Tag: breast cancer

No Hill For a Climber, Being Supportive

Almost 34 years ago, I was out riding my 1964 Harley Davidson Sportser when I ran into my old buddy Howard and his sister. The same sister who a few days previously would not give me the time of day when I had tried to speak with her while she was tanning out in front of her mothers home with a friend when I had stopped by. I guess she thought I was some kind of wild man or something. But anyhow, on this day, once Loraine knew that Howard and I were friends she asked Howard if she could have a ride on my Harley. I said to her, “It is my bike, you should be asking me”.

She then asked me if she could have a ride, and me being me, how could I possibly deny this hot chick. I told her to climb on and we have been an item ever since. We used to have so much fun on that old Harley, we loved hitting twisty roads and every so often I would hear her piping up from behind me imploring me to “ride a wheelie”. We were young and carefree, living life to the fullest. About seven months later, I made this beautiful woman my wife and became Dad to her two small children Michael and Jennifer.

Loraine and I have had a good life together, although not always an easy one. We were married September 20th 1986, our baby girl Molly was born April 20, 1987, and I returned to the Navy in May of 1987.

We had a little Datsun B210 that we packed as full as we could with clothing and other personal items and set off for San Diego to my new duty station at Naval Air Station Miramar. That cross country trip was quite the adventure. The kids were crammed in the back, while our baby Molly rode in Loraine’s lap. That little Datsun was a dependable vehicle, but as soon as we arrived in San Diego, Loraine insisted we were going to get her a bigger car, she was never going to be that cramped in a car ever again. We went out and bought her a 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass that day.

Being a military wife is a very tough job, they say it is the toughest job in the armed forces. After four years in Miramar, we were transferred to Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia where we would spend the next five years before being transferred once again to Dallas, Texas where we were for the next two years before I left the Navy.

Navy life was tough on Loraine and the kids. Not only did she have to deal with our being transferred a few times. She had to cope with the problems that would arise with the kids having to leave their friends behind. Of course, most of their friends were also military brats, so they were constantly moving away too. And then there was all my time spent away from home when she would have to take on the role of Mom and Dad while I was gone. My duties were quite demanding to say the least. Even when I was not gone on a detachment, I would work eighty to one hundred hour work weeks. At Helicopter Combat Support Special Squadron 4 (HCS-) in Virginia, I was on a seventy two hour contingency to deploy anywhere in the world in support of Navy Special Warfare operations. I was in a Navy helicopter special operations command with a mission of Combat Search and Rescue along with Special Warfare support of SEAL teams out of Dam Neck, Virginia. This was an exciting tour of duty, but it was terribly rough on our families who never knew when or if we would be called away. We seemed to always be away…

Military life was pretty hard on my family. May of 1997, I left the Navy involuntarily. I’m not getting into all the details about that, but will say I had issues that were coming from what has now been diagnosed  as severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had a bad time readjusting to civilian life for several years, and in 2008, I returned to military service in the Kansas Army Reserve National Guard as a Staff Sergeant. I re-enlisted one day without talking to my family about it. I went home and asked Loraine what she would think if I told her I could get back into the military. She looked at me and said, “You already re-enlisted didn’t you”. She knew how important it was to me to finish my career and gave me her full support despite there was full likelihood I would either deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan for combat operations at the age of 46 years old. In fact, I was about to deploy with my unit to Afghanistan when I blew out my spine at L5 S1 in an accident at my civilian job. This injury resulted in me being off of full time work for a year, required epidural injections into my spine, spinal surgery followed by two months of physical therapy. It took me a year to learn to walk normal again after this injury, along with kicking an opiate addiction that came from my prolonged use of prescription oxycodone. I retired for medical reasons October 2010.

This article is not supposed to be about me though. I hope to have set the stage where you can see how tough life has been on my dear wife while being so very supportive of me in all of my endeavors. She has stepped up to the plate and been the best wife a man could ever ask for. She has supported me through my military career no matter how hectic life could be for her and the kids at home. She has supported me through the craziness of my PTSD. She carried the torch when I blew out my spine and kept us afloat when others might have left me when I could not support my family as a result of this painful injury. She has supported me through her two other bouts of cancer, one when the needs of the Navy often came before the needs of my family. Now, with her third go round with cancer, this time breast cancer, I will do everything in my power to be every bit of the support she needs out of me.

No matter what she decides about her treatments with this breast cancer, I will stand by her decisions. Right now, Loraine has decided to go through with a full mastectomy of both breasts and then undergo reconstruction during the same surgical procedure. She has my support.

If she changes her mind about reconstruction and just goes with a full mastectomy, she still has my undying support.

Should she change her mind and decide to go with just a lumpectomy procedure which will for sure require radiation and possibly chemo, she has my support.

No matter what she decides with this breast cancer, I will stand strong at her side and support her in her decisions. It is her body that is being affected. She has to live with this, I will support her. It is her mind that has to get wrapped around a full mastectomy, I will be there for her.

If you have a loved one going through any type of cancer, it is a true act of selfless love to be there for their emotional support. This battle is likely to get hard, but we will prevail. Of this, I have faith. God bless and thank you for reading.

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No Hill For a Climber, How Much Does Breast Cancer Cost?

What does it cost to have breast cancer?

Lord, I have no idea how to even quantify the question of how much does it cost.

