Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I am blonde!!

My hair is starting coming out but it is BLONDE!!!, not that I have got an issue with it but I was super dark hair before!!.

I have got like a fuzz of blonde hairs but I am not sure if this is what will grow or this is just what it comes back first and then my normal color will come back. I asked the Oncologist on Monday and she did not seem surprised about the color.

Do you guys know anyone who had color change?

First Radition done!

I had yesterday the first radiation test and today the first session. Yesterday they wanted to make sure my marks were aligned with the machine and all measurements were in place and correct.

Today it was much faster, I was in and out of the room in 15 min, it takes longer for them to lay you in the right position than for the machine to do the radiation. And for Ainara, I did not feel anything at all, it was quick and easy. Only thing I could complain is that they put you like a cover on your breast that is freezing cold and you can not moved when the are doing it.

They gave me two creams and from today I will start covering the area with them and see if by the end of it can avoid any burns.

Will be back tomorrow at the same time and Friday they are taking me earlier as we are going to Tahoe until Sunday!!. Not sure if we will have snow but I am sure we will have a great time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Monica!!!

Today is the birthday of my dear friend Monica, the most positive person I have ever met in my life. I love how she always manage to look at the bright side of everything, and how she has made me see things differently.

Love her to pieces and want to say thanks very much for your support and your friendship, specially the past 4 months which will never know how to pay back.

Love you girl.
Happy birthday!!

Happy late thanksgiving!!

I have had a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend but I could not celebrate properly until today. My husband will tell you I am a paranoid woman but when it comes down to cancer I personally think you have to be, just need to learn how to deal with the anxiety better.

The story is...back in July when I was doing all my test I had an MRI that showed cysts in my liver, the PET scan did not show any cancer activity so all doctors decided that it was nothing to worry about. However it has been on the back of my mind all this time considering that liver is a weak area in my family. I have been mentioning to my Oncologist since October that I wanted to have it checked again and she said OK but maybe next year after you finish radiation but I am a stubborn one and wanted to have it now... so she agreed to do it so I could have peace of mind.

I went two weeks ago to do another MRI and a Muga scan. The Muga scan is a nuclear scan of your heart to see if your heart has been damaged by the chemo. The MRI was to check my liver only. Marcela come with me and I really appreciate that she spent all afternoon at the hospital waiting for me around. Muga scan was quick an easy and as I had done it before I knew what to expect, I have to get use to it as I will be having that scan every 2 or 3 months from now on as Herceptin could also affect the heart. The MRI was another story...I arrive there and a young technician come to pick me up, I had my IV on from the Muga scan so he only had to get me ready on the machine. He asked me if I had any metal on my body and I said...yes, chemo port and breast expander. He said.....that is OK we can do it.. So he put me in the MRI machine which I manage to get him to agree to put my feet first as I hate that machine. After 5 minutes he come to the room and he said...."there is metal on your body", and I said..."yes, chemo port and breast expander", and he said..."that is OK". So there we went again into the machine for another 5 min and then another girl come in the room and ask me: " have you got a chemo port?", and I said :" yes". Well after about 25 min the supervisor come to the room and he asked me: " have you got breast expander", and I said "yes" and he said..." you should have told us before", and I look at him and said..." you are joking right?. I have been saying that since I arrived". Well...they could not do the MRI as the metal on my breast expander was interfering with the images so I can not have an MRI until I get final implants.

I talked to Dr Chen after the MRI incident and she sent me last week to do a CT scan of the liver. The scan is super fast and less intimidating than MRI, only issue is the dye they inject you through IV at the end of the scan for about two minutes that gives you a large heat through your body that makes your heart go a bit faster than normal, but it is a quick scan so it is not that bad. Now with my luck it was waiting time again until after thanksgiving as my doctor was taking a long Thanksgiving vacation and was not going to be at the office. What is it with me and the waiting results on a long weekend?.

Well, I got the results today and the cyst are still there but have not changed in size and the radiologist confirmed that they are hemangioma which is a tangle of blood vessels that are not cancerous. Also Dr Chen told me that if they were a cancerous tumor they would have changed with the chemo treatment and the fact that they are the same confirms the diagnosis from the radiologist. I AM SO RELIEF!!!, I have been struggling sleeping for the past week, have had nightmares about the results and really having a hard time. The Muga scan was also perfectly fine and the chemo has not affected my heart one bit which is fantastic.

