Thursday, March 31, 2011

End of March Already?

Sorry for such a long time between posts!  Ever since my last chemo, I’ve felt sick, tired, and worn-down to the extreme.  I think that I'm finally feeling the cumulative effects after 4 chemo treatments. Besides that, it went smoothly and I even had some visitors: K, E, Aunt G, Barry, Ryan, and my mom, who stayed overnights with me again.  Aunt G helped out by driving me home afterwards, and K made me chocolate covered strawberries!  (Noticing a pattern with that?  Looove it!)

Last week I got tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.  It was a simple blood test (well, now I think it’s simple because my picc line requires no needles!) but I won’t get the results back for a few weeks.  I am very anxious to find out whether or not I have these genes.  Women who test positive have an 80% of developing breast cancer during their lifetime, are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age, and often have triple negative breast cancer.  This already describes me.  However, I am still hoping to test negative for the gene mutations, because that would mean that I can’t pass it on to my children, my chances of recurrence would be lower, and I would only have a 1.5% risk of ovarian cancer.  If I test positive, I would have a 45% risk of ovarian cancer, and would most likely need to have my ovaries removed (oophorectomy) sometime in the near future as a preventative measure.  Which, of course, brings up the whole issue of having more kids.  Its amazing how cancer manages to make every aspect of your life extremely complicated.

Last Sunday night, I had a scare with a fever that was close to 103 degrees and ended up in the ER.  Remember last time this happened I ended up being in the hospital for 2 weeks with those infections?  Well thankfully, my fever broke this time, and they just sent me home with antibiotics.  They did find that I was neutropenic, which means that my white blood cell count is low, making me very susceptible to infection. (This is even after all of those shots they gave me throughout the past couple of weeks to boost my white blood cell count!)  Honestly, I feel like I am neutropenic more often than not these days.  I can tell by the sense of weakness in my body that used to get better after a while, but now it just seems to stay.  I have still been making a conscious effort to avoid crowds. 

I haven’t felt myself this week, probably for a combination of reasons.  I think that it is partly due to my terrible sleep patterns and partly due to the weather.  I have never liked the cold, and especially not now that it makes the deepest part of my bones ache even more.  The only thing that I will miss about winter is being able to wear my soft, warm, comfortable hats!  I also feel sad lately that I am missing out on a lot of (social) things that I am unable to do while I’m sick.  I hate that it is risky for me to go anywhere, because I am like a magnet for viruses/infections.  I hate that I can’t just do things normally, even when it comes to taking a shower!  My picc line can’t get wet, and my open wound still hasn’t healed (and it probably won’t for a while, because chemo doesn’t really allow it to).  So, this is what a shower has to look like for me:  1. Wrap my arm and picc line tightly with saran wrap and tape both ends.  2. Place plastic sleeve over it for extra protection.  3. Wash my face, neck, shoulders, and arms in the sink.  4.  Use hand-held shower head to wash the rest of my body, while holding my right arm out of the water, and being careful around my wound.  5.  Clean, pack, sanitize, and cover wound.  The good news?  I don’t have to spend 25 minutes blow-drying my hair anymore.

Despite all of the extra things I have to do for my picc line (in addition to flushing it each day) it still has managed to become half broken.  I was supposed to try to get it fixed today, but since the nurse had a personal emergency, I am getting it done tomorrow morning.  I really hope that it works because I need the picc line for 2 more chemos!  (And I want to avoid using my veins if at all possible).   

I read somewhere that “It’s not what happens to you, its how you react to it.” We are responsible for our own happiness inside, even when we can’t control what happens on the outside.  I can honestly say that even in the middle all of these frustrating things, I am happy with who I am and all that God has given me in my life.  I am blessed and favored in the eyes of God.  If I notice that I am feeling down, I am going to do something to change what I am thinking and how I am acting.  You have to be able to know yourself enough to know what makes YOU happy and then actively pursue it!      

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patty's Day

How To...

Spot a....

Grouch! Oh no, where did my happy baby go? 

