Am I really just chasing my tail?

Susan for Blog May 31st

Sooooo….my beautiful peeps are asking when I’ll blog again. Let’s call this one an eclectic mix of anecdotes and thankful thoughts and little truths and just mash it all up into what, hopefully, turns out as a pleasant read.

I just completed my fourth round of chemo. There’s an ebb and flow which is fairly predictable. We keep changing up the treatment drugs and when to take them in order to get the best result. So if you are a person who finds yourself on this page of life someday, please know that it’s predictable and unpredictable, both. The joke is that by the time you get the right combo of drugs going at the appropriate time, your chemo ends. I can see some truth there. My daughter, who as most of you know, is a student doctor, has been the most honest with me. She gets me. And when my oncologist and her PA are trying to add this, take that sooner, try one of these, etc…my daughter says, go ahead and try all that, but Mom, I think you need to accept that this is what chemo does and you’ll face basically the same set of symptoms each time and you need to just DEAL with it and press on. I’ve found that to be the best advice. I mean that is what it’s all about. The poison is the cure, and it sucks, but it works. So, head down, be strong, accept the things you can not change….all while being optimistic, hopeful and faith driven. Easy, peasy? Right?

Another thing that has been particularly helpful to me, aside from all the friends supporting and cheering me on, which has been truly humbling and amazing, is one particular friend who reached out to me during this last round of chemo. I have not seen her since High School, but we are facebook friends. She is a survivor and I won’t call her by name to protect her privacy, but “A”, you know this is for you. She has shared her story, her photos, her truth and her happy ending with me via private messenger. She has made me feel less alone in my struggle, because she struggled too. She “gets” it. There’s something about having your feelings truly understood by someone who has been where you are. There are days when you feel like, why am I such a weakling? I should not feel this sick. But to know that others have felt this sick and it does conclude and you do get on with life, well, that just makes it easier to have courage and faith. So, my goal is to be that person to those who come after me. Writing this blog is my cancer legacy and I hope to spend the rest of my LOOOONG life helping others like me.

For those who don’t live with me, I’ll share some sad and funny truths…mostly I want you laugh with me, so hopefully they’re more funny than sad. As I have more than alluded to in these pages, chemo sucks. There’s at lease one week of every three where I am symptomatic and the symptoms are just nasty. Fatigue, achy muscles, achy bones, crazy heartburn, nausea, vomiting, intestinal cramping that’s only treatable with prescription pain killers, diarrhea that keeps me home bound, chemo acne on my face, head and back, blurry vision…The list is long. Week three is the best week and it gets better every day. So, by the time I go back for the next infusion, I’m generally energetic, smiling, dressed cute, make up on and eyelashes glued in place. They tell me how great I look, not like a cancer victim at all. Nurses and patients comment on my stylish head scarfs and they marvel at my attitude. Go me! Then, three days later, when my white blood count bottoms out and I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck, I go back for fluids. On this day, I need a driver, I barely can pull on sweats and balance a scarf or hat on my head. Make up is forgotten because I don’t f*ing care. I drag my ass in there and crawl into the chemo bed or chair, whatever is available and closest. But, I always wear my pink, kick cancers ass, tennies. I’ve discovered that this is a good thing, because, more then once, it’s been my identifier. Last chemo round, I was sitting there talking with my nurse du jour, who had already identified me by my chart and was trying really hard not to tell me how crappy I looked, when another nurse, who was my chemo infuser three days prior came by to chat with the current nurse. She completely ignored me. Until she was about to walk away. Suddenly she saw my shoes, which made her do a double take. “Susan! I didn’t recognize you until I saw your shoes.” she exclaimed.  “I know. This is Friday Susan. She differs greatly from Tuesday Susan.”, I responded.  “Oh honey,” she said, “I’m SO sorry. You look like shit.” I am delighted that these gals get me. Yes, I have a sense of humor and I DO look like shit today. And thanks for calling it to my attention.  I mean, really, thanks. I’m glad you see me as I am. The next time I’m back, you’ll tell me how awesome I look, and you’ll mean it.

