Thursday, December 17, 2009

CT Scan is good

My CT scan is good, apparently my brain is 'normal' - who would have thought. A little scary when they can schedule it that quickly (2 days) but great to have the good news before Christmas. Good to know all those missing words, forgetting things and ringing ears that many of us experience are quite normal after all.

I have signed up for an information session in January called 'Clearing the Fog About Chemo Brain' as well as one called 'Moving Forward After Breast Cancer' that covers many topics including remaining side effects, getting back to work, living with hope/uncertainty/fear, emotional issues, etc.

I wish you all a very happy, healthy holiday season!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

First follow-up

I met with my oncologist yesterday. It's been 3 months since chemo ended, and 1 month since radiation ended. I had blood work done prior to my appointment.

We discussed my remaining symptoms:

  • blood work is good, liver enzymes are still a bit high so they will check them again in 3 months.

  • tingly toes are an unfortunate side effect, they may still get better or may just stay like this.

  • achey joints are another side effect that should get better in time.

  • tiredness / fatigue is normal and will gradually get better. Keep walking.

  • forgetting things is normal enough, but the feeling of ringing in my ears and light headedness isn't, so they have ordered a head CT.

We talked about when it makes sense to go back to work, and it was suggested a year from my original surgery (March). The thing is, when I first had surgery, the surgeon said I would be off work for a year, and I thought that was completely crazy. I didn't realize the treatment would take so long and take so much out of me.

We talked about future follow-ups, which will be every 3 months for the first couple of years. Bloodwork will be done each time, and an annual mammogram (February already!) I will also continue follow-ups with the surgeon and the radiation oncologist.

So that was it, everything was good, but then I asked a couple more questions. I mentioned that a friend had her similar follow-up and was told she is in remission. The doctor agreed and said I was too. Remission. Not cancer-free. Breast cancer isn't curable. I knew that, but it still sounds weird. Remission means there is no active cancer.

Second question was about my blood - since my counts are back to normal, when can I give blood. Again a surprise answer. Never. There is always a chance there are cancer cells floating around in my blood, which could transfer to another person through a blood transfusion, and actually grow into a cancer in the other person.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hair update

It's been 3 months since my last chemo. I thought I would have had more hair by now, but that's okay, I can be patient, it's coming. I'm very excited to have my eyelashes back!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

When am I going back to work?

That seems to be the question now that I'm done treatment. Actually, I think I am the only one asking (that's me with my high expectations I put on myself). Answer - no idea. I know I'm not ready yet. When I meet with my oncologist in mid-December I think we'll set some goals so I'll know when I am ready. They did say at the very beginning that it would likely be a year off of work, I am finally starting to realize it may take that long (or longer).

Not complaining, but just listing the things that still 'bug' me:
  • all 10 toes are numb (pins and needles feeling)
  • fingertips sometimes get that lack of feeling too (especially right baby finger)
  • right arm gets achey and tires easily
  • right underarm still sore from radiation burn
  • still a little sore where port was removed
  • fingernails have those ridges and can get brittle (but not nearly as bad as other fingernails I've seen)
  • tire easily (the couch is my friend)
  • vision and hearing are not what they were - need to get these checked out

Chemo Brain issues:
  • when speaking, can't think of the right word, or I say the completely wrong one (kids laugh a lot)
  • when writing, misspell easy words or write the wrong word (shopping lists are interesting to decipher)
  • when asked to do something, I turn around and completely forget (not only what I was supposed to do, but that I was supposed to do anything at all). Example - Brad and Zach carrying something heavy from truck to garage - I was to go inside and open the garage. La la la, I went inside and had no idea why Zach came in and asked me if I forgot to do something. No idea.
  • no ability to mulit-task (those who know me, know I used to be a very organized person who can accomplish amazing feats in a day).
  • can spend an entire day accomplishing nothing: Open mail, go to get a pen, open drawer and see address book, think of someone I needed to call, look for phone, see magazine, remember recipe I was going to copy out, look for pen, notice kids room a mess, pick up laundry to take downstairs, see boxes of christmas decorations in basement and remember I need to sort through that, wander aimlessly back upstairs, get a drink of water, notice fridge is pretty empty, need to start a grocery list, look for pen, see open mail pile, feel overwhelmed, take a nap.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Feeling good - 2 weeks post-radiation

Two weeks since the last radiation treatment. I am feeling good - I had a great getaway with a couple of my girlfriends. Relaxing, drinking wine, and shopping. What more could I ask for? My radiation burn (under my arm) is starting to heal. That was the only area that was painful, and its definitely getting better now. My toes are still numb, which is just annoying, not painful.

Weather has been great, still no snow.

Monday, November 9, 2009

1 week post radiation

(well almost). I'm still tiring easily, but otherwise feeling really good. They did say that radiation continues working for 2 weeks after the last treatment. The spot they targeted during the 'boosts' has definitely become more tender and is looking dark red and burnt. But no broken skin. I don't think I'll ever really complain about anything again - nothing is as bad as chemo, and that is over. (my friends that are still enduring chemo remind me every day how lucky I am to be done).

I was at the dentist last week - they put the big lead apron over me while they took an x-ray. After all the chemo and radiation my body has been through, it seemed rather funny to protect me from one little x-ray...

Two more sleeps until my girls getaway...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Done Treatment!

That's it, I'm done! Yesterday was radiation #20, which was the last one. I am triple negative, so no herceptin or tamoxifen for me. I'm told my prognosis is 'excellent'. Next follow-up with my oncologist is mid-December, until then, nothing!

7 days until my girls' getaway ... other than that, its a focus on getting my strength back. When I see the onc in December we'll discuss when I'll be going back to work.

Brad and the boys celebrated the end of treatment with me at Dairy Queen.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Port is gone...

I'm glad it's gone. I'm bruised and sore, but healing fast. The procedure to take it out was only about 10 minutes. It's in a real operating room. They had me lay down on the operating table, he froze the area with a needle. Then swabbed it with COLD antiseptic. Then they lay sterile towels around it and had me turn my head away. So I didn't see anything, but I could feel when he reopened the old incision, and then there was a lot of tugging and pulling to get it out (thus the bruising). I guess a lot of scar tissue develops over the 6 months it was in there. Well, having the port sure saved my veins from a lot of poking and worse. Anyway, I was out of there quickly. My sister was in the waiting room, and my dad picked us up. I felt like fainting on the way home (delayed reaction to all the tugging), but I didn't. Bandage stayed on for 48 hours. And that's it. One more thing to put behind me...

Halloween night was fun. Another couple came over, we ordered chinese, and we had a fire in the front yard and handed out halloween candy there. Some neighbors came by for a drink, and some other parents came by as well. Then Carter and the 8 kids he was trick-or-treating with finally ended at our place (bringing our 'kid count' from 20 up to 29).

...okay, those of you who know Brad, know our fire was a little bigger than this...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Radiation side effects

I'll do another post like this in a couple of weeks because the radiation oncologist says the side effects peak 2 weeks after treatment is completed (since the radiation keeps working for 2 weeks).

