I’m still kickin! I told myself I would write more through this cancer journey but the truth is I have struggled through a lot of it. Allow me to explain. My first four rounds of chemotherapy I did in Louisiana. I was terrified and had to navigate through all the emotions and side effects of it. Next up was radiation treatment done in Houston at MD Anderson, which, I swear to God, almost killed me. Followed by four more rounds of chemo that I did in Florida (where I now live). Truthfully, when I had my breaks from treatment I was just focused on physically recovering and trying to be with my family, writing wasn’t really on my mind. I also think it’s probably confusing to people why I did treatment in so many different places. I really have had a knack for making this cancer thing complicated! Allow me to explain…
I shared an update previously on my Instagram but for everyone who may not read that, here goes an update on my current treatment.
Genetic Testing Results
I met with a local genetic counselor at the cancer center who counseled me on getting genetic testing done. If I did have a gene mutation that predisposed me to this cancer we needed to know what it was. This meeting really made me uneasy because throughout the whole meeting I mostly got the gist that she was pretty sure I probably did have some sort of gene mutation and she went down her PowerPoint of what they could all be.
Turns out when I actually got the results back they were … negative! No mutations found at all. I brought the results to the Genetic Counselor at MD Anderson and had her go over them. She didn’t know why the other counselor was so sure I had a mutation but said that local counselor probably doesn’t see as many cases of young cancer as they do at MD Anderson. The counselor just put my mind at ease that I had no mutation and said I fall into the 70% of people who sporadically develop colorectal cancer. Meaning that most people (70%) don’t have a genetic mutation OR family history of it, it just happens.
After I completed my four rounds of FOLFOX IV chemo, I did both an MRI and CT scan at the beginning of March to see the progress of treatment. The scans showed that the tumor was responding to treatment and shrinking. Good news! There was also mention of two spots on my lungs (previously known about) and a spot on my liver. To say the least, I was shocked when the surgeon started talking about them. I was under the impression that the lung spots were totally unrelated to the cancer. They said the liver spot was so tiny it was “indeterminate”. After further discussion with the oncologist, the consensus seems to be they are likely not cancer related and nothing to worry about. Both the surgeon and oncologist agreed that we should move forward with radiation treatment and rescan after radiation. I also had my brother and his partner (both radiologists) review the scans. They agreed the spots were not related to cancer. This was weird for me, but I guess apparently people can just have these spots even if they are completely healthy and they are nothing to worry about. My oncologist jokingly told me to let him do the worrying, if there was something to worry about he’d be up at night about it. Right, ok.
I began radiation treatment on March 18th. The first two weeks went off without a hitch. I got cocky and totally thought I would breeze through this part of treatment. By the third week reality began to slowly set in. I began feeling nauseous, couldn’t eat & was very weak. After meeting with my radiation team, they switched up my nausea meds to see if that would help. After a few days of the new meds I was feeling pretty much the same.
This past Monday I moved up my weekly visit with my oncologist because something else had to be done. I spent the appointment in tears describing how horrible felt. They assured me they had an arsenal of tools and that we’d find something to help me. They ended up prescribing me seven days of steroid pills to help with nausea and appetite and then admitting me for IV fluids to help with dehydration. I literally feel like a new woman after all of that.
So currently I am a little more than halfway through radiation treatment. Thank the lord because I don’t know if I can take much longer of it. When radiation is complete they let you ring this bell to signify this part of treatment is over. It doesn’t mean necessarily that I’m done with all my treatment, but this grueling round of treatment will be over then. I wish I could just take a sledge hammer and smash the bell into a million pieces. Is that too much? Because I sure do have a lot of emotions pent up and I think it would help.
There is a woman who has radiation right before me everyday. I heard blips of her story from one of her sisters who was in the waiting room. One Friday I ended up having a long conversation with her sister telling her all about my story as I waiting for the techs to call me back. The next Monday as Gwen got out of treatment, she sat down next to me. She said her sister told her my story and she prays for me every night. Of course the tears began to fall (it doesn’t take much these days). Then she went on and told me, “You WILL beat this. When I was diagnosed with mesothelioma SEVEN years ago they gave me anywhere from 9-18 months to live. THAT WAS SEVEN YEARS AGO. Look at me! I had a relapse this year but I went SEVEN years cancer free. You will see your children grow up, I know that for sure”. I mean do I even have to describe the waterworks here?? Her sister was crying so much she had to walk away, I was a mess and Gwen just grabbed her stuff and told me to hang in there as she ran after her sister. I don’t know much about Gwen other than she finishes her radiation treatment April 12th and she needs to get on a plane to go back to Idaho to see her daughter go to prom on Saturday the 13th. So if you are the praying kind, keep this wonderful woman in your heart. I will probably see and speak with her a few more times before she leaves, but I always enjoy talking with her. I think of her and pray for her often.
