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The Best Surprise

It’s not often I log onto Facebook and get a wonderful surprise. Many times its filled with not so good news about friends reporting on test results or finding out another has died too soon. But today isn’t one of those days.

Today I found out I was put into the company of some pretty amazing bloggers and named along with them one of the Best Metastatic Breast Cancer Bloggers of 2015 by Healthline. EEEK!!  I’ll be honest, I’m freaking out a little bit.

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http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/metastatic-breast-cancer-blogs#9

When I started my blog after my diagnosis, my purpose was to document my illness – good, bad and ugly and to have something my son could go back and read for when he was ready. I also hoped that if someone learned something from my experiences or was able to feel like they had someone in their corner it would be worth it. I also believe in being as transparent as I can be so, when I can, it all gets put out there.

I want to thank whoever is responsible for adding me to this list. I’m absolutely and truly honored. I’m thankful for those that read my blog and those that comment. This honor makes every last word I’ve ever written worth it and I’ll continue to keep writing for as long as I can.

Xoxoxo ~ Susan

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Viewpoint with Ken Rosato

Just a quick follow up post.
The interview I did with Compassion & Choices New York a few weeks ago, aired last night. I wanted to share it here for those of you that may not regularly visit Facebook or Twitter. 

I’m very pleased with how this turned out. Sometimes after editing, an interview can look very different than how it really happened. Not so this time. There was literally no editing done (that I could see anyway). 

I’m very appreciative of the way Ken Rosato handled the interview and questions. He was every bit the professional you’d expect while also very understanding and compassionate about the subject matter.

Ken, if I’m lucky enough to have you read this: Thank you SO much for giving Medical Aid In Dying a platform on Viewpoint. You’ll never know how much it meant to me.

Our segment is the second one once you click on the link.

http://abc7ny.com/society/new-york-viewpoint/32277/

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The Numbers are Not in My Favor

At my last update there was concern over my rising tumor marker: CA 27.29. I had my labs done on Thursday and the decision was made to schedule a PET/CT for August 2nd. The rising numbers coupled with my continued weight loss (I’m averaging about 10lbs a month) and my over all feeling like crud has my team feeling there is enough concern to warrant the scan. 

I’ve been thinking all morning. I’m working in a visit to Sloan Kettering on August 5th to see my Primary Oncologist while Adam and I tour NYU. I’m going to see if the PET can be done earlier that same morning before my Dr appointment. I haven’t been scanned there in a while and due to the mixed reading I recently had that involved the lymph nodes, I feel it would be best if Sloan could do it. Hopefully, all the stars align and it works out. *fingers crossed*

On a lighter note….I recently returned from a quick advocacy trip to NYC. 

Compassion & Choices asked if I would share my story and why I support Medical Aid In Dying with WABC7’s Ken Rosato for his Weekend Show – Viewpoint. Of course I said yes! It’s important to keep this important topic at the forefront and keep the conversations going. It’s the only way to gain traction and enlighten people about why terminally ill people, like myself, want this legislation. 

The interview took place at the WABC7 studio in Manhattan. The same studio that Kelly Ripa and Rachel Ray call home! In fact, Kelly Ripa was live on the air when we arrived.

Corinne Carey, the Director of the NY Chapter of Compassion & Choices and I sat with Ken Rosato for 10 minutes. Corinne spoke about the facts and statistics of the other states that already have these laws in effect. I shared a shorter version of my story and why I’m in support. I also stressed to Ken that I am in NO way suicidal nor do I WANT to die. I want to live. God, do I want to live. That’s so important for me to have people that don’t know me understand. I so hope I made that clear. I think I did.

The segment, I’ve been told will air on July 27th and again in October. I’ll be sure to post links on my Facebook Blog Page and Twitter.

At least I didn’t look as awful as I felt on the day of the interview. 😉

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Nope, Not Worried At All

Last I updated, I was headed for a biopsy of my lymph nodes under my left arm and a biopsy of my ribs on the right side where I have had a large hard visible growth that is quite painful.

Both procedures were done on the same day and I was home by 2pm on June 2nd.
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The rib biopsy was by far the most painful. More painful than I remember it being. The “twilight” meds didn’t work and I was awake for the whole thing causing them to have to give me 3 doses of Fentynal because I could feel everything. My tolerance to pain medications is quite ridiculous. But boy did I sleep once I got home!

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I finally met with my Oncologist this past Friday.

The rib biopsy showed that I have a large collection of scar tissue from radiation therapy of my 9th rib from 2yrs ago. Per the Radiation Oncologist, side effects from radiation can continue long after radiation has ended.  There is no active cancer.

The lymph biopsy showed only lymph cells and no metastasis. This was very surprising but also a relief. Because this was something that showed up on the PET scan, I was pretty confident that the biopsy would be positive for cancer. My Oncologist’s exact words to me were: “We are cautiously optimistic but we will be keeping a close eye on this area going forward” Um…Ok. No so reassuring but not much I can do.

