Friday, December 7, 2012

Brief Update

Well I thought that once October ended, I would have more time to blog, but that hasn't been the case.  We just hosted a Christmas party last weekend, and its grown so much it's pretty much taken on a life of its own ... I can't help putting so much time and energy into it!  More details later, but WHEW!  It was awesome, but I feel relief that it's over.  Now onto finishing my Christmas shopping -- been squeezing in some online shopping for a few weeks already.  Love Christmas time!!

I've been feeling pretty good.  Didn't know that Abraxane was going to cause my fingernails to begin separating from the nailbeds.  Eww!  Not pretty!  And I have to be careful doing laundry and other things that put pressure on the fingernails, which you'd be surprised at how much does that.  Also been having pain behind the knee (popliteal area, back of leg) whenever I'm on my feet for more than 30 minutes.  This has been since I first started chemo, and it's not going away.  Curious to know what is causing that.  Of course, I've self-diagnosed myself as having a Baker's cyst, which is isn't actually a cyst but a buildup of fluid at that location that's caused by some underlying problem, usually the knee.  But my knee isn't hurting me and I don't know what that underlying problem could be, other than something cancer-related.  Sighhhh.  Planning to mention that to my oncologist next week.  Will probably get an ortho consult to get checked out.  Having excessive, watery nose running that's downright weird and VERY annoying.  Please explain this, Dr. Coscio!  Still have chemo fuzz on the head.  Only a few eyelashes left, so mascara is futile.  Eyebrows are very sparse also.  Oh the joys!

But right now:  enjoying my week off between chemo cycles, and being home more in my Christmas-decorated house.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Great news & happy days

Well, I finally had my CT scans & chest x-ray to determine the effectiveness of Abraxane, which I have been on for 12 weeks.  It's working!  CT scan of the chest shows "Interval response to therapy with improved left pleural effusion and pleural nodularities."  That was the final impression.  The body of the report actually says "The previously seen left pleural effusion has resolved.  The bilateral pleural nodularity has improved since the prior studies.  No new pulmonary nodule or mass is seen.  The overall appearance would be suggestive of complete response to therapy."  In non-medical jargon, this means that they can no longer see fluid around my left lung, the nodules previously seen in both lungs are now smaller than before, and there are no new areas of cancer.  WOW!  I haven't seen language this positive in any of my medical reports in a long time!  Amazing!  Wonderful!  The CT scan of the abdomen is not as glowing, but still pretty good:  "Stable treated bilobar hepatic metastasis.  Resolved left para-aortic adenopathy.  Stable bony metastasis."  This means that the cancerous lesions in both lobes of my liver are unchanged.  No better, but no worse either.  The enlarged lymph node previously seen near my abdominal aortic artery is no longer enlarged.  This is good.  And, the metastatic lesions seen in multiple bony areas are unchanged.  No new cancer seen anywhere.  Yay!  Makes the hair loss and other chemo side effects all worthwhile!  I have not seen my chest x-ray results, but I have to assume that they are similarly positive in nature.

And while I'm on happy news, I want to share what my sweet Christa (my 15 year-old) did.  She's a 10th grader and is taking a Speech class.  Her teacher assigned everyone to write/present a speech on a "Real Life Hero."  She chose me!  I didn't know about it until after she presented, but she got a 100 on it!  And she must have delivered it quite effectively, because at the end, her teacher said "Wow.  I don't know how we can hear something like that and not DO something."  I was so proud, and happy, and overcome with joy that my daughter would choose me as her "real life hero"!  How awesome is that!?  What a MOM moment!

Mr. Langston, the speech teacher, discussed with Christa the possibility of the class doing some sort of fundraiser for our Fund (The Pink Ribbon Shop Fund for Breast Cancer Research at MD Anderson.)  Perhaps something that involved all four of his speech classes.  They considered purchasing a Pink Ribbon King Cake for each class to enjoy (sold through a New Orleans-based bakery in October and whose sales benefit the Fund,) but decided that it was a bit too pricey for a high school class to have shipped from N.O. to Kingwood, TX.  In the end, Mr. Langston left it up to Christa as to what to do.  Once she told me about it all, I, of course, wanted to do all I could to assist with this impromptu project.  I suggested that the classes have a competition as to who could raise the most money, with the winner getting a Pink Ribbon King Cake party, compliments of The Pink Ribbon Shop.  Christa thought that sounded great!  Mr. Langston and the other students agreed, and Christa and I set to work on working out the logistics.  The contest would run through the end of October (about 3 weeks from start date.)  We made slotted tops out of pink cardstock to replace the metal tops of four large mason jars (one for each class period to collect funds in.)  Each jar was labeled with the appropriate class period number.  I donated our Pink Ribbon Roundup bands and hot pink satin ribbon pins, one of which each student could take whenever they made a donation into the class jar.  Christa and Mr. Langston worked together in explaining the project to each class (his other speech classes had not had the opportunity to hear Christa's speech.)  In less than 3 weeks time, four high school speech classes had raised $645.43!!!  So, so proud of Christa, and amazed at the generosity of these kids (and perhaps their families!)  The Pink Ribbon King Cake was delivered to the winning class the following week, and from what I hear, everyone enjoyed it.  Love this story.  :))))))

Thanks for reading.  Much, much more to come, as October was a busy month.  Can't put it all down in just one or two blog posts!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I am no wonder woman!

So much time has passed since updated my blog, I'm sure I'll be leaving some things out.  I foolishly thought I would write more frequently, having more to say, once I started back on chemo.  What was I thinking?!

I was NOT remembering how crazy the shop is in September & October.  And I was not realizing how much having to go for chemo once a week would take from our work time, and out of me.  And let's not forget it's football season and Danny is head coach of the KFL Junior Texans, which is like having a 15-20 hour per week part time job on top of his 50+ hour Pink Ribbon Shop workweek ... which means I am responsible for all the other kid-running, appointments, etc.  I AM TIRED!!

A little history from the past couple months ...
Like many chemo patients do, we ended up shaving my head once my hair started coming out in handfuls and combfuls.  It was so bad that at a windy high school football game one night, I really thought it was going to start blowing away!  Once I mentioned it, my David said "If that happens, you can wear my hat."  Such a sweetie!  My hair didn't blow away under the Friday night lights, but the continual shedding of hair just got to be gross.  Everywhere I looked, there was my hair.  After the shaving, it was pretty shocking.  Even though I had been through it before, and knew what to expect, it was hard seeing myself that way.  I looked like an alien.  I didn't care for wearing a wig the last time, and this time around I had decided to not waste my time and money getting one.  I was planning to "rock the bald look!"  But being bald has proved much, much harder this time around.  I have surprised myself by not handling it well.  At all!  Firstly, my head is small.  Proportionally too small for my body, I think.  Secondly, a few days after the shaving, my scalf developed an itchy, pimply, all-over rash that I couldn't possibly even think of baring in public.  I researched the issue online and diagnosed myself with folliculitis, a condition of the hair follicles that can occur with chemotherapy-induced hair loss.  My chemo nurse suggested I try some sort of exfoliative action with a washcloth and follow that with a mild moisturizer.  That didn't work at all.  Next I tried T-Gel therapeutic shampoo made by Neutrogena.  This was recommended by some forum writers, and it had evidently worked well for them.  T-Gel had an unusual scent that made me smell like I just visited the dog groomer's!  And it didn't work at all on my condition.  It was time to see a doctor.  My new oncologist at the MD Anderson Woodlands, Dr. Coscio, referred me to a MDA dermatologist.  Dr. Drucker prescribed Clindamycin solution and another, mousse-like med to apply to my scalp.  These have worked really well to clear up my rashy head(!) though not completely.  Sometimes I do feel up to "rockin the bald look," but it's still a little outside my comfort zone.  I find that if I wear a head wrap/scarf for any length of time, I get a headache.  Even with the soft cotton ones.  At home, work and in the car I usually go naked-headed.  My family doesn't mind, my coworkers understand, and in the car I feel somehow protected behind my sunglasses, as if no one can see my bald head while I'm driving!

Weirdly, I actually have new hair GROWING on my head!  It's not good hair ... it's sick chemo hair!  Very light and sparse fuzz.  (I asked Danny to please tell me if the fuzz is gray, as that would just cause me to lay down and die ... He was quite puzzled as to how that could bother me, considering I'm virtually bald, LOL.)  Anyway, some people have commented on the fact that I have hair that's growng, and I gotta admit, it's doggone strange, and I haven't had an explanation for it until I asked Dr. Drucker.  The derm doc says it's because the chemo only attacks hair at a particular stage in the growth cycle, and that it actually takes 3 months for the chemo to get it all.  I certainly don't remember that from last time.  I remember losing ALL my hair, all at once.  This time, I've had to shave my legs since starting (though I think that'll be the only time.)  And I still have most of my eyebrows and eyelashes, which helps me look less like a cancer patient by being able to wear mascara.  Scratch that, it makes me FEEL less like a cancer patient ... no matter what I do, I still LOOK like a cancer patient.

Also, I find myself obsessively shopping online for every head wrap, head scarf, bandana, and chemo hat known to womankind!  I've tried several styles and have found a favorite, but I don't feel really good in anything.  You just can't hide baldness ... without a wig ... which I am now considering getting.    I didn't think it would be this hard!  Perhaps my problem dealing with the hair loss is because of the distinct possibility that I will always be on some sort of chemotherapy.  That maybe my hair will never get to come back.  This chic who was planning to ROCK THE BALD LOOK is no wonder woman after all ...

Speaking of wonder woman, I'm discovering LOTS of ways that I am NOT her.  As I mentioned earlier, my life is not able to slow down.  Not sure if it's that or the chemo, but probably a combination of all things that are just wearing me out.  I am non-stop, early mornings to late nights, almost every day of the week.  Sometimes its just too much.  I take comfort in the fact that these things will pass.  If not, we'd have to hire more people at work and consider cutting back on some of our kids' commitments and activities.  It's just a rough time of year.  Breast cancer awareness month, football season (youth and high school games) plus chemo equals stress stress stress at both home and work.

Enough for now!  Gotta go get ready for tonight's events.  Thanks for reading.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Quick update

Today I received my 3rd dose of Abraxane...

First, the positives:  it is not causing nausea or vomiting, or even a decrease in my appetite (darn it on that one!), I am healing up and feeling less sore from my port placement surgery that I had last week, I seem to be able to do much of what I usually do (drive kids places, sit and work at my desk, drive kids to more places, etc,) I've got a great group of ladies bringing our family dinner on chemo days, and wonderful friends & family who care about me and let me know it!

Next, the not-so-bads:  I still have my hair, but it is barely holding on and will probably go away completely very soon.  I do experience aches, pains & tiredness on about days 2-5 post infusion.  I have to learn to take it easy on those days and just "go with the flow."  It's hard for me ... I'm not one to slow down much.  I tend to start feeling sorry for myself when I'm stuck at home and trying to rest.

Lastly, the negatives:  My hair is on its way out.  I haven't had time, and won't have time, to get with a photographer for a nice family portrait before my hair is gone.  I know this sounds petty, but I was really hoping to do this.  I fear that I'll never have hair again.  I guess in the big scheme of things, it's not that bad.  We did get some really great snapshots on our Colorado vacation in June.

I am sure that if I had written this post over this past weekend, some of my not-so-bads would have appeared in my negatives.  But since I am feeling pretty good NOW, my outlook is a little rosier! 

Will write in more detail about things when I have more time -- just wanted to give a quick update!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Coming up ... big baldy

It's been a crazy busy summer, as usual.  The kids all went to Camp Lone Star, Christa flew to N.O. for a week (by herself!) and went to a Lutheran high school youth gathering, we had an awesome family vacation to the Rocky Mountains, Danny & I took a nice trip to the Austin area (just the 2 of us, including a zip line adventure over Lake Travis!), The Pink Ribbon Shop Fund for Breast Cancer Research is rockin', Bethany's been playing drums with our praise team for Sunday services, and David's football season is in full swing!  Just how I like it, stressful and full!  Lol.

Lots to say today ... lotta news to share ...

Before our Colorado trip in June, Danny and I started walking the neighborhood a few nights a week.  Trying to prepare for the hiking that we usually do on our vacations.  Since being taken off of Xeloda in April, my hands and feet had gradually healed up and had been feeling MUCH better!  Good enough to walk for exercise and maybe even do some jogging.  I decided that I would try to train for a half marathon again.  I did it four years ago (part jogging, part walking) and amazed myself by completing it and really getting into shape (and yes, this was AFTER my stage IV cancer diagnosis.)  Loved that feeling!  Wanted to get that body back, and those good feelings.  I committed myself to v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y transitioning from brisk walking to jogging over the course of several weeks.  First walking the whole time, for a few weeks.  Then one minute jogging, 5 minutes walking, for 2 weeks.  Then 2 minutes jogging, 4 minutes walking, for 2 weeks.  And so forth.  Everything was going as planned.  I joined Kingwood Fit again to give me a training schedule and motivation to continue training.  Even encouraged my daughter Bethany (age 13) and my friend Ashley to join with me!  When I first restarted back at walking/jogging, I had some concern about my left femur.  I had had a stress fracture there 3 years ago, and that leg was painful for many many months afterwards, even a year later when I tried to start jogging again.  It was what eventually made me give up trying to run altogether ... then of course my cancer started acting up and my meds changed to Xeloda, and my hands and feet were too painful to exercise at all ... sigh.  But now the leg felt fine!  Great, in fact.  No pain.  From the way I saw things, I was on my way to another successful season of half-marathon training.  Kingwood Fit's Saturday morning "long" runs were just getting started.

But, alas, it was not meant to be.  After it was determined that the Xeloda I was taking was no longer effective on my cancer, Dr. Green had put me back on anti-hormone therapy in April.  Zoladex and Tamoxifen.  She said that sometimes going back to hormone therapy that's worked in the past works again.  Last Monday I had my CT scans, chest x-ray, and blood work done to see if this med change had worked or not.  Clearly it had not.  I have a moderate amount of fluid around my left lung again.  They saw a new area of metastasis on my lumbar spine.  And a 1.7cm enlarged lymph node in my abdomen, near my kidney.  With her stethoscope, Dr. Green could hear no air movement in the lower portion of my left lung.  My worst fears were realized:  my cancer was growing again and I was going to have to have chemotherapy.

And yet, I wasn't totally shocked.  A punch in the gut, yes.  But I had had some mental preparation for this news.  Before this week, I had gone on about 4 Saturday "long" runs with Kingwood Fit.  I'm in the 5-and-1 group, meaning we run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute, for the duration of however long the run is.  And our 5 minute "run" is at a really slow pace!  (hey, it's all about finishing, not speed!)  The first week's run in mid-July was 3 miles long.  I was unable to keep up.  I fell behind, pace-wise, and couldn't keep up with the 5-and-1 plan.  This was going to be rough!  I remember the first time I trained for a half-marathon, it was very very hard.  I really had to push myself, because I had never been a runner before.  Ever!  Here I am, 4 years later, 4 years older.  I can do this!  I did my during-the-week training runs (25-35 mins, 3 nights per week) and that was tough, too.  Four weeks into it, I had yet to be able to stick it out for the entire Saturday run.  I felt that I just couldn't go on running.  Had to walk some.  Needed a break.  I felt, at times, that I couldn't get a good deep breath in.  In the back of my mind, I wondered if something was going on.  Something cancer related.  Another part of me was saying, Kim, don't be so paranoid.  You always think your aches and pains are cancer related!  You've just got to do it.  Be diligent in your during-the-week runs, and run the whole 5 minutes.  Don't walk for more than 1 minute in between.  C'mon, you can do this!  Get your lazy old-lady butt in gear.  I prayed, asked God for strength.  But admittedly, it wasn't going well.  I didn't seem to be making progress on my endurance.  I wasn't seeing improvement in my stamina.  Now we know why!  Having one lung surrounded with a bunch of fluid is definitely not conducive to half-marathon training!!

This is kinda sick, but it actually feels good to know that I'm not just getting old and totally out of shape, and I'm not a pathetic loser who can't hack a little running!  I mean, plenty of people older than, rounder than, and seemingly more out of shape than I are doing just fine with Kingwood Fit's training program!  I've got me the ultimate excuse for not being able to keep up!  Yea that's pretty sick, Kim.  twisted.

Anyways ... The other clue I had that something was going on was that I've been failing my "lung test."  It's a totally subjective way that I can tell that something's going on in my lung.  Weird, I know!  In 2006, when I was initially diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, I had a moderately severe left pleural effusion.  Before I even knew what was wrong, I remember lying in bed, on my right side, and being unable to take a big deep breath in.  Seeing the CT scan pictures, it was easy to see that my left lung was being squeezed down to less than half its normal size.  After a couple of months being on hormone therapy (my first treatment for stage IV breast cancer at MD Anderson,) I was able to take that deep breath with no difficulty.  Subsequent scans showed that the pleural effusion had completely resolved.  Ever since then, often times when I lay on my right side, I take in a deep breath and sort of grade my ability to do so.  It's been fine for years ... but lately it hasn't been consistently good.  Seems to depend on my position.

And lastly, my lower back's been hurting me for the past few weeks.  Aleve has worked wonders, so I really thought it was a muscle pull or something like that.  I've been thinking that it's possibly because of my running ... and I'm not getting any younger.  So to find out that I had a new metastatic lesion on my lower spine, well, it explains my discomfort.

Dr. Green says I can continue running as long as I feel up to it.  She thinks I'll probably feel better once I get in a few doses of my new chemo drug, Abraxane.  I hope so, because that will mean that it's working, and that the lung fluid is clearing up!  I will try to continue jogging, but I'm going to give up the half marathon training for now.  I've got a lot of healing work ahead of me!

Next Thursday 8/24/12 I will get my first Abraxane infusion.  I will receive one dose per week, intravenously.  Three weeks on, one week off.  The following week, I will have a port placed in my chest, to allow IV access in a large, central vein, because chemo is very toxic to the smaller, peripheral veins in the arms and hands.  This will be an outpatient surgical procedure.  Yuck to any kind of surgery!!  But you gotta do what you gotta do.  And even though MD Anderson is less than an hour's drive from us, I am still thankful that they now have a satellite campus in The Woodlands where I can get my chemo infusions.  It's about the same distance from home, but it's a much nicer drive through country-like highways with hardly any traffic.  A trip to MDA's main campus is via a huge 70 mph freeway right through downtown Houston, usually in the early morning rush hour.  So the drive will be better and less stressful ... maybe even "nice"!

Also, Dr. Green says that Abraxane is generally "well tolerated."  It doesn't tend to make patients sick, although a small percentage of patients do get nauseated.  I am usually prone to nausea, but hopefully I will NOT be in that number!  She gave me a prescription for Zofran, just in case.  However, I will lose my hair.  It's been 12 years since I was bald from chemo!  Its not the act of losing my hair that bothers me.  It's having the big bald head that screams out "I have cancer!" everywhere I go that bothers me.  I never try to keep my cancer a secret, but I do like not having it so evident.  When you're bald, there's no keeping your cancer from casual acquaintances.  And the looks you get when you're bald.  Mostly sympathetic.  People mean well, I know that.  It's such an ABnormal look for a woman, that people can't help but look.  But I'll get over it.  In fact, I'm planning to "rock the bald look" as my daughter Shea said.  I hated my wig, and I don't even want one this time.  It was hot, itchy, and didn't look good.  Well, I never felt good in it, the few times I wore it.  I'll stick with hats and wraps this time, thank you very much.

I'll have the usual chemo-induced risk of infection while I'm on Abraxane.  Fingers crossed that I will stay infection-free!  And lastly, long term use can cause neuropathy (numbness & tingling) in the hands and feet.  Not sure how I feel about that (well yes, I do know that it sucks!) ... because if she keeps me on it for some time, it will mean that it's working, which is a good thing.

Which leads me to my last topic ...
Everyone who I've told about my latest developments inevitably asks "How long will you have to be on it?"  I know it's commonly known that cancer patients get chemo for a prescribed amount of time and then their treatment is "over."  That's how it was during my first chemo treatment 12 years ago.  After I had my mastectomy, I had 8 rounds of chemo, then 5 weeks of radiation.  Then I was DONE.  Except for moving on to 5 years of Tamoxifen (oral treatment.)  But with stage IV cancer treatment, it's different.  It's a constant battle to keep the cancer at bay, because there is no cure for cancer!  Some drugs work, and some don't.  When we find one that works, I'll stay on that until it stops working.  Then move on to another drug and see how it does.  The option of stopping treatment with stage IV cancer is simply not an option.  You stop treatment, and the cancer grows again.  It's just so discouraging that I am to the point of needing harsh chemotherapy again.  I know, I know, I have already beaten a lot of odds that I'm still here after 12 years, and 6 of those years with stage IV.  I am thankful for that.  VERY thankful!  But that doesn't make this current turn of events any easier.  It feels like it's the beginning of the end.  I could have another 5 years, who knows!  I am again reminded of my friend Eveline.  She was bald from chemo when I met her, and she stayed hairless for the remaining 5 years of her life, enduring chemo drug after chemo drug, until she finally left the earth to be with Jesus.

Planning on trudging on, continuing to do my regular things, for as long as I possibly can.  Like the Energizer bunny!  Fightin' the big C (cancer,) with an even bigger C (Jesus Christ)!

Thanks for reading!


Monday, May 21, 2012

Exciting news @ The Pink Ribbon Shop!

Today is our "official" announcement about The Pink Ribbon Shop Fund for Breast Cancer Research at MD Anderson!  If you didn't get our promotional email, here's what was said:

EXCITING NEWS from The Pink Ribbon Shop!

I’ve mentioned our “partnership” with MD Anderson Cancer Center for several months now on my blog, but I’ve disclosed no details.  We’ve added our new $1.00 Funding the Cure with THE PINK RIBBON ROUNDUP silicone bracelet to our website with no special fanfare.  And we’ve created The Pink Ribbon Roundup donation page on our site as well.  Now it’s time to officially announce how all these pieces fit together!

Established in 2011, The Pink Ribbon Shop Fund for Breast Cancer Research at MD Anderson Cancer Center was founded by The Pink Ribbon Shop to demonstrate our commitment to funding breast cancer research efforts. While we regularly donated to various organizations throughout any given year, we felt that we could make an even bigger impact by focusing on a single recipient. We are proud to support the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the nation's leading cancer center, with a commitment to donate a minimum of $20,000 in any four year period to their breast cancer research department. We are excited to report that in our Fund’s first 6 months, we have exceeded our own expectations by donating $10,000!

Your purchase of our exclusive pink ribbon "Funding the Cure with THE PINK RIBBON ROUNDUP" silicone wristbands allows us to donate the FULL PURCHASE PRICE of $1.00 each to The Pink Ribbon Shop Fund for Breast Cancer Research at MD Anderson Cancer Center!  Monetary donations made on our Pink Ribbon Roundup page or our MD Anderson myGiving page are immediately directed to our Fund.  All monies in the Fund have been specifically designated for MD Anderson’s breast cancer research department.  Nowhere else!  There are no administrative costs or other fees deducted from your donation.  One hundred percent of the bracelet’s proceeds and 100% of monetary donations received goes toward breast cancer research activities at MD Anderson!

We’ve dubbed this whole bundle of good stuff The Pink Ribbon Roundup.  We are rounding up funds, Texas style, so a cure can be found!  With YOUR support of The Pink Ribbon Roundup program, The Pink Ribbon Shop is FUNDING THE CURE, one pink ribbon at a time, and helping MD Anderson Cancer Center make cancer history®!


          The Pink Ribbon Shop has always been up front about how much and to whom we donate.  We believe that we have a responsibility to our customers to be good stewards with what we take in as a business.  After years of hodge-podge, irregular giving to whomever we felt called to (all worthy causes, of course,) we were motivated to identify our true philanthropic mission.  That mission is FUNDING THE CURE by supporting breast cancer research efforts.  The establishment of The Pink Ribbon Shop Fund for Breast Cancer Research at MD Anderson Cancer Center is simply a new approach to our charitable giving.  We also like to think of it as a way to multiply our company’s donations.  By allowing our customers to actively participate in our Pink Ribbon Roundup program, we can contribute even more toward finding a cure for breast cancer!  And you will have the peace of mind of knowing exactly how your donation or purchase will be utilized. 

So please keep us in mind for your breast cancer fundraiser events!
·       At $1.00 each, our Funding the Cure silicone bracelet bands are quite a bargain AND your entire dollar is a donation!
·       Donate to The Pink Ribbon Shop Fund for Breast Cancer Research.  Whether purchasing a bracelet or donating through The Pink Ribbon Roundup page or our myGiving MD Anderson page, your donation ONLY goes to breast cancer research!

What does this mean to ME?!  So much!!  I am hoping that having our Fund in place opens up a new world of possibilities for fundraising at The Pink Ribbon Shop.  I see local benefit events in our future.  I see manufacturers and suppliers creating pink ribbon products that benefit the Fund.  I see big corporations and organizations turning to The Pink Ribbon Shop Fund for Breast Cancer Research as a great place to donate.  I see individuals and businesses who are fed up with the current "big girls" in the breast cancer fundraising arena wanting to redirect their contributions to a more efficiently run establishment ... where their money goes right to breast cancer research activities and not some other questionable, potentially non-cancer-related activities.

If you think about it, just what is the pink ribbon campaign all about?  It's about awareness, sure.  In this day and age, you'd have to live in a box to not be "aware" of breast cancer!  It's also about education.  Everyone knows that breast cancer exists, but do they know about the importance of regular breast self exams and mammograms?  And lastly, and I think most importantly, it's about funding research so a cure can be found.  Let's face it, people!  A cure for breast cancer would mean the end of the pink ribbon campaign, and that couldn't make me happier!

So happy that my Pink Ribbon Shop is FUNDING THE CURE ...
One pink ribbon at a time!  Woohoo!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Slow growing cancer ... Yay?!?

A couple of weeks ago, I visited MD Anderson for my 3 month check.  Good news and bad news.  CT scans showed minimal growth of tumors.  However, the radiologist also looked back to 6 months ago and 9 months ago and even a year ago, and discovered that over the course of a year's time, the cancer in my lung, bones and liver is slowly but steadily progressing and growing.  That's the bad news!  The good news, which I have become pretty good at identifying and placing my hope in, no matter how small, is that I'm being taken off of Xeloda!   If you've followed my blog, you know that I've been taking Xeloda for the past year and a half and I've absolutely HATED it!!  I've been wishing to get off ... well part of me has been wishing that.  Obviously the reason is not a good thing!  I am fully aware that for Dr. Green to discontinue it, it's only because it's no longer working on my cancer.  Still, Xeloda has really limited me in many ways.  Such mixed feelings!  Should I BE this happy??  How twisted is this?

So what's next??  Dr. Green has said in the past that after Xeloda, the next move would be to a harsher chemo drug, Abraxane (think hair loss, nausea, etc.)  However, she is now recommending I move back to (anti)hormone therapy instead.  The way she described it, since chemo usually works best on fast-growing cells, perhaps that's not the best treatment for my cancer at this time, since it appears to be growing very slowly.  I had good results from anti-hormone tx in the past, and for long periods of time (6 years on Tamoxifen, 3 years on Femara.)  She mentioned previously that revisiting those kinds of drugs may be an option at some point.  Now is the time!  She is putting me back on Tamoxifen and Zolodex.  Yayyyy, no more Xeloda!  No more sore/tender hands and feet!  No more kids toothpaste and bland-tasting food!  No more needing assistance/tools to open cans and jars!  Perhaps I can start exercising again!  Hoping for quick and complete end to Xeloda's side effects!  And there's more ... not sure if I mentioned the nasty, heavy, & long-lasting periods I've been having since my cycles returned after stopping Zolodex 1 1/2 years ago.  Now I'm back on Zolodex, so hello menopause (again!)

Seriously, I am one messed up girl!!!  Who gets excited about menopause??

Also hoping that menopause doesn't bring with it the issues with "intimacy" that plagued me and Danny's relationship for over a year ... sighhhhh..........

Here's some actual good news on my cancer front:  my genetic testing (BRCA-1 & 2) came back NEGATIVE!  Good news for my sister, mom, & 3 girls!

So much going on here ... the ups and downs ... the rollercoaster that is being a stage IV breast cancer fighter!  Please people, support research efforts and find a cure for breast cancer!  Soon!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Walk Like a Diva

Saturday, my family and I participated in the Walk Like a Diva 5K Family Fun Walk in my little part of the world, Kingwood, Texas. It was a GORGEOUS day! The route traversed some of the most beautiful greenbelt trails Kingwood has to offer: through the woods and along the lakeshore. The ladies who organized this inaugural walk did a great job, as there were refreshments and vendor booths and even a bounce house for the kids afterwards. And all for a great cause: The Avon Foundation for Women (more info, below.) The Pink Ribbon Shop is planning to partner with the KingwooDDivas for next year's walk -- hoping for an even bigger turnout = even more $$$ for Avon's Walk for Breast Cancer.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the organizers asked me to speak before the walk. It may not seem like much for some of you out there who are accustomed to speaking in public as a crusader for the breast cancer awareness cause, but it was huge to me! I think it went well, except for the fact that I was up late and had a house full of teenagers, AND I was sick with allergy/sinus issues and had NEARLY LOST MY VOICE the night before the walk! I mean really, what are the odds? I am hardly ever sick like this! Anyway, they say God works in mysterious ways, right? So the morning of the walk my voice was a little better, but definitely still very hoarse -- I didn't sound like me at all! Also, the Diva-mobile of sort that I was supposed to stand on/in to speak, wouldn't start that morning, so I would be speaking at ground level in front of the walk participants. OK, no big deal, it was a really small crowd anyway, since it was the "1st annual" walk of its kind. And with the organizers trying to keep costs down as much possible, there was no microphone, only a megaphone with a handheld talkie-into-thingy. Not what I expected, but hey, it'll work.
I had been thinking of "the talk" for a couple weeks, so I had an idea of what kinds of things I wanted to touch on and focus on, but I didn't put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard) until Thursday night. I'm a last minute kinda gal! I don't recommend being that way, by the way. I really didn't have any trouble, though, because as I said I had been working on it in my head for some time. Danny proofed and tweaked a couple things with me. Then Friday night he asked if I had memorized it! I was like, "NO!" It never even occurred to me to memorize the whole thing. I thought I could handle not "reading" the speech -- alternating looking up at the people with glancing at my notes. He said he would have memorized it ... which got me thinking that I would probably look stupid holding my printed notes in front of me. Great, I was going to look dumb! Way to go, Kim. Oh well it was too late to cram speech memorization before the next morning. It was going to be what it was going to be!
Some background information about the walk ... The KingwooDDivas, a team made up of a group of local women, will be walking in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (Houston) April 21-22. The Walk Like a Diva walk was a fundraiser for the KingwooDDivas team, so proceeds from from the Diva walk ultimately benefits the Avon Foundation for Women, who then distributes funds via their grant process to local organizations for awareness and education, screening and diagnosis, access to treatment, support services and scientific research. If you're interested, you can read more about the Avon walks here:
I had Danny video the talk, mostly for my own use, but afterwards I felt really good about it and received some positive feedback and thought I might post the video to this blog, or maybe even link to it from our site and/or Facebook page. But after seeing it ... well ... I wasn't happy with the way I looked or sounded! I was hoarse and still sick (and fairly well-medicated, I might add, with anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory and sinus med) and I sounded like a MAN. I guess it's common that people who don't often speak in public aren't used to the way they sound, sick or not sick, right? Anyhoo ... I was pleased with the substance/content of the talk, just not the communication of it by me. Also, it was a little breezy and there was kid noise, and let's face it, the megaphone didn't make for great-sounding audio. Plus my (new) friend and team leader / walk organizer Amanda held the mouthpiece for me (because remember, I had to hold my notes because I hadn't memorized my talk,) close to my face so it would work its best, so even the visual of me talking is obstructed. Sighhhhhh.
Then I had the ambitious idea that I would make a slide show of all the walk pictures and make a new audio of my talk to play during said slide show. But the way I am still suffering with allergy/sinus junk, and the way my voice still sounds, it looks as though I am not going to be "sounding like myself again" for weeks, maybe! Plus the project itself would take time. I don't have a staff of folks who can put something like that together for me! I definitely didn't want to wait that long to get this out for those who missed it -- which is a LOT of people, being that the event was new and small-ish.
So here it is ... the "transcript" of the pre-walk talk I gave at Saturday's Walk Like a Diva 5K Family Fun Walk. Enjoy!

Good morning! I’d like to tell you a little about myself:
I’m a cat lover, I love to travel, I love taking pictures, I love nature, and I
love to hike and see places you just can’t see from a car window. I’m a
fan of any team or group my kids are in, and I’m a Saints fan. I like
windchimes, sunsets and waterfalls. I like to run and hug and bike and eat
out. I read a lot.

I’ve sold shoes, bagged groceries, managed a medical office, worked as a
labor delivery nurse and run my own business.

I am a mom of 4, grandmother of 3, a wife, daughter, sister, aunt,
daughter-in-law, mother-in-law and friend. I’m a dance mom, sports mom,
and band mom. I’m a taxi driver for my own children.

And I am also a breast cancer survivor.

At age 32, with a 12 year-old, 2 year-old and 6-month old, I had never even
thought about breast cancer. It was something that other, older women got. I was healthy and young and busy. I worked full time. I had 3 kids! Sure, I knew about breast self exams, but I didn’t do them regularly. But like too many, like way too many, young women these days, I had breast cancer.

It can happen to anyone. It can happen no matter how old or young you are. It can happen no matter how physically fit or active you are. Rich or poor. Man or woman. Skinny or not-so-skinny. It can happen whether or not cancer runs in your family.

It can happen to YOU!

I have to live with the “what if” questions such as “What if I would have examined myself regularly before my cancer started causing me pain? What if I had caught it before it had spread to my lymph nodes? But dwelling on the “what ifs” served no useful purpose for my immediate situation. I had to move on! I focused on doing everything I could to get the cancer out of my body as quickly and efficiently as medically possible. I underwent aggressive surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. I wanted to – I needed to -- put it behind me and get on with my life.

That was 12 years ago! I’m still here! And I’m here to say that there. is. hope. Sure, I’ve had some tough times. My cancer hasn’t been “in remission” all these years. In fact, in 2006, it returned as stage IV, metastatic breast cancer, having spread to my bones and lungs. Whether you’re newly diagnosed, or a long term survivor, or even if you have a friend or family member with breast cancer, know that there is hope.

Here’s some of what I’ve accomplished since being diagnosed: I’ve had another child – finally got my boy! -- yes, it’s possible. I’ve hiked to waterfalls and witnessed sunsets from mountain tops and ocean shores. I’ve run 2 half-marathons (which I like to think of as one whole marathon!) I’ve started my own business. I’ve tirelessly photographed my children’s events – okay maybe not tirelessly – they wear me out! But I want you to know that there is hope to keep going, to keep living, and to living longer, even with breast cancer.

Today I am one of approximately 200,000 women in the U.S. living with stage IV breast cancer. Six years ago when I was told that my cancer had spread, we thought that surely my time was up. But it wasn’t! Today, my treatment includes drugs that didn’t exist 12 years ago, or even 6 years ago. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the major progress cancer research has made in the last decade. Today, women with stage IV breast cancer, like me, are leading fuller lives and living longer than ever
before. It’s like we’re living with a chronic disease as opposed to being issued an immediate death sentence.

There is hope -- because of events like these. And because of people like you, helping fund the fight, to find a cure. It’s making a difference! I am living proof that it is making a difference! So I thank you, all of you! My family thanks you! Because you are here, I am still here, and so are many others.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Busy week!!!

Very busy week this week! A whopping 60+ new products are being introduced @ The Pink Ribbon Shop, which is quite a labor intensive task. Several weeks ago, Cookie the cat showed up in our back yard, clearly expecting, and stole our hearts. On March 2nd, we welcomed 3 new additions to our family: kittens Tigger, Finn & Tex. Adorable. Needy. I volunteered to provide a crock pot of soup for our church's Lenten service Wednesday night, so need to grocery shop and of course cook the soup. On Thursday, I'm having a cleaning lady (first time in about 4 months) come clean my house, which means I've had to nag/yell/scream at my kids to help straighten up in the house (their messes, that is) so that Maria can clean it. My 2nd daughter, Christa, turned 15 last week and is having a party at our house Friday night (pray for us!) It will be an accomplishment if we can keep the house guest-worthy through Friday evening, after which it will probably be a mess again after having 15-20 teenagers over. Plus all the party food/snacks need to be prepared (The birthday girl has special requests, after all!) AND, Saturday morning our family is participating in a 5K Family Fun Walk to support a local Avon Walk for Breast Cancer team, the KingwooDDivas. For the first time ever, I will be speaking (in public) about my breast cancer journey (pray for me!) It's pretty lame that I am nervous about this event, considering it need only be 3-5 minutes long, but public speaking is just something that I have no experience in. I have some ideas on what I will say, but nothing definite yet ... clearly I will have to work on that before Saturday! It will be a small crowd, so perhaps a good way to get my feet wet. I've never thought of myself and my story as "inspirational" as some people say. I'm just a busy mom who happens to have breast cancer. Doing everything in my power to stick around for as long as possible, although it's really out of my hands. To me, it's only by the grace of God that I am still alive to tell my story. It's really nothing I've done. I've been blessed with a great family, a great doctor and treatment facility (MD Anderson,) and a Maker who is evidently not finished with me yet!

Cancer-wise, I'm doing pretty good. At least I think I am. I find that as long as I live a sedentary, inactive lifestyle, I feel good ... which sucks in SO many ways, but I'm not in the mood to complain today, so I won't! Next scans are on April 11th and doc visit is the following week for results. Hoping and praying for good results (regression/disappearance of tumors, or at the very least, no growth) so I won't need to move on to harsher chemo. Liking my hair these days! Would like to keep it awhile longer! More prayers, please!

Thanks for reading -- would love to hear from some of you!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pink Ribbons in the News

Many of you may have heard that Komen has made the news with some not-so-great happenings. I'm certainly no expert on the latest events, and I don't, in the least bit, claim to have all of the information, but here goes ... I'm going to give my opinion on it anyway!

It is my understanding that the Komen foundation stopped providing funding to Planned Parenthood, pending the outcome of a congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood's alleged misuse of federal & state funding, among other issues such as statutory rape cover ups, sex trafficking, and more. I don't know the details of said investigation, other than what I read here:, but if Congress has determined that there has been wrongdoing worthy of launching an investigation, clearly they have some evidence of such.

It is my opinion that Komen has the RESPONSIBILITY to its DONORS to make sure that the money they are giving to Planned Parenthood is absolutely going to breast cancer-related services, and NOT ANYTHING ELSE. People don't donate to Komen hoping to help out Planned Parenthood's agenda -- they donate to Komen because they want to support breast cancer research and breast cancer patient services. As Komen is in the business of soliciting and receiving donations, then donating to worthy organizations via their grant process, they need to be held accountable that the organizations to which they grant monies are indeed using the funds for breast cancer services and/or research. I believe they did the prudent thing by halting funding to Planned Parenthood pending the investigation's outcome. And then they reversed their decision...

According to Komen's statement on 2/3/12 (// politics "has no place" in their grant process. The fact that they reversed their decision to halt funding to Planned Parenthood tells me that clearly, politics has taken a huge role in their decision-making process. It was Komen who, after receiving negative press about the Planned Parenthood de-funding decision, decided that, congressional investigation or not, they would continue to fund PP: In my opinion, a politically-driven shirking of their responsibility to their donors -- in the name of politics.

That is all I have today! Back soon with a cancer update.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Great-ish news!

The six weeks between my November scans and last week's scans have been laden with anxiety -- probably the most I've had about my cancer in a long while. I usually try not to think too far ahead to my next scans, and I go about life as if everything was just peachy. But this time, with the possibility of harsher chemo and forever losing my hair looming, it was hard NOT to think about them and their implications for our (my and my family's) future.
Thankfully, there was no further growth in the liver lesion mentioned in my November scans. Yay! My small left pleural effusion (fluid around the lung) was unchanged, as was all the previously seen bone mets. The chest lymph nodes remain normal in size, and the growths I had on my side/back remain gone. My tumor marker level is still within the normal range (but I have yet to see the exact number.) However, there are a few "potentially" new lesions in my liver, which are very small in size. But, the radiologists' reports say I have "stable" metastatic disease for now. Dr. Green is keeping me on Xeloda, which I've been taking since October 2009. Yay for hair ... at least for the next 3 months when my next scans are scheduled. This is great news, and I am so thankful.
But my pessimistic side got to thinking ... just how low my "great news" bar has been set. Woohoo, I get a whole 3 months before I may have to start a new chemo! And now I'm down to "Well at least it's not in my brain!" Having stage IV cancer has really taught me to appreciate every little thing. Every glimmer of hope. Three months. Slow-growing tumors. Very small new tumors. Tumors that aren't yet affecting organ function. Hair.
The reality is that I do have growth, albeit very slow. Not yet bad enough to warrant changing treatment to a more toxic chemo. It's hard to grasp, and it's hard not knowing what the next step will mean for us. Will I be sick, or will the worse thing be losing my hair? Will I be able to continue working? Will I be able to remain active in the kids' lives? Will I still be the team photographer? Will I chaperone field trips? Games, recitals, concerts? Will we still be able to travel? Hike? Run? So many questions! that only God know the answers to. For now I am thankful for all that I still CAN do. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't plan for the day that I CAN'T do those things.
Danny and I have decided (well, it was actually Danny's idea) that I will cut down on my work hours to get a better grip on our home life. We have made some changes to the office and he is learning most of what I do there. So if something does happen (God forbid,) he will not be clueless as to my tasks/job at The Pink Ribbon Shop. I will still work in some capacity, but the plan is for him to take over much of it so that I can stay home 2-3 days per week. I like the idea of it, but since I've always worked, it's taking some getting used to. Hoping to get a lot done at home! Unfinished projects, messes, piles, filing, paperwork processing, kids appointments, etc. Working full time at our own business, plus managing our busy, active family of 5 ... well, lots of "stuff" has been left undone or partially-done. I'm not the mom/wife I want to be. Need to organize and clean in order to provide a nicer home for our family.
And yet ... I've had acquaintances & friends with cancer who have, at some point, taken a sudden turn for the worse, and died shortly thereafter ... even after being "clear" for some time. That is my biggest fear right now. That my life as I know it will suddenly cease to exist. I may still be alive, but life will change dramatically for me and my family. I will be too sick to do anything and will need to be cared for. Perhaps brain mets or more advanced liver or lung mets. I feel like I want to have everything "in order" before that day comes. Of course, this kind of sudden life change can happen to anyone, at any time. I know that. Well at least having stage IV cancer gives me time and reason to think about it and prepare.
Uggh, I'm such a downer!!! Hate that I'm sounding so ungrateful for my life! Who knows, I could be the next poster girl for longevity in stage IV cancer patients! Right now I can do everything that's truly important to me. No restrictions. Thank you for that, God!