Category: No Hill For a Climber, Loraine’s Breast Cancer Journey

No Hill For a Climber, Emotions, Fears, and Coping

Breast Cancer Prayer

Lord, I have just received the diagnosis of breast cancer.

Still my anxious heart as I seek to understand why.

Teach me to transform this suffering into growth.

My great fear of tomorrow into faith of your presence.

My tears into understanding.

My discouragement into courage.

My anger into forgiveness.

My bitterness into acceptance.

My experience with cancer into my testimony.

My crisis into a platform on which I can learn to help others.

God grant that one day I can embrace this time as my friend, and not as my enemy.

Judy C Kneece, RN, OCN

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just wave a magic wand and make all disease and ailments just disappear into a puff of smoke?

Abracadabra! Cancer be gone!

I have seen faith healers on television cure the most infirm among us with a simple smack to the forehead while shouting out to Jesus for healing transformation. Works every damn time, I swear! I saw it on television!

Somehow I have not found a way to convince Loraine that all she needs to do to be rid of the breast cancer and all the worry and fear that goes with it would be a little faith that I could tap her on the head faster than she can say ouch while I shout praises to the Lord to cure her. I done seen some stuff on those rattle snake churches in the south too that might help…

Awe never mind with the goofiness. Although we do need to remember to enjoy life during our journey down this difficult and twisted path we have involuntarily embarked down.

Oh God, in my feeble attempt at trying to bring a little levity to this topic, I just realized it might appear I was not taking the Breast Cancer prayer seriously. To the contrary, I believe with all my heart in the power of prayer, and that my Lord and Savior hears them all even if I am somewhat crude in my words. Thankfully, I know I am saved and forgiven.

So, we received the breast cancer diagnosis on Friday. I have a pretty good grasp of where we stand for now. It helps that I wrote about it in great detail in my last No Hill For a Climber article. That being said, I am still living with a great deal of fear for my sweet Loraine, and of course she is also fearful at this time. I’m not sure there will be a true day of rest until we have beat this demon breast cancer. This diagnosis has had us on an emotional roller coaster to say the least. For Loraine, it is not helpful that for about the last ten years, she has been a care taker for so many terminal cancer patients in their homes. She has seen pretty much nothing but worse case scenarios. People who have become well do not require care takers in their homes. Kind of like bad news will travel around the world before good news makes it off the porch, you never seem to hear about all the success stories. Most of what we see and hear about are the tragedies. For some odd reason, despite the fact she has survived two other cancers in the 33 plus years we have been married, this one seems different and scarier than the others. I do not know why, but we are both more worried and fearful than we have been with the last two bouts.

It is only human that we have fearful emotions when faced with a cancer diagnosis. You cannot escape the fear of the suffering that can and does come with cancer, the humiliation that so many suffer from losing their hair to chemotherapy, the financial ruin that can drive a family to bankruptcy. There is a sadness that comes from thinking about how this is going to affect our children and grandchildren. I could probably write a full novel right now regarding the emotions that we are experiencing right now. Last night, neither Loraine or myself slept much. We laid in bed, and snuggled close, talking about how this is likely to impact us and our family. We began to talk about her fears, and mine too. Neither of us said too much about our fears, we didn’t need to. After over thirty three, almost thirty four years of marriage, we do not need to speak words in order to communicate how we feel. We just know, we can feel and sense it in each other. Just holding each other close and tight can say more than can be said in a novel’s worth of words.

I want to share a message from Saint Luke’s Cancer Institute to family members of cancer patients: The one you love has received the diagnosis of cancer. Because you love the patient, you need to understand how you can best help during this experience. Listed below are support components that other patients have said were essential to their recovery.

