Monday, November 18, 2019

So about that echo....

Q.  How are you supposed to act when you get an abnormal finding on your recent echo that is a predictor for a "major adverse cardiac event"?

A.  Yeah I don’t know either. But this will work for now. 

And no googling. Definitely no googling.

Friday, November 15, 2019

My brief escape from reality....

Hi everyone!!  Been wanting to post for a while but it's been crazy town here!

Since recovering from my wonderful Xeloda side-effect experience I have been keeping very busy!  I traveled to New Mexico for work, and on my flight in to ABQ I experienced what they call a "bailed landing" as a result of an air traffic controller error and needing to avoiding another airplane.  Do not recommend.  Without knowing what was going on, it was very scary and it got real quiet on the plane until we landed.  On a happier note, on my off time before my return flight home, I visited Santa Fe.  I've never been before and it didn't disappoint.  I also took this amazing picture and I think I can die happy now.  Maybe it's because I love orange and blue together so much that makes me love this picture, but I think it's just lovely.

The next week I was up in Seattle and had a much less exciting flight, thank you Delta airlines.

After I returned from Seattle, I was off to my most favorite place, Palm Desert, for a much needed reset.  David went with me to make sure I was safe.  Funny because I have done that trip so many times without incident but I get it.  Protect the mommy.  Good kid.

It was so wonderful to get some R&R, especially after "Pinktober".  I think it's really great to have all the awareness around breast cancer, don't get me wrong, but there is a certain kind of melancholy that settles in with all the scary statistics that are published during Breast Cancer Awareness month. It can be a struggle to rise above the constant barrage of mortality rates, etc. and move forward with your chin held up high.  As wonderful as the intent of BCA month is, I am thankful it is over.  Bring on Movember please.

So between all that and work, it was definitely time for some me time.  There's only so much powering through on chemo that a girl can do.  Besides some quality time at the pool, David and I traveled to Joshua Tree National Park to star gaze.  There was almost a full moon so the stars weren't as impressive as I thought they should have been, but while we were sitting and chatting and looking up, David, says "what in the heck is that?".  Streaming across the sky in UFO-like fashion was a string of lights.  

Now, I am not all too sure about UFO's  but we did not have cell service at the time and couldn't Google what in the heck we may be experiencing so it was a bit disconcerting (much like the cackling of coyotes that we heard in the distance upon our arrival).  Once we bounced and got back into cell service, we discovered that we had the very rare experience of seeing the SpaceX Starlink satellites in orbit.  To top it off, they had launched them the same day we saw them!!  I'm kind of a geek, so in my book, it was really a cool thing to see!!!!

Here's a few pics that I took at Joshua Tree.  It's gorgeous!


I have to admit, I got a bit cranky at the idea of coming home and getting back to it.  Only because I knew it would be a harsh return to reality.  The day after I got home, it would be time to start back up my next chemo cycle, and to kick it all off, an echo-cardiogram first thing to see how my defective heart valve is holding up.  I am pulling slowly away from that deflated mood, and I am hoping there won't be any changes in my heart function and I won't have to do that for another year.  Cross your fingers!  I also have lab tests for Lupus pending that I have been avoiding and it's weighing on me.  My sister was recently diagnosed with it (please send good vibes her way), and as you may or may not know, the doctors believe undiagnosed Lupus is what took my mom.  Hoping not to add that to my resume as well, because 😐.

This weekend promises to be super busy and exciting.  Boys are getting their senior pics done in Bend and I can't wait to share them with you all!!   Have a wonderful weekend!!  XOXO

Monday, October 21, 2019

Jenny + Xeloda =

Holy f&ck balls this hurts. Those are B L I S T E R S.

Can't even walk.  

Palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia, anyone?

Dear Xeloda, you better effing work.  Love, Me.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Bad News Brownies - One Year Later

"I really hate making calls like this...."

