Mary Van Duynhoven | CaringBridge

Mary Van Duynhoven

Monday, June 6, 2016
Hi family, friends and co-workers,

Over the past year and a half, I have tried to take control of my health. I joined a program which helped me make healthy eating choices. I started drinking water. I walked for 1.5 hrs a day Monday through Friday. I had lost 20-25 lbs. I looked better, but I didn't feel better. I didnt sleep well, as I also struggled with fatigue.

Approximately two months ago I felt a lump on my breast. It was less than a year from my last mammogram. I wasn't certain it was a lump. I wanted to think it was just a swollen milk gland or something. I wasn't certain I needed it checked, but I made an appointment with my doctor. Unfortunately, my doctor didn't have any opening until a months time. I waited that month. I didn't worry as I wasn't certain anyway.

Meanwhile, I helped my son Charles with their race timing company and while there, I stopped at a health fair. I stopped at the table that talked about cancer. Prior to this I had wondered what a lump would feel like. The booth had a latex or rubbery breast and scrotum in a box. The model was so that the visitor could feel and find a lump. The lump I felt on the breast was what I felt in my own breast. Still, I didn't want to think the worst as there was nothing I could do.

The day arrived and my doctor checked my breast.

Yes, it was a lump. It felt like it was the size of a pea or peanut. Doctor then scheduled for me to get in for a mammogram. A week and a half later, the Mayo Breast Clinic at Mayo (in Mankato) confirmed the lump via a mammogram. They confirmed that it wasn't a cyst and wanted to do an ultrasound-guided biopsy of the lump. This was done and more waiting was needed.

2-days later (May 5) I was diagnosed to have a lump in my breast that was cancer.

i talked with each of our four children (Charles, Arthur, William and Kathryn) and told them the news. Over the next few days my children and their families came down to Mankato to spend time to be with me and each other. I have a great support system with husband, grown children, fourteen brothers and sisters, and many coworkers from MSU, Mankato.

On May 10, my husband Peter, son William and daughter Kathryn, went with me to the consultation and education visit with one of the breast cancer surgeons, Dr. Risty at Mayo Clinic in Mankato. We received a lot of educational information about cancer and the type of cancer, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. According to the mammogram, the lump was less than 2.2 cm which is less than an inch. At this point didn't feel like I had the information to make an informed decision.

In case you don't know about my family's history, but I had a sister who had breast cancer before the age of 50 (48). With my sister Barb having breast cancer at a young age, it made me wonder about genetic testing. With there being sixteen of us kids, our chances of breast cancer was 1 out of 8 which is within normal means. (It is crazy to think that 1 out of every woman will have breast cancer.) Add into this the fact that my dad had prostate cancer and a brother having melanoma, this increases my risk for the genetic mutation. A fear that I had was for the chemo. Barb had died from complications from the chemo. It was more than 20 years ago and even though I know treatments have come a long way, I was and am still afraid.

After meeting with Dr. Risty, i had a few other tests like EKG and a chest X-ray. After my family patiently waiting for me, I had misplaced my wallet. We had left the clinic but came back to search for it. I swore that I had it at one of the appointments, but not the others. It put me over the edge and it was something I could deal with. I cried ;) I tried canceling my credit cards, but that wasn't going well, so I stopped. I figured there was a reason it wasn't working for me, so I was going to wait until the next morning. I worried about identity theft and replacing my IDs. Around 8pm that evening, a technician called me and said that he found my wallet. I immediately went and picked it up. The young man ended up being a friend of our son Arthur. ;) I felt so relieved. I thought it was funny that the possibility of losing my wallet felt worse than the cancer news.

i needed to let my siblings know of the cancer. I didn't want to talk with anyone as it makes me cry. I texted those of my remaining brothers and sisters who I had their phone numbers, and Facebooked message the rest. I had no real answers and didn't want to talk. I let my supervisor know as well as the people I work closely with. I cried some more.

Since Mayo in Mankato had referred me to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, AND I found out that Rochester Mayo was still in my insurance network, I felt it was a sign.

On May 17, we (Peter, William and Kathryn) had a breast consult with a breast cancer doctor at Rochester Mayo. They talked about having a surgical team that will be involved in my treatment plan. During this week, we had several appointments in Rochester. We met with the genetic department to evaluate all cancers in my family. It appeared that I met criteria to have the genetic testing. We are waiting for the results.

