We interrupt your gadget coverage…

I’ve been running The Gadgeteer since the dawn of time (1997) and during all these years I’ve met, chatted and emailed a lot of wonderful people who have become my friends. For that reason, I have decided to share something personal with all of you. I don’t normally talk about my personal life on this site as we’re typically all about the gadgets and nothing but the gadgets. But sometimes there’s a need for a short detour. So here goes…

Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma to be exact. I’m not writing this for your sympathy or attention. That’s definitely not my style. I’m writing this in hopes that it might help someone else out there that might be doing the same things that I was doing for the past few months.

I’m not exactly sure when I first noticed that something was ‘wrong’ with my Right breast, but it was at least a 2-3 months ago. I told myself that it was just a cyst as I’ve had them before. I told myself that the tissue was just denser on that side since it always has been to a certain extent. I told myself that it was my hormones. I told myself that if something were wrong, it would show up on my next mammogram due in April. I told myself all kinds of stupid stuff… It’s crazy how you can play games in your own head to avoid the truth. It’s also crazy how the world can try its best to smack you in the head to wake you up to do something. I don’t know how many times I would turn on the radio and hear breast cancer related ads. Or see breast cancer related shows on TV. It also seemed like every car I happened to drive behind would have one of those Pink breast cancer stickers on their bumper. One night I even drove by our local Holiday Inn and parked in front was a big tractor painted all in Pink with a huge breast cancer ribbon flag attached to it. I’d probably still be playing the denial and avoidance game if it hadn’t been for several weekends ago when my partner and I were horsing around in the kitchen and she happened to bump into my breast with her hand. She immediately freaked out about it, and I immediately felt a sense of relief that I would now have to deal with it. She marched my stupid butt into the doctor the next day and we’ve been on this crazy ride ever since. First it was a mammogram, then an ultrasound, then a biopsy, MRI and PET Scans followed by another mammogram and ultrasound on the Left side because they thought it was there too (it’s not). Yesterday I had a surgical procedure to install an IV port (I’m a cyborg now) in my chest that will be used to administer the chemo drugs that I’ll be starting tomorrow. I’m scared out of my mind about the chemo – who wouldn’t be… but I am young, in good health and tough. I will get through this and be fine.

The moral of this story is to not pretend that things are fine when you know darn well they aren’t. Listen to what your body is telling you and what the world is telling you. If you’re reading this right now and are playing the same head games that I was, this is yet another slap in the head from the world telling you to do something. And if you’ve never had a mammogram and are over 40, go get one. Please. My surgeon told me something that I won’t forget. He said “people don’t die from breast cancer, but they can die from breast cancer that has spread”. Thankfully, they are pretty sure due to my PET scan, that mine has not spread. So I’m going to kick these mutant cells out of my body, lock the door and throw away the key.

It will be business as usual here at The Gadgeteer. I have an amazing team of writers that have been unbelievably supportive. We will all continue to bring you fun and interesting gadget reviews and news. :)

We now return to our regularly scheduled program…

For updates to this ‘adventure’ …

3/23/2011
When I posted this article yesterday, I had no idea that so many people would comment, send me personal emails, tweet, and text me with their good thoughts, stories and advice. To say I’m overwhelmed is an understatement. You guys are awesome and I truly appreciate each and every one of you more than you can know.

So today was Chemo Day 1. I ate a little breakfast before Jeanne and I headed up to the Cancer Center at Columbus Regional Hospital. I was really scared what the first session would be like since everyone can react differently. They started out with 2 pills for anxiety and nausea and then hooked up an IV to the port installed in my chest. I didn’t even feel them do it. :) Next up was a bag of steroids which if I remember correctly, also helps with nausea. The actual Chemo drugs came in 2 large syringes that they manually push into the IV. One was clear and one was Red (which they call the Koolaid). Both took about 5 or so minutes each. That was it! We were there for awhile learning some info about the drugs, diet concerns, etc.  The people there are beyond wonderful. The Breast Cancer Center has a person assigned to you that goes along with you to some of the doctor appts and procedures. Deana is one of the sincerely nicest people I’ve ever met. She even brought me a cute little stuffed monkey that she named Chemo. I’ll add a picture tomorrow.

