Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Halloween Parties and Healthier Living

I can't believe that it is November 1st! Where did October go??

Before I get into my November posts, I guess I should share this.........

With all of the sadness in our home over the past week (lost our little Charlie), I neglected to mention that we DID have a reprieve from worrying about our pup when we went to our neighbor's Halloween party on Saturday night. 

This was our first party in two years, and it was a much needed fun time!

I thought we made a pretty decent Garth and Trisha!

Our hosts had pretty awesome costumes as well!

Did you go to any Halloween parties or events?? Please share!

On to November-

Tomorrow's post will be full of info on my new journey!! I can't wait to share! 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sweet Charlie

The past week has been pretty crazy and sad in the Robbins house. Our little West Highland Terrier, Charlie started having some terrible health issues last Wednesday. At first, he started staring into space and acting really strange. By bedtime, he was having trouble standing, wouldn't eat or drink and finally couldn't stand at all. We went to the Emergency Veterinarian hospital where we spent hours while they ran tests and gave him fluids. We ended up leaving him there overnight. I have to say right here that our experience at the Emergency hospital was absolutely horrible and they made it VERY clear that they were there for the $$$$. Since it was the only place open anywhere around though, this was our only option. After all of the tests, they couldn't offer any help with figuring out what the problem was.

RIP Sweet Charlie
When we picked Charlie up on Thursday morning, we went straight to our regular Vet, and he kept him there so that he could keep an eye on him. Charlie was actually walking around and eating some while we were gone. Unfortunately, later in the evening after we got back home, he started going downhill. We were back at the Vet on Friday morning, went for an EKG, but nothing was definitive. To make this long, very sad story short (mainly because I can't talk about it anymore right now,) yesterday we had to say "goodbye" to our beloved little guy. We had to make the hardest decision I think I've ever had to make-to have him put to sleep. Ray and I stayed with him while he went peacefully.......

We are all devastated. Charlie was such a vibrant, sassy 12-year-old who kept us laughing and shaking our heads. Our home just won't be the same without him.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Fatigue and Chemo Brain

While doing some reading on the subject of life after cancer treatments, I came across the quote-"Breast Cancer survivorship is a marathon-not a sprint." I am finding that statement to be very accurate. Some of those troublesome symptoms and side effects that I experienced during chemo and radiation are hanging around, even though my treatments have ended.

Two of the most prominent issues for me right now are the sudden onsets of fatigue and the everpresent chemo brain.

Although I was warned that some of the side effects would probably linger for some time after treatment, I guess that somehow I thought I might be one of those people who bounced back right away-sidestepping those problems! Yeah, just like I thought I would be one of those people who was able to continue running and exercising right through all of the chemo treatments!


Unfortunately, rest or sleep does not cure the type of fatigue that lingers after cancer treatments. While doing research on this subject, I read that doctors don't know the exact cause for this lingering fatigue.

I have compiled a list of some things that I have found helpful in dealing with fatigue. These things won't cure the fatigue, but they do seem to help lessen the severity of the problem.

Coping With Fatigue

Plan your day. Try to be active at the time of day when you usually feel most energetic. Personally, I find that I have more energy to get in my walk or other exercises around 9am, so I go for it! I also tend to get a little burst of energy in the late afternoon, and that's when I try to do some house cleaning or other chores. Do what works for you.

Choose how to spend the energy that you have available. Try to let go of things that don't really matter as much right now. Try to focus on doing the things that make you happy, more often than the stuff you used to find much more important. I have realized that having a spotless house at all times is not really a necessity and it's certainly not something to stress over!

Let others help. Let family members help with chores, errands, laundry, etc. I found myself struggling with letting my family help after finishing my treatments because I felt that they had done so much during my chemo treatments, surgery, and radiation. I felt guilty letting them continue because I thought that it was MY time to take over the reigns again! I have now realized that I do still need a bit more help than before cancer and I am trying my best to let go of the guilt!

Take short naps when possible. If a nap isn't possible, at least try to take 10 minutes to put your feet up and relax a bit.

Join a support group. Talking to others who have had the same problem can often help find new ways to cope.

There are some other things to consider, such as relaxation exercises, vitamins, nutritional supplements, or essential oils which have helped me quite a bit.

