Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March 2011

Exactly three years ago I started neoadjuvant chemotherapy in my battle against breast cancer. I was scared, but never alone (even when I was by myself).

This systemic neoadjuvant therapy (chemo) is sometimes used in cancers that are locally advanced - where an operation is technically planned at a later stage. For me, the use of this therapy effectively reduced the difficulty of more extensive procedures. Although I still underwent surgery and 33 weeks of radiation therapy.

I am grateful that the use of this therapy turned the tumour from mastectomy size to lumpectomy size by shrinking the volume down. Common tumors that use this concept include:

Breast Cancer
Colorectal cancer
Lung cancer

Every day is a celebratory lap, and I invite you to participate in the HCI “Pride For Pink” team for the 2011 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. The Salt Lake City race will be held on Saturday, May 7th, 2011, at the Gateway Mall (downtown).

To register for the race or make a donation for our team visit:

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Emails ~

My cute cousin Carrie who lives in Texas frequently emails my mom and asks for updats ect. I wish I would have started posting them a long time ago, but I guess I'll just start now...

"Hi Aunt Rebecca-
I think I have told you this before but I just feel it so strongly. You are amazing. I can't believe what the last months have put you and your family through, and here you are now, a survivor in every single way. You really have made a impact on me and have changed me for the better.
The only thing I can't understand is how, even with no hair, you looked better than the rest of us! I was thinking maybe we could have passed you up for a few months... and now that your hair is back we have lost all hope. ;)
Still love you and still think of you and still remember all of you in my prayers.

P.S. In case no one has reminded you today: You are cancer free! It just sends chills up me to think about what you have accomplished- physically, spiritually, emotionally, occupationally (that last one was for going through the job loss with Mark). I can't imagine being where you are now- seeing what you are made of. It has totally changed my outlook on life. I can't complain anymore thanks to you. I just feel like if you were okay with what you went through I should be okay with life too- and not only okay with life but grateful for all of it- even the crummy parts. Love you!"

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Update on Mom - August 25, 2008

Hello Family and Friends,

It's been a little over a month since Rebecca's surgery, and she just keeps getting better. She is my hero, my best friend, my love, my strength. I can't express enough how much I admire her, and though she thinks she leaned on me during this test, how much I lean on her now. She is truly beautiful and strong.

Rebecca has made marvelous progress in her health. Although the initial surgery went very well, and the results gave us the best news we could have possibly hoped for (she is now cancer-free!!!), she did have one speed-bump after surgery.

Nine days after the lumpectomy, Rebecca had an artery start leaking. "Leaking" may be an understatement, because she immediately began swelling up within about 30 minutes. At 2:30am sudden swelling and pain can be particularly disconcerting. But, it was even more so because we were, at that time, on a much-needed family vacation in Virginia. We had to take her to an unfamiliar emergency room at an unfamiliar hospital in an unfamiliar town to be treated by an unfamiliar surgeon. By that afternoon, Rebecca had to have emergency surgery to go back into the area of her lumpectomy to repair the damaged artery. Fortunately, it went very well -- and the doctors and nurses were great -- and she was back at the hotel resting that night.
We were able to finish our trip and enjoy the rest of our time with Alyssa -- though at a little more leisurely pace.

Since then, Rebecca has been improving greatly -- mostly healed now and swelling almost back to normal. Most of her energy has also returned, and she has gone back to work. Her hair is even growing back -- it's out between and quarter inch or half inch now! I think Rebecca is every bit as beautiful with this new hair as she was before we "buzzed" her about 6 months ago.

She seems to have two lingering symptoms, though, from all of the chemo and other treatments. She still has a lot of insomnia (despite some sleeping aids), and a lot of pain in her hips (similar to that experiened during chemo and the "day-after" neulasta shot). The doctors don't seem to be very concerned about the insomnia -- though it's very frustrating for Rebecca. Perhaps she is just having anxiety about the next phase (radiation) or my current unemployed status now (which gives me a lot of insomnia, too). The hip pain is apparently a somewhat common side effect that the doctors said could last a while.

Regardless, Rebecca is a good sport, and really doesn't let it affect her spirit and attitude.

After we returned from vacation, Rebecca was recommended by her Huntsman surgeon to go to a unique massage therapist, who helped showed us techniques for improving the recovery and drainage of Rebecca's lymphatic system. This seemed to help reduce swelling fairly quickly and relax her somewhat.

Today, Rebecca starts the last phase of her treatment -- radiation. Initially this gave her the most consternation during this entire journey -- because of the horrible experience her mother had with radiation well over 20 years ago. However, techniques and treatments have gotten dramatically better since then, and most of her concerns have been addressed. Today is the final "fitting" session, in which the radiation oncologist prepares everything for the 15-minute treatments Rebecca will have every day (except weekends) for the next 33 days starting tomorrow.

As tedious as this will become, we are thankful to be in the final phase and know that she is cancer free. The only side effects we expect are loss of energy and tiredness, and possible redness/burning (like sunburn). Virtually no one gets sick or loses hair anymore like they did 20 years ago.

A logical question is why does Rebecca need to have radiation at all if she is cancer-free? "Cancer-free" means that they believe that they have either killed all cancer cells or removed any remaining ones during surgery (that's what "clear margins" means). There is no detectable remnants of any cancer in her body. However, cancer can still recur down the road, particularly in the same breast. Statistically, radiation after lumpectomy has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of recurrence. So, we're basically taking preventive measures -- not treating any remaining or detectable cancer. It's just an "insurance policy", and it's all confined to the same breast. They take special precautions to prevent/minimize radiation exposure to any other part of the body.

I know this has been a long update -- but I hope it helps our friends and family see that we're doing pretyy well, and we're almost through.
Updates will come more slowly now, as things aren't changing as quickly now on the downslope of our journey.

I also hope these updates give hope to any others who might have to take this journey themselves or with loved ones sometime down the road. There is hope -- and we've certainly gained a lot of strength and love from all of you who have supported us on our way. We gained a lot of new friends in the process, and learned to value our former friends more.

Many thanks and much love to you all,


Monday, July 21, 2008

After the surgery - July 17th

Hi Friends and Family --

Rebecca is recuperating this week from surgery. She has had a lot of pain and discomfort since coming home from the hospital. But we are boosted by the knowledge that it only gets better from here.
In addition, we got the final pathology results back from surgery this afternoon. Just a little background first -- when Rebecca was initially diagnosed back in late February, her tumor measured about 3.5 centimeters long (according to MRI and PET scans). About a week before surgery, a post-chemo MRI indicated that it had shrunk by about 1/3, which would have put it at a little over 2 cm.
After surgery, our doctor told me that it had actually shrunk even more than that, judging from what she observed during the operation itself.
Well, the pathology report today indicated that the tumor was down to about .7 cm -- which means it had actually shrunk by about 80% from the chemotherapy!!!! All of the margins around the tumor were clear of cancer, as was the single lymph node that was removed. It should be all downhill from here!
So, we continue to be amazed at how fortunate and blessed we have been. Even though Rebecca is quite sore right now, we know this is temporary and she will heal quickly. We are so grateful for the phenomenal medical care and advice Rebecca has received, for the blessings we have received, and for your faith and prayers that have helped to guide us through this.

