So I’ve been thinking of some fun, non-depressing, non-cancer related stuff to do with this blog and have figured let’s start now! My recent favorite Amazon purchases! I loooove watching and reading these so here we go! [These range in everything from kid stuff to beauty to fashion etc]
This Butterfly Garden was such a good buy to do during quarantine with the kids! The kit comes with all the caterpillars, food, cages etc. Everything you need. It gave us at least 7 butterflies so it was good buy! We can even reuse the cage and just buy more caterpillars next time.
2. These sunglasses are also such a good buy. They are affordable, bendy (in a good way) and don’t get snagged in my hair when I push them on top of my head!
3. Ok, have to admit I don’t use these a ton (mainly because I think they create a lot of food waste) but these cutters are fun to bust out every once in a while for the kids! I will cut apples, cookies, cucumbers, sandwiches etc into fun shapes. Kind of encourages them to eat more I think.
4. This swimsuit I actually found from Young House Love! Sherry recommended and well…need I say more? It is super flattering and has good butt coverage. One time at the beach someone driving in a passing car yelled out the window, “I love your swimsuit!” haha
5. Ok, kinda chuckling because this is yet anotherYoung House Love recommendation that I have loved. Sherry recommends this book as a way to get multiple pieces of cool art. The photographs are wonderful and beautiful and can easily fit with a number of different themes in a gallery wall.
6. A few weeks ago, while John Micheal was sitting in my lap I noticed these tiny white bumps on the back of his leg. I immediately knew, molloscum! It wasn’t super bad; however, I called the Pediatrician to see if this was something that warranted an in-person visit since we were amid quarantine. They recommended this wheatgrass spray to help clear it up and I think it has worked! He still has a few lingering but it has helped clear it up for sure!
7. This is the bathroom essential you never knew you needed! I randomly saw this body scrubber on Instagram one day and had to have it. It’s much cleaner than the typical loofah, super exfoliating and honestly just fun to use!
8. I am always on the hunt for a cute pair of denim shorts these days. [Since I’ve actually started living my life and quit worrying about what other people think of my legs.] This pair had excellent reviews so I gave them a try! They are super soft and stretchy, very comfy! [For reference, I ordered a size large, which is my normal size]
9. This is a super cute book & has been one of John Michael’s favorites to read lately! Every night we read three books & every night this is always the favorite and last one read.
10. I’m sure we all know I’m on a quest to clean up a lot of the things in our home! Less chemicals, less harmful effects, trying to keep my cancer at bay as much as I can haha! I have been using and loving this Molly’s Suds laundry detergent for a few weeks now!
Full disclosure that links are affiliate links. I review and recommend only products I personally use on a regular basis. All opinions are my own.
At first my village is small. It is my mother, sister, brother and sister-in-law huddled around my hospital bed as the doctor delivers the news. Cancer. I am in shock.
Across town, my brother-in-law, cousins and nieces have assembled to help watch my kids as word spreads I’m in the hospital and it might not be good. I imagine this sleepover must’ve been epic for my three year old with all his cousins that night. Little did he know that across town his mothers world was crumbling.
I am discharged from the hospital and try to return to life as I know it. After a few days I text my closest friends to deliver the news. No doubt they are shocked. That night I get a text to go get the food on my doorstep my friends have delivered for the week. The next day, as my sister and I sit mulling over the diagnosis, a huge cookie cake is delivered to my doorstep. (If you understand my affinity with cookie cake then you really know me). When I mention to my friends a few days later that I am having trouble sleeping, a weighted blanket is delivered to my house. They are my village.
My entire family’s Christmas plans have now changed for 2018 because of my diagnosis on December 20, 2018. Instead of spending one last Christmas in my grandmother’s house as a family before it’s sold, the family has now decided to all come to Lafayette to celebrate the holiday. Everyone is there. My best friend shows up at the house with the sweetest card and gift ever. We sit outside and talk, probably cry, I can’t exactly remember. Lache pas. They are my village.
