Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I’m Keeping Well

This week I’ve got family staying with me so I’m focusing all my attention on having a nice visit with them. It’s been a wonderful change of pace, new conversations, children and shopping. We were out at a couple of the malls power shopping. I feel really good and all that extra walking can’t hurt either. When I get tired, I spot a chair or bench and sit whilst the gang shops on. I have my smart phone to occupy my time as I sit and wait. It’s all working out just great.

I find my company and especially the kids are bring new life into the house. It’s been a couple of years with just D and me fighting my battle. It’s bringing back just a hint of normalcy. And I kinda like that.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Olivia Newton-John BC Video

Here is a four minute video with breast cancer survivor, Olivia Newton-John who shares tips for women battling breast cancer. She recalls what she learned while advocating for her health.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Upcoming Breast Cancer Conferences

Recently I’ve received info on three breast cancer conferences. Two of them are scheduled for this year and a third is in the spring of 2011. I went to this past spring’s conference in PA and loved it. It was so nice to be with other BC survivors from all over North America.

Canadian Breast Cancer Network (CBCN)

CBCN is having their 2nd conference for young women living with breast cancer, Body, Mind, Spirit 2010: National Conference for Young Women Living with Breast Cancer, on October 29 — 31, 2010, Toronto, ON, Canada. Subsidy is available. For more information please click here.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC)

LBBC is having their annual fall conference, News You Can Use: Breast Cancer Updates for Living Well, on November 13, 2010, in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Subsidy is available. For more information, please click here.

The World Conference on Breast Cancer Foundation (WCBCF)

WCBCF is having their 6th world conference, Transcending the Breast Cancer Experience: A Global Partnership, on June 7-11 in 2011, Hamilton, ON, Canada. Subsidy unconfirmed. For more information, please click there.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chemo Effects are Wearing Off

I haven’t had chemo since August 6th and I’m gradually feeling better as each week goes by. I’m sleeping solid and the fatigue is lessoning. I find my mind is clearer too. I’m more alert and I just want to do more stuff. That’s all working out great because I have relatives visiting all next week.

Yesterday, I stopped in at the Clinic for my weekly PICC line re-dressing. Then I headed over to the Support Center and picked up a brochure of what classes will be running this fall. I will likely join the drop-in knitting group. There are a couple others I may consider. 

My final stop was the pharmacy to pick up a small two pill prescription of teva-amoxicillin; an antibiotic. I’m seeing my dentist next week for a cleaning and exam. The routine is for me to take these pills an hour before the appointment to help me fight any potential infection caused by the cleaning.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cancer and Supplements

Here is a four minute video titled The Scoop on Supplements. Created by the American Cancer Society, it offers helpful information about dietary supplements and addresses myths about their effectiveness at reducing cancer risk.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Lunch with Lance Armstrong

Finally, my lunch with seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. How inspiring this event was for me and 1100 other people. He shared his cancer story … where in 1996, at the age of 25 he was diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer. The cancer had spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. Today he is cancer free.

In 1997, he founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which supports people affected by cancer. In May 2004, Nike and his Foundation launched with the yellow silicone gel bracelet as a fundraising idea. To date 71 million yellow bracelets have been sold.

When I thought of Lance Armstrong, I thought because of his racing background that he must be a real focused, intense person and that it would show in his personality. In fact I found the opposite to be true, he seemed like a very relaxed and easy going guy. I don’t think he used any notes when he spoke.

If you are interested in seeing some pics of the event and hearing the audio of his talk, please click here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Clinical Trial Update

Yesterday afternoon I received a phone call from the Cross Cancer Clinic. I have an appointment on Friday, September 10th with a new oncologist to discuss my eligibility for a clinical trial. The appointment will be about 45 minutes.

In the end, I’ll head home with a consent form that will outline all the known side effects of the proposed study drug. After careful consideration and if I’m still willing to go along with this, I’ll sign and return the form.

Wow, it feels like I’ve moved into another time zone with this.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Planning Things Takes More Effort

I’ve just come to the realization I’m putting way too much effort in planning my upcoming family visit. My sister and niece and two of her grade school kids are coming to town for a visit. They are only staying for 6 days but it all can’t be restaurant food so I thought I’d whip up a couple or three big bowl casseroles and freeze them in advance. I just don’t have it in me to put together a full meal all those days in a row. Besides, I’d rather spend time with them than time in the kitchen.

Anyways, what gets me is how long I thought about this and how early I’m getting going on it to pull this off. I just don’t have the energy to bang this off in a day and half like I used to. Even tho there is only two of us, I started making a list and cleaning up the whole house last week.

