Ver Beek Blog

Our young family battling stage IV breast cancer one day at a time
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Archive for December, 2009

20 More To Go!

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We had a good Christmas despite some illness that ran through our house.  All the kids are healthy again and Dusty is enjoying his time off from work.  He’s been able to spend time with an old friend who came into town for the holidays.

I’m starting to get a skin reaction to the radiation.  It looks like a sunburn and hurts just a little bit.  Not enough to complain about.  My skin is a little numb from the surgery which I think is a blessing.  Otherwise I’m sure I would have more discomfort than what I do right now. 

The muscles on my right side are still tight, but I’m almost back to full motion thanks to the exercises from physical therapy.

Aside from the fatigue, life is slowly returning to normal.  I have 20 more radiation treatments to go and then a six month reprieve until reconstructive surgery.  I look forward to the hiatus.     

Merry Christmas

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“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas

Christmas Fever

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Merry Christmas Eve!  Christmas came quick this year.  We had a great time last weekend seeing my dad’s side of the family Friday night and my mom’s side of the family Saturday. 

Yesterday was a chaotic day.  Dusty and I started coming down with colds Monday night so neither of us felt good yesterday morning.  Brooklyn woke up with a fever and wasn’t feeling well so she was laying on the couch.  Dusty was drinking coffee and Samantha and I were sitting in the living room too (Max was still sleeping – it was 7 a.m.).  Without warning, Brooklyn vomitted all over the couch.  I must say that Dusty’s response time has improved greatly compared to a month ago.  Kudos Dusty!  While he was getting her to the bathroom I started cleaning up the couch and surrounding area.  In the chaos of the moment, Dusty didn’t pay attention to where he put his coffee.  Samantha decided that Dusty’s full cup of coffee looked pretty neat so she thought she would spill it all over the floor.  Not in one spot – that would make it easier to clean.  She made a drizzle pattern with big blotches on the carpet.  I’m still trying to get it out.  Fortunately she didn’t burn herself.  Does anyone have tips for getting coffee stains out of carpet?  I’ve tried the Bissell stain remover machine.  Hot Shot or Hot Spot (I can’t remember what it’s called).  I even went to and used the Heloise Helpful tip of dish soap and vinegar mixed with water.  Not a helpful tip.  Nothing is getting it out.   

We were hoping Brooklyn would wake up today feeling great, but that wasn’t the case.  She’s a little better and will hopefully be back to her bubbly self tomorrow.  We have two Christmas parties tomorrow.  We missed Thanksgiving with the VerBeek’s because the kids were sick.  We aren’t going to miss Christmas too.        

Radiation is going well.  Aside from being extremely tired and fighting a cold/flu bug, I haven’t had any other side effects (no skin reaction!).  They did warn me that I’m very susceptible to catching illnesses right now so I should be more diligent with the hand sanitizer. 

Max and Samantha both have coughs and runny noses.  Max is getting two molars.  Other than that, they’re doing great. 

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  As Brooklyn likes to say – Happy Birthday Jesus! 

Christmas time and radiation

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Today was my fourth round of radiation and it’s going well.  I haven’t had a skin reaction yet (that shows up in a few more days) and I’m tired. 

My emotion for radiation is anger.  I find myself getting very angry.  I’m laying on a table in the middle of a big room completely exposed with my feet banded together, my arms in stirrups above my head and a machine going around me zapping my insides.  I’m not sure where the anger comes in, but that’s how I feel when I’m laying there for my five minute zap.  Maybe it’s because I’m cancer free and yet this is another treatment with more side effects to deal with.  All I know is that it’s not self pity.  It’s anger.  The pity comes later when I’m so tired that changing another diaper feels like climbing a mountain. 

The only lasting side effect I have from chemo is forgetfulness. 

The lasting side effect from surgery is loss of motion in my right arm, but that’s working out with physical therapy which I go to once a week. 

On a positive note we went to Haven’s Christmas Program Sunday night and it was awesome.   All the kids did a great job, but we’re especially proud of Brooklyn.  I will have to get Dusty to post a video from last year’s program compared to this year’s program.  Last year she refused to sing.  She would make eye contact with us in the audience, cross her arms and whip her head to the side with her chin up as a non verbal sign that we can’t make her sing.  This year we used threats and guilt to make her sing.  Dusty threatened no Christmas presents (okay I thought that was extreme) and I said she is singing for Jesus because we’re celebrating his birthday and he wants to see and hear her sing.  She performed like a Broadway star.  Motions…singing…it was beautiful. 

The other good news is that I can lift Max and Samantha again.  They have started to take some steps by themselves without holding on to anything.  They’ll be walking in no time.  It will be a Christmas miracle for Samantha.  Especially when I look back to last year and her being able to walk was at the bottom of our list of worries for her. 

I can’t believe it’s going to be Christmas next week.  I cheated this year and bought Christmas tree cookies from Meijer.  The energy I do have I want to spend with my kids, so if you’re a recipient of one of those cookies I apologize. 🙂


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I made it through my marathon day of appointments yesterday. 

