Monday, February 27, 2012

Life is so freaking cruel!

What do you do when you are so upset, when you feel so imcompetent that you can not do anything??. Everyone who knows me will tell you that I just drop everything when someone is in need and I can do something to help. But I hate with every part of my body when someone needs help and there is nothing I can do to help.

Someone gave me some news today that make me feel sick to my stomach, someone who is fighting for her 7 year old son's life for a long time and things are not going as good as expected. I can not even imagine what it is to go through a cancer treatment with a son or daughter, I can say how hard it is to go through a cancer treatment but I warranty you that it has to be thousand times harder to go through it with your own son!.

Only thing I can say is that we are here to support each other and I just HOPE that there is a solution and other options out there for Mario. How difficult is to bring a sick child from Spain to other part of the world?, if I could do anything to help them...

BUT you all can do something to help: DONATE BONE MARROW TODAY!!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Some people are amazing!

When I went to the Susan G. Komen meeting last month with Lorraine they talked about this person in particular called Bridget and her story caused me amazing admiration. I come across her blog by chance on Internet the other day and after reading her story I am even more amazed and feel bad about even complaining any more about anything that happens to me.

She was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer at 21, she was diagnosed too late and cancer had already spread to the liver. She has gone through 6 years of multiple surgeries and really strong drug regime, she got married and went on honeymoon in the process and holding really strong today. I talked to her the other day as I loved a message that she posted related to Susan G. Komen and I want to share it with all of you here. I am becoming a strong supporter of Susan G. Komen as well so I am delighted when I see messages like this one.

We will walk this September in San Francisco Gooooooo PINK MELTING POT!!, we will keep walking until we find a cure!.
Susan G. Komen

I Stand With Susan G. Komen
Many of my friends, family, and blog readers have approached me over this past week because anyone who knows me knows I am in love with the work of Susan G. Komen for the Cure; I am a walker, a survivor, and a 3-Day Coach. Last week, when the news broke that Komen for the Cure decided to cease future funding of Planned Parenthood, thousands of women and men hit the internet to object. I will not revisit last week’s media firestorm. Plenty of people have already done more than enough recapping of every twist and turn.

Instead, I will share the reasons why I continue to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure. I will include links to absolutely everything I mention, so that anyone interested in learning more can learn more, and can do so by going directly to the source.

When I was first diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in 2005, I went to events put on by various other breast cancer organizations. At those events, I was surrounded by women with gray hair and grandchildren. I came home in tears, and felt so much older than 21 years old. Other organizations left me, a young cancer survivor, feeling so very much alone.

Deb, a 30-something breast cancer survivor, changed all that for me. It wasn’t until Deb, a spunky little gal with flowing brunette hair, a sweet Southern drawl, and two little boys, stopped by my chemo chair one day that I finally realized I wasn’t alone at all. You see, Deb stopped by chemo to drop off literature about her support group called Breast Friends, a support group funded in part by Susan G. Komen’s Maryland Affiliate. Breast Friends was a support group for women under 40 who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, I didn’t even know there were other women under 40 with breast cancer, and this same wonderful Deb didn’t just offer support. She also offered education. Deb was the first to say, “Bridget, you should tell your story. You should go to schools and tell your story. You could save some lives.” So, you see, Komen gave me support and Komen gave me a voice.

Komen’s impact on my journey didn’t stop there. In the past six years, I have seen 10 different doctors about this cancer, and, while every doctor saw my concerns about having babies and getting married as understandable concerns for someone in her 20s, no doctor actually took those concerns to heart. No doctor, that is, until Dr. Ann Partridge at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Partridge, or “The Boss” as she is known around my house, never told me to “worry about that later.” Instead, she helped me take action to preserve my fertility. She offered to plan my chemotherapy around my wedding and honeymoon. She offered me a chemotherapy drug that wouldn’t cause hair loss, so that I’d look my best when I walked down the aisle. She even offered to answer any questions my soon-to-be husband might have about my cancer before the Big Day. Now that’s a doctor! Dr. Partridge is the kind of doctor who thinks about the well being of the patient and the well being of the caregiver.

