Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why I am thankful this holiday season

Nine months ago I wasn't exactly feeling thankful. I wasn't feeling much of anything besides fear and devastation. To say that this has been a hard year would be an understatement.

I never would have imagined myself saying this after getting a cancer diagnosis, but I can honestly say that I am happy. I am extremely happy. Probably the happiest I have ever been.

I will not say that cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me, because it is a terrible disease that I wish upon no one. What I will say is that I am grateful for the lessons I have learned from having cancer.
These will all probably sound cliche, but they are so very true.

I value my relationships so much more; my husband, family, friends and co-workers. Having wonderful, caring, and compassionate people surrounding you makes life so much more enjoyable.

I notice the world around me more than ever before. I take the time to really appreciate the beauty I see in everyday life.

I focus on experiencing as much of the world as I possibly can. I have always loved to travel and look forward to it even more now. I am much more open to new experiences. I am sick of saying "we should do this or we should do that". No more "shoulds". Now I do.

Oddly enough, cancer has cured my anxiety. I used to have so many to do lists running through my head that I would develop anxiety thinking about getting everything done. Now I realize that life is too short to spend so much time feeling worried, anxious and rushed.  I slow down. I breathe. I let go.

I appreciate my body. For a while I felt betrayed by it. Now I try to treat it like the temple it is. My experience with cancer has created a new-found passion for health and wellness. I truly believe that eating terrible food and loading our bodies with chemicals is not a healthy way to live. It's no wonder they rebel with things like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

I am thankful for hair :) Never again will I allow myself to complain about a bad hair day. As long as I have hair, I consider it to be a good day!

I want to leave you with a quote I have been loving recently:

"Be calm. Be Strong. Be Grateful" Abdul Baha

I hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday filled with family, friends, and good food. Please fill your plate with vegetables :)

Help me reach my goal for the Susan G. Komen Twin Cities 3-Day

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Another Lesson To Be Learned From Me

One of my main hopes for this blog is that along with the updates on my progress, people will also learn to not take their health for granted. Obviously I hope that you are all now doing regular breast exams (and it makes me so happy when you tell me you are!)

Now we can add one more lesson to the list.

Don't use a tanning bed. EVER. Wear suncreen. Protect your skin.

Most people who know me well know that I have had problems with abnormal moles for several years. I have had several removed and many of those have come back either moderately or severely atypical, requiring excisional procedures (either 3 or 5 mm of tissue in either direction has to be removed from the area of the mole and sutures are placed). I usually see my dermatologist every 6 months for a full body skin exam. I was due to see her in July but delayed it because of chemo.

During my most recent visit I had 4 moles removed (FOUR!) and we are watching another one. This brings my total mole removal count to around a dozen (that I can recall). Two of the moles came back just mildly atypical, but two were moderately atypical. Out of those two, one had positive margins, so two weeks ago I had yet another excision (that brings the count for that procedure up to 5).

 *Picture1: Two of my previous scars (I have had problems with them not healing well on my back)
 *Picture 2: My newest excision. In the upper left hand corner is another one of my scars.

I'll be honest, I never really wore sunscreen until the past few years. I lived in the sun when I was younger, and lived in tanning beds at the end of high school and throughout college. Who doesn't like to be tan, right? Before Derek and I got married I was in a tanning bed twice a week for 6 months! And I tanned quite a bit before his sister's wedding the following year.

Let me just say that being tan is NOT worth melanoma. I wish I would have told my younger self that.

Because of tanning beds and not using sunscreen, melanoma is becoming more and more common in younger women. If it is caught early there is an extremely good prognosis, but once it has spread the 5 and 10 year survival rates usually aren't as high.

If you have a family history of melanoma, have a lot of moles, have a history of multiple sunburns, or have used tanning beds in the past then you should be doing monthly skin exams along with your breast exams. Here is a helpful guide to what to look for when looking at moles (from the American Cancer Society)

The ABCDE Rule:

A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

You should also see a dermatologist once a year for a head to toe skin exam. Call now, because it will probably take several months to get the appointment!
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Monday, November 5, 2012

No more drains, my first oncology follow-up and HAIR!

Hey everyone!

Since my last post I am happy to report that my drains from surgery did get to come out after just one week!

It has been just over three weeks since surgery now and I really feel great. I get some occasional soreness here and there but it will usually just last a few minutes and then resolve.

