Wednesday, September 11, 2013

5 Years! Going Strong

Today, September 11, is a day that will always live in infamy.  And for me, personally, September 11 took on even more meaning when I had to go for a needle biopsy, five years ago.  I probably already wrote about how we had a monarch caterpillar in a cocoon, in our kitchen.  About how I had taken the bucket, which held the branch, which had the cocoon, and put it in a bathroom to keep it out of harm's way during a party...several days prior.  For some reason, on September 11, I remembered that silly cocoon was in that bathroom, in the dark, and I had forgotten it.  When I went in to get it, the cocoon was BLACK, like death.  I was devastated.

I was rushing to leave for the biopsy appointment, which my kids weren't aware of.  I do remember that they thought it was odd that I had another doctor appointment, because I never have doctor appointments.  I was really upset that I had killed our butterfly by forgetting it in the dark bathroom.  I rushed it outside into the sunshine as I was leaving.  In my mind, just one more thing that I didn't follow through on, ugh.

You can look back through the blog and read the details of the appointment, but the important thing for this post is that when I came home, my girls were delighting in the hatching of our monarch butterfly.  We got pictures, and somehow it gave me great hope, that I too, would make it through the dark, "forgotten" days and would survive.

And, I did!  Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, I did!  And now, five years later, I did; I am; I actually ran across pictures on an Ipod last night, that were all taken that fall, and some the next spring, after wig season had ended.  I looked at the faces of my children and was thankful, all over again, that I didn't leave them back then.

I asked the Lord to let me live to raise my children, and He saw fit to give me that, and the oodles and oodles more that I call "gravy", every day.  Five years now, I have loved and lived and laughed and sought to encourage and be grateful.  I have focused on living the life I want to have.  I wish so much that I "had it all together", but I don't know that I ever will.

But I can tell you this, I relish each day, each hour, each sunrise, each laugh, each pile of laundry and maybe even the dirty dishes.  I get to raise my children, love my husband, and muck my own stalls. 

Don't just accept the conventional wisdom.  Research, educate yourself, make wise choices, but don't dwell on your disease and don't paste a label on your chest.  None of us knows how long we get.  LIVE IT WELL!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

4 years out!

I am now over four years out from my breast cancer diagnosis.  I am back to 99.5% of what I was prior.  My hair is not the glory that it was, and will never be so again.  I have enlarged my use of baseball caps, which I always loved...because my weak spot seems to be right where I part my hair in the front.  So the hat keeps me from seeing it all the time.  I don't wear hats to church, obviously and am able to make my hair tolerable on those days.  But I figure, it's a problem with my vanity.  I am delighted to have a pony tail again.

I have no lingering health issues, in fact, feel like I am very healthy now.  I do take a multitude of supplements every day, but am rarely sick...and this, even while driving a school bus every day! I did go through menopause due to chemo and tamoxifen, whichever one did the trick--instant menopause!  Yea!  Which keeps me from being freezing every single night through the winter, so I guess it is an acceptable trade.

I hope this is an encouragement to anyone facing or going through breast cancer.  I believe having a specific goal (in my case, I wanted to be mucking my own stalls by Thanksgiving), has crucial in getting me beyond a diagnosis.  I did not spend much time on BC bulletin boards or websites, once I saw all the wallowing and pitiable stories.  It was not for me.

I am thankful that I went through all this.  It made me a better person.  It gave me an amazing story of God's providence and protection and it helped me learn more about my health and my responsibility for it.  I have several friends who made different choices with their situations, and I am definitely satisfied with what I decided.

I don't participate in any pink ribbon things, and I don't really want to.  I don't believe there will be a cure any time soon.  Cancer is too big of a money maker.   I hope I don't have to ever face it again. 

One thing I really need to improve on, is to cut back on sugar.  I have almost eliminated drinking pop completely.  But I still put sugar in tea and coffee, and I LOVE life saver gummies.  :)

Happy 4 years to me!  I am sooooo thankful to be raising my children, and living the life I longed to keep.  Thank you, Lord.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Physical Activity and its Relationship with Fighting Cancer

I have told people that having to get out of bed and take care of my horses was a big motivator to me during my cancer treatments and surgeries. It sounds like I was putting my horses ahead of my daughters, but in reality, I knew my daughters would receive the care they needed. Besides my husband, there was family and friends frequently in play to cover that base. But my barn family was a different story. Their needs gave me a strong pull out of bed every morning, every day. And once I got there, I was encouraged by being around them and I built my physical strength and confidence in providing their care.

