Thursday, December 16, 2010

From the Chemo Chair 12/16/2010

This treatment has been longer and a little harder than the last. This morning I left home without my cream to numb my port. Granted, i've only used it once since starting chemo, but once you go numb its hard to go back. Shane is working today to finish up some hours for his practicum so I am missing his company here in the chemo room. Instead, i'm planning on working from the chemo chair since we are right in the middle of payroll at work. This morning while waiting to meet with Dr. Luoh, I met a woman named Ray who is starting her treatment today for cancer of the esophagus. She was told initially that she would have 3-4 years to live and so, wanting to spend as many years as possible with her new grandbabys, she opted for a far more strenous chemo and an experimental drug. Today was her first chemo and she was obviously scared and concerned about what was to come. I talked to her for about a half an hour and told her that chemo was not as bad as she expected it to be and that there is always hope. She was extremely worried about the naseau, and I assured her that there are amazing drugs to help keep it under control. Another women joined our conversation. She has had lung cancer for 10 years and has been on chemo every since. She helped me to reassure Ray that everything would be fine and that there are new drugs coming out all the time to fight this. Sadly, I felt like the lucky one in the group. I haven't been given a timeline for my survival. In fact, if the cancer doesn't return, I plan on living my full healthy life. I hope that the chemo can send these amazing women NED (no evidence of disease) and that Ray is able to spend many happy years with her new grandbabys. There are so many amazing people that I've met on this journey. Its a sad way to meet people, but honestly I think this process brings out the humanity in people. Sitting in the waiting room on the cancer floor, people will smile at you, talk to you, tell you all about themselves and their families. Anywhere else you go, people hide behind a magazine or their iphone. This insane journey has given me the opportunity to be closer to so many strangers at a level I never thought possible.

So, as you all know today is my second-to-last chemo treatment. I'm so excited to be done with the process, but scared out of my mind that the cancer will come back once I'm done. I still have a number of treatment options to continue throughout the year, so chemo isn't the end of the road for me. This morning I met with Dr. Luoh and informed him that I'm doing well other than I'm tired a lot. Because we are coming up on the end of treatment we talked a little about my next steps: Tamoxifen, Radiation, Herceptin and some additional treatments that he is suggesting. For the first time, Dr Luoh mentioned that I have approximately an 80% chance of my menstrual cycle returning after chemotherapy. If this happens, he is planning to put my on a medical menopause to see how well I tolerate the symptoms of menopause for an extended period of time. If everything goes ok, he says that we need to discuss the possibility of removing my ovaries at the time I have my exchange surgery for my breast implants. It had crossed my mind that I might have to have my ovaries removed at some point, but I didn't realize that it would happen so quickly. Dr. Luoh explained that because I have a high risk cancer and lymph node involvement it is smart to do everything we can to keep the cancer from returning. I agree with him, but also know that this is a HUGE step to take. Having this proceedure means that Shane and I will never have the option of having our own children. As we have discussed, adoption is always an option and there are hundreds of thousands of children out there who need a home! My heart and mind tell me that if we decide to pursue having kids that adoption is the best option regardless of whether I have ovaries or not - but there is a small piece of me that is somewhat disappointed that this major milestone in life may not be something Shane and I get to experience. Preganancy can also be risky because of the hormones that come into play. Due to the fact that I have estrogen recpetor postive cancer, the hormones from preganancy can increase my risk of the cancer returning or metastisizing elsewhere in my body. Shane and I definately have a lot to talk about before this summer. Initially, we had forgone the cryo-embryo freezing assuming that I had a good chance of my menstrual cycle returning, and after the 5 years of tamoxifen we could make our decision about whether or not we want to have kids. I guess I didn't realize how many choices we would be making this year and how quickly these choices would need to be made.

Despite these recent unveilings, things are going well. Shane just found out thaat he received an Outstanding Service Award at work today, and is happy to be finished with the term. I am working to complete my project and practicum and plan on finishing my project paper/thesis over winter break. We look forward to seeing everyone over the holiday break.

All our love & wishing everyone Happy Holidays!

Heather & Shane

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Elizabeth Edwards: Rest in Peace

Its always heart breaking to find out that another person has lost their lives to this horrible disease. We are wishing comfort and peace to the Edwards family at this time.

News Story:
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/elizabeth-edwards-dies-age-61-battling-breast-cancer/story?id=12319133

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

12/07/2010

December got off to a bit of a rocky start, as I ended up in the emergency room at the end of November with a severe cold and a high temperature. Luckily, they were able to get things under control! I'm still sufferring from the sniffles, but nothing like earlier in the month! The set back from my illness has made it hard to get mentally on track this month and also made me realize how fragile my immune system is right now. Its easy to get caught up in the momentum of chemotherapy until you are hit with something that reminds you of exactly what chemo is doing to your body. I've been trying to stay away from people who are ill as much as possible and have been granted the ability to work from home if people on campus are sick. Shane has been able to stay well so far. We are keeping our fingers crossed that he makes it through the holidays healthy and well!

