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. :)
There is no doubt about the fact that cancer is one sneaky beast. Lurking in the darkness. Slowly creeping up through the shadows and rearing it's ugly head at any time.
I have always known this. I have lived this while watching relatives and friends face the disease before I did. But it is another thing altogether when cancer sinks its fangs into you.
I have been neglecting the blog so much over the last couple of years because truthfully, all has been relatively stable for me since my recurrence at the end of 2014. Life has been full and busy - just like I have always liked it. Work, photography, travel, family, pups, friends, cooking...fitting as much into each day as possible. This summer I was feeling the best I have in years. One of my bff's and I devoted ourselves to a morning bootcamp class before work and I faithfully attended for about 12 weeks. It felt so good to finally feel more like myself - energized, strong, and comfortable in my own skin. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly that can all change.
On September 15th I awoke around 2am to excruciating back pain...the kind that is impossible to describe unless you have experienced bone pain from cancer. I have felt this before and know it all too well. I felt like my back was going to shatter in a million tiny pieces. I woke Mike up and asked him to please try to rub my back in the hopes of some relief. To make a long story short, after suffering through the work day and barely getting through it, I ended up in the ER that night. This started a cascade of events which have led to where we are today. At the risk of skipping some details, but saving some energy, here is the "highlight reel".... ;)
-Completed bone scans, CT scans and spine MRI's the last week of September
-Learned on Sept 29th that I had progression in my spine at multiple levels which also caused my T8 vertebrae to be fractured
-Underwent high dose radiation treatments to my spine every day before work for two weeks which concluded on October 14th
-After initially only feeling some fatigue and slight nausea, I encountered severe side effects the week after radiation ended. My esophagus was an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire of radiation and the damage was unexpected and extremely painful. It was not a sore throat due to the radiation burn that you would expect. It was more like trying to swallow glass through a tube that had narrowed down so tight that even water caused ridiculous pain and coughing. It become so bad that I avoided food and liquid altogether; resutling in a 8 pound weight loss over 4 days, along with severe exhaustion and overall feeling like crap.
-Could finally start eating towards the middle/end of last week and have been feeling MUCH better!
So, that brings us to today. I went in this morning for a follow up with Dr. F, my oncologist. It is too exhausting to detail right now but basically, I thought he wanted to stay the course on my current treatment because it has been keeping the rest of my body free from disease and limiting the disease to my spine. I was taken by surprise this morning when he immediately stated he wants to switch my treatment plan completely to two targeted therapy drugs. I had been feeling in my heart that it was time to switch treatments but I guess I just didn't expect it today and I wasn't prepared. It unleashed a flood of emotions and uncertainties about the future....
What will these side effects be like? Will this change my quality of life? Will I be able to maintain my normal busy schedule? Will I feel nauseous? Fatigued? Lose/gain weight? Will this work and for how long? What if I have another progression soon and blow through yet another treatment option? What if it doesn't keep the disease limited to the bone? What will happen if this fails?
I have been beyond blessed these last 5 1/2 years to maintain a pretty great quality of life despite all I have been through. I don't want to lose that. I don't want to start to head down that road of jumping from one treatment to the next because things have stopped working. I don't want to hear, "there is nothing else we can do for you". I learned tonight that another young friend with MBC was just told those exact words yesterday. She has entered hospice and it's just heartbreaking.
The other tough part of today was making the decision to finally have my ovaries removed. My disease is fed by estrogen so my ovarian function has been medically suppresed since I was first diagnosed...first through chemo and immediately following through that lovely shot of Zoladex I receive every single month. Dr. F has always said that there is no real difference between the Zoladex and having my ovaries surgically removed. I told him to tell me point blank if it would better my chances for survival to have them removed and he said the research can't prove that. So, we decided to stay on Zoladex and not rock the boat by having surgery.