I had my three month follow-up with my oncologist last week. It's really hard to believe that it has been three months since I finished chemo. Fortunately I got all good news. My blood counts are now all back to normal with the exception of my platelets. She said it might take up to one year before they go back to normal after chemo.

My follow-up from here on looks like this: I see her every 3 months until it has been 2 years, then every 6 months until 5 years out, and then once a year until I am 10 years out. I won't have any routine scans performed. Instead I have a tumor marker checked at each visit. If that levels starts to significantly increase then we get worried about a recurrence and a PET scan would be performed. I also have to monitor any symptoms I experience. The most common places for breast cancer to spread are the liver, lungs, bone and brain. If I start to have any symptoms related to those organ systems then I will have further testing. People often joke about having a brain tumor when they have a headache, but unfortunately I don't ever find that funny anymore. Luckily I don't get headaches often, but now if I do my first thought is of recurrence. I have been losing weight since the end of chemo and realistically I know it is related to diet and lifestyle, yet until I had my liver function tests last week there was a small part of me that worried about having cancer in my liver. This is unfortunately what cancer does to you. Especially for the next several years I will always have some level of anxiety and paranoia. I have heard that it decreases over time, and can only hope that is true.

I had another ultrasound of my heart last week as well. The pericardial effusion is still there but from what I could see it does appear a little smaller. I am still waiting for the final report from the radiologist. My oncologist feels that if it was related to the cancer then the fluid should be growing, so as long as it is either remaining stable or (hopefully) shrinking then we will just continue to monitor it every few months.

Now for the fun part: my hair! It has really been getting thick lately. I seem to be the only person who hasn't thought that it is coming in fast until this past week. The pictures speak for themselves!

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Surgery Update

I want to thank everyone for all of the well wishes on Thursday! I am happy to report that surgery went very well. It took him less time than he originally thought, and I warned the anesthesiologist about all of my post-op nausea from last time so they gave me a lot of good drugs while I was out. Luckily I had no nausea this time around. I did develop an irregular heart rhythm for about an hour and a half after surgery so they kept me a little longer just to monitor that, but fortunately it resolved on its own.

I am amazed at much easier this recovery is compared to the mastectomy. Even the night of surgery I was much more functional than I had expected. In terms of pain control I am just taking occasional Ibuprofen. I am definitely not functioning at 100% yet, but I am already back out walking and on our treadmill and elliptical.

The biggest hassle has been dealing with the drains.

If the drainage stays below 15cc/day for 3 consecutive days then I can have them removed at my post-op appointment Thursday morning. As of right now the drainage is almost double that so I am preparing myself for having them for 2 weeks. They are sore, uncomfortable, and incredibly annoying. I will be back at work tomorrow so I am planning my wardrobe carefully in attempt to hide them as best I can.

Overall I have been very happy with the surgery. I am excited to get rid of the drains and finally feel a little more "normal again" It's nice to think that out of a 4 step process (surgery, chemo, surgery, Herceptin) I have three of the four checked off!

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Surgery #2 and Bye Bye Wig

Tomorrow I will be going in for surgery #2. It is scheduled for noon and should take about 2 1/2 hours. My plastic surgeon wants me to stay overnight but he will let me go home if I am feeling ok. I am starting to get a little nervous, but not as much as before my mastectomy. Our weekends lately have been very busy so I am actually looking forward to spending a weekend at home.

I checked my blood counts at work this week and the good news is that I am no longer anemic! My hemoglobin level is getting much closer to what it was prior to chemo. My white blood cell and platelet counts are still low, but slowly increasing. The other good news is that according to my hormone levels my chemo-induced menopause seems to have resolved. My oncologist said this could take anywhere from 6-12 months but, as usual, I am an overachiever! My energy level has definitely improved. Last weekend I was able to run a 5 mile race, which was something I didn't think possible until just a few days before.

My hair continues to grow. To everyone else it seems to be coming in quickly, but to me it feels like it is taking forever! Even though it is still VERY short, I have pretty much stopped wearing my wig. I still feel a bit self-conscious, but I am getting more used to it. I still plan to continue taking pictures to document the process. Here are the latest two.

I'll do another post later this weekend to let everyone know how surgery went!