Support Tips:

  • Assure the patient that you will be there to support them when needed-that cancer will not change you relationship with them. The greatest fear is being left alone to suffer or feeling that they are a burden to the family unit because of their illness.
  • Allow the patient to verbalize fears, concerns, and thoughts without critical or judgmental input from you. A person who cannot communicate openly with family members may not master the emotions the illness creates, and this can impede recovery. Feelings may change as time passes. Please be patient and encourage the patient to share freely.
  • Accept tears as a necessary part of healing. Tears are a common reaction to loss of health status, such as a diagnosis of cancer. A person who does not cry when suffering great change in health is a person who is probably not in touch with the reality of loss. Tears are not a sign of weakness, but a sign that healing is taking place Do not fear that the patient will be upset if they see your tears; instead, seeing your tears gives them permission to openly cry with you. This is often the time that emotional healing begins in a family. Tears serve as a salve to the soul, for both the patient and the family members.
  • Allow the patient time to be alone to sort through the loss and personal feelings. Sometimes family members wrongly believe that the patient must be talking to or surrounded by family members after the diagnosis; but often the person wants and needs time alone to silently think about what is occurring. Do not think that this is a sign the patient is shutting you out Instead, it is a sign that they are thinking through their problems. Some people need more privacy than others. Allow them this silence and offer assurance that you are there to talk openly if and when needed.
  • Understand that the patient cannot talk openly to everyone about their feelings. Often patients will choose only one, or a few, family members or friends for open communication because it may be uncomfortable to talk with everyone about their situation. Do not insist that the patient keep retelling the “illness” story or sharing their feelings. As long as the patient is talking to one or more persons openly they will do well.
  • Recognize that the most stressful and damaging event that can slow the healing process is family conflict. Family stress can alter the patients immune system function, thus blocking the key factor to recovery. If the immune system is compromised it cannot perform properly; therefore, healing cannot take place. Even the most medically advanced cancer treatments cannot work if the patient is under constant stress at home. Attempt to minimize any conflicts in their environment. It is essential that the patient is in an atmosphere where they feel safe and removed from conflict. Do your part to avoid conflict with the patient while not secluding them from normal family life.
  • Support the patient in the way they need and want help. Do not assume you know what the patient needs; ask. Some patients feel stripped of their roles and feel useless when other family members suggest that they are unable to fulfill previous family responsibilities. The patient needs to feel that they are still a vital an essential pat of the family. Do not take away roles or responsibilities unless the patient is too weak or requests relief from the routine family duties.
  • After a cancer diagnosis, there is much to be learned and many discussions to be made about the diagnosis and treatment, If the patient agrees, it may be helpful for a family member or friend to gather accurate, useful information through which the patient can make decisions to best meet needs. It is also beneficial for the family member or friends to accompany the patient to appointments where these options will be discussed to help facilitate and verify the decision making process.
  • Offer to go with the patient to a support group to learn more about illness and to find ways to assist them to effectively cope.

Remember:

  1. This is the same person that you knew before the diagnosis. The patient would like as little change as possible.
  2. Let the patient talk openly and freely when needed.
  3. Do not feel that tears are a weakness.
  4. Allow the patient to maintain former roles in the family as much as possible.
  5. Eliminate as much stress as possible from the environment.
  6. Help the patient learn as much as possible about the disease.

I hope that by documenting this journey in it’s entirety I am able to help others who may one day face this, or maybe those who are currently dealing with breast cancer. For those who want to follow this story as it unfolds, I created a website menu tab specifically for this in order that you will not have to sort through other articles to stay current.

God bless and thank you for reading, and for the tremendous outpouring of love and support we have received in the last couple days. Comments and questions are most welcome and will be answered. Feel free to subscribe to my website and receive all of our nutrition, health and fitness articles along with all the healthy recipes we post. There will never be a charge to access our articles or forum which we hope will soon become more active. This website will always be free to the public. This is my labor of love, with the assistance of my lovely co-author Brenda Sue. We do this for you with no expectations of ever receiving anything in return.

David

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No Hill For a Climber, Surgeon Visit Today

My sweet Loraine and I as newlyweds in 1986.

I never dreamed when I began this nutrition, health and fitness website, that I would be documenting my dear wife’s, my sweet Loraine’s journey with breast cancer on these web pages, yet here I am this evening, writing my third piece in this series.

I am doing this in order to share with others the good, the bad and the ugly of this journey. I am sharing this experience in order that maybe, just maybe, it might help someone else in their own struggle with breast cancer. Loraine’s experience may be different than the difficult path you or a loved one might encounter, but maybe it might still answer some of your own questions, or give you ideas of what to ask about if you or a loved one has been recently diagnosed.

