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 🙂 ❤

 

The End of an Amazing Vacation…

That night, after visiting Machu Picchu, we explored the city for the last time before heading back to Cusco the next morning.

Enjoying every moment spent in the city of Machu Picchu. :D
Enjoying every moment spent in the city of Machu Picchu. 😀

The following morning we took the train back to Cusco and settled into our hotel.

Arriving back into Cusco...
Arriving back into Cusco…

The next two days in Cusco were spent exploring the main square and visiting nearby ruins, such as the Sacsayhuaman Fortress. This was also the perfect time to break away from all of the touristy restaurants and eat like the locals. There is nothing worse than visiting a place and not experiencing the culture. The food was absolutely amazing! It was fresh and cooked to perfection. We even tried Alpaca while we were out there, and to my surprise, it was delicious! (I apologize in advance for any vegans reading this post)

Asked the locals where they liked to eat and got some great recommendations. The food was delicious! :)
Asked the locals where they liked to eat and got some great recommendations. The food was delicious! 🙂

Since we were there for Palm Sunday, we were able to visit the cathedral for their mass. It was beautiful, and the largest I had ever seen. Certainly a great way to end the trip. After leaving Cusco and arriving in Lima, we spent a little time on a guided tour, exploring the city before it was time to board the plane again. We stopped to eat at a place called Tanta Tanta. The food was delicious and although it was dark out, there was a nice view.

On our way back home I spent some time thinking about our entire vacation. I felt as though the trip had changed me somehow. It had opened up a new world of possibilities and fed my desire to travel and learn more. It also made me realize that I needed to stop living my life behind the scenes, or how others thought I should live my life, and I needed to share my experience with others. Not my vacation, but my journey. Everything I had gone through and all that I was to become. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew I was going to find a way…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

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…

Another milestone…

The day has finally come!

I’m officially on my way to Naples this morning to follow up with both of my oncologist’s, and to have my first follow up mammogram and ultrasound since the completion of my radiation treatment.

Though I feel all will turn out okay, I can’t ignore the small part of me that is very nervous and anxious to know my results.

I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on my outcome…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Saying goodbye…

It was officially my last day at work and time to say goodbye to the people I had worked with for over 11 years. I was excited to be starting a new life on the other coast, but I was also sad to be leaving everyone behind. My coworkers had become my family and my best friends.

These were the people that watched me grow into the person I am today, and taught me so much along the way. To be honest with you, even through the tough times, this was the kind of place people only dreamed of working in. My boss is the kind of doctor that works “for the people” and not “for the dollar”. Yes, we all know it’s a business but, he taught me to be compassionate towards my patients, and by example taught me, that without a good patient/doctor relationship there is no business.

As I cut my cake and we shared a few laughs, I remember reflecting back on my experiences and with a smile on my face thinking, “These people will always hold a special place in my heart”.

Goodbye to my life here in beautiful Naples, FL. It was now time to head on over to the place I would now call home. A place full of new opportunities and adventures to come, Miami, FL.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

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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It’s really happening…

The following day on my way to my PET/CT scan I was thinking about all of the things I needed to address prior to my being off for surgery. I would be away from work for 2 weeks and home bound for at least the first week. Then, moments before arriving at my destination I had a flashback of what had occurred only weeks before. It all sunk in within those few moments. I had put in my notice at work and had planned to leave at the end of December. We had even found a replacement. How could I move away from my doctors and what was I going to do about my insurance? More than ever I needed to be certain I was insured at all times. There was already so much on my plate. I didn’t need something else to worry about.

I called my mom to express my concerns in hopes of some helpful advice but instead I got something better. It was like my angels were telling me to relax and that everything was going to be okay. My boss of 11+ years and his wife had already spoken to my mother. They told her that my job was secure until I was finished with my journey. I couldn’t believe my ears!! The support I had all around was overwhelming. I never realized how much I meant to so many. They had even spoken to the young lady we found for my position and she was willing to wait and sending me prayers for a speedy recovery. It was like a ton of bricks were lifted off my shoulders and once again I was able to focus.

I entered the facility and signed in. It was early and it didn’t seem very busy. After a short wait the technician whisked me away into another one of those fancy closets with the designer blouses I had mentioned in my prior posts. I was becoming more and more familiar with this luxurious lifestyle. When I finished changing I was brought into a room filled with several recliner like chairs divided by privacy partitions. As I sat in the back room waiting for the technician to inject me with my radiation cocktail, I watched as the other patients were directed to their seats. It was starting to get full but, my cocktail did eventually arrive and it was administered intravenously. After an hour of relaxing and going through the many possible outcomes of my results the scan was performed and I was on my way to my pre-op appointment.

At the hospital, I went from one waiting room to the next before sitting down with the nurse to go over my preoperative instructions. She drew some more blood and asked a number of questions. Then she handed me an antimicrobial body wash. She explained I had to use this on the day of surgery and the day prior. It didn’t smell pretty but I smiled, thanked her and was on my way. I hadn’t eaten all morning and I was starving. I headed to a near by bagel place and there I spent a little time organizing all of my thoughts and paperwork.

This was really happening. In just a few days I was going to be having surgery. Most importantly, I had to face another challenge. I had to tell the people closes to me. I chose since the beginning to tell no one until I knew for certain what my diagnoses was but, then everything started to unfold so quickly. I could no longer hide it from them. How could I explain my 2 weeks of inactivity? I was always off doing a race or training and I had only told a hand full of people prior to my diagnoses. It wasn’t easy for me to announce I had cancer. Who wants to be the one to say, ” Hi there, I know you have a lot going on but hey, I have cancer.” I didn’t want to be a Debbie downer. I liked delivering good news, not dropping that kind of load on someone. Regardless, now was the time to start explaining what was happening to those around me.

It was hard to talk about it because the approach many had was, “Maybe they are wrong, these kinds of things have happened to others before”. I didn’t want people to be sad or feel bad for me but at the same time I didn’t want to be filled with false hope. I knew my doctors weren’t wrong. I also knew what my body was telling me. It was an emotional roller coaster but in the end it created an even larger support system and that was a true blessing. I just had to learn that everyone’s reactions were different and I couldn’t take it personal. Some were upset they didn’t know sooner, others were there supporting me every step of the way with prayers and words of encouragement.

All in all I had an overwhelmingly positive response. It felt great to start sharing my journey and having so many people to talk to about it. It kept me strong and I am eternally grateful for those amazing people in my life. Near and far, you are all apart of my journey and I couldn’t have made it this far without you…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