Saturday, June 30, 2012

Day 1 Post Chemo

First of all, thank you all for your thoughts and prayers this week!  Here is an example how prayer works.  We can not tell you how relieved we all are that this did not spread.  Like we have said, this is far from behind us, but we know have met the enemy!  I will outwit, outsmart and outlast this tumor!  

I have been speaking with a survivor who reached out to me through my sister in law's mother.  She said yesterday isn't it weird how it was devastating to hear breast cancer, then you worry if it spreads and now that we know it has not, it is kind of like "it is just breast cancer".  It is still a scary disease that takes lives daily, so it is far from over and is not to be taken lightly, plus I would be lying if I said that it still doesn't scare me and consume my days, but I have got this!!  With of course the continued prayer and words of encouragement from all of you!  

Before chemo the Dr. met with Don and I.  He walked in and threw his hands up and said "your scans are clean!"  He had a huge smile on his face.  I did not share this, but earlier this week, I talked to the surgeon about my MRI results and asked him the question that since it had not spread to my left breast nor the chest wall, did I have a greater chance that it did not spread elsewhere.  He said with deepest concern, "Amber, this is a big tumor, you need to remain optimistic, but prepared for the news".  We were driving home from the Echo gram and I just cried and cried.  Don grabbed my hand and as always, reassured me we would get through regardless of what it was and to think about the support group from Tuesday how many were Stage 4 and their cancer had metastasized and how positive and full of life they were.  So to hear it was clear, I think was a huge relief to my Oncologist.  

After meeting with him, we went over the treatment plan again.  The first 4 treatments are a tougher drop on my cell counts.  So those will be closely monitored.  So again, I need healthy people near me!  The day after treatment, I will go back for a shot that will boost my blood levels.  Plus I will take a steroid for the first 3 days after treatment.  The shot was done this morning and the side effect is muscle pain in your legs, back and arms.  Almost instantly I felt it in my legs.  Nothing unbearable, just feels like I have been on my feet for a long period of time.  They told me Claritin works for this, so I have added this to my pharmacy.

Next was Chemo.  Since I do not have my port yet, she is being installed July 9th.  They had to manually push through one of the drugs through my arm IV.  It is dangerous if the vein collapses as it can cause tissue problems, so that is done by a nurse.  Once the port gets put in, this drug will be administered still by the nurse through the port, in about 20 minutes.  The last drug is done through IV or port, but doesn't need to be monitored.  It took an hour.  Then I was done.  It really was an easy treatment compared to seeing or hearing about others.  Some are there as long as 6 hours.  Mine is 2 hours tops.  So far, I have felt tired and weak at moments, but the nausea medicine seems to be working!

This week I am kind of laying low.  I will work Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.  Friday I will need my blood count taken since I will have surgery the following Monday for the port.  They need to make sure my levels are up enough.  Then after the quick blood draw, we will head to Northwestern to meet with a Surgeon there for a 2nd opinion.  The following week will be kind of goofy, Port on Monday, 2nd opinion with the Oncologist on Wednesday and Chemo on Friday.

My family is traveling in this week.  Mom and Dad are here.  Jess and her boys and Whitney were already planning on spending the week up here as my Grandma Freeland turned 90 on June 15th and her birthday party is next Saturday.  So they had already planned to be up here to spend some time with everyone before the party.  Now I will put them all to work.  So please pray for their safe arrival.  Whitney has decided she will stay with us the month of July and will help at least with Ryan a few days a week so that he stays healthy.  He is so susceptible to germs and I can't risk him bringing something home from daycare to me.  Plus the added worry of him running a fever.  So between her and my mother in law, they will take care of at least Ryan.  Justin, we will try to keep on a normal as possible schedule.  We have talked to him to tell him that mommy is sick, but that is the extent for now.  

Please continue to pray for all of us.  This journey is far from over, but it does feel good to have my answers and to have 1 treatment under my belt.  Thank you to all of you again!  We appreciate all the offers and we will take you up on stuff now that we have more of a schedule, so don't give up on us!  Prayers are always welcome and appreciated!

