The results


After waiting an hour in the waiting room, we were called into the surgeon’s office. He began with the MRI. The MRI showed that the tumor area was about 7 cm large, which confirmed his initial diagnosis and meant that the full breast and skin would have to be removed.

He continued by telling us that the bone scan was fine, and also the lungs were free of metastases. This was not the case for the liver. The radiologist had seen some abnormal tissue on the echo and had requested the CT Scan. The CT scan showed that the liver was highly damaged. The doctor asked me if I had any liver diseases in the past, such as Hepatisis B or C. Apparently my liver looked like one with cirrhosis. This could also be damaged due the cancer cells, but in that case the liver would be infected all over. The only way to be sure is to take a liver biopt. Since there was a multidisciplinary meeting in the afternoon where my case would be discussed, my doctor asked me to return at 15.10.

This is of course bad news. If the breast cancer has infected the whole liver, there’s not much that can be done about it. Chemo therapy is then the only option.

We went back at 15.10 pm to discuss the outcome of the meeting. The doctor informed us that the team agreed a liver biopt should be taken, and he had scheduled it for tomorrow. Before the biopt is taken, a bloodtest must be done to check the blood’s ability to clot, and to check for Hepatisis B or C. Next week, I am scheduled to meet with the oncologist to discuss the results, if they are done in time, and possible treatments.

Since I’ve been doing some research on the internet, I’ve learned that metastases in the liver are a bad thing. Basically, getting better is unlikely and treatments are aimed at prolonging your quality of life. Still, nothing to do but wait for the next set of results. So tomorrow, I’ll go in for a liver biopt.

It still seems unreal to me that I would have such a bad liver, considering I’m hardly ever sick, and have been eating healthy my whole life. I will now try to come to terms with the diagnosis and try to make the best of things! I’m so glad Victor is such a wonderful supporting husband and best friend. Thanks again to everyone for your support, it means a lot to me.

New pictures


Valentine gave me beautiful flowers on Friday.

me in the garden

Tanaquil came by on Saturday, while the sun was out. Her flowers were for Victor, which was so sweet.

Jan des Bouvrie @Singer


It was raining terribly so we had to cancel our Ivy Circle picnic, which was too bad. Instead, Victor and I went to the Singer museum in Laren to see the Jan des Bouvrie (famous Dutch designer) exhibit. On display were several of his furniture pieces along with his art collection. Very vibrant colors but very strange works of art. I was a bit disappointed because I had expected to see more of de Bouvrie’s oeuvre but I think you should see it for yourself and let me know what you think!

Smoothies


Several friends gave me a very good tip: make sure you’re fit before you go into surgery. It speeds the recovery process. Also taking in additional vitamins and protein should help. Since I mostly eat vegetarian I decided some supplements might help. So last Thursday I started to search the internet for supplements. A strange world appears: mostly sites for (presumably) young men advertising instant muscles if you use their protein powder enriched with creatin. Well, that certainly did not appeal to me. When I added the word women to my search, different diet sites popped up. Apparently you can buy all sorts of flavored protein powder, mostly intended for weight loss. Since I don’t want to lose any weight (I’m down t0 52 kilo’s from 56), that just wouldn’t do either.

Finally I found a great natural health food store online where I could order soy protein, soy milk (to make my shakes). To add in some vitamins I also ordered natural Acai powder and Goji fruit powder. Never tried it before but they are known as wonder foods due to their high vitamin content. Add in some chia seeds and we’re ready to go. While I was at it I ordered some nice herbal teas and mascara (ran out). Made a smoothie yesterday and today. The powders taste a bit funny so I added in a lot of strawberrries and some banana. Hope this works. Any tips will be much appreciated!

Then, as for feeling fit: I feel I’m out of condition. Last week I started rowing on our concept2, just 2 km for starters. Today I went for a run (6 km), but had to stop to catch my breath several times. I had to take a long nap this afternoon, I was really tired. I never take naps so this was strange for me. I guess I need it now.

Tests – Thursday July 5th


Back at Tergooi Blaricum at 9.15 for the MRI scan. Again an injection, but this time, the needle was taped down so that the contrast fluid could be injected while I was in the machine. Face down, I went in with headphones on and eyes closed. The machine made funny and loud noises, each was different, when the scans were made. It lasted about 25 minutes. Afterwards, I could get the CT scan made, but it turned out they needed the Creatine bloodlevels first. So Victor and I went back to Poli 5, Chirurgie (surgery) where it was very crowded. After 20 minutes I could finally pick up the form to then go to the lab. It was 10.45.  The CT scan was scheduled for 11.40, and the lab needed 1 hour to process the blood. Just in time! For the CT scan, I could keep on my shirt and legging. Again, a needle and contrast fluid was injected. I had to breathe in deeply (was never very good at that). The contrast fluid tasted funny, strange to feel it go through your body. Twenty minutes later I was done. Outside I ran into Annemieke, a Zonta member.

Victor and I picked up some lunch at the Organic store in Laren and had a nice lunch with Nancy and Ellen. Nancy and Ellen took the dogs for a nice long walk and Victor made a wonderful dinner (again).

