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First, I want to wish all of you a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING! 

We here have so much to be thankful for and I hope for the same for all of you!

My husband and I went to the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Zion, IL last week and I wanted to save the news until this special Thanksgiving day so you would know why we have so much to be thankful for.

This time I had a PET scan and came out with flying colors! 

Dr. Neelam told me that she has known women to live as long as 10 years in stage 4 breast cancer - and hopes I am going to fall in that category since the cancer never metastasized to my liver and kidneys.  She also said that most all of the previously "active" tumors were removed by the hysterectomy - so the only tumor that is left is the one in my lower back in the L4 L5 region and indicated that was also something that would help me to live longer than the dreaded statistical 1-3 years that they gave me to live.

She also told us that since I am seeing another oncologist here each month for my infusions of zometa, that she feels comfortable with me just coming out to CTCA for my scans every SIX MONTHS!!!! Of course, if my blood workup here shows increasing tumor marker counts and CA-15-3 counts, I will immediately call her for a scan and go from there.  All in all, she is very pleased with my progress!

Jokingly I asked her if I could say I was in "remission" and she recalled my horrible experience with the stupid doctor that did my hysterectomy and she laughed and said that I could say I was in PET remission if I wanted to since my PET scans show no cancerous activity.

When I was through talking to Dr. Neelam, Dr. Eliott - my Naturopathic MD - came in and talked to me.  We are trying to get my circadian rhythm set to where I am not staying up until 4 or 5 in the morning before going to bed!  He prescribed for me to take Rhodiola to help decrease stress, balance hormones and improve my focus - which I am having a hard time with as well.  My memory is increasingly waning - sometimes from day to day I cannot remember certain things that happened the day before - which is very disconcerting to say the least!

Dr. Eliott also put me on a special formulary called BCQ which is supposed to help decrease inflammation and pain in my back.

So.... all is well on the home front - and we do have so much to be thankful for!

Thank you all for your continued prayers and support!

Judy Gunderson
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Hi to all my wonderful friends and family members!

We left Cancer Treatment Centers of America yesterday and are currently in Iowa staying the night and will be finishing up our trip home tomorrow.

I am pleased and more than a little relieved to report that all my test results came back great again! 

Marianne and her friend Bela accompanied me on this trip.  We stayed at the Illinois Beach Resort - and they both had tons of fun playing on the beach of Lake Michigan and also swimming indoors in the pool.  I dropped my van off at Ernie's Automotive in Zion - because he is the only mechanic I trust at this time to work on my van.  We rented a 2010 Dodge Charger and drove it around while Ernie was fixing the van.  It was good to see him and his wife Renee.   

This will be our last time we stay at the resort because they are getting rid of all their smoking rooms.  I was a real mess when they told me this - went up to our room and bawled my eyes out.  I was (and still am) angry that smoker's are treated as second class citizens and my rights seem to be taken away every where I turn.  Geez... I even saw a sign at a REST AREA today that said you cannot smoke on the rest area property.... not just the building... the grounds too!  They were kind enough to say on the sign that you could smoke in your vehicle while at the rest area - YIPPEE - that makes them taking my rights away feel so much BETTER!!

Anyway - back to my hissy fit.... I called Tom and told him that the last hotel in Zion was phasing out their smoking rooms and that I was going to have to start going to CTCA in Tulsa - or perhaps Phoenix.  He calmed me down and told me to get on the internet and look around for hotels in nearby towns - and golly gee whiz... I found a Super 8 that is about 10 miles away that doesn't discriminate against second class citizens!  So... that made me feel better - and that is where we will be staying from here on out.

This visit was a little different, because they have changed their protocol at CTCA. 

I had ct scans and a full body bone scan done on Monday the 12th.  It was great seeing Babette at the front desk right when we enter the hospital.  She checked us in and of course asked how things were going with me.  This may sound silly, but it is nice to be "recognized" by someone each time I go to CTCA.  I have been seeing the same Internal Medicine doctor for probably 6-7 years - and while all the people in the front have been there the whole time, they have no clue who I am until I give them my name.  CTCA probably has a gazillion more cancer patients - and yet when some of the "old timers" that have been there since I started going 3 years ago see me - they know who I am!

I also got to see my buddy Brenda, who is the one who accesses my port to draw blood and prep me for my infusion of Zometa.  Brenda is a sweetheart - and a pistol - all rolled into one.  I would never want to get on her bad side!  We always hug each other and tell each other "I love you" and I know I mean it - and believe she does too. 

