Thursday, March 30, 2017

I'm not part of the 25%! Losing my hair....

So I was really hoping that I would be part of the 25% that *don't* lose their hair.  But it's not to be, I've been pulling out strands of my hair today.  This morning when I washed my hair, there was hair all over my hands.  Then this afternoon, I would just pull out strands of hair that looked like the below.

My scalp also feels really weird, it's hard to describe.  Just another phase of this journey to get through.  One day at a time.

I'm back in Tulsa tonight.  Nicky came with Mark and I, we're showing her all around the hospital. I've got doctor appointments tomorrow, then a session of chemo.  Session #2.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Susan Snaps

My friends brought me some ginger snap cookies called "SusanSnaps".  They are ginger snap cookies that are so good!  They are made by a mom that watched her husband and daughter go through chemotherapy treatments.  Ginger is a natural stomach soother.  My friends bought the cookies because they thought they would help me during chemo.  I have already had a few, but I'm going to save them for next week!  (Although I would like to eat them all at once!).

Go out and read their website, here's the link.

Susan Snaps

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Why Should You Do It?

Why should you do a mammogram?

We all think it will never happen to us, I never thought it would happen to me.  I have been asked, how did you find out?  I found out I had breast cancer through a regular mammogram.  I didn't really want to get one, I just put it off, it had been a year and a half since I had one and that one was fine. So getting a mammogram really saved my life, since that is how they discovered my tumors.

It's amazing how many people have talked to me about what is going on and how many men I have talked to about this.  When I was younger, I never wanted to talk about boobs, I mean, they are private, they are mine, I don't need to talk about them.  But as you get older, and now that I have breast cancer, everyone wants to talk about them and it's not embarrassing at all.

Girls, if you haven't had your mammogram, please go out and get one!  If you have insurance it should be covered as a preventative.  It doesn't take long at all, and it didn't hurt me at all.  I guess everyone is different, but I didn't really find it bad.  It was just a little uncomfortable but it ends quickly.

Guys, if your wife or significant one hasn't had their mammogram, please encourage them to go get this done.  It's so important.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

First Two Weeks of Chemo

I had Chemo on Monday 3/13/17, so after the first week of Chemo, here's my thoughts:
  • Tiredness is unbelievable.  I made it to work most days, but was only able to get 4-6 hours in.  I actually think that was pretty good. 
  • Taking the pain meds helps.
  • My stomach feels like it has something inside it, pulling the insides toward it.  There's just a dull ache in my stomach area.
  • Sunday night I had horrible lower back pains.  Took some of the pain meds and went to sleep. Unfortunately, I woke up every couple of hours, but not too much pain in my back. Maybe that was just a fluke with the back pain.
  • I need to just take the pain meds and not worry about it.  I can take 4 a day, but I just take one morning and night. 
  • My feet and fingers are starting to get a tingly sensation in them.  I'm taking a natural supplement to help that.
  • I get a slight fever, 100.7 through 99.8 or so.  Kasey takes my temperature a lot and has been writing it down in a journal for me so we can keep an eye on it.
  • My mouth feels weird, like my tongue is more tingly than before.  It's really strange.
  • I have a slight sore throat off and on.
The second week of chemo was a little better:
  • Not quite as tired
  • Stomach bloating hit me on Wednesday (week and 2 days after chemo).  That was a really weird feeling, I had it through Sunday the day of this posting.  I'm drinking a lot of water, but I think it has something to do with one of the drugs, maybe the Neulasta.  I'm going to add it to my list to ask them about when I go this next week for my 2nd Chemo session.
  • Still have the strange feeling in my mouth, I gargle with a mixture of water, baking soda and salt and it does help.
  • I haven't had any coffee or Diet Cokes since chemo.  I love both of them but they don't even sound good.
  • No problems with my hair so far, haven't lost any.  My scalp feels a little tingly every once in a while.  I love the short style, I just wash it and go!  No styling tools.  
  • I'm not taking any pain meds this week.  Just one every once in a while.  I don't want to get hooked on them if I can keep from it.   
I'm happy to say that my insurance company approved genetic testing for me.  I had to prove that I had enough cancer in my family to warrant insurance paying for it.  They will send the results to the Cancer Center, so maybe I will know the results next week.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Funny Flower Story About My Husband

For those of you that know my husband, you'll think this story is funny.  I am not sure if others will, but as long as I am not unhappy with it, that's all that matters, right?