For now though, I'm doing really well. My skin is pink, and where the scar is, is very tender to touch, but no broken skin or blisters. I'm definitely tired, but that's still leftover chemo too. So really not bad, this treatment has gone by very quickly.

From the chemo, most of my muscle aches are gone, although my right arm is very achey (which is also where I'm being radiated so who knows...). The only other thing is my toes are numb (the pins and needles feeling). All 10 toes, all the time. That's common too from the taxotere, but gets quite annoying. But I've heard some people end up with bad nerve pain in their feet, so I'm not complaining (much) about numbness...

Have a good weekend and a fun Halloween everyone!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Radiation 'boost'

I finished my 16 'regular' radiation treatments yesterday. Today was my first of 4 'boost' treatments. The 'boost' dose of radiation is given directly to where the tumor originally was, and is supposed to further reduce the chance of re-occurrence. It's similar to the other radiation treatments - they place you in the exact position using your tattoo markings. Usually there are 2 or 3 radiation techs - good job for a perfectionist! Then they leave the room and the machine does its work. You don't feel anything at all, but you can hear the machine.

The best part was when they gave me my schedule for next week, there's a happy face after Tuesday's treatment, since that is the last one!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Some Stats on Breast Cancer (in Canada)

Source: Canadian Cancer Society /National Cancer Institute of Canada. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2009, Toronto, Canada, 2009

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women.

In 2009, an estimated 22,700 women in Canada will be diagnosed with breast cancer. On average, 437 women will be diagnosed every week.

In 2009, an estimated 5,400 women will die from breast cancer in Canada.

One in nine (11%) Canadian women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime (this means by age 90).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

me and my dad - matching hairstyles

really, my hair has started growing back, you just can't see it in the picture...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Radiation #9

I am off to radiation #9 today (out of 20). Still doing okay, its going pretty quickly. And I got the call for my appointment to get my port out!! Oct 30th (just in time to be out for my birthday!)

Anyone have anything to say about getting that port-a-cath taken out? It sounds pretty simple - in the doctor's office, local freezing, about a 15-minute procedure. Any after effects?

Have a great week everyone!

p.s. this picture shows where the port is (surgically placed under the skin allowing direct access to a large vein near the heart for chemo).

Friday, October 16, 2009

a funny one

Zach (my almost 15-year old) got his braces off yesterday. When I picked him up, he was holding a goody bag from the orthodontist filled with popcorn, tootsie rolls, gum, caramels, etc - everything he couldn't have while he had braces. I thought that was hilarious!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Radiation # 7 - getting sensitive

My scar area started getting sensitive after #6. I also noticed the whole area was quite achey when I was trying to sleep last night. I mentioned it at treatment this morning (they ask you every day how you are doing). They said its all normal - the scar area typically gets irritated first, just keep applying cream several times a day (I'm using glaxal base). The muscle type aches are because the area swells (gets inflamed) from the radiation. Advil should help.

7/20 done, this is going pretty quickly.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Radiation #5

So far so good. Completed 4 treatments last week, and today was my first of 4 this week. No side effects so far, and going for treatment is easy and painless. I'm glad it's at a different hospital than where I went for chemo, so I have no anxiety or even real association with cancer walking in.

My hair is slowly starting to come back on the sides. Nothing on top yet, but I hear that is the usual way it comes back. My eyebrows are completely gone, but I'm quite comfortable with my eyebrow pencil. My friend's mom who is 5 months ahead of me in treatment just had her 2nd haircut, and she looks great!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Radiation #1

Got the call last Friday to start Tuesday morning, so yesterday was the 1st radiation treatment. First thing I learned was that I am not doing 25 treatments, I am doing 20 (16 to the whole breast, and 4 'boosts' which are targeted to where the tumor had been). So that gives me a bit of breathing space to complete this before my 'girls getaway'.

I go every day, except weekends and holidays, so I should finish on Nov 3rd.

First time took about an hour and a half, with meeting the doctor first, then the treatment (which takes longer the first time) and then meeting with someone after to discuss skin care. Future treatments should be much quicker, as the actual radiation part is only two 90 second blasts. I should be in and out in 10 minutes.

The most common side effects are sun burn (varies between people) and fatigue. And there is also a 1/2000 chance of the radiation causing sarcoma, a different type of cancer. Of course, they reminded me that chemo also had a small chance of causing leukemia. Obviously they have determined the risks are worth it.

They recommended using Glaxal Base, a moisturizing cream, on the affected area, 3-4 times/day, starting day 1. Other than that, they just say to let them know what problems occur and they can recommend something specific for that (dry, itchy skin, burns, blisters, open skin, etc.). Sounds fun (not).

Really though, I have no worries going into this. I am planning to drive myself everyday, and then do something while I'm out. Today, I am going for lunch with my dad.

Have a great day everyone!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Waiting for radiation

First, thanks for the advice and reassurance on the muscle aches. Still have them, guess I just have to wait it out, must be the chemo still working its way out.

I'm still enjoying my walks, even as the weather gets colder. No complaints about the weather here, compared to the Philipinnes, Indonesia, etc. They are having crazy, dangerous weather over there.

I went for bloodwork on Tuesday, and its coming along. My white blood counts are back in the normal range, and my hemoglobin has come up quite a bit. It's at 115 (120 is the bottom of the normal range, so I'm getting closer). Good enough for them to put my name on the list for my port removal.

I was told radiation was tentatively starting Monday, then Wednesday, then Thursday, but no confirmations. Today I got a call saying my 'plan' is ready and I should get a call later today with my start date/time. No call.

So, I am heading to the lake early tomorrow and hopefully I'll get a message that radiation will start Monday. Normally I wouldn't be so rushed to get started, but I'm on a timeline. We have a little 'girls getaway' planned starting Nov 11th, and now I'm worried my 25 treatments are going to get very close to that date.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Question - Muscle Pain (4 weeks after chemo)

I have had muscle pain in my legs and arms this past week, seems to be getting worse everyday. I am trying to figure out if this is a side effect from chemo or what is going on. I am fine otherwise, and not really tired or anything. I'm still walking, even did a bike ride. I'm sure I'm not overdoing it. The muscle aches are when I am standing or laying down.

And here I thought this would be when I would be feeling the best - 4 weeks after chemo and not yet started radiation!!

I am going for bloodwork on Tuesday so I will talk to my nurse about it as well. The bloodwork is to see if my counts are high enough to put me on the list to get my port removed.

Still no word on when radiation starts, although I've heard I may only get 1 day notice.

Hope everyone is having a good weekend!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Art Therapy

I joined an art therapy class, along with seven other cancer survivors. Our instructor is a trained art therapist, and stressed that this is not an art class, but a way of using art as therapy. I enjoy art, and was actually kind of hoping it was an art class.

Our first session's assignment (a week ago) was to use colors and shapes to show 'strength'. We had colored construction paper, scissors, and glue, and an hour to be as creative as we could. I was happy with my result, which was a very calm outdoor scene (a big tree, and the lake with the sun setting). I get my strength from the outdoors - trees, flowers, the lake.

