It’s TODAY! Join me for 3.03 on 3/03 for Triple Negative Breast Cancer Day

It’s time to get your 3.03 on! Help me raise awareness of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) and also raise funds for research on this subtype of breast cancer many people don’t know or understand.

What do I mean by 3.03? There are no rules…you can do 3.03 of anything. Walking, running, biking, swimming, skiing, dancing, jumping jacks, anything! Take a pic and post on your social media page tagging me and #TNBC303forShelley and #TNBCDay2015.

Know someone who doesn’t know what TNBC is? Tell them! Don’t know yourself? Let me tell you! Breast cancer is classified based on known receptors that fuel the tumor. There are currently three known receptors: estrogen, progesterone and HER2. If it is known what is feeding the tumor, that helps doctors/researchers understand how to block that fuel from reaching the tumor for targeted treatment. Patients with one of the three known receptors have additional treatment beyond chemo and radiation to help prevent recurrence. Triple negative tumors do not have any of these three receptors, therefore it’s known as triple negative. It’s the most aggressive form of breast cancer with a high rate of recurrence, and it currently has no targeted therapy. I know I speak for my TNBC sisters when I say that I want a targeted therapy for my disease. I want to have one more treatment option to give me an extra peace of mind that my disease will not come back to haunt me again.

All funds raised on TNBC day will go toward research for triple negative. 100%! And they are tax deductible. And if you participate, you are being active and helping your own health. So, it’s a win, win, win.

If you want to donate $3.03, $13.03, $23.03, $33.03 or $1,000,003.03🙂 you can do so here:

Thank you for supporting a cause so personal to me and close to my heart. Now, go get your 3.03 on!

p.s. Don’t forget to use hashtags: #TNBC303forShelley and #TNBCDay2015  Thanks!

I’m Still Standing

Greetings from the other side of cancer treatment! Life seems to be very much back to normal, and the past 8 months have been both long and short. High and low. But, I’m still cancer free!

Since my last post, I’ve had 31 radiation treatments, one CT scan (clean!), one major surgery (latissimus dorsi flap reconstruction surgery in December), 3 expansions to my tissue expanders (ouch), countless doctor appointments and many valuable physical therapy sessions. And, I still have one impending surgery, but from what I hear, this one is a breeze compared to the others.

Many people seem confused about the reconstruction process. I was too until I had no choice but to understand it (which if I am honest wasn’t really clear until I was marked two days before my surgery). Different people can have different types of reconstruction and varying degrees based on the type of mastectomy, their size, whether or not they have radiation and more. If you care to know more, keep reading. If not, skip down a few.

Because I had radiation, I couldn’t just go straight to implants for reconstruction. For starters, there was not enough skin present, even though my mastectomy was considered skin-sparing. This is why it was recommended that I go with the latissimus dorsi flap surgery which basically takes the skin, tissue and muscle from your back (area just below your shoulder blades) and re-routes the muscle to your chest to rebuild the breast. The skin flaps are, for lack of better description, cut and pasted to the front to create the needed skin. Tissue expanders (think of a deflated balloon with a port entry for fluid fills to expand it) are inserted and filled initially with a small amount of fluid. Then every two weeks, I go in for “expansions” where fluid is added to further stretch the skin. I am at the end of that phase now, thank goodness.

This coming Monday, I meet with my plastic surgeon and most likely will schedule my exchange surgery. This is where they remove the tissue expanders and replace them with the permanent implants. It should be sometime in early April. Not too much recovery time. And then….I’ll be done!

The recovery from this whole reconstruction process has not been easy by any stretch, but as always, I’ve had lots of help and support and prayers. And I do feel like I am on the other side. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer and brighter. And I’m still standing, albeit sore, with slightly less range of motion and some massive scars.

Cue Elton John. “I’m still standing…better than I’ve ever been…looking like a true survivor…”

So life today is more about spending weekends in our cabin in the mountains, crazy family FitBit challenges which I lose daily–even to my 70-year-old dad who by the way is rocking his daily steps–(and I won’t have my post-surgical crutch excuse much longer), lots and lots and lots of work, impending hip replacement surgery for Millie, our 7-year old English Cream Golden Retriever (because we didn’t have enough medical bills in the past 18 months) and just trying in general to get back to normal life that is not driven by disease management.

I’m most looking forward to my post-cancer trip to Europe this June and using my paid time off days this year for fun things instead of un-fun things.

Another thing that has me looking up is the progress being made in research for Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Last year, my family, friends and the awesome Rhythm Dance Center family helped raise $55,000 (gasp!) for the cause at Bullseye Bash!! In recent months, triple negative breast cancer has gotten more attention, new clinical trials on a possible vaccine, and more ongoing genetic studies. In a discussion with my oncologist a few weeks ago, she told me they are very close on being able to classify triple negative into what they think are 6 different subtypes. The more they learn this aggressive disease, the more likely they can develop targeted therapies. This is huge. This is not information that existed last year. This is PROGRESS!

