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May 26 11

Raise Your Glass

by Neil

Wow, it’s been quite a while since we’ve posted an update here. A lot has happened since the last post that mentioned Mel being done with chemotherapy. As you can see by the photo, her hair has grown back and she’s bleached it out. That pic is about a month old, so it looks even longer now. I’ve noticed that she no longer can assume that people know she’s been through chemo since her hair has come back in.

To catch you all up… Melanie started radiation therapy in February, which lasted about 7 weeks. Radiation is like getting an x-ray, but it’s focused on specific areas and it is done every day for 30-35 days. The treatments were really quick, only a minute or two each time. The down-side is that it burns the skin surface and degrades the capillaries as well. The burns eventually go away, but the damaged capillaries can affect the re-constructive surgery process.

After the radiation therapy was completed, her oncologist scheduled her to have a PET scan done. This is an imaging scan of the whole body that specifically looks for cancer. She had a PET scan done just before her mastectomy last July which did show the cancer that was known in her left breast, as well as in the lymph nodes that were removed during the mastectomy. After an anxiety-filled week of waiting for the results, her oncologist confirmed that there is no visible cancer in her body. Woot!! There were two spots on her lung that he wants to have checked into (with a CT scan), but he did not think she needed to worry about them. She also talked to the radiation oncologist, who read the PET scan report; he said that given their location it is most likely that they are merely scar tissue that can occur from the radiation therapy in that area. She’s had the CT scan done and we should know the results early next week.

Next Step

Now that her chemo and radiation treatments are done, she can begin the reconstruction process which requires two separate surgeries. As you can probably understand, she is looking forward to getting this reconstruction underway. Next Wednesday, June 1, she is scheduled for the first surgery. Expanders are placed under her chest muscles and over the next few months they are gradually filled with fluid so that her skin can be expanded. Then after about 6 months, she has the second surgery so that the expanders can be removed and permanent implants are put in their place.


Melanie had found a new term on another survivors blog and took a liking to it; she has adopted the word ‘cancerversary’ to apply to any date of significance in her fight. Today is one of those days; One year ago, she found a lump while doing her self-check. This was the quiet beginning of it all. An ultrasound, a biopsy, and two weeks later we found out that it was Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Lesson for everyone reading: early detection saves lives! Ladies do your self checks and guys be sure to remind your ladies to do them.

Raise Your Glass

Sometime during the past year the song ‘Raise Your Glass’ by Pink came out. I immediately noticed that Melanie really loved this song. She would always turn the volume up when it came on and she sings along with it (she still does). It reminds me of her when I hear it; not just because she loves it, but for how it fits her personality. Don’t be so serious, let’s have fun.

So, think of Melanie whenever you hear the song. She’s kicked butt on some cancer this past year, she’s shown so many people how to be strong, she always reminds me to have fun, she’s been an awesome mom… she deserves a toast, at the very least. Be sure to add an “L” to the end of the last line to make it “Raise your glass… for MEL“.

Dec 19 10

Ding-ding!! Round 2 Is Done!

by Neil

“Dishes are done!” That’s a term I like to use now and them when something is complete. And that’s how we feel now that Melanie is done with her chemotherapy. December 9th was the final treatment, and after the nausea and general blah of the following week, she’s feeling much better.

She’s most definitely looking forward to getting her hair growing again. Although, she certainly has quite the collection of head-scarves and looks very confident and attractive without anything on it. I’m sure it won’t be soon enough for her to hang up all of those scarves for good.

Next steps… get her health back to normal and have our consultation with the radiation oncologist. This most likely won’t be until after the new year. And, radiation will probably start mid-January. The treatment is expected to be 6 weeks in length and she’ll have to go every weekday.

After radiation it’s looking like it’s all downhill. Stay tuned.

Oct 29 10

Unplanned Hospital Stay

by Neil

Oh boy, what a week it’s been! Melanie was dealing with a bad headache all day on Monday and was feeling terrible. She woke up at 2am on Tuesday morning saying that she had the chills, and reminded me that if she gets a fever of 101… she’ll need to go to the ER. I rummaged through the drawers in the bathroom and found a thermometer to use, the kind that you stick in the ear. I did several readings and they all came up in the 100.x range. With this type of thermometer, you have to add 1 since it’s not completely accurate. This definitely meant a trip to the ER for Melanie.

