Saturday, January 31, 2009

What's Normal?

Nothing much going on today. I'd love nothing more than to keep my life moving on as usual until the treatments begin. I've tried to make a list of things I want to get done before before the surgery, but all I can think to do is eat cheesecake and take naps.

Truth be told, I'm so consumed with this cancer stuff that I'm neglecting my daily chores around the house. I wish I could figure out how to keep life moving as normal. Don't get me wrong - there are a lot of pluses to sitting around feeling sorry for yourself...people have no expectations for me and they don't say anything when I eat an entire cheesecake* in a single day.

*according to the st lukes cancer center, this is bad.

So here is my goal: stop whining, get up off my butt, clean my house, and get my life back to "normal" until I physically am unable to take care of my family.

I'm out until Monday night. Peace out, nice people.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Perhaps I Was Too Hasty

Another day another doctor's appointment.
Today is the day I went back to see Dr Young. I misjudged her. No, really. Maybe I was in a better state of mind, or maybe it was the fact that I was in a room that didn't have this poster. Something about this poster really bothers me, but I've not yet figured it out.
Anyway, I was honest with Dr Young and told her how I felt about our first meeting. I didn't feel the need to go into detail. Mostly I just told her that I didn't walk out of her office feeling like she was with me on the Save Sheri From Cancer Train. Wooo! Wooo! (I just read that out loud to Tom and asked him if the 'wooo wooo' sounded stupid and his response was, "not for your writing." More than likely I should be offended, and yet I'm not.)
Dr Young and I discussed how I felt about her last treatment plan and that I didn't feel it was aggressive enough. She said that old treatment plan was off the table now. After last week's MRI results, it seems she's going to have to give aggressive a new meaning. We talked about how the breast center said that with cases like mine, the treatment plan is to give chemotherapy first, then surgery, then more chemo and top it all off with a lovely dose of radiation. I realize I've said all along that I want the most aggressive treatment possible to stay alive, but the idea of two rounds of chemo doesn't thrill me like you might think it would. What Dr Young decided was to make the decision pending the results of more tests.
Yay. Flippin yay. More cancer tests.
Monday I have to be back at the hospital for a CT scan and a bone scan. Should both those tests come back without any sign of cancer, it will be business as usual. I'm not really sure what business as usual is now. I have an appointment with my wonderful surgeon on Tuesday, who will have the results of my Monday scan tests (riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight! because there is no way they won't be ready in time.) Pray, pray, pray, pray those test return without any problems! With no more cancer lurking in my body beyond the breast area, I believe my surgery will actually go as planned on Feb. 12.
MRI finding - or the thing they lied to me about after the first surgery...
The 1.6 cm tumor that they removed from my left breast during the last surgery, is actually over 2 cm in size. I mean - it's a more than 2 cm large tumor, but they missed getting out quite a bit of it...all they actually removed was 1.6 cm. Due to the amount of said tumor still hangin out in my breast, I got to be kicked up from a stage 1b triple negative breast cancer to a stage 2 n1 triple negative. And I qualify for Dr Young's clinic trial! Yessss! I am very happy about that. Dr Young rocks! I've always thought so, and those of you who doubted her doctoring ability should just be ashamed of yourselves.
Because of this leap up in the cancer stage and the increased size of the tumor and the cancer in one or more lymph nodes.... I am going to get three different types of chemotherapy medications. What she said they usually do is they will combine two of the meds for a few months or so then start the third med after that. This has less stress on you body. Much less chance of wicked side effects. The worst way to give them is all three at one time. You guessed it. Of course. I get em all at once. The good doctor explained that the three combined would destroy the veins in my arms so they will have to put a shunt in my chest at the same time of my mastectomy.
Anyway, here's praying this next tests don't show anymore cancer. Cancer sucks and stuff.
Added comment:
To my sister Abby: you married my brother, but I think of you more as my sister than my sister-in-law. If you ever do again what you did today and NOT tell me about it because you think I've got too much going on in my life...I will start calling you "some girl who buys me stuff", because I'm not going to let you stop buying me stuff just because I'm upset with you. It would be wrong to hurt you like that.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I'm tired today.

We all get tired, but today seems to be more so than normal for me. I'm absolutely overwhelmed with all the choices I'm expected to make. Choices that affect my life. Choices that not only affects my life either, but the lives of my family - my children. If anything were to happen to me who would teach my children sarcasm?