I will never forget those first words out of the nurse's mouth when I answered the phone to find out about my biopsy results.  The conversation is a blur but those words, along with a few others are forever ingrained upon me. 

With those first six words, my heart dropped and I can't even really explain the feeling.  Although I had been preparing to hear the worst, I was still in shock [understatement].  I tried to take the best notes that I could but my head was literally spinning.  These words I heard though for sure:


Rare Sub-Type

Harder to Treat

Less Successful

Higher Recurrence

The call was probably twenty minutes and at the end of the call I told the nurse this, "I literally didn't hear 99% of what you just said.  Just tell me what I need to do next.  Like the most immediate next step because I can't deal with the rest right now."  By the next week I had met with both my oncologists and had a plan, and by the end of that same month my port was put in and I was ready to go for chemo.

And so my journey began, one small step at a time.  And when I say small steps, I mean in the past year I've:
  • become a single mom with cancer and been the very best and very worst at that, 
  • become a blogger and been the most vulnerable I have been in my life to hopefully help and encourage others, 
  • had four surgeries in November, March, May, and July, 
  • gained 25 pounds (thank you chemo), 
  • been through two #crazy menopauses (chemical and surgical), 
  • finally got hormone replacement therapy right, 
  • beat myself up and rewarded myself, 
  • had eight rounds of dose dense chemo, every two weeks for four months,
  • emotionally had to deal with losing all my hair, toenails, breasts, uterus, ovaries, basically grieved the death of my pre-cancer self,
  • lost friends and made new ones, 
  • have numb fingers and toes (neuropathy), I think probably forever, 
  • been diagnosed with a heart defect, (because why not?),
  • reinvented the new me (still a work in progress, but much better than the BC me),
  • began oral chemo, now through mid-December, just in case,
  • started physical therapy so I can try and get my hands above my head and reach that top shelf of the cupboard and wash my hair without bending over and take off a sports bra on my own without my daughter having to pull it off me, 
  • probably will go through more surgeries, including breast revision and nipple reconstruction, 
  • become a wellness ambassador for my company, 
  • been on the news supporting my favorite charity, 
  • got a promotion, 
  • went platinum blond 😍, 
  • assembled a Labrador army,
  • been gifted with the most amazing perspective, like ever.
I am completely excited and freaked out about whatever adventures are yet to come!  Excited about the adventures I can control, freaked out about the ones I cannot.

Looking back at the last year I can't even believe everything I have accomplished.  I was laying in bed last night and as my mind raced, as it does every night I try to sleep, I found myself still in disbelief over the fact that this has all really happened.  It's such a crazy feeling.

My next big battle is overcoming the every day fear of this freaking cancer coming back. It can be all-consuming sometimes and although I am actively focused on living my best life every day (like, I'm thinking Thailand in February), it's hard to escape the gorilla in the room.  If you didn't know, when breast cancer metastasizes, it's considered Stage IV and it has no cure.  After that, it's just a conversation about quality and length of life, so that's nice.  

Also interesting is that 30% of initial breast cancer survivors will develop Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer in their lifetime (which I have a higher chance of doing since I am Triple Negative and carry the BRCA-1 gene).  Misaligned with this statistic is the fact that only 2-5% of all research dollars go to curing Stage IV.  If you've seen how many young women are getting diagnosed with breast cancer, in particular triple-negative, you would be as appalled as I am.  I know it's hard to relate to how this might feel since, until a year ago, I was in most of your shoes and had no clue, but the fact that very little effort goes into Stage IV is scary AF and makes you feel incredibly helpless.  

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I would encourage you to check out Metavivor and Michelle's Love and if you are able, support them either through volunteering or donating.  I would also caution you to be mindful of all the breast cancer awareness items you see and may purchase this month. A lot of times, your money isn't going to the cause at all.  And as much as a pink water bottle may be nice to have, your purchase may not be making the real difference that you intended it to.