Melanie’s mom, Susy, came over and brought her to the ER so that I could stay home with Brody. Luckily, there was no wait in the ER and she was seen right away and hooked up to IV for antibiotics. At about 7am she was admitted to the hospital so that they could try and find the source of the infection that had caused the fever.

By the afternoon, she was feeling much better; the fever and headache were all but gone. They began taking regular blood draw to check her blood counts and everything was looking much better in that area. They just couldn’t figure out where the source was.

On Wednesday, they started a long test that involved taking a good amount of blood, then somehow tagging the white cells and returning the blood into her system. They have to give the tagged cells some time to find any source of infection, and then they could possibly find out the source. First thing on Thursday morning, they took her to radiology to scan her torso to attempt to find out where the tagged cells congregate to. They didn’t find anything abnormal, and no sign of the tagged cells. So, we’re not sure where the fever had originated from… but what we do know is that she’s now doing just fine.

She was able to be released on Thursday night at 9pm, but will need a week of IV antibiotics. Since she has a medi-port for her chemo infusions, this will be where the antibiotics are administered. A nurse is stopping by Friday to show us how this is done.

Needless to say, Melanie was very excited to be home again. Brody had a tough couple of days wondering where mamma was… so, he was equally excited to have her back home, as was I. Now we get to have a great weekend together that will be topped off with his cousin coming over to go trick or treating with us!

Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers while Melanie was dealing with all of this.

Oct 16 10

Get Yourself A T-Shirt!

by Neil

We’ve updated the t-shirt store with some different selections. These shirts all feature the great “Fight Like A Girl” logo that our friend Jose Gonzalez designed for her when he was inspired by Melanie’s inspiring attitude. We had the shirts made for us when we did the Race For The Cure we did last month in Orange County… we had many comments about them, especially the “Fight Like A Girl” motto.

We have the link to the store on the right, in the Links sections. Or just click here.

For women you can choose from:

  • slim fit tee (logo on back, multiple colors)
  • long tank top (logo on back, white only)
  • v-neck tee (logo on back or front, white only).

For guys you can choose from:

  • heavyweight tee (logo on back, multiple colors)
  • heavyweight polo (logo on front, white only).

In other news… the chemo treatment #4 that was scheduled for Friday 10/15 had to be rescheduled for Wednesday 10/20. This was due to the prescription company dropping the ball and failing to provide the drugs to the doctor’s office. Very frustrating, especially when they notify us the morning of the appointment.

Sep 30 10

Chemo Halfway Done / Race for the Cure

by Neil

There has been plenty going on recently, sorry for not keeping up on these posts. Melanie has designated me as the “updater” and I will be posting new stuff as frequently as I can.

Chemo Halfway Done

Melanie is officially halfway done with chemo treatments! The light is getting a little brighter in this tunnel, and we’re excited for when the last 3 treatments are over with. A few weeks after her first treatment, Melanie decided to beat the chemo to the punch and buzz her hair off. She took it pretty close, but not quite all the way. But… then after a few more weeks she noticed some splotchy areas on the back of her head, so I shaved it down to the scalp for her.  Here is a short video with some photos of the initial head-shaving event we had on our back patio. Her best friend, Rene, joined her and buzzed her hair as well… in support of Melanie.

Melanie goes out in public without anything on her head and wears her baldness proudly! She’s gotten many compliments on how great she looks with no hair.

OC Race For The Cure

This past Sunday, September 26, we walked the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure in Newport Beach. In the weeks leading up to the race, we were prepared with a wheelchair for Melanie, in case she needed to use it. This was because her 3rd chemo round was on the Friday before the race, and after her 2nd chemo round she was physically drained and nauseated for the week afterward. Before this round, however, she had gotten a stronger anti-nausea prescription from the oncologist. This new drug worked great, and she has been feeling much better than the last time.

The team recruited 23 people to participate in the race, and as a whole raised a total of $1185 for the cause! Thank you to everyone for participating and for donating!

[slidepress gallery=’race-for-the-cure-2010′]

Melanie walked the whole 3.1 mile course without any trouble. When we were done, the line for the bus back to the off-site parking was so long that she, along Lauren and I, walked back to the car…and even ran some parts of it. This was another 1.5 miles! This turned the 5K into a 7.5K. The only thing that could have been better was if it wasn’t so hot that day. Unseasonable weather had the temps in the mid 90s, which is HOT for how close we were to the ocean.