Reading This Might Give You Cancer

Seriously, it sounds like EVERYTHING gives you cancer.  I’ve been reading about cancer prevention because of course I don’t want to have to go through this again, right?  But I’d have to be the Bubble Boy to avoid everything you’re supposed to avoid.

Red #40 – my favorite.  If I walk down the candy aisle at the store, what calls to me?  Red licorice, Hot Tamales, and Cherry Sour Balls.  Yep – cancer magnets.

I downloaded an app to check on beauty products’ ratings.  My CoverGirl Tru Blend foundation got a 0 on a 10-scale.  Yikes. So I got new makeup…

But the computer screen I’m currently staring into, the microwave I just used to heat up my dinner, the workout I missed last week, my electric blanket, and bacon, yes bacon, causes cancer.  Actually, I think just living on the planet Earth causes cancer!

It’s easy to get overwhelmed at the myriad things in our environment that cause cancer, and truly, there’s no way to avoid them all!  But, thanks in large part to my daughter’s shaming, we’ve been making healthy changes for quite a while now.  We store leftovers and drink alkaline water out of glass containers instead of plastic; buy natural, organic and non-GMO for the most part; avoid chemicals whenever possible (which literally means switching ALL of our cleaning and personal/beauty products), and even trying to avoid EMFs now…

I realize these are first world problems, and I’m thankful to even have the option of doing chemo and being able to afford expensive natural, organic products (why do they cost so much more?). Here are some of my newest finds:

new finds
Some of my new healthy alternatives – CocoWhip is a fantastic topping for the chocolate pudding – great dessert. Simply Gum is my new fave, Ultima as an alternative to Gatorade/Poweraid, and YumEarth suckers are super tart and yummy.

 

Had my third chemo last Friday, and my dad went with me.  Everything went well, and it was actually my best weekend yet – very few flu symptoms, and I got to celebrate Mother’s Day Saturday AND Sunday!

Brunch on Saturday with the Ladd family, church with Stace on Sunday, then my family came over for a barbecue on Sunday, including my brother Dave and his g/f Monica! It was all such a blessing to still be able to do all that since I’d prepared myself for the possibility I’d be in bed all weekend.

I seem to be losing more hair than normal, but you can’t really tell, and so far no barfing!

Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers!!

P.S. In preparation for more hair loss, I got a new ‘do – above.

Chemo Patients in Cars Getting Coffee

If you’re on Facebook, you probably saw that I got in an accident the day before my first chemo treatment – ugh.  A dork ran a red light and I t-boned him on my way to my pre-chemo oncology appointment. Crap!!

accident

The car was still driveable, so I was able to make it to the appointment and work, but then had to figure out ONE MORE THING!  The car went into the shop, and I subsequently got two offers from friends to borrow their cars.  The first day, I got to drive the Mini below:

mini
and the next day, I was driving this Porsche Carrera:

porsche

Friends are great (thanks Mark & Carol)!  And Tina says she will never again be okay with renting a Chevy Aveo, Hyundai Accent, or anything that goes weeeeeeee instead of vroom as you step on the gas, when we travel.

My second chemo session was Friday.  Stace took me this time, and we watched Game of Thrones and two Vice episodes.  The time flew by – love my son!  Except I sent him to the snack frig for pudding and he came back with a box of Boost and some tropical jello – whaaaat?

stace
If I’m going to lose my hair, they say it will start around the third or fourth week, so I’m thinking of getting my hair cut super short just in case.  Still debating…

I was a little nauseous today, but still no puking, so that’s good. My pee stinks, I’m getting blotches on my face and I think I may have had my first hot flash last night – woo hoo – good times!

On a more positive note, I’m thinking I’ll sign up for a yoga class, I bought some earrings to cheer me up, and I pinned some new ideas to my “Gift Ideas” board on Pinterest if anyone wants to get me a present (just kidding, they’re ideas for Mother’s Day).

Two down…ten to go.

