There are signs everywhere…

12238065_449477678577635_426028636529326597_oLong ago I read a quote by Melody Beattie that said…

“Remember the words you were told when this last adventure began, the words whispered quietly to your heart: Let the journey unfold. Let it be magical. The way has been prepared. People will be expecting you. Yes, you are being led.”

This resonated with me on so many levels. First, when I realized after being diagnosed with cancer that I wasn’t alone, and that those who came before me, had placed in my path an abundance of tools to help educate and guide me through the process.

I came back to this quote recently and the words, “let the journey unfold”, now made even more sense, when I took a leap of faith and started my nonprofit Gift With A Pink Ribbon, Inc. Everything I had gone through in my journey, and even in my new career, were tools to prepare me for my new venture.

Have you ever asked yourself, “why am I here” or “why am I going through this journey”?

I encourage you to “let the journey unfold”, by trusting the process and experiencing what may come of it. Sometimes the mere process of what you are going through, is preparation for something greater than you could have ever imagined. Embrace it, and with “the words whispered quietly to your heart”manifest in your life what you are most passionate about.

 

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth ❤

 

You can find Melody Beattie’s, Journey to the Heart, on Amazon by clicking here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have! 🙂

 

 

Decisions, Decisions…

Before I talk about what is currently happening, it’s important that I bring you  up to speed with what has occurred over the last month. I’ve provided a brief summary below for your reading pleasure. 😉

  • I was informed in February that my AST and ALT exam (commonly referred to as liver function test) returned with abnormally high readings. I was then asked to stop my medications temporarily, to give my liver time to recover from the side effects of the injections and oral medication I was taking.
  • I also had  a CT scan of the abdomen, full body PET scan and pelvic ultrasound. The recommended MRI I was scheduled for, had to be canceled because of the type of expanders I have had in place since the start of my breast reconstruction. Unfortunately, the MRI will have to wait until after my expanders have been removed.
  • In March, I received news that my AST and ALT bloodwork exam had returned within normal limits. Yay! 🙂
  • During this past month, I had also scheduled my surgery to have the expanders removed, and replaced with my final implants. I’m nervous, but at the same time excited to finally be changing out my expanders, for something I am told is far more comfortable.

As you can see, a lot has happened since my last post, which brings me to present day.

This past week I received a call from my doctors office and essentially, the recommendations based on all that has occurred, are as follows…

  1. Resume my Zoladex* injections, and begin taking the Tamoxifen* I had taken once before prior to my second journey with breast cancer.
  2. Have a hysterectomy*, and as a result, not have to have the injections administered every month.
  3. Not take anything at all, and assume the chance of recurrence.

So what are my thoughts on these options?

Let’s take a closer look…

Option 1

My doctor suggested this option because she felt as though I may have had a recurrence of cancer, as a result of my not having had the Zoladex injections, while being treated with the Tamoxifen. This may be true, which in turn makes it something to consider. The medication has worked for so many of the women I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and it could be a way for it to work for me too.

Option 2

This is one I have strongly considered however, my plastic surgeon is not willing to do two surgeries at once since I have had radiation treatment in the past. My risk of infection after the surgery would be much to high for him to even consider the option. Once again, I’m thankful for physicians that tend to play it safe, because I personally didn’t even consider this consequence, when suggesting a 2 in 1 surgery.

With this being the case, I will unfortunately have to wait a year or so for the hysterectomy, because it’s something I would have to plan around my work schedule. After some additional consideration, I think I’d also prefer to close one chapter in my journey, before opening another. Having a complete hysterectomy at this age, with no children, will have it’s own emotional challenges to cope with.

Option3

After realizing that the choice to not take any medications, does not resemble my white flag of surrendering, I began to reflect on my current way of life. The side effects of the injection, as well as what I have experienced with the Tamoxifen in the past, is more than I am currently willing to tolerate. This may be a bit selfish, but it’s been very difficult to deal with daily pain and inflammation, memory loss, severe hot flashes, emotional ups and downs, and to top it all off, a decreased libido at the age of 33!

