Two years ago today, I went through my very first chemo session. It was a scary thing for me, but I was truly lucky to have my son by my side keeping me entertained and not really focusing on the chemicals being pushed into my body. I had a port placed in the right side of my chest to make the blood work and chemo sessions easier on me- no constant access needed of my veins, which I really liked since I bruise easily and did not want to look like a drug addict.
But let’s go back a few weeks to the moment that changed my life- September 10, 2016- that was the morning while taking a shower, I changed up the way I typically showered since I was in a handicapped shower at a hotel (had broken my ankle 2 weeks before)- didn’t have my cute shower puff thing that was my standard with the liquid body soap- had almost fallen so I had to brace myself with my arm up over my head- bar soap in my hand when I felt what seemed like a huge massive knot deep in the side of my left breast. For those that have been through this- even ones that it was not cancer- I’m sure you can relate to the fear that set in. I was at a California Council meeting- where I was one of the officers- was going to be spending the next 8 hours working- doing a speak off- helping coordinate since our chapter was the host association- my world was spinning very quickly around me- but I needed to try my best to focus and not think about what I had found.
It was truly one of the worst days of my life- I knew deep inside it was cancer and no matter what the few I let in on this discovery said to me- I just knew. I went home the next morning from the conference, told my husband what I discovered- he was deep in a movie and his response was less than what I really needed. I needed someone at that point to turn off the fucking TV- look at his wife, hold her and make her feel like everything was going to be okay.
I chose not to tell my children- I knew I needed a lot more information and verification that it was indeed cancer and honestly even though it was in the breast- I did not know for sure that it was breast cancer and not another type spreading through my body. I had been going through not feeling all that stellar for several months- so at that time to me- anything was possible.
I went through the usual steps for this kind of thing- meeting with my primary care doctor- going to mammogram & ultrasound- getting biopsies as the ultrasound showed more than one area of concern- and then I left for vacation on September 17th for Hawaii not knowing what was held in store for me. It was my grand daughter’s graduation gift and I was determined not to let anything ruin this for her.
On September 21st at 6:15am Hawaii time- I found out that my fear was confirmed- I had Breast Cancer- I did have the most common type- was stage two due to the size of the tumor- it did not appear to be in the lymph nodes, but was branching out to start this process and I was given an appointment to meet with the breast cancer surgeon the following Friday. I was numb- I remember my best friend was sitting beside me on the couch- grand daughter was asleep in her room- husband asleep in the other room. Her face was breaking my heart- she looked so scared and so sad but she was comforting me- helping me. I had fought since 1995 to keep from getting Ovarian cancer and never in a million years expected to get breast cancer. And yet, here I sat with it hitting me in the face.
I went through the rest of the day doing the painful phone calls to tell my children, tell my father, siblings- more of my very close friends, my boss- more talking with doctors telling me the next steps all while trying to enjoy the day in beautiful Maui- going through Lavender fields, the botanical gardens- I think that may have been the day we went up to the top of the volcano as well- which was stunning to say the least.
The rest of the vacation I tried to spend it as if the news and the coming fight was non-existent- which was hard in the quiet times- easy in the busy times. I remember the conversation with my grand daughter on the flight home- telling her that I was really blind sided by this type of cancer- but that no matter what happened in the future- I would not let it rule over me or define me. I would fight, I would fight until my dying breath- but no matter what my life was not going to revolve around the fact that I had cancer.
The following Friday I met with my Breast Cancer surgeon, Dr. Blair with another bestie by my side. Bobbie showed up with her journal full of notes- it was awesome to see someone so prepared- for me I showed up- no notes at all. 🙂 Dr. Blair was very matter of fact- she was really the type of doctor I needed with my personality, because I don’t like sugar coating- and she is far from a sugar coated type of doctor. She explained to me that they would want to do chemo first to see how the tumor reacted instead of the old way where they took the tumor out, gave you chemo and hoped it was the right kind- also referred me to a genetic counselor as she felt due to my family history that I most likely was BRCA1- which meant I really had a lot more on my plate than just breast cancer and then also referred me to the Oncologist I would be working with through this part of the journey. I promised her I would not refer to “Dr. Google” on my questions and left there feeling quite a bit more informed, felt a bit better about the process- and was thankful I had Bobbie with me during this appointment.
