Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Even though I had been very anxious earlier in the week, I had this strange sense of calm and peace this past weekend about my petscan that was  yesterday.  I think it was a huge help to know that so many people were praying that I would have a good scan.  The scan went as well as it could yesterday, and I was doing my usual check every 30 minutes of my online chart to see if the results had been posted.  Normally, once my doctor sees a report it gets cleared and posted so that I can see it. Nothing came through last night or this morning, and so I started to get worried that there was something bad that she didn't want me to read without her explaining it, etc.

When my oncologist walked in the room and said the scan showed good news, I was so relieved, and even more so when she said the words every cancer patient longs to hear: "No evidence of disease" (or what is often referred to as a person - NED).  Personally, I love NED, and I hope that I have a very long relationship with him.  The oncologist warned that NED can be pretty fickle and often only chooses to hang around for a couple of months, but we will hope for many years before he wanders.

What does this change for me right now?  Well, actually nothing in my day to day life.  I still have to stay on this medication since it brought me to this point, and I will be on it until it stops working/there is progression.  I do get a little break from testing in that we will be checking my tumor markers in 3 months instead of 6 weeks, and decisions about when to scan again will be made then.  Even though it doesn't change most things, it is  mentally & emotionally wonderful to be able to know that at least for right now we've managed to defeat those stupid cancer cells. They can be sneaky little things and strike back, but we still knocked them out in round 1. (I have this crazy picture in my head of a cell with boxing gloves that is laid out on the mat with a black eye and stars circling above its head & a foot holding him down)

Thank you again for all of the prayers, and I am beyond thankful for this news today!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Checking off the list

This weekend, I got to check another item off of my list by going to the Kennedy Space Center.  I hadn't been there since 7th grade, a year after the Challenger explosion.  It has changed so much, and I really enjoyed going.  I appreciate that Dana made it possible, and that Rebecca joined us on the trip! If you haven't been in awhile, I recommend it, but maybe wait until June or July when the new Atlantis space shuttle exhibit will be open.   I'll just have to plan to go again sometime to see that!

Over the next 2-3 months, I plan to check off several other things from my list, and I will probably be gone more than I am home.  One of the good things about doing the majority of my teaching online is that I can work from pretty much anywhere.   I have been truly blessed with many friends and family members that are helping to make some of my summer trips possible, and I am thankful for free flights and timeshare that are allowing me to do the other trips.  

Before I go anywhere else, I have another PTscan coming up next Monday (4/29).  Thankfully, my oncologist office does not make you wait, and I will have the results at my Tuesday morning appointment.   I am battling "scanxiety" at this point so I am trying to stay as busy as possible without completely exhausting myself.  Please pray for a scan that shows things are stable, regressing, or best option yet showing no evidence of disease!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

LBBC Mets Conference

A month or two ago someone recommended that I apply for a travel grant to go to the Living Beyond Breast Cancer Metastatic Conference.  I wasn't sure if it was something that I was ready to go to or not, but I figured that I could always apply for the grant and make my real decision then.  I did receive the grant which paid for plane, hotel, and conference registration, and I attended the conference in Philadelphia this weekend.

When the conference started and I teared up as they asked people who were newly diagnosed with mets to stand and/or wave, then 1-5 year survivors, 5-10 year, and up to over 20 years, I was still very worried that I would be an emotional wreck the entire time.  At the same time, seeing 8 out of 200 women being  10-15 year survivors and 2 women being 20+ year survivors filled me with a sense of relief that "hey, this room alone shows that those stats are wrong!"  The first day was filled with lots of information about research studies and new medications or combinations of medications that were in the works.  Today, I got more down to earth information about dealing with the day to day parts of living with mets.  Some of my favorite nuggets from today are:
*Find something that gives you hope every day
*Remember that you aren't really enjoying the ride if you are constantly worrying about when the ride will end
*Live life from important event to event not from scan to scan or bloodwork/tumor markers,etc..
*Remove the cancer goggles and remember that some things would happen or not happen whether you have cancer or not, and to not attribute everything to the cancer
*Everyone's journey and situation is unique so use their experiences to help you, but don't judge your experience by theirs
*"Pack" only what you need for today -- don't worry about what you'll need tomorrow b/c you can repack for that tomorrow morning.