...there he is!
[mommy's little leprechaun] xoxo

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Perfect Pets- Lucky's Birthday

We are celebrating Lucky because he is 4 years old today!  We got Lucky in 2007, when he was a little black furball that fit into the palm of my hand.  He was only one pound!  People would ask me, “Is that a dog?” because he looked more like a guinea pig or something.  We took him on walks throughout the busy streets of Georgetown/DC, which is probably why he now loves to meet people.  Lucky is confident, intelligent, stubborn, and picky.  He likes to spend time on top of pillows and comfy blankets.  He begs for human food any chance that he gets.  He can “come”, “sit”, “down”, and “paw”, but is not potty-trained (or at least not very well!)  He is very protective of everyone in the family, and he likes to act like he is a big dog.

Lily is a 2 ½ year old white bundle of fur.  When we first got her, we took her outside in the snow, and now she absolutely loves snow.  She had tummy troubles when she was a puppy, but she has been doing better lately.  Lily is sweet, loving, insecure, and easily jealous.  She is scared of unfamiliar people, and usually barks at them.  She will eat anything off the ground, even if its not food.  She likes to spend time behind the couch or under the bed.  She is well potty trained, but doesn’t do any tricks.  Lily likes to follow Lucky around and imitate him.

Both dogs are completely obsessed with my mom, they compete with each other for her attention!  They are both playful, and no matter how much you play with them, they still want more!  They both love “treats” and to cuddle in your lap and give you kisses (licks).  Today, both Lucky and Lily got to enjoy getting their their hair cut and styled, nails clipped, and a hydro-massage bath!  Here are the results:

The newest addition to our household is Fishy.  He was a gift from Aunt S when I was in the hospital a few weeks ago.  We feed him twice a day since I’ve been home and he just swims around in his little tank.  I’m excited that he is still alive!

Every creature, no matter how big or small, is a miraculous life.  We try to treat our pets like part of the family, because I really feel like they are.  I’ve heard before that animals don’t have souls, but I disagree!  We have a special emotional connection with our pets, and many times Lucky will comfort me when he knows that I am sad or sick.  I believe that pets do have souls, and that the pets that we lose will be in heaven waiting for us. =)  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Doctors & Updates

Today was a day full of doctors appointments, and I have been going on exactly one hour of sleep.  Lately, I have been experiencing more insomnia than usual.  They say that chemo can actually make it worse.  I didn’t even know that “worse” was even possible, in my case!

At the doctor today, I found out that my white blood cell counts are finally back to normal (yay!) so that means that I am good to go for chemo #4 this Friday!  I’m glad that we are sticking to the original schedule, which will have me finished with chemo treatments by May.  My goal is to relax/recuperate my body in May, so that I will be ready to face my surgeries starting in June.

Such a nice day for a walk... I'm so glad that spring is on its way!
In the past, I was the kind of person who was super thirsty at any given moment, and I drank tons of water without even thinking about it.  If I wasn’t feeling good, water always made everything better.  I usually drank even more than the recommended 8 glasses a day, just because I knew how good it made me feel.  I would never drink sodas, or anything else, because nothing tasted as good to me as plain old water.  But ever since I’ve started treatments, I haven’t felt very thirsty.  I even forgot to drink water on some days.  This is really bad, because my body needs all the water it can get to avoid dehydration and to get rid the toxins.  I feel so dumb for forgetting to take my own advice!  As of this week, I am making a conscious effort to drink as much water as possible every day and to get as much exercise as possible (on the days that I can handle it.)  The other day, Barry and I took Ryan and the dogs out for a walk around our neighborhood.  I could just feel my body getting stronger!  I can’t wait to get back into a normal workout routine when chemo is over.  Exercise really does have so many benefits, including bringing out endorphins and making you feel happy!

Ryan had his 6 month check-up today, and the doctor says that he is doing great!  He seems to be hitting all of the milestones on time and his happiness and personality just shine through.  Here are baby's stats:

       Weight:  14 lbs  8 oz  10th percentile   Mommy’s little peanut, but he has a very healthy appetite!
       Height:   26 in   50th percentile   I still have a feeling that he’s going to be tall!
       Head Circumference: 17.25 in   50th percentile   Hmm, okay.  Fine with me!

