Monday, September 27, 2010

September 27, 2010

It’s a new week and I’ve decided that this one is going to be MUCH better than the last! I’ve started feeling better and I’m only taking my anti-nausea pills a few times a day instead of constantly and Alex seems to be feeling a little better this morning.
For those of you that didn’t hear, we started the weekend off with my son Alex getting sick. He woke up Friday morning barfing and has been pretty hard at it for the last few days. I was quarantined from my house (couldn’t be around the germs) so I shacked up with my mom and Jeremy played Dr. Dad! My mom and grandma are going to watch him today b/c we don’t think he’s quite up to “daycare status”, but hopefully by tomorrow he will be able to get back to his normal routine.
I’m going to get my labs done this morning to find out my WBC count and to make sure everything is looking OK and then I’m off to work! Yep…you heard it…I’m going to work and I’m super excited! Really, I thought I’d never utter that sentence; however I’m really looking forward to getting out of the house and feeling important. I mean, not that deciding which pajama’s to wear isn’t important…we all gotta look cute when we’re hanging around the house…but I’m feeling the urge to alter websites or something else a little more rewarding! :o)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September 22, 2010

Sorry for the delay in’s been a rough few days. I had my first chemo treatment on Monday, and other than the GYNORMOUS needle they shoved in my port, it really wasn't too bad. You know those big push pins that they sell at Wal-Mart...that's about what this sucker looked like! It wasn't very long, just really fat, and it has these wing lookin' things on the end that makes it look like a butterfly. Or at least that's what I've lovingly named it. I figured if I have to have that thing shoved in me every few weeks then I at least need to have a little bit happier thoughts than "big gynormous pushpin". So, "pretty yellow butterfly" it is! :o)
I was  there about 6 hours, but the actual chemo part only took about 2 hours. We had to wait quite a while because Dr. Burt wanted to see me before I went in for treatment (more on that later) and then I had to get my labs done to make sure my white blood count was OK, then pre-meds (the no-barfies), then finally the chemo. My white blood count was OK, but my platelet count was down even more than it was a few weeks ago. The recommended minimum is 150,000 and mine was at 147,000 when they did my original blood work and Monday it was at 135,000. They didn't seem to be too concerned; they just said I needed to be careful with my bleeding. So I guess working on my knife throwing skills is out for a while! :o)
The reason Dr. Burt wanted to meet with me is because she got the results back from my genetic test. My tests came back positive for the BRCA 2 mutation. As far as my prognosis is concerned, this doesn’t change anything. The only main difference is that I will now be at a much greater risk for developing ovarian cancer or having my breast cancer come back later in life. Because of this, they will go ahead and do a double mastectomy and remove my ovaries as well. We aren’t sure if I will have to have a full hysterectomy or if they will just take out my ovaries; that will be a discussion for later. She said there isn’t a huge rush to remove my ovaries, as long as I have it done within the next few years I will be OK. That will give me time to get the cancer dealt with, my reconstructive surgery done, and maybe a little time to be “normal” before I have another surgery…or at least a little time for my body to heal before I plunge it into another state of turmoil.
But, enough of that downer-talk! Now that we know my cancer is genetic, we have a baseline to go off of, and they will be able to keep track of it thru regular PET scans throughout my life and hopefully detect any abnormalities before they get to the point they got to this time. The same will be true for Alex and my sisters. They will all need to get tested for the mutation (however the doctor recommends that they don’t have it done until they are in their twenties), and God forbid any of them come back positive, at least then they will know how to equip themselves to prepare for the future. They will be able to get PET scans themselves and kill anything suspicious way before it turns into a tumor or something bad.
Yesterday and today haven’t been as bad as I expected with the chemo after-effects, but they haven’t really been a bed of roses either. Mostly, I feel completely and utterly exhausted. I will fold a load of laundry and feel like I just ran a 6-mile marathon! It’s really hard for me, because I’m not a “sitter”; I like to be doing something all the time. Maybe this is God’s way of trying to teach me patience! :o) I haven’t barfed, but I pretty much teeter on the edge of it all the time. Today was worse than yesterday, but I doubled up on my medicine and that has seemed to help. I’m hoping that in a few days that part of it will be gone…at least until the next round! Speaking of…I can’t remember if I put it in my last post or not, but Dr. Burt and the “tumor board” (that still makes me giggle) decided that they felt it was in my best interest to go ahead with the “dose dense” version of my chemo. This means I will be getting a treatment every 14 days instead of the standard 21. By doing this, I will go back in the day after my treatments and get a shot in my stomach to help my body reproduce bone marrow. The effects will be harder on my body and harder to get over, BUT, it shortens the length of time I have to have chemo overall. I’ll still do 4 treatments, but I’ll be done by the first of November. This hopefully means that by Thanksgiving I’ll be hungry and ready to EAT!! :o)
As my treatments go on, it may be harder for me to update my blog as often as I have been, but I promise I will still keep it up to date. It may be less frequent, or I may have my mom log on and update for me…although she’s not NEAR as exciting of a story teller as I am! LOL! Just kidding mom! The fact that so many people have told me how much my blog helps them really means a lot to me. If nothing else, maybe my story will touch others and help them to appreciate the things they take for granted or even give a guy an excuse to feel-up his wife just to make sure her breasts are healthy! If I can save one life, then I think my blog is well worth the time and effort! As I said before, please feel free to pass it along to anyone who may have use for it or who just wants an update.
I love you all!  -T

