Category Archives: Hematologist-Oncologist

Is Everything Okay?

Survivor flowers (6 years) from Kelsey and Josh waiting for me at home after my appointment this week..
Survivor flowers (6 years) from Kelsey and Josh waiting for me at home after my appointment this week..

Is Everything Okay? 

That is what I asked Dr. Wonderful (Hematologist-Oncologist) this week. I had my 6 month visit.

Usually, it goes well but this time when I asked her if everything was okay she said, “I don’t know.”  The next 24 hours are a blur. She ordered an ultrasound but the Women’s Center made me get a mammogram, too.  Mammograms are so painful for me.

The time leading up to the ultrasound seemed like weeks even though it was only 24 hours.

My initial reaction to everything sent me right back to where I was 6 years ago.  I was so upset.  I had a few minutes where the doubt began to creep in my mind.  When I came home I told my husband about the ultrasound. Also, I told him that if I needed a biopsy that I was going to cancel….STOP RIGHT THERE…

Then I said, “NO…I’m not going to cancel anything.  If I need to fight this battle again, I will not change my schedule.”  He encouraged me that it was going to be okay.

While waiting for the appointment, I prayed, spent some time with my grandchildren, and listened to praise and worship music.

Kelsey apologized for the 6 year survivor flowers on the counter that were waiting for me when I came home from the appointment.  I told her that we will celebrate the 6 year survival until we know different.  That is the first time I had flowers waiting after a doctors appointment. It was so thoughtful of Kelsey and Josh and made me feel so awesome.

Is everything okay?  I am thankful to report…YES, Yes it is.  I was reminded this week of just how precious life is…just how undeserving I am to have this second chance…just how blessed I am by a supportive husband and daughters…just how blessed I am by my three grandchildren…and the promise in Joel 2:25…”God can restore what is broken…”

Is everything okay?  YES!

I invite you to follow me on FB @ http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.

Be Blessed.

Laura

Life After Treatment

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Life after treatment is all about being a survivor.  Just recently I was able to embrace being a survivor.  I guess it was easier to pretend things didn’t happen but I’m reminded every day when I look in the mirror.  I have 11 physical scars that I have learned to embrace.  My scars do not define me but I have used them to refine me.  Almost every day I am asked, ” How did you do it?”  The honest answer to that is…I have a strong faith in God and I refused to become a victim.  Does that mean I was never sad or never had a bad day? Oh no! I had my moments but then I focused my attention on the fact that I was still standing. My girls were at pivotal transitions in their lives and I was at an important place in my career.  I had goals to attain and I certainly wasn’t going to let cancer keep me from achieving my goals.

Even today, there are difficult moments.  One is during the week before my mammogram and even while I’m sitting in the Woman’s Center. I’m fidgety like a race horse about to be put in the starting gate.  There are so many memories associated with the Women’s Center, surgical center, hospital and chemo lab.

Since my initial treatment, I’ve had a couple of biopsies that thankfully have been benign. I had a tricky lymph node in the left axilla, which was not the original area, that kept lighting up on the PET Scan.  So, I had a partial lymph node dissection on the left axilla as a precaution.

The most important message I want to tell you is that life is a gift.  Am I breathing? Yes! Then, I have a purpose and responsibility to go on.  Life goes on!  I have a responsibility to live every day with a smile on my face because I am a survivor.  Generations before me went through clinical trials so that I could benefit from Red Devil Chemo, Taxol, Herceptin, Arimidex and Femara.

Life goes on and I choose to be happy and …LIVE!

I invite you to follow me @ http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.

Be Blessed.

Laura

 

Radiation Is Over…So What Now

(All of my blogs are exclusively my experience.  I am not a medical professional. This is my interpretation of my journey.)

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By the time I was scheduled to see Dr. Wonderful (Hematologist-Oncologist), radiation was over and I came through it with minimal side effects.

What’s next…

Dr. Wonderful immediately started me on a chemo pill, Arimidex.  The initial plan was to take it for 5 years as long as my bones, bone density and joints would allow.

Arimidex is a type of hormone therapy known as an Aromatase Inhibitor. How does Anastrozole work? Breast cancer is stimulated to grow by female hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Anastrozole (Arimidex) works to block the effects of the female hormones.