It’s been about 10-11 hrs since they gave me the drugs and so far I feel about 98% normal. I feel just slightly whoozy, but not nauseated (knock on wood). We’ll see how I feel tomorrow and the next day. I hear the first 48hrs are when most people feel the worst.

The best thing about today is that I am no longer as scared about chemo as I was before. I know it’s not going to be a picnic, but I feel confident that I can do this.

Thanks again to all of you. Your good thoughts and energy are really helping!

3/24/2011
It’s been over 24hrs since my first chemo dose and I’m doing great. Mostly just a little wobbly and maybe a itty bitty bit nauseous. I think the latter is just in my head though. Definitely nothing to complain about.

We went up to CRH (Columbus Regional Hospital) this morning so I could get a shot to boost my white blood cells. The reason? My oncologist Dr. Mak is giving me the choice of doing my treatments every 2 weeks instead of every 3. The only advantage is getting them over quicker. But when patients do the every 2 weeks, they need these special shots to make sure their white blood cells don’t drop too low. So I got the shot and will tell him next week what I what I want to do. If I keep feeling as good as I do right now, I will probably go for it. :)

Here’s a big hug to all of you that have been sending me great thoughts. You guys are wonderful!!!

3/28/2011
I’m still doing well. The worst part so far has been that special shot I had last Thursday to boost my white blood cells. Wow, that shot was evil. Made me feel like I had the worst flu ever. Felt like someone had taken a hammer to my back in multiple places. Taking a deep breath even hurt. Not fun… but it only lasted a couple days and today I’m feeling relatively ‘normal’ again ;)

I hope everyone is having a great week and I’ll post update again in a week or so.

4/08/2011

It’s been over 2 weeks since my first chemo treatment. I was supposed to have my 2nd treatment this past Wednesday, but was unable to have one due to some low grade fevers that I’ve been having. They did some tests to try to figure out what the fevers might be from, but they came back with no info. I have actually felt worse (tired) this week than I did after my first chemo. Go figure.

Yesterday my hair started falling out, so I called up the girl that cuts my hair and asked if she could come out to my house. Here are results:

I don’t look as hideous as I thought I would. :) I actually kinda like it in a weird way.

So that’s the latest info. I will probably have my 2nd chemo Monday or Wednesday. Hopefully whatever is causing these fevers will go away.

4/20/11

I’ve had my 2nd round of chemo last week and wow, it knocked me on my butt way more than the first one. I spent 3 days in bed. I talking pretty much the whole day… That’s not like me at all. The good news is that the mass in my breast does feel different/smaller. So I think the chemo is working. It looks like my body will probably not tolerate the treatments every 2 weeks, so I’ll be on a 3 week schedule. The next one is 2 weeks from today. Can’t wait ;) 2 down, 2 to go (I think – need to ask my Doctor when I go in for a follow up next week).

Keep the good energy / thoughts flowing my way. I know they are helping!

5/22/11

I’m still hanging in there :) Had my 3rd chemo treatment almost 3 weeks ago and it was rough. They seem to get worse with each one. By ‘worse’ I mean the fatigue. That has pretty much been my biggest side effect. The other prob I’ve been having is with my blood count numbers – white blood cells, red cells and hemoglobin. I have to take special shots to boost my white cells. There’s a chance that I may have to have a transfusion tomorrow if my red cells / hemoglobin are still low. This is to get me ready for my 4th chemo treatment that I’m supposed to have this Thursday. Although I’m really dreading it, I want to do it and get it over with. Then I’ll have to do surgery in a few weeks and more chemo after that. My oncologist says the chemo I’ll have after surgery shouldn’t be as tough on me as it won’t be the 2 hard core drugs I’m on now. It will just be 1 drug. Hope he’s right :) I don’t quite see a light at the end of the tunnel yet, but there is a glimmer :)

