Hey guys, it’s been a while. Just a few days over a month to be exact. That’s the longest I’ve gone without writing in a public way in almost two years. I’ve still be writing, but I’ve actually been using my hands and a pen and paper – also a first… in a dang long time. One of the immediate things I did when I found out about my cancer diagnosis was to grab a journal and write every detail down. I get this trait from my mom, who also has a journal with each and every detail of my cancer journey – and everything else swirling around in her mind; maybe we should compare notes and see if either of us missed anything. 😉
I have literally SO much I want to type here, I could write for hours and never be finished. So for everyone’s sake, I want to try and organize it in a way that it is digestible and easy to follow. I guess I’ll start at the beginning… it’s a long one so hang onto your hats.
After my dad passed away, I was determined to cope in the healthiest way possible. That meant paying attention to my emotions, my relationships and most of all, myself. I dove head first into changing my bad habits for the better – including upping my exercise game, joining Weight Watchers and giving myself a hell of a lot more grace as I moved through each day.
The other thing… the miscarriage, was also weighing heavily on my heart. I had a doctors appointment about a week after dad’s funeral to check on how my body had handled the miscarriage and talk through what was next for me in that regard. My doctor was impressed with how I was handling everything and even said she thought we’d be great to try for another baby soon if we were ready. I left that appointment feeling strong, confident and honestly ready to start a new chapter.
Fast forward 6 weeks. I’d lost about 5-6 pounds, was feeling great with my workouts and just generally better about everything in life. Of course, there are plenty of sad days and times thinking about my dad’s absence and the fact that we don’t need to convert Casey’s office to a nursery anytime soon… but I was in a good place. I really was.
Until I found a lump.
When a woman goes through something as physically traumatic as miscarrying a baby – no matter how far along in the pregnancy she is – she becomes hyper-conscious of her body. Every cramp, tweak, or muscle ache freaked me out. I found the lump, because frankly, it hurt… it felt like a bruise. But, if you remember – I had been busting my ass in the gym and at first, I chalked it up to being sore from pushups. (Which by the way, I was getting SO good at.) I also thought maybe my body was still being “weird” from the massive amount of added hormones coursing through me. I ignored it for 2 days but something in the back of my mind kept nagging. (Looking back, I think it was my dad…) The weekend passed and come Monday, it was still there, reminding me of itself every time I shifted in my chair at work.
After one week of waiting for it to go away, and hoping it was nothing, I called my OB, who got me in right away for an ultrasound, which turned into a biopsy, which turned into….yup, cancer. Those first days were the hardest: waiting on edge for the phone to ring, lack of appetite and mostly… the unknown. You guys, I don’t know if I’ve ever even had strep throat, so to say this was a complete shock… is a massive understatement.
I’m not going to describe the night we found out because honestly, I don’t remember much of it. It was frantic, panicked and a complete blur.
The weeks after diagnosis moved like a tornado through my life. Every single day was filled with appointments, meetings, tests, more biopsies, MRI’s and everything in between. I assumed I would be having surgery almost immediately to remove the cancer and though terrified – I was ready to do ANYTHING to get this out of me, and fast.
The meeting with my surgeon proved a difficult one. This is where I found out exactly what I was dealing with – triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma, grade 3. At that point, I didn’t know if I was a carrier of any genetic mutations or if the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. Those factors would help assign my stage a couple of days later.
I’m going to try and explain my cancer as plainly as I can here. The type of cancer I have, triple negative, means my cancer will not react to hormone therapy. It does not have the receptors for estrogen, progesterone or the her2 protein. Therefore, my leading plan of treatment would be chemotherapy.
What? Chemo first??
I was DEVASTATED by this. I was expecting surgery to get it out, not months of leaving it in… Everyone asks me why chemo first? And it’s a good question, one I asked right away too. Basically I would need it either way, pre or post surgery. They want to see how my cancer responds to treatment – mostly to know how to treat me if it ever recurs. But also and more importantly, chemo will kill any rogue cells that are elsewhere in my body (a good feeling.) After a lot of convincing from my surgeon – who also happens to be a triple negative breast cancer survivor of 7 years (she’s only 40), I was on board with our plan and so was everyone in the room.