Chemo Brain

Research shows that one in four people with cancer reports memory and attention problems after chemo. These effects can begin during treatment, or they may not appear until later. Sometimes they don't go away.

Some people refer to this problem as "brain fog" because you have problems paying attention, finding the right words to describe things, or remembering things. Whether you call it "chemo brain" or "brain fog" SUCKS! While I don't know of any way to cure this problem, I do know some ideas to help improve the situation.

Write it down. Keep a notebook or calendar and write down each task. Plan your day, but keep it simple.

Set up reminders. Put post-it notes around the house to remind yourself of things that need to be done. You can even use your phone to set up alerts for jobs that need to be done at a particular time of day.

Manage stress. Managing stress better can improve your memory and attention span. Learn different ways to relax. This can help you remain calm in stressful moments.

Repeat things you want to remember. Saying things a couple of times can help your mind hold the information.

I try to not let "chemo brain" stress me out more than I already am, but it can be difficult at times. I just try to remind myself how very lucky (or blessed) I am to be in remission at the moment and not worry too much about my lack of focus or memory issues. I'm alive, and it's ALL GOOD!! Wait-what was I saying????!!!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Paint Gwinnett Pink 5k

Hey, Y'all!

It's been awhile, and I have a lot to talk about. I've started making some BIG changes to my diet, but I will discuss those changes in another post very soon.

Today I want to share a bit about my first 5K in over a year! The Paint Gwinnett Pink 5k walk/run.

I wasn't entirely sure that I would be able to do 3.1 miles. I signed up a while back and even formed a team-Pam's Pink Posse! This event seemed to be the perfect 5k since it was being held one year after my diagnosis. I was officially diagnosed the beginning of October of 2016, and this walk/run was held on October 7, 2017! Another big plus was that the money raised from this event would go to support the very hospital and cancer care center where I received my treatments. How could I NOT sign up for this one??!!

After I registered for the 5k, my good friend Laurie, who fought and won her battle with breast cancer 7 years ago decided that she would fly down from Connecticut to be a part of the team and to spend a few days with my family and me! I was BEYOND excited to have Laurie visit!

I was so happy to also have our dear friends, Randy and Sherry Fortenberry come down from South Carolina to participate! Sherry, in addition to being a great friend, is also a bit of a miracle worker! She convinced my 16 y/o, Conor to wear a tutu! Randy and Sherry's daughter Randi made the adorable tutus in South Carolina (she's awesome!), but Conor said that he loved me but that he would NOT wear a pink tutu, so she didn't make him one! After Sherry convinced him to change his mind, she quickly made him one (she just HAPPENED to have the extra tulle with her??!) on Friday night after checking into their hotel! When she delivered it to him at Cool Ray Field, he still wasn't completely sure about the whole thing!! Watching him put it on was priceless!!

Sherry and Conor

Randy and Sherry

I felt so blessed to have my old friend Judy join us! Judy and I have been friends since we were 12 years old and she has always been one of my biggest supporters in my crazy running adventures! She doesn't run herself, but she was more than ready to join in and walk! Judy provided the adorable hats for the team! 

Laurie and Judy

In addition to my old friends-I had a new friend join in! Angelle works with Ray, and she came out to show her support! Such a sweet woman!

Angelle and Ray

Yes-that's my sweet hubby wearing the tutu! Oddly enough, he was pretty quickly convinced to wear the tutu and tights!!

Ray, Pam, Conor, Alex

I had so much fun, but I also got very emotional at times. Seeing my name on the Survivor board evoked so many different emotions.

As I mentioned, I wasn't sure that I would be able to complete the 3.1-mile course. I had some lab work done on Friday, and I had been feeling unusually lethargic. However, once out on the course with my family, friends and all of the other pink wearing warriors-how could I NOT finish?? Actually, by mile two, Sherry and I were planning our next marathon! NYC-2018!!! Alex said she's in for her first full marathon! Judy and Laurie said they would be there to cheer us on!

It's amazing how empowered you start to feel after making it through such a terrible year! I realized that I really AM a SURVIVOR!!!

Pam's Pink Posse

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Lumpy Breast or Breast Cancer?

Today is an anniversary of sorts for me......

Exactly one year ago, I was at my Primary Care Physician’s office trying to convince her assistant that I did INDEED need a referral for a diagnostic mammogram.

