What a crazy, busy, wonderful couple of weeks it has been. Between the Johnson's visit, 3 Day festivities, our friend Zak coming to visit, celebrating Mike's birthday, a family reunion and an extremely packed schedule for Meg Malley Photography - things have been super busy!
We had such a good time having Brinley, Andy and Andrew here for a week. It is always so great to see them and to be able to spend so much time together. Mike and Andy are like partners in crime and always have a great time when they are together, and of course, Brin and I never have moments without lots of laughs and tons to talk about. It was so amazing to see how much little Andrew has changed since I visited them in Florida in February. He is a total cuddle bug who gives great hugs and kisses. He loves to pretend to cook, and carries his pots and pans everywhere he goes. He is active, smart, and full of smiles. The week flew by too fast and of course I miss them already, but I am so grateful that they were able to come visit. I love you guys!
And then there was the Susan G. Komen 3 Day For A Cure....how do you even summarize this event? You truly need to experience it in order to appreciate how moving and special it is. I am so grateful that five of my wonderful friends (Brinley, Nikki, Becca, Chanell, and Janine) dedicated so much of their time and energy to training, fundraising, and completing this 60 mile, 3 day challenge.
There has been quite a bit of controversy and drama with the Komen organization this year. On top of that, after my diagnosis, I learned that many women in the metastatic breast cancer community feel very upset with Komen due to the way that funds are dispersed, and the disparity regarding dollars allocated to metastatic research. Although I may dedicate an entire post to my feelings on these issues at some point, today is not that day. What I do want to share is that despite what anyone may say, I am grateful for what the Komen organization has done to raise awareness for this disease, and even if it's only one cent put towards metastatic research- I am grateful for it because every little bit helps.
What I feel most proud about regarding the 3 Day event this year is that my friends know how I feel, they know what is important to me, and they went above and beyond to spread my message about metastatic breast cancer awareness throughout this 3 Day event. I often feel lost in the "celebration" at breast cancer events. I am not the same type of "survivor". Breast cancer is not in my rearview window. It's not in the past and it's not something that will ever be behind me. I live and breath it every day and often times I don't feel quite as celebratory as many of the women at these events that have beat their disease because they were fortunate enough to be diagnosed early. So, what did my friends do? They spread the word about metastatic disease everywhere along their 60 mile journey. They brought it out of the shadows even though it's not the perfect success story. They talked about it, displayed the words "Metastatic breast cancer" proudly on their tents and signs, and they raised awareness for the fact that thousands of women continue to live with this disease each and every day and that we have not been truly successful until a cure has been found for all of us! Not just those diagnosed early.
Team Meghan Malley Rally got robbed in the tent decorating competition. They should have won with their awesome Olympic themed decor...."Going for gold for Metastatic Cancer"....I loved it!
I was so proud of each of them (and all the other walkers!) and loved chasing them around and cheering them on all weekend long. They were amazing!
A huge thank you to the friends and family that came out to our cheering station on Saturday. It was so nice to see you there, supporting the walkers, and supporting me by your presence. The MVP of the day goes to Momma Jan - best cheerleader around...hands down! Thank you Mom and Doug for all you did that day- I appreciate it more than you know. Love you!
And a special, HAPPY 30TH BIRTHDAY to Becca Boo!!!! She celebrated the big 3-0 while walking all day long for this cause. What a great friend that is!
I am exhausted just looking back on the pictures from that weekend. :) What an emotional 3 days it is and I can't thank everyone enough for being part of it. Whether you walked, cheered, donated, or kept the walkers in your thoughts and prayers that weekend - thank you so very much!
After the Johnson fam left last Wednesday, our friend Zak came into town and we celebrated Mike's birthday, which was Saturday. It was a great weekend filled with lots of friends and family. HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my very best friend and the most incredible person I know. I am so very honored to be your wife and I look forward to celebrating many more birthday's with you in the future. Love you so much!
Well, it has been 7 weeks since I received my great scan results and I was really hoping to make it until the next scans in January before I had to deal with any new speed bumps, medically speaking. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I have been noticing some changes with my left breast over the past few weeks - swelling, changes in shape, warm to the touch. I have learned by now that I need to trust my instincts about my own body so I got in to see my plastic surgeon, Dr M. as soon as I could.