Yesterday we went to my MUGA scan appointment (a MUGA assesses the functioning of the heart and has to be done once every three months while on Herceptin to ensure that my heart is still functioning at a normal level) and met with Dr. Niak, my breast surgeon, for the first time since surgery. The MUGA was uneventful and we should have the results before chemo next Thursday. The meeting with Dr. Niak consisted of a breast exam (no outward signs of reoccurance at this point), and discussion about our next steps. Dr. Niak referred us to a Radiologist in Salem to get started on the planning process for radiation. According to Dr. Niak all of my stats are right on the border of when they normally recommend radiation. Usually a tumor of 5cm or lymph node involvement of 4 or more would require raditiation. I had 3 nodes involved and a 4.2cm tumor. We have decided to go ahead with radiation because it will further reduce the risk of reoccurance. Raditiation will likely start at the end of January once chemo is finished (YAY JANUARY 6TH!!!!!). This is also about the time my hair should start growing back! I absolutely cannot wait to see some stubble on my head! While being bald has made getting ready in the mornings much easier and the showering process very short, i'm excited to see my real hair again. I have sworn to myself after this ordeal that I won't cut it again for a very long time. I plan to have my long hair back as soon as possible!

Shane and I are looking forward to the holidays this year. We are planning on taking a week off of work and heading to Wallowa to spend time with family and friends. Its much needed time for both of us since we have both been working full time and attending school, not to mention the ongoing treatment for my cancer. This weekend we went out and got our Christmas tree. Sunday, I spent the day decorating the house to Christmas music and trimming the tree. Last night, Shane put up the outside lights and our snowman in the yard. All of our gifts are wrapped, Christmas cards are in the mail, and our spirit is intact! I'm so in love with our little house during the holidays. Shane and I always talk about how we can imagine the people who have lived in our house before us during the holidays and together on Christmas morning. There have been many Christmas' spent in our house before us, and putting up the decorations every year reminds us of all the joy that has been shared there before us.

My next chemo treatment is scheduled for December 16th so I should be feeling much better by the time Christmas rolls around as long as I can stay well otherwise! We look forward to seeing everyone this year and hope that you have a wonderful Holiday season!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

From the Chemo Chair #4

As I write this, there is a woman in the chemo chair across from Shane and I screaming at the nurses about how no one at this hospital can do anything right. She is making a scene and throwing a fit about how no one pays attention to her. She keeps saying "you can apologize as much as you want, it doesn't matter to me anymore" In fact, she just told one of the medical providers to roll her out the window and she wouldn't care. I feel so badly for the people that are trying to calm her down and keep her from disrupting the other patients who are trying to rest while getting their infusion. Some people have the ability to ruin everyone's day to get the attention to focus on them. I'm not sure what happened to her that made her so upset, but I can guarantee that there is a much better way to deal with her issues than she is dealing with them. Screaming at the people who are trying to help you is probably not the quickest way to getting what you want. Be thankful for your health care professionals and know that everyone makes mistakes sometimes!

Speaking of being Thankful, this year we are spending Thanksgiving with our friends Steve & Heather and their son Matthew. We are so thankful for our friends for inviting us over to share the holiday and look forward to enjoying the evening together! I'm hoping that I'll be feeling good enough to even do some black Friday shopping : Woodburn Company Stores open at 10pm on Thanksgiving Day! We will, however, be missing our family this year. Driving over the pass in the snow was one obstacle to spending the holiday with our family, but the impending chemo-sickness and the fact that I have to have my neulasta shot on Friday afternoon makes it hard to travel 300 miles. I'm not sure that the car is the most comfortable place to be when dealing with the worst side-effects of the Taxol and Carboplatin! We are planning to go home and be with the family for Christmas this year, at which point I'll be celebrating my second-to-last dose of chemo! Hopefully this weekend I'll have the energy to go with Shane to get a Christmas tree and at least help put up some of the decorations. Its going to all depend on how well I tolerate this round of chemo. Since I'm getting the infusion on Wednesday this time around, my worst days should be Saturday and Sunday this time :-( . Monday I'm scheduled for a MUGGA of my heart to ensure that the Herceptin isn't doing too much damage and I'll meet with my surgeon for the first time since my Mastectomy.


Anyway, today's commute the chemo was much easier than I anticipated given that yesterday was rather icy in Salem and I had assumed that traffic would be heavy and slow given that the temperatures were below freezing this morning. Luckily, traffic was moving along fine and we got to the Center for Health & Healing right on time. Something that wasn't moving along well this morning was me. I woke up around 4am with a sore throat, runny nose, and a that achy feeling that you get when you come down with a nasty cold. I couldn't help but worry that Dr. Luoh would want to postpone treatment because of illness and concern that an additional treatment might interfere with my body's ability to fight off this infection. Mr. Cautious apparently had the day off today and the nurse practitioner is taking care of patients. She checked me over, admitted that my throat was red and swollen and then continued on her examination. Whew - bullet dodged. The Nurse practitioner "Meg" was amazing and hilarious. She made me feel like things are going to be ok. She mentioned that she had read that younger people with HER2 breast cancer that receive Herceptin as adjuvent therapy actually do better than those in other situations. I'm very happy to hear this as the HER2 issue has been one of my biggest concerns going through this process. I am keeping high hopes that this is the last encounter I have with the "c" word.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know that we have a lot to be Thankful for this year (a roof over our heads, plenty of food, good jobs & insurance, a great medical team & the most current treatments in cancer, two fur-kids, wonderful supportive families, fantastic friends and each other!) Sending love and hugs to everyone we don't get to see this year!

