Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

I hope you are all having a safe and joyous night tonight.  My family and I are headed to Kathy's (soccer mom) house to play LCR.  It's a silly game that somehow becomes fun when mixed with a lot of people.
I wanted to say thank you for all of your support over the past year.  I appreciate each and every one of you.  I will write more soon, but wanted to send out a Happy New Year's wish.
Here's to a wonderfully exciting and HEALTHY 2012.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Guest "Lecturer" at Stanford Medical School 11/29/2011

Stanford was my dream school to attend for undergrad.  I did not make it there, but last week had the opportunity to be a guest "lecturer" to 2nd year medical students during their Gynecology Oncology rotation. The California Ovarian Cancer Coalition has a program called STS (Survivors Teaching Students).  The leader of my ovarian cancer support group is heavily involved in the STS program.  I, along with 2 other survivors spoke to a group of 60 or so students during their pathology class.  We spoke about our cancer journey and what we thought future doctors should know about diagnosis and treating ovarian cancer.  The professor came up to me after our platform and asked if I was a professional speaker.  YEA!! She said we were the best panal they have ever had.  It was such a great experience and hopefully puts a face to this disease and helps those students diagnosis Ovarian/Fallopian Tube/Peritoneal Cancers in the future.
I've included here my speech just for mere interest to all of you and to help increase the awareness of this group of cancers. 
Enjoy!  As always, I am open to hearing back from anyone who wants to share their thoughts. 

Good Morning.  My name is Denise.  I bring a few unique perspectives to my cancer diagnosis.  1) I am a Nurse Practitioner and had been working in Women’s Health for 14 years at the time of my diagnosis; 2) is that my official diagnosis was Fallopian Tube cancer; 3) is that I was diagnosed at the age of 38 years old.  
More and more research is coming about that shows the majority of ovarian or primary peritoneal cancers probably start in the Fallopian tubes.  The challenge with diagnosing it as so is due to the late diagnosis and simply that most pathologist aren’t aware to be looking for the fallopian tubes as the primary site. 
It is difficult for me to say exactly when my symptoms started, but I believe it was some time in March or April of 2010.   I remember having a week of lower abdominal pain mixed with bowel pressure, and diarrhea.  I attributed it to something I ate.  About a month later I had similar symptoms and thought that was odd because I could not think of anything I ate to cause the symptoms.  When the symptoms hit the third month, I realized it was at the time of my ovulation.  I never really had any history of painful ovulation prior to this so I thought this was also odd.  I waited another month to see if indeed the symptoms occurred again at ovulation and they did. 
At that time I contacted a NP friend and asked for some lab work and an ultrasound and made an appointment to be seen.  This was August 2010 and at this point I was having a descent amount of lower abdominal pain/pressure, pressure and urgency to urinate, and pressure and frequent BM’s.  What I also thought was odd was I was having severe back pain.  U/a and STD screening were done and came back normal.  My exam on that day was also normal; the NP referred me to GI while we were waiting for the u/s results.
The ultrasound results are still a mystery to this day.  Because I knew the tech and knew how ultrasounds worked, the tech was open in talking to me about the findings.  The tech said he saw a 5 x 6 cm solid mass on my left side.  He made it clear that it was not attached to my ovary or uterus, but that it was displacing my bladder, uterus and lower intestine.  He said I would most likely need a CT scan. BUT MY ULTRASOUND WAS ULTIMATELY READ AS NORMAL.
The GI specialist I saw, luckily, ordered a CT to r/o diverticulosis/diverticulitis due to the bowel changes I was experiencing.
I next saw an OB/Gyn physician, who also reported a normal pelvic exam.  She preferred to wait for the CT results before any further action.
My CT showed multiple soft tissue nodular densities in left lower quadrant. The impression on the CT was endometriosis or neoplasm. 
The ob/gyn physician then ordered tumor markers: CA 125, CA 19-9, and CEA. She made a point to tell me she was concerned because endometriosis does not show up on CT scans so she did not feel the implants were endometriosis.
My Ca 125 was slightly elevated at 50 (normal range 1-35).  She gave me three treatment options at this point: 1) diagnostic laparoscopy, 2) Lupron assuming it is endometriosis or 3) wait.  I admit I really didn’t like any of the options. I was in the frame of mind that I wanted to know what we were dealing with before I agreed to having surgery. I had never had surgery in my life up to this point so was quite reluctant to do so. 
I requested an Gyn Oncologist to review my case.  The Gyn Onc stated “at most” a diagnostic lap could be done by the regular gyn doctor. He said due to my age,
subtle findings on CT and what he considered a normal CA 125 since it is not an accurate test in a pre-menopausal women that he assumed benign findings at the most.  I bring up this point, not as a complaint, against those physicians but as an important aspect for all of you. That even with a CT suspicious for cancer the thought pattern of this being cancer still wasn’t there.  My symptoms were pretty classic for ovarian/fallopian tube cancer so if they ONLY took into account my symptoms, that was reason enough to take me into surgery, but with the CT and slightly elevated CA125 it should have been a slam dunk.
Instead I was put on the routine surgery schedule and booked for surgery 2 ½ months later. 

In the following couple of months my symptoms progressively worsened with continuous abdominal pain, bloating, bowel and bladder pressure and urgency. I also developed referred Right shoulder pain. 

I ultimately had surgery in mid Nov by a friend/colleague of mine.
When he came out of surgery he said my entire pelvic region was one huge solid mass and had severe adhesions attached to the bowel/bladder, and pelvic walls. He explained that I would need a hysterectomy regardless of the test results.

A week later he notified me I had ovarian cancer that was at least a stage 3C because the biopsies were not even taken from the ovaries due to not being able to identify them on surgical exam.

After being referred to a different Gyn Onc, another CT was performed which showed full involvement of my ovaries and mesenteric nodes. I was taken into surgery on Dec 3rd of last year for a complete hysterectomy, debulking cancer surgery and had an 8” bowl resection due to the metastasis. My tumor mass totaled about 19cm.

