Fast forward to June 6th 2014…

It’s a gorgeous day outside so I’m stepping away from my desk and heading over to the local Botanical Garden to take in some fresh air. It’s the perfect place to meditate and reunite with nature. Then, later this evening I will be going to the observatory to look at the stars. This is my first time going so I’m super excited!! I realize this makes me a bit of a nerd but, I’m okay with that. After all, the whole purpose of me surviving breast cancer wasn’t to just sit back and watch life pass me by. It’s about me making the most of every experience. ๐Ÿ™‚ Wishing all my readers an amazing weekend!!

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

Wanting what we can’t have…

I spent a lot of time within the next several days thinking about everything I had discussed with my doctors. I thought I would be able to start my treatments right away and that soon enough I’d be on my way to a new city but, that wasn’t the case at all. I still needed to have more tests done and, I was also scheduled to consult another physician for a second opinion. This wasn’t going to be the fast, black and white process I wanted it to be. Actually, I was pretty naive in thinking it would, but hey, a girl can dream can’t she?

While processing my thoughts, one topic in particular did continue to cross my mind, no matter how hard I tried to let it go. Thinking about it made me laugh because it was a perfect example of how we as human beings have a tendency to want the things we can’t always have. Why is that? Why do we say we don’t want something but quickly change our minds when we are told we can’t have it anyway? If you haven’t guess it already, the topic I was referring to was the possibility of not having my own children.

Sure, at one time in my life I wanted to but, as I got older, it really didn’t matter if I had my own or chose to adopt. In fact, I had always wanted to adopt, even if I did have my own. There is nothing more gratifying to me then knowing I could provide a great home to a child that needs one but, for some reason, it was indeed starting to bother me.

It wasn’t that my opinion about adoption had changed. It was more the fact that I liked knowing I didn’t give birth to my own children because it was my decision and not because I just couldn’t. Again, I felt as though I had lost control over something that was my choice to make.

Each time I talked about it, I became more frustrated. Cancer, and the preventative treatments that followed it, had taken over my life again. To make things more difficult, the universe was reminding me of children every moment it could. Everywhere I went, couples were either getting ready to have a baby or just did. Even worse, was listening to people complain about having them at all. I mean, I’m not a parent but. I can imagine that having children has it’s challenges. It’s a huge responsibility and I give lots a credit to the many mom and dad’s I know that make it look so easy. Still, it upset me to see how some people took it for granted. They were so bitter and viewed it as more of a burden then a gift, not even stopping to consider what it would be like if they couldn’t have them at all.

I tried hard not to be judgmental but at times it proved to be very difficult. I just wanted so badly to help them see the beauty in what they had. I suffered with this for some time until I woke up one day and once again stopped feeling bad for myself. “That’s it!”, I thought, “I had already decided to adopt if I still wanted to have children one day so, in your face cancer!” Besides, who was I to assume people didn’t actually view their children as a gift. Perhaps they too were having a moment of weakness.

Then just like that, instead of taking ten steps backwards, I was taking a giant leap forward. There was absolutely no reason for me to feel bad because I wasn’t being forced to take an alternative route. I had made that choice long before cancer affected my life. It was time to break free from these emotional chains and continue to move forward. I had big dreams and I wasn’t about to let anything get in the way of my accomplishing them…

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

The second addition to ” My Oncology Team”…

Today I was scheduled to meet with the radiation oncologist. This time, since it was so close to work, I booked the appointment late in the afternoon. When I walked in, the office was very quiet and there were two very cheerful young ladies sitting behind the front desk. After signing in, I was given a stack of forms to complete. “There goes another tree with my name on it”, I thought to myself.ย I quickly filled them out and returned them to one of the girls behind the desk.

