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?

 

 

 

PET Scan Results

PET Scan Results

Good news and confusing news from the PET scan.

Good news:  I do not show signs of cancer anywhere other than my left breast.

More good news:  I’m still convinced that I have super powers.

Confusing news:  According to the PET scan, I do show signs of cancer near or on lymph nodes close to the tumor.  I asked if this was the biopsied area that came up benign, and Dr. Kantor said maybe.  Apparently the PET scan shows areas and not specific sites like the MRI.  Apparently the biopsy results could be false.  Apparently the PET scan results could be off.  Apparently I no longer need biopsies, and I should decide when I’d like to start treatment.  Apparently there was a reason for my last lymph node biopsy that I should apparently understand, but I don’t.

Obviously, I am confused.

I am quickly learning that this whole breast cancer business contains many maybes.  Those of you who know me well know that I do now do well with maybes.

Any advice?  I know that I should have been more direct with Dr. Kantor when he told me this news, but I didn’t realize my confusion until after our conversation.  I plan to ask some specific questions the next time we speak, but I don’t really know what to ask.

The one thing I do know is that this is an appropriate time for another sweet Power Ranger picture:

PowerRangers-1

 

Calling All Scouts: Eribulin Trial or Standard Paclitaxel Treatment?

Calling All Scouts: Eribulin Trial or Standard Paclitaxel Treatment?

Dr. Kantor called tonight to let me know that I’m good to start treatment later next week.   I need to decide if I want to go with the standard treatment or the clinical trial.  CLICK HERE to see my treatment options.

Sticking with the battle metaphor, I need some help scouting out the clinical trial.    I’m going to meet with the research coordinator to find out more, but I know that she will want to sell me on it, so I’d like to develop meaningful questions.  I also want to decide if it’s even worth looking into.

Any help or opinions would be great.

HERE’S another link to the trial info.

Below are some other links about eribulin (generic for Halaven), which is the drug the trial is testing.

Halaven’s official site 

Eribulin description from the American Cancer Society

Paclitaxel (taxol) description from the American Caner Society   (This is the control drug in the trial and the drug I’d receive if I go with the standard treatment.)

Eribulin may be useful in earlier breast cancer from OncologyNurseAdvisor.com

Press release from the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium on a trial using eribulin on metastatic (spreading) breast cancer

Find any other useful links?

I’d like to let Dr. Kantor know whether or not I’m interested in the trial by the end of the day Monday.

Great News From a Lead-lined Room

Great News From a Lead-lined Room

That’s right, this update comes to you straight from my radioactive fingertips as I await a PET scan in my very own lead-lined lounge. I am smiling not only because I’m convinced my injection of radioactive sugar will yield super powers, I am also thrilled with the news that my lymph node biopsies came back benign.  As far as the doctors can tell, the cancer is contained.  This PET scan will hopefully confirm that.

The sad news is I cannot hold any babies or small children for at least 12 hours.  Hide your children.

The Power Port: Almost as Cool as the Power Rangers. Almost.

The Power Port: Almost as Cool as the Power Rangers. Almost.

After looking into my catheter options, I decided to go with the under-the-skin Power Port.  This titanium device is now under my skin just below my right collarbone . Yes, that’s right, I said titanium.

There were advantages and disadvantages to each type of catheter, and  I am grateful for my aunt and uncle’s insight because it encouraged me to ask a lot of questions.  For me, the Power Port seems like the best option.  It requires the least amount of maintenance and cleaning, which is a concern if I am going to work; high schools are dirty, germ-infested places!

Because the port is under my skin, I do not need to worry about covering it up in the shower or cleaning it.  I also like this one because it has three bumps on it to ensure that it hasn’t gone too deep and to help the nurses  find it.

It’s also purple and is sort of shaped like an adorable little heart:

PowerPortOh, and the Power Port motto:

YOU HAVE THE POWER!!

There wasn’t a purple Power Ranger, so here’s an excellent collage of Kimberly, the original pink Power Ranger:

Pink Ranger

CLICK HERE for more information on my new Power Port.

 

Treatment Options: Chemo Combo and Clinical Trial

Treatment Options: Chemo Combo and Clinical Trial

Both Dr. Borges and Dr. Kantor suggested what seems like a fairly standard treatment plan:

  1. Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide) and Adriamycin (doxorubicin) every 2 weeks for 8 weeks (4 cycles total).  In the cancer world, this combo is called “AC”.
  2. Taxol (paclitaxel) for either 12 weeks or 8 weeks – still figuring this out.

(Click on the drug names if you’d like to see why they’re used and all of the fun things they can do to my body!)

Dr. Kantor may switch the order of these because apparently spreading Taxol over 12 weeks might be easier for me to tolerate while trying to work.   I’d then do the AC combo in the summer when I can be home.