Hugs,
Heather & Shane

Thursday, November 4, 2010

From the Chemo Chair

Today's chemotherapy session has started. Shane and I are here on the 7th floor in the Center for Health and Healing at the Knight Cancer Institute, both plugged into our laptops. Shane is supposed to be working on his paper, and I'm supposed to be working on work...I think neither of us are completing the task at hand. There's a lot of beeping and movement in the chemo room - but there is also a sense of calmness that is brought about by the knowledge and integrity of this place. The nurses and staff here never forget your name, or your spouses name, or the reason why you are here. Without looking at your chart they can tell you what's gone wrong with your treatments, whats gone right, and how many dogs you have waiting at home for you. These people are amazing...and for the life of me I can't seem to remember their names have the week to week. I guess this is why they are the medical staff here and I am just the patient. Hopefully, you will never have the honor of meeting these people who make coming to the chemo room so much easier, but if you do I promise you are in amazing hands!

We checked in with Dr. Luoh this morning, went through my typical "I think the cancer has metastasized" concerns and got the go ahead for treatment. After the next chemo cycle I will have another Mugga scan to make sure that my heart is holding up to the herceptin infusions.

My sickness hasn't been overwhelming, however Tuesday I came down with either the flu or food poisoning and had to be driven home from work. I threw up most of the day on Tuesday (in addition to severe diarrhea) and was finally able to keep down an anti nausea pill long enough to get the vomiting under control. While painful, my doctors are pretty sure that the bout with nausea was unrelated the chemotherapy and more than likely tied to the box of cherry tomatoes that I ate about 1/2 an hour before getting sick. My coworker LouAnn indicated that she thought I had taken them out of the kitchen to throw them away - so they must not have looked as appetizing to everyone else as they did to me! Regardless, by Wednesday morning I was feeling like myself again and today I was well enough to have my chemo and herceptin! Thanking God that I'm able to get the infusion on time and in full strength!!

Speaking of strength, In the past few weeks I have met several women at WOU who also have had breast cancer or are currently in the fight. Interestingly, all of these women were diagnosed with the HER-2 oncogene. I'm starting to think there is something in the water at Western that is causing this overproduction of HER2 cells! Regardless, I am comforted by the fact that these women have gone through the treatment and are doing well in their lives! Its very inspiring to know that there is so much hope for us out there.
On the same note, as October has worn down and it is no longer Breast Cancer awareness month, I hope that people don't forget to donate to these organizations who are seeking to find the cure and that people don't forget to have a mammogram or check themselves for changes. I found it so inspiring to have so many people focused on breast cancer for the month. I know many women with breast cancer are turned off by the month of October, but I, for one, think that this kind of attention is going to get the funding necessary for us to beat this thing!

Sending all of our love and thanks for everything!
Heather & Shane

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

10/20/2010

There is no other way to start this week's blog than by saying thank you to the amazing women who came together to get me two amazing wigs this week. I was completely surprised on Friday to find that my friends had come together and put money in to get me something to cover this bald head! I SO appreciate what you have done for me - the wigs are awesome - but nothing compared to you guys! People like you are the reason that I'm going to get through this!! I LOVE YOU ALL.

On that note, this week has been particularly hard overcoming the chemo-drain. While things got off to a pretty OK start, the Beaver's loss on Saturday is what finally sent me over the edge into complete self pity, flu-like symptoms, and overall couch wallowing. It is apparent that the second round of chemo is much worse than the first, which brings me a little bit of fear about what the remaining four chemo cycles might have in store for me. Similar to last round, Tuesday (day 5) was by far my worst day and after throwing up (for the first time) and driving myself home from work I retreated to the couch for yet another day. True to my schedule, I'm starting to feel better as of this morning and even felt well enough to come to work today and get some things done. Goodness knows that there is plenty to do!

In additional to being unfavorable in the sickness department, chemo has also decided to toy with the foods that I love most. So, in honor of my missing taste buds here is my short list of things I currently cannot taste that I wish I could:
Pickles
Banana Peppers
Jalapenos
Salsa
Sour Patch Kids (how am I supposed to go to the movies)
Cream Cheese
Sour Cream
(basically anything sour or hot)

Things that I cannot stop eating that I wish I could:
Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Ice Cream
Chocolate Fudge
Chocolate Cake Batter

On another (but very related note), I went and re-purchased my noon-time gym membership today with the intention of using it. Since I've gained close to 10lbs from the lovely steroids for chemo, I think its important that I maintain a healthy weight and get my body into cancer-killing mode (not just chocolate cake killing mode). Tomorrow I will plan to arrive at work bright and early with a gym bag on my shoulder! I am still not entirely sure how to work the wig/scarf/sweat/gym conundrum but I'll let you know when I figure it out! I think this is going to work out well because the gym is only 2 blocks from work and gives me the opportunity to workout during times that I can't be with my little family hanging out at home or at the dog park.

Other than that things are wild as usual. We are getting ready for my mom and grandad to come down and go to the Cal game at the end of the month. Guess its time to start cleaning! :-)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

10/14/2010

Just finishing up chemo today - everything went well! My counts are good and I'm feeling OK! We are preparing for sickness for the next couple of days, but hoping that everything goes as well as it did last time.

Tonight we are planning to shave my head. I have considerable bald spots now and more hair is coming out all day long. Washing my hair in the morning results in clogged drains and hair all over the place. Its definitely time to shave it. I have purchased some hats, been given some hats, bought some scarfs and even got setup with one wig. Alice is planning on taking me wig shopping Friday pending how I feel. I think the more hair I lose the more comfortable I am with the idea of being bald - at least for the time being.

Thanks again everyone for your love and support! Will update again soon.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10/12/2010

Hello everyone! Sincere apologies that it has been so long since we have updated the blog. Things seem to be getting back to normal (at least for these couple of weeks) and with work and school back in full swing it has been hard to find spare time for anything beyond Dancing with the Stars and Jersey Shore (no judgements, please)!

