I Interrupt This Blog….

I Interrupt this blog to bring the most amazingly wonderful Proud Momma news!!! 

Buckle up…an entire post sans Cancer!! 

Adam has been accepted to the University of Rochester’s class of 2021 AND awarded a FULL SCHOLARSHIP!!

Yesterday morning, right before Adam left for school, he recieved notification from U of R to check his portal for the financial aid letter. He had found out last week he was accepted but he was waiting to receive the financial aid package. 

When we looked at the letter, me peering over his shoulder in true helicopter form, neither of us said a word. We just read it and re-read it. I asked him if this was correct….they didn’t make a mistake, right? No…we were reading it correctly. 

Words escape me. Adam has worked SO hard for this. This year especially. Senior year is supposed to be fun but Adam has what I would say is his most rigorous course load (4 AP/Honors classes), he enrolled in a two night a week EMT certification class and he works part-time at a Dr. Office as a File Clerk. The boy is BUSY.

This scholarship is such a gift. Adam will be able to enter Medical School with out the added burden of undergrad student loans. 

We meet with representatives from the University of Rochester on Friday to confirm Adam’s acceptance and lock in his spot before he leaves for Italy! 

Yes! Eight days in Italy with his High School! Adam will actually be at the Vatican on Easter Sunday. I know he’s going to have the best time. 

So, this post is for you Son. I am so, so proud of what you have accomplished so far and I know that there are so many great things in your future. You have the ability to achieve whatever goals you set for yourself and I am confident that you will be successful in the Medical specialty you choose for yourself.

I love you Adam. You will always be my Adam Banana, My Lil Pup no matter how old or grown-up you get. You’ll always be my baby boy.

A Funny Thing Happened This Week

 

Actually, not really. It was a little bit scary but I wanted to lead with a positive spin so….

Wednesday I had my monthly Oncologist/Treatment appointments. I see my Doc first, go over what’s been happening the past month, discuss any new symptoms (if any) and what’s the plan for the month ahead. Then I head to the infusion room to get my 3 shots – 2 Faslodex with the ginormous needles in my backside and the Xgeva ‘bee sting’ in my arm.

We talked about the crappy flu I had, the nagging chest pain that won’t seem to go away and the way it feels worse with any kind of physical activity. I’m also feeling a bit more tired lately. She double checked the chest x-ray I had this past Monday (to rule out pneumonia) but based on my symptoms and the fact that the Ibrance I take for the Cancer does come with a risk for developing Pulmonary Embolism, she scheduled a CT Angio to rule out a small clot in my lung. She also added an additional CT w/contrast Abdomen/Pelvis because I have some sensitive spots in my ribs that we have been watching. Since I’ll be in the tube anyway we might as well check it all out and see what, if anything is going on.

(Here’s the “funny” part I promised at the beginning)

After I had my awesomely painful shots, I made my way to the desk to check out and schedule my scans. While standing there and waiting for the tech to figure things out, the whole room seemed to turn to liquid. I began to feel REALLY weak, REALLY fast. It must have shown on my face because the tech asked me if I felt OK. I told her I felt “funny” and I grabbed the counter. The next thing I knew I was in a wheel-chair and people were running. They were running to ME. Someone was taking my blood pressure (it was 159/112), someone else was checking my oxygen level and someone else was giving me juice. I couldn’t speak. Tears were streaming down my face. Next thing I knew I was being whisked into the infusion room where I had my shots. I was being hooked up to oxygen.

My Doc came in to check on me and told me that I was scheduled for my scan in a few hours. She stayed until my numbers were back to normal. I’m so thankful they didn’t call for an ambulance. I definitely don’t want to make ambulance rides a monthly thing and definitely don’t want to be anywhere near an Emergency Room again.

A few hours later, I arrived at the hospital for the scan. I was given a huge plastic bottle of what appeared to be water to drink but tasted like what I imagine liquefied tinfoil to taste like. Then the IV was placed and I continued to drink.The whole process took about 3 hours. I was pretty exhausted when it was over.

