Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Our Champ!

Thank you to all of Natalie's family and friends, your support has been amazing.  It's been about 9 days since her surgery and the recovery process is moving along beautifully.  It's definitely come with quite a bit of pain and discomfort, but everyday she's making progress. 

Through this process there have been so many of you wondering how to contribute and asking what can be done for Natalie and Peter to help them through this process.  There are three links on the right side of this blog for some great ways to contribute and donate. 

  • My Registry Wish List - Donations go directly to Natalie to utilize for items she needs to help her through this journey. 
  • American Cancer Society - Donations go directly to the ACS in the overall fight against cancer.
  • Mealtrain Delivery - Donations provide Natalie and Peter with ready made meals

Again, thank you for all your support, thoughts and prayers,

Team Natalie:-)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A long road

I had my last chemotherapy treatment on July 21st. I passed out and vomited for the nurse and made sure to go out with a bang! I guess by then my body had had enough! I had had enough! I have had enough!!!

There was so much excitement at the end of my treatment, we all hoped the tumor was gone, the doctors were having a hard time feeling the tumor so I think we all took it as a good sign. If the tumor was gone I would probably not need any chemo after surgery, when they originally thought I would need at least 4-6 more cycles. I had an MRI, mammogram and ultra sound on August 1st. That morning was the MRI, it looked good! Then in the afternoon I had my mammogram and ultra sound. I think the technician could sense my anxiety and asked me if I had any questions. I asked if she saw anything and she showed me the tumor in excitement of how much smaller it now was....she didn't know that I was hoping it was all gone.

I was devastated of course. I wanted this to be the end. I did not want more treatment. I did not want traditional chemo. I didn't want to lose my hair and get sick worse than my first round of chemo. I couldn't stop the tears. All the strength and optimism I have had through this fight seemed to dissipate as I hit the floor mentally and could not pick myself back up. I looked up and I told God "You are gonna have to carry me now!!"

This month has been a struggle for me. I think I almost lost the fight in me for a while. But faith is strong ....and you know what so am I. Yeah my armor is kinda busted and I am one very tired soldier, but I want so bad what is on the other side of this. I want my life back! I believe there is a purpose for this experience and that it will in the end influence my future somehow...don't have that one all figured out yet but I know I have already changed so much and learned so much.

On Monday August 29th I will be having my surgery. I am having a bilateral mastectomy with tissue expanders. Translation: They will be removing both of my breast (everything except the skin) and putting in expanders (that are small implants that they slowly fill up) to stretch my skin for permanent implants in the future. And for all you inquiring minds, yes I will be "upgrading". Heehee :) After my surgery I will be in the hospital for a few days and then go home to recover for about 3-4 weeks. During that time they will dissect the tumor and see how much actual cancer was left, which will help determine how much more chemo I will need.

I have to have faith right now, it is saving me. But not just faith in God, but also my family, my friends and myself. Its so easy to get down, to see the bad, to focus on it, to wallow in it and then slowly start to live in it. But this too shall pass, unless I don't let it.

The following is a saying I heard or read early on "I have cancer, cancer does not have me". It took me a little fighting to really understand it. Cancer can NOT have ME! Somebody very special to me reminded me who I am yesterday. My Dad was cheering me up and shared with me his perspective on how people see me. He then asked me if I was proud of the person I was, not what I had accomplished or achieved, but of the quality or type of person I was... So screw you cancer you can't have ME! because I love being ME!! Big 'ol cheerful, hopelessly optimistic, positive, caring, loving ME!!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Stanford Medicine babay!

March 11th I started the neo-adjuvant chemotherapy study at Stanford. Neo-adjuvant is just a fancy way to say "pre-surgery" or before surgery. Cancer sure does have its own language, makes your head spin sometimes. Lucky for me I ended up with the best oncologist EV-ER Dr. M! Dr. M has an awesome sense of humor and a very caring bedside manor and always makes sure I understand what is going on. Needless to say I have been in good hands!

The chemotherapy I am getting is a little different from what they call the "traditional chemo". My treatment includes 2 chemo drugs and an experimental drug. The experimental drug is named Inipirib but the docs and infusion nurses call it BSI. To me it looks like mountain dew, which i hate. The BSI was designed to target the cells that the chemo killed and not allow them to grow back (or at least that's my understanding). The chemo drugs I am getting are not suppose to make you vomit or lose your hair and the recovery between treatments is quicker.