On Tuesday, we went to go see Dr. Neelam.  This is where the protocol has changed - and it was pretty neat.  The nurse, Peggy, took me to the dreaded scales, took my blood pressure and got me into my exam room.  From there... all the different people that are on my oncology team came to meet with me in the room - as opposed to me going to their offices.  First Amy came in and went over my medication list.  Then the Nutritionist came in and went over my diet and advised me to start eating 3 meals a day (instead of my normal 1 or 2) and to take fish oil because it is known to help cancer victims.  Next, Dr. Neelam came in and went over my test results and sat and talked with me for a while.  I, of course, was thrilled with the results of my tests.  After Dr. Neelam, came Dr. Eliot Edwards - the Naturopathic doctor.  We went over all the herbal supplements I am taking and he suggested that I start taking Inositol Powder 2 times a day to help with my stress levels and to help me sleep at night - which I have a rough time doing even taking 20mg of Melatonin at night.  I am also taking Valerian as needed for stress and Eliot said to continue with that as well.

My bone scan said : "Subtle uptake is present in the known metastasis in the left side of L-4,  Negative for other bone tetastases. Degenerative activity is present in the knees and feet."  (This means I may die of old age and arthritis before I die of breast cancer!  LOL

CA 15-3 (Breast Antigen) was 6 - same as in March of 2010
CA 27.29 was 9.6 down from 11.8 in March 2010
CEA continues to be a little high - 3.5 as compared to 3.6 in March 2010.

My next visit will be in November - and Tom is supposed to go with me!

Thanks again for all your prayers!

Judy Gunderson


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The Miracle of Healing BEGINS!! / On Our Way to Zion
« Last post by admin on July 10, 2010, 09:55:03 AM »
Just wanted to tell everyone that I am headed out today driving to Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, IL for my 4 month checkup and scans to make sure everything is still going well.   Marianne and her friend Bela are going with me.

I would appreciate any positive thoughts and prayers you have time to send for a safe trip and good results!  I see Dr. Neelam on Tuesday to go over everything.  As usual, I am more nervous than a long-tailed dog in a room full of rocking chairs.  Don't know why I get that way - but instead of getting easier, the longer I live, the more nervous I seem to get when having tests run!

Judy

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The Miracle of Healing BEGINS!! / Good News - Latest Breast Cancer Results
« Last post by admin on March 29, 2010, 01:22:25 AM »
Just wanted to let everyone know that Tommy and I went to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America this last week to see Dr. Neelam and the results of my PET scan were normal as was my blood workup!  Thank you Jesus!  Thank you to ALL of you who have stuck around with me over the last few years and have supported me and prayed for me diligently! 

It is such a joy to go up to Zion.  I walk into the hospital and there sits Bernadette - she spies me walking in and breaks out in a big grin an greets me - then after she makes up my badges - she comes around the desk and gives me a big hug!!  I had my hair permed in a curly perm before we left on vacation... and everyone loved it - or at least they SAID they did!  LOL 

Then I go to have my port accessed - I always request Brenda to do it... and she was available - so there are more hugs and I love yous... and how is everything going... catching up with each other since my last visit.  Brenda is a pistol!!

Dr. Neelam is a little more reserved - she hugged me and told me she did not recognize me when I had earlier said hi to her in the hallway because of my hair!  LOL  She is "encouraging" me to lose some weight - so I am going to concentrate on that prior to my next visit in July and see if I can.  Not easy to do for me - because exercise is pretty much out of the question between the lymphadema in my arm and the arthritis in my back, not to mention the fused left wrist.  I wonder how many calories you can burn sitting at a desk and wiggling your toes??   :-\

This trip was a little different .... The week before, all of us (me, Tom, Tommy Stephen, Marianne and puppy Princess) drove down to Arizona to see Tom's Dad and Aunt Gladys.  We left Arizona on Friday and drove as far as Albuquerque, New Mexico... and believe it or not... they closed the highway we were on due to snow!!  We finally arrived home on Sunday and then Tommy and I left Monday and drove straight through to Zion, IL to CTCA, because we had the PET scan scheduled for Tuesday!  I was so TIRED and back hurting and right leg swollen up from eating all the drive through junk - I was so happy to get back home on Thursday night!  Even though I have a family member with me... I still miss my husband terribly when I am away - and my kids and pets too!

