Thursday, April 19, 2012

Oncologist Follow-Up

Today, I had my follow-up with Dr. Heyer so he could examine the tumor progress.

This past week our entire household fell victim to the flu bug. While Camilla and Christian experienced 24-48 hours of symptons, I was lucky enough to have at least one sympton for 6 straight days. Needless to say, the past week totally sucked; However, I was finally 100% today which was a GLORIOUS feeling.

I told the nurse about the flu as I wanted to have my bloodwork done. Although, it turns out I don't think it would have affected my bloodwork, anyhow. Needless to say, she obliged to just make me happy - I guess (and make another "cuckoo" notation on my file). As he suspected, bloodwork great :)

The Appointment -

Dr Heyer entered the room smiling and asked how I was since he heard I had the flu. I think he was primarily concerned this was in fact the flu and not the chemo. Once he heard everyone in the house experienced it he then breathed a sigh of relief and said "Thank goodness, I didn't cause any of that". I assured him he didn't, but if I suspected chemo was the culprit then we would need to have a heart-to-heart.

He was excited to tell me that he took the liberty to go ahead and talk to my breast surgeon, Dr. Chiantella. Due to the response in only 2 treatments of chemotherapy (At this point, he has yet to examine me), they both agreed a PET scan should be ordered prior to Chemo #5. I got a little giddy with him and then he was like..."Well....I want to check you first to see if there is progress". It depends..." He kept flip-flopping. So, I told him that I think there has been progress and he needs to just check me because if I press very hard from the front and smush it in a hard manner then I still can barely feel anything, but I don't know what I am feeling at this point (You can only imagine the look I received from him, but rest assured it is completely safe to man handle myself like this - he said it was ok, MOM and KWIATEK. I am not hurting anything).

Dr. Heyer felt my lymph nodes in my neck first (which I still don't understand this, but am sure there is a reason) and then asked me to lay down. Thinking back, I think I actually throw my gown open and let the girls show in all their glory. I don't think this is proper dr/patient protocol, but I don't care (I actually am chuckling to myself wondering what goes through this guys head when I do something probably considered extremely inappropriate in many people's minds). Needless to say, I am not there to waste anymore time than need be. I want his opinion - STAT :O

He examined both breasts this time then up and around the armpit area (I had no enlarged lymph nodes or tumor in that area), then up the breast where the tumor could be felt, and close to my sternum. He also took out his stethescope and listened to something (What - I have no idea what he could hear by listening to "the girls", but again I know there is a reason). He then smiled and said "I need to be honest here. If I had no idea what this felt like before then whatever I feel right now..I would say it's a cyst" and he shakes his head. I ask him "Is it the tumor you feel or a cyst?". He replies "I could never answer that. This is why we need a PET scan to tell me if there are any active cancer cells left".

He proceeds to tell me he is certainly ordering a PET scan for April 30th. The Monday prior to my next chemo, May 2nd. He should have the results by then and I need to call Dr. Chiantella to schedule an appointment with her soon. The purpose of the PET scan is to re-evaluate everything. There is a drastic difference and it appears Dr. Chaintella needs a new scan at this point to review lymph nodes and chest wall involvement. They both want to be sure if any active cancer exists at this point then for surgery purposes, she can be sure to target those specific areas. I suppose that after 2 more rounds of chemo the odds may be slimmer any active cancer cells exist and she wouldn't have a more focused plan of attack for surgery purposes.  Also, she may order a MRI for more details on the lymph nodes and depth perception (I guess the tumor and chest wall area). He concluded " I will not be the least bit surprised this PET scan comes back and reflects zero negative. Wouldn't that be great news?" I smiled and told him that would be the greatest news ever.

I have to share another awesome quote from today. I called my Grandmother to share the news. For those of you who have the pleasure of knowing her - she is quite an unforgettable woman who certainly has no problem sharing her opinions or outlooks on life. Simply she can be quite a tough lil' lady on all levels. Grandma's quote of the day "Jennifer, you and I aren't normal. You understand me? We just aren't. So, this really doesn't surprise me one bit".


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chemo #4

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to provide an update on chemo #4, which was today.

Everything went fine and according to plan. My blood work was good, but my white blood count was up a little, which was probably due to my sinus infection. The nurse was not concerned and I was still able to receive treatment. 

Regarding side effects, I have not experienced anything as of yet and pray this continues.

Tomorrow, as usual, I go for my Neulasta shot and next week I see Dr. Heyer so he can check progress on the tumor. I have had a few people feel the lump and they confirm there is a difference over the past few weeks. At this point, you need to press directly into the breast from the front and into the back chest wall to feel anything. (Kwiatek and Mom just about smacked me when I was pulling and tugging to feel what is left of the lump.) Kwiatek did explain that what I am now feeling could be scar tissue from the tumor, lung and lymph node biopsies, which we feel along with normal breast tissue, etc. In any event, it's quite small in comparison to the size of the initial tumor.