6/05/11

I had my 4th round of chemo on 5/26 and am finally starting to feel better. It’s crazy how weak I am. Walking up the 10 stairs from my basement makes my heart pound in my head. The good news is that my surgery has been scheduled for the 22nd and that I won’t have any more chemo treatments until after I recover from that. I’m not looking forward to more chemo, but I keep holding on to the fact that my doctor says it shouldn’t be as tough on me. My fingers and toes are crossed. :) Time is passing so fast, that I know it won’t be long till all this is over and I can get back to my everyday boring life :)

6/21/11

Well folks, tomorrow is surgery day. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t a little nervous about it. Actually, as crazy as it might sound, it’s not really the surgery or the result of the surgery that has me nervous. Without going into excruciating detail, the thing that has me the most anxious is the small procedure that they do before the surgery. It involves the radiology department, a needle, radioactive dye and my traitorous appendage. The words ouch, wince and shudder all come to mind. ;) I’m tough though, so bring it on.

6/24/11

The surgery went well. I was sent home around noon yesterday and am doing great. Have only had to take regular old ibuprofen for the pain twice. Doubt if I’ll need to do that anymore. The worst part so far is having to sleep on my back… so if that’s my only complaint, things can’t be that bad. I just have to cross my fingers that pathology reports come back with good news as far as lymph  node involvement. They know that cancer cells were in the main node (sentinel node), so they took 15-20 more nodes after that one and will test them all. If they find cancer cells in those, that means I’ll have to have radiation treatments in addition to more treatments. Hmmm, I wonder if radiation would give me a super power like Spiderman? ;)

7/22/11

It’s been 4 weeks since my surgery and I’m healing really well. They did find cancer cells in some lymph nodes, so that means I’ll be having 33-36 radiation treatments after my 2nd round of chemo treatments. Chemo starts back up next Thursday if my blood work looks ok. I’m feeling really good and have been enjoying getting out and doing things again. If it wasn’t for my zipper scars and some range of motion issues with my right arm (I’m doing physical therapy for that), I would say I feel pretty much ‘normal’. I have my fingers crossed that the new chemo drugs don’t wipe me out like the first round. All I really care about though is just getting all this behind me and getting back to regular old boring life. I’ve had enough character building experiences for awhile ;)

8/31/11

Oops, I didn’t realize that I’ve not posted an update in over a month. I restarted chemo and have had 2 treatments since I last updated. I just have 2 more left (the next one is next Thursday) and then radiation treatments start one month after the chemo ends. So far this new chemo isn’t quite as bad as the first stuff I was on. I’m not as bone dead tired, but I’ve been dealing with the 101 degree fevers of unknown origin, which are taxing. I’m hanging in there though and feel that I’m doing pretty darn good for all the drugs they are pumping in me. :)

10/2/11

Another month gone by and another update to post :) I think I’m going to make this my last update because I had my final (FOREVER) chemo treatment last Thursday. Yay! :) The plan is for me to return to work on 10/13. It’s going to be a big adjustment after being off for the past 6 months, but I’m ready to get back to the old routine. Although chemo is done, my treatments aren’t exactly over though. In a month or so I’ll start radiation treatments. I’ll also continue to receive a drug called Herceptin every 3 weeks till next August.

I’m also ready to grow some hair. It was 39 degrees here this morning! ;)

Thanks to all of you that have posted encouraging get well comments and emails during these past months. I really appreciate you all more than you’ll ever know.

Posted in: News

{ 256 comments… add one }

  • Josh May 26, 2011, 11:32 am

    Thank you for posting your updates Julie! We miss you back at work and we are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers.

  • Julie May 26, 2011, 4:21 pm

    My blood counts were good and I was able to have my 4th chemo today. It was my last bad one (hopefully) and I can say good bye to the “red devil”, “red koolaid” stuff that is pretty strong. Even the docs that are mixing the drugs have to wear gloves and take special precautions so that they don’t get it on their skin.

