On 3.16.10, I got a hard call from a wonderful nurse at OHSU named Joan.  As I broke away from a work meeting, she told me in the kindest way the bad news that the lump I had discovered was large, fast growing and invasive (lobular) – grade 3. (if you’re curious, clinically it’s IDC, most common kind, and what’s called a “triple negative” – negative for hormone receptors and HER-2 status.) Good news is that it doesn’t appear to have spread to my lymph nodes (although not conclusive yet until surgery).  The best news of all is that all the other scans showed negative… there was heart numbing fear wrapped up in that day.  To round out the prognosis news, I am stage 2 or 3 depending on outcome of the lymph nodes…

My Knight Cancer Center Chemo Lounge (like flying business class!)

On the advice of the docs, I have opted for chemo first to shrink the tumor and am undergoing 6 rounds total of 3 weeks each (18 weeks total). As I explained to my daughter Emma who is eight, “mom has to climb 6 mountains this spring and summer. I get medicine to help me fight the bad guys in the mountains but that also makes me really, really tired and kind of sick at first. Then I get stronger but the hard part is I have to stay away from other sick people so I don’t get sicker. Then in the third week of climbing a mountain I start feeling like the real me again. But then I have to go back for more medicine because there might be more bad guys on the next mountain. Then I tumble all the way down again and have to start the climb over again 5 more times”

After chemo, around early September or so I’ll go for surgery, which will likely be a haul and then potentially radiation, depending on outcome.

So far, I’m doing relatively well. I am balancing the super toxins that are being infused into my body, with regular acupuncture, shiatsu massage, walking, yoga and healthy eating. It seems to be the best offense in all this and everyone at OHSU tells me that exercise is especially the key to prevention and combatting side effects. And finally, a huge outpouring of love and care is my bedrock for it all.

Dan and Emma make cake for mom! Em is second chef of the house.

But to reverse a little bit I’m going to put one call out here to my extended sisters around the world. I discovered this lump on my own, just an instinctual brush of the flesh that made me say, “hey, that’s not normal.” I was 2.5 years overdue for my 40 year old mammogram (lots of excuses including being in China for two of those years). I’m not going to beat myself up over this, but I will urge you, despite what the new guidelines say… GO and get your mammogram when you are supposed to. Early detection is the key. My identical twin sister Kelli did so on time at age 40. She has a lump in the same place but it’s benign and they are watching it. And now she can take the matter into her own hands instead of going through what I am. So enough of the lecture, but I hope this will inspire you to get your check up.

Here’s a shot of all of us together in our Sellwood home just a few days after finding that something was amiss…. Dan, Hadley (10), Kerri and Emma (8).

Thanks to Kay Balmer at the Oregonian for the story, Torsten Kjellstrand for the picture and to Anne, Richard and Spencer at Arciform for our nest… see fun link on our home here…