Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Good News, Bad News

After meeting with my oncologist a few weeks ago to discuss my CT scan, I thought I was "in the clear".  I guess it is common for most people to have random cysts, spots, etc... on various internal organs.  When I met with my oncologist, we did discuss a few areas that appear to be cysts that will need to be watched for any change in futures CT scans.  There was also a pesky little "area of debris" in my bladder that my oncologist referred me to a urologist to have reviewed further.

On April 1st (ironic, I know), I met with a urologist and was informed that the area that showed up on my bladder in the CT scan was a polyp and most likely cancerous.  It was a "good news, bad news" scenario.  Bad news is I most likely have bladder cancer, good news is that is appears to be early stage and it will be nothing like breast cancer as far as treatment goes.  This information was shocking and scary. 

Kent just about fell over when I told him.  I had gone to the appointment alone, not thinking this would be any big deal. 

The past few weeks have been filled with anticipation and prayers.  I had surgery on Monday, April 14th. Kent and my friend, Steph, went with me to Woodwinds Hospital for the day surgery.  Surgery went great and we have been waiting for the biopsy results to confirm that the polyp was cancerous and if so, determine what level.

My urologist called last evening with only good news!  The polyp was cancerous as he expected but was a low grade, non-invasive surface polyp.  This means removing the polyp (which he did in surgery on Monday) is also treatment.  I will not need any additional surgery, chemo, etc...  I will just need to be seen every 3 months for the next year to make sure my bladder is clear of polyps.

From what I have been told, my breast cancer and bladder cancer are not related.  I may have had this bladder polyp before I was diagnosed with breast cancer.   I am going forward with additional genetic testing ( I tested negative for the breast cancer gene) to try to help determine why I have had these cancers.

Thank you for the millionth time to my fabulous family, friends and neighbors for your love and support. Now we all know how to spell "polyp" :)!

Love you all!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Good News!

I just met with my oncologist today to review a  CT scan and bone scan I had earlier this week ( I was having some back pain) and everything looks good!  I also had my first mammogram since my diagnosis about three weeks ago and the results are also normal.  

I finished up radiation at the end of November, 2013 and I am still receiving an infusion "chemo"(Herceptin) every three weeks through the end of May, 2014. 

This has been a LONG year and I am so looking forward to being finished with treatments.  I am now at a point where I can compare where I was last year at this same time and feel so grateful to be sitting here typing that I am almost finished with treatments. Whew!

Happy Spring!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

So far, so good!

I started radiation on Monday of this week and aside from being a little anxious to get started, it has gone well so far.  I will have 30-33 treatments, Monday-Friday (should be done by Thanksgiving).  Each treatment literally takes about 2 minutes. I have been told the last few weeks of treatment may bring skin irritation and fatigue. I will take either of those a million times over versus another round of chemo!

I also completed a reincision surgery at the beginning of September to remove a small area from my right breast (same as first surgery-lumpectomy) that had unclear margins.  Great news is the area removed during the second surgery came back clear (no cancer cells) so chemo seems to have been worthwhile!

I am so grateful to have started the last portion of my treatment.  It has been a long road, close to 10 months from diagnosis to end of radiation treatment.  With the love and support of Kent, family and so many great friends, I will soon be able to look back at this as a very valuable life experience.

My hair is growing back slowly, I will be ready for a haircut and color by the end of next week (keep in mind my hair is only about 1/2-1 inch long and very dark). I feel better every day, I can gage how well I feel by how many projects around the house I start (and try to finish!).

Looking forward to a wonderful holiday season and ready for 2014!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Finished With Chemo!

I finished up 12 weekly treatments of chemo last week, finally!  I felt decent for the most part but the last few weeks started to wear me down.  I am feeling better today and hopefully that will just continue as time moves forward.

I just met with my surgeon who performed my lumpectomy this spring and I am scheduled for another small surgery the first week of September.  There was a small area of DCIS (cancer cells) found in the biopsy outside of the tumor margins from my spring surgery.  My surgeon still wants to remove this area even though it is most likely "gone" from chemo treatments.  In her experience, they still want the area removed and will biopsy it to determine if it is still active DCIS.   Makes sense to me so we are going ahead with the surgery.

A few weeks after surgery I will begin 6 weeks of Monday-Friday daily radiation.  My understanding is that radiation is fairly simple with little to no side effects.

Throughout this I will continue with a form of chemotherapy called Herceptin.  I have been receiving this for the past 12 weeks along with my other chemotherapy and will continue to receive the Herceptin every 3 weeks for 9 additional months. This type of chemo has little to no side effects, I hope this is the true!

In a nutshell, I am done with the tough chemo.  My hair is growing back slowly and I should start to feel more like myself over the next few weeks.

This has been a long summer and we are so thankful to friends and family who have been so helpful with our kids.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

2nd Phase of Chemo

Last Wednesday I started my second phase of chemo.  This is scheduled weekly for the next 12 weeks.  Side effects are supposed to be less intense, no nausea (yay!) and less bone/joint pain. The main side effect of this particular chemo is numbness of fingers and toes which is "cumulative"  and I probably will not feel this effect for a few weeks.

The first session last Wednesday went well, I have felt pretty good.  I have noticed stronger bone and joint pain but I will take that over constant nausea!  My hemoglobin is still fairly low and it will take a few months to rebuild therefore I am still feeling a little tired (I have been told this will last throughout the summer).

If I understand my treatment plan correctly, I will have another small surgery towards the end of August followed by a couple of weeks of radiation. After this, I am not sure when I will be checked again to make sure my treatment plan was successful.  I think it will be about three months after radiation but don't hold me to this exact plan, my brain is a little fried :)!

