Tag Archive | breast cancer

A Smoking Gun?

It’s been a year since I began playing detective in my own health answers! This week brought some news that may be the smoking gun in my year long pain in my right side. When I approached my oncologist several weeks ago to explain that I was feeling unusually fatigued, he ordered up blood work. That was when my B-12 came back very low and he started me on oral Rx strength supplements.

One month later, I felt no better so he re-tested me and although the numbers were rising (which is a good sign), they still were not near where they needed to be so he ordered up another test (which I turned up positive for) of a very rare condition called Anti Periental Antibody causing Megaloblastic Anemia. This means that my stomach lining is not able to absorb B-12 and my liver could be using up the stores it has, hence the liver pain. He is referring me back to gastrenterology. As I am beginning to read more on the net about these disorders, I am learning that they can be a side effect of having received chemotherapy. He believes that it may be treatable using an antibiotic that stays in the stomach and kills off the bacteria that are destroying  my body’s ability to produce mechanisms for absorbing nutrients.  He wants me to discuss this with the G.I. doc. Funny thing is that this all began when I was referred to G.I. for the esophageal strictures I had last year. The G.I. doctor never considered this condition, possibly because it is only found in 2% of the general population.  Needless to say, I think we are on to something!  Here’s to keeping my fingers crossed that this might lead me to the relief I’ve been waiting for!

We are going to the Maryland beach this week with all 4 kids, renting a condo, and spending some much needed rest together! Tim’s condition has not improved but he has faxed all of his records to a specialist at UVA Medical Center who he has been authorized to receive a 2nd opinion from.  While a high percentage exists that Parsonage Turner Syndrome is the correct diagnosis, his right hand pain and numbness, loss of dexterity and certain other signs point to a possible spinal cause. This doctor is a neuro-spine surgeon.  In either case, we pray that he can find some relief soon and even a few days laying on a beach will be a nice break from daily physical therapy and office work.

“Til next time!

Dog Tired

Maybe it’s just the dog days of summer, or 100* temps in July, but my fatigue continues and causes me to feel like taking a nap every day after just being awake a few hours. This is after a full 8-9 solid hours of sleep at night. More likely, it is my B-12 deficiency, a form of anemia. It is a “tired” unlike even chasing the 4 kids under age 5 that I had under foot may years ago! I can only describe it as a close 2nd to the fatigue I had during chemo….like the blood has been drained from my body. Yeah, like that. Where’s that pillow? I have closed my business for the next couple of weeks while I try catching up on outstanding orders and work on things around the house that have gotten behind.

My oncologist called last week to say that although my B-12 numbers are climbing in the right direction, they are not what they should be (at only about half the normal level) and he wants me to be re-tested in 5 weeks. I am continuing the daily Rx strength B-12 supplements. I’m hoping we can get to full levels in that time and start to feel more energetic again. August has me scheduled for a pelvic ultrasound, a mammogram and a dermatology follow up. Are we having fun yet?

Last weekend we went up to New York City to take Keith and Kelli to  Broadway show, starring our long time family friend and 2011 Tony Award winner, Norbert Butz, in Catch Me If You Can. (Click on the photo, then the little arrows to the right and scroll through the rest of the photos.) What a thrill! We surprised the kids by arranging to meet Norb backstage after the show.  He was so gracious to take the time to talk to Kelli about her musical interests, and she was star struck, also meeting the other lead, Aaron Tviet when she asked him to take our picture (not realizing it was HIM!)

Monday morning found us back at Walter Reed meeting with the rehab doctors for Tim’s condition. He continues to battle through the paralysis (left side) and numbness, nerve pain and limited mobility on right side.  He will be seeking a 2nd opinion from a renown spinal nerve doctor at University of Virginia in the coming weeks.

Fortunately we have the boys home from college for another couple of weeks to do things around the yard and house. After August 23rd we will officially be empty nesters!  We plan to try squeezing in a family beach trip in a couple of weeks and enjoy some rest on the sands in Maryland’s shores. “Til then! ~ Koryn

Central Park, NYC

Now That Explains A Lot!