Rochester Mayo also wondered about my allergy to penicillin. The test was done, but since I was still taking my allergy medicines, the test failed. We were planning on testing me at another time. I had a lymphe node biopsy. The cancer has spread to minimally my first lymph node.

The following week we got more results back. The tumor was a Grade 3, PR positive, ER negative and Her2 unequivocal (meaning not positive or negative). Knowing the details helps in deciding the best treatment plan for me. We also found out that the cancer is aggressive and fast growing with cancer cells reproducing (Sk-67 at 41.9%). Originally they thought that the cancer probably took five years to form, but they now think that it has developed over the last year.

We had somewhat a week off with the week of May 30, of going to Rochester Mayo with consults, tests and lab work, from Tuesday through Friday. We met with oncology and radiation departments. I met with a sleep center doctor and she guessed that my issue with lack of staying asleep was low ferritin levels. She had me do blood work. We met with the breast cancer surgeon. I probably will have the option of a lumpectomy + radiation or a mastectomy. I understand that the survival rate for both surgeries to be very similar. I don't know what I want to do, but realize that the surgery option does not need to be decided just yet. All the doctors seemed very knowledgeable and personable. I like the facts without any sugar coating. They gave us the options of treatment. It will be chemo first, then surgery, and then radiation therapy. This past week, I had a MRI of my head because I have headaches often. They did a CT scan of my chest, abdomen and pelvis as I have hip and back pain. I was retested for the penicillin allergy and this time the test worked for me AND I am no longer allergic to it! This past Friday, they did another breast biopsy to see if they can get a more accurate reading for Her2 protein. 

I rested over over the weekend. I even slept in. ;)

Monday comes and I am looking for results. No news about the genetic testing yet. MRI shows that my head does not show any tumors or lumps. CT scans display some issues. Doctor O'Sullivan arranged for an oncology evaluation for next Wednesday. I was hoping it was to schedule chemo, but it is actually to discuss the results of the CT scan. Her2 came back as equivocal again. Waiting for the FISH test results to further the equivocal status. I also got the ferritin tests results and it is very low at a score of 10. Strange because I used to always give double red blood cells through Red Cross.

i believe that I may have an infection in my breast. Checking in with my local doctor tomorrow to check it out. There are red circles above the lump and left of the nipple. Maybe it isn't a problem. ;) As I say, this is all surreal.

i am waiting. I am told to be positive as this helps greatly. I cry a little each day, but am strong and positive a great amount of the time. I have filed FMLA papers and called my short term disability company. I will be out intermittently. I am back at work today until the next appointment, test or lab.

I may have confused what test happened when. This has been the longest month of my life. I will update this entry. Rochester Mayo has supplied us with many resources to cope and educate us on my cancer. The wig shop gave me two hats and I even tried on a few human hair wigs that didn't look like a wig on me. ;) I feel very good about going to Rochester Mayo. I also want to say that I believe that everything happens for a reason. I don't always agree or am happy about what happens, but I believe that something good will  happen as a result of my cancer. I have good insurance. I have support and prayers from many! God loves me. He has a plan. I am in a good place. ;)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016
UPDATE: I don't need to have the dental work...yeah! I forgot to mention this earlier ;)

Genetic tests came back today: I don't carry the brca 1 or 2 which is good ;) I do carry a mutation for colon cancer, but only one. Apparently, either mom or dad also carried the gene. Doctor says my siblings should make certain that they have their colonoscopies. ;) Our children and our nieces and nephews should consider have colonoscopies earlier, say maybe 10 years. Dr also mentioned that the nieces should also consider having mammograms earlier too. I will get a letter from the doctors and will email those who want it.

Tomorrow we meet with oncologist for some findings of the CT scan. Peter, William and Katie are going with me to the appointment.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016
just got back from Rochester Mayo. We (Peter, William and Kathryn) met with Dr. O'Sullivan. We discussed the CT scan results. Yes, I thought the worst or at least worse than it was ;) No real worries on chest scan. A couple of 2 mm nodules in one of the lungs. I will need to check in one year. 8 mm aneurysm in spleen, still no worries.

With the biopsy, the results came back that I am Her2 positive the first time rather than it being equivocal. This means that Herceptin will be part of the treatment plan.

Next we talked about when I would be ready to start chemo. ;) Next week will be the target week. I don't see the appointments listed yet through their online portal. There will be chemo education prior and a few tests. I look forward to starting the treatment plan with chemo.

