Tuesday, July 12, 2016

My Sis, the "Other" TNBC and now Multiple Myeloma

In September 2007, our family got on the triple negative breast cancer train when my older sister, Pam, was first diagnosed with the disease.  She put up an incredible battle with it and rarely complained even though I knew she was in a lot of pain. I remember thinking back then, how awful it must be to have a breast removed. Who knew two years later, I would know what it was like to have both of them removed. 

Pam opted to do a single mastectomy and chemo even though I thought it wasn't enough.  I was always concerned for her welfare because of the aggressiveness of this disease to rear its head at a later date and the fact she did not do a bilateral but she was convinced she would be fine.  My gut instinct never sat well with it so I just prayed for her. But we both made it past the two and five year marks that is so critical for TNBCs.

Life went along seemingly well and that cancer train was in the rear view until recently.  Actually, I should go back to a year or so ago when she was having considerable pain because this should be KEY to any post-cancer patient.  Yes, the pain sucks but the idea it exists 24/7 means your body is trying to tell you something. I live with pain every single day myself and I hate when doubt creeps in.  My pain is from fibromyalgia and from a car crash....and well, now the ribs of course. 

Back on point, Pam's pains were in her hands and feet and she swelled in those areas.  What does that mean?  Honestly, I don't know but I tell you because should you recognize this, it might be worth checking into and seek medical advice.  Listen to your body, get it checked out.  

As it stands, my sister is now facing Multiple Myeloma. A rare type of cancer that develops in plasma cells (white bloods cells).  Cancer cells eventually overtake the healthy plasma cells in people with MM and depletes the body of much needed white blood cells to fight off infection.  As the cancer cells grow, so do the symptoms.  Pam's future will consist of biological therapy to try to turn her body into a cancer fighting tool.  She will be given drugs like lenalidomide (Revlimid), thalidomide (Thalomid), or pomalidomide (Pomalyst).  She will also endure protease inhibitors (to target and kill cancer cells), chemotherapy (for the rest of her life), corticosteroids, Stem cell transplants, and/or a combination of many of these treatments. 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Multiple Myeloma and Stage 3 is advanced. When I read up on this disease, I wanted to cry.  It is hard not to look at prognosis and they all seem to be the same.  In her case, there is a 3-5 year life shelf and the treatment that comes with it is nothing short of quality of life reduction.  And it pisses me off because it also places her right in that 12-year window for TNBC's.  I am angry over that too... or maybe just scared.  Again.  Anyway, I digress.  This is about her, not me.  

So for this day, she will do the same thing she did with TNBC.  She will fight.  One day at a time, every single day.  Until she has no more fight left or until research has come up with promising therapy for individuals like my sister.  Today, I pray for Pam and for every person out there, who like my other friend, Michele Haro, who has been enduring this dreadful disease along with kidney failure for a year now and just received an additional diagnosis of skin cancer.  I pray for them because I know it is the best thing I can do and I ask you to do the same with me.  And pray for research, that they will find better treatment for those in need, not just with TNBC or Multiple Myeloma, but all cancers.

Thank you. I love you.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Six years Later..... Pain after Breast Cancer: Costocondritis

After settling in with all the "new normals" of being a post-cancer patient and the hitches that come with that, there always seems to be something that creeps up.  In the last couple of years, I have stayed rather quiet for several reasons, but mostly because I was tired and just didn't have the energy to keep up with TNBC or anything else "cancer". :(  Maybe I was just trying to forget? But one never forgets....

Since those days, I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, osteopenia/osteoporosis, depression, excessive back pain (from a car crash way back when), issues from being hit by a truck during chemo (fun).....and now, costochondritis.

Here is the low down on costochondritis.   After breast cancer pain seems to be part of the normal every day activities and doctors often say "give it more time".  Well, in my case, I have done quite well...considering I am now 7 years out from diagnosis and 5 years out from the last of all treatments and reconstruction! Unfortunately, a few months back I had an incident where my ribs hurt.  It wasn't a crazy painful hurt, but one where I felt like I had bruised my ribs, and if I turned the wrong way or bumped them, it hurt.  Now, two weeks ago, I started getting this unbelievable pain in my ribs and chest. It almost feels like someone is stabbing me from the inside out or even a burning pain. While sometimes it lasts for just a few minutes, it can also last for several minutes leaving me shaken or waking me from a full sleep. 
Since this diagnosis, I have done a little more research and understand the cartilage between the ribs is inflamed. It has occurred because of the mastectomy in 2009.  I, like others, worry as the pain generated is in the area of where my multifocal tumors were situated.”

Therapydotcom states that "Costocondritis is inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the breastbone (called costal cartilages). Also known as anterior chest wall pain, costosternal syndrome or parasternal chondrodynia, it causes pain in the chest wall around the breastbone (or sternum) and sometimes is severe.
Costochondritis is a common problem in women who have been affected by breast cancer and acts up in a similar way to arthritis. The pain may be mild to severe with tenderness over the anterior chest and may radiate to the back, shoulders, stomach or arms. Pain is often aggravated with coughing, lifting, straining, sneezing and deep breathing. Pain can be constant or intermittent and can last for several days to multiple months/years."  (Oh joy!)
Apparently once you get it, it can flare up at any time and you have to be cautious with over-working your arms with things like lifting, painting and sweeping. Sometimes the pain can extend to the shoulder or arm on the involved side.  As for me, mine radiates from my sternum to the right all the way around my back and involves my right implant also.  Honestly, it hurts to a point it feels like my implant is going to fall off - even though I know otherwise.
Therapydotcom goes on to say "When costochondritis is accompanied by swelling of the areas surrounding the cartilage, the condition is called Tietze syndrome which causes localized musculoskeletal pain. In Tietze syndrome, the swollen area of the inflamed cartilage may be tender to the touch, and the skin overlying the cartilage may be reddened".
My doctor has recommended a combination of rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medications (Ibuprofen), and stretches. In reading up, some cases of severe pain, cortisone injections or surgery have been utilized- with mixed results. I myself would defer on that and stick to stretching exercises as they have shown to be beneficial. 
So, ladies, my recommendation is to keep on keeping on.  Keep your chin up, keep stretching, keep exercising, keep kicking cancer's axx.....Much love.