To the guys reading this, my intent is to also help you in understanding this tough path we travel with our loved ones. I want you to know that what ever emotions you might experience are completely natural and okay. Brothers. if you need to shed some tears, then by God, let them flow. No one is going to demand you give up your “Man Card” for being a human being with human emotions.

SSG and Mrs David L. Yochim, 2009. One year before my military retirement. The odds are against marriages surviving military careers. I’m so lucky, mine did, even with my having served in two different military branches, Army and Navy

A little over a week ago, we got Loraine’s diagnosis that she has breast cancer. An appointment with a surgeon was set up for as soon as possible which was today. To say the last week has been stressful and an emotional roller coaster ride, would be an understatement to say the least. We have been through her having beat two other cancers over the years already, now we are in for a third and different type. My God, just how much is one woman supposed to endure in life. Lord, when will enough be enough for this kind and gentle woman, my wife, mother of our children and proud grand mother of our four beautiful grand daughters. Why does my dear wife have to suffer these indignities…

This morning, we arose and fussed around each other over our morning coffee as is our norm. Today was the day for the visit with Loraine’s surgeon, where we would find out our immediate coarse of action with this breast cancer. Yet, this was really not the topic of discussion as we went about our normal daily breakfast rituals. We had our coffee and breakfast while sitting in the living room and watching the local news with great attention being placed on the weather forecast. Placing our focus pretty much anywhere and everywhere except from dwelling on what might be said in the doctors office at our noon visit. I believe despite both of us being worried about her prognosis, we simply avoided the topic until it was time to leave. Even then, we found other distractions to occupy our minds until we arrived for her appointment. First we had to run by the bank to deposit a check, then gas up my truck before heading over to the UPS store where we mailed a Christmas package to our daughter and her small family in Germany. We were not consciously procrastinating our arrival to the appointment, but these little side excursions on the way gave us something else to focus on instead of worrying about receiving news of a worse case scenario. I kept stewing on how much it costs to mail packages to Germany from Kansas while Loraine kept telling me the price doesn’t matter, after all, the package was gifts mainly for our two year old grand daughter we have not yet met.  Needless to say, I surrendered to this little battle, as we arrived at the doctor’s office…

This was from about 4 years ago. I was at my heaviest and strongest as a power lifter. I might have been King of the castle, but if the Queen was not happy, watch out…

After battling Black Friday shopper traffic we arrived at the doctor’s office at about 11:30am. The parking lot was almost empty,which I later found out was because they were only working a half day, and the surgeon had actually fit Loraine in during what would have been her lunch hour.

Once inside we were given a stack of forms to fill out, forms wanting the basic new patient information along with more forms that covered Loraine’s entire medical history along with that of her family. I was glad we had actually arrived a little sooner than we were told to after we got this stack of forms. Once these had been filled out, we were led to an examination room where Loraine had to remove her blouse and bra and then put on a medical smock so the doctor could perform another examination of her breasts. Of course the masses were easily felt, but the doctor asked about two other conditions of her breast that I never gave any thought. The first was in regards to an indentation in an area that used to be full, and the other question was in regards to how long her left nipple had been inverted.

Ladies, even if you do not feel a lump in your breast during a self examination, if you have an indentation in your breast that is abnormal, or if your nipple becomes inverted, please get yourself in for an examination. These are signs of breast cancer that many are not aware of. What happens is the tumor will pull these tissues inward as it grows.

Men, if you notice these conditions on your wife or girlfriend, please have them get checked out. Even if there is no pain, these conditions need to be checked out. Breast cancer is not always painful.

After Doctor Butler finished her examination of Loraine, she lead us back to her office where we discussed the diagnosis and treatment options. Is it necessary to say both our minds were swirling at this point and it was a battle to take in all that the doctor was telling us? I’m glad I had the foresight to take a notebook along in order for me to take notes. I strongly advise anyone going through this journey to do the same. With emotions flowing rapidly where you do not know if you are going to break down crying while trying to maintain your composure, you are bound to forget some of what is being said. Also, it is a good idea to write down your questions before hand in order that you do not walk away with unanswered questions.