I don’t recall waiting very long before the nurse called my name and lead me into an exam room. This office was very different from the last. There were no windows in the exam room I was in and it was lightly decorated. It didn’t feel as cozy or welcoming but, I later found out that it was due to them relocating to a much nicer facility. In any event, I wasn’t aware of that at the time so I became a little nervous, not knowing what to expect. Was the lack of decor suppose to resemble my new doctors personality? I knew she was a female based on the name but I hadn’t heard anything more about her. Was she going to be cold and dry? Well, I was about to find out.

As my brain was trying to connect the pieces of the puzzle, I heard a gentle knock on the door and in came the doctor with a huge smile on her face. She instantly lit up the room and gave it the makeover it needed. She introduced herself and with just a few words I felt an instant connection. I could sense that she was a very kind and compassionate person.

After a little game of “let’s get to know each other” she asked me to change into a gown so that she could take a look at my incision. I was still healing well which was great news because I was ready to start treatment as soon as I was cleared to do so. I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t even one cell that could do me harm left behind.

She explained I needed to give my wound a little more time to heal and since I was also going to Moffitt for a second opinion, she recommended I wait to see what form of treatment they suggested before going any further. If chemotherapy was needed, I would have to wait till I finished the chemo before I could move forward with radiation.

She also wanted me to schedule an appointment to see a genetics counselor so that they could test me for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene. The fact that I was so young and with no known family history of breast cancer was starting to raise suspicion. If indeed I was positive for either gene, I wanted to do anything I could to prevent someone else in my family from going through the same thing I was. I had a younger sister and two nieces to think about.ย With a positive gene, the recommendation is to have a double mastectomy and hysterectomy as your risk of breast and cervical cancer are much higher. This was important information to pass on and it would be selfish of me to keep it to myself.

My doctor asked me how I felt about the possibility of not having my own children, should that be the case in the future, and I remember thinking, “with all of the kids in the world that need a good home, why on earth would I want to risk passing on a faulty gene to my offspring”? I had always been happy with the idea of adoption. In fact on a more recent note, prior to my diagnoses, I had decided that it was the best option because I didn’t want to be pressed for time by my “biological clock”. It was hard enough with society wondering why at 31 I wasn’t already married with children.

The truth is, I wanted to experience life more without the responsibility of having a child. I didn’t want to conform to societies belief that at my age I should already have children when I knew I wasn’t ready to give up certain freedoms that came with not having them. Who made up that silly rule anyway and when did it become so taboo to decide not to have children?ย I don’t think my doctor was to convinced but, she listen to my reasoning, gave me a smile and reassured me I was going to get through this.ย I was very happy to have her on my team.

Once I left the office I immediately called the genetics counselor to schedule my appointment. I would soon be on my way to Moffitt and I wanted to get as much as I could done before arriving. Little by little I was checking off items on my to do list and slowly I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

My oncology team…

I was excited to finally be meeting the team of oncologists that would be overseeing my health. To me, it was a symbol of moving forward. Now, more questions would be answered and with that came a better idea of what my future would be like. My first appointment was with the oncologist. I remember walking into the office that morning and feeling overwhelmed with emotions.

Even though I had already completed my surgery, it wasn’t till I was in a room full a patients all being treated for cancer related issues, that it really hit me. We were all cancer patients. I recall being handed the stack of paperwork to fill out regarding my demographics, insurance, personal and family history. Somewhere in the world there must be one less tree that would have had my name on it as I’m convinced it must have taken the whole tree to make my packet alone.

I began filling out the paperwork and within minutes was called back into a small office. “Already?”, I thought to myself. The young lady asked me to sit in a chair located next to her desk and she began to verify my insurance and demographic information. She also asked me what pharmacy I preferred and made sure to save it in my file. Once we finished the verification process, I was asked to pay my portion of the consultation with the physician. I felt a little strange already paying for a service I hadn’t received but, I did so anyway and after receiving my receipt, I was directed back into the waiting room.

It didn’t take to long before a young man called me into the back room. At this point, the entire waiting room was full and the phones were ringing nonstop. I followed the young man down the hall where we made our way into a room with several recliner like chairs lined up next to each other. I was asked to sit in the very first chair. This room was designated as their laboratory/draw station.