Does anyone know anything about these drugs or this treatment plan?  Any information would be great.  I haven’t had much time to look into it, but I plan to be a chemo drug expert before I actually get started with anything.

Dr. Kantor also offered a clinical trial:

NSABP FB-9:  http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT01705691

From my understanding, this study is to test eribulin, which is a drug that is already FDA approved for stage 4 cancers that have spread beyond the breast. This study if to see if eribulin is more efficient than Taxol on smaller cancers that have not spread.  If I am in the control arm, I would get the same treatment plan mentioned above, but I’d for sure do Taxol first and then AC.  If I am in the experimental arm, I’d take eribulin instead of Taxol for the first treatment, and then I’d do the AC.

CLICK HERE for info on eribulin.

I have a lot of reading to do to decide if I’d like to participate in the trial.   Any opinions?

And the Winner is. . .

And the Winner is. . .

I know that I said I’d get back to you for your feedback about the oncologists that I met yesterday, but I’ve already made my choice.  Just like Robyn’s expensive shoe analogy, this just feels right.

And, the winner is. . . .

Dr. Kantor at Red Rocks!!  CLICK HERE for more info on Dr. Kantor and his magical cancer treatment land.

When both oncologists suggested the same treatment, I knew I could consider aspects of my care beyond the medicine.  Although Dr. Borges has a better resume, Dr. Kantor is an overall better fit.  One of the main factors for me is the non-clinical, family-like atmosphere of his practice.    I confirmed with both oncologists and my surgeon, Dr. Brew, that my cancer certainly sucks a lot, but it’s nothing that requires any sort of special treatment.  Because of that, I feel comfortable seeking care at a smaller practice. I also like that Dr. Kantor’s office is in the same building as Dr. Brew’s.  They’ve already met face-to-face about me to devise a treatment plan.

Since I let Dr. Kantor know that I’d like to work with him, he’s ordered a couple more tests to make sure that his treatment plan is the best option.

I am now schedule for a PET scan tomorrow afternoon to make sure the cancer has not spread beyond my breast.  Apparently, I will be radioactive for a while and will not be able to interact with others.  I am to sit in a metal room with a lounge chair and a T.V. for about an hour.  The scheduler said that most people choose to take a nap. Because I’m convinced this radioactive juice will give me super powers,  I think I’ll try to turn the T.V. on and off with my mind or perhaps hold the lounge chair up with one pinkie.

CLICK HERE for more info on PET scans.

 

 

Craziest Tuesday of My Life. . .Check!

Craziest Tuesday of My Life. . .Check!

Given my lovely dose of painkillers, I will make this brief and will post a more detailed update tomorrow.  Although today was totally nuts with two oncologist appointments, a second ultrasound, a lymph node biopsy, and a port placement surgery, I am overall feeling good about the day; things are moving, and it looks like I will soon have a routine.  Did I mention the painkillers?!

I liked Dr. Borges at CU, but I did not like the hour drive to the giant, crowded, and extremely hospital-feeling hospital.   I also liked Dr. Kantor at Western Oncology in the Red Rocks Cancer Center, and I very much liked the fifteen-minute drive to the small building with warm-colored walls, relaxing water features, a fireplace, a chemo garden that apparently has lovely flowers in the spring and summer among which I can sit while shooting up my chemical cocktail, and a therapy-trained black lab named Roxy who will keep me company.

Both Dr. Borges and Dr. Kantor suggested the same treatment plan; although, they each have different clinical trial options.  I will post more about my visits with each of them to get your feedback.  Right now, I’m leaning towards Dr. Kantor and his magical cancer treatment land, but I also need to clear my head of the very inviting facility to make sure that I ultimately choose what’s best for me in the long-run.  Waterfalls and fireplaces and adorable dog friends will certainly help, but they will not cure my cancer.

I will also post more on my diagnosis.  For now, I will leave you all with good news:  My MRI shows a clean and clear right breast! Hurrah for my right breast!

 

Chapter Ten: Preparing for BATTLE!

Chapter Ten: Preparing for BATTLE!

My uncle Tommy put it well when he explained to me that I am currently preparing for battle. While I am still as physically and mentally strong as I can be, I should collect as many pieces of information and as many items of strength and comfort that I can before the real fight begins.  Chapter Ten of the Breast Book lends some very good advice in terms of preparation.

Below are some words of understanding, inspiration, and knowledge that I have already put into my arsenal.  Ladies, if you’re still pushing through this Breast Bible, then please share any other information you gather from this chapter or past chapters that I too may find helpful as I get ready.

Knowing the battlefield:

“Unlike, say, appendicitis or a heart attack, there’s no pain or fever or nausea – no symptom that tells you something’s going wrong inside” (257).