When we were on the way to Zion, the van started acting up and over heating.  I was just praying I could get to the Illinois Beach Resort where we were booked to stay at.  It would ding and a "check gauges" light would come on.... then I could see the needle going over to the highest red mark on the dashboard.... then it would go back down to normal.... then start all over again 10-15 minutes later.  Needless to say, I was a wreck by the time we got to the hotel!  LOL

To make a long story short.... when Dr. Neelam's nurse was asking how I was doing... I told her I was stressed about the van - and she told me not to worry that she would contact Patient Assistance for me.  So... the Patient Assistance gal at the hospital hooked me up with a local mechanic - and we drove over to them and they said the radiator was going out and needed to be replaced.  Now... one thing I did not say.... before we left on vacation.... we had the van at TWO different mechanics to make sure everything was ok for us to go on a long trip... and they did not pick up on this.

So.... we go to this repair shop - and I was just so impressed with the owner - Ernie and his wife Renee.  They were so wonderful.  It was so neat meeting up with an HONEST MECHANIC.... they were so good to us, I told Ernie that I would make a list of everything I needed done on the van - and would be back in July and would leave it with him for a day so he could do a tuneup and whatever else it needed!  Oh yeah.... about the tuneup - the local mechanic here told me it would be $550-600 to do the tuneup on the van.... Ernie will do it for $250!!!  Believe me... when you have to pay about $1000 a month for prescriptions to keep you alive.... that extra $250 in our pockets is truly a blessing!

These people were so amazing - when I got home, I picked up my voice mail - and there was a message from Renee checking to make sure the van worked ok and that we got home safely!!

Ok - I guess I have babbled on enough! 

Thanks again for sticking with me on this journey!

Hugs,

Judy Gunderson
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Beating the odds!! / Re: Just Had My 51st Birthday!
« Last post by Jolene on January 26, 2010, 08:16:38 AM »
I am so happy to hear the good news Judy! 
Shirley and I just talked about you this past weekend.  She said that she was wondering if I knew anything new about you. 
I stopped then to say a prayer for you.
I told her that I pray that no news meant good news!
God hasd blessed you and will continue to do so,I am sure.
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Beating the odds!! / Just Had My 51st Birthday!
« Last post by admin on January 26, 2010, 03:36:14 AM »
Hi everyone!  Just wanted you all to know that I just celebrated my 51st birthday!  Can you believe it?  REFRESHER >>>> In June of 2007 Tom and I were told by a very "temporary" local breast cancer oncologist that I only had one to three years to live because I am in stage 4 (final stage) of breast cancer.  In June of 2008, my pet scan revealed that there was "no cancerous activity" in my body.  By the grace of God and prayers from all of you, I am FIVE MONTHS away from the end that statistical 1-3 year death sentence and am doing just GREAT!! 

In 2008 when our beautiful daughter, Marianne, turned 15 - I took her birthday cake candles that were a 1 and a 5 and I transposed them to be 51 and put them in a baggie and hung them on my bulletin board in my office - hoping beyond all hope that God would see fit for me to be alive to celebrate my 51st birthday.... and here I am!!!   Thank you Lord!   I give Him all the praise and glory for guiding me to the RIGHT doctors, helping me to keep an upbeat and positive spirit and attitude and for me being alive today!

Now I have a problem....... my candles that I look at several times each day are 51 - and I did not save Marianne's candles from when she turned 16 last year.... so I guess I am going to have to wait for a few days until Stephen turns 19 - and steal his number nine and add it to my number five so my goal will be to live to age 59!!!!  LOL

I know.... you all probably think I am goofier than normal - and considering it is after 3:00 am.... you may be right.... but believe me when I say that if you have a tragic illness like this, every little thing in life you take pleasure and joy in - because you know you may not have many more times to enjoy that experience or thing again.  I remember our first Christmas after I was diagnosed and had just finished my regime of chemotherapy because I had pneumonia.... I did not think I would ever see another Christmas with my family again.  BUT .... each milestone I pass.... Christmases, Thanksgivings, my family and my birthdays .... each PET scan and CT scan that I get good results on .... each comprehensive blood test with tumor markers that are normal ..... I just get happier and more hopeful!!!!

That being said, my husband bought me a dozen long stemmed PINK roses and a big PINK box of chocolates and a CD for my birthday!  :)

The cards I got were so beautiful - the one from Tom's Dad made me cry because it talked about how happy he was that Tom found me.  I read that card first - and the others after that all made tears come to my eyes too! 