I need to find the right doctor for me. All could think about today was: find a doctor; do it now, but make sure he is great; it's literally a matter of life or death; is there any doctor out there that wants me to live as much as I want me to live? How do I find him? How do i find him NOW?

In my breast and lymph nodes I have very aggressive cancer. It consumes my thoughts. Everyday I sit and learn more about this stupid disease. A disease that wants nothing more than to take my life from me. The cancer center is preparing me for what to expect, but they aren't really doing anything. The cancer is growing. I've no idea how fast it's growing, but I know it is.

When I was a little girl, my brother and I found some sort of ivy plant growing along the fence in our backyard. We thought it was kinda interesting looking. We had our mom come outside to look at our newly discovered weird plant. Mom agreed that it was unusual and we dug it up so we could replant it in our pretty flower bed. This ivy plant or whatever it was grew quickly and in just a few days had taken over the flowerbed. It was wrapping its self around the pretty flowers and killing them. We dug it up and pulled out the dead flowers, but it would return. I remember thinking that we should have pulled it out the moment we saw what it was doing, but we waited too long.

I look at my cancer like that weed - planting it's roots and growing - killing everything it touches. It needs to come out now. Everyday that goes by is another day that it grows stronger - attempting to do it's soul purpose for being inside me: to kill me. I'm tired of obsessing about it. I'm tired of waiting for someone to do something. I'm tired. I'm so tired I can't stand it.

So, here are my choices: the only oncologist I can get in to see right away is the lovely Dr Young, whom I've not been happy with. I'm able to see her tomorrow morning. Or I wait. Wednesday I can see a doctor that Vickie said she thought was good, or I wait til Jan 10th to finally see the one doctor that was recommended highly by many people. I can't wait. I'll see Dr Young tomorrow.

Tonight I want desperately to sleep. I want 15 seconds that the word cancer isn't in my mind. Even when I am able to sleep, I dream about that evil disease.

So here is what I ask of you my wonderful family and friends: help me, please. Pray for me. Pray with me. Pray I am able to find peace until my treatments finally begins. I just can't do this alone. Please, help me. I'm scared.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I am in awe right now.
Today I spent from 9:30am - 3:00pm at the cancer center learning about cancer stuff. Things I learned today: the side effects of radiation suck, but aren't nearly as bad as the side effects of chemo; I have to buy my wig before I start chemotherapy; I have a short attention span when people talk to me for long periods of time; I have the start of a hangnail on my left thumb; it is extremely important that I watch what I eat, because breast cancer is the only cancer you get that causes you to GAIN weight (insert curse word here); I look GOOOOOOD in those cancer hats; I look like Aunt Jamima in the cancer scarves; when they tell you that there is now a medicine that keeps you from being sick during chemo - it only keeps some women from getting sick; the cancer center needs to find a new woman to share with me her survival story, because the one I had to talk to today sucked the life out of me (more on this later); I have so many praying for me that I'm speechless (Tom says to say thanks.)
Wow. I can't think of a better word than wow. When I was first diagnosed, I started getting emails from family and friends. Each day that went by my prognosis got worse and the emails increased. You may not believe this, but I've not been sleeping well the last couple of weeks - some stuff on my mind kinda keeping me from getting the 12 - 14 hours a night that a normal stay-at-home mom gets. Since I'm not sleeping, I wait til the family goes to bed to update my blog and return emails. Last night I was up until after 4am returning emails (if you were the one that received the email at 4:00, it doesn't mean I love you the least...I'm answering them in the order I receive far as you know anyway.) Today when I got home I had over 50 emails, and only a very few of them were trying to sell me Viagra. (I wonder if the people from my church who are reading this will find that funny.)
I read this from an article written in Science Daily:
Triple negative breast cancer is a highly aggressive form which comprises 10-15 percent of newly diagnosed early stage breast cancer. Most triple negative tumors are high grade and have a high incidence of recurrence and metastases (spreading to other organs). Unlike other types of breast cancer, there is no standard follow-up treatment for triple negative breast cancer to prevent recurrence.
I can't spend the rest of my life sitting around worrying. I will never fully understand why God gave me this disease, but I do believe everything happens for a reason. God gave me cancer, but I also believe very strongly in the power of prayer. Whatever the path God decides I shall take, I know I'm not taking it alone. The surgery, the chemo, the radiation, is mine to go through...but somehow it's a little easier knowing there are so many, many, many people who are praying for me along the way.
"So then, those who suffer according to God's will should entrust their souls to their faithful Creator and continue to do what is good." 1 Peter 4:19
God, family, friends and a sense of humor will get me through this.
So here is a shout out to all mah peeps! I'll keep you abreast. Werd.
I'm sorry to say, sadly, that I'm too exhausted to tell the story of the cancer survivor lady, nor am I able to return emails tonight. I've taken a neat pill that is causing me to feel very drugged and kinda gangsta. Peace out.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