One of the best parts of the trip was meeting several other ladies that live with mets and just getting to talk about it.  I have talked to some other women online, but meeting people in person was very helpful.  Unlike in many support groups, we weren't the scary horror story of what might happen to you, and so we could not worry and know that others understood.  I also got the opportunity to spend more time and do some sightseeing with a couple of women from South Dakota, and I was very appreciative of the time we spent together.

I'm in the Philly airport now and will soon be boarding my plane.  I was very worried about this trip, but I am so thankful that I took the leap to make it.  It has truly been a blessing to me.

Monday, April 8, 2013

a little update

What a wonderful weekend!  David & Jenn came down for a wedding, and so I got to meet, hold, cuddle and kiss my adorable new niece.  I am happy to say that I do at least have more hair than her now as you can see in the first picture.  My nephews are completely in love with her, and it is so cute to see them with her.

One of the things that I've done over the last few months is to take up crochet to keep my hands and mind busy.  It is really relaxing to me, and this picture shows my first finished project, her baby blanket.

I was thankful today for another thing that relaxes me, being able to exercise and specifically to be able to go swimming.   That has always been a good way for me to decompress, and I needed it today after getting my hospital bill from the last surgery.   I am still waiting for information on the appeal of my insurance denying coverage for the surgery, but at least the self-pay rate on the hospital bill shows that they will only charge me about 1/3rd of the original bill if the appeal is denied.  While still a lot of money, that is definitely better than what they originally billed the insurance for.   But back to the good stuff with swimming,....2-3 weeks ago when I got in the pool for the first time since August, I was only able to do 2 laps (quite disappointing, since I was swimming for 45-60 minutes at a time before the first surgery).  Today, I was able to do 24 laps.   My pool is not a full-size lap pool, and the laps were probably pretty slow by most people's standards.   Still, I'm still pretty happy with that amount of increase  in such a short time.  Now if the weather would just warm up enough at night so that I'm not shocking my whole system when I enter the pool, it would be great.   I've also been increasing my length of time walking so that the length of the 5k won't be a problem, but now I just need to work my speed up so people don't regret saying that they'll walk it with me.  I feel like I'm slowly getting myself back, and that is a wonderful thing!  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Hooray for Energy!

The last few weeks I've noticed the return of something that I haven't had in quite some time --- energy -- woohoo!  I am probably feeling better now than I've felt in the last 3 years.  Everyone, including me,  assumed the chronic fatigue that I had previously was because of the autoimmunes and chronic hyperventilation syndrome, but I now think it was related more to the cancer growing inside of me than anything else.  Extreme fatigue days where I could barely function were occurring at a minimum of once a week previously, and I haven't had one since chemo finished (and probably even further back than that). It is a wonderful feeling to be able to have multiple all-day busy days in a row and  have plenty of energy to get through them with just being  normal person tired at the end.   This energy comes at the perfect time too, since I get to hold and cuddle my niece this weekend.  Can't wait!

I've also been able to go back to exercising more along with being able to go swimming and get into my jacuzzi tub now.  I didn't realize how much I'd been missing those things, and I am loving being able to do them again.  Plus, I have an incentive to workout because I plan to do the Miles for Moffitt 5K with people in May.   I'll be walking it, but I want to be able to walk it as close to my pre-cancer 5k times as possible.

Thanks to those who've offered additional places to add to my lists and to those who've offered to help me cross off some of the things that are already on there.  Hopefully, I will be able to cross off several over the next few months.   

My hair is coming in pretty well and is definitely lighter than before.  Most people are saying it is a dirty blonde type of color which is similar to what my hair looked like when I was a little kid.  It is still pretty short, as you can see in the picture below, but Florida weather is getting too hot and humid to deal with wigs and hats anymore. (Some of you may have already seen it on facebook, but figured I'd still include it here to document it as it grows.)  Plus, it is nice to be able to pick out an outfit and not worry about whether I have a hat to go with it.   I am trying to make sure that my earrings at least look "girly" so that there is no confusion with my short, boy-length, hair "grow" right now.   Well, that is all for now.  I still appreciate prayers, and hope that everyone has a wonderful weekend!