Thursday, January 03, 2008


Hello, friends and family. I am posting what I hope is my last blog update in a long while; as Jeff and I look forward to a hopefully uneventful 2008. Also, please forgive me for copying largely from an e-mail that Jeff crafted and sent to some of you. He described our situation perfectly, so I figure, why reinvent the wheel? :-)

My last radiation session was on Tuesday December 18, concluding my Cancer Part Deux treatment of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I am tired but relieved to be done with this ordeal once again. We had a fun and relatively relaxing holiday with the kids, friends and family, and I am feeling more like my old self each day.

As always, we are very open to discussing my treatment, next steps, the future, etc., so please don't ever feel uncomfortable about asking us anything. On that note, although my doctors weren't thrilled that the cancer came back so quickly and aggressively, both they and we are hopeful that we've knocked this cancer on its ass for good this time.

As for the future, I am signed up for a lifetime of PET/CT scans, etc, but Jeff and I have to remain bullish that they will always be clear. These scans will be every 3 months for the next year, every 6-months for years 2-3, and most likely yearly moving forward.

The analogy we like to use to describe our situation is that we know that we will be living with an elephant in the room for the rest of our lives. We are comfortable acknowledging his presence and letting him know we're o.k. with him hanging around, however, we will not let him intimidate, dominate or scare us into not living our lives to fullest. We start this effort with a belated 10-year anniversary trip to Paris in January! I then will return to work (part-time again) on January 29 and look forward to resuming my "normal" life.

Thanks to all of you for the countless calls/emails of encouragement, dinner drop-offs and babysitting help. We love you all very much and wish you Happy New Year!

I may post a picture from Paris just to make all of you jealous, but until then, au revoir.



Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Chemo DONE - on to Radiation!

Hi, all

I am sorry for taking so long to update my blog. I bought a fun new camera and wanted to upload a photo from it to post on the blog, which I finally did. As you can see, it's the Fallicks on Halloween. I wanted to wear a scarf instead of a wig trick 'or treating (that thing is damn hot and itchy), so presto, I was a pirate!

I'll keep it brief, but the scoop is that I finished chemo on October 17 and felt better after about two weeks. We had a great Halloween with the kids, our new neighbors, my Dad and Steph, and then I spent 2 days at a resort in Scottsdale with my friends Esin and Stacia - what a great and relaxing break!

This week, I have 2 "dress rehearsals" for radiation and will have my first official treatment this Thursday Nov. 8, which also happens to be our 10 year wedding anniversary. So, I will get radiated and then treated to a nice dinner out. Not bad!

I will be treated every weekday for 5 1/2 weeks, which means that radiation will end on or about December 19. The primary side effects are a bad sunburn-like effect, as well as cumulative fatigue over time, but I will not feel sick and my immune system will not be compromised. I might be a bit wiped out for the Holidays, which sort of stinks, but I guess I can use this to get more sympathy presents from Jeff and my family. :-)

I hope that you and all of your families are doing well and we look forward to receiving your holiday cards, seeing recent photos, and getting updates from some of you.

Until next time . . . .


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

4 Chemo Treatments Down, Hopefully 2 to Go!

Hi, all.

I want everyone to know that the Cancer Center finally went Wi-Fi! So I am updating my blog in the middle of chemo treatment no. 4. Pretty good multi-tasking, no? I know that it's been awhile since I wrote, and I apologize for that. Between chemo, the move, and all that surrounds it, things have been a bit crazy, as you can imagine.

I also have not blogged because there is not much to report on the medical front. And you know what they say: no news is good news. Luckily, that is the case with me right now.

Each treatment gets a bit tougher, but although I have suffered from some new and novel symptoms, they are largely predictable, and therefore easier to prepare for and treat. As usual, we have flying Grandmas and Sisters visit the weekend after each treatment (this time, “Auntie”), and rides, babysitting and other support from all of you - our wonderful family and friends - so we are doing fine and hoping/praying that this is the last chemo of my/our lives!!!!!

Assuming that my blood counts remain good (and they are off the charts, if I do say so myself), my next treatment will be in 3 weeks, and my final treatment is 3 weeks after that - in late-October. (The plan was to give me at least 4 treatments, and aim for 6, which they can't do if they see evidence of possible permanent bone marrow damage. So we have to play it by ear from now on based on my white cell counts.)