First stop of the day was Dr. Hoberman who is happy with my healing. 

Second stop was the Radiation Center.  The “dry run” went well.  The only bummer is that I’m having radiation with bolus every other day.  The bolus is something that looks like a large gel pack that they place on my chest while I’m getting radiated.  It allows a higher dose of radiation to the area.  They want to do that because the tumor was so close to my chest wall and that is where the greatest chance of recurrence is.  The downside of the bolus is that it increases the severity of skin reaction.  I’m praying for minimal side effects.  

My last stop of the day was Dr. Gootjes and she is happy with my recovery as well. 

So all in all it was a good day.  I was thankful that we didn’t get a lot of snow so driving wasn’t treacherous.   

Speaking of treacherous driving, my first radiation treatment was today.  I made it there safely and on time.  Six and a half weeks to go.  The treatment is painless which is a big a relief.   

I am so tired.  So so so tired.  Time for a nap. 


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Dr. Edlund is my radiation oncologist and he is great.  I saw him and some of his staff during my 1 1/2 hour appointment last Thursday.  He explained that receiving radiation at this point is considered proactive.  With the size and location of the tumor and type of cancer I had (triple negative) I have a chance of reoccurance in the chest wall.  I could chose to not have radiation because my cancer is currently gone.  However, if it came back in two or three years, then we’re chasing our tail because we don’t know where or if the cancer has spread.  Then we’re being reactive.  So I’m going with the proactive approach and will have the radiation. 

I’ll have radiation from my axillary (armpit) to my right chest and then to my clavicular area.  It’s kind of a triangle pattern.  They put some markings on me, took a CT scan and then I was tattooed with three teeny tiny dots to help them allign the lasers.  One on each side and one in the middle of the my chest.  They look like freckles. 

Wednesday is going to be a marathon doctor appointment day.  I see Dr. Hoberman (mastectomy surgeon) in the morning for my follow-up, Dr. Edlund (Radiation Oncologist) in the late morning I don’t remember what for and Dr. Gootjes (hysterectomy surgeon) in the afternoon for my follow-up.  I begin radiation on Thursday.  I’ll have it every day – Monday through Friday for 6 to 6 1/2 weeks.  Thankfully it’s in Holland so I won’t have to travel far. 

Dr. Edlund said I will have a reaction to radiation, but he cannot tell me how bad it will be.  It has nothing to do with how you tolerate the sun.  If you’re someone who burns easily it doesn’t mean you’re going to burn with radiation.   It’s a wait and see thing. 

The weight thing is going okay.  I was so proud of myself because I had a protein bar and yogurt for lunch.  Then Brooklyn came home from  a sleep over with a HUGE plate of cookies they made.  C’mon!  Seriously?  You know I had to have one or two.   Afterall, Brooklyn made them.  It would be insulting to her and could scar her forever if I didn’t try them.  They’re delicious.   

Thank you Nicole and friends for your kind and generous gifts.  Thank you to everyone for your prayers. 

It’s so good to know that I’m cancer free.  While it’s a huge relief, it’s still hard because treatment isn’t done.  Head down.  Keep plowing forward.  It is what it is.  To steal a phrase from Amy Harper (a co-worker of Jill’s who just found she has breast cancer) I’m gonna fight like a girl.  


35 pounds

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I’ve started physical therapy for my arm.  I don’t have good range of motion in my right arm because of the lymph nodes being removed and the digging they had to do.  I was excited because one of the P.T.’s specializes in lymphadema so she can teach me how to get rid of fluid build up should that ever happen.  Oh boy I hope that never happens. 

My kids are healthy again.  Yippeeee!!! 

I have gained 35 pounds.  Now I know weight gain is something not all people talk about, admit or acknowledge.  I have the biggest sweet tooth and no will power.  We’ve received a lot of cookies, cakes, bars, brownies and breads.  You know when people take a bite of a bar or brownie and say “oh boy that is too sweet”.  I always think they’re crazy and I could eat the whole pan.  You know what people say to me?  They say I look great.  I feel like you could have floated me down fifth avenue during the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade.  I changed clothes three times for church Sunday morning because nothing fit comfortably.  Do you know what I wore?  I wore the skirt that I wore to the baptism after I had TWINS!  Can’t wait to get the “go ahead” from Dr. Gootjes to start really exercising and lifting things again. 

I have one friend who will acknowledge my weight gain and laugh with me about it.  The other day she picked me up to go to the doctor and I was walking out the door with a huge piece of chocolate cake someone made us (thanks Holly – delicious).  She looked at the cake and then at me and said “what’s that for?” I said “It’s for when I need a snack.   I have a fork in my purse.”  Honestly it was for her husband.  He likes chocolate cake so I thought I would share a piece with him. 

So I could keep writing about my 35 pound weight gain or start losing it and I’m going to lose it.  Wish me will power. 

I see Dr. Edlund on Thursday about radiation.  Maybe a side effect of it will be loss of appetite.  That would be handy.  

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