Thursday, September 26, 2013

An Update

In my mother's health scenario, there is much very good news with a compact side of complexity.

The good news is that we've learned that there is no lymph involvement in her stage one breast cancer. Moreover, her surgery was very successful and they believe they removed the entire tumor cleanly - as they say "with good margins". Really, this is excellent and cause for celebration (!!!!!!)

The complex news is that the cancer she had is classified as triple negative. In simple terms, this means that it's doesn't express receptor genes for various hormones, which means that treatment options, when necessary, are less plentiful than those available to treat "regular" cancers (like there is such a thing?!). Of course, in her case the tumor has been successfully excised - and the entire cancer almost certainly removed with it. But triple negative cancers are more likely, if only on a statistical basis, than the others to move around. The (rather unpopular) gist is that chemo is indicated, in addition to radiation.

Further complex-ifying things is family history. I've mentioned that my - very alive and well - maternal aunt had the same kind of cancer many years ago (when she was in her early thirties) and happily recovered. (She even reads this blog, unlike most of my family members, so she gets a gold star! Hi, L!) My maternal grandfather died of malignant melanoma and other, more distant, family members have battled breast cancer. In light of this, my mum - if only statistically - is in the camp of those with increased likelihood for the BRCA gene mutations (see: Angelina Jolie). Yeah, she's been tested and we're waiting for results. Note: There is a good likelihood that gene mutation will play NO factor in this. Of course, these results are key for my sister and me (and the three daughters we have between us). I do intend to write more on this topic, needless to say, if only to close the loop.

PSA from my mother: Hispanic women have an increased predisposition towards the BRCA gene mutations - like (but not to the same extent as) Ashkenazi Jewish women. So keep this in mind Latin-ladies, as you pay attention to your health and care, but don't let it freak you out.

Let's take a moment here to be reminded of the very good news: tumor removed cleanly. No lymph involvement. This is also a good opp for me to interject that my mother is mega-fortunate to have found a FANTASTIC clinic (like a fancy spa meets space-aged hospital) where I'm sure she is going to get the best care in the freakin' world.

She starts chemo tomorrow - so if you could pull out your positive vibes again - they seem to work so well! - we would be exceedingly grateful. xoxo

PS: Any tips and tricks you may know of, when it comes to managing the temporary side-effects of chemotherapy, are very welcome. Pls. let's talk!

52 comments:

  1. Oh, what a blessing the surgery went well, but I'm so sorry your mother has to endure chemotherapy and radiation. I am keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers. Sending more love and hugs through cyberspace. And thank you for keeping us up to date!

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    1. I know - it's not the scenario we were hoping for but, knowing more about the cancer and the process, I am grateful for chemo and radiation.

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  2. So happy to hear all of this good news! Hope all goes well with the gene testing and the chemo tomorrow. Will be thinking about you guys.

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    1. Thank you! It must have done lots of good because her experience was as good as could be.

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  3. Great news indeed Kristin. I will be keeping you guys in my thoughts and will send loads of good karma your way. Also, thanks for the PSA re. BRCA gene mutation on Hispanic women. This Latino lady was not aware of this fact.

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    1. Thank you Andrea! You know, I wasn't aware of it either. Goes to show, you don't think about these things unless you have to :-)

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  4. Even though your mom doesn't need them, you might consider making some of these for her fellow chemo patients. http://blog.timesunion.com/fiberarts/the-knitty-titty-committee/10054/ or here: http://www.knittytittycommittee.com/

    Your mom will have "chemo brain" moments where her memory is foggy, so be patient.

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    1. Wow - that's amazing. Never heard of knit prosthetics before. Thanks! I am trying to be patient with everything even though it's not what I'm best at :-)

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  5. Very happy to hear the good news! Sending the best of healthy vibes across the pond to you....

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  6. Continuing good vibes for your mom -- glad to hear her surgery went so well, all best, Karen

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  7. I'm thrilled that the surgery has been such a success!

    From my experience, every chemo is different, and everyone seems to react differently. It depends a lot on how the healthcare system works for your mum, too. But I found that you always had to be prepared to wait (for all kinds of things), so having books/tablets with movies to watch is good.

    Some people will be offended if you say no visitors due to germs, but too bad. Do what works for you guys.

    Best wishes! I'm always here if you need to talk, kathryncampbell.83 at gmail dot com :-)

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    1. One of the amazing things (so far) is that my mum has received very quick responses and that's taken some of the misery of waiting (and not knowing) out of the equation. But there's still a lot of waiting. For ex. the chemo took 9 hours once all was said and done...

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  8. Good news about the surgery. And, lots of positive thoughts being sent your way. As for your PS, I read once that fasting for a day or so before chemo can have positive effects on both the impact of and side effects from chemo. Something to look more into maybe? A quick google search brought up some of the mainstream articles about the work.

    http://www.cancer.gov/ncicancerbulletin/071012/page5

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fasting-might-boost-chemo

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/241518.php

    http://community.breastcancer.org/forum/121/topic/795402

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    1. This is such interesting info! Thank you.

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  9. Relieved and happy for you! That is good news, indeed!

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  10. There are a few things: Mom's skin texture may change and get a little blotchy. A lightweight tinted moisturizer will be her friend. Sometimes a cream blush will help Mom feel and look livelier: thin it out between the fingertips and smudge upon everything on the face that sticks out: apples of cheeks, top of forehead, tip of nose, chin. With hair loss, a gray or brown eyeliner can give nice definition to the eyes but don't over do.

