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!!!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Play Like A Champion

This week following my first chemo treatment has had more ups than downs.   I felt great up until Saturday when the constant feeling of nausea set in and decided to stay. I equate the feeling to somewhere between morning sickness (which thankfully I never really had) and a never-ending hangover!

I have been able to manage the nausea fairly well with various medications.  The last few days have allowed me to feel decent from morning up until early afternoon.  I told Kent a few days ago that "I actually feel like myself" for a few hours each day.  Today has been the best day yet so hopefully this continues throughout the weekend.

I have my second round of chemo next Wednesday, April 17th, followed by another white blood cell count booster shot on Thursday.  I think I have intentionally ignored putting the actual dates of my chemo appointments on my calendar because I think I have felt like this nausea is never going to end.  Then I saw this on Kyle's bedroom wall:

Ok, ignore the misspelled words.  Clearly it is tough for an 8-year old to concentrate on spelling when changing marker colors from red to black!  A few weeks ago, Kyle and his friend taped out a knee hockey "rink" in his room with masking tape along with creating many signs, photos of NHL players, tournament schedule, etc... they did a great job.  Yes, he is also a Notre Dame fan.

This sign made me think that my chemo treatments are similar to sports (I think we all know the kids inherited their skill/love of sports from Kent which is why this realization is new to me!).  I just need to "play like a champion", go in to each day with intent and strength and I will win. The "season" of chemo will have an end.

On that note, I still managed to torture Kent on Monday by going wig shopping followed by a "quick" trip to Costco. Of course he did not complain, the wig shopping was fairly painless and productive.  Costco may have been a different story:).

Thanks again to everyone for your support, I feel like a broken record but I am AMAZED at the kindness and love we receive every day.  

Enjoy the snow!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

First Round of Chemo Checked Off My List

Just finished my first round of chemotherapy at Woodwinds Hospital today, it went very well!  I was prescribed a few different nausea medications and so far they are working.  I may be a little optimistic, it has only been a few hours :).

I return to Woodwinds tomorrow for a medication that boosts my white blood cell count, the side effects can be "flu-like"  and can take a day or so to kick in but only last a few days.  The side effects from the chemo can vary greatly,  days 7-10  (from today) will be low points (fatigue) due to diminished white blood cell count.  Day 14 will bring on hair loss.   I will definitely be shopping for a wig next week!

Hopefully I will continue to feel well, I do not want to miss any volleyball or hockey games this weekend!

Thank you everyone for your positive thoughts and energy as well as the upcoming million carpool rides for our kids to/from sports. This is a HUGE help!!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Official Diagnosis & Treatment Plan

I will try to keep this condensed but as most of you know, I am the queen of long voice mails, texts and emails!

During my annual exam in January of 2013, my doctor noticed a "fibroid-like" lump in my right breast. I proceeded to have a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy a few weeks later with my pathology results diagnosing ductal infiltrating ductal carcinoma (grade 2-tumor size approx. 1.3 cm) along with DCIS  (basically cancerous cells in breast tissue).  I have also tested "triple positive" which means the cancer is driven by estrogen, progesterone and Her2 (protein).

These terms meant very little to me then but my "dumb-it-down" interpretation is basically that I have breast cancer that was found on the "early side" based on tumor size and is "middle-of-the-road" aggressive.  

After meeting with two surgeons with wonderful reputations (thank you family and friends for your research!!), I have since had a lumpectomy performed (March 8, 2013) by Dr. Diane Ogren.  She is amazing and since first hearing her name, I have heard many times over confirmation from past patients, etc... that Kent and I made a great decision.

The surgery went very well, better than I anticipated from a recovery standpoint.  The results of the pathology report are as follows:

Removal of 4 lymph nodes, 1 which was cancerous  (Dr. Ogren and radiologist had determined one looked "suspicious" before surgery) and the removal of a 1.7 cm tumor- grade II invasive ductal carcinoma.  

The only "surprise" from surgery is an area of DCIS (cancerous cells) that are separate from the tumor area that was removed.  This will be surgically removed later this year after I have completed a series of treatments. 

Today,  Kent and I met with my oncologist at Woodwinds Hospital, Dr. Nambudiri.   Treatment has been determined to be 12 weeks of chemotherapy followed by two different types of medications (Herceptin every 3 weeks for approx. a year) and Tamoxofen (daily medication for 5-10 years).

Chemotherapy starts next Wednesday, April 3rd, and will consist of a 3-hour session every 2 weeks for 2 months (4 sessions total) followed by Taxol for about 4 weeks.  I will then have surgery again sometime after this followed by radiation.  We had a lot of information to interpret today so I may be a little bit off on some of the timing.  Chemo has been described as resulting in hair loss and fatigue.  I will be on preventative medication to help reduce nausea.

I am very relieved to finally have my treatment plan (although it has only been a month or so since diagnosis it feels like FOREVER!)  and start date put on the calendar.  

My plan is to update this blog weekly with my progress.   I cannot put into writing how much Kent and I appreciate the love and encouragement from so many people.  We are so lucky to have each and every one of you in our lives.