Getting Real – Breast Cancer Treatments

This has been a long journey.  Next month, June, on the 27th will be one year since I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Invasive Ductile Carcinoma.  My breast cancer is Estrogen Hormone related, which means the cancer fed off my body’s creation of Estrogen.

For the next five to 10 years I will be taking a pill daily.  Letrozole 2.5 mg.  This tiny pill, smaller than a pencil eraser, is an “Estrogen Sex Hormone” blocker.  This tiny pill has the power to make me stumble around like I’m drunk sometimes.  I have balance issues.  My “Old Lady Beard” is being fruitful.  With the decrease of Estrogen in my body the Progesterone is having a fine old time.

This is my last week of Radiation treatments.  They started on March 28th.  Monday through Friday for about 25 minutes for each treatment.

My Radiation Treatment

My Radiation Treatment

Chemotherapy started on October 12th – 2016 and ended January 23 – 2017.  Every two weeks there was a six hour block of time spent at the Stephenson Cancer Center in Oklahoma City.  Part of the Oklahoma University Medical complex of buildings.  I went to the Stephenson Infusion Center for each Chemo treatment.  You can read about that HERE.

I’ve tried my best to stay positive throughout this experience.  For the most part, I have been successful.

The human body is one amazing creation.  Each phase of this cancer treatment has been with HIGHLY TOXIC fluids that would eat a hole in concrete, and now radiation that has its own set of dangers.

For months now, my body has been subjected to things that are meant to KILL.  And these things do kill – the cancer tumors and some tissues within the focal area of the Radiation.

How have I been affected by all this?  Okay, frankly, almost all of it has had bonuses.

I lost ALL of my body hair.  Showering has been wonderful.  Soap up a wash rag and scrub my head and face (and the rest of my body, too).  I have not purchased shampoo or conditioner for eight months.  My armpits didn’t need deodorant.  Not one minute spent on shaving my legs or underarms.

My eyelashes and eyebrows were casualties of the Chemo as well.  Trying to put on false eyelashes….without a baseline of the lashes…..was tricky to say the least.  Drawing on eyebrows without a starting, middle, and ending point made me look kind of off kilter most of the time.

The worst side effect I have had with all this cancer treatment has been fatigue.  Some days after the Chemo treatment I could not move from my recliner.  The two week intervals for Chemo had me nearly crashed for about 10 days.  The three or four days before the next treatment I had energy and felt really great.

The downside of Chemo is it is nearly impossible to eat.  I didn’t have many mouth sores, as other patients have experienced.  My fingernails felt like they were going to POP RIGHT OFF for several days after the Chemo.  That was uncomfortable.  I had some long bone pain.  My thigh bones, arms, and shoulder blades ached continuously.

Water smelled and tasted AWFUL!  Tap water and bottled water.  And don’t get me started on ice!  I am not a beer drinker.  I have one about every two years.  Let me tell you, I drank a bottle of beer a week during Chemo.  It felt so good on the back of my throat.  It tasted good even.  Normally I can’t stand the smell of the stuff.

Anything sweet, and I love sweets!  Cake, pie, brownies, cookies, candy.  You name it, if it is sweet I love it.

During Chemo….NOPE.  Every sweet thing that I loved – especially CHOCOLATE – once it was in my mouth it was so bad I had to spit it out.  The taste was SORT OF like that awful smell of a decomposing mouse or animal.  That sickly sweet, cloying, smell that screws up your face when you smell it.

Cooking while Joe was home made me hearken back to my pregnancy days, well over 40 years ago.  The smell of cooking meat bothered me.  During Chemo, I frequently scorched or burned things because I would go off in a trance like state for minutes at a time.  I was always so sleepy.

Oh, don’t let me forget the “Chemo Brain” that I continue to suffer with.  I would be talking to Joe and my mind would, quite literally, go blank.  I had no clue what I had been saying, nor what we had been discussing.  I often would find it quite daunting to think of the word or name for something.  Standing in the kitchen one evening, while I was cooking, minutes passed before I could even think of the utensil I needed to stir the soup simmering in the pot.

The total frustration is immense!

Joe and I had a standing weekly date with our neighbors on Thursday nights when we were in town for long stretches of time.  Dinner and a game of cards.  Conversation, laughter, and sometimes conversation got a bit dicey when it came  to political views.  During my Chemo treatment, which usually fell on Thursday at the start, the weekly camaraderie didn’t happen.  When my Chemo was moved to Tuesday I often still felt too ill to participate.  Cook and play cards.  There was one evening I do remember falling asleep in the middle of the card game.

I tried to make an effort to keep up with my YouTube videos.  That was hit and miss.  I received packages from all over the place.  Literally all over the place.  The UK, Canada, Italy, various US States.  The outpouring of LOVE has been such that I cannot even express my humble gratitude for the gifts.  As I felt energetic enough, and was able to put on the wonky fake eyelashes and oddly penciled brows, I made videos of the gifts of love I received.

As the Radiation Therapy has been my most recent regimen the fatigue remains.  I was told I would experience it.  During Physical Therapy after my Mastectomy in February I was told exercise would help with the fatigue and the Neuropathy I have in my hands and feet.