I started chemo while inpatient on post-op day 6.  Two weeks later I had a chest and intraperitoneal port placed.  I received my first two rounds of chemo in both ports.  With
intraperitoneal chemo they basically pump 2 liters of fluid in your abdomen (1 liter of chemo and 1 liter of saline) and then have you rotate every 15 mins for 2 hours like you’re a pig roasting.  The side effects of the intraperitoneal chemo were too severe for me to handle and I ultimately finished my next 4 rounds of chemo through the chest port. 
I finished chemo at the end of April and since have had a clear CT, pelvic exams, and Ca125’s.

I emphasize to you to listen to your patients’ symptoms and look at the whole picture.  Even with all the modern testing my diagnosis was delayed.  Had I been taken into surgery in Aug/Sept it is possible my diagnosis could have been a late stage 2/early stage 3, and my ovaries and uterus could have been saved.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday, Oct 29th

Hello to all of you out there who still may be checking on this blog from time to time.  I'm currently sitting in the airport on my way to Boise, Idaho.  I know, why Boise?  Rileigh, my niece, will be there with her college soccer team to play soccer.  We also have a cousin who lives there who we will be visiting and staying with.

I have been doing well.  I had my 6 month post-chemo appointment and blood work last week and all was normal.  I've been doing a lot to greatly improve my nutrition.  I'm now juicing every morning for breakfast: carrot, celery, 1/2 grapefruit, and romaine lettuce.  YUM!!!  I'm trying to do everything from the earth (all natural, no preservatives) and overall all food choices with a nutritional value.  I went to a wonderful workshop last weekend called The Cancer Fighting Kitchen. Blew my mind.  Even got me thinking about going to Naturopath school to become a doctor in naturopath medicine.  Not sure if I'm ready to go back to school, even though I'm always studying new things.  Either way I know my time with traditional western medicine is on the short path.  I will eventually be doing something more holistic rather than furthering the future of pharmaceuticals and extreme means for healing the body and mind.  The holistic way takes a lot more energy on the patient's part, but I feel it is the path for my future.

I've not had any hours at the Fremont Kaiser job the past couple of weeks so have been back to the gym regularly.  Some work-outs/classes I do okay and others are the biggest joke ever.  I did Pilates for the first time in over a year last week and someone should have seriously had a video camera on me for everyone to have a good laugh.  My body was drastically limited in being able to move the multiple ways the instructor was requesting of us.  I am happy to say a few days later I did a Boot Camp class and was able to jump rope for a whole minute straight.  This is a first with the neuropathy in my feet.  I continue to have sessions with Sandy on a weekly basis to help the neuropathy.

These past few weeks and the weeks to come have been a bit of an emotional struggle being this is the time of year, last year, that I was struggling so bad.  It's like having an anniversary of a death.  My ultimate call of plea to Dr. Probst with the unbearable pain happened on Nov 8th and my first surgery on Nov 11th.  It's incredibly hard to think about how desperate I felt during those days. MerriAnn has been working on some healing meditations to help me clear the negative cell memory revolving around these events. I continue to see the Acupuncturist every 1-2 weeks.

I hope you are all doing well.  Please keep healthy and active.  I've thought about creating a format to log my exercise/nutritional habits and information for those who want to follow.  Many of you have expressed to me how my daily walking, despite where I was in my chemo, inspired you to also increase your activity level.  I would love to be the inspiration in helping more people to get active and therefore healthy.  Let me know if any of you out there would like me to set this up.  I think it would help me to stay on track also.

Well they are starting to set up boarding for my flight.  Here is wellness to all of you.  I continue to thank you for all of your love and support.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Denise's 40th Birthday

On Sunday, September 18th family and friends help Denise celebrate her 40th birthday along with Rileigh's 19th birthday.  Here's a photo of Rileigh and Denise preparing to make their wishes and blow out the candles. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wow, again it's been a long time since I've posted to my blog.  I continue to receive all the alternative medical treatments to help overcome the chemo side effects.  Besides fitting in a few walks a week, I continue to work out at the gym to build up my stamina.  I returned to work part time (3 days a week) a few weeks ago at Kaiser in Fremont.  It's exhausting to say the least.

I'm on a regiment to have a check up every three months for two years with my surgical oncologist.  I will have the CA 125 test every three months also.  As long as I am symptom free, I won't have any additionals test or check ups.  At three years, I will see the doctor every six months and the fifth year once a year.

I had many of you voice that you can't post a comment and I don't know why this is happening.  Feel free to contact me via text or phone.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday, Aug 8th, CT NORMAL

Hello to all of you.  I hope you are doing well.  It has been awhile since I've posted so I thought I would touch base with all of my supporters out there.  I am pleased to announce that my CT Scan done the end of July was normal.  I am on schedule to start work again next week with orientation at the new job.  Other than the commute, I am excited about the new opportunity.
I continue to see all of my alternative practitioners: acupuncture, healing meditations, neuro-reflex therapy, chiropractor and now lymphatic drainage.  I continue to walk with my mom.  I have also now started to swim laps again and did Zumba for the first time in almost a year, this past weekend. It felt great.  I needed to take a nap shortly after coming home, but at least I made it through the class.
I continue to look forward to all of your messages and would love to visit with any of you if you haven't seen me in awhile.  Hope you have an enjoyable time these last few weeks of summer.  I love the warm weather, so I'm going to hate to see the summer come to an end.
Thank you again for your love and support,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday, July 19th: Hello