I’m still losing weight. Down another 5 lbs and to deal with that we are adjusting the Ibrance down from 125mgs to 100mgs. This should have no effect on the drugs fighting the cancer but more on the side effects of nausea and lack of appetite. 

Today, I received my tumor marker results. The one we watch closely is CA 27.29. Anything under 40 is considered normal. My number has been slightly over 40 for 3 months. This is significant because my number has been under 40 for over a year. Today, it jumped to 51.
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I know some will say that 51 is still pretty low and it is. I know some people that have their numbers jump up 2 or 3 HUNDRED points. But everyone is different and everyone’s numbers are significant to themselves. The fact that mine haven’t ever gone up like this and you add on top of that a suspicious PET (that for now is OK but we’re going to watch). I’m not feeling very good about this at all.

I said this back in May in an interview in Albany and I’ll say it again: “My prognosis is only as good as my next PET Scan”.  I’m very worried about my next PET Scan. A lot can go wrong in 12 months and I’ll be damned if I allow any of it to happen.

I have a graduation to go to.
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A Big Win For Choice

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Today the New York State Assembly Health Committee voted 14 to 11 in favor of the Medical Aid In Dying Act. This historic vote comes less than 2 weeks after the Bill was introduced by Senator Diane Savino and Assembly Woman Amy Paulin.

I am very proud to have been part of the beginning process of this Bill becoming a legal option in New York State and I hope to continue working with Corinne Carey and Compassion & Choices for as long as my health will allow.

Here is the link to the official press release from Compassion & Choices:

http://www.compassionandchoices.org/medical-aid-in-dying-act-wins-swift-assembly-committee-vote/

Happy Birthday! Your Treatment Failed.

It’s the nature of the beast. The way Metastatic disease works. We begin the best treatment option and hope it works for a long time. If you’re lucky, it does. Sometimes, like this time, your luck runs out sooner than you hoped it would.

I began Faslodex in January of this year and Ibrance in February once Insurance approved it. That’s the shortest run I’ve had because of progression.

The news wasn’t as ‘bad’ as it could have been. (That’s a lie…it’s all shitty when there is cancer showing in a PET scan). The PET scan showed cancer in the lymph nodes under my left arm near my breast as well as that painful spot in my ribs has grown bigger.

There are a lot of unknowns right now. I’ve never had cancer in my nodes before. Not even when I was first diagnosed and this is the “non-cancer” breast. This could be a totally new primary breast cancer with a new pathology. Also, the cancer in the ribs could be different now too.

So…..here is the plan of action:

Next week I will be having a Mammogram/Ultrasound and Sentinel Node Biopsy.  Then I will be having a CT guided biopsy of my ribs (hopefully under some kind of sedation).

Once all the pathology comes back we can figure out what treatment will be best to keep this from getting out of hand. It is of utmost importance to keep this from reaching my organs for as long as possible.

I absolutely MUST be at my Son’s High School graduation next June. I will not accept any other alternative. If that means I get a little more aggressive with this treatment then that’s what I do. Any Doctor not on the same page as I am with this won’t be treating me.

Now, I will take some time for me. I will release the emotions I’ve been holding in all morning and have a good cry so that when Adam comes home he won’t see how scared and sad I am. He deserves to have the appearance of a ‘normal’ Mom for as long as I can give that to him.

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Advocacy in Albany

I’ve been working with Compassion & Choices since February of this year when lawmakers became serious about Aid-in-Dying legislation. I feel strongly that all states should have laws similar to those in Oregon and the other  States with Aid-in-Dying laws for those of us with a terminal diagnosis that want another option.

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The goal was this past Tuesday, May 10th, Lobby Day in Albany at the State Capitol. Very careful planning was going into this day. The main part of the day would be teams of people meeting with lawmakers or their representatives to talk about the Bill, share personal stories about why it was important for this legislation and to leave information so that ultimately we could have others support and co-sponsor the Bill to get it passed into law.

I was asked to take an active roll in both the lobby meetings and with the press. I happily accepted in the hopes that what I have to say would make a difference and perhaps open minds to see that this is an individual choice. I realize I won’t change personal convictions and that’s OK but those convictions shouldn’t object to someone else’s ability to choose something for themselves.

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My day began with a radio interview by Capitol Pressroom. I’m interviewed along with Gene Hughes, a disability rights activist, who also supports Aid-in-Dying.  Our interview is to the 13:00 mark.

http://www.wcny.org/may-10-2016-susan-rahn-john-sheehan-jill-furillo-jonathan-e-gradess/#canvas-sidebar

Immediately after the Press Conference began in the Senate Chamber Lobby. In attendance was Senator Diane Savino, Assembly Woman Amy Paulin, Senator Brad Hoylman, many members of the press and our opponents.

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It was so impressive to hear Paulin and Savino speak. They unveiled their new combined Bill – A10059 NY Medical Aid In Dying Act.

http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld&leg_video&bn=A10059&term=2015&Summary=Y&Memo=Y&Text=Y

I shared my story and why this was important to me. It was basically a shortened version of the speech I gave in Buffalo. It was extremely intimidating. There were reporters with cameras a few feet from me. Bright spotlights. I’m definitely not a public speaker. My voice was so shaky, but I think I did OK for being a total amateur.

