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Breast cancer complications

I have survived three cancers, rheumatoid arthritis and a hip replacement.  I expected that I would eventually have another cancer. The disease seemed to be written in my stars. However, I wasn’t expecting another complication from my breast cancer treatment.

My first complication was a rare uterine cancer called uterine papillary serous cancer. It is a side effect of being on tamoxifen.  This cancer is aggressive and behaves similarly to ovarian cancer in that it is aggressive and can be deadly. It is never caught early. I was fortunate because it was picked up by my rheumatologist on a lower back MRI. So, I spent the entire 2018 with a biopsy, then major robotic surgery, followed by a summer of chemo, finished off with vaginal radiation for the holidays.

My complication was a breast abscess formed in necrotic fat tissue as a result of radiation for breast cancer.

Any surgery or radiation will cause scarring in the healthy tissue. I had a hard lump in my breast after surgery and radiation. I understood it to be scar tissue and I learned to live with it.

The softness of our breasts comes from fat tissue. It is this tissue that formed the scarring from radiation. Cancer doesn’t like radiation but neither does healthy breast tissue.  It was this scarred tissue that became necrotic or dead. Fat necrosis is a  long term complication from breast cancer radiation treatment. The necrotic tissue in my breast became abscessed. Breast abscess due to fat necrosis due to breast cancer radiation. Sounds awful.

My breast cancer surgeon recognized it instantly for what it was. I was sent to a wound care clinic. The nurses were also familiar with the condition. They said my breast looked more like a bad leg wound. It was a half inch lesion. They poked around inside (didn’t hurt). Much of the tissue was necrotic and also calcified.

I was given a prescription for Santyl which is an ointment that debrides the dead tissue. It dissolves the dead tissue to clean it out. It cost me $95. The going price is $250. The alternative is another surgery much like a mastectomy. I hope this works.

Mary Mann Cancer Journal

Fireplace, quail block and cancer

November 8, 2019

Cancer Journal

A grey fog has settled over the city. I can’t see the mountains. I can only see the neighborhood. The temperature is supposed to hit the sixties here in Albuquerque, but I doubt it. We need the sun to warm us up. Winter seems to have hit us suddenly. We turned from green to dull winter brown almost overnight. The quail block outside my bedroom window has been very busy. Lots of birds. Fat quail families making their regular visits. The squirrels have left the old tomato plant and are happily munching the quail block with the birds. I haven’t seen the chipmunks lately. Life in the backyard.

I enjoy winter here in Albuquerque. I enjoy my fireplace. Yesterday I had my afternoon coffee in a comfortable chair by the fire. I read another chapter or two from my current library book on my kindle. I am reading Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth. It is a seven hundred page book. The story draws you in and you feel the need to know what happens next. I keep reading. I have renewed this book once already and probably will need to do it again.

The lesion on my breast cancer scar  is stable. I have an ointment for it, and I am taking an antibiotic for the three organisms growing on it. I visit the wound clinic in a few days. It should be an easy fix.

It has taken me a long time to recover from last year’s cancer treatment. Last year at this time I was receiving another radiation treatment for another part of my body. It was a follow up to a summer of chemotherapy. Glad I have the year’s recovery under my belt.  I am stronger. I am doing a ten minute yoga routine every morning. It is good to have the energy for it and it is good to feel my muscles work.

Mary Mann Cancer Journal

Cancer Complications Never go away

Cancer Journal update

November 5, 2019

I had forsaken this website as I felt my cancer was in the past. I now understand that cancer is never really in the past. This month is the six year anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis. It is also the one year anniversary for vaginal radiation of my uterine cancer. I spent most of last year being treated for uterine papillary serous carcinoma. It is a rare, aggressive cancer similar to ovarian cancer in behavior. It is caused by the breast cancer drug, Tamoxifen.

I have spent most of the year recovering from major robotic surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I am stronger. My mind is back to its former self. I am so happy and relieved.

