Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sat Sept 30th

On Wednesday evening my hair started to fall out a little bit. I was hoping that it would just be a little here and there but Thursday morning in the shower it just got worse. Every time I ran my fingers through my hair I would pull out stands of hair.
Thursday was an early morning. I went to chemo with my mom at 8am and went through my genetics counseling. We had to do a pedigree chart for family history of cancer and go through all the statistics of what it means if I do have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. I was going through my herceptin (one of my chemo drugs) while doing the genetics counseling so I wouldn't have to be there all day again. Then after my gene counseling I started in with the rest of the chemo. They premedicated me pretty heavy with the benedryl since I had the allergic reactions last week and also gave me the steroid shot before hand hoping that if I had another reaction it would take care of that. After about 10 min into doing the Taxol I, of course, had the same reaction where I couldn't breathe. It wasn't quite as bad as last week's reaction but still pretty scary. The only difference was I knew what was happening. Doctor Medgyesy decided to go ahead and change me onto a different drug that is in the same family called Taxotere. She explained that the allergy is usually caused by the way the drug is dissolved and not the actual drug itself. (whatever that means) So this new drug is dissolved differently and normally people that don't tolerate the Taxol well will do okay on this other one Taxotere. The thing about this other one is that it can have worse side effects. She said I might have more nausea, achey, retain water, all sorts of other "extras". Great....... You do what you gotta do I guess. Good news is I did get through that drug okay without any reactions and I can pick up where I left off with the other one so I don't have to start my 12 weeks over. This week will still count as week 4. The did my blood draw for the gene testing and we should know in 4 to 6 weeks.
I also went to a program at the cancer center on Thursday evening called look good, feel better. It was like a glorified Mary Kay party. We all got a goodie bag full of all sorts of nice make up and skin products from all the places I could never afford to buy from so that was cool, and they showed us how to tie scarves and things like that. It was nice.
I still felt pretty yucky for the rest of the day Thursday but I wasn't sure if it was from the reaction or just the new medicine. After my class I got home and my mom, dad, and brother Mason were at my house making dinner (oh course with all my kids and hubby as well). Olivia climbed up on my lap on the couch to give me a hug and get the usual run down of mommy's day without her. I was itching my head and pulled out a chunk of hair and just lost it. Of course trying to explain to her why I was sad in terms a 4 year old would understand. Man I hate it when I do that in front of my kids. When we sat down to dinner Olivia volunteered to say the prayer and of course didn't forget me. She said "Bless mommy not to be sad and that her hair will stop falling out." ...... Out of the mouths of babes. I love my kids!!
I thought I would feel better on Thursday if I got in the shower, which it was nice but back to the hair falling out. That just made me feel sicker. I got out of the shower and by the time I was done drying my hair my sink looked like this:

After thinking about my hair slowing falling out and finding it on my pillow the whole night instead of sleeping I got up on Friday and decided I would take control of the situation. (my bizarre way of convincing myself I actually have any control over any of this I guess) I invited some of my girlfriends over and we shaved it off. I knew you would all want to see the photo docu-drama, so I uploaded them to my snapfish link on the side of the page. Definitely one of the harder things I have ever experienced. Why is it that we as women are so attached to our hair? After all it is a giant pain in the butt as I now realize I can get ready in 10 min flat. (shower and all) So it does have it's good points. At least I know that it will grow back, right? I must say as a bald lady you do get a lot of very funny looks. I can't even look in the mirror without doing a double take and saying "Whoa! Who's that funny looking bald chick? Oh wait, that's how I look now a days." Olivia reminded me a few times yesterday how silly I was and that I looked like a boy....Great. :-) Just what I always wanted. I have tried to wear some scarves and hats but because my hair is all still falling out and I will eventually be completely bald my head really itches and so they are hard to keep on. Jon and I went out to a church social on Friday night for a bit and it was nice to be out of the house. Everyone that is in public with me the next few days will just have to be seen with the bald girl :-) Trying to stay positive this week has proven to be rather difficult, but we are still hanging in there!!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday Sept 25th

Today I broke down and took my nausea medicine for the first time. It actually worked okay, but does make me sleepy. I haven't really felt all that well since Thursday so that has been kinda crappy.
On Saturday we were sponsored to attend a benefit for the American Cancer Society called the Cattle Barron's Ball. It was in Windsor at Water Valley. They served a really nice dinner and did dancing and a live auction. They raised 30K for cancer research from their auction. I have never been to an auction so it was a pretty cool thing to see. They had Chris LeDoux's band there playing, he died last year from cancer. Jon and I love to country dance and haven't been in a while so we had a lot of fun!
Yesterday some gals from work came over and cleaned my house for me. That was so nice! I hope it wasn't too horrible for them. We also received some help yesterday with our medical expenses. We feel truly blessed to have such a wonderful support group of family and friends!! I will never be able to thank everyone enough for all the love, support, and prayers everyone has offered to us.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thurs Sept 21st