Now going back to my Thanksgiving weekend which was great!. On Thursday Alberto run the San Jose turkey trot early in the morning and Ethan run it with the kids later on that morning. We then went home to get ready to go to Lorraine's house for thanksgiving where we started having appetizers at 2 pm and we literally did not stop eating until 6 pm. That night both of her girls wanted to come for sleepover so we left her house with 3 kids, they were so cute the 3 of them sleeping in Ethan's room and he was really happy to have his friends in his house.

I love Thanksgiving as is the only holidays that is not religion, race or any other diferentiation. It is a great holiday to recap and give thanks for everything that has happen to us during the year. I had so much to give thanks for even if you would think I could be upset about the fact that I had Cancer. But I am thankful that it was located, that was treated, that my treatment has been on truck , that I am doing great. But specially I had many people to give thanks to, to all my friends and family but specially to my husband Alberto for having that unconditional support 24/7.

The rest of the weekend was busy, first we bought the biggest Christmas tree and we started Christmas decorations. In the US the preassure starts on Thanksgiving when everyone starts getting Christmas decorations out and it is tradittion to have it ready then. It is really hard to convince a 4 year old that we will wait two more weeks to start the decorations....Alberto has issues to get the tree through the front door as it is almost 3 metres high!. The tree was so big that I did not have enough decorations to put on it so had to go shopping again to get more ornaments...!. Alberto put the outside lights and we are almost ready for Christmas!. Alberto and Ethan went to Rosario's birthday party but I stayed behind to help Maite do the photo shot to Lorraine's family. On Saturday night we also went to my friend Laurie's for dinner and we had a great time on her brand new kitchen.

Now is time to get ready for my parents who are coming only in 2 weeks!!. I am starting radiation tomorrow as well and we are going to Tahoe for a short weekend on Friday. So feeling great, looking forward for everything happening in the next weeks and looking forward to have the best Christmas ever!!, I am going to enjoy all preparations and present shopping like never!!!.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


My original appointment with the Radiologist was the end of November but I have been recovering so well from Chemo that I changed it to last Thursday so can start radiation as soon as possible. I guess the sooner you start the sooner you finish....I would ideally want to finish by the end of December so I can start the new year fresh but I think might be a bit difficult...

So, I saw Dr Wang on Thursday and he got the message really fast that I do not want to wait around for something to happen. He is from the mentality that you should target the area as soon as you can after Chemo but giving some recovery time to the patient, however he is ok with me pushing Radiation to earlier than his recommended 4 weeks from Chemo treatment. My blood results are great, I feel great and I want to start ASAP. So I went back on Friday to have a CT scan and be measured, marked and tattoo on the left breast where radiation will happen. I was there for around 90 minutes going through the normal routine of listening to side effects and then spent all the time with the technician on the preparation. I had to stay still for around half an hour and that was a bit uncomfortable, but they have to do the scan, marked you and wait for the doctor to agree with all the marks and images, then they tattoo you and then you can move...I have got now 5 dots around my left breast that will probably be with me for ever but you can not see them really well so I do not expect to be an issue...

Next week is Thanksgiving in the US and Thursday and Friday is holidays for everyone and the Breast care center at Goodsam is closed so I do not think will start next week. The scheduler will call me early next week to agree on a start day and time of sessions, but they have promised me will be the 28 of November. During Christmas there are two days they are closed it means that if I do not do double days I will not finish until the first week of January, but I am ok about it, I would have prefer to finish the last week of December but I do not mind.

Breast reconstruction

I had my 3 month check up with Dr Liu (plastic surgeon) last Tuesday and he kind of broke all my plans. In my head the plan was: chemo for 8 sessions, 28 days of radiation on my left breast, 1 year of Herceptin and reconstruction will happen sometime next year around summer time.

When I arrive to his office he offered to get me into surgery immediately for reconstruction before radiation and it really got me by surprise. There are positives and negatives to have reconstruction before or after as follows:


  • breast reconstruction final result looks better on a non radiated skin than radiated.
  • Breast reconstruction on a radiated area could have some risks of surgery not healing as well as non radiated area.
  • if there is any complication on the surgery my radiation will be delayed and that is something that both my Radiologist and myself are not keen on.
  • There is a possibility that the final implant might be burn from radiation and the reconstruction might have to be done again.