That’s why I support the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation and am serving as a Champion for them. It’s also why I am asking once again this year for your support in raising money to fund MORE RESEARCH for the most aggressive form of breast cancer.

TNBC day is 3.03.15. So in keeping with the family FitBit challenges, I am committing to walking 3.03 miles on 3.03 to raise awareness, with my FitBit step counter hawks watching my every move to make sure I do it.

I’m asking others to do the same, and if you are willing and/or able, make a tax deductible donation to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation. 100% of your donation will go toward research for targeted therapy and a cure! Even if you can’t donate, I challenge you to do 3.03 of SOMETHING on 3.03 and post your activity on your social media page(s) … a la Ice Bucket Challenges, sans the cold water and the obligatory nominations. You don’t have to walk…you can hike, bike, run, ski, sled, swim 3.03 miles, laps, hills, minutes. Be creative but spread the word. Tell one person about TNBC on 3.03 who doesn’t know about it.

When you post in social media, tag me and/or the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation page and/or this link:

That’s also how you donate too (via that link).

My goal is to raise $15,000 for this amazing Foundation that gives me and my fellow TNBC survivors and current fighters HOPE in this scary disease.

Thank you for your support, no matter how you provide it!

Whoa, oh, oh, oh, I’m…Radioactive, Radioactive

Two treatments down, 26 to go. So far, it’s been a non-event, and I feel the same now as I did before it started.

Monday, I went for photographs and angle measurements. They put marker all over me, almost up to my neck. This is so they know exactly how to line up the rays/machines so I only receive radiation to the intended area.

The marks are requiring me to seriously adapt my wardrobe for work, lest I choose to reveal what looks like a child drew all over my chest. These markings will stay with me throughout radiation (they repaint over them daily) and, I imagine, several weeks after based on how they appear to stain the skin.

Tuesday was my first zap. I didn’t feel anything, nor do I now. I met with the radiation onc after the first treatment, and he said it will be 2-3 weeks before I start seeing or feeling anything. The only expected effects should be fatigue and redness/irritated skin.

It’s all a little weird. A fellow survivor who is a few weeks ahead of me described it this way to me. She’s right. It is weird. I’m grateful I don’t feel anything, but that’s kind of what makes it weird. You just lay there on a table. This noisy machine beeps and clicks and rotates around your body. The therapists come in the room halfway through and lay what feels like a ziplock bag of flour on the area they are radiating. It apparently assists in getting the radiation closer onto the skin’s surface (or something like that). They are in and out in between zaps, shifting/adjusting the bolus. And then suddenly you are done. 12ish minutes.

And then you come back the next morning to do it all over again. 26 more times.

By my calculations I’ll be done on August 1. By then, I will be glowing in the dark!

Speaking of glowing, if you’re now mad that you’re going to be singing Imagine Dragons’ Radioactive in your head all day, I considered these alternate titles: Turn Off The Lights, And I’ll Glow…. or Light ‘Em Up, Up, Up.

Pick your poison.

You’re welcome!

Recovery, Physical Therapy, NED, Decisions and Next Steps

It’s been over a month since my last post. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know I’m usually compelled to provide a ridiculous amount of detail to make up for what could have been five or six different posts. My goal tonight is to simplify and keep it as brief as possible. We’ll see if I succeed. Yeah, I have my doubts too. OK, let’s be honest…not going to happen.


So, I survived my double mastectomy surgery. The anxiety and fear leading up to the surgery was so much worse than the actual surgery. I woke up in no pain (albeit very nauseous all day) and remained pain free for the days following the surgery. After one night in the hospital I was released to go home. Brent, Mom, Becca and Dad were all at my house, ready to wait on me hand-and-foot. But I was fine. I had no pain. I wasn’t bedridden, didn’t need any pain meds, barely even took Advil. It was very strange for all of us and unexpected. The Monday following surgery, I felt weird being on medical leave from work. I even texted my boss that I felt like I was playing hooky. There honestly was no reason why I couldn’t have worked from home. But I didn’t. But I was bored.

By mid-week I was feeling very uncomfortable. The dreaded drains that everyone told me would be the worst part of the process turned out to be the worst part of the process. The drains didn’t really get in my way, the tubing just hurt on the inside. I was (and still am) tired of only being able to sleep on my back. I wanted them OUT of my body.

