Monday, February 25, 2008

No News Is Good News

Maintaining a blog is sometimes a large weight to carry around. I have to feel slightly inspired to create a post and right now I am definitely faking it!

Typically with me if you haven't heard from me in a while, you can assume that everything is going well. I am now halfway into my first round of chemo and I am worried about jinxing myself when I say that everything is going really well so far (please knock on wood right now). The list of "freakshow" side effects have not affected me yet, so I'm hopeful that they won't.

I tell people that I was really excited when my oncologist told me that although this chemo is more potent than my previous protocol, I wouldn't lose my hair and I would be able to continue to work throughout. So, I let all of the other weird side effects that he warned me about float right over my head. Once I got closer to starting the drugs though, I started laughing at the fact that all chemo seems to have some really ugly side effects!

Lots of other great things are happening in my life to keep me busy right now. Most importantly, Tricia now has a "tentative" date for her transplant. Although her paperwork is still not sent to Ottawa for final approval, everyone is very optimistic that it will all go through so they have booked her in for May 1. Although this is the great news that we've been talking about for more than 6 months, it also seems fairly daunting that this big day is approaching. She of course has a couple of great trips planned until then, as she reminds us all to live life every day!

I also attended an initial meeting to get Rethink Breast Cancer started up again in Calgary. It was very exciting to learn more about an organization that fits so well with my beliefs and desire for fun! The next couple of weeks should tell more about what my role will be with that.

As a family, the commute from the SE part of Calgary has been really tough. Although we rarely admit it, having both of us dealing with cancer at the same time is really stressful. So adding 1.5-2 hours in the car commuting each day really isn't helping. We are in the final stages of deciding what to do, but we will likely be moving to the inner city in the upcoming months and lising our house next week. We will really miss our beautiful flowering backyard and the pond that we back onto, but we need to start to simplify things piece by piece.

The past few weeks have been really good for getting one big thing checked off of my life list - finding a way that fits with me to give back to the cancer community. I found that it was a little bit too easy to just go back to my old life after my first fight with cancer, but that isn't happening again! Learn from me and take the time to work towards getting something checked off of your life list...what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Onto The Next Phase

I got a call from Dr. Webster bright and early this morning to confirm what I had hoped. My surgeon got clear margins and better yet, they found no more cancer in the portion they had removed. So, with that knowledge in my back pocket, I went to the cancer center to fill my prescription for my chemo drug.

My brother and my parents were a bit worried about me because they thought I should be much more thrilled with the news. I was of course thrilled, but I am also now reflecting on the next phase of my journey and what that will entail. My parents told me a story of when I was 2 years old and we travelled to visit my mom's family in Europe. We were at the airport in Spain leaving my uncle's place and when we were going up the escalator to catch our flight I said "I wonder what Mormor is doing?". Mormor means Grandma in Danish and we were on our way to Denmark next to visit her. So, ever since I was 2 I have easily dealt with one thing and then moved quickly onto the next.

I will start my new chemo drugs on Thursday night so that if I do have any immediate reactions, then I'm at home when it happens. The medication will be taken in the morning after breakfast (guess it's time to start eating that every day!) and then after dinner. You would think that they could get the whole dosage in one pill, but I will be taking 5 pills at every sitting. Then I will also have some anti-nausea medication on standby if needed.

The list of side effects is lengthy and unknown as to which of them might affect me. I should know within a couple of days whether I am being affected by some of these and then by the end of the first cycle for the remainder of them. The goal is to get me through at least 4 cycles (each cycle is 2 weeks of medication and 1 week break) and hopefully 6 cycles in total.

I feel much more optimistic about everything these days and am looking forward to many great things. My team at work moved into a great new space and my office is absolutely unbelievable - a view of the mountains and tons of natural light! Tricia and I are planning a trip to New York - I can't wait for her to show me everything she's told me about for all of these years! And...I am attending a meeting with the founder of Rethink Breast Cancer next Tuesday to get engaged with them - finally my chance to give back and share my story with others!

It's too bad that I had to get another round of cancer to once again remind me that life is to be lived and it is our responsibility to give back to others. So, I hope that this time I've got it for good!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Will it be Plan A or Plan B?

My surgery last week feels like it was several months ago already. It all went as well as we could have hoped. My surgeon was happy with the amount of skin she was able to take out and she didn't cut my implant in the process. I had my surgery at 2 pm and was home by 7 pm that evening.

It took me until Sunday to start to feel more like myself and then I spent the day making cookies for Talyn and watching the SuperBowl. I have not had any pain at all (after 4 surgeries to the same area in 17 months, there just aren't any nerves there anymore). But, I have had a dull headache and some feelings of light headedness.

Today we went to visit with Dr. Webster and learned that although he remains confident that we'll get good news from the pathology, we have received no results yet. I will call his office on Monday to get the final results. What this means is that we created a Plan A and a Plan B to move forwards.

Plan A means that we hear that Dr. Mew was able to get deep, clear margins and we can assume that most or all of the cancer has been removed. I received a prescription today and once we have this news, I will fill it with my chemo drugs - capecitabine, to start next Friday, February 15th - Happy Valentine's Day to me!

This drug has the love it or hate it effect on its patients. In 1/3 of cases, patients have a really hard time tolerating this drug and they end up reducing the dosages and maybe stopping treatment. But, in 2/3 of cases, patients have no problems with it at all! Because of my anxious nature, I just wish there was some way to know which category I will fall into. I will take a pill each morning and each night for 2 weeks, then have a 1 week break and go back to see Dr. Webster for blood work and more drugs. Assuming all is well, I will start this cycle again and complete 6 cycles in total. Following this, I will do the radiation and hormone therapy that we had already discussed.

Plan B is very similar, but it will mean that we didn't get clear margins. So, I will go back for some more minor surgery to remove more skin and then proceed with chemo once we can get the clear margins we need.

This chemo drug, Capecitabine, is used for breast cancer patients that are dealing with recurrence or metastatic disease. Because we don't know whether my cancer has some cells elsewhere in my body, Dr. Webster feels that this drug is our best bet at attacking this very resilient cancer.

Although this plan seems solid, I left the Cancer Center today feeling a bit down. Surgery is easy, but chemo, radiation and a new hormone therapy all require me to be very strong physically and mentally. Because I didn't have a break to regroup my thoughts and get strong again, I don't feel that I'm quite where I need to be to start these new treatments again. But, just give me a couple of days to read everything I can find on what I'm getting into and I'm sure I'll be ready to fight again.