Next week, I pray for another wonderful appointment with Dr. Heyer containing great and promising news.

Today, I received my schedule for the remaining two chemo treatments. The last one will be Wednesday, May 23 and then I will have another PET Scan, so he can re-stage me. I will then meet with my breast surgeon, Dr. Chiantella, to get her opinion on next steps. I still need to find a plastic surgeon and radiation oncologist. However, I am going to ask Dr. Heyer and Dr. Chiantella their opinions and/or references. I will then of course, research, research, research. :)

Thank you for the continued support and prayers.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

All's Going Well....

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to give a quick update as many are wondering how I am doing. Well, I am happy to say all is still going well and I pray this continues. My fourth round of chemo is scheduled for next Wednesday then only two more to go.

I did get a cold last week which has turned into a sinus infection. I usually get sinus infections during this time of year, so it's nothing uncommon. I called Jessica, Dr. Heyer's PA, and told her about it. She called in an antibiotic for me. I have taken three pills and already feel a lot better.

Of course, I religiously see Dr. Durana, my acupuncturist, twice a week. We have been doing different things and talking a lot more. A few weeks ago, we had a deep conversation about my past since a point in my body triggered physical pain. It appears this point holds many emotions - specifically trust issues. Needless to say, it was an intense session. On Tuesday, Carlos did yell at me. I have been sick and so has Camilla so I was tired, but I honestly do not feel I am overexerting myself. Anyhow, I fell asleep on the table and started snoring (snicker all you want). A couple of things to note here:
  1. I am NOT a snorer, but I was very congested.
  2. I only woke up because of my snoring.
When I woke up, I tried to play it off and hoped he didn't notice. Perhaps I had only imagined that I was snoring. He said nothing until at the end when he pointed at me and said "YOU need to rest." I was a bit stunned and then he started his "talk." I was honest with him about how I felt that I haven't been my normal "110% - GO GO GO IT'S TAX SEASON AND I ONLY GET LITERALLY 2 HOURS OF SLEEP A NIGHT" self but did confess I hadn't slept well because I have had a lot on my mind and ran down the list
  1. I thought it was a great idea to tear up my back deck and now I have a mud pit in my backyard and have no idea what to do and I am stressed on many levels - such as "How the heck do I grade dirt?" "How the heck am I ever going to get dirt in the backyard?" even more "How in the heck do I measure how much dirt I need?" "What the heck am I going to plant?" "What the heck is that concrete block there for?"and the list goes on ...
  2. Camilla's birthday is quickly approaching and she will be one. I told myself when I started planning the details of her party that I was not going to be my normal type A detailed self.Yes, that lasted literally two minutes. I turned into my normal spreadsheet whore and went to town. Also, I decided that I was indeed crafty and will be making all kinds of things for her birthday party. If you know me well..I am not crafty. I have never done a craft in my life, but that is going to change everyone. I have plans to become Martha Stewart overnight. ;)
  3. I am a tax accountant and this is my busy time of year. Ernst & Young, my employer, has been UNBELIEVABLY understanding. However, I still have work to do!!! I am not stressed about work, but it is on my mind.
  4. Camilla has had a chronic ear infection since mid-February and, obviously, this worries me. I want her to feel better and don't want her to have surgery for tubes. We are being referred to an ENT doctor to see what he/she recommends. 
  5. Cancer. Enough said.
On a separate note, I do want to personally say thank you to everyone that has helped me by praying, sending meals, visiting, sending cards, donating to the fundraisers or assisting with the fundraisers. 

I am NOT one to ask for help as it is usually me helping others. Recently, my family and friends have started multiple fundraisers for me out of the goodness of their heart. I don't request these things, but it's their way of helping. Needless to say, the response is overwhelming. I do contemplate and stress how I can ever repay all these people. I've been told by many that it is not expected ... people want to help. I understand this as if the shoe was on the other foot, then I would be there helping as much as I can. Most recently, my family and friends are organizing a fundraiser in West Virginia on May 18th. I literally cannot wrap my head around the number of people that have asked to help or have bought tickets to attend the event. We have literally sold 400 tickets at this point. We only started spreading the word last weekend! I am beside myself ... 400 tickets all because of me? It's crazy. I could go on and on and on and on ... thanking everyone personally. Besides doing that and boring everyone to tears, I want to say...

Thank you to each and every one of you that has been there for me throughout my journey. Whether it be prayers, a meal, an ear, a post, a phone call, an uplifting moment, assistance with a fundraiser, a monetary donation ... just being there. I am utterly and truly grateful. 

On that note, good night and much love to all.