As excited as I was to get them out of my body, I was equally anxious about the drain removal process as it is just done in the surgeon’s office without any anything. Fortunately, it was a total non-issue. It did feel better when they were out, but I quickly learned that the tightness and soreness I was feeling was not only related to the drains. It was my new normal, for the time being at least. I took more Advil during the second week than I did the first, and experienced much more discomfort and pain than I had the first week. It’s gotten better over the weeks (it’s 5 weeks tomorrow), but I definitely still struggle with some discomfort, stiffness and difficulty reaching. Still, overall, it has been so much easier, physically and emotionally, than I thought it would be.

Physical Therapy

Now that the drains were out, the next step was to meet my physical therapist to improve my now very limited range of motion. I was very nervous because you often hear of the physical “terrorists” who take your existing pain and exponentially make it worse. Yes, there was some pain involved in that first session, but it was sweet pain mostly, and I felt instant results and relief. Anyone reading this who is on this journey or knows someone going through this journey, the most important piece of advice I can give you of anything throughout my journey so far is to demand to see a physical therapist who specializes in lymphedema and breast surgery patients. I feel so fortunate to have the specialist I have – she is amazing at her job, very knowledgeable, thorough and passionate. She has just the right mix of compassion and toughness to push me to the next level at every session. After 7 sessions with her (and many homework sessions that are still ongoing), I have officially been released. Most excited about the release are Millie and Murphy (my dogs), as she hesitantly gave me permission to begin leash walking them again.

But, I haven’t seen the last of her yet. My future holds two more reasons for needing to see her, which leads me to…


Who is NED, you ask? He is no one, it’s an acronym for the three words any post surgical cancer patient wants to hear: No Evidence of Disease (ok, four words). When I woke up from surgery, still seeing double and drunk on anesthesia, my surgeon informed me that he saw nothing at all that concerned him, and, although we would have to wait for the final pathology report, he felt really confident that I am now cancer free. And the final path report did confirm just that. So, I am officially a SURVIVOR!


When I first learned I was cancer free and that I had a clean pathology report, both my surgeon and my oncologist said I would no longer need radiation. My oncologist, knowing my nature, wanted me to hear it directly from the radiation oncologist though, to give me peace of mind. (Her exact words were: Since I know you would put matches underneath your fingernails if we told you it would make a difference, I want you to talk to him). So, I scheduled another appointment with the radiation onc expecting him to say the same thing. He didn’t. He said that due to my young age (even though I recently turned 40 – yikes!), triple negative status and the initial lymph node involvement (even though it was microscopic), he recommends radiation and can guarantee a benefit to me. While the benefit is not as drastic as it would be for someone with residual cancer, it will make an impact on preventing a local recurrence (radiation has no impact on recurrence anywhere other than locally as it only treats the local area).

I was very torn and confused. I trust and respect my surgeon and oncologist tremendously. They very recently saved my life. I wanted to listen to them. I wanted to be done with treatment and only be facing a now even simpler reconstruction process. But I could not get that nagging out of my head. I want no regrets, no what ifs. So, I asked the radiation onc to confer with my other two doctors and sell his point to them to see what they said. In the end, after much ado and anguish, I finally heard from all my doctors and they are all on board with me doing radiation, if for nothing else than my peace of mind. I’m convinced there is a benefit and even if it only buys me one percentage point, I will take it. So, radiation is back on.

Next Steps

Today I went to the radiation oncologist for step one…a “fitting” which consisted of a CT scan and lots of sharpie “x”s drawn on my chest and sides. They use the images to map the angles for the radiation beams. This type of radiation is very targeted and will only be on my right side in the area where the cancer was and small portion of my chest wall. I will have 28 radiation treatments. They will be daily except for weekends. When I finish those 28, he said they may do 3 additional treatments on the scar line. So I’m looking at about 6 weeks.

Many people have asked me about side effects for radiation. The vast majority of other cancer survivors I’ve spoken with who have been through it describe it as a walk in the park after chemo and surgeries. I’m cautiously optimistic that it will mostly be a non-event. A sunburn feeling and fatigue are the two most common side effects. My plan is to schedule my appointments early each morning and go straight to work from there without any issue. Each treatment takes only about 15 minutes start to finish. Hopefully my plan will be my reality.

I’ll know early next week when my start date will be, but it will probably be one day next week. Upon completion of radiation, I will need 3 months of recovery time (and full range of motion again which will require more physical therapy) before I will be ready for reconstruction. Reconstruction will be the more involved latissimus dorsi flap procedure due to the radiation (I may have escaped that if I had escaped radiation, although that was never confirmed).

My hair is growing back slowly but surely. So far it appears it will still be mostly curly/frizzy, same as it was before chemo. But it is looking salt and pepper colored. We’ll see what happens as it gets longer. In the past week, my eyelashes and eyebrows have returned as well. Just like that. One day there was nothing, the next day there were lashes and brows. They all have a ways to go but at least finally it is moving in the right direction.

