Pulling It Together

Miss M and I have arrived.

After a hellish flight from Dayton to Vancouver (including a 6 hour layover at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and an arrival time of 2am into Vancouver – 5am Ohio time – thank God Auntie ‘Cole was there to pick us up) we are now happily settled at Grandpa’s house on Bowen Island. Miss M and I are overjoyed to be spending time with some of our favorite people… The sun is shining (a rarity around these parts)… The air smells delicious… The birds are chirping… The views of the ocean and mountains are breathtakingly beautiful. It feels good to be back.

The latest news on the cancer front, is that my most recent echocardiogram showed a decrease in my heart functioning (from 60-65% down to 50-55%). Any lower than that and I may want to consider discontinuing the Herceptin. But for now my oncologist Dr. K says not to worry – So i’m trying not to. Apparently my base level when I was first diagnosed was close to the level I’m at now. Guess I have to bump up the cardio and interval training a bit. If anyone has thoughts about how to keep my ticker healthy please send ’em my way.

Dr. K also mentioned that if, after surgery, I remain tumor free for the next few sets of scans we may be able to stop with the Herceptin anyway. Although metastatic patients are often on Herceptin indefinitely, earlier stage breast cancer patients usually take the drug for just one year post-surgery. Apparently, now that I have responded so well to treatment, I could possibly be treated in a similar fashion. Sounds good to me!

The other news is that I have a date for my breast surgery: Thursday September 13th – at Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC.

Between now and then I have to do a ton of things to prep for the surgery, including a PET scan, bone scan, MRI, EKG, complete physical, and extensive blood work. All of which will be done in Ohio when I get back from my trip to Vancouver at the end of the month.

Plus I still have to coordinate all the logistics – travel plans, care schedules, Hubby’s paperwork to request medical leave, recovery aftercare… But I continue to trust that the details will work themselves out. That the Universe (and my mom) will help me pull it all together.

And as I contemplate all these details, I am once again reminded of just how amazing my support team is. As I prepare for the next chapter in my breast cancer journey I am so appreciative and grateful for the people in my life that continue to help me (and Miss M and Hubby) through it all. I know that a big part of why I am still alive today and feeling healthy is because of your support. Thank you!!!

I also understand that support is a two-way street. Even if someone wants to give support the other person must be willing to receive it. And having breast cancer has definitely challenged me to let go of a lot of unhealthy behaviours – One of the biggest being my ability to ask for help and openly receive it. But also to not try to do it all by myself… To speak my mind… And say ‘No’ to the things that bring me down instead of lifting me up.

I encourage us all to take stock of our lives and the energies that surround us on a day-to-day basis. To work on letting go and distancing ourselves from the “haters”, the negativity, the people and things that drain us and bring us down instead of lifting us up and contributing to our ability to be the best and most authentic person we can be.

It’s an ongoing task but one I am committed to making. And I thank you all for supporting me on this journey of self-discovery.

Peace. – Terri

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24 Responses

  1. Regarding the cardio… As you don’t have a lot of time and you don’t want to stress out your body too much, may I suggest interval training? Colin and I follow bodyrock.tv and do a daily 12 minute workout at home with minimal to no equipment. We’ve both seen HUGE changes in our bodies. Time-wise it’s great. Hard to weasel out of a 12 minute work out. The BodyRock community is very supportive and they actively discourage negativity. If the workouts seem daunting, search for “lite” or “beginner”. Modifications are always offered and there is a new workout 5 days out of 7.

  2. Dear Terri,

    You don’t know me from a hole in the ground, but I’ve been a fan of your mom and dad for all of your life (and maybe even before you were born–the timeline is a little foggy).

    I didn’t know about your cancer until a few days ago, because I’ve been wandering around in a chemo brain fog* since last July. Like you, I have HER2+ breast cancer (Stage IIA, although with HER2, stage doesn’t seem to matter so much as it does with other cancers).

    You asked about something to help with heart function. Many of the women in the support group at her2support.org have had very good luck with CoQ10 (or the bioactive form, ubiquinol). Please consider checking out our group for additional help and suggestions. Even if you don’t want to post, there’s a wealth of information and a search feature to help you get just the answers you need.

    I started chemo (doxorubicin–well-known for causing heart damage–and cyclophosphamide followed by paclitaxel and trastuzumab) with an LVEF of 66%. I’m still on trastuzumab (2 more doses to go to complete the requisite year), and my LVEF is currently 61%. Although I credit many supplements (because I take 30+ a day) for doing well throughout the course of treatment, I think the preservation of my LVEF can be attributed mostly to ubiquinol. I didn’t take it during the first round of chemo, because antioxidants are a no-no, but as soon as I started trastuzumab, I added 200mg/day of ubiquinol. I know others on Herceptin who take even higher doses with good result.

    As for the surgery, you’ll find that the worst part is the drains. I had a bilateral mastectomy with an axillary lymph node dissection on the left side, and the only thing about it I found really truly tiresome was those stupid drains. After the fact, the only thing I would change if I could is the loss of those nodes. Try to hang on to yours if it is at all possible. If not, be sure to demand a lymphedema evaluation and physical therapy as soon as you can. The sooner you take steps to compensate for missing nodes, the better off you’ll be.

    I’ll probably not comment again (because you see what happens when I get started–I can’t shut up), but please know that I’m thinking good thoughts in your direction every day, and I wish you the very best.