I was taking a shower when I realized that my right breast was feeling really heavy compared to my left one. I immediately did a self-breast exam. I could not believe what I was feeling-not a tiny lump, but a huge knot in the bottom portion of my breast. HOW was I just noticing something that BIG?? I just stood there frozen for what seemed like forever. And then I promptly finished showering-got dressed and called to make an appointment with my PCP. I was told that she would not be in the office for a few days, but after I explained the situation (and possibly begged a little bit), I was told that I could see the PA  that same afternoon. I wasn’t thrilled about seeing the PA because when dealing with her on a couple of previous occasions, I felt that she was a bit “incompetent.” However, I needed to see someone to get the referral. I didn’t want to wait.

I was so shocked when the PA sort of laughed after examining me and said, “It’s NOTHING. You have lumpy breasts. The left one feels the same way.” NO, lady-it does NOT! I usually tend to trust what medical professionals tell me (well-up until then I did,) but I KNEW that I needed a diagnostic mammogram and I insisted that I get that referral! This woman made me feel silly and somewhat hysterical for insisting, but I stood my ground on this one, and I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did.

After receiving the referral, I made an appointment at the Gwinnett Breast Center. First up was the diagnostic mammogram, which is a bit more painful than the normal mammogram, and it took much longer. The technician took a LOT of images and then took them to be examined by their doctor, after which she took MORE images. She then took those in for the doctor to see and was told to take even MORE images. At that time I was escorted back into the waiting area to find out what the next step would be.

I have to say that although I was very anxious, the staff at this Breast Center were so kind and accommodating-offering warmed blankets, beverages, snacks, and kind words that made the wait somewhat more bearable.

Then came an ultra-sound, followed by waiting for the doctor to look at the results. And then the doctor came in and did another ultra-sound herself. Things started to get a bit blurry around this time, because my fears were starting to be confirmed, even without actually hearing the words. The technician who did the mammograms was especially kind, and we chatted quite a bit during my trips back and forth from the waiting area to different examining rooms, and after the last round of images she had to take, she looked at me, grabbed me and gave me a hug. And that was when I knew for sure.

When I left the Breast Center, I was given a referral for a breast biopsy and written on the paper were the words-Highly suspicious for breast cancer.

After the biopsies (one on my breast and another on the lymph nodes under my arm), I was told that I would see my surgeon on October 3rd for the results. October 3rd was a Monday, and I have to say that it was a VERY long weekend.

Monday, October 3, 2016
As I sat with Ray in Dr. Quill’s examining room, I was wondering exactly HOW he would tell me that I had cancer. Up until that point, no one had said those words to me. I also wondered if he would tell me I was going to die.

As it turns out-Dr. Quill was very matter-of-fact. He walked into the room and said, “So, you are positive for breast cancer.” He didn’t give me very long for that to sink in before he said, “Are you ready to fight this thing?” I vaguely remember babbling something about how I had no choice…..I had a 15 y/o at home, a daughter in college and other kids and grandkids and that I HAD to fight! He then said, “Good-this thing is curable. We are going to fight it with every weapon available-chemo, surgery, and radiation. The treatments are going to suck, but we can do this." He then explained the expected treatment protocol and said that I should see Dr. Saker, my Oncologist right away so that we could get started immediately. And so the fight began.


Have you ever doubted and/or questioned a medical providers diagnosis or advice? Have you ever found out later that you were misdiagnosed at your doctor’s office?

I believe that we have to be our own patient advocates. We need to listen to our bodies, ask questions, do research and if at all possible with something potentially serious-get a second opinion.

So today, September 21, 2017- I CELEBRATE! No, I'm not celebrating the fact that I found a lump in my breast one year ago. I'm celebrating that I stood my ground, got the proper diagnostic tests done and started my journey toward healing!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Good News (mostly!)

Good morning, Y'all!

I have some good news to share today! I received the results from my CT and bone scans and there was no cancer showing on either one! It seems that the pain I have been experiencing is due to a small (ish) fluid filled cyst. The cyst was most likely caused by my surgery. The doctor said that for now, he's hoping that it will get better with the use of a heating pad and some exercise. If it does continue to get bigger I will have to see a surgeon so that he can drain it with a needle, but hopefully, that won't be needed.