I also leave after treatment on chemo Tuesdays with a little thing stuck to the back of my arm which probably has a fancy medical name, but it’s nickname is “the bug”. The bug has medicine in it called Neulasta. It’s supposed to be injected 27 hours after chemo and it tells your white blood cells to kick into gear and start growing fast because the chemo is killing them fast. It’s a neat little gadget. Once it gives you the injection, you just pull it off and throw it away. So, last night I was cooking dinner and Rod came and sat down at the bar. He was wanting to talk over some stuff while I tootled around the kitchen. He had his phone and Ipad on the bar and I had my phone and Jack’s laptop was there. Lots of electronic stuff. Suddenly, I heard a beeping noise. Beep, Beep, Beep. I didn’t know which electronic was making it, but it didn’t sound familiar and Rod didn’t know either. Maybe the fridge? Microwave? Don’t know. So we kept on truckin. A few minutes later, I heard a clicking sound. It was faint, but not so faint I couldn’t hear it. Something is wrong in this kitchen, I said. There’s a clicking or a dripping sound. Rod listened. Yep, he heard it. I followed my ear to the fridge. It’s here I said! But, no…maybe behind me. The electronic pressure cooker? Yep! Nah…more to the right. The coffee maker? Still not quite right. Under the sink? The microwave, the oven, the dishwasher, the electronic gadgets….It seemed like I was there and then it was just to my right and/or maybe behind me. Rod followed me around and felt the same sense of hearing it, but not being able to pinpoint it. Then Jack came in. I explained the situation and asked for his help. He followed me around the kitchen for about 30 seconds and then he exclaimed….Mom, it’s YOU that’s clicking!!! Immediately, I yelled; “OH MY GOSH! IT’S MY BUG!” I had forgotten that the bug beeps (thanks chemo brain) and then it takes one hour to put in the medicine and, during that time, it clicks. My husband looked at me and said, well Dear, you just spent the last half hour chasing your tail. Yep. Welcome to my world.

Daily, I find that I am reminded of what’s important in life. I have changed my perspective on what beauty is and what friendship means. I am striving to be more patient and understanding of what others are going through. I’ll admit, the steroids don’t help. Some days, I feel impatient and crabby and you really don’t want to put me behind the wheel of the car, because I’ve discovered “roid rage” along with chemo brain. But, I will say this, as I draw on eyebrows in the morning and glue on eye lashes and adjust my scarf or wig, I look in the mirror and I say; YOU look mahvelous! Because I can. Because I’m alive. Because there’s a cure. I don’t have to be the 28 year old me. I am currently sick and tired and getting older and fighting cancer, but I AM alive, and I AM loved, and with a little help from the make up department, I DO look beautiful. Susan beautiful. It’s beautiful to be alive, beautiful. Don’t ever forget that friends. Cut yourselves some slack. Worry about ten pounds another day. LIVE today and love every day! Love yourself the most. That’s my advice and I’m livin’ it.

Thanks for coming back to read my blog. I’ll post more soon.

Keep Fucking Going

Keep fucking going

I’ve recently had a few folks ask when I’ll blog again.  Problem is, I don’t want to be repetitive.  I don’t want to complain.  I don’t want to bore you.  If you’re a reader of my blog, I want to give you a take away.    Do I have more to share?  Ya, I probably do.  Let’s talk about it.

For my second round of chemo, by bestie came from Vegas to join me, care for me, love me.  Thank goodness, because I just felt shitty starting about five days post chemo and lasting for 3 or 4 days.   Although the medical team changed some things up, I guess I’d say there were only mild improvements in some areas.  Let’s face it; Chemo sucks.  I’m not a sissy girl and I don’t know what the “normal” person experiences, but, for me, there are a lot of unpleasant side effects that pretty much take me out of commission for several days.