I saw him this morning and he is concerned. He doesn't know exactly what is going on and the cause of the swelling could be from a few different sources. To spare you all the details, many of which I am still trying to understand, this could be as minor as some blood accumulation due to some trauma that I wasn't aware of, all the way to something very serious such as a type of lymphoma that (VERY) rarely occurs after receiving breast implants. Needless to say, I am very worried. I don't want any complications. I don't want more surgery. I was finally starting to feel "normal" for awhile. I picked up more hours at the clinic and Meg Malley Photography is booming and keeping me so incredibly busy! I head to the hospital tomorrow for an ultrasound and needle aspiration of the fluid that is accumulating in the left side of my chest and breast. I will then have to wait for awhile until the results come back from the lab telling us what this is. I am praying that it will only require some simple intervention, such as Dr. M draining the fluid. I will be sure to keep you posted. Please keep me in your prayers that this is nothing serious and that life can continue as "normal".
Hope everyone is doing well and enjoys a wonderful Labor Day weekend. We are headed up to Torch Lake with our friends and I can't wait for some R & R!
My life, as I knew it, became dramatically different nearly seven months ago when I received that dreaded phone call. I have had many hurdles laid out in front of me over the past few months and have done my best to take each one as it came, focusing all my energy on crossing that one specific hurdle, before looking onward to the next. It is the only way for me to do it - the only way to survive without being swallowed up in a sea of overwhelming worry and fear of the unknown. Taking one day at a time is the way I try to live my life now. Worrying about the next hurdle in my way only deters me from living in the moment and enjoying this day that God has given me.
So, when people ask me if I have been a nervous wreck about my upcoming surgery, the answer is definitely "no". I have not been worried or scared or fearing surgery. I have been busy doing a million other things and enjoying feeling good throughout these past few weeks since I have completed chemo. But once again, my life as I now know it, is about to undergo another major change. And now that this change will be taking place in less than 24 hours, I would be lying if I said I wasn't starting to get a little nervous about it.
I knew chemo would make me feel crappy but that would eventually pass - and it did. I knew losing my hair would be traumatic but that it would eventually grow back - and it did. I knew that losing my eye lashes and eye brows would look weird, but that they would grow back - and they did - although they are now falling out again! Darn it. ;) But there is no turning back with this. This is the first real permanent step. When it's done, it's done - and there is no coming back. I am nervous about how I will look, how I will feel, how I will adjust psychologically to losing such an obvious part of my body. But what I really keep thinking about is, "Will it ever feel the same again when Mike hugs me?" Every day before Mike leaves for work, he gives me a hug while I lay in bed - every evening when he gets home, he gives me a huge hug as soon as he walks into the house. It's the way we have always been. And now I fear that the numbness and loss of sensation that accompanies this procedure will rob me of fully feeling my husband's embrace every day. Logically I know that it's not the end of the world if I lose sensation across my chest - but I have learned to really cherish the little things, like the tight squeezes from Mike -and the thought of those hugs never again feeling the same, makes me sad.
Tomorrow morning I will be undergoing a right modified radical mastectomy and a left simple mastectomy followed by immediate reconstruction. I won't go into detail about the actual surgical procedure but if you would like to read more about what a mastectomy is, please click here, and to learn more about reconstruction, click here. The surgery will last about 4 1/2 - 5 hours which will involve my breast surgeon, Dr. B performing the bilateral mastectomy followed by Dr. M, my plastic surgeon, coming in after her to start the reconstruction process. There are a few reconstruction methods available, however a few of those did not end up being viable options for me. I do not have enough abdominal tissue to use my own skin, fat and muscle for the reconstruction, which is what occurs during a TRAM flap procedure - the most common type of breast reconstruction. Therefore, after discussing all options with Dr. M, we have decided that the best course of treatment for me is reconstruction with implants. The process is a long one, and not without risks but we are confident that this is the right path for me. To give you a better idea of what will be taking place, here is a rough outline of the steps involved:
Soooo.....do you see what I mean about taking one day at a time? It's just too much to think about otherwise. There are some definite risks to all of this, especially once I have radiation. There is about a 20% chance that the radiation could cause the tissue expander to fail which means I would have to have surgery to remove them and my only available option for reconstruction at that point would be a much more invasive and difficult surgery. Although I am very confident in my decisions and feel in my heart that this is my best course of treatment, it is not without risks and fear - I hope and pray everything goes as well as possible and that we can stick with our game plan.
I am asking once again for all of you to rally around us in love and prayer, just like you always do. Please keep all of us in your prayers - not only for me to come out of surgery safely, but also for Mike, Mom, Doug and Jeff as they will no doubt be worrying while they wait to make sure I am okay. Please say extra prayers for Dr. B, Dr. M, the anesthesiologist, nurses, and all other staff that will be part of my surgery and recovery.