Just wanted to say hello to all of you following the blog.  I've been doing pretty well.  Still trying to get the aches and pains of my joints and muscles under better control.  I continue to work with Sandy regarding my neuropathy.  I do feel like it is improving some, but still quite bothersome. I've developed a tendonitis of my left thumb that has been quite bothersome so I'm wearing a brace to remind me not to use it.  Dr. Shen is giving me some extra needles during my acupuncture sessions to help with that.  I have a CT scan this Thursday, which will serve as my new baseline, minus all the things surgically removed and minus the intraperitoneal port.  True to my nature the incision from the port removal is not healing well.  I had a reaction to the glue and had a rash for a couple of weeks.  The rash is now gone, but my body is "spitting" out the glue, so to speak and leaving the wound open.  So it will most likely heal secondarily and take a couple of months.  It doesn't hurt so that is good, but I'm afraid to go back to swimming laps for fear of infection.  Mom and I continue to go for walks almost daily and I am now doing Wii each day.  I hope to try Zumba at the gym sometime soon.
My other big news is that my hair is growing back.  I actually have gone in public with no hair accessory several times in the past week.  Becky says I just look like one of those "bad-ass girls" so I'll take that as a good sign. 
I officially resigned from my job at Planned Parenthood and took a job with Hayward/Fremont Kaiser as an "on-call" basis .  It will be doing phone assessments on patients about to have surgery.  About 15-20% of the patients will need an actual physical but otherwise the job should have very little demand on me physically.  I am a bit worried about the commute, but it is an "on-call" job so I will be able to control how many hours I accept to a certain degree. 
I hope you are all having a great summer.  I will post again once I know my CT results.  Thank you again for all of your support, kind thoughts/words/prayers and for being in my life.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tuesday, July 5th

Happy Late 4th of July!  I hope everyone had a fun and safe holiday.  Thank you to Andie and Jenn for hosting a barbecue after I claimed I had no 4th of July party to attend.  Dana and Bobby (my sister and brother-in-law) usually have an annual 4th party but this year they traveled down to Southern California to visit Robert (my nephew).
Today was my post-op appointment with Dr. Chen in Walnut Creek.  She is not completely pleased with how the incision is healing.  In the past, I've had reactions to steri strips (the little pieces of tape they use to close a wound).  Because of this she closed the wound with medical glue.  Well, it seems my body does not like it either.  The area around my wound has been red and very itchy and it seems the wound has been expelling the glue and is trying to open up.  So I'm going to try to use the steri strips for a few days with the hope that it will be enough to close the wound without causing a reaction.
Due to my issues with pain and fatigue she extended my disability a little longer with the new date to return to work as August 1st.  She also said if I'm still having issues as that date comes closer to let her know and we can re-evaluate yet again.  I've realized I'm really fearful of returning to work because I feel like the healing I'm trying so hard to achieve in all areas of my life right now, will come to a halt or stop once I return to work, even if it is less hours.
I am sure there is much more I could reveal or discuss, but it is getting late now and I'm having trouble thinking so will post more later.  Hope all of you out there are doing well,

Monday, June 27, 2011

June 27, 2011 Post Surgery

Mom/Joan here.  Surgical removal of the lower port was performed quickly and without incident.  Whew!  All the staff and doctors were so nice and efficient.  We were on our way home before noon and no traffic problems. 

Traveling to Walnut Creek at 5:30 a.m. was another situation.  I have great compassion for those who commute.  Our average speed was 15-20 mph for one-third of the way!  We arrived just in time for her admin time.

Denise asked I post another photo of Dr. Oliver as he too deserves much credit for her well being and healing!  Thanks to all for your love, support and healing thoughts.

Monday, June 27th-Surgery Date

Mom and I are currently making the trek to Walnut Creek Kaiser along with all of the other thousands upon thousands of people who commute to the bay area every day. So glad I don't do this every day.
I have to admit I'm a bit nervous but I feel that is normal. Surgery is a bit like the ocean in that you ALWAYS have to respect the potential danger of it no matter how minor of involvement you have with it. Hopefully my mom will be posting in a few hours that all went well and that I'm one port less in my body.
Have a great Monday,

Sunday, June 19, 2011

5k pic posted, Sunday, June 19th

Happy Father's Day to all.  Just wanted to let you know that I posted the picture of the Nurse Practitioner group from Kaiser that did the 5k.  You can see Oliver and I on the right side of the picture.  I hesitated to post this pic because it is one that definitely shows the "moon" face I have acquired due to all of the steroids given to me during chemotherapy.  But I am also very proud that I did my first post-chemo 5k so I wanted the picture to be part of this blog and to share it with all of you.
I have officially started a swim regimen.  I swam 3 times this week and a rate of every other day and increasing by one lap each time.  I am swimming at my local gym.  I am needing to wear water shoes because I have a hard time feeling my feet and knowing whether or not they are kicking and trouble feeling them when I push off the walls of the pool.  The added benefit is that the shoes provide more resistance to the workout also.
Other than that still doing all of my same treatments.  I go to Kaiser tomorrow to have my chest port flushed (it must be flushed every 4-6 weeks).  I will also have my pre-operative labs drawn for surgery next week.
Have a good week,

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Let me start by saying Happy Flag Day and Happy Birthday Grandma Jackie! 
Not a whole lot new to report.  The family went camping in the Santa Cruz area again the weekend before last.  Rileigh had a beach soccer tournament, that's right, beach soccer.  Quite an amazing thing to watch.  Adam, sorry I didn't get in touch with you, I was not feeling well and therefore didn't feel much like socializing.  Post chemo days have proven to be quite the challenge with the overall joint and muscle aches.  I think I felt better in the transition weeks before my next round of chemo.  I continue to force myself to walk, despite some days it being very painful.  I had hoped to be getting into more of a routine of exercising by now, but just feel moving is too painful.  I have made it to the pool a couple of times to do some laps which feel alright. 
I am now also getting my eyelashes and eyebrows back.  They were the last to go and the first to come back. The hair on my head is also coming in but just seems like a light fuzz right now.  It all looks as if my hair will be much darker than before (which I'm a bit disappointed about). 
As far as appointments go: I continue to see MerriAnn, Sandy (neuro-reflex therapy for the neuropathy) and Dr. Shen for acupuncture, all on a weekly basis.  I am scheduled to have my intraperitoneal port removed on June 27th.  Dr Chen (my surgeon from the "big" surgery) will be doing the surgery. 
I hope to get a couple of more pictures on here too.  I've got a lot of feedback from those of you who don't see me due to living far away that you like the pictures a lot.
Sorry, not a whole lot more to report.  I could ramble on, but it would probably not do any of us any good because it would be more of the negative stuff about how much pain I'm in.  And none of us really need to dwell on that, right?
Take care, thanks for all your support,  and hope to have better news next time or at least a better attitude!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday, May 22nd

As you can see my mom posted some new pictures of me with a pink firetruck.  This is an organization that tours 40 different firetrucks world wide promoting awareness and fundraising for female cancers.  We were fortunate enough to have them come to Stockton.  Mom, our neighbor Vangie (Uterine cancer survivor) and myself went to the event.  The entire fire engine is covered with messages and signatures that people have written on there with a sharpie pen.
If you would like more information or want to see a video here is the link:

Big day of appointments tomorrow: oncologist, infusion center to have my port flushed and blood drawn, MeriAnne, and my first appointment with my primary care provider (PCP).  They told me at the start of chemo that I needed to establish with a PCP and I'm finally doing it.