I dislike insurance companies ;) we had the genetic testing done. Company doing the lab work was to work with insurance and if the was any cost to me, they would call me. I received no call, therefore I assumed it was covered. In the mail today is the insurance companies denial letter for the genetic testing and the genetic counseling. Golly, that sucks! I sent a message to the genetic counselor to what's up.

i cried only a little bit today;)

Friday, June 10, 2016
I went to work on Monday through Wednesday. I stayed home on Thursday and Friday because I am tired. Don't sleep well anyway. Received notification that chemo will start next Thursday, June 17 at 11:00am. We are to expect the process to take up to 6 hours. We will have an educational visit prior on what to expect on the chemo. I am told to think of chemo as my friend. I am really hoping that I won't be nauseated or worse yet vomit. They assure me that that have really good drugs now for that so I will count on that. It is best to think I won't be sick, so that I won't be sick.

I plan on going back to work on Monday.

i slept in yesterday and that felt really good. Today I am still tired and have a headache so am home again. Doctors said to rest up for the chemo ;)

Something I may may not have mentioned: when they did the biopsy of the lymphe node, it did contain cancer cells. With chemo first, they are hoping to kill all the cancer cells in my body. The chemo attacks any cells which are quick to reproduce or grow quickly. This is why people lose their hair as it too grows fast.
The doctors believe that the chemo will shrink the lump. Sometimes during surgery, they cannot even find the lump. They still remove the area. This is why the placed the ceramic markers in the lump and in the lymphe node so that they can remove the areas.

there was a suggestion to use sain sheets. I looked it up and found that satin sheets are man made. So, I am thinking I heard or remembered it wrong and have decided to look for silk sheets instead. They really recommended having the satin or silk pillowcases, but I figure if my skin touches the sheets, why wouldn't I want the entire set. ;) I will be reading up about getting ready for the chemo today.

2:25pm
I got a call from the nurse this afternoon. Chemo has been pushed up to Tuesday with blood work and meeting for chemo education on Monday. It looks like I won't be at work on Monday or Tuesday. I am glad the wait is over, yet I am a little scared. ;)

Just received another letter from insurance. They have reversed their decision and will cover the genetic testing. I don't know what amount that they are willing to cover, but it is good news nonetheless;) I don't think it is good to have to worry or be concerned with costs right now. I am just glad that it is a better outcome!

Monday, June 13, 2016
Blood work tests today are all normal. I am ready for chemotherapy tomorrow. I will have the following drugs: pertuzamab, trastuzamab, docetaxel, and carboplatin. CHEMO IS MY FRIEND! My new mantra ;)

I was messaged by the genetics department at Rochester Mayo today and they connected to Myriad, the company doing the testing. My entire genetics is covered 100%. Yes ;)

I received a letter from the sleep doctor and the have now prescribed an iron supplement. I hope to some day to sleep through the night. ;)

Nurses say to expect that I will be out Wednesday and probably Thursday too. Maybe more depending upon fatigue. I am hoping for no nausea or vomiting, no diarrhea or constipation, no headaches, no fluid retention, no neuropathy of fingers or feet, and no pain. I can expect hair loss and fatigue. 

Last night I dyed my small tuft of hair magenta again as this will be the last time and can dye it for a while. When looking at a wig, I plan to continue dying that tuft or possibly have pink extensions.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Chemotherapy treatment went well yesterday! I felt fine throughout the treatment. One small hiccup, when one of the chemo drugs was administered through the IV, I noticed my back hurting and my chest muscles tightening. They stopped this drug and gave me Benedryl and another antihistamine through the IV. Then they started the drug again, and it was fine. The process started at 8:00am and we finished at 3:00pm. I had my own room which each chemo patient had. Treats are available for me and my 2 guests (Peter and Kathryn). Peter even got to take a nap in my bed with me. I didn't sleep, but that was okay. ;)

Now waiting for the side effects from chemo. My temperature was a little higher last night, but well within range of normalcy. I cried a little bit on the ride to Rochester. But, I am fine.;)

New appointments today. Peter and I are traveling back to Rochester today to meet with Gastrointestinal doctor to talk about colon screening. Strange that they have asked me to fast two hours ahead of appointment for a consult. You can understand my slight anxiety when I am not expecting any test. I will prepare for any possible side affects from chemo in case.