Today has definitely been a day of ups and downs. I saw the nurse Lisa today for my appointment. The GOOD NEWS is that my tumor has shrunk considerably already! Yeah! It started at 4cm by 3cm and has decreased to 2cm by 2.5cm. Everyone's prayers and thoughts must be working. THANKS!! I will be doing my genetics counseling next week at Chemotherapy and will do my blood draw next week to send off to the genetics lab. I will have an answer in 4 to 6 weeks if I am BRCA1 or 2 positive. This will have a huge weight on my decisions with surgery. If I am positive they would recommend having a double mastectomy. If I am negative I might only have to have a single mastectomy or a lumpectomy if it keeps shrinking the way it is going. The bad news is that since my prescribed treatment had chemo first, then surgery, then radiation I can't do reconstruction at the time of my surgery. Radiation cannot be done over the reconstruction. This would mean that I would be looking at multiple painful surgeries with long recovery periods in between. YUCK. I still won't know for sure if my lymph nodes have been affected until after surgery. But yeah again for the tumor shrinking!
I did chemo after my dr. Appointment today. Everything was going fine until I started my Taxol, which is the actual chemo drug. Since it was my 3rd time getting this they put it on regular flow and it usually takes about an hour. I was laying down in the recliner for about 10 min and started to feel funny. All at once I felt hot in my abdomen and and it moved quickly up my abdomen into my chest and to my throat. By the time I sat up and looked at my mom on the one side of me and said "Something isn't right," and turned my head to the other side to tell the nurse my chest and throat got very tight and couldn't breathe. The 3 nurses all rushed over shut the IV line and shot me up with a steroid and a bunch of benedryl. It worked quickly but there was about 1o or so seconds there where I couldn't catch my breath. It was VERY SCARY! I thought I was going to pass out. They put some saline through me and waited about a half hour before starting on it again. They start it back up but at about 1/2 the speed. I waited about 20 min and then the hot feeling came over me again. I didn't have the breathing problem that time, but they did the same things again. I had to stop and wait another 1/2 hour and then start the taxol again at about 1/2 that speed. Luckily the 3rd time was a charm and worked okay but we ended up being at chemo from 10:00am to 4:30pm. Long day! I feel horrible tonight too. My chest still hurts and my lower back hurts. I am a total medicine head from all the benedryl I am on.
On a fun note, my girlfriends Alyssa and Aislinn came and kidnapped me and took me to get a manicure and pedicure. It was so much fun and so relaxing. I have never had a pedicure and had no idea on what I was missing out on! Jon is in big trouble now, he'll have to watch the kids once a month so I can go do that.
Still no bald head yet, just a few strands here and there. My white blood cell count was 4.8 today so back in the "normal" range. So I guess that is more good news. I am trying to have a good attitude about stuff but feel so bummed and drained this evening.....Good thing tomorrow is a new day!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Monday Sept 18th

It has been a real uneventful weekend. Mostly just relaxing at home. Today and Sunday I have felt a little under the weather but nothing to awful. Just tired again and a little out of sorts. I went to try on wigs on Friday afternoon. Nothing too exciting to report that way. They look a little funny with the hair I have right now underneath it, but they will probably look better when there isn't any hair under there keeping it off my head. I still haven't lost any hair yet.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Thurs Sept 14th