On Saturday I attended a continuing medical education symposium on Ovarian Cancer.  I've been quite emotional lately and was practically in tears during the first 5 minutes.  It is very hard to be the Nurse Practitioner and the patient.  There was a lot of discussion on the latest clinical trials but it was just said again and again about the 30% 5 year survival which is so daunting to think about.

Other than that I continue to have severe aches in my muscles and bones.  Vangie says she still has this also and her last round of chemo was 6 months ago.  I will do all I can to make sure I don't have to continue to suffer with this pain for that long.

Hope you all are doing well.  I've gotten a few emails from people lately. Thank you for letting me know you are out them and still reading my posts.  Thank you also for the continued support.  It seems a lot of the recovery now is emotional.  I should know in a few days what my latest cell counts are also-hopefully there will be an improvement.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday, May 16th

She's back!!!!  I am happy to report that I completed my first 5k post cancer/chemo.  Granted, I walked the whole race and it is only a 5k (3.1 miles), but I did it.  Actually, Oliver and I did it.  Despite the fact that Mom and I walk most days we usually are walking 1-2 miles so the 5k was a bit of a challenge.   It was a Kaiser sponsored race and a group of the Kaiser Nurse Practitioners were doing the race and asked if I wanted to do it with them.  It was great to see some of my friends AND walk the race.  And Congratulations to Elena (Tracy Ob/Gyn NP) who won the women's 5k race.  She has completely inspired me because she also is a cancer survivor and is now winning races (a bucket list item for me).  
Other than that my condition has been status quo.  I'm still struggling with the neuropathy and fatigue.  After the 5k, I came home that day and took a 2 hour nap. ha ha.  I am also now having more of the bone aches that I experienced 2-3 wks after round 5 of chemo.  I started treatment today with a Chinese acupuncturist, which I hope will help.  I continue to work with MerriAnn, especially with nutritional supplements that she has recommended to boost up my immunity again.  I am also still having sessions with Sandy every week with the neuro reflex therapy.  
I again would like to thank everyone for their support and positive thoughts.  

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saturday, May 7th

Happy early Mother's Day to you all.  I am COMPLETELY done with all chemotherapy.  Yea!!!!!!!!!  I had my last round last week and have recovered nicely from it.  Other than the neuropathy and tiring easily, I am feeling quite well.  Now I can focus on recovery.  I plan to do several detox types of therapy about 3 wks post chemo. 
It was a chemo that almost didn't happen.  My cell counts were too low to get the chemo per protocol, but since it was my last round the on-call doctor approved it anyway. Later in the day the nurse made a comment that the doctor would probably ok a chemo for someone who was in a coffin.  Once arriving home I looked more closely at my labs from this round and my previous round.  I barely qualified to get chemo on the previous round and in the 5wks in between the two rounds my levels still didn't rise to what they were before the last round.  So for the next 2-3 months I need to be careful to not be exposed to any infectious people because I don't have much of an immunity.  I started some supplements to try to boost me up quicker.  I am continuing with my healing meditations and my neuro reflex therapy for the neuropathy. 
Thank you again for all of your support and have a GREAT weekend!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Joan/Mom here.  Lots to catch up with.  Last weekend the family spent the weekend camping at Smithwoods RV Park in Felton.  Denise was feeling achy but made the most of being at the coast--a favorite place for all of us.  Enjoyed the campfire Friday pm with Adam, a life long friend of Denise's who lives in the area.  We saw some dolphins cresting and also some whales.  Watched Dana and Bobby's dogs, Sophia (golden retriever) and Wriggly (chocolate cocker) let their hearts run free at the dog beach. 

Chemo treatment on Monday, relaxed Tuesday, felt really good Wednesday and walked.  Thursday and Friday chemo constipation raged havoc and wiped Denise out.  Saturday was spent at the St. Joseph's and American Cancer Society's Treat Meant Day receiving lots of information and net working with others experiencing the spirituality and camaraderie.  Today Denise will take it easy and deal with a second bout of chemo constipation.

More to come as Denise gets her energy up and going. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hello all.  I met with my medical oncologist yesterday.  My next and last round of chemo is scheduled for Monday, April 25th.  I'm dreading it already.  The dose of the chemo cannot be decreased-he states if it were decreased again it wouldn't be considered effective enough.  My neuropathy is still present but has been improving.  Unfortunately, I've developed a lot of muscle pain, especially in my upper legs.  This makes it very difficult for me to walk after sitting for a period of time. So when I mix together the stiff/achy legs and the neuropathy in my feet I look like I'm 90 years old when I start walking.  Jacqueline (my official researcher) states this a normal side effect of the Taxol chemo, especially in the later rounds because the Taxol has an accumulative effect on the body. 
My intraperitoneal port has literally been a pain in my side for some reason the past week or so.  I sent an email today to my surgeon to schedule removal now that we know the last day of my chemo.  The doctors prefer to wait about a month after my last chemo to remove it due to the possibility of infection.  It will be one step closer to me feeling like I have a normal body again. 
My energy has been pretty good as long as I can get plenty of sleep (10-12 hours).  The chemo is a bit of a double edged sword in that it causes a lot of fatigue but also greatly effects the quality of sleep and causes an inability to sleep (usually between the hours of 1-4 am).  The long hours of sleeping is very odd for me, but again doctors say it is very normal. 
I've been able to have some fun and have met up with some friends.  Thank you Sheetal, Don, Seanna, Kecia, Mark, Neil, Jacqueline, Brian, Carolyn, Joanie, Marla, and Linda for meeting up with me.  The family also spent last Sunday going to Ano Nuevo State Reserve to see the elephant seals.  Mom is going to post a pic from the day.
Again I appreciate everyone's support.  I love getting your posts.  I wish I could email each of you back when you do post but we haven't figured out how to do that, if it's possible at all.  I apologize if the blog seems negative at times. Those who know me very well, know that I "tell it like it is" and to be honest I have found chemo to be the hardest thing I've ever gone through and it makes running a marathon seem like a nice walk in the park.  So if the post seems that I'm down and out I'm just being honest in how I'm handling this "journey" of mine.
Thank you and take care,