Anyway, happy one-year cancerversary to me!  One year down, two more years to go for my next cancer benchmark, when my rate for recurrence drops drastically. To honor my body and what we have endured, I have started a modified vegan 30-day cleanse.  When I say modified, I mean I am not moving on my need to have my foo-foo coffee every morning and once a week, there will be a cheat day, because cheeseburgers must happen in my life.  And maybe go to the beach but haven't decided. But right now it's time to go eat some kale.  Killing me lol.

Love you all and thank you for being here with me then, and now one year later.  Can you even believe it?!?!  I cannot express to you the difference and impact having your support has made in my life and the appreciation I feel.

Here's to one year and to as many more years as I can get!


p.s. If you made it all the way through this, just to avoid any confusion, my Day 1 post was called "Bad News Brownies" because the night I found out I had cancer, Jessica sprung into action to make what she called bad news brownies. I didn't get any bad news today.


Friday, October 4, 2019

Day 361

"Nothing to worry about".

One year ago today, at this exact time, I was undergoing a biopsy of a mass in my left breast and lymph node.  I was also scared out of my freaking mind.  I appreciated all those that reached out and offered the most well-intentioned encouragements, saying "I am sure it's nothing to worry about".  As  a hopeless optimist, I wanted so badly to find comfort in their words but I couldn't.  

I just knew.

I can't explain how or why I did, but I knew that life was going to change in a really big way, right then, right there, that day.  

I wish I had been wrong but here I am, almost one year later.  As much as I yearn for my very much more carefree, before-cancer self, I am better now than I have ever been.   

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Day 359

The nerve!'s my post that was flagged by Facebook as inappropriate.  

So sorry, Facebook, for caring about others and putting myself out there to try and take some fear out of rogue boobs and the *whispered* cancer by showing my double mastectomy scars and reminding people to advocate for their health.  

And also, let me help you out with your review of my post (that I appealed because as my kids like to tell me, I can be a mega-Karen when I want to be).

I digress...

Dear Facebook, 

Since I don't even have them anymore, I am pretty sure there is no way in hell that I can be in violation of your sacred "nipple clause".  


p.s.  I seriously hope you are getting blown up with boob pics this month for breast cancer awareness month.  You're kind of the problem too.  

Monday, September 30, 2019

Day 357


Just in case you were wondering what Stage One T1CN0 triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma of the left breast with a Ki-67 of 40% will set you back*.  That's $34,717 and change per word of my diagnosis.  Hard to tell if I'm getting a deal here...

To scale this (and also maybe a little bit of a cry out in anger and frustration on my part), I would encourage you to follow a few hashtags such as #triplenegativebreastcancer or #tnbc and see how many women, especially young women (like in their 20's and 30's) are being diagnosed with this special brand of cancer that by the way, gets a very small piece of the cancer research pie and yet has the highest recurrence rate and highest mortality rate of all breast cancers.  

Anyway, do the math and multiply that by the thousands and you get my point.  Someone's getting rich and it's definitely not me. 


0/10 stars.

Do not recommend.

*so far

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Day 352

Here come the Cancerversaries...

I was planning on making a general post today since I haven't been here for, like, ever, when I realized I am coming up on a bunch of milestones.  I have been so busy lately that I almost missed it.  That thought almost makes me smile - like the ghost in the room is less conspicuous today.  But alas I remembered that one year ago today was the day I had my annual mammogram.  How crazy is that?  I never in a million years thought that one year later my life would look how it does now and all the good and the bad, and sometimes ugly, that would come to pass.  I will reflect more later, but I am not a huge fan of living in the past, so I may just, not.  

Here's the latest and the greatest on what I've been up to.

I have been traveling a ton in my new role.  Which, I LOVE!  I will never get tired of it.  I  can't express to you how amazing the people I work with are, everywhere I go (although whilst visiting our Reno branch, I realized I have a real stripe problem...... )  I am in Dallas as we speak at our home office and having a blast.  When in Dallas, go to Punch Bowl Social.  It's so cool!

