Hey all! I’m super excited and feel somewhat accomplished to finally relaunch my site. It’s taken months to revamp…all of this behind the scenes site stuff is no joke. It’s like learning a new language and how to ride a bike, all over again. I seriously have a new found appreciation for web tech people. Thankfully, one of my best friends Amanda is a wiz with this stuff and was able to hold my hand through the process. I’m pretty well versed now and look forward to creating content regularly because I have SO much to share.
I wanted to start by sharing an update about where I stand on my own cancer journey. It’s so easy for me to write about others, and share about all of these amazing resources I have discovered, but for some reason I always have the hardest time talking about myself. I realize my story is pretty incredible, especially looking back and reflecting on just this past year alone…and the whole purpose behind this site is to keep others inspired.
So… Here’s the latest
This time last October, I was really excited with my calendar full of events to look forward to for Breast Cancer Awareness month. The first week was amazing, with the Neiman Marcus X Le Metier launch. I was scheduled to travel to Neimans stores around the country, but I started to get really high fevers out of nowhere and they were totally debilitating. I was in and out of the ER for most of the month. They would come and go but by month’s end, I ended up hospitalized in the ICU with a gnarly infection which had been causing the fevers. The doctors admitted me immediately and ran tests to make sure the infection hadn’t spread to my organs as it could have been fatal. They told me it was a miracle I had gone all month without it contaminating my blood, so kudos to all my white blood cells still going to war for me! That was a miracle in of itself. I stayed in the hospital for the better part of a week and I started to feel much better although I had a cough as well that was becoming pretty prevalent. My chest was X-rayed and I was told that I had a touch of bronchitis. I was finally discharged from the hospital, with some cough suppressant prescriptions in hand.
Over the next few weeks I felt better than I had for the whole month of October but something still wasn’t quite right and this annoying cough would not go away for the life of me. I assumed it was bronchitis and it would take some time to resolve. But it didn’t, and the day before Thanksgiving, I started to experience labored breathing and extreme shortness of breath. I really had no idea what was happening but it sent me into panic mode as it was becoming harder and harder to breathe over the next couple of days. I was literally gasping for air. I couldn’t talk, take phone calls or move around much as that would require all of my energy. Just walking to and from different rooms in the house had me feeling like I had just ran a marathon. I knew something was seriously wrong. I called my oncologist and went in for a PET scan.
I managed to make it through the weekend and went in the following Monday for the results. My oncologist walked in the room and the first thing he said was, “Well, you don’t have bronchitis, you have cancer in your lungs and they are both collapsed, which is why you are having trouble breathing.” Wow! This can’t be real life. But it was. Cancer in my lungs now? I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the beginning of the end. I mean, when your breathing is compromised, your life line is cut off. So many negative thoughts flooded my mind. I was trying escape them all but I was in total shock and disbelief and felt so hopeless in that moment. He told me that I would need to go get a thoracentesis, a procedure in which fluid is drained from the lungs.
Turns out I had several thoracenthesis…and they were all very painful I might add. I have been through some crazy sh*t but this was no joke. They would drain one lung at a time, averaging about 6 pounds of fluid drainage per procedure. No wonder my lungs were totally collapsed! It was the equivalent of carrying an unborn child in my chest. Once they were clear, I could breathe easier for a few days until they were full of fluid again, so I was going back pretty regularly. In the interim, I had started new chemo treatment and also started some alternative therapies which I will discuss in future posts. I was advised by the doctor performing the frequent procedures that it would be quite some time until we would see progress and that I needed to get a catheter, so that I could drain my lungs from home because they were filling up so quickly. This was mind blowing to me and I left the hospital that day praying and telling myself over and over again that I would not and could not get a catheter. I was scheduled to go back in at the end of January for another drainage and to discuss the idea of the catheter. What an erie concept to wrap my head around… having to drain my own lungs at home, the whole thing was just so surreal. As I sit here and type, it doesn’t even feel like I’m talking about myself.
During this time I really didn’t tell too many people outside of close family and friends what was happening as I didn’t want their fears projected onto me. It was a pretty serious matter, and I felt like people would of freaked, and I couldn’t deal with that on top of everything else. In hindsight, I had my initial moments of doubt and fear, but once I digested everything, I knew that I could overcome this like I had everything else over the years. That fight or flight mode was on and in high gear. I had to keep my mind right and control my thoughts as much as possible. I had to sit in trust and in faith, that this too would pass.
And so it did.
Miracles are real and I am living proof.
I began to feel the liquid accumulating a lot slower over the next week. My chest was feeling a lot lighter. I woke up the morning of my next scheduled procedure and I told my mom, (who never misses a single appointment), “I’m better. I’m not going to have to get drained today.” We went to the hospital and I told the doctor the same thing. He looked at me a little puzzled but ordered the nurse to do an ultrasound before beginning the procedure. So she did, and to his surprise my lungs had a minimal amount of fluid in them. He said it was very impressive and agreed that I had a good handle on gauging when I needed a drainage and told me to come back immediately when I felt them full again. Do you know I left the hospital that day and have not been back since?! They went from wanting to put in a catheter one week, to releasing me the next week and I have not been back since. Since that day, January 21st, (I will never forget that date), I have been getting so much better, and quickly! It was an abrupt turnaround and a miraculous one at that.
Since January, I have been monitored closely as I always am and it’s been better and better news each visit. I’ve been getting back into my “normal life” routine, I’m starting to workout again and overall, I have been feeling better than I have been in the last few years. My latest PET scan revealed that my lungs are totally resolved and that the mass in my chest has decreased significantly in size. So much so, that I am going to be eligible for a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery within the next few months…A surgery that just a year ago, was perceived as not possible. Another miracle. This time last year, the mass in my chest was so large and widespread, I was told that surgery may not ever be an option. But due to the accelerated healing that’s taken place over the past 8-9 months, the “impossible” is now possible. The surgeon in my latest appointment even said, “This just goes to show that we don’t have the final say.”
Now would getting a mastectomy mean the cancer would be gone? Medically speaking, no. The cancer is metastatic and has already spread to other areas of my body, so I am still considered incurable. However, for the duration of this entire journey, I have somehow managed to be an exception to the rule so I am still holding strong to my belief that I will be in remission and cured of cancer. After all, “we don’t have the final say.”
This is currently where I stand. I am waiting to see the surgeon within the next couple of months to see if the mass will shrink a bit more than it already has to preserve more of my skin for surgery. In the interim I am still on all of my treatments (Ibrance, XGEVA, Lupron and Arimidex.) To say I am excited about getting a mastectomy doesn’t fully resonate. I mean…who really wants to get a mastectomy? However, I am SO SO grateful that this is an option for me as it hasn’t been for years. For me, it’s one giant step closer to the end of this journey. And hey, I get a new boob, and get to feel like a normal person again….look out summer 2017!
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