Archive for the ‘side effects’ Category

End of the Tunnel
October 10, 2012

I saw my endocrinologist this morning…this on the heels of an appointment with my primary care physician on Monday. Both went very well as did the visit to my oncologist a few weeks ago. In fact, it appears I didn’t need that thyroid gland anyway. ūüôā He says my synthetic thyroid levels are spot on perfect. My cancer markers are also within the normal range. And, my general health is excellent. I don’t have another medical appointment until January. Well, unless you count the mammogram in a couple of weeks.In just a few days, I will celebrate my 3 year cancerversary. It was shortly after that diagnosis, in 2009, that I began my first blog, Cathy’s Tunnel It was established for the purpose of sharing my journey through the dark and winding tunnel of breast cancer treatment. That, of course, evolved into this blog, Beyond Cathy’s Tunnel when I finally completed my year and a half of treatment. This one has helped me through the struggles of moving from cancer patient to cancer survivor. But, I’m finally there. I have finally reached the stage of cancer survivor – no longer a cancer patient.

I was just looking back through some of my early posts and I am blown away by some of the things I went through. I guess it’s kind of like labor – it erases itself from your memory once it ends. I was so naive going into this. I remember when a PET scan done when I was two treatments into the strongest phase of chemo showed possible thyroid cancer and I had to stop chemo to have my thyroid removed. My greatest concern was that I would have to go back and start chemo over and go through those two treatments over again. That isn’t how it works, thank goodness, but I didn’t know and I was devastated by the possibility. And, I was also concerned about whether or not they would let me wear my hat in surgery or if I was going to have to go in, bald headed. Oh, the memories.

You will never know how much I have appreciated the love, prayers and support of all of you during these difficult years. It has helped to carry me through. But, it’s time now to move on. I’m not dissolving my blogs, but I am ending my regular posts. It has long been my dream to write a book and, it is the pursuit of that dream that will now consume whatever free time I may find for writing. Should something come up that I feel deserves blog publication, I will still do so and those of you who have signed up as followers will receive an email alert notifying you of that post.

And, hopefully, if that book is ever published, it will find an audience just as these blogs have. My sister, Susan, shared this quote with me when I was writing my first blog. She thought it sounded like me. I hope that is true. “She not only saw a light at the end of the tunnel, but she became that light for everyone who knew her.” Anonymous I can’t imagine a greater compliment.

I thought I would share a final photo tribute to the journey through the tunnel. Hope you enjoy. And now, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” Henry David Thoreau


pre-cancer at the ocean

pre-cancer at the ocean

My Race For the Cure Team – First Year

crossing the finish line first year – just barely

40th anniversary dinner at Hunans

at the lake, sans hat

many, many hours clocked in these chairs

last treatment

met Ali from Biggest Loser

celebrating end of chemo at South Padre – back to the ocean

2nd Race for the Cure – Honorary Chair

on scissor lift to spray paint banner

Kelli and Brett’s wedding

enjoying a dance with Ken

dropping the puck at Pink in the Rink

riding the zamboni at Pink in the Rink

zamboni ride, Pink in the Rink, 2011





And Believe…
May 11, 2012

Back in January, I wrote a post entitled Believe. It dealt with my fervent belief that 2012 would be my year. It would be my opportunity, after 2.5 years, to recapture some semblance of normalcy in my life. Over the past several months, while never losing sight of that belief, I continued to bump into walls in the dark, never sure what direction I was going to end up going or when I would get there. In my last post, as today’s appointment loomed closer, I¬†couldn’t help feeling like¬†I was awaiting my parole hearing.

I received a call earlier this week from the Cancer Center wanting to move back my appointment time. She said she knew I preferred afternoons. How does that work? How does she know that when she schedules 1000s of appointments every month? I definitely know I’ve been hanging around there too long.

So…this afternoon it was. Showed up between 3 and 3:30 for labs. Got called back for my nurse consultation and weigh-in.¬† I made sure to show up in heavy jewelry, a belt and left my shoes on. Still I didn’t gain anything but did manage to camouflage all but 1/2 pound of¬†what I had¬†lost. Then, the long wait to get called back to see the doctor.

