Tag Archives: Cancer

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

It has been a while since I posted!  Life has been busy, in an excellent way.  I will start with a family update and move into the meat of the post.

We had a wonderful holiday season.  We were able to spend Thanksgiving in Arkansas with family.  All of the Carlisle side was together for the first time in many years.  Since the last time we were all in the same town, two babies were born.  We spent a long weekend with both sides of the family and felt renewed when we got home.  Christmas was spent just the five of us at home.  Jordan was able to be here for a few days and it was wonderful having all my babies sleeping under our roof!  The new year arrived bringing hope for a better 2022 and so far, so good.  Granted we’re only 10 days in, I will take it!

My job at the church changed as my “boss” went off on new adventures.  If you know her, you know she was more than a boss.  She was a Godly friend who blessed me  in way too many ways to count.  Working with her was absolutely a perk of the job.  I miss her and her family dearly, but distance can’t stop the friendship we have!  Thanks to her leaving, I’m busier at work.  It’s been fun, but different.  We are all being reminded just how much she did and how much of an impact she had!  With all that said, I still absolutely LOVE my job.  I know i’m where God wants me and I look forward to all that lays ahead!

Now, I get to the cancer update.  The title gives a bit of a glimpse into everything I am about to share.  Since I haven’t posted in nearly four months a lot has happened.

I continue to take the monthly injection, Zoladex, to stop my ovaries from producing estrogen.  In addition to that I take a daily oral chemo pill, Letrozole.  These medications are hard on me.  I suffer pretty significant joint stiffness.  Sometimes it’s hard to stand up.  Once I’m up and start moving it usually improves, but the getting up and moving part can be challenging.  Due to this we had to get a new vehicle.  We had a car and standing up out of the car was a challenge.  Oftentimes painful.  We had wanted to convert to an SUV for some time and took this as our opportunity.  Having a car I can step out of is a game changer.  The heated seats are definitely an added bonus when my i’m aching!  My symptoms have improved over the last few months.  The doctor said they should and for many months I was doubtful.  Finally, after about seven months on the medication I have some relief of those symptoms.

I titled this, The Gift That Keeps on Giving, because of some things that have come to light in the last month.  I scheduled an annual exam at my gynecologist.  Dr. P. ran all the standard blood work and found that my thyroid levels were off.  They showed hyperactivity.  My thyroid was overproducing hormones.  She didn’t seem too concerned and said to follow up with my primary care for further testing.  Sometimes the numbers can be wrong and a second test would be needed to confirm.  I left with little concern.  I did not have a primary care doctor so I went to one that Dr. P. referred me to.  The appointment was scheduled for two weeks later, the week after Christmas.

In this two week period I started having significant elbow pain on my right side.  This is the side I had the mastectomy on, but I wasn’t sure if this was related to that.  The pain was at times a level 9.  I had no strength in my hands.  I couldn’t fully extend my arm.  It was uncomfortable.  Of course this happened over the holidays when getting an appointment with a doctor is almost impossible so I took Motrin and dealt with it.  Thankfully I was off work and school and could rest my arm.

The appointment with the primary care doctor came and we went through all my medical history, which takes much longer now.  I told her the primary reason I was there was for a recheck of my thyroid.  During his exam she noted that my heart rate was going 145.  Now if you know me, you know that’s not completely abnormal in a doctor’s office, but over the past year my white coat anxiety had not shown its face.  Through the entire cancer journey my heart rate at the doctor never went about about 115.  I could feel the effects of the racing heart.  My anxiety was off the charts.  I was not able to sit still.  I was breathing fast.  I told the doctor my anxiety history and explained that as soon as I was in the car my heart rate would slow.  And it did, but not back down to my normal resting rate of 90-95.  I should say that a hyperactive thyroid will cause a racing heart so the doctor felt fairly certain that when she ran the blood test again, it would be abnormal.  She put the orders in for the lab and we moved on.

I mentioned to her my arm.  I thought I had injured it in some way.  Tennis elbow or tendinitis.  I told her the pain I was feeling and she said, oh I knew immediately when I walked in the room you had lymphedema.  I was caught off guard, but not completely shocked.  I was told prior to my surgery that because lymph nodes would be removed, lymphedema was possible.  To explain, you have many lymph nodes throughout your body that serve a major role in eliminated waste and fighting infections.  They serve as a sort of filter.  Since I had two removed from under my arm, the lymphatic fluids cannot drain as easily.  Thus, fluid build up in the arm causing pain and discomfort.  My arm didn’t appear swollen to me, but to her it did.  I was told to get a compression sleeve that would go from shoulder to wrist and wear it as much as possible.  I did and it has seemed to help some.  If I don’t move it enough it still stiffens, but that could also be because of the afore mentioned mediations.

The next day my lab results came back and the numbers were far worse than two weeks prior.  I was referred to an endocrinologist as hyperthyroid cannot be treated by a primary care.