Thank you so much for the frozen meals, comfy clothes, cards, and well wishes that so many of you have sent during these days leading up to surgery. I truly feel your love and support all around me and that's what will get me through this.
ps. Today is National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day...there is still such a long way to go to research a cure and more effective treatments for this disease. To get a small glimpse of what metastatic breast cancer is like for the 155,000 of us living with it in the U.S please take a look at this short video
I was hoping to leave you with some gorgeous fall pics of my neighborhood but sadly yesterday's rain washed most of the leaves off of the trees. So instead, here's a look at my festive porch :)
There are some weeks that are so action packed that I swear they just fly by in the blink of an eye. This past week was definitely one of them. It consisted of the YSC "In Living Pink" fashion show, lunch & dinner dates with friends, being interviewed and photographed by the Detroit Free Press (yes, you read that right! more on that later...), the amazing "Rocking For A Reason" benefit concert, an appointment with another new doctor, celebrating a friend's birthday, a fabulous 3 hour coffee date with a friend and fellow cancer warrior, and the beginning of a young adult support group that I helped initiate. Whew! Don't get me wrong, I sleep in late and get in as much rest as possible in between, but boy does the calendar fill up.
Last Thursday night was the "In Living Pink" fashion show benefiting the Young Survival Coalition of metro Detroit. I really had no idea what I was signing up for but it turned out to be a really fun night. The YSC women did an incredible job turning the Royal Oak Farmers Market into a beautiful venue and they raised a lot of money for a wonderful cause. I had a great time pretending to be a model for a night, along with a few other survivors that are involved in YSC. Thank you so much to my family and friends that were able to come out and cheer me on as I channeled my inner Heidi Klum when I hit the runway. ;)
Thanks to the talented, Miss Kyle Dorcey for the beautiful photos and to Kristy of YSC for the group shots included below.
BreAnne and me - she is the talented designer that created my dress
Just a few of the other wonderful survivors I have met through YSC - Lori, Lisa & Kristy
Some of the women of the metro Detroit chapter of YSC
What a fun (and exhausting) night. I have realized that I can no longer stand for hours on end, especially in high heels. My body, particularly my back, paid for it the next day but it was worth it in the end and I felt much better after a lot of extra rest.
Sunday marked the incredible "Rocking For A Reason" benefit concert that the fabulous, Patty LaBella spearheaded for us. Wow, I don't even know what to say about it...the entire event was completely overwhelming and uplifting. It was truly remarkable to see how many family, friends and community members came out to support us and show their love. I have no clue how many people were there at one point or another throughout the evening, but it was just so touching to see all of you and to feel the love from so many people. What also completely blew me away was not only the amazing generosity of everyone that came to the event but also that of all those that donated great items for the auction. From family members, to those that I have never even met, to local businesses, to a huge corporation such as Martha Stewart Living ---I couldn't even believe the donations that were coming in for the auction. And on top of that, I was so touched and humbled by all of those that placed bids and bought raffle tickets -it was truly wonderful.
To be honest, this type of thing is difficult for me. It is hard to go to these events and be the one that they are benefiting. I wish I was attending to help someone else out - that it wasn't me that was in all the pictures and who's name was on the poster. I am not comfortable in the spotlight like this and I am definitely not comfortable accepting this kind of help from others. I feel like I never know how to adequately thank all of you - how to say what's really on my mind and in my heart. There are just no words that accurately describe my gratitude. Please know how much this event meant to Mike and I and how thankful we are for it. It will keep our spirits soaring high for a very long time.
A HUGE special thanks to Patty & Joe LaBella, Eric Kozlowski (you are awesome!), The Berkley Music Company, The Berkley Front, the adorable little Blake, Katie Grace, ONNA, The High Strung, and all of the others that helped make this event a reality. Thank you all so very much!
Me & the bro
My awesome brother in-law, Dan and his wonderful girlfriend, Melissa with Mike & I
After spending much of Monday in bed recuperating, I met yet another new member of the medical team on Tuesday. Dr. R is Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R) doc at Beaumont. He is the one that will be following me closely to monitor for any lymphedema so our visit included a lot of pre-op measurements and physical examination. We also discussed stretches I can be doing to prepare for surgery, exercises to start doing after surgery, and exercises and precautions I need to take with my spine due to the fragile nature of my vertebrae and my increased risk for fractures from here on out. I think Dr. R liked the fact that I am a physical therapist since I was already extremely familiar with much of what he was telling and that I will be a diligent patient with my "homework" after surgery. I will see Dr. R again two weeks after surgery to take my first post-op measurements and to assess my upper body range of motion. I am once again thankful for another knowledgable and personable addition to my medical team.