For the record and for anyone reading this who has cancer and might need to know they aren’t alone, these are the symptoms I’ve experienced:  fatigue, loss of hair,  nausea, incredibly caustic heart burn, the worst intestinal cramping you can imagine, fairly severe chemo acne on my face and really severe chemo acne on my scalp, restlessness at night and inability to sleep well, loss of appetite, bloody noses, dry skin and cracked feet, achy muscles, head aches, mouth sores, and occasional “roid” rage…just a feeling of anger and impatience for no apparent reason.  One other thing:  food and drink don’t taste right.  It’s kind of a metallic taste in your mouth and spices are stronger and spicier tasting.  So, bland foods tend to taste better.  There are other possible side effects, but these are the ones I’ve had so far.  Fun, right?

I am currently using the following strategies to help alleviate some of my symptoms:  drugs prescribed by my oncologist, massage therapy, acupuncture, cannabis oil and edibles.  These all help to some extent with the various side effects, but the best and strongest medicine comes in the form of feeling loved and supported and keeping a good attitude.  GOOD ATTITUDE.  That one bears repeating, because its not easy, but it’s necessary.  Trust me…you do trust me, don’t you? I’ve bared my soul to you, so trust me on the attitude part.  It’s essential.

If you know someone with cancer, remember this if you remember nothing else:  They are stuck in this weird time warp, where it really is all about the cancer and the treatment and trying to stay on track and do what will get you better, but it’s isolating because no one really knows what another person is experiencing exactly.  I think I’ve been very public about my struggle and my victories, but most people hold the cards closer to the chest and the battle rages for them without a lot of pomp and circumstance.  So, if you know these people, know that the love I feel by sharing my experience has made me feel better and stronger.  Everyone battling with cancer and living with chemo should have the benefit of that kind of love.  So, to the pals of cancer victims; reach out, text, IM, email, snail mail, hug tightly, waive enthusiastically, don’t hold back.  Share your love and strength with your cancer person, whoever that may be.  It is healing and heartening.  I promise.

If you are the cancer person, don’t be afraid to share your journey, your fears, your triumphs and your humanity.  Your friends and family want to help.  They can’t imagine what you’re going through, but it frightens them.  When you feel like crap, you can say so.  But REALLY embrace the good days.  This shouldn’t be hard, because when you have the good days, you feel so appreciative in comparison to the bad, that you really can’t help but bubble over with the goodness of it.  Hang on like sloopy to that positive feeling and drag it with you into the next round of chemo!

Cancer and chemo should be four letter words.  The C sisters. The evil one and the good one.  They battle it out and we always, always, root for the chemo to win. During the battle….the cancer person is the war ground; the battle field.  The side effects I describe are the casualties of the battle.  Our hope is that once the battle ends, the smoke clears and the field has been rain washed by our tears; the sun, like our optimism, comes out; and there is hope, re-growth,  and we are cancer free, renewed, reenergized and reborn.  Because let’s face it, there is no way we won’t be changed by this experience.  It is a rebirth; a chance to reevaluate life and to live it better and more fully with a sense of humility and gratitude that perhaps we did not possess before.

So, rage on, my fellow cancer warriors.  No matter how hard it gets or how challenging it is:  Keep Fucking Going!  I hope each of you has friends and family to love you through it.  I’m on your team.  My team is on your team.  None of us is alone.  These are the lessons I’ve learned since my diagnosis.  Cancer is my teacher.  I’ll someday graduate with my Masters in humanity.  I’ll be a better person.  This part I’m sure about.

Thanks for tuning in.  Love to you all.

Oncologist ~ The giver of HOPE!

Flowers of Hope

As most of you know, Jessica Richelieu, my incredible daughter that I love with all my heart, is in her third year of Medical School.  I’d like to share a story about her.

