Happy Thanksgiving, Pass the Hand Sanitizer Please

Hand sanitizer- it’s what’s for Thanksgiving dinner!

Yesterday I had my follow up appointment with my oncologist. They did blood work and a general check up. I have what’s called neutropenia, which means my white blood cell count is very low. Normal is between 4,500 and 10,000. Neutropenia is anything below 1500. Mine is 700.

This means I’m at high risk of infection. So, they put me on antibiotics, and I’m on restriction for all raw fruit and vegetables (cooked is fine), due to risk of the yuck things that can be on them even after washing. There goes my favorite apple salad recipe I’ve made every Thanksgiving for the last 11 years (that I selfishly took off the menu altogether so I’m not tempted, sorry family!).

I am not feeling great, but it still could be worse. I’m hoping that if the chemo is destroying my white blood cells it’s also destroying the cancer cells. I’ll take it if it is. It’s nothing terrible. I’m just achy, headachy, tired and a little cranky.

Yesterday was a really long day, I was slightly nauseous, my appetite was very selective and I had my first broad food aversion day (while at grocery store of all places). I’m hoping a day of doing nothing today will put me back on track.

As of now, I feel like I will be able to eat all the Thanksgiving food (no aversions at the thought of it) so hopefully a good meal will get me feeling better.

As for the hand sanitizer, everyone here will be enjoying second and third helpings throughout the day!

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Triple Negative Breast Cancer

For those of you who have not yet Googled it, or those who did but may not quite understand what it means to be “triple negative”, I hope this post will help enlighten you.

Breast cancer is not a generic disease. There are various known sub-types (and no telling how many unknown sub-types). Currently, one way the disease is classified is based on your hormone receptor status.

There are three common “receptors” known to be present on breast cancer tumors.  The receptor status determines what they want to eat. I’m no doctor, but I tend to think of the receptors as the mouths of the tumor.There are three identified “meals” that breast cancer tumors feast on:

1. Estrogen hormone

2. Progesterone hormone

3. HER2 protein (this is a protein that everyone’s body creates but in some people it can have a mutation and over-express the protein).

When you receive the results of your pathology report on your tumor, it indicates which receptors are found on your tumor. Knowing this information identifies the sub-type of breast cancer and also helps determine your treatment path.

If you are estrogen or progesterone positive (also known as ER+/PR+), there are additional medications (hormone blockers) you can take on a long term basis to help prevent a recurrence. If they know estrogen or progesterone is feeding it,it only makes sense to block your body from creating too much of it. If you are HER2+, there is an additional drug you can take to prevent overproduction of the HER2 protein. This also helps in preventing recurrences.

You can be positive or negative for any combination of these three receptors. Some people are triple positive. Some have one or two but not the others. Obviously, any medications you can take long term to prevent a recurrence is desirable. However, if you are what is considered Triple Negative (like me), you are negative for all three of these receptors. This means no additional medications to prevent recurrence. The medications available are not helpful in triple negative cases.

Triple negative breast cancer is also known to be more aggressive than the other types. That makes it an even bigger bummer that there aren’t additional meds. It also has a higher rate of recurrence and a faster rate of recurrence. From what I have read and been told, it typically recurs within the first two years. And, if it is going to recur, most likely it will be by five years. If you can cross the five year mark with Triple Negative with no recurrence, then your chances of a recurrence after five years are actually lower than those of the more desirable receptor statuses.

So what can I do? There are lots of opinions, but from most of what I am reading, I can use diet and exercise as my “medication” to help prevent recurrence.  I don’t have a link to the study, but I’ve read that a very specific, strict diet (a mostly plant based, close to the earth diet) and 4-5 hours of exercise per week can reduce your chance of recurrence by 60%. I’ll take that. I’ve already implemented the new diet partially, although my chemo diet is a little more flexible than my post chemo diet will be. It can’t hurt right?

When my oncologist first told me she suspected my cancer would be triple negative (before we had pathology results), I asked her to level with me about it being the worst kind to have.  I’d already done the research. I knew what the internet said. It doesn’t sound very good. She responded to me that every type has its pros and cons, and that a best case scenario could be drawn on any sub-type of breast cancer. Since she said that, I’ve tried not to focus on the negatives and instead focus on what I can do to remove it from my body and keep it from ever coming back.

Fist Bumps Only Please

All in all, I am still doing great. The muscle soreness increased yesterday just in my torso, but seems a little less today. I’m still in the “No Hug Zone” – it hurts even to the lightest touch. So if you are visiting, fist bumps only please.

Brent, Becca and Mom have been excellent caretakers. My dad and brother arrive today so no shortage! Plus Melba and Nancy have kept us fed and full.

I have a huge bulletin board in the kitchen with many of the well wishes you’ve sent. Becca of course styled it to the Nth degree. Check it out!

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So Far, So Good

I can’t explain the feeling of waiting for side effects you know are inevitable but they aren’t coming. No complaints here!! It’s definitely helping me stay positive.

As I told a close friend this morning, overnight I began to I feel like I did 12,000 sit ups, push ups and neck somethings yesterday. I have muscle soreness over my entire body. But other than this, I haven’t experienced any other side effects. A little tired but mostly because I’m not sleeping through the night, which is unlike me.

Yesterday I went back to the doctor to receive a Neulasta shot. This shot stimulates your bone marrow to create white blood cells (since the chemo is destroying them along with my cancer cells). I’m told this is the one that makes you feel flu-like, usually about 24 hours after the shot. It can also cause joint pain in your long bones, sternum and hips. Surprisingly, Claritin is prescribed to combat that joint pain, so here’s to hoping it works. Otherwise, I can only take Tylenol.

Thanks for all your prayers, well wishes and support! I know it’s directly linked to how well I’m doing so far. Xoxo

One Down, 15 to Go

I made it! Day one was a positive experience. My nurses and fellow arrow launchers in the chemo room made it a relaxing afternoon of starting this battle.

My amazing family and friends made my experience more comfortable by being by my side constantly, and providing me with all the comforts and necessities for the chemo room.

Tonight I feel ok. I’m a little foggy, mild headache, tired and a space cadet. Otherwise, I feel good.

This photo represents the many bracelets I’ve received and cherish dearly. It’s a regular Christmas morning around here. The gifts just keep coming and I appreciate them all. Mostly I appreciate all the well wishes, positive vibes and prayers! How will I ever thank all of you appropriately?!? Love all of you!

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Ready, Aim…

In a little more than 12 hours, I will begin my first chemo treatment. I am ready. It’s been a long time coming, and I am ready to start launching arrows! It’s weird to say I am excited for it to begin, but I really do feel like chemo is something being done FOR me and not TO me. I need it to survive this.

I am so grateful for all the amazing people in my life…I truly don’t know what people do who do not have support systems like me. I know I am lucky! Even people I don’t know are reaching out to me. It’s crazy and overwhelming, but in a good way.

Please pray…

1. For my caretakers (especially those who have to live with me full time and temp) as I may not always be the best patient!

2. For my doctors and nurses (see #1)

3. That the chemo WORKS in attacking my tumor and any shred of cancer anywhere else in my body

4. That the side effects are not so severe that they have to change my protocol. I want their first choice regimen. If I have to be sick in order for it to work, I can handle sick. I just want to be able to continue on everything.

5. For more research on Triple Negative breast cancer to find the cause, effective medicines and of course a cure

So tomorrow it begins. I’m not sure I will have as much enthusiasm as this girl, but I’m at least humming the tune…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaQdwTsVtCY

🙂