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

 

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.

My thought of the day….

This past month has been a real struggle so I took a break from writing to try to focus on my thoughts. Even though my mind knows I have so much to be thankful for, my heart just can’t make sense of that no matter how hard I try, making me feel like a terrible person. I feel so empty and like I’m simply going through the motions as if I were a robot.

I smile because I know I should and laugh because jokes are supposed to be funny. It doesn’t happen 100% of the time but I can tell when it does because I feel like in that moment I step outside of my body and begin watching myself from across the room. Just trying to understand why, in that precise moment, I stopped feeling anything at all. I finally decided to write about it in hopes of discovering something I hadn’t already or maybe just as a way of letting it go. I chose to share it on my blog not to obtain sympathy or complain to the world, but instead educate others on the thought process I’m going through. It wouldn’t be fair or right for me to portray myself as a superhero.

Those that have been following my blog since the beginning know I’ve said it before, “allow yourself to feel sad if that’s what you are really feeling”. I’ve realized now something very important about that statement. It’s a full time job. Why you ask? For me the explanation is very simple. It’s easier to keep the sad moments to myself because too often when I provide truth about my journey, the feedback is the usual, “Just be thankful that you are still alive today”, “there are people worse off than you”, “god has a special plan for you”. While I agree this is all true, it’s not exactly comforting to hear when all you need is a listening ear.

I may be up and running but trust me when I say that each day has its challenges and looks can be deceiving. My journey is far from complete and even after a bilateral mastectomy, I’m still going through a painful breast reconstruction, am waiting to hear if radiation is still a must and have a regimen of injections and pills waiting for me to start. Not to mention the possibility of other surgeries outside of completing my breast reconstruction.

So what crazy idea have I come up with? It’s simply really. Since most people don’t really want to hear the details when they ask how I’m doing, I save them the trouble and respond with a simple, “Just taking it one day at a time”. Those that want to know more will ask and this way I don’t have to pour myself out to those that are simply just trying to be courteous. I mean, why bore people with the details if they aren’t interested in them right? At the same time, I keep myself from hearing the “Generic” comments most people use, thinking they have to say something that makes sense to make you feel better when in reality, nothing really does.

It’s like when people ask, “Hi, How are you?” Have you ever really taken a moment to notice that most people ask but they don’t stop what they are doing to hear the response? It’s terrible. As a society, we seem to have lost our human side. The side that shows compassion and true caring for others. Maybe I’m just being sensitive about the topic but I’m sharing the thought because I know there are others like me going through something similar and I want them to know they aren’t alone. I’m also hoping that people become a little more aware of their interactions with people and start showing genuine interest in each other. Cancer or no Cancer, all of us are going through something and it’s important we give each other at least a minute of our undivided attention. It can make a world of a difference…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Breaking Point…

After spending a week in the hospital, I was finally released with a concoction of medications that would allow me to stay comfortable while continuing my recovery at home. I thought my stay at the hospital and the pain I was enduring was the worst thing that could be happening to me until my reality started setting in followed by depression.

I hate to admit it but it’s true, I have reached a new breaking point. I no longer feel as brave as you’ve all known me to be. I’ve become fearful of stepping into my day to day routines and not being able to complete them, unhappy with the way I look and the fact that nothing fits “the way it use to”, and disappointed in myself for letting this whole experience get the best of me.

This picture was taken over the weekend while I slept. It was the only position I could sleep in that didn't restrict my breathing or cause me additional pain.
This picture was taken over the weekend while I slept. It was the only position I could sleep in that didn’t restrict my breathing or cause me additional pain.

You would think, having gone through this before, it would be a piece of cake to bounce back, but it hasn’t. This surgery and the transformation that came with it has been much harder to cope with.

I try with everything in me to smile and remember just how lucky I am, but a part of me can’t help but be angry, sad and hurt. I get frustrated by the tiniest sound and go from sweet to sour in seconds. It’s an emotional roller coaster that doesn’t seem to end.

As the swelling has gone down and my incision have healed, I’ve been able to become more familiar with the foreign objects inside me. The expanders feel so hard and stiff. I’m even noticing a difference in placement which makes me worried. “Did I do something to make it shift?” “Was it always like that?” “Did the Alloderm not take, causing my expander to slide down?”

I’ve been so careful and still have managed to over do it at times, causing more frustrations. I can honestly say that the one thing that keeps me sane are the pep talks and counseling I’ve received along the way from people who have gone through this or something similar. It’s a reminder that I’m not alone and that I’m not crazy.

