Taxol Nightmare

IMG_6722

Its a little redundent for me to fill you in every single week with the details of my Taxol treatments because they are supposed to be cut dry and simple. However, if you know me… Nothing is simple or easy in my life, thus my Taxol Nightmare occured.

Last week I had chemo treament number 11 woot woot! I have currently completed 4 rounds of Adriamycin and 7 rounds of Taxol… Only 5 more Taxol treatments to go (But who is really counting😉)

My dad and little sister Jill joined me on this session and I thought it would be perfect because aside from treatment I also had an appointment with my oncologist which I have every 3 weeks and up until this point my dad hasnt had a chance to discuss his concerns or questions. It makes me a bit anxious sitting in a room with my dad because although he is supportive and would do anything for me, the whole “cancer” diagnosis still hasnt really sunk in for him. He still thinks my test results were switched with someone else and I can be cured by switching my diet to strictly drinking carrot juice! (Gosh stay off Google dad!) Aside from his greatest fear of a daughter with this sort of diagnosis, as a family were working together to keep him strong!

So anyways, we arrived around 9:15 for my 9:30 appointment. I had to get all my vitals assessed like I always do weekly to find my weight is climbing back up to my normal, which is pretty good I guess… Aside from me feeling chunky monkey again and not having the real energy to hit the gym I know deep down tht its better than being under weight right now.

I escorted my dad and sister back to the check-up room, firstly placing my coat and chemo bag on my green comfy chair in treatment room 2 of course! (I always call my seat, whos stopping me?!) I swear i’m the only patient who ever reserves a seat! Hahaha But, the nurses dont seem to mind so…✋🏻😎

For some reason Dr. Raymond my oncologist seemed to be running a bit behind, but her fellow came in to introduce herself and provide me with a basic exam. Then it happened… My dad spoke, oh yes… WORD VOMIT for all you Mean Girl fans. Question after question… Then, oh yes he said it “well if that gynocologist would have examined her we might not be here right?”

Thankfully the fellow was very well prepared, professional, and knowledgeable so as she was being grilled by Papa Franz, her responses like “you cant change the past so lets focus on the now and today” really set us all to ease.

Dr. Raymond came into the room and greeted me with her usual hug and bright, positive personality. She said my tumor is shrinking (which is fabulous news), then the conversation transitioned into a discussion involving the next step…

Surgery… Going into this I knew the day would come. Ive already met my surgical oncologist Dr. Cowher who cough cough is Bill Cowhers nephew… Go Steelers😎  but I havent really had THE discussion of what is next.

Just out of the conversation with Dr. Raymond, I have a lot of important decisions to come. Prior to the convo, I was set on the double mastectomies then receiving a perky pair of plump C cups by summer. Turns out, this thing called cancer is a little more complicated…

So, I am gene positive, meaning they have identified a genetic mutation to where my cancer has come from. In this case if I was older and around age 40 per say, the standard treatment would be a double mastectomy because there is a risk of the cancer coming back. Because I am only 26 years old and still looking forward to child bearing, there are some important things to consider.

My cancer is also estrogen positive. What this means is the cancer cells feed off of estrogen which is the natural reproductive chemical created in a women. With this being the case, standard surgical treatment would therefore be a double oophrectomy aka removal of my ovaries. The issue being is that I am 26 years old. This would put me into menospause at 26 years old. Some things that go with menopause would not be good or enjoyable for a 26 years old… Like decreased libido, or the case of a dry vagina! Um, no thank you!