I paid a visit to the oncologist this week. I have been extremely fatigued and have continued having pain on my right rib cage side. The fatigue is what cancer survivors term ‘chemo fatigue’, which is a type of “tired” that I only ever felt while going through chemo a couple of years ago. It comes in waves, but hits hard and makes me feel like I must lay down and SLEEP right away. Just a total lack of energy by 10:30 a.m. and this after a full 9 hours of good sleep at night! The doctor ordered two tests. One, a blood test to check for anemia, and another, a PET scan to check and make sure cancer hasn’t spread anywhere. The blood work came back very evident that I have a B-12 deficiency. He prescribed mega doses of B-12 and told me that if I didn’t feel better in a couple of weeks we would start B-12 shots and see why my body isn’t absorbing B-12 through my diet. So this explains a lot!  Now I wait for the PET scan which is scheduled for 2 weeks from now.   I had a clear one of those in November, so I am not expecting them to find anything earth shattering.  Still, it will be nice to get another all clear from cancer!
I also had a pelvic/uterine ultrasound this week and am still waiting for those results. Something lit up on my MRI in February that was non-descript. The gyn. wanted me to wait a couple menstrual cycles before looking again via U.S. When I had the exam I told the tech about it and she said, “No ‘it’s’ still there. I see it”. Of course, she can’t tell me what it might be or what she thinks, so the radiologist is looking at the views and I hope to hear this week. I will admit I’m a bit curious. It is in the myometrium, the inner walls of the uterine muscle, not the lining. Any thoughts from anyone here who may have had this? I’ll just say symptoms in this “female” regard are “annoying”…no pain though. (The only reason we found this was in the hunt for what may be causing the pain on my right side, of which this isn’t even in the same vicinity!)

This has been a very eventful week in our family. Kelli, our youngest graduated Summa Cum Laude from high school, so now we are officially “Empty Nesters” once she leaves for college in 2 months.  We’ve also had a lot of visits with Tim to doctors and E.R.’s for his
3-week-long  shoulder/neck problems, which MRI finally revealed to be a herniated disc and subsequent pinched nerve and mobility problems with his left arm.  He is due to see a spinal surgeon this week at Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland.  Father’s Day is next weekend, but currently, golf, tennis and kayaking (3 of his favorite activities) are out of the question!  I will keep you posted as to what happens next on Tim’s medical front. Please pray for Tim.

Another disappointment

Blood tests came back today. I did not test positive for the antigen necessary for me to participate in the San Antonio clinical trial breast cancer vaccine. I really had my hopes up  – why else would I have been led down this path? That remains to be seen now. If anything I guess it goes to show that as patients it is really up to us to know what is out there in the way of cutting edge research and available trials. The doctors certainly aren’t focused on doing that across the board. I just really am at a very down place right now in all of this. 
I am scheduled for a breast mri next Friday and then my oncologist would like to investigate further into why I am not getting relief from the pain in my side and wants to determine what that is.  He emphasised again today that he does not want to give up on that.  Personally, I am tested OUT, and scanned to the point of “glowing”. I’m not sure what more there could be but he has some ideas.  I told him I want to get past next week’s mri first.
After getting today’s news, I got in my car and turned on the radio and here is the song that was on. Thanks God.

The War On Terror

I’ve been trying to put into words where my mind is now, 2 1/2 years after a breast cancer diagnosis. You would think that by now I would have “moved on” or returned to life as it once was, “normal”. So why hasn’t that happened? I am often asked in my counseling work, how long it takes for life to feel normal again and I must say, I personally have not found that “place”.  Sometimes you hear it referred to as “the NEW normal”, but that is kind of misleading because it doesn’t feel like it should feel and “normal” feels out of reach, somehow. Last week I laid in bed, ready to fall asleep but I wasn’t asleep yet. There in the dark of night,  my mind wandered. I have no idea what brought on the thought, but there I was, in the operating room the morning of my breast surgery and it felt every bit as real as it did on that day.  I had just been through a very painful, torturous node biopsy injection of dye, where I laid fully awake, with no anesthetic (that was the protocol at the time, believe it or not – not so anymore), and now here I was in the O.R. prep room having a nurse attempt for the third time to start an IV on me, yet blowing my veins out at every try.  I was shaking in pain and fear. I could not believe that within just minutes I was going to be rolled into surgery where I was forever to be maimed.  How could they not even get this simple step right? I remember the look that my husband gave them, “Enough you people. Can’t you see she has been put through hell already?”  and  within seconds they gave me an injection of a sedative. That was when tears began rolling down my cheeks to my pillow. I knew in that moment that I am experiencing post traumatic stress. I re-live the  events of two years ago and they are clear as day in my memories.  Why can’t I just say to myself that the cancer is gone and I can go back to my old life? Because no doctor will tell me that I am cancer free and no doctor will say that I have been cured.  I can only liken it to what  soldier must go through when he returns from war. His family is so happy he emerged alive and safe, but in his “world”, the world of war, terror reigns and fear is a familiar voice in the back of his mind whispering “watch out – I’m gonna get you!”  It’s as if I’ve returned from my war, the war on cancer, with the enemy in my back pocket –  just waiting for his chance to come back and attack. When you’ve been attacked once, you never let it go. You never forget.  Ever on guard, always the strategist,  aware on a daily basis of every possible change in your body, every ache, pain,  – it changes you. Survivors told me this when I was first told that I had breast cancer, but I had no idea what that meant – it will change you. You’ll hear soldiers return from the Middle East and say the same thing. It changes you. How can it not?  And those who have never been through an attack, can’t seem to understand, and with that the survivor feels a distance from even those whom she loves.  No wonder military soldiers ask to be returned to their brothers in arms. Coming home is difficult.  Re-joining society after an experience like this feels empty and foreign.  Only other survivors seem to feel your pain and loss. When I was growing up, my father always answered our front door with his gun in his back pocket. It wasn’t as if we lived in a bad neighborhood. We didn’t. We were the upper middle class Americana, where kids played hide and seek until late at night in their yards, and we had annual Christmas potluck parties with all the neighbors. But our home had been broken into once by a burgler when we were away from home, and ever since that experience my dad has never let his guard down. Even now. Even forty years later he is aware that the enemy’s attack is just one broken window away from becoming … a bad reality. Isn’t that what terror is after all? The fear of a very bad reality.

Really?

Today I saw a gynocologist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She had been in practice over 30 years. She was sort of that cold, hardened, brash type, well, you can picture her. (I do not mean any disrespect at all to our fine women serving in the US military.) But, with 30 years under her belt, I figured I was in good hands.

She, without even doing an exam wanted to tell me I should have my ovaries shut down (this due more in part, I suspect to my breast cancer history being positive for hormone stimulation), and I explained that my oncologist and I have discussed that and that was not the reason for my visit today.

I explained the pain I have been having since August and that it is on my side (rib area) and near my navel, and that my oncologist was able to find it precisely when palpating near the navel, and that
it is intermittent, but persistent, daily, and spontaeneous. She did an exam and told me she believed that I may have adhesions of the uterus but that the chances of them causing problems now 16 years after my last c-section was pretty slim, and that if that is the cause of this pain they would have to take the whole uterus and ovary anyway. Wait, but didn’t she just say she didn’t think that was the cause of this pain? I think she just wants my ovary! Maybe she keeps them in a jar on her shelf or something. Strange! Oh yeah, and then she proceeded to tell me to stop all coffee and diet cokes for a month and that may be the cause of this. Huh? Then she said that the pain on my side might be “gas”. I said, “For 4 and a half MONTHS?” Really?

Never once did she palpate the area of my pain. Only the area of the uterus and ovary, which doesn’t hurt at all. My oncologist had suggested an abdominal AND pelvic mri but this gynocologist only put in for the pelvic stating that gyn is her specialty. So I now have a message in to my oncologist to ask him if he might spare me a trip and put in for the abdominal mri along with the pelvic mri which is scheudled for the 12th of January.

Round and round and round we go – where this stops, nobody knows!

A Change Of Pace

I am in Missouri this week, babysitting my 2 year old nephew and 5 year old niece. Ten days of stepping back YEARS in my own life of 6 a.m.wakeup calls and bed time giggles and story time.

The joys of childhood’s innocence! There is nothing quite like that wide eyed wonder of falling leaves, spider webs, starry skies and making pancakes!
Today we spent the day at a working farm with barn animals, a place we use to take our own kids 15 years ago when we lived here. A dry, sunny Indian Summer day, and perfect for our picnic too!

I captured lots of great photo shots (even showed my niece how to get a great pose! She took this photo of me) – and we enjoyed a visit with grandpa and grandma in the afternoon.
Even though this is an exhausting pace,it is a wonderful change of pace, and one that I am thoroughly enjoying! Read more below…
Although I am on a bit of a working “vacation”, I am ALWAYS in the fight against breast cancer, and reading, researching, and collecting all of the information that I can.The month of October has no shortage of resources! Click on this link or directly on the video at the bottom of this page to listen to what Dr. Susan Love has to say about where we need to go now in our fight, and how the pink ribbon awareness campaigns of 25 years have worn out their welcome….what we need now is to END breast cancer.

Can I quit cancer?

I was asked tonight (by a woman I met), “So are you cancer free now?”  I’m sure a lot of people wonder that about those of us who have had cancer and the straight up answer is, I hope so!

“No evidence of disease, or NED, is the new ‘remission”.  But there is no cure for cancer and a certain percentage of cancers will recur, and nobody really knows if it will happen to them. Statistics get thrown around, charts and studies would conclude that the odds are in my favor of remaining NED, but there are no guarantees as we would all hope for. Such a guarantee  is just out of reach.  If it were, then I could stop thinking about it on a daily basis and we could all just leave Cancerland behind us.

I woke up the other day and thought to myself, what if I just didn’t talk about breast cancer anymore. What if I stopped going to support groups, stopped visit the oncologist, stopped hanging out with fellow survivors for coffee and lunch dates, WHAT IF I JUST QUIT CANCER?  Maybe THAT is what would get me to move further along up the road. I’ve learned of plenty of people who did just that. They never spoke of it again, and they went on in their lives and stopped identifying themselves as survivors. But then later in the week I was working the volunteer hotline and took a phone call from a woman who has stage 4 breast cancer which has spread to her bones.  She really needed someone. I found it hard to relate to a lot of what she is going through, but then we found the common bond of our faith, and it was there that I realized my BEING here in Cancer is for women like her. Women who need a ray of hope.   A hand of compassion.  There is a sisterhood here that few can understand. I know that when I was in my darkest hour I needed the survivors whom I met and became my friends. I needed the help of those who had gone before me and came out the other side, happy and healthy. I needed them like others need me now and so I guess I won’t be “quiting” cancer anytime soon.

All of these…

The words that form this ribbon <——- are all words that describe the journey I began 18 months ago and the journey I am still on. Top on the list? Top of the ribbon- fear. Every day it tries to sneak in and consume my thoughts and steal my joy. Once again this week I treked up to see my doctor for pain in my sternum, that bone between the two sides of your chest.  A new pain.  She seems to believe it could be caused by the constant spasms in the chest muscle that covers my implant. Constant pulling and tugging, the cartilage between the sternum and rib cage becomes inflamed and is called costochondritis.  The only treatment is pain management using anti-inflammatory drugs until the inflammation subsides. But for a breast cancer patient any pain signals that deep seated fear that the cancer could have returned.  She scheduled my next mammogram for 3 weeks from now and we’ll go from there. She really believed if it were anything to “worry” about, it would have shown up on these recent scans and x-rays and mri I had. The appointment for my numbness in my back is this coming Monday with an orthopedic doctor.

We have out of town guests this week and Kelli in her school musical so the busy-ness is helping to keep me distracted. My business with wedding season and Mothers’ Day has also exploded, so I guess I don’t have time to worry too much.  I have begun my counseling work  Network Of Strength which helps keep my mind off my own cares and focus on someone else’s new diagnosis and getting them through an emotionally difficult time.

The Storm

I love this song.  I have heard it many times over the course of my storm called cancer and am well aware that sometimes God doesn’t take away the storms in my life.  But I have felt Him calm me within.  I am at that place now.  A calm place.  Sure, the dangers that lurk in this sea of my life hover beneath me all the time, but I have felt carried through this years’ storms and I know that come what may, He will carry me through those too. Please visit Reduce Your Risk pages to learn more about breast cancer risks.

Surgery Scheduled

My husband and I met with the surgeon on Monday. I am scheduled for surgery next week, September 25 for removal of the mass, which is the size of a large olive.  This procedure is an excisional biopsy since they are not totally sure the make up of this tumor.  In fact the diagnosis officially listed on my pathology report says “FA? vs. cancer”, meaning questionable fibroadenoma vs. cancer. That’s not terribly comforting, yet statistically the numbers are in my favor that it is benign.  I hold onto that but still have nervous stomach aches and sleepless nights.  I finally told my youngest son (17) and he was visably upset with the news but I reassured him that this is probably nothing.  Another waiting game ahead…