comments people were posting against me. They knew the audience of this group better than I did and opted not to say anything directly on the post in fear of retaliation/ridicule. For those of you who are my friends reading this and offended, I am sorry. If you are into this “family bed” thing, I am NOT saying I think it’s inappropriate to sleep with your children. I was just making a joke about the Willy Wanka bed and making a statement that at some point, there has to be some separation or drawing of the line somewhere. Same things goes for breast feeding. In my humble, uneducated opinion, I think 6 is pushing it. Correction – 6 YEARS! Not 6 months. Seriously people. Really? This should be a law.

ACS June Survivor Spotlight

The American Cancer Society has honored me by sharing my story in their June survivor spotlight!! Our local breast cancer orgs – ACS, Komen, Carolina Breast Friends – they have all been a HUGE SUPPORT for me!! They make me feel special too in their interest in my story over the past four years. My five minutes of fame replaying itself. I just wish I would have some way of knowing if my story has ever reached anyone that made a difference. I had someone recognize me last year at one of the walks from the news the night before. That was pretty cool. Aidan and I got called up on stage that year. Aidan took the mic without hesitation and asked Natalie Pasquarella “what are all these people doin’ here?!” Ha. I think I’m subconsciously working on being famous ha. Maybe then I could meet more celebrities instead of stalking them out. Anyone out there with Richard Gere connections? 😉

http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/MakingStridesAgainstBreastCancer/MSABCCY13SA?pg=informational&fr_id=55891&type=fr_informational&sid=188857

108th Post

I rarely update my blog anymore but thought I would just ramble for a few minutes.  Afterall, I’m on maternity leave and I actually have a minute.  This will be my 108th post since I started my blog in 2009.  I have some new followers from Asia, which is always so cool to see how far a random person’s blog can really reach.  It is so nice to know that my blog not only kept my friends up to date and allowed me to vent, but is also helping others (even though maybe just a few, who knows) around the world.  So here are my random thoughts for today (only one breast cancer related):

1.  First, tonight is my friend Sara’s memorial service.  She was one of the two stage 4 girls in our Young Survivor Group at Carolina Breast Friends.  She passed away the week before we went to Florida and three months after our friend Amy.  I met Sara in the waiting room at my oncologist’s office back in 2009 and we became friends on facebook and through text after that.  We grew closer in the last two years as we formed the Young Survivors Group and I invited her to our first meeting.  She was a teacher at West Meck highschool and such a cool chick.  She quit work to focus on her health after learning her cancer had metastasized to her lungs, liver and brain.  She went to Puerto Rico to learn about raw dieting and juicing and was always on top of her health.  Her mom passed away a little over a year ago from a sudden stroke and the breast cancer genetic mutation ran in her family (just like Amy).  Her dad is just precious and is left behind with so much sadness but tons of special memories of both of them.  I know Sara and her mom have reunited in Heaven.  Tonight will be a hard night though.  I haven’t had much time to grieve losing her friendship with all our adoption stuff going on.

2.  Today is also my husband’s dad’s birthday.  He died a little over a year ago too (time is a blur for me).  Happy birthday Garland Murray and thank you for teaching my husband how to be a standup man, best husband ever, and the greatest father I know.  Dan learned how to be patient, kind, confident, and all the man he is from his dad.  Dan’s family was very well known in Greensboro when he was growing up.  Everyone I meet from Greensboro knows their family.  Dan’s dad was very involved with the Red Cross and they are the most special family.  I am the luckiest girl to be a part of their family.  There is more to the story but just know, they are truly resilient, faithful, forgiving and the most precious people on earth.

3.  My last post was about my 4 year survivor day.  A lot of times on facebook, I would post things like “on this day in 2009, I was getting my first chemo” or “on this day in 2009, blah blah blah”.  Now I only do that on March 24.  I am looking forward to the future now and not dwelling on the past anymore.  Well I’m trying at least.  There is so much brightness ahead.  We adopted our second child in early April.  The adoption process usually takes a year from the time you sign up with an agency or consultant.  We adopted Aidan in 3 weeks and SaraGrace in 1 month.  I told our consultant she was the best ever.  She said it’s because we were also open to pretty much anything.  We just wanted a child.  I also think my past experiences led me to where I am and where we were supposed to be.  God didn’t want us waiting anymore.  We had already waited long enough.  Adoption has been the most surprising blessing of my life.  Not many people grow up thinking they want to adopt.  But man, it’s an awesome experience and I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Our two kids are amazingly perfect and they are turning out just like us (after reading that again – I am not saying that Dan and I are “amazingly perfect” – ha – but you know what I mean hopefully).  Aidan is a little neat freak and little fisty just like me.  And SaraGrace and Aidan (as a baby) are calm and peaceful just like Dan.  We have great and balanced relationships with their birthparents and things went perfectly for both.  We are so grateful.

4.  Facebook…..what can I say, everyone knows I love facebook.  Sometimes I post 10 things in a row just because I think of something else to say.  But I really do – I just love facebook.  It allowed me to become friends with people in other states and countries (through my blog first) that I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise.  It helps our young survivor group stay connected.  It is a daily reminder of all the struggles out there and all the happiness out there.  Right now, I have friends on facebook who have recently lost children or loved ones, people recently diagnosed with breast cancer, two friends whose facebook pages are being monitored by their own loved ones because they have passed on, a friend who was in a serious car accident this week, several friends who are expecting babies or just had babies, and then all the funny pics and posts that crack me up.  I even learn things – like the Hornets coming back to Charlotte.  Dan asked how I knew about that and I said Dion-on facebook.  I know some people are facebook haters but I love it. 

5.  Hm, what else do I have to say.  Work is going good.  I love the company I work for (Ally Bank / Ally Financial).  I am an Audit Director there.  My team is great.  I love my boss and our leaders are fantastic.  They’ve been very supportive through our whole adoption process (it came on pretty suddenly and right in the beginning of our plan year).  I’ve also dedicated some of my maternity leave hours to work from home – just trying to keep things on track and help with some sudden projects.  This shows me how much I like my job. 

6.  My sister Natalie – my bestie and the person I talked to twice a day as she came to watch Aidan over the past three and a half years.  She is the best littlest sis ever, the best nanny ever, the best mom ever.  Her daughter Marley and Aidan have grown up like brother and sister.  Right after we adopted though, she sadly told us they were moving to Lousianna for 6 months and then to Texas for a year or two.  This was devastating for our whole family.  I am not a crier unless it’s something pretty serious, but man, did Natalie and I cry when we hugged goodbye.  I miss her so much.  I can cry now just thinking about it.  I miss Marley too, her daughter (3 months younger than Aidan).  When I hugged her goodbye, I told her she was my favorite neice and that I loved her so much.  She looked at me like “why are you crying?!”  They are too young to understand completely.  My family has always lived in the same town so this is a really hard adjustment for our whole family.  Natalie’s husband Matt – he is really close with his family too.  We all miss them so much.  I am trying to learn to Skype.  No luck so far.  I thought I was tech savy but apparently I’m getting old.  Move back home Nat!

7.  Aidan is at preschool full time now.  He loves it.  He is the most social kid you can imagine.  He is definitely the power kid in the class.  Mister confident and mister smarty pants.  SaraGrace is growing fast.  She’s probably like 11 or 12 pounds now.  She started smiling at 3 weeks.  Pretty amazing.  I am in love with both my children.  I never thought I could love anyone more than Aidan, but man, was my mom right – you love all your children equally.  They are my world. 

8.  I guess that’s enough for now.  I really didn’t have a point to this blog post other than to just write.  I like writing and have missed it.  And I want to write about more than just stupid breast cancer.  🙂  Enough said.

4 years!

Keeping this extremely short but today marks my 4 year survivor day and Aidan’s legal adoption decree day. We are also currently in the process of adopting a baby girl due in a few weeks! Life is good!!

Grassroots Baby…….Grassroots!!

If you are between the ages of 30 and 65 with no personal history of cancer, please consider joining a grassroots research study called Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3).  The purpose of CPS-3 is to better understand the lifestyle, behavioral, environmental and genetic factors that cause or prevent cancer and to ultimately eliminate cancer and create more birthdays.  Participation is easy and enrollment is being brought to the Greater Charlotte area at 9 different locations.  Please see my earlier posts for more details or visit www.cps3greatercharlotte.org to get enrolled.  Please send me a message if you sign up so I can add you to my recruit count!  Thank you to all and to all a good day!  🙂

2 Very Sad Things and 2 Funny Things

Sad #1

As you probably saw from my Facebook wall, my friend Amy passed away on Saturday. Both she and her daughter turned 34 and 3, respectively, in November (the same exact ages as me and Aidan). Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer in mid 2010, a little over a year after me. In October 2011, Molly Grantham (WBTV news) was highlighting survivor stories in honor of the Susan G Komen race that month. My story aired one week and Amy’s aired the next. I didn’t know her then but wanted to meet her as soon as I watched it because at that time, I only knew 3-4 young survivors in Charlotte. A few weeks later, I met her at the Komen race after I recognized her at my friend MaryGeneva’s “after-party” (yes, we go all out for Komen race day, Amy especially in her butterfly costume and pink wig). Amy started our young survivor group the next month and it has grown to about 20 girls over the past year. It spread just by word of mouth and by us meeting other young survivors either at doctor appts, or friends of friends putting their friends in touch with one of us. All of us are at different stages in the process, different surgeries, different types of breast cancer, # years out, etc.

Amy was witty, always joyous, and very into her faith. She always made people laugh and had the best wit of anyone I have ever known. She grew up in Charlotte, went to West Mecklenburg high school and was really into Young Life over the years (even worked there for a number of years). She attended Hope Community Church and married her husband Adam 6 years ago. Her last blog post (not to be confused with her Caring Bridge site) was dedicated to their 6th wedding anniversary (www.adamandamyp.blogspot.com). Adam quit his job a while back and has been graciously taking care of Amy and their daughter Charis throughout the difficult times. And by difficult, that is an understatement. Her cancer spread to her chest wall right before her Molly Grantham interview. From there, it went onto her lungs and eventually invaded other areas. The lung metastasis was the worst of it though. The cancer had wrapped itself around one of her lungs, completely collapsing it. Her other lung had constant fluid that always had to be drained and she was labored for breath for many months. We started off with the same oncologist, but she ended up transferring to Duke, having to drive back and forth practically every week over the past year as she tried chemo after chemo, none of them working. She eventually had to go on oxygen and towards the end a ventilator. Before she passed, she knew it was “time” and was “prepared”. She was so into her faith and looking forward to meeting Jesus, while at the same time sad to be leaving her family behind. I saw two friends at her visitation/funeral that I didn’t realize knew her as well. She had SO many friends. Her service poured out of the church and into overflow seating space. The only funerals I had been to previously were my grandparents and elderly. Amy’s funeral was filled with youth. Her best friend gave the best funeral monologue I had ever heard. It was a tear-filled day. Our young survivor group was very sad and somber, for we knew she was our group leader and if it wasn’t for her, the rest of us wouldn’t be so close. A few of us are mothers and for some reason, I feel like that’s what makes me the saddest. I told someone I was not only sad for her daughter, but also for Amy, who wouldn’t be able to watch her daughter grew up. I really appreciated when that person told me “yes, she will; she’ll just be watching from Heaven”. I know Amy knew this. Please continue to pray for her family. Amy’s dad is battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer and her mom (also a breast cancer survivor) is battling stage 4 melanoma. I met Amy’s mom at her visitation and thought they looked just alike. Amy has a sister (who I don’t know but seems to have her same funny wit) and two brothers (who seem like great men and fathers). And of course Adam and Charis – please continue to pray for their entire family. Always.

Funny #1

Over Christmas break, my parents were going through their storage room and found a ton of old stuff from our childhood. They put together bins for me and my sisters. Inside one of my bins were some stories I wrote when I was little. Thought I would share them. Who knows, to you, they may be dumb and not the least bit entertaining, but I found them funny. Here’s the first one. It’s called The Bear, by Danielle Kragnes, dedicated to My Family (I drew pictures on each page which you will just have to imagine).

The Bear

This is a bear.

His name is Fuzzy Wazzy.

A bear looks like This.

And I have tow friends That have one two.

And Their names are Brigid and Lizzy.

The bear went into The forest.

And he met another Bear.

And Then They were playing baceball.

And the one that won the game was the bear that met another Bear.

Then They went out to find a new frined.

And Then They Saw a beautiful butterfly.

And They tried to catch the butterfly.

And Then They caught the butterfly.

They took the butterfly home.

And They named him daidogy.

And Then Fuzzy Wuzzy put him in a cage.

Fuzzy Wuzzy took him to bed.

Fuzzy Wuzzy made a bed for him.

And he got a friend.

And They were playing together.

And so They all lived happily ever after.

The End.

P.S. Hello. My name is Danielle and I am in 3rd grade. When I wrote this book I was in 1st grade. Bye.

Sad #2

So out of the 20 girls in our young survivor group, 2 of them have been considered stage 4. Many of us were stage 3 at diagnosis, including myself (young women are diagnosed later in the disease because they, or their doctors, ignore suspicious things because of their age). Amy was one of our stage 4 girls (that’s the latest of the stages). Sara is the other. Sara needs your prayers now. The day before Amy passed away, Sara had to be rushed to the hospital for pain. Her cancer has spread to her lungs, brain and bones. The bones were what was causing her the pain but her latest scan results show growth of the brain lesions as well. Please pray for her healing and pain management. Please pray for hope that the doctors can cure her. Please pray for her to be able to go to Puerto Rico, where she wants to go relax and get back on her raw diet. Both Amy and Sara had/have the BRCA mutation and their cancers are considered Triple Negative. There are several different forms of breast cancer, depending on where it starts, the hormone status, size, grade, etc. Inflammatory and Triple Negative are probably the two worst, with HER2+ being the third worst (out of about 10 different kinds). (mine was HER2+) But there are many factors that play into things so those are just general statements. Anyway, please pray for Sara. One of our other young survivor friends (Alethea) and I had to tell Sara the news about Amy yesterday, just a few hours before the funeral when we went to visit her in the hospital. She hadn’t heard the news yet but we knew we had to tell her. Sara was really upset to hear of Amy’s passing and distraught that she wouldn’t be well enough to attend her service. Alethea and I procrastinated telling Sara and made small talk for a long time as doctors came in and out. She got up to use the bathroom, then asked “has anyone talked to Amy?” When she came out of the bathroom and both of us were cyring, she asked quietly “when did it happen?” After Amy’s service and convening at the Carolina Breast Friends Pink House (where our young survivor meetings are held), a larger group of us went to visit her. Please continue to pray for Sara, and her dad sitting by her side (her mom passed away last year from a sudden brain aneurism).

Funny #2 – (Story #2) Another story my parents found in their attic: The Taxi, by Danielle Kragnes, dedicated to My Family

Once a boy named Milly was digging for gold and instead he found a taxi. Then the taxi driver came. His name was Mike. Then Mike said, “Where do you want to go?” “Ummmmm…..I want to go to the candy store,” said Milly. “Oh, but their candy is awful.” “OK! then I want to go to the toy store,” said Milly. “Ok but their toys always break,” said Mike. “Well, what store is there?” said Milly. “I don’t know. You decide that on your own.” said Mike. “You are older and you lived in this world longer. You know more stores than me,” said Milly. “Ok! I’ve decided. Just take me home,” said Milly. “Are you sure?” said Mike. “Yes I’m sure. Just take me home and get over with it.” Said Milly. “Ok” said Mike. “No no! I just want to dig for gold again,” said Milly. Then Mike goes home and Milly goes digging for gold again. About the Author: Danielle is eight years old and is in Miss Couet’s third grade class at Marion Jordan. She likes to collect stickers and swim.

It is no surprise that even at the age of 8, the story I chose to write about had to do with shopping and candy.

Want to get involved in a cancer prevention study?

The American Cancer Society’s Epidemiology Research Program is inviting men and women between the ages of 30 and 65 years who have no personal history of cancer to join a historic research study, Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3).  The ultimate goal is to enroll at least 300,000 adults from various racial/ethnic backgrounds from across the U.S.  The purpose of CPS-3 is to better understand the lifestyle, behavioral, environmental and genetic factors that cause or prevent cancer and to ultimately eliminate cancer as a major health problem for this and future generations.   CPS-3 is a grassroots effort across the country through which you can advance cancer research by participating actively in a historic research study.

Participation is easy and enrollment is being brought to the Greater Charlotte area at 9 different locations.  Once you schedule your appointment, you will receive instructions on how to complete your first survey online.  This survey will take approximately 45-60 minutes to complete.

Your onsite enrollment will take approximately 20-30 minutes and will involve:

·        Completing a short survey packet

·        Signing a consent form

·        Providing a waist circumference measurement

·        Providing a small blood sample (similar to a doctor’s visit).  

Enrollment will take place at one of nine locations in the Greater Charlotte area from March 12 – 16.  For more detail about enrollment locations, dates and times and to schedule your appointment, visit www.cps3greatercharlotte.org.

Following enrollment, you will receive mailed surveys at home every few years to update your information. You will also receive annual study newsletters to update you on research results.

Whether or not you are able to enroll, please forward this note to your friends, coworkers, and family members in the Greater Charlotte area and encourage them to help advance cancer research by enrolling in CPS-3.  For more information about CPS-3, please visit www.cancer.org/cps3 or email cps3@cancer.org or call toll-free 1.888-604-5888.

            TO SCHEDULE YOUR APPOINTMENT, GO TO:

www.cps3greatercharlotte.org

2009 Thanksgiving Miracle

I posted daily facts about breast cancer last month for breast cancer awareness month. November is adoption awareness month and I tried to do the same but fell short on the daily frequency. There are only a few days left. Right now, I am reblogging a blog post announcing our adoption back in 2009. This should count for a few to catch me up. You can skip over the italicized part at the beginning.

Danielle's Cancer Survivor Story ~ Cancer Diaries

(Note: If this is your first time visiting my page, thank you for your concern and support. You may want to read the pages to the left first (My Story, About Me, My Dr. Oz / Oprah Story, etc.), then read from below. My latest blog entries will feed to the top automatically. The most recent blog entries are also listed as links on the bottom left.)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Well, if you haven’t heard, our family has A LOT to be THANKFUL for this year!  Not only am I cancer free after all my treatments this year, our adoption has already happened!  After only a few WEEKS signed up with our adoption consultant (A Step Ahead) we have a NEW BABY BOY!  We got a call last week on Tuesday saying there was a birthmother in Colorado who had a baby on November 8, 2009 and the original adoptive…

View original post 653 more words

3 years ago almost to the day

Aidan tuned three last week. This time, 3 years ago we still weren’t even aware of his arrival into this world or that he would soon be our son. He actually at that time had another set of adopted parents who ended up falling through last minute, lucky and miraculously for us. So this is what I was writing about three years ago (almost to the day), while Aidan was resting up in the NICU waiting on us. 🙂

Danielle's Cancer Survivor Story ~ Cancer Diaries

(Note: If this is your first time visiting my page, thank you for your concern and support. You may want to read the pages to the left first (My Story, About Me, My Dr. Oz / Oprah Story, etc.), then read from below. My latest blog entries will feed to the top automatically. The most recent blog entries are also listed as links on the bottom left.)

Well, it’s been almost a week (as of tomorrow) since my last day of radiation!  My skin healed super fast and I feel back to normal already, although I never really felt not-normal so I guess that’s why.  It’s weird now that everything’s done.  Well, I still have the every-three-week Herceptin IV visits, but with so much time in between appointments now, it just seems weird, almost like I’m done with everything, but not really.  It’s also weird thinking back on everything I’ve…

View original post 379 more words

CPS-3 Study

Do you want to be a part of ground-breaking history and help find ways to prevent cancer?  Not just breast cancer, but ALL cancers? 

I am helping the American Cancer Society recruit participants for their Cancer Prevention Study (CPS-3).  It’s the 3rd study of its kind (hence the name, CPS-3).  The first CPS study (CPS-1) linked cigarette smoking to cancer!  Before that, people had no idea!  Can you imagine what other things could be causing cancer that we just don’t know about?  Well now’s your chance to help!   There aren’t too many requirements and it’s very easy to be involved.  They are looking for around 300,000 participants nationwide, including 1,200 from Mecklengurg county.

Who is eligible to participate? 

Anyone who: (1) Is between 30 and 65 years old; (2) has never been diagnosed with cancer (not including basal or squamous cell skin cancer); and (3) is willing to make a long-term commitment to the study by completing surveys at home every few years.

What does the study involve for you?

The enrollment process involves two steps, one in-person and one at home.  Prior to the in-person enrollment, participants will complete a comprehensive baseline survey (at home) that asks for information on lifestyle, behavioral, and other factors related to their health.  This survey will take about 30-45 minutes to complete.

The in-person enrollment will take approximately 20-25 minutes, and individuals will be asked to: (1) Read and sign an informed consent form; (2) Complete a brief survey; (3) Have waist circumference measured; (4) Give a small blood sample (similar to a doctor’s visit – just a small amount).

Upon completion of both enrollment steps, the American Cancer Society research staff will mail follow-up surveys every few years for the next 20-30 years to update your information.

All personal information and any individual results of blood analyses that may be performed will be kept strictly confidential by American Cancer Society research staff. 

Now what do you do?

First, send me a text, blog comment, facebook message, etc. if you are interested (if you haven’t already done so).  Registration won’t be until March 2013 – we are just recruiting right now so I am just keeping a list of names and emails for now.  Registration sites for Mecklenburg county will be:

  1. Levine Senior Center
  2. West Cabarrus YMCA
  3. Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics
  4. Weddington United Methodist Church
  5. Wells Fargo Atrium
  6. Monroe Crossing Mall
  7. Friendship Baptist Church, Conference Center
  8. YMCA Corporate Wellness Center – Ballantyne
  9. ACS Charlotte office

I wish I could partake in the study but at least I can be involved.  Thanks in advance to any of you out there that want to participate!!

Making Strides Oct 20!!

Please help me reach my fundraising goal for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk!  To donate, please click on the following link, then click “Donate Now”.  Thanks again everyone!  You are welcome to join our team as well!  So far, we are the leader in the number of walkers and funds raised!  The walk is Oct 20! 

http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR?fr_id=47518&pg=personal&px=12580522

Team Patwa Surprise Flashmob for Amy

FUNdraising for the Cure!!

Want to donate to my Komen team? Use this link, then click the “Donate to Danielle!” button. Thanks!!

http://charlotte.info-komen.org/site/TR?px=5312878&pg=personal&fr_id=2591&et=00nVpmTjF4ri41dvswhERA&s_tafId=91515

American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Email

So here is the email I spoke about a few days ago that was going to be distributed to the last year’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walkers.  If you click on the “read my story” link, it takes you to the longer story, which is what they sent the 300 media outlets in their “press release” earlier last week (or whenever it was, I tend to lose track of time).  🙂 

Dear Danielle,

I wanted to take a moment to thank you for participating in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Charlotte last year.  In 2012 you raised $25.00 for the fight against breast cancer.  This fundraising helps support research and treatment like the ones that saved my life.

Daniell_Murray_Family_small
Sign Up Online Button

In 2009, at the age of 30, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, after almost a year of being misdiagnosed due to my age.  After an aggressive treatment plan, I am now in remission- 3 ½ years out.  Following chemo, surgery, and radiation, my prognosis significantly improved, and my husband and I decided to adopt a baby (after years of fertility issues and hearing I would need to wait until I finished 5 years of continued hormone treatment before we could try again).  At that time, it immediately become evident to me – all of the years of fertility issues, the cancer diagnosis, grueling treatments, even the type of cancer and the time I spent misdiagnosed……it all led me to where I am today: “Aidan’s Mom”; it was all meant to be.  But not all stories end this way, and we still need to fight for a cure.

You may have already received a phone call asking you to sign up, but I wanted to send you a quick email with a direct link to make signing up easy for you.  I hope by sharing my story, you will be encouraged to provide support to the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer this year – we need to find a CURE, and in the meantime, support those battling the disease right now.  Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

Please visit our website today and sign up.  Our walk is on October 20 and I’ll be there waiting to meet you.  I appreciate the fundraising efforts you made last year.  We are counting on you again this year.

Until there’s a cure …

Danielle Murray Cancer Survivor Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Charlotte NC

Random Updates

So……not a whole lot to update but breast cancer awareness month starts in a few days so I thought I’d write a quick post. I’ve had a lot on my mind the past couple months. First and foremost, are my friends Amy and Sara who are fighting hard against their stage 4 breast cancers.

Amy is the one I met last October. She was on the news the week after me when WBTV shared local survivor stories on the Charlotte news. I met her a couple weeks later at the Susan G Komen race and she is the one who headed up our Young Survivor group at the Pink House (Carolina Breast Friends). She is fighting hard but her tumor is wrapping itself around her lung and heart. My heart just breaks for her, her sweet daughter (2 days younger than Aidan), and her sweet husband. Her parents are also battling stage 4 melanoma and pancreatic cancers. Please continue to pray for her and their whole family. They ask that you pray for a cure, time together as a family, and for peace.

My other friend Sara, who I met at my oncologist’s office during chemo, is also stage 4 and has been undergoing serious radiation treatments for brain metastasis. She lost her mom last year and my heart breaks for her too. I met her dad when I visited her in the hospital and he is the sweetest man ever. Add Sara and her dad to your prayer list too please.

Both of these girls are always on my mind, along with all my other survivor friends I’ve met along the way. Remember, we’re all in our thirties. Please do your self exams and insist on a mammogram or ultrasound if you feel anything weird.

So race time is coming up, break out the pink hair extension highlights!!! My New Year’s resolution this year was to put breast cancer behind me and I’ve done much better with my anxiety ever since March/April. I still think about it every day but I don’t obsess and worry about it coming back as much as I used to the first three years. That’s right, I’m 3 1/2 years in remission now, as of 3 days ago! My next mammogram is Oct 25. I will probably just post a quick Facebook status on that. Hopefully all goes well.

Anyway, I have been getting a little breast-cancer’ed out this year so I was thinking, up until only a few days ago, that I wasn’t going to do any of the walks this year. I was going to donate but not partake in the festivities. Partly because I had previously scheduled commitments on these days but also because I just didn’t want to dwell on it anymore. But I realize now that that just doesn’t feel right and I need to be there to help support my friends (regardless of my own feelings) and am going to make it for both races. I also know it’s to help find a cure and am trying to focus on the reason behind the walks, and not about the sad reminders it surfaces for me personally. And I need to think about those who have lost loved ones to this disease and do it out of respect for them. So……..Susan G Komen is Oct 6 and Making Strides is Oct 20. I will post more later about what team I join in case you want to donate or join us.

Last bit of news I’ve been slacking on is the CPS study (which you can read about a few posts ago). I will post more about this soon too.

Until then, please let me know if you want to meet us or donate for the upcoming walks!! And thanks for your ongoing support!!

…..OMG I almost forgot!! The American Cancer Society is using my story in their press releases and sent out my story to 300+ media outlets and is sending an email out to their charlotte distribution list in the coming days. Pretty neat. AND our young survivor group is pictured in a local Charlotte magazine (Society) – found that out today. Ok, that is all for now. Stay tuned for walk details.

One last thing – check out the video I posted on Facebook about obamacare’s breast cancer screening and vote Romney this year!! 🙂

My friend Amy’s fundraiser for this Sat!!!

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Random Updates and Prayer Requests

A few random updates and several prayer requests…..

1. My oncologist was on the news last night discussing a new drug recently approved by the FDA to treat HER2+ breast cancers (see prior post from this morning immediately below for a brief post and the link). Now you can have a face with the name – “a true hero” my mom referred to him as, when I forwarded her the article. And that he is. 🙂

2. I have a few friends that are in serious need of prayers. First, my friend Amy, who I met in October at the Susan G Komen walk. She was on the news the week after me when WBTV’s Molly Grantham was sharing local survivor stories. She’s the one who started our local young survivor dinners at the Carolina Breast Friends house, which have been amazing and so much fun. She’s my age and has a daughter Aidan’s age. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 while she was breast feeding. Her cancer recurred sometime around October and is now considered stage 4 (spread to her lungs). She is such a wonderful, faithful, funny, witty person, a caring mother, wife, friend, etc. Her cancer is considered triple negative, which means it doesn’t grow from hormones like estrogen or progesterone, nor over-expresses the HER2 protein. All of this sounds great, but it’s oh-so the opposite. What it means, is that they don’t know what causes it to grow and drugs are sometimes ineffective. There aren’t drugs like Herceptin or the new one approved last week for her type of cancer. She’s been doing different kinds of chemo for almost a year now and the treatments have so far been unsuccessful and gruling. She has scans next week after changing her chemo coctail once again. Please pray for good results – which would mean ideally cure, but more likely shrinkage, and next best (no more growth). Her mom and dad are also battling stage 4 cancers (all at the same time). Please pray HARD for their family – I can’t imagine what they are facing. They need ALL of your prayers EVERYDAY.

Another friend of mine, Tracey, who I met through my blog in 2009 is having a mastectomy later this week and is need of prayers as well. We have never met in person but a friend of a friend forwarded her my blog back in 2009. We were both diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer (another agressive kind) around the same time, were around the same age, both underwent years of fertility issues/drugs prior to that, and both went on to adopt baby boys imediately following treatment. The only difference in our stories is that her cancer came back. She underwent chemo again and just had very favorable scans showing the cancer was GONE!! This was amazing news and a huge relief for everyone close to her, especially that precious baby of hers. Please pray for her as she undergoes the more aggressive surgery on Thursday and that it keeps the cancer gone FOREVER.

My friend Sara needs prayers too. I met her at Dr. Limentani’s office when I was wrapping up chemo and she was gearing up for her surgery. She is also around my age and stage 4, like Amy. She’s had her cancer spread to her lungs and brain. She stopped chemo in January and switched to an all raw vegan diet. She looks amazing and it seems to be working wonders and slowing, almost stopping the progression. She has scans coming up in a few weeks too. Please pray for her as well – prior tumors gone and no new ones.

My last stage 4 friend Andrea, I met in 2009 as well. She’s been battling stage 4 bone mets (metastasis) since before I even met her. She’s been a trooper and inspiration to many along the way. She continues to do well but struggles with chemo side effects and has scans repeatedly. She’s always in need of prayers as well.

All of these girls are within their 30’s!! Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers, along with all my other young survivor friends, who we’ve become so close with through our tight-knit group.

