It’s really happening…

The following day on my way to my PET/CT scan I was thinking about all of the things I needed to address prior to my being off for surgery. I would be away from work for 2 weeks and home bound for at least the first week. Then, moments before arriving at my destination I had a flashback of what had occurred only weeks before. It all sunk in within those few moments. I had put in my notice at work and had planned to leave at the end of December. We had even found a replacement. How could I move away from my doctors and what was I going to do about my insurance? More than ever I needed to be certain I was insured at all times. There was already so much on my plate. I didn’t need something else to worry about.

I called my mom to express my concerns in hopes of some helpful advice but instead I got something better. It was like my angels were telling me to relax and that everything was going to be okay. My boss of 11+ years and his wife had already spoken to my mother. They told her that my job was secure until I was finished with my journey. I couldn’t believe my ears!! The support I had all around was overwhelming. I never realized how much I meant to so many. They had even spoken to the young lady we found for my position and she was willing to wait and sending me prayers for a speedy recovery. It was like a ton of bricks were lifted off my shoulders and once again I was able to focus.

I entered the facility and signed in. It was early and it didn’t seem very busy. After a short wait the technician whisked me away into another one of those fancy closets with the designer blouses I had mentioned in my prior posts. I was becoming more and more familiar with this luxurious lifestyle. When I finished changing I was brought into a room filled with several recliner like chairs divided by privacy partitions. As I sat in the back room waiting for the technician to inject me with my radiation cocktail, I watched as the other patients were directed to their seats. It was starting to get full but, my cocktail did eventually arrive and it was administered intravenously.Β After an hour of relaxing and going through the many possible outcomes of my results the scan was performed and I was on my way to my pre-op appointment.

At the hospital, I went from one waiting room to the next before sitting down with the nurse to go over my preoperative instructions. She drew some more blood and asked a number of questions. Then she handed me an antimicrobial body wash. She explained I had to use this on the day of surgery and the day prior. It didn’t smell pretty but I smiled, thanked her and was on my way. I hadn’t eaten all morning and I was starving. I headed to a near by bagel place and there I spent a little time organizing all of my thoughts and paperwork.

This was really happening. In just a few days I was going to be having surgery. Most importantly, I had to face another challenge. I had to tell the people closes to me. I chose since the beginning to tell no one until I knew for certain what my diagnoses was but, then everything started to unfold so quickly. I could no longer hide it from them. How could I explain my 2 weeks of inactivity? I was always off doing a race or training and I had only told a hand full of people prior to my diagnoses. It wasn’t easy for me to announce I had cancer. Who wants to be the one to say, ” Hi there, I know you have a lot going on but hey, I have cancer.” I didn’t want to be a Debbie downer. I liked delivering good news, not dropping that kind of load on someone. Regardless, now was the time to start explaining what was happening to those around me.

It was hard to talk about it because the approach many had was, “Maybe they are wrong, these kinds of things have happened to others before”. I didn’t want people to be sad or feel bad for me but at the same time I didn’t want to be filled with false hope. I knew my doctors weren’t wrong. I also knew what my body was telling me. It was an emotional roller coaster but in the end it created an even larger support system and that was a true blessing. I just had to learn that everyone’s reactions were different and I couldn’t take it personal.Β Some were upset they didn’t know sooner, others were there supporting me every step of the way with prayers and words of encouragement.

All in all I had an overwhelmingly positive response. It felt great to start sharing my journey and having so many people to talk to about it. It kept me strong and I am eternally grateful for those amazing people in my life. Near and far, you are all apart of my journey and I couldn’t have made it this far without you…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth πŸ™‚

 

“It’s official”, I have cancer…

The day was November 7th and I was scheduled that afternoon to see a surgeon. I hadn’t received my official diagnoses but, I was expecting the results of my biopsy to arrive by fax in any moment. Everything was moving so fast. A little over a week ago I was oblivious to anything being wrong with me and yet that afternoon I stood there at the age of 31 contemplating a mastectomy. I think somehow I was still in denial because it wasn’t till I reviewed my results that my world came crashing down.

There I stood, holding one of the most important pieces of paper I would ever have in my possession. As I began to read it, the words stood out loud and clear, HIGH GRADE DUCTAL CARCINOMA. There was no running away from it, I had cancer. I showed my mom (who worked with me at the time) and all I could mutter was, “it’s official.” I wanted to break down into tears but knew I had to keep it together. I was at work and this just wasn’t the time. I needed to get through the day and my appointment with the surgeon that afternoon.

To be honest with you, this was my attitude through my entire journey. I just needed to resolve the issue. I had no time for this, I had a plan! I still hadn’t registered the fact that I had received what I later considered to be a gift. The gift that would teach me to appreciate life more than I ever had and the knowledge to really live it to its fullest. I just wanted it gone and to never think about it again. Of course, this sort of attitude also kept me from acknowledging what was really happening and this proved to be a problem further down the line.

I arrived at the surgeons office that afternoon accompanied by my mom. We sat down, discussed the results with him and for the first time received a bit of good news. My surgeon was more than convinced that a mastectomy wasn’t necessary. That he could perform a lumpectomy (also known as a partial mastectomy) and simply remove the tumor along with any affected lymph nodes. “Thank you god.” This was going to be a much simpler surgery and an even faster recovery.

Somehow, amongst all my fears and frustrations I was able to find a moment of peace and happiness. This was my gift and although it wouldn’t have been something I’d put on my wish list, it only took a short period of time for me to find the beauty in the pink ribbon it was wrapped in. This was my opportunity to grow and make the most of this experience. To conquer it, gain self confidence in myself, and take the leap to start my new journey.

The decision was made, I was scheduled for surgery on Monday, November 11th. It was already Thursday the 7th so we had to move fast. The following day I was scheduled for a PET/CT scan and my pre-op. Then, I was scheduled on Monday to have a lymphoscintigraphy done prior to surgery. The results of this test would be used as a map during my surgery to find the sentinel node and determine if the cancer had spread. It was something I had considered but didn’t want to give to much thought. I could only pray at this point that the cancer hadn’t spread…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth πŸ™‚

*** Note to reader ***

Below are some links I thought might be helpful to those interested in knowing more about PET/CT scans and Lymphoscintigraphy. Please be aware that I am in no way affiliated with these sites and have provided them for my readers educational purposes only. If you are more of a visual learner, I encourage you to watch the short video included in the link. πŸ™‚

Lymphoscintigraphy – http://www.radiologyinfo.org/mobile/en/info.cfm?pg=lympho

PET/CT scan- http://www.radiologyinfo.org/mobile/en/info.cfm?pg=pet

Tests, tests, and more tests…

After having my mammogram and ultrasound done I was scheduled for an MRI on November 1st followed by an ultrasound guided needle biopsy on November 6th. I was told that the results of the biopsy would be the determining factor as to whether or not I had breast cancer but, once the results of the MRI came back it appeared everyone was already convinced.

I remember getting the call while visiting my partner on the other coast. It was one of the most difficult calls of my life. I tried with everything in me to hold back my tears but once I hung up I completely broke down. Not only were we discussing the possibility of my having cancer, now we were discussing the possibility of my needing to have a mastectomy. It went from one extreme to the next.

That weekend I spent it reflecting on all of the things I had done in my life and most importantly all of the things I hadn’t. In that moment I told myself that once I got through this I was going to dream big and go for those dreams. I also needed to find balance in my life. I was stressing far to much about the things that just didn’t matter.

Later the following week I went in for my ultrasound guided needle biopsy. I was a little scared about this appointment. I’ve always had a pretty high tolerance for pain but, let’s face it, who wouldn’t fear someone putting a needle into their breast. The thought alone was painful after the testing that had already been done and had left my breast tender. I didn’t want anyone or anything near my breast.

They called me back into the room and had me change into a beautiful designer blouse. Actually, it was a scrub top that criss-crossed in the front for easy access but, in the effort of making a small part of this seem luxurious, I will refer to it as designer blouse. πŸ˜‰ My mom and my partner waited patiently outside when they brought me back into the exam room to start my test. Here is where the luxury ended.

