Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's official.....I have Two Primary Cancers

I met with my Oncologist (the guy in charge of my chemo-therapy) on Thursday May 6th, I have been unable to post about my chemo part of this journey because I needed it to settle in a bit. To be honest I was kind of un-prepared emotionally for this visit. Not that there is a right way to prepare for cancer. I realized that chemotherapy was yet another level into the unknown that I would be traveling into. This next leg of my cancer journey was not the easy trip to to Thompson Peak Spa, this is the endurance part of the race and I have to say I was exhausted just previewing the course.

People wonder if chemo is optional, the answer is yes. All cancer treatment is optional, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, supplements even dietary changes. What I have gathered so far is that each person's cancer responds differently to treatment. Surgery and chemotherapy offers the best comprehensive fight that western medicine recommends for my 2 types of cancer. No one can guarantee the outcome, they can only do what is proven most effective and see how my body responds.

Surgery was kind of the easy part. The cancer was identified in various parts of my body, lucky for me those part were no longer the most important parts. If it had been my voice box, or my brain well that would have been another journey. After surgery, the miracle begins, the body that has been mine for 36 years, slowly begins to recover. The results are kind of astonishing, I went from barely being able to move, to walking, to a little light house work, even driving a few blocks. This part of the journey though new to me was familiar, I am still doing it with my body, my old friend that gave birth to my two beautiful boys, nursed them for three years straight, the body I trained to run a 10K, the body that had matured from that of a young girl into that of a woman. I knew that if I took care of my body it would fare better along this journey, I take it easy, drink water and breathe. I also am trying to eat better, more vegetables, grains and fruit. This is basic cause and effect, it is working, each day I get stronger and my body is responding to all the love and goodness put into it. Surgery was technically the worst part and my health gets better from that point forward.

Chemotherapy is a little different, it is a fight on the cellular level to eradicate any possibly loose cancer cells running around my body. They are probably there, but are they really??? How will these bad cells react? How will my body react? How many months is this going to take? am I going to be sick? how sick? does this involve more needles? when will I be me? (I already know that answer, I already am me) So lets meet the oncologist.

Lucky for me Kate made this trip with me, another of the many angels in my life. I needed the support for this trip. This place smells like medicine, in the please put me in the reclining position before I faint kind of way. Lots of body traffic going in an out, most of these people were members of the cancer club just like me. I wondered about their stories, I wondered if I could stay conscious, I wondered how I would be able to endure this?? Now mind you chemotherapy has never been an "option" for me, I knew I would do WHATEVER they recommended for treatment and I was informed that this would be a part of my treatment since April 1st. I have had some time to wrap my head around this idea, or so I thought. I was in no way prepared for this place, nor did I realize that this phase of treatment would be hard in a completely different way.

I met with Dr. Vu and he reviewed the report from the pathologist (lab Dr./person that studied all the tissue they removed during surgery) and the word is I have 2 primary cancers. My ovarian cancer was contained for the most part and not spread throughout the other tissue (good news), it was also ovarian in nature as opposed to metastatic breast cancer (breast cancer that has spread to other organs, also good news). The breast cancer was estrogen receptor negative (means that it is not fed by hormones, not so good news this type of breast cancer can behave badly) with additional cancer being found in only one out of 20 lymph nodes (good news). Overall these results made me feel a little better. Both surgeries were successful in achieving clean margins and complete removal of the cancers. They also say it is better to have 2 primary cancers then one cancer that has metastasized or spread. Who would have thought I would be so thankful to have two cancers.