David Haas stumbled across my blog some time ago, and read about my approach and management of my health situation, and was interested in guest-posting here.

Here is his bio from : Joining the organization in 2011, David Haas is a cancer support group and awareness program advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. In addition to researching the many valuable programs available to our site’s visitors, David often blogs about programs and campaigns underway at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, as well as creative fitness ideas for those dealing with cancer, while creating relationships with similar organizations.

David can be reached at

I completely concur with David's article which follows:

Regular physical exercise has been cited in many circles to improve overall health. Being physically active can, for instance, reduce body fat, which is usually the cause of many health conditions. Many health experts also recommend it, but exactly how does it relate with the fight against cancer?

Physical exercise and cancer

Cancer treatment processes such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy may cause fatigue in patients. Fatigue related to cancer is more severe, causes more distress, and is not likely to go away by taking a nap or resting. Physical therapy and exercise is recommended for cancer-related fatigue. Moderate exercise helps to reduce this type of fatigue.

Engaging in physical activity reduces stress levels and improves mood. This is important for people diagnosed with cancer, since they need to maintain a positive attitude to cope with emotional trauma. It is not clear how exercise affects mesothelioma treatment and other types of cancer as studies indicate.

Research relating exercise with cancer

There are numerous studies that have been conducted to determine how physical activity affects the healing of people diagnosed with cancer. Although no definitive proof exists that cancer is affected by exercise, some studies have indicated a possible relationship. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has tracked several studies that sought to find out the effects of physical exercise on cancer. Studies have indicated that physical exercise help to reduce fatigue, improve energy balance, and improve quality of life for patients with breast cancer. The studies also indicated that women who maintained an active lifestyle after diagnosis had improved rates of survival.

More studies suggested that physical exercise improves the prognosis of people who are diagnosed with colon cancer. The studies indicated that although physical activity before diagnosis did not affect survival, people who had more physical activity after diagnosis had reduced chances of recurrence. The results are summarized by NCI at their website below.

Physical and emotional strain of cancer

Diagnosis of cancer usually leads to harsh treatment procedures to ensure that the cancer doesn’t spread or grow. This causes major physical strain on the body and also emotional strain. As a result, remedial measures are required to ensure that you maintain your body in a healthy state to fight cancer.

From me, again: Get out of bed, even if it is to sit on the porch in the sun. Find something to do, especially things that produce something to show, i.e. knitting, scrapbooking, painting, etc. Have something to show for your time. Not tv or web-surfing. Don't spend all your time surfing cancer bulletin boards. Live the life you have been given. It's all you've got. :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Here's an uplifting link...

I don't post here often because I am B-U-S-Y living the life I wanted so desperately to get back at...but I know this blog exists in perpetuity and someone may be coming across it, looking for supplies for their hope kit.

Check out this link:

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2 Years Out

I cannot believe it is my 2-year anniversary, with my oncologist. In preparation for this office visit, I was to have a regular blood-draw, although I could tell from the order that she was asking for more readings than usual. I was also to get a chest xray. And she had scheduled me for a second infusion of Zometa, to combat the osteopenia that I was diagnosed with last April.

Zometa was designed for bone cancer patients. It stops (kills off?) the osteoclasts in your bones, whose job is to tear down bone. That way, whatever bone-building is going on, gets to stay in place. I didn't really like the sound of that, but I appreciated the result. And due to the high cost ($1100/per infusion) out of my pocket, I was hesitant to do it again unnecessarily.

I left a message with my oncologist's office, asking if I could have a bone density scan first, since I would be paying for it, no matter what. The bone density scan cost me less than $200 and if my density had improved significantly, I wanted to skip the Zometa.

The doctor approved my plan, so I squeezed in the bone density scan the day before my office visit. It turned out that my density had improved, but not a lot. When I saw the oncologist, she said I could do whatever I wanted to do. She did not want to sway me one way or the other. I peppered her with questions...and this is what I found out.

My bone density last time was -2.2. -2.5 is the cut-off for osteoporosis. Normal is from -1 to 0. This time, I had improved to -2. Still well into the osteopenia range. She said I would not improve significantly from just calcium supplements/diet/exercise. She really wasn't sure I could ever be "normal" bone density again.