3. My last piece of blog update is about a new volunteer opportunity I’ve accepted. The American Cancer Society (ACS) has asked me to be an CPS-3 Champion Voluneteer. CPS-3 (Cancer Prevention Study) is the third study of its kind. ACS is one of the only cancer organizations to not only raise millions for cancer reaseach, but they also conduct their own cancer studies. The first CPS study, completed years ago, was the study that linked cigarette smoking to cancer. The second linked second hand cigarette smoke (and something else, I can’t remember). This is the third and they are hoping to find ground breaking preventative information. The study will begin around March 2013 and last up to 20 years. They are looking for around 300,000 participants – 1,200 in Mecklengurg county. The requirements are you have to have to have never had cancer, be between age 30 and 65 and open to committing to responding to 45 minute surverys every 2-3 years for 10-20 years. The volunteer position I’ve accepted is to help recruit people who want to participate in the study – and quite possibly be a part of history and cancer research!! Please contact me if you are interested. They want each champion to find 10 people who are interested. I think I can find plenty beyond that. Right now, I’m just keeping a list of interested names until early next year, once the enrollment process begins. It’s pretty simple once emrollment rolls around (no pun intended) and just involves a 45 minute survery and blood sample up front (around March 2013). Then a followup survery will be mailed to your house every 2-3 years after that. Let me know if you’d like to participate!

Well, that’s it. Hopefully I won’t have any breast cancer news to report until my next follow-ups, which aren’t scheduled until September I think. I’ve been doing really well this time with my anxiety, but it’s usually pretty good for the first two months after my last scan (which I think was in April). Hopefully I will keep my anxiety at bay until September. Until then and always, please keep my friends in your prayers.

My Oncologist on the News!

My oncologist, Dr. Limentani, was on the news last night talking about two new drugs to fight HER2+ breast cancer (the kind I had).  When I went through chemo in 2009, I had six rounds of Taxotere (docetaxel), Carboplatin and Herceptin (Herceptin continuing by itself for a year afterwards).  New clinical studies show effective results when a new drug (pertuzamab) is given along with Taxotere (docetaxel) and Herceptin.  I assume this means it replaces the Carboplatin, but I’m no doctor so that’s just my guess.

Anyway, Carolinas Healthcare System (CHS), where I go for all my oncology visits and where I spent a year in chemo/hormone treatment, is one of only two hospitals in the US that has the drug in clinical study.  Pertuzamab, won the approval from the Federal Drug Administration on Friday.  The media said in the introduction of the news story that before these drugs, HER2+ breast cancers were a death sentence.  Scary reminder but click on the link below to see my oncologist talking about the latest developments – what a TRUE HERO!!

http://www.wsoctv.com/news/news/new-study-proves-beat-aggressive-form-cancer/nPYrT/ 

More Genetics Test Results

This will be my shortest post EVER! 🙂

My P53 genetics testing came back normal. That’s the gene that has been linked with people diagnosed with cancer before the age of 30. This is good news but not all surprising. It means they still haven’t found a genetic link with my cancer, which is good because that would mean more surgery and risk for recurrence and other cancers. They said they are on the verge of more genetics testing within the next few months and that I should/could call back to check in. I told her I’d just call annually when I get my annual MRI. I’m pretty self-convinced my cancer was caused by fertility drugs. Anyone doing fertility, please get a mammogram. Cancer can be fueled by extra hormones. That’s all. Back to American Idol.

Mammogram Results

This will be another quick post (I think) and usually I don’t blog every single mammogram but thought I would since I mentioned a few posts ago that I had one coming up this week. It was just the right side today but all was clear again! They always send me to this little room where the radiologist comes in to personally tell me the results within minutes of the scan. This scared me at first, a while back, when I freaked over thinking “why the heck are they sending me to this little room!?”. But now I know it’s to provide personal and timely results, which my nerves fully appreciate.

Anyway, the radiologist said she was very pleased with my response to chemo this far out. HER2+ invasive breast cancers are aggressive and have a higher chance for recurrence than some other types of cancer, but she said there was not a trace left that she can see. And the imaging changes they said might start happening around now – none! :). All good news. I told a close survivor friend today that I am finally starting to feel “convinced”. The past two years, ever since we adopted Aidan, I have been worried and anxious about the cancer recurring. The doctors all said how well I responded to treatment but I always worried – not so much because I’m a mom now, but also just because I feel like I’m not doing anything anymore to fight it (except the Tamoxifen pills) now that chemo and radiation are over. That worry is finally starting to subside. I’m also part of a young survivors group and we all seem to have very similar thoughts so at least I’m not alone and can talk about it with people who understand.

Well, the only thing I’m waiting on now is the P53 testing (should have in a couple more weeks). After that, my next scheduled scan/follow up isn’t until Sept and Oct! 🙂 Finally a summer I can just relax! Starting this weekend! Dan, Aidan and I are going to Myrtle! I can’t wait to take Aidan to see the animals at Broadway at the Beach and watch him play in the sand. I hope the weather gets warmer!!

BRCA test results back!

I’ll make this quick because I’m on my iPhone but just wanted to let everybody know that my updated BRCA genetics testing results came back (the latest BART test that looks for sequence rearrangement mutations). No genetic mutations were found!, which is good news and not surprising since I already had the broader test done in 2009. This was just extra reassurance, and I’ll take that wherever I can get it.

The P53 test results, which have the higher likelihood of concern, given my genetics counselor’s percentages, will be back in a few weeks to a month. The chances are still low though and I’m not worried but wanted to update my blog with the info.

I go in for my next 6-month mammogram next week too. I usually don’t blog about those because they seem like they’re all the time but since i’m on here already, thought i’d mention it. Those always cause anxiety but I’m beginning to feel better about them the further out I get. They did say though at my last one that from then on, they would expect to see changes in the images. I don’t think she meant cancer – but just lingering damage from radiation turning into scar tissue and things like that, which may cause false positives. Hopefully not though because I don’t particularly want to relive those voo doo doll biopsies.

Updated Genetics Testing

Thought I’d pass along some things I learned about genetics this week and give an update on my “mutation of unknown significance” (doesn’t that sound fancy?). This is a long post so if you only care about the main point, I will first provide an “executive summary”, or “back-of-the-book” summary, if you will. 😉 The main point is that I found out this week that my mutation of unknown significance, which they found in my genetic testing back in 2009, has come back conclusively to not be a concern (or not to have a link with breast cancer – good news). The second point is that they have some new advancements in genetic testing that they wanted me to get tested for, which I did this morning and should get the results back in 2-6 weeks. Ok, that was the “executive summary”. Now for my usually long-winded post in case you want more details or care to learn something further…… 🙂

Before I go into details of this week, let me recap/clarify a few points. First, each person’s body has approximately 25,000 genes. Each gene has a different and very specific function. There are many genes that are considered cancer suppressant genes. In a normal person, these genes help regulate cell division/growth and prevent cancer (abnormal / out-of-control cell growth). If any of the cancer suppressant genes are mutated (which can happen hereditarily at birth or sometime after from environmental causes), they can cause an increased risk of cancer because they don’t perform their purpose of properly regulating cell growth.

The genes most closely related to breast cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2. People often get confused about this and ask “do you have the BRCA gene?” Really though, everyone has these genes (even men) – what they really should ask is “do you have a BRCA mutation” because the “mutations” are what cause the concern. Another common misconception is that breast cancer is usually hereditary. People are often surprised to hear when someone gets breast cancer when it doesn’t run in their family. But in fact, only 10% of breast cancers are actually hereditary. The remaining 90% of cases are due to age (risk increases from age 40-50 and beyond), environment, unknown reasons, etc. Another startling statistic, particularly for me, is that less than 1.5% of breast cancers occur in people under the age of 30. Aren’t I special. 🙂

Ok, so back in 2009 when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I underwent the standard genetic testing (looking for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes). They found a mutation in one of the genes (can’t remember which one) but it was one of “unknown significance”. They said I was 1 of only 4 people in the history of the genetic testing that had this same mutation. Basically, there are dozens (or hundreds?) of possible mutations in these genes. Many have a “known” link with breast cancer. Many are known not to have a link. Then there are those they don’t know much about. Of course mine was one of those. Basically, if you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 “mutation” with a “known” link with breast cancer, they automatically recommend a double mastectomy and hysterectomy because there is an 80-90% chance that the breast cancer would come back and also a high risk of ovarian cancer on top of all that. Since my mutation was of “unknown significance”, they said it was up to me whether I wanted to opt for more aggressive surgery, or not. After chemo and my updated MRI results, I opted not to have the more aggressive surgery. The genetics lab said they would keep my information on file and would call when they had more information about whether further testing would prove a link, one way or the other.

Well, that call came very unexpectedly, and out-of-the-blue, on Monday. I got back to my desk from a meeting and heard the voicemail. I freaked and immediately went to the phone room to return the call. Thankfully, they said the mutation I have has been shown NOT to have a link with breast cancer – GREAT NEWS. They went on to say though that there have been some advancements in the BRCA testing and other genetics testing that they thought I should come in for given my diagnosis at such a young age (30). I had that appt today. Here’s what I learned from that appt:

Ok, so think of a gene like a sentence. A “mutation” would be like a misspelled word, or one letter that is missing or different than it should be. That’s what they tested me for back in 2009. They now have new advancements, where they also look for sequence re-arranging. So, if you think of a sentence again, it would be like re-arranging words or moving a word (or group of letters) to somewhere in the sentence where the sentence would no longer make sense. They said the BRCA testing I had done back in 2009 would have detected 90-95% of any mutation concerns. The genetics counselor I met with today said she thinks the chances are 1-2% that this new updated test (which they have been doing since early 2011) will reveal anything newly concerning for me.

Another gene they are now testing for (which they weren’t in 2009, at least not routinely) is called P53, which I’ve never heard of until now. This is another cancer suppressant gene, but it affects many different types of cancer, not just breast cancer. Everyone has this gene too. Its purpose is to suppress the abnormal growth of cells (cancer) in soft tissue. People with a mutated P53, which is caused at birth mostly, but could also be affected by environmental causes over one’s lifetime (such as UV exposure, alcohol use, etc.), have a higher chance of developing cancers at a young age, which they consider to be 30 and younger. The P53 mutation is associated with breast cancer, sarcomas, leukemia, thyroid, colon, and many others. They said the chance of me having a P53 mutation (given my age at diagnosis, which is why they’re testing me for it) is 7%. If it comes back that I have a P53 mutation, they would recommend the same thing as they would for BRCA mutations, but there would also be increased chances of those other cancers, where screening is less common so it would just involve keeping a close eye.

They said there are several other genes that they have new technology for, and genetic biologists are on the horizon of knowing how to interpret those results. She said I should call back in a year (and annually thereafter) to see where they are with the latest advancements. I’m still somewhat convinced all the fertility stuff caused my cancer, but she doesn’t seem to think so. Dr. Limentani also doesn’t think so – he just said he thought it made the cancer come on more aggressively/earlier but that I would have gotten it eventually. Who knows.

So anyway, the statistics are in my favor (1-2% and 7% aren’t bad), but I opted to move forward with the updated testing just for peace of mind. They drew blood today and have sent it off to Myriad and Baylor (genetics research/testing labs). I should get the BRCA results back in 2 weeks and the P53 back in 4-6 weeks. Hopefully you are still awake and I didn’t completely waste your time with that snooze-fest. That is all, good day sir. 😉

3 Year Mark!! (and some revised lessons)

Well what an emotional roller coaster this month has already been!!! For the past two years, this time of year always brings back vivid memories of 2009. All these dates are so ingrained in my head and I wish they would just escape my memory like so many other memories have. My friends and family all know that I have THE WORST memory. But some things, I will never forget. But this blog post is not all about breast cancer. In fact, my New Years resolution was to put breast cancer behind me and I am trying my hardest to do so.

Friday Feb 13th, 2009 – A long-awaited positive pregnant test, after YEARS of trying!!!! I had just landed from a two-week business trip from Brussels. I took a pregnancy test when I got home. The same kind I had taken hundreds of times over the past 3-4 years prior. A PLUS sign!!!! Dan was outside running. I was inside by the dining room window, peeking through the blinds, waiting for him to run up the driveway so I could tell him the great news. I was shaking. We shared the news immediately with our families, friends, co-workers. I wasn’t as much into facebook back then but I’m sure I would’ve posted a status update if I was. Most people wait until they’re through the first trimester. All I needed was the faintest + sign to announce it to the world. I don’t hold back very much.

The pregnancy didn’t last long though – only a couple of weeks. Not even long enough for them to induce any kind of procedure or pill. The doctor just checked my hormone levels, thought they seemed low and told me to come back in a few days. They tested them again a couple days later, nonchalantly called to say they dropped even more and I could cancel my ultrasound appt. That was their way of telling me I miscarried. They tried to console me by telling me how common it was for first pregnancies. I guess they forgot about the piles of medical records in my file, showing how long we had attempted and everything we went through to get to that point.

Skip past that emotional time to March 10, the Dr. Oz show, then March 17, my mammogram and ultrasound (not the kind to look for a baby). 12 biopsies occurred that day. Verbal diagnosis right on the spot. Pathology results confirmed on March 24 (my official “survivor” day as they call it). March 25, I turned 31. April 1, I started chemo. April 15, lost my hair. June 20, Nina’s wedding – walked down the aisle in front of 300 people in a WIG!! At least I had sympathy-forgiveness for getting so drunk at the wedding (I needed the confidence boost to able to stand in front of all those people and share my toast – in a wig – did I mention I was wearing a wig?!). July 15, my sixth and last chemo. August, surgery and the start of our adoption home study. October, 33 radiation treatments. November, just days after my last radiation (if I recall, it’s all getting fuzzy at this point) – we get the call about Aidan! November 21, we meet the Little Scrumptious for the first time. Come full circle, to Aidan’s official/legal adoption day – March 24. So March 24 marks my diagnosis (aka survivor day), and the day Aidan was legally our son (after passing all our social services visits). Talk about coming full circle!

I immediately realized all the infertility treatments, all the cancer crap, and so many other events brought us to becoming Aidan’s parents. I lectured all the lessons about finding the bright side in things, living and enjoying life, everything happens for a reason, not to dwell on things, blah blah blah. I’ve heard the same thing from so many cancer survivors. But I sit here today, reminded again about those lessons but I have a slightly different outlook now. We almost lost our dog Shelby this week. We have 5 animals, a 2 year old, and 2 full-time jobs now. We often complain about the animals and stress of the hectic daily routine. When I had cancer, I looked at everyone else and thought their worries nowhere near compared. I thought you’re having a bad hair day? Try being bald. I thought, you’re complaining of a cold or being tired? Try feeling like you’ve had every sickness in your entire life accumulated into one week and being sick with it all at the same time. I thought, you’re 80 and dying? Be thankful you’re not 30! I compared my suffering to others and thought everything else was trivial in comparison. But I take that all back now. I do get annoyed in traffic. I don’t like having bad hair days. I think it’s just as scary and sad to lose someone who has lived all their years compared to just 30. You’re allowed to be annoyed. You’re allowed to be sad. You’re allowed to pout. You don’t have to be happy all the time. That’s life. Life isn’t about always being happy and living every moment to the fullest and finding the bright side in everything. Some things just don’t have bright sides – or it just takes some time to find them and you have to go through the rough times to see them. I’ve changed my outlook to acknowledge that living life to its fullest means living each moment for what it is. Good or bad. Happy or sad.

Shelby went into liver failure this past week and I immediately thought back to an earlier prayer where I asked God to alleviate some of the stress imposed by our pets. After about $2,500 of tests and hospital vet bills, we were told a $3,000 exploratory surgery was our only option to find the cause for what was making our poor little Shelby so sick – but the procedure was costly and wasn’t a guarantee. They said they may come to a point in the surgery where they’d call and advise not waking her up. They said it could go the other way and find something fixable and she comes home. But we just didn’t know. I cried all week (mostly when alone or driving – but also in front of a couple of co-workers – I’m not normally a public crier). We didn’t think twice and opted for the surgery. I needed to know we did everything we could. I couldn’t lose Shelby. When I went to visit her the night before her surgery, I gave her a hug, shed some tears, whispered in her ear that I loved her, and prayed to God for her recovery. He answered my earlier prayers – I just didn’t see His answer until now. She came out of surgery and is doing great, We brought her home on Sunday and she is sitting at my feet as I write this post. I know God healed her. His advice or the lesson I took from this – I need to enjoy the good, and the bad. That is life. For every lick and moment of cuddle time, there will be a poop pile or bark complaint from a neighbor. For every gracious welcome at the door or cute picture that makes me smile, there will be a throw up pile or ruined corner of a new Pottery Barn pillow. That’s life. Enjoy it. Live it. All of it. It’s a cheesy analogy, I know, but that is my current outlook on life, which seems to change every year now. Maybe next year, I’ll have a new revelation. 😉 Not that you probably care, but if you’ve read this far, maybe you do.

Some other exciting news for today – we found out Nina (my sister) is having twin boys (due in August)! This was also the month Dan’s dad passed away last year. I see him in Dan every day and am thankful for that. He was a great man who truly knew how to live life.

LIFE……lots of ups………but also some downs. Try to enjoy or find the blessing in all of them. If you can’t, live through them the best you can and wait for the next blessing to come your way.

Ally Race for the Cure – My Personal Story

My company asked me to share my breast cancer journey to provide a “story” behind the “cause” for our Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® team this year.  Thought I’d share it here too – in case you get encouraged to donate or join our team!!  The first part below was written by someone else (didn’t want anyone thinking I refer to myself as a princess – ha).

Charlotte’s Ally Team Honorarium for Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure®: Danielle Murray’s Story

Danielle Murray works in Audit Services and has been with Ally since November 2010. She was diagnosed with a high risk and aggressive form of breast cancer in 2009 at the age of 30. She is sharing her story with VAN Charlotte to provide a story behind the cause. She is a “princess warrior” – a courageous woman who didn’t have the standard risk factors for breast cancer and went misdiagnosed for almost a year, resulting in her cancer being very aggressive by the time it was finally diagnosed. Her journey took her down many roads. Now in remission, Danielle – a wife, mother, daughter, sister, co-worker – hopes that by sharing her story with VAN Charlotte, she will encourage participation and support for Ally’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® team this year. At a minimum, she hopes it raises awareness that breast cancer can strike at any age and to never listen to a doctor who tells you a lump is nothing to worry about, even when you have no risk factors at all.  [See below] to read Danielle’s story in her own words.

Please support Ally’s Team for the Charlotte Komen Race For The Cure this year! Join Danielle Murray and our team to run, walk or even Sleep-In For The Cure®. Donations are also welcomed! As a part of the Ally team, for every dollar you raise, Ally will match up to $10,000!  For more information, please check out our Team site at http://charlotte.info-komen.org/goto/ally.

Charlotte’s Ally Team Honorarium for Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure®: Danielle Murray’s Story

My name is Danielle Murray. I work in Audit Services and have been an Ally employee since November 2010. I was diagnosed with a high risk and aggressive form of breast cancer (HER2+ Invasive Ductal Carcinoma) in 2009 at the age of 30. I was honored when I was asked to share my story with Ally’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® team and the Charlotte VAN to provide a story behind the cause. Susan G. Komen for the Cure® is the global leader of the breast cancer movement and has become the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer. Ally has established a goal of raising $10,000 this year for this worthy cause.

Women under the age of 40 generally do not consider themselves to be at risk for breast cancer; however, I am proof that breast cancer can strike at any age. Some of the risk factors for developing breast cancer at a young age include a personal or family history of breast cancer, evidence of a genetic defect, heavy alcohol use or obesity. I had none of the risk factors, yet I got cancer anyway. Because of my age and lack of apparent risk factors, I went misdiagnosed for almost a year, resulting in my cancer being very aggressive by the time it was finally diagnosed.

It started in July of 2008, when I found what I described as a ripple in my right breast. My doctor assured me it was nothing to worry about. About 8 months later, in February 2009, a lump appeared under my arm. A different doctor assured me both were nothing to worry about. I became pregnant a few weeks earlier and was told that they were cysts from the pregnancy and completely normal. Two weeks later, I miscarried. The lumps did not go away. I asked about them again and was told a third time not to worry – they may take some time to go away. After years of fertility issues, I was more wrapped up emotionally in the miscarriage than I was worrying about the lumps.

On March 10, 2009, I heard Dr. Oz talking about medical mistakes on Oprah. He mentioned a case where they switched two women’s mammogram scans – one had breast cancer and the other did not. These two women went about their lives – one started chemo and had surgery to remove her healthy breasts, and the other went about her life while the cancer grew inside her. This story was my wake-up call to insist on a mammogram.

My doctor assured me it wasn’t necessary but ordered it anyway after I insisted. I scheduled the mammogram for March 17, 2009 and was told that day it looked like cancer. They immediately performed a needle biopsy. I anxiously awaited the pathology results and received the call with the confirmed diagnosis on March 24, 2009, the day before my 31st birthday. After many scans and tests, they could clearly see four tumors – two in my breast (which is why they felt like a ripple instead of a lump) and two in my lymph nodes. Later, following surgery, they stated it was evident there were more we just couldn’t see.

Breast cancer is “staged” on a scale of Stage 0 to Stage 4. Stage 4 is considered incurable. Mine was borderline Stage 3. I was told I had a 40% chance of “disease free survival” and needed to start on chemotherapy immediately – there was no time to prepare and no time to recover from having surgery first. The doctors’ primary goal was to prevent it from spreading anywhere else.

I started on three different kinds of high dose chemotherapy on April 1, 2009, lost my hair about two weeks later and continued receiving chemotherapy and/or intravenous hormone therapy until I reached a year out from diagnosis. This amounted to about 66 hours sitting in the infusion room over the course of 52 weeks, a humbling experience at every visit. Immediately following chemotherapy, I had surgery to remove the remaining cancer and then underwent 7 weeks of daily radiation treatments. My husband Dan (also an Ally employee), mom, dad and sisters were by my side through the whole process.

Thanks to my just-in-time diagnosis and an aggressive treatment plan, I am now in remission. As I began the road to recovery and my prognosis improved (from 40% to a 90% chance of “disease free survival”), my husband and I adopted a baby boy. I won’t be able to become pregnant for another 3 ½ years while I finish 5 years of Tamoxifen treatment (a daily breast cancer pill that interferes with estrogen production). While I would never call cancer a “gift” as some cancer survivors do, I recognize that it brought us to our son and allowed us to finally complete our family (or at least got us started – we look forward to adopting again possibly next year).

I hope by sharing my story with you all, you will be encouraged to provide support to Ally’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® team this year. At a minimum, I hope it makes you more aware that breast cancer can strike at any age and to never to listen to a doctor (or two doctors in my case) who tells you a lump is nothing to worry about, even when you have no risk factors at all.

Here is a link to my personal page: 

http://charlotte.info-komen.org/site/TR?px=5312878&pg=personal&fr_id=2256&et=nmLRsS4y8UvelzeVqzeDpw..&s_tafId=71059

A Post From My Friend Laura

The following blog post was posted today by someone who has become a really close friend of mine.  She is a fellow survivor who is battling breast cancer as we speak.  Her own blog is posted to the left.

What A Difference Two Years Makes…21 Jul

The picture below was taken less than two years ago. It is a picture of me with Danielle Murray, my friend, who was fighting breast cancer at the time of the picture. She was diagnosed just before her 30th birthday and her diagnosis and prognosis was scary. Her blog link is to the right side of my blog if you are interested in reading about her story.

We honored her as our Warrior Princess mascot at the 2009 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk along with several other survivors. I watched Danielle, from a distance, while she fought against breast cancer. I didn’t know her very well (I knew her Mom better) but I kept up with her blog and was humbled by her strength, her dignity, and her spirit as she fought her battle. Danielle had many rounds of chemo, 12 months of herceptin, 5 (on-going)years of tamoxifen, radiation, and a lumpectomy – not in that order. Every time I was around Danielle she was smiling, she was honest about her fight and her side effects, but most of all she was optimistic and strong. I remember thinking how amazing she was because she was just going about her life, working when she could, and living life around cancer the best way she knew how. I also remember wondering how I would handle myself in her position. Would I be in the corner crying, balled up, feeling horrible, whining, and repeating over and over “why me?” Danielle not only fought her battle and won, she and her hubby Dan were able to adopt a precious infant in November 2009 as she put breast cancer behind her and became a Mom.

So fast forward almost two years to early 2011. I was writing some vague comments on my facebook about finding a lump and having a diagnostic mammogram and asking for prayers. Out of the blue I get an email from Danielle that says “are you freaking kidding me – you???” – this was the beginning of a deeper friendship. Danielle has texted me, emailed me, facebooked me, had lunch with me, and called me – millions of times. She has offered non-stop support, advice, and comparisons, she has offered to go wiglet shopping with me – hat shopping – and asked if I needed rides to chemo appointments or any other appointments. There is nothing off-limits to discuss when it comes to side effects or surgical questions with Danielle. She has been relentless in the pursuit of answers and research for breast cancer. So for me, she was a huge, HONEST, library of knowledge.

Last night was my Pink Drink party to celebrate the end of chemo and Danielle was one of the first people there. She didn’t know anyone – but yet, she came, to support me and celebrate with the rest of us – NO MORE CHEMO ! I kept looking at her last night and thinking to myself how beautiful she looks, her hair has grown back in, she is tan (sunscreen Danielle – sunscreen), she looks so healthy and her smile lights up the room. I kept thinking that maybe that will be me in two years (without the tan of course). I know she worries about recurrence because we have talked about it many times. Having cancer once leaves you with a small dent in your amour, a small question mark for your future, and every time you have aches, pains, or a persistent cough, your mind wonders…..I know this not only because my breast cancer friends have told me, but I lived through it watching and worrying over my Mom. So, mainly I wanted to thank Danielle for being such a strong and positive role model. She showed us all back then how you CAN handle being diagnosed with cancer. Had I not had her as a role model I probably would be piled in the corner, drooling, crying, asking “why me”, depressed and devastated.

What a difference two years makes, she was sick, she fought, she won, she became a Mom, she is now healthy and beautiful; I got married, I blended my family with Kevin’s, I was diagnosed, I am/was sick, now I am battling the same battle with some of the same treatments as Danielle. As I watched her last night, I could not help but hope and pray that I will be in her spot two years from now. Healthy, happy, healed, and supporting someone else thru this dreadful fight. I truly believe it’s all about faith, hope, strength, and helping someone else…I know that God is going to use my diagnosis for good. Somehow. I thank God that He placed Danielle in my life two years ago – she has been one heck of a chemo friend. I firmly believe that every chemo patient needs someone, who has been through it already, to be really honest with them about what they can expect, like Danielle was with me.

I thought these two pictures would capture what I am trying to say better than I am saying it. Because you just never know when you are going to be in someone else’s “hat”.

House Episode Anyone?

Thought I’d share a week in the life of a breast cancer survivor…….

So the drama started Monday at lunch when all of a sudden my armpit started hurting.  It started off as a dull soreness.  I immediately assumed it was lymphadema and called my oncologist. 

Lymphedema (or lymphatic obstruction) is a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system.  It’s basically the biggest risk factor from having all my axillary lymph nodes removed during my surgery.  Not all breast cancer patients have their lymph nodes removed.  I did because they tested positive for cancer metastatsis at my original diagnosis biopsy.

My oncologist said that since there wasn’t any swelling, it probably wasn’t that but that I should call my oncology surgeon because it could be some delayed injuries from surgery or something.  I had already received a letter in the mail reminding me to schedule my followup so I thought I’d just wait for that. 

Like an hour later, the pain started getting much worse and was spreading down my arm.  Pretty soon after that, my whole arm was very sore and very achy.  I could barely raise it and by mid afternoon I couldn’t raise it much past my shoulder without feeling like I was pulling something.  Then all of a sudden this weird rash appeared.  I called my oncologist back.  I usually start with them because, like I said in prior posts, every time anything medical pops up now, I want to immediately rule out any possibilities that the cancer is back no matter how randomly related (or unrelated) the symptoms.  They said it didn’t sound oncology related but suggested I go to the ER.  I decided to wait a few hours to see if it got better.  I don’t like being over dramatic and rushing to the ER for everything, even though it was a very strange presentation of symptoms.

It was still the same by the time I got home so I called my family phyisician to see what they thought.  Since it wasn’t oncology related, I thought my family physician would know best if I should be concerned.  I talked to the on-call doctor after hours and they suggested the ER too.  They were concerned it might be a blood clot.

So off to the ER I went Monday night around 8pm.  I was there until about 12am.  They thought it might a blood clot too so they ordered a full neck/arm sonogram.  They also ordered a CBC (complete blood count) for the rash.  The sonogram took forever because they were looking at all the large veins all the way up and down.  It ended up coming back normal.  The blood test came back and showed my white blood cells were slightly elevated so they said it was probably cellulitis (a generalized medical term for tissue infection).  They gave me a perscription and told me to follow up with my family physician if it got worse.  The concern was that I didn’t have any lymph nodes to fight off the infection so taking the medicine was very important.

The rash got worse over the next two days (even while taking the medicine they gave me) so I scheduled a followup with my family physician.  He was puzzled and said the rash was concerning but that it didn’t compare with the distribution for other common rashes.  They drew some blood too, reran my CBC, and did a couple other tests to rule out some other rash symptom type things.  He said he “hoped” it was shingles because if not it might be some sort of tick borne infectious disease like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  Good grief was all I thought at that point and felt like I should be on an episode of House.  They gave me two new meds and told me to stop taking the other one. 

So this morning, they called and asked me to come back in.  They said the shingles test came back normal so it wasn’t shingles.  That would have been concerning if the rash was still getting worse, but it wasn’t.  He actually said he was very pleased with how everything looks today (almost back to normal), and basically, the conclusion of the story is that the doctors are completely stumped (my doctor had even called in another doctor for a second opinion) and they just plain don’t know what it is/was.  I talked to another breast cancer survivor though who mentioned that this was common when you have no lymph nodes.  Every time you get a cut or something on that arm, there’s no telling how your arm will respond.  Well, that’s that I guess. 😉 

So that was at 11:30 this morning.  After that, I grabbed lunch and then was off to my next 6 month mammogram – yippee!  I waited for a while because I was early and then finally got called back.  The technician stepped out and said she’d be right back.  Of course, I freaked inside.  She came back in and said the doctor wanted to take a few more pictures.  What the hell does that mean?!  She said not to worry, it didn’t mean anything, he just wanted to get a few more (of course I didn’t believe her).  After that, they walked me down to a private waiting room with a couch and asked me to wait there for the Radiologist.  They don’t normally do that so of course I was freaking again.  Then the Radiologist came in.  They never come in unless it’s bad news – at least that’s been my experience.  He sat down and said “well, everything looks great, we’ll see you back in 6 months!”  And that’s the end of that story.

So basically, after all that, I’m fine.  Mom needs a vacation and a big fat drink but I’m fine.  🙂

TWO YEAR MILESTONE

This week was my TWO YEAR survivor milestone and 33rd birthday!  So let me start this blog post with a couple distinguishing points of reference regarding some cancer terminology. 

First, many people don’t know this but a survivor milestone is actually the anniversary from the date of one’s “diagnosis”.  You are considered a “survivor” even if you still have cancer.  The fact that you are “living” makes you a “survivor”.  I thought it would be measured from the time you were “cured”, but I guess there is no “cure” for cancer so you’re referred to as a “survivor” from the time you are diagnosed. 

