Life since diagnosis has been complete insanity to say the least. There have been highs and lows and everything in between. But I’m still alive and thriving because no matter what I was told or labeled as, I have never stopped believing that I am stronger than cancer, I have never stopped living my life and I believe it is now my life purpose to inspire others. My cancer journey has been a complicated one with lots of twists and turns to say the least, so here’s the cliffnotes version:
Ok. What’s that weird thing popping out of my chest?
Like any other young woman in her early thirties, I was finally discovering my purpose, learning from the mistakes I had made in my twenties and was on track to a promising future as I was excelling in my career as an English teacher in Los Angeles where I was both born and raised. Everything in my life seemed to finally be aligning, until life presented me with a cancer diagnosis.
In the early months of 2011, I felt a lump growing in my right breast. I really didn’t think twice about it and assumed it was nothing to be concerned about. A couple of months later however, I realized that not only had the lump not gone away, it had gotten much larger and was physically protruding through my chest. I figured it was time to get it checked out. I went from mammogram, to ultra-sound, to biopsy… and within a few days (June 11, 2011 to be exact), I got the call that would forever change my life. I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at the age of 31.
Having no family history, this shocking news was unanticipated and totally devastating. I was forced to quit my job on the spot in order to undergo surgery and start immediate treatment. I was suddenly thrust into this “world of cancer” and found myself completely consumed by fear. I went through multiple surgeries and then relocated to the East Coast in order to go to a top cancer center in New York upon discovering the cancer had spread to my bones. There I was told that I was “incurable” but they would keep me alive as long as possible on the different treatment options I had. I underwent years of different protocols; chemotherapy (Navelbine, Herceptin, CMF) hormonal therapies (Tamoxifin and Lupron) , bone infusions (XGEVA), and other specialized therapies.
I was never considered to be “cancer-free,” but things seemed to be smooth-sailing until the summer of 2014, when the cancer returned, and pretty aggressively. My then oncologist, put me on multiple new drugs over that summer, but nothing seemed to work. She finally said to me during an appointment, “My drugs aren’t working.” WTF did that mean? Was I just supposed to call it quits and give up? Hell no!
My cancer treatment isn’t working… Something is not right!
Over the years of continuous treatment, I constantly felt like something was wrong…I just didn’t know what it was. I felt it in the pit of my stomach, the core of my being, but I could never quite put my finger on it. When you experience something so life-changing, you tend to be more in tune with your Higher Self…intuition is real. This feeling became more and more prevalent, so much so that I started to have severe anxiety. This forced me to take a huge leap of faith and I sought a second opinion.
Here I was at the “most prestigious cancer center in the world,” quietly seeking a second opinion because I didn’t trust something. I kept it quiet because I knew people would try to convince me that I was crazy. I was led to a doctor in Brooklyn who was the one person who made the most sense to me up until this point of my journey. He biopsied the new mass which revealed the most shocking news… I had been misdiagnosed, as having the wrong type of breast cancer, and was therefore on the wrong treatments… for over four years! Talk about insanity! This info was a tremendous blow and a lot to wrap my head around to say the least, and as a result, I have since moved back home to Los Angeles. This news was and still is disheartening, but I am so grateful that I followed my intuition or I strongly believe I wouldn’t be here had I not taken that leap of faith and left the hospital I was at.
When I arrived back home in Los Angeles, I was referred to an outstanding oncologist whose care I am currently under. When we went over my medical history, he was just as baffled as I at the lack of competence and care from my prior oncologist. We came up with a new game plan and executed immediately.
Misdiagnosed! Time to take matters into my own hands.
Things got worse before they got better. Because I had been on the wrong treatment for years, the cancer spread to my lungs. I’ve been through a lot, but this took the cake. It was a struggle to breathe, talk or do anything really as my lungs kept collapsing. I had to get them drained regularly to allow me to breathe until they would fill up again. However, after the new treatments kicked in, things turned around pretty quickly… it was miraculous really. I got better quicker than the doctors had even anticipated and things have progressively gotten better since. So much so, I am now better than I have been in years. Amazing what being on the right treatment can do! (I am currently on a protocol of Arimidex, Lupron, XGEVA and a chemo drug called Ibrance…in addition to ALL of the other things I take and do which I will cover throughout the site.) I’m so blessed to have made it through such a difficult time. In hindsight, even in the midst of it all, I always knew I was going to be ok, and I am. The body achieves what the mind believes. Currently, I am still on treatments, the disease is very stable and I am living every day to the fullest and maintaining my belief that I will beat cancer…I already am. Statistically speaking, 2o percent of women who share my diagnosis live to see 5 years, and I have passed my 5 year mark and am getting much better.
Although exceptionally challenging and life-changing, cancer has been my greatest catalyst, as I believe that adversities are opportunities for growth. Over the years, I have experienced so much which has forced me to grow in ways that I otherwise might not have. I am a constant work in progress but have come a long way through a ton of self work and faith. I am now more “awake” and view life through a different set of eyes. I wake up everyday grateful for the things I previously took for granted.
I believe it is my God-given duty to share my journey in hopes of inspiring other young women who may be experiencing a cancer diagnosis or other health challenges. You are not an anomaly and you are not alone! I invite you to join me on this journey of transformation where together we can overcome any health challenge. I truly believe that through faith all things are possible and that by nurturing the mind, body and spirit, optimal health and wellness can be achieved.