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Senator Brad Hoylman spoke next followed by Gene Hughes, Assembly Member and Assembly Health Committee Chair, Dick Gottfried Bill Co-sponsor and Rev. Dr. Bill Levering.

I spoke with two reporters after the Press Conference who had more questions for me and then it was time to start the “Lobby” part of the day.

I was part of different teams of 2 or 3 other people. My job was to share my story and hopefully by the end of the meeting the representative for the Assembly Member or Senator we were meeting with would be willing to put the packet of information we would be leaving in front of him/her and have them read it.

In between meetings, I had the amazing opportunity to be interviewed by Amy Paulin for what I think was a Closed Circuit TV program that she does right there in the Legislative Building. She’s a genuinely nice person. Her sister suffered terribly during her decline with Ovarian Cancer. She lived in Georgia where Aid-in-Dying is not available and she stopped eating and drinking to speed up the dying process. It’s because of her Sister’s experience and suffering that she is so passionate about this Bill.

There were a few more meetings before one last interview. I was looking forward to meeting with Senator Robach. Not only am I his constituent but both he and I have attended events at the Catholic Grammer School my Son attended. This meeting was personal for me. Unfortunately, he was on a call with the Mayor of Rochester and not able to meet with me. I was able to meet with one of his staff and shared my story with him and my connection with the Senator. I urged him to convey why this was so important to me and he assured me he would. I believe him. With tears in his eyes, he hugged me.

My day wrapped up at YNN with Corinne Carey, Director of Compassion & Choices New York, Gene Hughes and my Public Speaking Mentor, Greg Menkee. We met with Liz Benjamin who hosts a political show called Capitol Tonight. Via Satellite was Senator Diane Savino.

As I got into my car and headed on the long road home, I reflected back on the day and all the people I met. I was really overwhelmed at how many people stopped me throughout the day to thank me for speaking, for being brave, for being a voice for those who can’t. I don’t think I’ve ever been hugged more in one day than I had in Albany. Reporters hugged me, Lawmakers hugged me, other advocates hugged me.

It validated that my belief, my stance on this topic and this Bill, my desire to advocate to make this a law in NY is absolutely worth it. It’s worth it because it’s also important to so many other people. It’s worth it because if my voice can help even a little, even a tiny bit, it will be a lasting legacy that my Son can be proud of.

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Until We Meet Again

Social Media tends to bond people with similarities. Similar interests, hobbies, music and even illnesses.

Cancer is one of one of those illnesses that bonds people rather quickly. Especially terminal Cancer. We are a group of people that bond over treatments, side effects, helpful hints, advice, support groups and stories of when diagnosis happened.
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Deb Mumma is one of those extraordinary women I was lucky to have met thru Social Media because of our common diagnosis. Right down to the same pathology. We became fast friends and talked quite frequently thanks to our mutual friend – insomnia. There were many 3am conversations when Deb was recuperating from back surgery. If you’ve ever spent time in the hospital you know how difficult it can be to sleep for any length of time.

Deb loved her family. She spoke of her parents and how after as many decades they had been married they were still just as close as in younger days. Her husband, Ron passed after a long illness. It was very clear how much Deb missed him. The way she spoke of their marriage made me a little jealous.

The pride and joy, that always brought a smile into Deb’s voice were her Children and Grandchildren – 12 little ones in all! And of course her pups, Sully and Kiki.
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At Christmas we talked about our kids. Deb worked furiously on two identical doll houses for her Granddaughters. And then there was the trip to Disneyworld in March. Deb was so excited to tell her Grandkids and witness the expected ‘freak out’.  It was very important to her to make lasting memories as her health began to decline. Although she would never admit it or want to talk about it.

The first weekend in April, Deb helped me with a speech I gave in Buffalo (See previous post dated April 7). She knew how nervous I was and offered to read it and give me the honest criticism I needed. Then on Saturday night we Skyped so she could be my audience and I could practice giving my speech to her. Deb was selfless like that. Even though she had been feeling sicker from chemo and her liver failing she still made time to video chat.

Many of us with Metastatic Breast Cancer are active in some way with advocacy. Deb was no different. Her advocacy was on a local level. It was important for her to raise money for those receiving care at Cumberland Valley Breast Care in PA. Deb even designed a beautiful necklace with the help of a jewelry designer with part of the proceeds going to CVBC and to Breast Cancer Research. “Ribbon of Hope & Tears”. This is one ribbon I can endorse. It doesn’t have to have a pink gem. There are 10 gem options and 3 metal options for the ribbon.

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In the time I’ve gotten to know Deb, we had meaningful conversations and we were there for one another whenever we needed each other without question and regardless of the time of day or night. Deb knew I never muted my phone and that I am a very lite sleeper so the ‘ding’ of my messenger would never go unanswered if she needed to talk. I’m going to miss that. A lot.

“A dragonfly to remind me even though we are apart, Your spirit is always with me forever in my heart”…..Until we meet again Deb. I love you.

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