And, I am happy to say, my chemo finally arrived at my door with the freaking respect it deserves.  I mean the UPS guy was not in a full hazmat suit but this was definitely way more of the spectacle I had envisioned.   


The boys are now seniors and turned 17 last month and Jess is a freshman.  Not sure how that all happened so dang fast!  Michael is working at Mark's on the Channel now, so go by and support a local business and say hey!  He brings home food and although he has yet to share, I can assure you he is eating like a king.  David I am sure is working diligently, yet silently, on finding a job as well.  So, three high schoolers and the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.  I mean I love them and all and I would jump in front of a train for them without hesitation, but I am pretty ready for liftoff. 

And in my efforts to promote wellness and awareness, I saw a soap box and ran all the way over to it and got right up on it this past weekend.  It didn't really happen like that but it doesn't really matter the "how".  I can tell you about the "why" though.  I will use every opportunity to talk about my favorite charity, wellness, cancer, taking the fear out of knowing if something is wrong and fighting the "ignorance is bliss mentality", single parenting with cancer, empowering yourself, advocating for yourself, showing up for yourself, inspiring people who are facing adversity, providing perspective, all that good stuff.  If you haven't checked out Michelle's Love, do it.  The link is in "My Links" section of my blog, and you can also find them on your favorite social media platform (not personally loving saying "favorite" and "social media" in the same sentence, but you get the point).

So yeah, I was on the news.   

Here is the link to: KGW
Here is the link to: KATU

I'll say it again, check these videos out to learn more about Michelle's Love and you can see me and the "chemo thirty" talking about something that's something you probably don't think about too much, but can you even imagine what it's like being a single parent with cancer?  Yeah.  It's fucking mind-blowing scary.   I mean having cancer is hard no matter what your relationship status and it's definitely not a contest, but I am sure it's not lost on you.  And seriously, sometimes all I want is someone to snuggle me and tell me it's going to be ok and it's like..... 

I think that's it.  Flying back to PDX tomorrow night and although I am loving hanging with my people in Dallas, I cannot wait to get out of your "5000% humidity feels like 103 degrees at 10 o'clock at night" weather.  Mwah!

Love you all.  Probably talk at you as I roll through some emotional milestones on my journey here very soon.

XOXO and gnite!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Day 319

I left my 💗 in New Mexico

I am happy to announce that my second video in my two part series on wellness came out!  You can watch it by clicking here: Wellness: A Call to Action.  If you missed the first one, I wouldn't want you to miss out, so here you go: Introduction to Wellness.  I am going to gush again, but I am so grateful to work for a company that values the well-being of it's employees so much, and makes it a priority.  

Speaking of wellness exams, I went and did that yesterday.  Got all my lab work back and I am happy to report I don't have any additional things wrong with me so yay!! It was so weird being back where this journey all began.  I was looking forward to it, yet it was strange and touching all at the same time.  Strange because so much has happened since I saw him last year, and touching to hear that he had been following my journey as it unfolded.  I know I have been through a lot, but it still makes me pause when people, even medical professionals, are in awe of what you've been through.

This week I traveled to ABQ, NM for one of my first branch visits and am wondering why in the heck I never have been to New Mexico?  It's like the best kept secret!  Granted, I love a desert environment so if that's not your jam you may not be as impressed as I was.  And it's monsoon season, which means thunderstorms, which means I was SO happy.  If you know me, you know I love a little thunder and lighting, and the current offerings in Oregon for storms leave much to be desired.  The sunset was probably the most beautiful I have ever seen.  It was so great to connect with the team there and have some face time with the folks I'll be partnering with.  I miss them already!

My chemo was delivered last week before my business trip.  Quite honestly, I was hoping for there to be a little more pomp and circumstance with the delivery.  Like I wanted to open the door and see the UPS driver DECKED OUT and my pills contained in some bio-hazard bag.