More tonight when we are back.;)
 
FATHER'S DAY, 2016
i remember which day it is, but loose track of actual date. Happy Father's Day to all of you Dads! I miss you Dad!

As I said, chemo day was good. The days that followed were and still are, not as rosy. I would say that I have a weak as if my stomach-motion sickness, being pregnant, etc.

As each day passed, I lost my appetite. Tuesday was the chemo, Wednesday we had that other appointment in Rochester and I started not drinking enough water while traveling. I took one of the nausea medicines. I couldn't tell if it was helping. I went and picked up my other nausea prescription. I thought I would stop and walk some in the mall. It pooped me out. On Thursday I ate watermelon, 2 soft over easy eggs, 1/4 English muffin, and some cantaloupe. I drank water too. Diarrhea hit around 3:30pm, and again and again. Imodium is what I am to take for this. More to come.

Vomiting and diarrhea on Thursday. We called the oncologist on call. I need to take the nausea medicines every six hours along with the other kind during breakthrough of symptoms. I sill have a loss of appetite and it is difficult to keep taking pills when my stomach wants me to throw them out, ;(

i am am drinking Propel to help with my electro lights, but any intake is difficult. I had a couple of visitors, friend Maggie and Kathryn and her boyfriend Scott. I am not good company. My body also hurts which I will assume is the side affect of the shot. Wearing leggings help as long as they are not on my stomach. I do believe I am dehydrated, but will work at drinking more. Lots of rest yet for me. I don't know when I will make it in to work. ;(

Peter has been taking good care of me and spending much of his time checking on me. I try not to cry much for I will easily become more dehydrated. I guess this is where the mediation CDs come into play I trying to relax.

i can tell that there are already physical changes to my breast. Chemo is working, I just don't think it has been the best friend ;) no hair loss yet, but if it is to happen, it will be around the 2-3 week marker. We are to meet with an organization on Tuesday in Rochester to look at wigs,but I can't imagine I will be up for it. I do have several hats already. I have a doctor visit with oral surgeon on Tuesday in Rochester. I don't know if we can make it.

It is moment by moment for me. Arthur called ;) I connected with our two sons who are daddies today ;) Kathryn called to check up on me. I am blest to know that I have good friends and family who care and love me. THANK YOU,

Monday, junesomething, 2016
Brother Mike came and visited me at my home. No other reason but because he can and loves me;)

i sent an an online message to my Oncologist's nurse, Ann. They have given me a different nausea medicine. I am reminded to stay away from raw veggies or fruit as they have a lot of fiber and can irritate diahrea. I feel somewhat better already. I took a bath and our bedsheets are all clean.;)

Ann canceled my appointment from tomorrow and rescheduled it for Friday. I think I will be up to it by then. We will visit the wig place too.

i know know why I gained 10 lbs prior to chemo because I gave into cravings. I stepped on the scale and I have lost those 10 lbs. 

Sometimes I get things wrong. The shot I got was to stimulate white cell growth. It does bother my legs, some but it isn't a constant pain.

Time to rest again. Yes, Peter has been here every step of the way with me;) as well as my children, brothers and sisters and a large group of friends supporting me and praying for me. I might just cry a little less today;)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016
I have been feeling better this week. I am eating more and I am not nauseated anymore. 

I went to work yesterday and today for four hours each day. Today was better than yesterday when talking about energy level. I plan on working half days for the rest of the week.

I don't believe I mentioned it, but for the first two weeks, my mouth felt as if it was burnt from the inside. Do you know what it feels like to sunburn your lips? This is how my mouth felt, but on the inside. During the first week I tried to brush my teeth with my normal toothpaste and did that ever burn! So, for the majority of the first two weeks, I used baking soda to brush with. It is a common side-affect for things to taste differently and that my mouth was very sensitive. Let's say that the baking soda tasted like crap. This third week I have switched back to my toothpaste. ;)

I have gained back most of weight I lost over the past two weeks. I will need it to help me cope with the next chemo. The next chemo treatment is Tuesday, July 5. Everything will start again. I am hoping to be more proactive taking the nausea medicines this time.

In some ways I am still in denial. I thought that maybe I won't lose my hair even though a high percentage do. Tonight I noticed that I am starting to lose some. ;( I cried some for that. Other than my pale complexion, there was no real outer sign of the cancer. There is no denying it now. Bummer! I can't find a nice pink wig ;) 

July5, 2016
Chemo day was good. The treatment took less time (4.5 hrs.) than the first treatment (7 hrs). I have blood tested each time before treatment and we met with the doctor to talk about what complications I had the first treatment. The second treatment I was more proactive on taking the medicines on a regular bases.

