Update: I’m making progress!

Tomorrow is my 4th chemo treatment – wow.  Hard to believe I’m this far in this portion of my treatment, but I’m thankful to have done as well as I have.  So far my body has responded quite well to the chemo; both in the way my cancer is responding and my side effects. Prior to starting my treatment the doctors and nurses tell you all of the possible side effects you could experience and I’m happy to report that mine have been mild by comparison. The worst part is the nausea and fatigue – it’s sort of like if morning sickness and a terrible hangover had a baby, that’d be my chemo aftermath. Fun times! But fortunately for me, my medical team is very committed to minimizing this as much as possible and so with each chemo treatment and different anti-nausea concoction the severity of it all is improving. Going back to the infusion center post chemo for IV fluids and nausea meds seems to do the trick, and so that’ll be my MO for the next rounds.

Life has started to feel a little more back to normal. The holidays are over, I’m back to work (from home), somehow my tastebuds that seemed destroyed with my first chemo treatment have mostly returned to normal, my will to cook and clean is back (why?!? lol) and as a family we’ve started focusing on things that are not cancer related. Home improvements, vacations, family goals, career goals; things that my mind had no room for upon my initial diagnosis have once again gained space – and that is a nice and normal feeling to have. My feelings of peace and confidence in God’s plan for this season remain. I’ve got days of blah, but the days of hopefulness are greater. Thank you, Jesus!

Medical update: Recently I met with my breast surgeon who did an ultrasound of both the area where my breast cancer was and my lymph node that biopsied positive for cancer. In my breast, aside from a very small area that may be remnants of my tumor (but too small to measure) and the metal clip she inserted during the biopsy, she saw nothing else. My lymph node also showed improvement having shrunk from 2.6 cm to 1.3 cm (so the prayers and chemo are working on this sucker too!!).  This was the first time I had seen her since starting chemo, so she was super pleased (and astonished) with the way the cancer has responded to the treatment. I told her we had praying that bad boy away.

One issue I have had through all this is my port; it got infected over Christmas and was removed shortly after. I had to receive my 3rd chemo treatment via IV (which was not as pain free as through the port). Last Monday they attempted to place a new one on the other side of my chest, but the surgeon, upon examining my old port site, discovered it had not fully healed and he was worried that it may become infected again. He said he did not feel comfortable risking an infection to my new port and therefore postponed the surgery. I am now scheduled to have the new port placed tomorrow morning, prior to my chemo treatment, assuming the surgeon is comfortable with condition my old port site. It is still not fully healed, so I’m unsure how this will go.

Despite the dramatic positive response my tumors have had to the treatment, we will press forward with the initial aggressive plan of attack, however, there have been a few modifications. As it stands, my last chemo will be March 2nd. They will give me a month to recover and then my mastectomy will be the first week of April. Initially I was supposed to begin reconstruction at the same time as my mastectomy, but now, due to the extent of the radiation necessary because of where the cancer has spread, reconstruction will be delayed 6 to 12 months. After my surgery in April, they will let me recover another month and then I’ll begin 33 rounds of radiation (I’ll be receiving radiation every week day for 33 days) in May. Finishing up in mid to late June, this should be my final cancer treatment!! Except for targeted therapy infusions every week week… and hormone blocker pills for 10 years… well, let’s just say it’ll be the final “hard” treatment. Hallelujah!!

For my praying friends, here are our specific praises and prayer requests:

  • Praise that my lymph node is shrinking!
  • Praise that my side effects are not severe!
  • Pray for my old port site to heal to allow my new port to be placed
  • Pray for me and my family’s continued peace and confidence in God through this season
  • Pray for my complete healing

I continue to be humbled by this whole experience. By so many things – by the outpouring of prayers, messages, calls, cards, gifts, help, food, an amazing husband, so many friends and family that care so much about me. I’m humbled by co-workers who surprised me with a “pink day” video in my honor (video here – mascara alert). I’m humbled by what big things God has already done in me – both physically and mentally. How He’s prepared me by my strengthening my walk with him over the last few years to get me ready to fight this thing with Him. How He’s taken away my fear and my anxiety almost completely. It is truly amazing. I continue to be excited for what He’s got in store for me, but until that is revealed, I plan to keep giving Him all the Glory, and keep my eyes on Him to get see me through this.

