Monday, February 20, 2012


What exactly does that mean and when do you arrive?
For some it the act of riding, not driving, that makes one vulnerable......
A needle into my brand new powerport makes me vulnerable........
Starting chemo for the second time makes me vulnerable......
Asking someone to hold my hand makes me vulnerable..........
Someone showing up to hold my hand makes me vulnerable.........
Receiving love and the gifts the universe showers down on me makes me vulnerable.......
Crying with my children makes me vulnerable........
Vomiting makes me vulnerable..........and doing it for hours on a car ride home well there are know words or tears available to quite explain that journey.
Needing someone to help with the boys makes me vulnerable.....
Coming home to dinner and filled prescriptions makes me vulnerable...
People showing up to be HERE for my family makes me vulnerable........
Being given the most amazing piece of furniture for my healing altar makes me vulnerable........

I could go on forever.......

Then there is this magic pill that I believe is called Zofran which eased the side effects of my chemo at about 6:45 approximately 2-5 minutes before the boys came home. The universe must know that I must be a little less vulnerable and raw with the boy........I am sure they can take it........but I am a mom. So I sit down and have some soup and try to piece together there super fun exhausting day with friends. Vulnerability has left me with this soft place in my heart that sees every moment as so precious. I am sad to see them go to their dad's, I am blessed that they can. All I want to do is hold them and explain that the future holds unlimited possibilities for each and every one of us. Somewhere in all this vulnerability resides peace and love.

Needless to say chemo started off smooth. I spontaneously cried as they accessed my port, not from the pain, but it is kind of like a port of entry. Not like losing your virginity, but a crossroad of probably more magnitude in so many ways. This is a beginning of a new phase of healing in my life. Cancer treatment is a small part, I am creating through my vast network of love and support........a mind, body, nutrition program to make possible my complete healing. Thankfully this is a long project and I look forward to each day being better then the last. That means that blogging may go on forever.

So back to the facts. I get super hydrated first. Giant bag of saline with a diuretic in it. The goal is hydrate and pee. Dani steps out and brings back a yummy lunch from the New Frontiers Deli. We eat and play cribbage to pass the time (score me 3; dani 1) Cisplatin my first chemo of 2012 likes to camp in the bladder and do more destruction then good to to ward off this side effect they encourage me to "drink tons and pee" (the first title of my blog:). I get a little "creeped" out by the chemo but roll with it pretty well. The second treatment is etoposide and it is drained and gone before I know it. Near the end I just start to get anxious and my sense of smell kicks into hyper drive. The thought of the heprin and saline flush makes me want to vomit.

The nurse kindly draws saline out of a big bag, this removes the preservatives that I can taste when they flush my port. The saline prevented me from having "another" incident at the oncologists office. My near fainting spell the week before along with my chatty nature is already putting me on the radar with my new office. Brenda the plebotomist who drew my blood last week was all to ready to pass me on to the nurse for my new labs once she heard I had a port. Puking in the office, well that is just a little to intimate for a first chemo date. So once I am unplugged we beat feet out of there. Now mind you it is 4:00 PM and we had been there since was more then time to go. We grab a puke bag for the road, it is kind of like self-fulfilling prophecy at this point, some would call it foreshadowing, I took it as a bad omen. I had no idea what Dani and I were about to endure.

I am sure the fresh air will make me better. I sit on a bench while Dani pulls the car around. I breathe, slowly, deliberately and with purpose. We drive 2 miles down the road and I say "DANI YOU HAVE TO PULL OVER" and I precede to puke on HWY 189(could be wrong) between Sedona and Cottonwood, anyone who know Northern AZ realizes this is a busy road, it is not the autoban but it could be it's redneck cousin. So to the din of non-stop traffic I puke, Dani rolls the car forward in 10 foot intervals so I could have clean spots to puke. Somehow the medicine made my nose into a superhuman sniffer......I could smell the exhaust fumes, the bile in my stomach, the chemo on my tongue (totally crazy), the odor of the salads we had for lunch. Vomiting would be number 2 on my list of medical shit I just can't stand. Then I get flashy I am burning up then I have the chills. I get in the car we drive a few more miles and do it all over again. This side effect sprang out of nowhere and lasted until HWY 169 (Cherry Rd.) It was approximately 2 steady hours of this nausea and chills. I took a pill before I left the office, sadly I left it at the 1st puke station. Had I know then how much I needed it I might have gone through my own vomit to find it. So I go from exhausted with my eyes closed just focusing on my breathing, hot and cold intermittently to puking on the side of the road. The fucked up part about this whole situation is that I AM UNABLE TO DO A DAMN THING ABOUT IT. I have to ride it out and see what is on the other side. Do you know what encourages you to vomit more? The thought of doing it all over again the next day. Well guess what that is where vulnerability came into play. I cried and puked on the side of some highway today, I was in no state to provide myself with what I needed. I did not have to, my body was doing exactly what it needed to be doing, my friend Dani Baker was doing what she needed to be doing to support my body and me well I was just along for the ride. Dr. Lindquist ordered me suppositories to help with nausea. After a ride like that I would stick many things up my ass if it meant I would stop puking!

