Monday, October 11, 2010

Two Year Oncology Visit

More good news. My oncology visit was short and sweet. The blood work was perfect and coupled with my good mammogram last Friday, it doesn't get better than this. I'm to continue with the Tamoxifen. Next appointment is in six months.

Stepping Out for Breast Cancer Luncheon

Yesterday, I attended a beautiful luncheon sponsored by the "Stepping Out for Breast Cancer" organization. This all volunteer organization was created 13 years ago (I hope I have the right time frame) to provide services and improve the lives of women with breast cancer in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. All of their funding goes to services - most unusual in these times.

Thanks to Lynn Kay, my college roommate and very dear friend, who works selflessly for this organization and many others for inviting me to attend. The room was filled with pink - flowers, balloons, chocolate lollipops, pink cupcakes, and pink sherbert. There were wonderful vendors who graciously donated a portion of profits for the cause, but more importantly, the room was filled with women of all ages who believe in finding a cure.

Dr. Rachel Brem from George Washington University Hospital was the guest speaker and caught everyone up to date with the latest radiation technologies used to diagnose breast cancer earlier and more accurately.

A wonderful afternoon for a wonderful cause!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Race for the Cure 2010

On Friday, I had my 2nd survivor year mammogram and all was good! This was the first time in years I only needed one set of films and now I don't have to go back for another year. So sweet! Prior to the exam, I made a promise to myself that if all was well, I'd participate in the Race for the Cure. Oh...way before, I had signed up and had received my dark pink t-shirt with the words Survivor on it, but could not get the nerve to go. But now I had no excuse. All was going well. I had a lot to be grateful for and it was time to show it!

My dear friend, Sharon, kept encouraging me to go with her. She had participated for the past 3 years, and found it to be an inspiring event. So at 5:45 AM yesterday, we headed off to the local Lowe's to catch a shuttle bus to the event. It was dark and cold, but so exciting! There were tents everywhere. Women dressed in pink as survivors and white as supporters.
At 6:40 AM, all the survivors walked together in between 2 pink ribbons toward a large grandstand, where we were each given a beautiful pink rose. All of us had the number of years of survival in pink ribbons on our hats, and together many of us cried as we stood together and looked out at all the people who offered their love and support to all of us who had heard the devestating diagnosis and endured the many different treatment paths. I cried for my mother and others, who was not fortunate enough to be alive now when all these wonderful diagnostic tools and treatments were available. I also cried in happiness that someone like Nancy Brinker had the motivation, knowledge, and connections to make breast cancer survival a priority and has not faltered a day in making it a reality through the Susan B. Komen foundation.
Thousands and thousands of supports and survivors ran or walked together (see picture). At the end, I was encouraged to walk on the left side of the road and instead of pink ribbons, there were rows of people slapping my hands in celebration. It was a beautiful moment and beautiful day.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Almost at the 2 Year Mark

It's hard to believe it's been almost 2 years since my breast cancer diagnosis. Except for the hot flashes from the Tamoxifen and a tinier breast, I really don't think about it much.

However, in early October, I'll have my next mammogram, and I'll be praying that everything will be fine. Before that, I'll have a pelvic sonogram to make sure that the Tamoxifen isn't causing any problems with my uterus, another side effect of the drug.

I'll try not to worry before then, and just go from day to day grateful for what I have and all I have to look forward to.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Changes are Forever

I'm still feeling like I'm in a good place in my life. My health has been stable for a few months. I really like my new job - the commute is much less stressful; the work is interesting; and the people are lovely.

In two months, I am looking forward to attending my oldest daughter's MBA graduation in Chicago. I'll meet up with a fellow breast cancer survivor, who happens to be the aunt of my daughter's boyfriend, and whom I've gotten to know during this past year, as I supported her through her journey with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. We'll both hug and feel grateful we can share in a joyous family occasion together - celebrating the spirit of living with the breast cancer diagnosis behind us.

In the beginning, I thought about the cancer every hour of every day. Survivors told me it would get better. It was hard to imagine at the time. I sought the solace of support groups and read anything I could get my hands on regarding my diagnosis, treatment, physical and psychological outcomes. I was consumed, and the knowledge eased my angst.

Slowly, as the seasons changed, the focus turned toward living and not just surviving. Sure, there are days when I think of what it was like, but more days I think of what will be - the future, retirement, grandchildren...all those things I've always dreamed about.

So, if you are reading this and just starting your journey, be assured that time does bring forth joy in the morning, and that what you are going through now will hopefully be a distant memory as the months roll by. And if you find you need a little extra support, email me at Pay it forward...the dividends are priceless.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Today's Oncology Visit

All is well. The blood work was perfect. The only thing the oncologist mentioned was that because my December surgery for the breast duct excision showed that the tissue was atypical, usually a precursor to cancer, but not a surprise since they already found cancer in the breast, that the breast will need to be watched closely - every 6 month visits with her and yearly mammograms. She feels strongly that the Tamoxifen will prevent a further recurrence and that the five years will cover a lifetime, based on research. I'm lucky since I tolerate Tamoxifen well. So I feel quite blessed today and grateful for good medical care.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Another Checkup in the Morning

It's hard to believe that it's time for another checkup with the oncologist tomorrow. Last week, I had bloodwork done, and tomorrow, everything else gets evaluated. I feel confident that all is well, but I can't help worrying that the bloodwork will show that my liver is being affected by the Tamoxifen. In addition, my skin on my radiated boob continues to either rash or itch. I'll be glad when the visit is over.