I told D, when company is here, each morning he is to put the coffee on first thing because I won’t have the energy to kick off the morning. Once I get a whiff of fresh brew, I’ll be more willing to drag my hini out of bed.

I’m so happy to be seeing the family again.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I Have Another Wart

For most of my life, I’ve felt fortunate to never had trouble with warts. That changed when I started chemo some two years ago. Early last year I developed my first plantar wart. It hung around for about six months and eventually disappeared on its own sometime after I started Xeloda. One of the side effects of Xeloda was intense dryness in my hands and feet. I think that is what killed that wart. Back then I thought to myself, you’d think chemo would prevent these goofy things from growing but in fact the opposite is true, chemo compromises one’s immune system which invites warts to grow. Anyways, I was happy to once again be wart free.

Then last month, I developed this real itchy spot on the top of my right foot. About a week later, up pops this dark colored wart. Just great I thought … most of the time it doesn’t bother me. It’s only when I look at it. But really I wish it was gone.

So this past weekend, I was thinking, I’m in between chemos right now … I could go get some of that OTC stuff and zap it away before my new treatment starts. I jumped on the net to read up on warts. I was disappointed to find that those wart removers could take months to work. I guess I’m stuck with that little devil for now. Tho I’m gonna swear at him every day and see it that sends him packing.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Frank Discussion Between Two Cancer Survivors

I wanted to share with you this very frank cancer discussion between Richard Cohen and Johnathon Alter. They talk back and forth, mostly about Johnathon’s Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis.

Richard is a colon cancer survivor and former senior producer for CBS News and CNN ... Jonathon is a columnist and senior editor for Newsweek Magazine.

Their discussion focuses on Jonathon’s approach and challenges when he was battling cancer and some practical tips he used to fight back.

The video is a two part series titled Winning Against Cancer Pt 1 and Pt 2. Here is the link to both ...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Feeling so Tired

Yesterday about mid morning my nose was running like a tap, so I decided to take a Benadryl. It didn’t take long before I became drowsy so I laid down for a two hour nap. Benadryl effects usually last four hours. A little later I got myself together for my weekly PICC line dressing change at the clinic.

I didn’t feel very energetic for the remainder of the afternoon and I started feeling super drowsy after supper. Later, D asked if I wanted to go for a walk? I said no thanks, I think I’m going to bed. This morning and 12 hours later, I woke up feeling pretty good.

So what could have caused me to be so tired? … well we’ve been experiencing poor air quality since Thursday. Maybe it was the big anniversary do with the girls combined the outing with C and the Benadryl all added together. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cancer Talk over Coffee

Yesterday C, a fellow stage four cancer survivor and I went for coffee to a neat little coffee shop off Whyte Ave. Not only did it have a funky cool atmosphere but it was also a bakery, so we each had a great tasting muffin to go with our coffees. C was looking good and she said she was feeling good too. That was really nice to hear.

We chatted about what we’ve been up to since we last meet; including how we were doing mentally and physically. She said she had a burst of energy and spent the day before at the Fringe Festival with her neighbor. She said it felt so good to be out and about after being laid up this past while. I talked about some of what I’ve been up to … including the coffee group picnic yesterday.

We both felt it was important to have one little something to look forward to so that our minds stay busy and occupied. Next week C is going to the mountain resort town of Jasper and I am going to the Lance Armstrong Luncheon.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Annual Coffee Group Picnic

Yesterday the breast cancer gals got together for our annual summer picnic. Instead of meeting at a dept store coffee shop, we entertained ourselves outside in J’s back yard. It was our 9th picnic in a row and we sure enjoyed it.

Each of the gals brought a little something to eat which made for a yummy combination. Spring rolls, dumplings, wraps, potato salad, pasta salad and yes once again we were honored with one of Erm’s amazing desserts. This time it was a three-layer cake filled with peaches and whipped cream. She said she worked on it till midnight … wow, thanks so much Erm. Once again it was most delicious.

J has a beautiful blooming back yard. Occasionally a squirrel or chipmunk or blue jay would make a visit to sneak one of the peanuts. There were the sounds of squirrels chirping and birds singing too. It was real pleasure to be there surrounded by nature right in middle of the city.

Ari, our mascot was feeling a bit left out, so we gave him an opportunity to romp around a bit too. He was a bit rambunctious but we loved every minute of it.