We all left that meeting exhausted but feeling confident in an actual PLAN. Between that meeting and the two days until I met with my oncologist – I got the wonderful news that not only was my lymph node negative for cancer, but the one additional biopsy I had done in another spot was also negative. PRAISE!! These bits of news changed my stage from a 3 to a 2 and gave us some positive momentum going into my oncology appointment. I also will *hopefully* not have to undergo any radiation because the cancer has not traveled to the lymph nodes. DOUBLE PRAISE!!
I also found out the day of my first infusion that my genetics panel came back perfect – which means I do NOT have any of the mutations that can cause higher risk of cancer or raised risks for other types of cancer down the road. This is a double edged sword – on one hand I am so grateful that I am not a carrier, and my children will not have to worry about it. I am also overjoyed that I do not have to be the bearer of that news to any of my family who could have been effected had it been hereditary. On the flip side – why on God’s green earth did I end up with BC at 33? I don’t know and am not sure if I ever will, and I have accepted that, as hard as it is.
That same week I met with my oncologist, whom I immediately felt a strong connection with. Because we’ve been in the cancer world for a few years already (curse, but also a blessing), we knew what we were hoping to hear and feel in meeting her. She said some of our trigger phrases including “I fight with insurance companies on behalf of patients all the time”, and “I will give you the plan we think is best for your cancer and modifications, but ultimately I will support your decisions.” I knew right then and there that we had found a good person, with a kind soul who I could trust with some of the very hardest things in my life.
My treatment will go like this – it’s known as ACT and is a pretty typical regimen for my type of breast cancer. I’ve been told that this is one of the biggest, baddest regimes in all of cancer, so luckily I just happen to be kind of badass so bring. it. on.
First up: 4 rounds of A/C (doxorubicin (also known as Adriamycin) / cyclophosphamide) over the course of 8 weeks. One infusion every other week with check-ups on off weeks. I’m done with two of these and so far, so good. One of the drugs, the adriamycin… also known as “The Red Devil” will be the one to take my hair, and also give me all the side effects such as possible nausea, headaches and fatigue. I got away with a pretty easy round one, and am praying there are more good days ahead going forward.
Then: 12 rounds of T (taxol) – I don’t know much about this one yet, because we’re focusing on the baddies first, but we’ll have a meeting to learn a lot more once we get closer. I have heard there are pretty varied responses to taxol – some people say it’s a breeze, others say it’s worse than the A/C. We’ll find out soon!
So, if everything goes as planned, I will have 22 weeks with 16 total infusions, finishing up late September. I will meet with my surgeon mid-way to talk about that whole very big part of this insane journey. Best case scenario is that the chemotherapy will kill all of the cancer and then we’ll be doing everything we can to prevent it’s return. More on that in another post…
In addition to traditional medicine to beat this beast, I’ve been pretty diligent with healthful eating. We met with a dietician who specializes in cancer yesterday, and while I cannot do 100% of what she suggested, I came away with some good knowledge about our food industry and plan to incorporate a lot more of the known cancer fighting and preventing foods into our lifestyle. Maybe some new recipes to share. 🙂
Lastly, I joined a Yoga Studio here in town and I am immediately back in love with the practice. I use to do SO much when I was younger and am so thankful for a beautiful studio just up the road. Thanks Abundant Joy, you are a blessing in my life. They also incorporate essential oils into the daily practice, which as ya’ll know – I am all about. Speaking of… bring on all of the oily goodness.
So there you have it, that’s where I’ve been the past month. It is a daily roller coaster, filled with every emotion I have in me. Lots of tears have been shed, along with a lot MORE positive thoughts and affirmations. I am still SO confident with my treatment plan and team of doctors – God bless them and their incredible gifts.
Thanks for following along guys, and all of the support – it honestly means EVERYTHING and makes the biggest difference in this journey. I have so much more to write and share, so stay tuned. xoxoxo, lots of love. Have a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend! ❤