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The good news: I do not have a Pulmonary Embolism and ribs are OK. Also, I do NOT have Metastatic disease in my liver. Wait…WHAT?? You see, when I read my report last night, line #4 literally said I had “known Metastatic hepatic lesions”. I might have freaked out a tiny bit. After a quick conversation with my Oncologist this morning, she confirmed I did not and there was a second report that had not been released to my online chart that explained the radiologist had viewed some benign liver cysts that I have had all along. WHEW!! This is why we should NOT read our scan reports – at night – alone – before discussing with our doctors. (I should write this down and stick it on my mirror so I see it every day and don’t forget that I said it)

The not so awesome news: the spot in my lungs that was ‘too small to characterize’ on my last PET Scan is now a 3mm lesion in my upper left lung. It’s very small and if it stays that small it still may not show up on the next PET Scan. But as we all know, this finding in someone like me, with Metastatic disease, most likely means that I could be in the beginning phases of progression to an organ – my lungs. If it does turn out to be progression, this will mean another treatment change. To what? I don’t know. I do know, I have very few if any non IV-chemo options left.

In the meantime, my GP has prescribed an inhaler for me to use before any physical activity to help with my chest pain and breathing. She is thinking it’s residual bronchial inflammation from the flu and hoping this will help until I’m 100% back to normal (what ever ‘normal’ means, right??).

So, until my next Scan at Sloan in May, I will be getting Adam ready for his trip to Italy with his High School, which happens in April – SEVENTEEN DAYS to be exact. That should keep my mind occupied enough so I won’t give much thought to my lungs or scans or unhappy crap. HAHAHAHA – who am I kidding? That’s what bedtime is for, am I right??

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Trying To Catch A Break

I should have listened to my gut and stayed in sunny Florida but you know, Adam and Bella needed me.

Spring break was uneventful (for the most part) until Wednesday the 22nd. I had my monthly Oncology and treatment appointment and was also looking forward to seeing a friend and fellow Stage 4 patient. Our appointments finally lined up on the same day. It was going to be nice to see a friend there for a change.

When I arrived, of course the nurse called me immediately and I didn’t have time to chat with Melissa for very long but we met up again in the infusion room. We eventually had some time to chat before we went our separate ways and that’s when my day went sideways or I should say “fell apart”.

I went to pick up lunch for Adam and as I walked into the restaurant I tripped on the sidewalk and fell HARD onto my right knee. I’m still not sure how I didn’t smash my face into the concrete but I didn’t. I literally couldn’t move for a few minutes because of the incredible pain. Thankfully,  a few very nice people came to my aid. The way my leg/knee looked and felt, the decision was made to call an ambulance and have me checked out. I’ll be honest, smashing my knee sure took the pain from those injections right away. Forgot all about them!

Big props to the Ambulance company and EMT’s that helped me. They were very nice. Unfortunately, the double dose of Fentynal they gave me while enroute to Strong Memorial didn’t touch the pain. I told Neil, the EMT who was stuck in back with me, that I have a high tolerance to narcotic pain meds and it would probably take a horse Tranquilizer to take the edge off. It was adorable that he thought I was joking. (See that bag in the picture? Because I ordered ahead of time I STILL managed to get Adam’s lunch thanks to the Manager at Panera’s!)

I was extremely lucky I didn’t break anything. After x-rays to my knee, hip and femur, it ended up being a very bad bruise to my knee cap. I was sent home with a brace, crutches and muscle relaxers. Not a fashion statement I recommend.

I was glad February was over. I was ready to start fresh with a new month. March had to be better, right??? Eh, not quite…..

Wednesday March 8th, I woke up with a fever of 102°. This was not good. Rule of thumb is that when you are on a medication that affects your white blood cells, any time you run a fever of 100.5° or higher you must call your Oncologist. Most of the time you end up in the ED.

I called. They ordered labs and based on those would make further decisions. At the time I had no other symptoms other than a wicked headache.

Next day, my chest began to burn. Still had that fever. Labs were fine. I was told to “keep in touch”. Um, OK? I debated much of Friday about seeing my GP and ultimately decided against it because I was afraid I would end up in the hospital.

