Saturday, August 25, 2012

Found A Bump

About five to six weeks ago,  I felt a pea-sized bump under my left eye. I casually pointed it out to my allergist and he said it was probably just a small cyst that would eventually go away. The next week I went to my regular doctor. She thought it might me infected so she prescriped anti-biotics.

Still, it didn't go away. In fact, it got bigger. So I went to my optician. He had no idea what it was so he promptly referred me to an ophthalmologist. He thought it was too hard for a cyst and part of a bone, so he had it x-rayed. He found nothing. So he referred me to an eye surgeon.

By this time the bump had gotten even bigger and was now soft and mallible to the touch. In the beginning, no one noticed, but it became more obvious. The eye surgeon had an MRI done last Wednesday. The report suggest that it was a hemonginea which is a group of blood vessels that form a clump, grows fast that eventually dissapears. But the doctor is not 100 percent sure about this, so he said I must have surgery to take it out.

Needless to say, the prospect of going back into an operating room to get cut up yet again, does not thrill me at all. Of course they are going to do a biopsy on this bump, which scares me even more.

I pedaled my MRI slides and the report around to a dermatologist and my oncologist, Dr. Neil Fischback. They both agreed the best thing to do was to have it removed.

Dr. Fischback, who administered all my chemotherapy treatmenst, assured me that breast cancer typically does not rear it's ugly head under an eye, and that he was optimistic that everything would be fine. That certainly made me feel better.

At any rate, I am concerned at how this process of discovery has taken a turn--all the way into the operating room. Clearly, that's not good.  Yet I feel I have been as proactive as I can possibly be about this. I hold on to the fact that the opthalmologist told me sine the bump hasn't invaded the skin, is mallible,  moves and grew fast indicates it is probably not cancer.

The eye surgeon however, doesn't sugar coat anything. He says simply: I don't think it's cancer, but I won't know for sure until I take it out.

So here I am in this awful place of waiting for some kind of resolution. I constantly touch and probe this bump, searching for a change and hoping it will dissapear. It does move around and I'm told that's a good thing. It doesn hurt at all.

So that's my story for today. I hope I have better news to report soon.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Where Does Breast Cancer Recur?

Where Breast Cancer Might Come Back and How to Detect It

Page last modified on: March 14, 2012
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Blogger's Note: I posted this article because an MRI revealed I have a tumor near my eye that has to be removed. The eye doctor assures me it is benign and my oncologist said: "Breast cancer doesn't rear its ugly head in the eye area. It is mostly in the chest wall, lungs, liver, brain and bones."  This piece seems to verify that. Now if I can just get through this surgery....
When breast cancer comes back, it may return in the same place. This is called a "recurrence," because it is not a new cancer. But a recurrence can also appear in a place not directly related to the first breast cancer. This is called a "metastasis", and if cancer is detected in several areas, these are called "metastases". When breast cancer comes back, it tends to show up in specific areas of the body:
  • the breast or the area where the breast used to be
  • the chest wall
  • the lymph nodes
  • the bones
  • the lungs or around the lungs
  • the liver
  • the brain

Personal Quote

"Living with the fear of breast cancer is having a whale move into your living room. One day, it just appears and is always in the way. Over time, the whale can get smaller, but it never quite goes away. Maybe, sometimes, it gets down to the size of a magazine rack and once in a while you bump into it. Sometimes, it swells up in your face again, like when you have a mammogram and they call you back for extra views." 
Cancers from other parts of the body rarely spread to the breast or the chest wall. If you have a tumor in your lymph nodes, lungs, liver, bones, or brain, it probably is a re-growth or recurrence of the original breast cancer rather than a new and different cancer. In other words, if you had breast cancer and you now have cancer in your bones, liver, or other places, it is probably not bone or liver cancer, but breast cancer that has spread to the bones or the liver. This is important because breast cancer—even when it has spread—is usually more treatable than a cancer that starts in the bones or liver.
Breast cancer that returns in other parts of the body is invasivecancer. However, cancer that comes back in the breast after surgery and/or radiation therapy can be either non-invasive or invasive.
If you have developed a cancer in the opposite breast from the one that was originally treated, it is probably not a recurrence. Most cancers that develop on the other side represent a new cancer rather than a recurrence.
Breast cancer can return in three general locations. It can be:
  • Local: in the breast where it started, or in the skin and underlying tissues where the breast used to be.
  • Regional: in the lymph nodes next to the breast.
  • Metastatic: in another part of the body, such as the lung, liver, bone, or brain, or in lymph nodes far from the breast.
The following pages will give you more information on the three types of breast cancer recurrence. If you have not had a recurrence, but are just reading this section to keep informed, your mind may play tricks on you. You might develop some suspicious symptoms that seem like recurrence. This is a very natural reaction. If those symptoms don't go away within a day or so, make an appointment with your doctor to be sure.
If you've been diagnosed with metastatic cancer, skip ahead to read about Living with Metastatic Disease.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Who Gets Breast Cancer?