So, that’s where I’m at. Five or six blog posts in one, and now everyone is caught up. I’m ready for radiation to begin and get the rest of this show on the road!


Surgery Day

It’s been a while since I posted. Things have been better in the post chemo world, although I’m learning the side effects don’t go away like a light switch. It’s more like a dimmer switch. Overall though, I’m doing much better and feeling closer to my pre-chemo self.

Tomorrow is my double mastectomy. I’m very anxious but ready for this part to be behind me. I’ll stay in the hospital one night and then be home. My drains will come out in about a week. After that, I’ll start physical therapy.

Soon thereafter I will start radiation – daily for 6 weeks (no weekends). Three months later, reconstruction.

There’s still a lot ahead of me, but after tomorrow, the two scariest (in my mind) will be behind me. Just ready for it to be over, and it will be in a few short hours!

Tomorrow is my dad’s 70th birthday, and he will be spending it at the hospital with me. Happy birthday Dad! Next year we’ll do something more fun!



Thursday was my last chemo!


My sister, in her usual stylish, creative and crafty ways, made me an awesome sign, balloons and “corsage” to wear. It was a great feeling to know I was there for the last time!


We wanted to show the nurses and staff our appreciation, so my mom delivered 3 chick-fil-a breakfast trays, fruit, juice and tea; plus a huge bagel & cream cheese tray from panera from my sister-in-law and mother-in-law. And two giant “Launching Arrows” cookie cakes. Everyone was so grateful and appreciative (and sufficiently full)!

This sweet man was sitting next to me today and, coincidentally, it was also his last chemo day. We couldn’t have all the pomp and circumstance without including him, so he had his picture made with my sign too! He was so sweet and his wife too. We got some of just him as well and texted them to his wife.


After the pre-party, it was chemo as usual which means I slept hard for a good hour in my benedryl coma. I woke up to the bells of the IV pump and this empty bag of Taxol.


I’m so glad to have this part of my journey behind me, but I will say it’s going to be strange not being there every week, seeing my fellow survivors, all the nurses who’ve taken such great care of me and the staff who know me by name. I’m going to miss that part of it.

I’m NOT going to miss the chemical feeling in my stomach, the aches from my shots, the fatigue, the port flushes, finger/toe nail issues, neuropathy, and many other unmentionable side effects. Although I’m learning that not all of them disappear right away, so I’m going to have to find some patience on some of these.

Now it’s on to the next phase. Surgery. My date is set. On May 14, which happens to be my dad’s 70th birthday, I will have a double mastectomy. I’m nervous about it, but I love my surgeon and have 150% trust in him and his team. And I know so many others have gone before me in this phase with success and tell me it’s no problem. So I’m ready.

Following about 4-6 weeks after my surgery, I will begin 6 weeks of radiation. Three-ish months after that, I will begin the reconstruction process. I met with the plastic surgeon who will do that phase this week as well. Most likely that will be multiple surgeries. I’ll be having what’s called a latissimus dorsi flap surgery, where an oval flap of skin, fat, muscle, and blood vessels from my upper back will be used to reconstruct the breasts. It’s a little more involved than I was planning, but it’s what all three of my doctors recommend, and I trust them.

The good news is, barring any unforeseen issues, I should be able to fit all this in during this calendar year, which is my hope because I’m close to my annual out of pocket maximum and I don’t want to start over!

But regardless! I’m DONE with chemo
and I have no intentions of having to endure it again. Thank you to everyone who has been by my side on this phase of my journey. I couldn’t have done it without so much support. I love you all! So goodbye forever, chemo! And HOORAY!


Carbo in the Past Tense

I am done with Carbo! Despite my counts still being low last Thursday (900 when I needed 1000), they allowed me to have my treatment of Carbo and Taxol anyway. So I finally got in that third dose, and I am officially done with Carbo! It’s nice to have another piece of chemo in my past. While I didn’t feel great this weekend (or today for that matter), it wasn’t terrible either. So I’m grateful for that too. 

The catch to being able to get my treatment was adding in Neupogen shots. Yes, you recognize the “Neu” because it is the baby cousin of my frenemy, Neulasta. Neulasta shots were the shots I received to boost my white count while I was undergoing the A/C portion of my treatment. Neupogen are baby Neulasta shots that boost your count for 24 hours instead of 10ish days. 

I received three vials of pre-filled Neupogen shots on Thursday with instructions to give myself injections on Fri, Sat and Sun in 24-hour intervals. And yes, the same side effects were expected and occurred as Neulasta. Soreness all over, even to the slightest touch. Not fun. I personally don’t think the Claritin/Aleve combo does much of anything to help, but who wants to try not using that combo to see if it is worse. Not me. I don’t want worse. 

