Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Whole Lot of Info

Before I start updating, a comment about this photo. My friend, Elaine, took this beautiful sunset harvest photo. You can't imagine how it tugs at my heart. I haven't seen anything like this since last year and it makes me yearn for the smells, sights, sounds and feel of harvest. Thanks, Elaine. **sniff sniff**

Kevin and I are back from a lengthy meeting with the Radiology Oncologist. I have been mistakenly referring to him as the Radiologist but we've been corrected. He was very personable and informative. He took pains and time to explain things very clearly.

I now know that radiation is a given no matter what kind of surgery I have next. The reason for that is because of the unusual sequence of my treament ... surgery to chemo to surgery to radiation. With the chemo having been between the two surgeries, there will be no way of knowing, after the second surgery, the level of radiation that will be required so, as my Radiology Oncologist explained, it means going into it with unknowns and so they will have to use the "big guns" when, in reality, the "big guns" might be overkill. But we can't take that risk. That means I'll be having radiation to the breast or chest wall (depending on the type of surgery I have) as well as the armpit (where the additional lymp nodes will be removed) and the neck (where there are lymph nodes as well). I understand the why of this treatment plan thanks to his clear explanations, which go into much more detail than I'm explaining here. If you have any questions, just ask me. I meet with my surgeon on Monday, October 19. After that I will know what kind of surgery I'll be having and, hopefully, will have a surgery date.

As my Radiation Oncologist explains it, if there were 100 women in a room who all have the same type and size of tumour as me and we all go through the same treatment plan, about 20 of us will get a recurrence within the next 5 years. Without the radiation, that number would be closer to 25. These are all very general numbers and percentages, of course. Still, it gives some idea of the possibility of success of this year's worth of treatments. One can only continue to hope and take care of oneself as best as possible. Addendum: Kevin heard the numbers a little differently. He heard that, with radiation, the odds improve so that only 10-12 out of 100 women will have a recurrence. Somehow we heard this differently. I don't who is correct but I like the sound of what he heard much better.

Another thing I'll have to be on the alert for and exert as much preventative action as possible is lymphedema. The odds of getting lymphedema after my second surgery and radiation treatments are typically 30 out of 100 women. My odds might be slightly higher because of my propensity for fluid retention as a reaction to both Advil and Taxotere. Even if one is diligent about trying to prevent lymphedema, it doesn't mean all those preventative measures will work. You can still get it months or even years after treatment and, once you get it, there is no getting rid of it. Bummer. I'll just have to do my best with skin care, targeted exercises and probably a compression sleeve.

I'm sure turning into a puff ball and, naturally, gaining weight with all this fluid I'm retaining. I can feel the tightness in my abdomen now, too. I just started taking the lasix and hopefully that will help somewhat. Just add "elephant ankles" to my several other monikers, which include but is not limited to "moon face" and "buffalo hump".

Oh, and by the way, during the long conversation with the Radiology Oncologist, at one point I marveled at myself for not getting all blubbery. Early on in this game, I couldn't meet with anyone without getting teary at some point. Of course, just as I thought about it and as we were getting into questions about side effects from radiation and possible long term implications, wouldn't you know that my eyes started to well up. Fortunately, right after that started, there was an interruption in the conversation and I had a few minutes to regroup and I was fine after that. It's just a whole new part of treatment I'm going into and, I must say, it's been a long day at the Champion Centre today and I could feel myself starting to tire toward the end of the last medical meeting.

Time to raise my feet to the sky. So much for the laundry, bedding changes and the dishwashing I was going to do. Sorry Mom.



  1. Thanks for the very informitive update, Me and Patty feel like we're right there with you. Thanks so much for that! It sounds like the next step will come with it's own challenges, but you have a huge team to cheer you on. I'm even glad that there is a huge suport team all the way down in Louisville, knowing those boys they'll probably find a way to turn that run in to a great time with lots of laughs and some great stories to, no doubt.


  2. Once again, you are introduced to upcoming interesting times. I am sorry I am so late getting to you this evening. I have been thinking of what a day you had to put in and wondering how you were doing. That is a lot of information to take in and I am sure you have much more in your head than you have posted to us.

    Please note to Kevin that I am impressed with his flower varieties--longlasting and colourful. I want you to know, Heather, that I have a passion for reading and learning about elephants, seeing as you have mentioned them a few times (sort of). They are exceedingly intelligent animals and are highly caring of one another.

    Tomorrow I will be in a meeting all day, so I will think of you many times . Whenever you feel a breeze waft by, that is another good thought being sent for you.

    Love Cheryl

  3. Hi Ron!

    It's great to visualize your faces and those of the rest of my team right there next to me, cheering me on while I'm parked in that awful chemo chair. It's kind of like being back in the hockey rink! It makes me want to go to a hockey game just to sit in the middle of that atmosphere again. I have a little hockey-playing neighbour and I'm determined to get to at least one of her games this winter.

    I'm sure the boys running the Run For The Cure will give them another good excuse for a party. I should send them beer money on me in appreciation. Since they're in the states, that would hardly cost me anything.

    Thanks for taking this ride with me.

    Love, Heather

  4. Hi Cheryl!

    Funny you should mention your interest in elephants. Just yesterday I was reading Wally Lamb's book, The Hour I First Believed" and what particularly stuck with me was the mention of Ganesha (East Indian deity with an elephant's head) as "the remover of obstacles" and "destroyer of sorrows." I'm going to look for one of those for inspiration. You probably also already read "Water for Elephants", which I really enjoyed. I've only recently become interested in elephants as well. It's hard not to be taken in by their eyes.

    Thanks for the sending your warm and caring thoughts via breeze. I'll feel them for sure and be cheered and grateful. Then again, if I feel a gale-force wind and my wig goes tumbling across the street, I'll know it's someone else, right?

    Thanks for thinking of me and for cheering me on, Cheryl!

    Love, Heather

  5. Hey you... no need to EVER apologize for crying or not feeling up to doing laundry or changing beds!! Not when you are dealing with what you are!! I don't want to see you feel bad about that!! You deserve to cry as much as you need to. Can't wait to see you Sunday morning, after which your chemo will all be over!!! Gail


Sorry for the word verification thing. Without the comment spammers are relentless!

Thanks for commenting!