Saturday, September 18, 2010

September 18, 2010

The port is officially in, and it kinda looks like I’ve got a bumpy purple alien under my skin. I’m not going to lie, I was sort of a whiny baby the first day b/c it really hurt and I really didn’t like it. I didn’t go so far as to throw a temper tantrum or anything, but I did say a few choice words under my breath (sorry Pastor John!). It is actually doing a lot better today, still bruised and bumpy, but not near as sore.  I talked to the nurse yesterday and she called me in a prescription for some numbing cream that I can rub on it right before they do my chemo to help with the needle pain. That made me feel a lot better, b/c I was really nervous about starting chemo when it was this sore. I told her at this point, if someone tried to shove a needle in my bumpy purple alien I might step on their toe and run!

OK, so funny story boys are in Chillicothe this weekend, so mom and Kelsey came over to help me take a shower (I can't lift my arm and I can't get the incisions wet). So we have the great idea to just wrap my chest in saran wrap to keep the water off. So here I am, half naked with my purple alien boob hangin' out, my mom and sister wrapping me in plastic wrap (which makes you really hot, by the way) and the stupid door bell rings! Really?! Who is coming to my house at 8:00 at night?! So mom hands the roll to Kelsey and we're just standing there twiddling our thumbs, I mean what kind of conversation do you have to pass the time in that situation? "So, how 'bout them Chiefs?!" Anyway, mom comes back a few minutes later and it was the boy scouts selling popcorn!! Lol! I told her she should have said, "sorry, we are a little busy...wrapping my kid's alien boob in saran wrap so she can take a one-armed shower!" Nice.

Anyway! Back to the blog...I’ve attached two pictures, one is what my port looks like, and it’s a Power Port Duo Lumen, which means it’s got two sections; one side to put the drugs in and one side to take blood out. That way they don’t have to find a vein every week to test my blood. The second is my scar! So I’ve never been one for bragging about war wounds, but with all the cutting they are going to be doing on me, I figure I better start! :o) The top hole is where they put the catheter in that goes to the vein in my heart, and the bottom cut is where they put the port in. The port is actually about an inch underneath where the long cut is.

