Thursday, October 18, 2012

Napa Nirvana

Well, I've just been absolutely worthless since I got back from Napa.  It's been almost 2 weeks ago since my long weekend getaway with my friend, Shawn.  It was her birthday and she decided to get a group together to go to the wine country.  Ten of us originally signed up to go and Shawn rented a 5 bedroom house on VRBO that would sleep 12.

You probably already can guess what happened.  Only 3 of us ended up going on the trip.  We had this huge house all to ourselves.  It had a hot tub and swimming pool and a huge deck with an amazing view of Napa Valley.  

Awesome view, right?  Every morning I would get up and get some coffee from our built in Miele coffee machine and sit out on the huge deck and check out the view.  The deck of course had a huge sectional outdoor couch with an ottoman that would fit with the couch to make a huge bed.

I was in heaven.  I definitely need to purchase one of these sectional couches for my balcony here at home.  It would be the perfect place to hang out and read a book.

When we weren't enjoying our view at the house, we were going on winery tours and tastings at some very small boutique wineries that I had never heard of.  Shawn's longtime friend, Scotty, who is now living in Napa Valley and is in the wine business had our itinerary all set up.  He even took us to dinner at Calistoga Ranch which me and Shawn didn't realize that you can't even eat there unless you stay there at their $1500 per night cottages or have a Vinter's membership.  We went to Solage for some spa treatments as well and on our last night had a small dinner party at our house including a wine tasting from some guy's very own winery that ended up showing up to our dinner.  It was unbelievable!  

It was just so nice to get away to great weather, great food, great wine, and good times.  It was so relaxing.  I really had a hard time coming back home other than the fact that I missed my husband.  

Something really interesting happened on the trip.  Many of you knew that before I went to Napa, I had told some of you that I was worried that I lost my sense of humor.  Nothing was funny to me anymore and I wasn't laughing at all anymore.  It was making me really sad.  Well, all I can say is that it was a good thing I couldn't laugh for a while.  I ended up laughing hysterically at Shawn on the first day of the trip at something she did and I guess I must have strained a muscle in my abdomen or maybe pulled some scar tissue from my incision because I was really sore in my abdomen the next day.  So bad that I couldn't bend over AT ALL!  The good thing though is that the pain had disappeared by the 3rd day and I felt even better than before my surgery.  It was like I needed a good belly laugh to loosen up the scar tissue or incision.

So I'm back to laughing now!  Things are funny and I am found my sense of humor, at least what I have of one.  

Thanks Shawn for inviting me on such a wonderful trip.  Happy Birthday!

Shawn and Saki at Fischer Winery

One more thing I wanted to's the link to Great Day Houston's TV piece of Pink Pigeons Sporting Clay Tournament from September.  It aired last week.  Enjoy!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Shooting for $$$

Thanks for all the emails and comments from last week's blog entry.   I know it was a bit controversial, but I had to get it out there.  Again, I have lots of Stage I survivor friends that are awesome, its just the crazy ones seem to find me too.  

Anyway, it's the end of September so it means it's Pink Pigeons time!  Pink Pigeons is a Sporting Clay tournament supporting Breast Cancer - specifically Pink Ribbons Project.  My husband, Clint, and his best buddy, Nathan Bane, came up with the idea and ran with it.  This was the 2nd annual Pink Pigeons Tournament.  There were 44 teams which was a sell out!!!  We raised over $108,000 for breast cancer.  Yes, that is correct!!!  $108,000!!!

I am so proud of my husband and Nathan as well as the Pink Ribbon Project ladies!  Also the supporting sponsors and all the shooters were just incredible...we couldn't have done it without them of course.  Here's some pics from the event!

Me and Clint being interviewed for a TV spot

My friend Georgette Jacob shooting with Matt looking on

My friend Michelle Norman hanging out with the gang and watching

Some guy with his tricked out was crazy!

So it will be 8 weeks since my surgery on Monday.  I'm really starting to feel good.  I started working out today and it's been way too long.  I finally went out and bought myself a pilates machine instead of paying out the rear for the lessons at a gym or studio.  Had a blast but I'm sore.  I'm gonna try to run tomorrow morning.  

Mentally, I'm really doing better than I was a couple of weeks ago.  Back then, I was struggling to get back in my "groove".  I don't think I was "depressed" just didn't know how to go about getting on with the rest of my life.  I think I was just mentally exhausted and just wanted to lie low for a while.  I'm still a little tired, but definitely making a come back.  I really thought I would mentally come out the surgery with a vengance.  I feel like its been more like a whimper.  I guess that's OK.  It's been good for me to get back to work and it was really good for me to get my hair colored.  YES!  it's now a golden blond color.  I LOVE IT!!! It's amazing how something so simple like hair color can bring me back to life.  It really is the little things.  Or maybe I just enjoy the little things a lot more these days. 

Until next time!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Moon shots and Competitive cancer

Yesterday I was honored to be a VIP at the MD Anderson news conference announcing the 8 cancers that are officially a part of the "Moon shot" program.  The program is a very aggressive initiative to go after cancer in 8 specific areas putting at least 3 BILLION Dollars behind the 10 year project that expects to find a cures for the various cancers.  The 8 cancers include acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, melanoma, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and breast and ovarian triple negative cancer.  There were various speakers at the news conference including the president of MDA, Dr. DePinho and a triple negative cancer survivor named Brie.  Again, I felt honored to be invited.  I am just thrilled with MD Anderson's commitment to fighting cancer and finding better treatments and cures.

What was interesting is that during the Q&A session there seemed to be more questions about the cancers that WERE NOT selected.  Of course these questions were asked by survivors and advocates of those cancers.  One question asked by a woman sitting next to me was about initiatives for pediatric oncology (her son was a leukemia survivor).  This brings me to the topic I have been wanting to write about for a while.  The sport that no one may have ever heard of...competitive cancer.  Yes, does exist and it exists in many different forms.  Here's just a few of the different types of competitive cancer:

1.  Fishing for funding
2.  Rumbling for research
3.  "I had it worse than you" storytelling
4.  The Blame Game...yes, even Bush can be blamed for cancer
5.  My all time favorite, "Embellishing and adding drama to my early stage cancer in front of a late stage cancer survivor."  

I think the first two are pretty self explanatory.  There is so much competition from just fund raising between cancers and then even within a specific cancer itself.  Also, the competition is fierce for research initiatives, who gets what trial, and even how much research goes to early stage vs late stage.  I saw that there is a lot of it that even goes on at a wonderful place such as MDA.  I can understand the disappointment for the survivors and physicians who's cancers were not selected as a moon shot, but I personally think that the moon shot initiative will help us ALL in the long run.  I don't have triple negative breast cancer, but can understand why that would be included as a moon shot.  It is the "forgotten" breast cancer, but can be the most aggressive and deadly.  I am extremely happy for triple negative breast cancer survivors and congratulate them on being part of this major initiative.  

The final 3 I listed may be more because I have a cancer that affects predominantly females and can sometimes have more of a "sorority" feel to it therefore the competitiveness.  The 5th one has gotten so bad that most times when I meet a breast cancer survivor that is stage I, I look for the first opportunity to run away.  

The most recent Stage I interaction came while I was standing in line at MDA to check in to see my oncologist.  There were 2 ladies talking in front of me.  The one that was doing most of the talking was a Stage I lady that had been 2 years out of diagnosis.  I was trying to do my best to act busy and preoccupied so they wouldn't ask me any questions, but talkative Stage I lady couldn't help her self.  She started out by saying to me how young I was to have cancer and how I'm just starting my journey since my hair was just growing out.  She was actually being quite condescending to me in my opinion.  I then informed her that actually I was not "new" to breast cancer and that I had been in treatment for 3 years since I have metastatic breast cancer.  

Here's her response, "wow, so did you just wait too long to get treatment once you found your cancer?"  

What I wanted to say to her was, "wow, are you just that stupid and insensitive to say such a thing to me?"  

But instead I just told her, "no, I didn't know I had the cancer in my breast until it was stage IV."  

Of course she then went on about how well I was doing and how great I looked so there is lots of hope.  

To all my fellow Stage I ladies out there, I don't mean to say all of you are like this.  I just seem to find every single lady who is, or I should say... they find me.  But here's something to think about,  please don't offer advice or condescending remarks to a late stage have really no idea of what we are going through so just stop.  Especially those of you who didn't have to go through chemo.  

Then, again I have never been really good at getting along with other women so why should it be different now that I have breast cancer? LOL!!

Until next time!

Friday, September 14, 2012


So it's been a while...I'm still here, still hanging in.  Last blog post was months ago and lots has happened.  Here it goes:

I was in the new clinical trial for 5 months.  Let me just say that the Taxol/Aurora Kinase inhibitor trial kicked my ass.  I was neutropenic, anemic, and basically would sleep all the time due to crazy fatigue.  At one point I was doing 3-4 shots of Neupogen a week just to get me to the next weekly treatment.  It was crazy.  But it worked!  I had two great CT scans and then went back to see Dr. Curly to see if I could revisit the liver resection.

In the meantime, I had a biopsy on my right breast where I had a lump.  You guessed it...malignant.  So I had another primary tumor in my right breast, but luckily had not traveled to my lymph nodes.  I also had a small lump biopsied under my left armpit...malignant too!  Wow!  

Fast forward to August 6 at MD Anderson.  I had my liver resection, right mastectomy, and the left underarm lump removed (they also removed my gallbladder).  8 hours of surgery, 3 surgeons, and little ole me.  It all went well and I stayed in the hospital for 6 days.  Nothing exciting in the hospital except for lots of nausea, some pain, and LOTS of sleep.  So here I am today almost 6 weeks out from my surgery.

They seemed to have got all the cancer that we could find.  So now I'm considered NED which means "no evidence of disease".  Yay!  Do they consider me cured?  No.  Will the cancer come back?  Who knows.  If it does, when?  Anytime, except if I make it 3 years out from the surgery with no disease then my chances of it coming back diminish significantly according to MD Anderson statistics.  

So today I started my new, post-surgery treatment.  I will be on monthly Zoladex injections to put me in menopause and monthly Faslodex injections to prevent Estrogen from binding to any cancer in my body.  Faslodex is not a chemo, its an anti-hormonal.  I won't lose my hair.  Yay!  Hopefully this will keep the cancer away.  

Until then I get to live life and take things day by day.  My next CT scans aren't scheduled until December and until then I say, "ignorance is bliss."  

Sorry for being gone so long...I hope to be much more frequent about things happening in my life and with my non-profit, Suites of Hope.  I'll save Suites of Hope for next time!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wanna get away?

I've been away for a while...I guess it's been over a month since I posted.  Lots has happened since my last post.  Me and Clint went to Israel, I had my CT scan when I got back, I found out that my liver lesions progressed (got bigger), got kicked out of my Afinitor clinical trial, my liver resection was canceled, and now I get to move on to another clinical trial this week that includes a new drug in combo with chemo.  

I have to be honest and say that the bad news CT scan really caught me off guard and was a bit of a sucker punch.  I was all ready to have my liver resection.  The liver resection isn't canceled forever, but we have to get my lesions back under control.  

I have an appointment with Dr. Wheler on Tuesday.  I will be entering a clinical trial with a new Aurora Kinase Inhibitor in combination with my very first original chemo...Taxol!  So I will be back to getting weekly infusions, losing my hair, and having other strange side effects like a bloody nose, skin issues, etc.  It took a couple of weeks, but I think I have my "game face" back on and ready for the next round.  What other choice do I have?  I will dearly miss Afinitor but I am so thankful for the wonderful year it gave me.  

I got to go to New Orleans this weekend for a breast cancer conference.  It was the C4YW (conference for Young Women).  I decided to go because they had a good choice of breakouts/workshops for metastatic breast cancer and Dr. "Super-Litton" was also speaker at the conference.  Me and my good BC buddy, Jessica, were roomies at the event.  I really didn't know what to expect and was a little apprehensive.  I'm not exactly a "rah-rah" cancer girl and didn't really know if I wanted to hold hands and sing kumbaya with other metastatic ladies.  It turned out to be a great weekend.  I got to spend a lot of time with Jessica on Bourbon street, I meet a few other metastatic ladies, hung out with Dr. Super-Litton, and got to go to a really amazing workshop on writing final words and/or legacy letters (I know it sounds kinda creepy but it was such a fantastic workshop).    Most of all it was good to just hang out with other ladies going through the same issues I face day in and day out.  I think it was really good timing for me to network and be around so many cancer gals since I am just about to go down that rabbit hole of chemo again.  I feel ready...I feel like I can do it.   Here's a couple of pics from this weekend on Bourbon Street.

This is a pic of fellow BC metster, Rhonda, and her sister Sherri and me!  They are from Kentucky.  Rhonda will be coming down to MD Anderson is a couple of weeks for a second opinion and will be staying at our house.  YAY!!!

This is my Htown friend, Jessica, who is a single breast cancer survivor who CLAIMS that she has a hard time meeting men, dating, etc.  Sure, Jess.  This random guy at Krazy Korner latched on to her and wouldn't take a hint.  We eventually had to leave because he was too smitten with her and she wasn't feeling it and got really annoyed with him.  Jessica is such the HEARTBREAKER!

I will check in with you guys again later this week to let you know when I will be starting the infusions of Taxol again.  I may be needing some chemo buddies, especially if I have to get my infusions in the dungeon of the first floor infusion area for the Center for Targeted Therapy.  Ugh!  No more Sugarland!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Worst Parade EVER and other happenings in Htown

So what's up with the "worst parade ever" title?  The Houston Marathon and Half marathon took place last weekend and that was the most talked about sign on the marathon route.  Supposedly all the runners thought it was hilarious.  Of course I had to take their word for it as I decided not to run this year even though I had signed up and ran the Vegas half back in December.  Why?  I just didn't have it in me!  That and my reconstructed boob had been "squeaking" ever since Vegas when I ran my long runs.  It turns out the "squeaking is no big deal...dehydration.  That does make sense since the only time it would do it is when I ran more than 4 miles.  Anyway, my friend and former co-worker from Austin, Braun Borman, came into town to run the half.  I really enjoyed being a spectator this year and hanging out with his girlfriend, Heather.  I didn't miss running it and to tell you the truth was a bit shocked!  I know I'll be back running halfs, but for now I'm temporarily retired!  Hopefully I'll be back next year to run in the "worst parade ever".  

Cute pic of Braun and Heather at mile 8 Pink Ribbons Hoopla station!  Way to go BRAUN!!

This last Tuesday I had my last surgical procedure regarding my reconstruction.  I had the nipple/areola reconstruction.  It was actually fascinating as they did this in the OR while I was AWAKE!  Yes, I had only local anesthesia.  It only took him 20-30 minutes to do it and I didn't feel a thing!  I didn't even feel the injections to numb my skin.  This was a nice surprise after doing the liver biopsy only a month ago.  It all went well and I was back home by 9:30am that day.  The worst part of it was not being able to take a shower for 2 days.  So now, all I have left with all the reconstruction is to have my nipple and areola tattooed to match the color of the other one.  That's all in office stuff that can be done very no more surgical procedures for my boobs.  YAY!!

I am getting ready for my big liver resection surgery on February 16.  I'm so excited that my sister and nephew are coming down for all the fun.  In the meantime I am going to ISRAEL next Saturday the 28th thru February 4!  This has been all last minute...Clint was asked to help out last minute on a project there and I decided to tag along for the end of trip (Clint left earlier this week).  We are planning to go to the Sea of Galilee area, the Dead Sea and Ein Geti, and finish up the week in Jerusalem for a few days.  I'm really excited to visit the Holy Land.  Let me know if any of you have any suggestions out there on where to go and what to see!  

Many of you keep asking about Suites of Hope, my non-profit.  I contacted the IRS this last week to see where we stand in the process and they told me that I have been approved and should be getting my official paperwork any day now.  I'm so excited.  I know I haven't posted much on our progress, but we have been meeting, looking at a particular condo, and are in the process of getting our website up and running.  Hopefully when I get the official paperwork, we can then move on buying the condo.   We are so close!  We plan on having a "registry" to furnish the condo and I will let you guys know when that is up and running.  I still think we won't be up and running for business until April or May, but that's OK as I want to do this the right way!  

In closing I just want to say that I'm very proud of the Houston Texans!  It was a great year and such a long time coming.  We should have beat the Ravens, but that's just the way the ball bounces especially off your face mask when trying to field a punt that you shouldn't have...ask Jacoby Jones about that! :( 

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Being a die hard Houston sports fan I have to start out with the obvious.  GREAT GAME, TEXANS!  Woohoo!  I also have to include a special pic of Arian Foster after his second touchdown in yesterday's game.  He leapt into the crowd right into the arms of my former co-worker, Georgette Jacob.  You can barely see her, but she is the blond girl holding on to Arian.  CRAZY!

So jealous, Georgette!  Now onto our next victory against the Ravens next Sunday.  Go Texans!

It was also a great week because me and Clint got to spend Friday evening back in the 80's.  We went to the Richard Marx and Peter Cetera concert at the Arena theater.  Yes, that's right, I said the Arena Theater.  That place has been around for some time.  I even think it was built before I was born?  Anyway, it's such a cool little theater.  It's small, maybe 2000 seats and the stage is in the middle and rotates around like the stage at the rodeo.  I'm a big Richard Marx fan.  "Endless Summer Nights", "Hold on to the Night", "Should Have Known Better", etc.  He sang it all on acoustic guitar!  He was really good and a comedian as well.  Peter Cetera sang with a band and was incredible.  I didn't realize just how many songs he has written, sang, produced, etc.  He sang not only his solo and duet hits, but he sang a lot of his Chicago tunes...mainly from Chicago 17!  I was in heaven to say the least.  Don't know a lot of you out there just love his song "Glory of Love" from the Karate Kid movie - you just won't admit it.  Here's a pic of Richard Marx sans the big, fluffy, long mullet from the 80's.

I got to go to a short district meeting with work in St. Louis.  It was a really quick trip but really worth it. I've never been to St. Louis before.  Just look at the view I had from my hotel window!

So now on to the REALLY big news of the week.  As you remember, I had an appointment with Dr. Steven Curley, a liver surgeon at MD Anderson, earlier this week.  It went really well.  Dr. Curley thinks I am a great candidate for liver resection surgery.  I am scheduled for surgery on February 16.  I still have to have one more set of good scans in early February, but everything looks good.  He will be taking out my entire right lobe and parts of the left (About 75% of my entire liver).  The remainder of my left lobe will then grow to take the place of the right.  It grows back completely in 1-2 months!  Isn't that just crazy?  We are hoping to get all the cancer lesions in my liver cut out.  I have an opportunity to be NED - NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE!  I asked him what's the longest one of his breast cancer patients has been NED after surgery.  Drum roll please:  he said 16 YEARS and she's still going strong (he just saw her 2 weeks before Christmas).  WOW!  I am so excited just to have the chance to be NED.  The surgery only takes a couple of hours, but I will be in the hospital for 5-7 days.  I then will be recovering at home for a couple of weeks.  

I just ask that you guys all keep praying for me.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate every single one of those prayers.  I know God listens, I know he has a plan for me.