Love to all!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012


The Echo cardio gram was a walk in the park yesterday.  I talked to the tech some and unless she was lying, she didn't see any concerns with my heart.  While I laid on the table watching her and the screen during my test, I came to the realization that these techs would be very good poker players.  They don't talk when they see something bad, they don't smile when they see the little thing beat and they don't cry when you tell them why you are there for the test and you yourself can't hold it together to tell them why.  I must say again, there are certain jobs I just couldn't do.  I'm sure you learn it in school or maybe it is just that they see it every day.  So sounds like I have that going for me right now!

Next was Chemo class.  Don, my dad and I attended.  There were 2 other women in there learning the same things I was.  Mainly the class taught me how low my blood counts will be and how extremely careful I must be!  If you plan to talk to me in person, make sure you are well!  Taste aversions and mouth issues and then of course the subject I dread loss.  I am waiting for a call back from the Cancer Society on an appointment to go look at wigs.  I will bring my fashionable sister in law to help me through this.  Hopefully I can find something as plain and normal as my current style, but hearing this in the meeting brought me to tears once again.

Last night Don and I attended the breast cancer support group.  I think Don's version of the class being portrayed will be a lot different than mine.  First, we were late and running from department to department in the new Silver Cross Hospital trying to locate the group.  We finally find it and walk in and it is a room full of women!  Don was glad he went, but I'm sure it was strange for him to be sitting in there with women.  Everyone welcomed both of us!  Last night they had a laughing coach.  This coach is a nurse and did little things that you had to go along with and laugh loud at everything from getting up in the morning with cancer to pretending to wash your bald head in the shower.  She reminded Don and I A LOT of his aunt Donna who passed from lung cancer in March right before Ryan was born.  She looked like her and just her personality in general was Donna.  A part of me thinks it was meant for us to attend this one together and reflect on her and her life and her battle with cancer. After that everyone shared their story.  All are different.  Some are survivors 5+ years out and still attend, some are fighting right now.  I have exchanged numbers with a lot of women and I must say I left there on a positive note and was able to fall asleep last night.  Not without the assistance of my Ativan, but I still felt a little small, tiny weight lifted.

Dr. Montana also called on my MRI results.  He explained they did not see anything they didn't already know.  This to me is good news.  The left breast is completely clear.  The right one not so much, but we knew that.  He did confirm it did not spread to the chest wall, but this is not any better indication or not if it has spread elsewhere.  He and Dr. Hantel (Ongologist) agree that chemo is first then surgery for a mastectomy is necessary around 3 weeks post chemo treatments.  I asked if both could be removed and he agreed.  They did notice 2 swollen nodes and said they would remove those at the time of surgery, but the chemo may shrink those.

I am leaving for work now, tomorrow is the big bone and CT day....PRAY!!!  I will probably update again after my first treatment on Friday at 8am.  

Lots of Love!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday Update

Yesterday I survived my first MRI.  WOW, you would think with the technology that is out there, they would find a way to silence that machine!  I was asked if I wanted to listen to music or use ear plugs, I opted for the music.  I think I chose wrong, most of you know I can only hear out of 1 ear as it is, but with the noise of the machine, even my good ear couldn't make out any of the music! I just closed my eyes and prayed and peaked out at the techs to see what they were doing, but mostly prayed.  

No results as of yet, but I'm not in a hurry anymore to get medical updates.  I was e-mailing back and forth with a co-worker yesterday and I told him that I get these tests and then want to rush home to my safe place away from medical terms, the looks of the nurses when I tell them why I'm there, the waiting in a waiting room afraid of a Dr. approaching me to give me news.  Home is where I feel safe right now.  

Yesterday I was responding to an e-mail from a friend of my mothers, also known as a 2nd mom to me while I was growing up.  I was responding and just started typing exactly how I think I feel... This week is difficult, because we still have so many unanswered questions and concerns about my enemy.  Once we know if it has or hasn't spread, we know exactly who my enemy is and at that point, I can begin my fight.  Knowing that my enemy has had a head start makes me very angry, but anger might actually work in my favor.  It might be a step ahead, but most of you know, I'm very smart and will outsmart this thing!  

Please keep up the comments and prayers to me, you are all my biggest cheerleaders right now.  When I look at the comments,  Mostly they are like wow you are so brave and so strong, I'm not....I want to feel like the above all the time, but quite honestly, a majority of my day is spent fighting off the lump in my throat or wiping tears from my eyes.  This is normal and I know that this will probably be just a part of me from now on.  I am told I will have good days and bad, I just want my normal back!  Someday soon I will, but my normal will never be what my normal was 2 weeks ago.  So again, please keep up with the words of encouragement so I can get to the paragraph above permanently. 