Last July when we were at the Mountain Home Country Music Festival, we happened to make friends with the lovely ladies sitting behind us for the three day party.  Four gals in their sixties who were all retired school teachers from Pocatello, ID…which is where Jess lived and went to undergrad at Idaho State University.  Turns out, the gal she was talking to the most of this group, also graduated from ISU.  She found out that Jess had gone on to medical school and wanted to know the specialty Jess would be pursuing.  Jess explained that it was early in the game and she wouldn’t be deciding that for some time to come.  This gal said, I am a two time cancer survivor.  I had breast and uterine cancers and I kicked em both!  She further stated that what she found was that the oncology community is sorely lacking in female doctors.  She really wanted a woman oncologist since she was a woman with female cancers.  She had to go all the way to Salt Lake city and get on a long waiting list in order to see a woman.  Jess said; “I think that so much cancer and possible death might depress me, so I’ve never given it much credit for being a strong interest of mine”.  The woman put her hand over her heart and looked Jess in the eye and said, “Oh, honey…it’s your doctor that gives you the awful news.  Your oncologist gives you HOPE.  Please don’t dismiss it until you research it.  We need you.”

Honestly, I had goose bumps at that moment and I have experienced the goosebumps again every time I tell this story.  I also find that I am telling the story quite often lately.

I believe in fate.  I believe that everything happens for a reason.  My cancer has already changed my life for the better in more ways than I can count and it’s teaching me a lot about myself.  I absolutely ADORE my oncologist, Dr. Nitya Alluri, who is 34 years old and looks 24; but I’ve decided not to hold that against her!  She DOES give me hope.  She calls to check in and she’s honest about what’s going on, but she has the tools to help me and the desire to cure me and I’m confident in her ability.  And when she speaks to me, I look at her and I can 100% see my daughter in her position.  I just can.  Could this be one of the bigger reasons that I have cancer?  My girl, who loves her mom, and has held my hand, and done the research…that girl could potentially decide that she might belong in this hopeful place, building relationships with great people who need her intelligence and kindness and problem solving skills and bedside manner and even her beauty and light….all of these things…to give them HOPE and to give her the satisfaction of doing something really really important.  For the rest of my life, I will appreciate the great work these people are doing here at Mountain States Tumor Institute. What an incredible, selfless way to spend your medical career.

Jessica’s truth is that she is far from decided and she has at least one other specialty at the top of her list right now and she continues to pursue the correct avenues to possibly go into that specialty as well.  The “newer” truth is that she has now decided to put oncology with the other specialty as the two currently at the top of the list.  She may not end up in either specialty, but its amazing to see that a little lady from Pocatello that Jess knew for 3 days, opened her mind to think about something that was important to her, Oncology.  And then, Jess experienced her worse nightmare on the day that I was given my diagnosis.  But the result of this diagnosis is that she opened her HEART to the possibility of Oncology.  She has found that there is a great deal about this specialty that appeals to her and would also work well into her personal skill set.

Her career advisor send her a 150 question career personality assessment.  She blew it out of the water on Internal Medicine, which is the residency you’d do and then you’d follow that with an oncology Fellowship.  For her other first choice specialty (Anesthesiology) , she scored very high putting these two specialties as her first and second best matches.  I guess she knows herself! Wherever she ends up, I will be supportive and proud, but I really felt this was a story worth telling.  Each of us should keep our minds open to the possibilities.  Never take life or anything else for granted and be ready to take the fork in the road and see where it leads.

For me, this past week was pretty good.  I felt a lot better and got more work done.  My hair started falling out by handfuls, so I went to my hairdresser and had it all cut off.  That left me with stubble and a lot of (gross alert), pus-y pimples and ingrown hairs…so there’s that…but also I have been wearing my two fun wigs, one blonde (looks just like me), one brown (my chance to go incognito), and my fun scarfs, hats, turbans and doo rags.  Lots of choices make an easier pill to swallow.  When I’m home, unless my head is cold, I just go bald.  It doesn’t bother me at all.

I’ve had some headaches, which are treatable with Motrin.  I have some very good days and then I suffer from fatigue usually hitting in the late afternoon and evening, but I’ve managed to go out and do some evening activities because I don’t want to be held hostage by this bitch.