Shortly after 5 I was called back and very shortly thereafter, Dr. D. knocked on the door. First words out of his mouth – You lost another pound. I corrected him that it was actually less than a pound and that it really was leveling off. He grabbed me by the shoulders and said “You can’t afford to lose any more weight.” I said, OK, I won’t, smiled and the drama was diffused.

We went over the  results of my labs and, for the most part they were good. He examined me and we talked about a couple of other things. He had talked about starting me on a new drug, but decided to wait. Good news.

Then he shook my hand and said, Mrs. Stueve, I’ll see you in 4 months. Seriously? I actually screamed (softly). He smiled and said, “I find nothing wrong with you. But if you have any concerns at all before 4 months, call.”

Parole granted.

When I got home, Ken was waiting at the door to find out how it went. I told him and screamed again. After 2.5 years I am no longer a cancer patient. I am officially a survivor. Ken left the room and came back with a gift bag. If you recall, Kelli came up with the idea of buying a charm every time I had a chemo treatment. Between the kids and my husband, I ended up with a beautiful, full charm bracelet that I wear as a reminder of the support of my family while I was doing treatment.

I opened the bag and it was another bracelet. It matches my chemo bracelet but includes just one charm. It is a little difficult to see in this photo, but the charm opens to reveal the word Believe. I cried. We both cried. It has been so long and so difficult at times, but neither of us ever stopped believing. I am so happy tonight I can’t stand it.

Sunday is the Komen¬†Siouxland Race For the Cure. This is the 4th for Sioux City and the third for me. While not as much pomp and circumstance as last year, it will be a true celebration for me and my small band of “merry men.” I will walk proudly feeling like a true survivor. ¬†If you’d like to donate, there’s still time do so today by clicking here¬†and then on Donate to Cathy. Your gift will mean so much to so many. Thank you.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined..”¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†

Henry David Thoreau

Time to start on my book.


You Know You’ve Spent Too Much Time Hanging Around the Hospital When…
April 6, 2012

  • The Valet Parking guys know which car is yours without looking at the ticket.
  • The Admissions people can answer some of the questions for you without checking the computer.
  • The Radiology receptionist just takes your paperwork, smiles and says you know where to go.
  • The Tech comes to get you and acts like you’re old friends.
  • Another Tech you pass in the hall does the same thing and asks how you’ve been since she hasn’t seen you for awhile.

It’s nice…but, I’m just saying.

As you have probably surmised, I had my Dexa scan this morning at Mercy. Quick, easy, painless. Now just have to wait for the results.

On Wednesday I had a complete physical with my primary care physician. He’s running lots of labs which I also am anxiously awaiting the results of, but said he could find absolutely no problems other than the fact that I have some noticeable residual neuropathy from the chemo treatments. It went well and I don’t have to go back until October.

And now…just home from my Cancer Center appointment. I am feeling pretty positive. It was the shortest Cancer Center appointment on record. I met with my favorite nurse. Another nurse that I like stopped me on my way in to see how I was doing and then called me in to chat again on my way out. The big news…I was up almost a pound. Didn’t see the doctor so don’t know how he will feel about that but it certainly seems like a positive. BAM! Now, in a few weeks I meet with him and then I plan to be free for the summer. We’ll see how that works out.

Wine and teriyaki sirloin with my husband tonight. As Ken’s favorite coffee cup puts it…LIFE IS GOOD!

Have a blessed Easter week-end everyone.


April 1, 2012

Today I feel like introducing you to Ann. I have mentioned her on many occasions, but have never used her name or linked to her blog. She is the breast cancer sister whose blog I have been reading for nearly two years. She is the one whose journey has so closely resembled mine…until now. Her cancer has returned and she is now going through chemo again. I read her post today and it so brings back a rush of emotion that I wanted to share it.

She is not a patient at June E Nylen, but it doesn’t matter. It sounds like chemo is chemo, no matter where you are. I don’t know her, yet feel so bad that she is going through this. I hate that she is going through this. And, I recognize that I hate it, not only for her, but for all of us who have been there, done that, and just live each day hoping we won’t have to do it again.

