Coming together as a community…

Good morning everyone! I have a huge favor to ask of you all. Someone I hold very near and dear to my heart has been asked to have a biopsy done, after finding a mass on her mammogram and ultrasound results. Would you please include her in your thoughts and prayers?

My wish for her is that the results come back negative, and that this simply be an opportunity for us to come together again as a community, to support one another just like you’ve all supported me. Her name is Josefina. Thank you so much and I wish you all a very blessed day.

With endless gratitude,
Elizabeth 🙂

Results are in…

Good evening everyone!

I’m happy to report that the results of my first check up since surgery and the completion of my radiation treatment are in and I’m clear!

Thank you all again for your prayers and words of encouragement. I really appreciate all of you. 🙂

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Photos and details to follow…

Final check ups before the big move…

Once the high from the half marathon wore out, it was time to countdown the days before my last radiation treatment. It was a bitter sweet good bye but, on February 14th, I completed my last treatment and said goodbye to the group of technicians that within a short period of time, had become family. Looking back, I can’t believe how quickly the time passed. On my last follow up with the radiation oncologist, I was given the 2 thumbs up and a, “we’ll see you again in a few months”.

Next I had to follow up with my oncologist so that he could start me on my medication, and let’s not forget about the gynecologist. I still needed to get his opinion on the area in my pelvis that had raised a red flag before.

I went first to the gynecologist and after reviewing the results of the tests that were done, he was pretty convinced that there wasn’t anything I needed to worry about. He did however, recommend I establish with a gynecological oncologist once I moved so that I could have it monitored. I made note of the recommendation, and with great relief, crossed off “get a second opinion on pelvic results”, from my to-do list.

The last person I checked in with was my oncologist. After finishing my radiation treatments, he started me on a medication called Tomaxifen. Since my cancer cells had come up 100% positive for both progesterone and estrogen receptors, it was imperative that I take this medication to help reduce my hormone levels. I was warned of the possible side effects but lets face it, the pros out weighed the cons.

I was happy to report back to him that so far I had been handling the medication very well except for a small visit to the gynecologist. Unfortunately, the medication can increase your chances of an infection because it throws off you bodies natural flora. It didn’t take long before I got one, but luckily, the nurse practitioner at my gynecology office was able to recommend a few things that could prevent it from happening again.

So with future my appointments in hand, I said goodbye to my doctors. It was amazing to feel like I could finally focus on my move. It was however, sad to be leaving everyone behind. I loved my co-workers and was going to miss my friends and family more than I could ever imagine. I hadn’t mentioned it before, but for a small period of time I began seeing a therapist to help me through the emotional part of my journey. You didn’t think I was going to leave all up to the antidepressants did you? No way! I needed to reach out as well and find a comfortable place for me to share what I was going through. It is something I would recommend to anyone going through their own struggles, regardless of what your journey is.

Leaving her behind was hard too, because she had helped me get through some really tough times. I was beginning to wonder if I was ready to make such a big change until I reminded myself of the gift that came with a pink ribbon. I had already gone through such a difficult journey, and if I kept the same attitude, there was nothing I wouldn’t be able to accomplish in the future.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

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My athletic desires…

I wasn’t ready to jump on the bike or go for a run but, I was determined to start setting goals and accomplishing them during my two weeks of recovery. I didn’t want to just lay in bed doing absolutely nothing. I was an athlete. Prior to my journey with breast cancer I had a very active lifestyle. I had run several 5k’s, a 10k, 2 half marathons, completed a metric century, started mountain biking, and in September had just done my first triathlon. My next goal was to run a marathon.

It wasn’t about exercising to be skinny, it was a lifestyle. I was addicted to the adrenaline I felt after each race and training session but, most of all I enjoyed the amazing people that I met along the way. I had developed an extended family and I missed them. I also missed the outdoors and how healthy and energized my body felt. What I had been feeling in that moment was so foreign and uncomfortable. I needed to find that place again so, I did what every athlete does, started setting goals.

It wasn’t anything drastic but it was a start. My main goal was to regain the range of motion I had lost in my left arm. I could barely lift it to wash my own hair so after about three days of recovery that’s what I tackled first. I found the shower to be the perfect place to start my therapies because the warm water would loosen my muscles enough for me to start stretching. My first goal was to get my arm up high enough to wash my hair comfortably. It had been days since I had been able to do this on my own.

I started by placing my hand on the shower wall and using my finger tips to slowly climb up while bringing my body closer to the wall. Most people refer to this technique as the “wall climb”.  It allows the muscles located in the area of the armpit to stretch out. It was very difficult and I admit painful at first but I progressed quickly and before I knew it only days had passed and I was finally able to wash my own hair. “Yes, I did it!” Seems like a silly thing to feel so excited about but, you’d be surprised with the things we take for granted when they come so easily.

The next goal I tackled was brushing my hair. I’m not a lefty but I wasn’t able to lift much weight at the time and I thought using my left hand to brush my unruly curly hair would be a good way to use a bit of force without injuring myself. This too helped with my range of motion. I started doing the wall climbs outside of the shower to allow my muscles to stretch without the assistance of heat and began working on reaching up over my head and bringing my hand as far down my back as I could. I was shocked to see how little I could do when I had always been more flexible on that side.