Well, today he finally said, "If it was me, I would have them out." That's all I needed to hear. I know it will be a pretty straightforward laproscopic procedure, and I am not worried about the surgery itself at all. But it just feels like another huge punch in the gut. Another glaring reminder of all that cancer has robbed from me. I feel like I have been dismantled piece by piece of all that makes me a woman - the loss of my hair, my eyelashes, my breasts, my ovaries, my ability to bear children. It is a pain that runs so very deep and having my ovaries removed opens that wound up...a wound I have tried so desperately to close up and allow to heal.
My new treatment plan will consist of two new drugs I will write more about later. They are extremely expensive so I have to wait to start them until I receive insurance authorization and I don't know when that will be. I will take an oral pill daily for 3 weeks and then have 1 week off, then repeat. The other drug is an intramuscular injection that I will receive in the good ole' tush. I will receive it every 2 weeks for the first 3 rounds and then every 4 weeks after that.
There are side effects of these new drugs that are highly likely, including a significant decline in my blood counts which will place me at high risk for infections as well as cause fatigue. There are many other possibilities but these are the most likely. I will have blood work completed every 2 weeks to make sure my counts stay in a range that is safe enough to receive the treatment.
So this is where we are, friends.
This is the plan until this disease starts crawling back up from the darkness and threatening to rock our world once again. But, with each attack it wages, I will beat it back down and chase it right back into the shadows...running it out of the sunshine where I choose to live my life.
Please keep me in your prayers. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and down right now, which is not a place I like to be. Please keep Mike and my family in your prayers. Spefically, please pray for wisdom for our medical team to help us to make the right choices for my care; for strength to endure whatever may come our way; and for faith and perserverance while remembering that we are in God's hands and are loved and cared for every step of the way.
I promise to write more soon and keep you all updated.
Thank you for always being the most incredible support system anyone could every ask for. It is appreciated more than you will ever know!
Night time used to be my favorite part of the day. The time when Mike and I would cozy up in bed together and I would half jokingly, but half seriously, prod him to tell me his "hopes and dreams" for the future. In a particularly funny voice, I would say it the same way every time, "Sooo....what are your hopes and dreams?" He would always laugh and roll his eyes at me and it became a silly game we would often play. But all joking aside, I loved those conversations about our dreams for the future....where would we want to live, what trips were we going to take, what did we want to name our kids. Mike has always had this incredible way of simply living in the moment and being completely content with that. While I have always been a planner and a dreamer. Not to say I wasn't content with where we were in that moment, but I loved dreaming of the future and what our life would look like. It's one of the most difficult things that cancer has taken from me.
I am grateful that after almost five years of living with this disease, I have learned how to plan and dream again. But it's simply not the same. I have to add little disclaimers to my hopes and dreams now when Mike and I talk about them...."If I make it to 40, let's do _______", or "let's go on that trip next year...if my scans are okay." Have you ever seen "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"? When I think and dream about the future, it's like a scene from that movie with these incredibly beautiful landscapes, bright and vivid colors....and then all of a sudden it's as if my dream balloon pops and I am struck in the face with the reality of living with an unpredictable disease, and my dreams turn to black and white, void of all the magic in that colorful fantasy world. No matter how hard I try, I cannot dream with the same reckless abandon that I once could.
Of course every situation has two sides to the story and I like to believe there is always a silver lining to be found. Over these last few years, I have come to appreciate living in the moment more than I ever did before. I have learned that I can still have dreams of the future, but instead of 10 or 20 years down the road, I talk to Mike about my dreams for next year and what we want our life to look like. I suppose it's all about learning how to handle the cards that are dealt to you. It reminds me of one of my very favorite quotes....
I am so grateful that many of my hopes and dreams have come to fruition over the last few years. And even more recently, a big one was a family vacation we all took to Mexico the day after Christmas. The older I get, the more I realize that we really don't need much to be happy in this life. All of the material possessions just don't do it for me anymore. I have the hardest time trying to give my family ideas for gifts for Christmas or birthdays. All we really need is to be surrounded by those we love and share experiences that bring us joy and memories we can hold onto.