Now, on with the diagnosis: This is a grade 2 invasive ductal carcinoma, fortunately the most common type of breast cancer. The grade is not a stage, and we will not know 100% the staging until after her surgery in a few weeks. The grade is the average Histopathological Grade of between 1 to 6 being the highest. The average is from grading Tubule formation, Nuclear pleomorphism, and Mitotic rate. Being a grade 2, despite the tumor being about the size of a golf ball means that we have likely caught this cancer in its early stages of growth.

The next part that looks promising for successful treatment is her Estrogen Receptor (ER) marker is positive, her Progesterone Receptor (PR) marker is positive and her HER2 is negative. HER2 stands for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. When a breast cancer is HER2-negative, it means that the cancerous cells do not contain high levels of the protein HER2. Thank God, there are many treatment options available for this type of breast cancer.

The treatment options we have been presented with are a mastectomy, where the entire breast and all of it’s tissue is removed. If the cancer is entirely contained and has not metastasized, the only other course of treatment will be from an aromatase inhibitor medication to inhibit the production of estrogen. No chemo or radiation will be required unless the cancer has metastasized.

The next option is a lumpectomy where only the tumor is removed in the hopes of preserving the breast, but there will be daily radiation treatments and possible chemo for 6 weeks after surgery.

Loraine was given some time to consider her options, but right now I believe we will do as the surgeon advised and have the mastectomy since the recovery will not involve painful radiation or chemo which will have her sick and losing her hair. On a positive note, we have the option of having a plastic surgeon being on the surgical team who can begin the process of breast reconstruction right away.

Ladies, here is an example of breast reconstruction after a mastectomy:

There is hope that you can retain your figure after a mastectomy.

Do your self examinations! Teach your daughters and grand daughters to do them too! Early detection saves lives!

Self examinations and early detection are critical to your survival. From literature sent home with us from COPE Library:

Some breast cancers grow rapidly, while others grow slowly. Breast cancers have been shown to double in size every 23 to 209 days. A tumor that doubles every 100 days would have been in your body approximately 8 to 10 years when it reaches one centimeter in size (3/8 inch), the size of the tip of your smallest finger The cancer begins with one damaged cell and doubles until it is detected and treated. The cancer must be surgically removed from the body, destroyed with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, or controlled with hormonal therapy. Some people believe that cancer grows in spurts and the doubling time varies at different times. However, by the time a one centimeter tumor is found, the tumor has already grown from one cell to approximately 100 billion cells.

God bless, and thank you for reading. Please, if you know someone who has been recently diagnosed, please share this with them. I pray that by sharing our journey with breast cancer we can bring awareness and education to as many people  as we can around the world. If we only help one, the effort will have been worth it, I pray we help many more along the way.

David

No Hill For a Climber, Early Detection

Several years ago, back in my Navy career, I spent five years in a Special Operations helicopter command, Helicopter Combat Support Special Squadron 4, where our mission was Combat Search and Rescue along with helicopter support of Navy SEAL teams such as aerial gunnery and insertion/extraction operations.  Because of the nature of our mission, we were on a 72 hour contingency to deploy anywhere in the world in support of SEAL operations. This tour of duty was quite extreme and very demanding because of  our operating tempo for both training and real world hostilities which there never seems to be a shortage of. One month we could be training in the hot desert environment out in Fallon, Nevada, another month we might be in training in the extreme cold of Vermont in the winter, or close to the Arctic Circle in Norway. We could find ourselves operating out of tents even in extreme weather conditions, or we might find ourselves operating from a Navy ship. No matter our base of operations, we always had to be prepared.

You may be wondering  about now, what does all of this military stuff have to do with cancer and early detection? In this command, we were always prepared to face any foe under any circumstance. The pressures of our operations made it possible for us to deal with any  and all dangerous circumstances life might throw at us. Our training for any and every type of hostility known to man, meant we were proactive in facing these dangers with the confidence that we would always prevail no matter how hard the fight. We were HCS-4 Red Wolves, we were one of the only two most elite helicopter squadrons in the world with our unique mission. Navy SEALS are the most elite fighting force the world has ever known, they only rely on the most elite for their support.