I am going to stick to my original plan and first focus on the Cancer treatment and then focus on the aesthetic of my breast. Herceptin is a relatively new drug and due to their heart effects they will not get me into surgery until I have finished Herceptin which is the end of next year. That is ok with me, my temporally expanders are ok and not bothering me any more, they look great and none will ever think I do not have any breast, and I think can live with them for another year.

I have also given up about doing a tummy tuck surgery and going for permanent silicon implants. I am not sure if after this process I am going to want to go through such a big surgery of tummy tuck and reconstruction....If anyone reading this has done surgery of reconstruction and has got any opinions please share them, I will appreciate it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Celebration time - 2nd party

Today I had my second celebration of the end of my chemo, we got together at Rosario's house over 20 of us to both celebrate this milestone but more important to celebrate the friendship that we all have.

First Rosario lives at the end of the mountain in one of the most beautiful places I have been for a long time: Woodside in California. Beautiful house with beautiful views, I think I still have not gone over the view she has from her bedroom, you basically can see all San Francisco bay area from the bed!. Everyone had to wear something pink and bring a vegetarian dish, we ate like if there was no tomorrow. From Maite's carrots croquettes, Gema's mushrooms, Damaris's pupusas to all other delicious plates we have. And of course do not forget the desserts, first we are very lucky to have Neus who does at home amazing marzipan, truffles. Of course we could not forget my favorite banana cake that Monica remember to get for me from icing on the cake in Los Gatos and Isabel flan!. After today I might not eat for a long time...or I might have to walk additional tomorrow... 

Then Marcela as a good party planner had everything thought for us, she had breast cancer ribbons ready for everyone to wear. They bought me this beautiful heart necklace as well as some vouchers that we will use on a spa day very soon....I did not expect any present so I am even more thankful that they are so generous. Marcela had made an amazing scrapbook of photos that my husband had given to her from my family and my past, from amazing quotes that will write here in the coming posts. And of course not to forget the encouraging messages that each one of them wrote for me. Ah!, and Natalia did this really nice breast cancer ribbon with dry flowers and I will buy this week a frame to put it on. Jackie was the one in charge of the speech and God did I cry!. Their words of how much inspiration I am to them is amazing, I am really happy that they follow my pain and journey that close as it helps them to slow down in their lives and appreciate even more what they have around. I will never wish Breast Cancer to anyone in this world, but I would wish for people to know that life could be hard and you never know what is around the corner so you must enjoy life and people around your life, weather it is your husband and children, or the people who you work with or your neighbors. Just enjoy every minute of your day!.

I want to write here part of a quote that it was in the book they gave me that I find very encouraging:

Remember....there is a deeper strength and an amazing abundance of peace available to you.
You will make it through this time and find joy in life again.
Life continuous around us, even when our troubles seem to stop time.
The difficult times are often the best teachers, and there is a good to be found in all situations.
Reach for the good
Be strong
And never give up.

This reminds me what Cheryl always told me when I was first diagnosed...."You are stronger than what we thought and you can go through it. This situation will change you and make you a better person", and I think everything she told me will be true.

Celebration time - 1st party

What a week!, I think I have never cried so much in my life and it has been mainly for happy feelings. I am so blessed to be surrounded by such an amazing group of people who are making this journey so much easier for me and my family.

First last Monday and after 7 hours chemo session I had a few friends and colleagues coming to my house to celebrate the end of the chemo session. Fiona was in town from the UK and she had organized a few of NVIDIA colleagues to come and celebrate, she is a bit rubbish (as she would say) organizing these things and even if it was meant to be a surprise party I found out about it..... so I extended the invitation to a few friends and we had a fantastic night. That day Alberto asked Dr Chen if I could have a glass of alcohol to celebrate that night and she said I could drink whatever I wanted to so I had a glass of wine and a glass of champagne, and slept like an angel that night. It was so nice to see "my boys" as I call the building E GPU team from NVIDIA and I think it was really nice for them to see that I am doing probably better that they were expecting.

I got such a nice presents from them, from flowers, champagne, coffee and a great music DVD (thanks John the music is fantastic). Ethan did some of his new jockey moves with his new Sharks top which we are having some difficulty to have it washed and cleaned on time for the next wearing as he even sleeps with it!. He went to see the sharks at HP Pavilion 10 days ago and he is back today again with Alberto to see them, thanks Fish for the tickets!, you made this 4 year old super happy!.