Our second session's assignment (this morning) was harder to get started. We used pastels (both chalk and oil) and started by closing our eyes and 'scribbling' until she said stop. We then had to examine our scribble and see something in it, and then continue working on the picture. She encouraged layering the colors, blending, smoothing (using paper towel), etc. It was fun, even though I think my result looks like something a young child would produce. I saw two butterflies in my scribble, and so I added more butterflies, dragonflies, and some flowers. I used very vibrant colors. The second part is to talk about what we see in our pictures, what we felt as we were working on it. To me, the butterflies are flying away, signifying that I want to fly away, or escape. That suits me well right now as I am absolutely sick of everything cancer. I'm worried about starting radiation (still tentatively next week), which means being at CancerCare 5 days a week for 5 weeks, surrounded by cancer.

That's why I haven't posted in a week, just really avoiding it all, taking a break. But I've been walking and do feel like I'm getting some strength back. I notice my arms and legs feel very heavy, and I do get very tired, but at least it means I'm sleeping better at night.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Post-chemo update

I had an appointment with my oncologist this morning, to see where my blood counts are (two weeks since my last and final chemo). My white blood count is low (no surprise since I didn't do the neupogen shots with my last chemo). My red blood counts are still low (anemic), although a little higher than last time which is great news. He had done extra tests to see if my iron or B12 or something else was a problem, but nothing showed up. He feels it is all just caused by the chemo and will come up on its own.

I really ran low on energy on the weekend, to the point that my legs felt really heavy and hard to move. I'm just waiting for the energy to come back now so I can start a more regular walking routine.

Looks like radiation will start on Sept 28th, but no confirmation yet. I'm also waiting for the appointment to get my port removed.

Coffee tastes good again...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Radiation Markings

Feeling good, spent the long weekend at the lake. Am enjoying coffee again!

I went for my radiation markings this morning. It didn't even take 30 minutes. I changed into the ever-fashionable hospital gown, laid down on a hard surface, and the two technicians marked me and moved me in and out of the CT scanner a few times. Then they tattooed the 4 markings (permanent, but tiny dots) that will help the radiation technicians line me up properly for my treatments.

They said 25 treatments, tentatively starting in 3 weeks, but that I will get a call to come in and meet with the doctor first. So I don't know too much else.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Getting there slowly

I got out of the house twice yesterday - once to go to my support group (a friend drove me), and then out for coffee with some friends last night. It was so nice to get out (we are finally getting our very late summer weather). I'm still very tired, very low energy, but that's really my only complaint. I know when I start gaining my energy back, there is no more chemo to knock it down again - this time it will be for real.

I got a call about radiation therapy and have an appointment on Tuesday to get my markings. Guess I will find out more then.

Have a good long weekend everyone!

Monday, August 31, 2009

I can't wait to feel good...

Day 4 of chemo - back is very achey and weak feeling, but I'm still going for 1 or 2 slow walks around the block each day. It's hard to sit up, so most of the day is laying down or snoozing. No appetite, but that is way better than nausea... I just make sure I eat something to keep my strength up. My spirits are good (thanks for all the support!!)

I just want my energy back now... very soon...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chemo # 6 - last one done

First the happy dance:

and some more happiness:

and no neupogen shots required!

Chemo is behind me now - just need to recover so I can really celebrate in a week or two. I actually made it through them all (there was a while there I really wanted to quit - after # 3 and # 4 especially). Brad came with me to each treatment, and got me through the bad days (except when he was at the lake working on the cabin, then my sister and mother-in-law and boys got me through). And all my friends are so good with walks, baking, phone calls, etc.

With my low hemoglobin, they say to keep walking, but just to listen to my body and go slow. I really only notice the racing heart when I walk up the stairs. They'll put in my referral to radiation, but they may want to wait 6 weeks to start instead of 4. Similar with the port removal - they won't do it while my counts are low (and the wait right now is over a month anyway).

So I will just lay low (and call all of my friends who want to go for walks).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chemo is a 'go' for Friday

Met with the oncologist today. My hemoglobin has dropped lower (to 88; normal is 120 to 160), but we are going ahead with the chemo. As much as I'm dreading it, I really didn't want to delay it. I will be glad to get it behind me. Once I recover from this one, chemo is done, done, done!

And what I've learned: Hemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. A low hemoglobin is referred to as anemia. I am anemic.

My symptoms are that I'm tired and my heart starts pounding at the smallest amount of activity. It's nothing too terrible, just means I'm on the couch a lot more. They've warned me to get up slowly because I may get dizzy, but that hasn't happened yet. Since the anemia is caused by the chemo, there is nothing I can do (other than to ensure I am eating normally, including protein). They will schedule me back for more bloodwork in 3-4 weeks to check it again.

I think if it causes problems, they can do a blood transfusion. He also mentioned shots that can get your body to generate more hemoglobin, but I really don't want to go there!

It was left undecided whether or not I should be doing the neupogen shots following this chemo (to get my white count back up quicker). I was hoping it was a 'no', but I will find out Friday morning.

That's it for an update - one more day to enjoy before chemo...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Last chemo is in 6 days...

I'm still feeling good, except I'm tired, very tired. And always have a faint headache. I'm pretty sure it's my low hemoglobin - I go for bloodwork Tuesday so we'll see what they say. The rash on my face faded away and I am sleeping fine now. So really no complaints.

I made it to my support group last week - it is so good to see other normal people going through this (well sad, but if we're all going through it at least we've found each other). Anyone walking into the room would probably think we were a book club, not a cancer support group.

I had a busy week - after our Toronto company left, we had some unplanned visitors for a few days - two of my favorite extra kids. Their parents dropped them off while they went to Edmonton to deal with a family situation. It's nice to be able to do that for them, and to know that I have friends that would take my kids in, and my kids would be totally comfortable in their homes.

And, school supply shopping is done!! I must admit, with the boys going into grades 7 & 10, the lists are a lot simpler, and things like backpacks and pencil cases can be salvaged from last year. Of course, those special oil pastels that I had to search everywhere for last year, and probably paid too much for, came back untouched at the end of grade 6 (and are not needed by either child this year). Sigh...

The earring fairy dropped off another beautiful pair of dangly earrings for me...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Great Weekend and some new Side Effects

I felt great this weekend. We had our guests in from Toronto, and had a bunch of friends over to see them. It went really well, the weather even co-operated so we could play games in the backyard and have a fire going until the wee hours.

A couple of people asked if I had got sunburnt since there was a red area on my face. After 3 days of it not fading away, I've decided it must be a rash from the chemo. The other thing is I am still not sleeping at night. I am walking every day, getting my fresh air and exercise, avoiding naps, but it still feels like I'm either up all night or waking up every 10 minutes. I tried the ativan last night and had a wonderful sleep through the night.

The watery eyes continue, along with the sore throat. The eyebrows and eyelashes get thinner each day, and my bald head is very smooth, but no complaints about any of these...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

CT Scan results

That was very quick! They called to tell me everything looks good. The reason they did the CT was because my liver enzymes were acting up (as seen in my blood work) which could mean the cancer had metastasized (spread) to my liver, but chemo can also affect it too. Very good news, its just the chemo (yes, a bit of sarcasm there).

