Archive by Author | Dawne L. 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

3rd Chemo Treatment Today

I wrote several weeks ago about us actively working to transfer my care and treatment to Dr. Margileth, The Center for Cancer Prevention and Treatment, St. Joseph Hospital, in Orange, CA. Today marks the completion of this move. I received Cycle 3 treatments today.

Particularly noteworthy, they gave me all three drugs which were originally prescribed to start on December 16, 2013. Yes, the Perjeta saga has ended – I’m finally getting it.

The new support team is wonderful. Many details I could talk about tonight, but honestly I’m beat tired. The steroid regime given to prepare my body for the one chemo drug – Taxotere – is brutal. One of the side effects is you don’t sleep. Two hours of sleep last night. Six hours at the doctors office. Time to hit the bed and hope sleep comes easier tonight, although if the last two cycles are predictive that isn’t likely.

We’re back in the doctors office tomorrow for check-up and a shot which is supposed to help keep my white blood cell count elevated at normal levels. This is a first time for this drug. They told me that it also helps with suppressing skin lesions which have been troublesome over the last two cycles. All good news today! Not without a little drama today, but on balance the drama was well worth the outcome.

Good night friends!

Thank you for checking in.

Adjustments, Healing & Living …

I wrote last Friday about difficult times leaving my job behind for a while. Today began new days for me; an extended period of time where I focus singularly on my breast cancer. Work projects will go forward without me. I will miss working with our customers and helping our team with project deliverables and deadlines. I look forward to resuming my career with this company as early as possible, recognizing my health is first priority among many; and hopeful we can cut short what is now scheduled to be a one-year leave of absence.
Time to adjust! Time to heal! Time to live! I start the preparation of my resume in order to be considered for re-selection by my previous boss. I try not to worry about things out of my control. I help William, as he develops our financial workout plan. I look forward to finally receiving “standard of care”, as I go through pre-op (neoadjuvanrt) treatments. Yes, Perjeta is scheduled to be added. I’m thankful the new doctor said that he see’s no reason why Perjeta would be denied, going so far as to say that it has been a standard of treatment for many of his patients for quite some time. I’m waking up, I’m realizing that these are the times when we are best served by gathering around family and friends, and graciously finding openings in what was once a harried life. We look to discover hidden doorways into secret gardens. We look for precious moments which otherwise we would have missed.
Cycle 3 treatments are on-schedule for January 27th with a full 3-drug prescription. Bye-bye 2-drug regime and all the unnecessary drama foisted upon us by my previous medical provider. EDD Staff is working to straighten out my State Disability pay. My company’s HR Staff works over the coming days to knit together what are interestingly divergent medical leave programs, a subject all to itself, before the planned re-selection process muddies the water. Our home gets a little TLC this weekend so that April Guidetti, our amazing realtor and friend, can list it. All good things! Another good thing too, I hope! I have lost 25 pounds since February. Getting healthy all the way around!
I’ll have to write more later on the healthy eating subject. Strangely, William is experiencing the exact opposite. He gains weight, as he tries to track with me. We are watching both of our weight-curves closely. We had high hopes that my changes would be productive for both of us. Our regime is essentially organic, non-GMO, non-gluten, limited-processed (practically non-processed), non-antibiotic, non-hormone, nonalcoholic, non-soda-poppy, ultra-low-dairy, and measured-kosher-meats (read clean meats). And … yes … this means seriously revising and updating my cookbook.
See you Thursday Southern California, if all goes well. William will drive as I sleep and read and sleep and read. A small change in plans Sacramento family. Cousin Danene will be visited my her brother, Cousin Terry, so she will stay back.  William and I will take it slow. I expect you can find us in Agunaga as William packs up the house one more time, as he has done all too often over the last decade. This too has its opportunities; sorting and purging is advisable before hauling a lifetime of gathering to Carmichael.


Partnerships … Full Disclosures

Hello Friends,

You will read posts written by me and my husband, William. Our writing styles differ so in time you’ll figure it out. William built this website for me starting it around Christmas 2013. We wanted it to be a living journal that captured my experiences with from the day I was told I had Her2 Breast Cancer. This required reaching back into Facebook and pulling much of that content into

William continues to write for me. He hears me and he writes. There was a day when I wrote daily in my paper journals; and once I figure this new technology out, I hope to transfer these energies here. There also was a day once when chemotherapy drugs didn’t fog my brain. Meanwhile, I’m grateful to my hubby who married me just about 40 years ago and took those commonly spoken words to heart, “…and the two shall become one.”

Ha! I guess this makes me a celebrity. I have a shadow writer for a while. William writes long letters with long sentences with way too many commas. He knows it. Too old to change I think. He says going back to 6th grade might help because it makes more sense now. He also takes suggestions real well, so speak up. We are working on putting as much content on breast cancer, dietary needs and lifestyle changes as we can find. If our research saves you time, then great. For us, it is a nice place to save off material without creating boxes and boxes of magazines and newspaper clippings.