I did after all experience a recurrence, even though my chances then were said to be slim to none, so why make myself miserable now for something that might not happen, or could still happen even with years of treatment?

And just for the record, I don’t blame my doctors for this recurrence. There truly is no way a physician can ever guarantee that cancer will not return when undergoing treatment, and it would be unfair for me to put that kind of pressure on such an individual. I ultimately consider myself blessed to have such wonderful doctors taking care of me. 🙂

So after what I hoped to be the shorter version of all that’s occurred, this is where I stand today; Confused and very uncertain of the “right” decision to make.

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The only thing I do know in this moement, is that my gut is telling me to live for today, and to for once stop thinking about the “what if”.

In other words, perhaps no meds for now,  followed by a hysterectomy in the future. At least this way, I can enjoy a better way of life for the time being and than later, decrease the chances of recurrence with the recommended hysterectomy.

That’s all for now, but until then…

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 😉

 

 

 

What are your thoughts?

I’d love to hear from you! Click Here to provide your feedback. 🙂

 

 

Helpful links

 

Information on Zoladex- http://www.drugs.com/zoladex.html

Information on Tamoxifen- http://www.drugs.com/tamoxifen.html

What is a hysterectomy?- http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments_and_procedures/hic_What_You_Need_to_Know_About_Hysterectomy

 

7 Month Treatment Update…

It’s hard to believe at times that it has been almost a year since having a double mastectomy. It’s also been close to 7 full months since I started my monthly Zoladex injections and daily Arimidex oral medication. Where does the time go?

While the journey hasn’t been all bad, I can safely say that I have spent more than 70% of the time struggling with the side effects. The most common side effects were swelling in my upper and lower extremities, major hot flashes, itching and changes of my skin, nausea, joint pain and most definitely mood swings.

I am now fully convinced that every woman going through menopause should be given her own superhero name! LOL 🙂

Lab results
My lab results from 1-22-16. On 7-16-15 my readings were…. AST-24, ALT-27 and LDH-130

It was about a week ago that I got the results of my lab work, which showed that my ALT and AST levels had increased significantly after being on Arimidex for only 6 months. On July 16, 2015, my ALT was at 27, AST at 24 and LDH at 130.

I’ve since stopped the medication while my Oncologist decides what alternate medication to place me on for my continued treatment, and was asked to have a CAT Scan of my abdomen.

 

This brings me to yesterday morning’s barium cocktail. I spent years handing out these bottles of barium to my patients, and it was only yesterday that I finally got a taste of what I was previously serving up.

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I will admit, the taste wasn’t horrible but, if I can make any one recommendation, it would be to chill the barium a bit before drinking it. It reduces the after taste significantly. (Please read storage temps prior to refrigerating, to avoid damaging the barium)

Other than that, the consistency and light flavoring tricks you into thinking you are drinking a smoothie so, bottoms up! 🙂

So what’s next you ask?

Chat before IV prep
A chat before the needle 🙂

 

Well… I arrived early to my 9am appointment and after going through my financial obligations, was escorted to a holding room, where I eventually changed out of my clothes and into more of those top designer hospital gowns I’ve previously sported.

Moments later, a kind gentleman nurse came in to prep my IV for the intravenous contrast that was needed for my CAT Scan. I thank god and all of my angels that watch over me for his skilled hand, as I barely felt the needle stick.

 

IV prep

 

After my IV was prepped, the technician performing my CAT Scan escorted me to the room where my exam would be performed.

 

It didn’t take long at all, thanks to advances in technology. Other than inhaling and holding my breath a few times, there really wasn’t much to it.