I used the assistance of a small towel to help me get to my desired goal of reaching my hand right into the space between my shoulder blades. In order to do this I would grab the towel with my left hand, raise it above my head and bend my elbow enough to allow the towel to hang on my backside. I would then place my right hand on my lower back, grab the towel and slowly pull it down bringing my left hand closer to my goal.

It was tough and in all honesty there were moments I wanted to give up because it just seemed so easy yet I was struggling so much. I felt like I was starting from the very beginning after having come so far. Everyone around me was progressing at incredible speeds in their prospective sport and here I was taking baby steps to perform the simplest tasks. I had to constantly remind myself how far I had already come within a week and that it wasn’t going to be like this forever.

I was reaching my goals, big or small, and I needed to stop being so hard on myself. I was able to brush and wash my own hair, I was reaching for things in the pantry and making myself food. That’s something I couldn’t do before. I was accomplishing what I set out to do and soon enough I would be the athlete I once was.

While achieving my physical goals however, I was also facing another struggle. One I chose to ignore from the start of my journey. It was during those two weeks of my recovery that the emotions I had hidden for so long exposed themselves and I was forced to meet face to face with a side of myself I never wanted to encounter…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

My 2 weeks of recovery…

I woke up the following day after surgery feeling like a train wreck. I wasn’t in extreme pain but I was exhausted and still drowsy from my medications. I was actually able to get around pretty well. I’d say the only surprise I had that day was the blue urine I had as a result of a dye called Lymphazurin used during my surgery to help locate my sentinel node. I was a smurf for the day, no problem! 🙂

All was going well until a few days after surgery when I finally made the decision to stop my pain medications. I couldn’t take it anymore. They were making me nauseas, constipated, bloated and I was gaining a substantial amount of weight. Within just a few days I had gained about 10lbs. I felt horrible and it had nothing to do with vanity. I just felt like I was accumulating everything and releasing nothing resulting in my body feeling like a toxic dump. It took several days before my body began to regulate itself and I was beginning to feel uncomfortable but, the pain I felt from not taking my medications was well worth feeling more like myself again.

My surgeon called me within the first week to see how I was feeling and to report his findings. I explained what I had been going through and he reassured me it was normal. Till this day I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better surgeon. He kept me informed of his thoughts every step of the way and it made me feel like I too had a say in what was happening. That’s a big deal to anyone let alone an ex control freak like myself. I wanted to be involved in everything no matter how big or small it seemed to anyone else. It was my body and I had the right to know what was going to happen to it.

He made mentioned that after the biopsy of my sentinel node they observed the cells carefully to see if the cancer had spread and, to his surprise he found 1 lymph node positive for a single cluster (5-6 cells) of individual tumor cells. Since it was such a small count he removed only a few lymph nodes but needless to say it was something to consider when I sat down with my oncologist to discuss my treatment plan.

You can only imagine how I translated this in my head. “Why is he so calm? I was told the cancer was incapsulated. If it was, how did any of it, even the tiniest bit, spread to the lymph nodes? Wouldn’t it have been better to just remove them all?” I was scared and no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t understand how that wasn’t a big deal. My surgeon reassured me and helped put me at ease.

I later received a separate phone call with the news about my PET/CT scan. There was an area of concern in my right pelvis. “What?” I began to have flashbacks of the times my gynecologist suggested I have an ultrasound to keep an eye on the cysts I was developing. Prior to surgery we had talked about the correlation between breast cancer and cervical or ovarian cancer but, I wanted to believe that since I found my breast cancer on time, it wouldn’t have had the chance to spread elsewhere. However, regardless of what I thought, we had to be certain so I was scheduled for a CT scan immediately.

My family and closes friends were concerned. I hadn’t even finished recovering from my surgery and they weren’t sure if I could handle this or even be up to doing more tests. In all honesty, I wasn’t. I was afraid to know that I could have been wrong and that the cancer may have spread. That would have been the second thing I let go by. How could I live with myself? Than again, how could I live with myself now delaying something so important? If indeed there was cancer, waiting wasn’t going to change that and could potentially make it worse.

I wasn’t cleared to drive yet and since my mom and I worked in the same office we weren’t able to be off at the same time. This again was the perfect example of the importance of a solid support system. Without any hesitation my bosses wife told me she would be picking me up and accompanying me to my appointment. In fact, when the day came, she even sat in the room with me while I had my scan done to make sure they had me in a comfortable position and that I didn’t feel alone.

Between the many beautiful cards filled with words of love, prayer and encouragement, the beautiful bouquets of flowers and edible arrangements and the occasional house visits, I had all of the support anyone could ever wish for. There was still a long journey ahead but I wasn’t going to be alone. I was reminded of that again within those few weeks of recovery and it gave me the strength I needed to continue…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

*** Note to reader ***

Be sure to check out my photos tab to see pictures of me taken during my recover. 🙂