So Mark is not really a flower kind of guy.  Sometimes he'll buy me flowers from Walmart and every once in a while on our anniversary, he might send me flowers.

One year, he was crazy about playing the game Kingdom of Camelot on the iPad.  He would go so far as asking that for his birthday, I would just buy him gems.  It was really a waste of money, but he doesn't spend money on a lot of things, so I figured, "What the heck?  Buy him what he wants for his birthday!".

Part of the game is that you can sign up for things to get gems, like credit cards, website email lists, etc.  One day I was at work and I got a notice on my credit card that something was charged to an online flower shop.

I was skeptical of this charge, it wasn't our anniversary or anything.  So then I got to thinking, I wonder if Mark got gems for ordering flowers?

Yep, that's what happened, Mark got a bunch of gems for ordering flowers for me.

I don't think I ever will let him live that one down!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Friends, Family and Prayers

After learning about my cancer diagnosis, I called my husband, then my mom, then told Stephanie at work.  She's our HR Manager.  I told our new owner, Jim, and then went home.  I won't say I held it together because I didn't.  I can't explain how it felt, but those have been through it understand.    You can read the initial story here

I wanted to tell about the amazing things that I received after the diagnosis and the cards I received.  I have been absolutely blown away at the support and it's made me rethink so many things in life. Here are two sets of flowers I received from my friends Nita and Lori.

Notice the pink shawl in the picture above?  That was from the First United Methodist Church in Lebanon, MO and part of their Crafts for a Cause Series.  They made the shawl and prayed over it for me.  Here's the beautiful card they sent me. 

There is something special about a handmade gift. I've spent a lot of years making quilts and enjoy giving them away.  I've had some of my quilt friends make me some beautiful baby quilts when I had Kasey.  These are the most special gifts ever.  It's not easy for someone to make something and it really means that they care.  If you get homemade gifts, be sure and appreciate the time and effort and love spent making them.  

Here's another great homemade gift I received, the cutest card, just to say they were thinking of me! 

Here's a few of the other sweet cards I received.  I am keeping all of them!  

Harold and Jeannie are my relatives that live up North.  They are the sweetest people ever.  One of my favorite memories of them is when Harold worked for Ozark Fisheries.  It's a huge goldfish and koy fish supplier outside of Lebanon.  My mom and I went down there and there were goldfish in a little creek behind the hatcheries.  We scooped up a 5 gallon bucket of goldfish and put them in our pond at home.  (I believe this to be a true story, I was probably only 6-7 years old? but I don't think we took them out of the main fish ponds, it was from the creek.)   The goldfish grew in our pond for a lot of years and we loved them.  In the spring, they would swim near the top and they were just beautiful  At some point, the turtles or catfish ate them all up and we don't have goldfish in the pond anymore.  

This is a card from my work place family.  It's such a blessing to have some great employers and friends that care.

This is a card that came from my Longaberger rep, I loved buying Longaberger Baskets from her for many years and having parties.  Once I got married and had Kasey, the baskets weren't high on my priority list for things I needed.  I still love them though, they are so well made and beautiful.

I was really worried about how Kasey would react to all this cancer scare.  I told Kasey everything about my cancer and what he should expect.  He has been such a help to me.  At school, they do a thing everyday called Roses and Thorns, it's about telling good things that happened to you that day (Roses) and then bad things that happened (Thorns).  Kasey told his class about my cancer.  He's usually a very private person, but I am glad he told them because I think that is a healthy sign that he understands.   My mom and I ask him questions all the time to see if he has any concerns.  I always answer him truthfully.  

I met him at school for lunch one day the first week.  I love that he wants me to meet him for lunch at school.  I know there will be some day in my future where Mom is no longer cool, but at least it turns around again once kids get older.  