I hope our notes, letters, and posts are worth cluttering up your Facebook pages and email history. For sure, this new technology sure is a nice way to keep all of you up to date and build a very cool scrapbook at the same time. This year is a year I will want to remember for a long … long … long time.

Love you!

Tears in My Eyes, Hope in My Heart

Tears in my eyes tonight, hope still in my heart!

Today’s workday was a struggle … the heart was willing, the body and thinking mind not. Common sense caught up with my heart and asked passion to give it a rest. The doctor’s office called late afternoon. The doctor is placing me on medical disability through the balance of 2014. The call to my boss at the close of business was difficult for me.

Writing my formal notice about moving from intermittent to continuous leave was no easy task. The letter expressed my sincere desire to be re-selected for a job I have done for 13 years, while at the same time having to explain my need for continuous medical leave. I understand the medical necessity of disability leave through 2014, yet I still hope for a real chance at returning to work and my company sometime this summer. It’s not out of the realm of medical possibilities.

  • Keep rooting with me for these anti-Her2 drugs.
  • Keep listening for magical words – “pathological complete response.”
  • Keep hoping I’m eligible for breast conservatory procedure.
  • Keep thinking out-patient procedure.
  • Keep praying post-operative treatments are easy on me.
  • Keep positive thoughts about re-selection by my old boss.
  • Pray William and I get creditor cooperation on our financial workout plan.

William, Danene, and I travel together this coming Thursday to begin the sequence of needed tests and appointments for Cycle 3 treatments. I will return to our temporary home in Carmichael with Danene after chemo treatments. William will stay behind to finish packing the high country ranch house in Agunaga. The present plans have me stopping in for a day or two to say goodbye to our lovely home as we list it for sale.

I’m reflective tonight. We hoped-against-hope that my newish chemo regime wasn’t too powerful a personal adversary, while believing it to be the ultimate adversary for my Her2 Cancer bug. It is a worthy endeavor. There is ample reason to conclude that my personal struggles with this chemo regime means I’m kicking cancers butt. I have no way of knowing for sure for a couple more Cycles, but the tumor does feel softer and less attached to my breast bone which it pressed against. Did I write about this before? The doctor mentioned at my Cycle 2 appointment my tumors seemed to me smaller already. It’s a crude measurement, but I’ll take it.

We will do this!

Rally call:

  • Remember – pCR!
  • Remember – Remission!
  • Remember – Re-Selection!
  • Remember – I love you all!

Waiting on Doctor’s Counsel

Tomorrow ends my first week back and today was the hardest day yet. I had to make “that” call to Dr. Marglieth today. I’m waiting to hear his counsel, as he was off today.  Tonight, my thinking brain collides with my heart and common sense; and there is no place to hide.  My body speaks clearly.  Tomorrow more than likely changes the rest of my life. When I thought I could whistle past the grave, so to speak, I was thinking superwoman could survive cancer and not have a consequential impact on her career too.  I’m afraid and I’m learning.

I’m afraid to explain, my total package is not “on-line”. My heart is so into succeeding with this intermittent work approach. The rest of me is failing the test. Boo! I’m guessing chemotherapy drugs saturate your body and over time the killing-effect accumulates. There must be truth to the common expression that chemo kills you to save you.  It’s the choice I did not want to make. I feared its outcomes.

I know this, I’m in the lucky generation.  I’m receiving one anti-HR2 drug as a replacement for old school chemo drugs, but still must take at least one chemo drug with it.  I will be adding a second anti-HER2 drug this coming treatment – Cycle 3.  The previous generations did not have this option.  I also benefit from having chemo before surgery where tests show exactly how effective, or ineffective, these drugs have been. I’m reminding myself that by surgery time I have no less than a 39% chance of complete shrinkage of the tumors. Previous generations had a 17% chance at best.

This week I learned this, peace, tranquility and positive focus matter greatly when fighting cancer, particularly through chemotherapy. When you progress through the day and then pass your heart and soul off to the night genies, you don’t want to be carrying unnecessary or weighty burden’s beyond the obvious frailties. The regular stresses of work can be a problem; for sure, extraordinary pressures from a company in transition while undergoing chemotherapy add an extra layer of stress. A layer that weighs on me.  In those moments at night when your body says sleep, your thinking mind races considering choices and outcomes – outcomes which are incredibly huge as pertains to livelihood and losing your entire life savings and job, possibly even a 13-year career.

Good night friends.

Yet Another … Sleepless in Sacramento

4:30 AM!

This is seriously getting old.  Sleep, oh sleep, wherefore art thou!

Scorecard [Day 4 of 10]
Body ............. 1 day reasonable
Simple Brain ..... 1 day reasonable
Thinking Brain ... 2 days decent
Memory ........... 3 days decent
Common Sense ..... 4 days confounded
Heart ............ 4 days strong

“Thursday Workday” on the docket in 2 hours and it’s not looking so good.  Feels like today is going to require extraordinary effort. I continue with doing testing. Follow-up with my doctor looks to be a good idea. My energy level is on the floor this morning. The fog is still hovering. Time to get an expert opinion because my heart is telling me one thing and body and most aspects of my brain another. The question has to be is this it? Is this normal? Is this my new reality for the next year?