I had a meta-port installed the friday before my first treatment. The meta-port is a silicone type circle about size of a nickel and it has a tiny tube that comes out of it and then they insert this into your vein. The port allows them to draw blood and deliver chemo with a special needle through the port and then your only get stuck once a day! Mine is installed below my collar bone. My schedule is chemo plus BSI on Mondays and BSI only on Thursdays for 2 weeks and then I would have the 3rd week to recover. Those 3 weeks are called a cycle and I will have 6 cycles.

I had my first chemotherapy treatment on March 21st. It was scary and emotional day. I was surrounded by some amazing supportive women that day fighting the same fight (and of course my amazing hubby and mom). They first accessed my port and drew blood to check many things including white and red blood count, iron levels, liver enzymes, etc. Then I received my first bag of chemo (30 minutes), then the 2nd chemo drug (1 hour), then the BSI (1 hour). I felt like shit!! ICK! First of all you feel like that girl who turns into a blueberry on Willy Wonka because you are so bloated a full of liquid poison. I felt disoriented, tired, queasy and my sense of smell seemed heightened so the smell of just about everything was disgusting to me. The day after treatment was worse than the day of. I felt weak, nauseous, my head hurt and the nausea medication made me sleepy. The 2nd day after chemo, Wednesday, seemed to be the worst...I felt like I had just gotten hit by a truck! The nausea, weakness and exhaustion intensified.  Thursday meant it was time to go back to Stanford and get the BSI only treatment, it was not suppose to cause nausea....but for me it did.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Battle Begins

Like the strongest of armies my loyal, strong, loving soldiers assembled immediately. My Amazing husband rushed home from work as soon as he heard the news was "not good". My Dad and Becky extended so much love, warm embraces and nurturing as they took us to their home and fed us, loved us and helped share the devastating news with family and friends. And we all know my wonderful, die hard Momma would have been here the second she heard my broken hearted little voice, but I was in cahoots with my awesome Step Pa Scott who was helping me ensure she got home safely from work before I told her the news, that I knew was going to break her heart. She and Step Pa rushed down as soon as I told her...of course! and YES, I AM BLESSED!!!!!

Of course I was terrified about having cancer, but I was also amazed by this overwhelming feeling of love and comfort from others as I shared the news of my diagnosis with my friends and family. I know I said this to a few people I talked to that night "If someone has to go through this I'm probably one of the better people to do it because I have so much amazing family and friends who are going to support me through this...I've got an army to fight this battle with". And that was it. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to fight this hard. no question about it. Cancer picked the wrong bitch y'all!! (Sorry that is my favorite cancer saying so far).

So what do you do the day after you get diagnosed with cancer and you wake up and you think "ohh yeah I have cancer!". The temptation to go sky diving was there but I decided to hit the town with as many people as I could rally and have as much fun as possible...ok maybe that's called avoidance but it was really really FUN! My mom, step pa, BFF Erica and her amazing hubby Scott, Mike and Lindsay Brenner and I hit Capitola and Santa Cruz hard! Drinking, bowling, drinking, SC boardwalk, drinking, mini golf, video games, Wii party! It was an amazingly fun day and my family and friends helped me cry and laugh through a tough day. Thank you all so much for that day!

The next day it was time to face reality a bit. We met with Carol, who is a nurse navigator at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) where I am being treated. Carol was great! She gave us SO much information on breast cancer and introduced us to the many many intricacies of breast cancer including the different types, the testing process to determine what type I have, the different treatments for the different types, fertility issues...This is where my heart broke a little. I was armed and ready to fight breast cancer, but I had not even thought about breast cancer impacting my ability to have children. Peter and I were excited about getting pregnant sometime in 2011, but we realized this was going to delay things, but never did either of us think this might take our chance away, we were both a little heart broken. This is still the one part of the whole cancer battle that is hard to handle.

Carol helped us understand the slue of  doctors we were lined up to meet over the next few days and the roles each of them would play in my treatment. First, we met with Dr Dakkuri a surgeon at PAMF and a real sweetheart. Dr. Dakkuri was wonderful in helping me and my entourage (Peter, Dad, Mom and Step-pa) understand more about the type of Cancer we could be dealing with, the testing that would determine the type  and my options for treatment and surgery. Dr. Dakkuri had me return to Carol for the blood testing that would tell us whether or not I had one of the breast cancer genes (called BRACA 1 and BRACA 2) The following day we met with Dr. Glen Wong an oncologist at PAMF. He elaborated further on the types of breast cancer and the various treatments. We discussed all the possibilities and then we waited for the results...

