Tuesday, December 31, 2013

If only PET scan results came with an airbag!

I had my last PET/ CT scans of 2013 right after Christmas.  On Monday, December 30, Mark, my mom and I were headed to Dr Laudi's office to get the results.  My mom lives closer to the clinic than we do and got there minutes before us, so we asked her to check me in.  She was still standing in line when we arrived.  We were roomed by a snarky young woman who commented that I was late.  I asked if I had kept Dr. Laudi waiting.  She said no, but I had to be on time, even though Dr. Laudi wasn't.  I laughed.  Snarky always makes me laugh!

After 20 minutes had passed and still no Dr. Laudi, I said "See!  I wasn't late at all."

"You know why he's late, don't you?"  Mark said without looking up from his phone.  "He's looking at the PET results."

"Dragging his feet?" my mom ventured. "Celebrating?  Crying?"

Mark slipped into an Italian accent, "Oh, no, I have killed her!"

Bad taste?  I guess so.  Tempting fate?  Maybe.  But this is a long and winding road and we all were laughing when Dr. Laudi walked in with what appeared to be red eyes. 

"There appears to be progression." he said, signing into the computer and bringing up the scans from 3 months ago, 2 months ago and last week.  Three months ago, the only active area was L4.  Two months ago, L4 was slightly smaller with 2 small spots in my liver.  Last week, the liver spots were nearly gone, L4 was smaller, but there were 2 new spots under my left arm.  I remembered to show Dr. Laudi the rash I have been doctoring in my left antecubital that was thought to be a viral infection, but was spreading.  After some thought, Dr. Laudi wanted to biopsy the skin rash and the lymph nodes under my arm.  One or both could be cancer cells, even though the known cancer cells were being killed by the chemo, these cells could have mutated.  Dr. Laudi hoped if they had the cells were now HER-2 +, because there were some promising new treatments out there. It was possible that my skin rash and lymph nodes were part of an infectious process and not cancer at all.

Here we go...

Skin biopsy time

Emla- a cream that numbs the skin
Skin Rash
Doing the Punch Biopsy
 Dr. Laudi numbs up my skin and takes a small "punch" that looks like a small, pencil eraser-sized sharp cookie-cutter like thing and punches a hole into my skin, taking the skin cells with it and leaving a small hole.  He put 2 stitches into each spot.
The next day

Here I am modeling a Breast Center top 

Lymph node biopsy gear
 During a needle biopsy, an ultrasound technician finds the lymph nodes, then the doctor numbs the area and sticks in a guide needle.  To get the sample, he shoots in a large hypodermic needle and then removes the cells from inside the needle.  It only leaves a small puncture wound that needs a pressure dressing.

Biopsy cells

Please aim prayers right here. 
Thank you! 

More Stinky Pinky

These images speak for themselves,
but it's my blog
 and I will speak for them.
Stinky Pinky Grippy Gardening


Wite-Out Breast Cancer

Stinky Pinky Pens

Breast Cancer SUCKS!

Breast Cancer Hair Products

"Fighting Breast Cancer with Grease Fighting Power"

Breast Cancer Snacks

Breast Cancer Crafts

Breast Cancer Treats






Monday, December 2, 2013

Ding! Ding! End of Round One!

On November 25th, I got my second dose of chemo- completing Round One. 

My chemo is given over a 5 minute slow push.

That little syringe knocked me to the mat!  My blood counts dropped.  I got a fever, which is treated as life-threatening to someone with low counts, so Dr. Laudi sent me to Mercy Hospital ER for blood cultures and antibiotics. 

Blood Cultures

After a week to recover, Round Two started on December 9th.  When I went for the second dose on the 16th, my counts were too low, so I got a "Snow Day" and finished up some Christmas shopping with my mom.  Dr. Laudi ordered 6 days of Neupogen shots (I can't stand those things!  More about that later) 

On 12/20, my ANC was 1.7, so my chemo was a go on the 23rd.  Ding! Ding! End of Round Two!

My New Haircut and Sweet Amore!
After Christmas we will do another PET and CT scan.  Please pray that everything is getting smaller or is gone!  I hope the New Year brings peace and love and joy to all!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dooms Day: or Eribulin Dose 1

The Infusion center called over the weekend to say they are having trouble finding my chemo. We were called around noon today to inform me they had found it. Yay. Not.  All chemo wipes me out for a few days and I don't know what new side effects this one will hold.  I choose to have my chemo on Monday, so I can be ready for work on Saturday.

 I work every weekend, so Monday is my big cleaning day. I get the older girls up and off to school. Olivia helps me pick up the kitchen and start laundry. Cleaning done and laundry still washing. We make a grocery list including easy foods for Mark to cook.  At the store I pick up my post-chemo cuisine: 7up, ginger ale, crackers, vegetable broth, rice.  I stop by the by the pharmacy to pick up my pain meds and zofran. Grocery shopping done and put away.  Amore walked.  Lunch made and eaten.  Time to go.

