Seriously Good News from Thyroid Post-Op

[Submitted by: William Anton Lee]

Post-op appointment today brought great news. Dawne’s thyroid tumors were totally encapsulated, meaning the cancerous stuff was contained within each tumor and not in the thyroid itself. When the thyroid was removed all of the cancer cells came with it. Combine this with earlier news that the lymph nodes draining her thyroid are clear of cancer and there is ample reason to celebrate. METASTASIS IS HIGHLY UNLIKELY.

More good news. Pathology results combined with predictive modeling the doctors use suggests that there is no advantage to doing “radioactive iodine” (RAI) treatments. This is huge. These treatments have really bad downsides for many patients. We’ll take the doctors recommendation to not do these.

Dawne did have two tumors. A 3.5 cm one in the left thyroid and a less than 1 mm one in the right thyroid. Both were found to be cancerous. Interestingly, prior to surgery the left tumor was thought to be only 2 cm and it was the only one to have a biopsy done on it. How good is it that Dawne decided in advance of surgery to have her entire thyroid removed? Darn good; it turned out to absolutely be the right decision. No future surgery will be needed now.

Recovery is in process. Balancing thyroid-hormone replacement is key and the doctor expects this will take a few months. Slit throat needs to heal and it is looking pretty good for being several days old. And unexpectedly, muscles need to heal in her arms and the back of her neck. The doctor explained how Dawne’s head was titled back at an abnormal angle and arms in the crucifix position during this protracted surgery which over stretches these muscles.

So family and friends, scream thank you doctor!


Troublesome News | Now Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid Awareness RibbonSharing troublesome news today, Dawne now has Thyroid Cancer. Surgery is scheduled for the end of next week. Initial biopsies indicate she has Papillary Thyroid Cancer. If this holds true after final biopsy, this cancer growth is completely distinct from Dawne’s previous ‘HER2-positive Breast Cancer’. We are told Papillary Thyroid Cancer is infinitely easier to treat than Metastasized HER2 Cancer. Small break! We expect no new information, as concerns what stage of thyroid cancer, until after surgery.

We started several weeks ago to update you all on Dawne’s breast cancer journey; her preparations for the end of this year and the anniversary of her breast cancer diagnosis. We paused when her doctor spoke to us about possible Thyroid Cancer. It took us back quite a bit. It has been a difficult month as we went from precautionary examinations to final diagnosis. Dawne and I thought long and hard about writing and posting about these new hurdles. We didn’t want to upset folks causing them to think the worst; yet we have been nothing short of candid in our previous writings. Dawne believes in cancer awareness and with that comes a willingness to share personal matters, even nuances which are uncomfortable. So it is that Dawne asked me to write to you today.

Quite bluntly, Dawne’s recovery from breast cancer surgery and treatment is nowhere near complete and this added more layers of physical and emotional stress. You all have been a vital part of Dawne’s support team. I’m certain Dawne could use some additional encouragement right now. Breast cancer recovery is proving more difficult than anticipated. Those details we will save for later. Noteworthy today, is an important aspect of Dawne’s Cancer Story. She would not know she has thyroid cancer had it not been for the PET scans done to further the diagnosis and treatment of her breast cancer.

Interesting to me is that Dawne has suspected for some time that her thyroid has been causing her to experience marked weight gain and renewed dealings with menopausal hot flashes. Regular bio-chem lab tests have indicated no cause and effect, yet her physical experiences indicate otherwise. It may be that Dawne is more in-tune with her body signals than the lab tests. Is it possible that with this unexpected surgery and post-op treatment that she may experience a return to health with the help of closely monitored thyroid replacement drugs? We sure hope so!

Thank you for your support.

… written by William

No Cancer | Final Pathology

Dawne and Luara

[ NEWS FLASH … dateline 2014, April 3 ]



Tustin, CA – Dr. Nimmi Kapoor calling outside of regular business hours, as she has done repeatedly including Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve last year, gave Dawne the final word. The deep pathology reports are in. Cancer be gone !!!!!