All our love and thanks,

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Dear Friends and Family --

This has been a great day for us -- and was a real confirmation of how truly blessed we have been.
Rebecca had surgery today to remove her cancerous tumor. It could not have gone better.
The MRI that Rebecca had about a week and a half ago showed that chemotherapy had successfully reduced the size of her tumor by about 1/3. Our oncologist and surgeon had also both expressed how much the tumor had softened up and become indistinguishable from the other tissue around it. This was a good sign, showing that the chemotherapy had been killing off the cancer.
We got to Huntsman this morning at about 7am. Rebecca first had to have a "wire localization" done -- which is a little procedure in which a doctor, guided by a mammogram, inserts a wire inside a needle into the breast tissue ending just behind the location of the tumor. The wire lets surgeon know exactly how deep to cut to remove the tumor, and is removed with the excised tumor. This insertion is not a pleasant experience, because the wire goes in a good 2 to 3 inches. But Rebecca endured this well.
A couple of hours later, Rebecca also received 2 shots of a radioactive agent, one directly behind the nipple and another just under the skin. The radioactive dye is absorbed by the breast tissue and then drains into the lymphatic system. During surgery, the doctors use a Geiger counter to trace the dye back through the lymph nodes so they can locate, remove, and biopsy each lymph node until they are certain that the cancer has not spread beyond that point. In a lumpectomy, they typically expect to remove at least 3 and usually up to 6 lymph nodes to be certain it has not spread.
We were supposed to have surgery at 12:30pm, but unscheduled emergencies delayed Rebecca's surgery until 4:20 in the afternoon. (This became quite a "fast" for us, since neither of us had eaten since the night before, and Rebecca couldn't have anything to eat or drink before surgery.)
An hour and a half later, the surgeon came out (just before 6pm) to give me the results. Not only did she say that everything had gone extremely well, but she said that the tumor had actually shrunk more than what the MRI had indicated (probably 50% instead of only 33%), and that it appeared to be completely localized. They easily removed the tumor and a "clear margin" around it. In addition, the radioactive dye, instead of lighting up several lymph nodes, all collected in a single ("sentinel") lymph node. They removed just that one lymph node -- and it tested clear of cancer -- completely negative! Of course, we had already expected from prior tests that the cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes -- but to have to remove only one is rare, and extremely positive. It's less invasive and does not even require a drain.
These results are better than we could have imagined or reasonably asked for.
But here's another amazing part. I met Rebecca in recovery at about 6:30. By 7:30, we were on our way home! Rebecca is now sleeping peacefully in her own bed, with the calm assurance that everything went just as well as it possibly could have.
I want to share with you my belief that we have been so blessed and sustained by our Savior during this whole trial. During some of our darkest hours in the days early after the discovery of Rebecca's cancer, and well before we had even completed the diagnostics or had a plan to treat this disease, Rebecca received a blessing from our Stake President. In this blessing, the first thing he had stated was that he "felt very impressed to tell Rebecca that her cancer would go into remission, and that she would be OK." It was a bold thing for him to promise at that time, but we know that the Spirit of the Lord, who sees all things, had guided him.
A couple of weeks ago, after her final chemotherapy, Rebecca told me that "we're going to beat this disease! We're going to win!" I told her then, that she may not have recognized it yet, but that we had actually already won this battle on the night she had received the President's blessing. Before we even had known the stage or progress of her cancer, we had been promised that it would be OK. And since then, every diagnosis, test, and treatment has worked in our favor. It has not been an easy journey at all, and Rebecca has certainly received excellent medical care -- but we have travelled this path in faith that things would work out -- and they are. Some might call this luck, but we believe it is because of the faith, prayers, fasting, service, positive attitude, and love of all of you who have done these things on Rebecca's behalf.
We are not done yet -- Rebecca will need a couple of weeks to recover, and then 6 weeks of radiation will commence in about a month. But we are already confident of the outcome.
We have been so impressed and humbled by the generous support, compassion, and sacrifices that so many of you have shown us during this trial. Our hearts our so filled, and we are so honored to call you our Friends. Thank you all so much for you kindness and help.
May you all be as blessed as we have been . . .


Monday, July 14, 2008

Just a quick surgery update!

Well the next step for mom is already here…This morning at 6:30 she went in to begin her procedures before her lumpectomy this afternoon. She had to have long metal pins inserted through her breast tissue to mark the tissue that is to be removed. She stated that “it wasn’t extremely pleasant, but its over” (not to mention that it took three times until it was in the right place). Now she is waiting for the anesthesiologist to come in so that they can begin surgery.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Done with Chemo!!!

Hi Everyone --
I've been meaning to send an update on Rebecca for some time. She finished her final chemo treatment about 2 weeks ago, and is doing very well. They reduced the final dosage by 25% in order to alleviate some of the side effects she was having, such as headaches, tissue and bone pain, and swelling in her legs. In addition, she didn't have to have a Neulasta shot the day after chemo -- because it is intended to speed up white blood cell generation in order to get ready for the next chemo treatment. Not having this shot seemed to really help reduce the bone pain and discomfort.
She was pretty tired until about 3 days ago -- but her energy seems to be returning now - she's up to about 70% and back to work. The only remaining problem she is dealing with is numbness in her feet and swelling in her ankles and calves. She is taking Neurontin for the "neuropathy" or numbness and tingling that comes from taxol chemotherapy. She is also taking Lasix, which is a diuretic for the swelling. Both seem to be get slowly better, but the swelling gets worse the longer she stays on her feet. So we encourage her to slow down and keep her feet elevated -- even when not having to walk around.
Rebecca went in for her MRI on Monday night to check to see how much the tumor has shrunk and to make sure that no other sites have appeared during chemo. We should get the results back today or tomorrow, but we are very confident that the results are going to be very positive.
During Rebecca's final exam prior to the last chemo, the oncologist said that if she didn't know where the tumor had been, she would not have been able to differentiate between the tumor and normal breast tissue. This is a very good sign -- indicating that the chemo has killed much, if not all of the cancer, and it has softened and receded. This effect is what allowed us to decide on a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy. Unless there is some highly unusual findings from the MRI, Rebecca will have surgery on July 14 to remove the area where the tumor was. (Even though the cancer is probably dead at this point, they must remove the tissue and surrounding margins to prevent recurrence. I think the doctors said that the chance of recurrence if they don't remove it is quite high -- like 60% over the next several years.) Because we opted for a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy, Rebecca will have to follow up surgery with 6 weeks of local radiation starting in mid- to late-August. If you have a mastectomy, radiation is usually not required unless the cancer spread into lymph nodes. Rebecca has had no signs of her cancer spreading anywhere.
Some of you may have wondered why we opted for a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy. There are several reasons. First, and most importantly, the survival rates between the two options are the same. The rates of recurrence are very similar, though barely higher for the lumpectomy. However, because Rebecca will be undergoing more frequent and intensive examinations after treatment, any recurrence will be detected much earlier. In the event of recurrence, mastectomy is the next option anyway. Finally, the lumpectomy is a same-day surgery, will a much shorter recovery, and with far fewer side effects (such as possible edema in her arms). In addition, lumpectomy usually does not require any painful, long-term reconstruction. All-in-all, lumpectomy is a very safe, less traumatic, and more conservative approach.
We are looking forward to getting through this phase and returning to a more normal life. Chemo is usually the most difficult aspect of cancer treatment, and in hindsight, we're glad to have opted to have the chemo first ("neo-adjuvant" therapy) before surgery. Rebecca has been so strong and positive during her chemo that we're sure it's only going to get easier from here. She has responded so well, and every test has gone in our favor. We have been told that radiation will also cause additional fatigue and possibly some burning so we'll be slowing down again during that phase of the treatment.
We have been so blessed to have had so much support during this trial. Can you believe that it's been 4 1/2 months since Rebecca was diagnosed and we started this journey? There is no doubt that Rebecca's faith, strengthened by the prayer's, fastings, and compassionate service of so many friends and family members, has gotten us this far.
We have a new challenge now though -- I was laid off from my work last week as part of a cost-cutting initiative. So we will start a new test, but with Rebecca improving rapidly, gaining strength, and with hope towards a full recovery within just a couple more months!
Thank you again, dear friends and family, for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dad's update - June 3, 2008