Olivia stayed home with her Dad.  Amore and I drove to my parent's house.  Amore sang the whole way anticipating our destination!  She was so happy to see her sisters!  My mom was getting ready.  She worked the overnight shift the night before.  I asked my dad if he wanted to come along.  He said, "Yes."   Off we went.

I haven't been to the infusion center at Mercy Hospital for months, so it was like a reunion of sorts.  My favorite room in the corner was taken, so instead of waiting, I picked a room with a hospital bed.  My parents took turns sitting on the bed with me while my PIV was started and I got a half hour infusion on an antiemetic and an IV push antiemetic.  The chemo itself was pushed into the IV line over 3-5 minutes.  PIV out and done. 

My parents took me out for a veggieburger and onion rings, leaving Amore at their house.

When I got home Olivia asked me many times about her Amore.  I told her she is having a sleepover with her sisters.  She got my car keys and told me, "Go get my Amore.  I love her.  She's my friend."

Friday, November 15, 2013

Meeting of the Minds

This morning, we had one more meeting of the minds before starting the new chemo, Eribulin (FDA approved July 2013.  Given on a 21 day cycle- days 1,7-  so Monday Dose  #1, next Monday Dose #2, the next Monday off, then repeat.)  We started with labs, so we went to the clinic infusion center waiting room.  A man was sitting in the chair next to the candy bowl.  Olivia gave him the stink eye. I handed her the bowl and she filled her hands and pockets. She asked Mark for a cup and he started filling it with water.  She yells, "NO!" Grandma trys to get her to page through a book with pictures of baby hats she will knit for Ashley and John's baby. She is not having any distraction and she is still asking for a cup. I get her a cup, she thanks me, then starts unloading the candy from her pocket into the cup. My name is called. I am told to head to the sink to run warm water over my hands to warm them up. That water is HOT, but worth it, because it only took 3 needle sticks to fill 8 lab tubes.

We go back the waiting room. Olivia starts eating candy.  Grandma reminds her to put her garbage in the garbage  can. She run over to the old white push-pedal can. Pure joy crosses Olivia's face using the foot pedal.  She starts looking around for more trash to throw.

My name is called and we are ushered to a room where my weight and vitals are taken and my pain meds reviewed. There is a knock on the door, then Dr Laudi and Deb walk in.  Dr. Laudi greets Olivia, but she holds her cup up to her eyes, trying to hide behind it. We all laugh.

Dr Laudi says hello and teases me for bringing Mark. He ask about my pain, my bowels, my weight, my nausea, my appetite...

Pain: No
Bowels: Diarrhea
Weight: Same as last appt, but down 25 pounds from May and down 60 pounds in 2 years
Nausea: Yes
Appetite: I say good, but Mark and my Mom disagree.

Dr Laudi is a little concerned about the diarrhea and nausea. He lists other meds we could use for nausea, Marinol, Ativan, Haldol, a scopolamine patch?  I laugh at the Haldol. I like the Zofran and will stick with that.

The plan is to start chemo on Monday, November 18.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween and PET/CT scan results

Halloween Day.

Costumes planned.  Party planned.  And a ghostly monster, named Cancer, decides to rear its ugly head... again.

At my appointment this morning, Dr. Laudi said the MRI confirmed that my L4 tumor was bigger and I had 3 small, new tumors in my liver with the largest measuring 7mm and so close to a blood vessel that biopsy is not possible.  We discussed my treatment options.  Without a biopsy, we don't know how the cancer cells may have mutated.  Though my original cancer cells were Estrogen+  Progesterone+  Herceptin-, over time and after exposure to all the drugs and chemos I have had, these can change.  I still have a page-long list of chemo options, some of which can be caustic to skin and tissue if they infiltrate a peripheral IV, so we had long discussion of what to do next.  I feel resistant to getting a central line, like a portacath which is surgically implanted under the skin and threaded into a large blood vessel.  When it needs to be used, it is accessed with a needle and covered with a sterile dressing.  Blood can be drawn from it and fluids and chemo can be infused into it.   In the hospital, we see many kids coming in with these central lines infected.  My mom cautioned me that this is a skewed picture and encouraged me to check into the infection rates.  She said she respected my decision.

For now, I don't want a port.  Plan to start a new chemo on November 18.

I dropped off pictures at the Funeral Home for my Grandma's service next Tuesday.  I picked up last minute costume items and pizza for the party. 

We had a fun night together...

Halloween 2013
Spooky Decorations

Getting ready for Trick-or-Treaters.
Olivia loving a new baby.
Ashley and Amore.
Cancer is frightening, but so are we!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

PET/ CT scans and Stress Test

I woke up early this morning and went for my PET scan and a CT scan.  I had a couple hours until my stress test, so I stopped at my parent's house.  My sister, Ashley, had just flown in the night before for our Grandma Joyce's Funeral.  Ashley and her fiance, John, are expecting their first baby in March.  I was excited to see my sister and her growing baby! 

I was having shortness of breath this summer occasionally when I did yard work and Mark mentioned that to Dr. Laudi at my last visit, so he ordered a stress test. 

He asked, "Do you run?" 

I said, "Not unless I have to."