Since my dear wife Loraine has been diagnosed, what kind of price can we place on the mental burden, the fears, the personal and life changing decisions she must make. What worth can be placed on sleepless nights from pain and worry?

What price can you place on your breasts if you are female?  What price can be placed on a part of yourself that is a large part of your femininity?

What price can you place on coming to grips with your own mortality and the impact all of this is having on your family?

As her loving husband, I only wish I knew the price I could pay to make all of Loraine’s pain and mental anguish go away. If there was a monetary value that could be placed on all of this, I bet it would be so astronomical that it would only be a pipe dream anyhow. But I would make every effort to get there anyhow.

What will the ultimate financial burden be when all is said and done?

I have not a blooming clue, but it is going to be quite high. We are fortunate in that I have a good job that provides top quality insurance that is going to cover a good portion of our expenses. However, here is just a snapshot in the picture below of a portion of what has been billed to our insurance already:

On just this portion, there has been charged $32,493. This does not include some of the other initial costs from our personal care physician.

If you have guessed this is kind of terrifying from a financial point of view, you would be correct. These charges have come before Loraine had even made up her mind whether to undergo a full mastectomy or just a lumpectomy.

Absorb this for a moment. With this insurance statement along with the prior statements we have received, there have been in the neighborhood of $40,000 charged, which despite having great insurance, there are high dollar bills already rolling into our mailbox that we must pay. I am thankful to be blessed with a well paying job, but these bills could easily become overwhelming over time…

Loraine has decided to have a double mastectomy, a decision I fully support. We will be meeting with a plastic surgeon in a little over a week who will be in the room when her breasts are removed. Once the mastectomy has been completed, the plastic surgeon will immediately begin a reconstruction process in order that she may retain her femininity after this horrible surgery. It is an amazing thing that this service is available to her, but there are many questions to be asked before it is actually done. Questions such as:

Will reconstruction increase the healing time or add any additional complications?

If Loraine has to undergo radiation treatments afterwards, will reconstruction have to wait until a later time after she has been through treatments?

What kind of additional risks are associated with reconstruction after a mastectomy?

Right now, we have been having sleepless nights. The burden of the unknown can weigh heavily on the soul. While we do know the type of cancer she has is Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, we do not know if it has spread to anywhere else in her body through the lymph system. We will not know this until her mastectomy has been completed and a few of her nearby lymph nodes have been removed for biopsy. This is worrisome as the tumor is about the size of a golf ball and located at the 2:30 position of her breast, near the lymph nodes under her left arm pit.

As if mastectomy is not bad enough, to add insult to injury is the complications which come from lymph node removal. When you have lymph nodes removed as she must have done, you stand the risk of developing Lymphedema.

What is Lymphedema?

When axillary lymph nodes are removed during breast surgery (with sentinal node biopsy or axillary dissection) or treated with radiation therapy, some of the lymph vessels can become blocked. This may prevent lymph fluid from leaving the area.

Lymphedema occurs when lymph fluid collects in the arm (or other area such as the hand, fingers, chest/breast or back), causing it to swell (edema).

The swelling may be so slight it’s barely seen or felt. Or, it may be so great the arm grows very large.

In severe cases, lymphedema can cause pain and limit movement. Also, it can be quite upsetting to have one arm larger than the other, even if the change is small. (1)

Until Loraine has had her surgery, we will not know for certain the staging of the breast cancer. Until then, we will also not know if she will only have to have hormone treatments only, or if she will have to also have radiation and or chemo treatments. If she were to only undergo a lumpectomy in order to save her natural breasts, six weeks of radiation treatments, five days per week are guaranteed with a possibility of chemo also being needed. With a full mastectomy, provided the tumor is entirely contained and has not spread, hormone treatments that suppress estrogen production are the modern treatment which has been found to be successful.

What it might cost for a loved one to have breast cancer is terrifying to say the least. It seems the sky is the limit in how much is going to be billed to us. My daughter Molly has suggested I set up a GoFundMe page to help offset the financial burden. I have not ruled that out, desperation at a later time could drive me to this, but I do not want a handout from anyone, we are survivors. Currently, Brenda Sue and I are building a Market Place here at David’s Way in order to help out with the massive financial burden Loraine and I are facing. If you feel it in your heart to help, please consider online shopping here at David’s Way. We are marketing breast cancer awareness items, health and beauty supplements, healthy ingredients for our recipes that your store might not carry, fitness gear and much more. We will soon have all our market categories up for your shopping experience. We currently have our breast cancer awareness and CBD markets up and running for you.

Edited: I found out before we got the marketplace fully built, I was not able to proceed. Apparently, I missed some of the small print.

I have dedicated countless hours and hard earned cash, along with all that Brenda Sue has brought to David’s Way. We have built this website as a labor of love to help others in losing and managing their weight through healthy lifestyle changes. I have pledged from day one that all of our informational content to you will be 100% free, and this will never change. Our content will always be free to you as promised.

Please pass the word to family and friends about my website. We have over 665 nutrition, health and fitness articles for you that have all been written by Brenda Sue and myself. We have a wide variety of healthy recipes for you to try as well. Our mission has been to help as many people as we can, please help us by spreading the word.

God bless and thank you for reading.

(1) https://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/Lymphedema.html

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