My mom also had her own appointment today: to get another PET scan to see how her liver is doing.  We know that the radiation procedures that she had in December and January have helped her, but this will show us exactly how much.  Please keep my mom in your hearts and prayers, as she finds out the results tomorrow.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I Have a 6 Month Old!

Baby Ryan's First 6 Months from Dana Wicker Lieberman on Vimeo.

My sweet baby boy Ryan,

I will always remember your newborn cry and your little chin quivering at the hospital when I saw you for the first time.  You had a full head of hair and a perfect angel face.  I remember thinking, how do I deserve such a blessing?  You are a precious gift from God.  Watching you grow and change every day has been my greatest joy and fulfillment in life.  I am so proud to be your mother and I get so excited about any little thing that you do.  I love kissing your sweet gummy baby mouth, holding your tiny hands, and watching your strong little legs bend and kick.  You are such a wiggle worm these days!  I treasure every stage of your life that you let me experience with you.  Thank you for letting me love you completely and unconditionally.  Happy Half Birthday!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Be Your Own Advocate

Before I was diagnosed, I remember fully being “aware” of breast cancer and the importance of supporting research and giving yourself monthly breast exams.  The problem for me was that I had so many fibroadenomas (harmless breast lumps) that I almost expected to find them after a while, so I never really worried that it could be actual breast cancer.  I’ve always had surgeries to have the harmless lumps removed (just to be on the safe side) but I trusted the doctors when they said that I had no reason to worry.  Only 1 out of every 100,000 breast cancer patients are in their twenties.  The doctors told me that:

1. Having fibroadenomas does not raise the risk of developing breast cancer
2. I was too young to have breast cancer
3. I was not of a race/demographic group expected to develop breast cancer
4. I should wait and see if the lumps grow over several months before doing anything about them
5. Breast lumps during pregnancy are normal and expected

Although these statements may be true for some, they were NOT TRUE for me!  
And in all honesty, they may or may not be true for you.  Please do not take the risk of letting a cancer grow in your body.  My advice is to do your monthly breast exams and if you feel a lump, have it surgically removed or at least biopsied, as soon as possible!  

Do not assume that it is harmless because statistically, you are “safe”.  Do not wait a few months to see if it grows.  Those few months could be the difference between a Stage 1 (extremely treatable) and a Stage 4 (metastasized) cancer.  Do not believe anyone who tells you that you are too young for cancer, regardless of your age!  I am 26, but I have talked to girls that have been diagnosed as young as 23.  Anything is possible, and by taking the extra precautions, you are ensuring that you won’t have to go through mastectomies, chemotherapy, radiation, or even dying young.  Be your own advocate, because nobody else is going to do it for you.  If I had listened to the doctor who told me to wait a few months, my cancer would have been at a Stage 4 by the time it got taken out.  By insisting to that doctor that he listen to me and take it out immediately (against his own advice), I essentially saved my own life.  Mine was caught at a Stage 2, meaning that it didn’t spread anywhere in my body beyond my breasts.

Yes, it is hard going through my treatments and knowing that I have a long road ahead of me with surgeries, but afterwards, I have a second chance at living my life!!!  A lot of people don’t have this wonderful gift.  Think about all of the people who die tragically in accidents or natural disasters.  I pray that God heal the families of the tsunami victims in Japan and anywhere else that those are suffering.  The thought of those people’s lives being taken from them so suddenly… deeply saddens my heart.  It shows how anyone’s life can be changed in a single instant. 

I am so thankful for the advances that have been made in breast cancer research over the past decades.  We have come such a long way, but we still have not found neither the cure nor the cause of this and other types of cancer.  I am baffled at how technologically advanced our society is, but how cancer remains this terrible mystery, in spite of all the time and money put into research for it.  Which do you think will come first, the cause or the cure?  I sure wish we knew either one!