I love you ALL and am happy to be around to say that!  Thank you all so much for sticking with me through this and for your positive thoughts and prayers!  They LITERALLY mean the world to me!

Love,
Judy Gunderson

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Hello sweetie I will pray for you and God Bless you and your family. TY for updating us andi love you huggss, be careful and tc Have a safe trip.   :-* 
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Hardly seems like 3 months have passed since my last visit to CTCA in Zion, IL.... but it has!

Our son, Tommy and I will be heading out probably on Tuesday because it is supposed to get nasty here with some snow, and I don't want to take any chances on not getting there on time since we are driving.  It will be nice to have another driver with me, because it is a long drive for an old goat like me!  giggle

I am having tests done on Thursday - a PET scan that will pick up any "hot spots" that might be lurking around (hopefully NOT!!).  I will be meeting with the Naturopathic Medical Doctor to go over nutritional supplements that I need to be taking.  Then on Friday, I will be meeting with Dr. Neelam, my oncologist, and will be having my monthly infusion of Zometa for my bones.

One of my best friends that was my maid of honor at our wedding drug me over the coals last time because she wanted to know BEFORE I left so she could pray for me.... so Lola.... here ya go sweetheart.... giving you and everyone else a few days advance notice!   :-*  Please pray that we will have a safe trip up there and back - and that all my tests will be rosey posey fine!

I don't know why I get so nervous each time I go up to Zion - probably because of the major tests they take.  I KNOW I should have more faith that all is well - but I still have that niggling fear.  I guess that keeps me healthy (in my mind).... to know what I am up against - and I always thank God every night for healing me and keeping me well.... but I just can't get over this trepidation when I get ready to go up there.  Once the doctor gives me the good news... I am somewhat euphoric.... and as always thankful to the Lord for being with me.

I think another reason I get fearful is that there are so many people I know that are getting first time breast cancer or it is coming back for the second time.  One gal in particular that I used to go to church with when I was a teenager is having a recurrence.  And I think to myself... if a good Christian, faithful church going woman like that can get it and it come back.... what kind of chance do I have of it not coming back?  I mean... if anyone should be favored in the eyes of God it should be her.... or my friend Katie who is having a recurrence.... or my cousin Janie who got it not too long after her Mom passed away ..... certainly not me! 

Dr. Neelam will have a surprise, because I am completely off MORPHINE!!  Well.... some times I have to take an immediate release pill - but usually only when I have forgotten to take my morning medicine and don't realize it until too late and I can barely stand up from my chair and walk.  :-\

Will update everyone when I get the news next week!

Judy

 
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Replacing the breast / News from Judy Gunderson
« Last post by admin on August 21, 2009, 06:55:03 PM »
First, I want to apologize for not posting last week of this upcoming event... but I think in the back of my mind, I was afraid I would "jinx" it or something!   :'(

That being said.... at 7:30am I had my breast tissue expanders taken out, and 800CC silicon implants put in each side!  He also did a little liposuction on the left side, which hurts more than where he put the implants in! LOL  He was supposed to take of what is called the "dog ears" which is where the breast flap was squared off at the cleavage - but looks like he did not do that.  I took a picture of where he marked me up with his marker prior to going into surgery.  I will post it on my gallery this weekend - for anyone who is really curious about what a dog ear is!  giggle

Everything went fine and I was on my way home a little after noon.  My long time friend, Marilyn McMahon RN, went with me because Tom had to work.  I am just a little older than her oldest child - so she is not only a dear friend, but like a second Mom to me.   She is also a breast cancer survivor.

I picked up something to eat on my way home and took my blood sugars and they were 268!!  YIKES!!  (For those of you who do not know, the highest they should go is 120).  So.... I took 30 units of insulin and ate sparingly.  About 1 hour later I thought I would go lie down for a while... took them again and they were 324.  I was really kind of scared to try and go to sleep, because I know when they get high, you can easily slip into a coma.  I have had them be over 500 before and not go into a coma - but my Doctor made me go to the hospital for a day or so.  I had some graham crackers at the hospital and a diet pepsi to drink.... so maybe the combination of the crackers and the stress on my body from the surgery and who knows what else went into my body during the surgery raised them.

