Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Today is a day of great thanks to our great God. I am so thankful for another day of life. A day to share, a day to love and a day to be loved. A special thanks to everyone for continuing to share this journey with us. With all the turmoil in America, today especially seems like a great day to give thanks for our freedoms we are able to enjoy! May God continue to bless America and all of you!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Speaking Out

Well, chemo must have affected my brain cells, as I did something the other day that was definately out of my box. With the new recommended guidelines on self breast exams, mammograms, etc, I contacted our local news station, which ended up in an interview. If the interview helps even one woman with early detection, it will be worth going out of my box. In case your interested, here is a transcript of the interview.

For a woman, getting a mammogram can be stressful and now new guidelines issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are making the checkup an even harder appointment to schedule.

The new government task force recommendations say that most women don't need mammograms in their 40s, rather in their 50s and not as frequent. They're guidelines that are getting mixed reviews and causing women diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age to speak out.

In May of last year, Kim VanderPoel turned 40. And it was that exact month she had her very first mammogram.

"I had a little abnormality then and had to have a biopsy on the right side but that came back fine," VanderPoel said.

A follow up six months later in October also showed no sign of cancer. But just before Thanksgiving, she found a lump.

"Actually had just taken my shirt off, was hopping in the shower and I was like, 'Oh, there's a lump.' And I called my doctor and I said 'I don't need to do anything do ?' And she said, 'Oh yeah, we need to get it checked out.' Then we moved from there," VanderPoel said.

VanderPoel was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

"Typically us younger women that get breast cancer of this type, it does grow fast and it's not uncommon to have a normal mammogram and six months later, something shows up. That's why it's important to do self breast exams to know what your differences are," VanderPoel said.

But a government task force now says not only do women in their 40s not need a mammogram, self breast exams are no good either and women shouldn't be taught to do them.

"It makes me just very sad. Kinda feels like we're taking a step backwards with women's health care," VanderPoel said.

Currently, the American Cancer Society recommends that annual mammograms start at age 40 for the general population. VanderPoel says if she would have followed the new recommendations, she may not be here today.

"If I wouldn't have found my breast cancer when I did, that in two years my children probably wouldn't have a mother," VanderPoel said.

But the government panel of doctors and scientists found that getting screened so early and so often is harmful and causes unneeded biopsies. VanderPoel says the tests and weeks of treatment she went through was worth it because it saved her life.

"I understand some of the recommendations as far as mammograms cause anxiety or repeat tests. No amount of anxiety can take away the fear of recurrence of breast cancer and when you find it small, you can treat it," VanderPoel said.

VanderPoel had a double mastectomy, went through chemo and radiation. She is currently cancer free but says she has a 33 percent chance of recurrence.

It's worth noting these new recommendations are just that; they are expected to be revised and debated.

Here is a link to the video

It is my hope that these guidelines will be changed!
Ps. I survived going out of the box...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thoughts on new guidelines

This Thanksgiving, I will be giving extra thanks that the United States Preventive Services Task Force new mammogram and breast self exam guidelines were not in place when I found my breast lump last Thanksgiving. Through self breast exams, I was aware of my breasts and any peculiarities that were mine, so when I felt a lump, I knew there was a difference. Six months prior to my diagnosis of invasive breast cancer, my 40th birthday gift to myself was getting my baseline mammogram. By having a baseline mammogram, the radiologists were able to compare my films. When I heard the words “you have breast cancer…” I was stunned beyond words. Except for being female, I had no known risk factors for breast cancer not to mention the fact that I am a nurse, wellness educator, and a mother who was living an active, healthy lifestyle. I had never smoked; I had my children before age 30; I exercised regularly; I nursed my children and ate a healthy, nutritious diet. The task force mentions the “anxiety” women face with false positives, well after the year that I have had fighting this beast, any anxiety you may face with additional testing is worth not having the constant fear of metastasis because the breast cancer was found at an advanced state. It would be interesting to see what data this task force was researching. From any research I have read, the earlier the detection, the easier and least expensive the treatment. Unfortunately by the time I had my bilateral mastectomy on Christmas Eve, cancer had all ready spread to a lymph node, making my fight all the harder. Even after enduring multiple surgeries’, aggressive chemotherapy and radiation my chance of reoccurrence is at 67%. According to the American Cancer Society Facts and Figures 2009 an estimated 40,610 breast cancer deaths are expected in 2009. Breast cancer ranks second as a cause of cancer death in women. Death rates for breast cancer have steadily decreased in women since 1990, with larger decreases in women younger than 50 (a decrease of 3.2% per year) than in those 50 and older (2.0% per year). The decrease in breast cancer death rates represents progress in both earlier detection and improved treatment. It is a shame that America is taking such a step backwards in preventative care.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