… pictorial commentary provided by Dawne Lee and Laura Gregory.

Kicking Cancer’s Butt … Post-Surgery News

Dawne post-surgeryPicture says it best!

NO CANCER detectable in tissues and lymph nodes taken during surgery!

Dawne is home and doing extremely well. Final pathology will be done by the end of next week. We have every expectation that final pathology will show Dawne is completely clear of all cancer.

Remember our earlier “med-tech” talk? Final pathology is key. We are confidently looking at a “pathologically complete response” [pCR] directly attributed to the antibody drugs in Dawne’s regime. I am so glad Dawne fought the fight to get Perjeta added to her drug infusion protocol. Once added, Dawne’s tumors shrank away to nothing in 3 cycles, leaving the 3 remaining cycles to chase any breakaway cells that would be looking to seed somewhere else in her body.

Dawne post-surgery poster

Happy barely describes our elation this morning – more like euphoric!

Pictures are rumored to be worth 1,000 words. What do you think? Doesn’t Dawne look remarkable coming out of a 4-hour surgery.

I can’t say enough about the support you all have given Dawne.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

William Anton Lee

Pausing to breath …

Dawne - Family of SistersIt has been a several weeks since we last updated here. Today is a landmark. Not monumental by any means, but yet feels like it. I am writing this piece on my own for the first time. William has been so good about putting my thoughts and words down while I dealt with the low energy that comes with chemotherapy.

The side effects of chemotherapy are easing up, although I am still struggling. Chemo has killed or seriously messed up my finger nails. There is a good chance that I will lose all of my nails. I am on round two of antibiotics taken to treat really painful infections under my nails. Hair growth is slow, but it is starting its comeback.

Oh, and about my hair — Prickly and driving me a little nuts!

Dawne & Mechthild on the WaterIt’s weird; I am weaker now than while taking the chemo drug. Don’t get me wrong I was pretty weak while doing chemo, so you can imagine just how scary and frustrating it is to be worse off now some 4 weeks after my last chemo treatment. I am working at eating well and getting stronger; I need to be ready for surgery.

Surgery is April 30th. It is an outpatient procedure. I’m in the door around 7:30 am for prep. Surgery is around 12 noon. They expect to let me go home around 5 or later. I will be laying low for at least a week; but I’m hoping to feel better soon thereafter. I’m really ready to get back to my old normal.

As the weeks progress since my diagnosis you would think I would have so many little projects accomplished. I feel lazy and lately with my fingers so painful the thank you notes I need to write are just piling up. Please know I appreciate all the gifts, cards and phone calls. Everyone has just been so wonderful.

There is a real landmark coming up.

Dawne & High School FriendsWe should know by May 6th the outcome of the pathology tests which will be done using tissue and lymph nodes taken during surgery. It goes without saying, we are hopeful. Truly great news is expected. Think Poker. In many ways this is the game-of-life with very real “odds”. I’m told that I have around and 80% chance of complete response to the two Antibody Drugs coupled with this one chemo drug.

The ultrasound scan a couple of weeks ago did not find any tumors present. I’m down from 4 tumors with a total mass of around 5 cm! Extended pathology tests will be looking for individual cancer cells. Somehow the needle in the haystack analogy seems proper. It’s hard not to be a little anxious waiting for these results; so much so, that my upcoming breast surgery feels almost routine to me. I’m more focused on the lab technician’s work more so than the cancer surgeon and the plastic surgeon.

Yes, I know that surgery is a big deal. Thinking recovery afterward is going to be tough too. I know this I’m more than ready for it to happen. It will bring me one step closer to December this year when I will have my last drug infusion appointment and I can close this crazy and unexpected chapter of my life. I am confident. I am grateful.

Until we meet again. Love you!