Now I have an open wound over my breast cancer scar tissue. My new breast cancer surgeon says that after being exposed to radiation, breast fat (what we feel as our breast) becomes necrotic and that damaged tissue breaks the skin looking for an out. I now have a half inch lesion. The lesion tested positive for three organisms. I have no idea where they came from. I am on an antibiotic and start the wound clinic next week.

Since cancer issues remain on my mind, I thought it would be wise to dust off and open up my cancer website. Its time to clean the site up and turn it into something useful.

Uterine papillary serous cancer 2018

I became suspicious that there was more to my D&C and biopsy than I was expecting. My GYN Doc called me in to her office a week early to discuss my biopsy results. It was also her day for surgery.  She came up from the OR suite just to talk to me. Bad signs.

I like her. She is a petite woman of Asian heritage. Friendly. Personable. Professional. She quickly arrived carrying pictures she had taken during the D&C and a copy of the pathology report. She handed it to me. I read serous cancer. Reconfirmed. No doubt about it. She said she wasn’t familiar with this type of cancer, but I suspect she was playing the discussion forward to the next doctor. I have an appointment with an experienced GYN oncology surgeon on Monday.

Uterine papillary serous cancer, UPSC for short, is also called uterine serous cancer and uterine serous adenocarcinoma. Docs and Google will understand if you just say serous cancer. It is a rare subset of endometrial cancer. It is relentlessly aggressive and accounts for a high number of endometrial cancer deaths. It is in the same class of seriousness as ovarian cancer. The treatment is brutal, and the cancer is still relentless. Scared the Dickens out of me.

Once the treatment process starts, it will change my life forever. I will lose much of the progress I have made after my hip replacement. I will be sick. I will have no energy and no hair. After a comprehensive surgery, chemotherapy is next. Radiation may be added. The cancer keeps coming back and as long as chemo can be an option, it is repeated.

The five-year survival rate is 27% when other types of endometrial cancers are eliminated from the statistics. Not good.

Serous cancer was separated out from endometrial cancer about 20 years ago. I have a GYN nurse friend who never heard of it. She stopped working about 25 years ago.

This week-end I am working in my yard, my favorite. Like many other cancer patients, I am also starting to clear the decks and to plan for treatment. My son says he will miss my cooking but will be happy to take on the duties he had when I had my hip replacement problems. He will take me to my appointment Monday.

With past cancers, I was told, “You are lucky we caught it early”. I wish that is what I heard this time. Just like everyone else, I will do what I need to do. The medical community requires that a cancer patient have a good attitude. To do otherwise is like being unpatriotic. I think that places an additional burden on a patient. I’ve seen too many incredibly optimistic cancer patients die. I sometimes think that it is a symptom of cancer mortality. I don’t want to be too optimistic. I just want to live to 95.

 

Look Good Feel Better

There is one good thing about chemotherapy. It is the Look Good Feel Better program. Fun. A time to share. Like Christmas. It is a two-hour appointment with a cosmetologist in a small group of women who have cancer.

I had participated in a program five years ago when I was in radiation treatment for breast cancer. That appointment was at MD Anderson on Indian School near Kaseman. This session was at the Rust Cancer Center and was equally as good as the one five years ago. We are each given a cosmetic bag full of cosmetics that matches our skin tones. The bags come sealed and ready for us. At our places we each have a mirror and cosmetic wipes.

Opening the bag is like Christmas. My bag had Chanel powder, lipstick and blush. Clinique foundation, Estee Lauder face cream and eye makeup, IT brow powder and a set of brushes, body lotion and sun screen. Pure joy.

Our instructor walks us through the steps of taking care of our face during cancer treatment. She used me to demonstrate for our group. I was not well. My energy level was non-existent. Yet, I looked forward to this and enjoyed every minute.

I came home with a cosmetic bag full of expensive goodies and a big smile on my face. I’m still bald. I’m still weak. But I had a good moment. A happy moment that will repeat itself every time I use any of the cosmetics in my cosmetic bag full of goodies.

The Look Good Feel Better program started 30 years ago. A doctor asked the president of the Personal Care Products Council how he would arrange to have a makeover for a cancer patient who refused to come out of her room because she felt she look horrible. Cosmetics and a cosmetologist transformed her look and her outlook.