On Tuesday, July 10th, I have an appointment to hear the results. I’m a bit anxious about it. But also relaxed: nothing to do but wait.

Tests – Wednesday July 4th


Today I have to go through some tests to check if there are metastases in other parts of the body. This time in Hilversum.

  • First came the thorax (lungs) photo. I stood in front of a plastic plate and the pictures were taken. Very quick and painless.
  • Next the echo. We had to wait a long time, I was worried I’d be late for the bone scan. The same radiologist helped me. He was very kind.
  • Then to the nuclear department where I got a quick shot with Techneutium, a radioactive fluid.

We could go back home to have some lunch with my mom and Nancy. 

  • At 1 pm, Nancy and my mom took me back to the hospital. Ofcourse I got a bit lost. The nuclear department is tucked all the way in the back.
  • I recognized the patient before me because he also had his echo just before I did. He was very cheerful and told me to think of good things so the time would pass quickly.
  • The bone scan was painless – it took less than 20 minutes. You’re raised up to the plate so that its millimeters from your face, but the whole thing was relaxed, with music in the background.

At home, I was too tired to work so I went to lie down for a bit. The hospital called me to schedule a CT scan for the next day. The sun was shining but I felt a bit down. Could there be bad news? Sometimes waiting can be hard.

Work


My colleagues from Unisys were shocked to hear the news. My contract just ended on June 30th, and I had informed everyone I would start again as an independent contractor.

I had been a bit worried about the fact that I was too late to sign up for disability insurance. In Holland, if you’re self-employed, you can purchase this insurance from insurance companies. However, you need to prove that you’re healthy or you don’t qualify. I was too late, since I just started working for myself again on monday. Aletta from Zonta told me not to worry, since these insurance policies are not much use anyway. And I am planning to work when I can. Fortunately, I have an assignment which I can work on parttime. Also, I have good health insurance which covers almost everything (I hope).

Our healthcare system is good here, and the insurance is national, which means everyone is covered (as long as you pay your contribution, which in my case is 120 euros per month, plus approx. 4000 a year if you are self-employed).

In times like these, it’s good to focus on what really matters. I can take the time to get better without worrying about my work. I plan to work hard at getting better.

Zonta


Last year I joined Zonta, a service club for women to which my friend G introduced me. Zonta is a group of professional women, from different professions, focused on improving the lives and position of women in the world. I really enjoyed my first year with Zonta. On Tuesday evening, we had a lovely picnic in the park by het Gooimeer (near the golfcourse). I had mailed everyone to inform them about my situation and had received such sweet emails. We had a lovely picnic, and Victor had prepared a wonderful quiche with spinach and artichoke hearts. Nice to have such a close group of ladies to talk to.

All in all a fine evening!

Lots of love


Beautiful hortensia from G

I first told my mom, Annet and the kids. Annet came immediately to comfort me and hear the news. The kids were shocked, and had a hard time with the news. My mom came straight away and was so smart to pick up Indian food.

As we told our friends and neighbors, lots of love started pouring in. I felt so loved by everyone’s thoughts, good wishes, the beautiful flowers sent by Marja, Patrick en Anne.

and by Sheira Mohaboe.

Saturday my mom helped me with the front garden and we emptied the green house, to create a nice relax space for me. On Saturday, my friend G stopped by with a beautiful bright pink hortensia, and she explained about her experience with breast cancer.

Just an hour later, Bart stopped by and later Marita  came with a huge purple lavender.

In the US and in Holland several friends and family members are praying for me and lighting candles.

Thanks to everyone for your warm wishes and support! It means so much to me, and gives me so much strength!

I feel lots of positive energy and I feel very optimistic.

Thursday June 28th 2012


On Monday June 25th, I went to see my GP because I had noticed blood coming from my right breast, about a week before. She immediately felt a hard swelling on top of my right breast. It was odd that I had not noticed it before.

She immediately scheduled appointments for me at Ter Gooi hospital in Blaricum, which is a lovely village in Holland, very close to Eemnes where we live.

On Thursday, I drove to the hospital for my appointment with Dr. Sneijder at 9 am. He conducted a physical examination and concluded that besides the swelling in the breast, two glands in the armpit were also suspect. He warned me this could be bad news and sent me to Radiology.

First I went to the mammogram – your breast is placed on a shelf and a transparant shelf comes down and crushes it. Very awkward and somewhat painful. I felt faint, since I had not eaten. The nurse was really kind and concerned. She told me to eat something before the biopsy.

The radiologist then conducted an echo, and gave me a local anesthetic in the breast and made a small incision. Next, a large needle went into the incision to remove tissue (6 times). With a thin needle, he removed cells from the two glands in the armpit. After that, I went home.

At two pm, Victor and I were back at the hospital to hear the initial results. Dr. Sneijder informed us that the cells from the glands were cancerous, which meant I had breast cancer. He expected that we would need to remove the whole breast to be safe and also any glands that were infected. A special nurse helped us then to explain about the next steps – additional tests – and to plan in the appointments. Victor was really emotional. This was the beginning of a new phase: life with cancer.