Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Kind of a Bummer Day

Hi, everyone. I'm just home from Michael's lacrosse game and my radiation treatment.

Well, we certainly found out why Chapperal is rated #1 in the state. Final score was 13-5. :>( What was even more of a bummer than the loss was for some reason coach didn't play the players who have been first string all season hardly at all, including Michael. Michael has played full minutes except for when they are man-up at every game all season and today got very few minutes. Another starter didn't get any minutes at all. I think coach was feeling a bit panicked about playing Chapperal, who he knew were a high scoring team, and instead of sticking with the kids who have been successful so far this season put in the players that he thought took the most shots. We did take a lot of shots, but obviously not many went in. Obviously Michael was down about the whole thing and so was I.

I forgot about taking a camera to radiation, so no pictures of that.

My CAT scan was canceled today because the machine was down. I will be getting it done tomorrow morning instead. I don't know why, but I am more anxious about this test than almost any I've had in the past. I know my doctors keep telling me they think my breathing problem is related to the lesion on my spine, but I'm so scared that the cancer has spread to my lungs. It's just so very scary to be constantly struggling with my breathing and not being sure what the cause is. I'm thinking because I'm not having the test done until tomorrow, I may not get results until next week. I HATE waiting for test results. Please say lots of prayers and send lots of good thoughts my way tonight and tomorrow. They mean so much to me.

Love you all!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tucson Update

Hi, everyone. Joe and I went up to see Dr. Livingston on Monday as planned. We now have a plan in place. We have to take care of the lesion on my spinal cord first. Because of its location, if we don't it could become life-threatening. Dr. Tannehill was so sweet when he called to tell me the results of the scan and that I would need a course of radiation. He called about 2:00 on Friday, as soon as he had the official results of the MRIs that had been done that morning. He explained, "This is not an emergency, but we also don't want to be too casual about it either. Can you be here at 3:30 for your planning session?" He is wonderful!

Dr. Livingston explained to me that I cannot be on chemotherapy for the bone metastasis at the same time as radiation because the chemo potentiates the effect of the radiation, not only to the tissue they are aiming at, but any tissue it travels through which would be my spinal cord. Not a good thing. He did increase my Zometa, the drug which is supposed to strengthen my bones and help prevent bone metastasis, from once every six months to once a month and gave me my first dose while I was up in Tucson.

I go back up to Tucson next Friday to have a new port put in in preparation for when they are able to start the chemo. I am scheduled to start two days after I finish my radiation treatments. At this time, Dr. Livingston wants to put me back on the Abraxane and Avastin that I was on prior to my mastectomy surgery. These drugs did not get rid of the cancer in my lymph nodes, but did completely eradicate it from my breast, so he feels they may be effective. He explained that they are approved as front-line treatment for metastatic breast cancer and if he tries something else first, he won't be able to get these drugs approved again. The good side to this plan is I've been on these drugs before and know what to expect. They decrease my appetite and make me very tired, but other than that I tolerated them pretty well. And, I don't think they will make my hair fall out, a nice benefit since I've just really started to get back to looking somewhat normal! :>)

Dr. Livingston thinks my breathing problem is related to the lesion on my spinal cord and swelling in that area. The radiation treatments will also cause some swelling, so he placed my on high dose steroids. Lots of yucky side effects to this. :>( But, he says they go away pretty quickly as soon as I'm tapered off of them. I'm also going tomorrow for a chest CT scan just to rule out other possible causes.

So, that is what we know for now. It feels good to have a plan in place. It's been a busy and fun weekend, which has been nice because it keeps my mind off of all the cancer stuff.

On Saturday, we drove up to Tucson to watch Michael and the lacrosse team take on the Tucson Sabercats. The Sabercats were undefeated before this game with a 5-0 record. The Tigers beat them 8-4! It was a great game and very worth the drive up there. The Tigers are ranked 5th in the state now! Tomorrow night they take on Chapperal which is ranked #1 in the state. It should be an exciting game!

On Sunday, we went over to Janaya's house to help her do yardwork. She rents a house with her boyfriend, Andrew, and her girlfriend, Kierra. I guess they keep the back blinds closed and don't go out to the backyard very often. Well, Janaya went out for some reason this past week and discovered that the weeds had grown at least knee-high and covered the entire backyard! Believe me, as you will see in the pictures below, it was quite a project!

Today, I went for my first radiation treatment. It is much easier than the treatments they did to my chest after my mastectomy surgery. On Friday, when I went for the planning session. They made a mask that fits over my face and clamps down to the table. They did a Cat scan and placed markers on it. This makes sure my head is in the exact same position each time I'm treated and that the rays go where they're supposed to. Today was just supposed to be a dry run, but once they got me set up and the x-rays done, they decided to go ahead and do my treatment. The actual treatment actually takes less than a minute. They give me a dose from my left side that lasts about 15-20 seconds and then one from the right that lasts about 30 seconds. I go for twenty treatments, Monday through Fridays. That's it! Not too bad as long as you're not claustrophobic. I'm going to take my camera tomorrow and see if they'll take a picture of me in the mask.

My friend, Carol, dropped by last Thursday with dinner and flowers. It was beautiful outside this morning so I took the flowers outside to take pictures of them. Salem, our cat, was out with me and sat next to them sniffing them and it would have made the perfect picture, but by the time I got the camera zoomed in and focused, she had walked away; probably because up to now every time she's gone anywhere near them I've chased her away. Anyway, here are a couple of pictures of the flowers (right from Carol's backyard!) and Salem.

Well, that's all for today. If I get a picture of me in the mask, maybe I'll try to post it tomorrow. Hopefully, along with a victory photo from Michal's lacrosse game!

Love you all!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hi, everyone. I know by now many of you have heard my most recent news. I had the follow-up MRI that Dr. Livingston told me to get at some point to confirm whether or not the spots on my spine were cancer. Well, they were cancer and in the time that has elapsed from when the Cat scan was done in January and the MRI which was done a week ago, several new spots on other vertabrae have popped up. In addition to that, there is a 7x8mm cancerous lesion on my spinal cord high up in my cervical spine. Obviously, this is not good news. This is when the docs give you that, "We'll do everything we can to extend your life and give you quality of life," discussion. It is pretty sureal sitting there listening to it!

So, just like we've done from the start of this whole journey, we are taking one day at a time.

I went yesterday and had additional MRI's of my brain and cervical spine. The good news was there was no cancer in my brain. :>) I then went for a planning session for radiation treatments to the spot on my spinal cord. Dr. Tannehill says they should be able to zap it and completely get rid of that spot. He says the dose of radiation I'll be recieving and the angle at which they deliver it doesn't involve much risk except for the usual radiation fatigue. I was worried about damage to the spinal cord causing neurological problems, but he didn't seem to think that was anything for me to worry about.

Monday, I go up to Tucson to see Dr. Livingston and we will make a plan as to how to attack the cancer in the bones. There are chemo drugs that have been shown to be effective against triple negative breast cancer that I have not had yet.

My biggest worry right now is I am having a lot of difficulty with my breathing and they aren't sure, yet, why. It could be the lesion putting pressure on my spinal cord effecting the nerves that control my breathing. If that is the case, it should get better as the radiation shrinks that lesion. I also have fluid around my lungs again, so it could be that. And of course, there is always the chance that the cancer has also spread to my lungs. I will probably be getting another chest Cat scan this week to help us figure out what is going on.

Obviously, we are all feeling a bit overwhelmed right now, but we are staying strong. Pam arrived from NJ last night. It feels great to have her here. I know I will feel much better after my visit with Dr. Livingston on Monday and I know what the whole treatment plan is.

Dr. Tannehill told me that once breast cancer has metastasized, they no longer talk of curing it. However, people do live for years with it, keeping it under control with different treatments. So, I am of course very sad and very scared, but I have not given up hope that I still have quite a bit of time here ahead of me. And, I have plans to make the most of it! Is that the margarita express I hear honking? :>)

I met with my friend and principal, Sheila, Thursday, after meeting with Dr. Tannehill and she, Joe, and I came to the decision that it is in the best interest of me, my family, and my students for me to leave teaching again. My students have been absolutely wonderful this year, but they are only ten years old and every time I have to miss a day because of a test or a doctor's appointment they worry. I would have to miss numerous days during this last quarter of school for appointments and procedures and I just don't think it's fair to put them through that. I am devastated by the decision and so wish I could have made it through to the end of the year, but we all agreed it was the best choice. The good side to this is that I will be able to conserve my energy for fighting the cancer and for spending time with my family. Those have to be my priority right now.

And, speaking of spending time with family, we just celebrated Janaya's 22nd birthday a week ago. I can't believe she is 22. She has grown up into such a beautiful young woman and I am so proud to be her mom. Here are a couple of pictures from her birthday.

Janaya and Andrew at the Cheesecake Factory.

Janaya and Michael

Proud mom and dad.

Happy mother and daughter.

A birthday kiss from Brewski!

Lacrosse season has also started and so we are busy going to the games and cheering Michael and the rest of the team on. Most of the varsity team is seniors and they are a great group of boys, many of whom have been playing lacrosse together since junior high. Their record so far is 3 and 1. Their one loss was to Chandler and they only lost by one point. It seems like it's going to be a great season.

Joe bought me a new super zoom lens for Christmas just so I would have it for lacrosse season. I have been practicing trying to get some good shots of Michael playing. I'll post a couple below.

Well, that is it for now. Other than struggling with my breathing and feeling tired because of that, I feel just fine. I feel confident in my doctors and know they will do everything possible to help me fight this and we'll just keep on keeping on, one day at a time!
Love you all!