Hi Everyone --

Rebecca had her 7th chemo treatment yesterday (the 3rd in the Taxol series). Her last chemo treatment will be in 2 weeks on June 17th!!!!
She also had her final Neulasta shot today -- it won't be necessary after the final chemo because they do not need to accelerate rebuilding her white blood count, since there are no more chemo treatments after the next one. Her count will just rebuild on its own in 3 weeks or so anyway.
This is great news because the Neulasta is what gives Rebecca joint and bone pain for several days after each treatment.
She has been tired, and has been working a little less, which is good. The Taxol treatments have affected her with muscle and tissue pain (besides the joint pain above), and swelling in her ankles and lower legs. She still has headaches sometimes, which we try to control with alternating doses of Ibuprofen and Tylenol. Most other side effects have been fairly mild (mouth sores very occasionally), and some numbness/tingling in her hands and feet.
This has been a long marathon -- can you believe we've been in treatment now for over 2 1/2 months? Looking back, it actually has gone by pretty quickly -- but we are very glad to be near the finish line for chemo. Rebecca is a survivor!!!
We met with the surgeon and radiation oncologist last Thursday and the prognosis is looking good. They both confirmed that Rebecca is still a good candidate for a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy, and it is a more conservative approach, without much additional risk of recurrence. Long-term survival rates are virtually the same either way. So that is the treatment we are leaning towards.
The tumor continues to shrink and soften, which is good. In fact, the surgeon remarked that it was good they had marked the center of the tumor with a titanium marker, or she would have a difficult time finding it again during surgery! I'm sure that's a slight exaggeration, but clearly this is good news and we're headed in the right direction. It will make surgery and recovery a lot easier.
Lumpectomy is an outpatient surgery, and is tentatively scheduled for July 14th (about a month after the last chemo). Rebecca will have an MRI done the week before to determine her current condition. Recovery will take about a week or two. Radiation would probably start 4 to 6 weeks after surgery.
So there you have it! Rebecca's attitude and spirits are great -- she is eating and resting well, and still enjoying life through it all. She has so many friends, and loves seeing our kids and grandkids to keep her going strong.
Thanks for all of your prayers and thoughts, kind deeds and generosity!


*Side note: Mom's little sister came into town last weekend and they had a wonderful time with one to come! It was so good to see you Aunt Patti! Love you

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dad's Update - May 21st, 2008

Hello Everyone –
I’ve been very remiss in getting out updates lately, but we’ve got a lot of news to report.
We have finally gotten the results back from Rebecca’s genetic testing for the breast cancer genes. The great news is that she tested negative! This is wonderful not only for Rebecca, but for our daughters and Rebecca’s sisters as well.
But as good as this news is, it doesn’t really narrow down our choices for Rebecca’s surgery. Choices can sometimes be difficult, not just because they are confusing, but because the responsibility for making them and living with the consequences adds pressure.
Let me try to explain by giving you the background we learned this week.
Our genetics counselor told us that about 10% of the general female population in the US will develop breast cancer sometime over the course of their lifetimes. About 1.7% of the general population will develop ovarian cancer.
For females with the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genes, however, these risks skyrocket up. Between 50 to 80% of women who test positive will develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetimes, and 40% will develop ovarian cancer. This huge increase is exactly why Rebecca’s tests are such a great relief. Rates of recurrence of breast cancers are impacted dramatically by the presence of this gene. That is why those women who test positive often choose to have a bilateral mastectomy and an ooforectomy (removal of ovaries) – because the probability of recurring cancer is so likely. Mastectomy reduces the chance of recurrence by about 90%.
So why does this make the choices for Rebecca – who tested negative – more difficult? For a couple of reasons. First, Rebecca’s family has a history of breast cancer at early ages (her mom at 50, Rebecca under 50, great aunts, etc.). Geneticists believe there are more genetic causes that are still undiscovered. For women with a family history of early onset breast cancer, the chances are that 20-30%will get breast cancer sometime during the course of their lives (as opposed to 10% in the general population). (There is no statistical increase in the rate of ovarian cancer for women in breast cancer families --still just 1.7% -- which is good news).
So what options do we have to consider? From most severe to least, they are:
Bilateral mastectomy – reduces chance of recurrence by 90%, but is a radical surgery, longer recovery, painful reconstruction, greatly decreased sensitivity, psychological adjustment, higher likelihood of lymphedema (painful swelling of lymph nodes in arms, etc).
Simple mastectomy – reduces chance of recurrence in same breast, but still leaves risk that cancer develops in other one, and similar side effects as above.
Lumpectomy – out-patient surgery, rapid recovery, minimal scarring, no reconstruction, but requires radiation follow-up, and leaves the possibility of re-occurrence of cancer in the same breast.
We are still evaluating all of the statistics and risks, but we don’t have to make a decision for another month or so. We are consulting with our oncologist and surgeon next week.
It is interesting to note that despite the difference in surgeries, and the different risks of recurrence, the survival rates and longevity for each surgery are virtually identical. In other words, even if a lumpectomy patient has a new occurrence of cancer, she is still likely to live as long as one with a bilateral mastectomy because of early detection and advanced treatments.
Our oncologist says Rebecca is most likely a good candidate for lumpectomy, her tumor continues to shrink and is getting “mushy” (and, in the doctor’s words, “mushy is good”.) Lumpectomy is the most conservative treatment, and is the course we were pursuing when we first started the neo-adjuvant (before surgery) chemotherapy.
The oncologist says that recurrence falls into three categories:
Metastatic – the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. At this point, this risk is low (cancer was stage 2, caught early, not in lymph nodes, etc.), but the choice of surgery has no impact whatsoever on this risk – you have the same risk with a lumpectomy or a mastectomy.
Recurrence in same breast – a mastectomy reduces this risk, since the breast is removed, though it can still reappear in the skin that’s preserved. However, with a lumpectomy, this risk is only about 1% per year anyway.
Recurrence in other breast – a bilateral mastectomy reduces this risk also, though with a lumpectomy, the risk is still only about ½ % per year.
So the question before us is this – is it worth it to have a mastectomy or bilateral to improve the odds against a recurrence by just ½% or 1% per year? We’ve got a month to decide.
On the bright side, as of the completion of Rebecca’s 6th chemo session yesterday (her second Taxol treatment), we are now 75% of the way through!! Yeah!! Six down, two to go!!
Rebecca is doing remarkably well – she is strong, very positive, and still very active. The main adverse impacts have been tiredness, tissue and bone pain starting the second day and lasting a few days, swelling, and fast heartbeat/out of breath. Also, Rebecca may lose her eyebrows and eyelashes in the next few days. But, on the bright side, the nausea and headaches are pretty much gone, and she has been sleeping much better. Her spirits have been very good, and she is looking forward to summer! And her hair – including eyelashes and eyebrows will grow back!

Regardless, she is still beautiful.
Thanks to all of you again for your prayers, love, and support.

Race for the CURE!!! - May 10, 2007

A couple weekends ago, many of us were able to participate in Susan G. Koman's "Race for the Cure." Amy Erickson, a friend from work, put together our team. She did such a great job and put a lot of work into making this happen. We had so much fun and were so amazed at how many people (including survivors) were there. Those who planned on running the race, couldn't because it was impossible to get around anyone on the street because it was so really was an incredible sight! Needless to say, when we walked across the finish line, we finished it at an amazing time 1:24:22!!! woohoo! Mom walked the whole way and was such a trooper (I know she wasnt feeling so great that morning). She was all smiles and was so grateful for the support. Our team raised over $4,000 dollars for SGK Breast Cancer Research! Thanks so much to everyone who helped make this possible! We love you.