After seeing those test results and being referred to a new specialist I was upset.  Within a span of 24 hours I had two brand new diagnosis.  The lymphedema could directly be tied to the cancer treatment and the thyroid is more than likely thanks to the chemo and radiation.  There is a family history of hyperthyroidism, but we may never know what brought this on.

I cried.  I was so ready for 2022 to be my year of good health.  I was so ready to put all of the last 18 months of treatment behind me.  I was ready to forget 2020 and 2021, health wise, and start new.  Here is three days before the new year and bam, a new issue.  A new fight.  I went through feeling like, I don’t want to fight a new battle.  I felt like, wasn’t cancer enough?  I wallowed for a few days.  Honestly, I kind of still am, but I beat cancer.  I’m alive.  I can’t a thyroid.  I can handle some swelling.

I co-teach our 10th graders on Sunday mornings.  This past Sunday we were discussing doubt in our faith.  We talked about how everyone has it.  Even the people closest to Christ, the Disciples, had doubt.  Our story was when Jesus cured the young boy of evil spirits.  The father of the boy doubted that Jesus could heal his son, because the Disciples had not been able to.  Jesus questioned him about his doubt and, i’m paraphrasing here, Jesus said, I can remove these evil spirits, if you believe I can.  We then talked about Peter and his doubt.  How Jesus told him to step out of the boat and walk on water.  Peter didn’t hesitate, he stepped out and indeed walked on water, until he looked back at the raging sea and doubted.  Jesus then had to rescue Peter and told him, again paraphrasing, to trust and look Jesus in the eyes.  When we lose sight of God, we doubt.  We must always keep Him in our sight.

This past month, I doubted.  I questioned.   You hear people say all the time that they are going through something and go to church and the preacher’s sermon speaks directly to them.  Sunday’s lesson to our 10th graders spoke directly to me.  I had allowed myself to lose sight of God.  I had allowed myself to doubt.

Cancer will forever be a part of my story.  Cancer, i’m sure, will continue give gifts of new diagnosis or symptoms as i continue my journey. There will always be fears of the cancer coming back.  I will always have scars to remind me of what I have been through.  I will never get back to “normal”.   But I’m alive.  I’m thankful that I’m here to have these problems.  While  part of me wants to forget 2020 and 2021, they have shaped who am I today.  The larger part of me is actually thankful I went through it, because others will go through this  and I can help them.  2022 still carries new hope.  I don’t know what this year will bring.  All I know is that with God, my support system, and my medical team, I can handle it.

One final thing, a friend, Christy, I met along this journey shared a video that I would love all of you to see.  She’s survivor and she too has told her story.  She, along with myself, are continuing to tell the “after cancer story”.  I will share that video on my Facebook page and I would love for you to watch it.  While our stories aren’t exactly the same, the things she feels, I do too.  Christy and I have never met in person, but we are part of a support group on Facebook and her posts and videos have been such a blessing to me!

My New Accessory

When I had my surgery back in September the doctor had to remove two lymph nodes to determine if my cancer had spread. Thankfully, my lymph nodes were completely clean!

What I never realized was that removing two lymph nodes would leave me with a reason for a medical alert bracelet!

Let me start with a brief description of what the lymph nodes are. All throughout your body you have these bean-shaped nodes. They are part of the immune system and act as a filter. The lymphatic system also contains white blood cells that help your body fight infection. Everyone has a different number of lymph nodes under their arm. The breast empties fluids through what is know as a gateway. One fluids pass this gateway they enter the lymphatic system and circulate through the body. Just like bad cells in the lymphatic system there are white blood cells that circulate through the body to fight infection. The lymphatic system is critical to immune health! It is why when you are sick you might have swelling in your neck, under your arm, or anywhere else that infection is present.

I recently learned that my cancer had spread to within the lymphatic system of my breast, but never made it to the “gateway”. The cancer was in route to the exit and has it gotten through the “gate” could have quickly spread through my entire body. This is one of the reasons my oncology team has been so aggressive in my treatment. They want to make completely sure nothing got through.

With the removal of the two lymph nodes under my right arm, I am at a greater risk of lymphedema or swelling associated with a blockage is the lymphatic system. This can be painful and cause circulation issues. Due to this risk, I cannot have any type of tourniquet on my right arm. They cannot use that arm to draw blood, give shots, or check mu blood pressure. I am able to tell doctors this, but if something were to happen, medical staff would need to be aware. For this reason I ordered a fun medical alert bracelet.

Before my surgery I had no idea this was a thing for breast cancer patients., cancer patients in general. I am not a medical professional and Googled info to write this blog. This is my layman’s understanding!

Did you know this was a thing or did you learn something new? What else would you like me to talk about in future blogs. Comment below and let me know!

What a week!

This week has been one of the best in many months. I have a lot to share and a bad habit of rambling so I will try to make this a comfortable length to prevent reader fatigue Ha!

A little back story, I have gone back to work. A few weeks ago I went back to my comfort zone and started doing transcription again. It wasn’t something I ever intended to go back to, but it worked for my schedule, chemo side effects, and childcare purposes. It’s been going okay, just slow at the start which is to be expected. I am only working part-time as to know get burned out again!

