Cancer Free Stories: There is Always HOPE…do not give up!

Perhaps you just “happened” upon my Blog as you were just diagnosed with a late stage cancer and the Oncologist gave you little hope; or perhaps you feel like quitting Chemotherapy because it is such a grueling road.  Please read these women’s stories!

I received these two emails from women over Thanksgiving to tell me their amazing gifts of being CANCER FREE.  Their stories will give you courage, hope and encouragement!  Both of them had very aggressive cancers and were given grim prognoses by their Oncologists.   I KNOW YOU WILL CELEBRATE WITH ME AND THEM AFTER YOU READ THEIR STORIES!!!

from Rozane on November 21, 2012:  (Rozane was diagnosed in late March, 2012 with Stage 3C – Grade 3 breast cancer.  10 nodes removed.  9 cancerous ones.  And two that were inoperable that were cancerous, with veins of cancer into the chest wall.  She is  HER2 +, ER- and PR slightly + – her cancer was very aggressive.)

Dear Denise – I made it!!  My PET/CT scan came out clean!! 
Am beating it, so far.  My oncologist only gave me 10% chance back in April, 2012. At the PET and CT scans…they could not believe what they were seeing.  NO cancer.  NONE left in me.  The tech guy told my husband they were looking at my scans extra hard.  Because they could not believe what they were seeing.

Went into my oncology office for the results and he was shocked.  hahah.  I looked him right in the eyes and said “You were not expecting that, were you!?” and he said no, he was not.  Was a huge shock.  With me he was expecting to keep treating me until the cancer finally over-took me…

They will be checking my tumor markers in blood work every three months and doing regular blood work on me every three weeks (when I go in for herceptin) and then will do another PET and CT scan next summer to see how I’m doing inside. 
I’m scared.  Very scared.  But I’m a fighter and will not give up.  And I’ll do everything I can to keep it away. I’m about to leave for a radiation treatment, my last one, but you have been on my mind so very much and I wanted to get on here and tell you. THANK YOU for all you do.  I hope all is well with you!!  You are in my thoughts a lot!
When I wrote to Rozane to ask if I could include her story in my Blog, this is how she answered:
Hi Denise – Of course!!  Please do let others know there is always hope.  NEVER ever ever give up!  Never.  Fight!  Believe and fight for your life! 
I truly believe that some of my success was giving up sugars.  I read somewhere that 30% of all cancers, including breast cancer, are insulin receptor positive (yet, they do not test for this!!  WHY?).  I feel I weakened the cancer, allowing the chemo drugs to get in there and beat it better.
I gave myself hope and I believed.  I changed my life style on what I ate and I did not give up.  No matter how awful I felt during the treatments.  I remember one time laying on the couch during a chemo week and thinking “This is it..I am going to die right here…..”
I was feeling so awfully bad. I looked up at the wall and there were the photos of my sons and I looked at them and said “I WILL NOT die!  I WILL NOT give up!!”  I was laying there, not even able to move, tears running down my face and fighting for my life. 

from Yolanda on Thanksgiving Day, 2012: (note: Yolanda was diagnosed Thanksgiving, 2011 with Stage 4 breast cancer, also Grade 3 which is the most aggressive Grade)

I am so thankful today for everything God has blessed me with. My family and friends, my health, my education, career and a whole host of other things. God blessed me with some really great news today, something I wanted but did not expect to receive…..I have to share just how good God is….This time last year the day before Thanksgiving, I was diagnosed with stage IV grade 3 breast cancer that had metastasized. This year the day before Thanksgiving I am completely cancer free and God has blessed me and my Family ten fold. I am truly amazed by what God has done for us!!!!!!!

and this followup from Yolanda:

Denise, Thank you so much for including me in your blog. I am a walking talking testimony. This was my second go around with cancer Stage 0 the first time and 4 short years later stage IV. Now that I am cancer free I have learned to embrace life, enjoy it and truly go for what I want in life. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. I recently shocked everyone at my job and went for a management position  that I got and then within a month was promoted again. I have also learned not to take my family or myself for granted, I compliment someone everyday and smile often.