Here are a few photos for your enjoyment!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dad's update - May 7th, 2008

Hello Family and Friends –

We just wanted to give you a quick update from what we learned in the chemo session yesterday – Rebecca’s 5th out of 8 treatments. Hey, hey – we’re almost 2/3’s of the way through chemo!!!
This was the first treatment with the drug called Taxol (paclitaxel). The actual infusion was quite a bit longer than previous infusions – we arrived at 8am and left at 4:40pm. Some of this was due to additional precautions that the nurses take when administering a new regimen to look for reactions, side effects, etc. But some of it is just that Taxol goes in slower.
In any event, although it was a long day, everything went very well. Rebecca had no unusual reactions yesterday during administration. More importantly, Rebecca’s tumor has significantly softened and shrunk (by about 25 to 30%). This is just based upon the doctor’s physical examination, and she expects it to continue to shrink throughout the duration of chemo.
Finally, for most patients, Taxol has fewer and less intensive side effects than the Adriamycin/Cytoxin that Rebecca was on previously. The doctor expects her morning headaches to diminish. And Taxol does not cause the nausea associated with A/C. So, hopefully this should be a lot more tolerable than the other stuff. It will, however, complete the hair removal process -- by the time we go in next, her eyelashes and brows will be temporarily lost.
Rebecca still has to have the Neulasta shot the day after chemo to rebuild her blood counts. In addition, Taxol itself seems to cause a little more bone pain a couple of days after injection. So, we’ll be looking out for that, and we do have a pain prescription in addition to ibuprofen if this starts up. Also, about 1/3 of patients experience numbness or tingling in their hands and feet, as though their limbs were falling asleep. Most of these are “minor” – but about 1 in 30 have more annoying symptoms. It is treatable with another medication if Rebecca happens to experience any of this.
Rebecca didn’t sleep as well last night after the treatment, but this was probably just due to anxiety about the new treatment. Hopefully, and she will get back to more normal sleeping soon. She was up all day yesterday during and after treatment – in fact, she felt well enough that we went shopping briefly afterward for a Mother’s Day gift, and got an ice-cream shake on the drive home.Finally, many of our family and friends are joining together in the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure this Saturday morning in downtown Salt Lake City. This has been a great effort organized by one of Rebecca’s co-workers, Amy Erickson. We will be meeting on the Northwest Entrance of the Energy Solutions Arena at 8:00 a.m. The 5K walk/run starts at 8:30. It’s not too late to register. Family and friends who can’t complete the walk are welcome to come anyway and show support for Rebecca and the wonderful people who have helped Rebecca and our family so much. The shirts that Mica Johnson (HCI Marketing Manager) designed are awesome, too. We'll be wearing those instead of the white SGK shirts.
Rebecca will walk also, as far as she can, but I don’t know how far she’ll be able to drag me along with my bad knees. J
I hope to see many of you there – but for those who can’t be, please look for pictures on the blog next week.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Dad's update - May 5th, 2008

Hi Everyone –

Sorry – I’ve been delinquent on getting out an update on Rebecca. I know a lot of you are thinking about her, and would like to be able to make sure that everything’s going OK a little more frequently. I’m just behind on everything – but I’ll try to do better in the future!
We are now half-way through all of the chemo treatments. The first 4 treatments were with the chemicals adriamycin and cytoxin (known as “AC”), and those are now all complete. Tomorrow, we will start the second half of chemotherapy, with a completely different chemical agent. This one is Taxol, and it has a different set of potential side effects.
Rebecca was able to get through the first phase better than we feared when we began this course. She did have nausea (though she never threw up), headaches (very frequently, and often severe), bone pain (because of the Neulasta shots to increase white blood cell counts), and the worst thing – insomnia. She did have brief period with heartburn (which was mostly alleviated with Prilosec OTC), and with mouth sores. Both of these last two seemed to go away fairly quickly. In addition, Rebecca did get a respiratory infection, but rapid treatment with antibiotics knocked that out pretty quickly. The overall symptom which everyone experiences is fatigue and general tiredness. She also had “fuzzy” eyesight, which is a temporary side effect, but it keeps her from being able to read much. Occasionally, she has weird pains in weird places, but they always seem to be temporary for a half-day or day.
We don’t know exactly what to expect from Taxol (unlike “Tax-All”, the main platform in the Democratic party, which will make all of us sick and tired very quickly. Sorry – just had to see if any of you are awake while reading this.) First of all, Rebecca will have to go in today for a shot of steroids before we can start chemo tomorrow. This is to prevent a possible allergic reaction which occurs in some patients using Taxol. If she has no signs of reaction, they won’t have to pre-medicate her before the next sessions. The actual infusion takes a lot longer to administer. The AC took about an hour and a half to two hours for the actual infusion. Taxol requires several hours, in addition to all of the other procedures we do on infusion days (preliminary blood tests to make sure blood counts are OK, exams, consultations, IV preparation, etc.). So, the infusion days will probably be longer. And, Rebecca will still have to go in the day after infusion for the Neulasta shots.
As far as side effects, we don’t really know what to expect. The headaches are expected to diminish. The main potential side effect about which Rebecca has some anxiety is temporary numbness or tingling in hands and feet – sort of like when your hand or arm falls asleep and you feel the “needles” afterwards. We really hope she can avoid those!
Rebecca has had very good spirits. With the exception of the couple of weeks of insomnia, she has actually been doing remarkably well under the circumstances. Fortunately, we seem to have gotten better control of that recently. Last week, she went down to St. George with her friend Claudean for about 5 days to get away from work and be able to really get some rest and relaxation.
The good news is that we can tell that her tumor has both softened and shrunk significantly. We probably won’t have any medical tests to physically measure the shrinkage until after the chemo is all complete (about mid-June). This will be in preparation for whatever surgery we decide to take place in July.
We should get the results of Rebecca’s genetic testing this week. This test will tell us if Rebecca carries the gene that pre-disposes some women to breast cancer. If that is negative, we still have a very good chance of choosing a lumpectomy rather than a mastectomy. If she is positive, we will need to decide between a mastectomy, or worst case – a bilateral mastectomy. Even though she only has the cancer on one side, if she has the breast cancer gene, it may be best to choose to eliminate any chance of recurrence right now.
We are also looking forward to this Saturday when many friends and family will join us in the Susan G. Komen “Walk For The Cure” which her amazing coworkers at HCI have planned to do as a "team". The t-shirts they had made are really impressive (Mica in HCI's marketing department created the logo, Amy did all the planning and registering, Kiley's friend printed the t-shirts up at cost (did I mention Rebecca works with really amazing people?). Watch for pictures from our adventure next week.

Thank you all for your continuing love, faith, support, thoughts, and prayers.


Friday, April 18, 2008

You are Loved

This is a DVD mom's neice Carrie made for her. Scroll to the bottom and pause the music and come back up and check it out.

Dad's update - April 18th 2008

Hi everyone –
Although Rebecca seemed to almost “breeze” through her first 3 chemo treatments (transient side effects only), I think some of the cumulative effects have now caught up with her. The last few days have been a bit more difficult.
Last weekend, Rebecca really began having some difficulties with insomnia. Though she is very tired at night, and readily falls asleep at bedtime, she cannot remain asleep very long. She regularly wakes up between 1 and 2 am, and simply cannot fall back asleep. She has taken to getting up every night and trying to find things to occupy herself for 4 or 5 hours until it’s actually time to get up. She writes thank-you notes, answers emails, tries to read, takes warm baths, drinks “sleepy tea”, and otherwise worries herself with all of things that no one should be doing in the wee hours of the night.
She has also developed a cough that the doctors are concerned might be an infection of some kind. This is bad for someone on chemo, with a very diminished immune system, who is not getting enough sleep. So they have given her a 5-day antibiotic to try to knock this out before her next scheduled chemo treatment next Tuesday. She has also been advised to stay away from people in general to not pick up any colds or flu. We certainly do not want to have to delay the chemo schedule at this point. Rebecca is eager to get this behind us.
But as if insomnia and a cough weren’t enough, Rebecca has also been having headaches the last few nights, and the “bone pain” associated with the Neulasta shot (to rebuild white blood counts for your immunity system) seems to have hit her a little later this cycle. It started yesterday (about 3 days late), and instead of it being in her hips or thighs, it’s now in her ankles. Go figure. It just seems to move around a little each cycle. I don’t know what all this means, and I feel a little helpless as to how to help her. I can give her Advil and Tylenol, but I can’t make her sleep.
She is very tired and anxious about not sleeping. She can’t really seem to take naps either. We have tried a couple of different sleep prescriptions (Ambien) and OTC Benedryl, but so far it’s still like “Groundhog Day” for her – only she wakes up every day at 1:15am. We keep wondering what it is that Rebecca is supposed to learn, so that, like Bill Murray, we can move on!
I just wanted to give all of you a brief update. I know she could use some encouragement – so I want to tell you all how much we appreciate your calls, messages, little notes, kind thoughts, well wishes, and especially your prayers.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Great Attitude!

