Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Surgery #5

I think I caught a few people off guard with my recent surgery.  Sorry about that.  Obviously it wasn't a secret....I blogged about it....but, honestly there are more fun things to talk (and think) about than an upcoming surgery.

So since Christmas break I spent most of my time and energy focusing on "other" things.

I consumed myself with gaining as much fitness and strength as possible going into surgery.   There I go talking about surgery again, but from experience I know the stronger you go in the stronger you come out!  This meant starting a structured training program for the first time since May.  It felt great to have workout goals every single day and since at the moment I am a self-coached athlete, I have been having a lot of fun developing a well-thought out plan for myself.  My program, with the immediate goal of getting me surgery ready and the ultimate goal of getting me race ready, has traditional on-the-bike workouts, however I have added an increased emphasis on weight/strength workouts.

The reason for this is twofold 1-Chemo has already made me osteopenic and my best defense against further bone loss is weight bearing workouts and 2-I could use a little extra strength, especially with an impending surgery and unavoidable downtime coming up.  Ugh.  Talking about surgery again!

My weight program is what I would consider moderately intense with a combination of plyometrics, kettle bell exercises, lots-o-core, and some arms.  By the time I am done I have worked up quite the sweat, but am not so wasted that I can't go for a ride.

So far, I am pretty psyched about my training program.  In a few weeks, I have gained considerable strength and fitness both on and off the bike.  I am now clearing technical obstacles and making steep switchback climbs that a few weeks ago I was struggling with.

One final weekend of desert bliss to divert my attention from surgery

In addition to training, and of course working, Shannon and I have consumed ourselves with getting our home ready to put on the market.  Nothing like adding a little bit of stress to an already stressful life, but this is a good thing.  We love, love, love our is perfect for us, however Salt Lake City's chronically poor winter air quality, has pushed us to move to higher elevation for the sake of our health.  Park City, here we (hopefully) come!!!!

That said, I remain passionate about working toward cleaning up the air in the Salt Lake Valley.  I truly believe that through proper regulation and individuals reducing their pollutant output especially on "high risk" days that Salt Lake City can be a healthy place to live year round.  For this reason, I have teamed up with a new non-profit organization, Athlete's for Clean Air, who is a group of athletes and outdoor professionals dedicated to changing Utah's air quality by addressing the root issues and providing real solutions.  I am proud, excited, and honored to be an ambassador for this group.  As an athlete, I constantly strive to be the best that I can be.  I am excited to work with this group to help Salt Lake City be the best it can be which is an amazing place to live!

Now for the inevitable surgery update and a bit of technical background:

Surgery #5 was an oophorectomy which means my ovaries were removed.  Why did I have my ovaries removed?  The simple explanation is that ovaries produce estrogen and my particular breast cancer utilizes estrogen to spread.  We don't want to add fuel to the fire of any potential renegade cancer cells in my body.   One may ask why my ovaries weren't removed back in 2011 at my original diagnosis.  That is because I was taking Tamoxifen, a Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator (SERM), which means that it prevents estrogen from binding to and activating cancer cells.  Since the cancer cells in my axillary lymph nodes were growing despite Tamoxifen, it was determined that Tamoxifen (for whatever reason) was not very effective for me.  For this reason, I am now taking Arimidex, an Aromatase Inhibitor.  Arimidex stops the actual production of estrogen by the adrenals (fat, muscle, etc), however does not stop the production of estrogen from ovaries.  Hence the oophorectomy.  The hope is that depleting my body of estrogen will prevent this cancer from EVER coming back.  Lack of estrogen is not without side effects, but I am pretty excited that my gynecologist/surgeon who performed the surgery is an advocate for safe, natural treatments.  Estrogen replacement therapy for obvious reasons is NOT an option for me, so I am hopeful that my side effects are minimal.  Time will tell.....

Surgery went well.  I arrived to Huntsman at my scheduled 6:00 AM time.  It was so early they hadn't even unlocked the reception desk.

I was the first surgery of the day, arriving at a grueling 6:00 AM
 less than 12 hours after returning from St. George! 

As usual, the Huntsman surgical team took fantastic care of me.  It started out with a bear hug.  A "bear hug" is an air blanket that blows warm air.  Seriously, if I could just get a facial and pedicure it would be like a day at the spa, but in an ugly gown.

 Me with the "bear hug" blowing warm air over my entire body

The surgical plan was oophorectomy, however prior to surgery I signed a waiver that if anything looked suspicious and if initial ovarian biopsy came back with cancer cells, a full-on hysterectomy and lymph node removal would be performed on the spot.  (Note:  This surgery was to remove ovaries to stop estrogen production, not because of suspicious ovarian cancer, but you never know...)  Thankfully, everything looked good and I awoke happily to find three small incisions instead of a giant one.  Final pathology results will be back next week.    Additionally, I am happy to say that the anesthesiologists have my anesthetic cocktail dialed.  I pretty much wake up and am ready to go home.  Absolutely no nausea!  Yet another thing to be thankful for on this day!

Feeling pretty good post-op.  I love my anesthesiologists!  

Not bad numbers post abdominal surgery; especially that RHR

So, that is that.  I am hopeful that this is the last of it for a while as I have so much to look forward to in 2014.

Here's to moving forward.......

Note to self:  The morning after major abdominal surgery don't jump out of bed.  1-It hurts!  2-You will pass out from orthostatic hypotension.  Now that I have that figured out the day is going much better!


  1. You are a marvel! Completely inspiring. Heal well. x

  2. Hi Jen, my name is Stacey Nenninger. I am a cyclist (road) in Albuquerque and found out in June that I had breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy in July, started chemo in August followed by radiation which ended just before Christmas. I'm happy that 2013 is over! I wish I had found your blog earlier because it would have been nice to hear that you can train through treatment. I set a goal to continue to ride my bike throughout everything (sometimes easy for only an hour),, and feel pretty sure that it is the reason I got through treatment with minimal side effects. If nothing else, my bike rides are the break in the day when I get to laugh with my teammates/friends, so I know the rides helped my mental state. Moving forward I am taking tamoxifen and am considering removing my overies. Your experience is interesting to me. I'd love to talk to you via email or on the phone. My email address is I can email you my phone number. Contact me if you ever have some free time. It would be nice to talk to an athlete who has gone through all of this. Thanks!

  3. Hey Jen,
    Still inspiring people! Just wanted to see what you're up to these days. Lots, as usual, I see.

    Keeping you in my thoughts,
    Kathleen from Health Monitor

  4. Your story is an inspiring one for all those who suffer from some kind of disorders but refuses to give up from life.

    Newport Beach Cancer recovery