Thursday night was the first meeting for our "Young Adult Survivor" group at Karmanos. There are many wonderful support groups at Karmanos but there is not one dedicated solely to young adults who are cancer survivors. On a few occasions, I discussed this need with Kathleen, the social worker at the Weisberg Center, and how there are so many of us in our 20's and 30's that are treated there. Kathleen had always wanted to start a group like this but needed someone that wanted to coordinate it...insert my name here. :) So, I gladly signed on and we held our first meeting last night. It went very well and I am looking forward to seeing it grow as we provide support for each other and learn how to navigate issues that only young adults with cancer can truly understand. The group is open to anyone that is a young adult cancer survivor, whether they are treated at Karmanos or not, so if you know someone that would benefit from talking to others in a similar position, please send them our way. Our next meeting is Thursday, Oct 27 at 5:30pm at the Weisberg Center in Farmington Hills.
Saturday is October 1 which marks the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Detroit Free Press likes to do some special features in October dealing with breast cancer in general and to promote awareness, early detection, etc. So, to make a long story short, my name was passed along to the director of media relations at Karmanos and after talking with her, she then passed along my name and story to the Free Press. The editors receive stories from numerous people and hospital systems, but they ended up picking my story and deciding to interview me! So crazy, huh?! We really wanted to highlight the start of our new Young Adult Survivor Group at Karmanos in addition to telling my unique story of when breast cancer doesn't present as a detectable lump.
A couple weeks ago, a reporter from the Free Press visited me at home and we spent a lot of time together discussing all sorts of aspects of my life and this journey I am on. Then, a photographer followed me at the "In Living Pink" fashion show, and another photographer came to our home last Saturday to capture pictures of Mike and I. Although, I never wanted any attention in this way, if my story can further spread awareness and possibly help just one person, then it's totally worth it. So, check out the Detroit Free Press, this Sunday, October 2! I have no idea what will make it into the paper - it could be the tiniest little article ever, but keep your eyes peeled for it.
*As a quick side note, I want to clarify just one thing before you read that article. The great reporter that I have been working with has called me numerous times to check her facts and make sure she has all the details she needs. Well, the other day she was reading me a quote she received from Dr. F, my oncologist. It read something to the effect that I had an "excellent" response to chemotherapy and that I may undergo clinical trials in the future but right now I am in "remission". I was like, "REMISSION?!" What?! That is a huge word with a lot of different meanings and I have NEVER heard Dr. F use that word to me directly. I got all excited because hearing that word has always been my goal, but then I tried to calm myself down and realize what mind games different terminology and verbiage can play. Remission is defined as, "the state of absence of disease activity in patients with a chronic illness, with the possibility of return of disease activity." So, with that said - I am thrilled to hear Dr. F say this, because I take it as my disease is stable and not acting up and causing problems. BUT, please do not be mistaken that this means I am cancer-free. I don't want anyone to read this article and be confused and think that the cancer is gone, and "why didn't Meghan tell us that she beat it and she's in remission now?!" That's not exactly the case. I hope to be considered in "remission" for many, many years with the disease behaving like we want it to, that it's responding to my medications, and that there is not current "disease activity". I pray that I will eventually be told there is "no evidence of disease", which means that all of the detectable cancer cells have been killed and that no evidence of further disease can be picked up on my imaging tests....but I have a chronic disease with no known cure, and it will always be considered a part of me. I hope that makes sense and that I didn't confuse anyone any further.
Well, the surgery countdown is now at two weeks! Yikes! I meet with my plastic surgeon, Dr. M on Monday to finalize plans for the reconstruction side of the double mastectomy. I will then meet yet another new member to the team on Wednesday. Another Dr. R will be added to the gang and she will be my Radiation Oncologist at Karmanos. I won't start radiation until approximately 6 weeks after surgery but it will be nice to chat with her now and discuss our game plan. I will definitely update everyone after those two appointments once I know more about what the next steps of this journey will entail.
I am looking forward to a weekend consisting of dinner with friends, a breast cancer luncheon/fundraiser where I will get to meet a true inspiration for those living with metastatic cancer (I'll fill ya in next time on that), a Callaghan family reunion, Sunday brunch with some best friends from Chicago, and checking out this newspaper article. Looks to be a busy one...par for the course, right?! :)
We finally received the good news we were praying for! Thank you, Lord!!! And thank you to all of you, our amazing family and friends for your non-stop prayers and well wishes - it definitely paid off!
I am totally wiped out from an extremely long and exhausting day, so hopefully I include all of the important details. We had long appointments with both Dr. F and Dr. B today which meant we were at doctors offices from 9:45am until 3pm with a one hour break for lunch in the car while driving. It's all worth it though, for such great news!