I might have a tough exterior, but inside I am still human with human emotions the same as you. I love my dear wife, she is my best friend in the world, she is my everything. So, the diagnosis of breast cancer was a hard punch to the gut which has had me being somewhat of an emotional wreck over the last couple of days. This beautiful woman has already endured a hysterectomy because of a uterine cancer 30 years ago in the early years of our marriage. And then she underwent the surgical knife once again for vaginal cancer a couple years ago. She still has quarterly cancer checks for the last round of cancer. Now, here we are today, after taking in her brother who is suffering liver cancer, we have received this diagnosis of breast cancer earlier this week. While the diagnosis is quite upsetting, it is also refreshing to know that early detection is the key to beating it, as we have in the past. We are fighters.

Coincidentally, this morning as I checked my Facebook page, I saw a post by my good friend Kenny who has written about finding that he had prostrate cancer from a routine screening. Seeing that reassured me that my muse this morning to write about early detection and screening was the right subject at the right time.

From my good friend Ken LaMaster:

A few months back a very dear friend of mine shared that she was facing an uncertain battle with cancer that her doctors had found. Upon her acknowledging what she might and might not be facing she shared her prognosis with her friends on Facebook. Upon sharing this with her friends she received an overwhelming amount of love, support, well wishes and prayers. Her wish above all us was for her friends who hadn’t had a physical in some time to please do so. It had been 40 years since I had one and I felt compelled to follow through with my dear friends request. I underwent a physical, my first colonoscopy, and prostate exam along with a multitude of blood test etc. In all that it was discovered that my PSA was elevated to 4.7. As a precaution I was directed to an appointment with Dr. Holmes of the KCUC at St. Luke’s Hospital. Approximately three weeks transpire before I see Dr. Holmes where he did additional blood and urine test along with another prostate and bladder exam. In the three short weeks my PSA level had catapulted to 7.0. A biopsy was ordered and was completed almost three weeks later. Today I received the results. After the hardest couple of months of my life including the past ten days I was declared cancer free. A few of my friends, family and associates knew of this and I received many well wishes, lots of love and many prayers. Along the way my dear friend whose wish was everyone get a physical found out her cancer was caught extremely early and she is on the mend. So it is time I pay it forward. My wish and my prayers are that each and everyone of you who have not had a physical for some time please go get one done. My friend and I would be extremely grateful and extend our love and prayers to each and everyone of you. I am extremely Thankful for my friends urging to do so, now its your turn. As they say, the life you save could be your own.

During a training operation once I was talking with a SEAL about physical fitness and training when he said something that has stuck with me to this day;

“We do not own our physical fitness, we only pay rent for it. Quit paying your rent, and you will lose it.”

This statement is  such a huge truth. We must keep working at our fitness or we will not remain fit for long. This becomes even more evident when we not only neglect our physical fitness, but when we add insult to injury by neglecting our nutritional needs with unhealthy food choices too.

Is it enough to just eat clean and exercise? For younger people, this might be enough for a few years. But as our bodies age, it becomes more important to get regular check ups as many cancers and other ailments are not caught until it is too late to do much about them.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. The overall 5-year survival rate for people is 64%. If the cancer is diagnosed at a localized stage, the survival rate is 90%. (1)  Yet, Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States for men and women combined. It is the third leading cause of cancer death in men and the third leading cause of cancer death in women. (1)

Think about this for a minute, the second leading cause of cancer death in America has a 90% survival rate with early detection.

The average 5-year survival rate for women with invasive breast cancer is 90%. The average 10-year survival rate is 83%. If the cancer is located only in the breast, the 5-year survival rate of women with breast cancer is 99%Breast cancer is the second most common cause of death from cancer in women in the United States, after lung cancer. However, since 1989, the number of women who have died of breast cancer has steadily decreased thanks to early detection and treatment improvements. (2)

Again, early detection saves lives!

The 5-year survival rate for most men with local or regional prostate cancer is nearly 100%. For men diagnosed with prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 30%.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States. It is estimated that 31,620 deaths from this disease will occur this year. However, the death rate has dropped by more than half from 1993 to 2016. There are almost 3 million survivors of prostate cancer in the United States today. (3)

Can enough be said about early detection?