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday, April 6th

Yesterday mom and I went to Walnut Creek to meet with my surgical gynecologic oncologist.  We had a great visit, she stayed with us for about an hour answering all of our questions and discussing the plan of care from here on out.  My exam was completely normal and everything has healed well from the surgery.  She is taking my neuropathy very serious and wants to delay chemo for 1-3 wks until the numbness has subsided some.  She says it can take a year for the neuropathy to subside, and whatever severity of neuropathy I have at the year mark will then be considered permanent. 
The plan will be to do the last round of chemo in a few weeks. About a month after that I can have the intraperitoneal port removed.  I will also then have a CT scan which will serve as my new baseline and will show them what my normal is so they have something to compare it to all the future CT's.  I will have a pelvic exam and lab work every 3 months for the next two years.  If anything appears either through blood work, exam, or symptoms then I will have either a CT or PET scan.  For those of you who don't know, all of this future work-up is done because my type of cancer has a very high re-occurrence rate.  I don't intend to have cancer again but I will follow their plan of care to ensure all is well. 
After the appointment we met Don and Becky for lunch.  Thank you so much Don and Becky, it was wonderful to see you.  On the drive home we also stopped by Jules Veterinary Office to pick up a Rx for Oliver and I got to visit with Kecia for a bit.  So all in all I had a very good day and was ready to crash once home.  Dr. Chen says the fatigue will take about a year after chemo to recover from. 
I have another appointment with MerriAnn (the energy healer) and Sandy (neuro reflex therapist) tomorrow.  I will continue to use my alternative methods in addition to the western medicine to help my healing journey.
I hope all is well with all of you.  I love to receive posts or emails from you so keep them coming.
Love and Happiness to you all,

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Round 5 is officially over and the first day I felt somewhat ok again we headed for the ocean/beach.  The weather has been so beautiful and I enjoy the sunshine on my walks but the ocean has been calling for me since the beginning of this journey.  Yesterday proved to be the day it was finally coming to fruition.  Mom, Dad, Oliver and I loaded up the car and headed for Half Moon Bay.  We found a nice little cove and set up camp.  Oliver had a blast running up and down the beach.  He wasn't much of a socialite with the other doggies but stayed focused on what I was doing and protecting me.  It was the perfect day to be there with large waves to be mesmerized by and just the right temperature to feel toasting but not too warm. 
I meet with my Gyn Oncologist (the surgeon) on Tuesday.  Lots of questions for her since I haven't seen her since the few weeks after my surgery.  We will also likely set up the referral to have the surgical procedure to remove my Intraperitoneal port a month or so after my final round of chemo.  There is a lot online about maintenance chemotherapy which is monthly chemo (often at a lower dose) that continues after the original 6 rounds.  My general oncologist wasn't able to tell me if that is something I need, he simply said it depended on my pathology.  So I'm hoping to get the final answer about that from the Gyn Onc.  I truly feel that I no longer have any cancer so hope the 6 should be it.  I'm also going to propose the dose be lowered AGAIN because the neuropathy continues to persist with no relief.  I'm now seeing a Neuro Reflex Therapist who does hour long sessions on either my feet or hands to try to "wake up" the nerves again.  The therapy can be quite painful but worth it if I can get relief.  She said I probably won't feel any relief until I've had 4-5 sessions.  I had one earlier in the week and I have one again later today. 
Thank you everyone for your continued support

Friday, March 25, 2011

Round 5, Post Chemo Day 2 and Hanging in there

I am happy to say that I have been out of bed all day.  Even went for a descent walk, not as long as usual but still a considerable distance.  My symptoms are present but too a much lesser degree.  Nausea is just knocking on the back door and being well controlled with meds.  The bowels are not normal but they are at least moving ever so slowing.  The debilitating bone aches is just making me feel a bit weak and shaky but no horrific pain.  I definitely have an overall fatigue, but that can be cured with a nap.  (And who doesn't want a nap from time to time?)  I can contribute the improvement in symptoms to several factors: 1) I really tried to work on my attitude this time around, 2) homeopathic supplements suggested by MerriAnn to help with symptoms I had complained about in the past, and 3) my oncologist made a decision to lower my Taxol dose due to the significant neuropathy I've been experiencing since day 1 of Round 1.  There is a chance that it is not reversible so he decided to lower the chemo dose.  Personally, I think it should have been lowered on the last round but am happy we are on the same page now with this round.  I am thinking very positive that the next few days will stay consistent with today and or even improve.  Keep the good thoughts coming. Thank you, Denise

Monday, March 21, 2011


I bought this Rocky movie banner some time ago at a theater in Stockton who was getting rid of their banners they used to promote certain movies.  I bought it as an inspiration of my athletic challenges I take on such as the marathons and the triathlon.  Little did I know that it would help to inspire me to get through and complete chemotherapy.  After the last round I remembered I had the banner and told Mom I wanted to hang it up.  It has led to a complete reorganization of my room over the past few weeks.  The banner is now hanging as you can see and I am preparing to face Round 5 of chemo.  As I've mentioned before I am ready to be an anomaly of chemo and have a better and better experience with each round rather than the reverse.  This last round WAS better, although, still quite the challenge, but once I bounced back my energy continued to improve the past week or so.  I haven't needed to take a nap since the week following chemo.  I am stocked with more herbs that MerriAnn has recommended to help with the symptoms and I have the meditations to listen to while the chemo is being infused and a positive attitude again that things will be better.  I have my pre-chemo appointment and lab work tomorrow with my oncologist, chemo all day on Wednesday, and a post recovery appointment with MerriAnn on Thursday.  Please keep sending the strong will and positive thoughts my way. THANK YOU ALWAYS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Improving each day. Continued cramping and bowel issues and started some new herbs recommended by my energy healer/nutritionist to help with this.