I also talked to her about my low hemoglobin counts. She said again its the chemo doing it, there's nothing I can do to adjust for it. I'm anemic now, and will feel more tired, and light headed or dizzy when I get up. The hemoglobin will pick up on its own about a month after I complete treatment.

Last (ever) neupogen shot this morning.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chemo #5 - day 7 and a CT scan

Didn't sleep at all last night (or at least it seemed like I woke up every 10 minutes). Tonight I will take some ativan to help ensure I sleep. Although, a friend has invited me over for a glass of wine in the great outdoors of her backyard - maybe that will do it! Taste buds are still way off so we'll have to see if I can actually drink any wine...

Speaking of taste buds, I had 3 glasses of peach flavored stuff for my CT scan today. Wasn't as hard to drink as I thought it would be, really no big deal. The ladies in CT had planned to inject the contrast dye into my vein but they were willing to call someone from oncology to come and use my port instead. It didn't go real smoothly (I ended up with saline and dye spraying on my neck), but we got it done. The CT was of my whole abdomen area, and I will get the results when I see my oncologist in 2 weeks.

Missed my support group AGAIN today because of the CT scan, but I should be able to make it next week.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chemo #5 - day 6

Had a good sleep last night and am feeling pretty good this morning. Pain is down to a 1 or 2 on a scale of 1-10. Did my second neupogen shot this morning, only 2 more of those to go. Really hoping this is it for chemo #5 and tomorrow I will feel my normal self again...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chemo #5 - day 5

I miss feeling good... I'm guessing it will be the end of the week before going for a walk feels good. I'm achey, I have that yucky metallic taste in my mouth, and I didn't sleep well at all. It's hard to get comfortable sitting or laying down. I'd call the pain 3 or 4 on a scale of 1-10, annoying, but not bad enough to take the percocet (yet). Gave myself the first of the neupogen shots this morning, which usually adds to the back pain.

I'm trying to be thankful that it's not as bad as last time, and I don't have the nerve pain some people get, but I still hate it and just want it to be done.

Last chemo scheduled for Aug 27th.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chemo # 5 day 3

Still doing okay, mostly just sleeping and resting. Lower back is a bit sore, but I'm taking the anti-inflammatories and hoping it won't get worse. Really just waiting for these next few days to pass. Weather is 'stay inside and watch a movie' anyway, so I don't feel like I'm missing out on much.

Have a good day everyone!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Chemo #5

# 5 is done, only 1 more to go!! It went fairly smoothly, I was home at 12:30 and down for a nap shortly after. Went for a little bike ride around 3:30 for some fresh air.Taking it easy for the rest of the evening. NO NAUSEA. Last time I felt fine for the first 2 days, and then the pain hit, so I am making sure to relax and not overdo anything.

Yesterday's girlie lunch at Pine Ridge Hollow was so nice - cute restaurant, great gift shop, a huge flower garden and a petting zoo with pigs and goats.

Thanks for all the suport and hello to my new followers!
Take care,

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chemo #5 is on for Thursday

I had my bloodwork done today and met with the doctor. My hemoglobin is low (from the chemo), but not low enough to stop my next chemo (120 is normal, mine is 95). He also said my liver enzymes were 'acting up', and not to worry, but he wants a CT scan. That will be scheduled in the next week or two.

He also made sure I was ready with a new anti-inflammatory medication, and some ativan to help me sleep at night (as well as the percocet I have from last time). I guess I'm as prepared as I can be.

We had a nice weekend at the lake, visiting with our friends. I have guests in this week, so we'll go for lunch and shopping tomorrow (and I'll miss my new support group). Have to enjoy that last day before chemo!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Support Group

Today was the first of a new weekly support group for young women with breast cancer. There were 6 of us, ranging in age from 32 to 44. It was great to be face to face with other regular women who are going through the same thing, even if we're all at slightly different stages. I remember how worried I was during the waiting/worrying time before they stage the cancer and determine the treatment post-surgery. That's actually when I had made the call to get into a support group. It made me appreciate that having my treatment plan and knowing what the next few months entail is a good place to be.

It was great to meet someone who has recently completed treatment and looks great (hair and everything!)

I think this support group will be something good for each of us that was there today. I'm already looking forward to our meeting next week.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Doing Well

Chemo #4 took a solid 10 days to recover from (really only days 4-8 were really bad - Saturday to Wednesday). I'm fine now and hope to enjoy some nice walks this week, and one more weekend at the lake before chemo again next week. I'm confident I can get ahead of the pain next time and keep it under control. And there was no nausea at all (except a bit from the pain meds). Medication for side effects causes more side effects... sigh.

From other people's tips, it sounds like I will recover much quicker by staying on top of the pain (and be ready for our Toronto friends who are coming to visit with their 3 boys!!)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Support Network

I am feeling pretty good this morning. I could never have got through this last week without my support group (especially with Nancy away!) I have had lots of phone calls and e-mails, supportive comments on my blog, my sister brought Friday's dinner and played Scrabble with me Friday and Saturday to help pass the time, and brought my dad over for a visit. My boys have been great - when I broke down crying they called Brad to come home and stayed very close to me. Brad got his mom to come over until he got home. Dave brought Wendy's Frostees for all of us. Barb brought me beautiful fresh fruit. Brad's mom made us lasagne for dinner the next day, baked us a carrot cake, and yesterday morning when Zach got up and said 'mom, is there any cinnamon buns for breakfast' - she actually showed up with cinnamon buns 2 minutes later (total coincidence). And she took both boys to their orthodontist appointments this week. Brad's sister comes by with good advice. My nurse Bonnie who called me back 3 times to check on me. Brad has been wonderful, I know it's hard for him when I feel bad and he can't make it go away, but he's always there for me. Knowing so many people care has really helped pull me through this. THANK YOU!!

Like too many others, I can't/won't ask for help. I found this pic on Renee's blog (she finds the most amazing pictures):

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chemo #4 continued

Today is day 8; I am finally on the upswing. The T3's have me feeling sluggish and a bit dizzy, but I finally got some sleep last night. Brad and I met with the oncologist today and he has put me on something stronger (Percocet - which is acetaminophen and oxycodone) to get me through the rest of this one, and then next time we'll obviously start sooner. Percocet has the same side effects as Tylenol, so I am taking good old Senna-S for that.

I am walking funny (and slowly) because my hips hurt as well as my lower back. Oh and I had to report I had a sore throat (I really didn't want antibiotics because I just have too many different things I'm taking right now). Luckily he said it looks okay and gave me some mouthwash that numbs the area so it won't hurt when I eat.

Last neupogen shot for this round was this morning!

Tomorrow's post will focus on thanking everyone who has helped me get through this one... I couldn't do it without you!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chemo #4 (last Wednesday)

This has turned out to be a very bad one. The first couple of days were okay, but then Friday night my lower back and stomach started to hurt, and the pain got worse all day Saturday, to the point that I couldn't lay down or sit in any way that was comfortable. No sleep Saturday night, which made for a miserable Sunday. I laid on the floor and cried. I was exhausted, at an emotional low, and nothing was helping. I tried Tylenol, Advil, even Robaxacet, nothing put a dent in it.