The chemo side effects were mostly present for the first 7 days. Day 5 was definitely the worst. I didn't have a lot of nausea because the nurses provided me with plenty of steroids and other medicines to ensure that I didn't spend any time on the bathroom floor leaning over the toilet. I'm thankful for this - I'm not sure the expanders could handle the heaving! Most of the side effects I had were soreness all over (like the flu), hard to swallow, sore throat, and generally a swollen feeling all over my body. The fatigue was overwhelming at times - but manageable because my amazing husband was more than willing to let me spend hours on the couch snuggled with Kennedy. I will be the first to admit that I slept through most of the Boise State, Oregon State game that Saturday - so you know I must have been really tired.

The Thursday following chemo I started to feel normal again and have felt really good since. Last Thursday I had my catchup dose of Herceptin. Unfortunately, they had a really hard time getting the port to work so I got poked multiple times. Finally, they laid me back and were able to get a good connection. I was able to get my herceptin with no issues (THANK YOU DR. SLAMON). I also met with my oncologist who put me on some antibiotics for what he thinks is a staph infection. I went in to meet with him with the sincere belief that the cancer had spread. He did not agree with my analysis of the situation - going as far as to laugh at me when I told him I was sure the lump on the back of my head was metastasized breast cancer. I'm sure this is not the last time he will see me with concerns of the cancer spreading. Hopefully each time he will laugh at me as confidently.

I get chemo again this Thursday. I never thought I would say this, but I absolutely cannot wait to get hooked up and get those chemicals moving. There is nothing harder than waiting around to get the "medicine" you need to kill that cancer. In my mind, the longer we wait, the better chance the cancer has. If it were my choice, I would have chemo daily.

In addition to the cancer-fighting-properties, chemo has brought on some other changes, some expected and some not. Unfortunately, with the administration of tons of steroids to keep my from getting sick, comes the appetite of an 800lb Gorilla. I can take care of a foot-long Sub and remain hungry enough afterward to eat a bowl of cereal or dinner within an hour or two. This lasts about 5 days after chemo and seems to slowly fade away the further away from the steroids I get. In two days, I'm pretty sure I took in more than 10,000 calories. Dropping too much weight during chemo will not be a problem for me. The steroids have also caused an insane acne outbreak all over my head and face. I feel like I've rewound my life back to high school: no boobs, massive mood swings, and lots of acne! Hair has also recently become a topic of concern. This morning I found my first bald spot. Not that I wasn't expecting its arrival: I have been cleaning the hair out of the shower drain for days now, and changing my pillow case nightly to avoid "hair in my face". There is usually hair in my food, always hair on my shoulder, and hugging someone usually results in me picking strands of my hair off their shirt before I walk away. I am prolonging the inevitable shaving. I've heard so many times from people who have gone through chemo that they didn't lose their hair or that it just thinned. I was rather hopeful I would be one of these women who walked around with a full head of hair throughout the process, however, it has become apparent this week that hats and scarfs are soon to become my best friend. One women on a breast cancer message board actually laughed at that thought of not losing your hair while on Taxol....I guess it was wishful thinking!!

Anyway, I'll probably take to the razor Thursday or Friday night after chemotherapy - at that point I know I'm far enough in that there is no turning back. I'm leery about posting pictures because I'm not quite sure how this noggin' is going to look without a rug - but we'll see what I decide.

We love you all and thank you for your support and encouragement. More updates to come!!

Heather & Shane

Thursday, September 23, 2010

From the Chemo Room

We are here in the chemo-room. I am just finishing up my first therapy with no reactions. I'm not looking forward to the weekend and what the side effects will turn out to be, but we are ecstatic that the chemo process has begun and those little cancer cells running around in my bloodstream can finally be put to death!!

Liver Enzymes today were only slightly elevated and have come down even since Monday. Thats good news!!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

09/21/2010

We have not posted for a couple of weeks, mostly due to time constraints and some small problems in our treatment regimen. Thursday I was unable to get Chemotherapy due to elevated liver enzymes. The doctor was not sure why these enzymes were elevated, but Shane and I are sure that it has something to do with all of the Vicodin I was taking to deal with the pain of the expanders doin' what they do: Expanding. Dr. Louh also wanted to ensure that the scar on my left breast is healing to the plastic surgeon's liking before getting started. While I appreciate his looking out for me and be extremely careful before starting the chemo, I am also extremely apprehensive of taking too much time to get started for fear of those little floating cancers that might exist in my blood stream. Friday and Monday I had additional blood work which showed that the enzymes have decreased- although they are not normal yet. I also got the go-ahead from the plastic surgeon to start the chemo. Based on Monday's stats it looks like I will be receiving the full chemo on this Thursday. I never thought I would be so happy to hear someone say that I "GET to have chemotherapy". Regardless, I'm excited to get started on this path and get this cancer out of my body!!!

Sunday's Komen Race for the Cure was amazing. There is something so inspiring about looking around and seeing all of the pink shirts labeled "survivor". The woman who I followed for most of the walk is a 20-year survivor. I noticed that I continue to look for survivors everywhere in my day-to-day life despite the fact that I'm unable to tell them from the non-survivors without their "survivor" t-shirt labels. I'm starting to come to the realization that I'll probably never be able to tell who is a survivor because the word itself means that they have moved on. These "survivors" no longer live in the world of breast cancer. Instead, they live in the world with everyone else - breast cancer free! I cannot wait to finish treatment and hear the worlds that there is no evidence of cancer in my body. I can't wait to take the first step back into the world with Breast Cancer behind me.