Not sure how many of you are familiar with the Bible app, but you can bookmark verses. Through these last few months I’ve been bookmarking several verses that speak to me about this journey. Somehow prior to my cancer diagnosis (like back in October 2016) I had accidentally bookmarked a verse, John 9:3. In my quiet time each morning as I read through my intentional bookmarks, I’d get annoyed that I had this one “mistake” in there- surely not relevant to what I wanted to be feeding myself with. Apparently I hadn’t actually read (or absorbed) the verse prior to my petty annoyance… but a few weeks ago I did. Wow.

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Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:3 

Love,
Jess

Prayer works, y’all.

It’s been a little over 2 weeks since my last update, and wow, what a crazy, emotional, roller coaster the last few weeks have been. I’ll try to catch you all up best that I can.

When I last wrote, we had met with my breast surgeon who had told us of suspicious spots on my MRI. When we met with the oncologist the next day, he confirmed her suspicions and told us the cancer was actually at least stage 3, and that we’d need a PET scan to confirm it had not spread (which if it had would make it stage 4 – treatable, but not curable). And it was at this point that my world started spinning, that I started to feel real sadness and worry over my diagnosis.  Sadness for what this was putting my family and friends through, worry about how long I would be around for my kids and husband. The real dark places that a mind can go when faced with this kind of news.  There was a lot of crying at the uncertainty of it all.  Blake was also rattled by this news. It was a scary day. What we thought was stage 1 “early” breast cancer, was actually at least stage 3, and my oncologist said it had been around a while. Gut punched.

And then my small group rallied around us. They called one of our pastors, they showed up at our house the next morning. They laid hands on me and Blake – they prayed for us and they cried with us. It was such a beautiful and powerful expression of Jesus’ love for us and the power of prayer.

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And after that experience, my sadness and worry left. I physically felt the weight of the anxiety lifted from my chest and I felt as though God was telling me that it was going to be okay.  I spent the next few days busy with follow up appointments – a biopsy of a lymph node, a CT scan and a bone scan (my PET was denied by insurance), but I was at peace.

That Wednesday morning I received the amazing news that my scans did not show any evidence of metastatic disease (stage 4), and that I would continue on the treatment plan discussed with my oncologist: TCHP (Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin and Perjeta) chemo every three weeks for six cycles, with Herceptin and Perjeta infusions continuing for a year, double mastectomy in early April, radiation and 10 years of hormone therapy.

So fresh off the amazing news of clear scans, with my girlfriends and family, I had a head-shaving/kick cancer’s butt celebration that evening. While I had been contemplating the idea of a “party” to shave my head, I had to really consider it. The idea sounded awesome in theory, but I wasn’t quite sure how I’d feel center stage with my friend (and hairdresser) buzzing my head in front of 30 of my closest ladies. But I prayed about it, and when I made the call to go forward with the party, I felt confident in the decision. And let me just say, that I am so, so, so glad that I did. Nothing will make you feel better about your newly bald head that all your girls hooting and hollering and telling you how pretty you are! It was such an empowering experience! I didn’t cry, but instead, surrounded by all that love and support, I was beaming. In some silly way I felt like it was my transformation into a warrior party, because that’s actually what I feel like with my buzzed head lol.
[Photo cred to my awesome friend and amazing photographer Liz Williams]

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The day after my party, I had my port placed (a device that is surgically implanted under the skin to allow chemo drugs to be infused easily). The recovery from this has hurt a little more than I expected, but it’s been manageable.

And then Friday, November 17th, I had my first chemo infusion. We were there for almost seven hours, but the day went really smooth. Blake was with me the entire time, the nurses were super sweet and I had some friends drop by to bring lunch and hang out for a bit.