Monday morning I called the oncology clinic, who suggested stronger pain killers (Tylenol-3's). I took them all day Monday and Monday night (meanwhile the pain was spreading down my legs and into my shoulders). They finally kicked in Tuesday morning. I slept for 3 hours. The nurse called back to check on me, and has assured me she'll work out a plan to get me through this better next time. The neupogen shots make it worse, but at least I only have one more of those to go tomorrow.

We'll see how the rest of the day goes (hopefully a nap and a real sleep tonight)...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Chemo #4 Day 3 (and a cabin update)

Still feeling good, no nausea, just really really tired (but I can deal with that)

Here's some pics of the progress Brad is making at the cabin - it's closed in, new windows on that side, a roof, even a deck... we should be able to go out and stay there next weekend...

here's what it looked like 2 weeks ago

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Chemo #4 Day 1

So far so good. I've slept most of the last 24 hours, but no feeling of nausea at all. I had a lot of anxiety going into this one since #3 was so bad, and this one was a new one (Taxotere) with all kinds of new side effects and possible allergic reactions. They are very careful at the hospital, starting it very slowly and monitoring you closely. I also wore big gel mitts on my hands to keep my hands cold to help avoid the nail problems that often come with this. That's all for now. I'm going to go eat something and see how I feel...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chemo #4 is on for Wednesday

I went for my bloodwork and to meet with the oncologist this morning. Everything looks good for Wednesday. This will be a new drug, Docetaxel (aka Taxotere). It also includes taking a steroid (dexamethasone) ahead of time to help prevent nausea, fluid retention and allergic reactions. Of course that has its own side effects (sigh). And I still have to do the 5 neupogen shots after to keep my white blood counts up.

On the bright side, I went for a very nice walk in King's park while waiting for the bloodwork to be processed, and had a lovely lunch with a friend from work after I was done with the appointments.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Having a good week

I had a great visit with our friends at the lake on the weekend, and Brad got a lot of work done on the cottage (with the help of some good friends). I am feeling good, have had a couple of bike rides, and plan to go to the Folk Festival this weekend. Dreading chemo next week but just avoiding thinking about it right now.

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Do I Dare... (No Hair)

First is one my mother-in-law made for me

This is another favorite...

I just bought this beautiful one at the street festival ($10!)

This just shows my new daisy necklace from my sister

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Feeling good (8 days post chemo)

Chemo#3 was a tough one (last of the 3xFEC for me, next is 3xDocetaxol). It took 8 days to feel like myself again. Enjoyed a great Canada Day at Osborne Village street festival with my sister and a friend. Bought a new toe ring, and painted a few polka dots on my (and my sister's) nails to match...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Lake

Happy Canada Day (July 1st)!! This day celebrates the anniversary of the July 1, 1867 enactment of the British North America Act of 1867, which united Canada as a single country of 4 provinces (we now have 10 provinces and 3 territories). Back in 1867 is when we started our independence from the United Kingdom. It is celebrated with fireworks, bbq's and street festivals.

With it falling on a Wednesday this year, it's hard to make it into a long weekend, but lots of Winnipeggers head out to 'the lake' for most summer weekends. There are many lakes - huge ones like Lake Winnipeg as well as hundreds of smaller lakes. Brad's mom has a cottage we spend a lot of time at, a 2 1/2 hour drive East from home, into Ontario. (Winnipeg is near the bottom of Manitoba - close to the US border).

Brad wanted to spruce it up a bit to use this summer - he told me he needed 3 weekends to have it ready to go. For those that know my husband and his projects, he's a bit of an optimist (as well as a perfectionist). Here's some pics of the 1st weekend he worked on it (2 weeks ago).

I'll be staying at a friend's place 5km away...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chemo clouds

When I went for chemo last Tuesday, the weirdest clouds rolled in. There are big windows in the chemo room, and we were all looking at the clouds. Brad went outside and snapped a few pictures shown here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Need a laugh?

For a good chuckle, check out this link on

A Study on how we all got breast cancer

Did you bite your nails? Are you left handed? Did you eat snow?

I'm feeling much better today - fatigue and nausea are gone, just the aches from the neupogen shots are left (hopefully will be gone in the next day or two).

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunny Sunday

Well, it's actually cloudy but I'm feeling much better. And the breeze is beautiful after the non-stop rain from the last 2 days.

Nausea is mostly gone, biggest complaint now is achey back and 'restless legs'. Does anyone else get that? I'm thinking it's probably from the Neupogen, since I had it last time too after the shots. Could also be because I don't get out walking on my bad chemo days. Happy to hear any suggestions people have, since it's annoying and hard to sleep or sit.

Have a good day!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Chemo # 3 - day 5

My energy has come up quite a bit (I can stand up straight again), but still feeling a bit nauseous. We went out for breakfast and then to the Farmer's Market. Will be a pretty quiet day. Rained and rained last night, was nice to listen to on the roof.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Chemo # 3 - day 4

Is it Friday already? I have slept most of the time since chemo on Tuesday. I am officially half way (3 down, 3 to go). I am still very weak and tired today, but I've tried to keep eating over the last couple of days so am hoping my energy comes back quickly (today would be nice). I started the neupogen injections today again (for 5 days, same as last time).

"Hate" is a strong word. I hate chemo.

Sad about Farrah Fawcett, who died yesterday after a 3 year battle with cancer.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Chemo #3 is on for tomorrow

Blood work was good today, so chemo is on for 10:30 tomorrow morning. I'm kind of down about it, but then at least I'll be halfway done after this one.

Had a busy weekend with company in from Kenora, and Carter in a track meet. The Manitoba Marathon was yesterday morning, almost 14,000 particpants. We were at the start line (bright and early), Carter was running the Super Run (2.6 miles instead of 26.2). I really hope to be running the half marathon again next year. I miss running...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Dad (a.k.a. Grampa)

I have to share my dad's response to my last post:

"Hi Beth !! Read your blog today and saw wig pics. The last one with the short hair is a knockout !! If you dont wear it maybe I will. "

We had a picnic at 'our' park bench in Assiniboine Park last week. The bench is a memorial to my mom who passed away 19 months ago - it celebrates my mom and dad's life together. It's inscribed with both of their names and "50+ years of loving walks & memories - Forever in your kids' & grandkids' hearts".

For those of you who know my dad, you will notice there is no walker in the picture - he is walking on his own now after his 2 hip replacement surgeries in the last 11 months. He'll be 80 this year and his health just keeps improving!

Monday, June 15, 2009

It's been a good week

I walked every day. Our summer weather has finally arrived!!
Here are some pics with the wigs. My sister is modeling the fun ones. She shaved her head a couple of weeks ago to show her support for me and to get an idea of what I am going through. She is very handy with the scarves (she is the queen of accessorizing). One thing I've noticed is that her hair is growing back and mine isn't :(
I will be sticking to scarves and the hats my mother-in-law made for me (pics of those coming soon). Much more comfortable, although the wig made me look so 'normal'!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

2nd chemo - first week behind me

I've been feeling good since Monday, and I've gone for a nice walk each day. I do have an ache in my lower back and my shoulder, not too bad, but hopefully not a side effect of the neulasta injections.

