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!