Okay…my view… the very hormone, estrogen, that defines you as a woman ends up globbing together with other estrogen cells to become breast cancer. So the very hormone that makes you a woman, trys to kill you. I hope you can infer that I find this entire concept, hideous, outrageous and unacceptable. However, I can’t change that so I will only give it this small paragraph.

I started Arimidex in October of 2009 and I was a trooper. I kept taking it even though it took a toll on my body:

  • By the end of the 12 hour workday, I could barely walk.
  • By Friday or Saturday, I hurt so bad that I could literally feel pain from every cell in my skin and it hurt.
  • It felt like someone was peeling my skin off.

With that said, I would take to the couch with my pain meds and heating pad.

Actually, compared to others, my symptoms were minimal. Four years into the medication, I spoke to Dr. Wonderful and she switched me to Femara in October of 2013. Femara is in the same category of medicine. It’s purpose is to block estrogen.  Even though October 2014 was my 5 year point, I still take Femara.  As long as it doesn’t effect my bone density, joints and ability to function, I will take it.

I am blessed because I was diagnosed with ER+ breast cancer so I have an additional chemo pill to block that estrogen.  I am too blessed to be stressed!  I’m alive so it’s a good day!

I invite you to follow me @ http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.

Be Blessed!

Laura

 

My Miracle Report

On 12/26/14, I will be a 6 year breast cancer survivor.  Thank God!
On 12/26/14, I will be a 6 year breast cancer survivor. Thank God!

My first week of recovery went well.  Victory church, my home church, provided meals the week after surgery and that was a great blessing.  Doug, my girls and my mom took turns checking on me.

Post-Op Visit

My post-op visit was scheduled approximately one week after my surgery.  During that visit, I saw the plastic surgeon and the breast surgeon.  First, the plastic surgeon’s nurse removed the gauze, mummy bandages.  Then, the plastic surgeon examined 8 of the 10 incisions.  Everything looked good so the nurse removed a few stitches which wasn’t the most pleasant experience but all in all, I was making great progress. Then the pain pump was removed.

Next, the breast surgeon came in to examine me.  She looked at the incisions and focused on the right axilla, underarm.  She asked me to lift my arm as high as I could so I hesitantly lifted my arm about half way in the air.  Then she took my arm and pulled it straight up.  I just knew my stitches were going to burst but they didn’t.  She gave me some exercises to do every day to help me regain full range of motion.

Pathology Report

Then she began to explain the pathology report. In the right axilla. she removed all lymph nodes that she could see and she dug around in there to get as many lymph nodes as she could reach. Below is a summary of the conversation:

  • Dr. “I didn’t find anything.”
  • Me “You didn’t get the cancer?”
  • Dr. “It was gone.”
  • Me “What do you mean?”
  • Dr. “I removed 20+ lymph nodes and there were two that were necrotic.”  “They were the size of a regular lymph node.”
  • Me “I don’t understand.”
  • Dr. “I found the two lymph nodes that were tagged during the biopsy but the cancer cells were dead and the lymph nodes were the size of a normal lymph node.”

(First, in case someone has not followed the entire blog, when I was diagnosed there were two tumors in the right axilla.  One was the size of a AA battery and the other one was the size of 1/2 of a AA battery. Now, they not only contained dead cells but they were the size of a normal lymph node, which was a significant change.)

The news really didn’t register with me at that time.  My Hematologist-Oncologist (Dr. Wonderful), refers to it as a ‘complete response to chemo‘. Every time a doctor says that   I say, “…or a miracle.” Some doctors give me a smile and other remain stoic.

One More Surgery

Next, the breast surgeon explained the results from the lumpectomy/reduction of the right breast.  The tumor in the right breast was busted into small pieces.  The pathology report reflected that it looked like buckshot in the tissue, scattered everywhere. They were just the size of little pencil dots.  So there was no lump to remove.  I am still amazed at the outcome.  However, the pathology report did not confirm that there was a clear margin of healthy tissue so I needed an additional surgery known as a ‘margin revision’.

The surgical drains remained in place and the nurse wrapped me in a garment similar to a tube top except it had to be very snug to hold the drains in place. Doug and I went home and processed all of that information.  Now I realize why the ultrasound technician was shocked with my progress.  It was a truly unbelievable response.  It was MY MIRACLE.

I invite you to follow me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.

Be Blessed!