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!
Well, nothing can hold me down for too long. :)
My surgery was last Tuesday with Dr. M and everything went as well as expected. We headed to the hospital around 7:15am, I was in pre-op around 8 or so...goofing around with the hubby to pass the time.
Surgery didn't begin until closer to 10am and the next thing I knew, I was groggy and attempting to wake up in the recovery room. Dr. M told the fam that everything went as well as it could have. He was surprised to discover an unusual amount of scar tissue that had developed on the left side. He said the mesh implant was well incorporated into my tissue, which is what is supposed to happen, but for some reason my body was still rejecting it. He cleaned out the scar tissue, removed the mesh piece, and replaced the implant with a new one.
Unfortunately, I did wake up with one of the lovely surgical drains that I came to despise after my mastectomies, but Dr. M assured me that it could come out in a few days. Dr. M is not only a talented surgeon, but an all around great guy and met me in his office on Saturday morning, even though it was closed, to take out my drain so that I didn't have to wait until Monday morning at my scheduled appointment. It means so much to me to have doctors that not only give me their personal cell numbers but are willing to see me on their day off just to make me more comfortable. I definitely felt so much better after that drain was taken out! Oh, and I should mention that he did a really great job aesthetically as well. I do have some minor post-surgical swelling but nothing compared to what was there before. My chest finally looks symmetrical again and back to the way it looked before this crazy swelling issue began in August.
Since the surgery on Tuesday, I have been taking it a little easy but overall I have been feeling really good. I really dread taking medicine of any kind and feel bad that my poor body has had way more than it's fair share of meds already. So, I took some Motrin the first day or so, but haven't taken any pain meds since. I have felt a little sore (mostly on my side where the drain tube was coming out of my chest), and definitely a little tired - but that's about it. I made sure to have a good chat with the anesthesiologist and nurse anesthetist prior to surgery about how awful my last experience was with nausea. They were really great and tried some different drugs with me and it really paid off because I didn't experience any nausea or vomiting after surgery at all. Woohoo! That's what I was most nervous about this time around.
I did get out of the house for Thanksgiving and spent the day at Momma Jan's with the fam. I was pretty worn out afterwards but it was nice to be with the family. Friday night I escaped the house again to see a movie with some girlfriends, and last night Mike and I went to see The Who! It was his bday gift this year and we had a great time. We were definitely the youngsters in the crowd but Mike loves his classic rock. :)
I am planning on getting back in the swing of things with my photography business this week and heading back to work in the clinic on Tuesday. Thank you so much for all of your prayers and well wishes. They truly do help ease my mind when I am heading into something like this.
As for what happens next, I will get my usual lovely injections this week and then the next big thing is SCANS! Ugh. The dreaded scans. Dr. F only ordered a bone scan and full body CT this time, so at least I get to escape the awful MRI machine. My scans are scheduled for December 19th - Merry Christmas to me. ;) The good and bad news (depending on how you look at it), is that I won't get my scan results until January 3. Good news - If the scans are great, it won't ruin my Christmas. Bad news - I have to wait a full two weeks to hear the news which could drive me crazy. Since I see my oncologist at a satellite clinic, he is only there once each week, and he is off on December 27, which is why we have to wait until the 3rd. This is obviously the most stressful and anxiety ridden time for us so I will definitely be asking for your prayers again.
Guess that covers it all for now. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It was wonderful seeing so many people comment on facebook about what they were thankful for. I hope that it carries over to the other 364 days of the year because there is truly so much to be thankful for - each and every single day.
A little peek at what I am most thankful for...
Just a quick little note to let you all know that surgery is tomorrow morning. I truly do appreciate all of your well wishes, prayers and good vibes. I need it and crave it and it calms my heart when I hear from you. Mike, Mom, Doug and I will head to the hospital around 7:15am and surgery will take place a couple hours later. I am not sure how long the surgery will last but I think a couple hours at the most. I am hoping that I will be back home and resting in my comfy bed with clean and yummy smelling sheets by late afternoon. :)
Thank you in advance for all of the support and prayers. Truly. I will update everyone when I am feeling up to it. If I don't get back to the blog before Thursday, I wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving with the ones you love.
ps - Speaking of the one's I love....my best girl friends surprised me with a ladies night out last weekend and it couldn't have been more amazing. I truly have the best friends anyone could ever ask for.
It's often quite overwhelming and daunting to think about how much can go on in the span of a couple weeks....how many emotions I go through...how many highs and lows there are...and how my the status of my health can change.