I was so happy when my family agreed with me last year that rather than exchanging gifts for Christmas, we should take a family trip together. I don't think I had been on a vacation with my brother since I was in the 7th or 8th grade! We all left for Mexico the day after Christmas and not only celebrated the holiday there together, but Mike and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary and we all rang in another new year! I am so grateful for this time together and it was a week I will cherish forever.
I have been feeling really well overall. Just dealing with some fatigue that seems to be worse lately and some aches and pains that truthfully probably have more to due with aging and having a physically demanding job. Can't blame everything on cancer I guess. ;) I am scheduled for another round of scans on Monday, March 13th and will get the results that Thursday, on St. Patrick's Day. I am taking that as a good omen for this Irish girl! And hey, if the results aren't good, at least I can drown my sorrows in some green beer, right?! :) Please keep us in your prayers at that time in particular, because I am still enjoying a very good quality of life on these current meds and truthfully, I am fearful that treatments down the road might not be so kind.
I am going to try to make more of an effort to keep up with the blog. Not only to share what has been going on with me, but also because it is a cathartic experience and I think it's important I make it a priority for myself. There are times when I am feeling down that it really helps me sort through my feelings, or look back on all I have been through in order to help give myself a little pep talk to keep on truckin'. I am also grateful it has served as a time capsule of sorts since this journey began and I want to make sure I contine that. I can't believe I only posted twice last year so hopefully I will take some time to document some of the great things that happened, like throwing out the first pitch at the Tigers Game! It was a pretty amazing experience!
So, now here I sit during my new favorite time of the day...the very early morning (of Saturday or Sunday in particular), before the sun rises. If I haven't run myself ragged the day before, I am able to crawl out of bed when Gracie wakes me at 6:00am. The house is dark, as is the entire neighborhood. After feeding the dogs, I start the fireplace and sit with a cup of coffee on the couch. This is the one time of the day where I allow myself to bask in the quiet, in the stillness that surrounds me, and be alone with my thoughts. It is in this time of the day that I enjoy the gift of another sunrise, another day full of hope and possibilities...and that in itself is enough...a dream that has already come true.
ps - Happy Valentine's Day to all of you...just an extra excuse to tell those you love just how much you appreciate them. Nothing better than that. So with that said, I hope you know how much I genuinely appreciate all of you who continue to be amazing friends and devoted family and those who keep us in our prayers even if you have never met us. Sending you lots of love today!
Hey there long lost blog readers. Man, it has sure been awhile. In all actuality, this is really just a test to see who is still checking in on me. If you read this, leave a comment and then I will know to bump you up in your ranking of people I love most. haha, just kidding. I truly can't believe how long it has been since my last post. I remember writing my very first blog entry and commenting that I was going to pray for a time when my life would be too ordinary and boring to even write about and hoped the blog would be short lived. Well, I can't necessarily say that life has been "ordinary" or boring either. But I will say that as the months, and now YEARS have passed since my diagnosis, I am able to focus more of my time and energy on other aspects of my life besides cancer.
I continue to have days or even weeks, where I might struggle a little more...whether it is due to joint pain from my medication, stress about a fellow survivor dealing with a recurrence, or saddness regarding the tough issues and ways this disease has affected Mike and I on a deeper level. But, I have tried my best to work through these times on my own -or by talking it out with Mike or close friends. I will admit that I continue to struggle with a great deal of survivors guilt after losing so many friends to this disease and so it has become difficult for me to log on to the blog and vent about the hard times I am facing. I know those friends would give anything to have even one more "bad day" with the ones they love. The logial part of my brain knows it's okay (and even healthy) to let these emotions out, but the emotional side of my brain tells me to try to suck it up and deal with it more privately rather than feeling pity from others or perhaps subconsciously seek pep talks through you all via the blog.