Courtesy Living Beyond Breast Cancer

Anyone with breast tissue can get breast cancer—even men. Women of all ages, including very young women in their 20s or 30s, can develop breast cancer. But your risk increases with age, so the older you are, the more likely you are to develop breast cancer.
People of all ethnicities get breast cancer. Women with different lifestyle habits and from different walks of life develop breast cancer. Women with breast cancer can be fit or overweight, vegetarians or meat-eaters, regular exercisers or “couch potatoes.”
What all people with breast cancer have in common are “bad copies,” or mutations, in the DNA of their breast cells. DNAmakes up the genes of a cell. It carries a set of directions that tell cells when to grow and how to stop growing.
These mutations can come from your mother or father at birth. More often, these mutations develop at some point in your life. Some people are more likely to develop a mutation because cancers run in the family. Others have been exposed to certain things during their lives that make them more likely to get a mutation. We are still learning about the causes of these mutations and why people get them.
Breast cancer is less common in women whose menstrual periods started at a later age, whose menopause started early, who breast fed, who had children before age 30, who exercise and who are not overweight. But even these traits do not prevent breast cancer—they only give you some protection from developing it. Nothing can completely protect you.
You may be asking yourself, “Why me? What did I do to bring on this breast cancer?” Your questions are a reasonable response to the shock of diagnosis. There is no single cause of breast cancer. There is nothing that you did or missed doing that caused you to develop breast cancer. Over time, either on your own or with family and friends, you may find your own answer to this difficult question.
Read more about breast cancer basics and the providers who helped us write this page in our Guide for the Newly Diagnosed.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Road Trip!

I've always been a spontaneous kind of gal--especially when I travel. For people in my life that can either be delightful or annoying as hell. One friend of mine--whose is a lot like me--breathes a sigh of relief when I say: Spontaneity rules the day. While another friend sees red when I  make my pat comment: Let's play it by ear.

Whenever I make my annual summer jaunt to a seaside getaway, it is always at the last minute so I can be sure the weather is perfect. Once I get a five-day forecast with a string of at least three days of perfect beach weather, I'm on the phone making last-minute reservations. It works out fine.

This year I had a hard time deciding where to go. I've been to Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard more than enough times. I used to go to The Hamptons years ago but that doesn't seem appealing now. I've vacationed on the Jersey Shore in Wildwood and Cape May two years in a row with a former boyfriend. Last year I went to Ogunquit and Kennebunkport, Maine.

Since I drove my Mini Cooper all the way down to Tennessee last May for a double graduation,  I didn't want to drive that far this summer. Connecticut's neighboring state--Rhode Island--is but an hour and a half away, so off I headed to The Ocean State. I revisited Block Island, which I hadn't been to since 2000.

While riding a bike around the island I realized it has built up a lot in 12 years. When I arrived at the North shore near the light house, I  discovered all these "rock towers" otherwise known as kairns along the beach. After I left the island to stay in Narragansett, RI, I found more of these rock towers on that beach as well. I asked a few locals who this rock sculpturist was. No one had the answer, but they all agreed it was just one person who spent time on practically every beach on Rhode Island leaving his mark behind with his vast landscape of rock art.

So I posted some of my rock garden pictures on facebook, and one of my friends said she had caught a picture of this mysterious man building rocks along a Rhode Island beach. No one knew his name they just called him a "local nut."