Truthfully, sad this morning. I really-really wanted to do this. Call me crazy, but I love my job. Trying out this Intermittent Leave program sure made sense. Keeping a 13-year job knowing you can do 7 more years and happily retire after a 20 year career in one company means a lot to me. Being placed on continuous disability for a year would not be my wish. Common sense tells me though that as an alternative it beats the heck out of losing my battle with cancer. What a strained win it is? Life is good. Life without a job and therefore certain economic disaster is not so good?

Forgive my reflections my friends. It must be a normal process. William went through tough times a decade or so ago and he reminds me that unexpected changes due to medical disability are very hard. He reminds me that I encouraged him to let go, to let the family gather around, to take the time to heal. Hard as it is, it just might be time to take my own long forgotten advice.

Moving forward and trying not to look back.

Weepy Wednesday

I wish I had more in me.  The best update I can give is I hurt all over.  My brain even hurts.

The very kind ladies who serve as Breast Cancer Docents, wonderful women who have survived chemotherapy and surgery and live to survive cancer, spoke about a “fog” coming over them.  It’s a good description.  Let’s hope my fog clears by morning.

To those ladies who find themselves walking this road today or tomorrow.  I’m experiencing something I did not expect.  You get through 2 Cycles of Chemo and you think your body is tolerating the drugs quite well.  It has been a week now since Cycle 2 treatments.  There is something new going on these last two days and especially throughout the day.  I finally broke down today and had to pull out the big guns – prescription drugs for nausea and anxiety. Week 5 is turning out to be tough. Is this my future reality?

I’m off to bed early again. My day is done-done!

Early-Morning … Hump Day

4AM!  Arg! …

That heart of mine isn’t doing so good this morning.  It is being chased by a mean ghost.  My body complains more and more.  Possibly the most interrupted sleep I have had since starting chemotherapy.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have an App that scanned your entire body and reported where the system failures and kinks were so you could adjust these and move on with your day.  No matter, head up!  I need to do this!

Today is a big workday.  For those who know me well, you know I am laser-focused on my job, meaning the company and those customers I work for. Important meeting today with the boss.  It is an odd place to be – chemotherapy, surgery, post-surgery treatments, total recovery, and a company in transition once again.  Against that backdrop, there is more testing to do to keep projects on track with important deliverables.

How does that old expression go – mind over matter?

Hard Tuesday

Tough Tuesday.

I spoke this morning about brain and body.  It occurs to me tonight that my brain is a complicated aspect to this fight.  This brain of mine, and I more than suspect a feature we all share,  is complicated.  There is the piece which motivates and drives me to stay at the top of my game.  It is this aspect which so often puts company, customer and others before myself.  I hear people call this heart.  It’s a nice way to compartmentalized the brain, to give that aspect a life unto its own.  Then there is the piece that remembers stuff.  That feature of my brain has always been awesome.  William tells me I shine over him in leaps and bounds here.  I suppose acknowledging common sense is well … just common sense.  Of course, I can’t forget my simple brain, which really isn’t so simple, it quietly controls the physicality’s of my daily life.  And then lastly, my thinking brain.  That analytical piece that everyone relies on, and me especially to do my job.  I’m a project manager and process analyst, some people call the latter a business analyst.  I proudly feel a really good analyst and manager.

Enough of that.  I don’t have the energy to go off and do research to better explain the above.  Hopefully, my laymen description works well enough to make this point – simply put, chemotherapy is messing with it all.  Today was a tougher day then yesterday.  Heart, memory, common sense, simple brain, and thinking brain alike suffering tonight.  I take that back, my heart still is in the game.  The rest took a hit throughout the workday.  I’m exhausted.  Bedtime comes seriously early tonight.  I finish the day learning much about me and chemotherapy that I did not know or maybe didn’t want to know.  This heart of mine continues to worry about company, customer and others.  The rest of me didn’t do so well today.

Before I go, I learned another lesson today. I work diligently, compassionately, and sincerely to keep drama out of my life and work life.  That said, drama sure seems to have a mind of its own.  There are people in this world who apparently thrive on drama and fail to pause long enough to recognize their neighbor is deeply distressed and could use a break.  It is best I leave this story for a later date and I will share when the time is right.  Why mention it now?  I do so because people in general should know that any one who is ill deserves a break.  In particular people with cancer really need a break.  Doctors have told me that stress is one of the bigger triggers for cancer.  They have also said having confidence in your treatment and care regime goes a long way towards recovery.  And the final kicker is their counsel to take it easy and seek out peaceful and tranquil environments while changing much in your daily lifestyle. Chemotherapy is a bitch, a bastard, the devil in disguise – under any name it sucks.

Time to sleep. Time to for my brain to rest. Time for outside drama to go away.