How these stories bring us hope and encouragement!  Thank you, Rozane and Yolanda!!   You have given many the courage to go on and keep up the fight!

Breast Pain Can Be Cancer

BREAST PAIN can be cancer.  A bee sting or stinging feeling in the breast can be cancer.  It may not be.  But it can be.  Every day on my blog, many women find this blog post by Google searching “if breast pain can be cancer” or a “bee sting-like feel in the breast” can be cancer.  It can.  PLEASE read my story.

I try to never live in the land of regret.  But sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep.  Memories of the severe breast pain I had over a year before my diagnosis of Stage 3 Breast Cancer haunt me.  The pain would  sometimes prevent me from falling asleep.  Many nights I got up and googled, “Does Breast Cancer hurt?”  or “Is Breast Pain Symptom of Cancer?”   Every answer I saw from supposedly reputable sources like breast cancer centers and hospitals said pain is not a symptom of breast cancer.  The information I found said it is from perimenopause, menopause, caffeine, cystic breasts, and on and on. My pain would often feel like a bee sting or red hot poker in the middle of my breast.

I did not listen to my intuition and my body.  Life got busy, the pain somewhat subsided, I believed what I read, and I let the mammogram reminder get lost in my pile of paperwork.   Twelve months later, I felt the lump in the same area where I had the breast pain.  The minute I felt it I knew it was breast cancer as tears and terror hit me simultaneously.  And so it began.  Had it been caught a year earlier, I may have been able to save my breast.  I am responsible for that critical error.

I am trying to get the word out – YES, BREAST PAIN CAN BE CANCER!   A recent thread on the discussion boards of a huge website of women with breast cancer asked women if they had breast pain before diagnosis:  http://community.breastcancer.org/forum/83/topic/784732?page=1 .  Over 50 percent said they had and most said they were angry that they had always been told breast pain is not cancer.  Many women described the pain like one or more bee stings that would hit them in the breast in the precise spot where later the tumor was found.

If you were led to this Blog post because you have breast pain, RUN don’t walk to a mammogram. That being said, if the mammogram doesn’t show anything and the breast pain or other symptoms persist, insist upon an Ultrasound and MRI of the breast.  I know it is absolutely terrifying to even read this.  Too many women I’ve met or spoken with had current mammograms and their advanced cancers did not show up.  If you do not have confidence in where you have gone for treatment or consultation, drive to the nearest major breast cancer center.   Over 80% of women who have symptoms do NOT have breast cancer. But if you are one of the 20%, time is of the essence.

Some other symptoms many other women have had include dimpling breast skin, inverted nipples, strange-smelling body odor, itchy breast(s), an unusual rash, and unexplained fatigue.

Listen to your instincts, listen to what your body is saying to you, and keep at it.   I wish I had.

Followup February, 2015:   Every day, numerous women land on this blog post by Google searching bee sting in breast, stinging pain in breast, breast pain, etc.  Many have written to thank me.  A few have been diagnosed with cancer.  Most have not.  Some had other medical issues.  But they have all been thankful they did not ignore the pain. PLEASE seek medical attention!

May, 2015 – My only sibling, my sister, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in April, 2015.  About a month before diagnosis, she started to have severe pain – on and off – in her breast that contained the cancer.

The Many Different Kinds and Stages of Breast Cancer

Before I became a Breast Cancer patient and now survivor, I thought there was one kind of breast cancer–a one size fits all approach.  Well, I did know that some people had mastectomies and others had lumpectomies.  Also, I knew that some had chemo and radiation and others did not.  So was I shocked to find out all the differences of Breast Cancer.

My objective here is to just give an overview.  If you are a breast cancer patient or survivor, these terms are familiar to you.  If you are not, perhaps the information will help you understand the different kinds and stages of breast cancer..