I am proud to say that Dr. Ann Partridge’s Young Women’s Program was funded by a three-year $1.35 million Susan G. Komen for the Cure grant. Not only that, but in addition to providing this program to lucky Dana Farber patients, this Komen grant allows “The Boss” to implement her Young Women’s Program in hospitals across the country, so that every young woman can get the same stellar, personalized care I’ve received regardless of where she happens to live.
So, as you see, I was supported by Komen, I was empowered by Komen, and I was cared for by Komen. But, have I been cured by Komen?

The Cure
I can honestly say: I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the research of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

I have been on 15 different drugs during my six year battle, and every single one has been touched by a Komen for the Cure grant, including Herceptin. Herceptin is a drug that targets my particular type of breast cancer and, in clinical trials, Herceptin has been found to reduce the risk of relapse by almost 50%. Herceptin has been the one constant in my dozens of “chemo cocktails.” Herceptin is in my current cocktail; it’s being used in combination with my friend Taxol. Herceptin is not a cure, but Herceptin is keeping me alive, and Komen gave me Herceptin.

But that’s the past. What about the future? Well, I can tell you that currently, Komen is funding 572 research projects totaling more than $300 million worldwide. In 2009, “The Boss” referred me to a clinical trial led by Dr.Leisha Emens at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Emens is developing a vaccine that teaches a patient’s immune system to fight her breast cancer on its own, and the trial is having some fantastic results. While I was unable to get the vaccine because my cancer began progressing unexpectedly, I believe this vaccine idea could truly be the future of breast cancer care. Dr.Emens’ trial was funded in 2006 by a $300,000 Komen grant. To learn more about the other exciting clinical research that Susan G. Komen funded last year alone, click here.

I Will Walk
Last Wednesday, when this news first started breaking in the media, I was at the hospital getting chemotherapy. I thought that was pretty ironic…my afternoon was about to get even more ironic! That afternoon in the hospital actually helped me deal with the onslaught of unsettling news stories. Last Wednesday, during a routine blood draw, I found out that the tumor markers in my blood had increased from 75 to 99, a preliminary sign that my chemotherapy regimen might no longer be working. When the whole world began debating and questioning Susan G. Komen’s work, my cancer turned out to be a gift. I needed a reminder, and this news was a poignant reminder. I was able to see that, for me personally, the news about Susan G. Komen mattered, but it didn’t matter enough to sway me from the heart of why I walk.

So what did I do after I learned that my tumor markers rose from 75 to 99 last week? How did I cope with the news? I registered to walk in the 2012 Susan G. Komen Washington, DC 3-Day.

I walk because I have to go to chemotherapy every week, and I don’t want anyone else to have to live that life. I walk because I live with the heavy burdens of fear and doubt every day, like the fear and doubt piercing my heart tonight as I think of my rising tumor markers. I walk because I know that over the past 6 years I have been on 15 different drugs, and all 15 of them were touched by a Susan G. Komen grant. I walk because, while there are other charities out there, no one comes close to funding research the same way Komen does. I walk because this cause is too important to walk away. I walk because today someone is going to die from breast cancer, and I walk because I don’t want to die from breast cancer.
No other organization has had my back like Komen for the Cure, and now it’s time for me to return the favor. Together, we will move past this. I believe we have already started moving, and I believe we are moving forward. I believe we will come out of this better, wiser, and stronger than before.

I hope each of you will be walking beside me this October, but I understand if that’s not the case, and I respect and support that. I wish all of you all the best. You are important to me, and I thank you for your service to this event and to the fight for a better world.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What is my bra size?

As I mentioned the other day I had to go back to the plastic surgeon office in order to be injected with more water and to decide what size I might want to have during reconstruction. Well, first I went to be measure and I thought that was a bit of an adventure.

The doctor send me to see someone in Nordstrom, I guess that person might be a friend of the doctor and I am sure she was going to treat me really nice. But no...I went there after work and I wanted to go home early to go for a walk so I did stop at Macys as it was more convenient to me. Not sure if anyone who lives in San Jose has noticed this but if you go to Valleyfair to the bra sessions in Nordstrom the people who work there are young and really nice. But if you go to Macy's the age of the people working there is much higher and some are not that nice. This department reminds me sometimes of El Corte Ingles in Spain where sometimes you might be lucky if you get a smile, and many times you feel like if you owe something to the person who suppose to be helping you.

