Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Survivor Project

These are the names of breast cancer survivors I've collected. 
I will probably do this again as I meet more warriors on my journey.
Thanks to all of you for contributing to this project.

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I want my brain back!

I'm extremely curious about http://www.lumosity.com/

I want to get back in the game!  back in life! back in work! 
I want my brain back!

Got this from my new found blogging friend Denise http://denise4health.wordpress.com/

I'll keep you posted :)
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Sunday, January 27, 2013

I'm Okay

I know it's been over a week since I last posted but I'm okay. Really!

I'm not gonna lie...this is really hard.......and the next four treatments will be intense. Taxotere is not a nice drug but it's the only way to continue reducing the tumor. I will do whatever it takes to knock this stupid cancer out of my body.

It took about a week to recover from the treatment on January 17th. I didn't even get on the computer during those days and only checked text messages. Then it was Friday and I had a busy weekend.

Yesterday a student and teacher from my school came over for a couple hours. The student approached me in December about being part of his senior photo project. He wanted to take photos of me doing normal activities with and without the scarves. No wonder models get paid a zillion dollars. It's hard work! His mom lost her battle with breast cancer in August of 2011 so I was honored that he asked me to be a part of his project. He showed me all of the shots and they looked great with the natural lighting and different angles.

I'm worried about my sister, Carol. She has been so tired and in so much pain. You're not really done when they tell you you're finished with the treatment and cured. It takes a long time to recover and get back to where you were BC (before cancer).

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Chronic Fatigue

Have you ever been sick and tired of being sick and tired?  Have you ever wondered if people are sick and tired of you complaining about being sick and tired? 
Well, that's me in a nutshell. 

You would think that after declaring that I'm "cancer-free", it would all be "okay" by now.  After all, the treatments are done.

And I'm still not feeling 100% and I'm still really, really tired.

There are probably things that I should be doing to help myself through this process of recovery. 

Eating better
Do I need more iron?
I could use some sunshine for sure
Less stress?

What the heck is WRONG WITH ME?

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Introduction to Breast Cancer

Article from Health Monitor Fall 2012

Learning that you have breast cancer can, quite literally, stop you in your tracks. You may feel frozen in time, replaying over and over again in your mind the moment your doctor told you the news. It's normal to feel a wide range of emotions—fear, shock, depression, anger and even guilt.

Slow down, take a moment and breathe. The emotions you are feeling are completely understandable. And if you are feeling nothing, that's OK, too. Oftentimes, when a woman hears the diagnosis "breast cancer," she goes temporarily numb.

Take comfort, though, in knowing that, as of 2010, there are more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. Experts report that the death rate from breast cancer has been decreasing since 1991, due to public awareness, earlier detection and advances in treatment.

The truth is, there is nothing fair about breast cancer. But you can find plenty of help and reasons for hope. Turn to your family and friends. Choose a healthcare team you trust. Prepare for a battle and be strong.

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Names of Survivors

My sister has a wonderful idea for a project.  She is asking for a list of names of breast cancer survivors.  I got side tracked, like I normally do, and read a few of these googled articles .....

Pink Warriors

Kate Jackson

Celebrities - Breast Cancer

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I'm Taking Names

Carol and Christie
Tomorrow is chemo #4, the last of this kick-ass combo. They will reduce the dosage by 20% and Doc will be keeping a close eye on me this time. I'm sure this will go much better than last time so please don't worry (self-talk). I will go back on Friday for the Neulasta shot in the tummy and then return on Monday for hydration (sounds like something you do to a plant).  I will have 4 more treatments with another drug; the last one will be April 11th. Surgery will be in May, followed by radiation in the summer.

Speaking of plants, my Dad stopped over yesterday and brought his two green thumbs. He is now in charge of caring for my heirloom plants for a while. It will give him an excuse to visit and play in the dirt!

Yesterday I started making a list of breast cancer survivors I've met or know through someone else. I'm up to 18 so far. You know, there will be about 280,000 people diagnosed with breast cancer in the US this year and approximately 240,000 will become survivors like my sister, Carol. I am going through this so I will be a survivor too.

I've started a little project and I'm taking names of survivors. Please email me at 2christiehickman@gmail.com 
or leave a comment below if you know 
a breast cancer survivor. 
First names only.

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Simplifying My Life

January 15, 2013 was my appointment with Doc Esther, my medical oncologist.   This was to be my official parting of the ways.

Product DetailsI was reading a book as I waited to be called in.  Something not cancer related.  The nurse took me to one of the exam rooms to take my vitals.  As she did so, she asked me what the numbers 316 meant that was written on my bracelet. 

"It's a Bible verse."
"Can you tell me what it says?" she asked.
"Are you sure?" She said she was.

I then spoke the words ~

John 3:16

New King James Version (NKJV)
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Mind you, this was the first time a stranger asked me point blank about the bible or anything related to God.  My heart was overflowing to be able to say that out loud to a person who actually gave me permission to tell them words from the bible.

