Saturday, December 31, 2011


Today, we are on the brink of a New Year, a new start, and a new view from a place we have not been before. Last year, January 6th, 2011 I finished my last chemotherapy. This year, January 4th, I will be finishing my reconstruction and emerging with a look back on cancer rather than standing in the middle of it or anticipating more treatment. I’ve found that this process has made it hard to see the forest but for the trees.

Looking back on the 2011 makes me cringe a little. I started this year with a bald head, lethargic, and generally uncomfortable. Mid-year, I was suffering from third-degree radiation burns and oozing skin, and I ended the year with my first reconstruction surgery and my port removal.  This year has been cancer to me, and I’m happy to leave it behind. For 2012, I plan to continue to seek some clinical trials and lifestyle changes that will ensure that I’m still here to celebrate the end of 2012, 2013, 2014 and so on; but for the most part I want to leave cancer in the rearview mirror. There are days now (which I never thought would come) where I don’t think about the fact that I have cancer (as you can see though, I haven’t quite transitioned to the past tense “had cancer”).  One of my many resolutions for the new year is to stop dwelling on what was. That’s gone now (pending a good biopsy result next week). Instead, I need to plan for my future and enjoy my present. Many times over the past year and a half I’ve thought about withdrawing my retirement and taking a backpacking trip through Europe (sounds nice doesn’t it?). Something about retirement feels so unrealistic to me at this point. Diagnosed at 27 with lymph involvement….changes of making it to 65? Probably not that likely. But, I’m going to hang my hat on the fact that I WILL live to retirement. So, PERS, keep earning good interest rates because I’m going to need that money when I finally quit the workforce J. This new year, cancer is going to change to the past tense and I’m going to live my life as I would have without cancer – with a few small differences: I know now how important exercise is to health, I also know how important it is to watch what you eat (and not just watching it move from the fork to your mouth), I know how much reducing stress can reduce inflammation in the body, and I know how phytoestrogens in the environment, our cookware, and even our cosmetics can have a huge effect on the amount of estrogen in a person’s body. I know that alcohol is a huge risk factor for my survival and how important moderation will be. I’m moving into 2012 more aware of what I consume and how I take care of myself. And armed with this knowledge and a plan for the future, I fully anticipate showing off my permanently perky breasts to all the women I end up with at the nursing home. Sorry ladies….these won’t sag J

Shane and I have also resolved to try to get to see all of our friends more. We have become homebodies over the past few years, through treatment and trying to keep ourselves a float. We plan to see everyone more often in the New Year! Thank you for all of your love and support that has helped us fight to this point. Please keep my in prayers and good thoughts (or meditations, or whatever it is that you do) that my surgery and biopsy go well on Wednesday and that Shane is able to stand me through another week of recovery!

Much love to our amazing friends, family, and fellow survivors!
Happy New Year!

Heather & Shane

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


This week has been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs combined with the usual stress of the holiday season: sending out Christmas cards, lighting the house, buying presents, and preparing to head across the state to see my family. In the midst of the holiday festivities, my usual checkups and appointments have been taking place in the background. Monday, I met with Dr. Niak, my surgeon for my 6-month exam. She checked for lumps and bumps and responded that everything looked “good”. Thanks to everyone for the comments on Facebook to this post! My second appointment was, however, not so uplifting. I met with my plastic surgeon and she recommended a revision surgery to correct some “issues” she’s unhappy with, she also found a spot on my scar that looks “suspicious” that she wants to cut out and send to the lab for testing. I’ve heard that when cancer comes back after a mastectomy it most commonly comes back in the scar. Of course, this has me going out of my mind. I’m trying to keep a positive outlook until I know for sure that I have something to worry about. Shane thinks that if Dr. Thaker was really concerned, she would have taken a biopsy immediately instead of waiting until my next surgery. I feel like this is something I can hang my hat on until I know differently.

I have a meeting with Dr. Luoh, my oncologist on the 28th of December for another checkup and to discuss the possibility of adding Zometa to my current treatment regimine. News out of the 2011 San Antonio Breast Cancer conference is showing promising results in young women who take Zometa for 3 years. Apparently, the drug is proving to be as effective as chemotherapy in some cases.

Speaking of drug effectiveness, Shane and I made the decision last month that I would drop my trial drug (Neratinib) as we were sure that I did not receive the actual drug. The comedy of us trying to determine if the pills were the actual thing should have been parodied on Saturday Night Live. At one point, we had multiple experiments going at Shane’s parent’s house.

I have been looking into a vaccine trial at the University of Washington, but have decided to wait until after January to decide where I want to go with my treatment. In the meantime, I’m going to use diet and exercise as much as possible to control my risk.

Fears of reoccurrence aren’t the only excitement Shane and I have been going through in the past week. Tuesday night Kennedy got on the coffee table and drank almost all of Shane’s Tom and Jerry (complete with Rum). We called the emergency vet and were told to watch him and if he became too “drunk” that we would need to bring him in to be monitored. He never got too bad, but we monitored him pretty closely all night and guided him as the poor little guy swayed his way around the house. He got dinner twice and lots of treats to try to soak up the alcohol. So glad that he is ok and we didn’t have to go to the ER. Last night we woke up around midnight to hear water running in the pipes of the house. We were sure that a pipe had broken and we were going to have to shell out the money to have repairs done. Shane ran outside to turn off the water at the source while I searched for a flashlight. In all the excitement, Shane left the door wide open, allowing Finnegan to escape and run away (again). Luckily, the night ended with the discovery that it wasn’t a water pipe that broke, but rather a part to our sprinkler system that hadn’t been turned off, and Shane caught Finnegan before he disappeared into the night (again). This morning, on the way to work, with my mind on many other things, I ran into the pickup in front of me at a stop light. While it didn’t do any damage to the pickup, my car is in need of some serious repair! Thank goodness for our super-agent Richard Hansen!

Regardless of all of the craziness that December has brought to us, I am constantly aware of how blessed I am to have the life I have been given. Even though many people I know are moving on in ways that we might not have the opportunity, I know that my life is very blessed and very complete. I am also so grateful to have been given the chance to meet so many amazing women through the Young Survival Coalition. There have been so many loses this year, and many of us are helpless and in despair as we watch our closest friends and confidants lose their battle to cancer. Marie, and all of the other women who have reached this point, I am praying for a miracle for you and your family. You are so loved.

I know that my experiences over the past year have changed my outlook on so many things. I cannot wait to see my family over the Christmas holiday. It is our families and our friends that make our lives worth living and who will be there to fight with us when things get tough. No matter what, the things in our lives, such as cars, and sprinkler systems, will never be what make us fulfilled. I’m so glad my life is full of the things that matter: an amazing husband, a loving family, and many wonderful friends.

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a New Year full of the things that matter.

All our love,

Heather & Shane