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!
Chemo is over!!!! It's been 20 long weeks - 5 months - 4 brutal rounds of Adriamycin & Cytoxin - 11 rounds of Taxol - 15 rounds in all - total hair loss, including eye lashes and eye brows - 5 days of dramatically low blood pressure - 1 episode of passing out - 4 injections of Neulasta from Mike - countless medications - many headaches, visual changes, back and joint pain & muscle spasms - too many needles and pokes to access my port - weeks of annoying hot flashes, runny nose and eyes - daily fatigue with countless hours spent in bed, and.......I MADE IT!!! I am not the type to toot my own horn, but I must admit that I am pretty proud of myself for making it through these last 5 months. I rarely complained and tried to keep my head held high through it all, because I knew I could do it. I know I can get through anything, especially with my amazing support team. I swear, if all it took to beat cancer was sheer drive, motivation and hard work - I would have had it beat already! I can't thank you enough for all of the many ways you have shown your support throughout chemo - it has truly helped us get through the hardest times. I am so grateful that this first huge hurdle is over and that I made it through in the best shape possible, but I know the journey continues. There will be many more hurdles along the way, so let's get on to the next!
For many weeks now, I have wanted to share what Chemoland is like. But, there has always been something else that I wanted to share at that particular time, so I never got around to it. Today I wanted to give you a small glimpse into the world at the Weisberg Center (aka Chemoland), because it has become a bit of a second home to me - as odd as that may sound. The Weisberg Center is a satellite of the Karmanos Cancer Institute, located in Farmington Hills. The main hospital in downtown Detroit is a part of a huge medical center that is always crazy busy, with tons of people running around, and it can be a bit overwhelming. I am so grateful I get to receive my care at the Weisberg Center, which is a much more intimate, relaxed, and peaceful environment.
Here are a few pics I took to let you see where I spend much of my time these days. The images are limited in order to protect the privacy of patients that were already in the clinic on this day.
A couple snapshots of the lobby...there is also another section over by the windows with comfy arm chairs, a television, and reading materials.
A gorgeous water wall that makes the lobby feel very tranquil
There are three main areas in the building, aside from the reception and main lobby. There is the clinic where I see my oncologist, the front portion of the building where they do imaging and radiation, and then there is the infusion side where I received my chemo.
This comfy green chair in the infusion area is where I have spent many, many hours throughout the last 15 rounds of chemotherapy. There are walls on either side that allow for some privacy, a huge window on one side that looks out onto the garden, a television, and then one side is open so the nurses can keep an eye on all of us.
Behind the building there are beautiful, lush gardens with many animals, flowers, and sculptures. There is a patio with tables, chairs, and benches where family and friends are able to sit and relax. The windows on the left side of the picture below are the ones that you see in the picture above, next to my infusion chair. So this garden is what all of us patients are able to see while we receive our chemo treatments.
Doesn't it look as peaceful and relaxing as chemo can possibly be? Although the Weisberg Center is beautiful, that's not what makes me so grateful that I receive my treatment there. It's the wonderful people. There's Felicia - the receptionist that greets Mike and I every morning with the biggest smile and most heartfelt, "How are you?". She has known us by name since day #1. I don't need to sign in, or wait at the desk for my wristband - I am able to go relax in a comfy chair because Felicia insisted on it from the very beginning -she goes out of her way to come find me and check me in. She somehow knew when it was Mike's birthday and even tried to make it special for him by giving him a little "happy birthday" name tag. She is the best and I wish that every doctors office or hospital had someone like Felicia sitting at the front desk, always with a huge smile, and kind words to try to brighten your day and make you feel better.
I have talked before about how much I adore Dr. F, but I also love my infusion nurses - they are the best! Denise, Traci, and Ashley are the nurses that have taken awesome care of me during these months of chemo, and Tiffany who assists them. They are always so friendly, warm, and caring. As a patient, they make me feel that they truly care about me, that they are really looking out for me and that they are cheering me along! I am so grateful to have such a wonderful team around me. Even though I am glad to finish up these treatments, I will miss seeing them every week.
Although chemo is over, I will continue to spend a lot of time at the Weisberg Center since this is where I will always see Dr. F and where I will receive 30 radiation treatments later this year. If I have to go through all of this, I am at least glad that I get to do it here - a place that makes me feel so comfortable, and where the Cheers theme song is true, "where everybody knows your name!"
