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

Pathology Update

First, thank you all for the many prayers, positive thoughts, texts, messages and phone calls. I have felt so supported and loved on over the last week, and I truly appreciate it! A special thank you to my husband. He has been such a rock through this diagnosis. He’s in the midst of the busiest time of a new, demanding job, but has taken this news with poise and compassion and strength. Gosh I love him.

Earlier today I received the rest of my pathology report. While it wasn’t the specific report that my doctor suggested we hope for, after speaking with a breast cancer nurse about it (it’s nice to have family connections!), I’m feeling very happy with these results.

I will re-hash some of the details for those just tuning in: I have stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), and my tumor is 2 cm and considered grade 3. I also have non-invasive ductal carcinoma (DCIS) that is 9 cm (this is the calcification the surrounds the tumor, is considered stage 0 and is not worrisome to the doctors). The IDC is the main focus of this fight.

The new piece of information that I got today has to do with the receptors of my IDC (what feeds the cancer). My cancer is estrogen positive, progesterone negative and HER2/neu positive. This means that it’s being fed by hormones and the protein HER2/neu. The good news here is that there are targeted treatments for both of these receptors that are not chemotherapy. The estrogen component can be treated with a hormone therapy pill (typically taken for 5 years) and the HER2/neu can be treated with an IV medication (typically taken for 1 year). While my doctor cannot say yet what my specific treatment plan will be until all of my remaining results are in, it is encouraging to know that there are viable medical options for my scenario that are not chemo.

So here’s what’s next: I have an MRI scheduled next Wednesday and a consult with the plastic surgeon next Thursday. The following week I will receive my genetic testing results on the 8th and meet with my doctor to review the results from my MRI on the 9th. At that appointment I will learn if there is any indication that the cancer has spread to my lymph nodes and whether or not I will need chemo. If no chemo, my mastectomy will be scheduled in the weeks afterwards.

Waiting almost two weeks to really know how we’ll be treating this thing stinks. But I am encouraged by the options out there and am still finding peace through my faith. I continue to see God work through this ordeal – women scheduling mammograms; people reaching out to me about strengthening their own walk in faith. It has been truly humbling.  I believe that more good will come of this than bad, so I am excited to see how I will be used in His plan.

And perhaps God thought I needed a little distraction, because on Tuesday we had a water leak that flooded our kitchen and parts of the basement below. After emergency water remediation (AKA large airplane sounding fans throughout my kitchen and basement – which are STILL here, by the way), and a long visit by our insurance adjuster, we have been informed that in addition to new walls, ceiling and floors in parts of our basement, our main level hardwood floors have to be replaced, and our kitchen will be gutted (new cabinets, backsplash, possibly countertops). Which initially sounded awesome… until we were told that we will have to move out of our house for at least a week (but probably longer). We’re not quite sure the timing of the work, where we will go, or the timing of my surgery, but trusting that it will all work out okay.

I like to end things on a positive note, so here are my silver linings from this week: new boobs (going to make the highlight reel every time), new kitchen and a new excuse to get off the phone with telemarketers… today I was contacted by a man trying to sell me a timeshare. I told him I was not interested, and unfazed he started in on the whole “you’re not interested in vacationing every year in Hilton Head??” and without much thought I answered, “no, sorry, I’m battling cancer right now.” I have never shut up a telemarketer so fast. He answered with, “I’m so sorry, God bless you” and hung up the phone. Score. Wait, is this wrong??

For my praying friends, here are my specific prayer requests for the weeks ahead:

  • Pray for my complete healing
  • Pray for my MRI results to show that the cancer has not spread to my lymph nodes
  • Pray for continued peace and positivity for me and my family

Again, I thank you all so much for the prayers and well-wishes! I will keep you all updated as we go!

Love,
Jess

I have breast cancer.

Yesterday, I found out that I have breast cancer. I’m 35, have no family history, am relatively healthy, and I have breast cancer. Two weeks ago I felt a lump, and despite my initial hesitation to go in and be seen about it, I did. I actually went straight to a specialist. My lump was confirmed by ultrasound… and the immediately after by mammogram. I had a biopsy the next day, and then yesterday my doctor’s initial prediction of cancer was confirmed.

So here’s what I know right now… I have a 2 cm tumor, and so they are giving me an initial staging as stage 1. So far they have not seen any indication that it has spread to my lymph nodes, but they will confirm this when they test my lymph nodes during surgery. I have a 9 cm calcification field surrounding the tumor that is also cancerous. They are less worried about this part. Due to the size of the calcification I will have a mastectomy, probably double (at my own request), and immediate reconstruction (or as I’m calling it, an upgrade! LOL). Surgery will probably be 3 to 6 weeks from now. Within the next week I will get further test results that will tell us if I need chemo, so I am praying that these results are favorable for a surgery-only treatment plan.

My initial feelings of shock, anxiety and sadness have been replace through faith with peace, optimism and gratefulness. I was able to take the official results yesterday in complete confidence that God’s got this! The peace that I feel is unreal.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

The hardest thing so far has been seeing the worry and concern of my family and friends. And I get it, it’s scary and sad. But please, don’t worry on my behalf! My God is bigger than all of this!

I don’t know what my needs will be over the next several months, but right now what I need is prayer. Some specific prayer requests:

  • Pray for my complete healing
  • Pray that my next round of results come back indicating no need for chemo (positive, positive, negative on the three things they are testing for)
  • Pray that I continue to be filled with the peace of God and can attack this cancer from a position of positivity and optimism
  • Pray that Blake and I find the right words and right timing to communicate this news to our kids

Through all this I feel extremely blessed to have my faith, my awesome family and friends, a very competent doctor, a lot of flexibility with my job, and health insurance.

Now my PSA – ladies, if you feel something, see a doctor!! Even if you’re in your 20’s or 30’s. Even if you don’t have family history. Even if you eat organic, unprocessed food and are healthy! I never thought when I felt my lump that it would actually be cancer. But it was, and I’m so glad I called.

Moving forward, I want to talk about my cancer. I want to joke about it. I do not want it to be the elephant in the room. I want to focus on the positives (like my upcoming new boobs!) and I hope you all will join me in all this.

Love you all!
Jess