On that note, I was particularly inspired by a girl that I met before the walk even began. I have no idea what her name was or where she was from. She, like the rest of us, was donned all in Pink. She had a sign on her back that caught my eye: "Young Survivors: I was Diagnosed at 24". I had to talk to her and find out about her story. She explained that she was diagnosed after her first child just before her 25th birthday. She went through treatment and then had her second child. I had to ask her "how old are you now?". Her reply was 38. THIRTY EIGHT!!!! That's a 14-year young breast cancer survivor!!! I could not have been more inspired. So many women I meet are diagnosed at 50, 60 or later. To see someone who was diagnosed younger than me to go on, have children and put breast cancer behind them was exactly what I needed. Without that survivor shirt I would have never known her story. Every other day of the year she is a woman with a life to live. Sunday, she was a survivor put in the perfect place at the perfect time. I plan to fight everyday to ensure that I can also inspire someone with my survivor story. I can't wait to celebrate my 14 year cancerversary.

Also a huge inspiration to me on Sunday were my amazing friends who came out to walk with Shane and I. THANK YOU SO MUCH for being there, for getting the shirts, for walking in the pouring rain. You mean the world to us!!!

Much love,
Heather & Shane

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

09/14/2010

Yesterday I had surgery to have my port inserted. Everything went as planned. The port is somewhat uncomfortable, mostly the pain is in my neck where the tube was inserted into my vein. The port is directly under the skin in my chest, and will make it easier to administer chemo than a traditional IV. This was one of the scariest parts of the process for me as I have been dreading the port since they first told me about it in early July.
As always, Shane was there by my side throughout the process. I don't know how I would get through the days without such an amazing husband. Chemo will start on Thursday, and then the Komen walk on Sunday. I am hoping to be back to work and somewhat back to normal on Monday!

I look forward to seeing everyone at the Komen walk this weekend.

Much love,
Heather

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

09/08/2010

Before I start anything else, we want to say thank you SO MUCH to those who provided support, food, time, and energy to us as I have been recovering from Surgery. You have been the force that has kept us moving forward and you are appreciated more than you know!

Recovery from surgery has gone really well. The doctors are impressed with my healing, and i'm mostly pain-free now with the exception of the days following expansion. I stopped taking pain-killers over the weekend and plan to only use them as needed after expansions from this point forward.

Some days are harder mentally than others, but we are keeping our heads up in the knowledge that we will soon get through this and will once again get to focus on our future.

Monday, I will have the port inserted into my chest for chemotherapy. Thursday the 16th I start the chemotherapy process. Shane and I are both concerned about what chemotherapy will bring, but hopeful that it will be easier than expected. Shane is planning to take chemo days off to spend with me in the chemo room. I'm thankful that he is willing to be there to stave off the boredom that likely comes from sitting in a sterile room for 3+ hours. The nurse estimated that our first chemotherapy visit will be close to 5 hours long. Then on the 19th we plan to participate in the Race for the Cure!

While next week will likely be the hardest week yet, i'm hoping that I will be released to go back to work the week of the 20th. Getting back into the swing of things is hard sometimes because I don't feel as though things will ever be the same. Even when i'm sure that all the cancer is gone, i've heard there is still a lingering fear and anticipation. I'm hoping that returning to work and getting back into a routine will help to remind me everyday that I have a long and wonderful life ahead of me cancer-free!

Thank you again to everyone who provided the amazing meals during my recovery!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Update

Heather is recovering from surgery very well and all of the physicians appear to be impressed with her healing time and positive attitude. During every visit at OHSU she receives lots of attention from support staff, nurses, and researchers on the prowl for the their next subject. I believe Heather's sweet charming nature draws everyone in and given her diagnosis and age she is a statistical anomaly, which researchers both love and hate. Two of her pain pump tubes were removed last week, two drain tubes were removed yesterday, and two large lymph system drain tubes remain with hopes they will be removed in a week. Heather's mom was down last week and my mom arrived a couple of days ago, which has been a tremendous help and having mom around really helps cut the stress. We have have enjoyed some great food friends have been delivering to us, which has been a huge help. So let's get to "just the facts mam". We met with Heather's surgeon, plastic surgeon, and medical oncologist yesterday. Plastic surgery assesses Heather's progress is excellent and the next step will be continuing to monitor and gradually increasing fluid in her tissue expander's with the eventual goal to replace them with silicone. Heather's surgeon brings us better news than we were expecting and the size of the tumor was 4.2 cm (greatest dimension). This is still considered a large tumor by their standards, but we were told it was around 5 cm at Salem Hospital. Even better news is the cancer only metastasized to 3 (out of 22 removed) axillary lymph nodes near the tumor. Follow up with the surgeon is in 3 months. Last we met with the medical oncologist, who was so kind to actually show us some recent studies demonstrating the most recent data, which I appreciate. Heather was informed she will have to undergo radiation therapy after chemotherapy, due to her age, metastasis to the lymph nodes, and size of tumor. This was not the news we were expecting, however, Heather is willing to undergo any treatment which will increase the likelihood of the cancer not reoccurring. Last, Heather was given two options for chemotherapy, which will require further investigation by us to determine which is the best option. Each has it's own set of benefit's, however, one of the options is more treatment aggressive and has a 10% chance causing congestive heart failure. We certainly have our home work to do, however, Heather is leaning towards the safer first option. She is scheduled for an EKG, chemo port will be surgically inserted, and chemotherapy begins mid-September. We are feeling much better today than a few days ago, as the uncertainty of the lymph node situation was very unsettling. My supervisor warned me this would be a roller coaster and I think we can now relate and fully understand this metaphor. We were looking up with uncertainty a few days ago and are now looking down knowing what to expect and where the twists and turns reside. Keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Recovery Begins and On to the Next Chapter