The past few weeks have been nothing short of exhausting and overwhelming. There are times when I want to share with you all what has been going on but I don't even know where to start, and it makes me feel exhausted just thinking about trying to catch everyone up to speed. I apologize for that because I know you are all waiting for updates and want to know how things are going. Prior to my last post about the loss of my uncle, I was prepared to tell you about my trip to Vegas for my friend Nikki's wedding. It was great to see my old college roomies and have a few days of R & R - although I actually got a little extra time than I bargained for since I accidentally booked my flight home on the wrong day. :) So, I got a little extra fun in the sun and enjoyed not only the warm desert air and sunshine, but laughs with friends, good food, a great Cirque du Soleil show and even won a few bucks! I am grateful for feeling well enough to travel and spend time with friends!
After I got home from Las Vegas, it was back to full blown busy mode with 2 or 3 photo sessions each week, an amazing acoustic Ben Harper concert in Ann Arbor with Mike, doctors appointments & my monthly injections, support group meetings, and a fun fall baking day with girlfriends.
The past week or two so has been an especially difficult one for me. Of course, it all stems from the loss of my Uncle Kevin and all of the emotions that brings. Then last Wednesday, Mike and I were invited to an impromptu small dinner with Ambassador Nancy Brinker - the founder and CEO of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization. My local Komen affiliate has been wonderful about listening to my concerns regarding how isolated the metastatic breast cancer community often feels in the midst of all the Komen events and fundraisers. I will write a more in depth post on this another time but the meeting was my opportunity to voice my concerns and opinions to Ambassador Brinker herself - and that's exactly what I did. I would say that dinner went well but it was the start of another emotional few days for me involving a lot of talk about cancer, cancer, cancer.
The following day, Mike and I left straight from work to be with my family in Grand Rapids as we prepared to lay my Uncle Kevin to rest. Thursday night and Friday were spent remembering what an amazing guy he was and what a great impact he had on so many people. As I said before, these things are even more difficult for me now that I am living with this disease. It makes me wonder - what songs will be at my service? Who will speak? Is this how my family will be talking about me? I am thankful that Mike lets me be free to talk about whatever I need to, at any time. So, as we left Grand Rapids and drove to Chicago, we talked a little bit about my funeral. No, I am not dying - and I don't plan on heading that way for a very long time. But the reality of this disease forces us to discuss these things sometimes. And contrary to what you may think, it actually makes me feel better to talk about it. It doesn't help when someone says, "don't talk about that" or "that's not going to happen". Let us talk about it because the thoughts go on in our minds anyways and if we are free to discuss it, it lifts some of that weight off of our shoulders. ("Our", as in those of us living with metastatic breast cancer and other incurable diseases.)
We arrived to Chicago on Friday night and I was looking forward to just relaxing with our good friends Beth & Ben - and that's just what we did. We were not only in Chicago to visit our friends, but we went so that I could attend the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network's Annual Conference. Although, it was great to meet up with some of my friends living with MBC, the conference was difficult for me emotionally. I think I will talk about it more in my next post, but let's just say I was hoping to feel encouraged, uplifted and empowered and instead, I left feeling emotionally exhausted, frustrated and very sad.
First thing on Monday morning, I found myself back in my plastic surgeon's office. Haven't had the chance to tell you guys, but the swelling in my left breast returned a few weeks ago. I know Dr. M told me that if the swelling ever came back, surgery was inevitable. Well, after discussing the issue once again, asking more questions, and shedding a few tears - I left my appointment with surgery on the books, as well as a decreased sense of confidence that this will be the last of these problems. Of course, I trust Dr. M very much, but there is just no telling what will happen after he opens me back up. He will be removing the mesh tissue that we think is causing all of the problems. He will also remove the implant and replace it with a new one. Not only am I worried about the usual side effects from surgery - infection, pain, and the fatigue that it brings over me - but I am worried about what will happen once that mesh is removed. I obviously needed that mesh the first time around because my skin wasn't strong enough to support the implant on it's own. I am now praying that somehow I will be able to successfully support the implant without the mesh, because if I cannot, it means more complications and more surgeries down the road.
I know that this is nothing major in the scheme of things and that things could be WAY worse. I get that -believe me, I do. But, for the first time last week, I finally hit a point where I just didn't want to try to find the silver lining. I didn't want to have a pity party, but I just wanted to be able to feel sad and discouraged and know that it was justified to feel that way for a little bit. I began to question many of my decisions. Did I do the right thing by having the left breast removed? Should I have just dealt with the mastectomy and foregone the reconstruction? Am I causing my body more harm than good in the long run by going through all of these surgeries and procedures? Once I let myself ask these questions, express these emotions, and work through my feelings, I felt better and could get on with my day.