Wonderful Vickie from St Luke's Breast Center called a couple hours ago to inform me that my MRI report was in. She had a happy voice! A flood of relief washed through me. I didn't realize I had been holding my breath waiting for the results of that tests; the test that will tell me if I have cancer anywhere else in my body. Vickie had a happy voice. "Hi Sheri, I just wanted to let you know that your MRI report was in!" I could see her smiling. "I've not seen it myself, but I know it's here. Donna will be calling you with the results the first chance she gets!"

I start crying. The waiting continues.

For those of you who have forgotten, Donna is the one that called to inform me I had breast cancer. I sure look forward to hearing her voice again. I know I've joked a lot throughout this blog, but there is absolutely no joking when I say that I hear Donna's voice in my head sometimes telling me again and again that I have cancer. I wanted to know the results of my MRI, but I didn't want to hear them from Donna.

"Hi, Sheri, it's Donna, I was the one that had to call you last time, too." That voice, that tone, oh God, it's exactly the same as the last time she called. I start trembling before she even says another word. "I'm so sorry I have to call you with this, but your doctors are out of town."

"Just tell me."

"Well, Sheri, to be honest, it's not good. Your scan shows 4 additional areas in your right breast and it appears you do have cancer in two of your lymph nodes on the left side."

"I need you to stop now, I'm sorry." This time I'm alone in the house and I have no choice but to listen to the report. Appointments need to be made quickly now. The planned surgery for the 12th is off. Everything has suddenly been kicked into overdrive. "Ok" I ask her, "just how bad is this?"

"That's not something I can tell you. You'll have to discuss the fine details with your surgeon and oncologist." "I hate my oncologist." I tell her. She let me vent about how much I didn't like Dr. Young. I explained that I was trying to get a new oncologist, but so far that wasn't going well. Donna told me to find someone quickly, and whoever I find I better be happy with them, because I'm going to be seeing them a lot.

Before I hung up the phone with Donna, I asked her to never call me again. She said she didn't want to call me anymore either. Well, that was rude of her to say.

Time for more tears. I sat in my chair with my head in my hands crying until I could hardly breathe. I felt like a kid playing dodge ball: alone on my side, and the other team still has all 50 people remaining, and they're all holding a ball... and looking at me. I felt completely helpless with nowhere to run. My family and friends are all in the stands looking down at me, watching me slowly getting slammed with one ball after another. There is nothing they can do to help me. They have to watch as I start to pick myself up, only to see me turn around and get hit even harder. Unfortunately I can't quit either. My only option is to stand there and attempt to endure each jolt that is thrown my way.

I have to compose myself before I start the phone calls. As always, as soon as I start talking the tears begin to flow. Crap. After calling Tom and my parents, I decide I need to talk to someone else about that report. Poor Vickie. I know I'm driving her crazy, but I call her anyway to see if she has anything else to say about this latest information. She did.

Vickie hadn't seen my MRI report yet, so I told her what Donna told me. Vickie said I was very limited on time now with finding a new oncologist. She told me that what is usually the case was the surgeon decides to hold off on surgery and I will have to start chemotherapy as soon as possible. Because it appears now that both my breasts have cancer and it has spread to my lymph nodes, they can't be positive it isn't spreading elsewhere. Right now the main focus is to kill it with heavy blasts of chemo and then I will be scheduled for a double mastectomy, followed by more chemotherapy and possibly radiation. Awesome. Glad I called. I'm going to have to ask that Vickie no longer be allowed to touch the dodge balls.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another Day With Crappy News

Before I begin........


That took a lot of effort on my part to mention anyone else in MY blog. It dang well better be appreciated.

Anyone who has gotten to know me over the last week or so (or hasn't gotten to know be, but has had the misfortune to pass me on the street or dial my number by mistake or deliver my mail) knows how very unhappy I've become with my doctors. It seems people come out of the woodwork with stories on how their great aunt Edna used to hang for 12 hours upside down on a clothesline until her cancer disappeared. And they also love to tell you the name of the oncologist that their mother/father/brother/neighbor used to cure their cancer. I'm interested in the names of the doctors given to know, just in case my doctor.. oh, I dunno, gets killed by a pride of hungry lions while in Africa. That really could happen, you know. Honestly, it's probably a less than 10 percent chance that my doctor will get eaten by a lion while in Africa. She should be ok.