My husband and kids keep rubbing my head and teasing me because its getting smooth (the bit of stubble left from shaving it is disappearing). My eyebrows are getting thinner too, but still good for now. We have briefly discussed options for drawing the eyebrows in once they're gone (unibrow, a V, or perhaps one raised higher than the other in an ever skeptical look).

Have a good day,

Monday, June 8, 2009

Feeling good 6 days post-chemo #2

I went from feeling about 70% yesterday to feeling 100% today. Not all of my energy is back, but enough to go for a walk (in the rain), go shopping, and meet a friend for coffee!

Last time my energy took longer to come back (assuming of course it's back to stay now). This time the queasiness lasted longer (wasn't as bad, but was still there and hung on longer). Hopefully this means I have 2 good weeks ahead of me before the next chemo. And tomorrow is the last neupogen injection (which must not have been causing the queasiness since I feel okay today).

I am amazed I can give myself the injections. Really amazed at the things we all do because we have to.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Fleetwood Mac

I had a 4-hour nap in the afternoon yesterday to prepare myself for the big outing - the Fleetwood Mac concert last night. It was really good!! They don't have a new album that they are promoting, so it was all the old hits that everyone knows. They played for almost 2 1/2 hours. You would never know Stevie Nicks is 61, amazing...

I feel a bit better today - no nausea, but no energy either. I picked around my garden for a bit, but the forecast for the week is rain, and never getting over 20C (again). Maybe the good weather will come when the kids are out of school (couple more weeks).

Friday, June 5, 2009

Low white blood counts = Neupogen injections

Had my lesson at the hospital this morning on how to give myself an injection - once a day for 5 days for each cycle of this chemo. These injections stimulate the bone marrow to create more white blood cells.

Side effects can be aching bones, and sometimes nausea. Here's hoping for no side effects since I'm still pretty weak from last chemo...

Chemo is evil.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Chemo #2

I'm very tired, but at least the nausea is not as bad as last time. I took Metoclopramide in additon to the Kytril this time (both anti-nausea medications). It makes me feel very restless, but I'm still able to stick to my plan of sleeping away as much as possible of these first few days... Hopefully tomorrow I will start to feel better.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Chemo is on for tomorrow...

Went in for bloodwork today and my white blood cell counts are back up to normal. Chemo tomorrow morning at 10:30 followed by a few days of rest... (I am caught up on all the laundry, and the fridge is full so Brad and the boys should be good for a few days while I hibernate).

I've re-organized my sunporch - cleared out the junk and put in a recliner and some magazines. Even hung some big straw hats on the wall (thanks Brad!) to brighten it up. My new place to hang out and watch the flowers grow (if our temperature ever gets above 20C). It is June now, isn't it?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday's flowers

My first crocus (yes, it is May 29th, but this is Winnipeg).

Here are two of the pots I planted last weekend, hopefully in a month I can show you how much they've filled in!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Well, no chemo tomorrow...

I met with the doctor today to review my bloodwork, and to my surprise my white blood cell counts are too low, so no chemo tomorrow. They will re-test my blood on Monday and plan for chemo Tuesday. On the one hand I'm looking forward to feeling good all weekend now, but it does push everything out almost a week...

And no, eating differently or resting or exercising or sleeping - none of that affects the white blood cell count, I just have to wait (and not get sick!)

I did run 5km last night, so maybe I can get another couple of runs in before this next chemo...


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday - bloodwork for chemo

Went to get the bloodwork done for chemo this morning (wearing shorts and sandals, it is starting to feel like summer!) Had a nice lunch with some of the ladies from work yesterday (first public outing with my headscarf). Was okay, didn't feel like anyone even noticed. I'm busy today getting organized so I can do nothing except rest after chemo...

Have a good day everyone!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunny Sunday

Planted all of my flowers today - let's hope we're done with the frost warnings. Went for my first outing (leaving the house alone, with no hair). I was fine, even comfortable. Wore a great head scarf that my mother-in-law sewed for me. 3 days left until chemo.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My hair is gone...

Well I had 2 grumpy days while my hair was falling out. We went out for dinner last night and I had to wear a hat because I couldn't do anything with what hair I had left. I don't wear hats. So this morning, my friend Kathy (Carter's friend Sam's mom) came over and buzzed off what was left. I immediately felt much better. It does make it harder to be in denial though...

It started falling out exactly 2 weeks after my first chemo.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

LGFB - Look Good Feel Better

I went to the LGFB session at the cancer centre last night. Wow, what an amazing program. It was great to meet some other people at the same stage as me. The volunteers that show how to apply the makeup and how to wear different head coverings were just great!! (Thanks Aly and Sunny!!)

Everyone was there to have a good time - you would never know these are cancer patients going through treatment - everyone was smiling and chatting. Most of us don't wear makeup which made it more fun to play. Did I mention you get a box full of brand name product to take home?

The timing was great for me, as my hair started falling out yesterday. I'll leave that for another post, all I'll say is my head started tingling and the hair comes out when you run your hands through it. No bald spots yet but my friend is on standby with her clippers...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I feel great!

It started Saturday, this feeling of 100% normal! We went to the lake and stayed with friends until Monday. We had a great visit, spent lots of time outside, and my hair didn't fall out!(somehow, I thought it was going to happen this past weekend). It's been 11 days since my first chemo.

I'm sure it was only 3C with a strong North wind as a couple of us parents watched soccer last night - exciting game but c-o-o-o-o-l-d! And of course afterwards Carter wanted to go for ice cream... It's sunny today and I'm sure its going to warm up!

Now that I feel so good, Brad (my #1 caregiver) must have let his guard down, because he has been hit with the dreaded "man cold ". He was proud to have a temp of 102F to show he really did require sympathy and attention. He's a bit better today, fever's down.

Have a great day,

Thursday, May 14, 2009

First chemo - 1 week behind me

Other than the low energy, I'm feeling pretty normal again. I ate 3 normal meals yesterday (Brad took me out for lunch, my friend Barb dropped off dinner, my mother-in-law baked blueberry muffins - how lucky am I!) I remind myself every 5 minutes or so not to be frustrated by my lack of energy, just listen to my body and be thankful there's nothing that I NEED to get done. But then I get frustrated again...

Farrah Fawcett's story of living with cancer is on NBC Friday night - will be a tear jerker...

Let's hope for warmer weather for our (Canadian) May long weekend this weekend...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

First chemo - day 5

Feeling stronger every day.. yesterday I only needed 2 naps. Went out to watch Carter's soccer game last night and saw him get his first goal! Tonight he has a track meet at the University, and then tomorrow another soccer game. This is Winnipeg, need to cram all the outdoor sports into 2 months.

I went for physio yesterday for my arm again, its been really sore these past few days, but she said its improving, just that she often sees many people are more sensitive to pain during chemo. Interesting.