And now, meet Ann.


And MORE Hope On the Horizon
March 21, 2012

Seriously? Aspirin?

For those who have not yet heard…and I find it hard to believe that anyone has not heard since it has been on NBC new, Reuters, NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Yahoo, MSN, all of the major Internet medical sites, etc…an aspirin a day may reduce the risk of cancer.

Could it seriously be true that aspirin is an answer? Aspirin has been around since 1900. Aspirin is extremely inexpensive. Aspirin has relatively few side effects. Yet, supposedly, it has been proven to reduce the risk of cancer and also proven to reduce the incidence of metastasis of cancer. I’m not going to reproduce all of the findings here, but I will say this…

In an article published by the American Cancer Society it was announced that

“In one of the studies, published in The Lancet, researchers from the University of Oxford analyzed patient records from 51 trials that compared people who took aspirin every day to people who took no aspirin. They found that taking daily low-dose aspirin (less than 300 mg) for 3 years resulted in approximately a 25% lowered risk of developing any type of cancer.

A second article by University of Oxford researchers published in The Lancet¬†looked at the effect of aspirin on cancer metastasis (spread). They found that during an average 6 ¬Ĺ years of taking aspirin ( 75 mg¬†or more a day), trial participants lowered their risk of metastatic cancer by 36%. The main effect seemed to be on the risk of metastatic adenocarcinoma (a common type of solid cancer that can occur in many areas, including the colon, lung, and prostate), which was lowered by 46%. Researchers also found that daily aspirin lowered the risk of non-metastatic cancer progressing to metastatic cancer, especially in patients with colon cancer.

The third study, published in The Lancet Oncology, also looked at aspirin‚Äôs effect on metastasis. The researchers reviewed observational studies as well as randomized trials to draw conclusions regarding less common cancer types and cancer in women. They found significantly lowered risk of cancer and metastasis in colon, throat, gastric, biliary and breast cancer.”

This could be huge! For anyone interested in reading more, here is a link to a similar article published in the Wall Street Journal.

Now, I know that I have a tendency to oversimplify, but¬†I’m thinking…why not ¬†replace the drug I am currently taking, Femara,¬†with aspirin. The purpose of Femara is to lessen the chance of a recurrence of breast cancer. It is expensive. $400, $500 or more per month, in some cases. It has some major side effects such as hot flashes, fatigue, bone pain and the possibility of developing osteoporosis. Case in point…from an article in the National Academies Press that¬†I was reading the other day…

Case Study: Aromatase Inhibitors’ Late Effects

E-mail from a patient, 3 months after starting aromatase inhibitor therapy:

‚ÄúIt has been several months since I started taking Femara. Although I do want to continue taking it and not take any chances with a cancer recurrence, I have encountered some problems. I am experiencing constant pain in my muscles, joints, etc., as if my body was continuously sore from strenuous exercise. The hardest times are in the morning and in the late afternoon, and I am usually very tired in the afternoon as well. I feel better after exercise, but often I do not have enough energy or willpower after work to go to the gym. Instead I go to my bedroom and sleep. Altogether, this is not me and I want to do something to change it.‚ÄĚ

SOURCE: Ganz (2004).

I can so relate. 2nd case in point…I was visiting with a breast cancer survivor at the recent Komen¬†Symposium about her experience with Femara. She told me that by the third year, she could barely walk she was in so much pain. She finally told the doctor that he had to either take her off of the drug or order her a wheelchair.

Ok…back to my previous admission…I do tend to oversimplify, but seriously? If aspirin helps to prevent cancer…aspirin does not cause osteoporosis…aspirin is also a pain reliever…aspirin does not cause drowsiness…aspirin costs next to nothing…I’m just saying.

Hope does spring eternal.