After dessert, we sat around sipping fresh perked coffee. We talked a bit about when we first met and narrowed it down to the fall of 2000. Officially, our coffee group didn’t start till January of 2001 when our support group at the clinic ended. Wow, that’s almost 10 years now. Just then J’s daughter came home. She was kind enough to take some group pictures of us and then she gave each of us a gift … a beautiful bag of seven healing stones. With these came a handmade card to describe the healing properties of each polished stone. What a thoughtful gift.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Music Video for Cancer

Watch the band called Wideawake perform the song Maybe Tonight, Maybe Tomorrow at Antone's in Austin, TX.

Download the song at iTunes. 
All proceeds benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Have a New Pharmacy

Yesterday I went to pick up a prescription and my long time pharmacist informed me that they would be closing down at the beginning of October. Well guess what? … the closing included not only the pharmacy but the whole grocery store! She offered to transfer our prescriptions and records to their downtown location unless we wanted them elsewhere. Well, we chose another chain much closer to home.

Sometimes I get asked what medications I’m taking. Right now I take Apo-alendronate. I take one pill a week to increase bone density and counteract osteoporosis. The other prescription I have is for Ativan also known as Lorezapan. And I take half a tab maybe once a week to help with sleep. It’s an anti-anxiety pill. 

Other than that, I take the odd aspirin to help with headaches and my trusty Benadryl for allergies.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Weakness – a Vinorelbine Side Effect

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve really noticed the strength in my legs disappearing. Mostly when I go up stairs, say from the basement. It’s like I need momentum going forward but when I put my foot on the first step, I suddenly feel like I weigh 400 pounds. It’s as if I don’t have the strength to move my body up. If D is behind me … he gives me a boost on my butt and up I go. I’m not sure if I like that too much.

And going down is a concern too because I feel out of control and my knees might buckle and down I’ll go. So I use the hand rail to pull me up and slow me down. 

Now that I think about it, a few weeks ago, I remember getting really frustrated because I couldn’t unlock the front door. I stuck my key in but couldn’t turn the darn thing. I know the deadbolt is a bit stiffer than the back door but I just couldn’t turn that key.

I also notice weakness when I pick up a glass of water … now I kinda use two hands at the start so I don’t spill. I thought it was my Lymphedema acting up … guess I was wrong.

Just as a side note I’m not winded or short of breath or anything like that, there’s just an overall loss of strength. Also, even tho I’m off Vinorelbine for a week and change,  the weakness can linger as long as six months.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Shout-out To ~ The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer

Every person’s cancer experience is unique – but common themes along the way provide insights that can help to improve care. This is the idea behind the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer’s new online video series, The Truth of It (www.cancerview.ca/thetruthofit). Developed in collaboration with the Health Design Lab, part of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, The Truth of It features interviews with Canadians diagnosed with cancer who were asked to share their story so others could learn from their experience. By providing candid accounts of the personal impact of cancer, the video series will serve as an educational resource for health care professionals as well as patients, survivors and others with a personal connection to cancer.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Three Bloggers Meet at the Clinic

When Audrey and I had lunch last Tuesday we both mentioned we’d be at the clinic this Thursday and Friday. So it was no surprise when I ran into Audrey yesterday as she was going for her blood work. I sat with her as she waited for her appointment and I waited for my Onc appointment.

We were busy chatting away when a gal came up to me and said, ”Hi Daria, I’m Brenda from the blog.” It took me a second or two but I soon realized it was Brenda from Brenda's Breast Cancer Journey. We met online blogging about our breast cancer experiences. Brenda lives about an hour and half out of town; we’ve never met in person. She said she recognized my unique PICC line cover that I was wearing. I had posted a picture of it on my blog about a month ago. I think that is so funny.

Anyways, I go Brenda, “This is Audrey, she is also a blogger and her blog is called The Journey”. What a lovely coincidence … we went on to chat up a storm. Everything from blogging, to our treatments, to plans for summer vacations. It was a really heart warming time.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Oncologist Visit and Scan Results

First thing this morning I went in for blood work in anticipation of chemo tomorrow. A short time later, I went in to see the Onc to go over the results of last week’s CT and PET scans. So the news is bad … the tumors on my liver have grown larger. Also, there’s a small spot on my spine that wasn’t there before. That needs to be watched. As of today, we are going to stop the Vinorelbine treatments as they are not effective.

So what’s next? The Onc said, we have run out of proven chemotherapy options. We are now going to look at phase one clinical trials. As per Wikipedia … Phase I trials are the first stage of testing in human subjects. And the good news is … there is one trial available that I can try. I’ll find out in a few weeks whether I qualify and get accepted.