 

There is one tiny little detail I’d like to share in the event you have never had one of these tests done before. Once the iodine is administered through your IV during the last part of your scan, you may feel this rush of heat enter your body followed by this terrible sensation of having urinated on yourself. Please know that this feeling is normal. It has happened to me both times I’ve had a Cat Scan done and the feeling lasts for about a minute or so until it starts to fade away.

You may even get a funny taste in your mouth which is also normal. It happens to me even when they flush my IV with saline. Just make sure you drink plenty of water after your test to flush the iodine out of your system. 😉

While I anticipate my results will be just fine, I will know for sure sometime early this week, and will hopefully then find out what new medication I will be taking to continue my treatments.

Until then, I wish you all a Happy Sunday and lots of good health. 😉 ❤

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂

 P.S. Do you have suggestions of medications you’ve tried or want to share your experience? Please email me at elizabethplaza@giftwithapinkribbon.com. I’d love to hear about your experience and/or any recommendations you may have. 🙂

 

 

Why do we do this to ourselves?

I can’t deny that today was a tough run. In fact, it was more like a long walk with some running in between.

Once again, I found myself spending most of my time reflecting on how well I use to run, and beating myself up for not being able to run in the same way after so much time out of the running world. 

I don’t know why I do it to myself really. Each and every time I start from the beginning, I tell myself that I won’t compare my new accomplishments to what once was, yet after a few days of running, my mind always wanders back to those memories. In fact, it usually occurs when the going gets tough, like today, go figure. 

The same thing happened to me when I started working on my yoga teacher training certification just a few months back. All I could do was focus on the many things I thought I couldn’t do, and never once did I imagine I could accomplish all the things I have so far. 

Why do we do this to ourselves?

More importantly, “why do I do this to myself?” I can always manage to find the silver lining for others, but what about remembering to be kinder towards myself? About being genuinely happy with going out and being active, even if that means walking some of the way. This has always been a challenge for me, even through my journey with breast cancer.

 Nevertheless, what started today as a run ultimately ended up being a reminder. My goal for 2016 is not about “running 1000 miles”. It’s about getting out there and just doing what I can, even if that means walking the distance.

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂 ❤

A Survivors taste of the world…

If there is anything I’ve desired most in life, other then helping others, it’s been to travel the world. Earlier this year we had booked our tickets for Paris, my dream destination, but after being diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time and undergoing surgery, I had to postpone my trip.

As the year went by and I underwent one treatment after another, we realized that if we didn’t reschedule our trip prior to the years end, we would forfeit the money we had invested earlier in the year so, we booked our trip to Madrid, Spain for the Thanksgiving holiday.

12314110_453026501556086_5682738134371543505_nI couldn’t have been happier with the destination we chose. Madrid and Toledo, the two main towns we visited, were amazing. The architecture was breath taking, as was the history behind the structures and landmarks that surrounded me.

IMG_3908Of course, the food was also delicious. Especially theIMG_3909 typical Churros and Chocolate that I had at least once a day while there. 🙂

This trip inspired me once again to fulfill that desire to walk the last 100km of el Camino de Santiago de Compostela in the year 2016. It’s an experience of a life time and I feel I am finally ready to take on not just the challenge, but also humbly accept and appreciate what that journey has to offer me. I returned refreshed and in love with life, feeling no boundaries existed, even those I built in my mind, moving me into the next stage of my life…

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂 ❤

To my newly diagnosed reader…

Dear Reader,

Being diagnosed with Cancer is not an easy thing to swallow, and if I could share some words of wisdom I would say, “let yourself be”.

Of course, there are many other important things like taking notes, asking questions and informing yourself of other treatment options available to you. You would be amazed at whats out there. However, please keep in mind that not every treatment option is the right one for you, which is why I can’t stress enough the importance of doing your own research.

Still, for me the hardest part was allowing myself the freedom to openly feel the way I was feeling in that moment without judging myself.