We have been unable to post today, due to Blackberry technical difficulties. Heather had a long day yesterday and yet again proved how resilient she is: She arrived at OHSU at 6a, went into surgery at 8:30a, surgery concluded at 1:15p, and she was not transferred to a hospital room until 8:30p. She endured 7-8 hours in the day surgery room in the most noisy chaotic environment imaginable. Heather was discharged this evening after a long day of waiting for a physician to approve it. She is experiencing significant pain, which is well controlled most of the time with medicine. We are both relieved this important milestone has passed and Heather is able to take the time needed to heal. We(Heather and I) joke she looks like an Octopus because she has multiple drain tubes and other tubes protruding just below her arms. I have been tasked as the "Bulb Man" by Heather and her physician. Which means I get to drain and track any extracted fluids every few hours. There was a "spec" of cancer discovered in one of her sentinel lymph nodes(other two were negative), so the surgeon had to perform an axillary lymph node dissection (10-15 other nodes were removed for analysis). This was some what expected by Heather and I, given the type and size of the tumor in the breast. We won't know if any other lymph nodes were affected until next week and it is uncertain how this might change the treatment plan. The mastectomy and reconstruction looks absolutely fantastic and this serves as a constant reminder of how lucky we are to have such a great team at OHSU. Heather is currently sleeping soundly and we have been told progress should be seen each day in regards to pain and mobility. Tomorrow will consist of PT exercises, rest, and watching movies. Of course, I will be fulfilling my "Bulb Man" tasks and preparing the house for families arrival in a couple of days. Heather's family will be arriving this Friday and Saturday and my mom will be here sometime next week. We wanted to thank our friends and family again for the flowers, kind words, cards, gift cards, phone calls, and text messages. Also wanted to thank everyone who supported us at OHSU; it was so incredibly helpful that words can not describe. I personally underestimated how difficult it would be emotionally and the support helped me maintain my sense of humor, keep my spirits high, and trust OHSU's care. We are both feeling very hopeful about what the future holds and will know more about what's next for treatment towards the end of next week. Will keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Surgery is Complete

Heather's total surgery is complete and according to the surgeons everything went as planned. I have talked with both Heather's plastic surgeon and primary surgeon, who are both pleased with the results. I have not yet had a chance to see her yet, as she is in the recovery room awaiting to be assigned a room. Hopefully, the room will be a private room so I can remain with her through out the night. It is still unclear on whether she will have to stay one or two nights. Thanks to everyone for the support and kind words! Our friend Alice and Heather's aunt, Carolyn, have been waiting all day, which has made the wait much more enjoyable and helps the time go by. The old man sitting across the room has provided some great entertainment and I won't repeat the absolutely hilarious things he has been saying. OHSU day surgery waiting room is an interesting place to people watch to say the least. Keep you posted.

Over Half Way Over

We just spoke with Heather's surgeon and Heather is over the half way mark. The masectomy is finished, however, the plastic surgeon has to finish her portion. So far, the surgery is succesful and everything is going as planned. Will keep you posted.

Today's Events

Heather just went in for surgery and was in good spirits, however, nervous as expected. Her surgery is scheduled from 8-noon. Alice is here with me providing support and waiting, which is nice to have the company. The surgeon will be out to talk with us at around 11a to discuss progress. Will keep you posted.

Shane

Monday, August 9, 2010

08/09/2010 Update

Today's pre-op is finally over. The day consisted of meetings with both surgeons, a visit with the anesthesiologist, bloodwork, and finally an injection of radioactive material into my breast for tomorrow's sentinal node biopsy.

Tomorrow's Surgery is scheduled for 7am. We are supposed to be at OHSU by 6am. The boys are headed to "Aunt Alice's house" for a couple days of playing with their cousins. Shane will be staying at the hospital tomorrow night as Christine, our care nurse, requested a private room with a cot so he can be there with me when I get done with surgery and for the evening.

Shane will be updating the web site from OHSU with news on surgery and recovery. I look forward to getting done and on the road to recovery. Please keep your fingers crossed and prayers coming that the sentinal node biopsy is negative! :-) Thank you everyone for your amazing support and love during this time!

Much love,

Heather & Shane

08/09/2010

We are headed to a pre-op appointment today to meet with the anesthesiologist, and have our final meetings with the surgeon and the plastic surgeon. We are extremely nervous, but also happy to get the process of treatment finally started.

At this point, we are unsure how long we will be staying at OHSU or even what the surgery time is tomorrow, but we will let everyone know how things are going as we know.

All our love,

Shane and Heather

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Susan G. Komen, Race for the Cure


I wanted to post something on the blog that asks all of our close friends and family to donate to the Komen Race this year, or to join our team (currently named, Together 4 Heather). The link is here: http://race.komenoregon.org/site/TR/Race/PortlandRacefortheCure?px=1981453&pg=personal&fr_id=1130 If you decide to join, we would love to have you. Of course, we understand if you are unable to join at this time or unable to donate.

