Friday, July 30, 2010

Bad News, Good News, and More

Tradition says I should give you the bad news first.

The expected bad news is that the tumor in my left breast is about 6 cm (that is about 2.5 inches, or 6 of the base 10 block units, or the light blue MathUSee block). It was 2 cm in October, 4 cm in March (back when my former doctor was still telling me this couldn't be cancer), so 6 cm now didn't surprise me.

The other bad news is that it has spread to the cluster of lymph nodes closest to that breast. The MRI wasn't conclusive on how many lymph nodes are affected, but I officially have Stage 3A Breast Cancer.

Now for the good news. :)

The bone scan was clear. This was a HUGE relief for me, as I know that once cancer affects the bone it is a much harder fight.

The rest of the MRI, the chest x-ray, and the CT scan of my chest and abdomen were clear.

The mammogram of my right breast was clear. This was another huge relief because my previous doctor would not approve a screening mammogram because it "wasn't worth the radiation risk to women under 35".

Overall, I am relieved with the results. I had hoped that it hadn't spread to my lymph nodes yet, but at least it hasn't gotten beyond that.

Then came the discussion about chemotherapy. That part is pretty much all bad news. We discussed the various drugs involved, the side effects of each of them, and the drugs I can take to counteract them (along with the side effects of those). Due to my young age, size of the tumor, and type of the tumor, avoiding chemo is not a realistic option.

I knew I was going to lose my hair, I didn't know that I might lose my fingernails (and if they don't fall off, they will turn black and brittle). I knew about the mouth sores, I didn't know about the skin burns. I knew it would affect my bone marrow, I didn't know it would affect my heart muscle.

Let's see... what else....

The paperwork said I should avoid pregnancy during treatment. That actually made me laugh out loud. As if! (And since this is a public blog, I will leave it at that, ha ha.)

My veins are not well suited for the abuse of IV chemotherapy. This did not shock me. Another time I may amuse you with stories of my past failed IV attempts. For now it means they will surgically insert a dual port, then they can just plug me in like a machine and not have to do a new IV each time.

I meet with the Radiation Oncologist next week, then I meet with my diagnosing doctor on August 11 to review the recommendations of the other doctors and come up with a game plan. My chemo is tentatively scheduled to start the week of August 16 and will run every 2 or 3 weeks through Thanksgiving. This will be followed by surgery, recovery, then radiation.

Bottom line bad news: The rest of 2010 pretty much sucks.

Bottom line good news: I have a husband who meant his vows, five incredible boys who are healthy, family and friends who have offered help, and people all over the world praying for me. And for all of these things, I am thankful.


It's Friday.

As a student I looked forward to Friday because there was no homework. As a teacher I looked forward to Friday because there were no meetings. As a stay at home mom I looked forward to Friday because we met friends for dinner. As a homeschool mom I look forward to Friday because we have our lightest day and clean the house.

The last few Fridays have been different, though.

Two Fridays ago I had a breast biopsy. Most people would not be looking forward to this, but after nearly a year of having various symptoms and being told over and over that "yes this is strange, but it is probably fine," I was finally beginning to get some answers. Obviously cancer was NOT the answer I was hoping to get, but I was not shocked. When my new doctor said "I'm worried this is cancer" it was chilling because that is the exact thing I said to my old doctor last September when my symptoms began.

Last Friday I spent 9 hours at a local hospital undergoing a whole series of tests to asses the extent of the cancer so a treatment plan could be developed. I looked forward to these tests so that I could have a picture of my prognosis, work on researching my options, and know what kind of help I will need going forward.

On this Friday, I am meeting with my oncologist (wow, there is a sentence I never thought I would write). We will go over all of the test results and talk about my treatment options. There are a couple of spots that have me worried, but overall I am very hopeful. My appointment is not until later this afternoon, I will update here after dinner.

Until then... TGIF!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Hello everyone,

I am sorry I haven't updated in a few days, but I have been super busy trying to get everything in order before treatment begins. I am trying to think of everything that will need to be done in the next 6 months so that we can take care of it now (in theory giving me peace of mind and less to worry about during treatment, but completely stressing me out in the mean time). Oil changes, dentist visits, AC repair, homeschool filing, household maintenace, as well as stocking up on toiletries, cleaning supplies, food staples... I have several pages worth of lists going.