So, surgery is now scheduled for November 20th - if I told you a later date, that's because there was an earlier opening so they are getting me in a little sooner. Please pray that everything goes very well and that my body can sustain this reconstruction without the mesh, and without further surgeries and complications.
Thanks for your constant love and prayers.
As much as I love my doctors and modern medicine, I have to truly give thanks to the big guy upstairs for this latest news. Thank you God for hearing all of our prayers and allowing these steroids to do their job so that I could avoid surgery! My prayers - and all of your prayers - have been answered and I couldn't be more grateful. Surgery has officially been cancelled!
I called Dr. M's office last week and asked if I could move up my appointment from next Monday to today because I really needed to know if I was headed to the operating room or not. I was done with my course of steroids last week and could tell that they obviously helped decrease the swelling but wasn't sure it was enough for Dr. M to think that we could cancel surgery. Well, I saw him first thing this morning at 8am and he was extremely pleased with my response to the meds. He said all along that he really didn't want to have to operate on me and it posed all sorts of potential problems to go back in and open me up. So, when he saw me today he was very happy and said that the risks of the surgery don't outweigh the benefits right now. He said that there is a 90% chance that the steroids have calmed things down enough that my body won't have any other reactions to this mesh device he implanted. On the other hand, if it flares up again and I notice more swelling, I definitely have to have the surgery. But, we will cross that bridge when (and if) we come to it. As for today, I am just rejoicing in this good news and thanking God for giving me the break that I so desperately was praying for. I know I could have handled the surgery but I was definitely praying that it wouldn't be necessary. Now I will pray that my body starts to accept this mesh tissue as it's own and that no future problems arise.
These last few weeks have been filled with many tough moments for Mike and I. Any time something like this comes up with my health it reminds us of the demon we are fighting. Not that we ever truly forget but we got back into the rhythm of our busy lives and started planning for the future and didn't let this disease dictate each and every move. All of that comes to a screeching halt when a complication arises. This latest course of events brought a lot of emotions, fear and worry back to the forefront of our minds. It reminded us yet again that the future is unknown - for all of us. It reminded us that we need to be thankful for each and every day because we don't know what is ahead around the next corner. It reminded us that although we can try to plan and set goals for the future, this disease has the potential to rear it's ugly head and interrupt our lives at any given moment - and that is a hard pill to swallow. As much as I feel like I have handled this roller coaster pretty well since March 23, 2011 - there are many moments along the way where the sadness and despair could easily take me over.
I truly thank God for Mike every single day for riding this storm out with me and for being there for me in my darkest hours. I truly don't know how he does it - how he holds it all together for me - how he watches me break down and then he ever so gently puts the pieces back together and makes me feel whole again. In my heart I know that we were put on this Earth to be together and that if I have him, I can make it through anything. Mike - I love you through the depths of my soul in a way I never even knew possible until my ability to grow old with you was threatened to be taken from me. You are the light through this darkness and it is because of you that I can see my way to brighter days.
Thank you to everyone that has kept me in their prayers. I am so, so grateful for each and every one of you and so blessed to have the amazing support system that I have.
I am off to Vegas this Thursday to celebrate my college roomie, Nikki's wedding! I am so excited to spend the weekend with my Miami ladies and now I feel like I have even more cause to celebrate. Watch out Vegas---here I come!
One of my very best friends (thank you, Meg!) encouraged me to sign up for these daily inspirational and uplifting emails back when I was first diagnosed. Some days they are about relationship drama or working out issues with friends, or something that doesn't necessarily apply to me. But, more often than not, I feel like the messages couldn't be more fitting and this one in particular really resonated with me this weekend. I think it is something we could all strive to be better at. I know I will refer to it often as I continue to ride out this roller coaster....
Well, things haven't really turned out as I had hoped since my last post. I am far too exhausted, physically and even more emotionally, to go into every detail - but let's put it this way - last Thursday was one of the worst days I have had since the initial days of my diagnosis. My ultrasound was completed but then when it came to having the needle aspiration, literally, all hell broke loose. The few hours spent at the hospital ended up being in a small exam room accompanied by my mom, 3 physicians, a radiology tech, and my plastic surgeon on the phone (who thankfully stepped out of surgery to call me and acknowledge my frustrations, and try to reassure me that he will take care of me and figure this out).
