Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Chemo Christmas (or Round 2 is in the bag)

Wednesday I had my second round of chemo. So far I have felt about the same as before. I had a great 3 hour nap today! Other than the fatigue- I feel pretty good. I am all ready for Christmas and that feels great. From my picture you can see my hair is gone. The day it started coming out I didn't have to work, so had some time to work through my feelings and come to grips with it. I have been blessed with many tender mercies from our Heavenly Father. So many, in fact, that I will dedicated my next blog to that subject. It only took a couple days and when it started coming out in clumps, I took charge and had Heather give me a buzz. I was so glad I did because as it all fell out it was easier. Cancer has taken a lot from me, but that are some things it won't. A great friend shared this with me-
"What Cancer Cannot Do"
It cannot-
Invade the soul
Suppress memories
Kill friendship
Destroy peace
Conquer the spirit
Shatter hope
Silence courage
Cripple love
Corrode faith
Steal eternal life

And I would like to add one more- it cannot take away the Christmas spirit. I feel it more than ever this year. I want to thank all of you for your support in this fight. My battle has been easier because of your love, thoughts and prayers. As I have said before- I can feel them. I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Same Son

Now that my first round of chemo has worked its magic, I thought I would let you know how it went. My first symptom was not one I had been told about. The morning after (Thurs) I woke up very flushed. My face was warm to the touch and looked sort of red but it was not a fever. My guess is it was just how I reacted to the chemicals. I felt fine and worked all day. Friday morning the redness was gone and I still felt good. I went on a great run with my running partner Kara (you want a great laugh and some inspiration click here). Later on that day I started feeling fuzzy or cloudy. The closest thing I can compare it to is when your sinuses are all clogged and you can't think. I just felt like lying down. I took a good nap so I could go to the game that night. Saturday was worse. To help boost your immune system, they give you a shot called Neulasta. It causes bone and joint pain. Luckily, they have figured out that Claratin helps for some reason so I kept that in my system but when it wore off it was not fun. So Saturday I just didn't feel like doing anything- so I didn't :) I never felt any nausea which was nice. Monday my taste buds checked out. Yep, everything tastes metallic. Some things are worse than others. The worst is carbonated drinks. Its okay they aren't good for you anyway. It is all temporary, right?

So this week I will find out if my hair is going to fall out or not. There is a small percentage of people that don't lose their hair, but I am not counting on that. Most people lose it between the 12th and 18th day after chemo. And once it starts- it goes quick. I am ready with some hats and a couple wigs that were given to me. I think it will be pretty tough. It is just really hard to imagine.

I went on another good run yesterday and I would like to share a thought I had. In my last post I talked about how I found my "happy place" during chemo by thinking of Florida. On my run the sun was shining and I thought of how cold it was compared to the warmth I felt Florida. Then I realized it is the same sun. Even though it might not feel as warm, I can still close my eyes and remember. Then I thought of our Heavenly Father's Son. He is the same Son that was born that Christmas night over 2000 years ago. He is the same Son that lived a perfect, sinless life. He is the same Son that suffered for my sins and took the sting of death away. He is the same Son that knows exactly how I feel because of his suffering and has been with me every step of the way. He is the same Son that loves me perfectly, unconditionally for eternity.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Round one- DONE!

I know that this picture has nothing to do with completing my first round of chemo. It was taken by my great friend Hollie in Florida and it is one of my favorite pictures. I guess maybe it does have something to do with chemo yesterday- this is one of the images I had stored away to help me find my "happy place." So when everything around me was gray and depressing (lots of chemo patients around me and a rainy, overcast day out the window) I thought of the sun in Florida.

So yesterday I started out at the gym (a very good place to destress). Then I went the temple. I decided I needed some of the "peace of God that passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7) and I found it. There is something so great about disconnecting from the world and finding inner peace. When we were leaving for chemo Steve said, "I never thought we would ever be going to a chemo appointment." So true, but I guess there are always things in life you don't think you will have to experience. The actual treatment was very uneventful. I was so tense they had to poke me three times to find a vein, but I relaxed after that. I read a book- "Christmas Jars" I highly recommend it. Short and sweet- I read it start to finish. Although it felt like a long, drawn out processes because I was worried about Steve getting to practice on time- it really wasn't bad. And I feel great so far- they say it hits you on day 2 or 3.

So I am 25% done. Three more rounds to go. Dec 21, Jan 11 and Feb 1. Thanks to all you that have been there for me. It is very hard to put into words the tangible love that I feel through the countless prayers, thoughts, cards, dinners, small gifts and more. I could never do this with out all that. I love you guys!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Ironman

He did it! Steve is an Ironman. He surprised me by wearing this shirt (the back is shown in the picture below). If you can't tell, his bandanna has pink ribbons on it. This picture is at the halfway mark on the run. Doesn't he look great! I am still amazed that he did this. His strength is so inspiring to me. If you have not read his post before the race, I highly recommend it. It is called "This one is personal" (dated Nov. 1st). I am so lucky to have such a great guy behind me in this fight. I knew that he would be my strongest supporter, but I never imagined all the ways he has found to accomplish this. I am so proud of him completing this race. I will never forget how it felt to hug him at the finish. I love my Ironman!

My Ironman

On the right is the back of Steve's shirt. Also included is his medal and official Ironman shirt.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Unexpected Blessings

Last Friday I was called into the Principal's office. I thought a was in a lot of trouble. Well, he is my boss and pretty soon he had me in tears. But they were tears of joy. The faculty and staff at Riverton High had taken up a collection for me. Along with a huge card, I was holding an envelope with enough money to cover ALL of our out of pocket expenses. I did not expect anything like this, but I am not surprised at all by the generosity from my co-workers. Riverton High School is like a big family- we take care of each other. There are a lot of things about cancer that are scary and the financial strain is one of them and now that is gone! I don't know how to thank them enough for such an incredible blessing.

Today I met with my oncologist and he gave me some great news. After surgery my tumor was tested further and they found that it is not positive for HER2 so I do not need Herceptin (an expensive, year long treatment). Also, I will only have 4 rounds of chemo instead of 6. My first one will be Nov. 30th so I can enjoy Thanksgiving. So, with that we are off to Florida tomorrow. Bon Voyage :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pink Nikes- Cool!

Everyone finds their own way of joining me in this fight. Jordan wears his pink Nikes every time he plays ball. They are Kobe's and they have a little pink ribbon on the heel. I love it! And I love him.

I went back to work today. It was so good to be back. There are so many people there that love and support me. I had some pretty funny conversations about my tissue expander, bra size and which side I need the prosthesis on. It's great to laugh about it. I hope that someday I can help someone else laugh while they are going through all this.

I meet with my Oncologist next Tues. and then leave for Florida on Wed. Can't wait! It is going to be so good to get away and forget all this for a few days. When I was first diagnosed I wanted to run away from it, but obviously you can't run away from something inside you. Florida will give me a chance to "run away" for a minute so I can come back and fight some more.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beautiful Fall Colors- Great Therapy

I told you Steve has a way with words! I really appreciate him giving that update on my surgery. He has been so, so good. In so many ways I feel like this is harder for him than it is me. For example, during the surgery I was completely oblivious and sleeping while he had to worry for hours. Even after the surgery, I was flying high on painkillers (as you can see in the pictures he posted) and he still had to be the one worrying. This battle is not for the faint of heart and his heart is strong and committed.

On Sunday we took a drive up American Fork Canyon. It was spectacular! These pictures don't do it justice.

From left to right this is- Heather, Me, my Mom and Amber. Yep, my sweet Mom came up from So. Calif. the day I came home from hospital. I know that I would not feel as good as I do now if she had not come. Physically, she made sure that I took it easy and rested even when I didn't feel tired. Emotionally, it was so good to have her here. There is just something about having your mommy close by when you feel yucky.

Lots of other people have helped me recover quickly; the meals that were brought in, the sign on my house, flowers, cards, emails and facebookers. Thank you to everyone. The battle goes on and I feel my army gathered around. I have felt all the love and prayers from each of you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Take that Tumor!!

Hi everyone--this post is not authored by Steph, but by me (Steve) instead.

I will try to tell HER story of today but will probably have a little more of my perspective because try as I might, I just cannot think like a woman and she is currently feasting upon pain meds!! :)

So, Steph underwent surgery today...
Lots of nerves, anticipation, worry, and even a little excitement to get this tumor out and move forward in the fight.

We feel blessed to have two of the finest doctors in Utah operating on Stephanie. Dr. Regina Rosenthal is an incredible breast cancer surgeon and Dr. June Chen is likewise a top-notch plastic surgeon. We feel very comfortable with both of them and it very reassuring to know they frequently work together and make an excellent team!

The single side skin-sparing mastectomy lasted nearly two hours. During this first phase they did a "sentinal node biopsy" which is where dye and some radioactive juice (injected last night) travels to the nearest lymph node(s). They then know where fluid from the breast first travels and can check that node(s) for any cancer. We were relieved to find out that the stuff lit up three nodes and all were clear of cancer on the initial screenings. A closer look by the pathologist will give us an official verdict, but they expect it to be clear based upon the initial findings. This is wonderful news... I can't tell you how happy we both are to know that nasty tumor is out of her body and it appears no cancer has spread to other parts of her body!!

Dr. Chen followed Dr. Rosenthal and inserted a "tissue expander". This took about one hour and was a preparatory step toward further reconstruction down the road after chemotherapy is finished and Steph is declared cancer-free. At this point, chemo looks unavoidable but it appears likely that she will NOT have to endure radiation, too. Yes! A ray of sunshine in an otherwise cloudy stormfront!!

So many cool things happened today besides the successful surgery. My phone has never fielded so many texts in one day (I'm sure ya'll fried several towers and at least one satellite!) and I was surprised by a visit from the Amazing Shari K who by the way sells Mary Kay! She had an appointment here at IMC today (made 18 mths ago--imagine that?!) and stopped by and hung out with me for awhile in the waiting room. What a treat! I was getting tired of listening to the hard of hearing elderly folks share their deafening cell phone ringtones and conversations with the entire hospital and city of Murray!! Yikes!! Thanks Shari!

Steph has had 3 previous surgeries and has been very sick from the anesthesia afterward so this time around the doctors tried some different drugs and slapped a good ole Dramamine patch behind the ear. Voila! So far so good, no nausea and just some very mild "loopiness" from a dose of Oxycontin. ;)

Steph is currently doing very well and resting peacefully. It would be an understatement to say that Stephanie (and me, too) is very appreciative of all the thoughts, prayers, special fasts, care packages, pink wardrobes/accessories (thanks RHS staff and RHS softball team!), flowers, gifts, and well-wishers. I also received a second wonderful surprise when Cindy Marshall (one of Stephanie's Epic Relay running buddies from Pocatello, ID via Twin Falls) walked through the door this afternoon. Steph knew she'd be in SLC but in the hustle and bustle of pre-surgery festivities, she had forgotten to tell me. How cool it was to see Cindy here!! She was in SLC picking up her daughter from the airport and stopped by to visit and give Steph a "Sisters" quilt created from her own hands. There are only two in the world and they each have one. It is beautiful just like Cindy and Steph (see the pic). This is just one of the many acts of kindness showered upon Stephanie in recent days.

The love and concern shown by everyone is humbling to us. We are touched. It makes this scary journey less scary. It motivates us to fight harder. It gives our entire family strength and courage! In return, we pray our rather weak "thank yous" will find their way to your hearts. We further hope you can draw strength from watching Steph The Cancer Fighter in action. We all need each other.

She comes home tomorrow and the battle continues...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Surprise parties are not just for birthdays. I thought I was going out to dinner with just two of my friends but waiting at the restaurant were 9 more! It was so much fun. Just what I needed to get my mind off everything. Thanks so much everyone!

Also, today at work a good majority of the faculty, staff and kids at Riverton High School are wearing pink. I am going to say it again and probably will many more times- I feel so loved.

Tomorrow morning is my surgery. I am ready. Ready to get my fight underway. My sweet Mom is flying (something she does not really like to do) on Thursday. I will have Steve post how it goes. Thanks again to everyone that is standing behind me in this battle.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Kicking Butt!

I guess my timing for being diagnosed with breast cancer is impeccable. It's breast cancer awareness month and there is a ton of merchandise out there. This mug that was given to me by one of my cute beehives says, "Cancer touched my breast... so I kicked it's butt!" Another beehive gave me a car sticker that says, "Fight like a girl" and the shirt I have on Heather gave me says "pink is hope." I heard a really disturbing statistic on Friday at a tribute to breast cancer survivors. Utah is dead last in amount of mammograms administered. So this is a great month for all my friends to get checked.

I met my plastic surgeon on Friday. I really like her a lot. She won't be able to do my surgery until next week. That's ok because we don't even have the genetic test back yet. She comes highly recommended. Apparently I am a great candidate for breast augmentation. Really? I guess there are perks (no pun intended) that go along with breast cancer.

Two blogs you may be interested in: Steve's blog is so much better than mine- and another incredible writer I know, mother of triplets and marathoner- Kara I happened to be at her house when I got the dreaded phone call. I think I was supposed to be there. She is one of the strongest women I know and one of my best friends.

I Feel The Love

This is (from left to right) Sydnee, Alexis, Me, Heather and Jessica. Last week they dyed a piece of their hair pink. This is just one example of all the support I have felt. I can feel the love from all of you. Without all of you this fight would be a lonely, hard road.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Well, That Sucks

The first thing you do when setting up a blog is come up with a title. I really wanted my blog to have a funny title, but "well, that sucks" was taken. (This is what a ten year old boy said after finding out his cancer had returned)

I was diagnosed with breast cancer Sept. 13th so now I am attempting a blog. I am not a writer. Steve (my husband) is the one that is good with words. I thought about having him write for me, but I figure it might be therapeutic to do it on my own. I would like to keep it short and sweet so if you want more info than what I give, please email me. I would like to start off by saying thanks to everyone that has been praying for me. I feel the love and it has helped me wrap my head around this.

My tumor was caught by a routine mammogram and is relatively small (last years mammogram was clear). However, after an MRI we discovered that there are several small satellite tumors surrounding it. This made the decision to have a mastectomy easier. We don't have a date for surgery yet- we are waiting for the results of a genetic test. I am hoping for surgery next week on Oct. 5th. Then the plan is to recover for a few weeks. Which includes a much anticipated trip to Florida for Steve's Ironman in the beginning of Nov. I will start chemotherapy as soon as we get back.

Yep, you can say it "well, that sucks!" I agree (except for the part about Florida). I want all of you to know that I am a fighter. Heavenly Father has surrounded me with some very strong people to help me through this. I ran one crazy marathon this summer with one of my best friends. Even at the finishline I was wondering why I had done something so hard. Now I know why. I am not only physically stronger than I have been for a long time, but more importantly mentally stronger. I can fight this. I am not kidding myself into thinking it will be a piece of cake, there will be good days and bad days. My family has rallied around me and Steve has put on his pink boxing gloves. I could not do this without him and he has already shown incredible support. So keep the prayers coming and I promise to keep this updated. Thanks everyone!