    If you want more, I have it. I used to do work for 'Look Good, Feel Better' and have a bag of tricks. We have a mutual friend in Sal and she knows how to reach me.

    Most of all: congratulations on the good news and I'm so grateful you and Mom are in good hands.

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    1. Very good info about the tinted moisturizer! I will most certainly contact Sally if I need more intell. Thank you so much!

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  11. So happy for you and your mom that the surgery results were excellent. Chemo is a difficult experience, as is radiation. My mom went through both, my brother had chemo. From my experience, the biggest two issues were anxiety and nausea. Make sure you speak to the doc and be prepared for the nausea - there are good meds for that. Go with your mom for her treatments, always bring some books or mags to read. Fix her meals for when she doesn't feel like cooking, good nutrition will be important. Laugh with her, spend time together that isn't about chemo or radiation, be strong for her, and just be there for her. I hope the treatment goes well, and the news continues to be positive.

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    1. Oh, I think the anxiety issue is close to home. Happily, so far, the nausea hasn't been a problem because she took the mega-meds to avoid it. I will not be able to attend most of her sessions because we live far from each other, but I am on the phone with my father through the whole procedure (on and off). Thank you for sharing your experience.

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  12. That is the best news I've received all day! Congratulations! And, I'm interested to know the results of the gene test. I have a friend with Triple Negative Breast Cancer (she's in remission!) -- and she is of South American Descent and carries the gene.

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    1. Thank you! No one's more interested than me (and maybe my sister) about the gene test. Well, and my mother (of course). I will definitely write more when we have info. Interesting that your friend carries the gene and had triple negative cancer. I know they are associated in some people.

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  13. Well, I am not a doctor, but all I can say from my own anecdotal experience is that catching it before it spread is HUGE. Celebrate!! So glad to hear :)

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  14. Sending positive thoughts and best wishes for healing. xo

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  15. I will be thinking of you and your family during this trying time! I am sure having her family close is a blessing. Stay strong!

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    1. Well, in truth I'm not close physically, but I am emotionally - so hopefully that will span the gap!

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  16. Good news! I'm keeping my fingers crossed the bad gene is sparing her and all future generations. I'm sure she'll get through chemo fine, like the trouper she appears to be!

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    1. Please do keep those fingers crossed. Thanks Uta.

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  17. Really positive news for you and your mum. . That's great. I'll be keeping an eye out for any chemo tips as my dad started it on Monday. Seems Seems to be ok so far just tired and a bit queasy.

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    1. Egad - too many people are having chemo! (Although we must be grateful for it.) It is VERY tiring, isn't it? I'm giving you my positive vibes for your family.

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  18. Glad that there is so much good news, and will be thinking sympathetically of you and your mother over the coming weeks. Loving and intelligent support is all that friends and kin can give to cancer patients, but it an important gift that comes back to givers. A small story may amuse. Over a decade ago my best friend Marg was having chemo for breast cancer. Her family and friends rallied to support her and each other. Her partner and I were having a whisky one night when she was in bed early (chemo can be exhausting). I told him how much friends valued the way he was looking after her. He said something to the effect that he knew that if he didn't give his all her friends would be after him and there would be no place to hide. I said 'not unless you fled to Vladivostok'. He paled slightly and said 'we had an email asking how the chemo was going today from Vladivostok. Marg is well a decade later and we are all aware of how important it is to care for each other in whatever ways we can.

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    1. Hilarious story! And I'm so happy for you and Marg and her family that all is well. These are the good stories to hear!

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  19. So glad to hear the surgery was successful. Hang in there!

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  20. Wonderful news about the surgery! I'll keep your family in my thoughts as your mom continues with her treatment.

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  21. positive vibes by the metric ton coming from kalkatroona. with a technicolor bow on top. much love!!!!

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    1. I love the metric ton vibes!! :-) xo

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  22. Fantastic news! Will be continuing to send the good vibes and prayers your way though!! I wish I had something to share re: radiation/chemo, but I don't. Hopefully though, someone else does, since cancer seems to be a fairly common thing, sadly.

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    1. Thank you so much Becca. I'm very happy that you don't have any info on the topic to share because it means you haven't had to think about it. I wish that for everyone. xo

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  23. Hurrah for clean margins! I am continuing to keep you and your family in my thoughts.

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    1. I know! Isn't that great? Than you V. xo

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  24. AWESOME! That's great news. In getting a friend through treatment, what I did was make lots of "single serving" meals as she found her sense of taste and smell varied a lot depending on the day. Cooking is my "thing" (Home Ec Teacher) and I kept servings small and aimed for lots of flavour, healthy and varied textures. That way if she got part way through and had enough, there's no so much worry about "wasting". Lots of soups/smoothies as sometimes that helped the nausea a bit.
    Sending good vibes your way.

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    1. That's a great idea - and what a wonderful way to express your friendship (and your creativity). I can't do this realistically, as I live far away, but it's something that other family members can attend to.

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  25. That's great news, Kristin!! Glad the surgery helped. Thanks for keeping us posted.

    Sending more prayers, positive and healing vibes fir your mom.

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    1. Thanks Kay! Will def keep you posted.

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  26. Happy to hear the surgery went well. I wish my MIL were here right now because she has a lot of wisdom to share. She just had a wig-taking-off ceremony two months ago as a way of saying "I'm done!". For the first two months of her chemo she was travelling all over the world! The end was the hardest part. Family and community help and friendship were really vital.

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    1. How wonderful that she is at the wig-cast away stage! I wish her wonderful health for the rest of her life. xo

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