Today is my echo cardio gram and then a class on chemo.....what to expect and so on.  Tonight, Don and I will attempt to attend our first breast cancer support group.  I'm having a hard time with this.  Don't get me wrong, no one deserves this nasty disease, but I struggle going as a young 33 year old, mother of 2, middle sister, middle daughter, niece, aunt, granddaughter, friend etc....Most fighters and survivors are all that I have listed, but for me, it is so hard to walk into a class of more than likely women a lot older than myself.  So today I pray for peace and that my fear of going to this support class is wrong and I meet wonderful women that will get me through this regardless of age.  

I promise to update once I get through today since tomorrow will be my "normal" day.....Just work and home, before more tests on Thursday and chemo starting on Friday morning.  The boys are at day care, Don is working and my dad has been playing handy man and maid so I had some time to put some thoughts and updates out there.  But I will update either tonight or tomorrow with how today went.  

Love to all!


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Update From Yesterdays Appointment

Good Morning,

First I must thank everyone for reading this and adding me to their prayer lists or reaching out to me.  I am amazed at how much love I feel towards my entire family all from a blog!  Let me start by saying I have read other blogs and have always thought wow, what their going through sucks, how does this happen, etc.  I'll pray for them and think often about them, but never would I have thought I would be writing my own.  Tons of people whether I knew their story or not have approached me with themselves or someone they know that has fought cancer.  This is very helpful as the next weeks, I will need the support of survivors to get me through this.  

Yesterday we met with Dr. Hansen who is an Oncologist at Edwards Hospital in Naperville.  Great guy and great staff.  We met him at the Cancer Center.  I had my first peek into a cancer center and let me tell you it is terrifying, but also calming.  Everyone is over the top nice and CALM!  I needed some calmness.  To them, this is their every day life and on top of it, I'm sure they are told if you show emotion, you are out the door! I definitely could not do this job, I would cry or be scared daily and diagnosing myself with every illness out there!   Dr. Hansen spent well over  an hour examining me and informing us of the cancer and the next steps.  He was happy to know the lump in my breast has not attached to the chest wall.  I am new at this so I do not know if this is something to celebrate or not, but from his explanation, if it had, it is more serious.  He did believe he felt 2 swollen lymph nodes in my right arm pit.  This could mean it has spread to those or it could just mean they are swollen.  We won't know until further testing.  As far as explaining the cancer to us, he was very helpful in taking notes for Don and I so we didn't have to try to write as he talked.  He explained that my full pathology shows this is not an Estrogen Receptor Cancer and due to the size of the tumor, it is classified as T3.  This is not good, but we still have some unanswered questions that will make it either better or worse.

Next week I have a battery of tests:
Monday: Breast MRI to get a starting point for the treatments.  It will also take a look at my lymph nodes and their involvement.
Tuesday: Echo gram.  This is necessary to ensure my heart is strong enough since chemo can be harmful if you have a weak heart.  Also a chemo class.
Wednesday: Nothing so far, but there is a possibility that this will include the installation of a Port under the chest wall for easier access to chemo treatments.  If this does not happen, I may come to work to my work buddies!  I have never wished so badly to come to work!!
Thursday: Bone Scan and CT Scan-Please pray everyone!  This is the scariest of all of them.  This cancer can not have spread!!  Please pray hard as this is what is keeping me up at night!
Friday: Start round one of Chemo if all goes well during the week.

The current chemo plan is a treatment every 2 weeks 4 times for 1 drug and then every 2 weeks for 4 times for another drug.  So a total of 16 weeks of Chemo.  I am told, they strongly recommend working so I plan to do that.  They said usually nausea can be controlled through other medications.  The only side effect they can do nothing for is hair loss.  This was quite hard for me to take.  Who wants to lose their hair and watch others stare at you and wonder what cancer struck you.  But they have told me their is a shop that have very natural wigs and also make up artists who can help with make up to make me look as normal as possible.  I know some of you expect me to take this time and be funny and get a platinum blond wig or something like that.....Not yet guys!  I'll let you know when I think I could do that.  

