Category Archives: Research

Farewell, Boob. Hello, Sarah Jessica Parker!

Farewell, Boob. Hello, Sarah Jessica Parker!

The boob countdown begins; in eight days, the Boob and her partner, the Other Boob, will say goodbye to me and say hello to Dr. Brew and life after a mastectomy.  I’m sure they’re off to a lovely place where post-mastectomy boobs are free to roam lush fuzzy-bunny-inhabited, wild-flower-speckled valleys with clear trickling streams and rainbows.

And, I will be on my way to a fabulous pair of these

42_SarahJessicaParker

 

Shoot, maybe I’ll even treat myself to the dress.

For more information on what a bilateral mastectomy entails, here are some useful links:

BreastCancer.org – Mastectomy

John Hopkins Medicine – Mastectomy defined and an animation of the procedure (yeah, I haven’t watched this yet, as I’m thinking it may freak me out. . .)

Dr. Brew will start with the preventative mastectomy by removing the Other Boob, and then she’ll move on to the Boob.  At that point, Dr. Mouchantat – I met with three plastic surgeons, and he was the only to entertain my Sarah Jessica Parker fantasy and also present a new “Gummy Bear” implant design option, so he’s my boob architect – will start reconstructing my new boobs by placing tissue expanders between my peck muscles and ribs where my implants will eventually reside.

Here’s what an expander looks like.  The round dark part is a port where Dr. Mouchantat’s team will inject saline every couple of weeks until my new boobs are Sarah Jessica Parker perfect.  The port will be under by skin, so the lovely, not-at-all-scary needle will go through my breast and into the port.  Yay.

expander 2

 

After expansion, I will have another surgery to place my permanent implants.  I have the option of new form-stable “Gummy Bear” implants or traditional round silicone implants.

breast-implant-shape

 

I am going to have to do some more research, as the Gummy Bear implants are very new, and there are mixed reviews:

FDA Approves New Breast Implants

FDA Approves New “Gummy Bear Implants”. . .Surgeon Urges Caution

ABC News:  ‘Gummy Bear’ Breast Implants: The Furture of Breast Augmentation Surgery?

CBS News: FDA Approves New “Gummy Bear” Silicone Breast Implant

What do you think?  Cast your implant vote as a comment today!  (So fun!)

This may all change if I have to have radiation.  Dr. Brew is going to biopsy my left sentinel axillary node to determine whether or not cancer is threatening my lymphatic system.  If it is, then I may have to have radiation, which may change my reconstruction process.  But, let’s not focus on the “may” right now, as radiation sounds horrible, and I really, really, really hope I don’t have to do it.

Here’s more information about the lymphatic system and axillary node:

Susan G. Komen: Facts for Life Axillary Lymph Nodes

September 23, 2013:  Farewell, Boob.  Hello, Sarah Jessica Parker!

 

The Cancer Fighting Kitchen

The Cancer Fighting Kitchen

Cancer Fighting Kitchen

 

I’ve got to start this book recommendation with props to Amber:  Thank you for this awesome cookbook; it’s really helped me through these last few rounds of chemo!

If you are also dealing with or about to deal with chemo, then I recommend that you get your hands on Rebecca Katz’s The Cancer Fighting Cookbook, gather some friends, and have a cancer cook-off to stock your freezer full of chemo-friendly, cancer-fighting foods.

Although the recipes can be a bit complicated, they are worth the effort, as things do taste significantly better, and I can tell that I’m getting meaningful nourishment, even when I’m not eating as much as I know that I should.  The recipes are also easy to simplify and come with modification suggestions.

I also got a lot out of the introduction that has a comprehensive list of common chemo side-effects and how to tackle them with the specific recipes within the book.  There is also a list of how certain foods and spices, many of which you probably already eat, may help keep your cancer at bay.

Although I have not tried all of the recipes in the book, here are some that I’ve found helpful during chemo:

Magic Mineral Broth (Page 54)

This one was the biggest investment, but it was worth it.  Katz calls for it in other recipes (you can sub out a store-bought broth if you don’t have time for this), and I can really tell the difference in the soups.  I also froze individual servings, which has been great for the days when sipping a broth is about all that I can do.

Lemony Greek Chicken Soup (Page 60)

This has a lot of sustenance, and the flavor’s really good, especially when I have a metallic taste in my mouth from the chemo.

Rockin’ Black Bean Soup (Page 71)

This also has a forward flavor, which is great when things are tasting bland.  I simplified this one by using canned beans, and it turned out well.

