Treatment Plan – Round 2

The last couple of months have been exhausting…appointments, scans, researching, more appointments, more tests.  I finally have a treatment plan that I feel “mostly comfortable” with.

My PET and CT scans came back all clear.  There still could be microscopic cancer cells hiding but for the most part it looks good.  Because the Tamoxifen was not effective enough at preventing the breast cancer from recurring, I do have to take my hormone therapy to the next level.  After consulting with my Medical Oncologist, my Naturopath Oncologist, and a second opinion Med Onc…the majority recommendation is that I do Ovarian Suppression (shut down my ovaries which are the largest producer of estrogen).  I had considered surgically removing my ovaries (to reduce additional medications but have decided to start with the injections which are reversible).

So on July 3rd, I had my first injection of Zoladex.  I will need this injection every month (29-30 days apart).  Wow it was a huge needle and leaves a mark.  Luckily they apply ice to my stomach for 10 minutes before the injection which made it almost painless.  I will also be adding an Aromatase Inhibitor pill every day to further block estrogen.  Side effects from these are mostly typical menopause symptoms but can be even worse because this is “forced menopause”.  And I am unable to take any estrogen replacement to stop symptoms.  Also because this will add over a decade of bone loss risk, I have to have infusions of Zometa done every 6 months to help protect my bones.

Additionally, I will be having Radiation Treatment (RT) to my left chest area.  I was very concerned with my CHEK2 gene mutation and how that could increase my risks for additional side effects and secondary cancers from Radiation Treatment.  However after consulting with 3 Radiation Oncologists (one being my uncle), it does appear that my risk of the breast cancer returning a 3rd time without RT is far worse than the other risks.  Unfortunately the quality data on patients with CHEK2 and post-mastectomy who had RT is nearly non-existent.  So we have to go with the best comparable data we have.  The Rad Onc who will be treating me did an excellent job explaining that my risk of breast cancer recurrence if I do not do RT is 20-30% (probably higher with my mutation).  The recurrence risk drops to about 5% with RT.

So I will be starting Radiation Treatments on 8/1.  I will have RT every week day for 6.5 weeks.

These treatment choices still have risks and many side effects which are hard to accept.  But my risk of the breast cancer returning again and possibly spreading are just too high.  So I will still take supplements from my Naturopath and do everything naturally that I can (eat modified Keto, exercise hopefully daily, try to reduce stress, etc.).  But I just can’t deny taking the advice of many medical professionals to do the Ovarian Suppression and Radiation Treatment.

This time around has been harder in many ways.  I’m trying to stay positive (and most days I am).  But I’m hanging in there and I do feel slightly better now that I have read a million medical studies and consulted so many professionals.  I feel more “at peace” with these decisions each day.  I did get 4-1/2 days off without feeling like a “patient” when my Mother-In-Law took us to Disneyland.  It was a much needed break and a wonderful trip.  And my Rad Onc has been awesome helping me figure out how I could still do most of our Summer vacation plans around treatment.

Many people keep asking how they can help.  The only thing I can think of for now is…for friends and family in our area that have offered to help with the kids…I may be taking you up on that so that the kids don’t have to go to RT with me in the basement downtown every day in August.  Once school starts on 8/27 it will be much easier.  So if you are willing to take the kiddos for a couple hours on a M-F one day in August, let me know. 🙂

Hopefully my next update will be to say that the side effects (at least short term ones) from these treatments have been minimal.  If I keep to a strict diet and exercise plan it should help at least.  I hope you all are enjoying your Summer and taking time to relax.  We have been trying to make the most of our Summer between all of my appointments and procedures.  I’ve included some recent photos of Disneyland, camping by the coast, wine tasting and 4th of July.

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Results

Sorry for the delay in posting. I received results from my lumpectomy late last week. They were not what we were hoping for so I didn’t feel much like sharing the news yet.  The lump my surgeon removed was cancerous. The good news was that she took enough tissue that the margins were clean so she got it all out for now.

The lump did show to be very responsive to estrogen.  So that means that the drug I have been taking every day for the last 4 years (Tamoxifen – to block estrogen) was not working.  But as I always try to find the “silver lining”…this caused me to take the time to research Tamoxifen more.  Turns out it is listed as a Group 1 Carcinogen with the US.  Group 1 means it definitely has been shown to cause cancer in humans.  This Group 1 list is not long and Tamoxifen is on there.  As I researched more, I saw that there have been studies finding that ingesting Rosemary was more effective than Tamoxifen at blocking estrogen.  Well I just happen to have a bottle of pure Rosemary Essential Oil from doTerra and decided to start taking 1-2 drops of that every day.  It’s a more natural approach that I feel better about anyway.

I have many more appointments coming up over the next 2 weeks.   A full body PET scan, meetings with my Oncologist, a Radiologist, and then my Naturopath Oncologist.  All to look at the “next steps” for my journey.

