Saturday, April 27, 2013

AC Chemo #4 & Baby Updates

On Wednesday I finished AC chemo #4, which is my last chemo before the baby and should be my last AC chemo ever!

My Dad went with me and wore his "Race for the Cure" shirt to show support. Love it!

Chemo went really well. My blood cell counts were all good (praise!) and my oncologist thinks my tumor has shrunk even more based on feeling it alone. In fact, he said he can't even feel a tumor anymore (amazing!).

So now I get a break from chemo for a little more than six weeks! Then, I'll start Taxol (another chemo drug) 1-2 weeks after giving birth and get that four times over seven weeks. I'm excited for a break, but also anxious to get back on chemo since I know it's doing a good job fighting the cancer.

In baby news...

We had a growth ultrasound on Friday and the baby looked great! She measured right on track (65 percentile for size based on gestational age) and they estimated she's 5lbs 6oz already (so not growth restricted at all!). The perinatologist said she looked "perfect" which was music to our ears and a huge answer to prayers. Keep praying that baby girl grows and is born healthy in a few weeks!

Friday, April 19, 2013

A "Normal" Week

Since it's been over a week since I posted I thought I'd do a quick update to let you know we are doing well. All-and-all it's been a pretty "normal" week in my crazy "new normal" world.

Headed to a friend's baby "sprinkle" on Sunday
 I spent most of the week working from home, which is actually a wonderful and welcome distraction. Unfortunately my upper back is in a lot of pain (is it from pregnancy? Chemo? Neulasta? Cancer? All of the above? I'll never know.), so I spend most of my work day reclining on the couch with my laptop on my lap. But other than that it's been easy to get some work done.

I also squeezed in a couple of Dr. appts...

I met with a perinatologist (read: a high-risk OBGYN) this week for a consultation and he did a quick "bonus" ultrasound of the baby. She still looks good in there! I'll have another growth ultrasound next Friday (4/26), so pray that she's not growth-restricted and they don't find any other issues there. Basically the perinatologist was very upbeat about the baby (really all the doctors have been) and thinks she'll be just fine.

I also met with an oncology psychologist (read: a therapist who specializes in cancer patients) and spent the hour telling my story and crying my eyes out. I think I'll meet with her on a semi-regular basis to help me deal with my fear of metastasis and get strategies for living beyond cancer.

This weekend we got our deep freezer! Since I'm collecting donor milk for our little girl, we needed a big space to store it. I think this will do...
Will also come in handy if we ever need to hide a dead body. KIDDING!

I actually recently got in my first batch of donor milk from a seriously amazing woman. I won't share her story publicly here (you can ask me about it if we talk), but I'll just say she is living proof that God is good and He works to make the best out of even the worst situations.

Liquid gold, my friends
This week I've also had a few fun visits with friends that have helped me deal with the loneliness of being home all the time. Michelle brought me lunch from Tender Greens. Kay came over to continue to teach me to crochet (I am making progress!). And I went over to my sweet neighbor's house for lunch and tea. Of course I always have this sweet beast to hang out with...
He really looks thrilled to be hanging out with me, doesn't he?

Obviously the bombings in Boston have been close to my heart and mind this week as well -- for so many reasons. Because my parents lived in Boston so close to blast sites for the last six years, because my Dad is a marathoner and I've watched him run and finish many marathons over the years, and because it's just another reminder of fragility of life. One minute you're watching a marathon, the next minute you're fighting to survive. One day you're happily healthy and pregnant, the next you're told you have a deadly cancer. Sadly, the only assurance we have in this life is that it will end in death. I have to remind myself in times of despair that there is hope, hope that "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Finally, some blog updates...
I've added a link to my treatment plan on the blog header (whoa daunting). And I've updated the prayer requests page.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chemo #3, Baby Update, and Lump Update

On Wednesday I finished Chemo #3! That marks my second-to-last AC chemo and my second-to-last chemo before breaking to have our baby girl.

Thank you to everyone who prayed for us yesterday. I have nothing but good news to report from chemo #3. Praise God! My blood counts were all "low-normal" which is still well within the range to get chemo. The side effects from this round seem to be similar to the last one -- just some mild nausea/tummy issues here and there and lots of exhaustion. Just running a few errands is about all I can do without needing a rest/nap. But overall I'm truly blessed that I feel this good while on AC chemo. I credit good doctors, lots of Kangen water, and of course prayer. 

Here we are on the way to Chemo #3.
31.5 Weeks

Today I had my checkup with my OB-GYN. I'll get another growth ultrasound in ~2 weeks, but today she said my belly was measuring right on track and the baby's heartbeat was normal. Yay! I talked to her more about my delivery plan (not inducing unless medically necessary so that my chance of a c-section is lower). She also said I don't need to take a birthing class (because I really cannot stand the idea of being in a room full of happy, naive preggos). She said that I can just read a book or do an online class if I want to, but the nurses and midwives will coach me though the whole delivery no matter what prep I do. My OB seemed really happy and impressed about how "healthy" I looked despite having cancer and doing chemo which was sweet.

Also today I had my checkup with my surgical oncologist. She could not even feel my previously swollen axillary lymph node (I told her I can feel it if I really dig for it but it's rice-sized) and she could feel that my breast lump has decreased in size quite a bit. She even said "this is terrific!" Basically, it's really great news that the chemo is working so well thus far. Keep praying that it continues to work and there will be no evidence of cancer to be found by the time I have my surgery. No matter what happens I will be having surgery on parts or both of my breasts around late August or early September (depends on how fast I can can complete my next rounds of taxol chemo). More decisions to be made on that later.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

On Sharing

A few people have written me and said something to the effect of "your Dad/Mom/Friend shared your blog with me, I hope that is OK." And I just wanted to say, YES that is more than OK, it's great! So if you feel compelled to share this blog with anyone, please do.

Why do I want to share my story via this blog? Three reasons:
  1. First, it's way easier to direct people to the blog for the latest updates rather than trying to reach out to each person who's lovingly checking in on us individually. You can also find more information about my diagnosis, how to help, and answers to other questions about my plans so I don't have to repeat the same information to people over and over again. Not that I don't love talking to people, gchatting, emailing, etc. It just gets exhausting saying the same things over and over.
  2. I want to raise awareness that sadly young women can and do get breast cancer, particularly Triple Negative Breast Cancer.
  3. Finally, I believe in the power of prayer. The Bible says that whenever two or more are gathered in His name He is there. And I think that applies to the internet too. I'm keeping our prayer request page up to date and I plan to fill that page up with praises. And when I beat this thing it will be for God's glory and all the people out there who've been praying for us will be a part of that glory. 

Speaking of sharing, big thanks to the beautiful, positive, and inspiring Megan for praying for us and for sharing our story on her blog.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Keeping It Real about TNBC

Everyone keeps telling me how "strong" and "positive" I am, which I thank you for and I generally do think I'm strong and positive. But I don't want you think I'm an insane Pollyanna or that the type of breast cancer I have isn't totally shitty.

I've mentioned before that the type of breast cancer I have is called Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC). This is not your Grandma's breast cancer. This type accounts for ~15% of all breast cancers and is most often seen in young women. It's not receptive to the blockbuster drugs that have increased survival rates for other types of breast cancer because it's not receptive to any hormones. And it's the most likely to metastasize (i.e. spread to other organs which basically means certain death). Researchers think there are several genetic components to it (like BRCA), many of which are not yet known, which is why more young women get it. You can read a lot more about TNBC here if you are interested. 

Sadly, when news stories report on TNBC they use terms like "deadliest" breast cancer and "poorer survival." So that's awesome. But that's because the hormone-positive breast cancers carry a survival rate in the 90%s and the survival rate for TNBC is more like 70%-80% depending on the studies you read. So you can see that although many people do survive TNBC, you're twice as likely to die of it than other types. One good website I found is called "positives about negative". It's shares realistic and positive news about TNBC research. Like one good thing about TNBC is that when it responds well to chemo (which often happens) the chances of disease-free survival go way up.

What's scaring the crap out of me right now, is that I've not have a PET/CT scan or MRI yet to look for metastasis because those involve radiation is which is not safe during pregnancy. So please keep praying that the cancer has not metastasized (e.g. spread) elsewhere. 

I don't mean this to sound depressing if it does, but I wanted to share this information so people don't think "oh poor Kirsten has to lose her hair and have a less-fun pregnancy, but beating this cancer is a slam-dunk". That said, I truly believe that if anyone can be in the 70-80% TNBC survivor stats, I will be. And I believe this... 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

BRCA and Wigs

I got some good news this week from my genetic counselor that I'm negative for the BRCA gene. BRCA is a gene that causes breast cancer and is responsible for ~15% of breast cancers. That doesn't necessarily mean there isn't some kind of genetic component to my breast cancer, it's just that science doesn't know what that gene is yet. But being BRCA negative is a good thing overall, because I don't have to worry as much about cancer in my other breast and in my ovaries.

As promised, I wanted to show you a couple of my wigs...

Here is my main wig:

Selfie in the bathroom mirror
Up close
And here is my "wig" that's actually a hat with hair attached to it. It's way more comfortable than a regular wig and good for being "sun smart."

Check out the photo-bombing cat in the background. Love him.

I actually have one more wig and I think a new "breast friend" is sending me another, so I'll show you those two another day.

On Tuesday night I did a restorative yoga class (the easiest yoga in the world, but that's all I can handle right now). I wore this "turban" to class because I didn't want to go bald (too cold and a little to conspicuous for me right now). But I'm sure the class was still wondering what my deal was being all big and pregnant with a turban on/no hair.

30 weeks

Overall I'm feeling OK. I'm tired a lot so it's hard to work a full day or really do anything for more than a couple hours. I know the tiredness will build through my treatments especially because I'm doing "dose-dense" chemotherapy, so I'm trying to take it easy. It's hard because I like to be productive and I get bored just laying around. Too type-A.