My Breast Cancer Story…

My Breast Cancer Story…

NOW AVAILABLE: “Beyond Cancer’s Scars: Laying Claim to a Stronger Spirit” (click here for details)

 

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 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 approx. 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 chemo; rounds 1-4 {chemo drugs Adriamycin & Cytoxan}; rounds 5-8 {chemo drug Taxol}
February 28, 2011 / Oophorectomy {ovary removal}
April 7, 2011 / follow-up MUGA scan
April 18, 2011 /hormonal “chemo” therapy begins with drug Arimidex to continue for five years.

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. 

Below are some stand-alone posts {ones that are particularly meaningful to me}:

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. If you are a cancer patient and would like to contact me personally regarding your treatment, don’t hesitate to use the e-mail link on my side-bar or included within my contact tab. Also, be on the look-out for my second book, Beyond Cancer’s Scars: Laying Claim to a Stronger Spirit, due for a summer 2012 release. Lastly, 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,
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19 Responses to My Breast Cancer Story…

  1. KelliGirl says:

    Elaine,
    You are so amazing! You were amazing before cancer, but now you've taken the portion you've been given and used it to go deeper both in faith and reach of your message. I'm sure you're heading in directions you never intended going in, but God has opened doors for you to bless so many women who really, really need you.

    I am so happy to see you getting on the other side of this. I'm praying for you…for total and complete healing, for the abundance of God's blessings and for an anointing of your calling.

    Love and prayers,
    Kelli

  2. Cheryl Barker says:

    What an amazing resource, Elaine. I'm going to bookmark this page and be ready to share it when the need arises. Continued healing to you, my friend!

  3. Mich says:

    this is great. thank you for always using your experience to help others.

  4. Joyful says:

    Wow, Elaine! This is so thorough and detailed. A wealth of information and extensive resource at our fingertips. It would have been such an exhausting effort to compile this together, yet I'm sure, a labour of love. I never would have dreamed, as I'm sure you didn't either, that I would be bookmarking this page and adding it to my favorites.

    As I read through this post, I felt like a stranger in a foreign land. I enter this "cancer" world with memories of a young girl who grew up witnessing the disease attack my grandmother. I was frightened of it then, and I can't say much has changed. It frightened me so much, I mostly avoided those who innocently ended up in it's grip. I just
    never imagined it would be me. Now avoidance is impossible.

    I will be returning to this page often. Today I find it too much. Overwhelming. Must focus on current healing first to be ready for what is to come.

    Thank you for doing this Elaine…not just this page link…but for bring such an example to me of a woman of excellence who lives her talk and trusts the Lord with every moment of every day.

    Love ya friend. Joining hands with you in a new way and thankful the Lord has given me such a precious companion for the journey.

    Hugs, love and prayers,
    Joy

  5. Sassy Granny ... says:

    What a gift! This is a one-stop resource that I know will benefit many. I plan to keep it at the ready for any that I encounter battling cancer.

    The word that comes to mind as I read your post is "redemption". You've lived out your battle with such amazing transparency, and already I see how the Lord is redeeming every scintilla. You comfort, even as you are comforted.

    Love,
    Kathleen

  6. Judith says:

    So well done, Faith Elaine. Wonderful tool. Wonderful child of our wonderful Father…

  7. Sonja says:

    This is valuable information! It goes right into my files.

    All of this needs to be part of that book on this journey you've been in. There is no substitute for hearing from one who has already been there, and there is so much practical everyday advice here.

    Another thing I LOVE about you… you are so down to earth and real, yet your foundation in the Lord is so secure. What a precious combination! :)

    xo

  8. Smelling Coffee says:

    Elanie~ I read this on my phone and had to hop on here to comment. As I read the dates back to back, in a list, I'm again very sorry that you've had to walk this road. And at the same time, I am praising God for walking with you adn for giving you peace for your journey – and that He is using you to encourage and help others on their journeys.

    You are beautiful.

    Much love~
    Jennifer

  9. sister sheri says:

    This is a beautiful post. Truly wonderful and thoughtful and encouraging and amazing. You have given a gift. You are a gift. What a testimony!

  10. Anonymous says:

    wifeforthejourney:

    I realize that this may not be quite what your readers have come to expect when they come to visit your blog, but I applaud the time you have taken here for those that have discovered that they, or someone they love, has cancer. The news of cancer is a chilling revelation to anyone with a grip on reality – but once the initial shock wears off you have to have a plan that includes SURVIVAL.

    With survival encompassing both the spiritual and natural (though I don't really think the two can be separated) this is a great piece of writing. I am so proud of you, for all you have endured, and still you are willing to give of yourself. Though you are by no means "done" with cancer, I celebrate each day with you as they come. You are the best!

    Love,
    Billy

  11. Kelly L says:

    What a journey you have gone through.. It must be scary at times. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in Jan/Feb – opted with a double mastectomy – follow up negative lymph nodes etc. The day before my mom had her surgery I had my routine – had a call back and now I am to see a genetics counselor, a breast surgeon, and oncologist.. Dr. recommended yearly MRI and mammogram with ultrasound.. due to extremely high family risk.. Trying to figure out my next move. So glad I read your post today.
    Kelly
    I've Become My Mother
    I've Become My Mother facebook

  12. A multi-dimensional life says:

    Elaine, you are such a blessing…you'll never know this side of heaven how many lives you've touched! Bless you abundantly for your loving heart and your desire to serve! I am going to pass along your link and also copy some of this valuable info as I have two other friends going through treatment at this very moment and another who recently fininshed treatment. I pray continually for them as I did for you and still do (for continued and complete healing/cancer free).

    Your documentation along the way has not only helped others in the same position, but also ministered to all who read your gifted words!

    Thank you so very much! Love and Hugs to you!

  13. Leah @ Point Ministries says:

    Elaine,

    What a power packed post!!! I am very late getting to it, but I know that I will have opportunity to refer women to it in the future.

    You are looking good my friend.

  14. Cathy says:

    Hi Elaine…
    My suggestion would be for you to repost this post at the very bottom of your blog, or to make it a permanent side post. That way anyone new can read your journey with the dates posted on the side.

  15. Denise says:

    Jesus shines brightly through you, love you bunches.

  16. Karen says:

    You are amazing! I agree with the bookmarking for future reference…your honest words are such a blessing…

    This one was great…"Practice saying "yes" in the mirror often, especially if you are prone to carrying a heavy load. "….

  17. A multi-dimensional life says:

    Hi Elaine!
    I wanted you to know that I have passed your link to this post along to some friends who are now going through breast cancer treatment. I know they will find it extremely helpful and I hope they will re-visit your blog for encouragement as well. Also…I thought you might like the link to one of my very best friends web-site in Austin. She opened a salon for cancer patients just after completing her own treatment last year. She is amazing. She provides counseling; massage; wigs; scarves; lotions and many other products and most of the proceeds go toward finding a cure…anyway, there might be some additional resources within her web-site for those who don't live near her salon. If you click on the staff, you can scroll down to see Samantha and her mom Elly. She is amazing…as are you! Thinking of you and mentioning your name to our Lord daily! xo Here is her link…

    http://www.topthisaustin.com/index.html

  18. Sheryl says:

    Thanks so much for this post. I'm going to pass a lot of your information to my sister-in-law who has been diagnosed with Stage 2c Ovarian Cancer. She will begin chemo soon.

    Sheryl

  19. Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook
    group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Many thanks

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