KY

Gosh, so cancer has taken away my physical beauty, it has taken my energy, it has taken my job (temporarily), it has caused stress on my family, it will most likely take away my titty tatas… And now my wet vajay! How rude! On that note, either I have to really think about my decisions, or get sponsored by KY jelly😆

Anyways, so after hearing (let me mind you for the first time), that my ovaries may end up in a petri dish… Off to the treatment room for chemo #11. As soon as we walked into the pretty busy treatment room with patients sitting in every chair, I looked at my dad who appeared extremely anxious. He turned to me and my sister as I told him to move a chair closer to me and said “i have to get out of here, I cant see this”. Although it sort of set me back a little because of course I wanted him to hang out with me for the 3-4 hours that I have to be pumped with poison… Everything happens for a reason…

Jill ended up walking him out to the waiting room, then returned to my side as the nurse began to access my port. Reiki Bob was there to calm me down like he does every Tuesday as well as share his amazingly funny stories that keep the air light and a smile on my face.

Johns friend Ray also stopped by to say hello on one of his walks through the hospital. He works for the IT department and with the cancer center going live with EPIC their new computer system, the IT department is working overtime to help those less tech savy.

Then in walks a little service dog! He was the cutest little guy, his name was Peanut. The owner walked him over and put him on my lap. He was soon stinking cute.  I literally had to pet him with two fingers! Compared to my monster of a pup Izzy, this thing was like a dog toy!

My nurse started hanging my medicine and I instantly feel the effects of benedryl and attivan. My eyes get very heavy and then only a couple more minutes until im in dreamland. Jill decided to read me some stories from her new book she picked up the day before to keep her company during my hours of treatment.

As she began reading, I may have stayed awake for maybe three minutes before my eyes became heavy and off to dreamland I went.  I literally was in such a deep sleep that I hardly woke up when my pole was beeping and the nurse had to change out my bags. All of a sudden my chest got really tight. I immediately woke up and turned toward Jill as I mouthed the words “I cant breath” because I literally couldnt get the words out. Jill then goes legit Gretchen Weiners and yelled across the treatment room “she cant breath”!

In a half a second all the nurses and doctors were at my chair side. They ripped the curtains closed around me, immediately stopped my chemo medicines from running, threw oxygen onto my face, and tilted me backwards in the recliner. Whenever these sort of reactions happen to me, they always shoot benedryl into my port then I get really jittery. My whole body got really cold and I was having these uncontrollable jerky movements which they call rigors. Turns out typically they can reverse rigors with the use of an opiate… Oh but guess what, im allergic!

I did a lot of deep breathing and after about 20 minutes the rigors began to go away, my sky rocketed blood pressure stabilized and I felt half normal again. Thankfully this reaction didnt get me a one way ticket to the emergency room, however I was probably close!

After all was said and done, Jill looked at me and told me right before my reaction she was reading her book and began to feel really anxious. She put her book away and started staring at me breathing as I slept… Not even 5 minutes later I awoke in a panic. Some say us Franz girls are psychic… I say telepathic😝

I had to stay a while until all my vitals were stable. Dr. Raymond came in and discussed the plan of switching my next 5 chemos to a medicine called Abraxane. Supposibly, this chemo is tolerated very well… Fingers crossed for no more reactions! Until next time…

ADENDUM:

IMG_5522

Chemo 12 was yesterday, original plan would mean only 4 more chemo’s to go! Although Abraxane has a very LOW risk of allergic reactions… I did indeed have another reaction including chest heaviness, throat tightness, and rash all over my body. Needless to say after the nurses swarming, doctors running, and my mom crying… Dr. Raymond has decided enough is enough and perhaps this is a sign from my body that we should be done with the chemo.  I have an appointment with my oncologist next Tuesday to discuss the next step. So turns out this could very well be my LAST CHEMO!!!! This is perfect, surgery before summer… then bikini shopping for my new titties 🙂

Xoxo Meg

 

Advertisements

Its All Genetic

  
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my family and I were so caught off guard. Of course a kazillion questions come to mind in the midst of being completely awe struck that at 26 years old, my life would be changing forever. The biggest question pressing on all of our minds is the HOW? How in the world at 26 years old, being pretty fit, typically healthy, working full time and planning a wedding of my dreams… 

How do I have cancer?
I remember geting the phone call following my friday biopsy on monday, and that week my life became swampped with appointment after appointment in preparation for treatment. Until you go through the cancer diagnostic process you have NO idea (or atleast I hadnt and I work in the healtchcare field) how many different specialists could be involved in your care.