We are all dealing with tough stuff in life. I don't have a single friend or family member who isn't trying to cope with some aspect of stress, heartache or loss. And although there have been many times where I let myself slip into the darkness of feeling like we constantly get hit blow after blow, worse than many people, I try to do my best to snap myself out of it and count my blessings instead.
On that note, if you are one of the incredible people who has been used to following my story through the blog but I don't know personally; you might not know that I had another round of scans last week and everything looks really good. I am still stable with no new disease anywhere and it looks like this treatment has been working! This is the second set of scans I have had since radiation in January due to my recurrence in my spine. I have been dealing with some new side effects that started in June but nothing too serious or severe enough to make me reconsider this course of treatment. If it is working...keep it coming!
So, I just wanted to say a quick hello and remind you all that I am still here - plugging along as a wife, puppy momma, daughter, sister, friend, physical therapist and photographer. I am staying way too busy and although I am often tired, I am thankful that being busy also means I am feeling well enough to pack too much on my plate.
Thank you to all of you who continue to love me, support me and cheer me on - even when things seem calm and uneventful between scans - because truthfully, you may never know when I am struggling emotionally the most. It comes and goes and seems to hit during the most unexpected times. I promise to try to make more of an effort to show up on the blog more soon because I do think it is a healthy and cathartic practice for me and the love I receive in return is priceless.
Happy Fall - my favorite time of the year!
ps - There have been so many great events and activities I have been fortunate to have been a part of this year. I will definitely post more pics, info and videos soon but for now, here is a recent pic of Mike and I from my brother in-law Dan's wedding a couple weeks ago. It was a gorgeous wedding in Charlevoix and we are so excited to welcome Amber into the family!
Have you ever had one of those out of body moments where you feel like you are floating above your physical self and somehow watching what is unfolding rather than truly experiencing it? That's how I felt on New Year's Eve during my first radiation treatment. It was almost exactly three years ago that I first laid on that radiation table. I have said this before but it's true in this circumstance as well...some days it seems like yesterday that I was diagnosed and first went through radiation, and other days it feels like a lifetime ago. As I laid on my back in that lovely hospital gown and looked up into the bright flourescent lights, reality struck me and I almost couldn't believe I was there. It hasn't necessarily been smooth sailing, but all in all, I have been doing amazingly well throughout the past three years since I last had radiation. And although I had a sneaking suspicion that something was wrong, it still takes me by surprise sometimes that I am in the thick of things again..waging a full out battle against this disease.
Once again, I have nothing but the best things to say about the amazing Karmanos Cancer Institute where I am treated. My radiation oncologist, Dr. M has made me feel very confident in this process and I am grateful for that. Originally Dr. M stated that he really wanted to do a special targeted high dose radiation called Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy - also known as Cyberknife or Gamma Knife treatment. You can read more about it here but basically it would be a higer dose radiation that only requires 3 treatments and has less side effects. We did the entire simulation for this which required a custom molded cast of sorts of my body which would ensure I wouldn't move during radiation, as well as a bar across my abdomen so that I couldn't take a deep breath which would cause too much internal movement. I had the tattooing done as well so I could be lined up perfectly on the radiation table. During the simulation they also do a few CT scans to determine exactly what the radiation field will be that will receive treatment.
Unfortunately, the night before I started radiation, Dr. M called me to say that once he completed the planning after the simulation, he realized that too much of my spinal cord would be within the radiation field. The spinal cord is able to take some radiation, but not at the intensity that the Cyberknife would be. So I have been receiving more tradiational radiation treatment like I did to my chest 3 years ago but thankfully, I only need 10 treatments. I head to radiation each morning before work or on my way home from work and truthfully, it's a super easy and straightforward treatment. It's pretty similiar to what I wrote in my previous post 3 years ago about radiation so if you want to read more details about the entire process, check that out here.
