Archive for the ‘treatment’ 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





Labor Day at the Lake 2012
August 31, 2012

Labor Day already? Really? My goodness this summer has flown by. Just getting ready for our annual Labor Day Lake Retreat and looking back over some old photos.

Labor Day at the Lake 2009

Labor Day at the Lake 2010

Labor Day at the Lake 2011

Notice anything? Jackets. Every single year. Jackets. It has been record-breaking heat this week. Temperatures in the 100s. Have a feeling that means no jackets this year and no fire in the fire pit. But, it doesn’t really matter. We always manage to have fun whether it’s hot, cold or somewhere in between. And, we’re really looking forward to it. The down side is – once the week-end is over so is summer. And so is my break from cancer. Next week I will return to the Cancer Center for the first time in nearly 4 months. For the entire summer I have been able to put that part of my life behind me and, for that, I am so thankful.¬†I never once got up on Monday morning and went through a mental checklist of my medical appointments for the week. I seldom thought about cancer. I seldom talked about cancer. But next week I’ll walk through those doors again and will be reminded. In October I have three more appointments scheduled AND will celebrate my 3 year Cancerversary. It’s been a nice break though, having the entire summer off. And, hopefully, once I get through this next series of¬†appointments I’ll find that I don’t have to return until after the first of the year. Cross your fingers.

In the meantime – it’s off to the Lake with Ken, Sue and Ron.¬†YAY!! Enjoy your holiday week-end.


The Summer of My “Content”
July 3, 2012

It will soon be three years since my cancer diagnosis and this summer is the first, in that time, that I have been able to go for more than a month with no medical appointments, no diagnostic procedures, and without walking through the doors of the Cancer Center. When I found out, in May, that I would not have to come back until September, I was ecstatic. Ken and I vowed to start living again…to do things we had not been taking time to do, things we had put on hold, things we had simply been overlooking.

Of course, the big one was our trip to Bodega Bay. That was awesome. But small things can be just as awesome in their own way, as we are finding out. During the time I was in treatment we virtually stopped eating out. This summer we have made it a point to start visiting some of the many restaurants that have opened up during that time and what a treat that has been. We actually went to a movie the other day…at a THEATER, not Netflix. We plan to do more of that. We experienced our first three on three basketball tournament last week-end. Well, my first, anyway.

On the way home from the tournament, we drove past the Cancer Center. I made the comment that even though I was not in treatment last summer, I still felt that my life revolved around cancer because I was very much an active patient still. This summer, I’m not. And I realized that the experience is finally starting to fade into the background of my life. I am finally beginning to feel disconnected from the Cancer Center.

Tomorrow¬†is the 4th of July. Summer is flying by. Tonight we kind of pretended we were still in California and went out to Wine Styles to select some nice summer wines. Now we’re preparing to grill some turkey burgers to enjoy with fresh garden tomatoes and some sweet potato fries…a simple thing to do but so enjoyable. And I realized tonight that this truly is The Summer of My DisContent.

Happy 4th of July everyone.


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.


Awaiting Parole
May 3, 2012

Every Sunday night, I do a mental checklist for the week ahead. If it doesn’t include any medical appointments, I mentally smile and feel a sense of freedom. If it does include one or more appointments, Schleprock¬†rears his ugly head. This week, Schleprock accompanied me through most of the week. I had a dental appointment at 8 AM this morning and, I must admit, I’m not really a fan. Needed a little more periodontal work and then the standard cleaning and flouride treatment. The laser treatment had to go on hold once again because they didn’t have all of the equipment needed. Not too bad, but glad to cross this off the list. I don’t have to return for three months.

Next up – May 11. Yes, I’ve already grabbed Schleprock’s hand, realizing that my next Cancer Center appointment is a week from tomorrow. I feel like I’m awaiting a parole decision. Will this finally be the appointment at which my oncologist says, “OK, see you back here¬†in three months.”? ¬†Will I enjoy the summer of freedom I have been so hoping for?¬† Or will some other unforeseen issue surface? Stay tuned.


Yes, It’s True…Men DO Get Breast Cancer!
April 7, 2012

This is something you can’t afford to not read. It is a story that few have heard.


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.


The Tomato Plant
March 31, 2012

Ken has been sick this week. Typically, on Fridays, his day off, he runs errands and takes care of things that need to be done around the house, etc. There are many things that I used to do, that he has taken over during the past couple of years. But yesterday, after work, I made my list and took off to¬†run errands. I know that doesn’t sound like much but, believe it or not, for the past couple of years, I haven’t done that. I may go out to do one thing or I may ride along with Ken when he goes to a couple of places, but that’s about it. But yesterday, that changed. Had to fill my car with gas, go pick up meds, do the weekly Sam’s run, etc. It was a beautiful day and, while driving home it hit me like a ton of bricks. I am a normal person again. What? I’m not a cancer patient. I’m a normal person. I think I was experiencing a bit of that while at work yesterday as well. I had a ton of things to do, but I was just ticking them off and making progress and feeling good in the process. Now, was I still fatigued? Yes. Did my bones still ache? Yes. But everyone has issues. I’m not talking about a physical feeling. I’m talking about a mental feeling…a state of mind. All of a sudden, ¬†I FEEL like a normal person again. I’m not sure what happened to change that. For years I have felt like a Cancer patient trying to make my way through life. But driving home from Sams yesterday I suddenly felt like a normal person who used to have Cancer but doesn’t have cancer now. I’m a different person. But in a good way. It’s a state of mind. I’m pretty sure this beautiful early spring had something to do with it. You can’t help but feel uplifted. You can’t help but feel a spirit of rebirth.

Last week-end we went to Omaha and stopped at Mulhalls. If you’ve never been there, you have to experience it some day. It is a huge, beautiful nursery/greenhouse/garden center. And, they had plants all over the place. Big, healthy plants. We couldn’t resist the temptation. We bought a couple of tomato plants and a pepper plant. We are fully aware of the fact that March is not the time to plant tomatoes in this area. But, this year is different. Ken really wanted to try it. So we bought a couple and he did. That is true hope…true optimism. He has a greenhouse type cover he made so he can cover them up or let them soak up the sun like they are this week-end. And he/we feel that these plants will be fine. They will grow and flourish even though it is six weeks early to plant them.

I have two medical appointments this week. On Wednesday I see my primary care physician to catch up on some tests, etc. that have slipped by the wayside with everything else that has been going on. He will also order the bone density test that I need. Then, on Friday, I have a weigh in at the Cancer Center. Once I make it through those things, I will just have my appointment with Dr. D. on May 11. I think that is the day that I will officially be free. Free of the Cancer patient label. Officially. It’s time. They need to stop making me feel like a cancer patient and allow me to move on. I’m not going to Mayo Clinic. He may or may not agree with me, but I truly believe that I am fine.

Like the tomato and pepper plants…it’s my time, in spite of what some may think. Those plants will be fine and so will I. I¬†feel it and I¬†believe it.


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.