In the mean time, I’ve been reading a lot about the Ketogenic diet for Cancer and am really excited about the potential to fight cancer with a very strict diet.  I’m now trying to eat a VERY strict Keto diet (absolutely no sugar, very limited fruit, very little carbs, tons of green veggies, small amounts of clean protein, healthy fats, etc.)

I have a ton of researching, appointments, treatment decisions and figuring out this new diet to do over the next two weeks.  I will update again once I have a better handle on everything.

Thanks again for all the positive thoughts and prayers.  I think they help me to remain positive as best as possible through this.

Round 2

Right after my 4th Cancerversary, I discovered a small breast lump on the same side as the original Breast Cancer.  After meeting with my Oncologist & Breast Surgeon, and having an ultrasound, needle biopsy, and MRI, we still could not be 100% sure what it was.  So we all agreed…take it out.  I also had another needle biopsy of a near-by lymph node that thankfully came back as normal.

So on Friday (5/18) I had a fairly simple lumpectomy.  I did get full anesthesia in case they ran into any complications in the O.R. but I was able to go home the same day.  In fact I did so well that I was discharged only 1.5 hours after waking up.  I’m just resting all weekend and taking advantage of this time to relax and  catch up on some Netflix and reading.

It’s been a rough few weeks going through all the testing and appointments again but just as I discovered before…there are some silver linings to a cancer “scare”.  I have taken a look at the past year and realized that I allowed myself to become over-worked, stressed, and wasn’t paying as much attention to my health (exercise and diet) as I would have liked.  So while the past few weeks could have been very stressful, I was actually starting to feel more at peace as I started exercising more, working less, slowing down, eating really cleanly and focusing on what is important.

I won’t have full pathology results until late next week.  If it is a recurrence, then my team of doctors and I will come up with a new plan.  I will post again once I have results.  Prayers and positive thoughts are appreciated.  Otherwise I am doing well and enjoying this time to relax.

Cancerversary #4

Four years since diagnoses…it feels mostly like a distant memory now.  Maybe too distant though.  After 9 months of surgeries and procedures, it was easy to live life at a slower pace and enjoy the small things.  Now, with all of my check-ups confirming that both cancers are still in remission, life just becomes “normal”.  That means working more, cramming schedules with kids activities, and therefore stressing more.  I am doing well but have recently become aware of how busy and somewhat stressed I have been.  I’m trying to find ways to keep some balance and get back to finding time to focus on my health (physical, mental, etc).  Hard to do…but it is necessary.  Having this Cancerversary #4 come up has helped remind me to work harder on getting back to enjoying the little moments and staying positive.

Cancerversary #3

I realized as my third year of being a Cancer Survivor came up today, March 11th, that I had only posted once since last year. That is a good thing though…because I have had nothing significant to report on my cancer journey for the last year! 🙂

That is not to say that I haven’t been paying attention to my health. I must have felt like I needed something “medical” to focus on because I decided to try a program to help my scoliosis. My back pain was getting progressively worse and I finally had enough. I’ve searched (unsuccessfully) for years for something to help scoliosis. My Aunt Marsha came across an article about the Schroth Method and I decided to look into it. So as if my life wasn’t busy enough, under the direction of a Scoliosis Systems Doctor, I added daily specific Schroth exercises (40-50 min.) and wearing a soft brace (SpineCor Brace) for 4 hours a day. It has been difficult to add this to my daily/weekly routine but it is already paying off! I will update more later but in just 3-1/2 months, my Lumbar Curve improved by 7 degrees and Thoracic Curve improved by 8 degrees! That is very significant especially for an adult. Also, my back pain is almost completely gone since starting this program.  Yay!

It has overall been a busy but good year for our family:  Diana’s U of O Graduation, Embry started Kindergarten, Holidays and fun activities together, a Girl’s Trip and lots of snow days (too many in my opinion).  Just feeling blessed and grateful for another great year!

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Race for the Cure 2016

This morning I attended the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure with my friend and co-survivor, Heidi.  We had a great time celebrating 2 years as survivors and enjoyed the fun 5K brisk walk through downtown.

The best part was when a woman stopped us (in our survivor shirts) and because we looked “young” wanted to let us know that she was diagnosed at age 20.  She is now 65 years old and looks amazing!  It gave us both a lot of hope meeting a 45 year survivor!

It was a really well-run event for a great cause.  We will definitely race (“walk”) again next year. 🙂

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Cancerversary 2

I recently passed another milestone…Cancerversary #2!  It has been 2 years since my diagnosis.

All of my check-ups over the last couple of months have been great (Oncologist, Breast Surgeon, Endocrinologist, Dermatologist, Internist).  I’ve had some lymphodema in my neck (from the 20 lymph nodes that were removed during the thyroidectomy).   But I worked with my Physical Therapist for several weeks and she taught me how to do the simple daily lymph drainage massage on my neck.  Another task to add to my list but really not difficult.  The only health issue I have had lately is that I caught a nasty virus from the kids that lasted 4 weeks!  (Flu-like symptoms, horrible cough, hives, cold symptoms).  It completely threw off my exercise routine of course but I’m finally getting back to that.  All four of us were sick so I know it wasn’t a compromised immune system on my part.  Before the virus hit though, I was feeling great.