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Monday, September 24, 2012

An Update, and A Favor

I just wanted to give everyone a quick update. I had two pre-op appointments today so now I am all set for my second surgery on the 11th (just over two weeks away). I don't really feel nervous about this surgery since I know the recovery time will be much faster than last time. The surgery is on a Thursday and I will be back at work the following Monday. I had a blood count last week and while my white count is a little low and my platelets have fallen, they aren't low enough for him to delay surgery (thank goodness).

Here is the newest hair growth picture (the first pic you see is the last pic from my previous post).

No for the favor part of the post.

Right after I was diagnosed I read a book written by Dr. Susan Love. She is a breast cancer specialist and advocate, and her research foundation "works to eradicate breast cancer and improve the quality of women's health through innovative research, education, and advocacy."

The foundation has just launched the Health of Women (HOW) Study with the goals of tracking hundreds of thousands of women over the next 20 years in order to help determine what causes breast cancer and how to prevent it. They are also tracking survivors like myself in order to help determine factors that influence recurrence and survival. The study just launched this morning and already they have over 4400 people signed up, but the more the better. 

What I am asking is that you take the time to participate in this groundbreaking study. All you have to do is create an account and fill out periodic questionnaires online. That's it. It doesn't matter if you have never had breast cancer, or have no family history of it. If you know any other breast cancer survivors please send this link to them as well.

The more we can learn about this awful disease the better. 

Click here to join the study or for more information.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

The hair is coming back!

Time has really been flying by lately. Tomorrow will mark 7 weeks since my last treatment and also six months since my surgery. I really have been feeling fantastic! I try to walk most days during my lunch break. I am running a few times a week. That has been slow to come back, but I am up to about a mile and a half now. I have also become addicted to yoga and do it 4-5 nights a week. My blood counts are coming back up and I can tell a difference in my energy levels. I still get tired a little easier than before, but that might last for up to a year or so. My fingertips are still numb most of the time and my nails are still sensitive and discolored, but they are growing out. I have now had two Herceptin-only infusions and I don't seem to have any side effects.

I had a repeat echocardiogram a few weeks ago. The bad news is the pericardial effusion didn't get any smaller (despite skipping my last Taxotere and a month of high dose Ibuprofen), but the good news is it isn't getting any bigger. Both my oncologist and cardiologist are comfortable waiting on it for now. I will have another ultrasound in October.

Now for the big news...my hair! It is definitely growing back. I have actually had to break out my razor, which was both exciting and yet a little disappointing at the same time. There have definitely been some perks to not having any hair! It will still be a while before I can go without the wig, but at least things are progressing in the right direction. Here are the last 4 weeks of pictures.

This past weekend Derek and I along with some family and friends did the Steppin' Out in Pink Breast Cancer Walk in LaCrosse, WI. It was a longer walk at almost 5 miles, but it was a gorgeous day and we had a blast. Thank you to everyone who came out for it!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

First Post-Chemo Update

It has now been over three weeks since my last treatment and the chemo should be out of my system now! Overall I have been feeling really well. I feel like I have a little more energy lately. My blood counts show that I am still anemic so it might all be from a placebo effect, but I'll take it! I have been stepping up my exercise routine and even ran for the first time in several months. It was a slow half mile, but I am fine with baby steps for now. I have also started to add in Yoga three times a week. My fingernails still look awful and I lost half of my right thumbnail. All I can do now is wait for them to grow out.

I haven't seen any signs of hair growth yet, but hopefully that will start in the next few weeks. I am going to have Derek take a picture once a week to document the process. Here is picture #1:

Yesterday I received my first Herceptin-only infusion. This is the medication that I need to continue getting every three weeks until next April. I realize that most people have never heard of this medication before, but this website explains everything really well. It was a little strange going back to the oncology office and sitting in the chemo room but not actually getting chemo. It was also nice to only be in the chair for 30 minutes instead of three hours!

Last week we met with my plastic surgeon and my implants are all picked out. Right now we are just waiting for the surgery to be scheduled, most likely for October 11 or 12. Overall the tissue expanders don't bother me as much anymore, but it will still be really nice to get rid of them!
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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I've been waiting for this post for a long time!

First of all let me give you an update from my last post...

I did not end up having the pericardiocentesis last week. Once I got to the hospital they did another echocardiogram and the doctor felt that the fluid had actually decreased slightly. He was worried about there being too little fluid to do safely without hitting my heart and felt that a surgical drainage and biopsy would be the better route. After talking with my oncologist we have decided to hold off on that for now. She thinks that one of my medications (the Taxotere) could be the cause, but she has only seen that happen once before. Right now she has me on a course of steroids for the next month to see if that will fix the problem and I have a repeat echocardiogram scheduled for the end of August.

