Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tucson Update

Hi, everyone. Yesterday was my monthly visit with Dr. Livingston in Tucson. I'm kind of in a period where we're just having to trust/hope the chemo is continuing to work. Dr. Livingston would usually follow my progress with monthly ultrasounds, but as I've noted before, my cancer doesn't show up on them. He did draw tumor markers and they were elevated. Dr. Livingston says this is because I've started on a medication called Neupogen to keep my white blood counts up. This medication also raises the tumor marker level. He also says, at this point, my physical exam is really of no help because my cancer doesn't seem to be a mass. He continues to think the mass he is feeling is fibrous scar tissue, but says there is no way to be sure until I have my surgery.

The plan is to have the four more chemo treatments that were planned. I will have another MRI right before I go back to see Dr. Livingston next month. If that MRI shows that the cancer has continued to shrink or doesn't show up at all, I will continue on the same chemo for another month to try and give me the best chance possible of achieving a complete pathological response at the time of my surgery.

If the MRI shows the cancer has not shrunk since my last one or has grown, they will schedule my surgery. Dr. Livingston says this is because at that point whatever cancer is there will have shown itself to be resistant to several different chemos and they would want to do the surgery in time to give them the best chance of acheiving clean margins when they do it. He stressed that he doesn't think this is going to happen, but it is a possibility. He has had patients whose cancer has stopped responding to chemo.

So, I've gone from looking forward to being almost done with my chemo to hoping I get to have more. :>) I continue to do well with it. The worst part of the whole thing right now, beside stress and anxiety, is just being so very tired all of the time.

I'd really appreciate everyone's good wishes, positive thoughts, and prayers for my cancer to continue to respond to the chemo as well as it has so far.

Janaya's Birthday

Janaya turned 21 this past Wednesday while Joey was home on Spring Break. Michael was in Tucson for a lacrosse game, but she, Joey, Joe, and I went to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner. We sat outside on the patio and the weather was beautiful. There were two big parties besides the four of us on the patio, so the service was very slow. It worked out wonderfully, though, because we didn't have anything else planned and we got to spend the evening just visiting and talking like we haven't had much opportunity to do lately.

Here are three pictures we took.

Janaya with Mom and Dad

Joey and Janaya

Janaya enjoying a pina colada

That's it for now.
I miss everyone and think of you all often.
Love you all tons!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Highlights From the Hitzel Household

Michael Scores!

Michael started playing lacrosse in junior high. He is a junior in high school now, so this is his 5th season playing. He loves the game and every season puts all of his effort, heart, and soul into improving and playing his best at every practice and game. And yet, before this year, he had never scored a goal. Did you notice that I said before this year? His team had their first game this past Wednesday and he scored his first goal with the team! And, I got it on video! Then, they played again today and he scored again! I've always been so proud of the player he is. He is always one of the first to run over and congratulate a teammate when they've scored. It was so exciting to see him at the center of the congratulatory circle. Here's a picture of Michael at today's game and one of the team after the game. They were down seven to one at the half and believe it or not the other team had accidentally scored the one goal for them. They came back on fire for the second half and tied the game ten to ten. Unfortunately, they lost in overtime, but they sure played with a lot of heart.

Janaya's New Ride

Janaya has been working since her junior year in high school. She started at My Big Fat Greek Restaurant as a hostess and moved up to being a server. Then, she moved to Texas Roadhouse where she started as a server and moved up to being a bartender. She goes to school full time, working towards a degree in biochemistry, and works about thirty hours a week. She lives at home rent free, but otherwise pays just about all of her expenses. She set her sights on saving her money for a nice car a couple of years ago and has done a tremendous job of it. About a year ago, she decided she wanted to buy a used Nissan 350Z. She knew just what she wanted. A pearly white one with light interior. She has looked at several over the past year and wouldn't settle for anything less than what she had in mind. One at a car auction was red, not white. Another being sold by a private seller smelled like smoke. She found one at a dealership that was exactly what she was looking for, but despite the fact they'd had it on their lot for a couple of months, she couldn't bargain them down on the price. She was determined not to get into too big of a car payment. Then, this week, she found one online at Larry Miller Mazda. She asked Pam and me to go with her to look at it. It was perfect! It was in immaculate condition and drove beautifully. She had $11,0000 to put down on it and boy oh boy can that girl drive a bargain! I've never bought a car on my own before and was nervous about helping her out. I just sat there and watched her handle the negotiations like a pro. She even threatened to leave at one point. Then, when she had worked them down as much as she possibly could, close to $4,000, she told the salesman that she wanted her dad to come and look at it before she made a final decision. "I'm a girl you know and he's my dad." Joe came and Pam and I left for Michael's lacrosse game. He got them to come down a couple more hundred dollars on the car and to give another $1,000 on the Toyota Corolla she was trading in! She ended up with a very reasonable car payment and a beautiful car. Her twenty first birthday is this coming Wednesday, so it is fantastic that it worked out as an early birthday present to herself. Joe and I are so proud of her for setting a goal for herself and achieving it. Here is a picture with her new car.

Joey's Home!

This week is spring break for NAU and so Joey is home. He looks great and is so happy. He loves living in Flagstaff. It is wonderful to get to spend time with him! He doesn't like his picture taken so it is hard to get a picture of him, so I'll have to post one when I can sneak one in this week.

I Believe

"Believe" is a popular breast cancer slogan. My friend and neighbor, Mary, gave me a beautiful iron sign that says Believe that I have hanging on the wall by my desk. I've gotten cards that say Believe on them. My sister gave me a plaque that sits on my desk that says, She believed she could so she did. So, when I decided to get a breast cancer license plate for my car one of the options we discussed to put on it was I Believe. We checked it out on the website and IBEELV was available. I asked several people if they knew what the letters said and they all knew right away, so I decided on it. While I was waiting for it to arrive in the mail, I spent some time thinking about what this slogan meant to me. I think it is generally meant to mean I believe in a cure, which I do, but I also know a cure is probably still a long way off. I hope with all my heart and am putting all of my energy into beating this disease, but it seems hard to say I believe I am going to beat it. I do. I think you have to believe that, but I've read of or known of too many people who have fought hard and believed they were going to beat it who didn't. So, what is it that I deep down believe? I believe that with all the love and support of my family and friends and of people I've never even met before that I will be able to face whatever awaits me on this journey with dignity and strength and courage.

Till next time,
Love you all tons!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Song For Joe

Good morning everyone! I don't know what's been wrong with me yesterday and today. I should be jumping with joy over the MRI results and instead I'm crying. I think a lot of anxiety builds up each time I have to have one of these tests and even when the results are good, the anxiety has to release somehow. I am going to pour myself into housework (my house is filthy right now) and the gym today and try to get my emotions turned around.

I love Alison Kraus. I think she has a voice like an angel. And, the best part is when I sing on the treadmill or in the car, I sound just like her! :>) Joe and I were talking on the way home from Tucson yesterday. He was asking me for advice as to what he could say or do to help me when I'm feeling anxious or down. I know he feels so helpless most of the time. This song, 'You Say It Best When You Say Nothing At All' came to my mind. I've never been really good about talking out my feelings and emotions, but Joe is always there for me steady as a rock. I know I can depend on him and that he will love me no matter what and he doesn't have to say a word for me to know that. So, this song is for him.

Love you all!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

MRI Results

Hi, everyone! I had my MRI yesterday and was up in Tucson today for labs and chemo and got the MRI results.

Good news, again! When I had the MRI at the beginning of January, the area that enhanced with contrast indicating cancer measured 2.5 x 4.8 x 5.0 cm. The same area on yesterday's MRI measured 1.5 x 0.8 cm. As the report states, the area has significantly decreased since the previous exam. Both MRIs describe the area as non-mass-like which I guess is why I didn't feel a lump to begin with. It also seems to confirm Dr. Livingston's impression that what he and I are feeling is fibrous scar tissue versus tumor tissue.

I am only about a third through my new chemo regimen. If the cancer continues to respond as well as it has so far, it will hopefully be gone when they do my surgery.

I am so glad to get good news again. I am trying hard to live by the mantra of celebrating one day at a time and celebrate today as a gift, but it is so hard to get over the feeling that at some point the rug is going to be pulled out from under me. I have stopped reading the breast cancer support listserves. There are a lot of positive things on them and they are sometimes very informational, but there is also a lot of bad news on them. I've tried hard to be optimistic and realistic at the same time throughout this journey, but too often the listserves remind me of the realistic side of things more than the optimistic.

I'm off to yoga which always makes me feel better. I just wanted to share the good news with everyone.

Love you all!