On our main page for the Komen Race (linked above) we wrote a couple things from the heart, but mostly used the great verbage that was provided by the Komen foundation. I wanted to say a couple more things about this race and why its so important. I've done the Komen race every year since 2007. Its been a great opportunity to get together with friends and do something for "those people" affected by breast cancer. I remember complaining that all of the money goes to breast cancer research and feeling bad that the research was not more evenly spread among the cancers.
I had a reality check when the oncologist at Salem Hospital explained to me about the medicine, herceptin, that I will be taking for a year. She explained that herceptin is a relatively new drug, but is a "miracle drug" for cancer like mine. Then she explained that research for breast cancer is so far ahead of other cancers largely because of the Susan G. Komen foundation and the fundraising that is done. Some of this fundraising is done by people who have never been affected by breast cancer, haven't had family with the disease, or haven't lost a friend. For some reason, people really reach out for this cause, and I'm SO GLAD they do. Because of this race, I will be receiving a relatively new drug that is designed directly for my type of cancer (her2+). Because of people who take a Saturday or Sunday and walk with thousands of others, or take a moment to donate a couple of dollars, I will be directly affected.
If you believe that your efforts, for the Komen walk, or even donations for animal rights agencies, MS, or other community needs aren't making a change: you're so wrong! According to this oncologist, the Susan G Komen walk has changed the world of breast cancer research and sped things up exponentially. Lets keep this walk going and funds being raised so that we can cure this damn cancer!!!!
Much Love,
Heather & Shane

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

You asked, we responded




We have had a few people ask about bringing meals and helping around the house after surgery. Honestly, we have been terrible about planning this, but our amazing friend LouAnn has volunteered to coordinate this aspect of recovery. If you are interested in signing up for a meal for a day, please contact her at louann.vickers@gmail.com. We currently have 9 days (a meal every other day) open if you are interested! :-)

Thank you again for your support and love during all of this! We look forward to posting good news after surgery!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Chopped off all my hair on Friday in preparation for chemo. My hair stylist did such a great job! I'm still in a little bit of shock, and probably will be for a couple of days. This is a cut i've been too chicken to go through with until now. Not excited that its going to all fall out, but this will be a much easier transition.
Love to all - Heather

Thursday, July 22, 2010

07/22/2010

Surgery is finally scheduled! It looks like the date is set for August 10th. Heather will have an all-day pre-operation appointment on the 9th of August and then go into surgery on the 10th. Heather's mom, Ann Marie, is planning to come down after surgery to help around the house and take care of Heather. There's nothing better than having your mommy around when you are recovering!

Of course, there is a great deal of unknown and fear involved with the removal of Heather's breasts, but the good thing is that the cancer is getting removed with them! This will be the first of two surgeries, as the plastic surgeon will place tissue expanders this time around and then the silicon implants during the next surgery. Too much information? Probably!

The next two weeks we will continue to work and keep things as "normal" as possible before the surgery. Work helps a great deal to keep our minds off of things. We have also continued to spend a great deal of time with friends who have been spectacular about making sure we don't have too much down time to get "low". We love you guys! Thanks for making this journey barable.

Love,
Shane & Heather

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

07/21/2010

The final results of the lymph node biopsy are back. They are negative!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

07/20/2010 Follow up

Just received a call from Dr. Tiffany's office. The genetic tests came back NEGATIVE!!! YAY!!!!! This means that Heather won't have to have her ovaries out and her risk for re-occurrence is not inflated!!! We could not be happier. Thank you everyone for your good thoughts and prayers!! We are still waiting on the results of the lymph nodes. If this comes back negative, Heather is in good shape (as good as you can be with cancer, that is).

07/20/2010

Yesterday we had a phone consultation with the naturopath in Eugene. The naturopath, Dr. Kaczor was amazing. She specializes in oncology and natural medicine and did her residency with the American Cancer Society. She gave us some recommendations for supplements that Heather can take to help improve her surgery recovery time, as well as some stretches that may be helpful pre-surgery.

Later in the afternoon we met with a nutritionist that talked about some positive nutrition changes Heather can make to aid her immune system throughout this process. Lots of leafy greens were recommended.

Heather also called to get the surgery scheduling started and will hopefully know in the next couple of days when the surgery will happen.

Lots of waiting and yet, we are finally getting things in order and feeling more prepared for what's to come.

Lots of Love,
Shane and Heather

Friday, July 16, 2010

07/15/2010

We had our Thursday appointment at OHSU and everything went splendidly. We found out in the second appointment that the cancer has not metastisized, which was the news that we were most concerned about recieving. We are elated to know that the cancer is staying put and we are going to make sure that it doesn't go anywhere. Also, preliminary results show that the lymph nodes are cancer-free. We will not know more until the final results are back. We learned all of this in the surgical appointment.

We also had a genetics appointment, where the doctors comprehensively explained the genetics testing Heather had undergone and quickly found out what was happening with the tests that had been sent in (??) by Salem Hospital. We have two-weeks until we know what the results will be. Please keep prayers going and fingers crossed that these results will be negative.

The third appointment was with the medical oncologist, who was Wonderful. He was extremely knowledgable, friendly, and most of all supportive and compassionate. Chemotherapy will start after the surgery. As of now, we do not know when surgery is scheduled, but we do know that it will be a double mastectomy.

Next, we met with the fertility doctor to discuss IVF. We both felt like we were in a movie. The process is very futuristic and the thought of being able to freeze embryos is exciting and bizarre all at the same time. At this time, we are unsure of our direction on fertility but would welcome opinions and experience on this issue. OHSU offers the cryo embryo proceedure at a discounted rate for cancer patients. I guess, nowadays, that includes us!