The loss of density is from my early shutdown of ovary function, due to chemotherapy, not from the tamoxifen. Since my insurance isn't deciding what I can or cannot have, I can have another bone density scan in 6 months if I want, to see if the Zometa has gained me another fraction of improvement or not. Also, there is no downside, for me, from the Zometa, other than the cost. In fact, the reason she chose Zometa for me was that it had the unexpected side effect of helping to reduce the reoccurence of breast cancer. (I think I had shared that last time.)

The other decision to be made was whether I would switch from Tamoxifen at this point to Femara. Some study had shown this to be beneficial. She said that without a doubt Femara would cause further bone density loss. So, of course, that was shelved. She didn't have any problem with me continuing with Tamoxifen.

I decided, pretty quickly, that I wasn't going to let $1000 stand between me and the chance to gain any amount of bone density. I am too young to start worrying about that. Especially since her office permits me to pay any amount on my bill, as long as I am paying. I only pay $25/week and am still paying off last April's infusion.

So I took another infusion. The nurse was so sweet, but she almost blew out my vein in my right arm--which is bad, since I can't ever use my left arm, EVER again. So she had to put it in my wrist, which wasn't that bad. 15 minutes later, I was good to go.

I don't see the doc again for 6 months. That's the prize you get after two years. :)

My chest xray was clear. My plastic surgeon waved me off for a one-year check up. Her tatoo artist told me if I was happy, she was happy. I can almost pretend it didn't happen...almost.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

Two years ago, yesterday, I underwent my first surgery in my cancer story. I spent around 5 hours on the operating table that day, two surgical teams took turns taking me apart and putting me back together.

Praise the Lord! For their skill and knowledge and compassion.

Today, I am totally and completely well. I had about 4 or 5 more surgeries, after that, to get completely "done", but I am now finished. I feel great and am happy and content. I took an infusion of Zometa earlier this year to combat osteopenia, which is probably the result of chemo. The Zometa will help me build bone, but also has a side-effect of reducing reoccurence of bc.

My hair is my same old hair, just not long enough yet. :)

I can honestly say that cancer made me a better person. And I can honestly say that I am glad I went through it because I like the new me more. I am so thankful to all my wonderful friends who helped and fed us, and helped and helped us some more. My family, who came from far and near to do any and all things needed. My insurance company (honestly), that paid and paid and paid, without one single glitch or increase. My husband, who walked through it with me, with humor and not one hint of discomfort or fear. My girls, who kept my focus off myself-- :)--and my wonderful menagerie, who needed me to get out of bed and bring the food!

With God, all things ARE possible.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Don't go getting soft on me...

At my quarterly check-up with the oncologist in January, I had asked about a bone-density test. I don't know what prompted that, I probably read something about post-chemo bone loss. Anyway, she scheduled me for one and thankfully, they called to remind me about the appt, because I didn't have it in my book. The test was quick and painless and I saw the oncologist again in April.

She said I have osteopenia in my hip and spine with a grade of -2.2 in each. The cut-off for osteoporosis is -2.5, so I guess I was getting close. She told me to take 1500 mg. of calcium a day and about 4 bushels of raisin bran to counteract the calcium, if you get my drift.

I told her that I was riding horses and could in no way be breaking any bones. I told her that my MIL had taken the IV bone builder Reclast a year ago, and her osteopenia was GONE--could I take that?

She was excited to know that I wanted to adress the issue more aggressively and told me that the drug Zometa, developed for bone cancer, has the same active ingredient as Reclast, but has shown the unexpected side effect of preventing recurrence of breast cancer. So, if I was going to do the IV thing, she would want me to do Zometa. And do it again in 6 months and then another bone scan.

So I did. A 30-minute IV drip in the infusion lab, which was pretty creepy really. I wanted to wear a big sign that said, "I'm just here for the bone builder." And then came the bill for $1200.

Yep, $1200. And I haven't met my deductible yet, so it's all on me. I did not have any of the side effects that I was warned of, not even sore joints, so PTL.

Lessons learned: Ask for bone density test, even if you have to pay for it. She wasn't even suggesting a stronger approach than calcium supplements until I brought it up.

BTW, she told me how disappointed she gets that many women, MANY women will not even do Tamoxifen because they don't want to have hot flashes! Sorry, cannot believe that. Hot flashes versus cancer...hmmm...