I yearn to feel whole again, but for now, I can only take it one day at a time and hope that each day gets better…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth Plaza

After My Bilateral Mastectomy….

Some hosital snap shots. :)
Some hosital snap shots. 🙂

A little over a week has past since my double mastectomy and it’s been an interesting experience thus far. I can completely understand why so many woman struggle with the decision of having a mastectomy done or knowing that its their only option. It’s scary, painful and there are so many unknowns.

Thankfully, we now live in an age whimageere so many brave woman have shared their stories, giving us front row seats to their experieces. In all honesty, this really prepared me for what was to come and has also helped me stay strong through the process.

As a way to give back, I too have been sharing my journey and will continue to do so by writing, posting photos and sharing videos. I’ve already posted many on my Facebook page but will add them to my blog for those who aren’t following me on Facebook. I hope you will continue to follow my crazy journey! 🙂

Stay tuned,image

Elizabeth 🙂

 

Click here  to view some of the videos I’ve shared since my surgery. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Round 2… Kicking Cancers Butt!!

While the many questions I have regarding “what comes next” have yet to be answered. There is one answer I know for sure. I once again have breast cancer.

It was only yesterday when I received the call confirming my greatest fear. Same breast and same type of cancer. “High Grade Ductal Carcinoma in SITU.” The fact that it’s in SITU is great because it means it’s in it’s early stages. Nevertheless, it’s been an exhausting 24 hours as you can imagine. No matter how busy I’ve been at work and with my personal life, it’s a topic I find hard not to think about. Just the thought of another surgery makes my stomach churn.

Life was going so well you know? I had just received a promotion and been accepted into the mentorship program I had applied for. It frustrated me more than anything how intrusive this disease has always been. Not that it’s something you are ever ready for. It’s just always taken place during a time in my life where major changes are occurring making it so difficult to enjoy those special moments.

I wasn’t even sure if writing about this now was the right thing to do but, my goal was to write about the good and the bad. It’s about my life, my take on it and my hopes of helping others that have or are sharing my journey. So if you are going through your own personal journey, know that I am here. We are sharing this moment together and together we will pull through this. We are going to Kick Cancers Butt!!!

Stay tuned…

Elizabeth ❤

Time for another biopsy…

It’s been almost 2 months now that I’ve had a new pain in my left breast and I finally made mention of it to my physicians when I saw them just a few weeks ago for my regular follow up appointment.

Naturally, my doctors suggested I follow up with some testing so they began by ordering an ultrasound. During this particular ultrasound, I could see the “what is that?” look on the technicians face and already knew there was more testing to come. Sure enough, I was told I needed to follow up with a bilateral MRI. Like my oncologist, The physician that read my ultrasound wasn’t convinced I had anything to worry about, but she wanted to make sure we played it safe anyway.

Having already been diagnosed with cancer once before, every pain to me was a possibility of it coming back and it drove me nuts.  I knew that I was still experiencing some of the post-surgical discomforts and effects from the radiation but it was hard to really draw a line and say ,” this is normal and this is not”. I was trying hard to stay positive but, I can’t deny it scared the crap out of me.

This past Saturday, I headed to the other coast to have my additional testing done and today I received the results I had been waiting for. While my radiation oncologists feels I have nothing to really worry about, he recommended that I have a biopsy done to confirm his thoughts. In a nut shell, he feels pretty confident that the changes in my breast are from the radiation treatment versus my fear of the cancer returning.

In my heart I feel all will be okay but I can honestly say I will feel more at peace after having the biopsy done and knowing for sure.

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂

An Exciting Month…

January 2015 has come to an end and we are quickly already approaching the middle of February. Where does the time go?

I don’t know that I’ll ever really find the answer to that question, but I can say I have accomplished a lot since the year started. I wanted to enter 2015 with the same tenacity I had moving into the big city. I was so excited and felt like I could conquer the world!

This small town girl however was in for a surprise. I struggled so much with the cultural differences when I arrived. As the time went by, the aggressiveness of the city was turning me into an overwhelmed mess. Not to mention only recently I had received news of further studies that needed to be done regarding an area in my left breast. Seriously?

I was starting to think of all the bad things that could result from the stress and the ideas that lingered in my mind and they were starting to eat  me up inside.

That’s when I decided to reset my thoughts and focus on the goals I wanted to accomplish, and not on the things I disliked around me.

One of my first goals was to run the Miami Half Marathon I had registered for the previous year. The challenge here was that I hadn’t run since the last one in 2014. In fact, The most I ran the entire year was a distance of 1.25 miles and that occurred less than a handful of times. My work hours had been long, but worse was the way my medications were making me feel. I just didn’t have the energy.