They began prepping me for the test by disinfecting the area and, once the doctor came in, they started injecting my left breast with a numbing agent. The pain was worse then I had imagined and for the first time in my life I cried on an exam table. With each pinch of the needle my eyes and fists tightened. The tears flowed until I could no longer feel the needles. Once I got the courage to open my eyes I watched as they took samples of the tissue and tagged the tumor with a clip. It was fascinating to see it all being done on the screen in front of me. So much that the vacuum like sounds of the machine and the voices of the technician, doctor and nurse were drowned out for that brief moment. All I could do is stare at the movement of the needle and at the tumor that was just sitting there looking so harmless.

The test finally came to an end and I was off to breakfast and back home to rest. In the days that followed I was scheduled to sit with a surgeon and to have a PET scan done. There was so much going on and I needed that afternoon to rest and get myself organized. If indeed this was cancer and I was going to need surgery, I needed to have my personal matters in order. For now however, it was time to rest and wait…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth πŸ™‚

The law of attraction…

Now was the time to get myself in order and start getting ready for the big move. I remember coming home the evening of October 30th 2013 after a long day at work and just wanting to jump in the shower and head to bed. Never mind dinner, I was to tired for that. While in the shower contemplating all of the things I needed to do prior to moving I stumbled across the same lump I had found early January in my left breast. I recall briefly playing the conversation I had with the doctor over in my head, “Because you are so young I would simply recommend for you to have it checked in 2 years. There is nothing you need to worry about.”

At that time only 9 months had past but, on a more recent note I had been feeling a lot of pain and discomfort. So much that I couldn’t sleep on that side so I figured checking in on it might be a good idea. As soon as I began to examine the area my heart grew heavy and my throat felt like it had a knot in it. It had grown! I was desperate for a second opinion in hopes of a different reaction so I asked the one person I knew could tell me if they noticed a difference, my mom.

I had shown it to her the first time around and knew she would give me her honest opinion. “Mom, remember the lump I had you feel in January? Can you feel it again and tell me if you think it’s grown?” She barely touched it and I could already tell what she was going to tell me. “You need to get it checked Elizabeth. It’s grown a lot. How did you not notice this before?” She was right, how didn’t I notice? I was so consumed with my plans that I had literally put it out of my mind. Never gave it a second thought.

Needless to say that night I couldn’t sleep. All I could think about were the calls I needed to make in order to get my testing scheduled. The following day I spoke to my boss. He immediately scheduled a mammogram and ultrasound for that very afternoon. “Why is this happening now?” I didn’t have time for bad news. I was moving in 2 months, had just transitioned from a runner to a triathlete and I felt better than I had in years. Well, at least that’s what I said out loud.

In reality I was scared. Fearful that I might not find another job, that I would find myself lost in a new city and farther than I had ever been from everything I’ve known. I couldn’t even find comfort in all of the prepping I was doing to ensure a smooth transition. I was full of self doubt. In the end however, non of that mattered to the law of attraction. All it heard me say was, “I want to grow and experience life differently. I want to find my calling and appreciate every gift life has to offer.”Β Well my fellow readers, that’s exactly what I got.

After my testing was done I was called into the back room to sit with the reading physician. I was the last one there and nervous to hear what she had to say, but at the same time felt I could handle any news given to me. “Regardless of the outcome there are options and I’m strong”. I kept repeating this in my head until she looked at me and said, “I’ve compared the results with your last exam and this doesn’t look good. We will have to do further testing but, I’m afraid the findings are similar to those of a patient with breast cancer”. What? The “C” word? Sure, I’ve heard and said it a million times before but, never did it make me feel as speechless.Β It literally took my breath away.

The worse part of it was that somehow I already knew she was going to tell me that and even than I wasn’t prepared to hear it. The law of attraction was giving me what I wanted, “a chance to grow and experience life differently. To find my calling and appreciate every gift life had to offer.” You see, I never specified what tools I wanted given to me to help me grow or what I wanted to experience differently in life. I just put my desire out there and the universe delivered it…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth

Road trip!