A couple of other amazing things that happened to me:

My coworkers had a prayer session at lunch for me one day.  Here's the versus that Bonnie read to me.  After they prayed, everyone hugged me and told me how they were concerned for me and praying for me.  It was unbelievable.  I can't even express how that made me feel.  That's one reason that I want to document my journey, so I can look back on these things and feel comfort from them.  

I know several people and churches have put me on their prayer lists.  

I received text messages from old friends that I haven't heard from in a while to tell me that they were thinking of me and praying for me.  

I received a text message from a friend that their nephew worked at Tulsa Cancer Center and loved it there.  He said I made the right decision to go there.  That made me feel really good to know that information.  When I was at the hospital for my port surgery, his nephew wasn't there.  But I'm sure I will see him another time.  

My friends Becki and Mike brought over dinner for us one evening from the Lunch Lady, it was so nice to have a meal ready to eat!  She has checked up on me every week or so.

Rick at work, came down to my office, he hugged me and prayed for me.

I talked to several people who had been through cancer treatments:
  • Johnnie, went through cancer surgery last year, but no chemo, we talked a lot on making the right decision for where to get treatment.
  • Jennifer, from Lebanon, suffered lymphoma cancer, called me the first day I heard, she was very supportive.
  • Anna, lives in California, a friend of a friend, she has been through the breast cancer, chemo, surgery, reconstruction.  
  • Lori, a family friend, she has been through this most recently, was very supportive.
  • Kerstin, a Tulsa hospital survivor, talking about how happy she is with Tulsa and the support she has received there.

Nicky has been over every weekend bringing us lunch and spending the afternoon just hanging out and playing games.  She has sent me the sweetest text messages every couple of days just checking on me.

I am sure there are so many more that I am forgetting.  

My mom and dad are a given, of course, whatever I need, they will be there, no questions asked. That's family.

I am blessed to have so many wonderful friends and family in my life.  They are a true blessing.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Updates on Quilts

I realized it had been a long time since I had posted any of my recent quilts, so thought this would be a good time to do a recap.

This was a t-shirt quilt I made for my niece Michelle.

t-shirt quilt

Just a fun one for us with some traveling fabric.

 Lucy, our dog, checking out this one.

This was a Thimbleberries kit I bought at a quilt store in Lebanon.  It took a while to finish.


Lucy likes to get in my pictures.  This one is a space ship quilt.  It was fun fabric.

space ship quilt

I love this one, it's for Kasey's bed, The name of it is Hanky Panky, but it's got a bunch of different fabric, so could be an Eye Spy Quilt really easy.

Hanky Panky Eye Spy Quilt

When Nicky was in high school, she wanted to make a quilt.  She started on this one and never finished it.  I sewed the border on for her, quilted it on my machine and then gave it to her for Christmas.  

This is a t-shirt quilt I made for my nephew Connor.

t-shirt quilt

This was a disappearing 9 patch.  I love the fabric in it, it's a Christmas material.

disappearing 9 patch

This quilt took a long time to finish too.  I tend to like to do really easy quilts, but every once in a while I throw something in that's a little more complex to give me a challenge.  I think this was a quilt that I got off the Internet, like a block of the month, possibly from this website.

burning the midnight oil quilt

 This was a monthly block of the month that I did with my friend Barbara several years ago.  I did all the blocks, but didn't put them together in a quilt.  I decided to take these blocks and put them together in a table topper.

I wasn't too happy with how this one turned out, it was just too busy.  I put a nice warm flannel backing on it so it's nice and snuggly.

baseball quilt

This quilt is one that I made with the leftover fabric from Nicky's bed quilt, you can view here.   I was really happy with how it turned out, I like the green around the borders.  I was happy that I used what I had leftover and could get a nice lap quilt out of the fabric.  

Time for a Hair Cut

I think one of the hardest things to deal with is losing your hair during cancer treatments. I know it's going to happen, but it doesn't make it any easier for me or for anyone I'm sure.   The best I can do for myself is to just take one day at a time.   I'll get through one problem and try to prepare for the next.  