Dr. Burt (my oncologist) called me on Thursday as I was sitting in the waiting room to get the port to give me the results of my echocardiogram and my PET scan…I couldn’t believe they were back already! She said the echo looked great…my ticker is in perfect health! The PET scan looked really good as well, just two very small spots. The PET scan works by “sticking” to any quickly dividing cells and can identify cancer spots as small as 4 cm in size. The two spots they saw were both 1 cm each, so they can’t say whether or not they are true “cancer” cells, or just some rowdy cells having a dance party or something! She said they were not going to change my stage status (typically if your cancer has metastasized, or moved to an area of your body other than the originating source, you will be considered a stage 4) so that is good news! The two areas they found were, one, in the lymph nodes of my chest wall and two, in my right hip. They did an x-ray of my hip just to see if they could find anything in the bone, but other than that, she said they were just going to keep an eye on them both.  If they do end up being cancer cells, the chemo will kill them both!

Speaking of chemo…for those of you who haven’t heard, I am starting my chemo on Monday instead of Tuesday. Dr. Burt said there is no reason to wait another day, and she wants to get this thing started. I go in at 8:45 in the morning and will be there for about 6 hours. She met with the tumor board and they did decide to go ahead and do the expedited treatments. My first round of chemo will still be 4 treatments; however they will be every 14 days instead of every 21. I will go in every other Monday for the chemo and then I’ll go back the next day to get an injection in my stomach that will help build up my bone marrow and my white blood cells. I know I will also have to have my blood drawn every week to check on my white blood count, but I’m not sure yet what day that will be on.
That’s about it for my news for now, but I do want to take a quick minute and say a huge THANK YOU to all my friends and family! You guys have been so wonderful through all of this, and I couldn’t do it without you! A lot of people have asked what they can do to help, and it’s really hard for me to answer because I feel like there are so many people in the world who need more help than me! What I’m going through is really small in comparison to what a lot of families are dealing with and I just feel blessed that I have so many people that love and care about me! However, my mom has set up a “care calendar” that has places where you can sign up to do stuff and my friends James and Heather have set up a Facebook page that has events and fundraisers posted. Prayers are definitely the number one thing that I need, but if you feel like you want to do more, then those two places would be a good place to start. The info for the care calendar is (Calendar ID: 50618, Security Code: 8893) and my mom can answer any questions you may have about it. Her email address is and yes, she should win an award for the longest email address EVER! The FB page is just called “Tasha” and you can find it on my profile under my “likes”. If you want to have something added to it, just leave a post and either James or Heather will get back to you.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September 16, 2010

Well I can say one thing, I'm definitely more of a morning person now than I've EVER been! One of the greatest parts of my day is when Jeremy brings Alex into bed with me while he gets ready for work and we have our "snuggle time". This morning I told him I loved him and he leaned in and gave me a big wet kiss, how great is that?! I get excited to wake up early and start my day, and those of you who know me, know that this is NOT normal for me! :o)

Mom and I had a great time yesterday picking out hair. Thank you soooo much to Karen from my oncologist's office who recommended me to Wigged Out! Tina is a 4-year young cancer survivor (she was 34 when she was diagnosed) and had a horrible time and experience picking out a wig. No one seemed to care and all the wigs were ugly and old-lady looking, so she decided to start her own wig shop and make sure no woman would ever have to go thru that again as long as she had something to do with it! And her shop is AMAZING! There were over 75 different styles to choose from and they were all really cute! We ended up getting two, one looks almost identical to my normal hair...just a little bit longer...and the other one is a super trendy short style. I love them both! They are dark brown with some black low lights and blonde highlights just like mine. And best part is, I don't have to pay $100 to fix my roots, lol!! Sorry Tiph :o)

I also had my PET scan and my echocardiogram yesterday. The echo was a breeze! Basically they just did an ultrasound of my heart to make sure it looked good to start chemo and to get a baseline to compare too later on. The guy was a huge goober and he told me I talked too much. Imagine that! I just thought it was really cool to see what my heart looked like, pumping and everything, and I wanted to know what everything was. Ohh well, I guess I can't expect EVERYONE to like me. :o)

The PET scan was probably the suckiest part so far. I mean it wasn't terrible...I was radioactive (literally) for like 6 hours so I guess that's kinda cool, but the whole IV thing just isn't my cup of tea. Bla, I really hate needles. The guy told me like 47 times how young I was, so that rocked. I mean, turning 31 really hasn't been that bad so far b/c everyone keeps telling me how young I am! He said that I will probably have to come back every 6 months to a year from now on just to make sure the cancer doesn't come back once we get rid of it, so I'm not super jacked up about that, but I guess in the whole scheme of things it's better than the alternative!