Which brings me to another area of common question – the difference between cancer “cure” and cancer “remission”.  Doctors almost never use the term “cure”; rather, they usually talk about “remission”.  Complete remission means that there are no symptoms or signs that can be identified to indicate the presence of cancer.  However, even when someone is in remission, there may be microscopic cancer cells that cannot be identified by current techniques (e.g., mammogram, MRI).  This means that even if a person is in remission, they may, at some future time, experience a recurrence of their cancer. 

Doctors often refer to 5-year or 10-year cure rate for breast cancer. What they really mean by this is a 5- or more year remission rate.  The longer the remission time lasts, the greater the possibility that the cancer actually has been cured, but there are cases of cancer recurrence many, many years after remission begins so the worry never goes away.

When I was first diagnosed, I was borderline stage 2B / 3A (on a scale of 0 – 4).  At that time, my oncologist gave me a 40% chance of beating the cancer – or a 60% chance of not.  The grim prognosis was due to certain high risk factors, including the type of cancer, fact that it had already spread to my lymph nodes, my young age, HER2+ status, grade 3 tumors (3 is the worst; not to be confused with “stage”), etc.  After chemo and surgery, I had a small amount of the cancer left, and at that time my oncologist improved my prognosis (I don’t recall the percentage but I think it was 10-20%).  Anyway, so now I’m considered in remission. 🙂

I had my annual MRI last month and everything came back clear so that was a huge relief.  I have my 6-month mammogram in a couple weeks.  I understand MRI’s pick up more detail than mammograms so I questioned why I had to have a mammogram so soon after my MRI but they said a mammogram looks at things differently and both scans are important.  So we’ll wait and see. 

Well, I don’t have too much more to say.  Well, except that yet another one of my friends has recently been diagnosed.  She has a blog too.  You should check it out (read her About Me section):  http://laurarenegar.wordpress.com/ I thought I knew all there was to know about breast cancer after being so ingrained in it for the past two years, but I learned quickly from reading her blog that I don’t. 

Oh and one last thing, a couple posts down I whined about no longer getting flowers (in my post about the differences between life as a cancer patient and life as a survivor)……well, Mom got me flowers for my birthday.  🙂  Thanks Mom!  I love you!

Life as a Survivor

 (Note: If this is your first time visiting my page, thank you for your concern and support. You may want to read the pages to the left first (My Story, About Me, My Dr. Oz / Oprah Story, etc.), then read from below. My latest blog entries will feed to the top automatically. The most recent blog entries are also listed as links on the bottom left.)

Gosh, it has been forever since I last posted something!  That’s good news though because that means there’s no personal cancer news to share!  

I actually wrote part of this post a while ago but never published it.  Thought I’d post it now.

Life as a “survivor” is definitely different than life as a “cancer patient”.  I never expected to change as much as I think I have, but it’s true, cancer changes you. 

Before cancer, I never thought twice about the chance of not living into my golden senior years.  Now, I look at older people and think they don’t know how lucky they are to have lived such a long life.   I was looking at an old women parked next to me yesterday at a traffic light.  She was hanging her hand out the window flicking her cigarette out into the 20 degree weather and I couldn’t help but wonder why she hasn’t gotten cancer and I did.  I’ll never know why I got cancer and don’t wish it upon anyone but I am glad about where it has brought me in my life today and can be thankful for some of the things it brought me – like Aidan! 

Before cancer, I was a tad uptight about certain things.  For example, I never said curse words unless I was so mad I couldn’t hold them back, and then I felt bad afterwards like I had disobeyed and belonged in the corner.  Now, I swear just a little more, but usually just in a joking manner to be funny or light-hearted.  It feels weird to say these words sometimes (since I’ve never been a cusser) but then I think to myself, who gives a shit if you throw in a curse word here or there, does it really make you a bad person?  No.  Well, I guess if you swore every other word or in a nasty tone – then maybe. 😉 

Before cancer, I never worried about my health.  Now, I am a hypochondriac and every little pain worries me that the cancer is back or something else is.  You would laugh and think I was crazy if I told you all of my worries.  For example, I broke my toe earlier this year getting Aidan’s stroller out of the trunk in the rain.  I asked Dr. Limentani if that could mean bone cancer, because the bones are the most common place for breast cancer to spread (beyond the lymph nodes where my cancer had already metastasized).  He laughed and said it would be the first time he’s heard of breast cancer spreading to the pinky toe.  Another time, I felt a weird lump in my neck and questioned whether it could be another malignant lymph node.  The nurse told me it was my vein.  These are laughable things now but you’ll never know unless you’re in this position how your mind can worry about every little thing – especially since the doctors told me not to worry for so long.

Before cancer, I filled out medical forms during doctor’s visits and had a pretty clean questionnaire.  Now, I have to “continue on the back of the page” to explain all my medical woes and surgeries. 

Before cancer, I was proud to be an organ donor.  Now, I feel disciminated against for not being allowed to be an organ donor or blood donor.   I guess I understand but it’s yet another reminder.

Before cancer, I had long thin hair.  Now, I have short poofy thick hair that is grows into a mullet if I don’t cut the bottom when the top starts to catch up.

Before cancer, I never had any lingering issues to worry about.  After cancer, I have to worry about things like lymphedema, axillary web syndrome, neuropathy, bloody noses, cognitive dysfunction (chemo brain), capsulectomy surgery, followup appointments, painful mammograms, etc.   

Before cancer, I never met my out-of-pocket maximum for my health insurance.  Now, every year, I spend about $3,500 on medical expenses after insurance and have definitely earned my fair share of medical benefits. 

Before cancer, I obsessed about my fertility and tried my hardest to control my destiny by undergoing fertility treatments to get pregnant.  After cancer, I look back on my miscarriage and know that baby saved my life and realize more than ever that “whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” 

Before cancer, I would have been devastated to realize I would never get pregnant.  After cancer, I am so thankful for my Little Scrumptious Aidan, wouldn’t change anything and could care less about not being able to get pregnant, since I would rather give Aidan another adopted sibling because now it’s all about him.

Now for some acknowledged differences between life as a cancer patient and life as a cancer survivor…..

As a cancer patient, people checked on me every day and flowers showed up at my door step weekly.  As a cancer survivor, I don’t get any flowers.  What’s up with that?! 😉

As a cancer patient, I had no hair, and my eye brows and eye lashes were dwindling every day.  As a cancer survivor, I have bad hair days again but am thankful for them because I know what they mean.

As a cancer patient, I was optimistic that I would be cured.  As a cancer survivor, I worry it’ll come back.

As a cancer patient, I visited the oncologist’s office or went to a related scan or appointment 75+ times, each time feeling that I was fighting as hard as I could.  As a cancer survivor, I only visit the oncologist every three months, each time in between worried that I’m not doing enough anymore. 

Well that’s all I can think of for now I guess.   Latest cancer related news – I had a surgery a couple weeks ago to remove internal scar tissue that had formed from the radiation treatments (it wasn’t a big deal and the recovery was much easier than I expected).  I also have what seems to be permanent neuropathy in my back (also from the radiation) – it’s basically a tingling/vibrating sensation in this one spot that’s due to nerve damage from radiation (yep, it beams through all the way through the back – powerfull stuff).  Still taking my Tamoxifen (pills I’m taking for 5 years for the estrogen receptor positive status).  Last mammogram came back clear.  Next mammogram and MRI will be in March.  That’ll be my two year mark.  That’s the highest risk period for recurrence so I’ll be happy once I get past that point.  I’ve been reading a lot of breast cancer memoirs on my Kindle (which I love) this summer, including Nancy Brinker’s Promise Me.  There are so many things about Nancy Brinker that I didn’t know.  It’s surreal reading a book written by someone I’ve met (well at least met over the phone/radio).   Other than all that, and my continuous hypochondriac self, I’m marching on with life.  Other personal events going on in my life are Nina and Waylon having their baby, me getting a new job (working downtown now), Aidan turning one, and Natalie getting married soon.    Lots going on and loving every minute of it all!

No More Wiggies!

 (Note: If this is your first time visiting my page, thank you for your concern and support. You may want to read the pages to the left first (My Story, About Me, My Dr. Oz / Oprah Story, etc.), then read from below. My latest blog entries will feed to the top automatically. The most recent blog entries are also listed as links on the bottom left.)

For the last 365 days, I have either worn a hat……….a wiggie……………or a hat/wiggie combination.  I had to walk down the isle in Nina’s wedding in front of 300 people wearing a stupid wiggie.  I think I’m probably known as the hat girl on my new floor at work, and the trash guy asks me every day if I am cold.  But no more!  This weekend Neeta (my hair dresser) came over to my house and highlighted my hair for the first time in over a year.  My first chemo last year was on April 1st.  I lost my hair a couple weeks after that and have been wearing hats and wiggies ever since.  I have finally gotten up enough nerve and my hair is finally at a length that is semi ok to present in public.  I would not cut it this short by choice but it’s presentable enough to say sayonara to the wiggies and hats!  

Last Treatment / One Year Survival Milestone / 32nd Birthday

 (Note: If this is your first time visiting my page, thank you for your concern and support. You may want to read the pages to the left first (My Story, About Me, My Dr. Oz / Oprah Story, etc.), then read from below. My latest blog entries will feed to the top automatically. The most recent blog entries are also listed as links on the bottom left.)

Wow, can you believe it’s been a year?!  This week, I celebrated my one year survival milestone, my last on site treatment, and my 32nd birthday.  I remember sitting in the parking lot of University Hospital last year, crying on the phone to my mom and Dan, telling them for the first time that the radiologists thought I had cancer.  At that time, everyone was still optimistic and expecting the best – that I didn’t have cancer.  But I knew.  I knew I had it.  And I was worried.  Worried for what lied ahead, worried I had let it go undetected for too long, worried about how it would change my life, and yes, worried about death.  Little did I know, a year later, I would be in a better place – the best place I’ve been in in my entire life – a survivor, a mother, and the happiest I’ve ever been (even without hair). 

This Wednesday, March 24, 2010, marked one year since I got the pathology results.  I remember that day like it was yesterday.  I got out of my car, approached the oncology surgeon’s waiting room, turned the door knob and heard my cell phone ring.  I had been waiting for the call and knew it was them before I even looked at the caller id.  The news was what I expected.  Cancer.  You hear it all the time and for many it’s your worst fear.  For me, it was my new reality.

My family, friends, acquaintances, and people I’ve met along the way have been the best.  I couldn’t have gotten through it without you.  For Christmas, I gave my mom a charm from Things Remembered.  It was a silver oval with a breast cancer ribbon charm hanging in front of it.  I had “Together We Fought” engraved on the front and “I love you Mom” engraved on the back.  Today, at my one year survivor dinner at Nina’s house, my mom gave me the same charm, with “Surrounded by Love” engraved on it.  From Nina and Natalie, I got all my blog entries bound in a story book, including everyone’s comments and personal messages.  Both were such thoughtful gifts that I’ll treasure forever.  I was reading through some of my old blog posts tonight.  It was weird reading what I wrote at certain times.  I think the “chemo brain” has stuck around because there were many things I don’t remember.  But what I do remember is all the support and love I received along the way.  I truly was “surrounded by love”.  Thank you all so much for following my story and sharing in my journey. 

I had a mammogram on Wednesday before my last Herceptin appointment.  It came back clear, just like my MRI a couple weeks ago so that was nice to hear.  Happy Birthday to me!  🙂  My last appointment went great.  Mom came with me.  I sat next to a girl I had met in there a couple months ago.  She was getting her “big” chemo and had lost her hair since the last time I saw her.  It seems like a long time ago when I was going through that.  My hair is still growing back but it still looks atrocious and still too short to let anyone see it.  It was pretty crowded in there this time.  It seemed to be slow over the winter and has picked up again like last summer.  Almost every chair was full again (25 chairs, so around 50 people in there).  The usual mix of people again.  A young girl my age next to me, with her mom by her side.  An older man on the other side, with his elderly wife by his.  All of the nurses congratulated me for being done and cancer free.  It’s weird that I will no longer have to visit the infusion room.  I’ll still go back every three months to see Dr. Limentani and have mammograms and MRI’s every six months, but I won’t have to sit in the infusion room chair anymore.  No more IVs in my arm.  No more cold cancer drugs going into my body, and no more bad memories of eating popsicles and feeling sick.  But I will miss meeting my mom for lunch so often and enjoying her company by my side on those so many Wednesdays over the past year.   

So now, going forward, I’ll see my oncologist every three months for check ups for the first year, every four months the second year, and every six months after that, for eight years.  I’ll also be on Tamoxifen pills for five years, which I started after radiation and haven’t had any side effects from.  I’ll update my blog periodically with the results from my latest scans.  It’s weird to say I’m “in remission” now.  I prefer to say I’m “cancer free”.  “Remission” sounds like that means it’s going to come back at some point.  I don’t think that way.  Nope, I like to say I’m “cancer free”. 🙂 

Well, I’ll close out for now with my latest “My Life in Numbers” stats.  🙂

1.  75+ doctor appointments

2.  1 CAT scan

3.  1 bone scan

4.  3 MRI’s

5.  3 mammograms (including the surprise Voodoo needle one before my surgery)

6.  15 biopsy samples taken

7.  6 “big” chemo cycles

8.  30 Herceptin treatments

9.  66 hours of IV treatments

10.  $300,000 in insurance claims

11.  $8,500+ spent out-of-pocket on medical expenses

12.  30 minutes of Dr. Oz XM/Sirius radio air time

13.  8 wiggies purchased (5 worn, 1 liked)

14.  2 of my pictures on the set of Oprah’s Dr. Oz tribute show and 2 Oprah tickets for a different show

15.  1 new puppy

16.  2 new cars (SC 430 convertible / Acrua RL)

17.  6 sets of Chemo Eve presents

18.  30 chemo popsicles

19.  150,000 hairs lost (resulting in about $1,000 saved from the hair salon)

20.  165 shaves/shampoos/conditions/drys/stylings avoided (that’s about 55 hours of getting ready time!!)

21.  365+ days of wearing a wiggie or hat – BLAH!

22.  2,000+ miles driven to/from doctor appts

23.  3 tumors dissolved!!!!!

24. 2 lymph nodes testing positive for cancer before chemo

25. 0 lymph nodes testing positive for cancer after chemo

26.  33 radiation treatments

27.  165 radiation blasts (5 per visit)

28.  1 lumpectomy surgery

29.  1 lymph node dissection surgery

30.  9 lymph nodes removed (all I had left after chemo)

31. 3 breast cancer walks

32.  $15,000+ raised by team for ACS breast cancer walk

33.  #10 for top personal fundraiser for ACS breast cancer walk

34.  17,732+ blog hits

35.  5 new friends made in the chemo room / wig shop

36.  1 introduction to Nancy Brinker

37.  2 barely visible surgery scars

38.  1,825 Tamoxifen pills to be taken

39.  5 years of not being able to get pregnant, but no worries, because…….

40.  1 new Little Scrumptious baby!!!!! 🙂

Latest Pics :)

Latest MRI and Only Two Herceptin Appts Left!

 (Note: If this is your first time visiting my page, thank you for your concern and support. You may want to read the pages to the left first (My Story, About Me, My Dr. Oz / Oprah Story, etc.), then read from below. My latest blog entries will feed to the top automatically. The most recent blog entries are also listed as links on the bottom left.)

Gosh, it’s been quite a long time since my last post!  I guess that’s good news, since there’s not much to update anymore these days.  Aidan, our new adopted son, is doing great!  He’s so cute!  I posted some pics below.  Motherhood is wonderful and he’s such a good baby – already sleeping through the night and never cries!  My sister, Natalie, had her baby (girl, 6lbs, 13 oz, Marley Ava) last week so Aidan now has a little cousin on my side of the family!  🙂  Natalie’s labor went great and I was so proud of her at how she handled herself that day.  Since I went back to work on Feb 15, Natalie’s been watching Aidan for us at our house during the day, so that’s been nice.  And now that Marley is here, Aidan and Marley will be able to play together.  Both of them are so cute.  We set up a nursery for Marley at our house too so I got to decorate a girl’s room, which was fun. 

Hmmmm, cancer related…….I had an MRI recently and it came back CLEAR so that was reassuring!  I only have 2 Herceptin treatments left – March 3 and March 24, which is my one year mark from when I was first diagnosed last year.  Gosh, it went by quick and a lot has happened since then!  I’m still taking the Tamoxifen (and will continue to do so for 5 years).  No side effects from that, except fertility related, but I can honestly say that the adoption was just as fulfilling and exciting as I imagine birthing a baby would be.  I couldn’t imagine loving Aidan any more than I do now.

My hair is growing back still and my hair dresser comes to my house now to trim and color it.  It came in really dark brown, which is my natural color, so I had my hair dresser highlight it right away.  We think it’ll be mid to late summer before I will feel comfortable enough to go without those.  It’s been almost a year since I’ve been wearing wiggies and/or hats – SO ready for those days to be over!  As soon as my bangs get to be normal bangs-length, I’ll probably retire the wiggies/hats. 

Well, here are some pics of Little Scrumptious!!

Revist to My Lessons Learned and Favorite Quotes and My First Haircut!!

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At the beginning of my cancer diagnosis, when I first started my blog, I had shared some lessons learned and favorite quotes with you.  I was looking back at that page today and was caught by some of my original words, thinking about where I am now.  Take a look at what I wrote for #3!!!!!!

April 3, 2009 (2 days after my first chemo and a week and a half after my diagnosis):  “Everything happens for a reason.  I think back at all the circumstances that got me to where I am today and I think of where this journey will take me in the future.  I know there is devine plan that is meant to be for me, and I will soon learn what that is someday.”

Wow, isn’t that crazy!?  What a journey it has been! 

Now for today – I have my first hair cut this morning!  The girl that does my hair is coming over to my house this morning to trim up my hair and possibly add some highlights!  It’s still too short to wear normal but I’m getting it ready!  It’s about an inch long, maybe an inch and a half  and obviously it’s coming in my natural color, which is pretty much BLACK, which I don’t like and have always highlighted since college.  Everyone said it would come back curly but mine’s not.  I never thought it would.  My hair has always been stick straight.  It’s definitely not growing as fast as Izzy’s on Grey’s Anatomy!  Hers grew back over a year’s worth of hair lenth in two episodes!  No fair no schmare.

Happy Thanksgiving! / Welcome Baby Aidan!

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Well, if you haven’t heard, our family has A LOT to be THANKFUL for this year!  Not only am I cancer free after all my treatments this year, our adoption has already happened!  After only a few WEEKS signed up with our adoption consultant (A Step Ahead) we have a NEW BABY BOY!  We got a call last week on Tuesday saying there was a birthmother in Colorado who had a baby on November 8, 2009 and the original adoptive parents fell through and they wanted to know if we were interested!  We of course were and submitted our profile right away.  The agency received our profile the next day and showed it to the birthmother, along with two other family profiles.  The birthmother chooses her adoptive family and we received a call on Thursday (11/19/09) morning around 11am saying we were her chosen family!   Ok, now let me pause on that point for a minute.  If you recall, or perhaps not, in entries past, I had mentioned several times how I kept looking at the time when it was 9:11 (signal of emergency), up until the time I was diagnosed in March.  I had taken it as a sign that something was wrong because as soon as I was diagnosed and receiving treatment, I started looking at the clock when it was 9:10, 9:12 or some other time.  That was my indication that the warning was over.  Then, our first potential adoption (we submitted our profile to another birthmother a couple weeks earlier) had a date of 9/11 linked with it (the birthmother’s initial doctor’s appt) and that one didn’t work out.  I thought it was another sign.  Then, this one comes up, and we learned we were the chosen family on 11/19  – or 9:11 backwards – our luck “turning around”!!!!!!!  I truly believe God had his hands in this little miracle!!!

We hurried to get things in order, including arranging maternity leave and work schedules, setting I’m sure random out-of-office replies at work, packing, signing contracts and documents, booking our tickets, arranging pet care (THANKS NINA!!!), shopping for preemie clothes, getting all our funds in order (adoption is quite expensive!) and we were on our way!!!  We arrived Saturday (Nov 21) and went straight to the hospital.  I was so nervous all morning and hadn’t slept all week, ever since we got the first call on Tuesday.  We had been trying to get pregnant for 4 years and the adoption was just in the beginning stages.  We were told to anticipate a year and were trying to be patient as we waited for that time to come.  We were thrilled to learn it would be so soon!!!  It was my dream adoption plan!!  I always dreamed we would have one of those stories where you get a call and fly out the next day.  I preferred this over being matched with a pregnant birthmother and having to wait for months until she delivered, worried the whole time she might change her mind.  I would have been a nervous wreck the whole time.  I knew this adoption was the right one for us, the moment we got the call that Tuesday.  Anyway, we arrived at the hospital on Saturday, met an agency worker in the lobby and were led into the room where our son was waiting for us.  He was being cuddled by his birthmother, who passed him to us right when we walked in.  She had spent every day at the hospital with him until our arrival and wanted to be the one to pass him to us.  It was such a sweet moment, and not as awkward as you would think.  Everything seemed so perfect.  We graciously accepted her gift and are so thankful for her choice.  We got the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the birthmother, which we really enjoyed. 

We named our little precious Aidan and we should be going home from the hospital with him tomorrow.  He’s testing his car seat out right now and doesn’t like it very much.  It’s the first we’ve heard him cry since we arrived (he is a very pleasant baby).  I’ll be out here another week while the Interstate Compact adoption stuff gets legalized and then I’ll be home.  Aidan’s original due date was 12/25 – what a perfect little Christmas present!  Here’s some pics:

Little Snuggle Bunny!

Proud Parents

Mommy and Aidan

He is THE CUTEST!

Daddy and Aidan!

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Our Happy Little Family!

 

Random Thoughts, 1 Week Post Radiation

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Well, it’s been almost a week (as of tomorrow) since my last day of radiation!  My skin healed super fast and I feel back to normal already, although I never really felt not-normal so I guess that’s why.  It’s weird now that everything’s done.  Well, I still have the every-three-week Herceptin IV visits, but with so much time in between appointments now, it just seems weird, almost like I’m done with everything, but not really.  It’s also weird thinking back on everything I’ve gone through the past 8 months.  I was watching Brothers and Sisters last night (recorded from Sunday) and Kitty, the girl on there who has lymphoma, started losing her hair after her first chemo cycle and it brought back many memories of that two week time period when mine was coming out daily in my hands, at my desk at work, in the shower, and at night in bed.  For me, I think it was easier going through it myself, than imagining someone else going through it or even thinking back on myself going through it.  For me, I never felt like it was a huge deal when I was right in the middle of everything, but now, looking back, it seems like it was.  I guess that’s good.  I guess staying busy, updating my blog and writing about it along the way, and having other things to occupy my time, like work, shopping for new cars and chemo presents, etc. helped too. And of course, all my family, friends and support.  Speaking of new cars, I got myself another one!  Call it my end-of-radiation present to myself!  I traded in my convertible, which I bought myself for Chemo Eve gift #5 (I think) for an Acura RL, to make room for a car seat ~ yay!  Last night on Brothers and Sisters, Kitty also mentioned how she was quitting chemo and going to try positive thinking alternatives instead.  I can only imagine how my family would have reacted if I had done that.  Geez.  She mentioned how the chemo was cold going into her body and how the Pregnazone (however you spell it) kept her up at night the nights after chemo.  I had all those side effects too but I never really thought they were that bad.  It’s interesting to see different perspectives, even if it is a fictional character.  Speaking of TV characters with cancer, it’s a little unfair how fast Izzy’s hair is growing back on Grey’s Anatomy.  Mine is about Dan’s length now and seems to have hit a plateau.  I’m so ready for the day to come where I feel comfortable enough to go sans the hat.  Still wearing the halo wiggie and hat to work every day.  Ugh.  Ok, that was a random, jumbled mess of thoughts, sorry.

DONE with Radiation! Phase III Complete!!

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Gosh, it’s been FOREVER since my last post!!  That’s kind of good I guess, since there hasn’t been many cancer updates to announce.  My daily radiation treatments are officially DONE after tomorrow!  They weren’t bad at all.  I never had any side effects the whole time, except my skin got really irritated and itchy the past few days.  I think I was allergic to the Aquafor gel they gave me to use.  I never got tired, even though they said I would, so that was good too.  The worst part of radiation was just that it was EVERY day for the past 6 1/2 weeks, minus the weekends.  It was a pain having to get dressed in the morning, drive to my appt, get undressed, have the radiation, get dressed again, drive 45 minutes to work, work, drive 45 minutes home, then repeat in 12 hours.  But it’s over now.  Tomorrow marks the  end of what I call phase III.  Phase I was the chemo (April 1 – July 15), phase II was surgery (August 10) and phase III was radiation (September 21 – November 4).  Now all I have left is continuing with my every-three-week Herceptin IV hormone treatments (April 2009 – April 2010), and I start on Tomaxifen soon, which are estrogen blocker pills that I’ll take for 5 years.  There are no significantly noticeable side effects for Herceptin or Tomaxifen so that hard parts are over. 

Now for an update on our adoption.  Well, first, as a reminder, the Tomaxifen pills that I’ll be taking cause birth defects (since estrogen is an important pregnancy hormone) and it’s not in my best interest to get pregnant anyway since my tumors had estrogen receptors in them (i.e., estrogen makes the cancer grow/spread), so the first time Dan and I would be able to get pregnant is after 5 years, when I’ll be off Tomaxifen.  We have therefore decided to adopt, especially since we had so many years of fertility issues in the past, and even after 5 years, we may not be able to get pregnant anyway.  Although, some more good news to share on that subject is that I had an annual exam with my gynecologist and my fertility appears normal!  I am not menopausal (no more hot flashes either!), which is great!

Well, before I get into the adoption stuff, let me tell you about my latest chemo eve present to myself!  Well I guess this one isn’t a chemo eve gift, but moreso a radiation completion gift.  I got another new car!  Yes, I know, another one?  My last one I got as chemo eve gift #5 I think and it was a two seater Lexus convertible.  It was fun for the summer and gave me something to be excited about for that time.  Our adoption stuff is going much faster than we thought though, so we need to make more room for a car seat.  So last night I got a new (well new for me, it’s a 2006) Acura RL, much more pratcical for a family.  🙂  Our adoption is still underway. 

Ok, now for the adoption stuff……..Our home study is formally approved and we’re signed up with an adoption consultant.  Normally, with an adoption, you sign up with an “agency” and wait to get matched with a birthmother from that agency.  Agency costs are usualy between $25K – $40K.  We decided to pay a little extra for a consultant ($2,500) but it’s definitely worth it because the consulting firm we chose has working relationships with like 30 agencies, networking our profile to all of those agencies’ birhtmothers, usually resulting in faster matching/placement.  Then once you have a match, you sign up with that agency.  The good thing is that the process usually goes faster and you don’t sign up with an agency (and pay) until you’re already matched with a birthmother.  We’re meeting with our adoption consultant for the first time tonight to go through our working relationship, some adoption stuff, etc.  We’ve already been in contact several times by phone and email and have already seen 5 birthmother profiles, which are very interesting!  We get to see much more information than we thought.  They are often fascinating stories.  The process goes like this………

  • Our consultant knows what we’re looking for (domestic newborn/infant, boy or girl). 
  • As birthmothers become available through the 30 some agencies they network with, they are entered into a database that our adoption consultant reviews on a daily basis. 
  • Our consultant tells us about the birthmothers matching our criteria (the birthmothers also have their own criteria, e.g., race, married, age, etc.) and asks if we want to see their profile. 
  • We review the birthmother profiles and decide whether we want to pursue the “available situation”.  The birthmother profiles include information on the birthmother (age, weight, height, health, hair/eye color, etc.), information on the birthmother’s adoption story (why she’s adopting, history with adoption, etc.), her relationship with the birthfather (if any), whether she has health insurance (could significantly impact the cost), which agency she’s with, when her delivery date is, the estimated total costs (usually between $25k-$35K), etc.
  • Our consultant sends our adoption profile book to the birthmother’s agency/lawyer/etc.  I prepared our adoption profile book using Shutterfly and made it read like a hard bound story book.  Our consultant says our book is great and will really stand out, as most are done in Word or PDF and printed and placed inside those plastic business porfolio inserts.  Or they are manually prepared scrapbooks. 
  • The birthmother reviews the profiles books.  She usually gets between 3 and 10.  She decides who she wants to be her baby’s parents.
  • A match is made!  We sign up with whatever agency the birthmother is with, pay the fees and wait for the delivery date!

We got signed up with the consultant last Monday and our adoption profile book is already making its way to a birthmother today!  Keep your fingers crossed!  It could happen very fast!! 

Well, that’s about it I think for an update for now!  🙂  ~ Danielle

Half Way Done With Radiation!

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I’m just about half way done with radiation.  I’ll have 33 treatments in total and I’m done with 15 of them!  So far, I still don’t have any side effects so that’s great.  They said my skin would be red and irritated and I’d be really tired by now, but I’m not either.  The only thing I’d say is it’s annoying having to go every day, since I have a long commute to work afterwards and the earliest available appointment they have is 8:45am, which means I have to get up and start working from home, pack up my computer, drive to my appointment, then afterwards drive into the office, unpack my computer, by which time I get caught up on emails (most of my department is in Brussels so they’re already almost done with their work day by the time I get started with mine), and then it’s time for lunch.  I finish work after lunch, pack up my computer that evening and it starts all over the next morning.  Wwwfew!!!!!!  But other than that, everything’s good. 🙂  Alright, I’m off to the Panthers tailgate!!  Our first home-game-weekly TV tailgate!  We’re bringing a big screen TV, a generator, a wireless cable antenna, food, tables, chairs, etc.  We’re not going to the game, just tailgating.  🙂

Susan G. Komen Walk

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Today was the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure walk in uptown Charlotte.  Food Lion was one of the largest corporate sponsors (together with Yoplait) and I got to present the check on stage along with another survivor who I work with.  It was pretty neat!  I also got to meet DeAngelo Wiliams (his mom is a survivor) and got his autograph on my survivor shirt.  I also got my picture taken with Brother Fred, a local radio and TV celebrity.  The race was a special day.  I got to hold my survivor balloon and participate in the survivor ceremony, which was amazing.  It was a very nice morning.  And the weather is so beautiful today!  Thanks for coming out guys – Dan, Mom, Dad, Nina, Waylon, Courtney and Cindy!  🙂

Here is a link to some online videos.  WBTV was there filming live.  Our group is standing right near the scissor lift, where Molly (Charlotte newscaster), DeAngelo Williams and Amy Shue (Food Lion breast cancer survivor) are standing with the microphone.

http://www.wbtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=11249942

And a link to some pics below.  Mom is in pic #11 on the top right.  She’s wearing a pink hat and a pink hoodie.  You can barely see her but she’s on there! I’ve pasted that pic below.  🙂

www.charlotte.com - mom in top right corner!

http://www.charlotte.com - mom in top right corner (barely)!

 

Updated Milestones

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Here are some updated milestones as of today……my life in numbers again…….