What set this entire drama in motion was when the tech informed me they wouldn't be doing the aspiration because there wasn't enough fluid - before the radiologist even looked at the report!!! I simply lost it...I felt blown off...I felt that I wasn't being taken seriously....I felt like I wasn't able to voice my frustrations...I felt angry, upset, furious...I felt like, once again, the exact department that told me nearly 3 years ago I was fine and had nothing to worry about after my initial ultrasound and mammogram, was once again failing me. I could have screamed....and nearly did. I was so angry and frustrated that I couldn't help but sob.
If I hear the words, "the chances are rare that this is anything serious" or anything to that affect every again, I will absolutely lose my mind. I am so sick of those types of words. Those words and that mentality from the medical community is how I even got in the stage IV position. I feel like the medical community failed me and that if they took my concerns seriously and didn't blow me off because of my age, I could have been diagnosed at a much earlier stage. I blame them for my stage IV status and I blame them for what will likely be my shortened life expectancy. So, to make a long story shorter - upon feeling those same emotions once again, I unravelled and voiced my extreme frustrations through an uncontrollable stream of tears. I ended up literally storming out of that room after we talked in circles and realized there was nothing else they would be doing for me that day.....needless to say, I didn't make it back to work as expected.
So, today (well, actually yesterday - now that it is 1am) it was back to Dr. M, my plastic surgeon, to figure out where to go from here. The ultrasound showed some fluid accumulation but not nearly enough to account for how swollen I have become. The swelling is actually in the tissues and cannot be aspirated. Dr. M is fairly confident that my body is having a reaction to the collagen mesh piece that he had to insert during the surgery in May to help support the left implant. The most likely cause of the swelling is an irritation or sort of rejection of this mesh piece, rather than my body recognizing it as it's own and absorbing it into my own tissue as intended. There is still the chance that the swelling could also be an infection, a rare lymphoma or some sort of lymphedema that has developed in the mastectomy pocket.
After discussing the various options, and after more tears of frustration, this is the plan....I will complete a course of steriods to see if that takes care of the swelling. I started the steroids today and will continue taking them for one week. Bring on the jitters, uncontrollable snacking, lack of sleep and all the other fun that comes with 'roids. ;) I will see Dr. M on 9/24 to see what the result of the steroids is. If the swelling persists, surgery is scheduled for October 4th. This will be an outpatient surgery to remove the collagen mesh tissue and to take out the existing implant and replace it with a new one. A sample of my tissue will also be taken at that time and sent to the lab to determine if everything is A-OK or if there is any sign of lymphoma.
I am obviously hoping that the steroids help, but I feel like surgery is a very real possibility this time. I once again broke down at my appointment today just out of pure frustration. I am just tired. I am tired of the constant issues and although I am aware that things could always be much worse, I just really wanted a break for awhile. I am grateful that these issues aren't directly cancer related and that I am still stable as far as my disease is concerned. Speaking of which - I will head to Karmanos tomorrow morning for my 8 week follow up. My oncologist, Dr. F is on vacation so I will just see Lynette (his nurse practitioner) this time and have to fill her in on all the latest and greatest drama.
I will obviously keep everyone updated and let you know what the plan is after my appointment with Dr. M on the 24th. Please keep me (and especially Mike and my mom) in your prayers. We are all just feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and exhausted - not only with this current issue but there are always other things going on too and it all piles up sometimes. I pray that whether I just need medication or if it has to be surgery, that it will be effective to deal with this problem and that there won't be any other complications or side effects.
Thank you for your love and support.
ps. We had an amazing weekend up north at Torch Lake with dear friends and I am so grateful we had that chance to get away and decompress. It was much needed!
Our precious Goddaughter, Alice....
Sweet Miss Emma enjoying the gorgeous Torch Lake summer day!
I guess once I had a taste of the sweet freedom after surgery, there was no keeping me down any longer. Ever since the nausea and soreness settled down, it seems like life has returned to it's usual hectic pace. No complaints here though - that's the kind of life that feels most 'normal' to me anyway. And I will always be grateful to be busy since that is a true indication that I am feeling good!
A belated Happy Mother's Day to all of you amazing mommas out there! I was able to spend that day hosting brunch for the fam over at our house and then heading out to GG's to celebrate with her, my aunts, uncles, and cousins. There aren't many things I can say about my incredible Momma that I haven't already gushed about in previous posts. All I know is that I would be lost without her, and Mike and I are beyond grateful to have her in our lives and help support us through all of the ups and downs of the past year, in particular. She deserves much more recognition than one special day allows! We love you Momma! ♥
I am also so grateful to have some other pretty amazing women in my life too...especially my grandma GG, and my Godmother, my Aunt Carol. Happy Mother's Day to you both, too! Love you!
