Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I am a Breast Cancer Survivor!

Cluster of fireworks exploding
Results are in, nodes and margins are clear!! I saw the surgeon last Thursday and my oncologist yesterday and am pleased to report that my status is now considered "breast cancer survivor" and officially cancer-free since June 15th!!

This is clearly something huge to celebrate and you can bet that I am doing just that!! I celebrated with a trip to visit my aunts in Virginia Beach last weekend. I am continuing the celebration by recommitting to a healthy lifestyle, my exercise and yoga programs, filling our home with leafy greens, fresh fruit, whole grains and organic free-range everything. I am also adding regular oriental massage and looking into pilates as well as planning a killer 50th birthday culinary/wine adventure to Provence in 2012.

Yesterday at Dana Farber, we also discussed my recurrence prevention treatment and I feel empowered about my ability to choose what is done to me and my body. Although my two sentinel nodes were not involved as well as all my margins around the tumor, one of those margins was within 1 cm and considered "very close." I could have gone directly into radiation from here but because I am so young and have so many more years to thrive, my surgeon and oncologist strongly recommended we go back in to get a little more clear margin.

I decided to go with their recommendation so my second surgery is scheduled for July 6th at 7:30am back at Brigham and Women's Hospital. This will be a much easier surgery and require only local anesthesia plus IV sedation (similar to what you get at a colonscopy) so I'll be out of the hospital long before lunch, back in Ghent in time for dinner, and not have that two day recovery from general anesthesia. This made it much easier for me to decide to do the second surgery which will decrease my chance of recurrence. Since all my body's healing energies are already focused in this area from the first surgery, my healing from this second one will be even quicker than the last.

About three weeks after the surgery, I will have whole breast radiation daily for 6 weeks which I will do locally in Albany at St. Peter's Breast Center. There should be little to no side effects from the radiation or tamoxifen and I'll be able to still go into the city 2-3 days a week as normal. Since my tumor was estrogen and progesterone positive, I will also be starting hormone therapy and I'll be taking tamoxifen to block the estrogen receptors. Tamoxifen will help prevent my original breast cancer from returning and will also helps prevent the development of new cancers in the other breast.

There were no surprises from pathology but the size of tumor is just 1mm into the range they consider Stage II so the oncologist surprised me by bringing up the idea of chemo in addition to radiation. Adding chemo to my treatment would only increase my survival rate by a single percentage point over what I'm doing now - the lumpectomy/radiation/tamoxifen. Having seen what chemo does to the body, for me the slight increase in chance of recurrence from not doing it was not worth the havoc it would wreak on my quality of life. I chose not to go this route and hopefully this will be the last time I ever need to discuss chemo with my oncologist!

David and I both are appreciating and celebrating every moment even more now that I am a breast cancer survivor and as many of you predicted I am emerging even stronger and feeling more resilient than ever, ready to charge into each day with full intention and focus. I thank you all for taking this journey with me. Knowing you are all there with those positive vibes, prayers, mojo, light, love and support makes all the difference in keeping me positive and looking forward to the time when I would be cancer-free. That time has arrived and I hope you will all celebrate with me!!

I am a breast cancer survivor!!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Appreciating Every Moment

It's a glorious morning and I am once again sitting on Our Back Deck with Islay Bear. Relaxing, enjoying the view, healing. I walked the property this am to snap a few pictures of the wild flowers growing like crazy this year before David gets on the mower and cuts them down. The clover is just spectacular and attracting all sorts of bees and other insects to it. The small yellow butter cups and purple wild flowers are everywhere. There are major patches of wild thyme and wild black raspberries in places they've never been before. And all growing back after their hard winter. And I'm sure they will all grow back again stronger than ever after their pending "hair cut."

I feel some solidarity with them! It feels kind of like my comeback too. I am feeling better and better after surgery on Tuesday - a little discomfort still but I'm not even needing the CVS frozen pea ice packs anymore. Clever person who came up with that idea so we don't all have to use/waste real frozen peas anymore to get that perfectly molded ice pack.

My angels are all pampering me, not letting me lift or bend so as not to disturb the healing or stitches. Xiomara came this weekend to give David a break so he could work the Hudson-Chatham Winery tasting room for the Father's Day event. She was a whirlwind! Helping me do laundry, weeding the herb garden, sweeping the floors, tidying the rooms, scrubbing the stove, keeping me company and making the most delicious chicken and black bean dish for dinner.

I'm not even feeling the least bit nervous about the pathology results coming next week. I know they will show clear margins and no node involvement. And many of you have said your gut is telling you the same. It is a new normal after being diagnosed with cancer and I still have the radiation treatments to go through but I feel that the worst is behind me and celebrating every moment more than ever now. I could dwell on the "why me," be scared about surprises next week, or the knowledge that I am now higher risk for other bad stuff for the rest of my life but that won't serve me as well as being so thankful for all the things I have right here, right now. Like the beautiful wild flowers and black raspberries, my husband, my dog, my loving friends. This moment is the best of all!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Young woman standing on beach, arms raised, rear view
Today I am giving thanks to all of you for all you've done to support me through this. Your prayers, light, love and good wishes worked!! I felt the calmest I have felt since diagnosis waking up yesterday morning knowing that it was all going to be over later in the day.