    Rhonda

    • Rhonda- THANK YOU so much for sharing your experience and wisdom. The folks at the Block Center in Chicago actually recomended I start taking the Ubiquinol for just that reason. So I have. Hopefully it’ll help. And thanks for the advice on the lymphnode situation, my surgeon was ultimately leaving that decision up to me. My gut instants were telling me to try and keep my lymphnodes. I hear lymphodema is a real bitch! And now that you’re telling me the same, it confirms my suspicions.

      I will definitely be checking out the online HeR2 support group. And so appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Glad to hear you are doing well too. Wishing you all the best, – Terri

  3. Terry, I am really sorry you had a rough trip…you are an inspiration. When I want to whine about something I think of you and suddenly whatever is wrong doesn’t seem so bad. Please ask Miss M to give her grandpa an extra hug from kitten (from alt.c)

    *hugs to you*

  4. Good luck with all your decisions and future treatments Terri, you really are an extremely brave and inspirational woman to share your thoughts with us.

  5. I hope you’ll have a delightful time at Bowen. You seem to have a great plan, an awesome support group, and an amazing attitude. You are an on-going inspiration. Been struggling with my husband’s depression. He’s always been my rock – the one who was the strength. And now I need to be the strength for him. It’s challenging but it’s my turn “at bat.” I guess my point is, that yes, you have a lot of people supporting you, but in return, you are an inspiration, and you never know in the future who will need your support. Take care.

    • Hey lady,
      I saw on your blog that you’ve been having your ups & downs lately. Life is crazy sometimes, eh? I hear you about the dramas of having a depressed husband. My hubby has been battling depression since he was a teen. The meds help a bit. But it’s not easy living with an emotionally unstable person while you’re trying to win the battle for your own life. Just know that there are folks out there (including me) who are sending positive vibes your way. I hope the future brings you more good days than bad.
      hugs, – T

      • It’s been turning around the last couple of days and I’m getting more of my tender, funny husband again. I’m still making sure he gets help though! It’s too much when you have two people dealing with depression to handle without professional help. Give your dad a hug from me. I’m a great fan of his, both for his writing and for his obvious love of you!

  6. Terri, I’m so glad your spending time with family and the place you love before surgery. The steps you are taking towards surgery means you are closer to putting this behind you. I agree with Rhonda, the drain is uncomfortable, but tolerable. I had 3 lymph nodes removed and have not had any problems and i am going on 6 years!! Listen to your Dr. Regarding the exercise to stretch your arm, rest when needed and get out ASAP, even if it is for a walk! I speak with your Aunt Laurie often for updates and please know you have been in my prayers.
    Sending blessings and of course positive energy your way!! :-)

    • Thanks so much Cindy. Laurie speaks of you all the time. And hearing your story has been very helpful to me. Knowing that you’re doing well and that you’re happy with your new breasts :-) is very reassuring. The next time we’re both in Massachusetts I’d love to connect. Lots of love, – Terri

  7. Hi, Terri, just got home from a week at the lake – no Internet. I also recommend CoQ10, probably higher than 200mg. It’s nontoxic; too much is just a $ waste ;-). Be sure to get a reputable source, though. Twinlab is great but more expensive; NOW brand is reputable and inexpensive, but includes other supplements (makes combining a nightmare) or else offers 600mg alone, which is the best deal I’ve found. You could try netrition.com for the most reasonable prices plus cheap, quick shipping, anywhere. Almost endless varieties and sources, plus 5% off over $200 and free T shirts, which we donate to a homeless shelter. Best source I’ve found, and all my shopping must be Internet/catalogue.

    But I was unaware antioxidents aren’t advised – just 1st chemo? Since they wash toxins out of your body? Those I knew on chemo say it helps side effects considerably, especially preventing hair loss. Also some input from Brit friends recommending a “cold cap” to prevent hair loss.

    Best part of being so busy is less time to anticipate surgery ;-). Hugs!

    • The concern about antioxidants is that (in theory) they protect the cancer cells the same way they protect healthy cells.

      Before I started chemo, my cancer center’s pharmacists reviewed my list of supplements and asked me to stop taking several of them. This gave me pause, so I did my own research. Chemo brain being what it is, I can’t find any of it right now, but I did cut my consumption by more than half during 4 rounds of AC and 12 rounds of TH. Since being on Herceptin only, I’ve restarted the old and added a few new.

      A good source of information about foods and supplements to use and to avoid is Food for Breastcancer by Sarah Charles (who is also HER2+). The url is foodforbreastcancer.com.

      I agree with you about ubiquinol. My MUGA results say I don’t need more than 200mg/day, but women who experience significant reductions in their LVEF do seem to benefit from the higher dose.

  8. You don’t know me from Adam, but my son Gabe and daughter Fiona are your niece and nephew. I just saw your blog, and want to send love and encouragement your way.
    Matt

    • Hi Matt,
      Thanks for the support. It was so great to meet Gabe & Fiona this summer on their visit to Massachusetts. They’re really great “kids”. I know how much my mom adored their mother. And it’s been great for me to reconnect with the Corrigan clan. You can never have too much family :-) Hopefully one day the two of us will meet as well.

      All the best, – terri

  9. Hi Terri,
    I know you’ll enjoy your Vancouver time!
    And thank you for continuing to inspire me in my own life’s journey.
    You are a great gift to so many.
    Xoxo
    Diane

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