Last Monday, I had my first follow up appointment with Dr. M since surgery on May 4th. He was pleased with how everything looks and how I have been feeling. Of course, I had to badger him and ask if I can please get back to working out and doing everything around the house that I want to do. He gave me the green light to go back to the gym but I am not able to do anything with my arms for another 4 weeks - no lifting weights, no pushing, no pulling, no picking up friends babies....oops, might have cheated on that last one a few times! ;) It is driving me nuts to not be able to do what I want, but I am trying my best to be a good little patient and make sure that everything heals just as it is intended to.
Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of being invited onto the field at Comerica Park during the national anthem and first pitch at the Tigers Game. It was such a neat experience to join other breast cancer survivors as the Tigers honored us with their "Going To Bat Against Breast Cancer" game. I met up with some of my YSC friends there as well. We wore the shirts that the YSC team is wearing for the Race for the Cure - it's pretty astounding to see the ages of our diagnoses on our shirts!
I was able to capture a picture of myself on the scoreboard of me taking a picture of the scoreboard! ha-sounds confusing, I know. Can you see where I circled myself in the pic below?
Wednesday night at Comerica was a blast! Then first thing Thursday morning, I headed to Karmanos for my monthly injections into my abdomen. In addition to that, I was asked to participate in an interview with our local ABC news affiliate, WXYZ Channel 7. The super sweet and lovely anchor, Alicia Smith, interviewed me. She wanted to know my story and what I have been through, about why I wanted to help start a young women's support group, and why I participate in the Race for the Cure and what it means to me to have others support me there as well. It was a fun morning and one more way that I am trying to help raise awareness for young adults faced with cancer. I haven't heard when it will air but it's going to be sometime this week before the race on Saturday morning. Channel 7 will be interviewing me again live at the race with my entire team there with me!
Here I am with Alicia Smith, who couldn't have been any nicer and made me feel much more relaxed on camera.
The rest of the week and weekend was filled with many Kettering baseball games, a trip to Eastern Market for flower day, and spending time with two of my favorite munchkins - Emma and Alice. Luckily for me, I have some pretty cute models to practice my photography skills with. :)
I also wanted to mention that a group of my wonderful friends are at it again this year and have formed their "Meghan Malley Rally" team for the 3 Day For A Cure event in August. I am so proud of them and honored that they want to dedicate their time and energy to this cause in my name. They are not only focused on supporting me, but on helping to generate more awareness for metastatic breast cancer and the importance for further research to help find a CURE!
Their fundraising efforts are underway and if you like to bowl, and love to support a great cause, we have an event for you! Check out the flyer for more details and click here to visit their team page to either join our team or donate! I am not an official participant, but I will be out there attempting 10 miles each day, so come join us August 17-19!
Keep your eyes out for me on Channel 7 news this week and come join us Saturday morning at the Detroit Race for the Cure! It is a wonderful event! Hope everyone is having a great week and have a fun Memorial Day weekend!
ps. - I would like to give a very special thank you to Dr. Schenden and his staff at Schenden's Medical Day Spa. Last week I was completely blown away by a letter that Dr. Schenden wrote me. He told me that some of his staff have been following the blog and have been touched by my story. Dr. Schenden mentioned that they knew one of the "30 before 30" items I wasn't able to cross off my list yet was to get a massage for Mike. Well, Dr. Schenden so graciously sent us two gift certificates for spa services at his medical day spa! One for Mike, and one gift certificate for me too! It was so unexpected and I am so grateful. People often do not realize the impact that one little note, or one kind gesture can have. I was brought to tears by this act of kindness and I am truly so thankful that such compassionate and thoughtful people are out there in the world doing things to help brighten someone else's day. Thank you so much to Dr. Schenden and his staff - It truly meant so much to us!
