#teamGWAPR

Gift With A Pink Ribbon, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that donates handmade fleece blankets to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, to provide them with warmth and comfort throughout their treatments. Blankets are handmade and shipped free of charge within the US! 🙂

“I am extremely humbled by the love and support of our wonderful volunteers and look forward to our continued growth, and touching many more lives through this cause…”
#teamGWAPR… Together we can make a world of a difference!
Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

What about the guys?

My mom brought this NBC2 news clip to my attention this morning, and I immediately knew it had to be shared.

Sadly, to many times over, the men seem to be forgotten when it comes to raising awareness about breast cancer. Even I am guilty of not including and reminding the men out there that they too can be affected.

This short video clip was an eye opener for me, and I encourage you to please watch and share it with the men in your life. They too need our support. ❤

Video courtesy of NBC2 News

I dedicate this blog post to the men in my life… Please check your boobies!

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂

 

 

And so the count down begins!

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Today marks 8 days before my reconstructive surgery, and while my expansion has taken much longer than I had originally anticipated, I couldn’t be happier with where I am today. My surgeon has been amazing throughout this process, and frequently reminded me to be patient, when what I wanted most was to be done with this phase in my journey.

 

Now that the day is just around the corner, I’m beginning to feel a bit anxious. Ironically enough, I don’t feel worried about the surgery at all. It certainly isn’t the first time for me, and I’m looking forward to feeling more comfortable with my new implants.

What I am feeling now however, subconsciously taps into a previous feeling. It’s a feeling of “loss”. The memory of having “lost” my natural breast a year ago is hijacking my brain, and is now reenacting that loss with the upcoming removal of my expanders. It’s an interesting observation, and I wonder if other women have or are experiencing this feeling of “loss” a second time around too.

IMG_6543
Keeping my body in motion until it’s time to recover…

 

Nevertheless, I feel extremely blessed to be here a year later, cancer free, and ready to move forward with my reconstruction. I plan to keep everyone posted with videos and posts so keep an eye out for my pre-op and post-op updates! 😉

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂

 

 

 

Requested & Shipped!

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So excited to have shipped out our first two orders!!

I can’t wait for these two blankets to reach their new homes, and for the recipients to wrap themselves in all the love that was put into making them. ❤ ❤

Learn more about our cause by clicking here! 😀

 

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. 🙂

 

 

It’s Video Time- Zoladex Injection #7…

IMG_4432That’s right! This is the segment where I get to share one of my videos with you. 🙂

Click on the link below to see how my Zoladex injections are administered.

In my experience, the injection site stays sore and bruised (the size of a nickel or smaller) for a few days.

After that, I’m back to my good old self again. 😉

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂 ❤

 

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

It was within the first few weeks of my being re-diagnosed with breast cancer that I decided to go out to one of my favorite local restaurants close to home called Tarpon Bend. This time, I sat by the bar and did a little people watching while the thoughts of the news I had only recently received flowed through my mind. In fact, I think it was one of the first times I had even given it time to really sink in.

I can’t remember exactly how the conversation started but I do remember sharing the news with the bartender and talking to her about my blog. Bartenders are like magicians, they somehow posses the ability to make you feel like you can just talk about anything. Of course, a mimosa or two can certainly help get the conversation started. 🙂

Her name will remain nameless as she shared some personal details of her life and it wouldn’t be fair for me to attach a name to the experience but, I do want to talk about what she shared.

I believe she was about 18-19 when her and her friend decided to get free mammograms that were being offered. Of course at that age you would probably think to yourself, why would she do that? I believe she had mentioned there was a family history and since the opportunity was there, why not? I’m so glad that she did. When the results came back, she was informed she had to undergo more testing and sure enough, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. As she told me the story I wanted nothing more than to hug her. My heart fell to the floor at the thought of someone so young going through something so frightening.

After our conversation I excused myself and in the restroom let the tears flow. It finally set in and I just couldn’t be the strong “rock” everyone was so accustomed to seeing. When I finally left the bathroom and started paying for my tab, she did the most thoughtful thing I could have imagined in that moment. She stepped out from behind the bar, gave me a hug and told me that I was a warrior and she knew that I was going to  come out of this okay.

In that moment I felt like she was another sister of mine, giving me the support I so desperately needed. I look forward to one day soon going back and seeing her again. I would love to share all that has happened since, and thank her for sharing her story. She reminded me that even though there were tough times to come, I too could come out of this smiling and living life exactly as I choose to live it…

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂 ❤

The Honest Truth…

Breast Cancer Treatment Handbook by Judy C. Kneece I recommend this handbook to anyone currently going through their journey with Breast Cancer. It talks about everything from start to finish and is all very well explained. You can even take notes inside of it. :)
Breast Cancer Treatment Handbook by Judy C. Kneece
I recommend this handbook to anyone currently going through their journey with Breast Cancer. It talks about everything from start to finish and is all very well explained. You can even take notes inside of it. Very helpful during such a chaotic time.

Why do I blog?

A cancer diagnose will bring even the strongest individual down to their knees, regardless of the stage. It’s something we’ve all heard about but never really think will happen to us. The ugly truth however, is that it can happen and it changes your life in an instant.

After my cancer diagnoses, all I could think about was cancer. Before I knew it I was buried in articles and books, all relating to breast cancer.

I remember researching and stumbling across women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer but were far more advanced than I was. It made me feel blessed that I wasn’t as advanced, yet insignificant all at the same time. Like I was crying over spilled milk. Why couldn’t I find more women who were going through something similar and were willing to talk about it. I felt terrible talking about how I felt emotionally with someone that was worse off than I was. How dare I complain, right? Still, with that being said, I had a voice and needed to be heard. I had fears and needed to express them, but to who? Who would be able to understand how I felt and remind me that it was okay to feel that way?

This is why I wanted to take a moment and encourage you to please share your story. I never wish for anyone to feel the way I did, trapped and feeling guilty for being so sad. I promise you that you will be making a huge difference in someones life.

Breast Cancer Support Partner Handbook by Judy C Kneece I recommend this book to all the caregiver out there. You play such an important role in our journey and for that I thank you. <3 <3 <3
Breast Cancer Support Partner Handbook by Judy C Kneece
I recommend this book to all the caregiver out there. You play such an important role in our journey and for that I thank you.

This message goes out to the Caregivers too. Don’t think even for a moment that I have forgotten you.

You know first hand that caregivers need just as much love and understanding as the patient themselves do. Your insight might be just what other caretakers need to help get them passed a hurdle or two. Sharing your journey will also remind others that they aren’t alone. It will even help us, as the patient, better understand some of the struggles you go through.

I really hope that at this hour I’ve been able to really express just how important it is to share our experiences with one another. No story is to small, and no moment of sadness less worthy of a shoulder to cry on than another. This is why I blog…

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth ❤ ❤