Heading to beautiful Naples this weekend to visit family. It’s gorgeous out and if I’m lucky I might even make it to the beach while I’m there. πŸ™‚ Rest assure however that you will have the continuation of my personal journey waiting for you Monday morning as my story has only begun.

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth πŸ™‚Β 

Plan B…

I’ve always been the type to have “plans” for almost everything. Looking back I’d say I lived my life with far too much structure. When things didn’t work out the way I planned them to I was a complete basket case. And though planning can be good to some degree, this can also be your “Achilles Heal”. The disappointment I felt from my failed attempts at life’s challenges were so great that I wouldn’t allow myself to move forward and grow from my experiences.

Falling in love is a perfect example of my failed attempt at being single. This was in no way part of my “master plan”. Instead it was a magnetic pull that was greater than me. Of course with this came lots of change and desires to try something new. To experience life outside of what I already knew and the structure I had become so comfortable with. We talked for months about my moving but I kept asking myself, “how could I do this”? I loved my family, my job and my friends. How on earth was I going to leave all of that stability behind over a simple desire to experience something more? Why were my feet so firmly rooted into the ground?

Then, as the light bulb in my head turned on, I realized what my biggest problem was. It was me.Β I was so scared to switch gears into “Plan B” and get out of my comfort zone that I was robbing myself of the opportunity to experience life in a new light. I had yet to learn that it was okay to be spontaneous and I realized that I was far more uncomfortable than I thought with change and giving up control of my own life. After much consideration though, I had made my decision. I was moving at the end of December. That was my new plan and nothing was going to stand in the way of that happening. I was finally being what I called “spontaneous”.

I gave my notice in October so we could find a great replacement and once we did I felt so at ease knowing things were going to go well after I had left my job. What happened next, however, was completely unexpected. It was the power of the “law of attraction” working its way into my life once again. Only this time the universe wasn’t sending subtle hints anymore on how I was going to be able to learn to lose control and live life to its fullest. It was no longer giving me an option of left or right. The universe simply said, “you want to break free from your own fears and live life to the fullest? This is how you will learn to do it”.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth πŸ™‚

You’re too young…

“You’re too young.” Those were the words I heard after asking if I should be concerned with the mass and micro calcifications they found in my left breast during my first mammogram and ultrasound. I asked if it’s something I should have checked again in the near future and the response was a simple, “because you are so young I would simply recommend for you to have it checked in 2 years.” “There is nothing you need to worry about.”

My mind felt at ease and I was so comforted by how well mannered and educated the doctor was when giving me my results that I ignored my gut feeling telling me to push for another follow up within a couple months or to have more testing done. I even ignored my right to a second opinion. I felt guilty for even questioning this man who was so polite and had taken the time to explain everything in what I felt was such great detail. A man who had gone to school and had many years of experience. Working in the medical field myself and realizing that I may be overthinking things because of all I’ve seen with my patients, I quickly set aside the gut feeling and wrote it off as my being a hypochondriac. After all, he’s the professional and knows what protocol to follow, right?

Well, that logic made sense at the time so I decided to go about my daily life and follow the recommendation to do another mammogram and ultrasound in 2 years. That was the early part of January and it was a new year. I was single, working full-time and going to school part-time. I had moved back home to save money and take time out for myself to grow spiritually and figure out what I really wanted out of life. Things were going well and with this great news, I was able to keep moving forward with my plans…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth πŸ™‚

A gift that came with a pink ribbon…

This is my first blog and boy am I nervous but, it’s been suggested to me on many different occasions by my partner to write about my journey so, I decided to stop thinking about it and just blog. Talk about everything from my diagnosis with breast cancer to everything that’s happened since. My recovery, treatments, my support systems, my life as an athlete, my decision to move to a new city and start a new career, traveling and exploring new cities and cultures. It’s been a very interesting 7 months!! Nevertheless, I sum my journey up as “A gift that came with a pink ribbon”, and even through the most difficult times, I’m happy I was chosen to live this experience as I’ve grown in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth πŸ™‚