How do I feel about all this? I’m thrilled because I’ve dodged the ‘ok doc, how much time do I have left?’ conversation for at least another 4 weeks. 

I’m not ready to give up. I want to keep up my fight

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Received my Lance Armstrong for Breast Cancer Luncheon Ticket

Well it’s official … I received my ticket in the mail. I’m going to have lunch with Lance Armstrong in two weeks on Wednesday, August 25th. Yip I’m just a little bit excited.

Here are some of the details from the LinkPink  website

Tour de France champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong begins his first trip to Edmonton with a noon hour luncheon at the Shaw Conference Centre on Wednesday, August 25. Lance will share his message of leadership, hope and inspiration, followed by a question and answer session. The voice of cycling, Phil Liggett will also be in attendance, serving as Master of Ceremonies for what promises to be a very special and inspirational event in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Prairies/NWT Region. Doors open at 11:00 am, program begins at 11:30 am.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Energy Level is Down

We went grocery shopping yesterday and we weren’t in the store two minutes before I asked D to relinquish the controls of the shopping cart. I needed something to lean on so I wouldn’t poop out. My energy level is down. On some aisles, D was on his own while I leaned on the meat coolers looking for nothing.

When we got to the checkout, I sat on the seniors bench near the front door and let D deal with the cashier.

Throughout the remainder of the day, I spot checked my temperature, it was normal but my appetite was down too. 

This morning I’m still not interested in eating much but then I do have a lunch date with my friend Audrey … I can fill up then.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Chills and Fever after Chemo

Shortly after breakfast I started feeling a bit off and got the chills. So I went to bed and asked D to throw another comforter on top of me. After a couple of hours, I thought … this doesn’t seem to be working so I got up. I decided to check my temperature … sure enough, it was up at 37.5°C. Had chemo last Friday and the Onc said… if my temperature ever goes over 38°C, to call the triage nurse. I’m not there yet.

It’s sunny out …maybe if I go shopping in a hot car that should make things better … right? I went out and realized I forgot to put my lymphedema glove on after brushing my teeth. Darn I thought. I soon realized that I’m freezing in the store. Maybe I’ll leave here and go to the park and sit on a sunny bench. As I was leaving the store, I just about got into a car accident … I just plain old turned in front of someone. My next thought was, I better get home … I’m just too dozy to be on the road.

At home I checked my temperature again… 38.1°C… ek. Ok, I’ll check it in half an hour, 38° … that’s better. Half hour later, 38.5°. Didn’t call the Onc. 

This up and down temp thing went on all day: I started feeling better around 6: had some toast at 7: and I went to bed at 10: still hovering around 38°. 

Woke up this morning feeling a little off …but my temp is good at 35.6°.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What Cancer Cannot Do ~ Video

This seven minute video entitled, ‘What Cancer Cannot Do’ is a University of Florida senior class project. Jared Mauldin and Tana Conner created this video based on a project that touches on the topic of life and what follows it. It focuses on a UF student who recently lost her mother to cancer.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chemo Yesterday

I had chemo yesterday and it went well with just little a bit of nausea. At home, I was gassy and ended up with diarrhea later in the evening. I went to bed my normal time and feel asleep pretty quickly. The nite was broken up with washroom breaks but I woke up this morning feeling pretty good. Even better after a couple of strong joes.

So … I’ve been thinking about all the chemo I’ve had over the years. Friday was my 31st cycle since August 2008…. 20 Taxotere, 8 Xeloda and 3 Vinorelbine … oh yes, back in 2000 I had 6 FEC.

If someone was to tell me this was going to be my future, I would have said no way and probably given up a long time ago. I wouldn’t have believed I was strong enough of a person to go thru all this.

I remember struggling at the half way mark of FEC wondering if I could do the other half, I was so puking sick. Then I struggled with 10 cycles of Taxotere, thinking there is no way I can do any more. Well I was sooo wrong about that.

So here I am, some 10 years later and 36 rounds of chemo in me and I’m ready to do whatever it takes.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Bone Scan

The wait to get in was a bit longer than usual, especially first thing in the morning. The nurse said … how are your veins? Not great I said … I already had two pokes yesterday so real estate was limited. After the hot pack on my hand and a couple of love taps, a vein popped. 

After the radioactive tracer was in, it was another half hour for it to circulate. So while that was going on, I had a warm blanket and a comfy chair and foot rest and my new Smartphone to keep me occupied. 

Next, I climbed in the scanner along with another warm blanket … could have gone to sleep but didn’t. Had to stay still for 45 minutes … on my back. 