    I’ll be glad to get back to work. I miss all my friends at Cummins! Never has the daily drudge of a regular work day seemed so wonderful :)

  • Bob Deloyd May 26, 2011, 5:34 pm

    :)

  • Tom Munch May 26, 2011, 7:46 pm

    Glad you made it this far so well. It should get better now hopefully.

  • Julie June 5, 2011, 11:24 am

    I just posted another update :)

  • Tom Munch June 5, 2011, 11:35 am

    Sounds good, even though I’m sure it’s not fun to feel weak all the time. Thinking of you very day. :-)

  • Ian June 5, 2011, 12:08 pm

    Way to go.
    First laps finished. On On for the op and into recovery mode:)

  • James Goforth June 7, 2011, 7:01 am

    Julie

    Thanks for the update. Everyone at work misses you and we can’t wait for you to get back. But you need to take care of yourself first….

  • James Kendrick June 8, 2011, 1:32 pm

    Thanks for the updates, Julie. There are so many of us who care and it’s wonderful to hear how you are doing. May the rest of this ordeal pass quickly and easily for you.

    Take care, my friend.

  • Paul June 21, 2011, 9:58 am

    Good luck with your surgery tomorrow. Remember you have a lot of people praying for you.

  • Julie June 21, 2011, 12:29 pm

    @Paul Thank you!!!

  • Julie June 21, 2011, 12:41 pm

    I have just posted another update :)

  • Bob DeLoyd June 21, 2011, 12:53 pm

    Our fingers and toes are crossed for you Julie!

  • Janet Cloninger June 21, 2011, 1:01 pm

    @Julie You are tough – much tougher than those stupid traitorous cells. I know you don’t like to take medications, but you need to remember one thing for tomorrow. If they offer you any pain medications before they begin that procedure, say “yes, please!”

  • Julie June 21, 2011, 1:26 pm

    @Janet No worries there… this is one time when I’ll just say yes to drugs ;)

  • Ryan June 21, 2011, 2:06 pm

    I, like many of your other family/friends/followers, are thinking of you daily but especially tomorrow as you endure another step in your journey to cancer-free living.
    Let that positive energy encapsulate you and remove all fear and pain you may be subjected to.

  • Chapple June 22, 2011, 9:06 am

    Thinking and praying for you. Stay tough and strong, Julie!

  • Jorge Vargas June 22, 2011, 5:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. My mother is undergoing therapy as you so I can understand how you feel. Keep the warrior spirit and you will come out stronger from this.

  • Hellene June 23, 2011, 7:41 am

    Just found out about this! Julie, all the best from far away in Africa!

  • Julie June 24, 2011, 11:55 am

    I just added an after surgery update :)

  • Ian June 24, 2011, 2:19 pm

    HiHi Julie,
    Welcome back home:)
    My Sammy DLP just went kaboom this morning and I was feeling annoyed. Now your posting has cheered me up no end.
    Have a great weekend at home:)

  • Bob DeLoyd June 24, 2011, 3:14 pm

    Hoping for the best!!!!
    Hang in there Kid :)

  • Tom Munch June 24, 2011, 3:38 pm

    Thinking of you, Julie. Glad the surgery went well.

  • Julie June 24, 2011, 4:35 pm

    @Ian Sorry to hear about your TV… but isn’t that a great excuse to go out and buy a bigger one? ;)

  • Bill June 24, 2011, 9:34 pm

    Hang in there. Enjoyed your posts for years. Sorry to hear about your cancer. Sending good thoughts your direction.

  • Ann Sterling June 30, 2011, 1:23 pm

    Radiation gave me a permanent tan. Hope you get back to full strength soon–course that means back to work! Missing you!

  • Julie June 30, 2011, 3:01 pm

    @Ann I’m guessing you have a permanent tan in the affected area, but not on your whole body ;) I’d be all for a whole body tan as I tend to be as pale as an albino albino ;)

  • Julie July 22, 2011, 12:14 pm

    Hi folks! I just posted my latest update. :)

  • Tom Munch July 22, 2011, 1:39 pm

    Keep on keeping healthy and it’ll be behind you soon. :-)

  • Bob DeLoyd July 22, 2011, 1:55 pm

    I’m in awe of you!

  • Chapple July 25, 2011, 8:52 am

    Thanks for the update Julie. It was great seeing you in the office.

  • Ian July 25, 2011, 9:05 am

    Enjoy the summer:)

  • Heidi July 26, 2011, 8:49 pm

    I’m inspired by your updates, Julie. You are a tough cookie and will be even more full of “character” when you are cancer free and back to the daily grind. Sending good thoughts your way.

  • Matt Penning August 28, 2011, 6:04 am

    Julie – Just found this series after seeing your post on chicken soup and chemo. Sending prayers and healing thoughts your way. Thank you for posting on your journey, helping alert others to the need for early action, and showing us that the way through cancer can be full of support.

    FYI – Jake Shimabukuro is going to be in Springfield and Bloomington, Illinois November 8 & 9. I plan on being at the Springfield show on the 8th. You might consider the trip over if you’ve not seen him in person.

  • Julie August 31, 2011, 5:10 pm

    I just posted an update to my adventure :)

  • Ian August 31, 2011, 5:15 pm

    Quite a journey Julie.
    Have a great weekend:)

  • Bob DeLoyd August 31, 2011, 5:41 pm

    @Julie you’re one tough lady!
    All my best to you :)

  • Tom Munch August 31, 2011, 9:55 pm

    Thanks for the update. I’ll continue pulling for you.

  • Tom Munch August 31, 2011, 9:57 pm

    Hey, I just recorded “Hallelujah” and am about to put it up on iTunes.

  • Julie August 31, 2011, 9:59 pm

    @Tom I LOVE that song!!

  • Tom Munch August 31, 2011, 10:24 pm

    I know. Do you still have the copy I sent you?

  • Julie September 1, 2011, 1:34 pm

    @Tom I have the doc file you sent that has the chords/words… You didn’t send me the actual audio file.

  • Tom Munch September 2, 2011, 9:37 am

    File sent! :-)

  • Chapple September 6, 2011, 9:45 am

    Glad to hear things are going better with this round. Hope the fevers clear up and you continue on the path to recovery. Thinking of you!

  • Julie October 2, 2011, 10:26 am

    I just posted my final update to this article :)

  • Tom Munch October 2, 2011, 10:38 am

    Julie,

    I’m so glad you’re done with chemo! I’ve been quietly pulling for you, and this is a happy day! Keep us updated even if you stop posting to this thread, okay?

    Best always,

    Tom

  • Julie October 2, 2011, 10:46 am

    @Tom Thanks! :)

  • Ian October 2, 2011, 2:01 pm

    Way to go! Enjoy your work and life:)

  • Matt Penning October 2, 2011, 7:45 pm

    Great news, Julie!

    I hope you can quickly ease back to work.

    Thank you for sharing your life through this tough journey. It likely save a life or two, by helping get people to check themselves more frequently

  • chuckster October 3, 2011, 8:40 am

    Thank you for the update Julie, I have kept you in my prayer thoughts thru this chalenge. You’re a trooper! You have the courage of two Gladiator’s……Please call me if you ever need a errand run.
    chuck

  • James Goforth October 4, 2011, 3:24 pm

    Julie,

    Glad to hear things are going well for you….Can’t wait to see you back at work….

  • Julie October 4, 2011, 3:34 pm

    @James oh oh… does that mean you’re over worked and are going to dump all the stuff you don’t want to do on me? ;) Just kidding :)

  • Chapple October 10, 2011, 12:40 pm

    Awesome news Julie! Glad to hear of the progress and anxiously awaiting your return to work! :-)

  • Bob DeLoyd October 10, 2011, 4:34 pm

    iHappy—- Throughout all the bad news last week I thought I’d turn around the iSad that someone commented on SJ…. i:)

  • Julie October 10, 2011, 5:00 pm

    @Bob Thanks :D

  • SJ October 12, 2011, 2:55 am

    Great news – will keep you in my thoughts for your continuing recovery and good health.

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