I am super excited to be coming to you from my desktop computer, and not the laptop - which means I have peeled myself off from the couch! woohooo!!! It's the little victories, people. ;)
Friday was a bit of a doozy for me but thankfully, all in all, surgery went well and was a success. I had to be at the hospital at 6:30 am for all my pre-op stuff, went into surgery a little after 8am, and was out of surgery a couple hours later. Dr. M came out to talk to the fam and let them know everything went well. The surgery itself was fairly uneventful except for one complication on my left side. There was an area where my pec muscle had sort of collapsed and wasn't covering the tissue expander properly. It's so interesting to find this out because I knew there was something wrong with this particular spot ever since my mastectomy. I could not only see, but feel that something was different there but no one knew what it was. Just one more example of how we should always trust our intuitions about these things - we know our bodies better than anyone! Anyways, Dr. M had to implant some sort of synthetic mesh tissue to build that area back up and apparently over time my body will begin to recognize this as normal tissue and start to heal itself. Modern medicine is amazing, huh?!
Although surgery went well, my experience in post-op while coming out of anesthesia was just about the polar opposite. I truly felt like I was hit by a Mack truck! Every inch of my body ached and hurt, and it honestly felt like I didn't have an ounce of pain medication in my body. On top of that, I was extremely nauseous and thought I was going to vomit. This was nothing like my experience with the double mastectomy. I was a little nauseous after that but my pain was so well controlled - this was a level of pain like I had never felt before! To make matters worse, my post-op nurse was let's just say, less than friendly or compassionate.
I was extremely groggy but I remember telling this nurse that I was in a great deal of pain. Well, she proceeded to say that because I was also nauseous she would not give me any Vicodin until I ate. Next thing I know, she shoves a bowl of saltines in my hand and tells me to eat. Now let's think about this...I have not been allowed to eat or drink anything for 14 hours at this point which means my throat is as dry as the Sahara, I was just intubated with a tube down my throat for 2 hours which means I am very sore on top of the dryness, and to top it off, I am nauseous and don't have the desire to eat one morsel of anything! I remember trying to chew and swallow one of the crackers, and the nurse comes back and says, "Well, did you eat?" I then nod my head yes and she looks in the bowl and with disgust she says, "Ugh, you only ate one - I am not giving you the meds until you eat more." This lovely lady then decides to sort of lecture me and make me somehow feel bad that I can't take the medicine she wants to give me for anti-nausea because I have a major sensitivity to it and it bottoms out my blood pressure...."Well, you would feel better if you could take the Zofran.....Well, I can't give you the Zofran so that's why you are nauseous...." It was as if she thought I was just choosing not to take it to be a pain in the butt or something. So what does she decide to give me? Benadryl! So now she expects me to finish eating those crackers while I struggling with every fiber of my being to keep my eyes open. Ugh - it was not fun.
Thankfully, what seemed like an eternity later, they let Mike, Mom and Doug come back and see me. They had been in the waiting room worried since Dr. M told them they would probably be able to see me 45 minutes after surgery, but in actuality it ended up being 2 hours because of all this nausea/pain craziness. I knew as soon as Momma/Nurse Jan was back there with me, I would get the meds I needed and hopefully start to feel better. Well, the next thing I remember is literally feeling like they were pushing me out of the door. The nurse told Mike to go get the car, my mom helped me get dressed and I just remember begging her to let me get back in the bed. The thought of being transported in a wheelchair and riding in the car sounded awful! I actually don't really remember riding in the car or how I got in the house. I woke up a few hours later in my bed and was so grateful to be feeling a little better and not so, "I was just run down by a stampede of wild buffalo" feeling.
My "Hope" bracelet is so special to me. I have worn it each and every day since last April when my sweet friend Katie gave it to me. She also gave a similar one to each of our Beauts, and one to Momma Jan. I am always bummed out whenever I have to take it off for surgery or an MRI.
Saturday I felt pretty darn good. Of course, I felt a little sore but I wouldn't really even call it pain. Mike had a baseball tournament which I didn't want him to miss, so Momma Jan stayed with me and I also had a few sweet visitors come by to keep me company and bring me treats--thanks friends! And there was one sweet puppy who wanted to be lazy and spend lots of time next to his Momma, on his new doggy bed....