Today, I went back to the doctor for a re-do of my labs to see if I have to keep giving myself shots this week or if I can stop. Good news, I get to stop! Until Friday that is. But, I’ll take 4 days of not sticking myself (or having Brent stick me, he’s a great needle sticker, btw, despite his normally queasy stomach. It’s actually less painful when he does it vs. me doing it myself).

After my treatment this coming Thursday, I will follow the same protocol of 3 days of shots. Same for the next treatment the following Thursday. But after that, I AM DONE…with shots and WITH CHEMO! The countdown has officially started. On April 17, barring any crazy issues with my body, I will receive my last chemo treatment. That is just 10 days from today. The end is in sight, and I’m beginning to feel the relief. 

In other news, my hair has oddly started growing back. I’ve read the same thing happened to others in my same experience. Mine started as soft, white peach fuzz. It’s starting to turn darker now, but still very sparse. In a week or so, I might have a decent covering. I’m not sure what the recent dose of Carbo will do to kill off what little has started growing back, but it’s interesting nonetheless. I have a long way to go to get to pre-chemo hair, but I’m excited about the mini-head start (no pun intended). 

Next week, I meet with both my plastic surgeon and my regular surgeon (on separate days) so will know more about what the next 6 months hold for me at that point. For now, I’m excited that the last 6 months are soon to be behind me! 



Crawling to the Finish Line

Yesterday was supposed to be my big day – my last Carbo treatment. The title above should be boasting that I only have two more treatments left, not further delays. Unfortunately, yesterday my pesky white blood cells betrayed me for the third (and a half) time, and my doctors sent me home with no treatment. I’m neutropenic, which is a fancy way of saying that my ability to fight off infections is very compromised. I was 200 (somethings) shy of the required count for acceptable levels for chemo. Argh!!

I was/am definitely bummed. I had a great week, and even felt pretty good last weekend. I was out and about more, and I did some major organizing projects in my house. It felt good to be a productive person again. It’s been so long since I’ve felt accomplished, especially on a weekend. While I wasn’t expecting to have low counts and to be sent home, I’ve learned that it happens and that how I feel doesn’t necessarily dictate how my labs will turn out (which always baffles me).

On the bright side, instead of feeling yucky and chemical-y all weekend, Brent and I were instead able to escape to our cabin in NC for the weekend on the spur of the moment. That’s definitely the silver lining. Even though it’s just raining here, this is our happy place, and we both really needed a break. We’re very happy to be here!

I don’t know what this latest delay means for my finish line. Will they shave off my last Taxol and let me miss another dose? Or will my finish line now end on April 17? All of this impacts the timing of my surgery as well, so I’m anxious to know where it will all end. Honestly, I really don’t think I’ll truly know until it’s just over. I could still have low counts next week, even after no treatment. That has happened before. I’ll try to not be frustrated if that happens but…no, if I’m being honest, I’ll be very irritated.

If all goes well though (and we’ll think positive thoughts for that), I’ll be getting Carbo and Taxol this Thursday and I’ll be one step closer to the finish line.

Pray for my white blood cells to flourish!

Cancer Calendar – Bonus Post

I used up all my creativity for the night on my previous post. But I’m still awake. Wide awake. So I have nothing but time.

And the purpose of this blog is for me to document my experiences both for you and for me. To help me keep it all straight in my head. In case you’ve never met me, details are important to me. Even the ones that aren’t important to anyone else. So, I feel the need for my blog to reflect the time missing between my post on 2/27 until my posts tonight. Hence the bonus blog post tonight (er, this morning).

So here’s what you missed…

I was able to better enjoy Bullseye Bash because my treatment on 2/27 was a no go. More time to recover from the poison of the previous week. I felt pretty good all of the week following, so I felt very confident about getting my treatment on 3/6. It had been two weeks since my last dose. I don’t want to give cancer any leg up on me, so I was ready to go back to battle.

March 4
Today was the day I met with the radiation oncologist. It was a preliminary meeting for him to learn about my case and me to learn about radiation. And most significantly, for him to make a recommendation about radiation. The short version is that he does recommend it (when forced to respond to my “what would you tell me if I were your wife or daughter” question). But he also acknowledges it needs to be a team decision and we need to see what my final pathology report says. So, no final decisions were made, but it’s looking like radiation will be in my future. If so, it will follow 4-6 weeks after my first surgery. It will be daily M-F for six consecutive weeks. Six months later, reconstruction. That’s where we left it.