The next few weeks were filled with more appointments- had to get cleared that my ankle was completely healed because I couldn’t start chemo with any broken bones- found out I was indeed BRCA1 and therefore my children had to be tested- met with the oncologist, Dr. Roesch who is simply amazing- got chosen for the clinical trials for the weeks of chemotherapy orally and by infusion and also feeling quite relieved that the chemo would not start until close to the end of my busiest time of the year.
I lot of things happened during that time before chemo- some good, some bad. Received an overwhelming amount of support from friends- some of which I only knew through facebook- others that were models, photographers I had worked with- seemed like every day I came home to gifts waiting at the front door- boxes upon boxes of things- blankets for use during chemo- journals- socks to wear- bags to carry things in to & from appointments- ginger candy to keep the nausea at bay- books of inspirational quotes- flowers sent to the office- just so much stuff. These beautiful bracelets that reminded me to fight and be a warrior-
These were sent by a friend of mine up in San Francisco- Rae Lynn knew how I loved the bling! All of this leading up to this first session two years ago.
The clinical trial I was chosen for you took chemo orally everyday for 12 weeks and then you would have an infusion session every other week to mix things up. The next 12 weeks I would have infusions of a different type every other week and they would be much more severe as far as the side effects.
I went to the session not knowing how I would really feel after the infusion- it was actually pretty nice being in this particular clinical trial because I had my advocate there with me for each blood test and each infusion session- she didn’t stay for the entire session, but she was always there for about the first 20 minutes asking me questions about the last few days- how I was doing emotionally- what my body seemed to do as far as reactions- etc and then I also had my son there next to me for this first one. I wasn’t entirely sure I would be able to drive afterwards- not sure if I would really want to eat- no clue of what was in store for me.
The first session lasted about 2 hours- and honestly each and every time- I just was so disgusted by the fact that these chemicals were getting put in my body. The access of the port, the tube coming out of my chest- watching the drip- grossed me out. Every time I was so happy when it was over with so I could get on with the rest of my day. But for this particular infusion session- it was not that bad as far as side effects- I was able to go to dinner after the session with Mark- was able to drive home with no issues and then of course it made me really tired later that night to where I was just totally exhausted. But I promised myself that I would stay positive through all of this- I told everyone all negativity was to be left at the door- do not bring it in the house or around me as it was more toxic than the cancer or the drugs being put in my body.
They told me that I would begin to lose my hair within about 3-4 weeks after this start date and that the oral drugs I also started taking at this time could have me sick as well- so I had a ton of prescription drugs for nausea, constipation, etc.
The past two years have been a journey for sure- A lot of things have happened and just like with death in a family, disease brings out the best & worst in people close to you. In an effort to free myself of people and things that hurt me emotionally- I chose to get divorced from my husband. It was a hard decision and I kept thinking and trying to free myself of all of the hurt over the past two years- but I am the type of person that just can’t forget or forgive certain things. It was getting way too toxic and it is not his fault he is the way he is- it is mine for thinking that anything would be different than it was the first time we were together. I am angry with myself for going down that road again. I had just gotten out of a long term relationship where the last two years I really just had not laughed that much- he came back into my life at a low point and really made me laugh. Unfortunately the laughter was short lived and we were way too different in culture and beliefs and then the cancer came and it got even worse.
I am an extremely passionate person when it comes to life and love- I give way too freely for my own good- and people really can take advantage of me and my ways. I have worked my entire life very hard to get where I am in my career and I have worked so hard to raise my children in the same way I was raised. I am proud of the life I am able to have and I am so proud of my kids and the lives they have. I will get past this anger I’m sure- it does take time and I’m sure he is pretty pissed at me for the blindside of divorce- but needing a life without negative energy from someone that close to you is essential in this constant fight to keep healthy. I live my life three months at a time for now- since each three months I have to get my test done to see if the cancer cells are increasing- every six months I get a CT scan to make sure no areas of concern- to also live with constant unhappiness mixed with this is just not an option.
I have started journaling again in an effort to do two things:
- help myself heal and continue to get healthy inside and out
- inspire & help others to make changes in their lives to move toward health and happiness as well
Until next time- Laugh, Love, Survive!