Because she thinks the Taxotere could be the cause of the fluid, she decided to let me skip it last Friday! I don't need to delay it at all, I just didn't need to get the last dose thank goodness! I did still receive my Carboplatin (the other chemo med) and the Herceptin (the medication I will continue until April), and as of right now I am very happy to say that


I have been waiting to type those words for a long time! Looking back there is part of me that feels this has been the longest 3 1/2 months (5 really) of my life, but there is also part of me that feels the time went by relatively quickly. While this experience definitely hasn't been easy, I have to be honest and say that it was not as bad as I was expecting (probably because I was expecting the worst). What surprised me the most what how much of a "normal" life I was still able to live. I never had to call in sick or go home early from work. I still exercised almost every day. I still saw my friends and family and just kept focusing on living life as much as I could. There really is a part of me that feels that I can get through anything if I can make it through all of this.

I celebrated my last day of chemo at a Twins game with my coworkers on Friday night. We made a "Circle Me Bert" sign and it worked...I was "circled" sometime around the 6th inning! The rest of the weekend wasn't actually very good...the nausea was worse than any of the previous cycles. Today I am happy to report that I am feeling (mostly) back to normal.

It would be really great if all of the ridiculously annoying side effects from chemo would just instantly resolve after the last treatment, but sadly I know that's just wishful thinking. I should start to see some hair growth in about a month or so. I plan to document with lots of pictures! My nails are brutal right now so I will be patiently waiting for them to grow out. The numbness and tingling in my hands and feet might persist for quite a while. I am really excited for my energy levels to get back to normal, my skin to not be so dry, and to come out of menopause!

The next two months are now filled with a lot more appointments. My Monday afternoons off are filled until October! I will be meeting with my plastic surgeon in a few weeks to discuss my second surgery (where the tissue expanders will be removed and the actual implants placed). Realistically I won't be doing that until around mid-October.

I really can't even begin to thank you all so much for all of your love and support through this entire process. The kindness that has been shown to me by not only my family and friends but also complete strangers has been completely humbling. I only hope that I can do my part to pay it all forward. This journey isn't over for me yet, so I will keep the updates coming!

Help me reach my goal for the Susan G. Komen Twin Cities 3-Day

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fear and Frustration

As I write this post I have a lot of different emotions and thoughts running through my head.

Right now I should be thrilled that my last round of chemo is only a few days away, but that joy is currently being overshadowed with fear and frustration.

If you read my last post you know that my second echocardiogram showed a growing pericardial effusion that I needed to meet with a cardiologist to discuss. Well I had that appointment on Friday afternoon. He said that the fluid is most likely caused by inflammation, but there is a small chance that it could be related to a spread of the cancer. He wants to be sure, so he recommended that I have a pericardiocentesis. This is a procedure done in the cath lab under conscious sedation. A needle will be inserted into the sac surrounding my heart and the fluid will be drained and sent to the lab for analysis. It is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

I won't lie, I am very nervous about the procedure. I'm also incredibly nervous about the results. I know the odds are that it is not related to a spread of the cancer, but that doesn't always mean much to me anymore since the odds were that my breast lump wasn't cancer either. I guess I just wasn't expecting to have to worry about something like this so soon. I will definitely keep you all posted.

Since my last treatment I have overall been doing ok. Last Thursday I went in to be evaluated for a blood clot. I developed an area on the back of my calf that was painful, red, and warm. Those are all symptoms of a clot, but fortunately it ended up being cellulitis (an infection of the skin). I have been on an antibiotic and the symptoms have been resolving. I have also developed an infected fingernail for which the antibiotic seems to be helping as well.

I am still trying to stay hopeful and positive about everything, but lately it has been more difficult. I am really just frustrated with being a patient. I have had at least one appointment for something every single week since the end of February. Prior to this I have always been pretty healthy, so the past 5 months have been quite a change.

I am just really ready to be done.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

17 days and counting

A lot can happen in 17 days.

One thing I know for sure is that 17 days from now I will be getting my last session of chemo (let's hope for good).