I have completed 7 treatments so far and I am so happy to report that I am definitely feeling relief. My hip is feeling much better and although I am not painfree, the difference is truly noticeable and has restored my ability to sleep and relax comfortably while sitting. I am barely taking any medicine for pain and my overall quality of life is significantly improved. So cheers to that!!!
Thank you for the continued support. The calls, texts, flowers, blog comments...it all means so much to me.
Hope 2015 brings continued happiness and good health for us all!
A glimpse at my Groundhog Day routine at radiation....
Here I am! Did you think I forgot about you?
A little sneak peek of our adventure in Maui....
A new addition to our family! Meet Gracie!
On Tuesday I had my radiation simulation, including another awesome tattoo...
Quick update to let you all know I received great news at my appointment this morning. Scans look stable with no new tumor activity and no growth. As always, the same few spots in my spine lit up because they are damaged but Dr. F reminds us that it very likely just means the bones are healing. Everything looks the exact same as it has for the past few scans. If my meds weren't working anymore, I would definitely have some changes from the precious scan and there are none! Woohoo!!!
We are so relieved and thankful. Thank you so, so much for all the prayers and well wishes. It means so much. Truly. I'm off to Florida first thing in the morning to visit Brin and the boys- and to meet her precious 7 week old little Graham. I'm so exited to see them and have a break from all the craziness of scans, work, Race for the Cure. Speaking of, can't wait to fill you all in on the race soon. It was a great success!
Have a wonderful weekend and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your prayers, love and support!
That's right, folks....the breakfast menu for tomorrow morning is a whopping serving size of barium sulfate! Woohoo! Just how everyone wants to start off their Monday morning, right?
In case you aren't following my late night, exhausted attempt at humor...this means I am getting my next round of scans done first thing at the morning tomorrow. I will head to the hospital with Mike around 7:30am and we will likely be there until mid-afternoon getting a few different tests and bloodwork done. Downside - it's a long and exhausting day. Upside - Mike took the day off to go with me so at least I get an entire day with him by my side. We have both been so ridiculously busy lately that I am really looking forward to spending the day together, even if it means sitting in the lovely Nuclear Medicine Department all morning.
If you have some prayers, good mojo or healing thoughts you could send my way, I would sincerely appreciate it! It truly does ease the "scanxiety" knowing you are all cheering me on and sending positive thoughts into the atmosphere.
I have lots of updates it seems, especially about all of the hard work I have been doing to promote MBC and young survivors at the Komen Detroit Race for the Cure this year! It is late and I have to get to bed, but I promise to update soon. If I don't get a chance this week since it's going to be a nutty one again, please at least spread the word to anyone who is local, to please register for the Komen Detroit Race for the Cure this year and come see what we have been doing - especially for those women who are metastatic. Here is a little sneak peek at one of the great things we have in store for race participants.
Please join us next Saturday at Chene Park in Detroit or make a donation to "Team Malley Rally" here.
Thanks again for your thoughts and prayers. Won't see Dr. F until a week from Thursday for my results. Waiting is soooo....fun. (insert sarcasm here)
And because I can't possibly have a post without sharing some pics...here are some quick iphone shots of the fun we had together on Mother's Day while cheering on the Tigers!
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.
Well, a delayed "Happy New Year" seems to be in order. It's been a couple months since my last post and as I revisited my last entry, I am once again reminded of the roller coaster of emotions this disease is. But I suppose that's just life for all of us. It ebbs and flows, oscillating between the good times and the tougher times.
The new year started off perfectly while Mike and I continued our road trip throughout California. It was truly a trip of a lifetime and I am so incredibly grateful we decided to check this off our bucket list. We arrived in San Francisco the day after Christmas and explored for a few days before venturing through Carmel and Monterrey on our way to Big Sur. After a few phenomenal days there, we made our way down to Santa Barbara for some relaxing and wine tasting, then Pasadena for the Rose Bowl (pinch me!) and finally to San Diego for a few days! We couldn't believe that each day seemed to be even better than the last and that we packed a lifetime of memories into 9 days. It was incredible!