The scans also showed that I have a cyst on my pancreas and a gallstone.WTH?? Anything else??! Anyway, the doctor didn't seem too concerned about either and said that they are just something we need to keep an eye on. Today I'm doing a bit of research on both gallstones and pancreatic cysts to see if there is anything I can do to prevent them from becoming a bigger issue. Maybe a change in my diet?? We'll see. 

I mentioned in my post on Wednesday that I had been in a bit of a funk, but I'm happy to say that I am feeling much better emotionally today! Obviously, a big factor is the good news about my scans, but the other reason is that I got outside for a walk on this glorious, cool, sunny day!

As much as I've missed getting outside for a walk or jog, I'm pretty impressed with myself for getting out there today! I was so tired this morning and didn't have a lot of energy, most likely due to the fact that I was up later than usual watching my beloved New England Patriots getting their butts kicked.

NOT how that game was supposed to go!

I only went 1.18 miles and it felt like 18 miles, but I'll take it!!

I'm hoping to get some mileage in this weekend because I have to get ready for that upcoming Paint Gwinnett Pink 5k!

I will be praying for all of those who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey and those who are being or will be affected by Irma. We have been told to expect some stormy weather here in the Atlanta area early next week due to Irma, but it's still a little unclear as to how much of the effects we will feel.

Do you live in a place that's being affected by either of the hurricanes? Let me hear from you.

Take care and stay safe, Y'all!
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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sunshine Tomorrow

Hey, Y'all! It's been awhile!

I really did intend to write something sooner, but I've been in a bit of a funk and didn't want to write a post that was full of whining and complaining. I guess I was waiting for the storm to pass so that I could write a happy, sunshiny (is that even a word??) post. Today I realized that it might take a bit longer than I would like for this storm to pass. Since my blog title sort of indicates that my life isn't always filled with sunshine (whose is??), I thought I would go ahead and share some things that are going on in my life right now.

One morning about a week and a half ago I woke up with a lot of pain in my upper right shoulder and back. I thought maybe I had slept in a weird position, causing the pain and that it would get better after being up for awhile. Unfortunately not only did it not get better that day,  but it got a little worse each day after that. I finally called my PCP to see if I could get in to have her take a look. She was out of the office the first day I called, and on the second day of not getting a call back from her, I decided I should call someone at my Breast Center. By then I was also having problems with numbness in two of the fingers on my right hand as well as a lot of pain in the area where the surgeon removed the eleven lymph nodes.

My Oncologist was out of the office, and I saw his assistant. The PA spoke with my doctor after examining me, and together they decided to have the CT and bone scans that I was scheduled to have the end of September moved up since I was now having these symptoms.

So, today I went in for my scheduled scans. I had to be at the hospital at 8:30 am so that I could have some dye injected into my veins. I then went in for the CT scan which didn't take very long and was only slightly uncomfortable. The bone scan could not be done until 3 hours after the dye was injected, so I had to hang around the hospital for quite awhile.

I have had many different scans done since being diagnosed, but this was my first bone scan-not to be confused with a bone density scan!

I was told that a bone scan can reveal bone problems associated with:

  • arthritis
  • bone cancers
  • cancer that has spread to the bones from other parts of the body
  • fractures
  • infection involving the bone

The bone scan was a bit more of a challenge for me because I had to lay flat on my back for 25 minutes and it was a bit uncomfortable, especially with the pain in my upper back. Also, WHY is it that when you have to lie flat on your back without moving, everything starts to itch, you have to cough, you get cramps or something to make laying there so much harder?! Anyway, I made it through without too much squirming, and now I just have to wait for the results.

As stressful as the back and hand issues have been, the REAL stressor has been the fact that my insurance has been canceled and I am now paying out of pocket for all medical care, including the scans that were done today. I won't go into all of the gory details because I would be ranting for DAYS, but I will say that it's a shame when the stress of dealing with insurance issues is more stressful than having breast cancer.

It hasn't helped that I haven't been able to get out for any real walking, much less running since this back issue began, because exercise is such a great stress reliever for me, as I'm sure it is for most of us. I'm really hoping to be able to get out tomorrow since my back is feeling so much better and I don't have any doctor's appointments or anything.

Now that I have shared some of the reasons I have been in a bit of a funk and uncommunicative, I will leave you with something that popped up on my FB feed a few minutes ago.......

May we all enjoy some sunshine tomorrow!