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Post chemo: Saturday went well… and Sunday morning went well… and then Sunday afternoon the intense nausea hit (and barreled through Monday as well) and that was pretty rough. I was able to keep my fluid intake to the 64 ozs they recommend, and I was able to eat throughout the day. The best way I can describe the feeling is it’s very similar to the first trimester of pregnancy – constantly nauseous, hungry (but nothing sounds good) your tastes are off and you’re tired. And since I’ve been through that three times, it sucked, but it was not unfamiliar territory. Today is the first day that (aside from fatigue) I feel almost back to normal. Hallelujah! I was fortunate enough to have Blake’s mom with me for the week so I was able to feel yucky without having to take care of the kids or do housework, and Blake’s stepmom is coming for a few days to help out as well (so I can continue my daily naps lol). Gosh I am so, so thankful for all the help and support we have had through this whole ordeal! It has meant to world to me and Blake to have everyone praying for us, sending messages, gifts, meals, helping with our kids and just anything you can imagine that would be helpful. We have the BEST people in our lives. Period.

And I am happy to report that all of those prayers HAVE been working! My tumor, which the MRI reported as 2.6 cm in diameter a few weeks ago, and that my oncologist “rough measured” at 3 cm right before I started treatment, is now barely detectable. I can still feel some of the DCIS (the not so worrisome other cancer I have), but I can no longer feel “the mass”!! Y’all, talk about humbled, on my knees, praising Jesus that my cancer has already responded so well to this chemo regimen!! I go back to the oncologist on Monday morning and I may be heel-clicking down the halls!

For my praying friends, below are my specific prayer (and praise) requests:

  • PRAISE: that my scans were clear from further cancer spread
  • PRAISE: that my tumor is responding well to treatment and SHRINKING
  • PRAISE: that my body is handling chemo well
  • Pray: for my complete healing from this cancer
  • Pray: that my family and I can remain peaceful and positive throughout my treatments

I will continue to claim victory in Jesus name over this awful disease, and I will be thanking Him for all of the many blessings that have come and will come through this trial. Excited to see how He will be using me!

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 

Love,
Jess

 

Starting the Battle

Today we received further clarity on my breast cancer diagnosis and the beginnings of a game plan. My cancer journey will include four to six months of chemo, a double mastectomy (which we’d already decided), and radiation. I received MRI results that showed some suspicious spots on my lymph nodes, one of which will be biopsied early next week. I start seeing the oncologist first thing tomorrow to learn the specifics of the chemo plan. My doctor thinks chemo may start as early as next week; she said it’s all about to move very fast and they are going to attack this hard. I’d be lying if I said that this news didn’t sting. But, after I started feeling an enlarged lymph node in my armpit a few days ago, I’ve been mentally preparing for this outcome. I am thankful that they are fast-tracking me to start the chemo as soon as possible to prevent any further spread.

Today we also told the kids about my diagnosis. We were careful with our words, but we were honest. We told them mommy has some cancer inside her, she’s going to take strong medicine that will make her sick and make her hair fall out (we clarified it was the medicine that will make me sick, not the cancer). We explained that I’d have surgery to remove the remaining cancer and then mommy would be well. We told them it is all going to be okay. Because it is – we have faith in Him that it is. They took the news remarkably well. There were no tears (from any of us), it was matter of fact. They asked a few questions, it was done in about 5 minutes and then they started back on their homework. The only voiced concern was from Beckett who didn’t want me to lose my hair. I feel ya buddy! But we tried to reassure him it was necessary and I’ll only look funny for a little while.

So how am I doing? Pretty well, all things considered. Getting over the hurdle of telling the boys was really weighing on me, so I am praising God for allowing that to go as well as it did. I feel ready to start this battle. Every day I am a little more ready to lose my hair. I’m bouncing around some ideas on how to make that part fun and a little less traumatic for me and the kids. I feel extremely blessed – not only for the peace that God has given me through this, but for all the family and friends who have been praying for me, thinking about me, calling, texting and offering to help with anything. I feel so, so loved!

Some specific prayer requests:

  • For my complete healing
  • For wisdom and discernment for my doctors as they put together my chemo plan
  • For my body to handle the chemo well
  • For continued peace for me, my family and friends

I started the day choosing power, love, self-control, courage and strength, and that is how I will end it. Fear and worry have no place here!

I’ll update you all as I know more.

Love,
Jess