The best news of all, I’ve saved for the end.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know that the chest CT I had after the first chemo indicated that the cancer was already shrinking.  However, today when I met with my surgeon and he took measurements he was blown away.  He asked me if I was sure I’d only had one chemo.  Yes, I’m sure.  It’s not something you would forget. Just sayin.  So, anyhow, the 6 cm tumor has shrunk to 3 cm.  What????  He said that I’m not just a good chemo/cancer warrior, I’m a great chemo/cancer warrior.  He said he can only remember one other patient who responded this profoundly, this quickly.  I prefer he call me (language alert) A FUCKING KICK ASS CHAMPION CANCER NINJA WARRIOR!!!  It just has a ring to it that I like.  I can’t say why for sure.  The fight continues and my intent to WIN continues.  And, yes, people reading this, my very best advise is to keep a good attitude, fight like a girl, know you can win it, don’t doubt.  TELL yourself you’ll prevail, because you can.  Smile and laugh and plan the next 20 years of your life.  This is the very best medicine and I’m convinced it makes a bigger difference than you know.  HOPE.  Let’s all have hope for the best, which is yet to come.

Beautiful Girl You Can Do Hard Things

Warning: not for the faint of heart!

I’m twelve days in and I finally feel a bit like myself today. Maybe this should be titled the 12 days of chemo. I can think of some super funny word changes to that Christmas song! For me, the past week and a half have been very difficult. They say each person has a different experience and I believe that to be 100% true. I’d like to be honest about mine in the hopes of preparing someone else or offering help or hope or information; some sort of take away.

The day of my first chemo and the two days after were non eventful. I felt good, wasn’t sick, ate well and didn’t have any real complaints. Day three, I felt a little like I’d been hit by a truck. I had been warned that this was going to happen. The chemo is killing cells and the shot they give the day after chemo is telling bone marrow to “jump start” and that leads to a long bone pain. It’s kinda like a bad flu, achy all over feeling. However, I was eating well and did not feel sick otherwise, just tired.

Day four after chemo was the day that the fight started. I woke up at 5 am and I was nauseous and had diarrhea (disclaimer: I’ll be talking a lot about this development in this blog entry…bale now if you can’t handle it…no one here is judging). I immediately started the nausea/diarrhea protocol. I had two different nausea drugs and a large box of Imodium. For the next three days, I pooped and vomited multiple times daily. It was an absolute battle, but I forced down as much Gatorade, jello, sparkling water, popsicles, toast, soup, applesauce etc… as I could. I would make “deals” with myself and set goals. If you can get down four bites of soup, you’ll be good.  I gave some thought to going to the ER, but I literally could not get farther from the toilet then my couch. Being completely honest, that was even too far from the toilet on more than one occasion.  I sent my friend, Lori, to buy depends.  Yep.  I know.  A REAL friend will buy your depends when you don’t think you can make it across the room without, well… you know.   I had an appointment for a blood draw on the seventh day after chemo and I just kept telling myself that I could make it until then.

So, I made it into the appointment on day seven through sheer will. I had lost 13.5 lbs! Nice. I mean I really NEEDED to lose 10 lbs, but I do not recommend this particular weight loss method. While I was there, they tuned me up. Fluids and steroids and anti- nausea added through my port made me feel lots better. I got permission to take twice the recommended antacid for my horrendous chemo heartburn and I got permission to double the recommended dose of Imodium as well. They have other drugs in the arsenal, which they prescribed for me and then I went back home. The next few days, I got better and better.

By the following Monday, I got my appetite back and energy started picking up a little each day. Also on Monday I got chemo acne. Yep, its super awesome. The nurses at the infusion lab don’t like for you to call chemo “poison” because its life saving medicine. But let’s be honest folks. That shit is poison. It’s the poison that kills cancer. I’ll take it. I want it. I thank GOD for it. But, I will not sugar coat it. It is poison. It makes you sick and then it comes out of your pores in the form of nasty looking pus filled pimples. Sometimes we lament …. to be young again … um, no thank you on the acne part of being young. But, for now, I accept it. This poison WILL save my life and I love it for bringing me hope, the rest is just side effects.

I also went back on Monday for more fluids and they had scheduled a chest CT and a heart echocardiogram. The chest CT was to determine the full extent of the lymph nodes that are compromised by cancer. We know that some under my arm have cancer, but the MRI showed what looked like more cancer in the higher lymph nodes in my chest. It’s important to identify where the cancer is so we can evaluate it going forward and also so we know where we need to use the radiation later on.