I went from many years since high school hardly having a PCP to in a matter of days having a binder with a list of 10+ physicians or healthcare personele who would be guiding my journey. As I sat and listened to my amazing oncologist Dr. Jane Raymond, i remember looking up at her through teary eyes, john holding one hand and the other with a fist of tissues as she told me I was to meet with a gentetic counselor just in case they could rule out a genetic component to my diagnosis.

As per the dictionary, Genetics is the study of heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics. So where does this fit into a cancer diagnosis.
My back story:

Up until I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and being one of 3 daughters and a young women in what you can call a predominantly women filled family tree, we pretty much came to the conclusion that genetics did NOT play a role. On my moms side the only main health concerns were primarily arthritis and heart disease, my dads side high blood pressure, diabetes, and a few uncles did have lung cancers which we related to environmental causes from working in the steel mills their whole lives.

As we sat down with my gentetic counselor, she drew out the very detailed family tree just to visualize my upbringing and dive a little deeper into our past. I decided that the process of genetic testing was 100% something I was interested because 1. If I was positive for a genetic mutation, I could save someone else in my family, but also 2. Due to my young age and the rarity of the breast cancer diagnosis at 26 years old, I could opt for scientists to do research on my genes to perhaps save someone elses life! How absutely incredivle is that!
Although genetic testing has a lot of ethical concerns, from working in healthcare, the benefits for me totally outweighed the negative attributes. 

There are many laws in place to protect patients who do indeed go through genetic testing where if a gene mutation is identified you cannot be denied healthcare or insurance coverage from a pre existing or pre-disposal of a specific diagnosis (thank you Obama). This was my biggest concern being that I am so young, i didnt want to ever be denied something or have to pay kazillions of dollars for insurance for the rest of my life.

How the testing works:

Now im sure there are many ways to go about genetic testing. My counselor met with me and my family, went over a whole binder of information then followed this testing strategy. 
1. I couldnt have eaten or drank for atleast an hour, lucky for me I was so nervous with all my upcoming appointments that my oral intake had diminished and I was yet to ingest anything that day anyways.

2. I was provided 2 plastic vials. These tubes have a mouth hole and a fill line. I was instructed to SPIT, yes i said it, spit until the saliva reached the line (not the most dainty of tests… But it would have to do)

3. Once the vials were filled, you close the lid which then punctures a small canister and another liquid is realized into the saliva to perserve the sample (scientists are so amazing, how to they come up with this stuff?!)
What this test was looking for:

There are currently 13 Genes that have been identified up until this point that relate to breast cancer. Many of us are most aware of BRCA1/2 gene from more social media and celebrity advocacy which Angelina Jolie tested positive for and opted for double mastectomies as a precautionary measure prior to an actual positive cancer diagnosis.The Kardashian family also just showed an episode where Kris Jenner encouraged all of her daughters to undergo genetic testing because their grandma had breast cancer. (Side note: once again, we MUST remember that breast cancer IS NOT a woman only disease! Therefore, Rob Kardashian technically also should have been tested… Cough cough Kardashians!)

My results:

To our surprise, and even though we were all convinced there would be nooooway really for me to have a genetic component because once again up until this point we did not identify anyone in my family with breast cancer. I am indeed POSITIVE for a moderately rare gene mutation identified at PALB2. 

Lets take PALB2 Basics:

” The PALB2 gene is called the partner and localizer of BRCA2. It provides instructions to make a protein that works with the BRCA2 protein to repair damaged DNA and stop tumor growth. Research published in 2014 found that an abnormal PALB2 gene increases breast cancer 5 to 9 times higher than average, almost as high as an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Women with an abnormal PALB2 gene have a 14% risk of developing breast cancer by age 50 and a 35% risk of developing breast cancer by age 70. In comparison, women with an abnormal BRCA1 gene have a 50%-70% risk of developing breast cancer by age 70. Women with an abnormal BRCA2 gene have a 40%-60% risk of developing breast cancer by age 70.” (Thank you, http://www.breastcancer.org)

Okay okay enough of the statistics, numbers are boring and just BlOW my mind…

So, What Does This All Mean for Me?