Sunday brought some tummy issues that I always seem to have after surgery. The anesthesia and pain meds just mess up my stomach and make me feel nauseous sometimes so that was the problem on Sunday. I stopped taking the Vicodin on Saturday to try to avoid it's effects on my stomach but I think it takes awhile to have your system bounce back from all of that. I pretty much didn't move from the couch and just spent the day watching trashy tv. :) Yesterday, I started feeling better but was still dealing with a little bit of an upset stomach, but today I am feeling much better! I haven't even sat on the couch once yet today and it's already noon - victory! :)
I am honestly bored to tears and am not used to laying around like this. It's a catch 22 because I am bored but don't feel 100% well enough to go do much. Sadly, Dr. M told me absolutely no exercise for 2 weeks. I seriously just wanted to walk on the treadmill or slowly ride a stationary bike but he said, "NO!" Then when I said, "well, I will be able to just walk around the block, right?" He said, "what don't you understand about this - no!" It was kind of hilarious with the two of us going at it right before surgery. So, I will feel much better when I can get back to the gym and start moving again. I see Dr. M on Monday and hopefully he will cut me a little slack then. :)
In other news, I got my port out! Woohoo! That was a bit of an unexpected surprise. Dr. F told me last September when chemo was over that I could get it out but I was honestly worried that I would need it again for more chemo or something. After my good scans in February, I felt a little better about not needing it but I was still apprehensive. So, after my appointment with Dr. F a few weeks ago, I decided to just go for it and get it out. I figured that it would be nice for summer time to not have this big thing popping out of my chest, and Dr. F reminded me that it's a source of infection so it's smart to have it out. I scheduled outpatient surgery at the end of May to have it removed. Well, during pre-op while I was talking to Dr. M, he said, "Well, we aren't using it today so why don't I just take it out. I do it all the time!" Bonus! One less surgery to worry about. So, although my port never really bothered me and I didn't even mind it too much, I got rid of it and it's nice to have one extra foreign thing removed from my body. Now my little scar just needs to heal up and I'll be good to go.
Thank you for all your kind thoughts and prayers while I went into surgery and have since been recovering. It always boosts my spirits to hear from people and I appreciate it so much!
In other exciting news...this downtime has allowed me to concentrate more on my new little baby, "Meg Malley Photography". A few weeks ago, I officially registered my business with the county and I have decided to take the plunge into being a small business owner. I started a Meg Malley Photography Facebook page over the weekend to post my latest work...feel free to check it out here -http://www.facebook.com/MegMalleyPhotography
And of course, you can see my full website at www.megmalleyphotography.com. I am looking forward to devoting more time and attention to this part of my life because I truly enjoy it so much!
Hope everyone has a great week!
Do you ever sit back and take a minute to reflect on exactly where you are in your life? Not in the sense of a geographical location, but where you are spiritually, psychologically, emotionally. How did you end up there? What events throughout your life led to this exact moment? Where would you be if you chose the other path when you came upon the fork in the road?
We have all ended up exactly where we are based on a series of choices - and those choices have likely been influenced by a number of different people and circumstances throughout our lives. I think one major point of this crazy thing called life, is to learn from those choices - to reflect on where they led you - and to decide if that is a path you should continue to travel down, or perhaps it is time to venture out and try something new.
Are you truly happy in this moment? If not, what can you do about it? Are there steps you can take to actively participate in the direction your life is heading? Or are you willing to sit back and watch it all unfold without attempting to change the angle of your sails and steer yourself towards what brings you joy in this world?
The only way that I have found to live with true happiness while facing this disease, is to try to turn it into something positive. To try to somehow make a difference - to educate, to support, to befriend, to create awareness, to speak out. If I simply sat back and wallowed in self-pity about this hand that's been dealt to me, I would be miserable. What good would that do for anyone? For me, Mike, my family, and my friends - it would suck everyone down into a deep, dark hole. Instead, I have tried to do what I can to turn this situation around and make something good come from it.
I am grateful that New Balance and Chris Pearson, the director of the Mid-Michigan affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure gave me the opportunity to share my story last Sunday at the Race for the Cure in Lansing. I nervously stood on the steps leading up to the State Capital building and awaited my introduction. Just moments prior, I almost lost it as the opening ceremonies began and young dancers performed in front of the crowd. As I watched my mom and saw the tears stream down her face, I was reminded of how hard this is for everyone. But, I knew it was important that I take this opportunity to share my experience and try to make some kind of positive impact.
As Mike and I walked up to the podium, I felt a wave of nervousness wash over me. But after bobbling the first few words of my speech, I took a breath and simply spoke from the heart. I shared my story and emphasized what I believe to be the most important aspects of my journey - that it is a myth that young women are not affected by breast cancer, and that there needs to be more research and awareness for metastatic disease because no one dies from breast cancer unless they become metastatic. Research investigating why cancer cells metastasize and how to stop this from happening are the only ways we will actually find a true cure!