I decided to go ahead and cut my hair short.  That way, when it starts coming out, it would be huge long strands of hair.  Mark and Kasey both picked out this haircut for me.  

This is Lori, my friend and hairdresser for many, many years!  Sometimes I feel like my hair sessions are like therapy sessions for both of us, but I don't have to pay as much for them as I would a therapy session.  Lori is an amazing person, she sent me flowers as soon as she heard the news and it really made me feel good to get them and look at them every day.  I'm going to miss my hair appointments with Lori, I could be without hair for up to 54 weeks.  That's just crazy!

Here's my after picture! 

Here's me and mom after my appointment.  She is so pretty!  I am so lucky to have a great mom, she's been a real help to me.  She brought me over a ton of food this week, went with me on our first visit to the hospital and has taken care of Kasey while Mark and I are in Tulsa.  I know Kasey has a great time when he spends time with his grandparents and they enjoy him a bunch too!

This was all my hair that was cut off!  I had a lot of it.  :)

Tired, Tired, Tired

Chemo started on Monday, 3/13/17 and finished about 10:15 p.m.  My first full day of Chemo was Tuesday.  I wasn't doing too bad, but really sore from the port surgery.

Day 2 Wednesday

I still had some pain from the port, taking pain meds to help that.  I went into work, and actually made it to work at around 7:30 (normally I go in around 6:30-7:00) and made it until about 3:30.  It helped to be at work to focus on something besides cancer.

Day 3 Thursday

I thought I was going to do better today, I got up early and had some pain so took a pain medicine, I went right back to sleep.  Made it into work around 9:30.

Day 4 Friday

I thought today would be the turnaround day for me.  I got up early, got ready but sat in the chair in the living room and just slept until about 8:30 or so.  I just closed my eyes and went to sleep.  That's something I never do.

Being tired is so hard for me, I usually am on the go all day long.  I am hoping the next two weeks will be easier and then I'll get my next treatment on March 29th.  I decided to go on a Friday, so I can sleep on the weekend!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Neulasta On-Pro, Easy Peasy!

Neulasta On-Pro, Easy Peasy!!

When I left the hospital after my chemo treatment, I needed to get a Neulasta shot.  Neulasta is a medicine that boosts your white blood cells that are lost during chemo treatments.  They decided to do an on-board Neulasta device instead of a shot.  That made my life easier because I didn't have to wait around to get a shot in Tulsa, I could come right home!

They put it on my stomach on the night of my chemo treatment.  The nurse put it on me by peeling off the backing and just placing it on my stomach.  There was a green flashing light and after 2 minutes, the device gave a little POP and it stuck a needle in my stomach.  I didn't feel a thing.

I left it on for 27 hours until midnight last night (Tuesday evening), it went off at 11:45 p.m. and then started dispensing medicine and was done after 45 minutes.  We had to stay up to keep an eye on it to make sure it didn't leak any medicine out.  It went perfectly.   But Mark and I were both tired!

Once it was completed, I carefully peeled it off and here's what the little needle looked like. 

Here's what my skin looked like after.  Easy Peasy!!

My Treatment Plan at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa

My treatment plan and initial visit to Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa

When I had first talked to the CTCA in Tulsa on the phone, they were very nice.  Answered all my questions, told me how they would take care of me.  I talked to them on Sunday, 2/26/17, and they took my insurance paperwork and all of my information.

They called me back on Monday to tell me how the insurance would pay. I signed a release to get the doctor's information so that they could discuss my next steps.

Once they got my doctor's information, they scheduled an appointment for me for Sunday, March 5th and possibly until Tuesday.

My first appointment was at the lab draw so they could get my blood work results.  The person I met in the waiting room of the lab draw was really what cinched the whole thing for me, that I knew this was the right place for me.  The couple was from Texas and the wife had pancreatic cancer.  They had such good results with the CTCA and had come from a cancer center in Texas, but they were much happier with Tulsa.  They answered all my questions and all my fears were for not.  It's one thing to hear about a place like this from someone that is already there and very happy.