Ultimately this information is important for 1. The rest of my family because now they could be at risk if they have the same genetic mutation. 2. My offspring because I can pass down the gene to them, and 3. To my overall care and treatment because surgical strategies may change now because of the genetic component there is a higher risk of my cancer returning. ( however knock on wood this IS going to be a one time battle👊🏻)
Since Ive been identified at having a genetic component, my little sister Jill has also undergone testing and DOES NOT have the gene. My middle sister Samii has had a BRCA test done and DOES NOT have that gene however testing is still pending regarding PALB2. My aunt on my dads side has also been tested and she DOES NOT have the gene.

All this being known, as far as I see it… I basically just have really shitty luck! I am officially the first person in my family tree (other than a recently identified great great aunt on my dads side) to have breast cancer! Some people say I should play the lottery more, others say I should go on a game show… Whether it be luck or fate we shall never know, however thankfully due to genetic testing my families future may be saved.

If you’ve been following my blog, you may be aware that I had undergone IVF or fertility treatments to removal my eggs and make some embryos with the help of my hubby to preserve that chance of us being able to have our own babies. Now that I have been identified as having a genetic mutation, thanks to scientists, technology, and truly amazing human beings… My eggs can now each be tested for the PALB2 gene before we even bring a baby into the world! Although some may think this is sacreligist and that we are manipulating our future kiddos… In my eyes, I am saving them from one less battle in this difficult place we call LIFE!

What Can You Do to Decrease Your Risk?

If you know that you have a genetic mutation or the fact that someone in your family has breast cancer but never had genetic testing completed, there are some lifestyle changes that you can make to lower the risk!

1. Maintaining a healthy weight: sorry girls, well and guys too… I guess we all should jump onto the weight loss band wagon! Kidding kidding, but it all makes sense, the healthier your weight, the lower the chance of predisposed illness! Find a weight that you are happy with… And by MAINTAINING that overtime, you decrease your risk of cancer, and dont have to spend as much money on clothes because your size will never change;) come on, we have to see the bright side of every situation.
2. exercising regularly

limiting alcohol

eating nutritious food

never smoking (or quitting if you do smoke)

A Few “Did You Knows!”

*About 5% to 10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary, caused by abnormal genes passed from parent to child.

*If one family member has an abnormal breast cancer gene, it does not mean that all family members will have it.

*The average woman in the United States has about a 1 in 8, or about 12%, risk of developing breast cancer in her lifetime.

I am a proud supporter of genetic testing, and although these tests typically are expensive and often not covered by insurance, due to my age and a positive breast cancer diagnosis our insirance has covered mine and my sisters testing 100%. Since my diagnosis of the PALB2 mutation, my treatment plan has shifted from the possibility of just a lumpectomy to undergoing bilateral mastectomies (though still completely my choice) because the prevalence of reoccurance is 30% with this gene! That is wayyyy too high of a risk for me especially because I already promised myself to be done with all this forever!

If you have any questions regarding genetic testing, I can do my best to help. You can always look for a local “genetic counselor” if you are interested in undergoing any testing yourself!

Hopefully sooner or later with the great minds of science hard at work, we will one day atleast gene-wise prevent/ find the cure to breast cancer! Until then, we will continue to fight one day at a time❤️

Xoxo Meg

I Whip My Hair Back and Forth

A few months ago now, I received the absolute most amazing gift thus far. It came in the most perfectly designed package, a tiny black bagged case and a mermaid/ unicorn t shirt aside. It was long, and blonde… Have you guessed it yet?!

It was my hair!