After chemo, I get a 2-3 week break and then start radiation (once a day - only 15 minutes - each weekday for 6 weeks.) This takes us through mid-December-ish, and we are DONE.

The kids are doing great and both are flourishing in their new 'hood, schools, house and WARM backyard. (Too warm last weekend! Thank God for A.C.) Jeff is doing well and we are still finding time for lots of fun stuff on my good days.

Thanks for your interest and I promise to update the blog if anything interesting transpires; which I hope and think will not.

Take care!



P.S. - FUNDRAISING ALERT: I previously posted donation information for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation. Although this is a wonderful organization, if anyone wants to donate to Breast Cancer Research, I would like to draw your attention to a study that is near and dear to my heart. It's spearheaded by my tireless Oncologist Ellie (Alice) Guardino, who gives all day to her patients and all night and weekends to her 3 young kids, husband and research.

Ellie is running a study on Breast Cancer Vaccines that is incredibly promising. Of course, as always, and especially due to recent federal cuts in medical research grants, she and her research team need private support now more than ever. You can learn more about Dr. Guardino and her study at (She is very dumb and lazy, as her profile reveals.) :-)

To make a gift online, go to Stanford’s website at

- Click the “Make a Gift Now” tab (top left).

- On the next page, select “Stanford Medical Center” from the drop-down menu, then select your gift type and payment method and click “Continue”.

- On the next page , select "Hospital - Other (Specify Below)” from the drop down menu, and in the “Special Instructions / Other Designation” box below, enter “Breast Cancer Vaccine Program”.

- Follow the remaining prompts to complete your transaction.

Ellie, Stanford, and I, plus the 1 in 7 women in the U.S. who will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer during their lifetime thank you for your support! No gift is too small!!!!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bald is Beautiful

Hi, all

My hair started to come out a few days ago, so we had a "head shaving" party with the kids so they could see my new "haircut" happen as the whole thing went down and, of course, they don't care at all. When we were done, Adam wanted to go back to his book and Zoe wanted to go back to her toy vacuum. Oh well, so much for trying to create some drama around here . . .

Above are the "before" and "after" pictures (co-starring the Balogs, Jeff, Zoe and Adam). Having done this before, it is no big deal at all. It's actually very liberating and cool for the summer! Despite the chaos that is our garage these days, I have found all of my hats, wigs and other bald person supplies, except my wig shampoo, which I've ordered online, and then I'll be all set.

As for my medical situation, my 2nd chemo treatment was supposed to take place today, but it was pushed back by one week to allow my incision to completely heal. The infection is gone, but my doctors want to reduce as much as possible the risk that it becomes infected again, so I begrudgingly agreed with their decision (not that I had much choice in the matter). :-)

Treatment no. 2 will hopefully go forward on Wed. July 25, and we'll be on our way again. I am using this time during which I'm feeling pretty good to buy stuff for the new house and pack.

Love to you all,

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Treatment No. 1 Done and Minor Bump in the Road

Hi, all

This will be a quick one because I am updating this from the Stanford Hospital "Cyber Cafe" (which curiously serves no food or beverages . . . just Internet access).

I completed my first chemo treatment on Friday June 29. It was quicker than my 2006 treatments, but unfortunately, the after effects were not as mild as I had expected/been led to believe. I felt pretty good for the first 2 days, but days 3-7 were somewhat rough. However, since then, I have felt pretty normal except for the fact that I get very tired at the end of the day and/or when I do too much (which is most days).

The "bump in the road" - and the reason that I am updating this blog from the hospital - is the fact that my surgery incision became infected as a result of my low white cell counts after chemo. To kill the infection as quickly as possible and maximize my chance of going forward with my next chemo treatment scheduled for Wed. 7/18, my doctors admitted me to the hospital on Tuesday so that I could get I.V. antibiotics.

I am doing fine, feeling fine, and the infection appears to be gone; so I should be set free tomorrow (Friday). Other than boredom and missing Jeff and the kids, the major drawback is being so close to Nordstrom and feeling physically well enough to go there, yet not being allowed to do so. :-)

In sum, I feel like I am hogging a hospital bed for a sick person that really needs it, but I am glad that my doctors are treating this aggressively and I hope that it does the trick. I will update the blog again soon.

Signing off,

Friday, June 22, 2007

Chemo Round 2

Hello again, everyone!