Tuesday, my oncologist called me with the results. This was the MOST gloriously welcome call, because it was GOOD news!! NO cancer in the upper lymph nodes! Yay! Also, as an interesting side note, the CT revealed that my cancer in my breast and lymph nodes under the arm is already shrinking after just one round of chemo!!! Hallelujah! (Cue angel music playing loudly from on high!) This news alone will give me the courage and enthusiasm to face the chemo chair five more times. I can do it! Plus, I really feel confidant in my team and I know that we will treat symptoms preemptively going forward, now that we know HOW I will react. Not only that, but Dr. Alluri says it just gets better in general. I know what to expect now, so…I feel confident that I can do it and we can manage it.

I want to end this entry by saying, once again, that my tribe of friends and loved ones has been truly amazing. The support and LOVE and meals and gifts and notes of encouragement have given me hope and faith, like I’ve never known before. My friend, Kristin, brought me a bracelet to wear. It’s designed to remind me what I can do.   I would like to share this mantra with every woman I know…because there is so much truth: BEAUTIFUL GIRL YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS.

What is a talisman?

Susan's Talisman


It’s time for a long overdue update, so bear with me if this entry gets long.  I’m trying to keep the thread contiguous.

Since my last post, I’ve been moving and shaking.  Last week, there were more pre-op appointments and lots of stuff to keep me busy at work.  My clients and all work related folks have been incredibly supportive, helpful, concerned and accommodating.  But more on that later.  The support factor could and should be an entire blog entry.

Once I wrapped up several business related issues last week, it was time to switch to MOVE Jess to Boise mode.  We promised her several months ago to move her from her apartment in Moscow to the new apartment she found in Boise.  This was BC…Before Cancer…a reference you may here again.  Anyhow, I am consumed by the cancer and all that goes with it right now, but I know it’s just one small chapter and it doesn’t define my whole life…well, it may define me, why wouldn’t it?  We can get back to that later as well.  For now, I’ve decided that it may slow me down occasionally, but it won’t stop me in my tracks.  Jess tried to excuse me from the trip to Moscow, but I honestly knew she needed my help and we had Jack and his best friend, Jake.  The man power was strong but they needed my organizational skills and mothering.  So the four man team headed out on Friday afternoon, driving both a U-haul and Jack’s BIG truck.  Even though Jess had reserved a U-Haul in Moscow, the day prior she was notified that they did not have one for us.  Ugh!  Back to the drawing board and several phone calls later, they allowed us to take one from Boise for the same price.  It was an adventure, but we did it and we had a lot of help back on the Boise end when Jack’s posse showed up to help unload on Sunday night.  Rod, was at work, he finished his 787 training, but has to complete two or three check rides.  We are used to this because we have been an Air Force/Airline family for 27 years.  It’s hard on him because he wants to help, but I told him to keep on working and we’ll do what we have to on this end.

Monday, I had a plane ticket to Las Vegas which my best friend, Diane had purchased for me.  Here’s a little back story on that:  When we were in Mexico three weeks ago, Diane presented me with a drawing of a tattoo that her fiancé, Danny, had designed for me.  Photo attached to this blog.  Jack wrote the word, COURAGE and Jess wrote the word, FAITH and, in their handwriting, those words were attached to my pink cancer ribbon.  I was IN LOVE immediately and I knew that was my next tattoo (inside right wrist, so I can clearly see it every day!). Last week, when I kept getting more and more “bad” kinda news about my cancer and how far it spread, etc… I called Di and I just cried.  She is my cry gal.  Everyone needs one.  I had spoken to my oncologist and she said I could get the tattoo as long as I got it prior to starting chemo because after that the risk factor is too great for infection.  I asked Diane if there was anyway to fly Danny to Idaho to tattoo me before port surgery on Wednesday and Chemo Thursday.  She said, I can’t send him to you because the shop is busy, but I can bring you to him and then I’ll just return with you to Idaho to be a surgery and chemo wing woman with Jess.  Hallelujah!  I think I actually heard the angels sing.  My surgeon was not on board with this idea, but I KNEW in my heart of hearts that this is my talisman. I am superstitious that way.  I knew I had to have my talisman and because it’s a tattoo, it stays with me in surgery and everywhere else that I go.  So, I accepted Di’s generous offer and I hopped on a plane late Monday afternoon.  Got my tattoo on Monday evening, we went wig shopping all day Tuesday…that’s hard.  It’s not your hair, it reminds you that you are entering the reality of NO HAIR and it’s just a real “it is happening” moment.  On the upside, I had my bestie by my side and she insisted on buying my first wig because, well…that’s what best friends do!  Armed with talisman tattoo and new wig, we returned to Mountain Home late Tuesday night.  Slept for three hours and then headed back into Boise early the next morning for my port surgery.  Exhausted?  Yes!  Satisfied that I had done the right thing?  Also, yes.

