Saturday, January 24, 2015

Simple. And the size of an Apple.


Anyone else tired of this story? Well as a tried and true Patriots fan I sure am. Can I tell you what I would like to deflate? My apple sized ovarian cyst. Thank you tamoxifen. At least I know your working? The sports headline is slightly misleading. I'm going to be talking about pelvic exams and the gynecologist. Feel free to stop reading.

Cut back to December and multiple doctor appointments for vague lower abdominal pain. The pain was pretty non-specific and not sharp. Just dull and crampy. The "nice" thing about having cancer in your breast is that your physical exams of the area are less intrusive as you only need to take your shirt off. Granted someone else is trying to squeeze the life out of you and you have small moments of panic if they spend too long on one area. However, in order to evaluate for ovarian cysts involved a couple of pelvic exams (I mean who doesn't look forward to these) and a whole new barrel of fun known as a transvaginal ultrasound.. While having yet another new member of the gynecology staff physically palpate my ovaries internally I did find a moment to be grateful that the "women's cancer" I had was breast. And it made me chuckle a little. Which did make the NP give me a quizzical look. I expalined. And she chuckled a little too. And then she told me what she was recommending: aleve for pain as needed (easy) and transvaginal ultrasound.  After confirming that it was necessary to have it done before vacation I scheduled it for my first day back. Nothing says back from vacation like working a whole day and then having medical tests. (Side note: this is a very frequent occurrence for me, I have scheduled an MD appointment or vaccine shot or MUGA scan or CT Scan after every. single. vacation. Since I finished treatment. I would change this pattern, but really the first week back from vacation your already have your cranky pants on why not get poked and prodded?

So back from vacation and time for transvaginal ultrasound. I go to check in. The woman at the desk doesn't know how to check me in for this test because I didn't come from another appointment. Not a good start. The eventually figure it out and I get my wrist band. Sitting in an ultrasound waiting room. Attempting to not have flashbacks to the last time I sat in an ultrasound waiting room. Trying not to think about how the tech called the Radiologist in to look at what she saw. I knew there was not concern that this was cancer, but my recent history still messes with my head.

Thankfully they are right on schedule and I only have to momentarily fight bad thoughts. The ultra sound tech is fantastic. She and I chat about where I work in the hospital and she gives me the heads up that the ultra sound jelly is cold. She checks my kidneys and likes so much what she sees that she spends extra time to get pictures perfect. She informs me that the machine is new and she is getting textbook pictures. I'll take it. After the external ultrasound comes the internal. So ya, they stick the probe right up in there. However, the new machine does take great pictures. I told her I thought I had an ovarian cyst on the right side. She was able to get great photos of it. 3D images. She thanked me for my patience. I thanked her for repeatedly confirming for me that the cyst was simple. smooth. no jagged lines. and the size of an apple. Well that explains some things.

The NP was able to confirm that it was simple. smooth. no jagged lines. and the size of an apple. The only follow up they recommended was another ultra sound the beginning of March to make sure that it dissolves on its own. So I am patiently waiting for my own #deflategate. This morning while out for my run I could 100% tell you exactly the shape and location of the cyst. Most of the time it doesn't give me pain. I'd like it to go away. You know, until the tamoxifen causes another one. And hopefully it doesn't burst like the last one.

Monday, January 12, 2015

An Active Participant

As documented through my many posts about my enrollment in the PRESENT I enjoy helping forward the science around breast cancer. I am so grateful for all who came before me and participated. The fact that my chemo was approved less than 20 years ago and tamoxifen is only 40 years old treatment, for breast cancer is still being developed by leaps and bounds. Participating in the vaccine study is super important to me to help shape future treatment. It's how I feel that I can give back.

Now I have found even more ways to give back, in the name of science. And sometimes all they want is my blood. I have been turned onto an amazing resource called the Army of Women. Here they have other blogs to read, resources and most importantly they have a list of Current Projects. This is a program of the Dr. Susan Love Research Program and they have open studies posted on the site. Well, guess what I found a new study to enroll in, its called Breast Cancer Risk in Young Women Study. The researchers are looking at genetic factors for women who had breast cancer at 40 years or younger. From the Army of Women site I was able to let the researchers know of my interest; I fit the bill and they sent me an email to confirm my interest. I confirmed my interest and a package arrived in the mail. It contained consent forms (for the release of my medical history, pathology reports, previous genetic tests, etc), a box with two blood tubes and a FedEx return envelope. All I had to do was sign the forms and get my blood drawn. Easy. Peasy. Lemon Squeezy.

This time I was able to recruit two other people to be involved in the genetic testing. Mom and Dad. So now I have family members sending their blood across the country in the name of science! I also completed at phone interview for my family history. When I get to my paternal grandmother and detail her and her sisters history of ovarian cancer I got the usual response "Oh dear". Zero breast cancer though. A very interesting genetic history. Maybe this one will turn up a marker, maybe it wont. However, I know that the more data that studies have the better chance they may find a commonality in young women with breast cancer and find why the incidence might be increasing. And all they wanted was two tubes of blood. 

Also, looking at the studies the Nutrition Nerd in me totally wished I lived in Chicago and could enroll in the gut microbes and breast cancer study. Fascinating stuff.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


ESPN anchor Stuart Scott died this morning. It was only this summer that I found out about his battles with cancer while watching the ESPY awards. Scott first diagnosed in 2007, then with recurrences in 2011 and 2013. I was amazed to see the rigorous workout regimen of mixed martial arts that he continued to follow through out all the chemotherapy treatments he had done. His spirit and thirst for life was always evident. During his ESPY acceptance speech for the Jimmy V Perseverance award he had some of the most profound insight into cancer treatment.

When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer every day by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live.
This quote is so perfect. Stuart Scott had accepted that death could be coming his way. Yet he fought and beat cancer every day by how he lived his life. When you watched him on Sportscenter you would never know his battles. He exuded energy and some of the greatest catch phrases ever. He inspired one of my favorite SNL skits of all time. His life and how he lived, why he lived and the manner in which he lived continue to inspire me to live mine. Booyah.

If you want to see the ESPN tribute to his life go here.