Creamy Broccoli and Potato Soup (Page 75)

I really like the sustenance that this provides, but when I make it again, I will spice it up a lot more.  I found it to be kind of bland, so I  will add some more black pepper or maybe some garlic.

Tuscan Farro and Bean Salad (Page 107)

Orange Ginger Roasted Chicken (Page 117)

This is a good one not only for when you’re feeling up for something a bit more hearty, but it also appeals to family and caregivers.  The last time that I made this, I used the leftovers to make a flavorful chicken soup. As the book suggests, you can also use the carcass to make a chicken broth.

Almond Muffin Mania (Page 192)

Coconut Rice Pudding (Page 198)

I hope that you find my suggestions useful and get a chance to take a look at this helpful cookbook.

If you try some other recipes in this book or make different modifications, then please post your suggestions!

How to Replace Eyebrows with Makeup!

How to Replace Eyebrows with Makeup!

Yes, it’s true, my brows are no more.  I still have some sweet tan lines where they used to be, and I know that many of you are quite jealous of that.  Being someone who never normally wore makeup prior to chemo, I’d like to share some surprisingly easy tips that really helped me create the illusion of eyebrows.

Supplies:

Here are the supplies that you will need in the order that you will use them.

1.  A good, angled eyebrow brush like this one:

Brow Brush

 

2.  Translucent powder

3. Brown and dark brown eye shadow – you will mix them, as brown tends to be too light for most people, and dark brown is too dark

4. A good brown/black eyebrow pencil and sharpener

5. Matte makeup sealer like this brow sealer from Bald Girls Do Lunch (AWESOME resource!):

brow_sealer_rounded

 

If possible, practice going over your eyebrows with your eye shadow and a brush BEFORE your eyebrows completely fall out so that you can develop a natural idea of where they are supposed to be.  If they’ve already fallen out, chances are you have some very sexy tan lines that you can use as guides.  If you are lacking both brows and tan lines, don’t worry, the steps are still very easy to follow!

Once you have your supplies, follow this incredibly helpful video!  I really can’t take any credit for knowing how to create eyebrows out of makeup other than finding this great video and sharing it with you now.  Thanks to Carly’s EyelineHer blog, I now not only look like I have eyebrows, but I also feel a heck of a lot more confident than I did when they first started falling out.  I hope that you too find her video as helpful as I did!

At first, I didn’t think I’d be able to freehand the shape of eyebrows, but as Carly so beautifully points out in her video, eyebrows are not perfect!  (This is my new mantra, by the way, each time I find myself wanting to fuss over my makeup!)  I can now put them on pretty easily.

If freehand brows are too much to handle, try eyebrow stencils or a stencil mask.

Click on the photo to check out a tutorial from WonderHowTo.comuse-eyebrow-stencils.w654

 

Please post comments if you have any other tips or product leads.  Please also post your favorite makeup brushes, pencils, and powders.  I am still trying to narrow down products that I like, so I know that any recommendations will help me and others in need of makeup tips!

 

Take THAT Tumor B$&#%!

Take THAT Tumor B$&#%!

After a second MRI a few weeks ago, I am happy to report that my tumor shrunk a little over a centimeter on each side, and there isn’t any new growth.  My lymph nodes also still look pretty good.

Hell YES, Halaven! 

I’m enjoying a nice break between the Halaven and A/C.  I start A/C this coming Tuesday.  During my break, I was able to travel, thanks to Rayan and his very generous family.  I was also able to take some time to learn how to sport the headscarf, and I enjoyed being in international cities where I was often not alone as a woman with no visible hair and fabric on her head.  At home, I tend to get a but more attention, but it’s all very nice.  I’ve received a few hugs from strangers, blessings, prayers, and even a couple of knitted hats. One woman actually carries them in her bag for when she sees someone who might need one.

Here’s my favorite headscarf travel picture:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The bicycle scarf also looks quite nice on my head:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

Hemoglobin Help

Hemoglobin Help

The only side effects I faced after my first chemo treatment were a headache, fatigue, and a dry throat.  The headache only lasted a couple of days after the treatment, and the fatigue was more than manageable.  When I mentioned these to my nurse, she revealed to me that the headache most likely came not from the chemo but from the anti-nausea medicine.  Yesterday, she gave me a different anti-nausea medicine with my second round of chemo, and I am happy to report that I do not have a headache.  I am tired and a little nauseous, but it’s nothing major.  I can’t remember the last Saturday I spent reading and napping on the couch, so I really can’t complain.