Due to the fact that I have 2 cancers at such a young age with no family history, all of my Doctors have recommended genetic testing for the BRAC-1 or BRAC-2 cancer gene. I have mixed feelings on this type of testing and will probably be something I talk about on future posts. I haven't got the referral yet and I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

So Doctor Vu tells me the chemo plan. I will do IV (yes through a vein) chemotherapy of adriamycin/cytoxin every 2 weeks for 4 cycles. Then I will be given carboplatin/taxol every 3 weeks for 6 cycles. The way they organize chemo is the cycle begins when you are given the treatment the time from then to the start of your next cycle is for you body to recover for the next treatment. There will be lots of blood tests to insure that my white blood cell count is high enough. The IV treatments will also be combined with other drugs, some to prevent nausea, others to prevent itching and other reactions. The great news is that I will not have to have an IV placed in my arm at every treatment. The Port-o-cath Dr. Bortnstein put in my chest last Wednesday will help me avoid all the additional vein seeking. They should be able to use the port for blood draws as well as administering the chemo.

The first type of chemo is targeting the breast cancer, while the second type targets the breast as well as ovarian. Side effects are of course the known, nausea, hair loss, fatigue, immune compromised, these all vary from patient to patient. I won't know how my body will react until I start. Adriamycin the drug in the first type I will be receiving is know to cause heart problems, so I will be getting some kind of heart test from a local cardiologist making sure it will be strong enough to offset the negative effects of the drugs. Once I get the all clear from the heart doctor they will want me to start chemotherapy the 1st week in June. School will be out by then, this is not the summer kickoff party I had planned, but I am so thankful that all of my treatment has been coordinated so quickly and efficiently.

Kind of the tip of the iceberg, I don't know what to expect and am still moving forward full steam ahead into the unknown. To be honest chemo seems like alot of work, and I am a little intimidated by the process. I plan to dig deep into my support to help me through. If anyone is interested in being a chemo-companion please let me know. They haven't been scheduled yet, but as soon as they are I will let everyone know. To be honest the worst part about chemo was how heavy the energy felt there. I have been safely tucked away in my sanctuary where nothing but love and light come through the door, I have to say it is kind of addictive. The solution of course is simple, take the love and the light with me.

Tomorrow another trip to visit Dr. Berardi in Phoenix, it should be a quick one and I may get the final 2 grenades removed.

Drink water and breathe.........


  1. I will be your chemo partner, just let me know when and where baby. I love you, Jessica.

  2. I don't get to Prescott often, but I will let you know when I'm going to be there and if there is chemo scheduled, I would be glad to be a chemo partner to you, my dear. And if that doesn't happen, please know that I am your chemo partner in spirit each and every time.

  3. Sarah, I am so proud of you for being you and for sharing your experiences and feelings with us. Please let me know if your chemo will be in Phoenix/Scottsdale and if you need me to hang with your boys or something. I could take them to see Uncle Larry or to the waterpark or something! Let me know if you need anything else besides the love and prayers you already have from me.

  4. Sarah, we met once at Kerry's house for Collin's bday party and was so shocked to hear your news. You are handling this diagnosis and surgeries with such are such an inspiration. I can totally relate to what you are going through b/c my Mom also went through a breast cancer diagnosis and mastectomy about two years ago. She is awaiting her final reconstructive surgery and happy to report a clean bill of health. I took her to all of her appt's...surgeries, chemo, radiation, etc. So if you need rides or help with the boys i would be happy to help. Also, if you need referrals to chemo/radiation or reconstructive surgeons, please don't hesitate to ask. We have close friends in the cancer research field with connections in AZ and have some amazing resources here. My mom loves her oncologist and reconstructive surgeons! Feel free to contact me if you need anything!!
    Warm wishes,
    Leslie Costes

  5. Sarah, Count me in as one of your chemo "party" buddies, my taxi awaits you. We miss you.

  6. Lori I should be in CV the next couple of days and I would love your company during chemo. Leslie of course I remember you and I will be in touch. Kimberly, chemo is going to be in Prescott Valley, we need to get together anyway :) Molly thanks for all the love, I emailed your mom the other day I think we are going to connect some time soon. Stay in you. Jess you are already penciled in I am expecting us to create the greatest knitting project of all time, or at least plan one, buy the materials, and store it uncompleted for all time, love you.

  7. I have colorectal cancer and liver cancer at the same time, 65 male. Waiting for liver surgery. When healed, chemo starts for colorectal.