I was thankful for the reprieve given to my body from the Zofron. I look forward to my next treatment tomorrow as it is another day closer to healing. I sort of feel back to normal with fatigue and a slight buzzing under the surface. The buzzing could be from the chemo or the royal jelly I am taking........ I may never know but it is always nice to have a mystery.

If you wonder why I am blogging late after a day like today, well I am sure it has to do with the steroid high that I am on.

Embrace your vulnerability......

Drink water and breathe

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Life presses on

How do I express the chaos? I wake up, feed the boys, make a smoothie, dress myself, dress the boys, drop them at school, drive to chino, work, leave, pick up boys, go to scheduled sports/or not, home, home work, dinner, shower, bed. What is missing from that rant? fun, exercise, meditation, yoga, reading, blogging, cleaning, dating, BIKING. Then of course there is that new category that must be addressed....the CANCER supersedes other parts of the list because it is IMPORTANT. Then of course there is the other unexpected life stuff that is not on the list it kind of comes out of the blue.........something like Corbin breaking his arm at the skatepark.

That is correct Corbin in an attempt to master a "nose manual" on his scooter, managed to fall in such a way that he broke his radius and ulna. Now this is not my first child with broken bones as Mason fractured his wrist in August last year. Mason's break was a little more severe, but I was not "blogging" much then so the pseudo real time details are not available. So Sunday 2/12 I get a call from Steve saying I think Corbin broke his arm we are heading to the ER. Really??? I had spent all Friday afternoon at our lovely YRMC. Is it really necessary for me to spend a Sunday there on the same week? I show up and Corbin is in a wheel chair and he has worked himself up into a frenzy. Corbin loves Dr.'s and medical stuff just like I do. He has a pretty big knot on his arm and in quite a bit of pain. Mind you he broke it and Steve probably had him at the ER 20 minutes might have been less. So poor Corbin is crying with Mason chiming in occasionally "I broke my are worse then that", apparently brothers don't let up when the injuries don't seem to be too severe. Corbin is so upset he won't let the nurse take his temperature orally. He can be a bit dramatic, so she puts it under his arm......totally breaking the rules, but it's not like he has the flu. Then he gets wheeled into the back and we wait. A tech comes from radiology and takes him back for an x-ray. He can barely move his arm for the x-ray, he whimpers through the entire thing. We are back in the room and we wait for the Dr. to read the results. It is broken, but it does not need to be "re-set". This means all they do is splint it up and refer you to an orthopedic specialist for a hard cast later in the week. Super fun way to spend a Sunday.

Great! at the time I get this news I figure what else do I need to do this week? Oh yeah schedule my first chemo, get a cast on Corbin, and the regular crap I do every day. The question is how much can you pile on a plate? How far do you bend the branch? How many needles break the camels back (that one may not make sense)? The answer is "IT WILL TAKE MORE THEN THIS".

I found out on Monday that Corbin's appointment would be Thursday. I was hoping (sort of) to start chemo on Thursday. Then I spoke with my oncologist and I asked her if it would be okay to start on Monday 2/20. I don't want to hurt my chemo odds by waiting to long, but really what is 4 more days at this point? I think it is 4 more smoothies and supplements to support my body and maybe I will be able to squeeze in a bike ride before the chemo show begins. I also need to have Corbin in a hard cast. So I breathe and let it all fall into place. Dr. Lindquist recommends a chemo that might need some extra approval Monday is going to be a good start. Kate is on board to take me for day 1 and Jen is on board for day 2 and slowly it is all coming into focus.

I will start chemo on Monday 2/20. My regiment will be a combination of etoposide and sysplatin given on day 1 and 2 of a 21 day cycle. In English that means I will be tapped in for approx 5 hours on Monday and Tuesday of the 1st week, with week 2 and 3 off. Then we will repeat the cycle 4 times. We will monitor how my cancer responds at that point and go from there. This regiment seems pretty manageable. I may need a neulasta shot on Wednesday's following treatment to boost my immune system but I will be able to have that administered in P.V.

