Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I am so proud...

of my four children, my son-in-law, my grandson Alex and all their friends who will be supporting me and all the other breast cancer survivors by participating in Saturday's Massachusetts Komen Race for the Cure, taking place in Boston.  This gang has raised over $1000 on behalf of "Hall A$$ for the Cure" and the Komen Foundation.   Thank you to Paul's parents for your support and  Grandma Rose who made a generous donation.   Our team tshirts are getting some great mileage!

And thank you to my friend Donna who got me involved in the Komen Race for the Cure more than a decade ago.  Rick and I have walked with Donna and John almost every year since Donna was first diagnosed with breast cancer about 14 years ago.  My daughter Allison has walked with us when she lived here.   Our hubbies have sacrificed their Sunday morning golf each year to support this cause.

Twelve years ago, Donna was diagnosed with a recurrence and underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy.  Since that time, she had been cancer-free.  And she and John were very supportive during my recent breast cancer treatments. 

But you see, there is no "cure" for breast cancer.  And at dinner a couple weeks ago, Donna told us that she now has breast cancer in her other breast!  How can that be?  How can someone have breast cancer for a third time?  After twelve years?  Because breast cancer is insidious, that's why.  It doesn't really matter that you've had it before and fought with everything in your power to banish it, that you do all the right things they "say" helps to prevent a recurrence, like eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, taking those "anti-hormones" or anti-breast cancer supplements...it doesn't always matter.  It doesn't matter that the odds are only 1 in 8 that you will get it in your lifetime, if you are that "1".  If you are a woman, you could be that "1".    More than once.

A woman's breast cancer journey is, once it begins, a lifelong trip.  It's a "rest of your life" worry that it could come back.  Because there is no cure.  You cannot dwell on this fact, you must carry on with your life in a positive manner and appreciate every single day.  Because there is no cure.  And there is no way to know whether or not you'll be that "1" again.  Because there is no cure.

We need a cure.  The Komen "Race for the Cure" is our hope.  It is our hope for ourselves, for our friends, our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our granddaughters, and all generations to come. 

Please continue to support the Race for the Cure, wherever you live.   

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fish Oil : anti-breast cancer properties?

Many of us already take fish oil for its heart benefits, but here is another reason to consider taking it:


I've seen research going back to 2008, so this is not a recent discovery.  However, there are now clinical trials recruiting to test a combination of Vitamin D and Fish Oil.  Preliminary information indicates a 32% reduced rate of invasive ductal cancer (so I am assuming either they're not measuring other types or it has no effect).  

Fish Oil is a fairly safe supplement.  You might not want to wait for the results of the clinical trial as that can take years.   Alas, the article doesn't say how much to take.  I think I'll stick with 1 gram a day for now.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Metformin and Breast Cancer

As a diabetic who has taken metformin since 2001, I am very interested in following the results of these particular clinical trials. 

Because my hormone receptors are "barely positive" and this protocol is being used for hormone negative prevention, I am even more interested. 


There are other clinical trials that show a benefit of pairing metformin with or without traditional chemotherapy in a neoadjuvant setting (which means chemo before lumpectomy or mastectomy).  In many cases, the tumors are shrinking away completely.



This is the current Canadian clinical trial, which involves administering metformin for a few weeks prior to surgery (without traditional chemo):


Metformin works to reduce the amount of insulin circulating in the body and helps the cells to be more receptive to the insulin required to maintain glucose control.  I have read studies that indicate sugar feeds cancer, and too much insulin also feeds cancer cells. 


So the fact that metformin would work to prevent cancer makes some sense.  Remember that almost half my tumor had "died" prior to surgery.  Well, we had doubled  my metformin right at my cancer diagnosis because my numbers were running too high.  It makes me wonder if the metformin did double duty.   There's no way to be sure, unfortunately.  But I'll be on this drug probably forever.  And unless the clinical trials prove otherwise, I'm hoping that the anti-cancer properties work for me.  I think they already did some good work!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bone Density Scan - Normal

I had my scan this morning and got a call late this afternoon with a message that said my scan was normal.  I'll get more specifics when I go to the oncologist at the end of the month.  But I am impressed that I got the results the same day.  They are really on the ball!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

To Margaret in Vancouver

First, let me promise that this blog will be here for quite some time!

Second, I know it's hard, but try to breathe and remember that the survival statistics for breast cancer are definitely on your side.  If your cancer is localized, the five year survival rate is 98%.  And even if it's spread to nodes, the rate is more than 83%.  You can see this information at http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/breast.html#survival

And keep in mind that these stats are 4 years old.  With newer treatment options arriving every day, the numbers keep improving.  So hang in there!  It's all scary as hell, but once you understand what your treatment plan will be, things will get so much easier and you'll start to feel "in control" of your destiny. 

I recommend you check out a couple of really good resources that will help you:



Both of these sites have a wealth of reliable information, and knowledge is power; so you will learn so much by reading on these sites.  Breastcancer.org has a huge discussion board with more than 75000 participants and more than 62000 topics.  Wherever your journey takes you, you can be sure that many others have traveled the same route and you will be able to read how they handled it and know that they kicked cancer's butt! 

You may also email me directly at mchall6252@comcast.net and I will be happy to correspond directly with you if that would be helpful.  I'm not working at the moment, and providing support to a "sister" would be an honor.

My now-deceased brother was having a difficult time years ago with a personal situation and made the statement that it was just "wrinkles in the sheets of life".   Well, I am looking at breast cancer as just a wrinkle in the sheets of my life.  Not a death sentence, a wrinkle. 

Hugs to you!

Wow! I didn't realize...

so many people were still interested in my journey.  Thanks to those of you who posted comments on my last entry!  I'll come back to this a bit more frequently.

For the moment, I am on "cruise control". I started taking Femara three weeks ago, and so far I am not experiencing any visible side effects.  The drug is expensive without insurance coverage (about $400 a month from what I hear).  My insurance covers most of it, and my three month supply is $80.  Additionally, Novartis has a program called "Femara Cares" and there is a coupon on their website, available for the taking.  I did send that coupon in with my prescription and it appears ExpressScripts either missed it or doesn't honor it.  If they don't honor it, I can send my prescription receipt in to Novartis and they will refund my copay down to $10 a month.  This is quite impressive for a "big pharma" company.  I've got to give them credit for doing a really good thing.  They will refund copays up to $800 annually. 

One of the possible long term effects of Femara is osteoporosis.  I am scheduled for a bone density scan tomorrow, which will determine whether or not we add a bisphosphonate to my regime (think Sally Field's ad for Boniva).  I have added calcium and vitamin D to my daily pill consumption.  I had my "D" level tested and it came in at 45...not bad but not great.  I'd like to get it up to at least 70. 

Speaking of pill consumption, I had to buy one of those pill boxes with AM and PM sections.  With diabetic meds, acetaminophen for my arthritic knees, and supplements that hopefully keep me healthy, I was opening way too many bottles twice a day and it was getting hard to keep track of what I was taking (ok, feel like an old lady now...lol).   It's a good thing I don't have an issue swallowing pills - some of them are rather large!  I actually have just 3 prescriptions - metformin, cozaar, and femara.  Everything else is OTC.  Oh, except for that wonderful little bottle of sleeping pills.  Never thought I'd need those, but let me tell you - during all the waiting and wondering and worrying, they were necessary to turn off my brain at 2 a.m. so I could sleep.  Fortunately, I am now managing to sleep OK most nights without the little hypnotic aid.