Nausea was less last week. Only one real day of diarrhea. No vomiting ;)
Hair started falling out exactly at two weeks after the first chemo. Last Tuesday, on Chemo day, we cut my hair to 1/2 inch. This last Saturday, my hair was coming out in clumps. We cut it down to 1/8 inch and I can.t say I like it. ;( I plan on wearing hats for a while. I do see that my mouth actually got sore not the week if chemo, but five days later. I am fatigued, but sleep better than I have in a while.
I went to work today for half of the day. The heat and humidity outside was the worst. I work with caring and kind co-workers which is a bonus!!! They have supported me in many ways and I feel blessed.
It will be day by day, week by week. Two treatments down four more to go before surgery.
I have many who are supporting me with prayers and deeds. THANK YOU!

Wednesday, July 20
Somedays are better than others. I have a more difficult time staying hydrated. If I travel, it is more of a challenge to drink enough. I never know when some food will give me diarrhea.

Spending time with my grand daughter this past weekend felt good. Seeing and spending time with my family as we saw son Arthur and his girlfriend Merel off was special. I miss my babies and their babies. ;)

My friend and hair dresser highlighted my wig. I have my pink highlights too! She did a great job! Thank you so much Tiffany!

Last week Mayo Clinic and American Cancer Society put on a Look Good, Feel Better class at Mayo cancer center. It was very nice. My favorite hair extraordinaire Tiffany led the class along with Ashley, both with Indulge Salon. They did a really nice job. Hopefully, I will remember how to draw in eye brows when the need arises. ;) The class and supplies were appreciated!

Recent short hair, the heat, and wearing hats (I think) have contributed to something like zits on my scalp. Patches of them. They itched, I scratched. I found that Epsom Salts with Eucalyptus worked the best on soothing these spots. My head is feeling better than it has felt during the last week.

Monday, August 1, 2016
Went through the third session of chemo last Wednesday. It went fine as always. Saturday and Sunday was rough on me. My appetite and desire to drink is greatly diminished. Fatigue and diarrhea have increased, but meds are working better. Good news is that I am half done with chemo.

Peter is taking good care of me. I don't know if I could do all that he does for me if he was in my shoes. ;) Today is our 35th Anniversary. Sometimes it seems longer ;) sometimes shorter ;)

Thursday, August 18, 2016
Chemo was yesterday and it went fine. I battled with diarrhea right before seeing the oncologist and for the first few hours of chemo. I hadn't realized eating too many can give you gas and diarrhea ;(

My sister Marie spent the afternoon with Peter and I during chemo ;) It was great to have her there. The chemo facilities at Rochester Mayo is very nice. We all have our own rooms with movies to watch. Since the chemo can take up to six hours each time, I have watched most of the movies.

I plan on documenting my food better so I can see what foods are bothersome for me. I feel off today, so I will need to keep better hydrated. Thus is the part of the cycle where my appetite lessens and I don't feel like drinking anything. It is a challenge ;)

Next Thursday I meet with the surgeons assistant to talk about my choices for surgery. I still have questions, so I don't know what I want to do.. I know that I don't want to go through this again. Now this will be on my mind until I make the decision. Whether I will need radiation will also determine my choice. Not crying will also be a challenge.

All in all, the chemo is working very well. The lump is now only a slight thickening on my milk duct which is really a great sign. Yes, chemo is my friend. The side affects suck. It is definitely a journey I won't forget.

I worked this past Monday and the week before as we had an important event at work scheduled for this Friday. It was tough, but I made it through it. I have a great supervisor and colleagues who will complete the set-up and run the day.

I feel off today, so will go back to bed. Peter is taking good care of me. I have to imagine that being a caretaker is challenging.Thanks everyone for your support, care, prayers and love!

Thursday, September 1
I had a few appointments today in Rochester. FYI: I found a lump in my healthy breast over a week ago. I had an ultrasound of breast today and it is only a fatty cyst. I had a echocardiogram of my heart to see if there is any damage from chemo or chemo drugs...looks like my heart is doing fine. Report to come in a few days, but I am not worried.

Surgery has been scheduled for October 27.

