I can’t remember if I blogged about the results of the PET scans. The area in my neck, collar bone, underarm, and lung didn’t light up which means no cancer present. Praise God!!!! However, there was area in my chest wall that lit up. My breast surgeon and oncologist agreed that surgery will be best and then have it biopsy. Surgery went well, per the operative note the area was larger than it looked from the outside. Drum roll…..the biopsy came back negative for cancer. I am healing well from surgery and the next step is radiation treatment and continue Keytruda infusion. I believe staying positive and having faith in God’s healing is playing a big part of my healing. What I am learning is how to be more kind to myself which involves changing my focus to the present not the past or future, meditating more, being more grateful to be on the wake up list, and journaling my thoughts. Though my cancer journey has been very challenging, some good and a lot of bad but it’s allowing me to sit still, think, look at my life and the lives of others differently. This journey is teaching me that life is still living me and I am not living life. With baby steps I am learning to live life and one of the steps is making plans to travel. It’s so important to me that I use every waking moment loving myself, rest if needed, make plans, make memories, laugh, and dance. Life if short, life is now and I am going to embrace every second of it.
Today is my mom’s birthday, she would have been 92 years young. I remember how the older she became the more nurturing she was and wiser. She was a women of strength, tell it like it is but in such a manner that made you think, and so much more. When I was first diagnosed in 2015, I was still mourning the loss of my mom but I also said to myself I am glad she’s not here to see me go through cancer. I thought it would be too much for her to see me in so much pain. Now that I was diagnosed again in 2021, I have cried out for her so many times needing to cry on her shoulders, hear her voice, to feel her touch, and to hear her say it’s going to be alright. Sometimes I wonder what she would say to me on all those nights I cried myself to sleep. I am a firm believer that’s she’s with me in spirit, I may not hear her voice but I know I can talk to her. I mourned the loss of my mom more than I did my dad, I have no idea why. However, I do think about him too, he would have been 118 years young in April, wow. Let me tell you at 82 years young he didn’t look or act like it at all. I lost both of my parents when they were at the age of 82. This second time around with cancer is different and challenging most of the times both emotionally and physically. If you haven’t gone through it personally it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on inside our hearts and minds. I smile a lot and speak positive affirmations over myself, but sometimes I am screaming inside needing something or someone. Even though I have a support circle of family and friends but with COVID going around my visits are very limited so I spend a great deal of time alone. Sometimes it’s okay but a lot of time it’s not. I can only imagine if my mom was still on this earth how I would either be at her house getting loved up on or she would be at my house everyday. People…those what we call nagging or repeating questions our parent(s) ask us, one day you will miss being asked those questions. I miss my mom asking if I am okay, do I need anything, and all those mommy questions. Mom…I miss your voice and I need to hear you ask me those questions because this journey is so different. That is one of many words I would say to my mom. I had my mom for many years and if you still have your parent(s) please embrace every moment you have with them, make memories, listen to them, and truly love them the way they should be loved. Today is today but tomorrow isn’t promise.
I thought I was making it up, but there’s such a thing. What is chemo stomach or bloating? Per Google, “chemotherapy can cause both increased and decreased motility of the intestines. In other words, the normal wave-like action that moves stool through the bowel may be faster or slower than usual.” I have been experiencing a lot of bloating during and after chemo, not a good feeling. Also with the bloating I am experiencing fluid buildup in my body and face. After seeing a recent picture of myself I decided to do some research. What I learned was consuming fermented foods and liquids like yogurt, kimchi, vegetables, green teas, fermented teas(black, oolong, up-erh, and fuzhuan), and fennel seeds is good for the gut. I have started drinking two cups of green tea, yogurt, and taking probiotics. So far the bloating is less, but I will know more at my next chemo since that’s when I experience the bloating the most. I use loose green tea leaves that I purchased from Bulk Herb Store and purchased probiotics off of Amazon(Daily Probiotics-see picture below). Remember being your own advocate is important and part of being my own advocate is listening to my body and doing the research.
I think counseling is very important especially if you’re diagnosed with a life threatening illness. When I was first diagnosed in 2015 I tried counseling after treatment which was helpful at that time. Being diagnosed again I decided to do counseling again but during treatment. I am hoping that counseling will help me to deal with my emotions about my diagnosis, loneliness, and isolations that I have been feeling. Having a Couselor that specializes in cancer is very helpful. No matter how big or small your support group no one will completely understand what you’re going through unless they have walked in your shoes. I do recommend finding a local organization or program that offers free counseling. Some churches offer counseling too. If counseling isn’t for you, how about yoga or meditation. Remember life is short, live it!