So that IS IT after searching far and wide for the right Doc's and the drugs that I think are best for me this is where I have arrived. I don't know what the side effects will be. Probably much like my last treatment. Although all the natural herb and supplements will better support my body through this journey. I am sure I will know by next week.

Today is kind of a bitter sweet day, I received the confirmation for my Whiskey Off Road Race entry. I was able to squeeze in a quick hike at the Butte today but am not able to ride until my port heals up. I don't know if my body will be able to ride the race at the end of April..........I guess there is so much that is undetermined, and I can't get over how quickly things can change. Tomorrow I go for some kind of heart test to ensure that it has not been damaged by the prior chemotherapy. I guess that is important before I start treatment again.

I need to keep moving forward, loving, grateful, and blessed with so much goodness surrounding me and my family.

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

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sedona success!!!

Life is always a whirlwind in my world. Cancer just throws more stuff into the mix, some really unpleasant and some really great. For all of us life continues to go on, until it doesn't. So I am a motivated metastatic cancer patient.

The good news is that I have decided on a doctor, Dr. Lindquist was the fit I was looking for she is caring, hopeful, and super smart. She understands the specific nature of MY disease. I met with her on Tuesday 2/7 for approximately half an hour. We talked of clinical trials, she wanted to contact her colleagues to present my case to see what they would suggest prior to a final recommendation. This makes sense to me. Gather as much information as possible, then make a choice. While waiting to here from all the who's who in the breast cancer world it is time to prepare for treatment. Dr. Lindquist orders a port, some heart test, and a TON of blood work.

So Gina, my oh so amazing driver for the day gets to watch me fill like 8 tubes of blood. I start of like a champ thinking this is going be just a few tubes. I talk and talk, and then I watch her keep reaching for tubes and I see how many she has left to go. Then my ears start to ring, my vision gets blurry I am cold and clammy. Brenda the plebotomist calls over a nurse, just in case I faint. The new onc office is kind of crowded, there are 2 women waiting to have their blood drawn watching my drama unfold. It feels like there are people everywhere nothing like making a GREAT first impression. I fill all the tubes, staying conscious the entire time, it takes FOREVER. When I finally return to a normal state, I make my way to Richard the scheduler and I am booked to have a port placed at the YRMC Cath lab in Prescott Friday 2/10. Gina and I leave the appointment much closer to a plan and I feel good about the progress.

Thankfully Jerome is strategically located between here and Sedona. We stop at this little restaurant called Quince for dinner. I had the best Ahi tacos, loaded with pomegranate, mango and jalapenos. Spending the day with Gina was just what the Dr. ordered, it takes a special person to walk by your side on a day like this and G well I just love you. Thanks for being there for me.

For two days I return to work, like a normal person.

Friday is procedure day. I wake up take the boys to school, come home, shower, do some laundry and again drink my saliva until noon. Jen is my chariot driver for phase one, she is also my go to for the boys. The hospital was kind enough to warn me ahead of time that they are often behind schedule. This confuses me, why not just schedule me later? This new cath/lab port placement fills me with a little anxiety. What is light sedation, is it like light beer? I go back for pre-op and wouldn't you know I have a super attractive male nurse. Great that will make me relax. Michael does all the pre-op questions, he thinks I am a nurse because I have got this dance down. Then I let him in on the fact that I don't like needles. A gal comes in and draws my blood for some routine tests. He wisely notices my distress and punts my IV placement to Anita the Needle Ninja. Anita strolls in and she is no nonsense. She has arrived on the scene to place an IV and she does it with absolute calm and authority in her voice. The authoritative tone is what froze me to the bed. Her physique reminded me of Olive Oyl from Popeye and she had this beret on and here lips were stained deep maroon. Anita was not a force to be reckoned with so I laid there prone no whimpering or whining. First a little local, then tube placement in vein, followed by tons of tape to keep tube in place....then the icy saline drip, IV accomplished. Why can't I get used to that? We are on our way. Now for the next part, what the hell are the drugs going to do to me? They decide it is in my best interest if I take a couple of Valiums prior to the procedure. Okay if you insist. Jen gets to visit with me after the IV until they wheel me back.