It's time to lace up my sneakers and hit the pavement!  <3 <3 <3
It’s time to lace up my sneakers and hit the pavement!

Nevertheless, I wanted to get back into the game and this race was a special one. I know I’ve said that about many others, but this race was the one I ran while undergoing radiation the year prior. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it than and I could do it now.

The race was a beautiful one as always. I ran the first 6 miles feeling sore but great all at the same time. It was after mile 6 that my body broke down and my emotions were at an all time low. I was starting to break down and so many thoughts were running through my mind. “Why are you putting your body through this torture?”, “You didn’t train and weren’t ready for this.”, “You were so much faster last year, look at all those people running by you.”

You know that saying, “You are your own worst enemy”? It was never more true than in that moment. If I had listened to my thoughts, I would have parked myself on the side line to wait for someone to pick me up and bring me to the finish line.

I Finished!!! 😀

That however was not about to happen my friends! It took a few pep talks but I finished that race with my run/walk combination and it felt amazing!!!! What a great sense of physical accomplishment. 🙂

Could this year get any better???

Yes it can!!!

It was that same week that I was officially turning over my old position as “administrative assistant” and walking into my new one as “assistant property manager” in the building I started working at last September of 2014. This being a completely different career for me felt like the greatest accomplishment. I couldn’t believe how quickly I was able to move up in the company and I was honored to have been given the opportunity to do so.

Yes!!! What an honor. :)
Yes!!! What an honor. 🙂

To make this opportunity even greater, I received news that I had been accepted into the mentorship program I applied for back in October, after working less then 2 months with my company!! I remember reading the beginning of the email and my jaw dropping in excitement. This was such a blessing and was going to be such a great tool to help me grow as an individual in my company. 😀

All of these blessings have helped keep my mind at ease about the uncertainties that have previously cluttered my mind. Most importantly, I learned that all I have is “Now”. I need to “seize the moment” as they say and make the most of my “now” so that I can get to where I want to be in life.

Planning for the worse has only proven to keep me from doing the things I really want to. It made me less adventurous and taught me to always play it safe. Life isn’t always about walking the straight and narrow though. You’ve got to allow yourself to be creative and follow your heart. It may not always make sense but if you want it, you’ve got to reach out for it. Not matter the diagnoses or the obstacles.

So to all of you out there who think you can’t do it, I have a message for you…

If it’s in your heart, you can do it. 😉

Stay tuned…

Elizabeth 🙂

So, what now?

So now that I’ve shared my story, the biggest question lingering in my head is “what now? What else do I write about?” Sure I’ve had new struggles, but I no longer know whats important and useful to share. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure this whole thing out myself. Many people think that once you’ve gotten over “the worse part of the journey”, things are smooth sailing from there on out. Here’s the thing though, “the worst part” is different for us all.

Let’s take me for example. I sailed right through my surgery and radiation like a champ. Even my doctors were worried about the fact that I was “taking it so well”. Later though, when the storm had past, I expected nothing but rainbows to follow. The “worse part of the journey” was over right? Not exactly. Instead of rainbows, a tornado swiped through unexpectedly destroying the very foundation I had been standing on for so long. It was as though every emotion I had suppressed had come bursting out of a secret box buried deep within. I began to ask myself, “Am I really a survivor?” To me the word “survivor” meant it was all over and life would be what it once was. Why wasn’t that happening?

I knew I couldn’t be the only one feeling this way so I decided to write about it. It’s about the only part of my journey that really makes sense to me at the moment. I’ve realized that the life I once lived can no longer exist exactly as it was. No matter how much I try to even think the way I once did, it’s impossible. It’s like buying a delicious ice cream cone with all of your favorite toppings and watching it hit the floor just before you start eating it. You can’t just put it back on the cone and eat it without thinking about the “slow motion” fall you just witnessed. Instead, you learn to appreciate whats left of it and go on your merry way.

Learning to cope with the side effects of my surgery and medications, while remembering how lucky I am to be typing away at my laptop sharing my random thoughts with the world, is my version of “learning to appreciate what is left of it and going on your merry way”. I too am guilty of finding it hard to see the silver lining at times but I promise you, it’s there. It’s just difficult to see when our emotions get the best of us. Just take a moment and remind yourself of your many accomplishments. You will slowly start to realize that there is no way you could accomplish so much and be the same person. In time you will find you are far more amazing, courageous and beautiful…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