Types of Breast Cancer.  For more info go to http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/types/

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Stages of Breast Cancer  for more information go to:

http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/staging.jsp

Stage 0

Stage 1a and 1b

Stage 2a and 2b

Stage 3a, 3b, and 3c

Stage 4

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Lymph Node Involvement                 http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/lymph_nodes.jsp

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Cell Grades of Breast Cancer  for more information go to:  http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/cell_grade.jsp

Grades 1, 2 or 3

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Estrogen Positive or Negative and Progesterone Positive or Negative  http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/hormone_status/

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Her2Neu Positive or Negative          http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/her2.jsp

Determines if you need the drug Herceptin for one year

I hope this gives a brief synopsis of the many intricacies of Breast Cancer.

Choosing the right Oncologist for you, trusting your Oncologist, and other Oncologist observations

The most important thing I’ve learned thus far in Breast Cancer treatment is you must have the right Oncologist for you.  Sometimes the choice is made for you, and other times you do the choosing.  But whatever way you and your Oncologist end up being a cancer-curing team, make sure it is a good match for you.

How do you find the right Oncologist when you are so overwhelmed with all of the intricacies of a cancer diagnosis?

1)    Start asking other people especially any nurse or doctor friends you may have.   If this isn’t possible, assign someone you know who may be connected in this area to get information on area Oncologists.

2)   When you have your list narrowed down, research the Oncologist.  See where they went to undergraduate school, medical school, where they did their residency, and fellowship.   This is extremely important.

3)  If you live in a small town and your medical resources are limited, consider making an hour or more drive to find someone better qualified.  Even though this is very inconvenient, in the long run, it will definitely have its payoffs.

4)  On your first meeting with your Oncologist, have a list of questions ready for him/her.   If you are not comfortable with him/her for any reason, seek out the advice of another Oncologist.

5)  Make sure they have a positive attitude about the treatment of your cancer.  I have an acquaintance who was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer.  Oncologist #1 told her “Go home, get your things and children in order, and be prepared to go to Hospice”.  She and her mom weren’t buying that answer.  Oncologist #2 said, “Don’t worry, we will aggressively treat your Breast Cancer”.   She began dense dose chemo and within 2 months the metastases in her lung and liver were gone!  She is now 3 years No Evidence of Disease (NED).   What a difference an Oncologist makes!

6)  Along those same lines, if you have a Stage III or Stage IV diagnosis, you visit an Oncologist and are given a bleak outlook for your future, consider making a trip by plane or automobile to a major cancer center like MD Anderson in Houston which is the #1 Cancer Center in the USA.  Here is a list of the top cancer hospitals in the United States by US News & World Report:   http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/rankings/cancer          If you cannot continue treatment there, at least you will have a valued second opinion.   These centers will also recommend places for treatment closer to your home.  This visit can mean your life.   Personally, I know numerous people who are alive today because they made the trip to a major cancer center.

7)   To me, the staff at my Oncologist’s office is extremely important.  The Nurse Practitioners, the nurses, and office staff are also keys to your healing.  A well-trained office staff speaks highly about the care you will receive from your Oncologist.

8)  If you start with your Oncologist, don’t trust him/her, have bad feelings about them, look for another Oncologist.  THIS IS YOUR LIFE!  If your intuition is speaking to you that this Oncologist is not a good match for you, keep looking!

I am extremely fortunate to be treated by Dr. Daniel F. Hayes, Director of the Breast Oncology Program at University of Michigan Breast Cancer Care Center one of the top breast cancer centers in the country.  My confidence in him is 100%.  It makes a huge difference in how I feel about my cure rate.  He is  extremely credentialed.  Plus, an expert in the field of Her2Neu which is a marker in my breast cancer.  He has written countless published research about it.  What pride I have to call him my Oncologist.

Not only do I trust him, but he knows how to handle me emotionally.  When I told him I felt like giving up he said:  “Oh no you’re not.  I will not let you.”