My cancer treatment begins and IV chemo is started on January 15, 2019 in Louisiana. I have lots of support as I’m pumped full of chemotherapy drugs. My sister and brother-in-law meal prep tons of recipes from a cancer cookbook; soups, bone broths to sip on, protein to keep me strong. My sister-in-law has meticulously taken notes during all the chemotherapy education classes. She goes out and purchases everything that is recommended. I am stocked with supplements to help side effects, medicines, lotions, special toothpaste; literally everything I could need. My sister-in-law also makes copies of notes on what supplements to take when and hands them out to the family. They are my village.
As chemotherapy continues every two weeks, my six month old baby is still not sleeping through the night. My mother selflessly gets up every night with my baby so I can rest. In the mornings, she is also up at 6 am helping me with my children. My third round of chemotherapy I begin to feel really bad. My brother swoops in and takes my three year old for a sleepover at his house while my sister takes the baby for the night. This way mom can try to help me manage my side effects and anxiety. They are my village.
Part of my village was with me when I was stunned to learn during a doctor’s visit at MD Anderson that there are suspicious spots on my lungs and liver. Actually, to say I’m stunned is a drastic understatement. I am devastated. My medical team wants to move me onto radiation and give the spots time to “declare themselves”. If these spots truly are cancer then we are dealing with metastatic stage four cancer. I try not to spiral too far as everyone around me reminds me the doctors know what’s best and to keep my head up.
In March 2019 I begin radiation treatment at MD Anderson in Houston while living at my aunt’s house. My mom and kids stay with me the first few weeks. My mom is always supportive and loving as I insist radiation isn’t bad and I want to go to treatments by myself. She relents and lets me do what I want. I continue treatment while being with my kids but by week three I am in increasingly bad shape. I cannot eat, I cannot sleep, I am throwing up and constantly nauseous, I am extremely weak and losing weight. My kids go back to Florida to be with my husband while I try to get through these last weeks of radiation. My mother drives me to and from appointments, sometimes having to pull over on the interstate so I can puke. My doctors manage to put me on medicine to get me through the last few weeks of treatment but it is rough. I cry through the last few weeks to my mom and my aunts that I’m not sure I can stomach this treatment another day. They never complain as I am sick, grumpy and just tired of everything. No doubt I am not pleasant to be around. I am crumbling. They are my village.
Part of my village is there when I return to the doctor after radiation and repeat scans to clarify if my cancer is metastatic or not. We quietly sit in the small room awaiting the news. These results not only dictate the course of my treatment but potentially the rest of my life. The PA enters with paperwork in her hands, sits down and delivers the news. The spots have not grown and are believed to be benign. Everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief and I begin to cry.
I return to my home in Florida ready to finish out my last rounds of IV chemotherapy before the big surgery. My first chemo treatment back, my port through which chemo is administered quits working. There is a shuffle around the room and I can tell from the nurses that something is not right. The oncologist comes in to speak with me and its evident something is wrong. As I hold an ice pack onto my port, the oncologist explains my port is not working correctly and will have to be replaced asap. I quickly enter panic mode as I realize this means yet another surgery to endure. The nurses are always kind and do their best to help talk me off a ledge. I cannot have my major surgery pushed back because of delayed chemo so he calls in a favor to a friend and my port is replaced the next day and my chemo treatment continues.
My in-laws come together to help watch my kids while I recover from the chemo treatments every two weeks. My three year old goes to Disney with cousins while I complete chemo round number six. For the seventh treatment my sister and her family drive thirteen hours to come see me. We spend a wonderful Fourth of July week at the beach as I recover from treatment and get to watch all the kids play. For my last chemo treatment my mom comes to town. I am nervous, as always, as I sit in the infusion room waiting to be hooked up. During my last treatment my husband shows up with flowers to celebrate. When the moment finally comes to ring the bell I have an audience of family supporting me. I ring that bell and pray silently in my head that this is indeed the last time I will ever do this. I could not have survived this without them. They are my village.