Fifth chemo treatment is on Tuesday, Sept. 6. I have been working this week. It is tiring, but so is resting or watching movies. :) In general, I look better than I feel, but nausea and diarrhea are a challenge.

Thank you to all for your support, love and prayers. :)

Sunday, September 25, 2016
My last chemo is this coming Wednesday with the blood work and meeting with Oncologist on Tuesday. I am looking forward to the chemo being over as I don't like to feel sick much of the time. I went to work this past week. Monday was the hardest day, but the rest of the week went fine.

I don't have any different news, as each treatment cycle is similar to the last. Challenges are nausea and diarrhea. I think I typed the wrong surgery date as it should be Thursday, October 28.other appointments prior to surgery: x-rays of my lymph nodes, another with breast surgeon and then another appointment with plastic surgeon. I am hoping that I will not need radiation, but when in surgery, they will check them out.

This has been a long journey so far, which can take up to a year. Summer sped by!

THANK YOU ALL for thinking of me in your thoughts and prayers. :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Peter and I met with the breast surgeon a week ago yesterday and we met with the plastic surgeon yesterday. Chemotherapy worked wonders on the breast lump, reducing it to less than half of the size we found it. Good news! We are all getting ready for the surgery next Thursday. I know that the doctors will do the best that they can, so I am not worried. I have had general anesthesia before without any difficulties and there is a team of doctors working for me. I have had many friends and family praying for me too. Our two oldest children, Charles and Arthur, will be with us the evening prior and on the day of surgery as well additional time with us home in Mankato. I am expecting to stay one evening in the hospital. I look forward to having this second phase of treatment getting done. (Chemotherapy is done, but I have 11 more IVs of Herceptin spaced at three weeks apart which I am planning on doing locally.)

Thank you for thinking about me. :) I will try to keep you updated how the surgery goes next week. :)

Saturday after surgery,
Surgery went well. Doctors were happy with their work :) I slept better last night than I have in a while. Kind of tough to sleep only on my back. I feel okay as long as I don't move. :) pain meds from surgery will wear off on Monday (Halloween) so that day should be the biggest challenge. Peter and Arthur have learned to take care of some medical maintenance things. There was only a scar where the lump was in my breast. There was still cancer cells in my lymph nodes, so the doctor took several out. Pathology report results on Monday. Otherwise, I am resting and healing. Peter and all of our children have all stepped up and have helped me or around the house. Thank you all for your prayers and well wishes! The worst is definitely behind me. :)

Wednesday, November 9
I had a few appointments yesterday in Rochester. Thank you to son Arthur and his partner, Merel, for driving. The most important was with the Radiation Oncologist. I was really hoping to not need radiation therapy, but it appears that from chemotherapy, I did not have a complete response. This means that even though the chemotherapy reduced the breast lump to a mere scar, it didn't do anything to my lymph nodes :( With this said, I can have photon therapy here in Mankato, or consider the proton therapy in Rochester as part of a clinical study. The latter is whether or not my insurance will approve thus and cover costs. I have asked Rochester Mayo to start the request now. Then when my body is able to start this phase if treatment, I will know my course. It is very possible that cancer cells have spread to other lymph nodes like in my chest and else where.

It has almost been two weeks since my surgery. I still have drains in to remove fluid. These are producing less fluid and it is my hope that they can be removed before long. I sleep only on my back which I find challenging. I don't see much signs of hair growth. I guess this is a long journey! I will let you know what comes of the clinical trial.

Friday, November 18
I had a few appointments these past two days. I received the denial letter from the insurance company for the proton therapy. I am asking the radiology oncologist to write an appeal. I truly believe that the proton therapy is better because it is more focused and has less scatter of radiation which can use less harm to the heart, lungs, and throat.

I have asked for a PET scan and it is scheduled for next week. This way we can see if there is cancer elsewhere. Since lymph nodes are connected like a string of lights, it is possible that the cancer has the potential to spread. It won't detect microscopic cancer cells. I see that there is fasting for this test. I will also have bloodwork work done on this day.

I still have two drains which are producing too much liquid so i have been instructed to move and do less so the incisions have a chance to heal. I cant start any radiation until the drains are taken out and i can lift my arms over my head.

I will try to keep you posted. :) Happy Thanksgiving next week.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I hope everyone had a good Christmas and New Year's. There is a lot to catch up on.

There were some minor complications after surgery: there was a liquid filled sac along with fluid collecting on the other side. Both areas were diagnosed and aspirated. Movement was much better after aspiration.