Have a good day everyone!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

First chemo - day 4

I'm back. I pretty much slept the rest of Friday and all of Saturday. It's Sunday now (Happy Mother's Day!) and the nauseous feeling seems to be gone, but my energy is zero. I sat out in the sunshine for a while (properly covered), and for the first time I actually feel like I have cancer. I sure hope the energy picks up so I can go back into denial. My brother and sister-in-law just called to see if I'd like anything since they're coming over - I will see if a Tim Horton's iced capp will revive me (caffeine, sugar...). Thanks for all the good wishes, here or in e-mail, much appreciated.
... Beth

Friday, May 8, 2009

First chemo - day 2

Yesterday wasn't bad, just had the car sick kind of feeling all day and evening. Brad and I went for a short (slow) walk, the fresh air felt good, even though it's more like November than May right now. I actually felt fine all night, except I didn't sleep much, my head was buzzing or something. I felt nauseous again when I got up this morning. Zach suggested I go back to bed since I don't seem to feel sick when I'm laying down. Good advice. Went back to bed. Am up now for lunch and will go lay down again shortly... Beth.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

First chemo - day 1

so far, so good... we're home and having lunch and putting a movie on. A bit of excitement at the start this morning when I told them I was still feeling pressure in my neck, they decided to do another x-ray to make sure the port-a-cath was still positioned correctly, not slipped back into a smaller vein or anything. This was pretty quick though, they confirmed its in place correctly and started the process. We even got to see the x-ray.

I had my own little room with a bed because they like to keep you by yourself the first time so they can take their time explaining everything step by step. They run saline first and give you the anti-nausea pills, wait about 20-30 minutes, and then started the first chemo. The red one. They push it into the IV with 3 big syringes. Then the second one, just one big syringe. Then the third one they use the bag because it goes in over an hour. Meanwhile they served coffee, and even some chicken noodle soup. We were there just over 3 hours, including the x-ray.

As they say, everyone has their own reaction, the most common being tired, achey, and nauseous. Will keep you posted... Beth.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Port Care

First of all, I have to say the port is not too bad. I do have bruising, as well as some unexpected effects including a sore neck and pressure inside my throat, but have been reassured by the nurse today that these are normal after effects of the surgery. The port care today was quick - she made sure she could draw blood, then flushed it with saline and then a heparin lock (just enough heparin to fill it, to prevent any blood clots). She did give me an emla patch to apply an hour before chemo on Thursday, to numb it. I'm officially as prepared as I can be now... Brad is taking me and staying with me for chemo #1.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunny Sunday

I'm still doing okay with the port, hit the 48-hour mark this morning - time to take the 1st bandage off and have a shower (always feels good). Just a couple of steri-strips still on it over the stitches. 'Port care' tomorrow - seems kinda soon to be poking around but I guess they want to make sure its working for Thursday - 1st chemo. I am definitely nervous about the chemo - you can't be prepared for it when you don't know what your reaction will be - everyone has such a different reaction to it. I've warned the boys that I will likely be throwing up and/or very tired, and either one will make me grumpy, so they need to be really nice...

Friday, May 1, 2009

New to blogging?

Best thing to do is first create a google account at

If you don't want to create an account, then you can post using the Anonymous option, but PLEASE sign your name so I know who it's from!


p.s. in my post today, I forgot to mention how wonderful the heated blankets at the hospital are (and the nurses who give them out!)

The Port is in!

The procedure went very smoothly, total of 4 hours at the hospital. My sister stayed with me and Asha dropped by for a chat. My shoulder is a bit sore, but more of a muscle ache. Probably the drugs are still working as I feel really good!

It's purple. Not that you can see it since its all inside me now, but it's purple.

The nurse was kind enough to bring me a much-needed coffee as soon as I got to recovery.

And hey, for you newbies that don't know how to post, I'll give you some instructions tomorrow. Have a good night!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Port goes in tomorrow

Bright and early tomorrow morning, I have an appointment to get the port in. Wiki says "a port (or portacath) is a small medical appliance that is installed beneath the skin. A catheter connects the port to a vein. Under the skin, the port has a septum through which drugs can be injected and blood samples can be drawn many times".

I've read such a mix of comments on getting the port, I'm not sure what to expect (pain and un-
comfort wise). But everyone says its worth it... I'll update tomorrow with my own experience...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wig Shopping

In anticipation of losing my hair, my sister and I went "shopping" (free) for wigs and head coverings today. We started at the Vic since I needed to get blood work done anyway. Picked up 2 wigs and a couple of different hats. Then went to the Guardian Angel room at HSC. They have a full time volunteer in the wig room, and she was wonderful (even though we hadn't made an appointment). Left there with a long curly red wig and a couple of hats - one of which is really a one-of-a-kind. My mother-in-law sews blankets that she donates. I will see if she can re-create a pattern for this hat and make some more... I also have some cute hats and bandanas from Karen's mom - donated by her friends down in Texas that missed her in their winter-getaway trailer park this year.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Recovered from Surgery

Hi friends and family. The last couple of weeks have been good, spending the time getting healthy again (snow is gone, but summer sure isn’t here yet!) Lots of walking, even a few short runs. Read a few good books already.

Started physio for my arm, painful but should get all of my motion back. Cath calls herself a "physio-terrorist". Says if I can't be tough enough on myself with the exercises, to go back to see her. She says its 3 vessels that are "caught" in the scar tissue, and need to be massaged and stretched until they are freed.

Update - I heard later this is called 'cording' - for more info see

We met with the radiation oncologist, who was very nice and informative, but gave me an overwhelming amount of information about a clinical study he asked me to participate in. I had to make a decision the next day in order to do the prep work and start it within a specific timeframe from the surgery. This would have put the radiation before the chemo, among other differences, but it was just too much info with too little time, so I passed on that. I will go ahead with chemo as planned, and meet with the radiation oncologist again when chemo is done. There will likely be other clinical trials open at that time. So I’ll save your radiation education until then :)

The port goes in next Friday (May 1st) and the first chemo is the following week (May 7th). I’m starting to collect cute head coverings in preparation for the hair loss :(

Here’s something interesting – Karen's mom (who just finished chemo!) tells me that for the second set of chemo, they put your hands and feet on ice packs during the IV to stop it from circulating to your fingers and toes, since it can cause your nails to fall off. Lovely...

Enjoy our spring weather!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Plans for chemo

Hi friends and family. Brad and I met with the oncologist (and team) this week. Lots of information to absorb (I’m getting a whole new education). They strongly recommended chemotherapy due to the aggressive nature of this particular cancer, and we’ve agreed to go that way. That will be followed by radiation. This gets my chance of re-occurrence back down to the same as anybody else. For those at work – this means I will likely be out for the rest of the year…

My arm is much better. I don’t have full use back but it’s getting closer, and the pain is a lot less.

Here’s the details on the chemo (which will be at the brand new Buhler Cancer Centre at the Vic):

6 treatments, one every 21 days. It takes 2-3 hours for each treatment (administered through an IV). A mixture of 3 drugs for the first 3 treatments, and a 4th drug by itself for the last 3 treatments. Blood work is always done a day or two before each treatment to ensure the white blood cells (fight infection) and platelet counts (help your blood clot) are back up to normal, otherwise they delay. For those already familiar with cancer treatments – it’s the FEC-D regimen (Fluorouracil, Epirubicin, Cyclophosphamide, Docetaxel), with all of the bad side effects included for free (although they do add in an anti-nausea drug).