Flight Insurance
March 3, 2012

When I look around me and see the suffering that so many others are going through, I feel really good about where my life is at right now. Sure…I still have cancer related annoyances to go through. Dr. D. thinks the medication I’m on may be causing osteoporosis so I have to have a bone density test. And, there is a new medication, just released, to help prevent or reverse osteoporosis but it can cause jaw and dental problems so before he prescribes that I also have to go in for a dental exam. And then there’s the Mayo Clinic issue that just won’t go away.

But all of that pales in the face of things like the high school students shot and killed this week…my “blogging sister” who has just been told that a recent scan shows a 1.6 cm mass in the ablated area of her liver…the unexpected death of Davey Jones, etc.

Ken is on Spring Break next week, so we’re living it up and¬†heading to Colorado on Monday. Looking forward to some relaxing family time. We will return to the Mile High city in May to celebrate the graduations of Tyler and Kelli. PLUS, we just bit the bullet and booked the big June celebration. We’ll be headed back to wine country and the northern California coast. We have rented a home on the ocean at Bodega Bay. For those old timers out there, Bodega Bay is where Alfred Hitchcock’s, The Birds, was filmed.

I look at my life with enough confidence these days to move forward and make plans like these but not with enough confidence to do so without a safety net. Therefore, I did take out flight insurance to protect our airfare investment…just in case.¬†It’s that darn Schleprock thing, ya know?


February 25, 2012

OK. Here it is. My report on Cancer Center, 2/24. MAN…were they backed up. I got there at 11. When I FINALLY got called to the back it was nearly 2:00. The nurse told me that I was the last patient of the MORNING. When they finished with me they would start on the afternoon patients. Life at the Cancer Center.

Other than that, almost everything went well. For the first time ever, I had no low counts on my lab report. My xrays came back clear. The exam went well. Just one problem…

-3 pounds since my last visit. Dr. D. really, really feels that I should go to the Mayo Clinic. We talked for quite awhile and he asked me to go home and discuss it with Ken. I have to go back in 6 weeks to check my weight.

Darn Schleprock!


January 28, 2012

There was a movie out awhile back that I kind of wanted to see. It was called 50/50. But we missed it.

A couple of weeks ago, during the Golden Globes, I heard the movie mentioned and was reminded that I wanted to see it. So, last night, we downloaded it. I won’t say that it should win an award for Best Picture, but it’s pretty good. It is about a 27 year old guy who finds out he has cancer and about his life after diagnosis. It is a look at the emotions of cancer, not only the emotions of the patient but of those around him. I really enjoyed it…if that is a valid way to describe it.

I had to laugh at the scene of his first chemo treatment. It was the chairs. It was so deja vu…people sitting around in chairs, hooked up to infusion pumps. It brought back so many memories. Actually, those memories are invoked almost daily for me when I hear the afternoon train. My office is just shouting distance from the Cancer Center and I always hear that train. The track runs right by the Cancer Center, just outside of the chemo room. So the sound of that whistle transports me back to that place almost daily. But so did this movie. The young man met two older guys there having chemo and they befriended each other. They built a relationship around their common bond. It’s funny how differently people deal with things.

This may sound bad, but for whatever reason, I never wanted to build a relationship with others at the Cancer Center. I would go in, do labs, and then go back to the waiting area and look around for a seat. I had two criteria…the chair would preferably be in the sun, and there would be no one else around. I always tried to sit by myself if I was there without Ken or someone else. I just felt like curling up in a ball and pretending like there was no one else around. If it was too busy to do that, which it very often was, it worked to get my phone out and text or tweet to make sure I didn’t get pulled into any conversations. I know that may be difficult to understand, but sitting there you are a captive audience to all of¬†the conversations about nausea, metallic taste¬†of foods, drug side effects, etc, etc. I think maybe I just had all I could do to handle my own issues without heaping on anyone elses. And, I’m not a talker…probably a character flaw, but I’m just not.¬†In the movie, the young man’s girl friend took him to his first chemo session but when they got there, she told him she would just wait in the car. He reminded her that it would be about 4 hours. She still chose to wait in the car. She just felt that she needed to keep the life inside those walls separate from their other life. I guess I can relate to that.