Okay so another Chemo treatment over and done with!! 2 down 14 to go, 2 weeks down and 22 weeks to go..... I took some pictures this morning with my mom at the cancer center. They give me these nice recliners to sit in and you can see the pink breast cancer blanket that Cyndi Thalman made for me. They are posted on my snapfish page with the link on the side of the page that says Eliza's pictures under Chemo 9/14/06. I had to take some pictures of things even if it isn't a time I want to remember now, I am sure it will be nice to look back on some photos of it all.
We went in at 8:30 and were done by 11:45. Jon's parents were nice enough to watch our rugrats today. I did find out that they will give me the benadryl and steroids everytime to prepare my body for the treatment. Which means I will be sleeping through, at least, the first part of things. I also found that accessing the port isn't near as painful as I thought it would be. I use a prescription cream that numbs the skin prior to going in and it didn't hurt at all. It didn't really even hurt to take it out. My wonderful oncology nurse Judy is so good at explaining everything that is going on is about the sweetest person ever. (Along with everyone that works there, which makes it so much easier) Today my white blood cell count, or WBC, was 2.8 and normal range is between 4.1 and 10.9 so this week I will have to stay out of the crowds. Judy said that I will hit nadir (which is the lowest point my counts will drop) within the first 2 weeks. They can give me shots if the count gets too low. I am trying to get the DNA test approved through my insurance so I can find out if I have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene in my DNA. The test is expensive though, so I have to make sure insurance will pay for it. This will be good to know for my sisters and my daughters. Not to much else exciting with the chemo today, just sitting in a chair getting an IV drip. It is funny that they give you the stuff in the main line and that it doesn't effect your body for a few days.
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I took a nap this afternoon and felt great when I woke up. I was able to spend some time with the kids taking a walk and going to the park so that was nice. Jon is working hard on getting some of our basement outer walls framed in his spare time and it is nice to see that project getting started. It has been a good way for him to take his mind off things. Until next time my friends.......

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tues Sept 12th

Okay I decided I am going to do my part to remind all the ladies about buddy check 9 day....A little corny but I am all for it given my present situation. So this is done by 9 news to remind all of us to do our monthly self breast exams on the 9th of the month. A little late this month but better late than never. I love all of you and wouldn't wish this on anyone, but early detection is the key. So next time your in the shower, DO IT!! If anyone is interested the 9 news website is a great resource for breast cancer information. For a quick link to that site click here. Also The Race for the Cure is here in Denver on October 8th. For more information on that click here. I will keep these links on the side bar of my blog for future reference.

So the last 2 days have been a little rough. I have been super tired and luckily I have great friends that will take my kids for the afternoon when I need help. Thanks Abbey! Yesterday I felt pretty sick, but today only tired. Tired I can deal with, sick doesn't really fit in my schedule. I guess I better get used to conforming to someone else's schedule. Jon is back in the swing of working with Source and we are so grateful that has worked out in our favor to keep our insurance and hopefully a consistent work schedule. He is also working on getting a room framed out in our basement. We got a great deal on lumber through Jon's friend, Vernon, and we will just have to take it one step at a time. It will be nice to have the extra room if family is able to come and help out when times get rough down the road for me. This week I have Chemo on Thursday morning. My port site is still bruised and pretty sore. I have a hard time at night getting comfortable. The incision is healing but my skin still pulls on it when I move my neck in certain directions. It is bizarre to feel it under my skin and my kids always want to see what mommies owie looks like today or if it is gone. No hair falling out yet....Which is good. I sucks anticipating and dreading the inevitable. I read this quote today and thought I would share:

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.
~Martin Luther King

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Saturday Sept 9th

Yesterday morning I decided to go and get my haircut. I thought it might be less traumatic if it wasn't so long when it fell out. My friends Abbey, Alyssa, and Aislynn all went with me to get it cut. Nothing like moral support from your friends!! I posted a link on the right side of the page that says Eliza's Pictures. Click on this link and it will take you to the snapfish home page. It is a free service but you do have to create a log in to look at the photos. We took some before and after pictures of the haircut. I also put pictures from our summer vacation to Glendo on there if your interested.

At noon I had to do an echocardiogram. Luckily this was just an ultrasound of my heart and no needles or pain. I did have to lay on my left side which hurt a bit because of my surgery on Wednesday. My incision from the surgery still hurts today. It is more comfortable now that the tap isn't in place and nothing is sticking out of my skin anymore. I still can't stretch my left arm out very far or do any heavy lifting. Hopefully that will be better soon.

I had my first Chemotherapy appointment yesterday afternoon also. We went in at about 1:30 and didn't leave until 5:30. They have to do everything very slow the first time around to make sure that you don't have any allergic reactions to the medications. I took all sorts of things with me to keep me busy. Books, journal, papers to organize...... But the first thing they gave me was benadryl in case I ended up being allergic to anything. I ended up sleeping through most of the afternoon while Jon read my book. (At least I know it will be worth reading when I get to it :-))Cyndi Thalman stopped by for a minute in the afternoon. She made me this really cute blanket with the pink breast cancer awareness ribbons on it. It will be perfect to take with me every week to keep warm and cozy. So far I haven't felt sick only really tired and worn out.

On another note, today is Olivia's birthday. I can't believe my baby is already 4 years old. Where has the time gone? It sure isn't fun trying to explain this whole mess to her. She just says "Mom I don't want you to loose your hair."All I can say is ........Me either!