With such profound results, the idea was presented to the Personal Care Products Council membership, the nation’s cosmetic industry leaders, who immediately offered funding and cosmetics. The American Cancer Society joined the effort as did the Professional Beauty Association. Today Look Good Feel Better is offered in every state in the union including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The program is offered once a month at the Rust Cancer Center and it is offered at most cancer centers in Albuquerque. It is well worth the time and energy to go.

 

 

I am officially Cancer Girl New Mexico

As I was recovering from my hip replacement, my RA doc thought it might be time to try the biologic Actemra. It worked for me before hip issue. It was time to do it again. But, she said, first we needed to check out the change in my uterus that was noted on my hip MRI.

She ordered an ultrasound of my uterus that included a vaginal probe (didn’t know they could do it.) Actually, she handed me the probe and told me to put it in. I did it.

Results showed a thickened uterus consistent with tamoxifen use. It also showed a mass.

Next stop was the GYN doc who thought it was a polyp not cancer since there was no bleeding.

Next stop was outpatient surgery of a D&C and biopsy. She was optimistic.

The results weren’t good. It is sometimes called Uterine Serous carcinoma, or uterine papillary serous carcinoma (UPSC), or serous adenocarcinoma. It is easily googled just writing serous cancer.My doc said she didn’t know much about this cancer. She referred me to a GYN oncology surgeon who I saw in three days. In the meantime, I googled it. And it scared me,

Serous cancer is a rare, subset of endometrial cancer that is aggressive and carries a poor prognosis. It is erratic in its behavior similar to that of ovarian cancer.

I am in the lose hair stage of carboplatin/taxol first infusion. Not as bad as I thought it would be,

So here I am, back in the world of cancer. I was expecting it, but not expecting it. Hope I can be of some use to my fellow cancer travelers.

 

Spring is here and CSN Conference is done

After a few days of  sunny mild days, cold, rainy, cloudy days have replaced them. We need the rain as we always do especially now with trees and bushes waking from their winter slumber. I   planted these tulips last Fall. They are beauties and brighten the gloomy day.

Now is time for a little break. Our CSN just completed its 6th Annual Living with and Beyond Cancer Conference. I love this conference and recall when I first attended it as a  two time cancer survivor. For me, it was a port in the storm. Now I feel privileged to be on the planning committee which becomes active in the October before the conference.

The conference is a full day. It is for cancer survivors, caregivers and professionals. It is free and it includes breakfast and lunch. Our keynote speaker was Gail Rubin, author of A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for those Who Don’t Plan to Die. Excellent. Other topics included mind/body health, lymphedema, hospice, medical cannabis, sacredness in healing and more. Join us next year.

If you would like to be on CSN’s mailing list, email me: marymann@comcast.net.

Ride the rail runner free senior or military

Free Senior Wednesdays are Back!

The New Mexico Rail Runner Express is excited to announce that our promotion inviting seniors age 62+ to ride free on Wednesdays is back this summer!

From July through September, all Wednesday trains after 8 a.m. will be free for seniors, giving residents and visitors the opportunity to explore locations in Santa Fe and Albuquerque using public transportation.

How It Works:

Every Wednesday during the months of July, August and September, seniors age 62+ can ride any north or southbound train for free after 8 a.m. Just show the onboard Ticket Agent your valid photo ID (must contain your birth date). If you are planning on making a connection to an ABQ RIDE, Santa Fe Trails or Rio Metro bus, ask your Ticket Agent to print out a free bus transfer slip.

Learn More

Also, if you are retired military or have the VA medical ID you may get a free unrestricted pass for the whole year.

CSN Cancer Support Groups New Mexico

Cancer Support Now’s

PEER-FACILITATED SUPPORT GROUPS

 

For contact information and details on support groups,                                                                     please call the

Helpline Telephone: 505-255-0405, toll free 855-955-3500

New groups which have transitioned over from PLTC as of April 2016 are marked with an asterisk,*.