But no go.  A very benign, bubble wrapped envelope with pink pills arrived, compliments of our friendly local man in brown knocking on the door.  Boo.  

So, minus a chemo delivery extravaganza, I started my oral chemo yesterday which (so far) has been pretty easy.  I am not sure if the effects are cumulative though and my last round will be December 5th, two weeks on, one week off.  I have been more tired and the chemo brain is sneaking up a bit, and my feet have been a little on the tingly side (which is concerning), but if this is the worst, I can totally do this.  Although I have now traded in my flip flops for what I lovingly call, "Crocs and Socks".  I know.  Crocs.  But trust me, it's worth not getting the hand and foot syndrome which sounds like a nightmare, so whatever.  Fashionistas can kiss it.  

And I got another puppy but whatever.  She's not cute or anything worth reporting on really, so just going through the motions here...


Anyway, meet Nerd Puppy #2.  Because what's better than one Labrador life partner?  That's right.

She's the most chill puppy ever which in contrast to Finn is a blessing.  Little Chewy is going to keep it all together here at the house because that's what Black Labs do.  LOL totally Finn in the middle.

That's it for now!  Hoping to hang out with all the BFF's this weekend since Aaron is in town for Kevin's birthday.  Three musketeers unite!  Jess gets back from seeing her dad in AZ tomorrow so also going to pick her up and then be subject to teenage girl angst again after a little reprieve, but I wouldn't have it any other way.  I am home for the weekend and next week, and then travel begins back up.  Nevada the week of Labor Day, Dallas a few weeks after that, and then  Nor-Cal mid October.  Phew!! 

Mucho love your way!  Send good vibes that chemo stays easy....I need it to, I don't have time to stay down.


Post blog upload update: I just took my pm dose of Xeloda and I am feeling like ass. Ugh.  Cancer.   The worst.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Day 305

I love my new hair so much it gets it's own blog post.

That is all.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Day 303

Found:  Boobs. 

Yay!!  They found my boobs and they've been "installed"!  Found out why they weren't there the day of my surgery.  With the big recall on textured implants, apparently nothing shipped from Allergan, including my non-textured implants.  Still doesn't explain the breakdown in the process that allowed me even to get to the hospital that day, but hey.  Moving forward.

After my surgery on Monday (which went so smoothly and my blood pressure stayed strong at 110/73 - YES!!!)  I ended up overdoing it on the two days after my surgery, which resulted in a fever and me laying in bed for (almost) the remainder of the week.  I should learn but I won't.  But, besides the incredible bruising and pain on the right side, I think everything looks just great! 

And they are so much softer than the tissue expanders which is great, and I can move my arms over my head now.  I guess how the tissue expanders are inserted and mounted onto your body, it restricts range of motion in your arms, so that is an immediate and welcome side effect.  I'll start PT soon and hopefully that helps with strength and adding more range. I'll likely have to do yet another surgery to correct the damage under my arms too.

The plan now that my chemo has been ordered and approved by insurance is I will start Xeloda on 8/20.  I am going to make the most of the time between treatments and enjoy myself   I even went to a concert last night and saw Berlin, OMD, and the B-52's and it clocked my ass, but I had so much fun!!   I am preparing for the four months of oral chemo to be not great.  Even though I have been assured it's easier, I've heard that before (see Day 105).  If you know me, you know my love of flip flops and I won't be allowed to sport my favorite shoe while I am on this chemo since friction can increase the chances of developing palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia (hand and foot syndrome), which is basically huge burning blisters on your hands and feet.  Nice, right?  Don't forget the diarrhea.  Where can I sign up?!?!  I know I can do it.  Shit, I made it through the four months of IV chemo, but.  It's a hard thing to do to sign up willingly to poison your body but if I don't do this and it comes back, I could never live with that guilt, so poison it is!  I am very hopeful that this will do the trick and I will finally hear the words NED or remission.  Something that has never come up in any of my conversations with my oncology team.  Crossing my fingers so hard!!  I really need to hear that and the fact that I haven't is a heavy burden. 

And, the best most amazing/incredible/crazy news!!  Remember when I said a few weeks ago that I had the hugest surprise??  Well!!!  My company, Associa, has embraced my journey in fighting cancer, and has given me a platform to reach hundreds, even maybe thousands, of my work family to stress the importance of being proactive in our wellness.  A subject that you may know is very near and dear to my heart.  It's a two part series, and I will share the second part when it comes out.  I am so grateful that I am part of a company that has been so supportive.  Words cannot even say enough.  

I wanted to extend my message to all of you too, first and foremost, because I truly care.  And also because even if you haven't hit the career jackpot and are lucky enough to work for Associa like me, the importance of my message is the same.  I'm not trying to be preachy, I want to inspire. I know I say "ummm" a lot in the video. Just trying to #keepitreal.

****hopping on soapbox now****

Be involved in your wellness.  And by involved, I mean actively seek to have an intimate knowledge of your health.  Advocate for yourself and be proactive.  Ignorance is not bliss.  Please don't take your health for granted, even if you feel invincible.  Knowing is power.  Be there for yourself and the ones that love you. Get an annual wellness exam.  It saved my life.  If anyone can learn and change their habits from my vulnerability in sharing my story, then I have achieved my goal.

****stepping down****

Love you all.  Video is below.  Please take a few minutes to watch.


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Day 289

No boobies for me today.

My boobs have been lost.  Seriously folks, they have scoured the OHSU campus and they are nowhere to be found.

So after you're done laughing, because the humor isn't lost on me either, I am really upset and having a hard time absorbing this.  

I was SO ready.  Not only do I need to prepare for surgery at home and work, but emotionally.  This was literally one of the last steps in moving forward.  And it was ripped right out from under me, for a reason that seems un-freaking-real.  

First of all, my initial implant surgery on the 12th of this month was rescheduled at the last minute.  I am also waiting to start chemo until after my surgery, so this will ultimately delay my treatment.  Then I'm sitting in pre-op all marked up and ready to go, with an IV (which as you may or may not know, is really hard to do with chemo veins) and my poor surgeon, who is an amazing and wonderful person, has to come in and tell me they lost my boobs.  I joked and asked him if he had a spare pair in his trunk we could use.  But inside I was dying.  I'm not sure who was more upset, him or me.  I am sure heads will roll at OHSU if he has anything to do with it.  And, since he has a few hours to spare now, I am sure he's doing just that.  Why on earth wouldn't they have them well in advance?  It seems crazy to me.  I mean, isn't there a boobie checklist or something?
  • Surgeon.  Check.
  • Anesthesiologist.  Check.
  • Boobs.  Check.
Simple, right?

Anyway, I tagged the hospital on my (rightfully so) "woe is me" post on IG and they've already reached out and apparently someone from patient relations is supposed to be calling me.   I'm not really sure what they can do other than apologize.  I mean do I get a free stay or water bottle or something for my trouble?  Nothing will really ever make this better.  Other than for someone to find my implants somewhere and get my surgery done, like tomorrow.

I spent the evening on my couch last night shaking from nerves about today and I really don't want to do it again.  I know it may be hard to understand for some and no one will really know what to say other than "that sucks", but the idea of being done with this process and being one step closer to "over" is something that we breast cancer patients cling to and really need to make it through all the shit we have to endure.  And in an instant it's gone, albeit for now, and it's a bitter pill to swallow.  

I'm upset.  I'm pissed.  I'm devastated.  I'm done venting.

Oh, and I just got a call from the scheduler and we are on for the second attempt next Monday afternoon.  I asked if we could just ship the new boobs to me and I will bring with.   Just an offer.  My surgeon is coming on his day off, which his nurse said he has never done before, and I am grateful to him for that.  What a freaking roller coaster.

I'm exhausted.

Love to you all, thanks for listening and for your kind words and support.