A co-worker of ours sent this email to my mom, she the replied to both him and I with the following respose: "I LOVE IT! Thank you for sharing that! I'm trying to embrace a "good attitude" -- And guess what! I DIDN'T HAVE TO FIX MY HAIR TODAY :)".
The email -
I saw this joke and thought you would enjoy it. I hope everything is going well for you, our prayers are with you!

"Great Attitude"There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and noticed she had only three hairs on her head."Well," she said, "I think I'll braid my hair today."So she did and she had a wonderful day.The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head."H-m-m, " she said, "I think I'll part my hair down the middle today."So she did and she had a grand day.The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head."Well," she said, "Today I'm going to wear my hair in a pony tail."So she did and she had a fun, fun day.The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that there wasn't a single hair on her head."YEA!" she exclaimed, "I don't have to fix my hair today!"As is evident, Attitude is everything!Have a Great Day! Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.... Leave the rest to God.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dad's update - April 11th 2008

Hello everyone,
Sorry I'm late on getting an update out to all of you. Rebecca had her third chemo treatment last Tuesday, and she continues to do well -- which is pretty much to say it's "status quo". They were able to get an IV started this time on the first try, which is better than the times before. Her blood chemistry (especially white blood counts) before the chemo were very good. She was able to work about a half day on Wednesday (the day after the treatment), and went back to work on Thursday pretty much full-time.
Unfortunately, chemotherapy drugs can cause mouth and esophagus ulcers, which have begun to manifest themselves in Rebecca. Her doctor has prescribed "Magic Mouthwash" that provides some relief. Other than that, there have been no dramatic changes in Rebecca's condition or side effects. Some side effects seem to have become a little more of a nuisance, but others seem to be less so.
The biggest problem right now is insomnia -- Rebecca gets very tired for the first few days after chemo, and she usually falls right to sleep at night (with the help of an anti-nausea aid called Lorazepam, and a sleeping aid called Ambien). However, she isn't able to stay asleep all night -- and often wakes up between 2:30am and 4:30am. She can't go back to sleep, so she just gets up and does "stuff". Which makes her even more tired. We're going to have the doctor suggest some alternatives that might help.
Rebecca says the nausea was a little more intense this time, but that still seems to be under control. She stays so very active -- and doesn't seem to let it slow her down any.
Obviously, she has lost all of her hair -- but she is very open and accepting about that -- and goes out of her way to make others feel comfortable with it, too. She went through a drive-thru the other day, and the attendent told her she had a really cool buzz cut. Rebecca told him, "Thank you; it's the most expensive hair cut I've ever had!" After a pause, he said, "Oh", and seemed to finally understand that her hair style wasn't voluntary. But it's so great that Rebecca is not self-conscious about it, and has such a great sense of humor. She is still 'hot' to me and acts so natural -- that this side effect simply has no impact on any of us anymore. Alyssa has also been very busy making her mom beautiful jewelry that match the scarves that Rebecca wears.
The headaches after chemo seemed to be far more manageable this time. We are anticipating that the "bone pain" from the Neulasta shot will probably hit in the next couple of days, and are a little more prepared this time with Advil and Tylenol. Last round it dropped her to her knees, lasted a couple of days, and then totally disappeared. It's a relatively short-lived side effect of the shot.
Rebecca's appetite remains good. She is eating normally, and has no problem except with hydrating. She says many things, especially water (which she normally guzzles) tastes metallic. She has been walking occasionally to get exercise, and now that the weather is starting to get better, we'll probably go on more walks outside together in the evenings.
Her next chemo round will be Tuesday, April 22nd, and it will be her last adriamyacin/cytoxin treatment ("red and clear gravy"). She will begin 4 bi-weekly treatments of taxol or taxotere 2 weeks later. We are expecting that there might be slightly different side effects with those chemicals -- but we'll cross that bridge later.
The only detectable change in the tumor so far is that is seems to be "softer" according to her oncologist. It doesn't appear to have gotten smaller yet -- but it's not any bigger either. The doctors told us we probably wouldn't see any dramatic changes until after the 3rd treatment. Perhaps that will be by the time we have the exam prior to the next chemo. The fact that the tumor is "softer" is good -- the oncologist said it is a sign that the chemo is having an impact (dissolving isn't the right word, but that's the concept).
We are also hoping to receive the results of the genetic testing from Myriad Genetics for the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes. This test will determine if Rebecca has the "breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer gene" that makes carriers more susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer. The results of this test may impact the surgery we choose for Rebecca after chemo. Unfortunately, the insurance carrier denied reimbursement for this test (which is very costly), but we felt it was important enough for Rebecca's health, as well as the future health of her children and sisters that we went ahead with it anyway. Her mom was diagnosed with BC at age 50 and passed at 56 and she also lost two maternal aunts to BC.
We continue to have the love and support of so many people in our neighborhood, ward, and Rebecca's work. They bring meals every night for the first week after a round of chemo, and Rebecca's co-workers have also arranged for a maid-service to clean the house once every other week for us! This is a total luxury; one we would never have considered, but it has been such a blessing to us. Rebecca has lots of friends who inquire after her, so we are well-cared for.
Thank you again for all of your prayers, kind thoughts, and well wishes.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Bald is BEAUTIFUL!!!

Last week some of the ladies and men here at work got together and took this photo for mom. They blew it up and left it for her in her office! So funny; thought you all would enjoy this.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Look at those eyes!

I love mom's eyes in this picture! This is her with Cade. Cade is mom's good friend Jen's son.

Another Dad Update - April 1, 2008

April Fool’s Day –

Sorry, I couldn’t think of much to fool about today that wouldn’t be cold and cruel.
I just wanted to give you a quick update on Rebecca this week. It’s been another week since her last chemo – and I think, all in all, Rebecca has tolerated this round perhaps a little better than the first one. She’s been more active and has been able to work during most of the time. It’s good to be able to stay busy.
However, most of her remaining hair is disappearing fast – this may be the hardest thing emotionally for a woman – especially while she’s in the “tweener” stage. The nice “buzz” cut Shelby gave her last week is getting patchy while it gradually falls out. Within a couple of days it will be all gone – but maybe getting through this transition will make it easier to deal with.
We’ve also had a couple of new side effects to work through – heartburn, insomnia, and slightly weakened vision. The impairment in vision is temporary – apparently the chemo slightly changes your eyes, so she is a little more near-sighted. She says her eyes feel “filmy”. I noticed this on Sunday when she couldn’t distinguish between 2 friends of ours at church. Both are bald – but only one was in the choir – and she couldn’t determine which one that was!
The heartburn and insomnia are apparently cumulative effects of chemo. So, we’ve gotten her some Prilosec and Tums to handle that, and some Ambien to help her sleep. She usually falls asleep just fine, but lately has awakened at about 4am and can’t go back to sleep. Hopefully, the Ambien will get her sleeping better.
We have been very well attended to by friends bringing meals and doing favors. We want to thank everyone so much for the meals, flowers, cards, and especially your prayers, thoughts, and well-wishes.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Dad's update and the shave! - March 27th 08