The joy about having a procedure in your home town is that you run into tons of people you know. Jamie wheels me back and we are all chatting about all kinds of stuff. I remember getting names of the other nurses Regan, Kimberly, Cheryl and of course Dr. McNaughty (McNotten), I named him naughty just so I could remember. So I am totally chatting it up with the nurses, and then there is this gap. Regan tells me I nodded off for about 5 minutes, I wake up to feel Dr. suturing my skin. I could feel the tugging, and I didn't care. I just laid there not to concerned . I think I may have gotten off the operating table and got back into the hospital bed on my own. Then they wheeled me back to post-op. Typing about it today it feels a little faint in my memory, but at the time I felt amazing clear headed. Quite possibly one of the craziest things I have ever experienced medically. My friend Anessa comes to pick me up, we stop and get me a burrito as I was starving. Again I feel totally FINE, and I can't get over it. I am able to walk, I am not really sore. This was way better then my 1st port placement, that was so awful I felt like I was hit by a baseball bat. My theory is that surgeons may be more gentle when you are not under general anesthesia.

I am so much closer to treatment.

There is soooo much more, alas it is way late.

Drink water and breathe

Monday, February 6, 2012

How many long days?????

Due to the unpleasant and painfully honest nature of my posts I would like to share two extraordinary positive facts about my cancer experience today. I had a very knowledgeable doctor congratulate me on effectively eradicating ovarian cancer from my life. Apparently I am one lucky lady to have "caught" that cancer in time so as not to worry about a relapse. Thank you breast cancer I would never had found that mass on my ovaries if it wasn't for you! The next dose of positive new came in the form of a voice mail when I got home Dr. Boresh's office called brain MRI was all grey matter jokes here please as cancer is a very serious business. I am relieved why? In my ordinary mind it feels like less is better. I have all this pain in my neck the last thing I need is a tumor in my brain messing with my cognitive ability. So that is the good news portion of this blog please enjoy and read no further if you don't want to here some of the less then pleasant details.

It was yet ANOTHER day of TEARS. How is my body able to support all this damn crying? We left p-town around 7:30 ish. I needed to be in Tucson at 12:30. The 1st set of tears started rolling around 7:40 and have yet to really stop. That was AM and now it is LATE PM this is getting old. I am exhausted but don't know if I can sleep.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer is the bad one in the bunch and those are the cards that I was dealt. Dr. Livingston seemed to knowledgable about this disease, he also was very compassionate and thorough. He spent a little over an hour examining me and talking to me. There were some harder parts like progression of disease into other parts of my body that would cause more then a stiff neck. The benefits of no organ involvement at this time. We touched base on the chronic part of my condition and the reality of a lot of treatment in my future...I am personally unable to say forever as I need to BELIEVE THAT THIS DISEASE WILL GO INTO REMISSION. If my insurance approves I am a candidate for a clinical trial for a combination drug therapy. It would be Team Bavituximab/Taxol. I am familiar with Taxol as we had 6 dose dense cycles my first go around. The difference is this time it would be a smaller dose and weekly. They say this reduces side effects and cancer cells respond differently. I am not sure how I feel about using a drug that I have already been treated with. I asked the Dr. about this and his answer was that in theory when Bad Boy Bavituximab gets added to the play book it is suppose to cut off any new vessels that might feed the cancer cells it singles them off by a protein given off by these new bad vessels? Sounds crazy to me. It is also a trial these are all theories that they hope will make a difference in cancer care. If insurance approves I could be enrolled in the trial within a week 2 at the latest.

The largest difference I heard today from this Dr. and the two prior oncologists was that he recommended I do combination chemo therapy vs. single agent chemo. The AZ Oncology form I was given said essentially that there was no difference in life expectancies from either of these 2 treatment options. Single agent has less side effects then double, sounds like a winning proposition to me. Dr. Livingston said that information is correct if you lumped (no pun intended) all breast cancers together. However my illustrious triple negative status needs to have a more aggressive battle plan.

It comes down to what kind of care is going to work for my life and allow me to enjoy the things that matter most. The U of A definitely had organization and flow. I was handed a vibrating pager upon check-in. That's right folks just like the Olive Garden, that little bit of corporate charm is a reminder this is business. Lucky for these folks business is booming. There was a group of ladies beading as we walked in. I was shuttled from check-in, to registration, to the American Cancer Society, then walked to the pavilion where we would wait for my buzzer to go off then they would take me in to see the Dr. Very streamlined, very smooth, nice gardens, lots of information. I spent an hour or so with the Dr., another hour with the research nurse, and then about a half hour with a social worker that wanted to let me know she was there for anything I might need. Kate and I chatted with her about the importance of support from my community. I absolutely have to put my health above everything else this is hard for me. I am trying to plan how best to do this.