We met with Dr. F first and he informed us right away that the test results looked great! He said that the CT, MRI, and bone scan showed the following...
--breast tumors demonstrate significant shrinking
--axillary lymph nodes demonstrate shrinking
--there is evidence of healing in the bone throughout my spine
--no new evidence of disease! BOOYAH! (okay, not exactly Dr. F's words)
Overall, this was the best possible news we could have received and we couldn't be more relieved and thankful! I am so grateful that these past five months of chemo haven't been for nothing, and that the cancer is actually responding well. Dr. F was very pleased and said that we are definitely headed in the right direction. He said that the imaging studies will always show abnormalities throughout my thoracic spine where there has been cancer, but now there appears to be evidence of healing. He even said that I may not have to have radiation to my spine, which would be wonderful!
The rest of my appointment with him consisted of formulating our plan of where we go from here. So, here's the latest...
--start hormone therapy (Tamoxifen) - a daily oral medication which will interfere with the activity of estrogen, which is what is feeding my cancer
--start Zoladex - a monthly injection to suppress my ovary function. This will shut down my ovaries and stop them from making estrogen so that the tumors cannot get the estrogen they need to grow. This also means MENOPAUSE! Just another "perk" of having the big C. ;) Who would have thought I would start menopause at the age of 29?!
--after surgery, start Denosumab - a monthly injection to strengthen my bones and try to protect them from further damage due to metastasis
So, today I started the Tamoxifen and received my first injection of Zoladex - a humungous needle which is injected into my abdomen = fun times! I will have a follow up appointment with Dr. F in 6 weeks and will be re-scanned every 6 months at the absolute latest - it could be earlier than that if I am having any new symptoms or concerns.
After a collective high five between Mike, Mom and I, we nearly skipped out of Karmanos and headed over to Beaumont to meet with Dr. B. After a physical exam and review of my imaging results, Dr. B also informed us that she was very pleased with my progress. She said that she didn't expect my cancer to respond so well to the chemo since it normally responds best to the hormone therapy. We met with Dr. B for at least an hour, discussing all the details of the surgery, what I can expect, and what recovery will be like. Dr. B's wonderful nurse, Linda then used this great new device to take some measurements of my arms in order to compare them to post-op measurements to track any possible lymphedema. Lastly, we finally set our date for surgery. Friday, October 14 is the big day for the bilateral mastectomy. I am definitely nervous about it but happy to finally have a plan and know when it will be. This will give me some time to get my energy level and blood counts back up since they are still pretty low due to chemo.
So, that's the latest and greatest news! More upcoming appointments on the horizon are...
--meeting with Dr. M my plastic surgeon on October 3 for final preparations before surgery and the start of the reconstruction process
--meet with another new team member, Dr. R who is a physical medicine and rehabilitation doc at Beaumont to take more pre-op measurements and assessments. He will also be the one to let me know what my restrictions after surgery are and when I can start physical therapy in order to get my range of motion back in my arms....good thing I have some connections to some awesome PT's :)
--meet with another new team member, Dr. R who will be my radiation oncologist. I will meet with her before surgery to discuss our plan for radiation to my right breast and chest wall, and possibly my spine. Radiation will start about 4-6 weeks after surgery.
As you can see, it's going to be a long road ahead. But what better motivation to forge ahead than receiving such terrific news, like I did today! I can't thank you enough for being there for me - for all of the texts, phone calls, emails, blog posts, and facebook messages I received in the last couple of days. It truly makes me feel better to know that I have so many people praying for me - you guys are the best! Keep the prayers coming because we still have a long way to go. But for now, I will bask in this great news. For the next five weeks, I am going to focus much of my attention on trying to regain my energy, slowly begin exercising again, and taking the absolute best care of myself in anticipation of surgery. And you know I will also be mixing in fun times like this Saturday at the U of M game (thanks Aunt Clare!), a friends wedding, taking my hubby to a great concert, many birthday parties, strutting my stuff in a charity fashion show, our fundraiser on September 25, trips to the cider mill...and much more! Thanks again everyone! And thank you God for answering our prayers!
In honor of the coming of my favorite season, here are some fall pics from a wonderful trip to the U.P a couple of years ago...
Before I get to some of the latest news, there was someone that was a little upset over not being included in my previous post with all of the other 3 Day cheerleaders. I apologized repeatedly but he said he would only forgive me if he was featured front and center in this weeks post.....
A big thank you to our pup for being the sweetest, furriest Team Malley supporter. This guy always knows how to make us smile and brighten our day.