Yesterday, Friday, I visited my workplace and visited with staff.  It was great to see everyone and get re-connected.

During the next week or so I'm open for healthy visitors or anyone who would like to join Oliver and myself for a walk through the vineyards and orchards.  (Bring shoes that you don't mind getting dirty.)  Visitors via phone are also welcome.

Enjoying the sunshine, Denise

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Finally feeling better post Round 4

Well Round 4 wasn't as bad as the last round but still was plenty miserable and bed confining.  The bowel issues continue to be the most threatening of symptoms.  Add to that the hours and days of intestinal cramping the worsening neuropathy, aching bones and nausea/vomiting and I just don't have much drive or desire to willingly go through this two more times.  It simply amazes me how much torture the medical community can dish out and still consider it "treatment" and convince a person it is what they need to survive, when all along all it feels like their doing is killing you.  I hate to sound so negative but I'm writing on my first good day in the past week so my attitude is still in the process of being adjusted upwards.  Oliver is very good medicine for that, as always.
My mom is also adding the one picture of me in my wig to the post today.  It was taken when we visited Darla in Monterey and went to the Aquarium.  We will also attempt a walk today, which I haven't been able to muster the past couple of days.
Thank you to everyone for your support; I promise there will a more upbeat post to come in the next few days.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

The latest photo addition is one of three areas where Denise has posted some of the wonderful cards she has received.

Yesterday, the Infusion Center injected a blood thinner into her shoulder port.  After allowing two  hours to process, the port was successfully cleared of any clots and is now fully operational.  A big yeh! for this.  If the port didn't clear then another radiology surgical procedure would be scheduled.

Denise has been strong and doing well with Wednesday's chemo therapy.  The constipation caused by the chemo has kicked in and causing sleepless nights and abdominal discomfort.

The beautiful weather has been great for walking and lifting the spirits.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011-Chemo Round 4

Well today was round 4 of chemo and unfortunately it was without event.  The nurses could not get a withdraw of blood out of my chest port and therefore it could not be used to administer the chemo.  This meant that they had to start an IV (usually not a good experience for me, especially after using chemo).  I was rather adamant and told them they had only one try.  My friend Susan, the charge nurse, got it on the first try on the underside of my wrist (very painful IV site).  I was able to do my meditation while getting the chemo and held the chemo bag in my hands before it was started to try to blend our energies (I know this is very far out there for you Western Medicine people, but these are very small measures in order to prevent some very uncomfortable side effects). 
After chemo I had to go to Radiology for chest x-ray to see if the port is still in place.  They debated whether to do a dye contrast to check for a clot but decided against it.  Susan believes the port is probably kinked where it goes around my collar bone.   I have to do back tomorrow for TPA treatment. This is a medicine they use to try to dissolve a blood clot if one is in there.  They will administer a small amount of the TPA to fill up the catheter and leave it sitting in there for two hours. Then they will extract the TPA and hope that it looks bloody indicated it dissolved a clot and then my blood should flow freely from the port. If this does not work than I have to go under the knife again and have the port surgically repaired. 
I addition to my port fun tomorrow I meet with MerriAnn, my energy healer.  So she is going to be working on eliminating some of the side effects (having bowel issues already, only hours after finishing chemo), and teaching another healing meditation.  
I hope I have energy to post tomorrow and hope that it is all good news for you.  Even if I am unable to post I'll have mom post so you all know how things turned out. 
And for all of you waiting for the pic with the wig it should be coming soon!
Thank you again for all you support and your encouraging blogs you are sending back to me.  They don't go unnoticed.  While I'm in a moment a gratitude I'd like to send a shout out to Jacqueline who, of course, was at chemo again today;  Kathy Walker and Jeannie Putz for sending greeting cards at least weekly and Paula for making me oodles of hats ( I think 7 or 8 in total).  Everyone has been so good to me and I love that you are all in my life!!!!! :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day of Appointments

Well it all in all was a good day; I'm absolutely exhausted now, but still want to give you all an update.  Saw my Oncologist first thing in the morning. He confirmed that with the IV regimen of chemo, I only have to do 3 more treatments to finish my 6 treatments total.  So I have a little less than 3 months of chemo left.  There was a discussion of when to remove my intraperitoneal port (IP).  It was decided to consult with the surgeon to determine if it is ok to remove during chemo when my immune system is lower and there is greater risk of infection.
I also had an appointment with my alternative healer today.  We reviewed a meditation that focuses on healing and repair, especially around the body/health and relationships.
My third appointment of the day was with Bobbie at The Wig Palace.  She custom fits wigs specifically to the person's head and styles the wig to your desire.  So I now have a wig that gives me a pretty close resemblance to what I used to look like.  Once the wig was on, it was quite evident that I need to start wearing make up again, especially to color in my sparse/disappearing eyebrows and eyelashes.   Overall the wig does look pretty real and good to have to wear in public.
Until next time,

Monday, February 21, 2011

I'm up and part of life again!

Hello all, Denise here.  I am happy to be able to write my own blog today.  As my mom touched on in the last blog, the last round of chemo did not go well at all.  After my IP treatment I had a near bowel obstruction and it was decided by my oncologist and infusion nurse that the side effects from the IP treatments were far outweighing the benefits to me.  I had a hard time accepting this, but then Susan my infusion nurse explained simply that, "if you broke out in hives from treatment wouldn't you be ok with us advising you to stop" and of course I said yes.  So she said this is no different, that I was having far too serious effects and to continue could be VERY harmful to me.  I just wanted to be able to do all I could to try to clear the cancer so to stop the more aggressive treatment was a challenge, but I do accept it now.
I meet with my oncologist this Thursday to discuss the new treatment plan.  With the IV therapy the protocol is not so definite on how many treatments are recommended, and can be anywhere from 6 -  ..... Some people have many more, even up to 12 or so.  I will keep you posted.
I'm also working with an alternative healer now who has given me some meditation CD's with the purpose of helping my body accept the chemo better and therefore hopefully have far less side effects.  
I have this week to try to get back on track and get rested, and to visit with some of you.  It's funny how easily I fatigue.  I got up yesterday and helped my mom make breakfast.  I made some biscuits and then was exhausted.  I said ok, I'm going to lay down again.  ha ha.
I appreciate everyone's support, comments, emails, cards, meals, calls, visits,.....This is definitely not a battle for one so thank you for being there for me.  Hopefully, I can write a few more up beat blogs this week before resuming chemo again on March 2nd.
Thank you and I love you all,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An eventful last few days left Denise very depleted from the side effects of chemo therapy.  I don't want to bore you with details but if you're interested please contact me.