That’s one thing that astounds me every time I walk around MD Anderson is how much cancer affects everyone. I never thought in a million years I would be the one with cancer. In fact, it still kind of feels like a dream. Like it can’t be really happening. In fact, earlier I logged onto my patient portal to look something else up and saw they have already scheduled my follow up scans for June 11th, meeting with surgeon June 12th and the big surgery date for July 23rd. I was stunned because it all seems to be happening so quickly. Just thinking about the surgery gives me anxiety. For those not in the know, that’s correct, I haven’t even had the surgery to remove the tumor yet. They wanted to do treatment beforehand to see how much it would shrink to make treatment and surgery easier.
So the rest of treatment (for now, as I understand it), looks like:
-finishing up radiation on April 24th and lighting the bell on fire and smashing it into a million pieces
-follow up scans and appointments June 11-12
-Big surgery scheduled for July 23rd
-“clean up chemo” will happen at some point after surgery but I’m not sure when (or where geographically) I will choose to do this.
So all in all, there is your update. I apologize for the lapses in updating, its easy to get bogged down with all the side effects and what not.
Lache pas, my friends.
I apologize for a lack of an update on here. I know many people are curious as to my treatment and I’ll try better to upkeep this regularly. In all honesty, I had actually planned to get on here and write about how great I was doing after my first chemo round and how mentally I was feeling like LET’S DO THIS, I AM HERE FOR IT. Then, second round of chemo happened.
I know my chemo education class went over that side effects can build (I also spent most of that class with eyes glazed over in a complete mental blackout so thank you mom and sister-in-law for taking notes) but I was feeling pretty lousy after round two. I will spare you the intimate details of my tear filled anxiety ridden week but last chemo round had me feeling very fatigued, nauseous, very constipated and very much spiraling into a black hole mentally. Fun stuff!
I do not have much, if any, physical pain from the cancer itself. I’ll tell you my much bigger battle is my mental one.
In the days after I first got diagnosed I was very much in a fog about it all. Yes, I understood I had cancer but it was like everything was in slow motion (ok, I was also partaking in some pain medication that was prescribed so maybe that was part of it). It honestly didn’t even feel real for a few days. The day we were to leave to go to MD Anderson in Houston to get a second opinion, I showed up at my brothers house in complete meltdown mode. I did not want to go to MD Anderson. I was positive they were going to find the cancer was stage 4 and had in fact spread to my liver, lungs and brain. Like, very sure of it. The local hospital that diagnosed me had not done a scan of my lungs and now I was pretty sure I actually was having shortness of breath (see what is happening here?). My sister-in-law and brother (both doctors) assured me that for the cancer to get to my lungs and brain it had to go through my liver and my liver was clear on the scans. I was skeptical. I am no dummy and had done enough googling to self diagnose that this cancer was probably (definitely) in my lungs. We packed the car and headed west to Houston.
I am not sure the last time you had a silent panic attack in the car with your two kids in the backseat and your husband completely unaware but I would not recommend it. Suddenly during the drive I began to feel like I couldn’t breath. It didn’t matter how many deep breathes I took, I was just not getting enough oxygen. My lungs were not working. The cancer. Everything was spinning, I could not breathe and I was spiraling fast. I debated screaming to my husband to pull over and call 911 but instead opted to scramble for headphones where I then YouTubed a meditation video and eventually cried silently until I calmed down enough to nod off to sleep for a few minutes.
I spent most of the MD Anderson visit walking around in tears, not being able to function and fully expecting every doctor to just walk in the room and hand me a pamphlet to hospice. I realize that sounds dramatic but when you are faced with a health crisis you know nothing about and feel completely healthy it is mind numbing the anxiety it brings. I basically tried to ask every doctor to just give me a number 1 out of 10 how alive I would be in ten years but they wouldn’t. Doctors can be the worst. I cried my way through every appointment and couldn’t believe I was here doing this. How is this happening? At the end we left with a treatment plan and made appointments with local doctors who would be administering my MD Anderson chemo plan.
Now that I have physically began the treatment plan there is some relief that I am actually now doing something to combat this disease. We are getting somewhere – hopefully, maybe?