If you are reading this blog, you probably know that I will have to have chemo again. I am starting next week, and will have 4-6 treatments every 3 weeks - so it will probably last 3-4 months. After that, I will have 6 weeks of radiation, just to make sure that I don’t miss my doctors after the end of chemo. :-)

The good news is that the final pathology results from my surgery revealed that I had only one isolated tumor (2.4 cm) in one lymph node and there is no cancer in the surrounding lymph nodes or other tissue. The bad news is that my cancer recurred despite the pretty fierce chemo I underwent last year. My Oncologist says that based on this, she now knows that my cancer is more aggressive than they previously thought. (I had a less than 10% chance of recurrence after Chemo and it still came back - Shannon beats the odds again!) So, my Oncologist feels that it's necessary to treat this aggressively in case there are cancer cells lurking elsewhere in my body that weren't killed by the last chemo.

This time, they are going to use different drugs that recent studies have indicated can be effective on the particular type of breast cancer that I have (which is “triple negative”, meaning Estrogen Receptor Negative; Progesterone Receptor Negative; and Her2 Negative). The drugs are called Docetaxel (Taxotere) and Carboplatin (Paraplatin). They are given simultaneously and each dose takes about 30 minutes. These drugs are not supposed to make me as sick as the drugs they used last time, which is good. The primary side effects for most people are fatigue (cumulative over time), hair loss (time to break out those wigs again . . . how I missed them!), and menopause-related symptoms (because my ovaries will be fried again).

My Dr. emphasized that we are still in cure mode - that I do not have metastatic breast cancer (e.g., cancer that has spread outside of the breast and can never be cured; only managed.) She also said that although I am no longer in the 95% survival range, this is still considered early detection, and there is a good chance that I will be done forever after this treatment and live a long life free of cancer.

Jeff and I are mad and sad, but doing okay and glad that we have the distraction of a new house to decorate and a big guest suite for our family when they visit.

Finally, I want to thank all of you for your e-mails, calls, and in some cases flowers/gifts. Since many of you generous folks killed enough flowers and made credit card companies too happy during my first round of chemo, I would appreciate it that if you feel compelled to give a gift or send flowers (which you should not!), please donate to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation instead: It’s a fantastic organization and my real estate agent probably doesn’t want our house looking like a floral shop anyway – at least until it is sold. :-)

Much love,

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Blog is Back

Dear Friends and Family,

As many of you know, the past 6-weeks have been a bit stressful because a biopsy under Shannon’s left arm revealed a very rare type of cancer called Extra Mammary Paget’s Disease (basically, sweat gland cancer). By itself, this wasn’t overly concerning because when found in the armpit, it is usually treated by simple removal. However, Shannon’s doctors were cautious and ordered a PET/CT scan to rule out any underlying tumor or malignancy.

The good news is that the scans pointed to no malignancy in her major organs. Unfortunately it did reveal something on her lymph node. Yesterday, following the removal of the lymph node and a few others to be safe, it was confirmed that she has experienced a recurrence of her breast cancer in a single node. The surgeon said everything else looked very normal and believes the other nodes are cancer free. However, we can’t be certain of this until pathology analyzes the cells, which usually take 7-10 days. Shannon will also have a CT scan of her brain to rule out anything moving north (unlikely).

The theory is that a microscopic cell survived chemotherapy more than one year ago and grew slowly into this tumor. It is scary that something could have survived what Shannon’s body went through, but we are also fortunate that it was an isolated, contained tumor in one lymph node. This is not terribly uncommon, but the sad reality that these types of recurrences do happen. Many times it is a single recurrence, and that is obviously what we hope for in this instance.

So what now? Well, perhaps my in-laws will buy Shannon another flat screen for our new house so she can “rest comfortably” in the family room as well as her bedroom. Oh – you mean treatment wise – well, at a minimum Shannon will have a daily, 6-week course of radiation therapy. Pending the results from pathology, we are not sure if chemotherapy is in the cards again, but the surgeon didn’t seem to think that would be the likely course of action. We will meet with her oncologist very soon to begin our action plan.

We have reminded ourselves again that this is a marathon and not a sprint as there is a lot of waiting for tests and results. Thus, we are keeping our heads up and buckling in for another ride. We are very confident it won’t be nearly as bumpy as 2006, but admittedly we were looking forward to an uneventful 2007.

As always, your support and love is incredible and we appreciate all that you do!!


Jeff & Shannon