When I told him I have no control over my life, he said with a laugh:  “That’s because I am controlling your life now.”

And when I asked him for an extra week off between chemo drugs he said:  “No negotiations.  But I can’t fault you for trying.”

Then he sat down, held my hand in a doctorly fashion, and told me I was doing far better than I realized, my blood counts were up, I have been strong and courageous, and that he was proud of me and my progress.  Then he made me laugh with a joke!   Here is an Oncologist who knew the right things to say, who cares about my whole person, and not just the cancer.

His responses were right for me.  They gave me more strength and courage to continue on this rugged road.   He instills confidence in my ability to heal and not have a recurrence.  That is priceless.  I want you to have that relationship and feeling of confidence in your Oncologist.  It is imperative!

I am not going to die from Breast Cancer.

I have made up my mind and am determined.

The above line was written on October 23, 2011, one week after diagnosis. Update:  Today’s date is September 1, 2012 – I have now been through Mastectomy with Lymph Node Dissection, have finished 5 months of Chemotherapy, 7 weeks of Radiation, 3 months of Herceptin, due to Herceptin, I had heart damage, so I am on hold while the Cardiologist helps heal my heart, etc.    I can honestly say I still feel the same way as I did when I wrote the first line.   I have made up my mind and am determined I am not going to die from Breast Cancer – at least not in the next 20 years.

I met a woman at Chemo Infusion today.  We started talking.  Her name is Nancy.  Nancy appears to be in her mid to late 60s.  Nineteen, yes 19 years ago, Nancy was given less than 6 months to live by an Oncologist.  Her breast cancer had spread to her bones in multiple places and she was then Stage IV.  She said at the moment she made up her mind that she was not going to die from Breast Cancer.   She changed Oncologists and went to the University of Michigan for treatment.  Her Medical Oncologist became Daniel F. Hayes, M.D., who is also my Oncologist.  Dr. Hayes gave her hope and treatment options.     And she has had alot of treatment, but 19 YEARS LATER, she is still hopeful and going strong!

Check out my new ONLINE STORE:   cropped-cropped-cropped-logofb.jpg

Beyond the Shock

So here it is…the day you get BEYOND THE SHOCK of being diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  It is still hard for me to write those words or say those words.   The sun is out this morning on a beautiful, cool, crisp October day.  It’s a different sun than it was last week.  This sun has promise and hope.  This sun has warmth in the midst of the cold.  This sun is the light.

Today I can see the path ahead more clearly.

I had a dream this morning that I owned a chateau in France.  I got to the house and there were suspended ceiling tile in the living area.  All of them were cracked and kept cracking before my eyes.  I was shocked.  I wondered why I had purchased this house in a foreign country with a cracked and broken ceiling.  So I took a long stick and poked at the ceiling tile.  A whole group of them just fell to the ground.  I was terrified I owned this piece of trash.  What had I gotten myself into, I wondered in the dream?  But then I looked up.  Beyond the broken and cracked and ruined ceiling tile, I had a glimpse, just a glimpse of this gorgeous ceiling.  More beautiful than I could imagine.   A hand-painted vaulted ceiling that was hidden by the hideous ceiling tile.   And then I awakened.

This is the day that there is a slight glimmer of hope.  The day that you can see beyond the horror. And I know today that God has more for me beyond the ugliness, beyond the sky that seems to be falling, beyond the shattered and the broken.  And so it goes….TODAY.

UPDATE:   Check out my new online store:   cropped-cropped-cropped-logofb.jpg

Shopping

So shop therapy always helps.  Prayer and shop therapy.  This is a whole new world…you have to shop for a mastectomy camisole, clothes to wear post mastectomy, the right pjs and robes, a bed square…that’s just for starters.

Then the next shopping will come…hats, wigs, and turbans.

I feel like I landed on another planet.  I don’t know the language or the styles.

And what NOT to get me for Christmas…a T shirt that says One Real, One Fake.

Update:  Check out my new ONLINE STORE

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