It's not quite the exciting package one hopes for that appeared on the front porch today. No fun new pair of shoes from Nordstrom or random gadget from Amazon. This package is filled with potential to cause a range of symptoms from nausea, vomitting, diarrhea, fatigue, low white blood cell counts and mouth sores...just to name a few. But, this small box of 21 capsules is also filled with hope, potential stability and the return of healthier days. The only thing I do know for sure is that this package is filled with a whole lot of uncertainty. And although I am used to living with a great deal of it, this time the unknown seems a bit scarier.
This new medication is one of two new drugs I will be starting this week. This oral medication is called Ibrance, and is also known by the generic name of Palbociclib. Ibrance is what is known as a "targeted therapy". In very simplified terms, targeted therapies aim to attack the cancer cells without harming the body's normal, healthy cells. Therefore, targeted therapies, while they come with their own list of side effects, aren't as toxic as traditional chemotherapy agents. Ibrance is a targeted drug that blocks proteins in the cancer cell which in turn helps prevent the cells from dividing to create new cancer cells.
I will be taking Ibance daily for 3 weeks, followed by 1 week off which will allow my body some time to recover and for my blood counts to bounce back up. Due to the high risk of my white and red blood cell counts dropping significantly, I will have blood work drawn every two weeks to make sure I am safe to continue on this treatment.
Not only does this week mark the start of Ibrance, but it will also be my first time receiving Faslodex. The drug has the generic name of Fulvestrant and is the intramuscular injection that I will receive every two weeks. The two of these drugs together have shown very promising results in recent studies. You could read about that here. Faslodex is known as an "estrogen receptor downregulator" which means it binds to the estrogen receptor site of cells and causes the receptors to break down, thereby preventing the normal cellular responsen to estrogen. This is important since my breast cancer is fed by estrogen. Even though I am in medically induced menopause, we want to make sure there isn't any other way these cancer cells can by fed by any stray estrongen that may be floating around.
I will receive my first injection of Faslodex on Thursday, along with my monthly injection of Zoladex that keeps my ovarian function supporessed. On Friday I will meet with a gynecological oncologist at Karmanos to discuss my surgery to have my ovaries removed.
Fingers crossed that I tolerate this treatment well with as minimal side effects as possible. And of course, that this treatment plan is successful! I have blood work next week to check how my counts are responding and will then see Dr. F the week after that to see how I am tolerating the treatment. It sounds like I will have scans in about 3 months to see how things are looking.
As always, thank you so much for the love and prayers. Please keep them coming!
ps - We just got back from a trip to California where I was invited to the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation Metastatic Breast Cancer Collateral Damage Project. I am really looking forward to sharing more about that soon. But until I have the energy to write that post, enjoy these little snapshots of my free day spent with Mike. :)
What a beautiful Easter Sunday it was today!
I think it might finally be safe to say that spring has officially arrived. Thank goodness for that. When the sun is shining and I can feel the warmth on my face, it immediately boosts my spirits.
As I sat in church this morning and celebrated this holy day, I also couldn't help but reflect on how grateful I was to even be there. Three years ago, I laid in bed for days - including Easter Sunday because of how awful I felt after my very first round of chemotherapy. Sometimes it seems like yesterday - and other times it seems like another lifetime.
Last month I celebrated my 32nd birthday and two days later, I celebrated my 3rd cancerversary. It's always a very emotional time for me - full of reflection, gratitude and heartache. I can't believe all I have endured - physically & emotionally - and although it's rare for me to ever give myself a pat on the back, I will say that I am so proud of myself for all I have been able to get through. Some days are harder than others - but I have managed to get through each and every one of them. Here is what I shared on facebook on March 23rd.
"Three years ago today, my world was changed forever after receiving news of what felt like a death sentence. These past few years haven't been easy but I can truly say that I have experienced more joy and happiness than I ever thought would be possible again. I've learned to never give up hope and to make a difference with my life. "Life is too short" sounds like a cliche until circumstances force you to realize how true it really is. So make it count!
Thank you to my incredible family & friends for being there for me every step of the way. And to my amazing husband, Mike...thank you for never leaving my side- through the good and the bad. I couldn't do this without you and I thank God for you every day.
Thank you so much for all of the birthday love! I am truly grateful to be celebrating another year and growing older...a privilege denied to many."
The day before my birthday, I also had an appointment with Dr. F. We discussed a lot of different things, primarily related to a few different side effects I have been experiencing from my treatments. Nothing major - but of course it ended up in scheduling something like 10 appointments in the next 12 weeks. Ugh! I have had some drama since with a hematologist regarding my platelet count, but I'll fill you all in on that another time.