The Thursday before the amazing 3 Day For The Cure weekend, I went to chemo bright and early in the morning just as I always do. I was a little excited this time because I had been waiting for a couple weeks to see my oncologist and show him the shirt I proudly ordered online. I cracked up when I saw it one day and had to buy it! Well, Dr. F loved it too, and thought it was hilarious. He even had Mike take a pic with his personal iphone, and you know I had my camera on hand to capture a shot too!
As a little gift, I gave Dr. F one of our Meghan Malley Rally t-shirts. I chose the green one because I figured as a breast cancer specialist, this guy probably owns more pink than he cares to admit. Dr. F really liked his shirt - he thanked me and we parted ways so I could head over to the infusion side of the building to begin chemo. Well, I couldn't believe it when about 10 minutes later, Dr. F showed up on the infusion side (which he NEVER does) and he was sporting his Meghan Malley Rally t-shirt over his shirt and tie! He said, "We have to do this right and get another pic!" All of the nurses and some of the other patients came around the corner to see what all the laughter was about and they got a total kick out of it too! We took some more pics and then I found out later from one of my nurses, that Dr. F wore his t-shirt all day long under his lab coat! What an awesome guy. So, when you say your prayers for me - please throw in a few extra ones for my homeboy, Dr. F! :)
Speaking of my visit to Chemoland, I actually got some exciting news that week. Dr. F informed me that I don't have to make up the one chemo I missed earlier this summer due to my low counts. So...I will be done on September 1 as originally planned! YAY! I was very surprised and super excited because we had already planned our little family getaway to Florida for Labor Day weekend and it just wasn't going to be the same "end of chemo celebration" if I had to come back and have my last treatment on September 8. It just seems so crazy that I only have two rounds left - it is so odd how it seems like it's been a lifetime since this journey started, but somehow at the same time it has flown by in the blink of an eye. Not sure if that makes sense, but it's somehow the way it feels.
We discussed a lot of other issues with Dr. F at chemo that week, most importantly the fact that all of my testing needs to be redone now that we are reaching our conclusion of the first line of attack against this monster C. Dr. F ordered a CT scan of my chest, abdomen and pelvis for Monday, August 29 and an MRI of my spine and full body bone scan on Tuesday, August 30. To say that I am anxious and nervous regarding what these tests will tell us, is putting it very lightly. You guys know me - I am optimistic, upbeat and very hopeful. But this will be the first time we have checked back on the status of these crazy cells, and it is nothing short of terrifying to think of the possibility that they have further infiltrated my body-which is always our #1 fear. Please start storming the heavens with prayer that this chemo has worked wonders for my body and that the tests do not reveal any further spread of this disease.
I will go back to see Dr. F on September 8 to get all of my test results and will definitely update everyone at that time. Later that same day, I go back to see Dr. B, my breast surgeon at the Beaumont Breast Care Center. She will have all of my test results as well which will further guide some of our decisions during the mastectomy process. I haven't had the chance to update you all on another new doc who was recently added to our cast of characters. Dr. M is going to be my plastic surgeon and we met with him a few weeks ago. I will save all of that info for a later time to dedicate an entire post to what that process entails, but he will be the one initiating the reconstruction process on the day Dr. B performs my mastectomy. Anyways, on September 8 we will again meet with Dr. B to go over all the final details leading up to surgery and hopefully nail down a date for when my bilateral mastectomy will be taking place. Lots of important news, big decisions, and major surgeries coming up in the very new future!
Aside from the great news about concluding chemo a week early, I was also over the moon with excitement that Brinley, Andy and Andrew came to visit for an entire week, from August 10-17. Of course, Brin was just a "little" busy with walking 60 miles over the weekend - so it was so nice to have them here for a few days before and after the 3 Day so Mike and I could spend some extra time with them.
It is so amazing how someone can come into your life and you just instantly click with them - it doesn't take any effort - there are no awkward "getting to know you" moments - you just hit it off right from the start. That's exactly what happened between Brinley and I in the beginning of 2008 as we started our professional careers together at the Rehab Institute of Michigan. Even as I type the year "2008", it surprises me because it feels like we have been such close friends for so many years. Brin, Andy, Mike and I became fast friends and the time flew by so quickly before they moved back to Florida. Since they have moved, we have always made an effort to take trips to see each other, we spend countless hours on the phone each week, and text each other at least once every day.