No chemo today due to my white blood count being very low, it would have been part 2 of cycle 4. But today’s blog doesn’t have anything to do with today, it’s about what I have learned so far since being diagnosed a second time with cancer. When I was diagnosed in 2015 I accepted almost everything my doctors said without asking a lot of questions because I felt they knew what was best for me. This time around I have a lot of questions and even considering a second opinion in the middle of treatment. As the patient we assume that our doctors know what’s best so we put our trust in them. If you are reading my blog and going through any health issues it’s okay to ask questions and to get a second opinion.
Sometimes receiving news about our health will numb our thoughts and emotions. Once that feeling ease up remember that your doctor is working for you and hopefully in your best interest. If you’re feeling overwhelmed I recommend a family member or friend to attend your doctor appointments with you that can either record or take notes. Ask lots of questions, even the ones you may think doesn’t make sense. It’s okay to say “No” if you don’t agree or want a second opinion. For example, if it’s a cancer diagnosis and the doctor wants to do chemo, radiation or even surgery it’s okay to say I need time to think about it, I want a second opinion or choose to take a holistic approach. As patients be your own advocate, speak up and speak out. If being your own advocate makes your doctor uncomfortable maybe he or she isn’t the one for you.
I am currently receiving chemo treatment and I ask questions at every appointment. Here are some questions I have asked and probably will ask again. Can I get a copy of the pathology report, will I be able to work during chemo, are there grants to help pay for chemo, what stage is the cancer, what’s the size of the tumor, how often will I receive chemo, is radiation necessary and why, what’s the success rate of the chemo drugs, are the chemo drugs trial drugs, will steroid be given, why surgery is needed or not, and what’s your experience with my type of cancer. These are just a few of my questions. Since my cancer is Triple Negative Breast Cancer which have spread to my neck, chest, lung, and under my arms I would want an oncologist that have experience in that type of cancer and that’s why I am considering a second opinion in the middle of treatment. Remember, it’s okay to be your own advocate.
It’s after midnight, I am up blogging and looking at pictures of my granddaughters because as always I get restless before chemo. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day, I have labs, appointment with my oncologist, and chemo. With the restlessness I started to remember what an amazing day I had. It started off with an early lunch date with my daughter, as always we have the most amazing conversations and laughter. The love and kindness didn’t end there, I received the most beautiful pink flowers from an employee at Trader Joe’s. All the love I was receiving I decided to purchase a record player to play my brother’s vinyl records, oldies but goodies. It was nice to treat myself, had a little encouragement from my daughter. Listening to some old school music brought back some memories and inspired me to dance a little. As I sit her typing I realized that my support circle may be small but I am grateful. Just thinking about today is putting a smile on my face and the restlessness feeling is going away. This will be part 1 of cycle four of chemo which means I have two more cycles to go. Dear cancer, life is short so I am going to live it.
It never fails a few days before chemo I become restless and a need to break the cycle of being in the house. Sometimes my house feels extra quite even with the sound of the television or music. When the thought of chemo is heavy on my mind it makes me feel so nauseous. It’s almost like I can already smell the flushing fluids which makes me so nauseous, if chemo is harming my organs, and how chemo makes me feel. When those thoughts surface I try to turn it into something positive, but it doesn’t always work like tonight. I am reminding myself that I have three more cycles to go. Really looking forward to ringing that bell. I read something today and two phrases caught my attention “It’s not uncommon to feel discontentment when we cannot control our situation” and “what matters is how we respond when those feelings grip us”. Those phrases was from the daily devotional from Dr. Charles Stanley. I am meditating on those phrases and will try to remember them when I am restless, anxious, frustrated, or feeling of loneliness. As I prepare for bed, I will give myself a gentle reminder that God is always with me and He will comfort me through what ever I am feeling. My prayer for everyone that’s fighting for their lives that God will grant you peace, grace, mercy, circle of love, and the spirit to fight.
It was confirmed on April 9th a day after my birthday that my cancer returned, but in my upper chest area, neck, small spot on my lung and under my left arm. As I was sitting receiving the news that shock the heck out of me I felt I was having an out of body experience, my mind was so far away. I remembered looking up at the ceiling as if I was looking or maybe talking to God. Forcing my attention back to my oncologist she seemed optimistic with the treatment plans of chemo, possible surgery, and radiation. Even though she seemed positive all I could do is cry. No one should ever receive this type of news alone. One thought that kept popping up in my mind was I have to live to see my granddaughters grow up, get married, and have children of their own. The other hard part of that day was having to tell my adult children which was very emotional, I remembered crying the whole time talking with them. As I sat alone at home to gather my thoughts one thing was clear God got me and He will bring me though this journey.
Moving forward, I am currently in treatment which have been very difficult, two weeks with chemo and one week off. This treatment is definitely different and challenging. So thankful for the support and love I have been receiving. Remember caregivers needs support too. The presence of family and friends is so important even if it’s in person, phone calls, and by texting. What I have learned from my first diagnosed is to focus on who’s here and not who’s not. Action is so important than words to anyone that’s fighting for their lives.
I read for the second time “Radical Remission” by Dr. Kelly A. Turner and I wondered how did I miss some of the stories from the first time. So many wonderful survivor stories that will inspired anyone. Some survivor did conventional treatments and holistic, holistic only, life style change, healers, and/or just looking deeper in their lives. One story that stuck out to me was the survivor who suggested to “show cancer love” or “to ask why did it return”, I thought that was weird, why would anyone do that was my first reaction. So I figured I would try it myself. I put my hands on my cancer and started talking to it but in a loving way, I even asked the question “why did you come back”. Okay, I wasn’t expecting my cancer to answer back but I felt a deep connection, hard to explain but it was a feeling of peace. Part of talking to my cancer I was experiencing a deeper relationship with God. Do what works for you on your journey not what other people think you should do. Because no matter how many people that’s in your support circle it’s still your journey. Each day I wake up and say “Thank you God for the gift of life”.
My healing not only include a deeper relationship with God but a revaluation of my life. Like finding my purpose or what makes me happy. Does my job make me happy or is it stressful. Before my diagnosis it was stressing me. What do I want to do with my life? Do I want to write a book? Travel? Become a certified yoga instructor? Open a business? I still have so many questions, but I am taking it one step at a time. One thing I started before being diagnosed is writing poetry, which is a way for me to express my thoughts. Also, part of my healing is taking a more natural approach like herbal teas, using CBD oil, and hemp tea from “Keep it Hemple”. The hemp tea works amazing for pain. Another part of my healing journey is meditating, sitting still, and being quite which to me is like food to my soul.
While on this journey I will be grateful for every gift God gives me. Life is short so live it!
It’s been over a year since my implants were removed. I still feel it was the best decision. Now 2021 is bringing another scare. My oncologist and I found a lump in the lower left side of my neck and chest area by my left shoulder. As I wait for an appointment for my scans my emotions are everywhere. Ever felt like crying or screaming but can’t, well that’s me. This reminds me that just because I am done with treatment the fight still continues.
Little history, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 with the guidance of my doctors we decided to remove both breast with reconstruction. Received my implants in 2016 and later in 2016 the implants were replaced with smaller size. Fast forward to 2019 and 2020, why the decision to have the implants removed. From 2016 to 2019 I was always experiencing discomfort which my doctors assumed it was the aftermath from chemo and/or scar tissue. Sometimes you have to step back and evaluate your health for yourself. What I noticed since receiving my implants not only was I experiencing a lot of discomfort in my breast areas I was dealing with fatigue, joint pain, limb numbness/tingling, ringing in my ears, sharp pain in my breast area, swollen lymph nodes, heart palpitation, digestive issues, dry skin, nauseous when I was having discomfort, and inflammation. Have you heard of BII(Breast Implant Illness)? I didn’t until 2019 and realized the symptoms I was experiencing were listed as having BII. In 2019 my doctor and I decided to have the implants removed, they were removed in January 2020. Let me tell you, the day after the surgery my eyes looked clearer and as time went by my skin was no longer dry. To be honest, I am glad the implants were removed, however, once the bandage was removed and I saw my flat chest with sunken in areas and the incisions it was very emotional. My daughter and I took pictures as part of my journaling. As time have gone by I have embraced it, kind of empowering because I survived, will continue to survive, and I have a story to tell to help someone with their cancer journey. It’s now 11 days since the removal of the implants, I know I am still in the healing process both mentally and physically but I don’t regret my decision. Post-op appointment is soon and hopefully my drainage tubes will be removed. Oh, when having implants removed drainage tubes are necessary. When I had my breasts removed I had four(two on each side), this time I only came home with two(one on each side). I am not going to post pictures, not ready yet. Moving forward, get to know and listen to your body.