It's a little strange to look back on the experience now. I just realized that 17 days after my first treatment was when my hair started to fall out. Those 2 1/2 weeks certainly went by fast, so hopefully these next 2 1/2 will do the same.

This cycle I made the one primary mistake a chemo patient should never, EVER do, and that is forget to take your nausea medication.

Derek and I went to a movie Saturday afternoon and I thought I had the pills in my purse, but as in typical, chemo-brain fashion I actually left them sitting on the counter. Instead of taking my medication every 6 hours I had to stretch it out to 8 which lead to more nausea than I had previously experienced. I was still very lucky and never actually had any vomiting, but it felt like I was playing catch-up for almost 24 hours with the medication.

Other than that there have not been any new symptoms. I still get very restless and anxious from the Compazine I take for nausea. My new favorite routine on Sunday night post-treatment is taking my sleeping medication early and getting 10 hours of sleep (it's fabulous)!

One new development is actually my heart. I had an echocardiogram a few days before starting treatment in April. I was told everything was normal but have recently found out that there was actually a small pericardial effusion (fluid collection surrounding the heart) found. At the time it was small and asymptomatic so it was essentially nothing to worry about. Two weeks ago I had a follow-up ultrasound (I need one every three months). On this scan the pericardial effusion has become slightly larger and is causing some increased atrial pressure. Both of my artria (the top chambers of the heart) are also slightly dilated along with my inferior vena cava (the main vessel bringing deoxygenated blood back to the heart).

Sorry for all of the big fancy medical terms.

In layman's terms, I'm not a cardiologist and have no clue what it all means! The Herceptin that I will be receiving until April can cause heart damage, but they don't necessarily think it should be causing these particular changes so I have to have a consult with a cardiologist just be sure. Even during exercise I have no symptoms so I am not too worried at this point. It's just become one more thing to cross off of my list trying to get back to "normal".

I wanted to attach some pictures of my nails since I have been complaining about them. They don't  think my fingernails will fall off, thank goodness. The toenails are more likely to fall off because of wearing shoes, so I am trying to wear flip flops as much as possible now. Once the nails turn dark they also get more sensitive, but they haven't really been painful lately (just still very numb).

"If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely" -Roald Dahl
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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chemo Round 4

I am happy to say that I am halfway through treatment #4, and in just over a month it will be time for my last session of chemo! So far treatments 1 and 3 have been the worst but 2 and 4 were a little easier. Days 2-5 are still the worst of each cycle but by day 6 I am for the most part feeling back to normal. I would love to have my energy back but the fatigue really isn't as bad as I thought it would be by now.  I am still exercising every day and most of the time I am walking 3 miles, plus some short pilates workouts and other toning exercises.

My fingernails are now numb most of the time and my toes get numb at least once a day. One of my toenails has become very dark and there is a good chance it will fall off. My thumb and index fingernails have been painful and very sensitive, which combined with the numbness has become extremely annoying. Right now I would love more than anything for my hands to just feel normal again! I have also developed some sort of rash on the right side of my face and my left eye has been tearing up frequently for the past two days.

One thing that I haven't mentioned yet is that chemo has officially made me menopausal. When I stopped having periods I originally thought it was because of my IUD. I had my hormone levels checked to confirm and they were definitely in the menopausal range. Because I am so young this will most likely be temporary and should resolve within 6 months to a year from my last treatment. I have been getting very warm at night lately but fortunately haven't had a single hot flash. For now I am just thankful for no periods!

I briefly want to talk about Robin Roberts, the co-anchor of Good Morning America. Many of you probably heard the news a few weeks ago that she was diagnosed with something called Myelodysplastic Syndrome. You can click on the link to learn more about it. She had chemotherapy for breast cancer several years ago and has developed MDS as a result of that. In order to treat the MDS she now has to do another course of chemotherapy followed by a bone marrow transplant. It is scary and doesn't happen often, but I too will be at risk for developing MDS. Naturally I'll be following her story very closely!

I hope you all have a fantastic Fourth of July holiday! Derek and I plan on spending it with our families and some close friends this weekend.

The countdown is on.....31 days!

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I was really hoping to get this posted several days ago, but please forgive me for not feeling up to blogging. Last Friday I had chemo #3, which means I am now halfway through this portion of treatment! This one honestly hit me a little harder than the others, but things seem to be on the upswing now.

During the first two treatments I had several hours before I started to feel anything resembling nausea. This time I had about 5 minutes before I needed to take my Compazine! Between taking the medication and eating some dinner it did resolve, but I was nervous for a while. I had a similar episode on Sunday where I really thought I was going to be sick, but luckily that passed as well.

Speaking of the Compazine, I have to say that I hate, hate, hate taking it. It works really well for the nausea, but for the 3 days that I take it my mind feels very cloudy and I get this terrible anxiety. If I am standing all I want to do is sit down, but when I sit and relax all I want to do is be up and moving. Time goes by incredibly slowly, so much so that I literally count down in minutes until I can go to sleep or take a nap. There is a different nausea medication called Zofran that I can start taking 72 hours after chemo and that doesn't give me those side effects, but if I take it too soon I could get a massive headache.

On the subject of naps, they are definitely my friend! The past few weeks I have been experiencing more fatigue and I'm usually pretty exhausted by the end of the day. Since I'm still working full time getting a nap in during the day is out of the question, but this weekend I made up for it by taking two naps. Each day. That's right, I now have a morning nap and an afternoon nap routine. And by Monday night I was still falling asleep on the couch by 8:15!

Tuesday I felt the usual "got hit by a truck" feeling all day. It continues to be my absolute worst day of each treatment cycle. Working on this day is difficult, but luckily not so much so that I have to stay home (I think I really might go crazy if that happens). I had my Neulasta injection yesterday instead of Monday, and I think I might start doing that for the remainder of the treatments. The achiness set in last night and this morning but I no longer even need to take Tylenol to manage it. The thrush and mouth sores once again came like clockwork and the terrible appetite is back as well. The only new, bothersome symptom is numbness in my hands and feet. This happened a few times last week but now seems to be coming and going fairly regularly. I can't complain too much just yet, but it certainly does get annoying. Unfortunately this is one side effect that could linger for quite a while once I stop treatment (potentially a few years even).

There are times when I get ecstatic thinking that I am halfway done, but there are times when the thought of having to go through three more full cycles is really daunting (especially the days where I am feeling like crap). I know that overall I really don't have too much to complain about since I am doing so much better than I ever expected. It seems like such a simple thing, but I have really learned to appreciate the days when I can actually say "I feel good today".

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer" ~Albert Camus
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Sunday, May 13, 2012

2012 Race for The Cure

Hello everyone!

I am very happy to say that last week went just as predicted. I had all of the same symptoms from cycle 1, but most of them were much easier to tolerate this time around. I think partly because I knew what to expect, and partly because I was able to pre-medicate myself earlier than last time. By Thursday I was honestly feeling pretty normal again. The one symptom that has now surfaced is what most people call "chemo brain". To put it mildly, my short term memory seems to be fried! If I have a thought that I don't write down or put in my phone right away, I won't remember it in 5 minutes. Derek and I both agree that if this is the worst of my side effects so far then I certainly can't complain, but it does get frustrating at times. The fatigue has seemed to start since my last post as well. It is not all-consuming, can't get out of bed in the morning fatigue, but I seem to be getting tired much easier than ever before. There are times when it is worse than others, but so far still very manageable with naps.

Derek and I did the Race for the Cure at the Mall of America today and it was a fantastic experience. We walked with some of his fabulous marketing co-workers and had perfect weather. I put pictures at the end. I started the race with a bright pink wig but it got uncomfortable and was giving me a headache so I switched over to a white hat half way through the race. It was simply amazing to see so many people come together for a common cause, and also to realize that so many people have been affected by this terrible disease in one way or another. Seeing so many women who have been survivors for a long time definitely gives me hope, but seeing so many people walking in honor of loved ones who have died from the disease also keeps me grounded. It just pushes me even harder to live the rest of my life as healthy as I possibly can and makes me so thankful that I have a job that allows me to help encourage others to do the same. After the walk we made our way to the survivor's celebration in the central rotunda. This was truly the most amazing part of the experience for me. Part of me felt like I didn't belong; that I couldn't possibly be considered a breast cancer survivor at only 29 years old. Another part of me felt so empowered standing amongst a special group of women who can truly understand what I am going through right now. Despite my best efforts to control them, tears were definitely shed.

"Promise me you'll always remember...you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you know"  ~ Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Chemo Round 2

Sorry that I haven't posted anything for the past few weeks. The good news is that the lack of posting on my part is actually a VERY good thing. I am so happy to say that after having a rough first week after chemo round one things continued to get better and better. I really felt absolutely fantastic for the last two weeks of the cycle!

The only new (yet expected) symptom I developed since my last post was the actual loss of my hair. On day 17, like clockwork, my hair started falling out. It happens mostly in the shower and has been a surprisingly slow process. I still have some stray hairs on my head, but I would say 75% of them are now gone. My eyebrows and lashes are very slowly falling out as well, but fortunately at a much slower pace. I am really glad to have that part (mostly) done and overwith, as now I can just focus on counting down the days until my final treatment (81 if anyone else is counting)!

I have my labs checked right before each treatment and so far they are all still ok. My white blood cells were looking excellent (thanks to that really expensive Neulasta injection). My red blood cells are officially low (but not by much). My hemoglobin is on the low end of normal and my platelets have come back up into the normal range.

So far round 2 has been following the exact same pattern as round 1. I had no nausea over the weekend, and started to have some lower body achiness and fatigue today. I was a little nervous that round one was really just a fluke and that I would get really sick this time, but I am really thankful that it wasn't! Knowing that my symptoms will follow a pattern has actually made things much easier for me to handle for physically and emotionally this time. I am able to be much more proactive in terms of symptom control, and I know that I can handle a few rough days if it means I get another two good weeks. The fatigue will most likely start to worsen soon which has me a little nervous, but as long as it comes without the aches and pains I think I can manage to push through it. I also have to start watching my nails for black spots and signs of them falling off (oh yippee).

Thank you all so much for the kind birthday wishes last week. Getting chemo was certainly not how I would have liked to spend my day, but Derek and I tried to make the best of it. It is a sacrifice I am willing to make if it means I get to be around for many more birthdays, and we plan to celebrate a little extra next year in Italy for my 30th birthday!

This weekend Derek and I will be participating in the 20th Annual Susan G Komen Race for the Cure at the Mall of America. I have participated in a few Komen events over the past several years, but needless to say this one will be the most emotional. If you don't have any plans and want to participate you can still sign up, or if you are interested in making a donation you can as well. I will post pictures next week!

Susan G Komen Race for the Cure
Help me reach my goal for the Susan G. Komen Twin Cities 3-Day

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Who Needs Hair Anyway?

Well yesterday was the second day I had been dreading for the past 8 weeks (the first was starting treatment).

Yesterday I regained what little control I have in this whole situation.

Yesterday I lost my hair.

Had I waited to lose my hair naturally I would have been waiting for another 9 days. It would have started to fall out in large clumps. I would wake up with piles of hair lying on the pillow.

I decided to say a big "screw you" to chemo and shave my head before that could happen.

I have had this planned for a while so I asked my best friend to come into town and go wig shopping with me. I tried on so many that they started to blend together by the end. I did decide to get two (both similar styles and colors). I will be wearing a wig until my hair grows back long enough to create some sort of pixie cut (like Michelle Williams) so having two will be nice. I was able to bring one home but had to have the other one ordered in a darker color.

I was initially planning to have my head shaved in a salon, but as the time got closer I decided that I really wanted to do it at home. I knew that I would most likely cry, and I felt more comfortable crying in front of Derek and friends. We turned it into a small party; we had four friends here and through the wonders of technology our good friends in South Carolina were able to join us as well.

Even though it was upsetting and I cried throughout most of it...I wouldn't change a thing about how it happened. I was surrounded by people that I love and was glad to be able to share such a big part of my journey with them. They also helped keep my spirits up afterward as well!

The party didn't stop with my shaved head, since Derek decided to have his shaved as well! Once he was done my friend Adam joined us too. Pictures are at the bottom!

As an update from my last post, I am very happy to say that I have been feeling great for the past several days! All of my digestive issues have resolved, my weight is back to pre-treatment range, and I really don't have any fatigue. I was able to walk 2 miles this morning and another 2 this afternoon. My thrush has mostly resolved. I still have mouth sores so eating gets uncomfortable, but still very manageable. I had another blood count on Friday and while all of the counts are lower, they are all still within normal limits with the exception of my platelets. Tomorrow is supposed to be the day my counts are the lowest, so I am really hoping that I will continue to feel good for the next week and a half.

"You've only got three choices in life: give up, give in, or give it all you've got." - Unknown

Help me reach my goal for the Susan G. Komen Twin Cities 3-Day