I go this morning (at 10) to have my port put in. I'm trying really, really, really hard to be positive about it, but I'm struggling. All I have in my head is my dad's. It was big and lumpy and it hurt him a lot. They keep telling me that mine won't hurt, I won't even know its there, bla, bla, but I just can't help thinking that they are so lying to me! BUT...maybe not. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised by the new addition to my body and maybe I'll love it so much that I want to go buy some body jewelry and decorate it! Bedazzler here I come! :o)

Monday, September 13, 2010

September 13, 2010

I just got back from meeting with my surgeon and the pharmacist who will be administering my chemo. The regime I’m on is called “AC” which stands for Adriamycin and Cytoxan (the two types of drugs I will be given). We went over all the side effects, etc. and it’s all pretty standard; low blood count, hair loss, nausea and vomiting, poor appetite, etc. My nadir for both these drugs will be 10 – 14 days, which is the low point during my chemo cycle when I experience low blood counts. It will be during this time that I am most prone to infections and when they will be monitoring me the closest. I will be given 5 different types of medicine to control (and hopefully alleviate) my nausea. Those are Emend, Ondansetron, Dexamethasone, Aprepitant and Prochlorperazine. Now, this doesn’t mean much to most (me included), but I’m putting it in here for my sister! As most of you know, she’s in her second year of pharmacy school and so I want her to know what all they are giving me so she can help keep track of the more clinical side of it. :o)
The plan as of now is to still follow the 21 day cycle that was originally set up, however, that very possibly could change. The results of my MRI came back and while we already know that my cancer is dividing and changing very rapidly, the MRI confirmed that it’s doing so at an even faster pace than originally thought. My left breast is still cancer-free; however the tumor in my right breast has grown significantly and has grown some “arms” into the ducts which are acting as additional small tumors. On 9/3/10 when the original biopsy was done, the tumor measured 2.2 x .9 cm in size and the MRI which was done on 9/10/10 showed that the tumor is now 7 cm in diameter. Because of this, Dr. Burt is considering doing a rapid advanced chemo treatment where I would be given the same 4 sessions, but they would be administered every 2 weeks instead of every 21 days. The upside of this would be that they could kill the tumor faster before it has a chance to grow anymore. The downside is that it will be incredibly hard on my body. The typical regeneration cycle for cells is 21 days and by doing the treatments every 10 – 14 my body won’t have a chance to recover between cycles. The most severe of these side effects would be the toll it will take on my bone marrow and white blood cells. To help counteract that, I would receive weekly injections of Neulasta in my stomach. This drug would help regenerate the bone marrow and white blood cells. She said I wouldn’t necessarily notice a difference in my level of nausea or appetite vs. the 21 day cycle, but my hair will obviously fall out quicker and I will be much more tired and lethargic.

My tumor was tested for several things; estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, HER-2/NEU 4B5 and Ki-67. My scores for the estrogen and progesterone receptors were 100 and 95 with the normal range being between 0 – 5. This is what I explained in my previous post about the tumor being highly hormone related. My score for the HER-2/NEU 4B5 was 1 and the normal range is 0 – 1 so I am really good on that one. A normal range for the Ki-67 is 0 – 10 and mine is 93. What makes the Ki-67 so scary is that typically high levels of it indicate an aggressive tumor and predict a poor prognosis. The risk of recurrence is higher than average and the survival rate is shorter. Because of all this, they have put my cancer at a stage 3 instead of the stage 2 they initially thought I was in. However, since I’m young and healthy, my doctor is confident that that it will respond very well to chemotherapy and that long-term survival is achievable.