On Tuesday I went back to the clinic for the shot of Neulasta as usual and I know after that shot my pain starts....I had some great news though, my blood sugar has gone down to normal and the Diabetic test they did come negative so that is one thing less to worry about!. Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday was hard as expected but I think I even tolerated better than other rounds and it was probably because I knew it was the last one!!. I was so happy to see Thursday and knowing that I will not be having these treatments hopefully never ever again!.

Friday I took things easy during the day and in the evening we went to play bowling with the kids and our Spanish friends, Alberto was in charge of the boys bowling so I could talk to some of the moms and arrange the world without having the kids around!.

This week has been a bit emotional for me, for some reason the end of the chemo has surfaced some of that hidden feelings that you are containing because you are focus on the treatment. I am so happy to be over it that I do cry for any reason....but it is happy crying for sure!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Taxol round 4 ---- LAST CHEMO

This is one of the best days for quite some time. MY CHEMO TREATMENTS ARE OVER!!!!!!. All these horrible days of pain ,nausea, exhaustion and feeling poorly are almost over!.I only have got 2 or 3 days this week of feeling crap and then can start enjoying a more normal life.

I got an early start today as I was here at 8:15 for blood draw, it was so quiet that I was at the doctors appointment well in advance. The clinic was much calmer today being earlier so Dr Chen spent a lot of time with me. she did a full physical exam of all my body and she said everything looks great, my blood counts were also good. My blood sugar levels are lower but still higher than normal so today i was taking more blood to do another test just to make sure i am not becoming diabetic. She told me from now on I should be careful with sugars and weight gain, i guess it is real diet from now on.....

We talk a lot about the protocol and how everything will be moving going forward from now on. Today I started Herceptin which is a DNA cell protein bloquer, what happens is that when they do a biopsy and the surgery they analyse the cancer cells to see what it makes them being reactic and grow. Some breast cancers are triple positive, triple negative or between, triple positive is for progesterone, estrogen and protein. By analyzing the cancer they decide what drugs they can give you to combat the cancer best,most of breast cancer are reactive to the women hormones like progesterone and estrogen. The chemo treatment of AC and taxol is to kill any cancer cells in your body. The Herceptin is to block the DNA of the cells so the cells protein does not make the cells become cancer ones.Herceptin is given through vein every 3 weeks for a year but has got no visible side effects like nausea, hair loss or fatigue. Only issue with Herceptn is the heart muscle could get weak and therefore they have to do Muga scans every two months. I am sad that have to come to this room every 3 weeks for a year but the sessions will be short and I can go back to work straight after. I read an article the other day that talks about Herceptin, it is a very expensive drug that has been on the market for about over 5 years and it was only given to stage 4 cancer. They realize how effective is Herceptin for HER positive patient that now is given to everyone. It is used in the US and some European countries but in countries like Ireland or UK you have to pay for the drug from your pocket as the public health can not afford to give to everyone. It can reduce up to 50% the chances of cancer coming back so I am amazed some people can not receive it.

Tamoxifen is a hormonal treatment that blocks the reaction of estrogen on cancer cells. It is given through a pill daily for 5 years and has got same side effects than a menopause. Even if periods have stopped we do not know if I am on pre-menopause yet, if I get my period back next year they will stop the Tamoxifen and will give me Arimidex which is for non menopause women.

Now after today I start new round of checks and doctors visits. Next week I have got an MRI and a Muga scan of my heart, I am also meeting my radiologist Dr Wang to see when I start radiation. Te following week I am meeting my two surgeons for a 3 month check up and after all these visits and test hopefully can enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Now is time to a few people from my old work and some close friends are coming to have a glass of wine or champagne with us at home. Then on Saturday well over 25 of my Spanish friends are meeting at Rosario's house for another celebration of this important milestone on my cancer battle.

Thanks everyone for all prayers, good thoughts, phone calls, messages....I could have never had done without my family and friends and specially my lovely husband who is always there to comfort and help me, I feel sorry for him that has been with me in this chemo room for almost 7 hours today!!.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Stupid people

Alberto will say that I am more sensitive than before and he is probably right but I get particularly upset with people who think are smarter than you.