I tested them again after lying down for a while and they went down to 254 - so Tom told me he thought I should take another 10 units of insulin -which I did.  We will be eating supper here pretty soon, so I will be testing again before I eat and taking some more insulin then.  Hopefully that will straighten everything out for me.  It is much easier when I drop DOWN to bring the sugars back up by taking a glucose tablet, than it is do get it down from being so high!

I would appreciate your continued prayers as I recouperate and go through the rest of this long journey!

Hugs to you all!

Judy Gunderson
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I am currently in Zion, IL and will be heading back home tomorrow.  I had a PET scan on Thursday and saw Dr. Neelam yesterday to go over the results.  She is very pleased with my progress and said that all the test results and PET scan came back just fine!  YIPPEE!!!

My CEA tumor marker was high - 3.3 as compared to 2.7 in April, but she said she was not worried about it.  I looked it up on the internet here:  http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=8722  and since I smoke - the "high" number could go up as far as 5.0 and not be significantly worriesome.  The CA15-3 was 5 compared to 7 in April.  Th CA 27-29 was 12.5 as compared to 17.2 in April.  I guess there is not any real significance to the lowering of the numbers - as long as they are in normal range, Dr. Neelam doesn't care what the number is.  8)

I was a little upset at the visit, because Dr. Neelam implied that since there is no noticible cancerous activity in my lower back any more, that I should not be in pain any more and they could start weening me off the morphine.  I was kind of shocked and told her that even on the extended release morphine - most days I am in quite a great deal of pain.... so the thought of going off of it did not make sense to me. 

I told Tom about it and he said that the pain is most likely from the degenerative disk disease - and while the cancer may have exasperated it... it is still extreme.  Of course he sees me on a daily basis and sees what I go through each day - and Dr. Neelam only sees me once every 3-4 months and may have forgotten about the degenerative disk disease.  I just know that if I forget to take the morning morphine (extended release) - by about 4pm, I can barely stand up or walk!  Then I go check my medicine doser thingy... and sure enough.. there are all my morning pills!   I hate to take the immediate release unless I am just about to cry my eyes out from the pain... I don't want to get addicted to them or dependent upon them (even though the Drs tell me I wont because I NEED them) - and I don't like how they make me groggy so I cannot work.

The oncologist that I see in Kansas City - Dr. Pendergrass - set me up for an MRI of my back to see if there is something they can do for the pain - but I was not able to make it through the complete MRI because of the pain in the back getting worse as I laid there on my back.  I made it through 30 minutes or more - so  I am going to try and get it scheduled again so they can start where they left off and make sure I take some of the immediate release morphine before going in and schedule it to where Tom can be with me to drive.

Ok... off my pity party for now.....

This has been a trip like no other one I have taken.  First.. we DROVE up here instead of flying and renting a car when we got to Zion.  This is a complete story on it's own.... First, because I am now on Medicare Disability, CTCA could not pay for my flight here as they normally do because the government looks at it as a type of "bribe" or "incentive" to make you use CTCA instead of another hospital.  Secondly, my "other daughter" Jessica, wanted to come up here with us - so instead of paying for 3 flights at $300+ each - we decided to drive.  I had planned to drive my van up here, but the computer went out in it a week before we left.  So.... we had improvise and buy a new "used" car... which killed two birds with one stone.... Marianne turned 16, so this was her birthday present - and it also allowed us to have transportation to get up here.

Ok... so before you MISTAKENLY think I am rich.... the car is a goldish colored Toyota Avalon XLS (high end of the toyota line) 1995 - with almost 250,000 miles on it - so it was fairly cheap.  It probably has a good 50,000 or more miles left in it - it is a great car!  It got 27 mpg on the way here and 23 mpg with the city driving!  I hope Marianne doesn't get her driver's license so I can KEEP this car for ME!!  LOL

Anyway... the girls - Marianne and Jessica - have just been having a blast here!  They spend most of their time at the pool or the beach or the gym here at the hotel.  It has been good to have a friend for Marianne to go spend this time with --- that way I don't have to feel guilty when Marianne wants to go to the pool and I just don't feel like going.

I had figured it would take 2 days to get here and 2 back... but we got here in 1 day - so we were here a day early - and the girls are taking advantage of having 2 extra days to play around and have fun before they start school in a couple of weeks!

Ok... that's my update!  Hope all of you are doing well - and thank you again for keeping me in your prayers!  I am 2 years out as a "survivor" of stage 4 breast cancer - and that is a testimony to God and His goodness in and of itself!

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