Thankfully, I was able to get through my entire speech without breaking down. That was one of my goals because once those flood gates open, good luck getting them closed for awhile! I want to thank Mike for literally and figuratively always standing right by my side, no matter what. There is no one I would rather travel down this road with than you! Thank you to my family and friends that came out to support me and to all of you that sent me well wishes and good luck vibes from afar. I am so thankful that I have received such amazing feedback from this - especially from my friends in the metastatic breast cancer community. I truly wanted to represent them well and speak on behalf of every single one of them.
If you would like to see my speech, please click on the link below. Looks like I can cross this one of my bucket list..."Share your story in front of 5,000 people!"
Here are a few pics from the day that Kyle captured...
I don't know what made Mike happier - listening to me speak or meeting MSU's football coach, Mark Dantonio and hearing him mention me in his speech to the crowd.
I love all of you guys - thank you so much for coming! Sorry we missed Aunt Erin, Mary, Melis, Brad and Payton in our group pic.
Well, tomorrow at 6:30am we are due to check in at the hospital for my next scheduled surgery - never a dull moment around here I guess. :) My surgery will begin at 8am and will last a couple of hours, followed by a couple of hours in recovery before I am able to head home. This is (hopefully) the last major step in my reconstruction process. Tomorrow, Dr. M will open up my scars from the double mastectomy and he will proceed to remove the tissue expanders and replace them with implants. He will then make some fine-tuning adjustments to ensure a proper fit, size and shape. Dr. M has informed me that I will likely be sore and down and out for a few days. I will have strict restrictions to avoid any lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling for 2 weeks at a minimum, and no returning to work for at least 4 weeks. Thankfully, momma nurse Jan and Mike will be here all weekend and into next week making sure that I am doing just fine. I am expecting surgery to go smoothly and that I will have an uneventful and speedy recovery.
I would greatly appreciate all of your thoughts and prayers as I head into surgery tomorrow - not just for me but for my family as they anxiously await the outcome, and for my medical team that will be taking care of me. Thank you all so much for your enduring support and we will be sure to update you soon once I am out of surgery.
Hi-ya friends...the Malley household is hustling and bustling like the good ole' days lately. Mike is in full swing with the baseball season (pun intended...hehe), I have officially started a new business venture (which I'll fill you in on soon), and I have been super busy juggling all sorts of other things like meetings about returning to work and getting tons done around the house before my next surgery...which is in 8 days! yikes! It finally feels like we are back to a little bit of what life was like before I was diagnosed - full schedules involving both work and play, cooking & eating dinner together every night (and at the kitchen table - no longer eating while laying on the couch or in bed), and just enjoying feeling well enough to tackle all sorts of things.
I realized that my 30th birthday came and went without me ever wrapping up my ambitious "30 before 30" list. I will admit - I didn't accomplish everything. But I will say, it was a valiant effort and I will definitely continue to cross off the rest of my list as the year progresses. Here is how I fared....
I have some pretty big things coming up in the next week. This coming Sunday, April 29 is the Mid-Michigan Race for the Cure in Lansing. I am proud to be the "New Balance Honorary Survivor" of this years race and I will be speaking at the opening ceremonies on the steps of the Capital building. I am using this opportunity to not only share my story, but stress the critical importance of further research in the field of breast cancer. I think that Komen and other organizations have done a great job of spreading awareness - but it's time for more! We all know what a pink ribbon means. Now it's time to really step up our game and put our money where our mouth is and find a cure! I am nervous to be speaking in front of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people but I feel like it is my responsibility to advocate for myself and the other men and women that are battling for their lives right along side me. Publicly speaking about myself and what I have been through is always an emotional thing for me so I am grateful that some of my close friends and family members will be there to support me. That truly means so much to me. The opening ceremonies begin at 1pm at the Capital in Lansing. If you would like more information, want to join our team, or donate to this cause, please click here.
The next big thing on the agenda after the Race for the Cure is that I will be having surgery next Friday, May 4. This is the next step in my reconstruction process. The surgery itself should only take a couple hours and I will come home that same day. I will share more details on that next week but needless to say, undergoing surgery is always an anxious time. I will once again be asking for all of you prayer warriors out there to start storming the heavens again.
In the meantime, here are some snapshots from my iphone to show you what I have been up to lately....weekly trips to the farmers market, lots of Kettering baseball games, new tasty recipes, juicing my veggies, roughly 30 or so pills every morning and then again at night, zoo trips with friends, doctors appointments, and babysitting our sweet Goddaughter...life is good!
Hope you all have a great weekend and that I see some of you on Sunday at the Mid-Michigan Race for the Cure in Lansing!
My blog to keep you all