We also ended up scheduling my next round of scans, which will be Monday, June 2. I will then get my results on Thursday, June 12. So, start firing up those prayers. :)
I have lots of other updates including great improvements I am helping make at the Detroit Race for the Cure this year to recognize women with metastatic breast cancer and young women facing breast cancer, information about this year's Ride for the Cure, as well as information I am hoping to share after attending the Living Beyond Breast Cancer's Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer which will take place next weekend in Philadelphia.
I will definitely try to update more soon. For now, thank you so much for your constant love, support and prayers. I am truly grateful and blessed to never walk this road alone.
I knew the fall would be busy, but boy is it giving me a good run for my money. We have had a lot going on over here at the Malley household but there are no complaints here. We are just busy living our hectic lives that we enjoyed before cancer barged in. The fall photography season continues to be booming and I am so grateful that within my first year of becoming an official business, I couldn't be busier! I apologize to my friends whom I haven't been able to spend as much time with lately, but starting this business is really a passion of mine and I am so grateful for the chance to do it -and to feel well enough to do it! A huge thank you to all of the clients that have trusted in me, while I continue to learn and grow. You can check out my most recent work here on Facebook or on my blog.
I am also gearing up to add more hours at The Recovery Project, and I am really looking forward to that. I am so blessed to love my job as a physical therapist and to work at a place that is so completely supportive in every way. I was really worried about returning to work earlier this summer. I was worried if it would totally exhaust me - which it did in the beginning. Would it cause my back to hurt? Would I feel like my physical limitations hindered me as a therapist? Would I remember everything I worked so hard to learn for 7 1/2 years of college? ....The great news is that although I may need to brush up on some skills that I haven't used in awhile, it feels really good to be serving my patients again. I love interacting with my patients and co-workers (who are awesome, I might add!) and it feels even better to be using that good ole' left brain again. :) I am beyond grateful to be feeling well enough to be able to increase my hours again next month (once I am all healed up from surgery), and grateful to have employers that allow me to make this transition at my own pace.
There always seems to be so much I want to catch you all up on but lately the thought of that alone, makes me feel tired which then deters me from updating the blog at all. I promise I will eventually get around to sharing some pretty big things that have happened recently, such as my dinner with Nancy Brinker and my trip to Chicago for the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network National Conference.
Another wonderful event that recently took place was the 18th Annual Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute Heroes of Breast Cancer Awards. I have been treated at Karmanos ever since I was diagnosed and I have nothing but exceptional things to say about everyone I have worked with there. It is truly an incredible place and I am so thankful that I can receive the highest level of care so close to home. I was completely blown away a few months ago when I received a phone call notifying me that I was being honored with the Community Service Award at this years Heroes of Breast Cancer Awards. It was so unexpected and so meaningful to me on so many levels - but mostly because I have always said that although I would never wish this disease upon anyone, if I can at least turn it into something positive, then it's not for nothing. Then all the pain and heartache are at least worth it in some way to help a greater good. Although I never set out to be recognized in any way, I am extremely humbled that I was.
Karmanos hosted a beautiful evening at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit on October 30 and I was able to invite my family to attend along with me. There were over 200 people in attendance (including my oncologist and the oncology social worker that I started our support group with) and it couldn't have been a nicer evening. There were ten awards given that evening to various people and organizations and I was so surprised to even be among them. It was a night filled with smiles and meeting new people, feeling hopeful about the incredible research that Dr. Lum is doing with metastatic breast cancer that earned him the Scientific Distinction Award, but also a night with moments of sorrow and tears as a strong and heartbroken mother accepted an award on her daughter's behalf after she passed away earlier this year from this disease.
What touched me the most about the entire evening was an anonymous quote from a member of the support group I helped create at Karmanos. I was holding it together pretty well as they were introducing me but after that quote was read, I struggled to maintain my composure as I walked on the stage to give my acceptance speech. It was her words that meant the most because the women in my support group truly mean the world to me. I like to think that creating that group has helped, and will continue to help many women that travel this road, but truly it was a selfish endeavor as well - because every time I meet with them, I feel better. I feel more hopeful. I feel uplifted. I feel grateful, and happy, and blessed. And most importantly, I never feel alone. As I said in my speech that night, I am so humbled to have received this award, since it truly belongs to all of the young women in our group that have given so much back to me - and for them, I am eternally grateful.
You can read more about all of the Heroes of Breast Cancer here.
Surgery is in 11 days! I'm getting a little nervous but trusting that all will go well. Thanks for keeping me in your prayers.
It's often quite overwhelming and daunting to think about how much can go on in the span of a couple weeks....how many emotions I go through...how many highs and lows there are...and how my the status of my health can change.