What you do not see on me as a cancer patient is the daily internal struggle I encounter on a daily basis. Sure, I have good days but the bad days are bad. It is hard to be laid up in bed sick and hear your kids running around the house. When my three year old asks about my chemo pump and tells me he’ll make sure not to hurt my bo-bo. When I open up the paper (yes my mom still gets the daily newspaper) and glance at the obits to see a young woman who lost her five year battle with cancer (wow, that one really sent me spiraling). It just is hard. Yes I realize I have to try my best to keep a positive mind set but I am honestly flat out scared of a lot of what is to come.
I am scared of the next round of chemo and it being even worse this time around. I am scared the cancer is still spreading even though I am receiving chemo (is this possible? I have stopped myself from googling it at this point). I am worried my tumor will not have changed when I go back for my progress scans. I get depressed each time I step on the scale to see a number I would have once previously deemed a ‘goal’ to realize I am this way because I am sick (WOW, nothing puts something as silly as body issues into perspective as cancer, its all so stupid). I am scared of the long lasting effects radiation will bring. I am scared of having to go under anesthesia for my future surgeries. I am terrified (understatement of the century) of the 8+ hour surgery I will endure as my surgeon removes my tumor, lymph nodes, uterus and ovaries. I am worried about the colostomy bag I will have to wear as my insides heal. I am scared of the surgery to hook back up all my internal plumbing to make me whole again. I am wondering how all this will look as I try to raise two kids and still live a life. In all honesty I guess none of my feelings matter in the end because it’s all happening no matter what.
I will try my best to surrender all my worries and leave it in God’s hands. I do realize mental health plays a large part in recovery and many days I am in a great head space but I also need space to feel. Which is maybe why I’m writing these posts? The last time my husband was in town we were in the car and I said, “Well, I can honestly say I’m beginning to feel like I don’t think I’m going to die from this cancer”. To which his response was, “Great! I never thought you were going to die from this cancer”. Which is good, right?! I mean, maybe I will die of this cancer, who knows. Maybe you will die of cancer you haven’t been diagnosed with yet. Maybe I will get hit by a bus. I’m not sure how it will happen, but I’m beginning to feel like this cancer will not be it.
“This is never the news we want to give someone but it is cancer“, said the surgeon as he held my hand. I was still coming out of anesthesia but trust me, I heard loud and clear what he just said.
I asked him if I was going to die.
He said no (or some rehearsed doctor version of it).
I said good because I had two babies at home and couldn’t.
That’s how I found out I had stage 3 rectal cancer. The highest stage 3 there is, stage IIIC. Literally a touch under stage 4. It has already spread to my uterus and lymph nodes in that area. The biggest blessing so far seems to be that it hasn’t metastasized to my liver or lungs (although I’d like to be scanned from my head to the tips of my toes to make sure it’s not anywhere else, but everyone keeps telling me that’s not necessary). Continue reading “A Cancer Christmas Story”
This should be aptly titled Mother’s
Day Weekend Roundup!
We had a great Mother’s Day weekend here and I thought I’d give a rundown of how we celebrated in the Wright household. Nothing special but here’s a glimpse into how we celebrated the weekend.
First and foremost I got to sleep in on both days this weekend. Getting a day to sleep in isn’t unusual as we usually do that for one another; however, two days in a row was a treat! Also, please note I use the term ‘sleep in’ rather gently. This really means hearing my son on the monitor at 6:30am, hearing my husband get up to get him and then laying in bed for a few hours pretending to sleep. On my days to ‘sleep in’ I will usually go back to sleep briefly after my husband gets up then it’s followed by surfing the internet, catching up on Bravo TV shows and pretending to be asleep anytime my husband walks in the room to grab something. (I think the jig may be up on that last one, apparently I don’t toss my phone aside and close my eyes quick enough)
It’s time again for another Friday Five! This week I’ll focus on sharing my favorite podcasts. I should do a whole other post on strictly personal development podcasts that I love; however, I’ll just focus this one on my five main ones I always have on rotation. Some are informative, inspirational and some are strictly for entertainment.
I always get asked how I have time to listen to so many podcasts! Hah As a stay-at-home mom to a toddler and another on the way, I keep busy. But I always make time for my podcasts! I put them on in the morning getting ready, in the car, at the gym, walking my dogs, cooking dinner etc. Continue reading “Friday Five – Podcast Edition”
Ah, food allergies! We were christened into the world of food allergies when I attempted to give my then 7-8 month old son a scrambled egg for the first time. In this post I won’t go into extreme detail about his symptoms, reactions and testing because I realize that can vary greatly from child to child. Mainly, this post will just focus on the things that have helped me navigate the world of food allergies. I never had food allergies myself and frankly neither did anyone in my family or friends circle growing up, so needless to say I had a lot to learn. Continue reading “Navigating Life with Food Allergies”