Anyway! A name that keeps getting mentioned time and time again is Dr. Lee, who happens to be right down the road from me. As far as I'm concerned, enough is enough with those other doctors and I'm going to see Dr. Lee, if for no other reason than to get a second opinion. It was a major production to get that office visit set up and have my files faxed over to him. In the midst of it all Allison reminds me that she needs her Abraham Lincoln costume finished up by Friday. The one I hadn't started sewing yet? Oh nooooooooooooooooooo!

Once again I'm on the verge of another melt down and it's Tom to the rescue. He's helping with homework, reading to the kids a book called "My Mom Has Cancer", cooking a chicken I planned to make for dinner but didnt, finishing the arrangements for my new doctor's appointment and ordering Allison an Abe Lincoln costume off the internet. He finally gets the costume ordered and informs me that a couple of calls beeped in while he was on the phone but he didn't click over. Those calls I had been waiting for all day. Every Monday the surgery and oncologist doctors (who aren't off frolicking in Africa) have a meeting and talk about newly diagnosed cancer patients. They decide what they believe is the best course of action for each new patient to take.

Since my doctors were both out of town (being eaten by lions, I'm sure), a wonderful woman named Vickie promised to attend then call me to tell me what they said about me. Vickie tried to call while Tom was on the phone. Tom did not click over. It was important to me to find out what they said. I was livid! How dare he not click over? I have cancer! I could fall over dead right now and he wouldn't care! He doesn't care at all about my plight! All Tom cared about was getting Allison that costume that I completely forgot to make because I've been totally wrapped up in my own self. It took Vickie almost 5 whole minutes to return my call after I left her a message. Let us all give Tom horrible looks the next time we see him. He's a bad man. Good grief. Have I always been this self absorbed?

Vickie told me the doctors studied my case and found it unusual (and thought I was the most beautiful woman in alllll the land...she didn't say that last part, it was just understood.) They had received another test result that we had been waiting on and it, of course, came back less than great. I'm starting to get numb to this crap now. What was interesting was the doctors thought I was a great candidate for one of the oncologists in their group's clinical studies. One of the doctor's is doing a study on unusual cases of triple negative breast cancer. I perked up! I wouldn't mind people studying me. Where do I sign up?

Vickie said she'll make some calls and see what she can do to get the ball rolling, and oh, by the way, the name of the doctor doing this study is Kelley Young. Sigh. Vic, baby, check my charts, you see the name listed there as my oncologist? PAUSEEEE. "Well, I show it's Dr. Kelley Young. How long has it been since you've seen her?" FRIDAY! This past freakin Friday!

It seems this clinical study that Dr Young is doing on unusual cases of triple negative breast cancer patients didn't need me; her own patient. Heaven only knows why she didn't want me. Maybe I was too pretty? Maybe she was jealous of the very cool tennis shoes I was wearing that day? Maybe she was grossed out because the whole time I was in her office crying I was using the sleeve of my t-shirt to wipe my nose? Who's to know? I do know one thing right now - if she were to beg me and pay me money and buy me a new car to just to join her clinical trial... I totally would.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Looks Like It's Something