Dawne L. Lee

No foolin’

Alleluia! Tumors are undetectable via ultrasound. The Cancer Doctor had to re-read her notes and take a second look today – noted with emphasis. Good chance Dawne has attained “pathological complete response” to her combo chemo/antibody treatments. All four tumors appear to be gone. The final-final diagnosis waits for surrounding tissue removal along with 2 or 3 lymph nodes during “cancer surgery” which is targeted for end of April.  The surgery scheduler is to call in the next couple of days to set dates. No more chemotherapy, only antibody infusions through the end of this year and 5 to 6 weeks of daily radiation treatments which occur 4 – 5 weeks after surgery. Happy beyond explanation about today’s reports from the Cancer Doctor.  We will be even happier to hear Dawne say that her chemo-induced Peripheral Neuropathy is gone too, although based on our experiences with my own peripheral neuropathy and the cancer doctor’s independent diagnosis it will take a year or two before we know for sure. Wicked trade-off … but stop it … the tumors are freakin’ undetectable. Happy – happy – happy!!!!!!! Now to work the mojo and rebuild what chemo wrecked on its way to kicking cancers butt.

… from whence we came

Dawne had her second chemo treatment yesterday with the replacement drug, the lower dosage, less toxic chemo drug which she will take weekly until March 31. Best I can tell food is tasting better to her. Dawne seems a little more “with it”, although negative side effects remain. I’m trying to imagine what it is like to go through this amount of physical stress and then add the additional stress of losing your job (I think officially today), selling your home, and packing and moving 500 miles away. As one adds each of these to the mix, you’re inclined to wonder what it takes to maintain a positive attitude. Dawne does.

I’m grateful to Cousin Lona who picked Dawne up at the airport in Southern California yesterday day and took care of Dawne as she took chemo while I finished unloading what is almost 40 years of collective junk into mom’s garage in Northern California. Four gorilla-styled metal racks worth of stuff. If ever I needed motivation to do a life purge, I have it now. Consider this booked as soon as we are done with cancer surgery and treatments. Did I mention March 31st is the last chemo treatment? Big day coming up. Doc says it will most likely take 4 to 5 weeks for Dawne to recover from chemo and then surgery. So, looking to the end of April for surgery which will be done in Southern California.

Cancer, like most of life’s unexpected challenges, brings with it opportunities to redirect your life. Out of pain can come gain, if you allow yourself to be open to change. There is no doubt Dawne and I will be leading significantly different lives as we complete this journey. Reconnecting with our family and friends in Northern California is one of those gains. It has been almost 25 years since I moved the family to Southern California. It was surreal to be driving our stuff back north this week. Very emotional for me as I drove through the night alone hazing at the almost-full moon and cranking the window up and down using the cool night air as medication to soothe my tired butt and wake me up from time to time. Ya, life’s unexpected challenges do bring painful moments.

But, then again! The night air and moon only hinted at refreshing things to come. Nice surprises and pleasantries do have a way of easing the pain, even making it disappear for a while and hopefully forever. An angel dropped in on us when I pulled into Carmichael. An angel who had appeared before. Listen in, you’ll meet her.

Twenty-seven years ago a young adult was assigned by her company to care for our ailing mother who had ALS. This young lady, Lynn, was our mom’s favorite caretaker and quite frankly ours too. Lynn, noted we were back in Carmichael and she came to visit us – all the way from Morgan Hill, California. Within seconds Lynn was schlepping boxes and pieces of furniture and helping me assemble those heavy metal storage racks. What a life saver! What a special visit! We caught up on 27 years and emptied a 26-foot uHaul truck. At the end of the day we were physically exhausted, but our spirits were lifted. Thank you Lynn. Lynn reminded me that productive people are happy people. Lynn reminded me that friends are forever and time has a way of endearing our friends to us in ways quite unexpected.

You’ve heard Dawne speak about my Cousin Danene, generationally could be called Aunt (she is my dad’s 1st cousin). Danene moved to Carmichael with Dawne last summer before the Thanksgiving surprise – Dawne’s diagnosis. Danene has been a mainstay throughout and a principal advocate for healthier eating. Her impact on Dawne is immeasurable. Dawne and I say goodbye to Danene this week as she moves on to the next stage in her life. She will travel to and live in the State of Washington. Her brother comes into town to assist her with her travels. The house will feel emptier without her. We wish her well and we thank her for being a brief partner in this, our transitory time of our life.

Well, today is going to be one of those butt-grinding days. I return the rental truck in Sacramento, sit and wait while uHaul rigs the little car with a little trailer hitch! then back to the Carmichael home to pack in the last bit of stray pieces before driving back to Southern California to pick Dawne up and head back to the Aguanga home. It is sold and escrow is scheduled to close on Friday. Last minute fixes the buyer requires. Last bit of packing and moving. The a final clean sweep and we say good-bye to what turned out to be a short four-year experiment in high chaparral living.

Keep your thoughts and prayers coming for Dawne. The doc says the real big day is surgery day when the pathologist’s report will tell us just how affective the pre-op treatments have been. We wait with bated breath – I think that is the proper way to say it. In the meantime, we’ll keep looking for golden moments that otherwise would not have come but for this nasty thing we call Cancer.

Good day to all.

Approaching Cycle 5

William writes … It has been a while. Yesterday, Dawne’s treatment protocol changed. Her body is not tolerating the chemo drug – Taxotere. This is noteworthy. Sparing you the bloody details, the worst of it is Dawne’s chemically-induced Peripheral Neuropathy; and that’s hardly the entire story. Every person who undergoes chemotherapy knows the horrors and challenges. They also know the extremes beyond which continuing is not appropriate.

Dawne’s new doctor is a very good doctor. Thankfully he saw us yesterday, an unplanned visit. He prescribed an end to the Taxotere every 3 weeks and is moving Dawne to Taxol [Paclitaxel] every week. Taxol is a less potent drug. He called it the drug of choice for 80 year olds. It is given at lower doses, but more often. There is an upside to this beyond trying to rebuild Dawne’s peripheral nerves over the next few months. Dawne will stop taking those damnable steroid drugs and the white blood cell builder called Neulasta, both of which are having additional serious negative impacts on her daily life.

I am optimistic. Dawne’s spirit is tested, yet she is Dawne. Those who know me well know just how fortunate I am to be married to this lovely lady. She is a very strong woman who makes life easier for not just me, but a large number of other souls. Through all of this she finds moments to smile, to check in on friends, to worry about paying bills and well … you know the rest … you’re likely at the receiving end of her endless and unconditional love.

Yup, I buried the lead again. Leaving you with the best part of the story – Dawne’s FOUR tumors are now only TWO and those appear on scan to be ONE. Yippee! Even better that single remaining mass is measuring at 2cm or less, which is just less than half the original size. This is seriously good news considering her original chemo regime was substandard (that all changed with the new doctor). This is the beauty of the new neoadjuvant (pre-op) protocol. You get to know the damn drugs are working. Of course the final – final is not knowable until surgery and pathology are done, but we’ll take these little successes. Screw Cancer.

Keep thinking, Dawne will be OK!

“What does the Fox say?”

Good morning! This is William, aka the Hubby, the Fox.

Nice technology this It notified us that we have not reported out much in the last week or so. Call it a lull. Well more than that; call it difficult times. In clinical terms it is mid-cycle in the pre-operative treatment regime. In human terms it simply sucks. I see Dawne struggling at just about every level we call life. We know all the rationales for staying positive, for thinking long. We do have hope, we do have confidence. It is tested for sure.

As I sat staring at the walls late last night before bed, and then again at 3am this morning, I wondered about how we are responding to friends who inquire about Dawne. These wonderful and welcomed contacts that remind us Dawne is not alone in her struggle.  There certainly has been a place for straight up honesty. Life is altered when undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. It is a guarded place. We are concerned. We do not wish to dwell on the negative. We are by nature upbeat people; although speaking about hurdles has seemed proper.

My father was a very candid man, yet he spoke little of his health. Friends ask. “How are you doing?” Some write or call expressing compassion. They wish Dawne to know she is loved. I assure you those moments brighten her day. Some query; it is an in-depth perspective they seek, as they learn about breast cancer. It is in these moments Dawne is allowed to forget about herself and help friends. Some friends having lived cancer, personally or otherwise, they look for common ground offering sage advice. All of these gracious contacts give hope and confidence a big boost. Most importantly, they warm Dawne’s heart. All are immensely welcomed moments.

So forgive me my candor this morning. I do not speak of me. I speak of precious Dawne. Let me assure you that today she is not stuck in hell, but she surely feels for the moment like she is living in it. There are glimpses of hope – the softening of the tumors and a sense that these buggers are getting smaller. I hear these things from Dawne and hope her mind isn’t playing tricks. She is beating this ugly disease, right? Against that backdrop I can assure you that the chemo is also trying to kill her. This is the reality she fretted over when considering her options moving forward. I spare you the details, but there is little in her daily life today that resembles what was our happy, blissful life.

Dawne wrote earlier this week, “Cancer is not for wusses.” Amen! I add today, cancer reminds you daily of love, of family, of friends. While chemo “kills you to save you”, “how are you doing” is the best antidote. Care cures cancer! Thank you for your calls, notes, cards, emails, and posts. Thank you for adding your voice to Dawne’s Choir. Thank you for kindly listening and smiling when this singer, me, is a bit off-key. Bless you all. While it may well take a village to raise a child – I’m convinced it takes a world to beat cancer. You all are Dawne’s world and your choir rocks!

I share with you today one of the many bright lights in Dawne’s life; that would be one out of the many which are you all. It is our granddaughter Frankie Vaughn Lee. She turns two on February 13th. Her mom and dad created, shot, edited and produced her birthday video. I asked, “What does the Fox say?” Don’t ask unless you wish to volunteer for Frankie’s year three birthday video. Hooked!

“… waooohhh …”

Translated, “Care Calms and Cures Cancer!”

Quick Update … William Writes

Hello friends,

Dawne is resting today. It’s Day 3 after receiving Cycle 3 treatments – chemotherapy plus two anti-Her2 therapies. Day 3 thru 5 seem to be the toughest on Dawne with each day thereafter getting gradually better. The emphasis is on gradual with recovery coming harder with each new Cycle. I think Dawne posted how happy she is to be receiving Perjeta, which means the maximum number of anti-Her2 Antibody drugs are now going after the Her2 Proteins which are over-expressed and form the foundation of the tumors she has. The doctor expects no complications from adding Perjeta. He looks for nothing but good news.

There has been one additional change – Dawne received Neulasta for the first time. This is a standard drug which increases her white blood cell count in order to stave off possible infections from the public; as well as, to reduce/eliminate mucus sores which Dawne developed as far back as her first treatment. The known side effects of Neulasta are bone pain which is here in spades. It is the Yin/Yang of the one chemo drug she is getting. Trading bone pain for no mucus sores is a bit of a Hobson’s Choice in my book. The next couple of days will tell.

These days are difficult, no doubt. Dawne is soldiering on and doing so as graceful as ever. No surprise. This is how we know her. There are a few breaks she looks forward to which I’m sure will help ease the bumps in the road ahead. We talk about the next 3 months being the toughest this year. I’m convinced that early reports of her tumors shrinking into oblivion will provide all the encouragement Dawne and I need to overcome what are clearly emotional life changing events. Look for updates on what the doctors call “pathological complete response” – otherwise known as “pCR” for the nurses and researchers reading this.

I thank you all for your support as Dawne works her way through this challenge.

With much appreciation and affection,