1.  44 doctor appointments

2.  6 chemo cycles

3.  21 Herceptin treatments

4.  22 IV sticks

5.  $210,821.30 in insurance claims

6.  $5,000+ spent out of pocket (medical exps only; not including the Chemo Eve presents to myself, etc.) + $1,000 still owed

7.  30 minutes of Dr. Oz XM/Sirius radio air time

8.  8 wiggies purchased (5 worn)

9.  2 of my pictures on the set of Oprah’s Dr. Oz tribute show and 2 Oprah tickets for a different show

10.  1 new puppy

11.  1 new car

12.  6 sets of Chemo Eve presents

13.  25 chemo popsicles

14.  150,000 hairs lost (resulting in about $1,000 saved from the hair salon)

15.  165 shaves/shampoos/conditions/drys/stylings avoided (that’s about 55 hours of getting ready time!!)

16.  52.5 hours hooked up to IVs

17.  1,760 miles driven

18.  3 tumors dissolved!!!!!

19. 2 lymph nodes testing positive for cancer before chemo

20. 0 lymph nodes testing positive for cancer after chemo

21.  9 radiation treatments

22.  45 radiation blasts (5 per visit)

23.  1 lumpectomy surgery

24.  1 lymph node dissection surgery

25.  9 lymph nodes removed

26. 3 breast cancer walks

27.  $15,000+ raised by team for ACS breast cancer walk

28.  #10 for top personal fundraiser for ACS breast cancer walk

29.  24 radiation treatments left

30.  120 radiation blasts left

31.  9 Herceptin treatments left

32.  13.5 hours left of IVs

33.  14,417 blog hits

34.  3 close friends made in the chemo room

35.  1 radiation week #1 present

36.  1 introduction to Nancy Brinker

37.  1 adoption underway

38.  69 cards in the mail – thanks everyone!

39.  12 meals prepared and delivered for me – thanks everyone!

40.  And countless gifts – thanks everyone!

Thanks everyone so much for everything!! 🙂

My Dr. Oz XM Interview Airs This Week!!

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My XM Dr. Oz interview will be on this week – on Thursday!!  Here’s the write-up!!

“Kicking off breast cancer awareness month Dr. Oz shares the microphone with Nancy Brinker sister of the late Susan G. Komen and founder of The Race for The Cure. Also featured is Danielle Murray, a patient featured on The Oprah Show finale who discovered breast lump after listening to Dr. Oz episode. Its news you can use when it comes to breast cancer.”

Here’s the link to the program guide (it’s on at different times): http://www.xmradio.com/onxm/index.xmc

ACS Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk / Media Clip

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Well today was the much anticipated American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk!  Several thousands participated and it was the perfect day for it!  While the weather was a little misty, it was perfect (not too hot, not too cold).  Our team stayed strong at #3 for top donations and we had 116 walkers on our team!  Since I was our team’s mascot, our team leader Laura dressed me up in a tu-tu and gave me a wand to carry.  It was very cute.  Thanks Laura!  🙂 

Channel 9 news was there (WSOC TV).  The American Cancer Society called me on Thursday and asked me to go to the media tent before the walk started because they had been asked to suggest a good survivor story and wanted me to share my story. I wasn’t going to go into all the details but I did have a short little interview.  It didn’t make TV but I did make it to an online media clip on their website.  Here’s the link below.  They cut out a lot of it, I guess I rambled on for too long, go figure.  I wave my wand funny at the end though.  I was able to watch the clip from my parent’s house but can’t get it working now from home.  Hopefully it’ll work for you.  You’re not missing too much if not.  I only had a few seconds.  http://www.wsoctv.com/video/21124494/index.html 

It was a great day.  My family was there and several of my friends, including one of my best friends from high school (Becky) who drove down from Virginia.  Thanks again for coming Becky!  I had such a good time reliving all our funny high school antics (well not all of them). 😉 Thanks to everyone who came with me!!

When I first arrived, I visited the survivor tent and got a pink shirt and a pink bead necklace.  They were giving away 1 necklace for each year of survival. I got 1 necklace this year.  I look forward to the day where I will have many more.  You have a different perspective and mixed emotions during the walk when you’re a survivor (or I guess even if you aren’t).  You look at all the people wearing the pink t-shirts and pink necklaces and hear the survivors getting up to tell about their number of years of survival and feel hopeful and thankful to have come this far.  But at the same time, you look the other way and see the groups of people wearing t-shirts in memory of a passed loved one from the disease.  Perhaps it’s because it’s hitting close to home for me right now but it seems cancer is talked about everywhere these days – you have all the different breast cancer walks (Making Strides, Susan G Komen, Avon Breast Walk, etc.), the talk shows (Dr. Oz, Oprah), breast cancer early detection mammogram trucks at work, commercials, even story lines on shows like Grey’s Anatomy.  You don’t/can’t go a single hour without thinking about it.  It’s still new though for me I guess.  I mean it was only just 6 months ago (on Thursday) that I was diagnosed and already I’m calling myself a survivor.  It just seems like it went by really fast.  I guess it did.  That’s not to say it’s not over yet though – still lots of treatments left – but considering I was stage IIB or III back in March and am now stage I, it’s pretty crazy to think about.

Radiation Appts and Adoption Home Study

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Well, I started radiation this week.  Monday was my first real radiation treatment.  The other radiation appointments have just been consultations, setups, CT scans, etc.  The radiation treatments themselves aren’t bad, so far.  You just lay on this table and they line up all the lasers on your markings and then they leave the room.  The huge metal vault doors close automatically, like you’re inside a space ship or something and then the x-ray sirens sound, indicating that the radiation rays are being beamed at you.  You have to lie really still because the lasers have to be exactly lined up so they are pointing the radiation rays at just the right area.  The radiation treatment itself lasts like 7 minutes.  The rest of the time is just set up, changing into the medical gown, etc.  I’ve had no side effects so far and compared to the chemo, losing my hair, surgery,  and everything else, radiation is a breeze.  That’s not to say it’s pleasant, but you know what I mean.  I’ve seen other people in there and it’s interesting (for lack of a better word) to see the people in the waiting room.  Everyone has on one of those medical gowns.  Depending on whether they’re wearing a gown or the medical pants, you can kind of tell what type of cancer they have.  I’ve seen one lady so far I recognized from the chemo room.  Today is day 3 of radiation.  I’ll receive the radiation treatment every day for the next 33 business days, with 30 treatments left after today.  I’ll be done around the end of October / beginning of November I think but I haven’t looked at a calendar.

Now for the adoption stuff.  We had our home study this week and are now APPROVED for adoption!  Yay!  We’re really excited.  Next steps are getting signed up with an agency and being added to the waiting list.  We’re still hopefull the girl who’s a family friend of Dan’s sister works out.  She’s due in February.  We’ll see! 🙂

So Sweet, thank YOU!

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THANK YOU to whoever gave me those sweet messages in your search engine terms!!  That was so funny and very sweet!  🙂

Practical Joke, Radiation, Adoption, Herceptin, Dr. Oz

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Ok, first for my curious bewonderment (is that a word?).  As most of you know, there’s a section on my blog behind the scenes where I can see what people search for in search engines (e.g., Google, Yahoo, etc.) to find my site.  I look at this pretty often because it’s really interesting (and sometimes fascinating or funny) to see how people are finding my site.  For example, someone has searched for my sister Natalie a few times and came to my site.  My Aunt Lori also had a couple hits and Dr. Oz questions also come to my site a lot from that whole story.  As a reminder, I can’t see WHO is searching the terms, just the terms/phrases themselves.  Anyway, I looked on there yesterday and noticed that someone searched “danielle murray breast cancer blog b*tch”.   Do you think this is a practical joke, someone being mean or am I a bi*tch? 😦  Grrrrr.

Ok, now for the update on my radiation appointment.  I had my first appointment last Friday (well my first appointment at this office; I originally had a consultation at an office downtown but chose an office closer to my house for treatments).   It lasted WAY longer than I expected – over 2 1/2 hours!  I met with the radiation oncology nurse first, recapped my whole medical history, diagnosis, treament, etc.  Since my first consultation was at a different office, we had to go over everytning again.  Then the radiation oncologist doctor came in and I had to recap the whole thing yet again.  I asked a bunch of questions, including inquiring about the tattoo markings.  They said they gave a choice for that now and I could choose permanent marker instead with little sticky clear tape circles over each marking to keep them in place (I chose this option).  After I met with the doctor, I had a CT scan and laid on this cold table for a while.  They marked me with the permanent marker all over and told me to make sure I didn’t move (even a millimeter) because the machine was very sensitive and it was very important for me to line up in the exact same spot at my next appointment.  They placed some type of metal detection stickers over the marker markings.  These were removed after the CT scan but would be used in the scan pictures.  I go back this Thursday for my next appointment, where they’re reviewing my CT scan pictures, lining up my marker markings on the radiation machine and giving me new markings for where they’re going to be pointing the lasers each time.  I go in for my first treatment on Monday.  They said the side effects weren’t anything to worry too much about.  Here they are:

1.  Fatigue about 1/2 way into the 6 week treatment (treatment will be every day for about 15 minutes for the next 33 business days – about 6 1/2 weeks)

2.  Reddening (like a sun burn) of the skin at the site of the treatment

3.  Lung damage – there is a small section of my lung that will be in the path of the radiation lasers which will scar over.  They said this is definite but that I may or may not notice it.  They said it wasn’t anything to worry about if I don’t smoke, which I don’t.

4.  Radiation induced cancers years later down the road.  They said the risk of my cancer now is higher than the risk of other cancers later.  This seems weird/scary but I guess that’s where we are in today’s cancer world. 

Well, that’s about it.  I’m not worried about any of the side effects.  The worst part of the whole appointment was having to lie on my back (for the CT scan) with my hands above my head for 20 minutes because I can’t raise my arm all the way up yet from the lymph node dissection surgery.  But I’m doing good and better than expected this soon so I’m happy about that. 

About the adoption.  Dan’s older sister has a family friend who has a 21 year old daughter who is pregnant and they are considering a private adoption and are considering us as a family!  I’ll keep everyone posted but she’s having a boy, due Feb 6!  Keep your fingers crossed! 

I go in for my next every-3-week Herceptin appointment tomorrow.  I’ll meet with Dr. Limentani, my oncologist, this time too.  I see him every other Herceptin visit now, so every 6 weeks.  He’s writing my adoption sign off letter with my diagnosis, his prognosis, recommendation letter, etc.

Dr. Oz’s new show started yesterday!  Set your DVRs!  I’m still not sure though about when the XM show is going to air or when I’ll be on the show.

On Oprah Again This Week!! and Other General Updates

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As most of you know, I record Oprah every day.  I was going through my DVR tonight and selected PLAY as I skimmed past the Oprah show from Tuesday.  It was NEW and was summarized as “Favorite Dr. Oz Moments”.  I hit PLAY and began watching, since as you also know, Dr. Oz is my new BFF/hero/etc.  😉  Anyway, my recording didn’t catch the first 10 minutes but about 15 minutes in, I was pleasantly surprised to see my pictures up on the set of the show again!!!  How cool is that?  The show where my pictures appeared on the set of the show (twice by the way) was one of Dr. Oz’s FAVORITE moments!   There I was, sitting on the couch with Buster, Shelby, Sofie Claire, and Simba (of course Cubbie was off hiding in the closet, totally oblivious to his mother’s fame 😉 ), and POOF – there Buster and I were on the Oprah show!!!  It was very surreal!! 

Speaking of Dr. Oz…….I still haven’t learned when my Dr. Oz and Nancy Brinker interview will air on XM so stay tuned for that.  I’ll keep everyone posted of course.  I’m also still waiting to hear from the producer of Dr. Oz’s new show for my guest appearence (premiering next week!!!).  I heard back from them so I know it’s happening – just don’t know all the details yet.

I had my third echocardiogram (AKA “heart echo test” – since one of the side effects of Herceptin is heart damage) this morning.  It went fine.  I don’t have the results yet but I’m expecting them to be good.  I start radiation tomorrow.  I think it’s just the first appointment to do the calibration / markings, etc.  I’m not looking forward to the tattoo markings.  I guess you can call me “voo-doo-tattoo” now.  😉  Oh yeah, and my hair is growing back (it started growing back before my last chemo on July 15 even ended actually).  It’s about half of a centimeter long but still looks terrible and I’m nowhere near being able to go without the wiggies or hats yet but I’ve done some research……head hair grows about a half of an inch per month so I will probably be hat/wiggie free by March 2010 – exactly 1 year from diagnosis.  Hooray for that!  These darn hats/wiggies are driving me nuts!

Our adoption home study (pre-placement assessment) is still under way.  Our home visit meetings with the social worker are coming up the week after next.  Everything is lining up and we hope to have a baby soon!  We’re scheduled to be added to the waiting list in January but are hoping to be accepted sooner.  They want us to wait until January because they have a policy that requires you to be one year from a cancer diagnosis (March 2009) if you have cancer in the family.  My oncologist has cleared us though and has written a letter explaining my latest prognosis so we’re hopeful they decide to add us to the waiting list sooner.  A lot of adoption agencies won’t even accept you into the program or have longer waiting lists when you have cancer so we’re glad to have everything under way.

My Story

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I’ve added a new page to the left (called “My Story – An Overview”) in an effort to provide a summarized background of myself and my blog, mainly for people visiting my site who either just started following my journey or who stumble across my site in their personal online research efforts (e.g., Google searches for breast cancer, chemo, etc.)  There are some new details in there that I’m just now mentioning.  You’ll see what/why/etc.

Surgery, Radiation, Adoption Home Study

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Well I’m almost completely recovered from surgery. I can just about raise my arm all the way up in the air.  It’s still sore, moreso in the evenings and at night but I’m doing much better than expected.  I’ve talked to some other girls who had to do phyisical therapy or who couldn’t drive for longer than it took me so I think I’m doing well. 

I have my radiation appointment on September 10.  I’ve heard recently that they give you some kind of little tattoo marking to mark where they’re supposed to point the lasers.  I’m not too thrilled about that.  I like how they don’t prepare you for these types of things.  Like the voo doo needles I got before surgery.  I guess it was for the best that I didn’t know this in advance but I don’t like being surprised either.  Surprise!, we’re giving you a tattoo today!  Surprise!, we’re going to be placing these big metal pins in you!  Grrrrrr.

Our adoption process is moving right along.  We have our social working meetings in a few weeks and should have our home study done by the end of this month!!  Yay!!! 🙂

Important Reminder

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I did a search the other day on Google for breast cancer and came across another young girl’s story (coincidentally another wordpress blog) about her own initial misdiagnosis of breast cancer.  She was told at the age of 29 that her lump that she presented to her doctor was a cyst.  It wasn’t until much later that she learned she had breast cancer, after having shortness of breath symptoms, because it had already spread to her lungs – stage IV (the worst, incurable).  I was reading through her blog and was saddened to hear that she lost her battle and died last year.  It is SO important to not only be your own advocate and perform self exams, it’s also important to not always trust what your doctor tells you.  If you find a lump and are told it’s a cyst without a mammogram, please insist on a mammogram, even a biopsy.  It could save your life.

Still Recovering / Adoption Home Study

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Well, I’ve done well with my recovery so far.  My surgery was two weeks ago today but I must admit my underarm / arm is more sore now than it was in the beginning.  It hurts to drive (bumpy) and today even to walk (pounding, swinging).  I still have the drain in but hope to get that out on Wednesday when I go back for another followup.  I can do ok driving for short distances. I just drive one handed which isn’t a problem at all.  It’s moreso the bumps in the road and the seatbelt that cause the pain though.  I talked to my friend Lisa who I met in the chemo room a long time ago (very beginning of my treatment) and she said her arm is still sore and her surgery was about 5 weeks before mine!  Ouch.  I’m doing my arm exercises though so hopefully it’ll get better.  Gosh darn lymph nodes.

We mailed off our application for our adoption home study today.  It took us a while to pull together all the documents and fill out all the forms but got everything pulled together yesterday.  It should take about 5-6 weeks before we know if we’re approved or not.  That’s the first step in any adoption.  It involves background checks, fingerprinting, autobiography questions, marriage liceses, forms, references, home visits, interviews, etc.

Breast Cancer Walk

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I’m walking in another breast cancer walk, this one located in Charlotte, NC and supporting the American Cancer Society.  The walk will start at Symphony Park in the South Park area on September 26, 2009.  Copied below are the links to my personal page and our team page.  A friend through my mom’s work has put a team together (we’re called the Primax Pink Warriors) and they’ve asked me to be the mascot this year!  Our team goal is $9,000.  Thank in advance for your donations (if you’re interested) and please let me know if you’d like to join us in the walk!   

Click here to visit my personal page.

Click here to view the team page for Primax Pink Warriors

Another recent blog post, just below.

My Dr. Oz Story Continues / Pathology Report

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So I sent Dr. Oz an email yesterday telling him the good news about my pathology results.  I also wanted to tell him about my recent learnings: how my surgery was exactly 5 months to the day from his show on medical mistakes and how my good pathology results came back exactly 5 months to the day from my original mammogram.  I think all the dates and numbers have been really fascinating – how I kept looking at the clock at 9:11 before I was diagnosed, how I found out I was pregnant on Friday the 13th, how I started chemo on April Fools Day, etc.  God works in mysterious ways, just like the sign my mom received yesterday when those songs came on the radio (see prior post).  Anyway, Dr. Oz sent me a response last night, said he was proud of me and asked me to be on his new TV show!  Woo hooooo!!  I’m so excited.  I don’t know all the details yet but I’ll keep everyone posted.  I also hope my radiation schedule won’t interfere.  Here’s a link to his new show: www.doctoroz.com

Also, I had my follow up appointment today with Dr. Turk, my oncology surgeon.  I didn’t get the drain out but I won’t go into gory details about that.  He said I’m doing great and mentioned that he was going to present my case at the next CMC oncology convention meeting.  He also said he was so impressed that I had such a good response (near complete) to the chemo because I had “so much” cancer before and now it’s all gone.  He never told me this before – that I had “a lot” of cancer, probably to avoid scaring us too much but today it was ok to hear since we know where we are now.  He mentioned again how there were 9 lymph nodes removed and that the rest were completelty destroyed by the chemo.  I originally had 2 lymph nodes that were biopsied, which we learned had cancer in them.  They didn’t test any others in the beginning but I was 1 lymph node away from being stage III (see info below).  We asked if the other lymph nodes were destroyed because they probably had cancer in them as well.  He said that’s probably what that meant.  Otherwise, all my lymph nodes would have been destroyed but only the ones that contained cancer would be destroyed.  So basically, this means I had more lymph nodes that had cancer in them than we thought – causing my original staging to actually be higher – stage III.  But now, I’m stage I so we’re all good.  🙂  Here are some more informational tid bits about my pathology reports:

Pathology Report Indicator Clinical Stage – determined by what the doctor learns from the physical exam and tests. (the one I got in the beginning from my biopsies) Pathologic Stage – includes the findings of the pathologist after surgery. (the one I just found out about after surgery)
T Category: Tumor Size

Tis: Tis is used only for carcinoma in situ, or non-invasive breast cancer, such as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)

T1: The cancer is 2cm in diameter (about ¾ inch) or smaller.

T2: The cancer is more than 2cm but not more than 5cm in diameter.

T3: The cancer is more than 5 cm in diameter.

T4: The cancer is any size and has spread to the chest wall or the skin.

T2 – 3rd best out of 5 options T1 – 2nd best out of 5 opions

(the remaining IDC was only 1/20 inch in diameter)

N Category: Node Involvement

N0 Clinical: The cancer has not spread to lymph nodes, based on clinical exam.

N0 Pathological: The cancer has not spread to lymph nodes, based on examining them under a microscope.

N1 Clinical: The cancer has spread to lymph nodes under the arm on the same side as the breast cancer.  Lymph nodes are not attached to one another or to surrounding tissue.

N1 Pathological: The cancer is found in 1 to 3 lymph nodes under the arm.

N2 Clinical: The cancer has spread to lymph nodes under the arm on the same side of the breast cancer and the lymph nodes are attached to one another or to surrounding tissue.

N2 Pathological: The cancer has spread to 4 to 9 lymph nodes under the arm.

N3 Clinical: The cancer has spread to lymph nodes above or just below the collar bone on the same side as the cancer.

N3 Pathological: The cancer has spread to 10 or more lymph nodes under the arm or also involves lymph nodes in other areas around the breast.

 

N1 Pathological – 3rd best out of 8 N0 Pathological – 1st best out of 8
M Category: Metastasis

M0: No distant cancer spread.

M1: Cancer has spread to distant organs.

M0 – 1st best out of 2 M0 – 1st best out of 2
Tumor grade: How much the tumor looks like normal breast tissue.  The higher the number, the more likely the risk for spread.

1 – Low (best)

2 – Moderate

3 – High (worst)

3 – High Nuclear Grade – Poorly Differentiated (worst) 3 – High Nuclear Grade – Poorly Differentiated (worst)

 

(doesn’t change; based on initial biopsy)

HER2/neu status: About 15-20% of breast cancers have too much of a growth-promoting protein called HER2 and too many copies (more than 2)  of the gene that instructs the cells to produce this protein.  Tumors with increased levels of HER2 are referred to as “HER2-positive”.  HER2-positive breast cancer tumors tend to grow and spread more rapidly than other breast cancers.

 

HER2-positive (bad, except for the fact that Herceptin is so good)

 

This is why I’m taking Herceptin.

HER2-positive (bad, except for the fact that Herceptin is so good)

 

(doesn’t change; based on initial biopsy)

 

This is why I’m taking Herceptin.

Hormone Receptors: Two hormones in women – estrogen and progesterone – stimulate the growth of normal breast cells and play a role in many breast cancers.  Cancer cells respond to these hormones through the estrogen receptors (ER) and progesterone receptors (PR).  ER and PR are each cell’s “welcome mat” for these hormones circulating in the blood.  If a cancer does not have these receptors, it is referred to as hormone receptor-negative.  If the cancer has these receptors, it is referred to as hormone receptor-positive.  ER+

PR-

 

This is why I’ll be taking Tamoxifen.

ER+

PR-

 

(doesn’t change, based on initial biopsy)

 

This is why I’ll be taking Tamoxifen.

Findings “Findings are highly concerning for multifocal invasive ductal carcinoma with involved lymph nodes.  Highly suggestive of malignancy” – Gosh, that brings back scary memories.  Near complete response to chemo. 
Staging: see below Stage IIB: T2, N1, M0 Stage I: T1, N0, M0

 Staging Table:

Overall Stage T Category N Category M Category
Stage 0 Tis N0 M0
Stage I T1 N0 M0
Stage IIA T0

T1

T2

N1

N1

N0

 

M0

M0

M0

Stage IIB T2

T3

N1

N0

M0

M0

Stage IIIA T0

T1

T2

T3

T3

N2

N2

N2

N1

N2

M0

M0

M0

M0

M0

Stage IIIB T4 Any N M0
Stage IIIC Any T N3 M0
Stage IV Any T Any N M1

Everything’s going to be alright, alright…….

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Well, today is August 17, 2009, exactly 7 days after my surgery and 5 months to the day from my original mammogram appointment.  I’ll cut right to the chase, no pun intended (get it, surgery…..cut…..ha).  My pathology report came back today and everything is good!  Now for the details and storytime…..

I had my surgery last Monday.  It went good I guess.  My parents and Dan went with me.  I had another mammogram first, which I didn’t know was part of the plan.  It wasn’t just your normal mammogram.  I was sitting in a chair instead of standing like you normally are, and thank God because I quickly became nauseous and faint when I learned what this mammogram would entail.  Had I known I would have been a human Voo Doo doll that morning, I would have been much more nervous.  Anyway, after I was squeezed into the mammogram machine (which for me is bad enough), I received two novacain shots.  At this point, I got all flustered and hot and heard the nurse tell the radiologist in the next room something about my reaction, followed by “and we have even done the procedure yet.”  Oh great I thought.  The took some mammogram pictures and then placed these metal rods (which I guess were like big needles) into opposite ends of the area to be removed, as illustrated on the mammogram screen.  These needle rods remained sticking out of me and were left in place so the surgeon would know the marginal area to be removed during surgery.  It was pretty uncomfortable but they covered the needles with a cup so I couldn’t see them.  Ugh.  I asked if they could see anything on the mammogram and the radiologist said there were some calcifications, reminants of DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ).  As a reminder, when I was first diagnosed, I was diagnosed with IDC (invasive ductal carcinoma) and DCIS.  They are basically the same thing but one spreads (the invasive one) and one doesn’t.  I asked why this wasn’t detected on my MRI and they said the MRI detects tumor masses, not cancer cells (e.g., calcifications) and that the chemo, which kills fast growing cells (e.g., chemo cells, hair cells, etc.) wasn’t designed to kill the DCIS, only the IDC and not to worry – the surgery would get out the DCIS and there isn’t a cause for concern.

My parents and Dan were invited back into the prep room right before my surgery.  My mom started crying, which made me start crying.  I wasn’t nervous at all about the surgery though, for whatever reason.  I woke up from surgery about an hour later with a bad reaction (nausea + vomitting) to the regimen of anesthesia they gave me.  I had to stay in the recovery room a couple more hours than planned.  There were two stages of recovery (1) recovery room; (2) step down room.  Visitors were only allowed in the step down room.  After surgery, in the recovery room, I remember a little bit about it.  I remember hearing the people beside me complain about how much pain they were in and recognized some people from the prep room.  We were each only separated by those little drapes.  The guy beside me sat across from me in the prep room and was there to have his arm set with pins.  He had broken his arm and got his cast taken off in the prep room.  I remember him rating his pain on a scale from 1 to 10 and the nurses telling him that his surgery was the most painful surgery they did at the clinic.  I didn’t feel like I was in as much pain as him and my side effects were mostly nausea related at that point. 

Dr. Turk, my oncology surgeon (AKA the best in Charlotte), told my parents and Dan about how well I did in surgery, said they think they got everything and that my lymph nodes were small and hard, indicating what appeared to be a good response to the chemo.  Dan drove me home after the surgery and my parents returned home.  My mom got her things and came to stay the week with us so she could be home with me during the day.  It was very nice having her home with me.  She was an excellent care taker, and even took care of all our pets.  The rest of the week was spent resting, watching TV, reading, laying on the couch and waiting for the pathology results, which were due back today. 

My mom came over for lunch.  She was very nervous and anxiously awaiting the pathology results like I was.  My mom has recently started attending church again and said a silent prayer on her way back to work after lunch.  She said all she wanted was a sign, just a little sign.  At that point, the song “Brown Eyed Girl” came on the radio.  She used to have that song set as her ring tone for when I called.  She thought wow, that’s weird, I wonder if that’s my sign.  The next song that came on the radio was “Everyting’s Going to be Alright”!!  Crazy!! 

Dr. Turk called around 5:00 and said the pathology results were in and that everything looked good.  They removed all my lymph nodes under my right arm – there were 9 in total.  An average person has between 15 and 20.  He said there more before but that the chemo had killed some completely.  He said they tested the remaining 9 and all were clear of cancer – my lymph nodes no longer had any cancer!  Then he said the margins were all clear for the lumpectomy.  I think sometimes people confuse the lumpectomy with the lymph node removal so just to clarify, the lumpectomy is the procedure where they took out the area of breast tissue where the tumors had originally been (the area marked by the Voo Doo needles).  The main thing they’re looking for on the pathology report is clear margins, or that the outside perimeter of tissue removed is free of cancer, indicating that all the cancer was contained and removed.  They also analyze the removed tissue itself.  He said there were some reminants of the DCIS (which was expected and shown on the Voo Doo mammogram) and 1/20 of an inch left of the IDC.  So basically, I had an almost complete response to the chemo.  The little part that had remained was removed during surgery so it wasn’t anything to be worried about.  He explained the staging again and said my initial staging, which was IIB was considered clinical staging and my post surgical staging was considered early Stage I.  In other words, had I not just gone through all the chemo and had I been another person getting staged for cancer for the first time, I would have been considered early stage I.  I asked him what his “prognosis” was and he said he would defer to Dr. Limentani for that but said I had a very good response and expected a great prognosis.  I called back to ask if I am now considered “cancer free”.  He said that was basically like asking what my prognosis was but in a different way.  He said microscopically there could be some cancer cells lingering but from what was visible, I was cancer free.  Doctors don’t like to say you’re cancer-free but from what an average person understands the words “cancer free” to be, I’m there……cancer free.  🙂 

I’ll be cleared for radiation on Wednesday at my follow up appointment and will start radiation in the next couple weeks.  I’ll continue on the Herceptin every three weeks until next April and will start on the five years of Tamoxifen pills after radiation.  But the biggest hurdles are over and all the waiting is over.  The rest of my treatment is just precautionary to reduce the risk for recurrence.  It’s hard to believe everything that’s happened in the past five months.  Five months exactly to the day of my initial mammogram, where I first learned I probably had cancer, and I am “cancer-free” (basically).  Thanks to all my heros – Dr. Limentani, Dr. Turk, Dr. Oz, my entire family and all my chemomaids!  I love you all!

Dan and I have been filling out all our adoption applications and forms and I’ll keep everyone updated on all that as things progress.  I’ll also let everyone know when my Dr. Oz and Nancy Brinker interview is supposed to air.  That reminds me, I need to email Dr. Oz, my BFF…….  There’s still plenty to blog about though.  Still lots ahead but the worst is behind me now.  Ah, serenity now!!  (Seinfeld)

Dr. Oz and Nancy Brinker Interview / Dr. Limentani Visit

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I haven’t had a chance to update everyone on my latest Dr. Oz interview!  As a reminder, one of the Harpo producers emailed me last week and said Dr. Oz wanted to have me on his show again.  He has a radio show on Oprah’s Oprah and Friends XM radio channel.  After the Oprah’s Dr. Oz finale show a few months ago, they dialed me into Dr. Oz’s radio show so I could tell my story (which if you haven’t heard a million times already by now, you can find on the page links to the left, including the “My Dr. Oz Oprah Story” page).  Anyway, when I called in the last time, I was on for like 5 minutes and they had a number of other people calling in to tell their stories, all of whom were featured 0n the wall of pictures with which Oprah surprised Dr. Oz during his tribute finale show.  The show I taped this week was all about breast cancer and featured Nancy Brinker, the founder of the Susan G. Komen foundation (and also Susan G. Komen’s sister).  I think I was the only caller who was dialed in but I don’t know because I didn’t hear the whole show.  Nancy was there in person (in NY) and I was called in over the phone.

The producer called first and said Dr. Oz was finishing up his last segment and would be on with me next.  At that point I was placed on hold and could hear the conversation but they couldn’t hear me.  They were wrapping up and then Dr. Oz said something like “well, we’re going to take a quick break but stay tuned because up next we have a special guest, one of the women from the Oprah show to update us on where she is in her treatment”.  They went to break and I could hear the producers working with Nancy to get her microphone adjusted and then they patched me through.  Dr. Oz introduced me to Nancy and we made small talk, Dr. Oz welcoming me back to the show and asking me how I was doing.  You know, since we’re BFFs now. 😉 

The show returned from break and he started by reminding the listeners about his tribute show and introducing me again.  He gave me some flattering comments and then asked me to recap my story.  I explained my story again and Dr. Oz continued with several questions.  We talked back and forth for like 20 minutes this time and Nancy was involved in the discussion too, which was very surreal.  Some of the questions Dr. Oz asked were:

1.  Where are you in your treatments, how are you doing now and where are you in the process?  I explained how I was doing, mentioned how I was done with chemo, getting surgery on Monday and following with radiation after that.  I told him about my positive (meaning good) MRI results and how all three tumors had a complete response to the chemo. 