The next morning, I met with several doctors.  I have a HER2 positive protein that makes the cancer cells spread very fast.   Here's the definition of that:

HER2-positive breast cancer is a breast cancer that tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), which promotes the growth of cancer cells. In about 1 of every 5 breast cancers, the cancer cells have a gene mutation that makes an excess of the HER2 protein.

Due to this, they want to kill this protein our first.  They do that by giving me chemotherapy for 6 sessions. I'll go to Tulsa and get the chemo on a day, come home and stay for 3 weeks, then go back for another treatment.  I'll do this for 6 sessions of chemo. Since I'm doing definitions, here's the definition of Chemo.

Chemotherapy is the use of any drug to treat any disease. But to most people, the word chemotherapy means drugs used for cancer treatment. It's often shortened to “chemo.” Surgery and radiation therapy remove, kill, or damage cancer cells in a certain area, but chemo can work throughout the whole body.

The chemo for me consists of two medicines:


Then I also receive a drug called Herceptin, which kills the HER2 protein.  I will do that drug for an additional 12 sessions, but only that one, not the other two chemo drugs.

So this means, I will be doing 6 sessions = 18 weeks, plus an additional 12 sessions = 36 weeks, basically well over a year with of trips back and forth to Tulsa.

After I get through the first 6 sessions of chemo, then we will do surgery.  The surgery will probably consist of a mastectomy of either just the left breast or both.  I'll have time to decide about that and what reconstruction options I have.

During my first initial visit, they ran an MRI that told us I had 3 more spots farther inside the left breast, these 3 were in additional to the 2 that they found at the Lebanon hospital during the routing mammogram.  They did not think the lymph nodes had any issues, however, they will still have to check them during surgery.  No lumps showed up on the right breast, which was very good news.

I asked them at my second trip if it was spread throughout my body.  They said that I was designated a Cancer Stage 1 and they didn't not think it had spread further.  So that was also really good news.

I'm in great health otherwise, all of my blood work came back well within the normal levels, the EKG and ultrasound they did on my heart were really good too. They monitor these blood levels every time I go in and the measure my heart every 90 days or so.

I think that covers most everything on my treatment plan.  Everyone's plan is different and uniquely tailored to the person. I am certainly learning a lot.

Thanks to everyone that prays for me, that gives me hugs and warm thoughts and love.  It's been truly amazing.  I'll write on that more later.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Port install and first day of chemo

Cancer Treatment Center of America

We arrived Sunday Evening 3/12/17, which was also the first day of Daylight Savings Time.  It was a little hard to get up in the morning!   Here's the outside of the Hospital, it's very nice, everything under one roof.  Hotel, surgery, clinic, pharmacy, cafeteria, fitness center, sewing room, kids room, pool table, library.  
Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tulsa, OK

On the day of my port surgery, I wasn't supposed to eat or drink anything.  Poor Mark has shingles and he doesn't feel very well and hasn't for the past month.  He asked me if I wanted a cupcake that they had at the front desk and if I wanted coffee. I looked at him like he was crazy and said well, sure.  When he brought it to me, I said, you know I can't eat anything.  He was like You Tricked Me!  
He had to eat it anyway.

Port Surgery

I'm getting ready for surgery here.

This was the acting silly picture.  
Here's Mark again, feeling sad and worried.


They put the port in, I was out the whole time.  When I woke up, I was sick to my stomach.  I threw up a couple of times, they quickly gave me some medicine and it went away.  This is in the Chemo room.  I have 3 different chemo medicines to take.  But first they gave me some anti-upset stomach medicine and some benadryl to help me sleep.  I took a nap through most of the chemo.  All of this took 6 1/2 hours.  I was done at 10:15 and went right to bed.  

This is where they put the port in, this picture shows the port.

This is the cut in my chest after they removed the cable and needle from the port.  It looks pretty good.  I think the Doctor did a good job.  
This is what the needle that they put in to administer the chemo looks like.  They can give me any medicine I need through this.  

That's the end of my first day of installing the port and getting Chemo.  Installing the port sounds like computer jargon, like installing the software.  :)