Here are a few of my favorite images I was able to capture with Canon 5D Mark iii ...
And since I didn't take my "big girl camera" into the Rose Bowl with me, here are a few iphone shots I caught during that incredible day!
The week after we returned home from California, my mom celebrated her retirement. Although I was so happy she was able to do this, it also meant that she would basically be moving down to Columbus to help care for my Aunt Bev. Since that time, my aunt has endured a lot. She has seemed to suffered complication after complication due to her ovarian cancer and has been in and out of the hospital since. She was recently stable enough to start chemo again but was once again hospitalized on Monday. Please keep her in your prayers so that she can get through this time and become healthy and strong once again.
As if all of that wasn't hard enough, my mom also suddenly lost one of her best friends of nearly 40 years. You might remember me talking about John & Paul and our visit to their vacation home in Florida here. Losing John was so tragic and unexpected - it sent all of us who loved him reeling. His funeral service in Michigan was just last Monday and was beautiful and heart breaking all at the same time.
Then just last Saturday, I attended yet another funeral service. This time it was for a dear, sweet friend who was part of my support group at Karmanos. My friend, Susan was kind, compassionate and courageous. She started her battle with metastatic breast cancer about a year before I did and we had come to be friends once I started our young women's group. The celebration of her life was beautiful, but of course it was especially difficult knowing she died from complications of the disease that I also live with. My heart breaks for her wonderful husband and children.
So the first couple of months of 2014 have definitely been trying at times, and reminders of how precious and fragile life is.
Despite all of that, I have been feeling really well - aside from being freezing cold all the time in this polar vortex. Thank God for the occasional hot flash, right?! I have really been enjoying work lately and have been treating a great group of patients, spending lots of time with family & friends, and enjoying the occasional lazy Sunday with Mike and Wrig just hibernating by the fire. I'm also grateful that I have been feeling stronger mentally and emotionally lately, especially so I can try to support others going through similar experiences. I can't tell you how often I receive emails, phone calls or facebook messages asking me to reach out to women who are newly diagnosed, or someone who has recently become metastatic. Or how often I receive emails from women who have somehow come across this blog and can relate and want to connect. Although I often feel guilty that I can't stay in close touch with everyone I hear from, I am grateful that I can try to be of some support to others as they experience a similar journey. However, with that gift, comes a price. I have lost more good friends than any 31 year old should ever have to experience, and each time I hear of another survivor going through a hard time - a treatment failing, a disturbing scan, or new side effects with negative impacts on quality of life - it is heart wrenching. After losing Genevieve, Lorri and Jen last year, it made me question whether or not I even wanted to reach out and become close with other women because it is so hard when I lose them. But, there is no way I could ever really do that. I would never turn my back on someone that needed a shoulder to lean or someone to talk to while they travel this road. And I would never want someone to treat me that way either - to give up on me during my hour of need because it was "too hard". I have had a few people pull away from me after my diagnosis and it just hurts. I tried not to take it personally and realize it was just that they didn't know how to cope with what I was going through - but it's painful none the less. I am really grateful for a close group of friends that I have who are all young women in their 30's living with metastatic breast cancer. I am grateful for their love, guidance and the support we all give to each other on what sometimes is a daily basis. Please always continue to show your love and support to someone who is ill or struggling, or who might seem fine but deals with chronic illness - you might never know what a positive impact that can have on them.
I hope everyone is surviving the longest, coldest winter EVER! I know all of us around here in Michigan are definitely ready for it to be over. I am so excited we are almost to March, which means that spring will be around the corner. I can't wait to open windows, see green grass and enjoy my beautiful backyard.
Thanks for all the love and support. Thank you to those of you who I may have never met but come across the blog somehow and reach out. I wish I could respond to every comment and message. Each one means so much.
I'll post an update again after I see Dr. F on March 13 - which will hopefully be a pretty uneventful visit.
My blog to keep you all