The results came a piece at a time. First, I got the call that it was "triple negative" breast cancer. I cried. Then I laughed because I couldn't remember if that was good or bad, so I called my Dad who explained that it was good for my chances of having a baby naturally because I wouldn't need long term treatments, but also was considered by the doctors "more agressive" because it was not growing off hormones or proteins. Then I got the call that I had not one but BOTH GENES!

BRACA 1+ BRACA 2= Stanford Cancer Center

Having both genes, I found out later, was extremely rare. I had a 1 in 400-800 chance of having one gene and....drum roll please.....bddddddddd....1 in 640,000 chance of having both genes! Craziness. Having one of the genes qualified me for a clinical trial at Stanford Cancer Center and having both of the genes made me "the golden child" of the Stanford clinical trial :) Well at least that is how the study coordinator and I described the doctors and researchers excitement at the ability to see how someone with both genes, ME, responded to the treatment. Especially since women who had one of the genes were responding significantly well to the treatment.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My funny Valentine...

February 14, 2011. Valentines Day. The day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. WOW! What a shock. Here I am getting into the best shape of my life and now I have the C-word! I am still not sure that the shock has worn off yet... So here I am sitting in Stanford Cancer Center getting my chemo and starting a blog. My amazing girlfriends and I wanted to start a blog so that we can team up together to keep in touch and share the details of my journey with all of my amazing friends and family...My Army...My Team!

It was January 2011 and I was hard at work on my New Years resolution, mastering push ups. I have always struggled with push ups and my trainer friend had been encouraging me to conquer them. I had been working hard and I was sore and tight in my chest area and the top area of my breasts felt firm....strange!?! I waited thinking that the firmness was a result of my hard core push up training. Then after a little over a week the soreness and tightness were gone, but my right breast was still very felt like a golf ball was trapped inside. After another week and no change in the golf ball I called and set up an appointment with my primary care doctor on February 5th. My primary doctor felt the golf ball and was surprised at the size and the short time in which the golf ball had appeared, she stated that she was pretty sure that the golf ball was a cyst and could be removed or drained (gross!). The doctor also examined my left breast and felt a small growth in it and then suggested that the best course of action was to have a mammogram and ultra sound on both breast.

February 8th, 2011 I went in to have the mammogram and ultra sound at Palo Alto Medical Center in Santa Cruz. The radiologist was shocked as I described my discovery of the, according to him, “3.9cm wide” golf ball size lump in my right breast. He asserted that "we need to biopsy this and figure out what this is"...Ohh crap! I thought we were all sure that this was just a cyst? Now I was signed up for biopsy on each breast for February 10th.  I was completely freaked out. I requested sedation. Needle insertion into the breast…need I say more it was unpleasant. Fortunately I had taken some time off of work. It was a Thursday so that meant we had to wait until Monday for the results…Happy Valentine’s Day!

I spent the weekend mostly trying to distract myself, stay busy, drink wine, all those great “coping skills”. Hahaha! “Remember your coping skills” that’s what I tell the kids at work. Peter and I decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day on Sunday evening because he was going to have to work late Monday night. I spent the beautiful sunny afternoon cooking for our romantic night. I took a moment that day and sat out on the deck in the sunshine, which was playing a game of peek-a-boo using the clouds to momentarily hide and then burst through with its warmth and light onto me…I felt something greater than me and then an epiphany. I suddenly knew what the news was going to be for me the following day; it was going to be Cancer. I asked God “Is this what you need me to do? Is this what I need to go through?” . The warmth of the sun covered me and I felt the answer and I felt my faith. Whatever this journey was going to bring I believed what my Aunt Anna told me “If he brings you to it He will bring you through it”.

Monday morning came, I went to work and was greeted with Valentines from my co-workers. How did I such a wanna-be Martha Stewart forget to bring Valentines or atleast some candy or cookies for my co-workers?!? If you know me this was SO out of character for me!I went on with the work day with the anticipation of my test results weighing heavy on my mind. I was on my way to a important meeting at The Department of Children’s Services when I received a message from my primary care doctor that she had some results for me and “it was not good”. What the heck!!??!! “Not good”! So now I had to sit through a 2 hour meeting wondering what “not good” meant. I hopped in the car after the meeting, called my doctor and headed over Hwy 17 to get there asap! Realizing I didn’t want to hear the news alone I tried to call my Dad…no answer. Then I called Becky, my amazing step-momma, who of course rushed over immediately to be with me. Umm yeah my step-momma is way cooler than yours all I gotta say! Becky was awesome she held my hand and held me up as I heard the hard news…you have breast cancer.