Since Brinley and Andy welcomed sweet little Andrew into their lives in February, Brin was home on maternity leave throughout the weeks leading up to my diagnosis - when I was having appointment after appointment, and test after test. I was so grateful that I knew I could call Brin after those appointments and she would be willing to take precious time out of caring for her newborn, listen, talk & try to calm my fears. I will never forget sitting alone in my car in the Beaumont Hospital parking deck after my breast biopsy, and sobbing on the phone to Brin telling her Dr. B just told me that she was worried I may have breast cancer. Or when I got the call at work the very next day, and Dr. B informed me that she was right, it was cancer. After calling Mike and my mom, I called Brinley and we cried together as I shared the news. Then again, a few weeks later when Dr. F called me at work to let me know the spine biopsy was positive and I did indeed have Stage IV cancer. I tried to stay at work to see my patients, but I just couldn't do it. I drove home and talked to Brin most of the way - telling her I didn't want to die - asking her to please watch out for Mike. These are not the type of conversations you share with just any friend, or someone you just happened to work with for a couple of years. I am so grateful to be blessed with so many amazing friends, but I just don't know how I could have gotten through all of those moments without Brinley.
Although Brin lives in Florida, it has felt like she has been right here next to me, holding my hand, throughout each and every moment of the past five months. She is an incredible listener and knows exactly when I need to just vent without someone giving me answers or telling me everything will be okay. She has taken time each and every single day since I was diagnosed to send me a quick picture message - usually of adorable little Andrew. Receiving a picture message on your cell phone is usually no big deal to most people, but to me that single gesture means so much more. For five straight months those daily messages have always made me feel like Brin is always thinking of me, and is supporting me through this battle and that always brightens my day!
Brin, there is no way I can possibly thank you enough for your incredible friendship over the years, and especially over the past few months. You have been there for me through it all, every single day, no matter what, no matter how busy your life might be. You have supported me 110% throughout this entire journey, during a time which is supposed to be the happiest and most exciting time of your life - as you became a mother to your beautiful son. During these first six months of Andrew's life, you have never made me feel like you didn't have time to be there for me or that you were too busy or overwhelmed as a new mom to listen - even though I know there were plenty of times when you could have easily felt that way. I cannot thank you and Andy enough for taking a week off from work and coming back up to Michigan to spend time with us. Mike and I absolutely loved having you guys here and I miss you so much already! Your friendship means the world to me and I love all three of you so very much!
I was so excited to be able to capture some family pics while the Johnson's were here. These are a few of my faves from our afternoon at the park...
Thank you Andy for capturing this beautiful image of Brin, Andrew and I.
I absolutely adore it!
What trip back to metro Detroit would be complete without a visit to Slows downtown?! Just think guys, if you move back we can go to Slows all the time!....and no 100⸰ humid weather in the summer, we can go to all the great concerts you miss, and Zumba's, and the gorgeous sand dunes in western Michigan, and.....I could go on and on. Just let me know when you want me to start the house hunting for you! ;)
"Wherever we are, it is our friends that make our world." ♥
Well, things have continued to move at a non-stop pace in true Malley form since Brin and Andy left. Last weekend our good friend, Zak came to stay the weekend as we all went to celebrate a college buddy's wedding. Congrats Mike and Annita - we had a fabulous time at the wedding!
This Thursday is Mike's birthday! I can't wait to spoil him for the day like he truly deserves....although the poor guy will have to start his bday party with me at chemo that morning. If you see my lovely hubby jogging through the neighborhood (like so many of you do), or run into him somewhere else this week, please wish him a wonderful happy birthday because no one deserves a little extra love and attention like he does! I love you so much Michael John Malley!
This is my new mantra...every day is a blessing! Because although I have always tried to be a positive person, those five words have an entirely new meaning to me now. Every day that I get to look into those stunning blue eyes of Mikes, every day I get to fall asleep beside him & wake up next to him, every day that I get to hear my mom tell me she loves me, and every day that I get through (whether good, or bad), is a total and complete blessing.
Before I get into the latest update, let me say THANK YOU!!! You guys are AH-MAZING! I am so happy that I started this blog because it means the world to me to read your messages. I feel the love and support pouring through and it makes me smile so big and I love you guys so much. Mike and I are so blessed to have so many people love and care about us and it really means more to me than you will ever know. So keep it comin' :)
I want to also say that I am going to be completely truthful on this blog. It makes me feel better to get it all out there, whether it's good or bad. So buckle up kids because I think it's going to be a pretty long and bumpy ride.
So, Thursday was a long day spent at the hospital & really just involved a lot of talking and getting familiar with how this whole process is going to work. We met with my surgeon, Dr. B and she explained the initial biopsy results. Although we don't know a lot yet, I'll be honest when I say that it wasn't encouraging. She said that I have Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer - I would provide a link about this but I have made an official promise to myself that I WILL NOT be searching anything on the internet. It will only freak me out and I would rather just focus on what my doctors are telling me. Anyways, this form of cancer makes up about 10% of all breast cancers and it is more common in younger women. Dr. B said it is "very sneaky and very hard to detect". My heart sank when she said she suspects it was there the entire time when I had an ultrasound and mammogram in January 2010. That was a tough pill to swallow.