In retrospect, the fact that I maintained a distance from the other patients was probably my loss. I did meet one friend there, just by accident…Sue. ¬†And, even then, we didn’t really become friends until later when we ended up in the same RX Health class at the Y. It was an exercise class for cancer patients. It was like our similar experiences created a common bond which has allowed us to become good friends. Today, we are working together on the Komen Symposium committee.

Interestingly, while the young man in the movie was able to open up to other patients, he held his parents at bay. His mother was dealing with the fact that his father had Alzheimer’s and also wanted to help her son. But, he wouldn’t let her in…until someone said to him, so your mother has two important people in her life…one who can’t talk to her and one who won’t. That was a turning point.

I don’t really want to give the movie away, though,¬†in case anyone else might still be planning on seeing it. I just woke up thinking about it this morning and wanted to share. Like I said, it is not the greatest movie ever, but it was – I started to say, a good read – no, not a book. It was a good peek into the emotional side of cancer. I think, for me, there were parts I could relate to and other parts that opened up feelings that I had never allowed myself to have. And, like I said, it reminded me that I am not a talker. I’m just not. So, how odd that, day after day I sit at this computer and open my heart to the world. Go figure.


Sound of Music
October 4, 2011

Today was my much anticipated¬†consultation with the eye specialist. The first thing I noticed when I arrived was that their clientele¬†are pretty certainly all retirees. I say that with all respect and admit that I am a bit “seniory” myself, but I am not retired and was unequivacably the youngest person in the waiting room. I don’t know why I found that unsettling but I did. And, that was just the beginning of the “why am I here?”

It didn’t really take long to get called back and after a long conversation with the nurse regarding my medical history and a vision exam, I was given my first drops…these to enable her to measure the pressure in my eyes. These were followed by drops to dilate my eyes and later by numbing drops to make the exam a bit more comfortable. Then I moved to a room where they take pictures of the inner eye. She had to give me some additional drops to wet my eyes. Some of the chemo drugs I was on dried my eyes out terribly and that has never improved. I am no longer able to wear contacts because of it. Following that, I moved to a second waiting room until the doctor was able to see me.

It was in that waiting room that I again experienced the “why am I here?” I was listening to all of the people talking about how often they had to come in for injections in their eyes. Now, call me crazy, but this was not exactly the type of conversation I felt good about hearing. Oh my dear God was all I could think of. At that moment, I really started to feel disheartened…almost to the point of tears. In fact, I was feeling devastated. Was it possible that I was now going to join the ranks of those who show up regularlyat¬†that office¬†to receive injections in their eyes to try to slow down the loss of vision? Suddenly, a song from The Sound of Music popped into my head. It was from the scene where Maria is standing in the gazebo and singing about her good fortune in finding love which she voiced through the words “somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.” At that point,¬†it occurred to me that somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something bad.

Just then my name was called. It was my turn to visit with the doctor. In the course of his exam, he had to add drops to my eyes three more times. They were just too dry to allow him to easily complete the exam. The photos they had taken earlier indicated and his exam confirmed that I do, indeed, have Macular Degeneration. But, I already knew that. One photo showed an area that was a red flag for possible swelling or fluid but he was unable to confirm one way or the other through the exam process. So he said I would need some sort of procedure, which I do not remember the name of, where they inject a flourescent substance into your vein and as it makes its way to the blood vessels in the eye, they photograph it. The tech, of course, had issues getting the needle into my vein, but, after several attempts managed to do so. She started taking the photos which caused such a bright light in my eyes it was really uncomfortable. Then, she had to stop two more times to add drops to my eyes. Once she finished, it was about another ten minutes before the doctor came in with the verdict.

From what he was able to see, there is currently no fluid in the eye. What a relief. However, it did show that I am at high risk for developing fluid and will have to monitor the situation very closely and constantly. Not great news, but it certainly could have been worse. And, my few “wah wah” moments came to an end as I recalled a promise I made to myself in October of 2009. I refuse to ever ask¬†“why me” but will always strive to remember, “why not me?¬† For now and for the foreseeable future at least, I am here and¬†I can see. I may have to hold things a little closer or tilt my head to bring things more into focus, but I can do that. Hallelujah. Bring on the next challenge.


September 19, 2011

Started my day at the Cancer Center. It was my exit interview for the Ginseng Clinical Trial. Same basic questions as always and then some time to just chat with my research administrator. We were discussing the fact that in just 4 week I was able to notice a difference in my energy level and I said it would have really been interesting to have been in the original Ginseng group rather than the placebo group. I asked what types of results she had seen from those participants. She said she hadn’t had any. I don’t think there have been many at June E. Nylen who participated but you would think that someone would have ended up in the Ginseng group. Anyway, she also said that the study had been suspended early because the 100% Wisconsin Ginseng is in such short supply. She was not aware of anyplace that I could just purchase it to continue. HOWEVER…

Just moments ago, I received an email link from her for the Wisconsin Ginseng Board. It had information on the site and also a link to a distributor. I have just completed an online purchase of two more bottles of Ginseng. HOPEFULLY, the order will go through and I won’t receive an email claiming that it is out of stock or something.

For those of you with an interest in this, here is some of the information on their web site.

Wisconsin Ginseng is known worldwide as the purest, highest quality ginseng. Panax quinquefolius, better known as American Ginseng, is a white root with medicinal properties known to relieve stress, increase stamina and increase resistance to common illnesses such as colds. Wisconsin has the ideal climate and mineral-rich soil conditions for growing the perfect ginseng root. When consumers want the best ginseng, they ask for Wisconsin Ginseng; the world’s finest.

Health Benefits of Wisconsin Ginseng

Pilot Study Shows Promise for Wisconsin Ginseng Reducing Cancer-Related Fatigue

A recent pilot   study at the Mayo Clinic showed positive results for cancer patients who used   Wisconsin Ginseng to reduce cancer related fatigue. Patients taking large doses of Wisconsin   Ginseng showed improvements in overall energy levels, reported higher vitality   levels and less interference with activity due to fatigue. They also reported an   improvement in overall mental, physical, spiritual and emotional   well-being.
Click Here to learn more about this study.

Capsules containing 100 percent Genuine Wisconsin Ginseng, as used in the Pilot study, can be sourced by contacting  the Ginseng & Herb Cooperative as follows: (715) 443-3355. Pricing will be available upon request.

Warding Off the Common Cold

In 2005, researchers conducted a study on panax quinquefolius. The study involved 279 volunteers. For four months, some in the group were given placebo and some were given 400 mg of ginseng (panax quinquefolius). The end results showed that only 10 percent of the ginseng takers got two or more colds, compared to 23 percent in the placebo group. The ginseng takers also reported less severe cold symptoms.

Bauer, Jeff¬† ¬† “Research supports the use of ginseng in fighting colds. (Clinical Highlights)(Brief Article).”
RN 69.1 (Jan 2006): 26(1). InfoTrac OneFile. Thomson Gale.  Regis University.  27 Aug. 2006.

Improved Quality of Life for
Breast Cancer Survivors

According to research at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., “Ginseng use after cancer diagnosis, particularly current use, was positively associated with quality of life scores, with the strongest effect in the psychological and social well-being domains. Additionally, quality of life improved as cumulative ginseng use increased.”

American Journal of Epidemology (Association of ginseng use with survival and quality of life among breast cancer patients. Am J Epidemiol, 2006; 163(7): 645-653).

Research Shows Reduced Blood Sugar
in Diabetes Paitents

In 2000, researchers administered a randomized, placebo-controlled study. This study, published in Diabetes Care, analyzed ginseng use and its correlation to blood sugar in diabetes patients. Reseearchers found that subjects receiving a 3 gram dose of ginseng had a blood sugar level that was 59.1 percent less than patients receiving the placebo.

Vuksan V, Stavro MP, Sievenpiper JL, Beljan-Zdravkovic U, Leiter LA, Josse RG, Xu Z. Similar postprandial glycemic reductions with escalation of dose and administration time of American Ginseng in Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care 23(9); 1221-1225, 2000.