When I was a teenager, I was a Boy Scout. Our motto was “Always be prepared”. This motto carried forth into my military career where every day was a day of preparing for worse case scenarios. My days with Helicopter Combat Support Special Squadron 4, took this to a much higher level of preparedness. Being on a 72 hour contingency to deploy anywhere in the world in support of military special operations requires never slacking in your preparedness.  For those of us who have lived with this kind of readiness, this type of lifestyle spills over into our personal lives in many aspects too. It is just a given that you prepare yourself to face the many challenges and struggles of life head on. If we want to live a healthy life of quality, we must prepare ourselves every day for what we might face by being proactive in our health.

Being proactive means to only consume a healthy diet and to exercise your body with a type of exercise that both suits you and that has been cleared by your doctor.

Being proactive means getting regular check ups by your doctor even when you feel fit and healthy. Check ups are less expensive than treatments for catastrophic ailments.

Being proactive means that you do not cave to those around you who do not believe that any of this is not necessary. These types are like crabs who will always want to pull you down to their level. If one does not support your health initiative, they are not a true friend.

Being proactive means that you meet challenges head on and that you do not avoid them.

Being proactive means you make it a point in learning positive lessons from your every endeavor and challenge. For example, I am a strength trainer who trains heavy with iron weights four days per week. My favorite exercise is the barbell squat. There is a positive lesson to be learned every time I get that heavy barbell on my back. I un-rack that weight, squat all the way down, and then stand back up. Yes, this lift being done with well over my own body weight is tougher than anything else I encounter in my day to day civilian life, yet I learn something about myself every time I do it. The lesson learned is;

Even with what seems to be the weight of the world crushing down on my body as I squat down, I can and will stand back up. Should I fail to get back up, I will regroup and try again and again until I can stand back up with it. I will pursue this until I am successful in my efforts as I know that if I can stand back up from a heavy squat, I can stand back up no matter what comes my way to weigh me down.

What gets me back up from a heavy squat besides brute strength and determination?

Preparation and intelligent training is what gets me back up.

As we face Loraine’s breast cancer we will become informed of all the treatment options available to her. We will be proactive in the fight. We will do our parts at getting her well instead of relying solely on her physicians to do their jobs. While the diagnosis sucks, we are fortunate with having early detection through being proactive.

Early detection saves lives!

(1) https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/colorectal-cancer/statistics

(2) https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/breast-cancer/statistics

(3) https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/prostate-cancer/statistics

No Hill For a Climber, Our Journey With Cancer

My dear wife Loraine and I have been care takers for the last nine months or so for her brother who has been battling liver cancer. Now imagine the punch in the gut this week when we learned that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. This, after having already under going under surgery twice in the past for completely different cancers.

There is not too much to write about on this today as we do not know yet just what stage the cancer is, nor will we know the treatment plan until we meet with one of her three physicians next Friday. What I can say is, the last couple days have been an emotional roller coaster for all of us. Loraine and I have promised each other to remain positive and upbeat about this diagnosis and we will fight to do what ever it takes for her to beat it. With Loraine’s permission, I am going to document our journey, all of it, the good, the bad, and the ugly, in the hopes that maybe our journey might help others in their own journey of fighting breast cancer. I never imagined that I would have two loved ones under my roof, both suffering from different cancers at the same time. It is going to be tough, but we will get through this one way or another.

In closing, I want to reiterate how important it is for all to have healthy dietary habits and to exercise as often as we can. We all should be doing this anyhow. My message to any and all whom might also be caretakers of loved ones, remember you must take care of yourself too. You must still give your own health and well being top priority as you cannot take care of your loved ones if you do not first take good care of yourself. If you are a caretaker, you really need to consider just how important it is to keep your immune system strong in order to keep your body healthy. If you have never been one to exercise, consider getting cleared by your doctor to begin some type of physical fitness regimen, even if it is just getting out for a refreshing walk. I have found through my personal battles with depression and post traumatic stress, exercise is the best medicine for resetting the mind when life is tough.

If you are the praying type, please keep my family in your thoughts and prayers as we battle these cancers. I hope that by documenting our journey, we can help others  who are also going through this with information and also to let you know that you are not alone.