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.


  1. I'm so sorry, this really sucks. The good news is that you couldn't wish for a better team managing your health. I'll be back in town on around 22 August and will be available for childcare and meals thereafter.

  2. Colleen, We're continuing to pray for you. I'm sorry for the bad news but am glad for the good.

    Jean in Newcastle

  3. Definitely sucks yes...but you must feel some relief at least now knowing. Yes, you have a wonderful support crew to help you through this next stage. How are all of your boys doing now that August is almost here? Where has the summer gone?!! Sending our love, Janelle and Phil

  4. Hi. I do not know you but I am a friend of Dawn Keckley. I have prayed for you and will continue to trust God for your complete healing. I pray that He will be with you in every decision and give you peace and strength through the coming days.

  5. I feel like I was just kicked in the gut. I don't know what to say so I won't say much but continue to pray for God's supernatural strength and comfort and peace for you and your family. I know three women with stage 4 breast cancer and every one of them is beating it. Thank God! You will do it too!

  6. I am here. You need it - it will be there.
    Just call.
    I love you

  7. Colleen, so sorry you're going through this. My sis in law is as well. Happy to help out with childcare and meals as I can. Just let me know when you need it.

  8. I ache for you my friend to have to go down this road. I know your spirit though and you will get through this. I so wish our move timing wasn't so bad. But I know everyone else is stepping up to care for you. I am your prayer warrior up north :-)
    If you ever need me, I can come down ok?


  9. Hi Colleen - I'm a friend of your cousin, Michelle. I was leaving the hospital with my mom last week, when I saw a woman wheeling out a huge cooler. It being a hospital, I asked if she was transporting lots of organs (you'd have to know me…) She said she was transporting frozen caps that her friend used while getting chemo to keep her hair. She had about 10 or so, and they had to be a certain temperature - but it protected the hair follicles or something. I've attached one web site that looked informative and not too hard to understand. From this site - it looks like there's an even easier way too.
    Welcome to my prayer list!

  10. Shoot - I forgot the website

  11. Okay, so now it's time to get MAD and beat this thing! :o) My boys said they'll watch your boys any time.

    And you know, I'm a fantastic knitter so even if you do lose your hair (my best friend never did even with high radiation/chemo), you're covered in the cool hat department (no pun intended ).

    I envision you surrounded by G-d's love and protection, friend. I see you healthy and strong.

    And you better call me if you need anything! (That was a loving threat.) :o)

  12. I think you are handling it better than I am Colleen. Your strength is beautiful and I know you will fight hard and we will be praying for your complete healing. So, so glad the bone scan was clear - praise God! I know you have a lot of people to talk to but my mom is an infusion nurse if you have any questions about the port and the meds you forget to ask. She is a great resource and would be happy to help. Love you friend. ~ Rachel

  13. Your strength and positive attitude will get you through this, plus hundreds of family and friends helping you out in actions and/or prayer. I received a card from a church in Woodbury, CT saying they are praying for you. I don't even know anyone that lives in Woodbury, but this just goes to show that people all over are praying for you. Many we don't even know.

    I am relieved the cancer has not spread and you have a great team taking action finally. We are ready to come down and help whenever you need. Your blog is helping us through this. We are so proud of you and everything you do!

    Love, Dad & Beth

  14. Colleen, Will be praying here, too. When I start to pray and think of who I am praying for, I see those boys... they are so beautiful. Praying today for joy and hope and peace... may you take in every beautiful moment to be had as you approach this time.

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  16. Colleen, you and your family are in my prayers and will stay there until you beat this. I am so glad you have so many wonderful friends and a huge loving family to help you through. May God Bless and keep you back to health! Suzy

  17. Colleen:

    You are an inspiration! Your "take-charge" attitude amazes me! You've got this thing beat before the whole crazy cycle starts!

    I will be here for you at ANYTIME! Please do not hesitate to call me :)

    Our prayers are with you, Jason and the boys!
    Much love, Rency

  18. Colleen,
    I just sent you a message via Facebook, been thinking about your family and keeping you close to my heart.

  19. No stage IV is definitely GOOD NEWS! And lymph nodes aren't the end of the world; I had 14 positive ones and I'm still around almost 5 years later. Positive nodes doesn't really change your treatment, except that your lymph nodes will probably have to be removed later. Stage 1 young folks with breast cancer get chemo too.

    The fingernail side effect creeped me out too. I didn't lose mine though. I soaked the nails in cold water while I got Adriamycin (was that the name of the Kool-Aid red awful one?), and maybe that helped? Don't know. The nails turned brittle, but definitely not black. They had stripes, kind of like a tree trunk, one for each chemo.

    Loving friends and family are crucial for getting through with your sanity and sense of purpose intact. You do have a lot to be thankful for!

  20. I love you, we continue to pray for you sis..

  21. Hi Colleen!

    Thank you for sharing your experience--I'm proud of you for being so strong, and I know you will make it through this with flying colors. Hope you're enjoying the garden--I got my first juicy fresh tomatoes from the farmers' market this week (here in the frozen North), and they're heavenly. I can't wait to see you guys again!

    Hi to all the boys!

    I love you, big sister!

  22. As I have said on many occasions.. you are truly my hero. I am praying for you, and by Sunday the whole town of Windsor will as well. On another note.. I will tell you what I told Sean (my 8 yr old) when he was dx with diabetes. God knew you were the person strong enough to handle this and kick its butt, so let Him lead you and show everyone what you are made of. If you need anything.. anything... please do not hesitate to ask, for some people I even offer cleaning help (don't tell my hubby ;)) Tell Jason I am here for him and the boys as well, even if you guys just want a break for a little while.. I have been through this with 2 grandmothers and with my mother in law. Any questions feel free to bombard me... Jason should still have my cell # from when I was at Echo, call whenever you want.. Praying for you..- Anna Eanes