My village is in tow as I arrive in Houston in late August to begin prep for surgery. There is an array of doctors appointments, release forms and directions being thrown at me. I sit silently through all scans and appointments trying to hold it together. I try to stuff the anxiety down as I recite to myself over and over that everything will be ok. I am where I need to be. The night before surgery I am a hysterical mess. My sister-in-law makes all the bowel prep liquids I must drink and hands them off to me one after another. In between my panic attacks and bathroom trips I manage to finish off the bowel prep and I head to bed.
Four a.m. comes quickly. I shower and head over to MD Anderson for my five a.m. check in. I am led back into a small surgical waiting room and am allowed to bring one person with me. In the
surgical waiting room I am in tears. I have so much built up anxiety I have a hard time answering the nurses questions. A Chaplin in called in to help try to calm me down. After some prayers, signing and talking I am slightly calmer. It is in my surgeons hands. The OR nurses come in to get me. I am administered some drugs for my nerves and I kiss my husband goodbye. It is in my surgeons hands. They are my life saving village.
Twelve hours later I slowly come out of anesthesia as I hear the nurses tell me that surgery is over. I ask what time it is. It is 6:45 p.m. The surgical fellow comes by to speak with me. I am still groggy from anesthesia but I understand that I will have a permanent colostomy. I cannot even begin to process this right now. Recovery is slow. I am encouraged to walk as soon as possible; however, this proves difficult. The first three times I try, I begin to blackout as the room spins and goes dark. I am quickly laid back down in bed. On my fourth try I am able to stand up and walk around the hospital floor! My husband, mother and sister-in-law are by my side. My restrictions have me laying down most of the time with no bending or lifting. On the sixth day after surgery I am released to go home! Alleluia!
I remain in Houston for three weeks after surgery as I recover. Recovery is hard and painful; however, every day comes with it’s improvements. I slowly get my drains out, am able to walk more freely and am allowed to begin sitting up some. Approximately three weeks after surgery my healing looks good and I am green lighted to travel back home to Florida. My mother comes with me as I am still unable to bend, lift or sit for very long. Back home in Florida my mom, husband and in-laws rally together to help care for my kids. They are my village. We have moved into a new house and life is starting to pick up again. Everyday I can physically do more than before. Two months after surgery my mom flies back home to Louisiana. Here I begin the start of my new normal. My post cancer life.
My three year old, John Michael, begins to understand more. He knows mom was sick and away seeing doctors. I constantly remind him that I will always come back. I explain to him that mommy is healthy and the doctors have fixed me. I silently pray that I am right.
The new normal begins. I begin to get back into the groove of parenting two children – school drop-offs, cooking, laundry. I find myself over emotional at the small mundane moments I have back with my family. I remind myself that these small, mundane moments are what I prayed for when I was sick. I prayed and yelled and bargained with God that I would do everything better if I could just have my health back. I am eternally grateful I am one of the lucky ones so far. The lucky ones.
I have not even mentioned yet the part of my village that extends well beyond my family and friends. From the moment of my diagnosis I begin to receive letters and cards. Cards and encouragement from friends of friends that I have never met. Letters from fellow cancer survivors who have gotten word of my struggle. Our church congregation back in Florida is a small but mighty group. I never stop receiving correspondence from them. On the day of my twelve hour cancer surgery to remove the tumor they organize a prayer chain which has someone dedicating a whole hour of prayer to me for the entire day. The entire day. People stop my mother and sister in the hallways of church and school to say they prayed a rosary for me or that I was added to a prayer list. I meet fellow cancer patients and their loved ones as I sit in waiting rooms. I commiserate in their stories of heartbreak and encouragement.
A cancer diagnosis makes you a member of a club you never wanted to be in. One you never even knew existed. It violently jolts you into a new reality you have to face head on. Cancer has taught me a lot of things, many of which I cannot even find the words to describe. It has opened me up to how much love there is around me. I am eternally grateful I am one of the lucky ones. I am a survivor in large part because of my village.
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.
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 DayWeekend 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)
Here we are in yet another year, 2018! The last few years have brought me a lot of learning and growing. Not only entering the world of motherhood but also with multiple moves across the country and going from working mom to stay-at-home mom. It’s been a whirlwind! Continue reading “So, you want to start a blog?”→