After 16 weeks of treatment, I will then need surgery.  They will not know if this surgery will be to remove any remains (lumpectomy)  or full Mastectomy of both breasts.  My current plan is to have them removed completely so I can put this all behind me.  But further research is needed for that.  They are going to run some genetics tests too and if one comes back positive, I may have no other choice but the mastectomy.  Either way, I am okay with this.  Some women I think have a hard time, but I'm okay with losing them.  After surgery would come radiation therapy.  

My dad is driving up today, please pray for his safe arrival.  He will take over parent duty for me while mom goes home to arrange for some FMLA time.  My mother in law has been with us every step of the way as well and has been a huge support system since her and my father in law unfortunately just went through cancer treatment with Don's aunt.  

We see a plan, it will be long and hard, but there are plans falling into place.  Please continue the prayers for all of us, but most of all this week I need the prayers for my bone and CT scan.  

Thank you all again for thinking and praying for us!  

Love to all!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Family and Friends,

Don and I received the most terrifying news this week.  I have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Yes, Breast cancer at the age of 33!  This is the sentence that has continued to come out of my mouth these past couple of days.  Sometimes with a swear word involved within that sentence!  So far we know that it is called Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC).  

A little history for all of you that are doing what I did when I learned of this and picking your jaws up off of the floor and second guessing that this is for real:  I stopped breast feeding Ryan when he was 5 weeks old due to issues with my right breast.  I went for my 6 week post appointment and he didn't want to do a breast exam since it had only been a week since I weaned Ryan.  That was fine with me.  Weeks later, I started to notice my right breast was constantly looking swollen.  I called the OB office weekly and gave them my symptoms.  On all occasions, they told me it was due to weaning Ryan and there was nothing to worry about. One phone call, I opted to make an appointment rather than speaking with the nurse and the operator transferred me to the nurse who continued to give me what we now know was poor advise.  They left me with tips, all of which I tried.  That included cabbage leaves, taking Ryan's diaper and getting it wet with hot water and putting that into a sports bra, I did it all!  I visited the OB at the end of May for other reasons and had the Doctor check my breast at that appointment and again was told it was a breast feeding issue and that it can take months for it to resolve itself.  I also visited a primary Dr. due to an ear infection and had that Dr. check it out and again same thing.  Finally last Friday, I decided I was not taking this any longer.  I demanded an appointment.  

On Tuesday, I met with a nurse practitioner who immediately looked at my breast and sent me for a mammogram.  I had a mammogram and ultra sound and that is where the nightmare began!  The radiologist called me into her office and informed me that it did not look normal and that I needed a biopsy right away.  Between her and my sister in law who works for a surgeon calling around, we were able to get in with a great surgeon on Wednesday afternoon.  The biopsy was not that painful, just like the mammogram, I was a little sore, but with my mind going crazy, it didn't matter.  The Surgeon told Don and I that he was 98% sure it was breast cancer so we left there with a pretty good idea of what we were facing.  

Like anyone, I needed my mommy!  She was quick to get on a plane on Wednesday and was greeted at the airport by my wonderful mother in law.  Wednesday afternoon we all tried to prepare ourselves for today.  We tried to come up with a plan of calling around today and getting things going since we knew the odds of getting good news was against us!  Today we spent pacing the house, putting blinds up in our sun room, watching movies and mindless day time TV, none of which, I could tell you, because I went from spacing out from not sleeping, crying out of fear, anger and sadness and well, just sitting there feeling sorry for myself!  I still am not believing what I am going through....Again, I am 33!  I am supposed to be worrying about my 2 little boys and making sure they are fine, not worrying about me being diagnosed with a scary cancer!  

So where do we go from here?  I have an appointment with an Oncologist tomorrow at 3:00.  From there we will know more about a plan of action.  They are saying chemo is necessary to shrink the tumor before they can do surgery.  I plan to get a 2nd opinion at Northwestern Hospital in Chicago and have a wonderful college friend who works there working to get me some appointments.

I am in for some hard days ahead, but I know I am a strong and I like to think, funny person.  Both will hopefully work in my favor as I fight this beast called cancer!  I am scared to death everyone and need all the prayers I can get!  Please keep not only me, but my 3 wonderful men in my life, my family and Don's family in your prayers.  We will reach out if we need anything and the point of this blog will be to keep everyone informed of what is going on with my treatments.  

Love to all!