I would understand if your first thought was that this isn’t really relevant to your care however, it’s actually a key component. Not honoring my feelings made me realize the unrealistic goal I had set for myself. I couldn’t accept the urge to cry, feel sorry for myself or even feel anger because in my mind these were signs of weakness and/or being ungrateful. This emotional roller coaster eventually made me feel physically ill.

The truth is, these are all natural emotions, and you having them doesn’t make you less appreciative for the good things you have in your life. I say this because we’ve all heard the good old saying, “it could be worse”. I do feel it’s true and I use the phrase regularly, only now however, I do a better job of acknowledging that I am also human and am allowed to have a bad day here and there, as long as I also do my best to acknowledge the good that has come from my journey with breast cancer.

My “gift with a pink ribbon” taught me that I am stronger than I had ever imagined. I also believe that this may be gods way of using one of his social butterflies to help others by sharing my story and I am humbled to play such a vital role in bringing awareness.

So with that said, I leave you with this…

Free yourself from your emotional binds and know that it’s okay to feel what you are feeling in this very moment. It will take some time to figure it all out and that’s okay. The important thing is that you embrace each moment as an opportunity to love yourself and who you are in that moment, all judgement aside. This will help you cope with the new challenges that come your way, knowing that you have yourself on your side of the cancer battlefield, instead of working against you.

With all my love,

Elizabeth  P 🙂 ❤

P.S. Sending a special thanks to Cure Forward for encouraging every survivor to share their cancer journey with new patients.

Those I’ve met along the way… “The Waitress”

It had been a long work day so we decided to head over to Flanigan’s for a drink and quick bite to eat. The first thing that caught my attention were the two breast cancer awareness bracelets she wore. I couldn’t take my eyes off them.

Her name was Terri, and she was our waitress for the night. Eventually I gave Terri a card to my blog and with that she began to share the story about her twin sister, who had also struggled with breast cancer. She also shared that they both made and sold the bracelets she was wearing as a way to give back and help other woman also struggling with breast cancer.

At the end of the night, she gave us each a bracelet and her sisters contact information. I couldn’t wait to learn more. In fact, a few days ago I contacted her sister and must say she was a complete joy to chat with. Her love for life and passion for raising awareness matched that of my own and surprisingly our stories were very similar. We’ve both had a lumpectomy followed by a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction.

While I have yet to meet her in person, I certainly look forward to it. I also look forward to one day being a part of their “Save Our Sister (SOS) team”. Each woman has their own story and within each story is the desire to live life to the fullest.  http://teamsosmiami.net/team/members/

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, we all have a story, share it. I never thought mine was significant enough to share considering how blessed I’ve been to not have gone through some of the  treatments others have gone through but in reality, every story is important, no if, and’s or but’s about it…

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂

You can email Gerri directly at gerri262@aol.com to order your very own bracelet. :)
For anyone interested in purchasing a bracelet, you can email Gerri directly at gerri262@aol.com. 🙂

Those I’ve met along the way… “The Cashier”

I’d like to say it was about a year ago when we made a pit stop at Dunkin Donuts for a delicious coffee and snack, only to run into a very special young lady. She was so sweet and it was extremely refreshing to be around a person with such good energy after a long day on the road.

Prior to leaving I shared my contact and blog information, and to my surprise, she opened up to me about her mother, whom if I remember correctly lived in Cuba at the time. Her mother was going through her own journey with breast cancer and I could see and feel the sadness in hers eyes as she shared her moms story.

She was living so far away and I could only imagine how much pain she was feeling and the frustrations of not knowing what to expect. My heart went out to them both and till this day I keep her and her mother in my thoughts and prayers.

Truth be told, the memory of her kindness and warm embrace helped keep me motivated after being diagnosed the second time around. Knowing that in that moment I was able to provide her some kind of support, was a reminder of what I feel is my journeys purpose.

It’s not just about the support I get from others for sharing my story, it’s more about the support I can provide others in the process that really brings me joy and gives this whole experience true meaning.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been an extreme blessing to have so many wonderful and kindhearted people supporting me throughout my journey.  I honestly couldn’t imagine what it would be like without all of you being a part of it, which is why I want nothing more than to be there for others. Simply put… we can all use a helping hand every now and then.