At 5:30 am the morning after chemo ended, we left for sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mom, Doug, Mike and I took a little Labor Day trip to celebrate finishing chemo treatments! Our wonderful friends, John & Paul invited us to come stay with them and it was perfect! They have a beautiful home on a canal off the Intercoastal waterway, only a mile or so from the ocean. We had a perfect trip spent relaxing at their pool, walking along the beach, eating lots of yummy food, and visiting with lots of friends! Aside from visiting with John and Paul, we were able to spend time with my mom's great friend, Sally and her family as well as meeting up with Brinley, Andy, Andrew, and Brin's parents. The weekend flew by so fast, but it was just what we needed to recharge our batteries.
John & Paul's home has the most amazing landscaping - their property is covered with luscious plants, trees, and flowers. You can't even see their house from the street, or from the dock because it is surrounded in this incredible landscaping. While relaxing in their pool, it felt like I was engulfed in a tropical forest that gave us complete privacy from the outside world. It was simply gorgeous.
Being near the ocean is always so relaxing for me. It is a great reminder that we are such a small part of this vast and huge world. Hearing those waves and seeing nothing but the bright, blue sea until it meets the horizon, helps me remember that there is a greater power at work in our lives and He is capable of amazing things.
John & Paul - thank you so very much for letting the four of us come invade your gorgeous Florida home for the weekend. We had so much fun with you and we are so grateful we were able to do this! Mike already misses his morning egg sandwiches. ;)
We are now back to reality. The school year officially started for Mike today and I will be heading back to the doctor on Thursday to get my test results and discuss our future plans. I hope everyone had a wonderful, relaxing Labor Day weekend. I'll be sure to update the blog again at the end of the week to keep everyone updated with the latest news.
Don't forget to mark your calendars for a great event on Sunday, September 25. Our dear friend, Patty has been working hard to make this happen and we are so grateful! Please contact Patty if you would like to contribute to the silent auction. Tickets for the event will be available at the end of the week.
Big birthday celebrations are not really his thing. He hates to be the center of attention and never seeks out the limelight. But on this one day of the year, my fabulous husband begrudgingly allows me to spoil him and give him some extra special attention, which he most definitely deserves. Mike would not be a happy camper if I went on and on about how much I adore him, how much he means to me, and what an impact he has had on my life over the last 12 years...see above sentence regarding his discomfort with extra attention. ;) And with my gift of gab, you all know what I really want to do is just that...write sentence after sentence after how incredible he really is. But the thing is, I don't even need to do that. Most of you that are following our journey, know Mike personally...and to know him, is truly to love him. Period. So, as one last birthday gift to my amazing husband, I will not gush about him - I will simply say that we had a wonderful time last Thursday celebrating his birthday. We had a very special and meaningful day together reminiscing about the past, dreaming of the future, and enjoying time with our family and friends. Happy birthday to my very best friend - can't wait to celebrate many more together!
The time has now come to round up the troops in order to bombard the heavens with prayers and good vibes. A CT scan of my chest, abdomen, and pelvis is scheduled for first thing tomorrow morning. Then on Tuesday morning I have an MRI of my thoracic spine followed by a full body bone scan. This is the first time I will have these scans done since I was diagnosed back in March. I have been so busy lately that it doesn't seem like I have had too much time to worry about these tests. But, I am wondering if subconsciously, I am more stressed about it than I thought. For the past week or two, I have been waking up at least 4 times each night, and have had difficulty sleeping for more than 2 hour increments. I wake up in the morning feeling like a zombie, with a sore jaw on top of that from grinding and clinching my teeth. I am really hoping that it's just due to anxiety and it will resolve after these scans are completed.
Repeating these tests is obviously scary, stressful, and overwhelming for a lot of reasons - one of which is because it brings me right back to the first few days and weeks of this entire ordeal. What a terrifying time that was for us. This time around I know what to expect, which definitely helps - but I don't think the fear and worry will ever go away. For the rest of my life I will be monitored by scans, tests and blood work and the truth is that as positive as I may be, I will always be terrified of what could happen. The reality is that things could always be worse, the scans could always show progression, and we could once again be faced with devastating news. I pray this is not the case, but I feel that preparing for the worst has helped me deal with whatever may come my way.