The phlebotomist drew some blood which thankfully was painless. I watched as he processed my lab order and placed a label with my name on each tube. He worked so quickly and gracefully. Once he finished, he turned to me, smiled, and asked me to follow him again. Still with the stack of paperwork in my hands, I followed him into an exam room just down the hall. Here, he asked me to wait patiently for the doctor.

As I waited I finished filling out my paper work. The office was cold but well lit and surprisingly felt full of life. A gentleman knocked on the door, came in, and introduced himself as the physician assistant. He reviewed the records that had been sent to the office as well as provided me with his thoughts on my recovery and treatment plan. He explained himself very well and asked if I had any questions for him at that time. My mind was still processing some thoughts in that moment so I said no. After acknowledging my response he excused himself and returned with my physician.

My new oncologist was a complete joy. I was impressed with his attention to detail, patience while explaining my condition to me, and his ability to talk to me as a real person. When he spoke to me, he genuinely took the time to get to know Elizabeth, the athlete, and not just Elizabeth, the cancer patient. In our conversation I learned that he too was a triathlete and instantly we had formed a bond. He understood my need to get back into my athletic routine which for so long had been very important to me.

This was already an amazing start to our doctor/patient relationship. I remember him taking off the wristband he was wearing and handing it to me. He joked, expressing the wristband hadn’t helped him win any races and that maybe it would bring me better luck. I was touched by the gesture and accepted the gift. The wristband read, ” The power of positive thinking”. It couldn’t have been a more appropriate reminder.

After a small physical examination of the surgical site, he reviewed my records. In summary, his recommendation was for me to establish with the radiation oncologist to discuss radiation treatments, schedule an appointment with my gynecologist to further evaluate the area of concern in my pelvis, and to schedule an appointment with Moffitt for a second opinion on the 1 lymph node positive for a single cluster of individual tumor cells.

I immediately asked if he thought this meant I would need chemotherapy but, he assured me that his recommendation for me to go to Moffitt for a second opinion was not because he thought my condition was worse than I had imagined. Instead, it was him wanting to cross all his “t’s” and dot all of his “i’s” before starting any form of treatment I may or may not have needed.

This was comforting and once again I was filled with peace. All in all, this appointment was full of good news and I was extremely pleased with the doctor and other healthcare professionals that were now involved with my care. I felt safe and understood, two of the most important things a cancer patient could ever feel…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

*** Note to reader ***

You can view the wristband given to me during the appointment in my photos tab. ๐Ÿ™‚

Inconclusive results and work challenges…

During my recovery I had been scheduled to do a CT scan of my pelvis to rule out anymore cancerous activity. I had received the results of the scan only to find that once again they were inconclusive. The area of concern couldn’t be clearly identified so, the question still remained, “what was it that lit up during my PET/CT scan”?

We were beginning to think that it may have just been a mistake and, since I was being scheduled to meet my oncology team, the recommendation was to allow the oncologist to review the results and determine what further tests needed to be done. Although I had my concerns, I was no longer as fearful of what the results might be. The fear had slowly disappeared leaving me more at peace.

My first day back at work finally came and I couldn’t have been happier. It was refreshing to have a change of scenery and be around people again. I was still coping with the emotional turmoil I held inside me but, being around people that didn’t know about my journey was refreshing. Cancer had already taken over so much of my life that is was nice to still have a part of me it hadn’t touched. At work I was the same old Elizabeth and it felt great. This helped balance me emotionally but, physically I began to cross new challenges.

I couldn’t work as quickly as I did before. My ROM was much better but the amount of weight I could handle was very minimal. While working with patients, there were times I needed to assist in lifting them and that proved to be a challenge. So much, that I would have to call for assistance, as my number one concern was patient safety. Working with heavy files was also difficult but, eventually I figured out a way to work around it and was able to find my own rhythm again.

It wasn’t long however, before other aspects of my recovery slowed me down yet again. The skin on my left arm and breast area had become so sensitive. It felt as though it were on fire. Each time my clothing or bra would rub against it I wanted to scream. Can you recall a time when you had a really terrible sunburn? One so bad that the best remedy was to be in the nude? Well, multiply that several times and that’s what I felt.ย To make things worse, when I would sweat, even the tiniest bit, it would sting like salt to an open wound.

My doctor had warned me about the discomfort I would feel because of the nerves that had been disturbed during my surgery but, I never imagined it to be so painful. I just wanted to lock myself up in the bathroom and cry. In my desperate attempts for a quick solution, I began to utilize ice packs to somewhat numb the area and keep it feeling cooler. It seemed to be working so, I did it as often as I needed to in order to remain sane at work.

This continued for weeks before it eventually calmed down and became more tolerable. I just kept telling myself, ” if this is the worse thing that happens today, things are really looking good because it could certainly be worse”. I’m fully aware of the fact that we shouldn’t write off our own hardships as something we need to just simply get over but, there were others going through far worse and it helped me to stay focused on the positive…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

The start of my emotional roller coaster….

I was successfully reaching my physical goals during my recovery but, emotionally I was riding the most intense roller coaster of my life. The kind that made your stomach tie itself in knots and could make you lose your lunch. Since the beginning of my journey I tried to keep a very positive outlook. I refused to say things like “I’m going to win my battle against breast cancer” or even refer to it as the “fight against breast cancer”. Why? Well, it all starts with the “law of attraction.”

My partner and I were so turned off by the amount of negativity in words like “fight” and “battle”, that we agreed to use less aggressive words. For example, instead of “my battle with breast cancer”, we refer to it as “my journey with breast cancer”. Did you notice the difference? One almost instinctively sends you into “defense mode” where as the other places you into a sort of “daydream” as I like to call it.

A journey is often times associated with something positive so your mind begins to create happier thoughts allowing you to question the good that can come of your current situation. For a while this really worked for me because I was genuinely ready to explore what this gift was trying to teach me. However, even the most positive people can hit extreme lows. That’s what began happening only days after my surgery.ย I was motivated to set physical goals but emotionally I had become angry and resentful.

Why me? I’m a good person. I even began to question god himself. With so many bad people out there, why did he choose me? I have never be one to wish anything bad on someone else but I was just desperately trying to find logic in something that I couldn’t understand. I felt like such a terrible person. How could I question god and his plan for me? Why couldn’t I just be happy that I was given another chance and continue to see it as the gift it was?ย I realize now I was chosen because of my strength but none of that made sense then. I was fearful of the unknown and I felt tainted. I was marked by this disease and I would forever be known as the girl with cancer. I felt like somehow I had lost my identity.

I had so much time to think in those two weeks and all I was doing was feeling bad for myself. At times I would even cry myself to sleep. I was so scared of the cancer still being there after surgery or the possibility of it coming back. My mind was playing dirty tricks on me and making me sick to my stomach. I had reached a new level of weakness and vulnerability. A side of me I never wanted to encounter. I wanted so badly to set a positive example and resemble a woman full of courage and strength but the truth is, I was a frightened little girl drowning in my own fears.

I remember asking god to please help me find my purpose in this journey and apologizing for my ungrateful behavior. There were people losing there lives because of cancer and here I was complaining I ever had it, even after a successful surgery that had removed it from my body. “I’m such a horrible person”, I thought to myself. I couldn’t believe how selfish I was acting and how much I couldn’t control those emotions. I think back to that moment and realize now that the emotional roller coaster I was on was normal and all part of the journey but, in that moment, all I could do was write and pray that I would one day regain my sanity and again feel like the Elizabeth I once was…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth ๐Ÿ™‚

 

*** Note to reader ***

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!! See you again Monday! ๐Ÿ™‚