By Monday, I was a wreck. I was weak, my chest felt like all my ribs were broken and I had trouble catching my breath. I saw my GP. She ran some tests and when she called me the next day and told me I tested positive for the flu, I couldn’t believe it.

This is why I have to be very careful about who I’m around, making sure I wash my hands all the time and staying away from people that are sick or getting over being sick. I did have the flu shot but because my immune system is weakened and because of the medications I take comprise it even further, I’m at a high risk for, well, everything.

It’s also going to take me longer to get over this. I’m told I’m going to feel sick and generally crappy for another 2 weeks. It also means I had to stop my chemo meds. I need to give my body a chance to bounce back. That may not sound like a big deal…missing a few pills, but when 21 chemo pills cost $10,950/month and I can’t take 6 of them, that’s a loss of $3,128.58.

If all this wasn’t bad enough, thanks to my craptastic immune system and catching the flu, Adam ended up with it too. At least I was able to get him Tamiflu so he’s managing. But the guilt is there nonetheless.

Solar Powered Florida Adventures

Last week I did something I rarely do but realized I should really do more of – I took a mini vacation. The two days in Albany and the press that followed after took more out of me than I realized. I was exhausted. So, when the opportunity came for me to travel to Florida for a few days I (reluctantly) said yes.

My adventure began with a red-eye flight out of the Niagara Falls airport (yeah, who knew?) via Spirit Airlines to Ft. Lauderdale, FL last Sunday. Apparently, if you pack light enough, something I am NOT known for, you can fly very reasonably on this airline but don’t even THINK of using a legit carry-on bag. Nope. Think small backpack or something half the size of a carry-on suite case and it should also function as your purse ladies or you’ll be paying an extra $50 for luggage. I digress….

I landed in Ft. Lauderdale at 5:30am Monday and it was a glorious 75 degrees!! It already felt like I was going to have a good time. My second wind was waking up and asking about breakfast.

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My early morning breakfast view at The Hilton Doubletree

I should have taken a nap but where was the fun in that? In stead, I decided to take advantage of the glorious weather and get into my (GASP) bathing suit and head straight to the pool for some much-needed Vitamin D. I am extremely deficient after all. It would be very irresponsible of me not to lay out in the sun for a little while, right?? Yes, of course I had sun screen.

After a lovely afternoon of sun and Piña Colada’s, I made plans to see a friend in Key West. The last time I was in Key West was in 2014, which was my first time. It was a difficult trip for me because of all the bone and joint pain. I was also 45 lbs heavier. The heat made moving around that much more painful. I was looking forward to going back not as that person and creating some new memories.

Bright and early on Tuesday, I began the trip to Key West. The drive thru the different Key’s is so nice. About 4 hours later, I rolled into New town Key West and checked into the hotel. I had a bit of time before dinner and meeting up with Monique so that meant I had to check out the pool. It was a bit warmer at 85 degrees but still absolutely lovely. My brain can’t even comprehend leaving anytime soon and returning to cold weather.

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I met Monique for dinner in Old Town Key West at a lovely restaurant where she works part-time. It’s on the water where the cruise ships dock. There is a large crowd that gather for cocktails at the outside bar to watch the sunset. The food was amazing and the dessert was from heaven. Yes, I could have had the Key Lime Pie but when Caramel Crème Brûlée is on the menu you order the Caramel Crème Brûlée. Always. Thems the rules.

We had a LOT of laughs and a crazy adventure after dinner that involved visiting a local dive bar off the beaten path that, if I had to guess, is probably only known to the locals. Probably for good reason. The rest of the night will, as they say, stay in Key West.

I wrapped up my stay with lunch with Monique at the Blue Macaw for Conch Fritters and then a quick picture of the Southernmost Point. A landmark that I didn’t make it to last time I was in Key West because of the extreme heat.

I also have to add that if ever in the area, at Mile Marker 15, you simply MUST stop in at Baby’s Coffee. They roast their own beans and have the most outstanding blends of coffee. There are also sandwiches and snacks if you’re hungry. If you’re a coffee connoisseur but not going to be in Key West, you can order their coffee online.