Early on in this journey, Dr. F explained to us that because my cancer is driven by estrogen, the hormone therapy I start after chemo will actually be my best weapon against this disease. Although we all agreed to start with chemo to try to contain the spread of the disease systemically, it is actually the hormone therapy I will start next that we will expect the greatest results from. With that said, we are prepared that these scans may not show any big changes since chemo started. And that is okay! The key is that we don't want to see any spread of the disease. If I have remained stable, that is good news to us - and if there does show a decrease in the tumor size or spread, that is icing on the cake!
I will finish (yes, I said FINISH!!!!) chemo this Thursday, September 1. I can't believe how fast these 15 rounds have flown by. I have some mixed emotions about wrapping up with chemo - it is my routine now, I know what to expect, I feel comfortable there, I know how I will feel afterwards, I know everyone and everyone knows me. But, I also know that it's time to move on to the next hurdle and get on with the show.
We leave for Florida with Mom and Doug super early on Friday morning. Yay! Our wonderful friends, John and Paul have invited us to spend Labor Day weekend at their beautiful home in Fort Lauderdale. We are definitely excited for an "end of chemo celebration" which will include sunshine, sandy beaches, and visiting with lots of friends! Not only will we get to stay with John and Paul but we will see one of my mom's best friends, Sally - one of our biggest cheerleaders and supporters! Then later in the weekend, we are meeting up with Brin, Andy and Andrew again!!! We are meeting them in West Palm Beach, along with Brin's wonderful parents, and I am so happy we get to see them again so soon. I am really looking forward to a little getaway to mark the end of a huge chapter of this journey.
Next week will bring the official start to the school year and Mike will be back at work full time. I know we are both a little nervous about it, but I am confident it will all work out just fine and I will be okay fending for myself at home. :) Mike is such an incredible teacher and he absolutely loves his job, so I am happy that he will be back in the classroom. I am so grateful to the Waterford Kettering administration and staff for being so amazing and allowing me to have my husband with me each and every day these past five months - I don't know what I would have done without him there with me and I am so appreciative to each of you that allowed that to be a reality for us.
A week from Thursday (on September 8), we will go see Dr. F to find out the results of this weeks tests. That will be a major appointment where we will discuss the next part of our game plan and figure out where we go from here. I am definitely having surgery, but there are also a lot of other treatments we may begin right away in the form of oral medications. Later that afternoon, I will also go see Dr. B at Beaumont to discuss final surgery plans and hopefully set the date for my mastectomy.
Wow, just typing all of that makes me feel exhausted - let alone going through it. Please keep me in your prayers this week - if you do already, maybe you could throw in a few extras. Please pray that the 4+ months of chemotherapy have stabilized this disease, that my healthy cells have continued to fight, and that my bones have remained strong and stable. Please pray that my incredible doctors and medical team continue to seek the most comprehensive and aggressive treatments available, that they are able to guide us along a healing path, and that they continue to push for more research and discovery for metastatic disease. Please pray that my family and I are able to ease our minds, calm our fears, and stay positive and hopeful throughout the many days of waiting for my test results.
I will definitely update everyone next week after our appointments. Until then, I want to pass along a moving and inspirational short film to all of you. It was shared with me by an amazing woman I have met that is also battling metastatic breast cancer. It is a powerful message regarding living with metastatic disease and I plan on playing it over and over again when I need a little boost. Please click here to read a short interview with the film's creator, and be sure to watch the 15 minute movie at the bottom of the page when you have time.
Have a great week and a happy Labor Day celebration. A special congratulations to my friend, Stacy! Sorry we are missing your big day - can't wait to see pictures. You will be a beautiful bride!
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!
Hello there friends! Before jumping into this week's happenings, I want to send out a huge thank you for an event that took place last week....
Mike's friend Steve S, a fellow teacher at Kettering, is the advisor for Kettering's Robotics Team. The team is competing in three tournaments this summer, in which their robots have to complete a number of timed tasks while competing against other schools. The Kettering team blew us away when they told us that they were dedicating their summer tournaments to us! This not only included turning their green Kettering Captain logo to pink, but they designed awesome shirts with "Let’s Beat This Thing / Driving Robots for Meghan Malley" on the back. How cool is that?!
The Kettering Robotics Team (aka Team 3098) also teamed up with the Team 1528 – Monroe Trojan Robotics, who hosted the Michigan Area Robotics Competition (MARC), last Friday, June 24th, and they all decided to make the ENTIRE event a benefit for Mike and I! We were so honored and touched! The teams raised money through t-shirt sales, silent auction, and "Robots for a Cure" bracelets! There was also a "Survivor/Honor Night" on Friday where the tournament honored all those that have battled any type of cancer. We were incredibly disappointed that we couldn't attend after receiving instructions to avoid public places after finding out that my counts were so low last week. Steve, Kettering Captains Robotics Team, and all participants of MARC...we cannot thank you enough for honoring us in this way. We are so deeply humbled and overwhelmed by your generosity and thoughtfulness!!! Thank you a million times over! ps. Congrats Kettering Captains on placing 4th out of 48 teams!!!
Thank you so much to Steve's wife, Angie for taking these pictures so we could feel like we were there last Friday!
It was because of amazing events like this that I was so disappointed about my "house arrest" since last Thursday! I am beyond ecstatic to report that I am now free as a bird!!! Yippee!!! Yahoo!!! My counts made a HUGE leap this week and Mike & I almost did a jumping high five in chemo this morning upon hearing my blood work report. It's so warped that we get so excited about being able to get chemo, right?!
My white blood cells shot up from 1,800 to 5,800, my hemoglobin rose from 9.0 to 10.3, and my neutrophils soared to 3,900 from a sad 300 last week! What a difference a week of complete and utter rest can do!
We were actually pretty nervous while driving to Chemo-land this morning because I have actually been pretty sick this week while attempting to fight off a wicked head cold. This annoying cold creeped in on Saturday after I ventured outside for a bit to walk to the pup around the block. Since Saturday, the cold has brought something new and exciting each and every day....complete head congestion, runny nose like a faucet, constant sneezing, and the finale...a hacking cough to the point of dry heaving. Oh, the joy of a summer cold mixed with no white blood cells to fight the pesky thing off! Thankfully, I felt a bit better this morning and the incessant cough stopped in time to arrive at chemo. Mike and I were worried if they heard that cough, we wouldn't make it too far past the front door! Just goes to show that you never know what is going to happen - felt good last week and had lousy counts, felt crappy this week and counts were much better than expected. Who knows?! Bottom line is...the value of rest and prayer cannot be underestimated! Thank you to my hubby in particular for scolding me every time I tried to push my limits, and thank you to all of you for your continued prayers for me to get back on track with treatment!
Now that my counts are up, I am no longer on "lock down" at home and I couldn't be happier! I can now go join the land of the living and most importantly, spend 4th of July weekend with family and friends! I have promised nurse Jan, aka Momma, that I will continue to be extremely cautious of germs, and not push my luck now that I have the green light to go back out in public.
Speaking of going out, I am very excited to let you all know about two more fundraising events for the 3 Day For a Cure event this August! I believe there are only three more events left before the race, so get in on the action while you can. I must admit, we are a pretty fun group to fundraise with:) Check out the flyers below for details - hope you can make it! I always look forward to seeing friends & family at these awesome fundraisers!
The "Meghan Malley Rally" 3 Day Team continues to do an AMAZING job raising money for breast cancer research and Susan G. Komen For the Cure. They have actually reached their team goal today of over $20,000!!! However, the fundraising continues in order to assure that each individual participant is able to reach the $2,300 needed to participate in the event.
Kara has a great ladies night planned at her house on July 8th. Tons of great vendors will be there with great merchandise, such as jewelry, purses, food products and more! The best part is they have all generously agreed to donate a portion of the proceeds to the 3 Day team! Can't wait to check it all out & see you guys there!
Another fabulous friend of mine, Diana M. has put together this amazing spa day at the end of July. It sounds incredible so get out your calendars and mark it down now! Check out the flyer below for all the great details on how your donation can treat you to a relaxing day at the spa! IMPORTANT: Please make sure to RSVP to the event at the number listed below, so Diana knows how many massage therapists and nail techs she will need. Come enjoy an afternoon of relaxation benefiting the fabulous 3 Day For A Cure team! Thank you Diana! ♥
Thank you again for all of your prayers for elevated blood counts this week! They clearly worked and I am so grateful. I guess the ole' body just needed a break last week, huh? Normally, we usually go out of town every 4th of July with a great group of some of our best friends. We have made a collective decision to keep the celebration local this year and keep it a little more low-key, and I must say I am pretty excited about not hitting the road again. In addition to that, I am THRILLED that Mike and I will be able to head to my Aunt Ree's house on Saturday to see many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins - especially Becca, Jon, Nate and Teagan from Denver! YAY! I can't wait to see you guys!
Each night, I always take a minute to think about what I am grateful for. Lately, I am so grateful for all of you, your prayers, and support. I am also grateful for the opportunity to spend Independence Day Weekend with our family and friends - enjoying sunshine, cookouts, and bonfires! Life is good!
Happy 4th of July!
This guy has been keeping me great company this past week. Have you ever seen a cuter furry face?! I mean, come on - he is undeniably the most adorable pup on the plant. (I guess I may be slightly biased) ;)
Hustled outside after my post-chemo nap to snap a few shots of the garden before I lost the sunlight. Spending time alone in my flower beds is something I find so therapeutic and relaxing - can't wait to feel well enough to do it again soon!
Well, I got the boot today...got kicked out...told to hit the road...adios amiga...catch ya later! In all seriousness though, I did get sent home from chemo today because my counts were too low. I am super bummed out, and somewhat surprised. I know it might sound crazy, and most people would love to get out of chemo for the day - but when you are in the midst of this, all you want to do is blaze through it as quickly as possible. Now we are delayed and everything gets pushed back another week. I know it's not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but of course being the planner that I am, we already had a family vacation planned for the first week of September and my date for surgery was somewhat set. Now, all of those dates are out the window because I will no longer be done with chemo on September 1 as originally thought.
After checking my weight (which was up - yay!) and my vital signs, my nurse, Denise accessed my port to draw my blood. Mike and I waited awhile to hear the results but I never thought they would be too low to get chemo. Denise finally came back and said that my counts dropped significantly since last week and that she would be very surprised if Dr. F allowed me to get chemo today. Sure enough, Dr. F said "no way, Jose" and we were sent packing. I didn't actually get to see Dr. F this time, but Denise explained that this may still be residual effects of the first set of drugs I was on, since those are so tough and usually drop your counts much more than the Taxol that I had last week. My white blood cells, specifically my neutrophils, are severely low.
White blood cells (WBC's) are part of our immune system and are the ones that we need to help fight infection. There are five different types of WBC's, one of which is called neutrophils. Neutrophils make up approximately 45-70% of all WBC's. The normal range of WBC's is 4,300-10,600 cells per microliter of blood and the normal value for neutrophils is 1,580-7,130, with neutropenia (low neutrophil count) being classified as anything lower than 1,700 and severe neutropenia being anything lower than 500. Well, today my WBC count measured at 1,800 and my neutrophil count is only 300! So, this means I am at an extreme risk of infection because my infection fighting cells are significantly diminished. On top of that, my hemoglobin (part of the red blood cells that carry oxygen) has dropped again. The normal value for hemoglobin should be between 11.5-15.1, and mine measured at 9.0 today. Low hemoglobin can cause symptoms such as fatigue, headache, dizziness, lack of concentration, and shortness of breath.
So, what does this all mean? I have to be EXTREMELY careful to avoid infection. We have to be very diligent about hand washing and keeping our house germ free. I am no longer allowed to be in crowds, around children, or near anyone that may be sick. If I have to go out in public, I have been instructed to wear a mask over my nose and mouth to avoid any possible risk of infection. I knew I wasn't feeling the best earlier this week, and even told Mike that I thought I might have over done it by going to Nashville, but I never thought my counts would be so low. All I can do now is to rest, hydrate, stay infection free, and pray for elevated counts when I go back to chemo next Thursday.
I am a bit frustrated and disappointed, but more than that, I am a little sad that this has once again served up a dose of reality and it makes me nervous. I sometimes feel invincible - that I can handle anything - that even chemo can't knock me down too hard or for too long. Today was a reminder that even if I am feeling mentally tough, physically my body is still fighting so hard and no matter how much I try, there are certain things I don't have control over - such as my blood work. I never would have guessed that my counts would be so low today and it just scares me because right now, I need chemo! Although it is the chemo that is making me so sick, I still firmly believe I need it to save my life. I just pray that I am able to get back on track soon.
So, it looks like I will have to cancel all of my plans for the next week- which is such a bummer especially because my wonderful cousin, Becca and her husband and two sweet kiddo's were coming for a visit from Denver. I am hopeful that my body will be in fighting shape by next Thursday and I can resume my treatment plan then.
Thanks again for your continued love, support and prayers! Since I am going to be trapped at home for the next week, does anyone have any good jokes? Movie recommendations? Books? Say an extra prayer for Mike that I don't drive him insane this next week- haha! :)
Looks like these will be the only faces I get to see for awhile....good thing they are both so darn cute :)
Ladies and Gentlemen...in our left corner is the creepy, sneaky, no good "C word"....and in our right corner, weighing in at...(nice try, still not going to reveal that much!) is the fierce, Irish, stubborn, red-headed Meghan Kathleen Malley!!!
Round one of chemo has been completed and I think it's safe to say, I came out on top! To catch you up to speed after the last post...Mike, my mom, Doug, and I met with Dr. F on Thursday morning to discuss the latest turn of events...the dreaded positive spinal biopsy. This is definitely a game changer since my cancer has metastasized so we needed to discuss goals, treatment options, side effects, expected outcomes...all that super fun stuff. After some discussion, we decided to continue full steam ahead with the most aggressive plan which includes some tough chemo drugs for the next 5 months, most likely followed by a double mastectomy, radiation, reconstruction, and hormone therapy. I will most likely have some radiation to my spine thrown in the mix too, depending on my symptoms and if I am in a lot of pain. This entire plan could change at any time depending on how I respond, what my imaging results look like, how I am feeling, etc. So, my first round of chemo started right away yesterday morning after talking with Dr. F.
My port was accessed successfully and my blood can now be drawn through there (I swear, I heard my veins cheer a big, "Thank You!"), and my chemo drugs can be administered through the port as well. Dr. F, the clinic nurses, and the chemo infusion nurses were all great! Super friendly, compassionate, and caring which made the entire process much easier. I am going to be seeing a lot of them from now on, so I am glad we are all on track to becoming BFF's ;)
Of course I wanted to document the day through pictures - must have looked like a huge weirdo to everyone else as I excitedly said, "oh yay chemo! take my picture!" I know it might sound bizarre, but all of us felt so relieved and truly excited to start chemo. Who would have thought a few short weeks ago, that I would be so thrilled to start pumping toxic chemicals throughout my body that will not only kill bad cells, but also a tremendous amount of my good ones! We were just so fearful that Dr. F would not want to be as aggressive as we did, and it feels so good to know that I am truly waging war on these monstrous little demon cells now!
Chemo Day #1 Posse...how can you have a bad day when you are looking at these three smiling faces? Isn't the one in the blue so handsome?....hands off ladies, he's taken!
So, my first chemo treatment went great - no complaints. I actually found out that there are four of us receiving chemo on Thursday's that are all Dr. F's patients, and all have breast cancer, and we are all under the age of 35! So crazy. One of those other women was there when I was and was willing to chat with me. It was so great to talk to her - she is awesome, optimistic, and upbeat! We talked for over a half hour or so and it felt so nice to have someone to relate to that was my age. She is receiving the same regimen of drugs that I am and she is two treatments ahead of me, so she could offer a lot of advice and heads up on how I may feel. I loved having the chance to talk to her and I immediately feel better knowing there will be a familiar face receiving chemo with me on Thursday's!
After "Chemo Land", as Dr. F jokingly calls it, we went to lunch and ran a few other errands which ultimately revealed to be a little too much for post-chemo Day 1. I have come to realize that the true Meghan fashion of running around and doing a million things at once is not always possible at this point. Needless to say, I was exhausted for the remainder of the day and stayed in bed. Today I have felt great, aside from just general fatigue.
Luckily, I have the most amazing caregiver in town..and the cutest too! I can get through ANYTHING with this guy by my side ♥
This afternoon, I met with a wonderful friend that I went to school with since we were in the first grade. Unfortunately, she has been battling cancer for 12 years. I knew right away after I was diagnosed that it would bring me great comfort and insight to talk with her. We chatted away today for 3 1/2 hours and it was just what I needed! I can't thank you enough for all of your guidance, words of wisdom, and support as I join this club with you - although no one wants to be a member, I am grateful to have you on my team as I embark on this journey!
I am looking forward to another wonderful weekend ahead - this crumby disease can't ruin my social life :) All but one of my wonderful Beauts will be home for Easter weekend (we'll miss ya Jen!) and we are all getting together tomorrow night. Sunday will be spent celebrating Easter with the fam, and I couldn't be happier to see many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins!
I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. As always, thank you for your constant outpouring of love and support for myself, and my family! It truly means so much to all of us and we can't thank you enough!
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