Cancer Story

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As many of you know, I’ve been chronicling my journey through breast cancer since my diagnosis in August 2010. For a long time now, I’ve wanted to organize these posts into a format that might make it easier for first-time visitors to catch a glimpse of where I’ve been and where I’m headed. Several of you are referring friends and family members who are struggling with cancer to my website. I am grateful for the privilege of coming alongside all of you to share a bit of my story. In response to the “trust” I’ve been given, I’ve taken some time to arrange my previous posts to make it easier for you to navigate in-and-out of my story.

Readers who are familiar with my style of writing understand that my posts are less about cancer-related information and more about the working out of my thoughts/feelings. With that in mind, in addition to the managing of previously written posts, I’ve decided to include some further detailed information about my cancer with this post. When I was first diagnosed, it was important for me to find others who were experiencing a similar type of scenario; knowing that I was not alone buoyed me along in my journey of survival.

Accordingly, I begin with a time-line of major events that have occurred thus far:
  • August 3, 2010 / routine mammogram
  • August 12, 2010 / follow-up ultrasound
  • August 17, 2010 / biopsy of right breast
  • August 23, 2010 / diagnosis {invasive ductal carcinoma / right breast; ER-PR-positive, HER2-negative}
  • August 30, 2010 / MRI {personal decision made to have both breasts removed}
  • September 1, 2010 / bi-lateral mastectomy with three lymph nodes removed {sentinel nodes tested negative for cancer during the surgery}
  • September 16, 2010 / initial visit with medical oncologist {cancer staged at IIB / tumor approximately 3 cm in size}
  • September 21, 2010 / genetic testing {BRAC I & II} at Chapel Hill; results were negative
  • September 22, 2010 / PET-CT scans
  • September 24, 2010 / MUGA scan {heart scan prior to start of chemo}
  • October 1, 2010 / port placement surgery
  • October 5, 2010 – January 12, 2011 / eight rounds of chemotherapy; rounds 1-4 {chemo drugs Adriamycin & Cytoxan}; rounds 5-8 {Taxol}
  • February 28, 2011 / Oophorectomy {ovary removal}
  • April 7, 2011 / follow-up MUGA scan
  • April 18, 2011 / hormonal “chemo” therapy begins with drug Armidex to continue for five years.
  • November 18, 2011 / bone scan {clean}
  • June 11, 2013 / bone scan {clean}
  • September 27, 2013 / port removal
  • July 13, 2015 / bone scan {clean}
Secondly, I want to direct you to a few resources that might be useful to you as a cancer patient and/or care-giver of someone facing breast cancer:
  • For those facing chemotherapy, The Chemotherapy Survival Guide {Readable, practical, and everything you need to know about chemotherapy; my husband read it as well. I suggest it for all care-givers.}
  • To sign-up for a free subscription to,Cure {a magazine dedication to cancer updates, research, and education; one of the few magazines I read cover-to-cover}
  • For hats, turbans, scarves, wig supplies, TLC website

Suggested supplies to keep on hand {thank you,Darlene, for giving me this initial list; I’ve added a few of my own}:

  • Thera-Tears Liquid Gel {saline for dry eyes; I used this one a lot during chemo};
  • Ayr Saline Solution {nasal gel for runny/stuffy nose};
  • Toothpaste and non-alcohol mouthwash such as Tom’s of Maine or Biotene;
  • Olive oil/Vitamin E oil {not mineral oil} for fingernails and toenails;
  • Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer {can’t say enough about this one!};
  • Straws, plastic spoons, and forks should you develop a metal taste in your mouth {I kept a set in my purse/car} for eating out;
  • Chemo-therapy shampoo to treat hair prior to fall-out, throughout chemo, and beyond {I use Brian Joseph’s Formula One Shampoo};
  • LMX cream {to numb port area prior to chemo needle going in; I globbed this on my port about one hour prior to treatment and covered with a 3M Tegaderm band-aid / available at most pharmacies};
  • Colace & Miralax for constipation;
  • Claritin {I received the Neulasta shot the day after my chemotherapy treatment; one of the unfortunate side-effects of the shot is increased leg pain. Taking a Claritin the day of the shot and a few days following seemed to help decrease the pain; please check with your physician before taking any extra medications!};
  • Water, fruit juices, tea {Fluid intake is CRITICAL for flushing out the chemotherapy toxins; even when you don’t feel like drinking, drink anyway! Trust me on this one.};
  • Mixture {1tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt, 1 qt. hot water} as needed for mouth sores and sore throat;
  • Epsom salts added to a hot bath for muscle soreness;
Other tips to keep in mind:
  • Your cancer situation is unique; not all cancer patients follow your prescribed course of treatment; not everyone will react the same way to various procedures. Therefore, keep an open mind when asking for advice from others; you’ll find the worst and best case scenarios at every turn, especially on the Internet.
  • Give yourself permission to rest as you can. Cancer treatments are exhausting; I found that days 4-6 post-chemotherapy were my worst ones.
  • Keeping a small notebook/journal handy helped me to chronicle my physical condition so that when the next cycle of treatment rolled around, I was able to somewhat “predict” (a loose, fluid science) what was coming.
  • Keep track of questions you have for your doctor(s) so that when you get to your appointment, you can articulate your thoughts with clarity.
  • Feel free to say “no” to a lot of extra-curricular activities; feel free to offer no explanations for your “no”!
  • Feel free to say “yes” to all offers of meals, babysitting, massages, cleaning, etc.! Practice saying “yes” in the mirror often, especially if you are prone to carrying a heavy load. Cancer is enough of a burden. Allow others to give to you; this is your “receiving” season.
  • If you have a primary care-giver living with you, set aside a time each day {Billy and I used my “tucking in” time as ours} to communicate with him/her about your most pressing needs. When the kids are screaming, the phone is ringing, and life is buzzing with activity, well, this is probably not the best time for clear communication.
  • Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor. Don’t think you can do without them or wait until you’re feeling sick to take them. Keep a schedule, get a pill box, or hire my husband to keep you on track. Honestly, most days I don’t know what I’m taking; I’m so glad to have him as my nurse.
  • Almost immediately after being diagnosed, I purchased a large 3-ring binder with ample dividers to keep track of all my paperwork {bills, EOB’s, bloodwork reports, lab results, helpful e-mails, plastic pages designed to hold business cards with important numbers, etc.}. I keep it on my desk and take it with me to important appointments.
  • When visiting a doctor, ask for a copy of all your test results, routine bloodwork included. As a cancer patient, I am responsible to educate myself regarding my condition; it can be all-consuming and confusing at times, so I’m relieved to have my “history” in print for future referencing.
  • Drink your fluids! Did I already mention this?
  • Let the answering machine get it.
  • Enough for now; I’ll add more as things come to mind.

Click on the following links to read some of my posts about cancer. Please note that when clicking on a link, there will be multiple posts. To read them chronologically, scroll down to the end of the page and read from the bottom-up.

 

My recent words of witness at Cape Fear Valley’s Annual Cancer Survivors’ Picnic:

I hope this is a help to someone; please feel free to pass along this information to anyone you know who might benefit from the reading. Also, if you are a cancer patient and would like to contact me personally regarding your treatment, don’t hesitate to use the e-mail by clicking here. Thank you, all, for the privilege of sharing my life with you. These are good days to walk the kingdom road in such royal company. As always…

Peace for the journey,