First Chemo Day

Well, Friday was my first chemo day.  Here’s how it went:

Arrived at 8:45am and got hooked up – through a vein in the side of my forearm, so weird.  First, a little saline, then some Pepcid, then Benadryl – all to counteract possible reactions. Finally, Taxol, to kill those m/f-ing cancer cells!  I get a double-dose today, slowly at first to make sure I don’t have a reaction (which I don’t), then full-on.  Though I don’t have any adverse reaction to the chemo, the Benadryl has given me the wiggles to the moon and back.  I cannot stay still.  I take laps around the chemo lab with my drip, I go to the bathroom at least 12 times.  I cross and uncross my legs nonstop.  I’m sure everyone there thought I was coming off heroin cold turkey. Nothing hurts; it’s not painful; I just wish they had a treadmill there!

When the Taxol is done, then they start the Herceptin – a double dose again. Time is dragging.  They said to allow 4 hours, but it’s going on 5…ugh. We have snacks – almonds, fruit, animal crackers, yogurt raisins…that helps. It’s finally done, and we go home, still antsy.  I take a half of an Ativan to calm down and then take a nap.

The weekend has been okay – mild flu-like symptoms – achiness, headache, chills, etc. but thankfully nothing too serious. I missed a BBQ, but made it to church. No hair fell out and no puking…living one moment at a time.

One down, eleven to go.

God is at the Ocean

Oh, I know, God is everywhere, but the time I feel him the most is when I’m at the ocean. The beach is my big, messy prayer closet.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in a coastal town, but the ocean is probably where most of my deepest emotions were felt.  I had some of my best times at the beach; I cried over losses at the beach; I contemplated important decisions at the beach; heck, I even got pregnant at the beach!

So now, visiting the ocean is an absolute must every few weeks – it’s like a breath of air when I feel suffocated by life, or a drink of water at my thirstiest.  And, without a doubt, it’s where I feel God’s presence at its strongest.  God’s character seems embedded in the power, the depth, the provision, and beauty.

This visit, as I waded into the water and felt the familiar chill on my toes and ankles, I asked God why cancer had to happen to me, but didn’t get an answer…yet.  I asked God to let the chemo kill all the cancer so it doesn’t come back. And I asked God if I could live long enough to be a great-grandmother (or Grand-Tutu, as I’ll probably prefer to be called), and I guess we’ll see.  Though I don’t always get clear, unambiguous answers, just being at the ocean tells me God loves me and cares so deeply for me.  And most of the time, that’s what I need to know.

The ocean covers over half the world, and really, it doesn’t seem that necessary for survival.  We need fresh springs and rivers for drinking, watering crops, and as a bonus, fish. But truly, why did God create the ocean except for our enjoyment?  The magnificence of the crashing waves, the wonder of enormous whales, the joy of snorkeling and surfing, the relaxing sounds of the surf – all of it simply for our pleasure.

Yes, I know, there are many more purposes for the ocean if you get all scientific about it, but when I visit the ocean, it feels like God made it just for me. And I’m simply in awe.

This weekend’s trip gave me my deepest breaths and sweetest tears since this fight with cancer began, for which I’m so thankful.

Thank You #2

I continue to be awed by the outpouring of love from everyone – from dozens of cards all over the house, to containers full of food in the refrigerator, to the plants that still survive!

-Tina (I can’t mention this enough) for taking such good care of me, even when I’m a bad patient. Thanks for making me all my favorite foods and keeping my body & spirit safe.
-Carol Davydova, Mama Ladd, & Robin Taylor for the delicious homemade food
-Carley Castellanos, Billie Kaye Tygart, Lezlie Duncan & Butch & Corky Morrow for the delicious “take-out” from all my favorite places
-Hallie & Lillie for getting me out for cocktails
-Natalie for all the delicious coffee drinks and the Friday morning walks
-Carrie and the rest of my cancer survivor group – Traci, Tina M, Lynley – for all your helpful advice and encouragement
-Mom, Dad, and Stace for attending the wonderfully entertaining “chemo class” with Tina and me
-My Kitchen Table group and The Table UMC for your support & care – see you tonight!
-My Goodwill family for the constant check-ins at work, and for a full paycheck even with my surgery time off and only working part-time for several days – what a blessing
-All the hugs, prayers, cards, email and messages that are still coming my way – I’m simply overwhelmed by the goodness that is out there!

plant

Chemo 101

I am a researcher.  I will dig and explore and study as much as I can about something I don’t understand in order to learn what I can. When I knew the choices for chemo, I spent hours on the internet researching what they were, how they worked, and what the side effects are, fully expecting the oncologist to ask me which I wanted to choose.

Needless to say, I was overwhelmed. Some studies seemed to show better results with Taxol/Herceptin, and others with TCH.  The side effects were clearly less egregious with T/H, but how could I make a choice based on that, when the goal was to kill the cancer?  I couldn’t be a wuss about it; this is life or death! And I’d still look pretty cute bald, right?

I had no idea which was better, suffice it to say, so I just prayed that God would help me make the decision.  No, better yet, God, can you help Dr. Hui to make the decision? Just let her tell me which one I have to do and I’ll do it.  That would be so much easier, and would prevent me from second-guessing myself for years to come!

But that wasn’t going to happen – she told me she’d call me in a few days to discuss the options and find out which I wanted to do.  Sigh.

Then…I got an email from her with the results from 2 clinical studies showing Taxol/Herceptin with a 99% success rate for stage 1 breast cancer.  She has talked to her peer in the oncology department and in a regional breast cancer focus group she belongs to, and they agree – Taxol/Herceptin is the best choice for me.  She’ll have the scheduler call to set it up.

Such a huge relief – thank you God!

I will start my 12-week treatment (once/week) on April 22 (I tried coming up with a funny tie-in to earth day, but just couldn’t, sorry), and I attend my chemo class tomorrow.  Where the pace of this journey had seemed to drop to a stand-still while I deliberated my poison of choice, now it’s rolling again at lightning speed.  But that’s good.

This is a season.  A dadburn, consarn it, racka-frackin’ dirty, son-of-a-battle strommy season, but a season, nonetheless.

F@%k Cancer!

Sorry for my language, but this is a journal, and that’s how I feel right now.

On Monday, we got word that my lymph node tested during surgery was negative, which (we thought) meant no chemo or radiation. But we met with the oncologist on Wednesday, who is recommending chemotherapy because I tested positive for HER2 (explained below for those who don’t speak Breast Cancer).  It was like a sucker punch KO to us – completely unexpected and devastating.

About 1 of 5 breast cancers have too much of a growth-promoting protein called HER2 (yep, I’m just that lucky).  Cancers that are HER2-positive tend to grow and spread more aggressively than other breast cancers. My original test came back equivocal, but the second test they ran came back positive.

I was officially diagnosed with stage 1 cancer, my tumor being 1.5 cm with no lymph node cancer cells present, normally not requiring radiation or chemo.  But because of my HER2+ status, chemo is indicated.

The oncologist explained the case for chemo this way: The mastectomy and negative lymph node results lowered my chances of getting cancer again by 80%, the remaining 20% being the possibility of rogue cancer cells having escaped and are currently traversing my body.  The presence of estrogen and HER2 both encourage these cells’ growth and proliferation, so Estrogen and HER2 blockers will bring the risk down to about 12%, and chemotherapy will further reduce it down to about 5%.  It’s inexact, obviously, but those are the estimates.

Dr. Hui, my oncologist, gave us a choice of 2 different chemo regimens, one (Taxol/Herceptin) more tolerable but less effective for aggressive cancers, and the other (TCH) the full chemo package with all side effects included.  Tough choice! Being my naturally curious self, I have asked her a bunch of questions about both, so we are awaiting her answers as she researches my particular case in relation to recent clinical trials and in conference with the other oncologists in her office.

Probably not the last sucker punch we’re in for…I had no idea how much emotional weight was carried in my bra!

Here we go…