2.  Tell us about chemo and whether or not you mind whether people ask you questions about it.  I told him I didn’t mind people asking me questions at all.  I explained the chemo room a little and mentioned how I got to know people over time, how I would see “regulars” but also noticed a lot of new people each time.  I mentioned how it was scary but also somewhat positive in a way because it meant people were hopefully getting diagnosed earlier and were being more proactive, since breast cancer is the most common cancer at my oncologist’s office.

3.  Did you do anything out of the ordinary like alternative medicine or diet changes?  I mentioned how I started taking yoga classes in the beginning and tried eating all organic foods and avoiding sugar, but then proceeded to admit that that didn’t last long and I eventually just wanted that……at which point I paused and tried to think of a snack but the one that came to mind first was a Ho Ho and I didn’t want to say Ho on air.  Ha.  So, after a while of stuttering I said……… “brownie”.  When we went off air later after the interview, Dr. Oz thanked me for calling in and told me to get back on that diet.  I think I goofed on this question obviously.  I mean, I should be encouraging healthy eating right?  I mean, it is the Dr. Oz show, come on Danielle.  But honestly, after 6 rounds of aggressive chemo, all I really wanted to eat was McDonald’s……..and fruit, I did like eating fruit………and salad (anything cold and wet, or juicy and greasy).  Regarding the yoga, I would have probably continued but after losing my hair, didn’t really want to show up to class in a hat, wiggie or scarf.  Sometimes they go around and massage you during class, I guess in an effort to keep you relaxed, but I wouldn’t have been so relaxed if they had approached me for a head massage and fainted when my hair fell off in their hand. 😉

4.  What would you suggest to the listeners who are dealing with the same issue?  I said for me it was important to stay positive and involve your family and friends in your journey.

5.  He asked me about my website.  I mentioned chemomaids.com and daniellemurray.wordpress.com 🙂  The last interview they edited out my answer so who knows if that’ll make it on air this time or not.  If so, I hope my chemomaids.com site gets some hits!  I need to work on it I guess. 

6.  Nancy asked if I had any other kids.  I had mentioned earlier during my initial introduction and recap that I found the lump in my armpit during a pregnancy (followed by miscarriage).  I was trying to be as positive as possible but I did mention how my cycles had stopped and was still having fertility issues but just beginning the adoption process.

That’s about it for my Dr. Oz interview I think.  I don’t know when it’s supposed to air yet and I haven’t had a chance to follow up with them to see but I’ll keep everyone posted.

I had another appointment with Dr. Limentani on Wednesday, marking the first of my every-three-week Herceptin visits.  Usually when I get Herceptin I go straight to the chemo room but now that I’m done with chemo, I’ll see Dr. Limentani every other Herceptin treatment (starting this Wednesday and then every 6 weeks after that, or every other visit).  I asked a bunch of fertility questions and didn’t get the greatest news.  I basically wanted to know a few things:

1.  I know he had said earlier that I would be on Tamoxifen for 5 years following radiation and knew I couldn’t get pregnant during this time (making me 37 by the time I could).  I asked if this was because of birth defects or a risk for me.  He said it was mainly because it could cause birth defects but they didn’t know much about what types of birth defects.  He also said that if I got pregnant they would take me off Tamoxifen and then it would be a risk to me since that is supposed to block estrogen (reminder: my tumors were ER+, meaning they had estrogen receptors which made them grow faster with estrogen).  Wow, I just said my tumors HAD (past tense), that’s nice. 🙂

2.  I asked if it would be ok to take a break from the Tamoxifen so I could harvest some eggs or get pregnant in between the 5 year period.  The answer was basically the same – not really encouraged. 

3.  We talked about the risk for recurrence.  Now that I’ve reached the end of my chemo with surgery approaching on Monday, I was thinking about what’s next.  Am I going to be afraid the rest of my life, worrying the cancer could come back at any time?  Is there a point in my life that it’ll be more likely to come back, like when I’m in my 60s or 40s?  He said the highest chance for recurrence is based on the date of diagnosis and if it were to come back, it would probably do so in the next 2 years.  And really it wouldn’t be “coming back”, it would have still been there, just undetected.  He also said it wouldn’t come back in my breast or lymph nodes, since they did the surgery and radiation in those areas, it would come back in one of my organs (lungs, liver, bones or brain).  That was kind of scary.  I didn’t have to ask what that would mean.  Stage IV.  Boo hiss.  That won’t happen though, but it’s scary to think about.  Every time I have a stomach pain now, I’ll freak myself out probably.  Think positive, think positive.

Well, that’s about it from my appointment.  I’ll update everyone next week after my surgery.  I am anxiously awaiting the pathology report until then, when we’ll know for sure if we got all the cancer out.  If there’s some left, that won’t be good, but they’re expecting it all to be gone.

Dr. Oz’s Radio Show on XM Oprah & Friends

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Well, I’m getting ready to be dialed into the Dr. Oz radio show again!  This time the show is all about breast cancer and will feature Nancy Brinker, the founder of the Susan G. Komen foundation, which I have included as a link on the right.  I’ll let everyone know the air time as soon as I find out!  It will probably air in about a month.  I’m excited.

My surgery is all set for Monday and I have another Herceptin appointment today right after the Dr. Oz show.  This one marks the beginning of my every-three-week Herceptin treatments.  I have a list of fertility related questions for Dr. Limentani this time.  Dan and I have started investigating the adoption process but it’s overwhelming and there are just so many options and differences among all the agencies out there.  But I’ll have something new to write about on my blog so stay tuned! 😉 And if anyone knows anyone who is pregant and   interested in a private adoption, keep us in mind!

Message form a friend

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One of my mom’s friends, who has become a friend of my own, has a message she would like to share with everyone.  Well actually she shared the message with me and I asked her if I could share it with everyone else on my blog.

Here is her message:

Every year, I try to warn and inform people about the dangers of melanoma. Please feel free to share with your friends.

Melanoma is the most severe skin cancer and the most deadly. It is becoming more prevalent. At one office in Charlotte, they were seeing 1 case per week, this past June they were averaging 3 cases per week (some caught early, sadly some were advanced). In New Zealand (land of fun and sun), 2 out of 3 people have skin cancer.

In 2003, I was diagnosed with Stage 1 melanoma. I had a wide-excision done (about the size of a baseball). After this health scare I got informed. Melanoma can kill you in months if not treated in a timely manner. If you have a darker skin tone, don’t be fooled, you are still able to develop melanoma and because you may think you are ‘safe’ you might not get it checked out as early as you should.

One time at the dermatologist’s office, I was told a teenage girl in another room was being told they had melanoma between their toes. Wear sunscreen on your feet if you wear sandals or flip-flops.

Another time at the Blumenthal Cancer center, I saw a teenage boy with his parents in the waiting room, waiting to see my doctor. He looked scared to death, so I knew he was the one having the appointment, I wanted to let him know he was being seen by the best, but I didn’t. However an hour later across town we happened to be at the same restaurant for lunch so I did not let my apprehension stop me from approaching them. After I introduced myself, I told him my experience and let him know it was going to be OK and we talked for a little while. He was so relieved and thankful that I talked to him. If you have teenage boys, be sure if they play sports and are “skins” that they wear sunscreen. They are shirtless a good portion of their Summer… be safe.

A friend of mine’s husband was diagnosed in April with Melanoma. It had spread. He passed away that Thanksgiving. He didn’t live to see his daughter turn 1. The only exposure he had to the sun was as a teenager. Coincidentally, while he was in treatment, his wife had a suspicious place checked out on her arm – – it too was melanoma, but it was caught early and their daughter still has 1 parent.

A friend of mine’s Mom died from occular melanoma. Wear sunglasses that have UV protection.

Another friend of mine’s Mother died from melanoma and she never saw her grandchildren.

Dermatologists often refer to tanning beds as “Melanoma in a can”. Think about it the next time you lay in a tanning bed. There’s not much difference between a tanning bed and a coffin.

MoleSafe:
Yeah! There is a new early diagnostic tool that is available to you. You can go to http://www.molesafe.com for a location near you. During the procedure you have very hi-tech digital pictures taken of each suspicious place on your body, it is then infused with light at a very close range to illuminate any changes under the skin, not apparent to the naked eye, which allows melanoma to be caught early.

These pictures are then evaluated by a doctor and any suspicious places are recommended for removal. Thanks to this procedure, the next melanoma I had was Stage 0, and only a quarter diameter place needed to be removed (much better than a baseball). If you know someone who has a lot of moles or freckles or suspicious spots this is for them. The pictures are kept and compared year to year for changes as well.

Sunscreen Tips:
– Check to make sure your sunscreen has not expired! It does go bad and then you are not doing yourself any favors.
– Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before exposure. This is because sunscreen works by forming a chemical bond with your skin which is complete around 30 minutes. If you go outside prior to that, it is like going outside without sunscreen on for those first 30 minutes.
– Wear a daily moisturizer with SPF included on your face, arms and hands, EVERY DAY. Your arms get lots of exposure to the sun when driving, and you don’t even think about it.
– Reapply often, especially to your face or your children if you wipe the water out of your eyes a lot when swimming.

SPF Clothing:
– If you are exposed to the sun a lot whether for work or fun. Look into SPF clothing. You can find some on the web (Solumbra, Coolibar are some of the brands I’ve bought). They make great golf shirts, swimwear, etc.
– Just because you have clothes on, does not mean the UVA and UVB rays are being blocked – you are just not getting tan, but that doesn’t mean your skin is not being damaged.
– If you have children, make sure they have SPF built into their swimwear.

Be vigilant about any places on your bodies that change (darker, larger, looks odd, etc.). Follow up on it!! If you have never had a full-body check by a dermatologist, you should. I do stress a dermatologist over a primary care physician only because they do see more cases of melanoma than the average general practitioner.

Have fun in the sun, but please be safe. Your life and possibly your children’s depends on it.

P.S. I received an email after posting this blog entry from someone wanting to share a link to a website featruing the latest melonoma updates if you are interested in learning more!  http://www.melanomaupdates.com/

Pre-Surgery Appt, Random Message, and Exciting News

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I had my pre-surgery appointment today.  It went fine.  I didn’t really learn too much more than what I already knew.  Basically, the doctor just told us about the procedure again so I won’t recap all that.  So instead, I’ll just ramble. 

I got a new book recently, well several books actually, so I have them for my recovery time.  One of the books is by Maya Angelou and is called “Letter to my Daughter”.  She doesn’t have a daughter but the book is written “to the daughter she never had” and is about her path to living well and living life with meaning.  It’s part guide book, part memoir and part poetry.  I’ve never read one of her books before.  Anyway, I was glancing over the first chapter in the store and thought I’d share a paragraph that I enjoyed.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.  Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.  Do not complain.  Make every effort to change things you do not like.  If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking.  You might find a new soultion.”

This got me thinking of my favorite quote: “Whether or not is is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”  They aren’t really exactly related but the mind sometimes skips from one thought to another.  I pondered more on this and thought how life compares to those connect-the-dots puzzles you did when you were a child.  The dots represent the events that happen in your life.  How you connect those dots or proceed from one event to the next, makes up the picture of your life, just like the dots form a picture on the page.  If you take one of those dots away, the whole picture changes.  For example, take away the moment in my life when I learned I was pregnant, or when I miscarried, or watched the Dr. Oz episode on Oprah.  Take any one of those events away, and my life could be completely different right now.  The dots also affect others around you.  Think about how you handle your dots and how you move from one to the next, as those dots represent your life events and form your life’s picture.  Don’t wish one of those dots away, because it could change everything.  While you may think it would change things for the better, it could change things for the worse.  So be grateful for the dots in your life and make the best picture out of them as you can.  Remember my other favorite quote: “Enjoy this moment, for this moment is your life.”

Ok, now for my self-proclaimed inspirational message put into action……….

I initially saved this blog post as a draft and was planning on picking up with it later.  In the meantime, I received an email from a Harpo producer asking me to be on Dr. Oz’s radio show again!  They’re following up with the guests since the Oprah Dr. Oz finale and are also featuring a show on breast cancer and want me to be a part of it as someone who is surviving breast cancer right now!  The founder of the Susan G. Komen foundation is also going to be on the show!  I’m honored and so excited!  What an excellent way to start off Phase 2 of my treatments!

Chemo Cycle 6 Officially Over

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Sorry I haven’t written in a while.  My “big chemos” are officially OVER and I’m still VERY excited about that.  Phase 1 went successful and has come to an end.  Today marked the last day of my last chemo cycle, July 29, 2009.  I had 6 chemo cycles in all.  Each cycle lasted 3 weeks, starting on the days I received the “big chemos”, the first one being on April 1, 2009.  The “big chemo” days, which is what I came to call them, were the days I received all three drugs, known in the oncology world as “TCH” or “Taxotere and Carboplatin with Herceptin”.  The “big chemo” days were then followed by 2 additional weeks of Herceptin alone, rounding out the 3 week cycle.  So today I received my third Herceptin treatment for cycle 6.  All my side effects from my last “big chemo” day are gone now.  I’ll have another Herceptin appointment next week, but after that they’ll switch to every 3 weeks and will continue through April of next year to round out 52 weeks.

I have my pre-surgery appointment tomorrow, and my surgery is scheduled for August 10, 2009.  I should find out more tomorrow about the procedure itself, recovery, etc.  Dan, my mom and mother-in-law will be with me that day.  My mom is also taking the week off to spend the week at my house, which I’m very excited about.  I love spending time with my mom and can’t wait to have a week long slumber party.  Too bad The Bachelorette is over.  We both love that show and usually call each other at all the commercial breaks and try to predict the next episode.  I’ll have to get her hooked on some of my other reality shows.  I know she’s particularly excited to take care of all 5 of our pets all week while Dan is at work and I’m in bed or on the couch.  😉  Don’t worry mom, I won’t make you clean the litter box – that’s Little/Mister Precious’s job. 

My hair is starting to grow back, but very slowly and it’s really soft, like peach fuzz.  I’ve finally gotten comfortable not wearing a hat or wig around the house but I really only do that when it’s hot flash time, which isn’t fun but has actually gotten better the past few days so hopefully that’s all over with.

Well, that’s about it for today.  I’ll try to write tomorrow night after my pre-surgery appointment tomorrow.  Toodaloo cancer support crew!

Chemo ~ Cycle 6 / Day 3 – LAST ROUND!!

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I had my LAST round of chemo on Wednesday.  I was in a cranky mood while soaking in the ice bins for the hour of Taxotere but other than that I was excited to be receiving my last round.  Dan came with me this time and Natalie, my youngest sister, came for about an hour and brought me lunch. 

The days following my chemo on Wednesday have actually gone better than past rounds.  They give me a few different prescriptions for nausea.  Two of them I’m supposed to take in the mornings on the first three days and there’s a third one they gave me to take as needed.  I’ve always taken this one at noon and six on the days following chemo, but I elected not to this time hoping I wouldn’t be as tired and thinking the rest of the nausea meds would be sufficient.  Well, I think I was right and wish I would have done that sooner.  Live and learn.  But tomorrow and Sunday are supposed to be the worst and Monday usually proves to be a bad day too so we’ll see.  So far though, this has been the best round yet, and they were supposed to get cumulatively worse so go figure.  It must have been that third nausea pill I was taking, darn it.  I was able to work full days yesterday and today.  I probably worked 10-12 hours yesterday and worked all day today, so that’s good.  My mom’s friend Norine and her husband Peter came over yesterday to bring me a meal, which was so thoughtful and yummy!  Thanks Norine!!  I just got done eating the rest of the salad!  Best dressing ever!

Well, I’m about to head into the chemo room again for 2 hours of fluids.  I hope everyone has a nice weekend!

Radiation Oncology Appt and Some Interesting Milestones

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I had my appointment today with the radiation oncologist.  The purpose of the appointment was for him to confirm my surgery plans, as recommended by Dr. Turk, my oncology surgeon, and also to have my new patient consultation for my radiation treatment, which will follow surgery.  The appointment went good but lasted much longer than I expected.  My mom came with me.  We learned a few things, but nothing too surprising. 

The biggest thing we learned was that the MRI scan I had yesterday only detects “tumor masses”, not “cancer cells” so while the tumor masses are gone and the chemo treatment was considered a “complete response”, we won’t know if I’m “cancer free” until after surgery when they have the pathology results back.  Yesterday’s news was still very good though and they’re expecting the pathology report to come back the same. 

We also asked some questions about whether my MRI results change anything for surgery or radiation.  We learned it did not.  I thought maybe if the tumors were gone, what did they need to remove?  In a lumpectomy, they’ll take out a certain tissue margin around where the titanium clips were inserted in the original tumors.  This is mainly to catch any remaining cancer cells that weren’t detected on the MRI and to reduce the risk for recurrence.  The reasons are the same for the radiation – to prevent recurrence and to kill any remaining cells outside the margins they removed during surgery.

Radiation will be scheduled for 3-5 weeks following surgery and will be every day for 6 1/2 weeks.  Each appointment will last about 15 minutes, with approximately 5 minutes for each radiation blast (for lack of a better word).  It’s basically like an x-ray and doesn’t hurt at all.  The side effects won’t show up until about half way through the 6 1/2 week treatment and will include slight reddening of the skin (like a sun burn), fatigue, and longer term, internal scarring.  He said I’ll go in for another appointment after my surgery and before the radiation treatment begins to set my radiation “plan”.  I will have a CT scan at this time.  It won’t be a diagnostic, full body scan like I had when I was first diagnosed, but it’s the same machine.  The CT scan this time will be for radiation planning purposes in helping calibrate the radiation machine for my body (where they’ll point the x-rays, etc.) and will only take pictures of the radiation area, not my full body.  He said because of the lymph node involvement and the size of the original tumor area, there will be some other areas that are affected internally by the radiation.  For example, he said there will be a small area of my lung that will become scarred as a result of being in the radiation x-ray area.  He said it wasn’t a big deal though and was a very small area anyway. 

Hmmmm, well I think that’s about it for today.  Tomorrow will mark the end of phase one, chemo.  Here are some interesting milestones I’ve tackled along the way (as of the end of day tomorrow):

1.  26 doctor appointments

2.  6 chemo cycles

3.  16 Herceptin treatments

4.  19 IV sticks

5.  $165,000 in insurance claims

6.  $5,000 spent out of pocket (medical exps only; not including the Chemo Eve presents to myself, etc.)

7.  5 minutes of Dr. Oz XM radio air time

8.  7 wiggies purchased (5 worn)

9.  2 of my pictures on the set of Oprah’s Dr. Oz tribute show and 2 Oprah tickets for a different show

10.  1 new puppy

11.  1 new car

12.  6 Chemo Eve presents (to myself)

13.  25 chemo popsicles

14.  150,000 hairs lost (resulting in about $1,000 saved from the hair salon)

15.  92 shaves/shampoos/conditions/drys/stylings avoided (that’s about 29.9 hours of getting ready time!!)

16.  47 hours hooked up to IVs

17.  1,040 miles driven

18.  and finally, 3 tumors dissolved!!!!!

That was fun.  My life in numbers.

MRI Appointment

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Well, I had my MRI appointment today, the first scan I’ve had since I was first diagnosed in March.  It was an important scan because it’s the first time we can tell for sure if the treatments worked and ultimately helps my doctors evaluate my prognosis for “disease free survival”.  As a reminder, or for those of you who have started following my blog later in the course of my treatment, my doctors initially told me that my “disease free survival” rate was 50-60%, or that I had a 40-50% chance of not being 100% cured from the cancer after all my chemo treatments, surgery and radiation.  The initially bleak prognosis was due to the several high risk factors for my cancer: being HER2+, being ER+, the number, size and grade of the tumors, being detected after lymph node involvement, my age (higher risk in younger women), etc.

After a while in the waiting room and upon being called back, I was asked to change into some scrubs and was led back to the MRI scan room.  I was wearing my hat with the pony tail sewn into it.  They asked me to remove my jewelry and my hat for the scan.  Let me first say this – I have never let ANYONE see me without a hat or wiggie since I lost my hair.  I think only Dan, my mom, Nina and Janelle have ever seen only short glimpses but that’s about it.  I also must add that I am NOT an emotional person at all and it takes a huge life event for me to cry.  However today, as soon as the radiologist technician asked me to take off my hat, I started crying, upset about having someone see me without my hair for pretty much the first time.  They comforted me though by telling me it was fine, they see it all the time and told me I was beautiful anyway.  I got over it quick I guess.  I think I was just nervous.

The scan lasted about 20 minutes.  They started an IV for the contrast fluid first (not to be confused with “compost” fluid, which I was calling it during my initial CT scans back in March, ha).   The MRI machine is tunnel shaped with a table that goes in and out of the machine.  I laid down on my stomach, was given ear plugs for the noise (it’s extremely loud) and was led into the machine.  After about 20 minutes of these very loud noises for the scan images, that was it.  The technician said they’d send the results to my doctor within three days but asked for my cell phone number just in case the doctor had a chance to review the results today and wanted to call with the results.  I left my appointment, went home and finished up my day at work.

Right before 7:00pm, the phone rang.  I didn’t recognize the number and almost didn’t answer it but I did, because I’ve had a lot of unknown numbers calling me for all the appointments I have now.   It was the radiologist doctor calling from the radiology lab.  She was calling with my results……..

She said she read over my scans and was calling with good news.  She said there was NO signs of cancer remaining and that I had a complete response!!!!  During my biopsies in March, they had implanted three tiny titanium clips, one in each tumor, so they could be sure they knew where to look when they did the post-treatment scans.  She said she looked at all the clips sites, including the ones in my lymph nodes, and didn’t see any signs of cancer remaining.  As soon as I hung up the phone, I cried again, but happy tears this time.  I’ve only cried happy tears a few times in my life: first on my wedding day, next when I found out I was pregnant in February, again at Nina’s wedding a few weeks ago and today when I learned I was cancer free. 

I’m not sure how or if this changes for my surgery or radiation plans, but I should find out soon.  I’ll keep everyone posted!  Thanks again for everyone’s prayers!  Today was a big relief!!  Thank you God and thank you Dr. Limentani!!

Chemomaids Blog and Other Blog Updates

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Check out my new blog – chemomaids.wordpress.com  or chemomaids.com (I now have my own domain!)  It’s still under construction but let me know what you think!

I also added some fun new “widget” functionality to this blog!  I can now earn donations for charity just by getting sponsored by a brand of my choice.  There were about 10 charities from which to choose and about 10 sponsors.  I chose a breast cancer charity and the sponsor helping me is Sprint!  Every time my blog visitors click on their sponsored link on my page, they send a donation to my selected chartiy.  I also added a new search functionality and a link to my latest Facebook status updates.  These updates are all on the right side.  I also added another functionality on the left where my blog stats are published.  The blogs stats are the number of hits (i.e., visits) my blog has received (not counting my own visits).  It’s pretty cool.  I’m up to over 10,500 hits.  Thanks for all the support guys!  I really enjoy the blogging so I’m glad I have some interested readers!  🙂  I just love blogging. 😀

One Update and Two Stories

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No real update today, other than my white blood cells are the lowest they’ve ever been according to my CBC on Wednesday at my Herceptin appointment.  The CBC, or complete blood count, helps identify the blood related side effects of chemotherapy, which include changes in the three types of blood cells (white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets).  Because chemotherapy kills fast-growing blood cells as well as cancer cells, side effects involving your blood are an expected result of chemotherapy.  Side effects involving blood include (1) Neutropenia (low infection-fighting white blood cell count, which may leave your body vulnerable to infection and too weak to receive chemotherapy at the full dose on schedule); (2) Anemia (low red blood cell count, which contains hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s muscles and organs); and (3) Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count, which may cause bruising or excessive bleeding).   They said they think I’ll be fine and back to normal range by next week but if not, they’ll give me some sort of booster shot. 😦 boo hoo. whengh.

Other than that, and that’s not a big deal at all believe me, there’s nothing else to update…… so I’ll take this time to mention a couple other things, totally unrelated.

We Can Talk to Jesus

First, Dan’s sister, Lisa, her husband Buddy and their 6 kids came to visit on Monday night after dinner, along with Dan’s other sister Judy and her husband Steve.  Lisa’s kids range in age from 4 to 15.  The oldest is a boy and the rest are girls.  They are all so cute and I love it when they come to visit.  Anyway, I have the sweetest story I wanted to share with everyone.  We met for dinner first.  The older girls rode with me in my new convertible on the way back to our house.  Later that night, I took the younger girls for a drive around our neighborhood so they could enjoy the ride too (there wasn’t enough room for everyone after dinner).  The girls were cheering and waving at all the neighbors as we circled our block.  Hannah, the youngest, looked up and pointed at the open roof and said, “Danielle, look, we can talk to Jesus!”  It was so cute.  I told Lisa about it afterwards and she said Hannah often asks her to roll down the window so she can talk to Jesus.  It was so sweet.  They are such great kids.  I’m glad I have them in my life.

The Wanted

My next little tid bit of information I wanted to share……. One of my best friends Kelly (we were roomates in college), who lives in LA now, dates Jeff Foxworth.  Jeff used to play guitar a while back (college days) for the band Weekend Excursion, you may have heard of them; they used to play in the Boone area a lot but also other places around NC.  Anyway, now he plays guitar for Michael Johns.  He’s  also played at one point with others like Lindsay Lohan and Kara Dioguardi (new American Idol judge).  Anyway, Jeff and Mike (Michael Johns that is) have been on the Ellen Degenerous show, and other famous shows.  There’s a new show coming out on NBC, premiering Monday, July 20th at 10pm.  Jeff and his friend Rye Randa (who I also met in LA at Michael Johns’ 30th bday party that I went to with Kelly where I met all the American Idols 🙂 ) have produced all the music for the new show, including their theme song, which they produced with Michael Johns too.  So check out the show!  It’s about an international hunt for an accused terrorist and is supposed to be really good from what I hear!  Kelly and Jeff, if you’re reading this, tell Mike I’m still waiting for him to write me a message on my blog. 😉

Surgeon Appt – Great News!!

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I had an appointment today with my oncology surgeon, Dr. Turk.  I hadn’t met with him since the day I was diagnosed.  All of my appointments since then have been with Dr. Limentani, my oncologist.  To give you some background, I have several different cancer doctors:

     Dr. Turk – Oncology Surgeon – Surgery

     Dr. Limentani – Oncologist – Chemo and Other Treatment 

     Dr. Mcall – Radiation Oncologist – Radiation (haven’t met with him yet)

……plus others for the radiology appts, scans, etc.

Anyway, today’s appointment with Dr. Turk went GREAT!!!  He agreed with Dr. Limentani and said I responded great to the chemo and Herceptin treatment and recommended a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy, which is FABULOUS!!!!  The difference between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy is HUGE.  For a lumpectomy, they only remove the affected cancer area whereas for a mastectomy they remove the whole breast.  There are several different ways to do a mastectomy but I won’t get into all that since I no longer need one!! 

Here is a link that describes the differences of a mastectomy vs. a lumpectomy:

http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/mast_vs_lump.jsp

And a more detailed overview of a lumpectomy: http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/lumpectomy/

We talked for a while about the risks and benefits of a lumpectomy vs a mastectomy for my specific situation.  In the beginning, they were recommending a mastectomy due to the size of my tumor area (about 5cm), my age (risk for recurrence is higher in younger women and higher if you have a lumpectomy vs a mastectomy), and the fact that my tumors are HER2+ (grows/spreads faster and higher risk for recurrence).  Now, they are recommending a lumpectomy because the tumors have gone down in size so much and for breast conservation purposes.  I’m having an MRI on Monday to confirm that the tumors are indeed gone (until now, they’ve just determined this through physical exam) and determine the size of the tumors (if they are even still there).  There’s a small chance they could change their lumpectomy recommendation back to a mastectomy if the tumor area is still showing signs of cancer spread out over a wide area but their expectation/hope is that the cancer is gone. 

If I got a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy (which I could do if I wanted to but am not), my risk for recurrence would be lower but due to my age, the fact that my BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic testing came back clear (with no mutations of known significance), and the fact that I’ll get annual mammograms, ultrasounds and MRIs, Dr. Turk said I’d be fine with just a lumpectomy.  Thank God, Dr. Limentani and Dr. Turk  for that!!

Either way, I will still need to have most of my underarm lymph nodes removed (axillary lymph node dissection).  That’ll be the most invasive part of my surgery now (which would have been the was invasive part had I had a mastectomy too I think).  Here are some links that explain the lymph node removal:

http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/lymph_node_removal/

http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/lymph_node_removal/axillary_dissection.jsp 

Dr. Turk said they don’t usually say beforehand how many nodes they’ll remove but it’ll probably be around 12-15.  They instead remove the whole cluster area where they reside.  He said some of them may have been destroyed already by the chemo. 

After the surgery, they’ll run a pathology report on the tissue they remove.  If they find cancer cells, they may go in a week after surgery and remove a wider margin.  If they don’t find any cancer cells, then I’m free and clear.

Three weeks after surgery, I’ll have radiation.  This is to kill any lingering cancer cells and is recommended either way (lumpectomy or mastectomy) due to the HER2+ part and my age.  This will be every day for 6 weeks but will only last 15 minutes and I can do it on the way into work first thing in the morning or last thing in the afternoon on my way home.  Side effects from this are burning on the skin at the site and slight fatigue starting about half way through the 6 weeks.  But the fatigue should be manageable and nothing close to the chemo fatigue, which is where I feel like I’m 500 pounds and am really weak, etc.

My MRI is scheduled for Monday and my surgery is tentatively scheduled for August 6.  Recovery time will be 3-4 weeks but I’ll be able to work from home after 2 weeks (I just can’t drive for the following 2 weeks due to the lymph node removal surgery).

10 Days Until My Last Big Chemo

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I’m feeling MUCH better since the last time I wrote an update.  This past round hit me harder and lasted longer than other rounds but I had the day off on Friday for the 4th of July holiday and had a very nice, relaxing weekend. 

I meet with Dr. Turk, my oncologist surgeon, tomorrow to go over the surgery plans.  I’ll write another update tomorrow for that once I know more.  I just wanted to let everyone know that I was feeling better.  🙂

Chemo ~ Cycle 5 / Day 6

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Well, I had to take a sick day today, as I’m still feeling the effects of this past chemo round, ugh.  After I went back to sleep and woke up the second time this morning though, I’m starting to feel a tad better.  I can’t wait for it all to be over, or at least until I feel better tomorrow.  I’ve been a little down in the dumps this weekend, in case you couldn’t tell.  Blah.