That is one major side effect of the Chemo that I will have for a long, long time.  Tingling and loss of feeling in my hands and fingers.  My finger tips are mostly effected.  They tingle all the time.  I also have tingling on the soles of my feet.  Sometimes walking on the carpet in my home, the feeling is like walking on sharp gravel.  When I go through my kitchen and bathroom, which are linoleum, my feet hurt as the tingling intensifies.

I have been going to a local “10 Gym” to use the treadmill for 40 minutes a day.  This has helped with the Neuropathy in my feet.  In the evenings my toes are the only part of my feet effected.  Sometimes my toes feel like they are going to just pop.  That is uncomfortable but manageable.  I am on some medication – oddly for seizures – that help with this side effect.  This medication also has an effect on my balance.  More meds to make me stumble around drunk.

I have a lot of energy in the mornings.  My Radiation Therapy is generally around 10 each morning.  After that I drive right to the gym and do my walking.  I know that if I don’t go right after my Radiation…..”it ain’t happening”.  I’m home around noon or 1.  By 2 in the afternoon is when my body crashes.  Quite literally.  I fall asleep for two to three hours.  Waking up at 5 in the evening, I consider my day SHOT!

I have been concentrating on getting my life in order.  It has been nearly a year since I have done general cleaning in my home and it really shows.  I have made a concentrated effort to make a list of small things to do during this last week of my Radiation Therapy.  I have dragged out my “Happy Planner“….which has been unused since about September of last year.  Time to get with the program and do what I can as I feel the energy to do it.

Next week's plan

Next week’s plan

I have divided my weekly spreads for “Medical Appointments” at the top section; “Home” in the center section; and “Joe” in the lower section.  Keeping track of where he is picking up, delivering, and where he stays the night for our business records.

I purchased the “Home Management” insert for the Happy Planner to not allow my “Chemo Brain” to continually take over my life.

This coming week, May 8 to 14, is “Zone 2” in the Flylady way of house keeping.  I relied heavily on this website for years in the past.  It is high time to get started once again.  I am POSITIVE that I CAN DO THIS!.  Get my life back!

Happy Planner insert for Home Management

Happy Planner insert for Home Management

So….I’m toying with the idea of doing a blog post daily this coming week to reflect on my successes and not so much success.  I’m thinking of calling them the “One Boob Chronicle”.  I’m not ashamed of my physical attributes, or lack there of.  I can’t wear a bra right now because my chest is so raw from the Radiation.  It is evident that I am lacking in the “chesty area” when I go out in public.  So why not just CELEBRATE MY UNIQUENESS!

I have a YouTube video that shows my Radiation Treatment.  Be warned if you watch it.  I show my Mastectomy and the rawness from the Radiation.  You can see it below if you choose to.

Until next time.  Have a FABULOUS Sunday 😀

My first dance with the “Red Devil” – Doxorubicin

I have Stage 3 Hormone Receptor Positive – Invasive Ductile Cancer….or something like that.  Cancer in the left breast which started in a duct and has grown outside and into the surrounding tissue, nearing the outer skin.

I have been treated with Faslodex, which is a set of chemotherapy shots to target the Estrogen hormone in my body which feeds the breast cancer.  I had three treatments of Faslodex.  My doctors were concerned that this treatment was not working in the manner they had hoped for.

Today – October 12, 2016 – is my very first IV Chemotherapy treatment.  What am I feeling?

  • A bit scared
  • Heard way too many horror stories of chemotherapy in the past
  • Feeling a bit separate from my own body….not quite out of body but like a different personality is taking over….One that is calm
  • A bit worried about excessive pain, vomiting, and a lot of discomfort

I was instructed, several days ago, to take one of the anti-nausea pills several hours before the chemotherapy treatment.  Take one of my $250 pills at 7:00 a.m. before we leave for my 8:30 appointment with my Oncologist.

Anti-Nausea Meds

Anti-Nausea Meds

On our way out to join the craziness of interstate commuters at rush hour going into Oklahoma City….we were greeted by a beautiful sky with the morning sun reflecting off building clouds.

Morning cloud cover

Morning cloud cover

After seeing my Oncologist’s Physician Assistant, who is amazing by the way, I was ready to begin this journey.  I had to call the Chemo Desk to let them know I would be late for my 9:00 appointment this morning.  I was just down on the second floor for my 8:30…..look everyone is doing their best to get me seen and cared for.

It is my responsibility to alert the next appointment when there are delays.  Most people don’t see it that way.  “Hey, it’s not my problem.  I was early to my appointment.”  Who knows if, or when, someone can call my next appointment….even one floor up.  I can do it myself and know that it has been done.

Okay.  I have to be totally honest here.  When I arrived for my Chemotherapy appointment, weighed in, was asked to choose a place to be seated throughout the treatment, and informed of all the beverage and snack options available to me….I was beginning to feel a bit of TMI going on.  Once the Clinical Nurse Specialist – an AMAZING WOMAN – came to tell me about the various drugs I would be getting this morning and their side effects….She asked me if I understood what she had just told me.  Ya.  Uhm.  Okay.  Actually this is what was going on.

Information Overload

Information Overload

Doxorubicin (doks oh ROO bi sin) is a generic name for Adriamycin.  This stuff is SO TOXIC that 550 mg is my LIFETIME dose!  For the rest of my life I can’t have one more drop of this stuff.  EVER!

The favored name of this drug is “Red Devil” or “Red Death”.  Do you feel comforted by this information?!  I think that is when the train wreck happened.  I did a lot of nodding from this point on while I most likely had a glazed over blank stare.

This drug is preferred to be administered through a Chemo Port (of which I have one).  The nurse who will be giving me the drug needs to make sure they actually SEE blood coming back into the line as they go from one dose to the next.  This is to insure the drug is in the vein and not out in tissue.

Are you ready for this?!  If this drug gets out into the tissue it will EAT IT!  This drug is a “Vesicant” – a chemical that causes extensive tissue damage and blistering if it escapes from the vein.

Doxorubicin - Red Devil

Doxorubicin – Red Devil

Just so I know that they have the "Big Guns" going...I guess

Just so I know that they have the “Big Guns” going…I guess

The most common side effects (30% of patients) of “Red Devil” is pain along the site where the medication was given.  Nausea and vomiting.  Low blood counts.  Both white and red blood cells have to be monitored.

This drug has long term possible side effects as well.  Heart damage, and Leukemia are two of the major possible side effects.  Another one is Tumor Lysis Syndrome where the tumor dies so quickly the kidneys can’t cope with the amount of dead cancer cells pouring through my system and into my kidneys.  This can be the cause of kidney failure.

The first five to eight days after Doxorubicin treatment – I and my bodily fluids are TOXIC WASTE!

  • Flush the toilet twice, with lid closed, after each use.  Wipe toilet seat, lid, under seat, porcelain rim and sides.  After each use.
  • My clothes are to be washed separate from Joe’s clothing and/or other household laundry.
  • Bed clothes laundered twice.  One cycle of regular soap and heat temp.  Second round water only to flush out the toxic night sweats.
  • No kissing Joe – my mouth can have sores and some bleeding.
  • Wash hands constantly, or use hand sanitizer…constantly.  Optimally do both.

Within 10 to 14 days my hair will fall out.  ALL OF MY HAIR.  From the top of my head to my toes.  Yes.  Possibly eyebrows, eyelashes, PRAISE THE LORD MY OLD LADY BEARD WILL BE GONE!, arm pits, pubes, legs, and any other hair that I don’t even know about will be shedding itself.

Tomorrow – October 13, 2016 – Joe and I are going to a hair salon that will donate my  hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths – I have 8 inches of hair to whack off.  Some of it is gray or graying but a large portion of it is brown.  So, don’t be alarmed when you next see me with very short hair!

Pantene Beautiful Lengths provides human hair to wig makers for cancer patients that need wigs.  I had originally intended to donate my  hair (and have done this in the past) to Locks of Love.  This organization is for young girls and women who suffer from permanent hair loss at a young age.  Alopecia Areata is permanent medical hair loss which has devastating effects on young girls.

Why am I giving my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lenghts instead of Locks of Love?  Because I am actually going through this process myself and wish to help someone that is traveling along my path.  Someone that is not comfortable with the physical effects of cancer treatment.  I know that I can ease one person’s fears and concerns and I am up for that.

Cyclophosphamide-(Cytoxan trademarked name) is the second chemo drug in my cocktail.  This drug is delivered via IV drip.  I have to drink 64 ounces of water and/or decaffeinated beverages DAILY, with instructions to “Empty bladder frequently – Don’t hold it”.

30% of patients experience:

  • Low blood count – white and red cells
  • Increased risk for infection, anemia, and/or bleeding
  • Temporary hair loss 10 to 14 days into treatment
  • Nausea and vomiting, usually beginning six to 10 hours after therapy
  • Poor appetite
  • Discoloration of skin or nails.  Dark nail beds.  For some patients, nails will fall off on both hands and feet.
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth sores
  • Bladder infection and bleeding.
  • Rinse mouth after each meal with 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 8 ounces of warm water.
  • Use of an electric razor is recommended for any shaving – men or women

My Chemotherapy Nurse would be with me throughout the entire process.  This would take four hours from start to finish, not all of it constant supervision.

She came wheeling a cart of supplies to get this party started.

Cart of supplies

Cart of supplies

Now she is getting serious!!

Getting down to serious work

Getting down to serious work

When I saw my surgeon the day before, I asked him about the Lidocaine ointment I was supposed to put on the Port thing to ease any pain of the needle being inserted.  His response “Not necessary.  Children have a worse time of it and it is essential to be used then.  Adults don’t even notice it.”

Can you guess what my Chemo Nurse had to say about that when I walked in without my port covered in plastic wrap?  The Lidocaine ointment has to be administered 30 minutes prior to puncture.  The Port must be covered with plastic wrap during the 30 minutes time.

Even with her counting to THREE before pushing the needle in….YIKES it was uncomfortable!  Survived It!  YAY.

Port in use

Port in use

The first hour or more was spent having the standard drugs run through.  Saline drip, an anti-nausea drip, some kind of steroid for something else.  All while waiting for my TOXIC SOUP to arrive from the hospital pharmacy.

While I’m waiting and feel good I’m going to keep my hands busy.  I brought a small packet of pre-cut and pre-scored items to make my little 3 x 3 note card gift totes.  Joe took this photo to share with our kids.  Each person that comes to take care of me today will be given one of my “Thank You” totes.

Passing the time

Passing the time

Creating the little totes

Creating the little totes

Joe spent quite a bit of time enjoying the aquarium next to him watching a clown fish and a clam or oyster shell open and close.  Each time he got a bit closer to the glass the shell closed, he had to patiently wait for it to reopen.  Joe’s big question…”Where are they eyes of the clam?”  How did it know he was getting closer?  Love that man of mine! 😀

I love this man of mine!

I love this man of mine!

I asked my Chemo Nurse how long she had been doing this work and why she enjoyed working with cancer patients.  Her answer made me wonder at how life’s perspectives get tipped over one their head.

She has been a Chemo Nurse for 21 of her 25 years in nursing.  Coming to Chemo she found that the patient’s attitudes are so different from the general patient population.  “On a regular floor” she said “if a patient needs pain meds they push the call buttons and call out frequently.”  She continued “When we arrive at their room they demand pain meds immediately!”  Those memories are still quite troublesome to her and I could hear it in her voice and see it in her hands as she gave me the Doxorubicin.  I mean, I had her undivided attention for at least 30 minutes, I just had to be a Nosey Parker.  “The Chemo patients say”, my nurse continued, “When you get a chance I will need a bit of something for the pain.  No hurry.”

Someone in the hospital for a bad appendix, gall bladder, hip or knee replacement, or any other kind of surgical procedure is bound to have a lot of pain.  Is there a difference in attitude between general hospital population and the Chemotherapy population?  There are people in both arenas that are terrified of dying and of the “Big C”.

I’m wondering if the difference is the quantitative care one gets in Chemotherapy over a regular hospital floor.  The Chemotherapy floor is wide open and circling the Nurses Station.  Special reclining chairs with arm rests are everywhere.  IV poles and machines are next to each chair.  The Chemo patients see the bee hive of activity by the nurses as they move about tending to their jobs.  In a regular hospital room you don’t see the nurses until they come around for vital signs or to do a spot check.

The last drug I have is a timed one.  24 hours after my Chemo treatment this little device will inject Neulasta into my system to cause my bone marrow to create more white blood cells to fight this cancer and treatment.

Neulasta - at home in my pj's

Neulasta – at home in my pj’s

My Chemo Nurse said, about 15 minutes after she placed this busy little packet on my stomach, there will be a sound like a rubber band snapping and I will feel a pinch as a “Canella” will be inserted under the skin.  There is a flashing green light counting down the timer to injection.  Which will be at about 4:30 the next afternoon – October 13th.

Joe was getting ready to take a video of the thing shooting into me.  He was so excited to see me jump and yelp.  He wanted to have this documented forever, my startled exclamations and all.  Uhm…..he missed the whole show.  He DID MISS IT!  Sitting right there in front of me, cell phone camera pointed and ready.  I yelped and jumped and startled HIM!  He had not had the video button pushed at all.  ROTFLMAO!  😀

The most common side effects – 30% of patients.

  • Bone pain.
  • Pain in shoulder blades, sternum, long bones
  • Achy and sore feeling.  Kind of like the flu
  • Tenderness at the site of injection

For the remainder of the day I felt pretty great.  Sweaty at times but not bad.  This morning (10/13) I woke feeling energetic and ready for the day.  Joe fixed me breakfast.  Listen people this was his very FIRST attempt at making an omelet and I think he did FABULOUS!

Joe's omelet skills

Joe’s omelet skills

Making of the omelet

Making of the omelet

Okay, it is time for me to go do some things I need to take care of for this week.  While I feel like I am able to do things.  My energy level is depleting hourly now (October 13th) so I better get busy.

Leslie

Trying to get back on track with my YouTube videos.

On my YouTube channel I have designated Monday’s as being “Subscriber Question Day”.  Whatever the question is, no matter what it is about, I try to answer the question from my personal experience with a product or a tool.

Monday, September 5, is the second video in my Beginner Series.  This video was made possible by a question from Joke (YO-ka) Smits from The Netherlands.  She has a problem with paper.  Her problem is she doesn’t have any.

The specialty papers available for purchase, in stores or online, here in the US is mind boggling.  To those outside the US availability is not so easily attained, what with the cost of the product and shipping charges.

Joke, on Monday you will find a video that will help you in your quest for paper.  I hope anyway.  I have used Operation Write Home card sketch #59 for the card I feature.  Everything to create the card came from my junk mail.  Advertisements, catalogs, magazines, and whatever else I could find.

Belated Birthday Card from junk mail

Belated Birthday Card from junk mail

Joke, this card I have made does not come close to being “professional” quality but it is meant as a guide in helping you, and others like you, to “get your feet wet” before diving into the pool.

One day, Joke, you will have a space full of paper.  Colors, textures, sparkly, plain, thin and heavy weight.  AND you will have the very same problem with all the “proper” paper.  Like having a closet full of nice clothes and nothing to wear.

You have to find out if you even “Like” making greeting cards or would rather do something else.  Art journals, altered items (change them into something different than what they began life as), scrapbook layouts, or any other type of paper crafting.  It is a process that everyone goes through.  Everyone!

Yesterday, September 2 (Friday), I had my second go round of chemotherapy shots.

Round 2 of chemotherapy shots

Round 2 of chemotherapy shots

About 30 minutes after getting the shots…….Lord have Mercy.  My left breast with the cancer tumor was letting me know it was not dying without a fight.  Good grief!  The pain was intense at times, and unrelenting.  I had to take one of my heavy duty pain meds…..a current prescription of Hydrocodone.  In fact, I ended up taking one shortly after we got home and another before I went to bed last night.  Today the pain is manageable.

I will be in my craft room until I do something stupid.  Like bang my boob on something as I try to get around in my small space crammed to the gills with “stuff”.  Reach too high for something and a whole lot of “stuff” comes crashing down on my poor boob.  I will be trying to get ahead of the game in my YouTube videos.  Here at my blog, I will have to figure out some kind of a schedule for it also.  My friends and family on Facebook and Instagram, I’m trying to keep up with that, and  you, as well.  Forgive me being hit and miss.  More miss than hit.

Hope y0u enjoy the Holiday weekend of Labor Day here in the US.  A three day weekend for most everyone not in the service and hospitality industry.  Service and hospitality workers never get holidays off.  Nurses, doctors, food servers, hotel staff, grocery store workers, and all the other service workers.  Military families included.  For my military readers…..THANK YOU for your service.

Leslie

My Chemotherapy begins today.

It has been quite an eventful three weeks since my last post.

Doctor appointments

Doctor appointments

I guess it has been well over a month now.  On July 22nd I had a PET Scan.  The findings from that was a dark spot on my left adrenal gland, my right Femur, and in my stomach.  The appointment with my surgeon on July 26th was to tell me of the PET Scan findings and subsequent tests that would be done to see if my breast cancer had spread to the darkened areas.

According to my surgeon, a dark spot on a Femur is an indicator of breast cancer.  If a spot is found near the hip, breast cancer is soon to follow.  In later days I would have a bone biopsy done.

August 3rd was the start of a pretty rough week.  I have been a one pack a day smoker for over 40 years.  I’ve tried to quit on numerous occasions, with not much luck.  I am under the supervision of an RN who specializes in Smoking Cessation.  Through her care I have been given a box of nicotine patches to help me quit smoking.  And a box of of nicotine gum.

The thing I have been able to keep uppermost in my mind is not the cancer or treatment, but the rich blessings I have received from hundreds of people around the world.  Each person let me know they were praying for me.  Through your prayers, encouragement, support, and the love you have freely given to me I feel POSITIVE that you all have had an enormous effect on my cancer.  This post is to inform you of what those prayers have caused and to tell you how grateful I am for each and every one of you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Earlier in the month of July I had been informed my breast cancer is fed by hormones, Estrogen specifically.  Then I was informed by  a nurse to the Oncologist that nicotine feeds the breast cancer.  And to top it off, I was later informed that all foods I consume feed the cancer.  This is truly a case of “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t”.  No winners here.

Before I met with the Smoking Cessation Specialist I had worked pretty hard for a couple of weeks to cut down on my smoking.  I was able to get a pack of cigarettes to last for 48 hours.  After I was being treated with the nicotine patch I gradually worked myself down to two cigarettes per day.  Stressful days I would have three.

That first week of the patches, having to write down the time I lit up and for how long I smoked….a few puffs, half a cigarette, or an entire one was really quite challenging to my temperament.  I had to indicate if the desire to smoke was “Low”, “Moderate”, or “Strong”.  Also I had to make note of WHY I lit up.  No matter what the reason was that I put down on the little paper, the end result was just plain old REBELLION.

On August 8th I had to go for the bone biopsy.  I would be put into another scanning machine to locate the dark spot on my Femur then the doctor would drill for oil.  I had a peek at the tool he used, after the procedure was over, much to my dismay.  A specially created drill bit that would do a core sample as well laid on the instrument tray.  That bit was every bit of 5 inches long!

Bone biopsy drill

Bone biopsy drill

Scanner for my bone biopsy

Scanner for my bone biopsy

I was awake through this procedure.  The nurses who monitored me and assisted the doctor had me lie on my stomach.  Once prone, the nurses were not very happy with where I had placed myself on the bed.  Each of them grabbed a bit of the sheet at my feet and speedily hauled me backward.  That was shocking if I do say so.  I’ve watched too many movies and television shows.  The speed at which I was jerked backward was very unsettling.  They giggled, I loudly blurted “Holy Sh*t”, which caused more giggling.

The nurse that monitored my vital signs told me she would give me a drug that would cause me to forget what was happening and another drug that would be a pain medicine.  What was I supposed to forget?  The amount of discomfort this procedure was going to cause or if my potty mouth was no longer in check?

I can say the drugs I was given made the stabbing pains in my left breast go completely away.  That was a comfort all by itself.  I had to remain awake to move around as needed for the drilling.  I would hear the drill motor going then it would stop.  I would be told to tip over to my left side just a little bit.  Then the bed I lay on would be mechanically moved into the scanning machine.  At a sufficient position a whirring noise would sound, the doctor would say something, the whirring would stop and the bed would come back out of the machine.  I was then instructed to lay flat once more and the drill motor would begin again.

When the procedure was finished, then and only then, did the doctor tell me to be careful for the next 72 hours.  No heavy lifting, no household chores, no strenuous exercise of any kind.  I could possibly break my femur and that would entail major surgery.  Thank  you Doc.  You could have warned me when I was a bit more lucid in my head instead of at the end of the procedure when I would be allowed to go to sleep.  I thought of breaking my leg for more than 72 hours.

I was in no pain at all by the time Joe came to take me home.  He had been told I would be held over for four hours and he was told to go get something to eat.  While he was gone they reduced the time to two hours, of which mere minutes of that time remained.  Poor Joe nearly broke a leg hurrying to my little part of the hospital to take me home.

Oh, Lord have Mercy!  That night.  The pain in my right leg was tremendous.  It was such that made my entire body shake from the intensity.  I had not been prescribed pain medicine.  Do you know what I did at 1:00 a.m. when the pain was too much?  Well I’ll tell you what I did.  I dug through my bathroom drawers and cupboards until I found a bottle of Hydrocodone which expired June of 2006.  I took one of those pills and waited for it to take effect.  By 3:00 a.m. I was blissfully asleep.

My cigarette smoking has stayed in the two per day for a few more days.  By the end of the week I had managed to get it down to one and a half.

On August 10th I saw my Oncologist.  She got a good hold of my left breast.  Raised it, lowered it, moved it the right and left.  She was not very delicate with her maneuvering either.  She squeezed it.  Put a micrometer tool under my breast, flopped it around while she adjusted her measuring device.  Jammed the toothy tool into the under part of my poor breast to get her measurements.  That was uncomfortable but worse was yet to come.  She began firmly feeling for the edges of my cancer.  Pressing deeply with her finger tips then squeezing firmly with both hands to find all the various separations, of which there are several.

When she was finished my lower jaw ached.

I was under a NO ASPIRIN restriction so I had to ease the discomfort with wimpy Tylenol.  I couldn’t use my Vanquish which I rely on.  I would have my stomach scoped the next day and would have a biopsy done which required the No aspirin restriction.

After visiting with  my Oncologist I went to see the Smoking Cessation Specialist.  I told her of my progress, which she was pleased.  I was a bit bummed because my smoking had increased to three the day before.  She performed some kind of lung test.  I would inhale a deep breath before blowing into a machine that would indicate how much of a smoker I am.  On my initial visit with this Specialist this test had a result of “16”.  She said that did indicate a 1/2 pack a day smoker.  On this day when I took the breath test it was on “5”.  She was really happy and told me that I was now considered a Non-Smoker.  So that made me feel better.

The cravings can be quite strong from time to time and hard to ignore.  I do make many attempts to distract myself during those powerful urges.  Sometimes I’m successful and other times I am not.  I have come to find that during stress is when I smoke more.

On August 11th I had my stomach scope done.  This time I would be put completely out with the aid of drugs.  Of course, while all the prep work was being done in getting the equipment ready for the doctor one of the nurses asked me if I had any questions or concerns.  Of course I did.  Not with the procedure as they were expecting me to pose my queries.

“How clean in that thing you will be putting down my throat?  I mean, am I going to end up with some terrible infection that is left over from a really sick person before me?”  I was serious.  I’ve read the articles on the internet and you know….if it is on the internet then it HAS to be true!

Both of the nurses began telling me how clean they keep their equipment.  I was told how they get inside to the different levels and thoroughly clean them.  They went on further to state that they have been where I was and their main objective was to make sure the equipment was clean enough for them to be tested and not get infected.

Hey, I was in the room and time was short before the festivities began.  A bit late now to be bailing out.  Besides, I was already hooked up to some pretty good drugs that were taking the edge off of my anxiety.

The nurse that would be in control of my drugs was the one who was working to ease my anxiety.  I remember her saying they were about to begin and that I would be going to sleep now.  Indeed I did go to sleep.  I felt them put some kind of weird thing in my mouth and put the elastic around my  head.  With my tongue I felt a round hole in the center of this thing set between my teeth. That was where the probe was going to be fed.  That is all I remember….UNTIL

I was partially awake and had an intense desire to swallow.  I could feel the probe far down my throat.  I tried hard to swallow, which was very difficult.  I lay there wondering how I could breath.  I concentrated on inhaling through my nose to see if I could, in fact, breathe.  I wondered at that hard tube being somewhere down my esophagus and tried to see if I could feel just how far down it was.  Then I felt the probe being pushed further down my throat and I heard myself groan.  Yep, the drugs were then pumped into me right then and there.

I don’t remember being moved from the room I had started in to awaken in the Recovery Room.  I thought the nurse was lying to me.  I was so disoriented and groggy that I have no idea if I said anything I would have been ashamed of were I not drugged up.  If I did the nurse was kind enough to let it go.  She stayed with me until I was able to stand and walk into the waiting area where Joe was.

Once home I went to my living room chair for a moment to quell the dizziness I felt and three hours later I made it out of the chair.  I had gone completely to sleep.

Friday, August 12th I had my normal stabbing pains in my left breast.  Sometimes it was really intense on the underside and almost unbearable.  I could rely on my Vanquish now that I was not having any further biopsies and could leave the Tylenol alone.

I had been spending quite a lot of time on my business paperwork the week before and on the days I didn’t have doctor appointments or biopsies.  I was making quite a bit of progress in getting that dreaded chore done.  Some days I would get into my third cigarette by nightfall.

I worked each day diligently.  Three hours or more to get that job done.  I had the various files sorted and in some stage of completion.

Data entry

Data entry

Completed files

Completed files

Personal files

Personal files

Now I had it to the point where I could get the finished files into one box.  I still have one month to go for the personal bookkeeping and a small bit for the business.

Completed files, bank statements, and personal files

Completed files, bank statements, and personal files

My breast was giving me some fits for quite a few days.  I had been scheduled for an Ultrasound on my breast for August 16th.  The stabbing pain was quelled with my Vanquish, which has 227 milligrams of aspirin in it, over the weekend and on Monday.  Tuesday the pain was pretty intense and constant.  I went back to my 10 year old Hydrocodone stash and took another one to ease my discomfort.

The morning of the 16th I’m told I will have a biopsy done on my breast to get me started on treatment.  The bone scan came back negative for any cancer cells.  The stomach scope came back with an ulcer and I had some bacterial pockets in my stomach that would need treatment with antibiotics.  I have H. Pylori.  A bacteria commonly found in people that eat Sushi or undercooked food.  I don’t eat fish raw or cooked so I have no idea how I ended up with that bacterial infection.

Anyway, since I had been taking Aspirin then the biopsy and ultrasound would be postponed until Friday, August 19th.  That was today.  The doctor who would be performing the biopsy was kind enough to prescribe me a pain medicine that was current and I would not have to rely on my outdated supply any longer.  So I used that medicine instead of my Vanquish.

This is my left breast.  It is swollen with the cancer and is mottled purple underneath.  This is when it gets to be quite painful, even to the touch of my clothing brushing against it.  The sheet in bed can be very uncomfortable.

My left breast

My left breast

I decided to take this photo.  Today I begin the treatment phase and it is hoped that this will work.  Reduce the cancer tumor, make it less hard, shrink it enough that surgery can be performed to remove it.  I’m hoping that it will and I won’t have to go through Chemo.

Because the cancer has not spread to other parts of my body and remains localized in my breast I can begin the Research Study which will be for six months.  Every month I will have a biopsy done on the cancer to see what the “Ki67” score is.  That is the growth of the cancer.  If it continues to grow and the Ki67 score gets higher this Research Study treatment will end and I will have to begin Chemotherapy.  If the current treatment on the Research Study is working as intended, at the end of the six month period the surgery will be performed to remove the cancer in the breast and the lymph node(s).

During my treatment it is expected that I will have “Hot Flashes”, which I have deemed Power Surges.  Some flu like symptoms, fatigue, bone pain, headaches, and other nuisance symptoms that can be dealt with by generally ignoring them and just suck it up.

There have been reports of abnormal liver functions in the blood tests with Fluvestrant, the drug I am being treated with.  Cancer treatment has come a long, long way since the first diagnosis and treatment.  There are different types of breast cancer and each type is treated in a different way.  Today there are pills and shots for cancer treatment.  My study is to find out if Fluvestrant can be used alone as treatment for hormone related cancers, before surgery.

Currently, I am working on a financial report regarding the GoFundMe account my daughter set up for me.  I thought, those of you that have been so generous, you would like to know how the money has been spent.  I assure you, I have not trotted myself to the local craft/hobby store to find the most shiny and beautiful papers and embellishments.

Thank you everyone for your prayers, encouragement, financial support, and love you have so freely given to me.  I am so very grateful for the abundance I have been given.  Thank you is just such a small thing but it is all I have to give.

Leslie

Breast Cancer Diagnosis – Akin to drinking water from a fire hose

My dear friend, Maureen Criss Mathis, asked me if I felt like I was “Drinking water from a fire hose” and I had to steal her reference.  This is exactly like that.

Like  you, I’ve seen the many marathons for “The Cure” and all the pink ribbons.  I’ve heard the stories of the battles being waged by ordinary women with their individual type of breast cancer.  Let’s not leave the men out of this equation.  They get breast cancer as well.

You hear about the many who fall in the battle, many who are emotionally scarred and physically maimed, many who survive to fight another day.  Hopefully they don’t have to fight again after what they have been through.

I am totally blown away by the wealth of love and support I have been receiving, and continue to receive.

Frankly, I’ve had to spend quite a bit of time in prayer over this development.  I feel unworthy of all the love I have received.  Mostly, I’m having a sort of “Out of body experience” with this whole situation.  As if I am a spectator instead of a participant.  Hence, the unworthiness feeling I have.

I am learning that the “Obama Care” Insurance package is not quite as fabulous as everyone had been lead to believe.  There are people struggling with their own health issues and are foregoing treatment because they can’t come up with the huge….and I mean HUGE…. deductibles they are facing.  Paying $600 to $1000 a month for this insurance then find it won’t cover any of the medical costs until the deductible of $500 to $700 is first met.  Who has that kind of money, I ask you?

In all the reading I am doing, and the research I’m finding.  Breast cancer is, by and large, fully treatable.  The one medical issue that has a far larger death rate is Heart Disease.  Quite of number of breast cancer survivors succumb to a heart attack.

This was true of my research when Joe was faced with Prostate Cancer.  Studies have shown that men die WITH prostate cancer and NOT because of it.  Most men die of a heart attack or some other equally disastrous malady.

I can’t kick myself in the butt.  Really, it is no longer physically possibly for me to do that.  I had been able to do that in my younger days but not any longer.

Hindsight is also one of the specters I have haunting me lately.  Had I told everyone back in December of 2015 or January of 2016 when I first found the lump in my breast I would have been a clinical “Stage Zero”.  A Non-Invasive breast cancer confined to a duct and considered “In Situ”.  Meaning it had not spread outside of the confines of the lump.

February 2016 I was at a Stage 1.  Either Stage 1 A or Stage1B.  That is when the cancer cells begin to break out of the duct and invade healthy tissue.  I think in February I was well past the Stage 1 since my lump was already far larger than 2 centimeters.  More than likely it had not spread to my Lymph Nodes at that time.

March 2016 and onward into May 2016 I think my breast cancer was invasive enough to be considered Stage 3.  There is a Stage 3A, Stage 3B, and a Stage 3C.  I fit somewhere in one of these three clinical stages.  My lump was far larger than 3 centimeters (which is 1-1/2 inches) and in some places it was 5 centimeters (3 inches).

Stage 4 breast cancer is when the invasive growth has left the breast and lymph nodes to make its way to other organs of my body.  Lungs, skin, bones, liver, or brain.

As if this information is not intimidating enough, there are further considerations.  What TYPE of cancer do I have?  Are there Hormone Receptors…..does the cancer feed off my Estrogen or Progesterone hormones?  Does my cancer indicate a HER2 Receptor status?  What is my Lymph Node status?

I don’t have that information at this time.  I probably won’t have that until after the July 4th holiday.  That information will then dictate whether I begin Chemotherapy, Radiation therapy, or an oral drug therapy.  I’ve been told my treatment plan will begin by reducing the cancer size and stopping its growth BEFORE surgery will be even considered.

In this information overload process I have learned that every single person is eligible for good medical care.  Hospitals CANNOT turn you away for a lack of Insurance or ability to pay for your treatment.

One of my daughters is an ICU Trauma Nurse at Denver General.  She has over 10 years of experience in her field and she did some research to find a clinic or hospital for me to go for treatment.  She has also made her recommendation of the Surgeon I am to initially see for my treatment plan based on her knowledge of the inner workings of hospitals and the continued education of the doctors employed by hospitals.

Another daughter who is a nurse in Kansas has been staunchly advocating the role of hospitals and doctors in the care of ALL patients.  No matter their financial situation or Insurance coverage – or lack of Insurance coverage.  Hospitals are there to help everyone who needs it.  According to my Kansas daughter, hospitals have staff well versed in the charities and the grants available to everyone for their treatment.  There are people at hospitals whose sole job is to guide the patient through the quagmire of paperwork and options to best help in their treatment and subsequent return to health.

Had I known this information at the start of 2016 I would not be in the position I am in today.

I have a huge fault….some may call it a SIN.  I have a lot of pride.  I do things myself.  I don’t depend on, nor do I ask others for help.  My other fault….SIN is that I am impatient.

So, due to my enormous faults….SINs.  I am now in the unenviable position of asking for help and having to be patient.

Please, I beg you.  If you know someone who is facing a major illness and they are putting off treatment because they can’t afford it.  HOUND THEM!  Tell them to get their butts to a doctor or, at the very least, the Emergency Room of a local hospital.  If the local hospital is not equipped to deal with the illness they HAVE TO tell the person where they can GET the proper treatment.

Finally….sorry this is so long.  For all of you, my dear friends, that have found my having breast cancer unbearable and you feel really sad for me.  I have a suggestion that I hope will help you to deal with this discomfort.  Be, what is the word I am looking for?  Disgraceful?  No that is not it.  Disrespectful.  Yes!  That is the word I am looking for.

If you want to send me a greeting card to show your support.  Here are the rules.

  1.  The sentiment HAS to be something OUTRAGEOUS!  For example:  “You can’t skip and be unhappy at the same time”.  Dylusions Quote Medley.
  2. I will even be open to:  “You would think that with all your Multiple personalities at least one would be likable”.  Dylusions Quote Medley.
  3. You HAVE to use your paper scraps.  Don’t run to your local craft and hobby store for a new pad of paper.
  4. If you have a YouTube channel, please share your creation and let people know that you are supporting someone with breast cancer.  This might give another card maker or paper crafter permission to express their love and support to someone they don’t quite know how to put in words what they are feeling.
  5. Private message me for my address, if you don’t already  have it.
  6. Prepare yourself to be honored.  I will be home for about a year now through this process and I will be making videos.  I will be showing the cards I receive and showing my appreciation for each of  you.

I am going to get through this.  With or without you.  I have a grandbaby that will be coming into this family in November or December.  I HAVE to be there to welcome her into this world.  I have twin granddaughters that are now 2 years old.  I have to be able to get out to the thrift shops to find frilly dresses and over the top jewelry for them to play dress up.  I have a grandson who is currently 7 years old who is far older than his years that needs to know that I love him and support his computer game adventures.  I have a husband, whom I adore, that is enveloped by a cloak of fear that I have to remove.  I have daughters, sons, daughter-in-laws, son-in-laws that I need to continue to love and support their lives.  I have friends that are in need of my support and love just as much as I need it from them.

Leslie