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Wednesday night, I very begrudgingly made my way back to the airport to begin my way back to the cold tundra of NY. I was already beginning to become sad knowing that I was leaving the lovely sun and warm weather but Adam and my pup Bella were waiting for me to come home. Oh, they are SO lucky I love them so much.

I barely remember getting back home Thursday morning. It was sometime around 3am. I just know Bella came our of Adam’s room to great me and jumped into my bed with me. When it was time to wake Adam up 4 hours later, this is how I woke up…..

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This trip taught me something important. If I’m going to keep doing the things that are important to me. If I’m going to keep trying to make a difference in the world, I need to remember to take time for me too. Not just Dr appointments. I need to remember to take breaks and recharge. I can’t run myself down or I won’t be good to anyone.

It was great to get away. I’m so lucky that I was able to. I had a fantastic time and I am absolutely counting the days until I can do it all over again but God help me, coming home to that furry face is the sweetest thing ever.

Patients at Pluta Have a Guardian Angel

It’s very expensive to have cancer. There are scans, monthly labs, Doctor appointments, drugs to fight the cancer and more drugs to help with side effects. It can be very overwhelming and if you’re like most people, it can be financially devastating.

There are some organizations, such as The Pink Fund, that are available to early stage breast cancer patients that offer financial help with non-medical related bills (rent, utilities, etc.). There are very few organizations that offer immediate financial help to Metastatic Breast Cancer patients.

This is often a big problem to women that need child care in order to go to appointments or having to choose between groceries, rent or chemo. I mean, seriously, the basic living necessities will always win, am I right?

Enter Rebecca Timlin-Scalera, founder of The Cancer Couch. In addition to raising money for the treatment of Metastatic Breast Cancer, Rebecca has begun establishing “Angel Funds” in the communities of some of the women that have been fierce advocates and educators of Metastatic Breast Cancer and who have also supported The Cancer Couch Foundation.

A portion of the funds raised from fundraising events in their respective communities will go to the local Metastatic fund.

The local fund is administered by the honoree’s local Cancer Center or Hospital. Metastatic men and women can inquire about receiving immediate help to cover rent, groceries, a utility bill, child care or transportation to a doctor appointment. The money does not need to be paid back. Everyone needs help from time to time. It’s OK to ask for help and with this fund now Metastatic Breast Cancer patients can get financial assistance.

I am very proud and humbled to announce that there is now The Susan Rahn Fund for Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients at The Pluta Cancer Center in Rochester, NY.

On October 28th, Rebecca and I met with Jamie Bishop, Executive Director and Judy Zeeman-Golden, Oncology Social Worker of The Pluta Cancer Center. Pluta, is where I receive my monthly treatment. Rebecca presented Jamie and Judy with a check for $2,000 to establish the this new fund.

Every fundraising event that is held in Rochester for The Cancer Couch Foundation, 10% will go directly into the Susan Rahn Fund at Pluta. Additionally, donations may be made directly to that fund via The Cancer Couch website using this link. Just scroll down until you see my name and picture and click the donation button.

The Susan Rahn Fund

As the holiday season approaches, I ask that you consider making a donation to this fund (if you live in the Rochester or surrounding area), or any of the funds listed on The Cancer Couch site, so that those seeking treatment for Metastatic Breast Cancer can have one less thing to worry. What better way to give thanks for your good health and spread some holiday cheer in the process?

On the Road Again

 

Today I’m making my favorite trip again. *eyeroll*  I’m headed down to Sloan-Kettering for another fast and dirty trip for a PET/CT.

The last time I updated regarding my health, I was going to see a GI Oncologist at Sloan on September 28th to see if she could unravel the mystery that is me. I had only planned on being there over night so I booked the train for Tuesday, September 27th and invited my Mom to come along! In past 3 yrs she had never come with me to NYC so I thought this would be a good time for some girl time. Oh, life….it has such a way of throwing irony at you at the worst times.