March 6
Much to my surprise, my NP walked in the exam room with my labs only to tell me that they didn’t really look any better than they had the week before. Huh? I was supposed to get my big combo dose that day–Carboplatin and Taxol. Not going to happen. My onc was in a meeting out of town, so she was trying to catch her to consult her what to do. She felt like I wouldn’t get a treatment at all that day, but wanted to confirm. My heart sank. Right when they were about to remove the tube from my port, she came back in with slightly better news. Apparently, I’m not an anomaly. The study that brought me to Carboplatin in the first place included many others who had the similar occurrences with low counts, missed doses, etc. So, I was going to receive a treatment after all, but no Carbo and only half Taxol. Disappointing but better than nothing. They put me on antibiotics, restricted me from fresh fruits/veggies and sick people.

March 7-9
Becca was in town all weekend with me, and I was prepared to feel really good with so few chemicals flowing through my body. We set out to breathe some life into my guest room that has become her second home. We were limited by my low counts, but still fit in some shopping (with lots of hand sanitizer). We were really busy and active all day, even though I was starting to feel some weird side effects I hadn’t yet felt on Taxol. Much less on a half dose of Taxol. Much less on a week following no Taxol. What I thought was going to be a non-event turned out to oddly be the most side effects I’d had to date on Taxol (soon to lose this ranking by the following weekend). I had lots of soreness, reminiscent of Neulasta days but not quite as severe, shortness of breath, muscle exhaustion and just in general a hard time moving much. Even still, we stayed very active all day (even though Becca did the lion’s share of the labor) and had a very productive day. She now has a super cute, mostly complete guest room to stay in, instead of a storage/wrapping/nothing room that just happens to have a bed in it.

Mar 10-14
When she left Sunday night, we were both drained. I woke up Monday in a terrible fog with a wild headache. I blamed it on overdoing it and the stupid time change. I went to the office that day but the fog never lifted. I barely made it til 5, an hour which normally means I’m just getting into the thick of my day. I came straight home and went straight to bed. Tuesday was much better, which was a good thing because Wednesday was a travel day in preparation for an almost full week of travel coming up the next week for an acquisition at work. Acquisitions equal back-to-back meetings and long days. Wednesday I felt great, and I made it to my treatment on Thursday with improved lab results and a new chemo schedule.
Five treatments left. Only one of those will include Carbo (I previously incorrectly thought I had two more Carbo). My next (and last) Carbo is scheduled on 3/27 and chemo is scheduled to end on 4/10. I met the sweetest lady who was there for her first AC treatment that day. She was so anxious but so positive. Very talkative. So I stayed awake through the Benedryl and talked to her about dogs, the missing Malaysian airlines flight, Journalism (we both share degrees in it) and anything else to distract her from the red poison entering her veins. She paid me the best compliment by telling me she couldn’t believe someone so young as dealing with this, that I had to be somewhere between 22 and 25. Gulp. She was shocked to hear I’m less than 3 months away from the big 4-0.

March 15-17
Ugh. Not a good weekend. Very, extremely fatigued and light headed. Never left my bed. Literally, I went to bed Friday night and other than using the restroom or getting food/drink from the kitchen, I never left my bed. If I tried, I became dizzy and an extreme exhaustion took over my body. Monday was worse. I assumed I’d be fine. I was planning to leave town for 3 days of acquisition meetings. I needed to pack, get ready for work and get out the door. I woke up and walked outside to check the temperature before I dressed to walk my dogs (which I require myself to do if I feel good enough to go into the office). I stepped on my back deck and was immediately overcome with nausea. That led to exactly what you think it did. Only the third time in this process that’s happened, still a good stat as far as I’m concerned. I immediately got back in bed, set my alarm for an hour, praying I’d snap to it. That led to another hour and another hour. Finally I forced myself to take a shower. That went fine til I was drying off. Everything went black and fortunately I was able to get to my bed to lay down. I knew then I needed to call my doctor. I left them a message, then left my boss a message (still convinced I would travel two hours to these meetings later that afternoon). My doctor called back and asked me to come in for labs and fluids. Reality set in and I knew I likely wouldn’t be running these meetings I’d been working on. Thank God for awesome coworkers and a supportive boss. I was off the hook thanks to them, and further forbidden to attend even if I thought I was feeling better. The fluids did make me feel better.

March 18-19
I was able to work from home Tuesday at my kitchen table (not my bed) and felt more human every hour. Wednesday I worked in the office. Which leads me to today, Thursday (technically it’s Friday but being that I haven’t gone to sleep yet, it’s still Thursday to me).

March 20
Treatment day! Labs were improved so I got my Taxol. I was able to work when I got home, then mom and I ran errands. She went to bed and I’ve been typing my blog posts for the last four hours waiting for sleep. I’m scheduled for fluids tomorrow morning so I’m praying for a better weekend. I so want to feel good and not waste away my weekend in the bed. But we’ll see! It was really sad in the lab today. The gentleman next to me was very sick the whole time he was getting treatment. I don’t know about you, but throwing up is not something I want anyone to see or hear, much less in an open room slap full of 30ish people. He was so sick he didn’t care, but it was an awful feeling to not be able to help him. He was given fluids and taken great care of by the nurses, but I felt so, so sorry for him. It put my bad weekend into perspective.