5/2016

Advanced Diagnosis Group *

1st and 3rd Tuesday at 1:00PM

NE Heights

Blood Cancer Group *

For those dealing with a blood or lymphatic cancer

2nd and 4th Tuesday, 1:00-2:30PM

North Valley

Breast Cancer Group *

Every Wednesday 6:00-7:30PM

NE Heights

Coloring & Creativity *

All cancers, survivors and caregivers

TBA

Friends and Family Writing Together

Journaling Support Group for Grief or Anticipatory Grief

Every Thursday, 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM

UNM Cancer Center

Isleta Cancer Education and Support

2nd Tuesday of the month, 10:30-Noon

Isleta Health Clinic

Late Afternoon Breast Cancer Group

Every other Wednesday, 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Carlisle and Comanche

LGBT Group *

All diagnoses, cancer survivors

1st and 3rd Tuesday, 6:00-7:30PM

NE Heights

North Valley Women’s Group

Every other Thursday night, 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

North Valley

One-on-One Cancer Caregiver Session

One time, 90-minute Session: Resources & Support for Cancer Caregivers

Scheduled individually to accommodate the needs of the caregiver

Call Patricia at 505-307-3414

One on One Peer Cancer Support

Survivors or caregivers

Call our Helpline at 505-255-0405 or Toll Free at 855-955-3500

Seven days a week, 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM

One-on-one Peer matching 

Available through Helpline at 505-255-0405 or Toll Free at 855-955-3500

Matching with a phone buddy who has dealt with a similar diagnosis and/or challenges

Ovarian Open Arms

Third Saturday of the month, 10:30 AM

Covenant Presbyterian Church

NE Heights

Relaxation Support Classes

Open to cancer survivors and their loved ones

Call Jean Stouffer, certified hypnotherapist, 296-8423

For location, dates, time, and to register

Sandia Breast Cancer Group

1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month, 12:00 Noon to 1:00 PM

Sandia Base: Sandia Employees Only

Santa Fe Breast Cancer Group, “Surviving Sisters” *

2nd and 4th Tuesday, 4:00-5:30PM

Santa Fe

Survivors Writing Together

Journaling Support Group

Every Monday, 2:30-4:00 PM

UNM Cancer Center

Taos Support Groups *

Survivors (all cancers) Tuesdays, 5:00-6:30PM

Caregivers (all cancers) Mondays, 5:00-6:30PM

Sipapu St, Taos

Thyroid Cancer Group *

2nd Tuesday of the month, 6:30PM

North Valley

 

Prostate Cancer Support Association of New Mexico

It is an affiliated support group with CSN. Support group meetings are held 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month, meetings at Bear Canyon Senior Center.                                                  Office at 2533 Virginia St, NE Suite C Albuquerque, NM 87110
www.pcsanm.org                    (505)254-7784                   Email  pchelp@pcsanm.org

Laughter Yoga

Lightness in spirit by Eleanor

Lightness in spirit by Eleanor

Did you miss Laughter Yoga at the Conference? Or perhaps you would like to do it again?

 

Laughter Yoga led by Barbara Carroon, certified laughter yoga instructor, is offered at Cancer Support Now’s Fourth Saturday Support Group  April  23, 2016  11am Adelante  in Albuquerque. Call Patricia Torn at 307-3414 or email her at ptorn@comcast.net  to let her know you are attending. Open to all caregivers and survivors.

 

Directions to Adelante 3900 Osuna NE: Take San Mateo exit off I-25. Head west on Osuna. 3/10’s mile west of Jefferson (there is a McDonalds at the se corner of Jefferson and Osuna), on south side of Osuna, turn south on Gluton which runs the along west side of Adelante. First place you can turn left takes you into the west side parking lot of Adelante. Located on first floor. Do not go to the Big doors main entrance. To the right of those doors  enter through the first small door in the middle of the building on west side.

 

 

 

“Wake at dawn with a winged heart and be thankful for another day of loving.”  

KAHLIL GIBRAN  

www.cancersupportnow.org

Like us on facebook    www.facebook.com/cancersupportnow

Patricia Torn

Director of Programs