There are sad things to think about as well. I have 6 years worth of digital photos to organize, upload, print, caption, and store. We have scheduled family portraits before I lose my hair (or breasts, or more). I want to get video of me with each boy in case this doesn't turn out as well as we anticipate. There are also many things I handle that need to be written down in case someone needs to take over (I guarantee nobody else in my house knows how often toothbrushes need to be replaced, or what store sells which brand of underwear, or when they are due for their next checkups, or how certain paperwork needs to be filed, or where we keep the superglue).

And then there is all the research! I am both amazed and overwhelmed at all of the treatment options. I have had to put all research on hold until we have some answers from all of the testing. So much depends on the size and type and quantity of the tumors! I have spoken with several women who have been through this, and it has been very encouraging. In addition to the practical tips (ice chips 15 minutes before chemo, lint roller for the tiny itchy hairs, best websites for scarves), it has given me renewed hope that this is beatable. I have to beat this. Losing is not an option.

I have read about the effects of "chemo brain," but I am starting to think there is something to be said for "planning for cancer brain." Please let this be a lesson to you -- because as horrible as it is to think about, this could happen to anyone at any time. What can you do NOW that will make things easier if you are ever faced with a serious health problem, or a life changing accident, or worse? It does make me sad to think about, but it makes me even more sad to think about my family trying to figure it all out on their own.

My next appointment is with the oncologist on Friday. We will go over all of the testing results and map out a plan for chemo. Then that will give me a whole new set of things to plan...............

Friday, July 23, 2010

No Bad News = Good News, Right?

Today I had appointments for a bone scan, MRI, CT scan, chest x-ray, EKG, blood work, mammogram, and pedicure (which technically wasn't a scheduled appointment but seemed like a nice, relaxing break on my way home).

Of course they are not allowed to tell me about any of the results, but I was able to see the bone scan as she was doing it and did not notice any places that jumped out as areas of concern.

I will get all of the official results when I meet with the oncologist next Friday, but the way I see it -- I did not receive any BAD news, and my toes look pretty, so it must have been a GOOD news kind of day.

I had a lot of time to think today; sitting inside a machine for 40 minutes unable to move was not altogether unenjoyable, I don't often get that long of a stretch to sit quietly and ponder. I have a lot to say about what I am going through (none of you who know me are shocked about this LOL), but for now I am headed to bed as it has been a very long day.

Thank you all for the well wishes and prayers. I have enjoyed reading through them, it is comforting to know we have so many people standing behind us through this fight.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My First Blog Post

Welcome to my first venture into the blogosphere. :)

The blog name stems from my fear that having a blog is like letting the whole world into your home. It is also formed from the first letters of my boys' names -- B-G-D-R-W. I originally set up this blog as a place to share information about our crazy days of homeschooling, the adventures we undertake, perhaps some organizational tips.

Unfortunately, our plans and adventures have been put on hold as I have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

I have been slowly sharing this news with family and friends, but I am finding that individual phone calls are not an efficient way to share information with all of those who want to be informed. I am hoping this blog will serve as a place to share information, to easily ask for help, to connect those who are willing to pray for us, and also to keep all of your messages to us in one place. Many of you know me from online, please understand that I will not be visiting message boards or facebook for a while, so if you send me a message there I will not receive it.

We have been very thankful for those of you who have already offered help, and we definitely plan to ask for more. Right now it is hard to say exactly what or when I will need help, but I do know that we will need help to get through this. My next appointment is on Friday when they are doing more than a dozen different tests and scans to see if the cancer has spread. When those results come back I will meet with the oncologist and radiologist to come up with a treatment plan. My diagnosing doctor anticipates I will begin chemotherapy in the next couple of weeks, followed by surgery and radiation.

I have set up this blog in a way that can be viewed publicly (I think -- please let me know if you see soemthing I need to fix), so please feel free to pass the link on to others who may want to stay updated. If you are inclined to pray, please do so. I am blessed with friends from many different backgrounds and belief systems, and I absolutely believe in the power of prayer in all forms.

I will post more information as I am able to, and my friend Dawn has offered to help when I am not.

(((((HUGS))))) to all of you.