Denise went to her appointment for the final Cycle 3 chemo therapy treatment today.  Due to the recent side effects, she was not give the treatment.  Tentatively, her new treatment will be one day every three weeks of taxol and carbotaxol in her shoulder port; no more IP or abdominal port treatments.  This regiment will have far less side effects and a better quality of life while undergoing chemo therapy!

New photos coming soon.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Here's a new photo of Denise (on a good day) and Oliver out for their daily walk.  A "thanks" to Arlene for the cute "doggy paws hat."  And thanks to those who have also gifted hats to Denise.

Two of the three chemo therapies completed for Cycle 3.  Denise had an infusion on Friday for hydration (chemo depletes fluids) and anti-naseau meds via IV.  This is an added regiment to combat the vomiting which is successful thus far.  She's pretty much staying in bed until the discomforts of chemo subside.  She's complaining about her knees hurting and the neuropothy is very present.  Neuropothy, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet, is troublesome too. 

In remembrance of President Lincoln and his efforts to heal our nation!  Joan/Mom

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's Jac--Denise's friend.  She told me to post something on the blog.  We're at the Infusion Center, and I am joking with Denise that they are currently emptying a large portion of the ocean into her abdomen--it's a lot of fluid to take (even over an 8-hour period) and clearly uncomfortable.  But she is able to take all of this the way she takes everything:  with humor, with grace, and planning for things beyond chemo.

She's been able to go by herself to take her Costco-sized puppy Oliver on walks and--get this--she ran this morning.  "Not far," she insists, but the point is, we all know someone who is on chemo and still musters the energy and will to run.

Okay, she just asked us to pass her the paperwork she needs to fill out to renew her certification to be an aerobics instructor, because she can't stand to "not be doing something."  You would think that helping lower the sea level a few inches would be enough to occupy her, but not Denise.  She's got plans.  And even when she's here at the Infusion Center hooked up to IV bags, not feeling great, she knows that chemo is something that she will move beyond and she's looking ahead.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

Denise is enjoying her time as chemo side effects are at a minimal and the good weather before her next chemo therapy cycle on Tuesday.  The belly button wound has not changed and time will tell what comes next with this.

Hope the good weather holds a little longer and you all have a good weekend. 

Some have shared a memorable experience they have had with Denise.  If you have one you would like to share, please do so.  Remembering these experiences brings chuckles to Denise.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

Denise has been able to resume her walking yesterday and today--in the beautiful sunshine!

Denise saw the doctor today for the results of the ct scan she had last Friday.  She has 3 areas filled with fluid or air.  Two of the pockets are connected to the belly button wound and as the medical profession says, they are "communicating" with each other.  The doctor gave her two options:  (1) continue regiment of draining and packing the wound for two more weeks; or (2) open the surgical incision and pack it leaving it open to heal.  If option 1 doesn't show signs of healing by two weeks then option 2 will be scheduled.

Regardless of the status of healing, the doctor feels the chemo therapy should resume and to avoid putting Denise in further jeopardy.  So her cycle 3 will begin on Tuesday, February 8th.

As you might imagine, this has been challenging emotionally and physically for Denise.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Denise had her ct scan this morning.  Only took 6 tries for an iv and 4 blown veins--thanks to chemo drugs veins are devasted! Now we wait for the results which should be today or early Monday. 

Denise is feeling crappy due to ingesting the contrast drink for the ct scan.  Hopefully some rest and sleep will get her "up" soon.

Where's the sunshine?  Such dreary skies here.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Per Denise, she is having "frustrating times."  The two smaller wounds at her surgical incision are almost  healed.  The third, at her belly button, is continuing to continuously drain.  It's not known where the fluid is coming from exactly--could be a fistula in the abdomen or at the resection of the bowl.  Denise is waiting for a call to schedule a ct scan; the scan may or may not reveal if there is a fistula.  Also the doctors will be looking at the the amount of fluid in the abdomen.

So the doctors are recommending to continue to pack the wound 2-3 times a day and give it two weeks for healing.  In the meantime, chemo therapy has been postponed until this is resolved. 

Statistics reveal that very few patients complete their IP regiment due to complications or discomfort of the therapy.  Denise was very fearful of the IP in the beginning but now has embraced it. She is determined to complete the six cycles.  The unhealed wound is causing her mental strife and is trying to refocus her energy to healing this.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thursday, Denise walked 2 miles to prove to her infusion nurse that she could do it.  A little competitive driving there.  She did it and she was "wiped" out!

Friday, back to the doctor to check the incision.  Two of the problem areas are healing well.  The third, in the belly button, needs to be referred to the surgical oncologist for evaluation and possible little surgical procedure to close an opening.  The doctor did lots of debrieing--ouches!!!!!!

After the doctor's appointment, Denise enjoying having breakfast with a friend at the Black Bear Diner in Tracy.  Wow, the portions are huge!

Then home for another great visit with a colleague from her nurse practitioner program.  Then early evening a few more visitors from her high school days.

As she says, an exhausting but wonderful day.  She wants to fill these days that she's feeling well with good energy and good friends.

Saturday, eleven of us drove to the San Francisco zoo to see the baby anteater (sooo cute), baby monkey and young giraffe amongst many other great animals.  Denise and many of her friends attended UC Irvine and were the UCI Anteaters.  Denise served as the Anteater mascot for a basketball season.

Today, Denise will "veg" and watch football games with her dad.  Next week she has 2 medical appointments plus 2 days of chem therapy.