That leads me to today. It’s 4:29am and I’m still wide awake. Think it’s time to try to go to sleep and prepare for a busy day tomorrow (today). Ok, goodnight.

40,000 Reasons to Be Happy

Somewhere, in the way back of my chemo brain, a mashup is brewing. If I was feeling more creative tonight, and had less of a battle heating up between the residual benedryl wanting to knock me out or the lingering steroids wanting to party all night, I’d be presenting a killer rhyming combo of Pharrell’s uber famous “Happy” song and REM’s oldie but goodie “Texarkana” (you know the one…catchy tune…”40,000 reasons for living”…you know you love it, if you don’t know it, google it and listen). But I just can’t pull it off tonight. Maybe someday. But here’s why I have 40,000 reasons to be happy. And grateful!

On Saturday, March 1, my incredibly talented, creative, dedicated, determined, supportive and awesome sister pulled off an amazing event in my honor. Not just her, but also her equally talented, hardworking and huge-hearted business partner Dani, along with the amazing, truly unbelievable staff at Rhythm Dance Center. Bullseye Bash rocked, just like every Rhythm event. Off the charts incredible. Amazing. Blown away!

The reason it rocked is because Rhythm rocks. They rock because they are truly a family and not just a business. They work so hard at everything they do, they set positive examples for every dancer in their studio, they push them toward being not just a better dancer, but a better person, a better human being. This goes on every single day. And you must buy into this if you are to be part of Rhythm. Because you can’t be part of Rhythm and not live this. It’s the fiber, it’s their culture. Be awesome or go home. And that’s not be an awesome dancer or go home. It’s be an awesome person or go home. Try, practice, reflect, grow. I’ve personally witnessed this philosophy for the past 21 years, from day zero, all the way back when Becca and Dani first announced they were partnering to create Rhythm Dance Center. They were going to be different. They don’t have to go this extra distance they choose to travel. They could just teach dance steps, have their business and go home at night content. They could just care about the dancers for the one or two, three, ok 80 hours they are at the studio each week and be done. But they don’t. They go above and beyond, always. This is how they approach everything they do. Nothing is worth doing if it’s not stellar. And it’s always stellar.

Bullseye Bash, organized to raise money for the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, was no exception. I’m still blown away by that day and have struggled to find the words to describe my gratitude, hence the long delay in any blog posts from me. Radio silence. I’m blown away by all the people who busted their tails to make it such a perfect day. Many long hours went into that effort. Becca conceived the whole event, planned out the activities, wrote all the descriptions, explained it to the dancers and their parents, coordinated with the Foundation. It was a lot of work and pressure, especially during the absolute CRAZIEST time of year for her. Then of course, turned their already amazing studio into a stylish, super swanky custom TNBC event! Her, Dani and the RDC staff volunteered their time for all of this. They don’t get many weekends free of competition, conventions and rehearsals. Especially not this time of year. This was an “off” weekend. But they still came to help and to work their tails off all weekend. Be awesome or go home.

So did my friend Jenny, who has a lot going on in her own busy life, but who still made time and effort to drive me there, work into the wee hours of the morning helping set up and be there for me at this event just like she is at every single one of my treatments and appointments (with a “chemo” present in hand at each one, mind you). And Nancy, my sister-in-law, who has a crazy, parent-of-two-kids-sports-all-day-every-day schedule still drove two hours to help, alongside my sweet niece Anna and her friend Caroline to work the entire event. She also donated the face-painting clown who was the hit of the day. And Erica, RDC’s fab graphic designer (with her young Chloe always assisting) who donated time she didn’t have to develop all the logos, flyers, tshirts and everything else you saw that day. And it looked fabulous! And of course, my mom and dad, who sacrifice so much every single week so my mom can be with me for every treatment.

There are so many people involved, too many for me to name. The DJ, the dance-a-thon leader, the moms who donated prizes. Those who did things I don’t even know about! Picture me naming your effort here!

Same deal for the dancers and parents who participated and danced in the dance-a-thon. These dancers ranging from pre-schoolers to age 18+ already put in so much of their life and time into dancing, rehearsing and competing. I’m sure they would have loved to sleep all day that “free” Saturday (and deservingly so). But they didn’t. Because they are are Rhythm. And they never stop being awesome!

