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Friday, December 26, 2008

One year

A year ago today was my last Herceptin treatment. The year has gone so fast but it has been wonderful to not have to go in every 3 weeks to be poked and filled full of meds. Of course it was my "security blanket" so it has also been difficult to not be going in every 3 weeks. In two weeks I will have blood work done and see the oncologist. Fingers crossed for getting a good grade on lab tests! :-)

On another note, it looks like my last surgery is going to have to wait until March! Sigh! I just want to be done with it already!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Interesting information about risks

From the American Cancer Society. I find it interesting that things like being overweight, lack of exercise, alcohol intake, etc are considered risks but at this time smoking is not... Makes me wonder if there is truly anyway to avoid the risks. Sure I can make sure I workout and try to maintain a healthy weight (which is difficult on Tamoxifen), and make sure I don't drink too much or eat too much high fat foods. But I can't change my family history, my genes, the fact that I am a woman etc.


Detailed Guide: Breast Cancer
What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer?
A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease, such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. For example, exposing skin to strong sunlight is a risk factor for skin cancer. Smoking is a risk factor for cancers of the lung, mouth, larynx (voice box), bladder, kidney, and several other organs.
But risk factors don't tell us everything. Having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that you will get the disease. Most women who have one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop the disease, while many women with breast cancer have no apparent risk factors (other than being a woman and growing older). Even when a woman with risk factors develops breast cancer, it is hard to know just how much these factors may have contributed to her cancer.
There are different kinds of risk factors. Some factors, like a person's age or race, can't be changed. Others are linked to cancer-causing factors in the environment. Still others are related personal behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, and diet. Some factors influence risk more than others, and your risk for breast cancer can change over time, due to factors such as aging or lifestyle.
Risk factors you cannot change
Gender
Simply being a woman is the main risk factor for developing breast cancer. Although women have many more breast cells than men, the main reason they develop more breast cancer is because their breast cells are constantly exposed to the growth-promoting effects of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Men can develop breast cancer, but this disease is about 100 times more common among women than men.
Aging
Your risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older. About 1 out of 8 invasive breast cancers are found in women younger than 45, while about 2 out of 3 invasive breast cancers are found in women age 55 or older.
Genetic risk factors
About 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, resulting directly from gene changes (called mutations) inherited from a parent. See the section, "Do We Know What Causes Breast Cancer?" for more information about genes and DNA.
BRCA1 and BRCA2: The most common inherited mutations are those of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. In normal cells, these genes help to prevent cancer by making proteins that help keep the cells from growing abnormally. If you have inherited a mutated copy of either gene from a parent, you are at increased risk for breast cancer.
Women with an inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation have up to an 80% chance of developing breast cancer during their lifetime, and when they do it is often at a younger age than in women who are not born with one of these gene mutations. Women with these inherited mutations also have an increased risk for developing ovarian cancer.
Although BRCA mutations are found most often in Jewish women of Ashkenazi (Eastern Europe) origin, they are also seen in African-American women and Hispanic women and can occur in any racial or ethnic group.
Changes in other genes: Other gene changes might also lead to inherited breast cancers. These genes do not impart the same level of breast cancer risk as the BRCA genes, and do not frequently cause familial (inherited) breast cancer.
ATM: The ATM gene normally helps repair damaged DNA. Certain families with a high rate of breast cancer have been found to have mutations of this gene.
CHEK2: The CHEK2 gene increases breast cancer risk about twofold when it is mutated. In women who carry the CHEK2 mutation and have a strong family history of breast cancer, the risk is greatly increased.
p53: Inherited mutations of the p53 tumor suppressor gene can also increase the risk of developing breast cancer, as well as several other cancers such as leukemia, brain tumors, and sarcomas (cancer of bones or connective tissue). The Li-Fraumeni syndrome, named after the 2 researchers who first described this inherited cancer syndrome, is a rare cause of breast cancer.
PTEN: The PTEN gene normally helps regulate cell growth. Inherited mutations in this gene cause Cowden syndrome, a rare disorder in which people are at increased risk for both benign and malignant breast tumors, as well as growths in the digestive tract, thyroid, uterus, and ovaries.
Genetic testing: Genetic testing can be done to look for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (or less commonly in other genes such as PTEN or p53). While testing may be helpful in some situations, the pros and cons need to be considered carefully. For more information, see the section "Can Breast Cancer Be Prevented?"
Family history of breast cancer
Breast cancer risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have this disease.
Having one first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer approximately doubles a woman's risk. Having 2 first-degree relatives increases her risk about 5-fold.
Although the exact risk is not known, women with a family history of breast cancer in a father or brother also have an increased risk of breast cancer. Altogether, about 20% to 30% of women with breast cancer have a family member with this disease. (It's important to note this means that 70% to 80% of women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of this disease.)
Personal history of breast cancer
A woman with cancer in one breast has a 3- to 4-fold increased risk of developing a new cancer in the other breast or in another part of the same breast. This is different from a recurrence (return) of the first cancer.
Race and ethnicity
White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than are African-American women. African-American women are more likely to die of this cancer. At least part of this seems to be because African-American women tend to have more aggressive tumors, although why this is the case is not known. Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer.
Dense breast tissue
Women with denser breast tissue (as seen on a mammogram) have more glandular tissue and less fatty tissue, and have a higher risk of breast cancer. Unfortunately, dense breast tissue can also make it harder for doctors to spot problems on mammograms.
Certain benign breast conditions
Women diagnosed with certain benign breast conditions may have an increased risk of breast cancer. Some of these conditions are more closely linked to breast cancer risk than others. Doctors often divide benign breast conditions into 3 general groups, depending on how they affect this risk.,
Non-proliferative lesions: These conditions are not associated with overgrowth of breast tissue). They do not seem to affect breast cancer risk, or if they do, it is to a very small extent. They include:
fibrocystic disease (fibrosis and/or cysts)
mild hyperplasia (an abnormal overgrowth of cells)
adenosis (non-sclerosing, or non-hardening of tissue)
simple fibroadenoma
phyllodes tumor (benign)
a single papilloma
fat necrosis
mastitis
duct ectasia
other benign tumors (lipoma, hamartoma, hemangioma, neurofibroma)
Proliferative lesions without atypia: These show excessive growth of cells in the ducts or lobules of the breast tissue. They seem to raise a woman's risk of breast cancer slightly (1½ to 2 times normal). They include:
usual ductal hyperplasia (without atypia)
complex fibroadenoma
sclerosing adenosis
several papillomas or papillomatosis
radial scar
Proliferative lesions with atypia: In these conditions, there is excessive growth of cells in the ducts or lobules of the breast tissue, and the cells no longer appear normal. They have a stronger effect on breast cancer risk, raising it 4 to 5 times higher than normal. They include:
atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH)
atypical lobular hyperplasia (ALH)
Women with a family history of breast cancer and either hyperplasia or atypical hyperplasia have an even higher risk of developing a breast cancer.
For more information on these conditions, see the separate American Cancer Society document, Non-cancerous Breast Conditions.
Menstrual periods
Women who have had more menstrual cycles because they started menstruating at an early age (before age 12) and/or went through menopause at a later age (after age 55) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. This may be related to a higher lifetime exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Previous chest radiation
Women who, as children or young adults, had radiation therapy to the chest area as treatment for another cancer (such as Hodgkin disease or non-Hodgkin lymphoma) are at significantly increased risk for breast cancer. This varies with the patient's age when they had radiation. If chemotherapy was also given, the risk may be lowered if the chemotherapy stopped ovarian hormone production. The risk of developing breast cancer appears to be highest if the radiation was given during adolescence, when the breasts were still developing..
Diethylstilbestrol exposure
From the 1940s through the 1960s some pregnant women were given the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) because it was thought to lower their chances of losing the baby (miscarriage). These women have a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer. Women whose mothers took DES during pregnancy may also have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. For more information on DES see the separate American Cancer Society document, DES Exposure: Questions and Answers.
Lifestyle-related factors and breast cancer risk
Not having children, or having them later in life
Women who have had no children or who had their first child after age 30 have a slightly higher breast cancer risk. Having many pregnancies and becoming pregnant at an early age reduces breast cancer risk. Pregnancy reduces a woman's total number of lifetime menstrual cycles, which may be the reason for this effect.
Recent oral contraceptive use
Studies have found that women using oral contraceptives (birth control pills) have a slightly greater risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them, but this risk seems to decline once their use is stopped. Women who stopped using oral contraceptives more than 10 years ago do not appear to have any increased breast cancer risk. When thinking about using oral contraceptives, women should discuss their other risk factors for breast cancer with their health care team.
Using post-menopausal hormone therapy
Post-menopausal hormone therapy (PHT), also known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), has been used for many years to help relieve symptoms of menopause and to help prevent osteoporosis (thinning of the bones). Earlier studies suggested it might have other health benefits as well, but more recent, better designed studies have not found them.
There are 2 main types of PHT. For women who still have a uterus (womb), doctors generally prescribe estrogen and progesterone (known as combined PHT). Because estrogen alone can increase the risk of cancer of the uterus, progesterone is added to help prevent this. For women who no longer have a uterus (those who've had a hysterectomy), estrogen alone can be prescribed. This is commonly known as estrogen replacement therapy (ERT).
Combined PHT: Long-term use (several years or more) of combined post-menopausal hormone therapy increases the risk of breast cancer and may also increase the chances of dying of breast cancer. Large studies have found that there is an increased risk of breast cancer related to the use of combined PHT. Combined PHT also increases the likelihood that the cancer may be found at a more advanced stage, possibly because it reduces the effectiveness of mammograms.
The increased risk from combined PHT appears to apply only to current and recent users. A woman's breast cancer risk seems to return to that of the general population within 5 years of stopping combined PHT.
ERT: The use of estrogen alone does not appear to increase the risk of developing breast cancer significantly, if at all. But when used long term (for more than 10 years), ERT has been found to increase the risk of ovarian and breast cancer in some studies.
At this time there appear to be few strong reasons to use post-menopausal hormone therapy (combined PHT or ERT), other than possibly for the short-term relief of menopausal symptoms. Along with the increased risk of breast cancer, combined PHT also appears to increase the risk of heart disease, blood clots, and strokes. It does lower the risk of colorectal cancer and osteoporosis, but this must be weighed against the possible harm, and it should be noted that there are other effective ways to prevent osteoporosis. Although ERT does not seem to have much effect on breast cancer risk, it does increase the risk of stroke.
The decision to use PHT should be made by a woman and her doctor after weighing the possible risks and benefits (including the severity of her menopausal symptoms), and considering her other risk factors for heart disease, breast cancer, and osteoporosis. If a woman and her doctor decide to try PHT for symptoms of menopause, it is usually best to use it at the lowest dose that works for her and for as short a time as possible.
Not breast-feeding
Some studies suggest that breast-feeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk, especially if breast-feeding is continued for 1½ to 2 years. But this has been a difficult area to study, especially in countries such as the United States, where breast-feeding for this long is uncommon.
The explanation for this possible effect may be that breast-feeding reduces a woman's total number of lifetime menstrual cycles (similar to starting menstrual periods at a later age or going through early menopause).
Alcohol
Use of alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Compared with non-drinkers, women who consume 1 alcoholic drink a day have a very small increase in risk. Those who have 2 to 5 drinks daily have about 1½ times the risk of women who drink no alcohol. Excessive alcohol use is also known to increase the risk of developing cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and liver. The American Cancer Society recommends that women limit their consumption of alcohol to no more than one drink per day.
Being overweight or obese
Being overweight or obese has been found to increase breast cancer risk, especially for women after menopause. Before menopause your ovaries produce most of your estrogen, and fat tissue produces a small amount of estrogen. After menopause (when the ovaries stop making estrogen), most of a woman's estrogen comes from fat tissue. Having more fat tissue after menopause can increase your estrogen levels and thereby increase your likelihood of developing breast cancer.
The connection between weight and breast cancer risk is complex, however. For example, the risk appears to be increased for women who gained weight as an adult but may not be increased among those who have been overweight since childhood. Also, excess fat in the waist area may affect risk more than the same amount of fat in the hips and thighs. Researchers believe that fat cells in various parts of the body have subtle differences that may explain this.
The American Cancer Society recommends you maintain a healthy weight throughout your life by balancing your food intake with physical activity and avoiding excessive weight gain.
Lack of physical activity
Evidence is growing that physical activity in the form of exercise reduces breast cancer risk. The only question is how much exercise do you need? In one study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) as little as 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking reduced a woman's risk by 18%. Walking 10 hours a week reduced the risk a little more.
To reduce your risk of breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends 45 to 60 minutes of intentional physical activity 5 or more days a week.
Factors with uncertain, controversial, or unproven effect on breast cancer risk
High-fat diets

Studies of fat in the diet have not clearly shown that this is a breast cancer risk factor.
Most studies have found that breast cancer is less common in countries where the typical diet is low in total fat, low in polyunsaturated fat, and low in saturated fat. On the other hand, many studies of women in the United States have not related breast cancer risk to dietary fat intake. Researchers are still not sure how to explain this apparent disagreement. Studies comparing diet and breast cancer risk in different countries are complicated by other differences (such as activity level, intake of other nutrients, and genetic factors) that might also alter breast cancer risk.
More research is needed to better understand the effect of the types of fat eaten on breast cancer risk. But it is clear that calories do count, and fat is a major source of these. High-fat diets can lead to being overweight or obese, which is a breast cancer risk factor. A diet high in fat has also been shown to influence the risk of developing several other types of cancer, and intake of certain types of fat is clearly related to heart disease risk.
The American Cancer Society recommends eating a healthy diet with an emphasis on plant sources. This includes eating 5 or more servings of vegetables and fruits each day, choosing whole grains over processed (refined) grains, and limiting consumption of processed and red meats.
Antiperspirants
Internet e-mail rumors have suggested that chemicals in underarm antiperspirants are absorbed through the skin, interfere with lymph circulation, cause toxins to build up in the breast, and eventually lead to breast cancer. There is very little laboratory or population-based evidence to support this rumor.
One small study has found trace levels of parabens (used as preservatives in antiperspirants and other products), which have weak estrogen-like properties, in a small sample of breast cancer tumors. However, the study did not look at whether parabens caused the tumors. This was a preliminary finding, and more research is needed to determine what effect, if any, parabens may have on breast cancer risk. On the other hand, a large study of breast cancer causes found no increase in breast cancer in women who used underarm antiperspirants or shaved their underarms.
Bras
Internet e-mail rumors and at least one book have suggested that bras cause breast cancer by obstructing lymph flow. There is no good scientific or clinical basis for this claim. Women who do not wear bras regularly are more likely to be thinner, which would likely contribute to any perceived difference in risk.
Induced abortion
Several studies have provided very strong data that neither induced abortions nor spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) have an overall effect on the risk of breast cancer. For more detailed information, see the separate American Cancer Society document, Can Having an Abortion Cause or Contribute to Breast Cancer?
Breast implants
Several studies have found that breast implants do not increase breast cancer risk, although silicone breast implants can cause scar tissue to form in the breast. Implants make it harder to see breast tissue on standard mammograms, but additional x-ray pictures called implant displacement views can be used to examine the breast tissue more completely.
Chemicals in the environment
A great deal of research has been reported and more is being done to understand possible environmental influences on breast cancer risk.
Of special interest are compounds in the environment that have been found in lab studies to have estrogen-like properties, which could in theory affect breast cancer risk. For example, substances found in some plastics, certain cosmetics and personal care products, pesticides (such as DDE), and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) seem to have such properties.
While this issue understandably invokes a great deal of public concern, at this time research does not show a clear link between breast cancer risk and exposure to these substances. Unfortunately, studying such effects in humans is difficult. More research is needed to better define the possible health effects of these and similar substances.
Tobacco smoke
Most studies have found no link between cigarette smoking and breast cancer. Although some studies have suggested smoking increases the risk of breast cancer, this remains controversial.
An active focus of research is whether secondhand smoke increases the risk of breast cancer. Both mainstream and secondhand smoke contain chemicals that, in high concentrations, cause breast cancer in rodents. Chemicals in tobacco smoke reach breast tissue and are found in breast milk.
The evidence on secondhand smoke and breast cancer risk in human studies is controversial, at least in part because smokers have not been shown to be at increased risk. One possible explanation for this is that tobacco smoke may have different effects on breast cancer risk in smokers and in those who are just exposed to smoke.
A report from the California Environmental Protection Agency in 2005 concluded that the evidence about secondhand smoke and breast cancer is "consistent with a causal association" in younger, mainly pre-menopausal women. The 2006 US Surgeon General's report, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, concluded that there is "suggestive but not sufficient" evidence of a link at this point. In any case, this possible link to breast cancer is yet another reason to avoid secondhand smoke.
Night work
Several studies have suggested that women who work at night -- for example, nurses on a night shift -- may have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. This is a fairly recent finding, and more studies are looking at this issue. Some researchers think the effect may be due to changes in levels of melatonin, a hormone whose production is affected by the body's exposure to light, but other hormones are also being studied.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Training

Last week was a busy week for me on my newest journey. Tuesday I observe the LIVESTRONG class. What a wonderful and strong group of survivors. Their attitudes are so wonderful. If anything, cancer has made them even more determined to get the most out of life.

The weekend was spent in a course to become a certified cancer exercise specialist. We were taught about 25 different kinds of cancer and the treatments for each. We were shown how to calculate range of motion and postural assessments. We practiced some wonderful stretches and even watched a reconstruction surgery on video. It was wonderful and so motivating and everyone is geared up to make this program rewarding for everyone! Now to pass the test for certification. ;-)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mommy daughter moment -- 20 years too early

My daughter is going to be a flower girl in a wedding fashion show in a few weeks. So this afternoon we ran around town going to various bridal shops for fittings. She had a blast trying on several dresses and twirling around in front of all the mirrors. As I stood there watching her, I was overcome by the fact that I HAVE to be there to do this with her for real in 20 or so years when she finds her handsome prince. We had such a great time and we saw many brides to be with their mothers by their sides while trying on dresses. I refuse to let cancer take that future moment from me!!! But for now, I will certainly enjoy watching her twirl around in flower girl dresses. Prince Charming is going to have a long time to wait (and so is cancer)!!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Meant to be...

Last June while trying to juggle work, the the final prep days of Relay for Life, and prep for the Washington DC trip coming up in July, I came up with an idea. I decided I wanted to be able to help out more and have more flexibility in my life so I could have the time to spend with family and taken on my cancer awareness issues.

The master plan was to become a personal trainer who specializes in the area of cancer patients and survivors. Having a trainer right after my treatment was such a beneficial experience for me and I want to help others with it. In late August, I was finally able to get my study materials to become a certified personal fitness trainer through the National Sports Medicine Academy. I still have to test for the certification but I am close. My trainer at Gold's said he would hire me to work there and I toyed with the idea of trying to open my own small gym before the economy tanked.

In early October I found out that the local YMCA had just started up a cancer survivorship program in partnership with the Lance Armstrong Foundation. A few weeks ago they sent out emails with information about their classes starting after the first of the year. I emailed them that I was studying to be able to work with cancer survivors and would love to talk to them about the program and possible openings in the future. The program director emailed me back that she would love to meet with me and told me they were losing an instructor in their LIVESTRONG program and maybe it would be a good fit for me! Friday I met with Mary and Angie and she asked me to become an instructor/trainer for the program! Do you believe in destiny? If I didn't before, I certainly do now! Granted it is only a few hours a week but exactly what I want to do!

They are also having me go through a training next weekend from a national group that teaches about training cancer survivors and the impact from their treatments and surgeries. I have included the link so you can learn more about the programs offer and tell any survivors you know. There are only 8 YMCAs in the country that are running these programs and now I am honored to be one of the people bringing the program to the survivors in our community.

http://www.ymcatvidaho.org/index.cfm?ID=98,38,0

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Fulfilling dreams

About 6 months ago I had a great idea for a new calling in life. I told very few people about my plan, but things are starting to come together now. So now I am ready to share my goals with everyone. But it will still have to wait a few more hours as I need to get some chores and Christmas projects done.

Just a little teaser for you! ;-)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Treasure Valley Rollergirls

The next local roller derby match is coming up and includes a bake sale, silent auction and Toys for Tots drop off. It is very entertaining. (I want to be a roller derby girl someday!)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Giving Thanks and Black Friday.


I am a bit late in my Thanksgiving post. The holiday was mellow for us. We went to my parents with my sister and her kids and my grandma. (My sister's husband is still in the border patrol academy and can't come home for the holidays.) After a great dinner that my mom, sister, my son and I all contributed to, we watched the little ones dance to Michael Jackson's Thriller and Billie Jean videos. Three year old Hawkins could give Michael a run for his money. He is quite the dancer! I might have been out there dancing with them and reliving my preteen obsession with Michael Jackson! Then we went to my in-laws for dessert and home to play Rockband as a family. It was a great day and I am so happy to be healthy to enjoy it. Two years ago, I was so sick from my first round of chemo that I could barely eat.
This morning my mom was sweet enough to go stay with my sister's four kids so that she and I could go hit the stores. We missed out on a few things but the deals that we really wanted we managed to get. We ran into several people we knew, which is always interesting at 5:00 in the morning and all of us in hats, glasses and sweats etc. I even debated not saying hi to an old high school friend because I looked like I had been out camping or something!!! LOL! But I am glad I did because he and his wife stood in line with me and my sister and we kept each other entertained. Seemed like we were in line for 20 minutes but we were laughing etc., which is saying a lot at 8:00 in the morning on Black Friday! Next year I won't have my "lil" sis here to go shopping with me and mom so I am glad we made our mark today!


I still have a few items to get but Christmas for the kids is just about done. Even got a new sweater for the dog that I gave him already.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Friends forever


Tara and I have known each other since junior high. She moved to the Seattle area after a year or so of hanging out together. Back then we were mainly roller skating and breakdancing. Boy that dates me, doesn't it? We have remained close over the years. I attended her high school graduation, she was in both my weddings and I was in hers. But the last few years we haven't been able to see each other. She now has 3 boys ages 2-almost 7 and the last two times I was in Seattle she was out of town.


So once I told her I had cancer she told me as soon as I was up for it she was coming for a girls weekend. I know it was difficult for her to be so far away while I was in treatment. We finally got our weekend a few days ago. We had planned to go roller skating but the only place in the area was closed for remodeling. We hung out at the hotel pool, drove around to our old neighborhood and hang outs, and talked and talked and talked (and ate and ate and ate). I stayed at the hotel with her and we chatted about the old days, what has gone on since then and talking about kids and spouses. One night my family went to dinner with us and came back to the hotel to swim. It was a great weekend but way too short!


I am blessed to have such a wonderful friend that still considers me one of the most important people in her life even after 24 years of living hundreds of miles apart.

























Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mary Jane Johnson

We have lost another wonderful woman. Mary Jane Johnson used to babysit my sister and me way, way back when. Jill, my sister, was good friends with her daughter Stephanie. Her son Brian and I were in the same grade.

Apparently, last June, just months after retiring, Mary Jane collapsed at her home. They discovered she had breast cancer that had spread to her bones, liver and brain. She spent the last months of her life in a care facility. She passed away on Tuesday.

She had a heart of gold and treated us like her own kids. I have not seen her in many years but it saddens me to know that she is gone and to know that this awful disease is what took her from her family.

There are angels among us and she is now one of them.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

School pictures

Finally got the school pictures scanned in too.







Picture Time

We get family pictures taken every two years. Here are some from today.









And here is the one from two years ago just days before my first surgery. What a difference two years can make for a family. But life is great!!


Monday, November 10, 2008

Great story about an animal's love

Anyone who has pets will really like this. You'll like it even if you don't and you may even decide you need one!

Mary and her husband Jim had a dog named 'Lucky.' Lucky was a real character. Whenever Mary and Jim had company come for a weekend visit they would warn their friends to not leave their luggage open because Lucky would help himself to whatever struck his fancy. Inevitably, someone would forget and something would come up missing. Mary or Jim would go to Lucky's toy box in the basement and there the treasure would be, amid all of Lucky's other favorite toys. Lucky always stashed his finds in his toy box and he was very particular that his toys stay in the box.

It happened that Mary found out she had breast cancer. Something told her she was going to die of this disease....in fact, she was just sure it was fatal. She scheduled the double mastectomy, fear riding her shoulders. The night before she was to go to the hospital she cuddled with Lucky. A
thought struck her...what would happen to Lucky? Although the three-year-old dog liked Jim, he was Mary's dog through and through. If I die, Lucky will be abandoned, Mary thought. He won't understand that I didn't want to leave him. The thought made her sadder than thinking of her own death.

The double mastectomy was harder on Mary than her doctors had anticipated and Mary was hospitalized for over two weeks. Jim took Lucky for his evening walk faithfully, but the little dog just drooped, whining and miserable.

Finally the day came for Mary to leave the hospital. When she arrived home , Mary was so exhausted she couldn't even make it up the steps to her bedroom. Jim made his wife comfortable on the couch and left her to nap. Lucky stood watching Mary but he didn't come to her when she called. It made Mary sad but sleep soon overcame her and she dozed.

When Mary woke for a second she couldn't understand what was wrong. She couldn't move her head and her body felt heavy and hot. But panic soon gave way to laughter when Mary realized the problem. She was covered, literally blanketed, with every treasure Lucky owned! While she had slept, the sorrowing dog had made trip after trip to the basement bringing his beloved mistress all his favorite things in life. He had covered her with his love.

Mary forgot about dying. Instead she and Lucky began living again, walking further and further together every day. It's been 12 years now and Mary is still cancer-free. Lucky? He still steals treasures and stashes them in his toy box but Mary remains his greatest treasure.

Remember....live every day to the fullest. Each minute is a blessing from God. And never forget....the people who make a difference in our lives are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards They are the ones that care for us.

If you see someone without a smile today give them one of yours! Live simply. Love seriously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

And one time at band camp...

Last night a small group of old friends from marching band got together since a friend was in town. We spent four hours of chatting up and laughing. It is amazing what we have all accomplished and it is amazing of how much we are still the same. It certainly didn't seem like 20 years had passed. We all fell back into teasing each other etc. I had forgot some of the crazy things we had done back then. April and Jesse had to remind me of some of the crazy things we did in drum corps. (How could I ever forget lifting Matt's car half way into the band room!?!) And I found out things from back then that I didn't know - Chelsey having the bus driver do a "cookie".

Many people hated high school but we had some great times and great bonds. We all drifted apart over the years, some more than others. I think we realized last night that even though we have gone separte ways and most of us don't even play instruments anymore, we can still stay in contact 20 years later. The core of who we were 20 years ago is still there today. We may be counselors, teachers, construction workers, military, business owners, government employee, parents and even a few cancer survivors but we are still the same kids inside that we were 20 years ago. Expect now we can all drink together legally! And we have overcome the cliques, attitudes and fears of being a teenager.

I could ramble on forever about my wonderful high school friends but I will post some pictures instead!



Morris and Bryan
Chelsey and Melissa
Sara, Trina and Morris
Angie and her little boy

Todd and Chelsey

Trina and Sara



April and Jesse



Saturday, November 8, 2008

More party pictures

Princess Trinity

Some of "my girls" (Cami, Patti, Kris and Jan) and Geoffrey


Lil Scotlyn and me (She loves her Aunt Jenn! And I am so
blessed to be here to see her grow!)

Okay I guess she loves her mommy too as you can tell from
picture of my sister Jill, Scotlyn and myself.


Mom made me polish off the champagne! (Buddy Steph is
looking on.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

All better party pictures

Me with my parents
Me with my 98 year old grandma - two time survivor

Me with two of my kids - Geoffrey and Trinity


Me with my wonderful husband - Alvin



Monday, November 3, 2008

Two years cancer free

Saturday was my anniversary of my first surgery and thus the day I became a survivor. My mom and dad held an "I'm All Better Brunch." for me with friends and family who have been so supportive of me over the last two years. Everyone said a few words and we toasted to me and the other survivors there. It was an emotional morning and so wonderful. I will post pictures soon. Everyone went home with a champagne flute with a pink ribbon on it and they have to save it for the 5-year party, the 10-year party etc.

Thank you so much to my mom for organizing such a wonderful event. Thank you to all who attended and who continue to be there for me!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween




I love Halloween and wanted to share pictures from pumpkin carving, Trin's costume and our work costumes.

Scooby Doo and BSU for Trinity

Geoffrey's "rose" -


Dakota's Yoda


Go Big Blue!!!!




Dorothy and Toto


Big Naynay with Mostyn, Claire, Geoffrey, Trinity and Hawkins

Here are some work pictures. Our department theme was Clue. I was Miss Scarlett and my office was the billiard room. We won the overall contest and I won for best costume/performance!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Life is too short

If there is one thing I have discovered over the last two years it is that life is short and saying that someday you will get around to it just doesn't cut it anymore. I have been taking a different view of life and even my past...My 20 year reunion is coming up next June and many of us are reconnecting on Facebook. I am enjoying catching up with friends from 20 years ago but it also makes me sad to think that we have drifted apart so much. Sure we have different lives etc but we would be able to stay in touch every now and again. So life is short. Go out and find those old friends and even family memebers you have lost touch with and still wonder about. It shouldn't take a life changing event to make you get back in touch.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Working out is FUN!!!!

I have seen this before but I think we can all relate on some level!

If you read this without laughing out loud, there is something wrong with you. This is dedicated to everyone who ever attempted to get into regular workout routine.

For my fortieth birthday this year, my husband (the dear) purchased a week of personal training at the local gym for me. Although I am still in great shape since my track andfield days some 25 years ago, I decided it would be a good idea to go ahead and give it a try. I called the gym and made my reservations with a personal trainer named Damon,who identified himself as a 26-year-old aerobics instructor and model for athletic clothing and swim wear. My husband seemed pleased with my enthusiasm to get started! Thegym encouraged me to keep a diary to chart my progress.

Monday: Started my day at 6:00am. Tough to get out of bed, but found it was well worth it when I arrived at the health club to find Damon waiting for me. He is something of a Greek god - with blond hair, seductive eyes and a dazzling white smile. Woo Hoo!! Damon gave me a tour and showed me the machines. He took my pulse after five minuteson the treadmill and was alarmed that it was so fast, but I attribute it to standing next to him in his gym top and bulging shorts. I enjoyed watching the skillful way in which he conducted his aerobics class after my workout today. Very inspiring. Damon wasencouraging as I did my sit-ups, although my gut was already aching from holding it in the whole time he was around. This is going to be a FANTASTIC week!!

Tuesday: I drank a whole pot of coffee, but I finally made it out the door. Damon made me lie on my back and push a heavy iron bar into the air - then he put weights on it! My legs were a little wobbly on the treadmill, but I made the full mile. Damon's rewardingsmile made it all worthwhile. I feel GREAT!! It's a whole new life for me.

Wednesday: The only way I can brush my teeth is by lying the toothbrush on the counter and moving my mouth back and forth over it. I believe I have a hernia in both pectorals. Driving was OK as long as I didn't try to steer or stop. I ran over the gym manager inthe parking lot. Damon was impatient with me, insisting that my screams bothered other club members. His voice is a little too perky for this early in the morning and when he scolds, he gets this nasally whine that is VERY annoying. My chest hurt when I got on the treadmill, so he put me on the stair monster. Why the hell would anyone invent a machine to simulate an activity rendered obsolete by elevators? Damon told me it would help me get in shape and enjoy life. He said some other crap too.

Thursday: Damon was waiting for me with his vampire-like teeth exposed as his thin, cruel lips were pulled back in a full snarl. I couldn't help being a half an hour late; it took me that long to tie my shoes. Damon took me to work out with dumbbells. When he was not looking, I ran and hid in the women's change room. He sent Cheryl to find me, then, as punishment, put me on the rowing machine - which I sank.

Friday: I hate that jerk Damon more than any human being has ever hated any other human being in the history of the world. Stupid, masochistic gym-jock. If there was a part of my body I could move without unbearable pain, I would beat him with it. He wanted me to work on my triceps. I don't have any triceps! And if you don't want dents in the floor, don't hand me the *&%#(#&**!!@*@ barbells or anything that weighs morethan a sandwich. (Which I am sure you learned in the sadist school you attended and graduated magna cum laude from. The treadmill flung me off and I landed on the nutrition advisor. Why couldn't it have been someone big and soft, like an ice-cream salesman or a fireman?

Saturday: Damon left a message on my answering machine in his grating, whining voice, wondering why I did not show up today. Just hearing him made me want to smash the machine with my rolling pin.However, I lacked the strength to even use the TV remote and ended up catching eleven straight hours of the Weather Channel.

Sunday: I'm having the Church van pick me up for services today so I can go and thank GOD that this week is over. I will also pray that next year my husband (the butthead) will choose a gift for me that is fun -like a root canal or a pap smear...

(Laughing does not count as a cardio workout! Get out there!!)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Two years

Yesterday was two years since my diagnosis. Last year was much more difficult. This year it fell on a Sunday so my son and I went to church and I stayed busy the rest of the day with projects around the house. November 1st will be my two year anniversary of being a survivor and that is always a day of celebration but October 12th is more depressing because that was the day I felt beaten down, lost, and somewhat hopeless. Obviously those feelings didn't last long but that day is always a reminder of when my life changed forever. I am looking forward to November first to celebrate the day I took control over cancer!!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

More traditions

A few Sundays ago was our annual apple picking trip to Emmett. We have been doing this since I was pregnant in 2001!


I have been waiting to post because I wanted to put some of the old pictures on but I will just have to do that later. Here are some of the pictures from this year.


Trin got an apple that weighed in at 1.05 pounds!!! The biggest of everyone.




The kids got pumpkins from the firefighter fundraiser.


Cheesy!


Scary group!


Whoa look at all the apples


All the kids (except Jill's baby and my boy Geoffrey, who was in Salt Lake).








Yoplait's response

Thank you for contacting General Mills concerning BST.

BST (bovine somatotropin) is a hormone naturally found in cows. The synthetic version of this hormone (not to be confused with a steroid hormone) has been subjected to extensive testing. The Food & Drug Administration, American Medical Association, National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture along with a number of other science-based organizations have concluded that there are no food safety issues in conjunction with milk produced by BST-supplemented cows.

Because BST is naturally found in all cows′ milk, there is no scientific way to test the milk to determine if the BST present is from synthetic sources or natural sources. The amount of BST present in milk will not be greater from a synthetic source than it would be occurring naturally.

For more information about Bovine Somatotropin (BST) or Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) you may wish to visit the United States Department of Agriculture′s website at www.usda.gov.

We hope you will continue to enjoy our products.

Sincerely,
General Mills Consumer Services

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Quarterly check up

Well the blood work looks good! And they said they would call if there were any concerns with my chemistry labs. It is 8:00 p.m. and they haven't called so I am celebrating that as no news is good news.

I was 90% sure the tests would be fine but there is always that 10% in the back of my mind. But I have told myself that God allowed me to have cancer and get through it to make me stronger and give me a higher calling in life (advocacy and awareness etc) so He couldn't and wouldn't give it to me again. Doing so would keep me from fulfilling His greater plans for me. You can take it for what it is worth but this allows my obsessive personality to make sense of the last two years of my life.

On a side note, my oncologist says a chest x-ray at least annually will be my new "mammogram" testing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Welcome to PINK month

Today starts Breast Cancer Awareness month. Just like last year I encourage everyone to do what they can to support the cause but be aware of how much money is, or isn't, going to the cause for the pink things you buy. Check out http://www.thinkbeforeyoupink.org/ Here is an interesting note from their website...

Yoplait is urging consumers to buy its yogurt in the name of breast cancer. But what’s under the lid might not be so good for our health—it’s actually made with milk from cows that have been treated with the synthetic hormone rBGH.
This October join us in asking Yoplait to do the right thing for women’s health:


There are several products that support awareness and research that also could be causing cancers with chemicals it uses or creates. Maybe it is out of guilt that they start giving money.

As for me - I can never have too many pink M&Ms! LOL!!!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On the road again and other updates



I am currently in a hotel room in Northern Idaho. I haven't been on the road for work since I got sick. It is nice to be back out there again but I also feel a bit out of sorts. Given the last few weeks, it is nice to get away even if I am working 9-10 hour days.

We bagged out of women's fitness walk due to the lightening and rain. We had my 5 month old niece with us and didn't want her out in it. So we went to lunch instead.




And here we are ten years ago!




We also had a wedding in our backyard last Saturday. Al, the boys and the wedding party did all the yard work and house work so I wouldn't have to stress about it right before leaving town. They made our yard look so romantic. I will post pictures when I get them.
Next week I will have my quarterly lab work done and will talk more with my doc about tests. Sounds like I need at least a chest x-ray at least once a year if not more often or if not an MRI.