I finally pryed myself off the couch and called my oncology surgeon today, Dr. Turk.  I’m schecduled to meet with him on Monday.  That’s when I’ll find out the next steps, or at least begin to.  I’m sure they’ll have to do an MRI or something first before they know for sure. 

Little Sofie (my new little precious puppy) is doing really good and our other animals are adjusting well (although it took a few days).  Here are some pictures of the new pillow room, where we have our story time.  They just love it.  And then a couple from my camera from Nina”s wedding weekend.

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Chemo ~ Cycle 5 / Day 5

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Well, the past few days I’ve kind of spent in a fog.  The chemo brain was way worse this time and I slept way more than I normally have.  I am also a little cranky this time and in a bad mood because I’m just sick of being sick, tired and hot and really sick of wearing wigs and hats.  I was hooked up to an IV on Friday for a 2 hour saline drip but I’m not sure if it helped for not.  It probably did though because I’ve been sleeping all weekend and not drinking much water so I’m sure that balanced itself out.  Yesterday was my worst day this round (so far, it’s still early Sunday).  I feel better today than I did yesterday so I hope I feel better tomorrow.  It’s weird how every single round has been different.  Some side effects get better, some get worse, one cycle my worst day is Monday, another it’s Saturday.  But there’s only ONE left.  Ahhh!  It went by fast but now I’m just ready for it to be over.  Surgery will be a one time thing and after that, it’ll just be every 3 weeks for Herceptin until next April.  I’ll just be glad when my hair starts growing back and I can feel somewhat like a normal person again.  Sorry for my cranky post.  Toodaloo!!!!

Chemo ~ Cycle 5 / Day 2

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Firstly, I apologize for being SO SLACK on responding to people’s comments lately; I always like to respond to all of them.  With all Nina’s wedding stuff this month, being busy at work with Forecast II, and now having a new puppy and another chemo round, my computer time at home has been dwindling but I’ll try to get back on track with things this weekend, sorry.  I just didn’t want anyone to think I wasn’t reading or responding to your messages.  I love getting them and appreciate everyone for writing them.  Speaking of support, there’s a section in my blog where I can see how many blog hits I have each day (not from who, just a tally count) and since I started it, I am almost up to 10,000 blog hits!  Thank you all for caring so much and for passing along my blog to others.  I hope it’s helping others as much as it’s helping me. 🙂

Well, chemo cycle 5 came andwent yesterday.  My second to last one, woo hoo!!  I only have one left (three weeks away) and this week will be spent recovering from round #5 so it’ll go by really fast. 

My mom came with me to yesterday’s appointment.  Dan had a business trip but he’ll be at my last one.  My mom spent the night with me last night too so that was nice. 🙂  And her friend Edie made us a wonderful chicken casserole which was fabulous just like the one Vicki made me and the baked spaghetti Courtney made me.  All of you are so sweet.

Anyway, we met with Dr. Limentani first yesterday, just like we do every big chemo week.  That went fine I think.  I had a list of questions prepared and I’ll try to recap them here.  First,  I wanted to know if I got a double mastectomy instead of a single one if that would preclude me from having to take Tamoxifen for the full five years, since that’s what keeping me from getting pregnant until I’m 37.  Tamoxifen is an estrogen blocker for my ER+ tumors to prevent them from coming back (or growing too if they don’t get everything I think).  I thought they only blocked estrogen in the breast tissue because that’s what we heard online but itactually blocks estrogen in other areas of the body as well so I will need to stay on it the full 5 years. 😦  Secondly, I wanted to know when I would have my next scans (e.g., MRI, cat scan, etc.) since I haven’t had a scan since I was first diagnosed.  I wanted to understand how we were going to be sure that they got everything and that the cancer was 100% gone.  Dr. Limentani said that Dr. Turk would order my MRI before my surgery and that I should go ahead and schedule my appointment with Dr. Turk now to begin discussing our next steps (surgery) now that I’m close to done with my big chemo rounds.  Dr. Limentani said it would just be an MRI, not a full body scan since my last full body scan came back clear and they’ve given me the most aggressive chemo regimen possible.  Therefore there is no reason to do another scan, for two reasons, well three if you count the fact that insurance won’t pay for additional scans unless necessary.  One, being because the tumors wouldn’t/shouldn’t spread after my initial scans since they were killing the cancer cells with the most aggressive chemo they could; and two, because even if they had spread, it would mean Stage IV incurable and not much more they could do; I would eventually have symptoms in those other areas (e.g., liver, etc.) and the earlier detection wouldn’t make a difference at that point.  That was all kind of a scary to hear but Dr. Limentani was very positive about everything and he told me to not be concerned.  I was just asking what-if questions.  He also said that after surgery, they analyze everything they take out during the surgery (all my breast tissue, the 15 lymph nodes they’re removing) and do a full pathology report.  They said I have a 40% chance of still having cancer at that time, but more positively a 60% chance of being cancer free.  I asked what would that mean if there was still some cancer left and he said my prognosis would be different, I took in a bad way.  He seemed a little apprehensive towards some my questions, but only because I’m asking questions into the future while there are still so many unknowns, except for the fact I’ve been doing great with all my treatments and we can’t feel my tumors physically anymore; and he didn’t think I needed to worry about all of that.  I guess I’m just getting a little anxious since we aren’t 100% sure.  I’m also confused about why if they are taking out the remaining breast tissue and all my lymph nodes, wouldn’t that mean they were getting all the cancer out then during surgery?  Dr. Limentani said these are questions to ask Dr. Turk and more so after the pathology report which will tell us way more.  Perhaps it has to do with risk for recurrence, but then why aren’t they suggesting double mastectomy?  Confusing.  Anyway, sorry, I have been so rambling (that’s the chemo brain I guess; I’ll have to re-read this post in a few days) but let’s get back to the positives.  Dr. Limentani still thinks everything is positive looking and so do I. 

I saw my friend Chrissy in there again yesterday.  She was the girl I met during my second to last big chemo round and who I saw there last week (or maybe the week before, I can’t remember) getting my Herceptin.  We talked for a while again and exchanged contact information to stay in touch.  She’s young like me (2 years older I think) with no family history of breast cancer in her family either.  Her cancer is triple negative like the other girl I met on my last big chemo round.  Anyway, we shared some stories about living with cancer, being our age, the side effects (we’ve both been on Taxotere, the worst,  and Carboplatin) so it’s been nice sharing stories.  I’m actually using some of her advice and am going back into the doctor tomorrow for 2 hours for an IV for saline/fluids.  She said it makes her feel so much better and can last through the day better.  We’ll see if it work for me!

So far, the side effects from this round have include HOT flashes, which I didn’t put two and two together until yesterday that that’s what was happening with me.  I’ve gotten them several times and just haven’t realized that’s what they were.  I’ve had them before during some of our fertility treatments but there are worse and more often now.  I feel all hot up my neck, head, ears, mouth, all over basically.  They come a lot at night and in the morning, and then periodically throughout the day.  That’s what happened that day at Subway right before I felt like I was going to pass out.  Oh yeah, and chemo brain is still getting worse.  My short term memory is just not here this week again.  I took a nap for a few hours this afternoon on the couch and I still feel very tired so I’m sure I’ll be in bed early.

Well, I think that’s enough for now, sorry for such a long blog.  I’m sure I rambled and rambled.  I have even more to write about though (Nina’s wedding, my new puppy, new pictures to post, etc.) but I’ll take care of those later this week/weekend, along with responding to everyone messages.  Thanks again!

New Puppy

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Well, I got a new puppy, chemo eve gift #5!  I adopted her from a rescue group called A Helping Paw.  I found her on www.petfinder.com, which is a website that has tons of dogs, cats, puppies, kittens and other types of animals up for adoption.  They’re all rescues, brought in from shelters, unwanted pregancies, strays, etc.  Anyway, you can search for what you want and you’re saving many of their lives.  I knew I wanted a puppy and something that would be small full grown.  I typed in my search criteria and up popped Little Suzy (and tons of others)!  We couldn’t use the name Suzy because I learned this week that’s one of Dan’s ex-girlfriend’s name so we renamed her Sofie, then Phoebie and now I’m thinking Sofie again.  I’ve added another fun poll below for everyone help me pick out her name.  I want it to be a real human name and prefer something two syllables, and cute.  And I usually like names that end in “ie” or “y”.  All of our other animals’ names are two syllables and have the letter “b” in them so I was trying to stay consistent, which is why I changed it to Phoebe. 

Anyway, I took a vacation day and drove all the way to Cookeville, TN to pick her up yesterday, which was a 12 hour trip round trip.  It was a very pretty day, very cool (70 degrees) and very nice to drive through the mountains with my top down (chemo even gift #4).  I met the lady from A Helping Paw at a Shoney’s and she arrived with 4 small puppies.  She showed me three others first.  She had a yorkie puppy, a yorkie maltese puppy, and another yorkie poodle puppy (Little Suzy’s brother).  They were all so cute and so small but I was already in love with Little Suzy.  She drove in my lap the whole way home, adjusted very well to me in the car and wanted to cuddle the whole time.  She also ate and drank a lot and we stopped several times so I could let her out.  She seemed very scared though when we would stop because it was raining and pretty loud with all the trucks and other cars.  I got home last night around 8:00ish and went inside first so Buster and Shelby could smell her scent on me first, then I brought her in.  She did great and so did our other pets.  They all love their new little sister.  Anyway, here are some pics of our newest baby (oh, and Dan if you’re reading this, if you check out the poll results a few posts down, you’ll notice everyone thinks we should get two more puppies, ha):

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Storytime with the Murray pets

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Ok, so this has nothing to do with my cancer stuff but I had to post these pictures for everyone to see and tell this story that I think is just hysterical.  So the other night I was reading a book on the couch (Memoirs of a Geisha).  Buster was in my lap and as a joke I started reading to him.  He was curled up like a baby on his back and seemed to really like it.  I asked him “do you want mommy to read you a story?!”  He got all excited and started his little excited whimper and wagging his tail.  I went up to our extra bedroom upstairs and grabbed a couple of the books I had bought for the nursery.  Buster was following me all excitedly.  I sat back down on the couch with Buster (who was still very excited and jumped in my lap) and started reading him “Mommy Loves Elmo”.  He was all attentive and happy and sat there and listened to me read the whole book, including the little parts in the book that are songs and have this little music button that plays along.  I changed the words to say Buster instead of Elmo.  It went like this: “Mommy loves Buster, Mommy loves Buster, Yes she does, Yes she does!  Silly little Buster, Happy little Buster, Love Love Love, Hug Hug Hug”.  All of a sudden all the other pets gathered around and sat down to listen too, including the two cats, which Cubbie by the way never sits that close (he’s the orange one right behind me).  It was hysterical.  I yelled up to Dan and told him to grab the camera.  Here are the pics:

All 4 pets gathered around for their bedtime stories.

All 4 pets gathered around for their bedtime stories.

Bedtime Story Time

Bedtime Story Time

Update

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Sorry I have been so slack on the blog posts lately.  I really appreciate everyone checking in on me though so I’m sorry I’ve been so slack.  Anyway, I’ve been feeling good.  Not great but good.  Usually in past rounds, the dry mouth / sore throat went away by about Monday or Tuesday following chemo.  This time it’s lingering.  Every day by about 4pm my throat starts hurting and my mouth always feels dry and hot now.  I guess it’s going to be like that for a while though because I heard that was a side effect of radiation too and that’ll be every day for six weeks, yuck.  Aside from that, I’ve been a little more tired and I haven’t been sleeping all that great, but I’m also nervous about giving a speech at Nina’s wedding on Saturday so hopefully that’ll get back to normal next week.  And I’m not tired enough to require naps or anything so it’s not that bad.  Nina’s wedding is this Saturday and then next Wednesday is my next big chemo round, the second to last one finally.  It went by fast but at the same time it’s getting really old and I’m ready for it all to be done. 

Last week in the chemo room for my Herceptin appointment, I met a new girl who was in there for her first round.  She was probably in her late 30s.  She was just diagnosed with triple negative stage IIB IDC, which is the same thing as mine except her hormone receptors are negative.  Triple negative means her tumors are HER2-, ER- (estrogen) and PR- (progesterone).  Again, mine was HER2+, ER+, PR-.    Triple negative breast cancers are typically responsive to chemotherapy, although they may or may not be more difficult to treat because they are unresponsive to the most receptor targeted treatments like Herceptin for the HER2+.  Here are some statistics for a quick lesson:

  • 25% of breast cancer patients have tumors that are HER2+.  I fall in this category.
  • 75% of breast cancers are estrogen-receptor-positive (”ER-positive” or “ER+”).  I fall in this category as well.
  • 65% of ER-positive breast cancers are also progesterone-receptor-positive (”PR-positive” or “PR+”).  I do not fall in this category.
  • 25% of breast cancers are ER-negative (”ER–”) and PR-negative (”PR–”) or of “unknown” status. This would be considered part of the triple negative, the third being HER2-.
  • 10% of breast cancers are ER-positive and PR-negative.  I fall in this category.
  • 5% of breast cancers are ER-negative and PR-positive.  I do not fall in this category.
  • If both estrogen and progesterone receptors are present (ER+/PR+), your chance of responding to hormonal therapy is about 70%.  I do not fall into this category, since I am ER+ but PR-.
  • If you are estrogen-receptor-positive only (ER+/PR–) OR progesterone-receptor-positive only (ER–/PR+), you have about a 33% chance of responding.  I fall in this category since I am ER+ and PR-.
  • I visited the wig place again this weekend and saw my friend in there.  She had her mammogram and everything came back cancer free however she did have a cyst and found a thyroid problem so it was good she was seen.  She said she didnt’ have to pay for anything and said she wouldn’t have been able to go there without my oncologist’s referral for her.  So that was really nice to hear that I was able to help her in that way.  It also means that I’ll be able to give back the donations that I received from people.  I kept track of those and will contact you individually.  Thanks again everyone! 

    I got a couple new wiggies while I was there, which are lighter in color (blondish but not too blonde) for the summer.  I’ll have to post some pics later.  I like them.  I met a lady in there who was shopping for wigs for the first time and she seemed pretty upset.  I talked to her for a while and hopefully made her feel better about all of it.  Her hair was short already so I told her it would only take her about 2 months to grow her hair back out and it wouldn’t come out as much since she didn’t have to run her fingers very far through it when she conditioned it.  I also explained how nice it was getting ready in five minutes without shampooing, conditioning, drying, combing, styling, or shaving.

    And my last update….  I want a new puppy everyone and Little Precious (AKA Dan) is not letting me get one so I need everyone’s help.  Please vote YES here for “Should Dan let Danielle get a new puppy?”

    Chemo ~ Cycle 4 / Day 6

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    Well I think the chemos are getting worse and better at the same time.  Certain side effects are getting worse and others are getting better. 

    The “chemo brain” seems to be getting worse.  For example, my mom came over Wednesday night (the night of my treatment) and brought me a present (a cute new pool bag).  The next day, I went into my closet and was like “whose cute new pool bag is this?”  I didn’t even remember her coming over. 😦  And I forgot to call my BFF Kelly on her birthday.  😦

    I was able to work pretty much a full day on Thursday and Friday though so the mornings I’m still doing ok.  The afternoons have been worse this time around though.  I’ve been way more tired this time and have taken long naps each afternoon.  My throat is still really dry but it’s not sore anymore, thanks to the ice and Dan’s nursing efforts on chemo day.  I still feel really tired today but it will hopefully go away soon (at least by Wed).  Yesterday, I tried to get out of the house and go to Target in the morning.  I was still pretty tired and stopped at Subway on the way home for lunch.   For whatever reason, I about passed out at the register and had to sit down because everything went black and I got really hot.   Then my stomach started getting upset last night and I didn’t sleep all that great.  Ugh.  I’m ready for them to be done but all else considering, I’m doing great.  🙂

    Multiple Choice Answers

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    Here are the answers (bolded below) to the multiple choice questions I posted a few blog entries down.  If you haven’t taken the quiz yet, you may not want to read this post if you want to take it.  Just a little blog fun. 

    1) True or False: 1 out of 8 American women who live to be 85 years of age will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

         True 88% (15 votes)  (Good job everyone!)

         False 12% (2 votes)  

    2) True or False: Breast cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death in women.

         True 59% (10 votes)   (Lung cancer is the first.)

         False 41% (7 votes)  

    3) What is the most common cancer among women in the US?

         a) Breast Cancer 75% (12 votes)  

         b) Skin Cancer 19% (3 votes)  (Breast cancer is the 2nd most common.)

         c) Lung Cancer 6% (1 votes)  

         d) Other 0% (0 votes)  

    4) Which of the following facts about Invasive Ductal Carcinoma is FALSE?

         a) “Invasive Ductal Carcinoma” refers to cancer that has broken through the wall of the milk duct and begun to invade the tissues of the breast. 6% (1 votes)  (This is true.)

          b) Over time, invasive ductal carcinoma can spread to the lymph nodes and possibly other areas of the body. 19% (3 votes)  (This is true.  Breast cancer can spread to the lymph nodes, lungs, bones, and brain.)

          c) At first, invasive ductal carcinoma may not cause any symptoms. 6% (1 votes)  (This can be true.)

          d) Invasive Ductal Carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer. About 80% of all breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinomas. 25% (4 votes)  (This is true.  Invasive Ductal Carcinoma is the most common breast cancer.  The various traits that come along with IDC such as the hormone receptors and HER2+ traits can make the various types of IDC more agressive or less common.)

          e) Men cannot get Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. 44% (7 votes)  (This is false.  Men can get breast cancer too, it’s just not very common.)

          f) I have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. 0% (0 votes) 

    5) Which of the following breast cancer facts is FALSE?

         a) Hormone receptors stimulate cancer growth. 0% (0 votes)  

         b) If both estrogen and progesterone receptors are present (ER+/PR+), your chance of responding to hormonal therapy is about 70% 0% (0 votes)  

          c) If you are estrogen-receptor-positive only (ER+/PR–) OR progesterone-receptor-positive only (ER–/PR+), you have about a 33% chance of responding. 0% (0 votes)  

          d) Studies show that approximately 25% of breast cancer patients have tumors that are HER2+. 0% (0 votes)   

         e) HER2+ breast cancer is a more aggressive type of breast cancer. 9% (1 votes)  (This is true.)

          f) There are four stages of breast cancer. Stage IV is considered incurable. 0% (0 votes)  

         g) Breast cancer cannot spread beyond the breast tissue, ducts or lobules. 82% (9 votes)  (Correct.  This is false.  Breast cancer can spread to the lymph nodes, lungs, bones and brain.)

    Chemo ~ Cycle 4 / Day 2

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    Yesterday was my 4th big chemo round.  Dan came with me this time.   He started a new job shortly after my first chemo round and his new employer wasn’t aware of my situation and I didn’t want Dan to ask off any work so soon.  Dan mentioned to his new boss the other day that I had breast cancer when they were talking about the Race for the Cure and his boss kindly told Dan to take some time off to be with me whenever he needed.  He could just make up the hours on other days.  That was nice.  Dan was excited to spend the day with me and I was glad to have him there.  I missed my mom though at the same time and wished they’d allow more guests.  It’s always a full house though so I understand why.

    Anyway, I’m officially 2/3 of the way done with my big chemos.  I had my follow up appointment with Dr. Limentani first and received another good report.  He said he still couldn’t feel my original tumors and thinks everything is going great.  I also discussed with him some other side effects that I’ve been having and he said they were normal so that was good.  I told him about my genetic testing results and he doesn’t recommend changing my current surgery plans.  I will meet with my oncology surgeon (Dr. Turk) the first of August to get his final opinion after my scans.  Dr. Turk will be the one who makes the final recommendations. 

    We went into the chemo room after that.  There weren’t nearly as many people in there as usual but my appointment was earlier than usual (9:15am).  It started to fill up a couple hours later and was a full packed room again.  I saw some new people and some regulars, along with some new patients going on tours anticipating what they’ll be going through next.  I talked to a few of the patients sitting next to me and the girl I met last week on the way out.  The lady next to me was getting a new chemo regimen because her chemos weren’t working for her.  It’s sometimes hard listening to other people’s stories, especially for my mom who I could tell was upset when bad things came up.  But I told my mom not to worry, mine are going away and I’m doing fine.  Mom came and brought me lunch around noon and stayed while Dan went to get his lunch.  She would have brought Dan’s lunch too but he needed something to do for an hour while my mom visited with me since they only allow one visitor at a time.   Dan did good with the popsicles that morning and was a very good nurse, just like my mom usually is.

    I was done around 1:30, earlier than usual.  Getting there earlier allowed us to beat the rush on the lab tests, IV set up, etc.  Last night after chemo, mom came over and brought me some dinners for the week.  I was a little more tired than usual for the first day.  I went to bed around 6 or 7 I think and slept until 8:30 this morning.  The tiredness feeling is weird.  It’s not just a normal tired feeling.  I feel like I can’t keep my eyes open, feel pretty weak and it feels like I weigh 400 pounds when I try to get up off the couch and walk.  No nausea yet though.  A little mild bouts here and there but nothing bad and it only lasts a minute or so.  I’m taking some extra precautions this time to try and prevent any heavy nausea days.  We’ll see if it works.

    I’ve done well today too.  I was pretty tired all day but I worked until about 4, then took a nap from 4-7 and now I’m eating dinner and watching TV.  Nighty night!

    Heart Echo Test Results / Chemo Cycle 4 Tomorrow

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    I got my heart echo test results back today (explained in more detail two posts below).  All OK as I expected. 

    My next big chemo round is tomorrow.  Cycle 4!  Only two more big ones left after tomorrow!  I’m hoping my IV goes well this time.  The last two times I’ve gotten bruises and the last time they had to do the IV twice.  I’m still holding out on the port.  I have many more to go though (Herceptin through April 2010) so hopefully that’ll last.

    How much have you learned?

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    How much have you learned about breast cancer?  Answer the 5 questions below and find out!  Answers will follow in an upcoming blog post.  Once you’re finished, you can click on “View Results” to see the most commonly answers for each question.  No cheating though.  The most commonly answered questions are not necessarily the correct answers.   Read the questions carefully! 

    Genetic Testing Results, Heart Echo Test, Latest Chemo Eve Present

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    Sorry I’ve been a slacker on the blog posts lately.  There hasn’t really been anything to update everyone on though since I’ve been feeling great.  I’ve had a couple of doctor appointments recently though so I thought I’d update everyone on that, and a couple other things.

    Genetic Counseling

    I found out my genetic counseling results today.  Mom came with me.  I don’t think I’ve written about this before so I’ll give a little background first.  I initially met with the genetic counselor about a month ago.  I completed a very long family history questionnaire and they ran some blood work for the genetic testing, which they sent off to Utah, the only place in the country that performs the testing.  After reviewing my family history forms, the genetic counselor said she didn’t think my breast cancer was hereditary since we have no family history of it, at least not close (i.e., up to grandparents).  Surprisingly, only 10% of breast cancers are hereditary.  The other 90% is caused from other factors, which aren’t really known but may include environmental factors, fertility drugs, etc.

    There are two breast cancer genes, breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2).  Everyone has these genes.  What they look for in the genetic testing are mutations in the genes.  Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 cause most cases of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.  If mutations are found, it would change my surgery plans and have implications for others in my family.  For example, if a mutation is found that has a known link to breast and ovarian cancer, they would suggest a double mastectomy instead of a single mastectomy (my current surgery plans) and the removal of my ovaries by the time I’m 40 (not in my surgery plans).  It would also mean that my sisters or other female relatives may want to consider the same surgeries as preventative measures.  There are thousands of mutations that are known to have a direct link with breast and ovarian cancer.  There are other mutations that don’t have a link with breast and ovarian cancer, and other mutations they are not sure about.

    My results came back with no mutations in the BRCA2 gene, however they did find a mutation in my BRCA1 gene.  Although it’s not one of the thousands of mutations that have a known link with breast and ovarian cancer and is instead one of those mutations they are not sure about.  Out of the 1.3 million people in the US that have undergone the BRCA1/BRCA2 genetic testing, only 4 other people have the same mutation as me.  Therefore there isn’t enough history or research at this point in time to indicate whether there is a link with breast and ovarian cancer or not.  They have only been performing this genetic testing since 1994. 

    So the news today was good and bad.  The good news is I don’t have any of the known mutations with a link to breast and ovarian cancer.  But the bad news is that there was a mutation, which they don’t know much about.  So what does this mean?  They said they wouldn’t make a recommendation either way and that I have to decide on my own what I want to do.  I have my next big chemo round this Wednesday and a follow up appointment with Dr. Limentani and we’ll ask his opinion then, but since there are only 4 other people in the whole country with the same issue, he may not have a solid recommendation.  I’ll probably opt to keep my surgery plans as is but I have until the end of July to decide.  The reason they recommend a double mastectomy for people with mutations in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes is because there is a much higher risk for re-occurrence. 

    The mutations that they don’t know much about are referred to as “genetic variants of uncertain significance”.  There are ongoing efforts at the genetic testing center in Utah about these types of mutations and their link with breast and ovarian cancer.  As new information becomes available, they will notify my genetic counselor and they will in turn notify me. 

    Herceptin / Heart Echo Test

    I also had another appointment on Friday for my second heart echo test.  The Herceptin treatment that I receive every Wednesday can cause heart problems, including reduced heart function, congestive heart failure, inadequate blood supply to the heart, inability to pump blood effectively, irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, disabling heart failure, weakening of the heart muscle, and sudden loss of heart function.  These risks are higher when Herceptin is given in conjunction with another certain type of chemotherapy called Anthracycline, which I’m not on, but they test for the heart problems no matter what.  I did some research and for my particular treatment regimen (Herceptin with Taxotere and Carboplatin), I found a trial that showed only 2.9% of patients with my same regimen had to stop using Herceptin due to heart damage. 

    They test my blood pressure and pulse every week and there haven’t been any signs to cause alarm, but they do the heart echo tests throughout treatment just in case and to do more thorough testing.

    Some other quick facts on Herceptin:  The most common side effects associated with Herceptin are fever, nausea, vomiting, infusion reactions, diarrhea, infections, increased cough, headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, rash, low white and red blood cells, and muscle pain.   The only side effect I’ve had from the Herceptin is low white blood cells, so that’s very good.  The white cells are the ones that fight off infections as part of your immune system.  But aside from getting sore throats occasionally and getting sick during that first round, I’ve been fine and haven’t noticed the low white blood counts myself. 

    Anyway, they performed my first heart echo test on March 31, the day before I started treatment, and just did the second one this past Friday.   I should have the results by Wednesday but I’m not concerned so no worries.

    Latest Chemo Eve Present

    So, Nina started a lovely tradition right before my first chemo round, which has made things a little more fun.  She comes over every third Tuesday, the night before my big chemo rounds, or what we call “Chemo Eve”.  Each Chemo Eve, Nina, one of my chemomaids of honor, gives me a Chemo Eve present.  I invented the term “Chemo Maids” in the beginning of my treatment as well.  A chemomaid is like a bridesmaid but does nice things for me during my chemo treatments, such as cooking meals, doing me favors, going with me to my treatments, etc.  I’ve had a lot of chemo maids over the course of my treatment.  😉  It’s just been something fun and silly. 

    Anyway, I’ve gone a little farther with the concept and have started giving myself Chemo Eve presents as well.  My initial gifts to myself were a pair of Coach sunglasses, a new Coach purse, etc.  Well this chemo round, I bought myself a new car!  It’s a Lexus SC 430 convertible and super fun!  I have told myself that this is not just an ordinary Chemo Eve present, it’s also a present to myself for not being able to get pregnant until I’m 35, which to me is justification enough.  Anyway, here’s a pic of my new car!  Well it’s only new to me, it’s actually a certified pre-owned. 

    new car 1

    new car 2
    P5310341
    P5310338
    P5310337

    Memorial Day

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    Happy Memorial Day everyone!  I don’t have many updates today, at least not health related.  Nina’s bachelorette party in Vegas was a blast!!  We laid out at the pool every day, got a pool cabana one day, gambled a lot, went out for nice dinners, ordered room service, got limos, walked up and down the strip, went out on the town, etc.  Our room was amazing (two adjoining suites) and we truly went out in style the whole time!  We didn’t sleep much but we had an amazing time!  The weekend was much needed and I wish I could do it all again soon!

    Oprah Show Airing Tomorrow

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    The Oprah show where Nina and I are in the audience is airing tomorrow (Thursday, May 21, 2009)!  Set your DVRs again!   I’m wearing a bright blue shirt and white skirt, and Nina’s wearing a black shirt and white pants.  The show is called “Where the Skype Are You?”  We’re in the 5th row on the isle to the left of Oprah right down on the floor.  Here’s a link to the advertisement online: http://www.oprah.com/dated/oprahshow/oprahshow-20090507-skype

    Random Thoughts

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    Well, I’m doing much better today, gearing up for my next Herceptin appointment tomorrow, then I’m off to Vegas for Nina’s bachelorette party weekend!  I am so excited to finally have a VACATION!!  I could use a longer one but a long weekend will do for now and I can’t wait!  I don’t have many updates today except that I’m still tired but that should be gone by tomorrow, and my mouth is still dry and blah, and I’m really getting sick of wearing my wiggies and hats.  Hopefully my hair will grow fast when it starts to grow back.  I was in kind of a bad mood earlier this week but my loving, wonderful dad cheered me up with his thoughtful encouraging words last night and I’m better now.  Thanks Dad, I love you!

    Well, instead of babbling on and on about nothing, I thought I’d share some more random thoughts.  I apologize in advance if this is mushy, which isn’t typically me but oh well.  As we all know, but sometimes forget, life is short and no one lives forever.  Many people leave this world too soon, before they have the opportunity of realizing the true greatness that comes with living.   I have come to appreciate the fact that I’ve been blessed with a wake up call, something not everyone gets or appreciates.  I’m not going to waste any more time worrying about what could have been, or what should have been.  I will instead be grateful for what I have, enjoy my life as it is and live in the moment.  Fertility concerns over the past few years had me thinking something was missing in my life; that I wasn’t completely fulfilled.  But now see.  While I may not have a baby, I am fulfilled and I have everything else I want.  The best family in the world, a wonderful husband who is my dream come true, fabulous friends and co-workers, four (yes four) wonderful, loving little pets, a dream house, my dream car, a dream job and a wonderful life network (those people you run into regularly at the store, my nail technicians, etc.).  I would never trade my life, my wonderful life, for ANYTHING, even a life twice as long, however long that may be.

    Chemo ~ Cycle 3 / Day 6

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    Well, I spoke too soon yesterday I’m afraid.  Yesterday evening and on into last night / early this morning, proved to be the worst day yet, similar to that first Monday following my first chemo round.  I’m not really sure why this time, other than I guess they’re starting to wear on me.  The Aloxi and steriods they give me on the big chemo days wear off after a few days and the symptoms start to catch up I think.  It sort of felt like a really bad flu with nausea, hot/cold chills, stomach pains, etc.  I felt pretty sick from about 7pm, when I got in bed, until about 2am when I think I finally fell asleep.  I feel much better now though but am still tired.  Tomorrow will be better I’m sure so no worries.