A Note from our Dad:
Hi Family and Friends --

Rebecca is now 25% of the way through chemotherapy! She had her second treatment on Tuesday this week. It was the same regimen -- red gravy and clear gravy. It took a little longer this time, though I'm not sure why. They did some blood tests just prior to the chemo to make sure her white blood counts and blood chemistry were good -- and they were very good. Rebecca seems to be very strong and handling this very well. Wednesday she went back for the Neulasta shot (the one we enjoy calling liquid gold -- enough said?). Some of you have wondered why they just automatically give this shot. Here's my layman's understanding. The chemotherapy not only kills cancer cells, but virtually all fast-growing cells (hair, mucous membranes, and certain blood cells). The actual chemo chemicals are flushed out of the body in a day or two. But the effects of the chemo take some time (for example, killing white blood cells takes several days). It takes white blood cells about 10 days to 2 weeks to replenish themselves. So, it used to be that breast cancer chemo was done on a 3-week cycle to allow time for the white blood cells to die (which is inevitable), and then to regenerate. However, studies apparently showed that more frequent application of chemotherapy was more effective in killing cancer. But patient's bodies did not have time to regenerate enough white blood cells in 2 weeks to enable them to be strong enough to tolerate more frequent chemo. Therefore Neulasta is given the day after chemo (24 hours later, most, in not all the chemo is passed out of the body) to stimulate production of white blood cells in 10-14 days -- just in time to start another chemo round 2 weeks later. It does no good to test the white blood count right before the Neulasta shot, because 24 hours isn't enough time for the count to fall yet, but they inject the Neulasta so it can begin the regen process quickly. Instead, they do test the patient's blood right before the next chemo treatment, but not to determine whether the white blood count has fallen or not. The chemo has most assuredly already done that -- that's just what chemo does. They test to see if the Neulasta has stimulated enough white cell production to allow the patient to endure another treatment, and a hour or so later, they start the chemo.

It's too early to tell how effective the chemo is in shrinking this tumor yet. The doctor indicated that we probably won't detect any change until at least after the 3rd A-C (adriamycin-cytoxin) treatment. So much for the medical lesson . . . Rebecca is doing remarkably well. She is naturally tired, and has nausea for a few days after treatment. She actually worked a half day at home yesterday, and again at work today. I've had to tell to go bed. She has a good appetite well.
However, her hair started falling out in large tufts on Tuesday -- the day we were due for the 2nd chemo. Even though her hair was still fairly full this morning, it was falling out much more quickly. So Shelby and Casey came over this morning at 7am, and gave Rebecca a "trim". Actually, Shelby kept cutting until we got the Sinead O'conner look, or the Demi Moore look in GI Jane. Along the way, we stopped to take pictures of Rebecca -- The Samuri Warrior. She could easily have been in one of the those Chinese calligraphy movies or hidden tiger, slouching dragon things. . . . if only we could have found a sword or some daggers (that reference is for Mikey's benefit). Anyway, as you can tell, she's keeping a great sense of humor, and a good outlook. This is only temporary, so she's trying to have fun with it. We have been so well taken care of by great friends and neighbors. Rebecca is blessed to work with an amazing group of people who offer her amazing support on the bad days. Her work associates and our church family have been alternating each first week of chemo in the cycle by bringing us meals. The food has been absolutely fantastic. Jenn Harris has helped Rebecca get her "gang colors". . . I mean exquisite scarves for her head and set her up with some good itunes to immerse herself in during treatments and times she's not resting well. She actually looks quite beautiful with or without the scarves. We have another dear neighbor, Carolyn, who came down to our house on her own accord, and decorated our front door with Rebecca's spring ensemble, and then came back and planted a few spring flowers in the front garden. The Zundels and Ockeys help with rides and activities for Alyssa. Still other friends and family have offered to take Rebecca for treatments and shots to allow me to get to work. Alyssa is doing very well, too, as many have asked. She is doing well in school, and she laughs. We try to keep as normal a routine as possible. Work, school, church, and activities are very much the same. We take time to slow down, too, to have some fun. We had a great Easter dinner with Sterling, Deanna, Shelby, Casey, and Michelle and her daughter Emma (Lizard's Beading Buddies). We can't begin to thank you for all of your prayers, thoughts, and well wishes. We really do feel them, and are richly blessed with real faith that we'll make it through this with the help of our Lord, family, and friends. Love, Mark
The first "BUZZ" piece
Mom has had such a great attitude about everything!
Alyssa is trimming mom's hair in this picture so there wouldn't be as much "pull"
The spike look looks good on mom!
Casey making the finsihing touches.
No matter what cut she gets, she looks good no matter what!
She looks good in her "do-rags", Jenn!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Race for the Cure!

Mom's friends at HCI have formed a team called "HCI's Pride for Pink" for the 5K race at the Gateway Mall on May 10th, 2008 at 8:30am. We will be running/walking in honor of her.The registration fee is $25. If you are interested in being a part of our team, register at

* We have also desinged a team t-shirt (which is pink). If you are interested in purchasing one, email Amy Erickson at - tell her what size you want and she will reply with payment options. She actually has a Mary Kay Business so she can take debit/credit cards too.

Here is the information on the shirt - When you purchase a "PRIDE for PINK" Race for the Cure team T-shirt for $10, the net proceeds will be donated to the
Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation

You can help HCI support the cause for Breast Cancer research and promote breast cancer awareness by wearing a Team t-shirt. Don’t be afraid to show your
Pride for Pink!!

Mom's new style - March 15, 2008

After the race, we went to Cafe Rio (mom has been craving Cafe Rio like crazy since whe started chemo) with mom and Casey. After Cafe Rio - Mom and I headed off to get her haircut! She wasn't nervous about chopping her hair, it was more of the "this is really happening to me" feeling that got her the most about losing her hair. But she continued to stay strong. Many of you have asked if she started crying - she didn't. She is ready to "get this cancer behind her and get on with her life!"

She actually had 10 inches to cut, so Emily put her hair in a pony-tail and her hair is now off to "Locks for Love"

The first look of her new style in the mirror. I love her smile you can see in the mirror she is holding up.Doesn't she look beautiful?
I think she looks gorgeous.

Rex Lee Run "Running for those we LOVE" - March 15, 2008

Alyssa and I (Rachelle) ran in the Rex Lee Run on Saturday - we were so excited to run together. We originally were going to run a 10K, but three weeks before the race I got phenomena and was instructed by my doctor not to start running till March 9th (six days before the race) - which means I didnt run/train for more than two weeks. Anyway, along with that - I learned that Alyssa didnt like to run on the treadmill and had decided to not run at all prior to the race, SOOOO...I quickly changed our 10K to a 5K.

It was freezing outside.
Here is Alyssa and I before the race.
The race was to raise money for cancer research, we could honor either a cancer victim or a cancer fighter. Alyssa honored Aunt Sonya and I honored Mom. There were tons of runners!
We ran our 5K in 31 minutes - not the best time,
but good for the circumstances.
All in all, we finsihed and had a good time doing it.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

1st day of Chemo - March 12th 2008

Rebecca had her first chemotherapy treatment yesterday at Huntsman Cancer Institute.
All-in-all, I think she is tolerating the treatment very well. Although we were there from about 9:30am until about 1pm, the actual infusion took about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Our oncologist’s nurse practitioner spent a good hour and a half with us discussing the overall plan, procedures, side effects, and counter measures.
I would have to rate Huntsman care as an “A+”, despite the fact that the people who actually administer the chemo look like they’re dressed in EPA environmental disaster cleanup suits. . . . not really. Just kidding, but they do have to wear a protective gown and rubber gloves (not just surgical gloves – rubber gloves).
They also still get an A+ despite the fact that they had a difficult time finding a good vein for the IV to begin with. But the third time was a charm. (They tried the back side of each wrist first, but ended up just using the big vein in the crook of your arm opposite your elbow.) Once they got the IV needle inserted, it was pretty easy. However, not finding a good vein easily to begin with might be a problem with future infusions, because they warn you that chemo is hard on your veins, and it becomes more difficult for IV’s down the road. We’ll see what happens next time, but we may have to have a “port” inserted into a vein in Rebecca’s chest if they continue to have difficulty finding good veins in her arms. A port is just an IV “docking station” that they insert just under the skin of the chest directly into a vein – apparently, it’s a simple outpatient procedure.
They are giving Rebecca 2 chemicals (or “gravy”, as I call it). Andriamycin, which is the really bad one – and is appropriately colored red – and Cytoxin, which is clear. They inject the red gravy right into the IV in about a minute, and the clear gravy drips into an IV bag for about an hour. Then it’s done.
Rebecca actually napped through most of it, and when it was done, she wanted to have some lunch. We got home about 3pm and Rebecca went to bed and slept for about another 3 hours.
She has a good appetite ( we had dinner last night and breakfast this morning). I realize it’s very early in the process, but right now the only side effects that she’s had was a headache yesterday afternoon/evening (which we treat with Tylenol), some tiredness, and occasional queasiness (which only seems to happen right after eating). She slept very well last night, and seems to be tolerating it well so far.
Rebecca napped a little this morning, and then goes back to Huntsman early this afternoon for the “$6,000 shot” of neulastin, which is supposed to increase white blood count to boost the immune system.
I’m sure that the side effects with change and probably increase cumulatively as we get into this, but for now Rebecca’s doing pretty well. We’re going to try to get back to somewhat normal routines as soon as Rebecca feels up to it.

We thank you for your prayers and thoughts,


Our New GRANDBABIES!!! - March 11th 2008

The day has finally arrived. Sonja and Joe's little ones came Tuesday night March 11. Vincent came at 9:08 and Vivian at 9:09. Vincent decided he needed to eat more than Vivian and came out weighing 6 pounds and Vivian at 4 pounds 11 ounces. They are so cute! Mom and babies are doing great! Are hearts are full!

Alyssa with Vivian
Nana with Vincent and Vivian
Grandpa with Vincent and Vivian
Nana with Vincent and Vivian

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Next Weeks Appointments

Tuesday March 11th, 2008 ~ Inserting marker into mom's tumor. (Radiology)
Wednesday March 12th, 2008 ~ 1st Chemo treatment.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

WooHoo Update by dad - March 6, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
So, today was a good day – we got the results back from the MRI-guided biopsy of Rebecca's second mass, and it came back benign. We also got back the results of Rebecca's full-body PET/CT scan, and it showed no indications of any cancer anywhere else. Coming on the heels of the results we got back on Tuesday of the ultrasonic-guided aspirations of a couple of Rebecca's lymph nodes, which also came back negative, we feel truly blessed and relieved.
What this means is that Rebecca's cancer appears to be completely confined to the single 3+ centimeter tumor, and it is just within the breast tissue – no metastases into muscle, skin, nodes, or other organs. This means Rebecca's cancer is probably Stage 2, not 3 like we originally feared.
This tumor, however, is a little larger than desirable for a lumpectomy. Also, the grade of the cancer is considered somewhat aggressive (grade 2.5 on a 3 point scale). But on the positive side, it is "hormone-receptive" and "protein-negative". This makes it a very good candidate for initial treatment with chemotherapy prior to surgery, which should shrink the tumor and tentatively allow Rebecca to be a candidate for lumpectomy instead of mastectomy.
Rebecca will start chemotherapy next Wednesday morning, and will have a series of 8 treatments every other week (so a total of 16 weeks). Surgery will follow chemotherapy 4-6 weeks later. We will choose later between a lumpectomy and mastectomy, depending upon the shrinkage of the tumor and the results of a genetic test to see if Rebecca is a carrier of the "breast cancer gene". If she has this gene, we will probably opt for a mastectomy to reduce the risk of recurrence in the future. If Rebecca has a lumpectomy, we will most certainly have radiation. With a mastectomy, we could probably avoid radiation, but would have to go through reconstruction – which may be a difficult tradeoff. The most important thing is that Rebecca gets well – and fortunately, the rate of total cure with Rebecca's symptoms is over 90%.
Obviously, we are extremely relieved to have gotten this good news – things could have been much worse. However, we have been comforted for the last several days with feelings and promptings that gave us faith that these test results would turn out exactly this way. We are now ready mentally, spiritually, and emotionally to begin treatments and get this trial underway. We are preparing for this challenge, and Rebecca is very positive, strong, and anxious to get this behind us. With the love, support, prayers, and fasting of so many family members and friends, we are so optimistic that the Lord will carry us through this.
Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, and love.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dad's Update - March 3, 2008

This is very good news (and is consistent with the blessings and promptings we've already had).
The results of Rebecca's ultrasonic-guided needle aspiration of her lymph nodes are NEGATIVE! YEAAAH!
Tomorrow, we have a biopsy of the second mass, which was classified as "low suspicion" by the MRI. On Wednesday, we have a PET/CT scan to determine in anything has spread to bones, liver, lungs, etc., which seems highly unlikely.
On Thursday, we meet with the oncologist to go over all of the results and finalize our treatment plan to start on Friday. If the remaining tests come out favorable, and we have every expectation that they will, Rebecca will likely begin chemotherapy on Friday to shrink the tumor. That's about 4 1/2 months of chemo before a lumpectomy, followed by radiation.
We are anxious to get started and get this behind us, but we have strong spiritual assurances that everything will be OK. We just have to endure this trial.

Good News - March 3, 2008

We got good news today... All 3 of mom's node samples are NEGATIVE!!!! That is great news! She has another test to make sure it is not in her bones and liver tomorrow...Keep her in your prayers.

Fast Sunday - March 2, 2008

Casey and I were able to attend church with mom, dad and Alyssa on Sunday. We, along with many other family members, friends from work and our local church family participated in a fast that was consecrated in part to mom, her upcoming course of treatment and our family in general. It was a beautiful time to reflect on the blessings we have and the blessing it is, specifically, to participate in such sacred events. Mom bore her beautiful testimony to the congregation - she is such a strong women and has a deep love for her Savior and for the scriptures, it was a blessing to hear her. Our old Bishop, Kerry Wright bore his testimony, dedicated to mom on how grateful he was to be a part of this fast, his testimony was also very touching and left us all with wet eyes. He is such an amazing man. All in all, it was a great meeting...however, Imust admit that when prayers were offered, that it was odd to hear "Rebecca Colley" singled out for blessings. It was just one of those things that was weird to hear - you always expect to hear someone else's name...not your own mothers.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Busy Week Ahead! March 3 - 6, 2008

Mom says she's "tired of talking about it and ready to start doing something about it!" This week we'll close the loop on her course of treatment. Keep her and those who will treat her in your prayers -

Tues Mar 4 MRI guided biopsy of other area
Wed Mar 5 PET/CT
Thur Mar 6 Meet with medical oncologist to review test results
Fri Mar 7 Dr Neumayer said she'll either start her chemo cocktails or have surgery


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Some more pictures from Sterling's gift night.

The Love Birds

Sterling and Mom

The "Sweet Sweet Little One" with MomDeanna and Mom

The Girlies

Sterling's Gift's. February 22, 2008

On Friday night Sterling invited mom, dad, Alyssa, Casey and I all over to his and Deanna's home because he "had a surprise" for us. He was kind of making a big deal about how important it was for ALL of us to be there. Before I tell you what "surprise" was in store for us, I must tell you... that mom had told dad that she thought Sterling and Deanna were going to tell us they were pregnant. (We've been waiting for that for a while now - It has been four years now you two - hehe). But mom, unfortunantly was wrong. But Sterling did have a "gift" to give.

He gave us these super cute leather slippers with a pink cancer ribbon embroidered on them. They are really cute! Mom got the black ones and us girlies have the tan ones...they are all soooo very cute. Thanks Sterling.

And of course, he couldn't leave the boys out, so they got pins to wear. Mom also got from Sterling the book "Ckicken Soup For the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul" which she excited to start reading. Those books always have great inspirational and uplifting stories in them.

Well, being the picture happy family that we are took some more here there are.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dad's update - February 20 2008

There are lots of things that continue to encourage us. Just to list a few of them -- Rebecca's tumor is not attached to the muscle, or to the skin. Ir's only within the breast tissue, which means it has not invaded other areas, and it is very operable. Her other breast appears completely clear. We are still optimistic about lymph nodes not being affected, although there is one node which is "firm". However, that could be due to agitation from the biopsy and prodding during exams. No way to know for sure prior to surgery, but it does not appear to have impacted any more than possibly that one node -- and maybe not even that one.
Rebecca's tumor is "estrogen and progesterone receptive" -- which is a plus because one of the most effective breast cancer drugs is tamoxifen, which works best in this situation -- and it is NOT producing a certain protein, which is also positive.
We discovered that there is a big difference between "grade" and "stage" of cancers. It turns out we had some misinformation. Stage refers to the metastisis of the cancer -- how far it has invaded other organs and tissues. There is no way to know for sure about Rebecca's until surgery, but she appears to be at stage 2, not 3 as we originally thought.
Instead, Rebecca's "grade" is between 2 and 3. Grade has to do with the density of the cancer nucleus and how differentiated the cells are from surrounding tissue. I dont know a lot about it yet, but the higher the grade, the more "aggressive" it is considered. There are only 3 grades -- Rebecca's is considered to be between 2 and 3.
However, that's not necessarily bad news. Even aggressive brease cancer actually grown much slower than we fear. Also, chemotherapy works because it targets "rapidly" growing or dividing cells. So it is possible that chemotherapy actually works better with highly differentiated, rapidly growing cells in some situations. However, the size of her tumor is slightly above average -- her's is at 3.4 cm, average is 2.5 to 3 cm. A large tumor is anything over 5cm. So, this isnt the best news, but given the other factors working in her favor, it's not the worst thing either.
We are still learning about our treatment alternatives. Surgery is a certainty -- but we dont know yet whether it will be a mastectomy or a lumpectomy. A lumpectomy requires radiation after surgery. A mastectomy doesnt necessarily require radiation unless there has been some invasion into lymph nodes or other areas. We are weighing the pro's and con's of the most drastic surgery (mastectomy) vs. radiation. Both approaches seem to have about the same percentage of recurrence, which is very low (5%). Fortunately, both surgical techniques are light-years ahead of where they use to be in terms of recovery, invasiveness and reconstruction.
Regardless, we will have to have chemotherapy. We dont know how long, or if it will be altered by having radiation or not.
We have a meeting tomorrow morning with a panel of doctors (surgeon, radiation/oncology, and someone else) at LDS Hospital. A second panel of similar doctors are meeting at Huntsman. Hopefully, we will get a lot more answers to our questions after tomorrow.
Apparently, there is no "emergency" in making a decision right away. Both doctors we spoke with told us we could probably wait a month to determine our plan of attack -- though we will certainly NOT take that long.
Rebecca and I plan on asking lots of question, studying, praying and fasting for guidance before we make a decision, which we think we'll make early next week. - As always, we welcome all of your fasting and prayers that we might have all of the information possible, and the ability to make the best informed choice we can with the Lord's help.
We want to thank all of you who are keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

February 19th 2008

Aunt Nancy is sending out an email of updates on mom when they are received. This is the one she sent out on the 19th - with some things added.

Mark and Rebecca went and saw Dr. Leigh Neumayer, MD at the Huntsman Cancer Institue today and they are generally encouraged. A mastectomy is still probable. Mark said that after talking with the surgeon and seeing pictures of the procedures that it is a much "better" procedure and much less "barbaric" than with our mom and Rebecca's mom. Reconstruction and recovery has vastly improved. Rebecca's tumo is 3.2 centimeter's (the size of a large strawberry) --which does mean the chemotherapy is necessary. They (mom and dad) was to avoid radiation if at all possible. The good news from this doctor is that she expects Rebecca to live another 20 years if everything goes well. She just has to get through a year of "hell" to get to that place. Rebecca continues to have a great attitude and has put her trust in Heavenly Father.

They told Alyss last night. She is of course ver scared and sad. She immediately mourned for her Aunt Sonya and was immediately 'there'. Dad and Mom made sure she understands that this is not the same type of cancer that took her Aunt Sony. Alyssa is ready to help her mom tackle this. Mark says it seems like the more they find out, the more there is to think about and that they will need patience. Tight now it appears that surgery may be about 2 weeks away. They see another surgeon at IHC today and will get another perspective then.

Mom and Dad - February 15th through 18th 2008

Mom and dad had a wonderful spur of the moment get-a-way with each other last week and headed out to sunny Las. Vegas together. The stayed at the Rio, went to the Hoover Dam, saw the one and only Blue Man group, saw a movie and relaxed in one another's loving arms.
They even went to a wig shop to try on some wigs. She found a couple that she liked and wrote down the SKU number for future references. The highlight of that stop was when mom tried on a blonde wig and turned around to face dad. His eyes went big and the eyebrows raised..."Alyson" he smirked. (Mom's sister "Alyson" was dad's high school sweetheart). Mom looked in the mirror and sure enough - she looked like Aunt Alyson. They got a good laugh out of that.

The News - February 4th through 13th 2008

On Sunday February 3rd mom found a lump in her breast. Monday morning she woke up and went striaght to the doctor's for an unscheduled appoinment. Miraculously they were able to sqeeze her in. Dr. Southwick also felt the lump in mom's breast. So many things were to be done to determine what was really in her breast. She had just had her yearly mamogram in August, could it really be a tumor? Sure enough it was. After a MRI, biopsy's and tests, it was has breast cancer. The only thing we new at first was that the tumor was a grade 3 and that the cell level was high. The type of cancer she was 'diagnosed' with Infiltrating (invasive) Ductal Carcinoma (IDC).

Immediately I looked it up to see what exactly that meant and this is what I found:
Infiltrating (invasive) Ductal Carcinoma - This is the most common breat cancer. It starts in a milk passageor duct, breaks through the wall of the duct, and invades the tissue of the breast. From there it can spread to other parts os the body. It accounts for about 8 out of 10 invasive breast cancers.

Hum. Some comfort...but not a lot. Atleast it is the most common type of breat cancer, I immediately thought about all the research that is probably going into this type since it accounts for 8 out of 10 invasive breast cancers. *We have to always look for the best in all things and that is what I found in that.

First things first.

As I spoke with my mom this morning she shared how touched she has been with the amount of phone calls, emails ect she has received in the last few days. I know there are many of you who want to be kept up to date on what is happening as soon as we know. I thought this might be the easiest and quickest way to let you all know at once. If you have any questions you want to know please leave a comment and we will include it in our next post. We are so grateful for each one of you and for the love and support our mom/wife has already received.

It's DONE!

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying... "I will try again tomorrow."
--Mary Anne Radmacher

Mom has completed weeks and weeks of daily radiation and is regaining her strength slowly but surely from 9 grueling months of battling (and beating!) cancer. So remember, as Helen Keller said, "Keep your face to the sunshine and you will not see the shadows."

Thank you, again, dear family and friends, for all your love and support throughout 2008.