Anyway, first I had to get the attention from someone and I told that person that I wanted to be measure. She told me :" you will have to wait, I am with a customer", I thought great, this is not going to start well, it would had be nicer if she would had said:" I will be with you in a second". After looking at all the new bras around to make time, I had to go and find someone again as it was obvious that woman was not going to help me. I manage to get another one who did not look very happy but she agreed to do it, we went to the fitting rooms and I told her I was not planning to take the clothes off, just wanted an idea of the size with the clothes on....I had to listen to a lecture but I was not going to go into explaining I did not have breast.....She told me I could be two different sizes depending on the bras and she rush out like avoiding any question I might ask, not before saying you have got a really small breast. I looked at the door, thinking she was just taking the piss but I think she was serious.

So now I knew my size more or less, needed to go back to the doctor and decide what we do with the size. He said that if I want to be a size smaller from what I have now he needs to inject me additional 60 ml of water so if I do get fibrosis the breast will not contract to lower than the size I want. He injected the additional 60 ml and I guess by now I am close to DD or E or who knows and it does feel huge!. How people with large artificial breast manage?, I have to say that is a big difference between natural large breast or artificial large breast as it is like a stone you have in front of you.

I did this on Wednesday and I did not sleep that night, neither Thursday. I was in pain, I could not lay down and I felt like my temporally implant was about to explode any minute. There was no way I could live like this for another 10 months....I kept imagine the coming summer where you wear less clothes, I could see myself getting some unwanted attention. So yesterday morning I called my doctor again and ask them if they would see me that morning, they were so nice to fit me in the same day and he laugh when I told him that sorry I could not live with that breast. Monica and I were on the way to San Francisco to the Spanish Embassy  to register Ethan in the civil register after 5 years!, but before we stop at the doctor's office. He took out the 60 ml of water and I could breath so much better....My breast is still bigger than what should be but I can live with it for a bit longer.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Back at work life

I am loving being back at work but what I am loving even more is being able to do only 30 hours a week. I have to consider myself one of the luckiest people on earth, and probably is true.

I had worked in NVIDIA for 10 years in the UK and the US when I decided to leave last year in May to take another role in another semiconductor company. I have to say that the new role was perfect for me running their finance department for their US and Latin America offices. I was not sure about the company as it is a European old fashion tech company that I was hoping with new management would had changed but when I joined realized how bureaucratic it is. Also, I have a really hard time working in environment where the management team has more privileges than any other employee just because they have vice president title: they can fly Business class when you are on the back of the plane, they have got more vacation than you, the company lease expensive cars just to drive from home to the office, they even have got special annual medical check ups that the company pays on top of any normal insurance. I am from the mentality that these differences affect productivity and normally example has to be shown from the top and not from the bottom....If I would had known this I probably would had never joined them but I did and as I said I loved the job a lot.

Unfortunately I was diagnosed with breast cancer two months after I started working with them and I went on 6 months disability which it was easy for me as I was still not attached to the job and the people. Everyone was super understanding and supportive, what can they do anyway....However that role requires me to travel a lot as well as a lot of effort to do the changes needed for improvement and meet the expectations from everyone, and do not forget that you need to prove to everyone that a Spanish girl can run a finance department of a US company. Well, this cancer was a wake up call for me and one thing I have learned for sure is to take my professional life much easier and put my personal life as a priority. For that reason I could not come back to work there, I needed an option.

NVIDIA people had been so supportive, that I called the CFO and asked her if they will take me back. We arranged for a lunch meeting and I was super happy to learn that I could go back to my old role and they will accept the only condition I was asking which was 30 hours a week!!!. So it is really nice to be back but still leave work at 3 pm and go for a walk, cook dinner and spend a nice family evening together. I am still on education mode which means that some people are still setting things up for me during my none working hours, some I accept, some refuse but slowly they are getting use to my new working hours.

As I said I am really lucky, no many companies will allowed you to do that in the current environment plus I can also afford that as I know many people even if they might want to give up their job they can't do it as they need the money.

Monday, February 13, 2012

What size do you want?

It has now been a month since I finished radiation and have to say that my skin went back to normal really fast despite the horrible burn that I had. I have also started the 5 year pill,Tamoxifen, the day after my last radiation treatment and happy to say that I have not had any side effects that everyone tells you about which is great.