I  never realized how serene and pristine the Rhode Island beaches are--it was so relaxing wallowing away the day by the sea. I also checked out the Tennis Hall of Fame museum in Newport. But my favorite part of the trip was taking endless pictures of those rock sculptures in every possible light--morning, afternoon and at sunset.

Who knew a two-hour trip from home could be a place of natural beauty and a haven of serenity? Weather permitting, I'm going back the weekend after Labor Day because I hate crowds and want to enjoy one more peaceful day at the beach before summer comes to an end. And just maybe I'll find out who that mysterious rock artist is.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Susan G. Komen Shake-up

Critics skeptical despite shake-up at Susan G. Komen

Courtesy USA Today
Critics say having founder Nancy Brinker step down as CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure may not be enough to restore faith in the breast cancer charity, which has struggled to regain its footing since its controversial and short-lived attempt in January to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.
  • Nancy Brinker founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure in honor of her late sister.
    By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY
    Nancy Brinker founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure in honor of her late sister.
By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY
Nancy Brinker founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure in honor of her late sister.

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In a shake-up of the organization's top management, Brinker says she will give up her role as CEO but take a new job as chairwoman of the executive committee. The departure of Komen President Liz Thompson, and two board members, Brenda Lauderback and Linda Law, also were announced Wednesday.
Longtime supporters had complained that Komen was politicizing cancer screenings, which Planned Parenthood provides, along with other services. Many called for Brinker, who founded the charity in honor of her sister, who died from breast cancer at age 36, to step down.
Breast cancer survivor Brenda Coffee says she wonders whether Brinker will "still be pulling the strings from behind the curtain." Coffee, a past Komen volunteer, adds, "I hope I'm wrong, but I'm not sure Komen gets it."
Barbara Brenner, a longtime critic, says she also doubts that someone who spent so long at the helm will ever really leave.
"Brinker will still be running the board executive committee, which leaves her in charge, whatever her title," says Brenner, former executive director of Breast Cancer Action, a San Francisco-based advocacy group. "Knowing when to leave is also leadership. Brinker hasn't shown that leadership yet."
"Komen needs to assure us this is real change," says Eve Ellis, a former board member at Komen's New York affiliate. "This is an organization that has suffered under her watch."
Ellis notes that the Planned Parenthood controversy has scared off donors, not only from Komen, but from other breast cancer charities. "Donors to other breast cancer organizations are requesting reassurances that they are not accepting money from Komen."
In a statement, Brinker defended her leadership. "Our mission is clear and consistent, and will never change, regardless of the controversy earlier this year," Brinker said. "We are doing everything in our power to ensure that women have access to quality cancer care and the support that they need, as we seek answers through cutting-edge research."
Mark Pilon, executive director of Komen's Los Angeles affiliate, says the moves at the top are part of the natural changes that occur in any organization. He says Brinker is "so dedicated to this mission and what we do. She will do whatever is the best thing for the organization."
Pilon came on to head the affiliate in March, a month after Komen decided to stop funding Planned Parenthood. Los Angeles is one of the seven affiliates in California, all of which opposed Komen's decision.
Komen said new internal rules prohibited it from funding organizations under investigation. Planned Parenthood was being investigated by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., who was investigating whether Planned Parenthood was using federal dollars to fund abortions. Days later, after a public outcry, Komen reversed its decision, restoring the grants.
Across the USA, participation and fundraising at Komen's trademarked Race for the Cure events have fallen sharply.
Pilon says the Los Angeles event in March was the first after the controversy and the affiliate had about 6,000 walkers and runners, 1,000 fewer than it normally saw. Seattle's race, which took place in June, raised $500,000 less than last year, and attendance was down 40%.
Today, though, Pilon says, the dust has mostly settled. "It really is just about people asking for clarity," he says. "Now people hardly bring it up. It's fizzled."
Komen's "brand," which Brinker worked so hard to build into a marketing powerhouse, has suffered, Ellis says.
A recent Harris Interactive poll found that Komen, which had long been ranked in first or second place in terms of its "brand equity," fell to 56 out of 79 brands surveyed after the Planned Parenthood debacle.