Our trip to Manhattan was pretty typical. We were delayed. I can’t even get mad any more but I do get a chuckle when I hear the people around me freaking out about it. We ended up being about 3 hrs late getting in and we were pretty tired so, my grand plans of doing some sightseeing were squashed.

The day of my appointment with the GI Doc, we got there early – 9am. I always get to appointments early in the hopes that I can get in early. Nope. We waited almost 2 hrs before I was called back. It was another 90 minutes before I actually saw my Doc. I saw her nurse who took my vitals and I saw her Assistant who did a very intense intake. Then I waited some more. I was getting nervous because we had a train to catch at 3:40pm.

At almost 1pm, Dr. Ludwig walked in. I loved her almost immediately. She listened. She heard me. She validated me. She promised me she would get to the bottom of what was going on. And then she freaked me out with what she said next: “You need to change your plans because you’re not leaving today. I need to get you into imaging right away. Sit tight I’m going to make some calls right now and get some scans scheduled.”  *Gulp*

Then things seemed to go pretty fast. I had to make 2 calls immediately – one to the hotel and the other to Amtrak. Then a nurse came out – “Dr. Ludwig wants you to do a Colonoscopy and Endoscopy on Friday the 30th” Yeah, no. I had to give a speech at Adam’s school that day. I would have to come back. So, we scheduled that for the following Monday, October 3rd. (Sheesh!)

At 2pm I finally had my appointment time for an abdominal x-ray and a Lumbar/Thoracic Spine MRI. Two different locations. 5pm and 7pm. We could finally leave, go get lunch and relax before we had to go back out make our way to my appointments.

The Imaging office for the MRI was at an affiliate location connected with Sloan and in a very upscale part of Manhattan. While I was filling out the paperwork. My Mom started poking my arm and whispered loudly – “LOOK!”  I looked up and standing at the counter checking in was – and I’m not even kidding – Martha (freaking) Stewart. In all the times I have been to NYC this was the first time I had ever seen a celebrity let alone sat within 2 feet of one. My Mom was literally seconds away from talking to her when someone came out and whisked her away for her x-ray. And just like that she was gone.

While I was waiting for the MRI, I received a call from Dr. Ludwig’s office. The abdominal x-ray I had an hour earlier was OK and I was officially scheduled for the Colonoscopy/Endoscopy for the following Monday. (Joy!)

To make a long story….well, it’s too late to make it short so I’ll just jump to the why I’m going to Sloan today. So, the MRI was negative for any spinal compression or metastasis that would cause my spontaneous GI episodes. The Abdominal x-ray was negative for any obstructions. The Colonoscopy/Endoscopy was OK. The biopsies that were done – there were 4, including a gastric polyp, were negative. She also tested me for C.Diff, H.Pylori, and Colitis. It was noted that my stomach is very inflamed and angry. All of this is GREAT NEWS. The best news. One tiny little problem….I’m still losing weight, I’m still not able to eat all the time, I’m still battling nausea and I’m having GI issues and I just don’t feel good.

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There was a question as to when I would have my next set of scans. Stick to the 3 month plan or wait until February which would be 6 months. I was almost inclined to wait, however when Dr Modi, my Oncologist at Sloan heard that I’m not better and I’m down another 6lbs her office called me and said she wanted me to have the PET now.

I usually have the results the same day – one of the awesome things I love about Sloan – but my scan is late (3:45pm) and it’s a Friday so I’m not anticipating hearing anything until Monday.

*Fingers Crossed* Hoping to keep my ‘unremarkable’ PET scan streak going a little bit longer.

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Adam Rallies The Troops – Brain Freeze for Research!

 

This post is going to be entirely about me raving about my son, Adam. So, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

At the end of his Junior year last year, Adam was elected President of the National Honor Society at his High School – Bishop Kearney. It’s a big deal just being part of the NHS but to be President, there comes a lot of responsibility and obligations. Part of that being coming up with fundraiser ideas throughout the year that the NHS can do for the community.

Over the summer Adam came to me and asked me my thoughts for October. Typically, the school likes to do something to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month and he is acutely in tune with my aversion to ‘pink’ and the useless ‘awareness’ campaigns that happen during October.