The past few weeks have been nothing short of exhausting and overwhelming. There are times when I want to share with you all what has been going on but I don't even know where to start, and it makes me feel exhausted just thinking about trying to catch everyone up to speed. I apologize for that because I know you are all waiting for updates and want to know how things are going. Prior to my last post about the loss of my uncle, I was prepared to tell you about my trip to Vegas for my friend Nikki's wedding. It was great to see my old college roomies and have a few days of R & R - although I actually got a little extra time than I bargained for since I accidentally booked my flight home on the wrong day. :) So, I got a little extra fun in the sun and enjoyed not only the warm desert air and sunshine, but laughs with friends, good food, a great Cirque du Soleil show and even won a few bucks! I am grateful for feeling well enough to travel and spend time with friends!
After I got home from Las Vegas, it was back to full blown busy mode with 2 or 3 photo sessions each week, an amazing acoustic Ben Harper concert in Ann Arbor with Mike, doctors appointments & my monthly injections, support group meetings, and a fun fall baking day with girlfriends.
The past week or two so has been an especially difficult one for me. Of course, it all stems from the loss of my Uncle Kevin and all of the emotions that brings. Then last Wednesday, Mike and I were invited to an impromptu small dinner with Ambassador Nancy Brinker - the founder and CEO of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization. My local Komen affiliate has been wonderful about listening to my concerns regarding how isolated the metastatic breast cancer community often feels in the midst of all the Komen events and fundraisers. I will write a more in depth post on this another time but the meeting was my opportunity to voice my concerns and opinions to Ambassador Brinker herself - and that's exactly what I did. I would say that dinner went well but it was the start of another emotional few days for me involving a lot of talk about cancer, cancer, cancer.
The following day, Mike and I left straight from work to be with my family in Grand Rapids as we prepared to lay my Uncle Kevin to rest. Thursday night and Friday were spent remembering what an amazing guy he was and what a great impact he had on so many people. As I said before, these things are even more difficult for me now that I am living with this disease. It makes me wonder - what songs will be at my service? Who will speak? Is this how my family will be talking about me? I am thankful that Mike lets me be free to talk about whatever I need to, at any time. So, as we left Grand Rapids and drove to Chicago, we talked a little bit about my funeral. No, I am not dying - and I don't plan on heading that way for a very long time. But the reality of this disease forces us to discuss these things sometimes. And contrary to what you may think, it actually makes me feel better to talk about it. It doesn't help when someone says, "don't talk about that" or "that's not going to happen". Let us talk about it because the thoughts go on in our minds anyways and if we are free to discuss it, it lifts some of that weight off of our shoulders. ("Our", as in those of us living with metastatic breast cancer and other incurable diseases.)
We arrived to Chicago on Friday night and I was looking forward to just relaxing with our good friends Beth & Ben - and that's just what we did. We were not only in Chicago to visit our friends, but we went so that I could attend the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network's Annual Conference. Although, it was great to meet up with some of my friends living with MBC, the conference was difficult for me emotionally. I think I will talk about it more in my next post, but let's just say I was hoping to feel encouraged, uplifted and empowered and instead, I left feeling emotionally exhausted, frustrated and very sad.
First thing on Monday morning, I found myself back in my plastic surgeon's office. Haven't had the chance to tell you guys, but the swelling in my left breast returned a few weeks ago. I know Dr. M told me that if the swelling ever came back, surgery was inevitable. Well, after discussing the issue once again, asking more questions, and shedding a few tears - I left my appointment with surgery on the books, as well as a decreased sense of confidence that this will be the last of these problems. Of course, I trust Dr. M very much, but there is just no telling what will happen after he opens me back up. He will be removing the mesh tissue that we think is causing all of the problems. He will also remove the implant and replace it with a new one. Not only am I worried about the usual side effects from surgery - infection, pain, and the fatigue that it brings over me - but I am worried about what will happen once that mesh is removed. I obviously needed that mesh the first time around because my skin wasn't strong enough to support the implant on it's own. I am now praying that somehow I will be able to successfully support the implant without the mesh, because if I cannot, it means more complications and more surgeries down the road.
I know that this is nothing major in the scheme of things and that things could be WAY worse. I get that -believe me, I do. But, for the first time last week, I finally hit a point where I just didn't want to try to find the silver lining. I didn't want to have a pity party, but I just wanted to be able to feel sad and discouraged and know that it was justified to feel that way for a little bit. I began to question many of my decisions. Did I do the right thing by having the left breast removed? Should I have just dealt with the mastectomy and foregone the reconstruction? Am I causing my body more harm than good in the long run by going through all of these surgeries and procedures? Once I let myself ask these questions, express these emotions, and work through my feelings, I felt better and could get on with my day.
So, surgery is now scheduled for November 20th - if I told you a later date, that's because there was an earlier opening so they are getting me in a little sooner. Please pray that everything goes very well and that my body can sustain this reconstruction without the mesh, and without further surgeries and complications.
Thanks for your constant love and prayers.
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