“The initial shock can leave you feeling confused and not sure how to proceed.  Your mind is seesawing between numb denial and terrified comprehension.  But once you get the medical information and need to make decisions, things get better.  Once those decision have been made, things get better still” (258).

“Getting your breast cut off will not make things go back to normal; nothing can ever do that.  Your life has been changed, and it will never be the same again” (258).

“. . .it’s important to allow yourself to feel lousy.  Cancer is a life-threatening illness, and the treatments are all emotionally and physically stressful; you need to accept that and pamper yourself a bit” (265).

Gathering troops:

“The downside is that it takes time and patience to wade through the pros and cons of all the options.  You have to take the time, and you have to have a doctor who will travel this road with you, along with your local reputable breast cancer support organization” (259).

“[You] can have a hard time taking it all in.  For this reason I suggest your bring someone with you when the doctor explains your options. . .” (259).

When choosing a doctor, it is important that the doctor’s style matches your own.  “There is no right or wrong style, so don’t feel guilty if your needs are not the same as those of your friend or neighbor.  Remember, it’s about what style works best for you” (260).

“While style matters, so does the knowledge and experience of the doctor.  You may need to do some research to find the most knowledgeable doctor available.  In many urban areas this will be a surgeon who specializes in breast cancer or even a multidisciplinary breast center” (261).

“You can’t take forever, but you don’t want to hurry yourself either.  In my experience, most patients are able to assimilate the information and make their decisions in a month, including any second opinions they may need” (261).

“You don’t have to be Superwoman.  Get help from your friends and family – throughout the treatment.  Often, when you’re having chemotherapy, the people who were supportive in the beginning start to drift off.  At that point, you may want to get into a breast cancer support group. . .” (265).

“[Loved ones] too are feeling frightened, angry, depressed, maybe even rejected, if all your attention is going to your illness, and they may  not have as much support for their feelings as you do for your yours.  It’s crucial to communicate with one another at this time, to work through the complex feelings you’re all facing” (271).

“But remember, [doctors] are people just like you, and you can bet they’d want someone to pay close attention if they were in your shoes.  Never lost sight of this fact – and don’t choose a doctor who has” (272).

“You need to feel that your doctor sees you as a person” (273).

“You will want to be certain that your doctor not only answers questions you may have but also provides you with information that allows you to make decisions or shows your where to look for answers” (273).

“You may want to know every detail.  If this is the case, you should expect the doctor you select to explain tests and procedures you will be undergoing.  However, you should decide in advance how much you really want to know” (273).

“. . .tape-record conversations with your doctor” (273).

“Procedures, drugs, and information are changing so rapidly that you may stumble on an article, web page, or even information in a chat room that could have a profound effect on your treatment – and that your doctor may  not have heard about.  A good doctor won’t be threatened by this sort of information but will want to help you interpret it” (275).

“Sometimes patients are shy about seeking a second opinion – as though they’re somehow insulting their doctor’s professionalism.  Never feel that way. . .Most doctors won’t be offended – and if you run into a doctor who does get miffed, don’t be intimidated. Your life, and your peace of mind, more important than your doctor’s ego” (276).

Choosing arms:

“In the long run, I’m convinced you’re better off when you consciously choose your own treatment. . .The end result is more anxiety ahead of time while you are trying to make decisions about your treatment, but fewer regrets afterward” (260).

“The internet generally is a wonderful source of information, but you need to be a savvy surfer” (271).

“Know the site’s sponsor and whether it has anything to gain from the information given” (271).

“Know who is answering questions or giving medical advice” (272).

“Check who wrote the information on the site and when it was last updated” (272).

“If the information that you get on a site disagrees with what your doctor says, print out the page and bring it to your doctor for discussion” (272).

 

While most of the chapter gives great advice with which I agreed, Dr. Love suggests some things about which I’m not so sure.

What do you think?

“Most importantly, a woman faced with these decisions cannot make a ‘wrong’ choice.  If you are given options it’s because these are reasonable options in your situation.  When a mastectomy is a better option, your surgeon will say that.  In most cases both mastectomy and lumpectomy with radiation work equally well. . .It is not as though if you choose wrong you’ll die, and you choose right you’ll live” (264).

The chapter ends with a lot of information about clinical trials and studies.  What do you think about that?  If I stick with Dr. Borges at CU, it is very likely she will suggest trials.  I am torn.  On one hand, it seems like a great idea, especially if she’s targeting my particular type of cancer.  That’s why I’m interested in seeing her, right?! On the other hand, it’s risky. Any insight?

Dr. Love urges her readers with cancer to participate in studies; although, given her background, this is an obviously biased opinion.  What do you think?

And now, on to Chapter Eleven, which is all about getting to know the enemy. . . .