    Chemo ~ Cycle 3 / Day 5

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    Well, this weekend wasn’t too bad.  I’ve been more tired this time around than normal but overall the side effects have still been better than my first round, when everything was coupled with an extrememly dry and sore mouth, throat, nausea, cold, cough, etc.   I’ve been getting tired right around or after lunch and have taken long naps each afternoon.  I never nap either.  I’m trying to rest up as much as possible because we leave for Vegas on Thursday for Nina’s bachelorette party weekend!  Woo hoo!!  My mouth and throat are still a little dry but again, way better than the first round thanks to the Popsicles.  Not much more to update today.  Well, except the Oprah show where Nina and I are in the audience is airing this Thursday at 4pm on ABC (Where The Skype Are You?).  So set your DVR’s again!!   Nina and I are in the 5th row isle on the floor to Oprah’s slight left.  🙂 

    P.S. I’ve added a couple links under “Special Links” to the right with some links to Oprah and such, and I’ve also updated the bottom of the “Lids Needed” page to the left.

    Chemo ~ Cycle 3 / Day 2 – Half Way Done with the “big” chemos!!

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    Well, yesterday marked the half way point for my “big” chemo rounds.  I’ve had three and have three more to go.  I still go in every week for Herceptin though but those are a breeze in comparison.  Yesterday went good though.  I had my follow up appointment with Dr. Limentani first.  He said everything looked great!  He said he couldn’t even really physically feel my tumors at all anymore.  We’ll have to do another scan to get the actual measurements but that won’t be until before my surgery in August sometime.  Dr. Limentani said if he didn’t know the lumps were there, he’d have a hard time finding them.  I can still feel them a little but I have the inside feeling of them too and can sometimes feel the chemo “working” like he said I would, meaning pain at the site of the tumor as it’s shrinking, but it’s not bad and goes away.  Basically, the tumors are WAY smaller and softer than they were in the beginning, so that’s very good.  It makes me realize how big the really were to begin with though!!  And why on earth I was told last year not to worry about them.  I mean, they felt like some pretty hard rocks in there.

    Anyway, we went into the chemo room after that.  They had a lot of patients again.  All of the 25 patient seats were full except maybe 2 or 3, and most people had a guest so there were close to 50 people in there again.   We noticed a couple new people and some regulars we’ve come to know.  They ran my blood counts again first (like they do every week) to check my white blood cells (immune system), red blood cells (bone marrow I think) and blood platelets (clotting mechanism).  All mine were fine.  If they aren’t, they may opt to postpone treatment a day or so or give you a booster shot of some kind.   My white blood cells are usually the ones that get low but by week 3 they are back up, well really probably sooner.  The also ran my “chemistry” which checks your liver and other organ counts.  I learned this yesterday.  They want to make sure all your organs are fine to make sure they’re up for the task of pumping all the chemo chemicals through your system.  Everything came back fine for that, as it always has I guess since I never knew (or remembered) they were even checking this.

    They started my IV next and ran the steroids and Aloxi first.  Aloxi is for nausea and vomiting and stays in your system for 3 days (at least for my dose).  The steroid, which I don’t remember getting before but they said I’ve had every time, is meant to help with the other symptoms, like hand numbness, finger tingling, etc.  That’s what those ics bins are for too for the Taxotere, the worst chemo drug that I’m on and the one that caused the hair loss.  They started with Taxotere first, after the saline drip that followed the steroids and Aloxi.  The Taxotere wasn’t very fun, as usual.  That one lasts an hour and my finger tips have to be in ice bins the whole time to prevent the finger tingling/numbness and nail damage.  My mom tried it this time and said it wasn’t that bad for her but it’s very painful for me for the first 30 minutes or so.  It must be worse for me because it’s while the meds are pumping through my bloodstream I guess.  Either that, or I’m just a wimp, who knows.  The girl who sat next to me though is 36 and was diagnosed right around the time I was (also with no family history).  She has invasive ductal carcinoma as well but her tumors aren’t HER2+ or ER+ like mine.  We were both getting Taxotere at the same time but her other two drugs were clinical trials and different than my other two (Carboplatin and Herceptin).  The HER2+ and ER+ factors make my cancer higher risk but the treatments are better I think because they can target the hormone receptors.  I’ve watched part of that movie that just came out in rental stores called “Living Proof”.  I think it was originally aired on the Lifetime network but I’m not sure.  The movie is about the doctor who invented and developed Herceptin, the targeted therapy drug I’m on for the HER2+ aspect of my cancer.  I learned in the movie that before Herceptin, HER2+ cancer patients usually died from their cancer, which was really scary to hear and a real eye opener to how far they’ve come with treatments.   Herceptin is now known to be the miracle drug in the breast cancer field.  It doesn’t work for everyone but I’m glad it’s working so far for me!

    There was another girl on the other side of me in the chemo room whom I’ve seen in there before but we’ve never spoken because she always looked like she was in a lot of pain and not doing well.  When mom left to get us lunch, I asked her what her name was and we started talking.  I’ve seen her in there at least three times before but she didn’t remember seeing me.  It was either my new wig (wiggie #1 in a pony tail and Coach scarf this time), or it was just that she was so sick during her treatments.  Anyway, she carries a walker and I found out she had a carcinoid tumor in her leg and had to have her leg amputated in January.  How traumatic that would be.  She had a great attitude about it though and said it didn’t hurt (at least not now).  Her chemo treatments are Monday through Friday, all day every day, with one week on and two off.  Just another reminder to be thankful for what we have.  She’s thankful her cancer was removed and is being cured.  It also reminds me of the quote I saw in the heart echo test room “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone is battling something.”  I’ve gotten so many cards and emails from people wishing me well and telling me stories about themselves or their families being touched by breast cancer.  It goes to show you how many people are affected by cancer in some way, whether it’s themselves or a loved one, or other troubling things in their lives.  But all of these things can be used as learning experiences for ourselves or others.  We all need to be thankful for what we have and “enjoy this moment, for this moment is your life”. 

    Side effects so far…….Today I felt a little tired this morning but I didn’t sleep that good last night.  I woke up kind of hot and Simba and Cubbie (our kitties) were hogging the bed and I didn’t want to move them (Cubbie just finally started sleeping with us this week and I didn’t want to boot him out of the bed just yet).  My mouth is a little dry again this time but no where near like the first round.  I sucked on Popsicles again but was talking to the girl beside me a lot so I didn’t eat as many.  By about 2pm, I crashed on the couch.  Don’t worry, not literally, just fell asleep and slept until 7pm.  I was so tired and just couldn’t keep my eyes open!  Now I’m on the computer and soon heading down for dinner and the Gray’s Anatomy season finale.  Izzy, one the the main charcters on the show, was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma that’s spread to her brain (in the show, not real life).  It’s been an interesting show to watch for me this year.  It’s weird how when you’re diagnosed with something, or just what’s going on in your life in general, seems to be all you see on TV or all you think about.  I guess it’s like that for everyone though, no matter what you’re going through.

    The Oprah Show Has Aired!! (and other general updates)

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    Well my big day was great!!  The Dr. Oz Oprah XM Radio show aired this morning.  I was on there for about 6 minutes (yes, I recorded it and timed my piece).  They edited out the part where Dr. Oz asked me about my blog.  I guess they decided not to air my blog address on national radio.  That would have been really cool but the messages probably would have been overwhelming and it probably would have taken away from the messages I receive from friends and family on here, which I love.

    About mid day right after lunch I visited www.oprah.com and saw my pictures on the set of the Oprah show!  They were linked with an article about today’s show (see previous blog post).  I watched the show when I got home from work and was pleasantly surprised to see how many times and for how long my pictures actually appeared on set!  Wow, what an exciting day!  I wish I would have emailed the show sooner; I probably could have been one of those people who thanked him in person on the show.  I emailed the show a couple days before it was taped so I’m just glad they were able to add my pictures in time!  And I got to meet Dr. Oz in person and go to another Oprah show anyway, which really just expanded the exciting times!  Thanks for everyone who tuned in to watch or who set recorders!  Dr. Oz is so amazing!  I just love him and Oprah.  I can’t wait for his show in September!  I’m going to follow up with the publicist who got my information sometime soon so hopefully the exciting times will continue. 

    Ok, now for some not-so-exciting stuff.  I have my third “big” chemo day tomorrow, the one where I get Taxotere, Carboplatin and Herceptin in one big pretty regimen.  I’ll be hooked up for the whole day basically.  I’ll have a follow up appointment first, then into the chemo room again we go!  Mom’s coming with me again (thanks Mom!).  After tomorrow though, my “big” chemo cycles will be half way over.  It’s gone by really fast! 

    I also had my genetic counseling appointment last week.  I think I forgot about that with everything else going on.  Anyway, they asked a ton of family medical history questions.  We don’t have any breast cancer in the family at all so they don’t think it’s genetic but are running some genetic blood tests to be sure.  There are two breast cancer genes (BRCA 1 and BRCA 2) that everyone has but sometimes they don’t work properly and are considered “mutated”.  If these genes are mutated, there is a higher risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer.   They said if they are mutated, it would alter my surgery plans, meaning they would recommend a double mastectomy (instead of a single one) and a hysterectomy when I’m 40.  I won’t go into details about all the what-ifs until I know if it’s even a problem.  I doubt it will be.  I’ve had gut feelings about all the rest of my diagnosis and this isn’t one of them so I’m not worried.  But anyway, they had to send the tests to Utah and I won’t hear the results until my follow up appointment on June 1.

    Latest Most Exciting News Ever!!

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    I am in total shock and disbelief right now!!!  Not only was I on the Oprah XM Radio Dr. Oz show today (for 6 whole minutes!!) but I also just came across my pictures on www.oprah.com!!!!  I really am going to be on the show set today at 4!!  I wasn’t sure how the pictures would be displayed or if mine would even be visible but I just came across them on the website so now I know they are!  I’m up there twice actually!!!!  Wooo hooooo!!!

    Below are the links to the pictures on the website.  You can see two pictures of me in the first link.  I’m the one in the purple shirt holding my dog Buster on the bottom right and the one holding the sign for Dr. Oz in the chemo room on the bottom left!!!  I didn’t think the one of me holding the sign made it in time for the show but they must have got it in on time or edited it in afterwards. 

    http://www.oprah.com/article/oprahshow/20090423-tows-best-dr-oz/8

     

    I'm the one in the purple shirt on the bottom right holding my dog Buster!!

    I'm the one in the purple shirt on the bottom right holding my dog Buster and the one holding the sign in the chemo room on the bottom left!!

     

     

    I'm the one in between Oprah and the man in the suit!!!

    I'm the one in between Oprah and the man in the suit!!!

    Dr. Oz XM Radio Update

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    I tuned in this morning to listen to the Dr. Oz radio show (the one where I’ll be on) but they were replaying the one from yesterday.  I checked the website and it says it’ll be on at 11am though.  You can download a trial version of XM on their website (www.xmradio.com) if you want to tune in.  Here’s the latest write up:

    “After five years as an expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Oz is starting his own television show in September 2009! He talks with Oprah Show viewers whose lives he’s affected.”

    Dr. Oz’s show on Oprah’s XM Radio Channel

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    So here’s the advertisment for the radio show tomorrow morning, where I’ll be speaking on Dr. Oz’s XM Oprah Radio channel (XM channel 156 at 7am, with repeats airing at 11am, 4pm, 11pm):

    “After five years and fity-five Oprah Winfrey Shows, Dr. Oz is moving on- to his own show but before that he talks with people from all walks of life whose lives have changed for the healthier as a result of seeing one of his appearances on the show. From quitting smoking to early cancer detection to deep breathing techniques- its an hour of “Thank You Dr. Oz” for changing my life”.

    And the advertisement for the Oprah show tomorrow:

    “After five years on The Oprah Show, we’re saying goodbye to our beloved Dr. Oz. Plus, meet the tiny patient he could not forget.”

    I’m not the “tiny patient” by the way.  Ha!

    Latest Oprah / Dr. Oz News!

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    Lots of fun updates today!  Warning: long blog post ahead, sorry. 

    Before I start, I had my next Herceptin treatment appointment Wednesday before Nina and I flew out for the Oprah show.  They said my white blood counts were a tad low and gave me a mask to wear on the plane.  Um, I don’t think so, but Nina and I got some funny pictures and laughs out of it at the airport and on the plane.  We were giggling like we used to in church when we were little. Ha!

    Ok so yesterday was the Orpah show!!   Nina and I arrived in Chicago late Wednesday night and stayed at the Marriott on Michigan Avenue.  We arrived at the Harpo studio the next morning a little before 7am.  Our names were on the audience guest list and we cleared through security pretty quickly.  We knew we weren’t allowed to bring in cell phones or cameras so we left those at the hotel.  They held the audience in a holding room before we were let into the studio room.  There were several rows of chairs lined up with big screen TVs all over the room showing clips from past shows and a bunch of still shots hanging on the walls, including one of Oprah and Richard Gere ~ my ALL TIME FAVORITE movie star!!! 

    After about an hour in the holding room, they made an announcement that we would all be filed into the audience shortly; there weren’t any assigned seats, and the parties were not guaranteed to be sat together.  They said there were a couple people who had special seating though and then asked for “the Murray party” to please step forward!!  They then escorted Nina and I to our 5th ROW ISLE FLOOR seats reserved near the front of the stage!!!  We were so excited! 

    They played one of those fun Lady Gaga songs and had everyone up dancing and cheering.  It was such a fun time. Then one of the producers appeared on stage and explained how they were going to do a few trial run rehearsal type things and explained how Oprah sometimes calls on audience members who may make a funny face or something asking for their thoughts.  If and when she does this, the audience member would stand up and speak into a microphone over their head (not seen on TV) but shouldn’t lean into it since that would look funny.  Anyway, one lady stood up and asked a question, then of course I had to raise my hand and couldn’t resist the opportunity.  We were just asking general questions so I asked what door Oprah was going to walk out of, hoping it was the door behind the isle where we were sitting.  They said normally it was but that she would be coming from behind stage that day.  The producer then asked me my name, who I was with, where we were from and how we got tickets.  I explained that I emailed the Oprah show about how Dr. Oz’s show on medical mistakes saved my life and told the quick general story.  Then the whole audience started clapping and cheering for me!!  It was so exciting! 

    The show started moments later and out walked Oprah!!!  I was so excited and did not stop smiling the rest of the show.  It was such an exciting hour and the time flew by really fast!  The topic of the show was Skype, the free Internet web cam phone service that she’s done on her show several times this season. They were skyping in people from all over the world (no one famous).  It was really neat seeing the behind the scenes activities like in between commercial breaks.   I made eye contact with Oprah at least five times, which was so surreal and I couldn’t believe it.  The taping of the show went exactly as it does on TV, lasting one hour with timed intervals for commercials in between, just like the live shows.  

    After the show, I thought they were going to do an Oprah After Show for the Oxygen channel but they didn’t for this show.  I also mentioned in a previous blog post that we were at the finale show but I don’t think we were because they had two other shows they were taping that afternoon.  Anyway, they announced the show was over, Oprah left the stage and they told everyone to file outside like they did when we came in.  But before they asked everyone to leave, they asked for “the Murray party” to please step forward again  I thought I was going to meet Oprah and my heart sank.  We didn’t but they had a nice gift bag for me waiting outside, which was so thoughtful.  I mean, how often do you hear someone getting Oprah tickets, reserved seating and an Oprah goodie bag!?!  I’m so thankful!! 

    After we got out of the show, several people came up to me outside and thanked me for telling my story, told me how brave I was or just wished me well and offered prayers in support.  Oh yeah, and the producer asked the whole audience before the show to make sure they said a prayer for me and Nina.  🙂  It was so sweet. 

    Outside the studio, there was an Oprah store where of course I spent a fortune on Oprah souvenirs, including a duffel travel bag, two magnets, two pairs of PJ pants, a book, Oprah’s magazine, which I later subscribed to that night, and an Oprah engraved picture frame for my Dr. Oz picture.  We took down the nursery upstairs (yes, we already had one set up) shorlty after the miscarriage 😦 and I now have my Dr. Oz pictures hanging in the place of where I was going to hang baby pictures on the shelves that Dan made.  That makes me sad, but at least I can replace those far reaching thoughts with happy thoughts about Dr. Oz and Oprah.

    After we left the Oprah store, Nina and I took another cab back to our hotel.  On our way back, we talked in awe about the morning, how exciting it was, and how we couldn’t even believe it happened.  I told Nina how the past few weeks have been so exciting and that I didn’t want them to end.  In the midst of a miscarriage (after 3+ years of trying) and a metastatic cancer diagnosis, I wouldn’t have thought my life would be so exciting, fulfilling and fun at the same time!  I was kind of sad though that those exciting times were coming to an end.  I had met Dr. Oz, went to the Oprah show, and the show with my picture on set would be airing soon.  It would all soon be over and just a pleasant memory in the past.  But little did I know, I had emails awaiting on my blackberry when we arrived back at the hotel; it wasn’t over quite yet!

    I checked my cell phone and blackberry when we got back to our room, which again we had left in the hotel room since they weren’t allowed at the Oprah show.  I had an email from another Harpo producer and another one from Dr. Oz Himself!!  They asked me to call into Dr. Oz’s show on Oprah’s XM radio channel today to tell my story on air!!  Oprah has a national channel on XM satellite radio and Dr. Oz has a daily show on there.  They were going to be talking about the upcoming Oprah show on Tuesday (the one where my picture will be on set) and wanted me to call in and tell my story on the radio!!  I was honored and agreed right away!!!  They dialed me into the show this morning and it’s going to broadcast either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday on the Oprah channel, which is channel 156 I think.  During the taping, Dr. Oz mentioned my blog and asked me what it was again!  When I told him the address, he said “we’ll have this all on Oprah.com”!!!  Oh my!!!!!  So I guess the exciting times aren’t done yet and I’m enjoying every minute of it while they continue!!!

    Here are some pics from the Oprah show (after we rode back to the hotel to get our cameras and returned to the studio about an hour after the show).

    Me standing outside the Harpo studio after the show

    Me standing outside the Harpo studio after the show

    Me sitting in Oprah's chair inside the Oprah store

    Me sitting in Oprah's chair inside the Oprah store

    Me and Nina in Oprah's chair inside the Oprah store

    Me and Nina in Oprah's chair inside the Oprah store

    The O sign

    The O sign

    Outside Harpo studios setting up for the May 8, 2009 Fridays Live episode

    Outside Harpo studios setting up for the May 8, 2009 Fridays Live episode

    Now for my next update, sorry this is such a long post this time.   I talked to my new friend at the wig place.  She explained how one of the places I gave her didn’t work out because she lives in a different county but that they referred her to a sister clinic of some sort in her county.  She called to get an appointment there but learned they weren’t accepting new patients because of the increased demand of financially aided clinics and lower donations from people due to the economy, the same reason Dr. Oz was speaking at the clinic in Mooresville.  Anyway, she said they said even though they weren’t accepting new patients, they were accepting her because of my oncologist’s referral.  She thanked me again for all the referrals and said how she wouldn’t have gotten an appointment if it wasn’t for me.  I’m not trying to brag or get recognition by any means, but it was just nice to hear that I could help but I was saddened at the same time to hear that some people have such a difficult time just getting seen and heard.  She hasn’t had her mammogram yet but has one scheduled.  The doctors were alarmed to hear that the other doctors weren’t ordering her a mammogram because of all her lumps.  I told her I didn’t expect her to keep me updated if she didn’t want to but she said she will keep me posted.  I have the donations ready for her too when she needs them!  Thanks again everyone!

    Got an email from Dr. Oz Himself today!!

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    Wow!!!  My life has just been so exciting lately, I can hardly believe it!!  I got an email from Dr. Oz Himself today!!!  😀  I’ve copied it below.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my picture is hanging in his office!!!!!  I asked him if it was ok for me to copy his email message to my blog and he said he would be honored.  The honor is all mine Dr. Oz!!  Thank you so much!!!  Here it is:

    “So good to meet you in Mooresville, I absolutely love that you SHOW UP for life and keep your feet moving no matter what cards you are dealt. I spent time with Michael J Fox on the Oprah Show recently and he commented that he would not have chosen Parkinson’s disease. It was a choice that was not his. But he has hundreds of other choices and he is making them wisely, just like you. So keep smiling. I have your photo in my office and checked out your blog which is great.  Hope to see you in NYC!!”

    Two Wiggie Polls

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    I’m taking a couple wiggie polls.  Please use the polls below to select your vote.  I can’t tell who the votes are from so please also leave a comment if you’d like me to see your vote. 

    (I can only wear with the last wiggie with hats so I didn’t include it in the poll answers.  I like wiggie #1 and #4 the best I think.)

    Poll #1: Which wiggie do you like the best? 

    Poll #2: Which wiggie should I wear in Nina’s wedding? 

    Wiggie #1

    Wiggie #1

    Wiggie #2 (w/ clips)

    Wiggie #2 (w/ clips)

    Wiggie #2 (w/o clips)

    Wiggie #2 (w/o clips)

    Wiggie #3

    Wiggie #3

    Wiggie #4

    Wiggie #4

    Wiggie #5 (only w/ hats)

    Wiggie #5 (only w/ hats)

    Breast Cancer Walk

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    Today was the Susan G. Komen Breast Walk in Winston Salem, NC.  Thanks again Janelle for all the special arrangements you made!!  It was truly a special day that I will always remember, and I have you to thank for making it all happen!  The special sign you made for Preston’s stroller was especially cute!  (It read “Stollin’ for my Fairy God Mother”.  For those of you who don’t know, Janelle’s son Preston is my God son and we call me “Fairy God Mother” to be funny.)  Our brunch afterwards was also very nice!!  Thanks to everyone else who walked with me, including (in order of appearance because of course I was obsessing over hurting feelings for the order in which I was placing everyone) Dan, my mom, Courtney, Cindy, Nina, Waylon, Matt, Kim, Bumper, Janelle and Preston, Darlene, Jerry, Trebor and Linda.  I was so glad that each of you were there and thank you so much for sharing the day with me!!  I had the best time and love you all!!  I have added some pictures under the pics page to the left!!  Also, thanks for everyone that donated in support of the walk!!  I raised $650!! 😯

    Thanks Dr. Oz!!

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    Wow, what an EXCITING day!!!!  Mom and I met Dr. OZ today!!!  We arrived around 1:30, which was perfect timing because we got to see Dr. Oz getting out of his limo with all the news stations outside ready to interview him.  We found a place to park and quickly walked inside to arrive at our “reserved” seats, which were perfectly placed in the second row right in front of the podium!!   The chairman of the board of Heart Reach, the non-profit medical facility that hosted today’s event, introduced Dr. Oz and read the most impressive bio I’ve ever heard.  Dr. Oz walked out a few minutes later and mom and I stood for his standing ovation.  I’ve seen every Dr. Oz Oprah episode and have all his YOU books so it was such an exciting moment for me, like thanking him for saving my life wasn’t exciting enough! 

    After his amazing presentation, I was told to stay in my seat so we could meet Dr. Oz after the show.  While we waited for him to come back out, everyone else cleared the room, except for some volunteers, a few police officers, and three other groups of people with special arrangements to meet Dr. Oz (there were about 8-10 of us left in the room).  Dr. Oz came out a few moments later and the man in front of us spoke first.  Dr. Oz had performed his heart surgery 10 years ago and he was there to thank him again.  I was next. 

    I thanked Dr. Oz for saving my life and explained how his medical mistakes Oprah show on March 10 prompted me to question the two doctors that told me over the past year that my lumps were nothing to worry about.  I explained that I had stage IIB HER2+ invasive ductal carcinoma and how I emailed the Oprah show about my story for Dr. Oz’s finale show.  I mentioned how my picture was on the set of his show and he said how touched he was to see all those pictures. 

    Then……… HE ASKED ME TO BE ON HIS NEW DR. OZ SHOW IN SEPTEMBER!!!!!  His publicist was there with him and got all my information for the show later this year!!  What an honor that will be!!!  🙂  We took a few pictures together (posted below and in my pics page to the left), he signed my “YOU The Owner’s Manual” book and a picture that I had brought me with (the one of me holding my sign in the chemo room a couple weeks ago).  I gave him a copy of one of them and wrote my blog link on the back.  He said he would visit my blog soon and leave me a message!!  It was such an honor meeting him and such a fun day!!  Here are some pics (me in wiggie #2):

    Me and Dr. Oz!

    Me and Dr. Oz!

    Dr. Oz signing my book!!

    Dr. Oz signing my book!!

    My hero!!

    My hero!!

    Mom, Dr. Oz, Me

    Mom, Dr. Oz, Me

    Mom Telling My Story

    Mom Telling My Story

    Perfect Timing!!

    Perfect Timing!!

    Presentation

    Presentation

    Meeting Dr. Oz Tomorrow!!!

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    Wow, I am just overwhelmed with all this fun stuff going on.   Ok, here’s the latest……I’m meeting Dr. Oz tomorrow!!!  Oprah’s wonderful producer has arranged for me to meet him in person tomorrow because he’s speaking at a charity event right outside Charlotte in Mooresville!!  They have my name on the list as a “special Dr. Oz guest” and my mom and I have two reserved seats in the front row with a special arrangement afterwards for a personal introduction!!!  Ahhhhhhhhh!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Chemo Cycle 2 Better / Oprah Count Down

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    I haven’t written an update in a few days, sorry, no real reason.  I’ve been super excited about my Oprah news and I’ll start with that I guess, since that’s definitely the most entertaining.   Nina and I are all scheduled to fly up to Chicago next Wednesday night after my Herceptin appointment and are on the audience guest list for the Thursday morning taping, which is the finale show of this season!!  We’re not sure what the topic is yet but it’s bound to be a super fantastic show!!   I watch Oprah every day and am so excited to basically meet the most famous person in the world!!  My Herceptin appointment that Wednesday was supposed to be at 3:00 but I had to move it to 2:30 so we wouldn’t risk missing our 6:00 flight.  When I called to reschedule it for earlier, they said they weren’t allowed to schedule my treatment any earlier because the earlier appointments are reserved for the longer treatments, like the ones I have every three weeks.  When I told them it was because I needed to fly out for the Oprah show, they were like “oh wow, ok, what time do you need to change it to?!”  It was really funny.  Leave it to Oprah to have pull with the chemo schedule, ha!!  I’m not sure when the finale will air but the Dr. Oz episode where my picture will be on set will air on Tuesday, May 12.  I know I’ve mentioned this a few times already, sorry, can’t help it. 

    My next big news, which is on the opposite spectrum of excitment, is that my hair is basically gone.  I have about 15% of it left probably and am wearing wigs and hats full time now.  It wasn’t as dramatic as I thought but it’s still coming out every day.  I haven’t decided to shave it yet, but really only because I think that would hurt.  It’s a little sore and sensitive up there.  It’s nice not shaving (my legs) though and I’ve been getting to work much earlier.

    And now for my chemo stuff; I guess I haven’t really said anything about my second big round yet.  It went better than the first round but I was very busy with Nina’s shower over the weekend and took certain precautions to prevent some of the side effects this time.   I took certain prescriptions earlier and longer, chewed on ice during my treatments, drank more water beforehand, etc.  I heard the treatments would get worse each time but my second one was actually better.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I just got really sick at the same time as the first round, which made everything worse.  I have had some side effects though, including being really tired the first days by around lunch, hitting the sack between 6-8 pm the first 5 nights or so, feeling nauseous here and there, etc. 

    Hm, what else…….  Ah yes, my friend at the wig place.  I haven’t heard back from her yet since we last spoke but I called and left her a message and will keep everyone posted. 

    And one last a random update……I’m having a hard time finding foods that don’t have sugar and soy!!  Soy has plant estrogen, which I can’t have because my cancer has estrogen receptors, and sugar supposedly fuels cancer so that’s been a big struggle.  I love my snacks and miss my Dove chocoloate eggs.  Sugar is obvious, but you wouldn’t imagine how many things have soy!

    Oprah here I come!! – set your DVR’s for May 12 and more!!

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    AWESOME news today, but I’ll start at the beginning.  Well, to start off, I had a good morning, worked from home from about 6:30 to noon, felt a little tired after that and had some stomach aches on and off but overall, better than my first round.   I also lost a lot more hair today so the wiggies are here to stay for a while.  But I’m too excited about my exciting news to go into any more details on all that!

    Second piece of good news, I talked to my friend at the wig place and told her the good news about the donations and all the contacts my oncologist office gave me for her.  She was very touched and so thankful.  She’s going to give them a call and then call me back to go from there.  I’ll keep everyone posted and thanks again for your help with the donations!  I’m still trying to collect though if you want to contribute and possibly save a life! 

    Ok, now for the MOST AWESOME NEWS EVER!!  You remember a couple posts ago, where I emailed the Oprah show about the Dr. Oz special where guests were asked to write in to thank Dr. Oz for saving their life?  Well, as you know, I got an email back for Oprah’s Associate Producer asking for a picture.  I sent one that day and said I’d take another on Wednesday from the chemo room with a sign for Dr. Oz.  I sent those in (these are posted here on my blog as well to the left) and got another email today saying that they had taped the show yesterday but said they made a last minute addition and my picture is going to be on set, expected to air May 12th!!!  She ALSO told Dr. Oz my story at the end of the show and mentioned how moved he was (I think that was off camera but still)!!  THEN, I got two tickets to their finale show being taped in a couple weeks!!  This is like my ALL TIME dream!  I am so excited!!!  Set your DVR’s everyone!!!!  Nina’s coming with me, pending both of our boss’s approval of course!!  But I already looked at flights and we can fly up the night before and that afternoon after the taping!!  I’m waiting on more details and will keep everyone posted! 

    Alrighty, I’m off to bed!  Have a good weekend!!

    Chemo ~ Cycle 2 / Day 2

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    Hi.  Couple various updates today.  I’ll start with yesterday, my second big chemo day (not counting the weeks in between for the Herceptin, which technically isn’t considered chemo therapy but rather a targeted therapy).  Anyway, since Dan has a new job now (congrats again Little Precious!), my mom is taking off work to be with me all day at my appointments.  We have fun together and it’s our special day now.  Nina came too and brought me lunch, while my mom went out and got her own lunch since I can only have one visitor at a time.  Well I guess I’ve skipped ahead. 

    Ok, first we met with Dr. Limentani who I like more and more every week, not that I didn’t love him to begin with but he’s really great, and funny (and he’s reading my blog now so I thought I’d give him a special welcomed shout out! 🙂 ).  By the way, Dr. Limentani, thanks again for saving my life!!  And Helen, you’ve been awesome too and so warm and helpful!! 