So when does it start? More to learn. First is the MUGA scan – a test of your heart muscle to measure the strength of it pumping the blood. Both to make sure you are strong enough to start the treatment, and as a baseline to ensure its not affected as you go through treatment. The years of running should have my heart pretty strong to start out here! Next is the decision of how to get the chemo – our little veins aren’t strong enough to handle the chemicals, so the choice is a PICC in your bicep (with a short tube hanging out) or a PORT surgically implanted just below your collar bone. Both have a tube feeding through your vein into an area close to your heart. Both stay in place for the length of your treatment (and can be used to draw blood or put in the chemo). I’ve decided on the PORT since I’m not good with tubes hanging out that could get caught on things and shouldn’t get wet :). It’s a couple of weeks until I get the PORT put in (quick surgery, just local freezing). Then a few days for it to heal, and then chemo starts.

I’ll keep you posted. Still waiting for all of our fresh new snow to melt!
Take care,

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Results from Surgery

Hi friends and family – thank you so much for all of your support. The cards, e-mails, phone calls, meals, baking, are all wonderful.

It’s been 2 ½ weeks since surgery. My right arm is still very sore, but I have some new pain medication so that may help. I met with the surgeon today, she is happy with the results which show all 12 lymph nodes that she removed are clear, and she got the clean margins around the tumor. For those that like details, it was a grade 3 (aggressive) cancer, triple negative, but it was caught early so my cancer is considered Stage 1c.

Next steps are to meet with my oncologist and determine a plan for chemo and radiation. Until that starts, I focus on healing. Hopefully this snow and ice will disappear so I can get out and walk more!

Take care and thanks for staying in touch!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Goodbye to the Chia Pet

They removed the drain today! Although Brad had nicknamed it my chia pet, I was very happy to see it go. I am not the most graceful person (really) and having a long tube hanging off me is a disaster waiting to happen. 'We' dropped it once while attempting to pin it to my pajama top (the stitches held it in place but it hurt!) and I caught it on the arm of a chair once or twice...

The nurse at the Breast Health Centre removed the drain and also the bandage from the incision. Pretty ugly looking to me, but she says it looks good. I only have one incision since the lump and lymph nodes were all taken from the same incision (horizontal, under my arm).

Feeling much better already without it always pulling.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day after surgery

Hi, I’m home now, thanks for all the good wishes, it helps more than you know. It was an unexpected overnight stay at the hospital (and my boys didn’t want to leave me there), but it was fine. They found me a bed in a room with 3 very sick ladies (one had emergency surgery for a perforated bowel, one had some kind of internal drain being put in for her liver, and the other is having a 4-day epidural to manage her pain following her surgery). Really puts things in perspective and made me feel quite well off (I was the only one able to get out of bed to brush my teeth this morning).

As for my surgery, in addition to the tumor, they took out 10-12 lymph nodes. That’s why I needed the drain, which stays with me for 5-7 days. I won’t have any further information on the stage of the cancer or if it has spread or not until my follow-up appointment in a couple of weeks.

I’m very sore and quite tired, but it’s only day 2 and I’m happy to be home. Thanks again for all your good wishes.


Monday, March 9, 2009


Hello All,

Beth had her surgery today and all went well. Beth’s spirits are good.

As a precaution they put in a drain and as such they have admitted Beth to ensure it is working properly and show her how to look after it. We expect she will get out of the hospital tomorrow morning.

Carter, Zach and I will go visit her this evening. I will try and send another update later tonight.



Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mexico was great!

Had a great time in Ixtapa (Las Brisas) - the Canadian Road Builders Conference, sponsored by Manitoba Heavy Construction. Guess what field my husband's in... the conference was so well run, great activities, awesome surroundings, excellent food... I had a really good time, rested up, got my work out of my system, and prepared for surgery (scheduled for the day after we got back). Quick stop in Toronto on the way back to visit Calem, Eric and Liam (and their parents), and then back to reality.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Telling my friends

How do you tell your friends? I'm 43, I eat healthy, I run, I don't smoke (other than a couple of years in my early 20's), I drink red wine ;), I live in Winnipeg (come on, there is no pollution in the prairies!!). I have a successful career and a great boss. This might have been the hardest thing - blurting out to people that 'I have breast cancer' - no one expects to hear it, you catch them totally off guard.

My lake friends - the ones we party with - snowmobile, ATV, fishing, boating...

My Nancy that I run with...

My sister...

My Vancouver friends Jan and Denise (and yes, Duane too) ...

My dad, my brother, my sister-in-law, my mother-in-law...

My high school friends (yes, a group of us still get together, its only been 26 yrs since we graduated) were getting together Friday night so I blurted it out in the planning e-mail. Shocked them, but at least we could get together and have a drink Friday night...

My work friends - another tough one - I'm in a local office of 50 people, some of whom I've known for the whole 20+ years I've worked there. Plus lots of close friends in our Vancouver and California offices...

Okay, I'm feeling blessed for having all these friends to tell...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Telling the boys

How to tell the boys (Zach is 14, Carter is 11)... The day after I got the diagnosis, Zach was going away snowboarding for 3 days. We decided to wait until he got back to tell them. Saturday afternoon - we are sitting around chatting, so I say 'I need to tell you guys something'. Zach immediately said 'I don't think I want to hear this' and tried to walk away. I told him to sit down and then I told them. Carter asked lots of questions, Zach got up and walked away half way through my answers. I had to let them deal with it in their own ways, that would be okay. We hadn't told any of our friends and family yet, we wanted to tell the boys first.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Doctor called today - 2 days before my appointment - "Can you come in today to see me". So I called Brad at work and he came to pick me up... By now we had no idea what to expect. If you google 'lump in armpit' you find worse things than Breast Cancer, so when she said those words, it was like - well not good news, but not the worst it could be. She drew us a picture and explained it all (who knew there was breast tissue in your underarm - apparently its the 'tail' of your breast). Anyway, next step is surgery - normally there is a decision here of lumpectomy (take out the tumour) vs mastectomy (lose the whole thing) - but in my case since it was so far to the side the lumpectomy was the logical choice. First available surgery was March 2 - we had planned to be in Mexico then... what to do... Quick decision - Mexico won -we will do the trip and then surgery March 9th.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Still waiting...

Went for the ultrasound (again) on Feb. 4th. The doctor said 'did they tell you that depending what we see, we may do a biopsy'? I'm thinking they better do a biopsy after all this waiting!!

Sure enough, he didn't like whatever he saw on the ultrasound, so he did the core needle biopsy, took 4 samples (yes there was local freezing), and back to waiting. Follow up with the doctor was scheduled for a week later. No hints...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Still worrying...

Had the mammogram Jan 6th - they couldn't see anything on the mammogram since its so far to the side. Booked me to come back for an ultrasound and possible biopsy 2 weeks later...

Brad and I went for the ultrasound... sat and waited for a few minutes... the power went out. Sat and waited 3 more hours and were finally told that the power was out in the whole block and they had no idea when it would come back. Phone back tomorrow to re-book.

Phoned back the next day and got an appointment for 2 weeks later... still waiting and worrying...