My husband, who is one the smartest and most educated, well read, men that I know asked me what a talisman is.  He said, I’m embarrassed to admit I’m not sure what that term means.  I said, let me define for you:  A Talisman is an object that someone believes holds magical properties that bring good luck to the possessor, or that protect the possessor from evil or harm.  He immediately said: By all means, go GET your talisman.  I’ll see you when you get back.  So that is what I did.

What I have discovered so far is that my tattoo is representative of a whole lot more.  The Talisman, MY talisman, is alive and breathing and I see it everyday in the faces of my kids and my husband, in the support and absolute love shown to me by my best friend, Diane, the concern and love shown by my parents and my brother and his wife and by my husbands family, by the incredibly generous outpouring of love and support from my friends, co-workers, town, and cancer team at St. Luke’s Hospital.  I have had people read my blog and follow my facebook who have been incredibly strong and kind and funny and uplifting beyond belief.  If it takes a village to raise a child, then my growth into adulthood has just begun.  My village has wrapped me warmly and tightly and they buoy me up and are carrying me through.  I look at the Talisman on my wrist everyday and I am reminded and humbled by all the people in my life who are with me as the journey continues.  What is a talisman?  It’s one word that means so much.


Here’s the facts!

Just the facts

Okay gang; I’m gonna try and summarize and not be too boring on this one, but some of you want the facts, so here they are:

I had my annual routine mammogram in February and they called me back for a “second look” a week later.  Went to the breast imaging center downtown at St. Lukes for another mammo, both 2D and 3D, followed by ultrasound.  I kinda knew things were not shaping up in my favor by the way the ultrasound tech was acting…what can I say, I’m good at reading people.  Then she brought in the radiologist, who also did her own ultrasound and took measurements etc..  The radiologist said there was an irregularity and they wanted me to come back at 9 am the next morning for biopsy of the lump and the lymph nodes. I asked her if it was cancer.  She said, I think it is, but that’s why we want to biopsy right away. Ya, that’s not what you want to hear, but I appreciated her honesty.  Jack drove me to the biopsy procedure the next morning, which was a Friday.  They said I’d be called at 4:30 the following Wednesday with results and that I should be somewhere with the phone that I could speak privately and freely.  This was a nightmare time for this to happen because Jess arrived home that evening from Moscow and she had her medical boards the following Tuesday.  I had to keep all that was happening from her, because she really needed to concentrate on getting ready for the big test.  It was agonizing.  The call came one day early, from Renee, who I now know to be my Nurse Navigator.  She was kind and knowledgeable and explained my findings of cancer and my “pathology”.  She said I needed to see a surgeon and an oncologist and told me a lot of stuff and I just feverishly took notes while trying to hold my shit together.  I had recommendations for three surgeons and one of them was able to open time in his schedule to see me on Wednesday, the next day.