I immediately thought of my friend and fellow advocate, Rebecca Timlin-Scalera, founder of The Cancer Couch Foundation. I told Adam about a fantastic fundraiser that she held at her son’s school that was very successful – The Scoops Ice Cream Eating Contest. This would be the perfect event for a Middle/Jr/Sr High School. What kid doesn’t want to eat as much ice cream as possible in 5 minutes?? The idea is simple, kids form teams of 4. Each team needs to raise at LEAST $100. They can raise more but they must raise $100 to be in the contest. They have 27 days for their team to raise as much money as they can. On the day of the Scoops Challenge, teams will go against each each other until they reach the final 2. The final 2 will have one last challenge and then one Grand Prize Winner will be named. There is no selling of a product, catalogs to have people to look through. Just asking family, friends and anyone else to sponsor their team.The best part about this, aside from the ice cream, is that all the money raised would be going to The Cancer Couch Foundation which exclusively funds Metastatic Breast Cancer Research. Win – Win!

Adam got to work! He contacted Rebecca to get all the details and he then met with his adviser, Mrs. Sikora and his Principal, Mr. Simoni and eventually the Parent’s Association. Their response was unanimous – Absolutely, Yes. Adam began planning and the event began to take shape. Everyone was on board!

At the end of September, the fundraiser was announced at the kick off of Homecoming Pep Rally. I was invited to speak to the student body, tell them my story and how they would be playing a big roll in not just helping me but the 155,000 people like me living with terminal breast cancer by raising money for the Breast Cancer that kills. I explained to the kids that all that ‘pink stuff’ that they see in the stores doesn’t always mean that the money they spend will go to research or to even help anyone at all. I also had the kids actively involved in my explanation of the fact that One in Eight women will get diagnosed with Breast Cancer in their lifetime. Each student was handed a Popsicle stick as they walked into the assembly. Some of the sticks had a blue dot and some had a blue and an orange dot and the rest didn’t have any color at all. I asked those students with the both colors on their sticks to stand. Those students standing represented the “One” in One in Eight. Those students according to the statistic would be diagnosed with Breast Cancer at some point. Then I asked those students standing that just had a blue dot to continue standing and the rest to sit. Those that remained standing represented the 30% of Early Stage Breast Cancer patients that eventually become Metastatic and are now terminal.

http://13wham.com/news/local/bishop-kearney-seniors-mom-brings-breast-cancer-message-to-homecoming

http://www.rochesterfirst.com/news/local-news/bishop-kearny-launches-scoops-challenge

Adam planned, organized and worked with the other NHS students all month to make the fundraiser successful. There ended up being about 12 teams!

This past Friday the 28th was the BIG day!! 25 gallons of Ice Cream were just waiting to be eaten and Rebecca Timlin-Scalera even flew in to host the event!

 

I even did a short Facebook Live video as the event was beginning…….

 

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Even the teachers got into the challenge!

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The Bishop Kearney Drum Line

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Focused on not getting Brain Freeze!

The Drum Line was the absolute best! It may not look like much with the buckets but they really were good – they kept the energy and excitement level high!

Prizes were given out for the most scoops eaten (collectively speaking) and there was a tie between 2 teams – 46 scoops of Ice Cream eaten!!  And there was a prize for the most money raised!

I’m proud to say that the students raised $2,000 for Metastatic Breast Cancer Research and they aren’t done yet – with the ice cream they have left over they are going to sell ice cream sundaes at lunch and put THAT money into the pot for a bigger donation…AND Rebecca talked Mr. Simoni into letting the students have a Blue and Orange dress down day – a Cancer Couch Dress Down Day!  So, there’s THAT money as well.

I’m so proud of Adam for taking this on and doing all the work himself on top of a full load of classes and having a part time job after school. I’m also so grateful to Bishop Kearney for rallying around Adam and me and allowing Adam to do this fundraiser that benefits Metastatic Breast Cancer.

I truly hope Mr.Simoni, Mr. Miller, Mrs. Sikora and the administration know just how much it means to me – to Adam.