The other day I went to see my plastic surgeon and we agreed that I will not be doing reconstruction until sometime early 2013, first reason is because temporally expander are doing great and second because he prefers not to get me into surgery while I am on Herceptin. I have to be in Herceptin until early November this year, after that we will give it around 2 months break and expected to do the surgery in January or February 2013. Everything was great until the day after my visit that his office assistant called me and said he wanted to see me again.....I was....Uh....why?, but she did not know why, So I told her that I was sorry but I was not going back to their office until they would tell me why. So he called me and he said that he had a meeting at the hospital board and he saw my radiologist, they talked about me....I would have loved to listen to them....and my radiologist told him how bad my skin had reacted at the end of the radio treatment. Then my plastic surgeon asked him to forward the latest x ray and they agreed by looking at them that the internal burns were high as well, I do not feel anything by the way..SO, he thinks I have got small risk to have fibrosis and that will be devastating for the final breast reconstruction. The intention of the visit is that he wants to inject me more water and force the skin to be more tense so we avoid that small risk of fibrosis.

So last Friday after being at the hospital for my quarterly MUGA scan, I went to see him and discuss face to face what he wants to do. I understood perfectly what he is trying to do but I really do not want to make my breast any bigger....So he injected 60 ml of fluid and now they feel huge even if they are still smaller than they were before the mastectomy. He asked me to go home and think about the size that I want next year!!!, and I told him I have got no the people who increase their boobs made that decision!, the reason why he wants me to decide now is that if I do get Fibrosis the area will get reduced by skin and tissue contracting so whatever size I want he has to make now one size bigger!. So if I want to be a B, I have to be a C this year, if I want a C have to be D for the time being...too complicated and uncomfortable!. So I have not decided...can I be between B and C?, or can I have an implant that changes the size depending on the clothes that you wear.......they are definitely going to look great but still have not decided what to do. I am going back on Wednesday afternoon to see him again and suppose to say something by then!.

Also!, I told him that my final reconstruction will be permanent implant and not tummy tuck, sorry but even if I can do two things at the same time it is too big of a surgery so no thanks!. But....he told me that they will do a small liposuction as they use the fat in your tummy (which I do have) to fill out the breast around the implant to make it more natural. Something good has to come up from this process I guess!!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

New reality

I had this conversation with my mom the other day and we did not get to the right answer....20 years ago were there so many young people sick or I was just ignorant when in my 20s and I did not realize people were sick around??. The answer from my mom in particular about breast cancer was that when she was 40 there were many people being diagnosed with breast and ovary cancer but there were normally older people. My grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 66 more or less and one of her sister had breast cancer twice on her late years but never died of breast cancer. Now a days the people diagnosed with any type of cancer are younger and younger and I wonder everyday why.

When my son was two he was sick all the time, we could not figure out why and I behaved like a paranoid mom being at the pediatrician office almost every week. We thought he was dairy allergic as he was sick every time he will drink his milk, well.....we found out after some test that he is super sensitive to beef and cow's milk, and he is moderate to high sensitive to lamb, pork and some cheeses. Have you ever heard of anything like that?. We took all meat away from him (he still eats some chicken) and cow's milk and he has been since then like a new kid.

My point is....., is it what we eat?, is it what we breath?, what is it that so many people are suffering. Having cancer has made me meet many wonderful people who I have always said are the strongest of the strongest people you will find out there. People like Ainara who at the same time she is fighting with her own cancer she finds time to battle for everyone else's. People like Blanca that while going through Chemo makes me laugh every time I read a message from her. People like Marta that even if she got sick the other day, she is my key person to talk to about our illness. People like Janire that needs a bone marrow transplant as soon as possible, just lost a close friend for the same reason but still fights like mad to make sure there is enough education in Spain about bone marrow transplant. Or people like Paule, who has gastric cancer and just started chemo last week. People like my friend Mariam who is trying to find a way to live after losing her 5 year old to cancer 6 months ago. Or people like Eva who is in Madrid next to her son Mario who 12 days ago received a bone marrow transplant and is still in critical stages. People like Eva and myself who are trying to find our way back to normal life.Why is the list so long????, was I blind before and I lived in wonderland?.