    Ok, sorry, now for my appt results, Dr. Limentani said my lumps have gone WAY down and that my progress was, quote, “impressive”!!  He couldn’t even take physical measurements from the outside.  That was very nice to hear, the treatments are working!!!  He said a while back I’d feel pain in the lump areas and that meant they were shrinking and I can feel more pain in there today, which is good (it’s more like I can just feel them rather than them being painful really).  I also got the go ahead for Nina’s bachelorette party too (which is still a secret destination so hush please).  It falls nicely on a non chemo week.

    After the follow up appointment, we sat in the little waiting area for a short while, saw a famous person in Dr. Limentani’s office, who I won’t mention on my blog for his confidentially purposes but it was pretty neat.  Then, off to the chemo room, where there was basically only one chair open!  There are 25 chemo recliners in the room (we counted again), each with one guest chair, so there were close to 50 people in there yesterday I think (maybe a little less), the most packed I’d ever seen it!!  I was the last to check out later that day and the lady at the front desk mentioned how they have recently seen a big unforeseen increase in new cancer patients.  Kind of scary.  Either everyone’s watching Dr. Oz, being more careful in their screenings, or there’s something up, who knows.  I asked a few weeks ago what the most common type of cancer they had in there one day and they said breast cancer, lung cancer and lymphoma.  So quit smoking everyone!!  Go get hypnotized darn it!  I also dropped off two more bags of bottle-caps (see my “Bottle Caps Needed” page to the left for more info).  I have recruited about five people so far who have set up buckets in their offices and are sending me their caps.  Thanks again and keep it up!!  We need to make this fun you know!

    The chemo treatments went much better this time (so far).  I didn’t get the Ativan this time, which is what they gave me (and I asked for) the first time to help with anxiety.  That was what made me so loopy the first time and gave me all those weird time warps.  Nope, not this time, today felt like the full 6 hours!!  😉  It goes by really fast though.  The first hour was for the follow up appointment, then a short waiting period, a brief encounter (exaggeration, a mere sighting really) with a famous person, IV set up, snack time, water break, and then chemo time!!  Taxotere was first again, the one with the ice buckets for my hands to prevent nail damage.  That’s the worst part of the whole day, second being the IV sticks, but I’m still waiting on the port.  I heard the dry mouth side effects could be prevented in a similar way by eating crushed ice the whole time so I brought a cooler of popcicles, but the funny thing was my mom had to feed me them since my hands had to stay in the buckets.   I was very high maintenance yesterday, asking for fresh blankets, pictures, lunch, popsicle bites, etc.  What a great mom I have!!!  And Kelly kept sending me trivia forwards, which were fun too.

    I had a problem with the IV this time, all my fault though.  I got up to go to the bathroom and pulled up my sweater, which was holding a piece of tape holding down the IV and pulled it right out of my vein but it was still in my arm.  I noticed it right away because the saline started injecting right in my skin and hurt.  I was in between drugs when it happened so only saline leaked and pooled in my skin right near the IV.  It was weird.  The nurse fixed it right away though and I got a new IV in a different place.  The little poofy area went down like……..hm I’m trying to think of a funny Paula Abdul analogy but I can’t.

    My side effects haven’t been that bad yet.  I worked 9 hours today (from home though), starting at 5am!  I woke up at 3am and couldn’t go back to sleep.  I got out of bed at 5am and have been on the computer since.  I’m updating my blog real quick and then hitting the couch for some R&R.  My mouth has started to get a little dry and I’m a little tired now (but that’s probably associated with getting up at 3am) but nowhere near how I felt before so I’m hoping I really was sick on top of everything else the last time and this time will be better.  The worst days are supposed to be Sat and Sun though so we’ll see.  My worst day last time was Mon so I’m trying to work as much as I can now in case I need that day off.  The Nadir point (low blood counts) will be day 7-10 so hopefully I push through that and don’t get sick again. 

    Ok, one last story about my chemo appt and an update on my friend at my wig place (who I’m not mentioning her name on purpose for confidentiality purposes and also because she doesn’t know I’m writing about her or trying to help her yet).  I first wrote about this in my last blog entry, the one below.  So I called my new friend today with some exciting news, which I’m sharing with you now.  My mom told Dr. Limentani and Helen (RN, OCN) about my blog.  After my appointment, Dr. Limentani stopped by in the chemo room and said he read my latest blog and wanted to help put me in touch with some people/clinics who can possibly help my wig friend.  Then a few seconds later the oncologist’s office administrator came by, gave me a donation from herself personally and gave me some names and contact information for some people/clinics that can get her seen at a discounted rate!  Then their financial counselor stopped by and gave me some more contacts and information for me to give to my new friend.  The doctors and nurses at Carolinas Hematology and Oncology Associates and definitely the best, in so many ways!!  So I called my wig friend today on her cell phone because she wasn’t working today and left her a message to explain to her what I was doing so she could see where she’d be interested in going with all the new options.  I didn’t leave all this on her message but I’ll talk to her about it soon.  I’m still collecting donations because some of the brochures I read said you had to live in Mecklenburg county, some do sliding scales, discounts, etc, so there will still be out of pocket expenses for sure.  Anyway, if you’d still like to contribute, I’m still taking donations and would greatly appreciate the help!!  If I don’t use all of the money, I will send it back to you, but so far I’ve collected $115 from others, with three other non-denominated donations on their way!!  I’ll be making up the difference of whatever I don’t collect for her initial scans.  I called Charlotte Radiology again and asked a few more questions and they give discounts as well for the scans when you pay in cash at the time of service so the diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound will be $221 and $144, respectively.  They do require a referral though, which the Health Department won’t do, so I called my primary doctor and an appointment there to get referred is between $97 and $350, depending on the appointment, what they need to do, etc.  I thought that seemed high but I’m thinking it won’t be that much.  And I bet once my doctor hears about what we’re doing, they’ll give us a discount, even if it’s just the cash at time of service discount deal.  So total needed is $462-$715 (depending on referral appointment cost), less the $115 I’ve collected already, less another approximate $75 for the three others on their way, less my $100 for now, unless I need more later.  So that leaves between $172 and $575 left (depending on the referral appt).  I’m going to see if my work does any special donations or anything as well on Monday.

    I also posted some new pics today.

    Exciting Update – My Oprah Debut

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    Well, today was VERY EXCITING!!!!  First, let me rewind a bit and remind everyone of some earlier posts and recap a couple things.   As most of you know, I found my first lump last year and showed it to my doctor, who said it was nothing to worry about.   Then when I got pregnant in February, I found another lump in my armpit.  I showed both lumps to my doctor (a different doctor than the first one) and he too told me the lumps were nothing to worry about.  On March 10, 2009 Oprah aired a Dr. Oz special on medical mistakes and a statistic on their show startled me.  “More people in the US die every year from medical mistakes than breast cancer, AIDS and car accidents combined!”  They highlighted a story about a young girl who was diagnosed with breast cancer, underwent a mastectomy, removal of lymph nodes, etc., only to learn later that they had switched her scans with someone else and she never had cancer to begin with.  And even worse (I guess), the other girl who was given a clean bill of health actually had cancer and wasn’t getting any treatment at all.  After watching this show, I began worrying about my doctors’ dismissal of my concerns and their opinions that my lumps were nothing.  I thought, “What if they were wrong?”  I called and insisted on a mammogram, which I scheduled for March 17, seven days after the Oprah Dr. Oz show aired.  I am a big Oprah and Dr. Oz fan and have written the show before asking for them to do a special on fertility issues in young couples.  I never got through but always check the website to see when the Dr. Oz specials will air next.  I got on there last night and saw a link that read “Be on the Show / Did Dr. Oz’s Advice Save Your Life?”  So I wrote in and told them my story.  And now for the exciting part………..I got an email today from their Associate Producer asking me to send in a picture for an upcoming show, where they’re posting pictures of all the people whose lives Dr. Oz has saved and wrote in!!!  The pictures will be displayed in the background on the set of the show!!!  Woo hoo, my Oprah debut!!!!  Be on the lookout!!!

    And a couple other updates for today…..I started trying on all my wigs that I’ve bought and will post some pictures later in my new section to the left called “Pictures”.  I also posted a “before” picture that I took around Christmas time.  My hair is still coming out, and moreso each day, but it’s coming out evenly so far so it just looks really thin at this point.  It may not be noticeable to a stranger yet but as soon as it is, I’ll have my wigs ready to go.  I’m wearing my hair in a pony tail and hat right now, otherwise the shedding would be really noticeable.  I got another wig today as an emergency.  As I’ve been trying on the wigs, I realized all of them were long and I really needed a short one.  I’m used to wearing a lot of pony tails and hats, or pulling my hair back in little clips like in my “before” picture.  As I kept the wigs on for a while, they were getting all in my face and I was tired of wearing them after a short while.  So I stopped by the wig place on my lunch break and picked up a shorter one that I had seen before.  I look really young in it but whatever. 

    While I was at the wig shop, the girl in there heard me talking on the phone about the Oprah email.  She asked me about it and I told her the whole story.  She’s helped me before as I’ve been in there a few different times so she already knew that I had cancer but was just learning that it went undiagnosed for so long.  She told me how she had found two lumps in her breast, later one in her armpit, and now one in her neck (there are also lymph nodes in your neck area).  She doesn’t have health insurance and her government health office that she goes to won’t give her a mammogram.  Anyway, she told me if I ever heard of one of those mammogram trucks doing free exams in the area to let her know.  After I left, I called Charlotte Radiology on my way home to see how much it cost for all my appointments before insurance.  I thought maybe I could help raise money for her on my blog possibly and could “pay it forward” so she could get checked out.   She’s helped me with all my wigs and is such a nice person.  It would be very ironic for her to get cancer after helping so many cancer patients herself.  Anyway, here’s the breakdown of the different costs:

    Mammogram $295

    Ultrasound $192

    Guided Ultrasound $375

    Biopsy $602 each * 3

    Surgical Supplies $190

    Breast Placement Clips $307 each * 3

    MRI $2,015

    Injection $145

    CAD $300

    CT Scans $230 + 268

    Total:  $6,927

    She wouldn’t necessarily need all these scans right away and hopefully never will, but she at least needs the first two, which amount to $487.  I’ll contribute $100 for now so I only need $387 at this point.  I would contribute more but my own bills are coming in higher than I originally thought and the chemo ones haven’t even come through yet.  Does anyone else want to help?  Every little bit helps!!  If you can’t help financially, please let me know if anyone hears of any those free mammograms trucks stopping in the Charlotte area.

    Hair Loss Getting Worse :(

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    The hair loss has taken a turn for the worse apparently.  I’m trying to avoid washing and drying it now because every time I do big chunks come out instead of a few strands.  😦  I’m not a very emotional person and haven’t cried about it yet so it’s not as dramatic as I thought but maybe once I have a childhood flashback to my alien halloween costume, I will.  It’s probably going to continue getting worse now every day.  Some people say they’ve shaved their head themselves when they got to a certain point.  I don’t know if I could do that but we’ll see.  I can’t necessarily go to work shedding like I am now.  Hmm, maybe they’ll change the dress code for me and let me wear my baseball caps until wig day. 

    Other than that and a slight headache (I guess from the hair issue since I’ve never gotten headaches), I feel great, drinking lots of water and starting to eat healthier in preparation for Wednesday, the next big chemo round.

    New Pages

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    I don’t have much of an update today, except that I added two new pages to the left (Save a Life and Bottle Caps).  I feel great but my hair is coming out more and more each day, not enough to wear a wig or hat yet though.  I have my next big chemo day on Wednesday.

    Herceptin Week 3

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    Hi.  Today was my third week of the Herceptin, the targeted chemo treatment.  There aren’t any major side effects so I was able to drive myself (Dan had to pick up paper work and take a drug test for his new job). 🙂  Nina came with me though.  I just picked her up outside her work on my way.  We arrived a couple minutes late after playing hide and seek downtown looking for each other for a little while.  We checked in at the front desk and I laid my hand on the palm scanner for the bio-identification checkin.  Nina thought I was getting my palm read, it was funny. 

    The chemo room had a lot of people in it today.  By a lot, I mean probably 10 patients, plus one guest each.  That’s probably three more patients than prior weeks.  This was my frist afternoon appointment.  All others had been in the morning.  They reserve the afternoon appointments for the shorter treatments.  Today’s IV was more painful than normal.  They tried putting it in my hand, which I won’t let them do again.  It didn’t work so they moved it up my arm more and then it was fine.  They recommended the port again but I’m still waiting on that.

    Remember yesterday how I said I called to talk to the nurse about the hair loss?  Well today she approached me and gave me a thumbs up sign and said “it looks great!”  She thought I was wearing a wig already and said it looked so natural!  I’m not wearing a wig yet so it made for some good laughs.  Speaking of hair loss though, more came out today than yesterday but it’s still not noticeable yet.

    Nina is showing signs of turning into our mom.  She got all worried when they were sticking my hand and said “you’re hurting my sister!”  Then I said my arm was cold (it was a little cold from the Herceptin going in) and Nina got all worried again and went up to the nurse’s station and asked if it was normal and got me a warm blanket and warming pad.  I told her she sounded like mom when mom panicked because my arm was itchy where they had this sticker thing for the IV.  It was funny.

    Darn It, Hair Loss Begins

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    Well, today it started.  Hair loss.  The thing I’ve dreaded most, aside from the fertility issues and some other things down the road (surgery, radiation, etc.).   I’ll try to make this blog entry as positive as possible.  This one might be hard though but I’ll try. 

    It’s not that bad yet and only slight but I noticed it today.  It’s not coming out in huge clumps or anything but it’s more like shedding (like Buster, Shelby, Simba and Cubbie!!, my 4 lovely pets).  A few pieces come out at a time when I run my fingers through my hair.  More came out in the shower when I ran conditioner through my hair and then a little more when I was drying my hair.  It made me realize how I won’t be doing those things pretty soon – washing my hair, shampoosing/conditioning it, dyring it.  Nope, instead I’ll be washing my $1,000 worth of darn wigs in the sink.  Blah. 

    I’m trying to remember the good things about this side effect: (1) My getting ready time will decrease significantly, as I won’t need to wash, condition, dry or style my hair, meaning I can sleep in longer or get to work earlier; (2) I won’t need to shave either and just in time for summer; (3) my hair will be shiny and easy to manage and I can change it whenever I want; (4) when it starts growing back, I can see what I look like with really short hair, something I would never do myself (maybe I can sport a Demi Moore 80’s do); (5) I can get extensions later like Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton.  Well I guess that’s all I can think of.  Unfortunately those good things aren’t good enough to do this on my own free will but I’m not doing this on my own free will so whatever. 

    Some friends have emailed and said I’ll look beautiful with or without hair.  I know beauty is on the inside but it’s still hard to imagine wearing a wig for a year, maybe longer.  I remember when I was little, I dressed up like an alien for Halloween one year.  Mom said I picked it out – not sure why – but at least I’ll somewhat know what I’ll look like bald, since that costume came complete with a bald cap.  It was pretty funny.  At least my ears won’t be big and pointed.  Ha, that made me laugh. 

    I called the oncologist office today to see how long it would take before it’s all gone and/or noticeable.  They said it would take 10-14 days probably but since I have thin hair already they said probably closer to 10 days, which is next weekend and just in time for Nina’s shower, great!! 

    It’s going to be weird when people start asking about my hair (i.e., wig).  I can picture it now “oh wow, you changed your hair, it looks good” or “oh wow, your hair grows fast, I think yesterday it was like 10 inches shorter wasn’t it?” (that made me giggle too, ha) or “oh wow, your hair is short again, did you cut it?”.  I guess those questions will only last a little while though and will only be from people who don’t know, which then I can just say anything I want.

    Regarding my surgery for Friday, where I was supposed to get the IV port thing.  I changed my mind again and cancelled it.  I just don’t want it.  The oncologist said there’s no signficiant long term risk and it’s just a preference thing.  I can change my mind later if I want/need to.  Everyone has suggested I get it but I think I’m going to wait and see. 

    I signed up today for the Susan G. Komen race in Winston Salem.  Today was the last day to register.  Thanks for everyone’s donations, you all are so kind!!  I’m walking in another one in Charlotte on October 3.  If you want to donate, you still can for the Winston race but it’s a regional charity so if you want to donate, you may opt to wait and donate for the one in October so it benefits Charlotte more.  This note came from mom. 🙂  Either way, it’s still a good cause and 25% of all the donations go to help the national search for a cure.

    …………[After I wrote this original blog entry, I realized that I forgot some of the good things about losing my hair, so I’ll append them here: (6) I won’t have to spend $200 every other month at the hair salon (making up for the $1,000 I spent on wigs); and (7) the hair loss means the chemo is WORKING (i.e., saving my life), which makes it all worth it!!!  That revalation in itself makes the rest of my complaints in this blog seem irrelavant but I’ll keep them anyway to highlight all my original thoughts.]

    Race for the Cure

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    Komen NC Triad Race for the Cure®
    May 2, 2009

    Dear Friends and Family,I recently accepted the challenge to raise funds to support the 2009 Komen NC Triad Race for the Cure®  on May 02, 2009 in the fight against breast cancer. One in seven women will be stricken with breast cancer in her lifetime and the more we raise, the more the Triad North Carolina Affiliate of  Susan G. Komen for the Cure can give back to fund vital breast cancer education, screening and treatment programs in our own community and support the national search for a cure.

    Click here to visit my personal page and pledge your support.

    Please join me in the fight by pledging in support of my participation in the Race or contributing generously to the 2009 Komen NC Triad Race for the Cure® . Your tax-deductible contribution will fund innovative outreach and awareness programs for medically underserved communities in Triad North Carolina and national breast cancer research. It is faster and easier than ever to support this great cause – you can make a donation online by simply clicking on the link at the bottom of this message. If you would prefer, you can also send your tax-deductible contribution to the address listed below. Whatever you can give will help! I truly appreciate your support and will keep you posted on my progress.

    Thank you so much for your time and support in the fight against breast cancer! Every step counts!

    Sincerely,

    Danielle Murray

    To sponsor my participation online, click here.

    Easter Monday

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    Well today, Easter Monday, was a good day and our luck is seeming to have turned a corner for the better and all at the right time.  My husband, Dan, who has been unemployed since last March, accepted a job offer today!!  It is the good news we’ve been waiting for and I can’t help but think of my favorite quote, “Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”  I say this because if my husband hadn’t lost his job last year, we wouldn’t have gotten pregnant (and miscarried) in February (I won’t go into details but the time off allowed us to fix some fertility issues) and who knows when it would have been when I would have found the cancer (since the pregnancy led to the spread and subsequent diagnosis after the miscarriage).  Just remember, everything happens for a reason and everything is meant to be.  Those things that appear to be bad at the time (like Dan losing his job and me miscarrying) have a reason for being as they are and you will see eventually that this is true and a blessing in disguise with a purpose.

    Regarding my health, the past few days have been great and I’m feeling 100% back to normal except for a lingering cold but the sore throat, tiredness and other side effects are mostly gone (at least until next Wednesday).  I’m back at work and doing great.  I’ve worked out a schedule with my work for my treatments and they’ve been very supportive.  I’m lucky to work for such a great company and with such great people.

    Thanks again for everyone’s messages.  A lot of people have said they have learned a lot from my blog so I’m very glad about that.  I didn’t directly intend for it to be educational so I’m glad it turned out that way.  I just hope that it is educational enough to possibly make a difference for someone someday (if necessary).   I’ve also received messages from friends of friends, my sister’s friends, my parent’s friends, my friends’ parents, etc.  The outreach is so amazing and everyone has been so kind.  I am so glad to know that my friends and family have such great friends themselves in their own lives as well.

    I added a couple pages to the left (last three) if you haven’t checked those out yet.  I also added a lesson learned (#4) that’s pretty crazy (I think). 

    I have my next round of Herceptin on Wednesday and have a surgery on Friday to have the IV port implanted.  Recovery time will just be 2-3 days.  This week is supposed to be the week I lose my hair.  Not too excited about that.  I guess it’ll make things seem more real.  Nina and I were talking yesterday about how everything just doesn’t seem real.  I guess it may never.   Call it denial or call it thinking positive, not sure which it is but it is what it is I guess.

    First Day Back at Work

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    Hi.  Today was my first day back at work.  It was a little tiring getting ready and out of the house but once I got settled at my desk I was fine.  I felt a little queezy after lunch but was fine once I sat back down at my desk.  All in all it was a good day.  Still battling the cold and sore throat but I guess that’ll be sticking around for a while.  I recently added a few new pages to the left if you want to check them out (last three pages).

    Herceptin Week 2

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    Hi.  Today started off good.  I felt a little worse this morning than I did last night but I think it’s just been my cold/cough/sore throat thing and it got better as the day progressed.  I had my next round of Herceptin today and actually felt better after my appointment than I did before.  I got all my blood counts checked.  Red blood counts and blood platelets were good but white blood counts were low (the ones that affect your immune system so no surprise I’m still sick).  They said it was normal though and nothing that needed immediate attention or concern.  They said I’d start feeling less tired by the weekend.  I’m going to work tomorrow though and ready to get back to normal.  I met a really nice girl today in the chemo room.  She has breast cancer as well.  It also doesn’t run in her family and she got it young (early 40’s).   Hers isn’t HER2+ over-expressing like mine but has spread to her lymph nodes like mine.  She’s undergoing a clinical trial and we’re seeing all the same doctors (oncologist and surgeon).  It was nice meeting her.  She’s 3 months ahead of me and we exchanged numbers and will continue seeing each other every Wednesday.  Most of the other people in the chemo room were much older today and it was less crowded than last time.  The girl I met today talked about her port, which is the semi-permanent IV thing that I was contemplating cancelling my appointment for.  My surgery for that is next Friday.  She said she thought the same thing but after weeks of sticks, your veins get worse and you really need it so she was glad she had it now.  So I guess I’m keeping my appointment for that since everyone else has said and recommended the same thing.   The best news of all today was when Dr. Limentani said that my tumors felt much smaller already.  He said it wasn’t typical but not unusual either for that to happen so fast with HER2+ over-expressing cancer and Herceptin, since it’s such a wonder drug.  He didn’t take any measurements because he said they’ll wait and do that every 3 weeks but said he wouldn’t be surprised if by the next big chemo round in two weeks, he may not even be able to find them for measuring.  It’s not going to change any of my treatment plans but it’s still a great thing to hear.   🙂  Well, Dan and I are off to dinner, craving some baked spaghetti.  Yummy.

    Chemo ~ Cycle 1 / Day 7

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    Hi again.  Well, today was WAY better than yesterday and I think by tomorrow I’ll back to good enough.  I have my next round of Herceptin tomorrow and a check up.   I’ll probably get some sort of steriod booster shot to keep my blood counts up, since I don’t think I’m supposed to be this tired/blah this far out but it’s probably just because I got sick at the same time and hopefully not a trend.

    Chemo ~ Cycle Day 1 / Day 6

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    Well, today has definitely been the worst day so far and things were bound to catch up with me soon I guess.  I felt awful all day today and didn’t do much of anything but sleep and feel nauseous.   It sort of feels like the flu, a cough, cold, sore throat, upset stomach, and hangover all at the same time.   Blah.   The doctor said it was normal to have a really bad day or two.  Mine just took a little longer to arrive I guess.   Thanks for everyone’s messages; everyone has been so kind.  Hopefully this nasty part passes by tomorrow.

    Chemo ~ Cycle 1 / Day 5

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    Hi.  Today was an ok day.  It started off better and got a little worse by around lunch, which has seemed to be the trend.  I’m laying on the couch now and not feeling that great but I’m hanging in there.  It’s been nice laying around with all the pets all weekend but I hate that I don’t feel up to being outside enjoying the weather, as I LOVE being outside in the sun.  The low blood count side effects should be kicking in soon, around day 7-10, which I understand is called the Nadir point, or the point after chemo when your blood counts are the lowest and the time when one is most susceptible to infection, getting sick, etc.  They are going to be checking all my blood counts on Wednesday when I got back for a checkup and the next round of Herceptin (one of the chemos, which I’ll be getting weekly for 3 months, then every 3 weeks to round out 52 weeks).  I plan to be back in the office tomorrow and hopefully getting back to somewhat normal, well a new normal I guess.

    Chemo ~ Cycle 1 / Day 4

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    Even though today is supposed to be one of the worst days post chemo (days 3-5), I actually feel pretty good this morning.   My mom came over this morning and has been spending the morning/day with me.  It’s been a long week for her too so we’re just resting on the couch, chit-chatting, watching Project Runway, catching up on emails, etc.  Nina’s coming over shortly too. 

    Over the past few days, I have usually started feeling worse as the day goes on, starting at about 12:30 or 1:00 so we’ll see how the rest of the weekend goes.  I’m drinking lots of water and eating good so I think that’s helping. 

    I greatly appreciate everyone’s comments, messages, cards, flowers, calls, etc.  Everyone has been so kind and I really appreciate everyone.  My work has been outstanding as well (especially Stephanie, my wonderful boss).  I’m looking forward to getting back to work next week.  I have another treatment on Wednesday, which is approaching faster than I thought it would, but it’s only one treatment, the Herceptin (to fight the over-amplified HER2+ receptors), so that one won’t be as bad as the chemo treatments I’ll receive every 3 weeks (Taxotere, Carboplatin, and Herceptin) so I think things will go fine this week.

    So far my symptoms over the past few days have included occasional nausea and upset stomach, but I have plenty of prescriptions for that, feeling tired by about 1:00, increasing around 3:30ish and hitting the sack around 7:45 or 8:00pm.  I’ve slept good through the nights and wake rested though so that’s good.  The later evening tiredness isn’t like just a normal tired feeling.  It feels more like I’ve been up for 3 days, sometimes seems like I’m dreaming while awake, feeling really weird (somewhat hallucinating and very out of it) and just darn ready to hit the sack.  Once I do though, I’m fine.  The next worst part, or possibly equally worse, is the dry mouth and sore throat.  The chemo treatments are designed to kill your body’s fast growing cells, including most importantly, the cancer cells, but by design the chemo treatments also kill all other fast growing cells, including your hair (head, legs, armpits, other areas, but not so much eye lashes, eye brows and arms, since those grow slower) and your whole mouth/abdominal/esophagus tract.  This is the reasoning for the hair loss, nausea and vomiting.  My whole mouth and throat down to my stomach feels really dry, sore and hot.  Other symptoms have included feeling very forgetful and somewhat out of it, but really not seeming so at the time.  It has been a little difficult to concentrate and I often have to go back through my phone to remember who I have spoken with.  I feel fine at the time but then minutes or hours later, I’ll think or ask Dan “did I talk to so-and-so today”?

    All in all though, I’m doing ok and staying positive.  Oh yeah, and some good news.   Of the three out out my four tumors that I can feel, the largest one I can tell has already somewhat shrunk a little so that’s very reassuring and a good sign.

    Chemo ~ Cycle 1 / Day 3

    Hello.  If this is your first time visiting my page, thank you for your concern and support.  You may want to read the pages to the left first, then read from below.  My latest blog entries will feed to the top automatically.  

    Today is day 3 of my first cycle of chemo.  Today was expected to be the start of the worst days (days 3-5).  It started off ok, I awoke after 12 hours of sleep and felt ok.  I did a few things around the house, ran a quick errand but started to feel worse around 1:00.  I’m just taking it easy the rest of the weekend now. 

    I have all my wigs ordered and some on hand so the next time you see me don’t be alarmed if I have a different hair style each time I run into you, however that’s probably nothing new since I change it so often anyway.  I should lose my hair around April 15, again dreading that.  The wig shopping was so NOT fun but Nina, Natalie, my mom and Dan were all there so that was nice.  Most wigs are designed for people who want shorter, more poofier hair, the look and style of which looked atrocious on me and often resembled a mullet or mop.  The shorter hair wigs looked hideous on me, as did the really blonde ones (looked super fake, makes me question how my hair must look now), the ones with bangs, and the ones with layers.  It was quite the search but I found some that will do I think (no pun intended, ha, get it “hair do”).

    Chemo ~ Cycle 1 / Day 1

    Well, this is my first blog entry and by now, you’ve probably learned that I have recently been diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and have started treatments.  The outreach of family, friends and co-workers has been overwhleming, very supportve, loving and very much appreciated.  I am grateful for all of you.  My wonderful husband Dan helped me set up this page to outline the details of my cancer diagnosis, treatments, status updates, etc. for me/us to share with all of you.  Generalized information is included in the links to the left and right (my diagnosis, cancer facts, treatments, surgeries, plans, doctors, etc.) and the blog entries here, I plan to keep up with as my treatments proceed.  Thank you for taking the time to understand what I’m going through and for being there for me.

    Chemo Cycle 1 / Day 1 ~  Yesterday was my frist day/cycle of chemo.  I arrived at 9am at Carolina’s Hematology and Oncology Associates.  I met with Helen first, Dr. Limentani’s assistant, then Dr. Limentani, the man who is saving my life.   They ran some vital signs, etc. and then landed us (me, Dan, my Mom) in the chemo treatment room.  The chemo room is on the top floor and overlooks uptown Charlotte.  It’s very nice.  Each patient can have one guest with them at a time.  They let my mom and Dan sit with me for the first hour or two since this was my first time.  Each patient had their own TV (with all channels, mine of course set on HGTV), wireless connections, snacks, drinks, pillows, heated blankets and lots more.  It was very comfortable, well at least for me, hopefully my mom and Dan were comfortable too.

    There were about 15 other people  getting chemo yesterday.  I think I was the youngest in there.  They have a special treatment room for children though.  There was a pretty even mix of men and women.  I met a few of them and we shared stories, but only for a short while.  Many of the people in there have already lost their hair.

    My treatments were given through an IV.  In a few weeks, I’ll have a semi-permanent port implanted in my chest for the rest of my IV treatments.  They gave me some anxiety/sleeping IV first, which hit immediately and was great.  Then some nausea medicine through the same IV.  They waited for that all to settle in and then did triple control checks on all the chemo meds, etc.    They ran each chemo treatment separately.  They started with Taxotere first, which lasted an hour.  This one was the worst because I had to soak my finger tips in ice for the full hour to help prevent one of the side effects, nail damage.  The ice was the most painful part.  The second chemo drug they ran was the Carboplatin; also for an hour.  The last one was Herceptin (for the HER2+ over amplification).  This one lasted 90 minutes the first time but will be one hour going forward.   The Hercetin is also the treatment I will get weekly during the 3 month chemo rounds and every 3 weeks after that to round out 52 weeks (1 year).

    The whole visit lasted 7 1/2 hours.  I heard the phrase “chemo brain” for the first time and really learned it was true and what it meant by the end of the day.  Time flew by, I had no sense of time, was a little loopy (well a lot loopy I guess).  My mom and Dan were rotating in and out for an hour or two at a time and each time one of them came back in it seemed like 5 minutes when really it had been an hour and a half.  I was like this all day.  After the chemo was over, I picked up some brochures and took a few free hats, which were made by charitable organizations and left for the chemo patients.  I tried to read a book in the chemo room but couldn’t get through one paragraph.  It was even hard to concentrate on TV.  I spoke with several family members and friends that night and had to revisit my phone history this morning to remember who I talked to.