I got a bit upsetting phone call from someone who is probably a bit thick and had a really bad training when she started working, or she had a good training just did not get it at all, or she was told to talk to people like if you do not trust them. She basically called me and before she even asked me how my treatment was going or just a courtesy question as: " how are you feeling?", she went straight to the kill and try to tell me that the fact that I am sick might be at question. I was in denying listening to her telling me that I am going to be investigated as my cancer is considered a pre-existing condition. Am I listening right?, I am being treated for a Breast Cancer but it was there before I was treated and I knew about it!!. WTF?.

It turns out that my cancer is considered pre-exiting condition for 3 days, my first visit to the OB was on June 28th and some stupid clause of some agreement of something that someone forgot to mention or tell me about started on July 1st. So for 3 days I might not be entitle to something from someone, somewhere. What I will or will not be entitled to is another subject that will deal with and have got no doubts that will be shorted one way or another. If someone forgot to tell me something or someone forgot to do something, someone will have to answer to all my questions. This is what I hate sometimes in the US, all health and disability is so regulated by stupid insurance that sometimes try to make the process hard for you so you just get tired and do not fight any more with them. But I am a stubborn one so they can not get rid of me that easily....

But going back to my lovely lady, the one from the call, I do not think she knows what I am capable of. She made a big mistake by thinking she is smarter than me and called me trying to make me feel if I am playing the system and lying to them. I think that person is insensitive and should not be dealing with people who are sick at all. She does not know that I once did not stop in the UK until someone got a warning in Loyd's Bank for thinking she was smarter than me. And I will not stop until someone gives this girl a lesson of humanity or just fired her as she is not suitable for this type of work. The sad part is that I wonder how much damage she will do if instead of being me she will call a person who is more vulnerable emotionally, healthy or emotionally, for that reason I will make sure she learns the lesson.

And yes I am more sensitive than before but I guess I am entitle to when you have been administrated really strong drugs for 3 months, had days that felt as low as you could have ever felt, you should be more sensitive. This week I am even more upset as I thought I was not going to lose more hair but I am now at this stage of my treatment losing my eyebrows and eyelashes really fast. I am not upset because I am losing them but because I was not expecting to lose any more hair.

Anyway, I will not allowed for this lady or any company in this world to upset me for one moment, even if I have to admit that I had to go for a walk this afternoon to relax a bit.


Part of me is so happy that is over but other part feel bad as the kids have so much fun!!. We had the first Halloween party in our street on Sunday and we celebrated with our neighbors, it is a great excuse to get together and get the kids dress up one more time. Ethan was dress up in red Spiderman.

Monday arrive and Ethan woke up super excited as it was Halloween day. We dress up in black Spiderman this time and went to school where they had a Halloween party and parade. Alberto and I come back to the school to see the parade later on and it was so cute to see all the kids dress up with their Halloween costumes. The afternoon they were dress up in the house waiting for the trick and treat to start and they could not understand why we could not just go to all the neighbors houses until it was dark.  This time Ethan decided to go back to red Spiderman. We manage to hold them in the house until 6:30 and after that it was time to hit the street and pick up as much candy as we could...The amount of candy they get is a bit scary but I try to hide and take it away from him as much as I can. We come back home about an hour later and we had people coming for trick and treat in the house until almost 9 pm.

Have to say I am really proud of myself as I have not eaten even one small piece of candy, not even one!.

Happy Birthday Marcela!

Last Saturday we celebrated Marcela birthday party at Pedro's in Santa Clara. I will not disclose her age in case she gets upset with me, still have to say she looks fantastic for her age. 16 Spanish women in a restaurant is a recipe for a fun night....We had a great time and at the end we were kind of asked to leave the restaurant as we were almost the last one to leave. I loved Maite and how funny she was after a few margaritas...

Do not think I have ever met any person who does not like Marcela, there is nothing not to like about her and there is so much to like. She is the most caring, loving and patient person I have ever met in my life. She has been a fantastic help for us during the past 4 months and I will always owe her all her support and amazing caring for us.

Saturday I felt great but did not stop all day from Ethan's soccer game, to going shopping for Alberto's new bike, to going out for dinner with the ladies. It is amazing how after the few bad days you rebound really fast back to normal and star feeling like any other human being.