After the scan was done, I put my fake boob back in my bra and headed home. I’ll get the results in two weeks. 

I’m back here later today for chemo.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blood Work and CT Scan Today

This morning it was off to the clinic to have my blood work done for tomorrow’s chemo. The good news is that my whites are back to normal. Last week the number was .6 and this week it’s at 3. I am good to go for chemo tomorrow. Next is my CT scan. 

I was not anticipating getting poked ever again because I have a PICC line. To my surprise, the CT gals said it was not a Power PICC meaning it could not be used for CT injections. The nurse said … you got this done here right? I said yes. Apparently this clinic doesn’t use Power PICCs anymore because they don’t have the best blood return. Humfff … I had Power PICC last chemo and all went well for me. Long story short, we had to find another vein for the IV tracer fluid. After a hot towel and a hot pack on my arm, the nurse got a vein… first try… a tiny little poke. The Cross nurses are good.

After that, I gave D a call and asked him to pick me up. It was something like 11 and I still hadn’t had my morning coffee or breakfast. So being on top of the to-do list … we stopped at an uptown Second Cup. We got a nice table outside and had our coffee and muffin. The scene couldn’t be more perfect … sun shining, Daisy dog on my lap, talking with D and sipping coffee … watching the hustle and bustle of the world around us.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Not Called Team CAN For Nothin’

I received an email asking me to do a shout-out for Team Continuum ...

Founded as a not for profit charitable organization in 2003, Team Continuum provides immediate, vital, non-medical assistance to cancer patients and their families. What we do is quite simple, but has a direct, profound effect on their lives.

Team Continuum is honored to be an official Charity Partner of the New York Road Runners. With several hundred entries we are among the largest independent teams in the world-class 2010 ING NYC Marathon. Athletes who did not get in via the lottery or did not register at all can secure their entry by joining the team and registering online at to http://www.teamcontinuum.net/competitor_register.asp . Benefits include coaching, race day gear, and a private pre-race pasta party.

For more information visit our website www.teamcontinuum.net or call 917-595-4168.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Two Mets in Conversation

Yesterday I had a really nice lunch with my friend Audrey from The Journey blog. It was a nice day so we jumped on the idea of an outdoor restaurant. We picked a table with an umbrella right near a wall fountain. It was really quite nice.

We spent most of our time in an honest conversation about where we are now, with our cancers and where we are going. Nothing was off limits. We discussed the side effects of our treatment and cancers, we talked about misconceptions about cancer, we talked about misconceptions about what people do when they are facing death, and everything in between.

Both Audrey and I talked about how fortunate we both felt that pain isn’t part of our daily life. Most of the discomfort we have comes from our treatment regimen. We talked about the chills she was experiencing with her chemo. I could so relate because last year Taxotere gave me lots of chills. We talked about cancer cures that are promoted with no legitimate proof. We talked how we felt uncomfortable when people who hadn’t experienced cancer offered strong opinions and advice.

We also talked about facing death and what we wanted to do with our time left. I think we both felt it was important to have something to look forward to all the time … it might as simple as going for a walk to the local coffee shop or it might be something bigger such as planning visits with the family and such. Often when people are asked what they would do if they faced death … ‘well I’d spent my time travelling’ is what you often hear but in reality, our feelings seemed to be that we just continue with our regular life. We might spice it up with a few more interesting experiences or purchases but it seems we just wanted to spend time with our support system … our friends and family.

Those couple of hours went by real quick. I said to Audrey that I am so glad our paths crossed some two years ago at the Cross Cancer Clinic.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Video: Way too many Young Men also Fighting the Fight

Here is a short music video created by the campers and volunteer staff of Camp Simcha, an overnight camp for children battling cancer. This three and half minute video was their summer music project. Portions of it were filmed in Times Square, NYC.

Camp Simcha is a program of Chai Lifeline. For more information on both click here.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My 10 Year Cancerversary

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in July of 2000. I don’t have an exact date to celebrate because I’ve really tried to forget it all back then. My mammograms have always been in June so by the time I get the results and scans done, it’s usually sometime in July that I get the official word. So long story short … I’ve had cancer 10 years with 2 reoccurrences and the latest being metastatic.

It’s been quite the ride and I’ve gotten to know many brave and courageous warriors along the way. I’m sorry to say too many have passed on. Even my doctor that diagnosed me in 2000 fought her short battle with colon cancer and lost. It’s not fair and it’s not right, as if that makes any difference. We lose so many people to this awful disease. 

I’ve had many ups and downs but I still feel lucky that 10 years later I am here talking about my 10 year cancerversary.