Then, she was gone .... and in walked Doc Esther.  She booted up my medical records on the computer and said

I'm going to simplify your life

She said my team of doctors collaborated and decided that patients only needed to get the final clearance from one of them (not all 3).  She asked me if I had appointments to follow up with my surgeon and I said yes, March 5.  And my radiologist?  I said yes, March 6. 

"Cancel them, you don't need to see them."

After the exam, I followed her to the nurses station as she wrote a script for me and instructions for my next visit in 3 months.

I gave her a hug and said "thank you for saving my life" and she said

I was just the recipe maker

As I left, I decided to walk thru the treatment area to find some angel nurses .... I found nurses Karen and Regina and got some heartfelt hugs.  I came to a stop in the waiting room as a woman caught my attention.  She was wearing a hat and holding her husband's hand.  I laid my things on the chair near them and put my coat on.  I wished I could just sit down and talk to her. Instead, I said "I just finished a year of treatment.  I'm all done!" She smiled and said "congratulations".  I replied, "There is hope."

My journey is done ..... now, I just need to focus on gaining my strength back and getting my body cleansed of all the chemo drugs.  This will take some time, I'm sure.  Isn't that a thought? 

Time is what I now have back.

Thanks to my heavenly maker and my recipe maker ~
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Monday, January 14, 2013

Vision Problems

Photo by Carol at Christmas 2012
A few weeks ago I was clicking away at an event with Tommy's camera. I was having a hard time getting into focus and when I'd check the screen the picture was blurry. I approached a young man and asked him to help me figure out how to adjust the focus. He pointed the camera, looked through the lens and pressed the shutter button half way down then informed me that the camera was on auto-focus. Duh!
He gave it back and I pointed to the same group, pressed the shutter button half way down and told him it was blurry again. The poor guy didn't know what to say. I thanked him, checked to make sure my glasses were clean and took a few more photos.
I finally gave up and took a seat.

My sister Carol had the same problem with her vision while on chemotherapy. And when it was over she had an eye exam and got new glasses. I received a new eyeglass prescription BC (before cancer) and I decided to go ahead and order a new pair. Julia first helped my daughter order a pair and then it was my turn. She told me that she was on chemotherapy a few years ago and had similar problems with her vision. She recommended that I check with my doctor about using eye drops. When we finished with the order I ask if I could have a hug.

A week later I picked up the new glasses. This time, Annie, one of my favorite eyewear consultants, was there. Annie has helped me several times over the years but I didn't know she went through chemotherapy too. Wearing a scarf is like a beacon for survivors to share and give us hope.   The doctor came over to visit and explained that when I finished chemo I should come back for another exam to see if my vision changed. Annie made a note on my file to replace the lenses for free if that was the case. After she adjusted my new glasses she gave me a big hug. It was a heartwarming experience.

I love my new glasses but most of the time my vision is still blurry.
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Sunday, January 13, 2013


I've been able to shake the emotional and physical fatigue from the hospital stay last week. I was determined to make progress on some housekeeping chores and had a very productive weekend!

Katie helped me sort tons of laundry Friday evening and got a couple of loads started. Then we put away my summer shirts and discovered winter pajamas tucked away in the closet! My mom sent over a package of plastic shower curtain hangers and we made this scarf organizer. Matching my outfits each day will be much easier.

The next morning I felt rested and decided to return a couple of Christmas items. Katie and I shopped at four stores and had a nice lunch at Olive Garden. We returned home after six hours and she's the one who needed a nap!

Richard worked diligently on finishing the laundry. My Superman!

I got up early today and tackled the dust bunnies while the scrubbing bubbles went crazy in the bathroom. I'm so grateful for my family's support and now feel ready to begin another hectic work-week.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

The New Normal

This morning I opened the laundry room doors and discovered this disaster. For 25 years it's been our weekend routine to complete 4-5 loads, get everything folded and put away.

Being in the hospital last week was the tipping point. As we try to get through each day the laundry and dust-bunnies are taking over the house.

Yesterday I went into the dining room and found my 3 heirloom plants barely alive. I can't remember the last time I watered the poor things (or when I'd last been in the dining room). They are the only plants I have left and are each over 30 years old. They could use an IV just like me!

I am so unorganized and forgetful now. I thought I was doing great by multi-tasking; eating breakfast AND making a list of everything I needed to do at work today. I was half way there when I realize I forgot the list on the table! I should have written it on my hand.

My sister understands exactly what this is like. She mentioned the program, Cleaning for a Reason. I decided to apply for this service online. When I clicked 'submit' it listed only one cleaning business in Akron affiliated with this program. If I get approved they will contact me and then I will need to send a patient release from my doctor.

In the mean time, if I turn up missing this weekend, please tell my family to check under all the clothes.
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Monday, January 7, 2013


I've spent the last week concerned about my sister, Christie.  Now, I just got my hair back and she is gonna turn it gray! 

We are all keeping a sharp eye on missy now!

I think this was a lesson to all of us, but especially for her.  Each of us knows our own bodies best and when it is feeling bad, especially chemo patients, we got to recognize it for what it is and get help. 

For patients everywhere:
  • Are you worried about being a nuisance?
  • Think you are calling the doctor's office too many times?
  • Feeling like a hypochondriac?
  • Don't want to rock the boat?
Get over it!
Call the doctor!!
You have my permission ....
ok, ok, give yourself permission!

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I Came This Close

I came home from the hospital yesterday afternoon and can't tell you how wonderful it is to be here. This morning I was feeling a little melancholy when thinking about my nurses and how blessed I was to have their care.

I had my 10 day checkup with Doc today. She showed me how low all of my numbers were on Thursday and how they went up each day in the hospital. Today everything is normal. As I hopped back up on the table she asked who was responsible for getting me to finally call. I told her Richard dialed the number and put the phone in my hand and Carol made me promise the night before to go in for hydration. Doc turned and patted Richard on the shoulder and told him, "Good job." Then she looked at me and said, "If this happens to you again you will die." She walked over and hugged me. "Don't scare your oncologist like that."

Thank you Richard, Carol, and Doc Esther for saving my life.

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Just Kidding

Guess what I had for dinner?
The doc-on-call decided to torture me with hospital food a while longer. Looks like I will make my escape on Monday. The highlight of my day was my sister's visit, complete with a Frappe and french fries. Then my kids and husband for a couple more hours of family fun. They cracked me up!

Here is something else that cracked me up and thought I'd share. Housekeeping stopped by just as I was getting off the phone. She wanted to engage in some light conversation.
HK: "That sure is a big phone."
ME: "Yeah, my family just got it for me."
HK: "Well, it looks kinda funny holdin' a mini laptop up to your face like that."
ME: "Yeah, but my vision is getting worse and now I can see the screen."
HK: "I don't think I would buy one of those."
ME: "Well, my fingers were going numb and now I can text with the larger screen." (trying to defend my new phone as she pushes the mop into the bathroom.)

Housekeeping came back and continued to engage in more light conversation.
HK: "Well, look at this blanket! It sure is pretty and so soft."
ME: "Thanks, a neighbor girl made it for me."
HK: "You must really like pink. This blanket, that bag, your socks!"
I adjusted the scarf on my head. " Yeah, well now that I'm in the Breast Cancer Club it's my favorite color."
HK: "Ohhhhhh...."

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Friday, January 4, 2013

A Quart Low

This morning Doc Esther said I need to stay in the hospital another day and promised I could go home "this weekend". White blood count and blood pressure are too low so I am still receiving fluids this evening. My engine should be all tuned up and ready to go before long.

Remember  when I called myself a light weight and cheap date? Apparently alcohol isn't the only thing I metabolize differently. Doc said we will need to cut back on the chemo drugs by 20 %. I know!  I was alarmed also! I asked, "Will I need an additional dose?" No, I won't need an extra session and it will still be as powerful. Good!

My sister came up with a brilliant idea. I should think about my situation like I did when I was pregnant; pack  a bag just in case because I'll never know when I might go in the hospital unexpectedly. I called my daughter this morning with another list of "essentials" and Uncle Matt brought her to the hospital. We had a nice visit and when they left I had several things to occupy my time. (of which I seem to have tons).
When I go home I'm going to pack a bag of items that I won't miss; socks, under clothes, travel size grooming products, crafts. I will also put together a list of other items that my family can gather for me; medical binder, computer, phone charger. This way no one has to make an extra trip to bring items.

I honestly did not sleep last night and now I am struggling to keep my eyes open. Thank you Kriss, Linda, Jody and Vada for sending me special hugs. You can't imagine how much it really helps.

I am fighting like a girl - and this girl is going to get her beauty sleep! Good Night!

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Prayers for Christie

Christie was admitted to the hospital yesterday and will stay in for another night.  She is getting a much needed dose of hydration and TLC. 

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Thursday, January 3, 2013


It's been a week since chemo#3 and somehow all the plans I made to make this better backfired. I was getting worse by the day and called Doc this morning. I lost weight (absolutely forbidden in  chemo-land), couldn't walk without panting like a sick dog and would collapse at the drop of a hat. Doc gave me the eyeball test, ( said I looked like hell.) And then admitted me to the hospital for some fluid and antibiotics. That's when the adventure really began. They put me in the urology unit at 1:30. Because my husband  kept making calls, I finally got an IV at 5:30.  Tommy and Katie came to visit just in time to help me move to the oncology wing where I am being well cared for. I will probably go home tomorrow after Doc gives me the thumbs up. Thanks for all the hugs and prayers.
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