Dr. Troyan said the surgery went as expected, no surprises and that the nodes looked and felt normal. She took two sentinel nodes and the pathology results will be in in seven days or so. She'll call me then to go through them.

I am starting to feel human again after the anesthesia has mostly worn off and already beginning to eat normally! I don't even really need the pain meds and my sisters and husband and nieces and nephews are all pampering me. The pink clothing, notebooks, mens, pencils, hats, wine, journals, folders, jewelry are all around me representing all of you. Today a beautiful fruit basket showed up which we are all devouring. The tips I got from survivor friends and surgeons all helped to prepare me for what I was about to go through and how to ease my recovery. We now own three bags of Peas from CVS that are a cleaner version of using regular frozen peas to numb the area. I'm set with pillows for the car/seatbelt and proudly wearing my button down the front pink clothing.

I meet again with my surgeon/oncologist June 28th when we will map out my course of follow up treatment (likely to be 6 weeks of radiation up in Albany.) Next weekend my sister Karen and I will fly down to Virginia Beach to visit my mom's sisters. Flights and accomodations have all been booked.

Thanks so much for all you did to boost me up and send healing energies through the universe. You are all now listed in my gratitude journal.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I am ready!

I already feel like a survivor and cancer-free. I can see myself celebrating of negative results with friends and family although my lumpectomy surgery is Tuesday June 15th at 12:45 am.

Your emails and Facebook posts, cards and calls have done wonders for my psyche. I especially love the stories you all are telling me about your own or a loved one's successful battle with cancer. The survivor stories remind me how far treatment has come and how many before me are now thriving having been changed in a positive way by their experience.

I have been hard at work in New York City this week doing everything but thinking about cancer or hospitals or surgery. I'm going to a children's writing workshop all day Saturday. I've scheduled a 90 minute massage on Sunday before we leave for Boston. I've got lunch scheduled in Cambridge MA with some dear college friends on Monday.

And I'm already looking beyond surgery to give myself something else to focus on. My sister and I are planning a visit to see my aunts in Virginia Beach two weeks after the surgery where we plan to celebrate a successful surgery, hang, laugh, shop, visit, drink a glass of wine or two and remember my mom.

For the next week or so I will be putting my attention on healing and being a "good" patient. My support network is rallying around me to help keep me positive and the last thing I want to do is take anything out on them. I'd lie if I said I wasn't scared but I am ready for this. I am ready for it to be over.

I feel the universe reaching out to hold me up with all the light and love you are all sending me. I am literally warm inside with the energy of it. And soon I'll be sending it all back out with the celebration of being cancer-free!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Health Update

It is a strange time between a cancer diagnosis and treatment, something I have recently found out first hand. Thankfully, I have done a lot of work this year that prepared me to put it in perspective and deal with this recent setback in the best way possible.

Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with Stage I Invasive Ductal Breast Cancer. It came out of the blue but was caught early via my annual mammogram. I was called back for a second scan to check a suspicious looking area and then they wanted a biopsy. At my wonderful friend Kathy Kelly's urging, I went to the amazing new Boston Breast Diagnostic Center in Wellesley MA to get a second opinion. I was sure Dr. Levin would tell me it was nothing and didn't need a biopsy but we moved right one from what she saw on the ultrasound. Even then I was sure the pathology would be clear. It was not.

There's a tiny mass, 9mm in size, looks to be contained and treatable via lumpectomy plus radiation. After the Breast MRI which supported the prior diagnosis and suggests that the lymph nodes are probably not involved, Dr. Levin said my experience should seem more of a nuisance than a treatment which was comforting to hear. I met with the surgeon and the oncologist about a week ago and they agreed with Dr. Levin's assessment and we put a plan in place.

My outpatient lumpectomy surgery is scheduled for June 15th, next Tuesday, at Brigham and Womens in Boston. My surgeon is Dr. Susan Troyan from Dana Farber, my oncologist is Dr. Ann Partridge and my patient advocates are my experienced cancer survivor sister Cindy and my wonderful husband David. I will stay with my sister Karen for the first few days after surgery and home with David and Islay Bear as soon as I feel up to the trip.

It is a very strange time between diagnosis and treatment but I feel that I am in the best hands I can be in medically and expect to be reporting that I am cancer free very soon. They say it will be about a week before we know how the pathology turns out - we're of course hoping for clear margins, no lymph node involvement and nothing more than they can see on the scans/MRI. I have a follow up meeting with the oncologist on June 28th to decide the course of radiation which I will do here in upstate NY locally.

The picture above is a picture of my new friend Amy Grimes' forearm just before she set out on the Relay For Life which of course brought tears to my eyes. I have been getting all sorts of cards, good luck charms, pink jewelry, uplifting emails, and cancer fighting eating tips from people which is helping keep me positive and focused on the amazing things I have in such abundance.

Please keep me in your prayers on June 15th and keep up with those annual mammograms, ladies!