When I was challenged by the physical burden of cancer treatment, I couldn't wait until I was able to rejoin life. Fortunately I have been able to rejoin the living fairly quickly, this week it struck me though....I have joined the race a little bit too much. I find it amazing how even though I have been trying to guard my schedule, I soon filled it up with so many events. While these events are all good things, my schedule has allowed very little time for inner healing. As I reflect on this past week, I am ashamed to admit that my busyness has allowed me to fall back into the pattern of making unhealthy lifestyle choices. I had very little time for meditation, God time, exercise, skipped meals and made unhealthy selections when I did eat....urrrrggghhhh, I promised myself I wouldn't do that on my road to healing. So, I am taking a stand and making tough choices. I am going to eliminate some of my obligations, delegate some of my household responsibilites and purposefully leave gray space on my calendar.

For the most part, I have been blessed in my healing journey, as I haven't been too oppressed by fear of reoccurance, but last night, I was struggling with the thought just a bit (probable do to my unhealthy choices of the past week) I took my fear, wrapped it up in a box (used pretty pink paper and a huge bow) and I handed this gift to the Lord. I let Him take my fear, so I no longer have the burden of carrying a load not intended for me. It makes me wonder how many other things that I am carrying unknowingly, that I need to give to Him.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and that you will find some time in your day to something that brings you JOY!!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Journey Into My Soul

News breaks, my journey begins
Unlike other journeys I can find no map
Confused by networks of roads,
My destination unknown.

Exhausted by the magnitude of my journey
I enter dark tunnels,
Blinded by darkness,
The dim light of hope beckons.

Crisscrossing roads go in every direction
It is a bumpy road with many travelers
Stories of mirages, miracles and stark realities
Stories of journeys that end.

Afterm many months of travel
The road still goes on forever
I recognize that this is an endless journey
This is a journey into my soul.
--mixed media. Patricia Roden Bartels, Indiana

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Time to Heal Program tonight

Tonight was #8 of #12 of our time to heal program. We had a lymphadema specialists visit with us about lymphadema, precautions we can take and the risks involved. I guess since I have had many lymphnodes removed on the left side and had radiation to both sides, I am at an increased risk, so I will be wearing a special sleeve when I am doing repetitive activities or lifting heavy objects. We also had a mind/body specialists talk to us about ti chi and breathing. I do believe that there is our body has an incredible capability to heal, if only we slow down enough to allow the healing to take place. Another topic we discussed was the importance of exercise in our life. Boy, was I glad that I had all ready had my walk in for today, so I didn't feel unnecessary guilt about not exercising today. I actually did my walk in the historical district by McKennan park, such a beautiful area. I even satisfied my "inner" child and ran through the fallen leaves.

One thing I have been thinking about lately is seems as if we have so many labels that we have: wife, mother, sister, daughter, coworker, employee, friend, etc...that when we ask the question who am I? And we exclude our labels, what is our answer? Something to think about.....

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Oncology appt update and ponderings

For those of you who don't have access to my caring is my latest post.