The biopsy tissue is rated on a scale of grade 1, 2 or 3 from least to most aggressive. This is different than actual staging of the cancer. My cancer has been rated a 3. This lobular form of cancer, and the fact that I am so young, tends to mean this thing is going to be aggressive. I am not going to lie - it is scary. But, we will just be aggressive right back...and I am pretty sure you all know that I have no problem being aggressive:) Apparently, this cancer doesn't realize that I am a red-headed, Irish, Aries with a fiesty and stubborn spirit and I don't back down easily!
We also discussed many things such as where I should be treated...Beaumont, Karmanos, Henry Ford, U of M...so many choices and so many opinions- it can get overwhelming. The great thing is that my surgeon at Beaumont used to work at Karmanos up until 2 years ago so she has a lot of great insight. We really like her and feel comfortable with her so we have decided to stay at Beaumont's Breast Care Center with Dr. B and then my oncologist will be Dr. F from Karmanos. We have heard from numerous people that, "he is the best!" So that is very encouraging. The bad news was that he is booked solid and couldn't get me in until April 28. ugh! Heart sank again. I don't have time to wait that long. Well, my surgeon and the man upstairs pulled some strings and Dr. F is now going to squeeze me in on April 1, which is next Friday. Dr. B and Dr. F used to both work together at Karmanos and they both respect each other very much and continue to work very well together, so we feel like they will be a great team! Other members of my team are Nurse Linda- she is awesome and my mom loves her already - which says a lot since my mom has been a nurse for over 30+ years - she is a good judge of a great nurse! Heather is the nurse practitioner I first saw that referred me to get the ultrasound - she is young like me and super sweet and helpful. They have all given me their direct phone #'s and are always willing to talk and answer questions. I feel very comfortable in their hands.
The rest of the day consisted with meeting with the genetic counselors. For those of you that don't know, the cancer history on my father's side of the family is nothing short of frightening. Out of 10 children, 6 have had cancer - and all but one has had more than one bout with it. This has always been a red flag for my doctors-even before this diagnosis. So, the genetics people wanted to go over every little detail of each family member all the way back to grand parents and their siblings. To say it was exhausting and terrifying to see it all on paper is an understatement. They took 5 vials of blood and will be completing tests to see if my breast cancer is the genetic form. This is important because not only is this information vital for my other family members, but it also impacts what my treatment might look like. If I have the genetic form (which I am guessing it is), there will be a 60% chance I will eventually get breast cancer on the left side. The likely course of treatment that I have decided upon if it's the genetic form, is a double mastectomy. Get rid of everything and get me as healthy as possible, for as long as possible! I am not worried about how I will look or if I have hair...I don't care about any of it. I just want to beat this and LIVE!
This morning I had a CT scan of my chest, abdomen, and pelvis to see if this crap has spread to any of these places. If you are going to say any prayers, please direct them to this CT scan and pray that it shows NOTHING! I am so nervous about this test and I am praying so hard that this cancer has not invaded anywhere else. I should probably get the results Monday afternoon at the earliest. Monday morning I have an MRI of both breasts to see what else is going on in there, and I also have a biopsy of my right axillary (arm pit) lymph nodes. They are pretty sure the cancer has spread there already but let's hope it has stopped there. Then next Friday, I meet with Dr. F (oncologist @ Karmanos) for the first time and at that point we will have all the test results and can start figuring out a game plan. I will definitely have surgery, and definitely have chemo. Not sure which order or when but we all think things are going to be moving pretty fast from here on out. Who knows how much time we have already lost.
I am looking forward to a fun weekend with friends and going to a photography workshop on Sunday called, "Babies, Babies, Babies" where we learn how to photograph newborns:) I am sure it will be the perfect distraction. I plan on heading back to work Tues, Wed, and Thursday and Mike is planning the same. Thank God we both have such supportive work environments that are making this as easy for us as possible.
Well, I think that covers it for now! Sorry for being so long winded here but I really just want to get it all out there so everyone has all the details. Thank you again for all of your love, support and prayers. Keep us smiling and laughing - it really does help!
A few things that made me smile today: my adorable pup who is cuddling more than ever - I swear, he knows his Momma is sick. And my tulips, they are coming up strong! love it and can't wait to get out in my garden soon!
I bought this little pillow in a cute boutique while we were just visiting Seattle. "Life is Good...Enjoy the Little Things"
My blog to keep you all