Finally, we met with the plastic surgeon. This appointment was gut-wrenching, foretelling, and still hopeful. Its hard to imagine the proceedures that were discussed (such as the diep breast reconstruction), but we are excited that these proceedures are so extremely foreward thinking and advanced. The plastic surgeon was wonderful and inspiring about the outcome of whatever proceedure Heather decides on.

At this point, the prospect of making such a heafty decision is overshadowed by the tiredness from yesterday's meetings. We are planning to spend some time discussing our options and hopefully come to a decision by next week about many of our obstacles ahead. Thank you for those who have weighed-in on the reconstruction proceedures as well as the fertility question. We appreciate you opinions and life examples.

In the end, we haven't really ever heard anyone speak badly about the care at OHSU, and we will gladly add ourselves to the list of those who were and are currently being given the best possible care at the University on the hill. We are so glad and blessed to be in the position to have amazing insurance and amazing healthcare so close to us. Most of all, we are blessed to have such amazing friends and family to hold us up during this time.

Much love,

Heather & Shane

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

07/14/2010

We are headed to OHSU this morning for a full-body PET scan and another biopsy of the lymph nodes, since the last biopsy did not get the actual node. We will hopefully have the results of these tests by tomorrow, as OHSU does the analysis in-house.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

07/13/2010

Tomorrow is supposed to be Heather's surgery, but at the last minute we decided to postpone the surgery and go get a second opinion at OHSU. I think we were in denial that this is the route that we wanted to go all along, but the input from friends and family (and strangers, actually) helped us make the decision to call off the surgery and start from scratch at OHSU on Thursday. After an hour this morning, OHSU already had all of our records, had appointments scheduled, and were ready to go! We are happy to know that they are on the ball and ready to get to work. Heather will be the subject of the Thursday morning meeting of "OHSU Brains" to discuss the tumor and the direction that should be taken.
This Thursday afternoon we have an appointment to see an interdisciplinary team including: a medical oncologist, surgical oncologist, geneticist, breast nurse, radiological oncologist, and a fertility specialist. We think this was a good decision and regardless, we can always change our minds and go with the first opinion.

While our first doctors seemed great, they didn't seem to be working together very well. We were getting some conflicting information about the lymph node biopsy, some conflicting information about the genetic testing (which was apparently not sent off correctly and results will not be available for another 2 weeks), as well as surgery issues that were not explained very well. We felt a little blind going into the process and a surgery as important as a mastectomy ( possibly double ) should involve more than a split second decision. Most importantly, we wanted all of our doctors to be on the same page and that didn't seem to be the case.

Regardless, we should have more updates on Thursday regarding the direction this process is headed at OHSU.

Lots of Love,
Heather & Shane

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

07/06 Update

Today's appointment went well. The radiologist explained all aspects of what is to come and some of the possibilities. This meeting answered a number of questions we had and opened up doors to new questions. Overall, we came away from the appointment feeling well cared for and ready to take the next steps.
We are preparing ourselves for all possibilities, but keeping faith that no matter what comes around the corner we will beat this together.
We should have test results for the genetic component on Monday or so. We will update
Everyone when we know more!

Much love,
Shane and Heather

07/06/2010

Had a great time in Wallowa. It was nice to see everyone and feel back to "normal" for a couple of days. Thursday we leave for LasVegas to celebrate our 3rd Anniversary. We can't wait to get off the plane and feel the heat! Unfortunately, Surgery is scheduled for the actual day of our Anniversary.

Anyway, We have a meeting with the radiologist today at noon to discuss whether we are going to be able to do a lumpectomy or if the tumor is going to be too large to remove without a mastectomy. Heather's co-worker apparently had her tumor reduced with radiation so that it could be removed via a lumpectomy. We are keeping our fingers crossed that we get some positive news today regarding our options. Regardless, whatever comes our way, we are ready to work through.

Friday, July 2, 2010

07/02/2010

Recieved a call from the surgeon. Unfortunately, the biopsy did not get enough tissue to determine if the nodes are cancerous, so the surgeon will be conducting a sentinol node byopsy on the 14th of July when she performs the surgery.
In good news, there is only one lump, as determined by the MRI. Not so good is that the single lump is larger than they had originally anticipated and so a lumpectomy may not be a possibility. Still waiting on the results from the genetic testing to determine if the trump card will be a double mastectomy.

Its been a hard day today. Hoping for good news with the genetic tests. Please keep the prayers and good thoughts circling.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

06/30/2010

Today Heather has a needle biopsy of the lymph nodes and some of the tissue surrounding the area. This is the second biopsy in two weeks, and comes on the heels of genetic testing and an MRI yesterday. This should be the last test until surgery on the 14th. Please keep your fingers crossed, and prayers going that all of the above tests come back negative. If so, it looks like a lumpectomy will be possible. We will keep everyone up to date as we recieve news.

We will be heading up to Wallowa to see family this weekend. Hope to see you there.

Shane & Heather

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New page

We decided to create a page where we could share our information and updates with everyone as they happen. With all of the phone calls and e-mails we were getting about Heather's breast cancer, the ability to keep everyone up to date was become impossible. Please feel free to post and share as you want. Our goal is to make this page accessible to family and friends and keep everyone posted as we make our way through this journey.

Thank you for all your love and support,

Shane and Heather