New family Pictures

We went in and took the kids pictures and family pictures on Monday. We haven't had the kids pictures taken for awhile and wanted to take family pictures before I lost my hair, so here they are. We went to a place that does amazing things, when you have kids at least. They will crop their "heads" off of other pictures where they are making good faces and put them on pictures where their bodies look okay. So worth the money!!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wed Sept 6th

Thank goodness this day is over!! I went in this morning to have a PETscan. I had to fast for this test and for surgery so I was starving all day. I didn't realize that I was going to have to have an IV put in for this test. For this test they inject a radioactive sugar into your system and since the cancer cells metabolize sugar at a high rate it will help them detect where the sugar is and if there are any other "hot spots" elsewhere in your body. When we went into the room where they do the injection the technician handles this substance behind a lead box. He asked my dad "There is going to be radioactive material in this room, would you prefer to leave?" I thought that was amusing that they were worried about him but just going to fill me full of it intravenously. He didn't leave, in case you were wondering. What a guy! That's why I love my dad always willing to take one for the team. They made me wait in a room by myself after that for an hour. I wasn't supposed to talk or even channel surf. He said that by talking I would be using the muscles in my throat and by channel surfing the muscles in my wrists and hand. Apparently this would mess up the scan. Just had to sit in the room for an hour holding still. The scan itself was similar to an MRI a table moving you in and out of a tunnel.

Next we went to the cancer center for Chemo education. We did this with the nurse practitioner Lisa. She went through the ins and outs of treatment, what it was going to be like and the possible side affects. She said that they wanted to do a DNA test on my blood to see if I had a mutated gene somewhere in my line. She said that since I was so young with this diagnosis it was very possible. If there was a mutated gene it would be very likely that I get cancer in the other breast or ovarian cancer at some point. This information would be more useful for preventive care and making better decisions about surgery when we get to that point. We also found out that they received results from the lab that my cancer is Her2neu positive which means I have to have Herceptin with my Chemotherapy. Which is extra time at this treatment as well. It sounds like my Chemo treatment will last about 2 to 3 hours each time. Not only do I have to do this during Chemo, I have to have it done for a year, which means even after Chemo is done I have to keep doing this IV drug every 3 weeks for a year. The news keeps getting better and better as the day goes on!! So this first round of Chemo will be once a week for 12 weeks and I will be taking Taxol. She said this one could be done once every 3 weeks but since my case is more aggressive they are trying to do it every week to stay on top of it. With this first 12 weeks she said it shouldn't be too awfully bad. I will loose my hair in about the next 3 weeks. There is a whole book of side effects from Chemo. Fatigue, hair loss, diarrhea, constipation, fertility, nausea..... I think it would be easier to list the things that aren't side effects. I have to be real careful about germs and getting sick since the Chemo will also drop my red and white blood cell count and platelet count. Hand sanitizer is going to be all over my house! They also talked a BUNCH about diet and how important it is to have a well balanced diet and to each smaller meals every 2 to 3 hours instead of the 3 big meals a day.

Then we moved over to the surgery center at the harmony campus of PVH. Moving right along to my 2nd IV of the day. (Apparently the reason for the infusa port) The surgery itself I guess only took about 20 min but I was out for at least an hour. Modern medicine is pretty neat. I remember looking at the clock on the wall in the OR and it said 13:42 and I was thinking, what's with the military time and then waking up in recovery not being able to talk and having this awful taste in my mouth from the tube the put in to help you breathe. My shoulder was the only thing that hurt, apparently they prop your arm up funny to have the right positioning elsewhere. I was in the car and on the way home by 4. I have a little over an inch incision below my collar bone and right now have it "tapped" so the nurse didn't have to mess with it to do my Chemo so that is uncomfortable to have something sticking out of my skin. They will be able to take that out after my Chemo treatment this week. It does hurt a fair amount right now though. Why is it that everyone just said "Take some tylenol and you should be fine." I guess I am just a big baby because tylenol isn't cutting it.