The downside about the U of A is that it is in Tucson. Trying to plan a weekly drive south for treatment seems rather daunting, I don't have an extra day to spare. It is however totally possible I have some great friends in Tucson along with family.

Tomorrow I made a change-up, I cancelled my Phoenix appointments for an opportunity to see Dr. Lindquist in Sedona this all happened on the drive down. She comes highly recommended so I look forward to hearing what treatment options she has in mind.

So I came home to find a gift from a dear friend hanging from my door. It is a seaheart the legend says "with a seaheart in hand the right path is always chosen" and in case that did not cover my needs it was infused with essential oils "surrender" and "believe". The universe never ceases to amaze me.

I am grateful for my many blessings and the joy of dear friends in my life.

I feel closer to peace then I have in weeks and I am ready to sleep.

Drink water and breathe

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The long and short of it.....

The crying spells have become intermittent. A few nights here, a car ride there, all day yesterday......with a few pauses for basketball and a bike ride with the boys, oh that would be a lie I even cried at basketball.....If there was a camera on me while doing laundry someone would assume that I was a depressed housewife sobbing over the endless pile. If I saw me I would call someone for help, I don't know who to call and I need to work through this and get my head on the other side. I need to let go of things that are serving me no purpose and well these tears have almost ran their course. The pity party can only be useful for so long.

I met with Dr. Zieve from the Pine Tree Clinic he specializes in comprehensive cancer care. He is an MD that practices natural medicine. Based on my reports and my financial limitations, traditional chemotherapy is the best choice with a comprehensive herbal support package to support my body while going through this process. I really like him and he seemed to understand my condition and recognized the failures of western medicine. He also recognizes the seriousness of my condition and the need to treat me. I have to find an oncologist that recognizes the need for me to have both camps represented in my next round of care.

My neck is still stiff and I am still searching for the right doctor. Dr. Vu my old oncologist was without answers and a plan. He also REFUSED to work with Dr. Zieve in anyway, "it is not proven", kind of failed logic when the "proven" plan has me walking the cancer road again. Thank you Kate for going with me I could do a whole post on this crazy visit.

I met with a Dr. Boresh in Scottsdale, a little more bedside then Dr. V but I am still not sure same drugs, same side effects, not a lot of hope. He did have the ability to communicate to me that care changes from adjuvant (original disease) to chronic care(metastatic disease). He kept talking about how long people are able to tolerate this chemo or that chemo. He mentioned Zolota as the best transition chemo (this totally sounds like the gateway drug to me). It is oral chemotherapy and the side effects are mild...mouth sores, and painful inflammation of your hands and feet. Sounds like a nice transition to me, no needles and IV's those come later, once your "in the program". Patients can tolerate this chemo for a year or more???? This is the part that confuses me, what no end date? Apparently I am naive in the cancer world, metastatic disease means = chronic disease and the care well it is chemo for life!!!!!!!!!! with a few breaks for holidays and vacations. How gracious of this disease to give me time wonder I can't stop crying this just sucks! So I sit in this plush rocker and I rock back and forth in this super nice Scottsdale office and I listen and I rock. There is no physical exam apparently my condition has become an oral history....just a story backed up by exams and reports......surreal does not do this justice. Thanks heavens for my friend Lara sitting with me asking questions as I rocked and processed. Dr. B says I need a bone scan and a brain MRI apparently a pet scan does not show brain tumors (fabulous) or bone mets (super). These additional test will give him the "COMPLETE" picture. We always like to know what we are dealing with. So don't get me wrong Dr. B is nice, seems to be good at what he does, has a nice office he offers the same menu choices as Dr. V, only his office is a couple of hours drive away. I want more in a Dr. maybe that is not realistic, but I want to "feel" like someone "believes" in fighting this disease with me.

There is so much more.....but mom duty calls.

Tomorrow I head to the U of A to meet with Dr. Livingston (not to be confused with the seagull variety:), he comes highly recommended with all the papers. Tuesday I head to Scottsdale to meet with Dr. B and Dr. Kato (perhaps he is the side kick to a superhero I could sure use one of those). I am confidant I will find the right Dr.

The timeline is roughly 4 weeks from surgery, with sooner being better then later... I better get moving.

Drink water and breathe.....oh yeah and my herbal smoothie too...