I discovered that my fatigue is due to my low hemoglobin levels or anemia.  An average woman ranges from 12 – 16 g/dL, and I was at 11.8 yesterday.  That doesn’t seem like much, and it’s not at all something to worry about, but it is enough to make me tired.

Hemoglobin is the iron-containing protein in my red blood cells that transfers oxygen from my lungs to other parts of my body.

Here’s an illustration of red blood cells with red Volkswagen Beetles; you can see the hemoglobin because it’s what  makes the red blood cells red.  It’s not what makes the red Beetles red.

 beetleREDBLOODCELLS

 

Here’s a picture of a bunch of red Power Rangers in a New York City subway.  They all have hemoglobin.  Given their obvious exuberance for red power, we can only assume their hemoglobin levels are just fine.

 

Power-Rangers Subway

I learned that I need to increase my iron, Vitamin B-12, Vitamin C, and folic acid intake to raise my levels.

CLICK HERE and HERE to see what I plan to eat to help my hemoglobin.

I enjoyed a kale and strawberry smoothie this morning, I had lentil soup for lunch, and I have beef stew on the stove.

Go Team Hemoglobin!

Hello, Halaven!

Hello, Halaven!

After many hours of research and several second and third and forth opinions, I decided to enroll in Dr. Kantor’s Halaven (eribulin) clinical trial.  (CLICK HERE if you missed it.)

Yesterday, I found out that I am in the experimental arm, and I will have my first hit of Halaven tomorrow afternoon.  Each cycle is two injections, one a week for two weeks, with one week off.  I will do this for twelve weeks (eight injections for four cycles total).

After that, I will have four cycles of AC, which will be one injection every three weeks for twelve weeks.

Halaven is a synthetic version of a cancer-fighting compound a couple of Japanese scientists found in a sea sponge in the mid-1980s.

Here’s a lovely photo of Halichondria okadai, the magical sponge:

sponge

 

Unfortunately, one ton of Halichondria okadai and his friends could only produce 300mg of the super fantastic cancer-fighting compound, so studies were halted.

Years later, Harvard scientists picked the study back up in hopes of creating a synthetic version of the compound, and they were successful.

CLICK HERE for more about eribulin, my new magical mystery cancer drug.

The hope for the study is that Halaven will attack the cancer cells in a way that will make them less likely to come back.  The side-effects of Halaven are believed to be less severe than those of the standard drug, Taxol.  I am hopeful that this is the case.  Another bonus of Halaven is its five-minute injection time, which completely trumps Taxol’s one-hour injection time.  As long as I am feeling up to it, I do not need to miss work for treatments.  Happy day.  And, happy Halaven!

MUGA: Hide Your Children (Again)

MUGA: Hide Your Children (Again)

Today I had my first MUGA, or multigated acquisition, scan.  This is also know has a nuclear heart scan.  Yes, that’s right, nuclear.

I do believe this one took the cake.  The nuclear cake, that is.  Not only did the nuclear medical technologist draw my blood and mix it with a radioactive tracer, she then pushed my hot blood back into my body.  I positioned myself under something that looked liked an inside-out Tie Fighter; this was apparently a gamma -ray-shooting camera.   The gamma rays picked up the radioactive tracers as they rocketed through my body.  This all somehow let the radiologist know that my heart can handle chemo.

I am now supposed to drink a lot of water and urinate frequently to rid myself of any remaining radionuclides. As with the PET scan, holding babies is out of the question.  Again, hide your children.

(Do you think Professor X would go for the mutant name “MUGA”?)

CLICK HERE for more information on MUGA sans.

 

 

 

Cast Your Votes: Choose My Hair Adventure!

Cast Your Votes: Choose My Hair Adventure!

I’ve decided to cut my hair before I start chemo.  Yes, there is a chance it may not fall out, but that chance is very unlikely.  I’ve decided that cutting my hair short keeps this whole experience somewhat within my own control.  Overall, that will be far less mentally damaging than wondering “when” and “if” and possibly dealing with it actually coming out while it’s long.

So, I need your votes.  Which short hair cut should I go with?  I’m also considering messing with color; if it is going to fall out, it won’t happen right away, so I might as well have some fun.

Post your votes as comments.  Cast two votes: one on style and one on color.  Or, post links to other short cuts you’d suggest.

Tess and Katie A., if you see this, please let me know if any of these will not work well for my hair, which is fine and very full with some wave/curl.  Or, if any of these are actually the same cut but just styled differently.