IMG_5230When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer back in October, the most heart breaking thing for me was facing the facts… with chemotherapy comes alopecia or hair loss. I searched and searched for a way to not lose my hair. I was even ready to sign away a $5,000.00 check for “polar caps” which in essence freezes your hair follicles at the root for protection from the drugs. However, once my surgeon heard of my plan, he about jumped out the window, then decided to share with me his experience of these “caps” at the Cleveland Clinic where he saw young girls keep their hair… But also have their cancer spread to their scalps! Um, no thank you!!!!

So, with my sisters and hubby by my side, my cousin and mom were on facetime, and my wedding videographer the amazingly talented Paul from Sholfilms was about to document one of the craziest things I have ever done in my life up until this point. I made the decision with my families encouragement to not let cancer take one more thing away from me… I would take away my own hair before I would ever allow my lucious locks to be lost in a bath tub or on my pillow during beauty sleep!

My sister was in contact with this amazing company L’avant Garde Hair. They heard about my story and so graciously decided that they could help! They instructed me to cut my hair off in multiple ponytails (a little less drastic than brittney spears) and send it to them so they could construct a wig made out of my own hair! How absolutely incredible is that?!

2

Details about my unit aka my gorgeous Goldie locks:

IMG_4932.jpg

IMG_5233

(^^^ Lace Front Wig: My real hair made into a wig!)

– My hair totaled to 1 bundle or about 100 grams of hair (aka I was nearly bald before with my thin stringy mane)

-They had to add in two additional bundles in color 16 in lengths 18/20 with a matching 14 closure (these are hair details that some people were asking about so just hang in there)

– My actual hair are the tracks right under the closure if you look closely you will see my highlighted hair and the difference between the other bundles

**I must do a special separate shout out to explain how incredibly thankful I am for L’avant Garde Hair. They literally gave me back my beauty! They made me feel pretty again and with all of that, my amazing wig was DONATED to me by them! I can’t even thank them enough for this special gift!

Back to the story here:

1.jpg

(^^^ Vs. Synthetic Wig)

My sisters were prepared and purchased me a synthetic wig to wear in the meantime knowing I would be absolutely scarred at first with my new short cut. I must say, seeing myself for the first time with such short hair was shocking! I mean, my entire life I had long blonde hair aside from when I decided to cut my hair short to my shoulders because my cousin Cindy cut her hair short and I wanted to be just like her!

You dont realize what your hair truly means to you until it is gone. When you have cancer, you are already vulnerable, you feel sick, then you look in the mirror being a girl with a bald head is upsetting. I went through every single emotion you can possibly imagine. At first I was shocked that I actually shaved my head, then I was surprisingly okay with it when my sisters and cousin were cheering me on. Later, when I was alone I was curious as to how this could be a new beginning from my highlight damage from so many years, then my short shave began to fall out and my chinchilla like cut turned into a shiny bald head like Mr. Clean! Now, a few months later… I am finally getting more comfortable wearing hats and going out bald, just as long as I draw on some eyebrows then were all good 😉

IMG_5253

When you stand up and look into the mirror, It is incredibly difficult to understand the reflection looking back at you with this sort of change. I mean, I still had my awful eyebrows (I started plucking at like age 10 in the day when pencil thin brows were cool, what was I thinking— thank God for Tarte brow kit), my eyes are still their unique grayish green with speckles of brown and a glipse of mystery yet joy for life, my nose could still use a bit of contouring thanks to the ball at the end however it makes me me, my lips are real;) unlike some other family members;) and yes I overdraw them so I dont need injections because me and needles already have a love/hate relationship however when I smile, there is still a happiness. It is so bizarre how by simply removing your hair, you find yourself looking at the “new” you… For now, a “cancer you”… Its a different reflection than the person you knew for so long, but in a way its sort of revitalizing.

Although my outside has began to wither away, my inside is ready to sparkle and shine. I try my best on the daily to be strong. Its been extremely tough, but I realize that I am so so lucky because for me, this is temporary… There are some girls that the wig life is a permanent situation!

