Sunday, July 31, 2011

Another day, another blood test

On Friday I had not one, but two, blood draws.  Even after all of this, still not my favorite.  I went to Northwestern in the morning for a quick 2 vial blood draw and it was a piece of cake.  The phlebotomist chatted with me the whole time and kept me at ease and it was done before I knew it.  I went back in the afternoon for my second appointment without knowing it involved more blood.  And I mean more blood -- 6 big vials!  I was suprised I had any left when she was done with me.  Sometime during the 5th tube I started to not feel so good, and the 6th tube was no fun at all.  Thankfully Charlie was there to hold my hand and talk me through it.  One juice box and 4 ice packs (still no stickers!) later I felt better.  At least now I know what my feel-good limit is: 6 in one day or 4 at a time. 

I hope they have ice packs and juice boxes at the ready on Tuesday when I get my IV before surgery ...

#1: no problem

#2: problem.  Thank goodness for husbands and juice boxes.

There are few things Baskin Robbins rainbow sherbet won't fix!

Thanks Peggy and Barbara for the awesome stickers! 
I've got my own supply now -- thanks for nothing, hospital!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Surgery decision (finally) -- check!

After much inner debate and agonizing, the decision has indeed been made: lumpectomy!  Which probably surprised my plastic surgeon since as of this morning I was set on doing the mastectomy+reconstruction.  After meeting with Dr. Khan again and having some serious questions about how I would handle the night in the hospital and 2 week recovery, I feel 100% confident in my decision.

The benefits of lumpectomy are many: much less invasive surgery (2 hours versus 4+ hours), much shorter recovery (days versus weeks), local anesthesia (versus general), outpatient (versus overnight in the hospital).  The one minor drawback is that I will have to do 4-5 weeks of radiation, but the only side affect of radiation is eventual fatigue, which is very, very doable. 

They will also do what they call a sentinal node dissection, which involves Dr. Khan injecting a tracer into the surrounding tissue, and finding which lymph nodes drain the tracer first, then sending those off to the pathologist to determine whether they contain any cancer cells.  There is a 10-15% chance they will have to go back in if 3 or more of those nodes test positive.  Fingers crossed I am in that 85-90% lucky ducks group!

I did learn today that I can expect AC (adriamycin & cytoxin) for sure, and possibly T (taxane) if there is lymph node involvement.  Chemo will start approximately 4 weeks after surgery, and I have been warned that I won't feel great.  And in doing a quick search on AC alone, I need to brace myself for becoming a baldy (which is pretty unfortunate because I have a weird shaped noggin -- sorry, folks).  I don't have the heart to read about what to expect from the T quite yet and am hoping that I won't ever have to worry about it.

I feel great and am handling all of this pretty well, if I do say so myself.  That being said, I know I will have good days and bad days going forward.  Regardless, any prayers and/or positive thoughts you don't mind sending my way (and Charlie's and my family's way) will be more appreciated than you can know.

Hey cancer -- you don't scare US!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Anti-cancer diet (for real this time)

Thus far my self-proclaimed anti-cancer diet has gotten off to a very wimpy start.  Some online research has made me realize that I've really developed some bad food habits -- I have a serious sugar addiction, I eat more fried food than I'd like to admit, I don't drink enough water, etc., etc.  I love eating fresh fruits and veggies, always have, but I've noticed that whatever we buy on the weekends lasts us to about Wednesday, and then our fruit/veggie intake seriously nosedives for the rest of the week. 

I've always thought that I could get away with a so-s diet because I work out and am within the healthy weight range for my height.  However, something caused me to get cancer.  Whatever that cause(s) may have been I'll probably never know.  What I can do, though, is take charge of what I feed my body going forward for 2 reasons: 1) to make sure I am as strong as possible to fight this cancer, and 2) to do what I can to make sure cancer doesn't rear its ugly head again.

That being said, I'm still me -- I will still eat candy, ice cream, french fries, and other "bad foods."  What I am trying to do now is incorporate as many "superfoods" into my diet and try to take a little bit better care of myself.  (Example -- I think I bought out half of the produce section at the grocery store yesterday!) 

Here are some of the major superfoods (and my dad will be pleased that meat is on the list!):
  • Walnuts: rich in omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts have been studied for their action against many cancers, most specifically breast cancer. They also contain compounds that stop hardening of the arteries, a precursor to heart disease.

  • Prunes: no longer your grandmother’s morning-starter, prunes are loaded with antioxidants concentrated by the drying process. And yes, they do promote digestion and detox, too.

  • Pomegranate Juice:  it’s packed with antioxidants that mop up the free radicals that cause cancer. Recent studies have shown that pomegranate juice can lower bad LDL cholesterol and flush plaque from arteries, too.

  • Tomatoes in soup, juice, sauce: no other food is as rich in lycopene, a phytochemical known to fight all types of cancer, but specifically prostate, breast, lung and colon cancer.

  • Blueberries and Cranberries: All berries are packed with antioxidants, but blueberries are most potent of all, while cranberries have been found in studies to be particularly protective against ovarian cancer.  The anthocyanosides in blueberries are currently the most powerful antioxidants known to scientists and are beneficial in the prevention of all types of cancer.

  • Broccoli and Other Cruciferous Vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, kale): Those strong flavors are there for a reason; they come from sulphur compounds that have a strong cancer-protective action. One study found that men who ate brocolli four times a week stopped early prostate tumors from growing.

  • Edamame: Soybeans contain a phytoestrogen called genistein that protects against hormone-dependent cancers. And edamame, the fresh form of soy, are easy to eat as a snack.

  • Chicken: Lean chicken meat, served sparingly, packs a protein punch without the artery-blocking fats present in red meat. And if it’s organic and free-range, it means chickens haven’t been given feed that artificially stimulates growth with hormones. And they’ve been treated better, too.

  • Garlic: Garlic contains a number of compounds believed to slow or stop the growth of tumors. One such compound, diallyl disulfide, appears to be especially potent in protecting against skin, colon, and lung cancer, though it is not known exactly how it functions.

  • Beans: Beans contain a number of phytochemicals, which have been shown to prevent or slow genetic damage to cells. While this makes beans beneficial for helping to reduce your risk of many types of cancer, specific research has suggested they are especially potent in preventing prostate cancer. As an added bonus, the high fiber content of beans has been connected with a lower risk of digestive cancers.

  • Grapes: Grapes and wine contain a chemical called resveratrol, which has been shown to be a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Resveratrol is thought to work by preventing cell damage before it begins. Red and purple grapes are the richest sources of resveratrol.  You know what that means -- red wine!

  • Green Tea (decaf): Green tea is a rich source of a class of flavonoids known as catechins. Laboratory studies have shown that the catechins present in green tea are able to slow or prevent the development of cancer in colon, liver, breast, and prostate cells.

  • Dark Green Leafy Vegetables: Leafy-green vegetables-like romaine lettuce, mustard greens, chicory, and Swiss chard-are rich sources of antioxidants called carotenoids. These compounds scavenge dangerous free radicals from the body before they can promote cancer growth. The vegetables are also rich in folate, a vitamin shown to reduce the risk of lung and breast cancer.

Keep an eye out for recipes utilizing lots of these peace-out-cancer-superfoods.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Birthday/Fourth of July/vacation recap

Charlie and I took a short vacation and went up to the lake with the Schneeman side of his family, and let me tell you -- it was great.  Between all of the craziness that we've been dealing with cancer-wise and Charlie being in trial at the end of June, we were both seriously in need of a getaway.  I have to admit, I was a little nervous about the whole thing, in particular, my birthday.  This was one birthday I was not looking forward to.  We woke up at 3am to hit the road to Minnesota and met my Mom and Grammy in Minneapolis for breakfast.  Much to my surprise, my sister Caitlin flew in from Albuquerque, and my cousin Cora also joined us.  It was so, so nice to spend time with family and for the surprise visit from Caitlin, and it really set the tone for a good birthday.  We then drove the rest of the way up to the lake and had a great dinner with Charlie's whole family and the Doughertys.  It all made me realize that I was silly to be nervous about any of it. 

We spent the rest of the time swimming, pontooning, getting sunburned (mostly just me and Charlie), sitting by the fire, reading, eating, napping, etc.  Charlie's whole family, and his parents in particular, are so welcoming and hospitable.  I am very, very lucky to have married into this family.

It was really hard to leave.  We had a great time and it was tough to leave knowing everyone else got to stay behind and have more fun, but the hardest part was knowing that we were coming back to real life.  Charlie and I both independently had demarcated the summer into pre-lake and post-lake.  Post-lake, unfortunately, is when everything starts getting real really fast.  Thank goodness we both came back feeling refreshed and rejuvinated and ready to take this whole thing head on.

One unfortunate result of the weekend (besides my sunburn and massive mosquito bites) was that our camera bit the dust halfway through, so I missed a lot of camera-worthy moments, and the few pictures that I do have are being held hostage on the memory card until I can figure out how to get them off.  I'll post when they have been freed.  In the meantime, here is one photo stolen from Mary Margaret's facebook and one blackberry photo.

Medical updates

Today is July 7th, and surgery didn't happen today.  We decided it would be best to consult with a plastic surgeon before surgery to be able to fully consider the options.  Surgery is now scheduled for August 2. 

My plastic sugery consultation is July 14.  I keep going back and forth between the mastectomy + reconstruction and the lumpectomy.  Decisions, decisions.

The BIG good news, though, is ... NO GENE MUTATION!  Wahoo!  The BRCA mutation would have put me at a drastially higher risk of future breast cancer over time, and would have also meant that my family members would also have the possibility of that same high risk.  So now the double mastectomy is off the table (thank goodness) and we can sleep a little easier at night knowing that this whole thing is just a fluke.

I'm feeling a bit rebellious in response to the estrogen/progesterone-positive results from a week or two back -- I don't want to do the hormone therapy, and I'm also not so interested in chemo, either.  Charlie keeps reminding me that the most important objective for us right now is making sure that I'm ok.  We're just going to have to wait and see how this whole thing plays out.

Oh, and we also got our first "bill" today -- $4100 for the genetic test!  Luckily our amount was $0.  Gotta love good health insurance.  Now Charlie really can say that I'm expensive, even if we aren't picking up the bill for all of this.
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