Tag Archives: Diagnosis

The summer of 2013 was a ‘soul changer’ for me

Events of this summer have made me introspective. This collage of photos captures just a few of the meaningful people and events in my life.

Events of this summer have made me introspective. This collage of photos captures just a few of the meaningful people and events in my life.

SailboatWe’ve all heard the term “game changer” applied to a highly influential event – be it a switch in a company’s top leadership or a standout performance by a particular player in
an athletic contest. So those who know me well won’t be too surprised to see that I’ve played off that term in naming this blog. I chose “soulchanger.com” because that is what the
summer of 2013 became for me. More about that in a bit.

If you’re reading this, you likely already know that on June 13, I received some big time news: A diagnosis of breast cancer. Wow!

I had been concerned I might get this news one day for some reason. I have a history of fibrocystic breast disease and was pretty good with self-checks. At times I have had
ultrasounds to check spots. I always held my breath as I waited to learn the results of tests that until now, have shown only cysts.

Still, on the day I received my news, I was in shock that this was really happening. After telling my family, I began my journey to treatment. I had a biopsy and met with
surgeons and an oncologist. This was the most stressful time so far during this process. There are so many types of breast cancer and identification is essential in
determining treatment.

So my close supporters and I got busy understanding this business of breast cancer. Was it estrogen positive or maybe progesterone positive? Maybe HER2, or even triple
negative or any combination. Yikes! What does all of this mean?

It took more than two weeks of lab work and analysis to pinpoint my diagnosis: HER2-positive, further classified as Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Yes, as you might interpret,
that latter phrase means it had spread to surrounding tissue.

The first group of docs who analyzed my case wanted to schedule a surgery two to three weeks out from our meeting. The thought of further delays were stressful, but they all
reassured us that the cancer does not grow that quickly.

We decided to get a second opinion, due largely to the insistence of friend Roberta Shapiro. She urged us to consider going to the University of Alabama at Birmingham for a
second opinion. I really was not thinking very well and my perspective at the time was to just wish for someone to get this “thing” out of me. Many thanks to Roberta for her
good counsel. She is director of special projects for the UAB Health System and was able to get me in quickly to meet with those who would become my team of docs.

After our fist visit, we knew that we were in the right place. Instead of surgery and then chemotherapy, our UAB team takes a different approach. They start with chemo
and then surgery. This allows them to evaluate the effectiveness the chemo is having on the areas affected.

For example, after my first three weeks of treatment, they knew that my cancer had been reduced by 60 percent.

Presently, I have had six weekly treatments of a chemo called Taxol. I also receive a drug called Herceptin. The Herceptin in due to the fact that I am HER2-positive. This
drug I will take for one year. Its job is to knock down a certain cell protein that gets out of hand and that’s what led to development of the cancer in the first place! It is
a fairly new drug and has improved the outlook and chemo regimen for HER2-positive patients.

I have six additional weekly remaining and then I will be administered Adriamycin and Cytoxan every two weeks for four treatments. I am not looking forward to this last series
of four. One of the drugs is called the “red devil” and I am choosing to call it the “red warrior.” Following the last four treatments, they will give me three weeks to rest
and recover, and then I will have a mastectomy.

This blog will help facilitate my sharing information about this journey. I’m blessed to have many people supporting me with text messages, calls and emails — which are all
just GREAT! I just thought this might be easier on everyone to have a source for the latest information about my progress. Also, it is my hope that this could be helpful to
others.

Back to how I chose the title of this blog. I remember shortly after learning my diagnosis, reading in one of my reports the term “metastatic disease.”

Seeing that term on paper and knowing it applied to me and my condition was indeed a soul-changing moment. I have enjoyed an active and busy life (and plan to continue to do so
– my work routine is only slightly impacted so far and I jogged four miles Saturday morning). These nearly 90 days have caused me to make more time for quiet introspection. And to find a richer level of joy – and peace – in routine things we sometimes take for granted. For instance, simply preparing a meal at home.

I will try to post regular updates here. Thank you for following along.