Yeh for the sunshine!  Joan/Mom

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hello all, Denise here.  Well I'm almost a week out from my last chemo and a week more of feeling better until round 3 starts.  I mustered up a pretty good walk today.  The walk felt good but caused quite a bit of pain in my abdominal port that still remains hours later.  Feels like a bad stitch you would get in your side from running.  Wish the cause was a good run, rather than a foreign object in my body.
Had to return to the clinic yesterday for worsening wound issues.  I now have several areas in my surgical incision that are opened up and require mom to pack them twice daily.  She's as excited about it as I am.  The packing, as you can imagine, is quite uncomfortable.
I should be feeling well enough for visitors in the next few days if anyone has been trying to come visit and is right now HEALTHY.  These are the days that the chemo has my immune system the weakest so I have to limit what I'm exposed to.
Again thank you to all who send your support and love, it is much appreciated.
Take Care,

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Friday Denise visited the doctor to check her surgical incision.  The incision has a small opening and is leaking fluid (won't go into details here--don't think most of you could handle the raw details).  An air pocket, so to speak, has developed under the skin and filled with fluid preventing complete healing. 

Today, same as yesterday, the nausea and vomiting continue.  We're just trying to keep the liquids going in so she doesn't have to go to ER for hydration. 

Dana came over and helped me with caring for her incision (again--tmi--too much information to share).  Denise did muster a walk in the sunshine to the end of our road and back 

The oncologist ordered a commode and wheelchair which were delivered today--sure hope we won't need them!


Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

As the nausea and vomiting continued, Denise had to return to the infusion center on Wednesday and receive an IV for hydration and more anti-nausea meds.  Thankfully, this infusion perked her up and got her leveled off to be able to eat a good dinner and sleep.  The infusion nurses says this is very common for patients to return for hydration--chemo meds are very dehydrating.

Thursday, she received the last treatment of cycle 2!  The treatment was very uncomfortable but she handled it well.  She's looking forward to almost 2 weeks before starting cycle 3.  She will see her oncologist on January 26th and treatments schedule for January 27th and 28th.  Denise's team of chemo therapy providers will meet prior to her doctor's appointment and look at revising her meds and therapy so hopefully the regiment will have less side effects.

Denise was able to walk 1/4 mile yesterday--the first she has walked in several days.  We look forward to some sunshine today hopefully and a longer walk.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sorry I haven't posted anything for a while.  Each day I hope Denise improves but that da__ chemo is kicking her butt.  She has nausea but to combat the nausea she has to eat and drink--does that make sense?  Not an enjoyable journey right now. 

Lab test tomorrow to check the blood for the IP chemo therapy on Thursday. 

Many of you have offered to prepare special food for Denise but her desires are very unpredictable even for me.  When I find something she likes, she only eats a very small amount.  She has lost 20 pounds thus far. 


Friday, January 7, 2011

First IP Chemo Therapy Treatment

Denise had her first IP chemo therapy treatment and handled it very well.  We were there almost 8 hours from start to finish.  Her sensation or pain is similar to pre-op when she had the tumor which will diminish over the next few days as the fluid is absorbed by her system.  She had a total of 2 liters of fluid put in her abdomen (1 liter saline and 1 liter chemo). 

Now a few days of rest and recuperation and hopefully little side effects.  Her next treatment of this same procedure will be next Thursday.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Denise Here-Chemo Round 2, Treatment 1

Hello all, it is actually me, Denise, posting.  My first time to post since the initial post.  Thank you all so much for sending all the wonderful and uplifting comments.  Even though I rely on my mom to post the updates and I don't comment back to your posts, I do immensely enjoy them and when I get discouraged read them over and over again.
My first chemo, via the chest port, went very smooth.  Today I received Taxol.  Taxol is a more dangerous drug to have a serious allergic reaction from but via the chest port was pretty uneventful today.  YEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I was so nervous they offered to give me another drug to help me relax, but I, of course, declined.  I have a bit of a headache tonight, but other than that feel great.  I actually feel BETTER,  HA HA!  I think it is probably some euphoria from having everything be smooth today. I'll take the good feelings regardless of the cause and hope that it continues.
It was quite a relief to have started chemo again and to be feeling good while it was happening.  I can only hope I continue to feel good and will cherish today.
Tomorrow brings on a new challenge: my first chemo via the IP (intraperitoneal port).  Tomorrow I receive Cisplatin.  I can only hope to keep myself calm, positive and in good spirit.  Please continue to send the healthy vibes of the chemo taking care of the cancer cells and leaving the healthy cells completely alone. :)
Love ya all and know that I am so appreciate of all your support and rely on it, so keep it coming,
Denise ('Nise)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It's very gloomy here weather wise and have had very little sunshine to lift spirits.  Denise is going to the lab today for her pre-chemo blood test to insure her cell count is high enough for a  treatment.  She's considering getting the hormone patch to help with the hot flashes (she was "thrown" into menopause when her ovaries were removed).  Chemo treatments also cause hot flashes so a double dose can be challenging.

We're going to take a drive to find some sunshine and maybe see the ocean which is always incredibly spiritual and healing.

Denise has all her get well cards posted on her bedroom door (the whole door is covered and will now start on the hallway) and when she's a little gloomy she reflects on the encouraging comments.  And for the all the wonderful, supportive blog comments, they come directly to her on  her phone so she receives those immediately.

In the last 24 hours, we received word that 3 of our friends are now challenged with cancer.  With that I pray for healing for all--Joan/Mom

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all of you!

Denise's 2011 New Year's resoluton is:  "It's about me and me loving myself unconditionally!"

Thursday was challenging for Denise.  It was painful to move and the pain meds were not helping that much.  She vegged most of the day and did some research on the internet about IPs--the port inserted in the abdomen that is causing the pain.  Not much positive research about pain diminishing with time so this will be a grin and bear it situation.

Friday was better and Denise managed a short walk and enjoyed visiting with friends from the bay area.  Today, Saturday, is a little better yet and is having a few more visitors.  Denise is aware that when chemo starts again she won't feel like visiting much.

She has completed her prescription of antibiotics for the infection in her incision.  She still has some weaping and redness and has called her doctor to prescribe another round of antibiotics. 


Dr. Oliver