So I will be going in for my first Chemotherapy treatment on Friday. I was supposed be going in tomorrow, but they couldn't fit me in. So Friday is the next big day. Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to just sit at home and go nowhere. I am tired of running all over the place and quickly remembering why I like being a homebody!!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tuesday Sept 5th

Today we went in to meet with my surgeon, Dr. Chiavetta. He is very nice and I feel very comfortable choosing him as my surgeon. He gave us the results of the MRI and said that there were 2 other "small" areas of concern. One behind the large mass and one below the mass that are both about a millimeter in diameter. (not much compared to the 4cm by 3cm of the large mass) As far as they could tell my lymph nodes look okay. They a little on the big side but still in the "normal" range and not enlarged. Dr. Chiavetta said that since this is an aggressive cancer that he definitely agreed to start Chemo Therapy first before we do surgery. I am going in to have an PETscan in the morning, then doing a "Chemo Education" class at 10:45 and then going into surgery around 1pm to have the port placed in my chest. BUSY DAY!! I am sick of beeing busy. Chemo Education sounds so funny to me, but I suppose it is a good way to introduce patients to the process and be able to get a lot of questions answered. With the port they will put me out (yeah). The doc said it would take about 20 min to do the procedure but to get ready and recover we are looking at the whole afternoon. If you want to see more of what the device is click here. Very interesting I thought but will apparently make my life easier, and I am all for anything doing that at this point. We also had a gal (Emmy Anderson) come to the house tonight from the American Cancer Society. Jon and I have recently gotten to know her brother Matt and his wife Amanda. Matt had cancer a few years ago and inspired her to start working for the ACS. She gave me all sorts of great information to read and told me about some really neat programs that are available to cancer patients. It is amazing to me all of the wonderful people that have crossed my path along this journey so far. She is such a sweetie and I know that I will be calling her with all sorts of my questions along the way.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Family Pics

D Day

After spending much of the week on the phone giving everyone updates I decided to start this blog. This way when you're wondering what is going on with me and my healing process you can just log into this page and read my journal entries here! :-)

For those of you that didn’t know I had found a lump in my breast at the beginning of the month of August and went to see about it right away. At that time I was told that it was nothing to be concerned about and they thought it was fibrocystic breast disease. They said to come back if it wasn’t gone in a few weeks. I promptly went back at 3 weeks and was scheduled for an ultra sound and mammogram on Friday August 25th. After looking over these results the radiologist recommended that I come back in for a biopsy on Tuesday August 29th. I went in to do a biopsy this past Tuesday (which was a nightmare). It was an ultra sound guided needle biopsy. The radiologist was using a new core needle instrument that was supposed to take multiple samples at a time. After giving me shots to numb the area they make a small incision in the side of my breast and guide the needle to the right area via ultra sound. When the needle is in place it mechanically goes in and out 5 times to take the samples. When the doc had taken the instrument out it had only obtained one sample. So they tried it again. After the 2nd time they took it out and it hadn't taken any samples. They decided to do it the "old way" which was one needle at a time, one sample at a time. Finally the tried and true method worked and I spent the rest of the day with ice on my chest and vicadin every 4 hours.

I got my test results back Wednesday August 30th, the twin’s birthday, and it is official. I was diagnosed with infiltrating breast cancer. At that time I had an appointment with a surgeon on Friday. It was a new surgeon to a group of doctors in Fort Collins. I had thought about that a lot on Wednesday night and decided that I would prefer to see a surgeon that was recommended to me since I couldn't find out anything about the surgeon that I had an appointment with. I call my nurse and she said she would try to get back to me sometime that day.

In the meantime I was still unsure who I was going to see for an oncologist. My girlfriend Courtnee graduated high school with a girl who is a nurse at the Front Range Cancer Center. Courtnee had called her on Wednesday to see who she would recommend seeing. Lisa said that if she were to ever get cancer she would see a doctor that she works for, Dr. Medgyese. On Thursday morning Courtnee called and said that Lisa had talked to Dr. Medgyese and she agreed to see me that day if I was interested. We went in to see her and her suggestion was to start doing chemo right away instead of surgery since my tumor is so close to my chest wall. They want to see it shrink before going in to remove it. Before we left her office her nurse had been able to schedule me with the surgeon I wanted to see in 2 business days. I guess it pays to know the right people. It was such a blessing to be able to get in right away to see the oncologist and I feel very confident in her abilities. I feel like Heavenly Father really guided me to her.

The current plans are to get a port placed in my chest next Wednesday which will require surgery, and then start my chemo treatments on Thursday. Things have just moved so fast, but I suppose that is a good thing. My first round of chemo will be once a week every Thursday for 12 weeks. Dr. Medgyese said that I will loose my hair within 3 to 4 weeks. This is defiantly the part that I am having the hardest time with at the moment. I just want everyone to know that it has meant so much to us to see the outpouring of love and concern for our family. All of your well wishes, offers to help, notes and cards just mean the world to me and it is truly awesome to know that so many people are thinking about you and praying for you! I won't ever be able to thank everyone enough. I will try to post something every few days or when new things are happening.