In February, we were able to go to Maui and celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary!  On our anniversary, we went to the exact place where we were married and had dinner and enjoyed a beautiful sunset (photos attached).  It was so nice to have that time in Maui to relax and unwind.

I continue to be grateful for each day with my family and am blessed for the strength I do have.  It’s always a little awkward to explain my wellness journey to new people I meet, but I stand by what I have said many times:  I’m actually grateful for the “positives” that have come out of my cancer diagnoses.  I’ve been happier in the last two years then I was the two years before my diagnosis.  My relationship with my husband is better than ever, many of my OCD tendencies are gone, and I truly understand the messages of “stop and smell the roses” and “enjoy the moment”.

Someone recently asked me if the doctors gave me an idea of when or if either cancer will return.  My doctors do not try to “guess” that and I don’t ask.  I figure, “no one knows how long they will be on this earth”…hence the reason we should live in the present moment.  The doctors do say however, they see no reason why I couldn’t expect to live a very long (even normal) life span.

I’m staying strong and remaining POSITIVE.  I exercise regularly (when I’m not sick), eat cleanly, and try to get enough sleep and relax (a little hard to do with a 4 and 5 year old but I manage). 🙂

I hope you all are well and enjoying Spring!

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Goodbye to a Wonderful 2015

I can easily say 2015 was a great year!  Not only did I not have any surgeries or procedures in 2015, but we had a wonderful year as a family…just enjoying life together.

During the last three months of 2015, I had my bi-annual check-ups, scans, and blood work.  Everything came back great…still cancer-free!  I did tweak my back at some point so was unable to do my normal exercise routine for about 6 weeks.  Thank goodness for a good Physical Therapist…my back and neck are decent for now and I’m getting back into my regular exercise.

During 2015, we had a couple camping trips, took the kids to Disneyland for the first time, took 2 small trips to Seattle, I got two Girl’s Trips (1 to Vegas and 1 to Arizona), I visited Kim in Virginia, and Jer went to Boston with his Mom.  We had many days with fun events as well (I took Embry to The Little Mermaid Play and to her first Nutcracker Ballet).  Beckett started PreSchool in the Fall (just 2 half days a week) at the same school where Embry is now in Pre-K.  Overall, we continued to keep the attitude of, “Seize the Day”.  We are enjoying the kids at these ages and having lots of fun.  We had a wonderful Christmas too!

I wish you all a Happy 2016 and hope this coming year is just as wonderful!DSC_0225 DSC_0284 DSC_0734 - Version 2 DSC_0786 DSC00672 DSC00690 DSC00697  IMG_0507 IMG_0683 IMG_0688december_0420-3

Self-Exam & Happy Fall

Happy October!  Happy Fall!

I just wanted to take the opportunity since it is October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) to remind everyone (women and at-risk-men) to do a self-exam!  I found my breast cancer on my own and it was early…so it does help to do a self-exam!

Now on to a fun update…Happy Fall!  I love Fall (pumpkin spice, changing leaves, cooler air, pumpkin patches, kids in cute costumes…).  We took the kids to a Pumpkin Patch yesterday and they had a great time.  Here are some photos.

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Exercise & A Good “Normal”

I haven’t posted in awhile because life has been good.  Health wise all my check-ups continue to come back great.  And the side effects I was experiencing from my medications has improved.  My calcium and iron levels still get low easily (causing “foggy memory”, tingling in my hands, and fatigue) but supplements help with that.

Several months ago we joined a Gym.  For the first time in my life…I am ENJOYING working out.  I worked with a trainer once a week or every other week for the first few months and that helped so much.  I have worked up to exercising at least 5 days a week.  With my scoliosis, I have always felt rather “weak”.  To top that off, after a year of surgeries, I was pretty frail.  My trainer was so awesome to help me build up slowly.  As my workouts are getting more and more intense, I have to say I am pretty proud of myself.  I have worked past most of my “embarrassment”  in a weight room and can see muscles building especially in my arms.  After two c-sections only 15 months a part, progressive scoliosis, two cancers, and a year of surgeries – I am probably the strongest now I’ve been maybe in my life.  And for that I am grateful!

We’ve had a lot of fun this year too.  Disneyland, two camping Trips, and a quick Trip to Seattle.  Overall, life is good.  2015 has been a great year so far…I often say it’s “life as normal”…but I actually think it is better than my previous “normal”.  Our jobs are good, exercise feels great, I worry less about small things and have more fun each day, and we are really enjoying the kiddos (Ages 3 & 4 has been great)!