I read something very disturbing online the other day. A girl wrote, "Sometimes I wish for breast cancer so that I can go through chemo, get skinny, and then get a boob job.”  Wow.  I can not believe that someone could be so stupid/na├»ve.  First of all, what cancer patients go through is a gazillion times worse than being fat or having small boobs (trust me!)  Second of all, not everyone gets skinny from chemo; some people actually gain weight.  And, when you’re this sick, it doesn’t look good or feel good to be this skinny (again, trust me!)  Third of all, a mastectomy with reconstruction is not at all comparable to a “boob job”.  It is major surgery that is complicated and very difficult to recover from (from what I hear, and will soon know).  I don’t understand why the girl doesn’t just diet/exercise.  She should check her priorities and realize her health should be at the top of the list, not shallow appearance.     

I found this video on Youtube that I think is so funny/cute and great for breast cancer awareness.  Just to remind everyone to (as they say) “Feel Your Boobies”!

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I’ve loved playing dress-up for as long as I can remember.  When I was little, I had a whole box full of special “fashion” pieces, including boas, clip on earrings, tiaras, and puffy skirts.  When my friends came over, we would dress up in these outfits and play pretend.  We especially liked to pretend that we were movie stars.  Then, in high school, I always looked forward to spirit week, when I could dress up in silly outfits each day according to the theme.  In college, there was always a sorority/fraternity event to dress up for.  And then, being an elementary school teacher, I always made sure to participate in wacky day. every. single. year.  In fact, I never understood why they only had it once a year.  I absolutely love Halloween, for the sole purpose that I get to dress up in a costume/wig and go out and see everyone else looking crazy too.  So much fun!  And I’ll let you in on a little secret:  I still have a huge “dress-up box” that takes up most of the space under my bed… to this very day.  So if anyone ever needs to borrow an outfit/costume, I’m your girl!

Now when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, one of the first things they told me was that I would be losing all of my hair.  Of course, I couldn’t imagine what that was going be like, so I prepared for the worst.  I figured that I would be scared to look at myself in the mirror, and that I would never feel pretty again.  It turns out that losing all of your hair isn’t really devastating… its just annoying!  I feel annoyed to have to keep something on my head all the time (a bald head gets cold), but it definitely isn’t as horrible as all of the other things about chemo.  In fact, I’ve actually been able to think of this time as a few months of playing dress-up.  So, I picked out a few wigs and scarves that I think are fun, and I coordinate my outfits with them.  Sometimes I end up looking not quite like myself.  Its like playing dress-up every day!  Except, of course, on the days that I feel really sick.  Then I just put on a sleep cap or something.

My bald head without any hair on it!  I bet most people
can't say that they've seen this... except for maybe the
day that they were born (if then)! 
Last picture with my real hair. This is the day we went to get it chopped off, because it was shedding so much.

The first wig that I picked out, I nicknamed the “Hannah Montana” Wig 
It's long, blonde, and close to my normal hair, but not exactly.  
It’s a little more thick and puffy, like Hannah Montana lol.


This is the “Other Mother” Wig  
because I’m not sure if Ryan recognizes his mommy in this one!  
I got it because I just felt like something different!

If all else fails, I could always put on my blue
“Katy Perry” Wig from last Halloween!

Here are some interesting wigs that I wore when I was modeling, back in college.  
Can you tell which pictures are of me?

Monday, March 7, 2011

I'm Halfway Done with Chemo!

After two long weeks in the hospital, I’m finally home and can check Chemo #3 off my list!  

I’m hoping that things will calm down now after my traumatic hospital experience.  But as a result of it, I now have extra things to worry about and do each day to care for my infection wound, picc line, and blood clots.  I guess they never said that it would be easy.  I just feel lucky to be alive!

My husband, mom, and friends cheered me up SO MUCH by visiting me at the hospital.
I would have never gotten through it without them.  E even made me chocolate covered strawberries! yumm!
My closest girl friends... beautiful ladies inside and out: my mom, K, E, and J.  Thank you for always being by my side!

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