Monday, July 27, 2009


This is not so much an update on my health as a need to put on "virtual" paper my thoughts.

Yesterday, as we sat in church with 2,000 of our closest friends (Port City Community Church has quite a following) I was [once again] moved to tears. Here is why:

The service was about all of our church's missions around the world, especially in Kenya. The church has a program where members can sponsor a street child in Kenya and help pay for food, clothing, shelter and schooling. Nothing surprising about any of that and I was thinking to myself, this service is not applicable to me because I have no business taking on a child to sponsor and certainly will not be going on any missions to Kenya anytime soon.

But then, our pastor started explaining why we need to be concerned about these issues around the world. He admitted to watching the commercials on television about starving children in Africa and changing the channel so that he wouldn't have to get upset by the sight of such misery. After all, don't we have enough problems of our own to focus on? I was thinking to myself: "I hurt today. Maybe I should think about getting accupuncture. Poor me. I'm feeling lousy and it's just not fair." Then he made this statement:

"Our Souls Shrink to the Size of our Greatest Concern!" I began to feel guilty.

Am I seriously in this bad of shape that my soul is nothing more than a pile of self-pity?! That's when I started crying. I started thinking back to "my one word" for the year. Our church encourages us to find one word to focus on at the beginning of the year instead of making a New Years' resolution. What was my word, what was my word [memory has been bad lately]. Oh yeah, it is GRATITUDE!!!!

Shame on me for feeling sorry for myself. Shame on all of us. No, I've not decided to take on a child in Africa for sponsorship. But I can at least look outside of the box and thank God for all that I do have. I have a lot, we all have a lot.

Is it fair that I've got stage IV cancer and two young girls that I may not live to see graduate from high school? No. But is it fair that there's 26,500 men, women and children starving in Africa every day. NO! We may not be able to go on a mission trip and fix this problem individually but at least we can have GRATITUDE for what we have.

I thank God for having two beautiful, healthy children that sometimes make me crazy, but always make my heart swell.

I thank God that the genetic testing for both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes showed that I don't carry those genetic mutations for having a genetic risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer and, more importantly, my girls do not either.

I thank God for having a wonderful, loving husband who continues to make me laugh even in the darkest of moments and who lets me be who I want to be.

I thank God for walks on the beach watching the waves crash on shore, just like they do EVERY DAY no matter what is going on in my life.

I thank God for being self-employed so that, when I feel like doing no work [like today :) ] I can do what I want and not worry about upsetting an employer.

I think God for all that we have been blessed with because we have food to eat and even more than one place to sleep at night.

I pray that anyone reading this can find something to be grateful for, even when the walls seem to be caving in.

Now, I really plan to wait until after my treatment next week to post again!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What I've been up to for the past 2 years....

I've hesitated to start a blog, but I guess that's what this is. I wanted to write some of my thoughts and medical updates so that others can see them without sending out an announcement to the world that seems like I'm fishing for some kind of pity.

I was original diagnosed with Stage IIB breast cancer on August 17, 2007. I was in the middle of training for the Chicago Marathon and had already done my 18 mile training run. I felt fine. I had found a lump on my right breast in the shower on August 4. A mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy confirmed what I never thought possible with no family history of breast cancer -- that it was malignant. I opted for a bilateral mastectomy with tissue expanders which was done September 1, 2007. Little did I know that the battle had really just begun. The recovery from surgery was horrible. I felt like someone had run over my chest with a truck.
I was injected with saline (I think) several times to stretch my skin. In the meantime, I had 6 rounds of chemo (TAC) every 3 weeks. That was difficult but survivable. No vomiting! Just lots of yucky nausea. In November 2007, I had to have a revision to my plastic surgery because one of the expanders was coming out of the suture. Again, just the beginning.... I also had to have my port-o-catah stripped because it closed up and could not be accessed during chemo. That involved the radiologist going through a vein in my inner thigh?!

The adriamycin they give some breast cancer patients for chemo has to be administered through a port because if they go into your arm, you may lose the arm b/c the stuff is so toxic. The nurses administer it while wearing haz mat gear. Real nice.

I finished chemo in January 2008. Then, I started about 30 rounds of radiation. I hated radiation. I was tired, I mean REALLY tired by the end. Through all these treatments I managed to work and continue handling the books for our growing law practice. Add the kids and hubby to that and POOPED!

I got my "permanent" silicon implants in May 2008. All was well we thought...

In April 2008 I developed a staph infection. I was hospitalized one weekend and put on IV antibiotics which I got to bring home as a souvenir. So great. They didn't give me enough, however, and I ended up back in the hospital with another staph infection in June 2008. They removed my right implant. Permanently. I left the hospital and went to the store where you get to pick out your removable silicon breast. Not a good thing for swimsuit season.

Beginning in April 2008, I noticed bone pain in my ribs on my right side. The pain was constant but not debilitating. Geoff and I went to Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston in August 2008 where I met Dr. Eric Winer. I had a bad feeling about the rib pain but everyone assured me that I was fine and that it was highly unlikely to be a bone metastasis. Dr. Winer verified that my journey with breast cancer has been unusually difficult. Duh!

By December 2008, the bone pain remained. I went to Boston for a CT and bone scan, which revealed all kinds of issues but none suspected to be cancer. Dr. Winer sent me home with an order to take anti-inflammatories for the bone pain and to check back.

The other shoe dropped in May 2009. A CT and bone scan revealed probable bone mets on my L3 and possibly L1 vertebrae. A bone biopsy, which consisted of a radiologist hammering a needle into my vertebrae L3 (who knew how much fun it is to hear someone hammering into your bones!), revealed that it is metastatic breast cancer. So, now I have stage IV breast cancer. That means that it is treatable but not curable. I will be traveling to Boston every 2 months for bisphosphonate (probably Zometa) treatments. My ovaries were removed on June 19, 2009. Didn't need them anyway! I am convinced that I have cancer all over my ribs, sternum, spine and hips because of all of the bone pain I have in those areas. Dr. Winer has said that it doesn't really matter where else the cancer is (bone-wise) because the treatment would be the same.

For now, I'm just trying to live my life. I am working, walking, and doing pilates and light yoga regularly. No more marathons. I've learned that all those things that used to be so important to me such as running, travel, and work are not so important. What matters most is my family and appreciating every day that I can spend with them. Sometimes I wish I knew how long I will live. I'd like to go to Europe while I'm still feeling good but also want to save $ so that my family can have less debt when I'm gone. But I don't suppose it matters much anyway. It's all about living in the present moment and savoring the life God has blessed me with. I'm not afraid of dying, but I'm afraid of enduring a long and painful illness. I'm afraid of not being able to walk or take care of my kids. I'm afraid of not being able to provide for my family financially and of being a burden. But, somehow, I need to trust that God will take care of all of this even though it seems impossible. I hope that my battle will somehow help others, even if I am not leading marches or raising millions of dollars for cancer research. I hope that my legacy is a good one. Thank God for today!!

I'll post another update after my first Zometa treatment in August. If you're still reading this, that is ;)