In the meantime, my new job is going well. Shorter commute and less responsibility = less stress, and that's a good thing for sure.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On to a New Job

I really enjoyed the 2 weeks off between jobs. I made sure to catch up with old friends and pace myself enough to get the rest the time off was intended for. It's amazing how fast vacations are and how slow workdays are...big smile.

This week I started my new job, which is with an employer I worked for 4-1/2 years ago. The tasks are similar to my last job, just 1/10 of the responsibility. Breast cancer has a way of making you re-evaluate what is important in life, and it certainly isn't working yourself to death!

STRESS must be reduced. STRESS must be on the bottom of your list of priorities. Therefore, you have to make it happen. I'm pleased with myself and my decision. I hope I'm right.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Today is My Last Day at Work!

No, it's not forever, but the breast cancer diagnosis did cause me to reflect on living the best life for the best prognosis over time. One of the items on this bucket list is to reduce all sources of stress. I loved what I did at work. I was creating something that would benefit thousands of people. It was successfully deployed, but the stress of getting there was akin to being in labor for unrelenting hours. There is no way it can't affect you over time.

Call it karma, but a similar job was offered to me with the pieces of my job I liked the most, and considerably less responsibility. I grabbed it. For now, I'll enjoy my last day at work. Then I'm taking a couple of weeks off to decompress, before I start the new position. During that time, I'll play with friends I haven't had the opportunity to see for a long time. I'll make up for some of that time lost to stress, and I'll embrace life again.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Finally Healed!

I'm happy to say that the nipple wound is now healed, and hopefully this will be the end of the breast issues. It's a new year, and I'm hoping a healthier one!

On another note, we have just experienced an epic snowstorm - 23" in our backyard. Taking a look at its untouched beauty in the sunlight makes you appreciate how lucky you are to be alive!

Friday, January 29, 2010


It's a funny thing about dogs. They sniff out healthcare problems. They are dogtors for sure. Two days ago, my dogs started sniffing my breast, trying to get under my clothes. They became agitated when they went near me, and would not leave me alone.

If you remember, I have had drainage from my left nipple almost ever since the surgery. It didn't seem to change, but my sixth sense and my dogs response to me, prompted me to call the surgeon's office. I went this morning, and she told me I had a small infection, most likely from the sutures they used. She ordered an ultrasound, which if it had shown a pocket called a seroma of fluid, she would drain it to help the healing. However, the ultrasound only showed small undrainable pockets of fluid. I am now on an antibiotic for a week, neosporin to the wound, and nursing pads to catch it all.

I go back next week for a follow-up. Until then...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Don't Count Your Chickens Before They're Hatched

Unfortunately, the wound is still draining. In fact, it's hard to call a wound because you can't see it. However, there is still drainage...enough to stain my bra and get me aggravated. So I asked my brother the pathologist if he had any ideas why this is going on for seven weeks now, and he tells me that the breast is mostly fatty tissue and doesn't heal as quickly as other sites. It's not odd that it's taking so long. As long as there is no symptoms of infection, I'm good to go. Either way, if this continues another week, I'm calling back the surgeon.

Still goopy in Maryland

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bleeding Has Stopped ... Keeping Fingers Crossed

It looks like the bleeding is stopping. My breast does not twinge and it's not feeling full, like it was prior to when I was seeping fluid from it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this is the last of it. And keeping things in perspective, one of my cancer bulletin board buddies just noted a recurrence, so I'm very very fortunate.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sparking a Memory

The bleeding from my left breast is now occuring ever 3-4 days. It has sparked a memory when at age 26, I had a biopsy on my left breast which resulted in a hematoma that was painful and had to be drained every week for 8 weeks. This is really similar to that, except there is still a small opening by my nipple and excess fluid can drain out on its own = no pain and faster healing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Another Small Drama

Good thing the surgeon told me of some possible issues that may come up once the healing process begins. Yesterday, my family and I were out to lunch (in the literal way...big smile), and I felt wet on my sweater, but wasn't quite sure what it was. When I got into the car, I quickly looked underneath, but did not see anything.

When I got home, I took off my sweater and 1/2 my turtleneck shirt was decorated with blood and the left cup of my bra was totally soaked in it. Luckily, I remembered the surgeon telling me that it could be possible that you will see a pool of blood one day without any warning. This is because the body will not allow any empty space and when tissue is removed, the body fills it with its natural fluids during the healing process. The blood burst I got was a result of the body tissue filling in and the pool of fluid being forced out of its space. All good news ultimately...but imagine if I did not have warning on this...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I'm Starting to "Look" Normal Again

For a while, my breast was looking like a Picasso print. Finally, the steri-strips peeled off, the incision site along the side of my nipple and areola look normal again. I can actually look at my mini-me breast and it looks like a part of my body again.

Not sure if I've addressed this yet, but my cancer breast is now quite a bit smaller than my other breast. It really bothered me when I realized how much tissue had been removed from the cancer breast resulting in its new size, but then again, I was grateful to have a breast at all.

With a bra on, it appears normal. Couple that with my usual fashion style of twin set sweaters, the size difference can definitely be hidden; at least, from my perception.