Then an opportunity arose that I was not expecting. I became aware of a position at our church and decided to step out of my comfort zone and show interest in the position. Taking a position that I consider a stepping stone to my dreams. I accepted a part-time position working alongside a lady I dearly love and who is easily in the “my person category”. I have no doubt that this job will be incredible as the team I get to work with is beyond good at what they do. I am blessed to be able to be a part of growing the Kingdom and pouring love and truth into the children at our church. I am officially the assistant to our children’s pastor! To the person leaving the position and giving me this opportunity, I am so sad to see you go and I pray I can do this job as well as you have for nearly a decade!

As if this wasn’t exciting enough, today was MY LAST CHEMO. When I started back at the first of October, March seemed so far away. There were times I didn’t think I would make it. I felt horrible. I got depressed. I was on a rollercoaster ride with no end in sight. But God and many people got me to today.

The day started as always, with blood work. I had been so tired from working the past two days I crashed hard last night and completely forgot to take my night before steroids. Woke up this morning late and ran out the door without taking it…realized on the way to the clinic. Thankfully I was scheduled to see my medical oncologist after my labs were drawn so I informed her and she wasn’t concerned. Whew! I hadn’t messed up to the point of having to reschedule! I was also concerned that mu extreme fatigue might indicate low blood counts…Please no! I wanted to get this treatment over with!

My lab work came back as well as can be expected after 15 total rounds of chemo. I was given the green light to proceed with the last infusion! We discussed how I was doing. The neuropathy has increased the last few weeks and I pray it resolves quickly once treatment is complete. I have been dealing with allergy issues and drainage (Who in Texas hasn’t). Out of an abundance of caution and to make sure I am healthy before radiation begins, the doctor called in a prescription to clear up the sinus issues. With that, I was wished good luck and sent to the infusion waiting area. Below is a picture of me in the doctor’s office showing off my last day of chemo outfit. The shirt was made by a friend, Nikki. Thank you! I got so many compliments. The tiara was an amazon find. Chris questioned why I needed a tiara and I said because I do. That was the end of the discussion! Ha!

Of course the shirt needed bling! Glitter is my second favorite color. (Pink is tops!)
The tiara…and hair!

There was a slight hiccup once in the infusion room. When you are using a port for treatment they like to see a slight blood return before they start infusion. This shows them the port is operating and in the vein properly. For the last few weeks my port has been giving us problems and not showing any blood return. Because I could taste the saline as it was being ran through to flush the port, we proceeded. Today, my nurse was not comfortable doing that so After trying several different positions with no luck, we had to resort to a medication they call TPA. It sits in the port for at least 30 minutes in an effort to break up any clots or blockages and to open the port up. He said sometimes it can take up to two hours. I was already planning to be there for two and a half hours. I was not looking forward to adding two more hours. If unsuccessful after two hours, my treatment would need to be postponed while images were scheduled to check the function of my port. So not cool on the day of my last treatment! Thankfully, after 30 minutes he came back to check on me and the port operated perfectly! we were ready to begin!

Before anything was started, the nurse came out with a sign to hang on my IV to show it was my last day!

Everyone who saw it commented and congratulated me. It was fun!

We then went through the normal process of a bag of fluids, two pre-meds, and the chemo. I attempted to watch Hulu during this time but the Wifi just would not cooperate. I took a nap instead.

Before I knew it, the nurse was bringing out a bell and unhooking me from the IV. I got emotional realizing it was done! 16 rounds of chemo over 6 months….DONE!

The bell and my T-Shirt (A gift from Texas Oncology)

Everyone in the room cheered. Everyone in the room knew the joy I was feeling and shared that moment with me. It was such an incredible feeling!

I gathered my things and headed out to celebrate with Chris and Eli who were outside in the car eager to pick me up. When Isaac got home from school I got a famous Isaac hug and we celebrated together. That boy sure is sweet! He may have been more excited than I was!

As if my day/week hadn’t been fantastic enough, we had dinner plans….with my brother and sister-in-law. I really hate that title. Let me fix that. We had dinner plans with my brother and sister! It has been February of 2020 since we’d seen each other and I was beyond excited to get to visit! They picked up dinner and met us at one of our favorite parks. We got lost in conversation and before we knew it the sun had set and the mosquitos were biting. It was time to say our farewells. We hugged (Sorry not sorry. I needed hugs!). And got in our cars to head spectate directions. It was then I realized I had not taken a single picture! My mother would be sad! So I jumped out and ran to their car. They agreed we had to digitally document the evening so we took a few pics. Thanks so much Jon and Gina for coming to celebrate with us today. It meant so much!!!

I will end this post with those pictures. Stay tuned for the next steps of my treatment plan and some other posts along the way.

And never forget that God >……Than Any Battle!

Pics in the headlights….sunglasses still on my face….so happy!
Why didn’t someone (Chris) tell me about the sunglasses?!?😎