The kids are out of school at the end of this week and we look forward to spending time at the cabin. Bring on the warm weather, please!

Happy Summer!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

One More To Go!

I finished up my 3rd out of 4 "yucky" chemo treatments last Wednesday.  I have been describing how I feel in percentages, yesterday I was about 85% and today I think I am about 90% back to normal.

The 3rd session set in fast, "Chemo with Kristi" was not near as fun this time. Just ask my friend, Steph.  Lucky for both of us the session went fast and I was also able to receive a healing touch session from a wonderful lady at Woodwinds Hospital.  It is really an amazing experience,  I "see" colors during the session (not all people do, consider it somewhat like a meditative state) and this time I saw mostly red and orange (in a previous session I saw mostly blue/green).  Of course I googled it when I got home and the color red is linked to the "root chakra" which is physically correlated with anemia (low hemoglobin).  I did not know this during my healing touch session but did find out before my chemo treatment that my hemoglobin is low (about a 9 - normal is about 12-14 for women).  Pretty amazing how mind and body work together!

Low hemoglobin (red cell blood count) is normal during chemo and actually shows the chemo is effective.  I did not know what low hemoglobin meant but basically my body is running on about 1/5th less blood. I am not necessarily anemic but have been told to slow down a little and amp up the iron in my diet.

My hair did end up falling out about 2 weeks ago (even though I was determined to be the exception but since was told it is another good sign that chemo is working) and I shaved my head.  I told Lauren she could watch if she wanted to and I said "this may be the funniest or most traumatic experience of your childhood!".  She lost interest after about 5 minutes, apparently I was taking too long with the clippers!  It was quite liberating, not at all a sad experience.  Get ready to see a bald head this summer, although I really like my  wig (my sister said it is "freaky", that is looks like someone scalped me and made it into a wig:)) the idea of wearing it all summer is just not going to happen.

My genetic test results came back last week and I am negative for the breast cancer genes. Yay!! This is great news for my kids, sisters and rest of my family.

Spring sports have arrived (this includes hockey in our family!).  Lindy finished up her volleyball season two weekends ago in Duluth, she and I  made the trip and were lucky enough to have 68 degree weather although we spent an entire Saturday inside a gym.  She was voted "best blocker" and "most improved player" from her coaches. Kent and I are so proud of our little baby girl! She is now in lacrosse and played/won her first game of the season last night where she proceeded to get a yellow card (like a hockey penalty) playing defense. Another proud parent moment!

Kent spent last weekend in Duluth with Kyle for his first official hockey tournament.  Kyle was thrilled to have the spotlight on him instead of his sisters! He finally started baseball last night, this weather has put their schedule behind a few weeks.

Lauren continues with hockey, she has had three tournament weekends in a row.  Thankfully it has been easy to spend the weekend in a rink when the weather is not great.  Lauren also plays lacrosse, our daily schedules are a little crazy but it keeps everyone happy and busy.

I am so thrilled to hear the many positive stories from friends, family and even strangers about courageous women who have fought breast cancer and won.  Each story makes me feel even more positive that this soon will be a memory for me.

I have my 4th chemo next Wednesday (May 15th).  I then move on to 12 weekly treatments of a different type of chemo that is supposed to be easier (no nausea), I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Enjoy this fabulous weather!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Soap Commercial and 2nd Round of Chemo

On Wednesday, April 17th, I completed my second round of chemo.  My best friend/college roommate, Steph, came with me and we had quite a few laughs throughout the day. Steph had put the date in her calendar as "Chemo with Kristi" and for some reason we both got a big kick out of that actual term and used it often throughout the day.  The day went well...lots of giggles. 

On Thursday, April 18th, one of my college friends, Sarah, sent out an email to all of our college girlfriends (about 15 fabulous ladies) with a link to a commercial from Dove (the soap company) that has been popular this week online demonstrating how women view themselves. Here is a link to the commercial:

(you may have to cut/paste link)

This is where I needed to grab a BOX of tissues! My friend, Steph, who went to chemo with me on Wednesday, responded to Sarah's email with this:

Yesterday I was privileged enough to go to what has now been dubbed “Chemo with Kristi” and here is what I saw:

The bravest, strongest, proudest, most beautiful woman in the world to me.
She has short spiky blonde hair with darker roots, dark in the back, it’s shiny and smooth and is currently still attached to head regardless of how many times she tries to see if its still there. 
Her face is thin, with a prominent chin, on top of long thin neck.
Her eyes are bright, they smile and twinkle when she laughs, which is pretty constant.
She cozied right into that recliner, with her trash magazines, and her shoulder exposed for the port delivering medicine that will make her well.
She has a way of making everyone around her comfortable and wanting to be with her – the nurses and aids kept coming to chat and we learned more about the receptionist and her life in Key West  in 5 minutes that you can even imagine. My  cheeks still hurt from laughing.
She is brave, strong and proud. She rocks.
Simply beautiful.
It was my best day in long time – thank you Kristi. 

Need I explain why I have been friends with her for 25 years? :) This is the most beautifully written item that I have ever read, thank you Steph. 

It is my understanding that the chemo effects are "cumulative" and I guess I have found this to be true. The nausea and joint pain set in a few days earlier this round but I feel like I have medications figured out to help control both so all is well. I am taking one day at a time without any huge expectations! 

I forgot to mention that I met with a genetic counselor a few weeks ago to determine if I carry the "breast cancer gene".  Based on my family history, the possibility is very low (about 5%) that I do carry the gene.  I should have the results in about a week or two.

Once again, this week has been FILLED with love and support from family, friends and neighbors. Thank you for everything!!!