Up until now, the plan for my surgery was going to be to remove the tumor unless the genetic test came back positive; however with the results of the MRI, Dr. Balanoff said that I will now have to have a full mastectomy on my right breast. Assuming the genetic test comes back negative, I can still keep my left breast, however I think I may go ahead and have it removed as well since the percentage is so high for a woman my age that it will return (in addition to my high Ki-67 score). They will do the mastectomy on my right breast as soon as my chemo treatments are over but they won’t do the reconstruction until my entire cancer treatment is complete (probably a year to a year and a half from now), so I will wait and have the mastectomy and the reconstruction on my left breast done at the same time as the reconstruction on my right. It will be a long year with no hair and one boob, but hey, I figure lots of girls who are not well-endowed wear padded bras so I will just have to do the same! :o)

I’ve got a cool picture of my cells that I’m going to try to scan and add to this post (it kinda helps to have a visual) but my scanner is not behaving so it may be tomorrow before I can get it attached. Feel free to check back to see the picture, or if you’re reading this after tomorrow then hopefully it’s already here! :o)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 12, 2010

After several biopsies and tests on my blood and cells, they have come to the conclusion that my cancer's origination is in the breast. I have a malignant tumor in my right breast and cancer cells in the lymph nodes under my right arm. They type of cancer I have is hormone-related, so the estrogen in my body is what's causing the tumor to grow so rapidly. The medical classification of my cancer is called "estrogen receptor-positive" (also known as hormone sensitive), which means my cancer cells have to have a protein to which estrogen will bind. You have many types of hormones in your body; one is called a Parathyroid hormone-related protein. Typically, the levels of this hormone in a woman my age's body is between 1 -30 and mine is 100...hence the rapid growth. 

Mom, Jeremy and I met with my oncologist on Friday and I couldn't be happier with her! She is very patient, listens and is very thorough in her explanations. We sat with her and went over my entire plan for about 3 hours! How many doctors do you know that actually spend that much time with you?!

I had an MRI on Friday and once we get the results they should be able to tell me what stage of cancer I am in, but as of now she is guesstimating that I am at a stage 2. I will have a PET scan on Wednesday to determine if the cancer has spread anywhere else in my body. They are fairly confident that it hasn't, but we'd rather be safe than sorry! I will have my port put in on Thursday, which is what they will use to administer the chemo. It will be surgically implanted in the upper left side of my chest, and is connected by a soft, slim catheter tube that goes through my vein all the way to my heart. I will start my chemo the following Tuesday (Sept. 21) and will continue to have treatments every 21 days for 4 cycles. The obvious side effects of chemo are lots of barfing, being tired and losing your hair. While she has forewarned me that I will most likely lose my hair, she said that she takes a very aggressive approach to nausea. I will receive medicine before, during and after each of my treatments to help avoid the barfing and as long as I keep myself strong and healthy, the lethargy should be moderate. And since I have a toddler, I'm pretty used to being tired anyway so I think I can handle it! :o) The most serious part of chemo and the one that she also takes a very aggressive stand on is testing your white blood count to avoid infection of any kind. I will have my blood tested every week thru my entire chemo treatment process and if my white blood count gets too low we will take the appropriate measures. If detected early, these measures are as simple as isolating me from possible germs and infection (not going out in public or around sick people) and giving me antibiotics to make sure I don't develop infections. Usually there is a 4 - 5 day window within each 21 day cycle where this is most critical and other than that, as long as I'm careful I can live my life normal. Oh...I forgot to mention that she said poopy diapers are a HUGE risk for infection so that means Jeremy gets to be on a 4-month doo-doo duty! If that isn't a "silver lining" to my dark cloud then I don't know what is! :o) Once the chemo treatments are complete I will move to the second phase of my treatment which is surgery.