I went back to work on December 12 with time off for various appointments. We were waiting for final hope of approval from insurance company, but we got our final denial shortly before the New Year. This meant that I would start the traditional radiation therapy in Mankato. Yesterday, I went in to be mapped for the radiation treatment plan. I now have to wait for the radiologist to call to say that they are ready and we can schedule the treatment.

I get Herceptin IVs every three weeks through June of 2017. Sometimes I am stuck 2 or 3 times before a good vein is found. It is a reflection of my veins and not the ability of the nurse. So, today the CATH Lab placed a PICC line in which could be used for the IVs, as well as for drawing blood. What I didn't know that it meant that I have to go in weekly to get the line flushed with saline, meaning I have to go to the Cancer Center every week.

Not much is new really. I feel good and it is nice to be back at work. I hope the next phase with radiation is non-eventful.

Thursday, June 22
Radiation treatments went fine. 5 weeks of daily treatments. My skin didn't react until 1.5 weeks after I finished. I was given silvadine to cover the sores. I didn't ever think that it will heal, but it does. Remember that pic line that went in? It wasn't in place even a month as my skin was not liking it. So much for trying to be kind to my shy veins.

I had a few scares along the way, but the tests confirmed that the other aches and pains weren'tn't cancer. My cancer grew very quickly, less than 12 months so I can't help to be a little nervous. I received the majority of my treatments in Rochester, but I had the radiation done in Mankato. I will never forget the great and caring radiology nurses/staff. After my treatments I would go to the mall and walk. Okay, I did shop on occasion.

The Monday following the last radiation therapy, I went back to my plastic surgeon's office to have the left tissue expander refilled. They over fill the tissue expander because the right side needed the radiation. The overfilled one would ache if I layed on my right side. I patiently waited to have the left side filled, but the tissue expander had flipped and they couldn't refill it anymore. I was walking around with one flat tire and a melon. It wasn't the end of the world, but there is only so much a person can take.

At the end of April Peter and I went to the Netherlands to visit a new grand baby. All I needed was to hold her. We would try and help however we could. Within the first week, I tripped and twisted my foot, scraped my face along with my glasses, and skinned my knees. It could have been worse. Oh, before the end of our visit, I got impetigo on my face. Going to the doctor there was $27,25 euros, which may be cheaper than my copay here in the US. I finally got that under control. I was back at work full-time. Fatigue would hit from time to time, so I will just stay home when I need to.

When we got back home, I swung my 50 lb. Suitcase up on my bed. Of course, I ended up with a pulled chest muscle. It would feel better after a couple of weeks and then I would do something that would make it hurt again. I couldn't get into my primary doctor, but was able to get into her colleagues. Yep, a muscle strain. Doctor gave me naproxen for the pain. Within the first few days of use, my bottom lip swelled up and I got a rash. An allergic reaction to naproxen.

This past Monday, I had breast reconstruction surgery. It seemed to go well enough. The surgery was two hours, plus time to prep and then in recovery. I don't remember talking to my surgeon afterwards. I have questions yet, but I will be seeing them next week. Of course, I have been experiencing an allergic reaction to something. I am wondering if is to the disinfectant used to clean my skin which was overlooked after surgery. The red, itchy areas feel worse than the surgery. I did take a shower today and I got whatever I could off my skin. Something that I thought was interesting is that plastic surgeon wanted to do some fat grafting for the transitions from implant to chest. I am wearing a compression bra which I was instructed to wear along with a binder around my abdomen. These things are pretty uncomfortable.

I am supposed to look at the incisions daily and watch for signs of infection. I couldn't help but admire the great job the plastic surgeon and his team did.

I apologize for not keeping my story up to date. I guess it is easy to tire of the entire situation. I am technically cancer-free. I will be on an estrogen-suppresant drug for 5-10 years. I finished the last of the Herceptin IVs. Only a bone strengthening IV every six months.

I haven't talked about my hair much. It took 8 months before it started to grow! No hair on my head made me cold. At first the hair was very soft and light like a duckling. Then it was thick and looked like a perm. :( My hairdresser was able to trim my hair so it would look better. I have dyed a patch of my bangs pink again and soon it will be time to dye it again.

I feel lucky that basically, everything has turned out okay.

Once I heal, I will be looking to find my new normal. Thank you for your support, love and kindness over this past year and a half!!!

Sincerely, Mary Cecilia

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