Hi everyone! Just a quick update from my oncologists appointment this past week along with a few pondering thoughts.
I had a great check up from Dr Krie. We are still waiting for one lab result to come back, but all others were good. My weight stayed stable through the whole course of treatment, I guess many women gain 10-15 lbs, so I feel very fortunate. We discussed a bit on how I was feeling, fears I may be having, etc. I was happy to report to her, that I have been so busy living life that I don’t have much time to sit around and worry about reoccurrence. I am blessed that I have trust in God and the faith to know that He is directing my journey. (Of course, I pray that I never have to go down this road again…)
My days find me back in the office full time and trying to squeeze in a cancer rehab program through Avera. I actually am part of two programs. One program is a “time to heal” program which meets once a week on Tuesday evenings from 6-9 for 12 weeks. This program is a group program comprised of women who have recently traveled the breast cancer journey. We are learning about different areas on how we can incorporate healthy healing, everything from meditation, physical exercise, nutrition, aromatherapy, etc. The other program is through Avera Fitness Center and it is an 8 week individual program meeting with a personal trainer and a mind/body specialists once a week. These programs both have great value, but by Friday evening I am really tired.
Now for the ponderings:
Before I share this story, I want to explain that I have never been one who looks for meaning of their dreams, nor would I have the audacity to stay this dream is from God, however the lesson I took away from the dream is so profound, that I feel compelled to share it with you all. My dream from the other night went like this:

I was presented with the opportunity to win a large sum of money, if I completed the items on the list given to me but I only had 45 minutes to complete this list. I was thinking no problem, I am an organized person who loves lists and the sense of accomplishment when crossing off items on my 'to do' list. I remember crossing off the first item and then I lost my list. Found the list and was starting to work on the next item and got interrupted to fill a baby bottle. Oops, lost the list again. Found the list and was able to do cross off one more item on the list. Thirty minutes left to go and still 5 things on the list. The door bell rang, answered the door for the Boy Scout selling pop corn, chatted a few minutes, put the pop corn away. Now where is my list? I found the list and started working on the next item...boy, I need to relax a few minutes...played a quick game of farkle on facebook. Oh my, only 20 minutes to go on my list and still have the same five items to go. I once again start working on the list and beginning to feel panicky that my time is running out. Awesome, crossed off two things on the list. 15 minutes to go, I think I will throw in a quick load of laundry. Shoot, I lost the list again. Now with only 10 minutes left and still three items to go, I read the items that are left on the list, what?? The last item was one that required 30 minutes and I only had 8 minutes left to complete list. Feeling really frazzled I decided to check the internet for time saving tips on how to get the last item done in less time. Lose 5 minutes of time doing research, lost the list again....Buzzer goes off....list not done and I didn't win the money. I am exhausted. Oh, how life is like that...upon thinking of this dream, I realize that our lives are comprised of unique lists for each of us. This dream was such a real reminder to me that I need to take the time to seek and ask God to show me the list He has for me, along with the strength and wisdom to stay on task. Even though, as in my dream, the things that distracted me were all "good" things, God may have "better" things for me to pursue and that I have been given the gift of choices and it is up to me to be responsible how I spend my time on this journey. Before my cancer journey, I had a hard time giving myself permission to say no to others, especially if my children, husband, family or friends had a request that I thought I could easily fulfill. I have now had time to stop and really evaluate where I chose to invest my time. I could easily chose to run here and there, but I am finding out that by choosing to do so many other things, I literally have no time to invest in writing, exercising or even time to read; now, don’t get me wrong, I still am very committed to serving, but now I stop and ask God to direct which projects in which I participate. I hope that through reading about my journey, you will have the time to stop and look at your path, your list…time to think and ponder…time to choose.
Hope everyone’s week is a good one! I will be stopping in every now and then to give quick updates. Thanks for your continued love and support! Interestingly enough, I came across a t-shirt the other day that stated…”I kicked cancer’s butt”…I thought to myself, I couldn’t wear that t-shirt as I didn’t kick cancer’s butt by myself however I could wear a t-shirt that states “My Awesome Support Team and I kicked cancer’s butt!” Thanks, y’all!