They are positive that I will have surgery, but what they don't know yet is to what extent my surgery will be. As most of you know, my dad's cancer was caused by a genetic mutation that he inherited from his dad. At this point, they do not know if my cancer is just "normal" cancer or if dad passed on the genetic mutation to me and that's what caused my cancer. I had the test done on Friday and they will have the results in a few weeks. The odds are 50/50 that I will have it. If I do NOT have it, the surgical plan as of now is to remove the tumor from my breast as well as my lymph nodes. The remaining breast tissue will be saved and I won't have any deformities. If the test comes back positive then my surgery will be a little more radical. With a positive test result for the gene mutation, that means that the probability that my cancer will return again at some point in my life is very, very high. Also, because my cancer is hormone-related, it is about a 90% probability that if it does return, it will return in either my breasts or my ovaries. Because of that, they would go ahead and do a double mastectomy to remove both of my breasts as well as surgery to remove my ovaries. OK, so this is a dark, scary cloud; but here's the silver lining...since my tumor is not attached to my chest wall, the muscles or my skin and I don't have any lesions or sores, I am a VERY good candidate for reconstructive surgery. So if this happens, I'm just trying to think of it as the really long and roundabout way of getting a boob job to make mine perky again! :o)

The third and fourth phase of my treatment will be done simultaneously and will be hormone-therapy and radiation. The radiation is pretty standard. They will "spot shoot" my right breast and lymph node areas to make sure they kill any cancer cells that might be remaining. I don't know how many treatments I will get, that will be determined by a lot of factors that are still unknown. The hormone-therapy will be a pill that I take for apx. 5 years called Tamoxifen. It is an estrogen-blocker and since my cancer needs estrogen to grow, this will essentially make sure that the cancer is dead, stays dead and does not return. The sucky part is that it will most likely throw my body into menopause. But, if I have to find the "silver lining" then I guess it will give me a medical excuse for being cranky and no one can yell at me! :o)

For now, that's basically it. Lots of treatments, lots of side effects, but lots of BEING ALIVE! I'll try to keep you all updated as my process goes on. Thank you again for all your prayers, I really appreciate each and every one of them!

My journey begins...

I have such an amazing support system with my friends and family and I don't know what I would do without all of you. Each and every one of you is truly a blessing in my life and I appreciate you to the fullest extent! Now, with that being said, I know that everyone is going to have questions and want to know what's going on through each and every stage and I don't want anyone to feel left out or to not be in the know. This is why I've created my blog. It will act as my journal through this journey and it will be a way for everyone to stay up to date without me having to repeat the same information several times or worse, for something to be lost in translation going "down the pipeline".

Most importantly, I don't want anyone to feel like they can't ask me questions or that they have to pretend like this isn't happening. I assure you, it is on my mind pretty much 24/7 regardless of if you bring it up or not, so please don't feel like you can't talk to me about it. On the flip side, this also doesn't mean that this is the only thing we can talk about. I am still the same 'ole me and I still have lots of goofy, quarky stories that have nothing to do with cancer. I've got a 1-year old who does something note-worthy pretty much daily and a husband who keeps me on my toes! This may be a new part of my life, but it has not become my life. If nothing else, I want each and every person who reads my blog to use my experience to realize how precious life is and just how much we need to appreciate each and every minute of it! I am taking a very positive approach to this, and while sure it's scary and there are lots of unknowns and what-if's out there, but one thing that I learned from my dad is that this is now my reality. It is happening regardless of if I want it to or if I think it’s fair; so I can mope and cry and cuss and be pissed off, or I can be happy and thankful for the things that I do have...either way, the outcome is still the same! I have a long battle ahead of me and I don't want to start the fight with cancer already having one up on me by having a bad attitude. :o)

My next blog will begin the update process. I'll probably just title each blog with that day's date (pretty creative, I know) but that way everyone can stay caught up and know right where to start reading at a quick glance. Also, please feel free to pass on my blog address to anyone who you might think would find it of interest. I know a lot of people have put me on prayer requests with different churches and groups and if any of them want to know how their prayers are working this will be the place to find out! :o)

Thanks again to all of you and God bless!