:: 1 ::

Nylon Magazine's TV Issue Launch Party

:: 2 ::

Full Pixie Pixie Geldof

:: 3 ::

2011 Summer TCA Tour - Day 9

:: 4 ::

Textured Deep Parted Boycut

:: 5 ::

Textured Front Push Pixie

:: 6 ::

Vogue Fashion's Night Out Launches In Sydney

:: 7 ::

fpv-demi-moore-hairstyle

:: 8 ::

hairstyle4

:: 9 ::

pm-hairstyle2

:: 10 ::

Straight and Smooth Pixie Emma Watson

I like the front, but I’d go shorter/less full on top and in the back.

It’s a Cancer Cook-off!

It’s a Cancer Cook-off!

I received some advice tonight that goes along perfectly with advice many of you have already given:  I need to ask for help BEFORE I need it, and I need to stock my freezer.

With chemo on the horizon, I’d like to stock my pantry and freezer with easy-to-prepare and portion meals of all varieties. So, I’m asking for help.

(This is very hard for me, by the way!)

There are a few ways that you can help, if you’d like.

1.  Reply to this post with some of your favorite, easy-to-portion, freezer-friendly recipes.  They can be anything from light soups or rice dishes for nauseous days to flavorful foods for days when everything seems to taste the same.  Apparently garlic, basil, horseradish, ginger, and green chilies are good for this.  Also, cool or refreshing foods for when my mouth is sensitive or sore.

Those of you who have been through chemo, please share food hints and/or recipes you found helpful.  I’m also going to stock my pantry, so please suggest anything that I should have on hand.

2.  You can cook for me.  I’ve been advised to ask for foods that I can easily freeze and portion.   Please use disposable dishes because I may not get to it for awhile, and I may forget which dish is yours.  I’ve heard soups, casseroles, marinaded light meats, and rice dishes are good.  I’m also supposed to eat a lot of vegetables.  Apparently, food I love may seem awful, and food I currently dislike may seem great, so create and share whatever sounds good to you!

I can pick up food, and I welcome deliveries.  I’ll be in Lakewood/Golden Thursday evening, the Wheat Ridge area Friday evening, Denver Saturday afternoon, and the Littleton area Monday afternoon.  Yeah, pre-treatment preparations are giving me a lovely tour of Denver.  Rayan works downtown, so he can pick something up in that area after work.

3. You can cook with me.  A friend sent me a great cookbook: “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen”.  I plan to bust out and freeze some recipes this coming Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  I’ll be on Spring Break, so I can cook all day.  Anyone is welcome to join.  Bring extra takeaway dishes if you’d like to take some home.  Wine is obviously on the house for anyone cooking in my kitchen.

If you are unable to help out with food right now, but you would like to later, I know that I will probably make another food request as I get further into treatment.

Thank you all again and again for your support!!

 

More Clinical Trail Information

More Clinical Trail Information

CLICK HERE if you missed the first post on the clinical trial Dr. Kantor is suggesting.

More information about clinical trials in general:

Most Commonly Asked Questions About Clinical Trials from Women’s Cancer Network

Clinical Trials:  What You Need to Know  from the American Cancer Society

More information about eribulin (trial drug):

Study that got eribulin FDA approved for pretreated cancers that have not responded to at least two other types of chemotherapy

Eribulin Improves Survival of Women with Metastic Breast Cancer from National Cancer Institute

Eribulin Equal to Older Drug in Advanced Breast Cancer from Medscape News

And, to make things even more confusing, here’s a study Dr. Borges is suggesting:

(Yeah, she emailed me twice this weekend after I asked her about her thoughts on Dr. Kantor’s trial!)

CLICK HERE to see the trial Dr. Borges suggests.

Her’s is much more specialized to the type of cancer that I have, but I’d have to see her in Aurora because Dr. Kantor is not involved in this study.  I was not going to consider it, but she jumped back into the picture after she responded to my email in less than 6 hours on a Saturday.  I wasn’t expecting a response really at all, let alone on a weekend.

I’m still fairly set on Dr. Kantor, but I also don’t want to miss out on anything if Dr. Borges is truly the way to go.  And, yes, even as Dr. Borges suggested in her last email, I should follow my gut, but my gut really isn’t giving me much right now other than knots and butterflies and whatever else guts do when they have no idea what to do!

Any thoughts?  Psychic powers? Genies in bottles?  Jokes that will make me forget about all of this for a moment?