I have to be truthful, i’ve had those evil thoughts when I see girls with long locks taking gorgeous selfies… In my head of course I have said why me and why not them… Why do I have to be ugly and shop for wigs when they can simply spend money on clothes or makeup?! This is natural though… right?;)

Processed with VSCOcam with c6 preset

Everything that I thought I was, now I am not… Or is the “real me” still there just in disguise! What i’ve realized out of all of this, is the way society does indeed “label” a person on their looks. My little sister asked me when we went out to eat the one day as I chose to not wear a wig because of my extreme hot flashes… “does it bother you that people are starring at you?” To be honest, since ive lost my hair I feel like thats all people do is stare. But hell, keep starring… I sort of like being the center of attention! 😉

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Before I knew I had my cancer, I never realized how materialistic or how much work I did indeed put into my looks. I mean, I always got offended if someone were to refer to me as high maintenance because I am not afraid to get down and dirty. However, I was that girl wearing hair extensions and bringing a whole bag of makeup and compact mirror to every service trip I’ve ever been on (including Guyana South America… pictures above). In a way, this adventure has taught me many lessons that I hope to share with my family, friends, and the world around me.

The truth is, our society is wayyyy too caught up in the outward appearances from selfies to snapchats to tinder or match.com. How do we make a shift where appearance isnt ones first impression? The truth is… It will never happen, and one can only dream. However, what we can do is teach kindness. I wont name names, but I have some family members in the dating world. It literally tears me up inside when they discuss their “criteria” for someone of the opposite sex because every single thing they list are things that can be taken away in a blink of an eye. Dont be so vain, TALk and find out who people really are on the inside! If I would have met John after my diagnosis and all he cared about was physical appearance, would we have missed out on our amazing love story?

We can teach our children from a young age that different is okay, that a girl is a girl no matter if she has long or short locks. Its easy for me to sit here and say you should get to know someone before you judge them. I understand that appearance in a first impression, just please be open minded GOSH!

There are still those times if I havent seen someone in a while and they initially see me bald, I wonder how they will react, I get nervous… Its a Franz girl thing, were always worried someone will forget us (which we all know is pretty hard for our Franz Family) The funny thing is, I always get most nervous around kids or my hubbys cousins who are young and I dont expect them to understand why im bald now. Turns out, theyve all just accepted it and still see me as the old me! Truthfully its been since October and I havent actually had someone say anything negative about my looks except for an internet troll but who really takes them seriously anyways?👊🏻IMG_5305

Through this journey i’ve gone through so many ups and downs regarding how I look. My hubby takes the brunt of this one as i’m mostly crying to him about my hair or how I look. He is the most amazing guy, I mean at 25, do you really picture yourself marrying someone with cancer? One day you have the little blondey with the cute bubble butt, the next minute you are practically married to a bald earth worm 😉 Aside from the kazillion times he’s said to me that “your hair will come back”, or my favorite “it doesn’t look that bad”, or “you’re still beautiful”, one day he said something to me that finally stuck! He looked at me as we laid on the couch together and said (give or take a few words of course), “you know I dont even see your baldness because your still the Meghan I met with hair”. So, if he can still see that me, why is it so hard for me to see that me!

IMG_5541

All in all I want to share advice. Never take anything for granted, but most importantly in this case, do NOT take your looks for granted. In a blink of an eye, a one time “beauty” can be swiped away causing a lot of insecurities and heart break. Girls, please dont take this as me saying dont go to the hair salon or wear makeup, because that is soooo far from what im saying… Heck, I am a Barbie girl at heart❤️. However, What you look like on the outside is NOT all you are as a person. Be a good person. Be kind, loving, confident because you are YOU, there is only one YOU, and no one can ever take that away! If you have that sparkle and shine on the inside, it will always magically make its way to the outside, just smile and love the YOU in the mirror and everyone will love that YOU too;)

XOXO

Meg