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂 ❤

Those I’ve met along the way…”The Chef”

Sharing my story with the world has put me in touch with some pretty wonderful people and it wasn’t until today that I decided to actually share what each experience has meant to me.

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting the chef and owner of my favorite little french restaurant, Bistro 1902. The night started off slow and quickly became busy with a flurry of people coming in to enjoy the delicious meals and wonderful atmosphere. This is the kind of restaurant that has the kind of food that makes you want to close your eyes with each bite to ensure you savor each moment.

The restaurant was short staffed that evening so we had the pleasure of being served by the chef himself. I recall asking where he was from and my eyes lit up when he replied, “Paris”.

It was only months ago that we had to cancel our trip to Paris due to my surgery and the fact that I had to use all of my vacation and sick time from work for my recovery. When I shared these details with him, he smiled and complimented my optimistic outlook on the whole experience. It was very sweet and nice to know that through it all, others can still see my efforts to find the positive in my journey.

The Chef later returned and said, “You know what? Since you had to cancel your vacation, I want to make the rest of your night extra special.” “I will speak to you in french for the rest of your meal and I will even be little rude to you”, he said with a smile. This made me laugh and as crazy as it sounds made me feel so special.

He later shared stories about his childhood memories of his mom teaching him, at the age of 13, how to make the delicious dessert I was enjoying that evening. The whole experience was really wonderful.

I guess in short what I’m trying to say is that, I know it can be hard to just randomly shed light on something so personal but in that moment, I was glad I did. I felt I had somehow turned a sensitive topic into something more positive. It was a reminder of where I was now compared to where I was before, and how much I wanted to never give up  or stop living life the way I was living it in that moment.

You see, a wise woman once told me, “Cancer doesn’t define you”, and she was right. It’s my desire to never let it keep me down that determines my strength and who I really am.

Stay tuned…

Elizabeth 🙂

Speak up or forever be mistreated…

Yes…

This is my first official rant…

And while I don’t want to bore you with the details of my disappointment, there is one thing I wanted to share with you all. If you feel even the tiniest inclination that the doctor you’ve chosen isn’t a great match, don’t be intimidated and speak up.

Today I stood my ground after feeling like the oncologist I had chosen in my new home town crossed the line by talking to me in a manner no patient should be spoken to. I don’t care how amazing you are!

I can’t even fully describe in words how unhappy I was when I left the office and I’m not even the type that cares so much about the warm fuzzy’s. I can handle a straight and to the point doctor. What I can’t handle is a rude one that doesn’t see me as an educated individual and spends more time asking things like, “did you not understand when I told you I received and reviewed the pathology slides you sent me”, when my question was a simple, “how should I go about sending the records to the physician you are referring me to”?

Excuse me…

That response was a bit rude don’t you think?

I had to stop and ask myself, “Since when did being proactive and willing to assist become a bad thing?”

There were a few more similar comments that eventually just made me want to say,  “I’m so sorry to be inconveniencing you with my cancer history doctor. Please feel free to continue to seem annoyed about you being my physician.”

After this experience I felt the need to remind everyone out there that, “You are human and should be treated like one”. Going through cancer is difficult enough without the addition of having someone make you feel even worse about it.

I’m lucky enough to be able to say that I know what it’s like having an amazing oncologist and keeping that relationship through the process. It’s important and really makes the journey a little easier to go through. In a way, they become a part of your family.

If you haven’t found one yet, don’t stop looking, I promise you there is a great oncologist out there for you and you deserve to find them. You don’t want someone that’s just great on paper, you want someone that is great to and for you.

My search is on and all I can say is “this little warrior doesn’t settle”. If I wont let cancer keep me down, rest assure I wont allow a physician to do it either…

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂 ❤