In the beginning….
It was April of 2006 and a tropical storm had me trapped indoors cleaning and organizing the house. After working all day a nice hot shower sounded awesome. Just as I was starting to relax I noticed an area of my left breast felt unusual and was painful as I traced it with my fingertips. Wonderful, I thought to myself. Because of the weather there was no other option than to wait. This particular storm lasted two more days, at which time the search for a physician began and let me tell you, this wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. The first few physicians I contacted were booked months into the future and others weren’t accepting new patients. Despite informing the office staff as to the reason I was seeking consultation, they were firm turning me away. Desperate for answers I headed to the emergency room. Reception promptly checked me in and within a minutes I was being seen by the attending physician. After the initial examination a mammogram and ultrasound were ordered and performed that day. Within the hour we had results which showed a mass and received a referral. I was able to schedule an appointment the same week. The morning of my appointment I mentally prepared myself for the worst news possible. The physician was very thorough in obtaining my history, ordering a chest x-ray, EKG as well as complete bloodwork. He performed a core biopsy in the office that same day which was extremely painful and made me scream obscenities. He informed me that the results would be available the next day and so I scheduled a follow-up appointment.
It seems like yesterday (2006) hearing that I had breast cancer, or in more definitive medical terms, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) ER+/PR+. At first, the news was overwhelming but I entered ‘work mode’ and decided the best coping strategy was to make cancer my full-time job. I found an oncologist and hospital that made me feel comfortable, battled through chemotherapy (Cytoxan/Taxotere), radiation, lumpectomy with removal of lymph nodes, total hair loss, crappy wigs and five years of Tamoxifen. I made changes to my diet and lifestyle because I was determined to beat this disease. At first, it was easy to follow the strict goals I had set for myself but after a couple of years of having tests show no sign of disease, I started allowing myself occasional indulgences. We are all aware that once the ball starts rolling downhill it’s hard to stop it. I traveled a bit, did whatever I wanted, met and married my best friend and relocated to West Texas. This meant finding a new medical team which I did. A little over ten years had passed with no sign of disease, then in April of 2015, my routine chest x-ray showed bilateral lung spots and a lung biopsy was ordered. The procedure was explained and I was afraid for the first time. Again I mentally prepared myself and arrived for the procedure. A nurse gave me a mild sedative for anxiety, started an IV and went to let the doctor know I was ready. He entered the room and told me it would be risky to biopsy these spots as they were too small. His discharge instructions were to repeat the chest x-rays regularly to monitor changes in my lungs. A lot changed during the next few months. I was experiencing shortness of breath on minimal exertion, coughing and difficulty swallowing. I found a physician, made an appointment, further tests including a bone scan, CT of the chest and CT the abdomen were ordered which I did. Results of these tests revealed areas of concern on my hip bones, spine, lungs and liver in addition to pleural fluid on both lungs. I must say that this particular physician’s manner was dismal. While explaining my results to me he basically appeared amazed that I was able to walk into his office in my condition. He recommended thoracentesis to drain the pleural fluid. At that moment it was decided to change hospitals and physicians. After much research I debated on travelling back to the Houston where I’d been treated initially in 2006 but was lucky to have found a great team in Dallas that I am very comfortable with. After reviewing my records and test results, we scheduled thoracentesis and hip bone biopsy. When I returned for my follow-up visit she informed me that my cancer had metastasized to my hip, lungs, and spine. Fortunately, it was determined that the spots on my liver were nothing more spots. It was also determined to be non-aggressive at this point. Oral chemotherapy (Ibrance) and an aromatase inhibitor (Letrozole) were prescribed which I will take until it stops working at which time I will begin again with another drug as this disease is something that supposedly lasts forever.
My personal belief is that cancer doesn’t have to be a forever disease and can be treated naturally through healthy diet and lifestyle. I believe it can be controlled or reversed without the use of carcinogenic pharmaceuticals, however, those options are either unavailable to us, advised against or are illegal which is very sad.
Currently, I am working toward my Associates degree in Environmental Science: Health and Safety. My days are spent feeling great, doing the things I love, spending time with my husband, painting, photography, writing, cooking, gardening and reading. I have a small but awesome support system which is so important. Goals for the future include obtaining my Bachelor’s degree, traveling more, continue writing to inspire others and perhaps even write a book. I intend on living a long, healthy, positive life. The best advice I can give is to stay positive, live a healthy lifestyle, find beauty in the smallest of things and create something every day.
….A Happy Ending
In the beginning….