I had dug out my "running shoes."  I showed Ashley and our Mom what I think was old chicken poop- from our visit to Ashley's farm sanctuary in May- still stuck in the tread and grooves on the bottom of my shoes.  We giggled at the thought of me running for 10 minutes on a treadmill.  They offered to come along, so I could pretend to chase them.

Little did I know I would have to run for closer to 15 minutes... without a bra! 

Dr. Laudi called this evening to say the L4 tumor appeared brighter than it did on my last scan just 8 weeks ago.  There were also 3 small spots that weren't on the previous scan.  Was this cancer?  Maybe artifacts?  Dr. Laudi ordered labs to draw tumor markers and an MRI to check.  I had these done this evening.  Now, to wait. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

We will miss you, Grandma Joyce...

This past week has been very hard for our family.  Last Spring, my Grandma Joyce, my Dad's mother, had a hernia repair and her gallbladder out.  Then, she had a stroke and has been ill ever since. 
On Friday, October 25th, with all her family gathered around her, we said goodbye to my beautiful Grandma Joyce. I have so many wonderful memories of her.   She will be greatly missed. Please say a prayer for her twin sister, Joann.

Aunt Joann, Olivia, Sarah Joy, Grandma Joyce, Natalie and Larissa at Joyce's and Joann's 83rd Birthday on November 25, 2012!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Stinky Pinky

October is here. As everyone jumps on the Pink bandwagon, I just need to get something off my killer-boob chest...

Cancer is not a "normal" thing. While some types of cancer are more common in certain genders or at certain ages, cancer is still not a "normal" condition.  Breast cancer is not "normal."

I have Stage 4 Breast Cancer. I was diagnosed when I was 28 years old.  At that time, I was a wife and the mother of two young daughters. I am so fortunate to have my husband, my mom and my sister by my side, so fortunate to have wonderful friends and family.  To learn at 28 that breast cancer will most likely be my cause of death feels surreal and sad.  Sometimes, it feels so hopeless.

I cannot help but feel, by PINKing everything, we are being fed a message that cancer is normal.  Cancer is common. Cancer is OK.   I have learned NO PINK MONEY goes to Stage 4 Breast Cancer.  It seems, I am not worth trying to save.  Remember, there is no Stage 5.
I am here to tell you cancer is NOT normal.  Cancer turns lives upside down. When cancer strikes a young adult, that person is just starting to build a life.  There is little money in savings accounts or retirement accounts, little money in home equity. 

When cancer knocked me to my knees, I was about to go back to college full time and my husband had started a business just a year and a half before. We both worked and we had money to pay our bills.  We had two young daughters.  We had our own home and a new puppy. The first year with cancer was very hard.  We felt like we gave up a lot in terms of our future dreams.  We were forced to live in the moment, which is all any of us ever really have.  Yes, cancer is a brutally hard teacher.  Yet, in my darkest days there was a twinkle of light.  Even when I couldn't see it- it was there.  I cannot think of cancer today without feeling grateful, too.  Cancer has blessed me in many, many ways.  Cancer blessed me with OLIVIA JOY and she blesses me over and over and over again.

When I think of PINK, I think of sweet newborn babies wrapped in soft, pink, fluffy blankets.  I think of a popular singer- Pink. I think of a Victoria's Secret clothing line- Pink.  I think of pink bubble gum and pink cotton candy and glittery, pink nail polish and pink lipstick kisses... but I don't think of cancer.

I see all the PINK things out there and I can't help but feel cynical.  From my heart, I want to save ALL women from breast cancer!  All women with no exceptions.  At Stage 4, I am banished to a place outside the PINK-hoopla-party-zone.  From outside looking in, I wonder... What is the message?  All the pink- ribbon-wearing people, all these pink products and walks and social events may generate a lot of money.  Money to pay scientists and drug companies, but what about those of us in the trenches... holding on by a thread. What does it mean to support the "awareness" of something?  It means nothing, unless that awareness moves a person to act on it. 

I have Stage 4 Breast Cancer.  All the PINK in the world is not for me, not for the people fighting the fight of their lives, not for the people not expected to survive breast cancer. 

There is some serious stinky in the pinky!  So there!
Stinky Pinky
Stinky Pinky Breath

Stinky Pinky Gas Station Restroom

Stinky Pinky Walking Path
 Stinky Pinky Pens
Stinky Pinky Jumbo Lint Roller

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Michael Buble

The very same week as the Taylor Swift concert, we were given tickets to see Michael Buble. Thank you, Minnesota Wild and The Angel Foundation for great seats and a great show!

Great seats! 

Recycled hearts from Taylor's concert.

Monday, September 9, 2013

PET/CT scans

All three girls started school: Natalie 8th grade, Larissa 3rd grade, Olivia preschool.

My PET and CT scans showed no new growth, and the tumor is slightly smaller. The tumor is moving in the right direction and Dr. Laudi likes that it gives us a visual marker to see how this chemo is working.  The plan is to stay on this chemo and do another scan in 8 weeks.

Olivia's pocket is full of candy