These amazing dancers, along with my incredibly supportive family and dear friends all joined together, in my honor, to raise FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS for the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation. That’s 40,000 reasons to be happy right there! Happy thinking of what that money will translate to in research for targeted therapies for TNBC. Happy for the hope it will bring to those like me who suffer from this disease. Happy for the young families who might not lose their wives, moms, daughters, sisters from this horrible disease in the future. Happy that this many people cared enough about me and this cause to join together to spread awareness and make a difference. (Wait, did I just start writing that mashup?? I didn’t mean to but you sort of could, in a stretched out kind of way, sing that to the tune of “Happy”. See, it’s somewhere in the back of my foggy brain but not quite there yet).

In addition to the awesome event hosted by the RDC family, another Bullseye Bash event was held to launch arrows against TNBC in my honor. Hosted in the town where I grew up (shout out to Trenton, GA! What, what!), my incredible family and friends (who are adopted family) threw a satellite Bullseye Bash Soup and Chili Supper at my parent’s church on March 3. Two of my aunts, Gail and Carolyn, and my adopted “other” moms, Stacia and Jean, and many other helpers (my parents included) also worked their tails off and their efforts are what bumped the Bullseye Bash donations up to the $40,000 mark. They did all that in honor of me and for every woman facing this diagnosis.

To top all of that off, both of these events raised a HUGE donation that was given to me to help cover some of my medical bills. This was above and beyond the $40K raised for the Foundation. I am so humbled by this. It’s so hard to accept this kind of help, but all of you have no idea what a major burden this lifted off us. Cancer is expensive!! Even for hard-working, dual income, no (human) kids couples with good jobs and group health insurance. You’ve all made such a difference in my life, you just don’t know. I don’t think I could ever adequately explain it or appropriately thank you. So forgive the vast smallness (oxymoron?) of the words “thank you” in a situation like this, but saying thank you is just the beginning of my response to this event. It was quite a site to walk into the cancer clinic and whisper to the front desk that I need to pay my bill but need to do so away from the lobby because I’m paying in cash. So we huddled in a closed door office counting out bills and change, large and small, and it felt so good to have that burden lifted. The staff at my clinic are amazed and in awe at the success of these events. As they should be!

Breast cancer has changed me. But not how I thought it would. All of my friends and family and people I don’t even know have inspired me in their overwhelming love and support of me. Your response to MY cancer has changed me. I’m not just going to say thank you to you. I’m going to carry this with me and turn it into something. There’s no big announcement here, sorry if that felt like a lead in to some new foundation being formed. It’s not. I don’t have time for that between cancer and crazy work and animal rescue. I don’t know yet exactly all that I’m going to do armed with this overflowing cup of thankfulness. I’m starting small, but starting nonetheless.

By striking up a long, benedryl-laden conversation with an overly anxious, sweet lady at her very first chemo last week to try to distract her from the red devil poison being injected into her body.

By assisting the poor man next to me today who puked into a blue plastic bag from his recliner the entire time he received his chemo, in a room full
of people with no privacy, if by nothing more than waving down a nurse and looking him in the eye to show my concern and ask if I can help relieve his suffering in any way.

By offering what little support I can to a dear friend whose family member just had to hear the same words I heard six months ago.

There are so many ways to help people cope and make a difference, no matter how big or small. And to Becca, Dani, the Rhythm family, my own family, my adopted family, my amazing friends, and all of you–whether I talk to you daily or I haven’t met you yet–who have supported me with prayers, donations, cards (some every single week!), gifts, time, calls, meals, emails, facebook shout outs, texts, visits, distractions, advice, walked my dogs, go to every single treatment, cater to my every need, go to the store for me, wear a ribbon or bracelet or sticker on your helmet for me, knit or sew me a hat, blanket or scarf, paint me a picture, draw me a picture, involve your young kids in praying for me, clean my house, restyle my house, help out at the event, took over my portion of managing the crazy stressful world of animal rescue I’ve taken a hiatus from, drove or flew MILES to support me at the events, brought my first ever rescue dog to see me because you knew it would make my day, counted donations, set up tables, picked up supplies, lost sleep, gave up free time, went door to door raising money, danced all day at the dance-a-thon, made a pot of soup, bought a bowl of soup, baked cupcakes and blogged about them to spread awareness of TNBC, covered for me at work, pushed my heparin slowly so I wouldn’t taste the horribleness so bad, forgiven me for really late thank-you notes, turned this scary cancer experience into a positive life-changing event. The list goes on and on (you noticed?) and you all know who you are. To everyone who has launched an arrow for me…thank YOU! Not one thing goes unnoticed or unfelt by me. Nothing.

You’ve inspired me more than you can imagine. And much like the yet-to-be-determined mashup of Pharrell and Mike Mills, something’s brewing in the way back of my chemo brain. You’ve inspired me to give back. To take this incredible gift you’ve given me of love and support and launch it back to someone else who needs it. It’s not something likely to materialize into a big formal thing. It’s something more on the inside of me. It’s there, and it’s not going away. It’s going to grow (unlike my cancer). So, thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU!