Happily moving forward…

Last Thursday I finally established with a new gynecologist here in Miami. It took a while to get in, but so far I’m pleased with her approach. She looked over my medical records and immediately followed up on my pelvis. She ordered another pelvic ultrasound and a CA125.

The CA125 was going to be used to determine my baseline, and monitored for any abnormalities. Last night I received those results through my patient portal, and was pleased to see that my score came back at a 10, placing me within normal range. This was great news and a huge relief.

Today, I went to have my follow up ultrasound done. I feel confident that the results of the test will come back normal too. I should know for sure within a few days.

I did also receive a call from Moffitt yesterday afternoon, however, the results of the genetic testing were still not available. I was told it would take anywhere from 2-3 weeks, so they feel I should have some answers by the end of the week.

All in all, I’m happy that everything is coming together so well. It allows me to stay focused on moving on with my life. Though, I’m reminded everyday of this experience when I look at myself in the mirror, I’ve started to adjust and accept the changes that have occurred as a result of it.

Thanks to an insane amount of vitamin E, I feel my scar as healed so well since November 2013.
Thanks to an insane amount of vitamin E, I feel my scar as healed so well since November 2013.

My scar isn’t something to be embarrassed about, it’s a beautiful reminder of one of the most important experiences of my life. An experience that changed my life for the better and brought me closer to the person I want to be…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

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 🙂

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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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. 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 🙂

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. 🙂