Part IV

Recovering from the lump removal was longer than I expected. The doctor told me I would be sore the day of the surgery and the following day, after that I should start feeling much better. What a freakin liar. I hurt! My entire breast was swollen about 5 times it's normal size, while turning a stunning shade of red and purple. But, all in all, I was dealing with the pain better than I normally would have, because I had the knowledge that the lump removed was nothing. Finally that mess was over. I recover quickly with only a scar to remind me of everything I just went through.
Don't we all know by now this actually turned out to be something? That phone call will be forever ingrained into my mind: "Mrs. Strickland, this is Donna at St Luke's Breast Center and (pause) I'm sorry (pause) we found some cancer cells in your biopsy." She went on talking, but I didn't hear another word. I repeated back to her the word 'cancer'. It was all I could do to keep hold of the phone, but she kept talking. I told her to stop, please, give me a second to process that. Tom was sitting across the room from me and I saw his face turn white and his head drop down to his chest. It was the middle of the day on weekday and I was so thankful to God that Tom was there. I explained to the woman that I couldn't think and didn't understand anything she was saying. I handed the phone over to Tom and walked out of the room.
When I left the room, I started crying. Then I started processing exactly what I heard: "some" cancer cells. That didn't sound so bad. Kinda like: "good job cleaning the entire house, but I found 'some' dirt on the floor, take another 5 minutes to clean that up." Some? How bad could that be? They told me the spot was about 7 mm and in that they found "some" cancer cells. What are we talking here? 4 or 5 cancer cells total? The more I thought about it, the calmer I got. Just a few days ago I got skin cancer blasted off my arm. "Some" cancer cells on my skin. Fine! It's cancer, but it's NOTHING cancer. Pffft. I'm going to be ok.
Monday, January 19, 2009. That's the day I will never forget. Back to the breast center. There was a nonstop flow of women coming in and out of my little patient room. It seemed like they were all talking at once. They filled an entire canvas bag of books and papers about breast cancer awareness, support groups, how to cope, when to cry, what to eat, books for my children to read, etc, etc, etc. Slow down, people! I don't have breast cancer. I have a blip of some sort. Five cancer cells maybe. Come on! That's not breast cancer. Is it? Women die from breast cancer. There is absolutely no way I have that.
The surgeon came in at some point to explain what she extracted during the surgery. She said the tumor was a little under 2 cm big. Tumor? Did she just say tumor?
Processing that...
Ok, it was a tumor. They knew going into surgery something was there, but not what it was exactly. Fine, it's a tumor. The room is full of noise and talking . So many people around me, but all I can do is process one word at a time. I have a tumor. NO! I HAD a tumor. She removed the tumor that was almost 2 cm large.
Processing that...
WAIT! How big? I asked her why they told me it was tiny tiny tiny, but wasn't wasn't wasn't wasn't. She explained that when she extracted it from me, it didn't look like a tumor. It was a jagged and odd looking mass. (I'm sure her tumors are stupid looking too, but I would never call them names as she just did mine.)
I think I held it together, for the most part while I was there. Most of it was a blur. I felt pretty detached from everything everyone was talking about because what they were talking about, I did not have. The surgeon told me she removed my tumor. If she needed to go back in and root around in that area to insure she got everything...ok by me! And then we'll be done, right?
Did I just hear the word radiation? They are talking about chemotherapy now. NO! I don't have breast cancer. "SOME" cancer cells. That's what she said. Who get chemo and radiation when they only have "some" cancer cells? I don't have breast cancer! I have something like skin cancer, but inside my body. They removed them. I promise to stay out of the sun and eat less red meat and whatever else it takes. This is crazy. Stop talking to me like I have breast cancer. I'm only 39 years old!
When I asked the surgeon if she was sure, she didn't answer, she hugged me. Oh God. How dare she hug me? I suddenly got very angry with this woman. I asked her why she told me when I was in recovery that the tumor looked like nothing? I was raising my voice now. I told her that surgeons are supposed to be able to tell when it's cancer! My voice getting even louder as I reminded her that she said it wasn't! I was screaming when I asked: Why didn't she warn me!?
They really are saying I have this. I broke down completely right then. What they were saying hit me between the eyes; they were seriously saying I have a disease that kills thousands of women each year. My surgeon seemed to be able to read my mind and told me exactly what I wanted to hear: Sheri, you're not going to die from this. I'm not? Saa weet! Those were the words I wanted to hear and it calmed me down.
Now it was the time to go over my pathology report. Everything thing sounded A-ok to me.
Most common type of breast cancer (check!)!
Most studied (check!)!
Caught early (check!)!
Aggressive level 2 (chee.. whaaa?)
Not a huge deal, she explains! Three is as high as it goes and I'm smack dab in the middle. Sooooo.. (check??)
Tested negative for Her2, estrogen and progesterone hormones *no clue what any of that means, but negative sounds like a good thing to me* (check!)
Hold on there, Little Buckaroo. Uncheck that please. Cancer needs one or all of those to feed it, to make it grow - that way all the doctors have to do is give the woman a hormone blocker and TA DA. I had cancer that is being fed and is growing by some unknown force. Because they don't know what's making this grow, they can't give any type of hormone blocking medicine.
My cancer is called triple negative. It is aggressive and rare. While it has been discovered that chemotherapy works wonders to rid your body of this. Sadly, it has an extremely high chance of showing up somewhere else in your body years later.
This is the point where I've been asked to decide what to do. Do I want them to go back in, check the lymph nodes and do another sweep around the area where the tumor was? Do I want one breast removed? Do I want them both removed?
What I want is what is best for my children and family: to stay alive. I will do whatever it takes. I'm just not sure what it is right now.