I had to pick Jess up from her test because I had dropped her off in the morning, not wanting her to have to deal with traffic or anything else.  So, in the car, on the way back to Mountain Home from Nampa, I just told her what was up.  We both cried and I told her that I needed her to be my medical advocate and my eyes and ears because I was honestly still reeling with the shock. She stepped up immediately and started researching that night, while simultaneously keeping my wine glass full. That gal will be a GREAT doctor one day.  he he

We met our surgeon the next day and we knew almost immediately that we were right where we were meant to be.  The whole family went, Rod, Jess and Jack….we kinda filled up the doc’s office, but it takes a good team to kick cancer and this is my team.  Lots of explaining and planning went on for over 2.5 hours.  I had a trip planned for Mexico with the girls two days later and he said…GO!  Have fun and them come back ready to kick some cancer ass.  So….we did.

Today I met with my oncologist and we have a plan.  It’s LOOOONG and complicated and doesn’t sound like any fun at all.  But, we are looking toward the cure and no one said it would be easy.

So here’s the facts, just the facts:   I have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.  It’s pathology is: Grade 3, HER2 positive, KI67 Index 70%, positive for Estrogen and Progesterone receptors. BOOM!  Fancy, right?  They refer to it as triple positive.  Nothing about it sounds positive to me, but I’ll take their word for it.  Basically it means that it’s aggressive and it likes female hormones and it’s growing rapidly.  It’s in my lymph nodes, but it’s only on the left side.  But the good news is that there are two chemo drugs that target HER2 and my chemo cocktail will include those drugs.

There’s lots of scary possible side effects and shit like that, but I’m pretty tough.  I gave birth twice without anesthesia.  This can’t be that much harder, right?  I mean, Jack was a BIG baby!

So, I’ll start my Chemo next week.  The port goes in on Wednesday and then Chemo on Thursday.  It’ll take six hours to pump all that poison into my system and then I just let it do its thing for three weeks.  Then I go back again three weeks later and do it again.  We do that for six cycles.  Then I’ll have a month off and then surgery and then radiation every day, five days a week for three weeks (I think—-I kinda got the deer in the headlights look around that time) and then I continue with the HER2 chemo until March of next year.  Whew!  Once we kill this bitch, I have to take hormone suppresors…that sucks….and then I can also get reconstructive surgery.  I think I’ll get two, perfect, perky, 20 year old tits.  Because, by then, I’ll really deserve it!!!  Everything else on me will have aged a couple of decades, but my boobs will be beautiful. = D







The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me as I commence my fight against Breast Cancer.  This is the place for the people I love to follow along.  Since my diagnosis two weeks ago, you’ve all poured out your love and support in the most generous fashion…it’s been amazing and humbling and heartening and strengthening. I feel fortunate and blessed in a way that I never knew was possible.  I guess it’s true that every cloud has a silver lining.

For the record; I intend to beat cancer.  I intend to thrive, not just survive.  If you’re here, reading this, then I invite you to take the journey with me and I welcome your prayers, thoughts, love and support.  I have an incredible medical team and I have full confidence in each and every one.  I also have a huge personal team and I’d like to introduce you to my inner core of key players.

My daughter, Jess, has been a source of quiet strength and guidance to me.  As a medical school student, she is familiar with the medical jargon and she knows where to go to research and get answers to my questions.  She speaks “Doctor” and translates to “Mom”, which is an art in itself.  She’s my mini-me and she loves me so deeply and fully, that she anticipates my thoughts and actions….and knows me, in a way that few do.  I am incredibly lucky to have her on my team!

My son, Jack, is a constant source of physical strength and courage to me.  He keeps me laughing and he is the ultimate, I got yo back, guy.  He’s happy to do my honey do list, drive me, hug me, make fun of me, joke with me until I laugh out loud…and he “gets” me like few do.  He’s the ultimate team player and team leader.

My husband, Rod, is the quiet purr of the engine that runs in the background.  He asked what I needed in the beginning and my answer was simple and to the point; I need you to work hard, compartmentalize as only a fighter pilot can do, and just wait for me to assign other tasks.  So far, that’s working out well.  Every team needs a good manager and Rod is mine.

I’ll try to blog often and keep you “abreast” of the current happenings…he he he…without boring you.  So, stay tuned, and welcome aboard!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton