Saturday, June 2, 2007

Toast To Life!!!

My oncologist let me know that as far as he's concerned, I'm cancer free. This of course came as amazing news after 10 months of difficult treatments. He feels that our current treatment plan is still a good one and I will not require any more major treatments, such as radiation. So, as Tricia continues to remind me, that means that we're both coming out of driving through the mountains and now we're going to kick into cruise control while we get through the foothills.

The next 9 months will be filled with treatments of Herceptin every 3 weeks at the hospital and continuing on with further minor surgeries for my reconstruction. As well, I started the oral drug Tamoxifen today. I will take this daily for at least the next 2 years. But, all of these things are really nothing in the grand scheme of things.

I am starting to let myself get very excited about what the future holds. I plan on returning to work in July, we have some family vacations in the months ahead (yes, I get to leave Calgary to somewhere other than Regina) and continuing to get my body back to normal. My hair has started to sprout back through and the range of motion in my right arm is slowly getting better.

I now need to turn this blog post over to an oscar "thanks" of sorts. There have been so many people that have helped me get through this. I'm sure that anyone reading this has done something to make this easier for me and for that I will be forever grateful. I need to give extra thanks to certain people that really were my rocks for the past 10 months.

Obviously Ryan put up with a lot and was amazing, my mom who basically took the year off to come and help us many times and made sure that Talyn kept smiling and Tricia who listened to my every complaint and could provide real perspective on how she continues to marvel us all with her spirit. Chad, my internet researcher and general funny guy and my dad, who always took my call to listen to what I needed to say and Talyn's other grandparents were also great at providing any support they could. My great friends, Erin, Jill & Mireille, who knew how to cheer me up or just listen when I needed it. The many people at Long View, who are basically my second family, kept me grounded and helped me to see the light that I would get to, once I got through the tunnel. My boss Don especially had some great perspectives and always knew the thing that I needed to hear. I hope one day that I can learn this gift and help others. Finally, to everyone else that I didn't mention, you know who are. You made me smile when I really needed to and that has gotten me through to today.

Tricia has always used the term "Toast to Life" throughout her difficult journey and it has really taken me until today to completely understand what she means. Please use my rollercoaster as your momentum to continually Toast to Life. Don't wait until tomorrow - go on a great trip, eat the chocolate cake today or buy that amazing dress. I know that I will be!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Some Good News and Some More Uncertainty

Thanks to Tricia for keeping you all in the loop!

My surgery went well and it's amazing how much better I continue to feel every day. I got out of the hospital on the Saturday following my surgery and life was a blur of pain and drugs after that. I have regained almost full range of motion on my left arm and my pain management is finally under control. On my right side, I asked my surgeon to cut extra deep to make sure she took all of the cancer out. I knew she did her job when I started getting feelings of electric shocks on my right side whenever I moved. This was apparently what nerve damage felt like. This additional piece was extremely painful and added to the pain medications I was taking.

Now, onto the good stuff. I went today to get my pathology results. I walked in thinking that I had thought of all of the possible scenarios in my mind - but they continue to surprise me! The good news is that my margins came back clear to at least 1 cm (this seems small, but is actually good). The left side contained no cancer, but the right side still contained 6 cm of agressive DCIS (a type of breast cancer).

What does this all mean in non medical terms? They are fairly certain that they got all of the cancer out of my body - YEAH! But, because there was still a large portion of cancer remaining after 6 months of chemo, they may want to add radiation to my current plan of action as a safety net. In my doctors words, that would ensure they "mop up any remaining cells".

This is of course great news. But, because of all of the turns I have been thrown so far along this path, I am pessimistic to start the celebration until I know whether I am done or not. My oncologist will be reviewing my pathology report tomorrow and then will make a decision on whether he wants a radiation oncologist to look at my case or not. I should find out at my treatment on Friday which way he is thinking of going.

Although I want to ensure that I do everything I can to get it all, I would really like to hear that I don't need radiation and that I can think about going back to a job I love, a life filled with fewer hospital visits and more time to spend with each of you!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Surgery complete - rest needed!

Hi everyone - this is Tricia, Tasha's friend. I asked Tasha today at the hospital if she wanted me to post a little update and she agreed...

The surgery went as planned, according to her 2 surgeons. She had a lot of pain coming out of recovery, and it took a while to get that under control with the right dosage, etc. but by the end of Tuesday was talking a bit. Rest was her next challenge, with a roommate who snores REALLY loudly and watches TV until 2 am. She's not getting a lot of sleep and has had a lot of nausea. Yesterday and today were a bit better, although her pain management is still inconsistent and she needs more rest. Her surgeons were both by to see her and are quite happy with how everything looks, obviously pending the pathology report later this month. The hope is that she can get some more rest to help the healing process! She still expects to be able to go home in the next couple days, depending on what the doctors think.

Overall, Tasha has of course been amazing through the last few days. She continues to show strength that is inspiring and has shown her sense of humour even while in pain. If her roommate ever quiets down so she can get some rest, I expect that she'll be home to her own bed soon!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The End Of The Yellow Brick Road?

We have been lucky enough to enjoy some celebrations over the past week. Talyn turned 2 and we had a nice little party to celebrate that with some close friends. Talyn was spoiled with many gifts and enjoyed a day of treats! We then traveled to Regina and he enjoyed another party that my parents had for him. His BaBa also turned 30/30 (60 to us) and there was a surprise party for her at Sean & Michelle's house (Ryan's brother and wife).

We are now back in Calgary and focused on what is next - the surgery. My parents are here which brings me some calm and my boys are always with me to keep my spirits high. This surgery will be about 4 hours long and if everything goes great, I should be out of the hospital in 3 to 5 days. Although I'm sure Ryan, my parents or Tricia will call some of you, please feel free to call our house if you haven't heard anything and are curious. I am very grateful to have so much support!

I was very saddened to hear that a friend of mine's doctor found a lump at a routine physical exam. She is going to go get it checked out and I'm sure that it will all be fine. But it's just another reminder at just how quickly life can take us for a turn we don't expect. Please be diligent about your health - without that, we won't be able to accomplish all of the great things we are here to do!

For the past 9 months, I have been following a winding path. Mostly, it has been brighter and sunnier than I was expecting, but I did get thrown a couple of unexpected twists along the way. With my surgery day hours away, I am not really sure what to expect - but am hoping that it will be my chance to click my heels 3 times and say "I want to be done, I want to be done, I want to be done". Can't wait to see you all soon!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tests and Preparations

In some ways a lot has been going on since my last post. I had a few tests last week - a Muga Scan to again check to see if my heart muscle is putting up with the drugs and a Mammogram. In my Muga test, the technicians had a bit of a hard time with my veins - they blew 3 of them. Hopefully this is a sign that some other people were having a bad day and not my veins. If my veins are weakening, the doctor may want me to put in a portacath. Although it's not anything complex, it would be a constant reminder of the big C word and right now I enjoy walking away from the hospital feeling relatively normal. The mammogram was the first one I've had since I've been diagnosed. I was a bit apprehensive to get the cancer moved around that way, but it was relatively pain free. My surgeon just wanted another peek at what she'll be dealing with before going in.

Last week I also had my last official support group session. They were a great group of girls who I learned a lot from and everyone was so positive at the end, which made me really proud of all of them! We will most likely keep meeting from time to time to see how everyone's progressing.

This week I have been at work for the first part and then will have my clinic day and pre-surgery bloodwork on Thursday. Friday is most importantly, Talyn's 2nd birthday and also my first day of getting just the Herceptin. I have not had any problems with it so far, so the doctor feels that I will be able to continue to get this for the next 9 months and be able to go right back to work afterwards.

My surgery date of May 15th is quickly approaching - 2 weeks from today. Although I am fairly busy leading up to that day, I am starting to feel a bit nervous about it all. What will they find? What if my margins aren't clear? It's really hard to keep these thoughts out of my head. But, somehow I still feel very optimistic and positive about it all.

I mentioned that I am walking in the Weekend to End Breast Cancer at the end of July. Most of you have already been so supportive of me on this - thank you! If you still want to donate, please go to and then find my maiden name "Tasha Engel" under Participants. Every dollar that we can spare can help us make Cancer a thing of the past and we are so close!

Seeing so many people that I care about so much lately has been a real gift. It makes me look forward to getting back to "normal" life after my surgery and start working on my Life List. I hope that you are all doing the same!

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Look of Chemo

I don't love pictures even when I think I look okay, but this was a real stretch for me. I thought it was important to post so that everyone could get a reality check on how important your health is. Chemo is definitely not fun. You become extremely pale, lose most of your hair and energy and deal with a lot of challenging side effects along the way. Although I got through it all, I often think about all of the people less fortunate than me that may struggle - especially the elderly and children. So, if you have any charitable donations to make this year, please consider sponsoring me in the Weekend to End Breast Cancer (which I will email you about seperately in the upcoming months). I don't believe that Breast Cancer deserves any more money than any other type of cancer, but I do believe that if we can find a real cure for any type of cancer, the rest will come in no time!

I finished my last round of chemo last week and although I was happy to be done, it wasn't as exciting as many people thought. I still have a big surgery on the horizon. Before that day comes, I will be resting to get my counts to where they need to be, doing a little bit of spa time with good friends and co-workers, celebrating Talyn's 2nd birthday and getting out in the sun. Of course that list will also include working on my lists of things "to do" before the surgery and the list of things to pack for the hospital (that part of me will never change).

To everyone reading this post, you have supported me in some way in the past months. This has undoubtedly made my life much easier, so please know that it means so much to me. You all doing something to help me, has made me much more positive and from that I have tried to help others going through this and make it easier for them. So if you ever think that you want to do more with your life and really help someone - you have.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Ups, Downs and Finally a Plan!

The last little while has been a real test of my patience - or for those of you that know me well...have I really learned any? The biggest "up" was that my surgery date was finally booked. Although it was only 6 weeks after we finalized my paperwork, it felt like a lifetime to me. I guess it was fairly complicated to put together with 2 busy surgeons and an even busier operating room. But, my awesome booking assistants got it all together for the soonest it could have been - Tuesday, May 15th.

Then came a "down". My doctor's times changed and my final chemo was going to be 3 days later than I thought it would be. With a very quickly approaching surgery date, every day was needed to get all of my blood counts back up to normal, or they would delay the surgery. So, I called my doctor's amazing nurse, Linda, to explain the problem and she said that she would see what she could do. To my amazement in a very busy Cancer Center, they were able to change my days back to what they should have been and I now am back on schedule. My final chemo treatment will be on Tuesday, April 10th. Another "up"!

The final "down" was that this cycle made more fatigued than ever before. I went into work as I always do on week 3. But by the end of day 1, I was completely exhausted. So, I had to decide to put my health first and stay out of work the rest of the week. This was extremely hard on me. Everyone at my company has been more amazing than I could ever explain and I owe a great deal to each and every one of them. Although they might not look at it this way, I felt that I was letting them all down. My ever intuitive boss called me at home to ensure I was alright and instead of confirming what I thought, offered me even more support. This was the final "up" that I needed to get me through.

So now the plan is set. I am a bit anxious at putting that in writing, as the "set plan" has changed before. But, from what I know I have chemo next week on Tuesday, then bloodwork the week before my surgery and then the surgery on May 15th. Amongst these big events, I will continue to go to the cancer center every 3 weeks for my injection of Herceptin for the next year and will soon start the oral drug Tamoxifen.

The biggest event that I ask you to send me the positive energy for will be on May 30th. That will be the day that I meet with my surgeon to review the pathology results from my surgery. Was there any cancer left that was removed? Were these any tumours? How big were they? And finally, the most important one...are my margins clear? I don't really care how much cancer is left from what they remove, but I need my margins to be clear. That means that the outside margins of all of the tissue they remove are cancer free. This will be the final piece of news that I need to assure myself that I can kick into cruise control for the next while.

So, now that the sun is out, get outside, enjoy life and most importantly, enjoy some chocoate for Talyn and I! Each day is a gift and my healthy days are quickly approaching.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

It's All In How You Look At It

My second to last chemo treatment is happening next week. Although I am thrilled to be close to the end of this portion of things, it also raises the question of "what's next?". My surgery is still hanging in the balance, waiting for all of the pieces involved to come together and give me the date. Once my surgery is through, I need to wait for my pathology results to come back "clear" to ensure that I won't have further treatments. I am going to be getting Herceptin through IV every 3 weeks for the next year and will also start to take Tamoxifen orally every day for 5 years in the upcoming months. So, even though one piece of this journey is almost over, I feel that there is a still a ways to go.

Over the past few weeks, I got a call to be a part of a support group. The cancer society started this for young women who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. They have found that there have been more diagnoses lately and there weren't many options for women our age to talk to. There are 8 of us and we all will likely have surgery and chemotherapy. Although many of them have already had a mastectomy, I am the furthest along on the chemo path. We have only had two sessions so far, but the most interesting thing that I have taken away to date has been that even with the same diagnosis - what you choose to do with that can vary dramatically.

People that I run into have often told me that they are amazed at how positive I am. I have never really felt that I am particularly positive...I just know that I'll get through this. However, it has not been until I started attending these sessions that I have seen the range of reactions that I may have had. I have stopped myself many times to be thankful for all of you being right along side me and making my journey SO much easier than it could have been! We are meeting for 8 weeks in total and although some nights I feel overwhelmed by the negativity in the room, I know that I am there to try and make someone's journey a bit better. So, I keep going because I know that my persistence and positivity will pay off in the end.

Somehow, the more time that passes, the more perspective that I seem to gain. I saw an episode on Oprah where they were interviewing a group of older women and asking them what things they know now that they wish they knew when they were younger. One of them said “I wish I used that special bath oil more often”. What she meant is that many of us choose to think about the things we want to do more often than actually doing them. How many of us have a candle that we don’t want to light until a special occasion or have some great bath bomb or oil that we’re saving? I know that I did.

In searching for more ways to live in the moment, I came across a great website to help you create your Life List. You might remember me talking about this a few posts ago. If you need some help in creating yours, please visit and see if it can help you. Another thing I’ve done (at the suggestion of Tricia) is to start a Gratitude Journal. I try to write in it a couple of times a week and just write down 3 things that I am grateful for that happened recently. No matter how bad things seem at the time – you can always think of 3 things to be grateful for – try it!

Whatever situations that you might be going through right now, just know that you have a choice. You can choose to let it control you and your negativity or you can choose to put your boxing gloves on and take control of the situation yourself.

Here’s to you getting a knockout!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Only 2 More To Go

I went to see my surgeon last Wednesday and I got a nice surprise! We filed my OR papers for much earlier than I thought we could - the week of May 14th. So, now the Foothills OR just has to find time they have availble and ensure my two surgeons are also available at that same time. So, it might be after May 14th, but knowing that it could be 2 months sooner than I thought is great. I hope to hear from the hospital in the next couple of weeks with a confirmed date. Then my mom is going to come out for the first 2 weeks to help and Ryan will take off the following two weeks.

My 6th round of chemo was yesterday. So, far I feel like each round keeps getting better and better! I told Ryan to go to work yesterday because it's his busiest time of the year, so he dropped me off and I got all settled in my hospital bed by 10 am. They dripped the same medications as last time and the only real change that I noticed was that they did not make me nearly as tired as the last time. So, this time when Tricia came to visit and brought me lunch, I could actually keep my eyes awake to visit for a while! My day was done around 4 pm and I've been feeling really good since then.

Now I just wait for any side effects that may surface. Day 3 is usually when the joint aches start, but this time my doctor gave me some codeine to help if needed. My numbness and tingling will probably start next week and will be a bit more intense than last time.My mom flies in tonight to help us out again - thanks mom!!! Then my dad arrives on Friday for a visit and they will leave on Sunday. I can't begin to explain how great it is that my parents have been so flexible with their schedules to come and help at the drop of a hat. No one can make you feel better like your mommy.

I hope you're all having a great week, I know that I am! Send me a quick note on my guestbook or an email if you're up to it - I'd love to hear what's new with you and yours.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Some Clarity

Things are still going really well. I am amazed each day that I even had a chemo treatment just one week ago. Tricia said something that made me laugh the other day, she said "that's what chemo is supposed to feel like!". If that's true, the next 3 cycles are much less worrisome.

The one big difference that I have noticed with these set of drugs is that I have some mental clarity much quicker. With the last cycles, I found that even by the end of week 3, my brain felt fuzzy and things weren't coming out of my mouth as clearly as they were laid out in my head. But I have felt a mental energy that reminds me of how I used to feel before the treatments even started. Unfortunately I tend to get ahead of my physical energy and find myself in bed by about 2 pm each day to catch up.

My next set of treatments are already booked for the week of the 26th. I felt so good over the weekend that I told my mom I was going to call my nurse this week and get my next cycle moved up. But, as the fatigue has set in this week, I decided to not overdo it.

Next week I go to see my surgeon, Dr. Daphne Mew. She is really great and did a great job with my first surgery. We will discuss timing for my next surgery and the recovery from that. For those of you know that know me well - I already have my questions all prepared for her.

With the clarity that I'm starting to feel, it gives me more of a chance to reflect on this journey that I have been on so far. I believe that most things in life happen for a reason and it's up to us to figure out why. Many Breast Cancer survivors say that getting this disease was the best thing that ever happened to them. They all gained some type of clarity that they didn't have before.

With your life hanging in a delicate balance, you do tend to think about what things are important to you and what you want out of your life. It's actually too bad that we have to go through something so intense to think so deeply about these things, but I hope that my experience will make each of you give this some more thought.

In Tricia's blog she talks about some wise advice that a friend recently gave her. I am going to copy in that part because she says it better than I ever could. "On one lunch, a wise friend asked me if I had made a list of things I wanted to do, especially in this "limbo" period, where I am well enough to do some things but not healthy enough to return to work. The truth is, I've had an informal list ever since my diagnosis almost 10 years ago. I haven't ever formalized the list, but now I am thinking I should. From experience, I know if I write something down it is far more likely that I will do it! What's on your life list?"

At Long View, we do Career Life Planning. It allows everyone the chance to plan out what they want their career and their life to look like from now until retirement. It is a great exercise and really gets you to start thinking about these hard questions that many of us might not otherwise. This clarity has got me thinking that we could do even more to help people with their Life List. I am not sure of the details of this yet, but I think this might be one of the lessons that I can learn from my journey and something that I can really leverage to give back to society.

If we were all able to clearly detail our life list, it shouldn't matter when our time was up, because we knew what we wanted out of our life and were working towards it. Never has the saying "live each day like it's your last" had such meaning as now.

What's on your Life List?

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

My First TH Treatment

Our day started off leaving our house around 7:30 in the morning. Ryan turned on the radio and the darth vadar theme was playing on the classical channel, so he turned that up to help us get in the mood of "kicking ass" in his words. I went for a chest x-ray at 8:30 and then to the other end of the hospital for an EKG. I probably won't get these results until I see my doctor next in a couple of weeks.

My chemo was scheduled for 9:30, but because of the large number of cancer patients, they are usually running a bit behind. So, at 10 they came and got me and took me to a new area - the area where people are there for more than 4 hours. It includes a bed and a little TV to keep you occupied.

They started by finding a vein that was good enough, that took 2 pokes. Then they started dripping the cocktails to stop most of the possible side effects. My first mix was Bendryl and Zantac, one for potential allergic reactions and the other for heartburn. The next mix was Zofran and Dexamethosone, one for anti-nausea and the other a steroid to kick up the anti-nausea even more.

After those, I had a really hard time keeping my eyes open. But, next was the first of two drugs that could cause me problems so I had to stay awake at least for the first 15 minutes to watch for what might come. The first drug was Taxol and it went great. No effects at all, other than as soon as the 15 minutes was up I fell right asleep. This drip took just over 3 hours and the major effects I had so far were hunger and sleepiness - not bad!

Tricia came for a visit around lunch and Ryan went and got us some food. That was really weird for me. As most of you know, Tricia had a very scary ordeal last summer and fall and I spent a lot of time with her at the hospital. She was usually sleepy and telling me to just go home. I would always tell her to just sleep and I would just sit there. It wasn't until yesterday that I got to realize first hand why that must have been so hard for her. Because you feel really guilty that someone came all the way from the South End to spend time with you and all you can do is sleep!

The next drip started around 2:30 and it was the Herceptin. It had the same scary side effects for the first 15 minutes, so I sat up again in bed and waited. Luckily for me (and all of your positive anti-nausea vibes), this one went great as well. No side effects! So, back to sleep for me. This drip finished at about 4:15 and then I was under observation until 5:15.

Because of the freezing rain we got in Calgary yesterday, we were home around 6:30 and I was asleep shortly after. Now because of my massive amount of sleep lately - I am not sleepy anymore at 2 am.

The next few days are to watch again for what may come. The big things to expect are nausea & vomiting (so far so good, keep your fingers crossed), muscle & joint pain - which has started a bit, but could get to the feeling like a "bus hit you" in my nurse's words and the neuropathy - numbness in my limbs. I will keep you posted - as long as I can still type!!!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Anti-Nausea Vibes

We're off to the hospital in a few minutes. My counts were great yesterday! Since you're all educated on blood counts now, my netrophils were 2.6 - which is at the low range of normal.

We are heading there a bit early because they want to run a chest x-ray and EKG on my chest to try and figure out why I've been having chest pains. Then, it's a 7-9 hour chemo day - phew.

So, as I told some of you ...around 9:30 am, please send some anti-nausea vibes to the hospital for me!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Looking Towards the Future

Time has gone by really quickly since my last post. Ryan and I went in to meet with the Breast Cancer Center doctor and talked about many things. What we realized is that we haven't really had any time to talk lately, so it made us do that. The big realization that I had in our session is that Ryan and I really don't know what a "normal" relationship is. 2 weeks after we first got together, his brain tumour started to grow again, so we've really been dealing with one of our medical situations since. The doctor reminded us that this kind of constant stress is not normal and that we need to ensure we don't get too caught up in that. The other thing I left the meeting with is hope that there are options out there for us if we wanted to have another child. Of course we have a lot to get through in the next few years, but I just needed to know that there was a door open down the road if we wanted to pursue that.

My mind has been really focused on trying to figure out what my next set of treatments will be like. As I've said before, my oncologist wants me to only focus on what's next, so the last time we talked, it was about my last treatment and not about the next new one. What I do know is that I'm scheduled for February 6th. So, I will go in to see Dr. Webster on February 5th, check that my counts are high enough (I have an extra 3 days to recover this time) and then discuss what to expect over the following weeks.

My next set of drugs are called "Paclitaxel" (taxol) and "Herceptin". Taxol is the one that I am most concerned about right now. This will be the ultimate planners biggest nightmare. Like all chemo drugs, there are many possible side effects, but this one is very unpredictable. My day at the hospital will likely be anywhere from 7 to 9 hours for the first treatment (thanks to my mom who is coming to stay with us). I will lay down in a bed and they will start the IV as they normally do. However, within 3 minutes of my body receiving Taxol, about half of patients have a fairly serious side effect. This can range from extreme vomiting to instant itchy hives on your body or extreme difficulties in breathing. As you can imagine, this makes me more than a little bit anxious!

As soon as a patient starts to get a side effect, they stop the IV and then administer a counter drug to get the side effect under control. Once you are feeling better, they will re-start the Taxol and see if your body can better accept it. Apparently in some patients, it is just too hard on them and they are not able to get Taxol and this will be decided at that time. If I am strong enough, my oncologist would like me to receive 4 treatments in 3 week cycles. The biggest side effect after day one is numbness and tingling in your hands and feet. This is closely monitored as there is a risk that you will experience permanent nerve damage. Once this occurs, the drug is stopped. Another fun thing for me to worry over.

Once the Taxol is is in your system, they then start to administer the Herceptin. This is a drug that I will be getting for the next year in 3 week cycles. There can be side effects after the first 3 treatments, but then your body gets used to this drug and does a fairly good job of accepting it. The things to watch out for usually happen when it's administered and are similar to Taxol's effects. This drug is given in the background and so my oncologist assures me that once I am recovered from my surgery, I can work and live as normal while getting this treatment.

Monday I went for my MUGA Scan. This measures my heart muscle functioning and requires that they inject radiactive substances into my bloodstream and then I sit under a camera while my heart is lit up like a firework show. I should get the results from this test when I see my doctor on Febraury 5th.

Next week I return to work and normal life as much as possible. Being done this first set of chemo treatments feels like a real milestone to me. I am getting closer to the finish line and that feels really good. The current plan is that I finish this next set of chemo treatments in 3 months, then I go for surgery as soon as my counts are strong enough (typically 6-8 weeks after), then I complete my Herceptin cycles and start a drug called Tamoxifen for the next 3-5 years. This is a whole other story that I will leave for a future blog. I want to keep the feeling that I am close to the finish line for now...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Information Overload

The fog started to lift yesterday morning and has gotten a bit better again today. On round 3, it started to lift on day 3, so I had high hopes this time, but because I didn’t wait as long to start this round, it had to take longer to get me up again. This week has been filled with appointments, but unfortunately the Monday one I couldn’t get out of bed for. It was for a Muga Scan, which measures my heart muscle functioning. This is one of the more major potential side effects, so they continue with this test to see how my heart is taking things. I have been feeling some aching pains around my heart the past two weeks, so hopefully that is just a fluke (as my doctor says).

Yesterday, I was at the Children’s Hospital to talk to the Cancer Genetic Counsellors. I have decided to go ahead with this process, but it’s quite a long one. It really only involves some more blood from me today, then after about a year of diagnoses, they come back to me to let me know whether or not they found BRCA1 or BRCA2, the two known breast cancer genes. If they do find either, it gives me an increased chance of getting another occurrence of breast cancer in my future or ovarian cancer (over the general population). Because of my young age, they suggested I go ahead with this. Really, it just lets you know whether you need to be more proactive with screening in the future and then they offer the option to my parents and my brother to be tested as well. If I have either of these genes, I got them from one of my parents and they could face the same increased risks (although for men it’s prostate cancer and breast cancer). Each child has a 50% chance of inheriting these genes, so Chad then would also have the option of testing to see if he carried it. They don’t test kids until they reach 18, so Talyn would then also have the option of testing when he was an adult.

Today we go to the Breast Health Supportive Care Clinic. They are a couple of doctors that specialize in Breast Cancer that are there to help if we have other things to discuss that we don’t get to in our 5 minute sessions every 3 weeks with our oncologist. So, Ryan and I are going to talk about what are our options really are if we wanted a second child and what the risks would be. This is a complicated issue and we just want to know the facts so that we can make a decision whether this is something that is an option and if not, then we can stop talking about it so that it isn’t so hard.

With my current schedule, I will be starting my next set of drugs on February 6th, so that means a clinic day on February 5th to check my blood counts. These next drugs sound more daunting the more I hear about them. There are some very serious side effects that can occur almost instantly and then some permanent nerve damage that can result. My dad was really worried about this and wondering why they would want to risk it. I told him that it was one of those things that brings perspective back to how serious this situation actually is. I am doing very well right now, but had I not had treatment things could have progressed in a much different direction. So the doctors really feel that these side effects aren't that major compared with the option of not going ahead and leaving the cancer in my body.

However, all in all I am very lucky and things could have been a lot worse and I thank you all for being along for the crazy ride as we all learn about all the things we never thought we'd have to!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Goodbye to AC

My counts are finally high enough to take another round of chemo. So, today at 2 pm, I will start round 4 and say goodbye to my not-so good friends of Doxorubicin & Cyclophosphamide (AC). It will be a big day for me because it allows me to move onto the next phase of treatment, which will come with its own ups and downs - but it's progress, so I can't complain.

Next week I have a bunch of tests and meetings - they are re-checking my heart muscle functioning on Monday, then I go see some Genetics experts on Tuesday to figure out whether this might impact Talyn and then back to the Breast Cancer Support Center on Wednesday to talk about all the other health things going on with me.

Have a great weekend and hopefully I'll be back on my blog soon - which means that this round went better than expected!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Another Lesson in Patience

The hospital just called and my counts have dipped to 0.9, so even lower than my last round. My amazing nurse Linda also knows how important getting this done this week is, so she has rescheduled me for Friday with hopes that my counts will be at least 1.2 by then. I wish there was something that I could do to make a difference, but my doctor says there isn't. I had heard from another doctor that there might be something they could give me to help my counts rebound faster, but Dr Webster told me yesterday that unfortunately isn't an option.

Although I am a planner, it is a definite challenge to continuously replan all the aspects of our life around this uncertainty: Ryan runs his own business and has to continue to reschedule client meetings, we have to change Talyn's daycare schedule, we have great family who have offered to come out and help, but we never really know when that is, my team at Long View makes whatever time I have for them work and our amazing friend Erin across the street continues to leave her life open for Talyn to drop in when needed.

Thank you to everyone who continues to change their lives because of our schedule, we appreciate it more than we can tell you!

Monday, January 8, 2007

What Does Normal Feel Like?

Although I thought that I felt much better than last time, my counts didn't agree. My netrophils were once again only 1.1 and they needed to be at least 1.5. Dr. Webster could tell that I was very anxious to get my fourth cycle over, so he offered me a couple of options - which I took him up on.

I will go tomorrow morning to re-check my counts. If my netrophils are at least 1.2, then I can still go ahead with treatment tomorrow afternoon. Although I will have to be extremely careful throughout this cycle because my counts will likely be completely wiped out. If my counts are not high enough tomorrow, then I will go and re-check them again on Thursday and then potentially get treatment on Thursday afternoon.

If all of these options don't pan out, then I am again delayed one week. Which brings me back to my title - I clearly have no idea what normal even feels like anymore!

Today is the Day!

It's funny how many of the people that I talk to ask how far along I am. When I say that I've finished 3 out of 8 treatments, they are always amazed at how quickly it has gone - they say that they feel like I just started. I however feel like I've been doing this forever!

Today I go get bloodwork at 2 and then meet with my doctor at 3 to review my counts and ensure they are high enough for tomorrow's treatment. I do feel stronger than the last time I did this, so that is a good sign. But mostly I really want to get tomorrow's treatment over with so that I will be 50% done! I think it will be a real milestone for me.

Last week I was talking to my boss at work and he was asking me if I now felt more confident in my ability to get through my treatments and I absolutely do. Shortly after my first treatment, I was laying on my bathroom floor and thinking that there was no way I could do this 1 more time, let alone 7. Now however, I have gotten used to the feelings that these drugs give me, I know what drinks and food I can keep down and Ryan knows when he should and shouldn't talk to me - ha, ha.

Most of all, I know that I will get through this set of treatments very shortly and then will turn my focus onto my next set of chemo drugs and the side effects that I can expect from them.