I was diagnosed at 26 years young with stage 2B invasive ductal carcinoma ER/PR+ HER2- in October 2015. I was deemed cancer free in 2016, had my first miracle daughter Kendra in 2018, and 2nd Kenzie in 2020! I am a pediatric occupational therapist, pink lover, and Disney fanatic! Enjoy the tales of the journey I live from day to day and my mission to #sparkleon !
Gosh I haven’t blogged in forever! but i thought what better way to get back to it than on a very special day: World Caring Day!
Never in a million years did I ever expect to be diagnosed with breast cancer at 26 years old and succumb to reaching out to family and friends for help. Back in 2015 when I was first diagnosed, I was newly engaged planning my dream wedding. I never thought my new husband would be helping me on and off the toilet after my surgery, or emptying my drains that hung in replace of my breasts.
When our friends were heading out to the clubs, my husband and I were preparing for my next day at chemo. But out of all the awkward scenarios we found ourselves in through the caregiving journey… it truly brought us closer than I think we would have ever of been before!
One thing being a young person diagnosed with cancer that I felt most uncomfortable with through my journey was asking and accepting help. It didn’t matter if it was from family or friends, the comfort of knowing you are in need of help and succumbing to actually receiving it is so hard especially when you work your whole life to be as independent as possible! I remember reading a quote, “A healthy life is a life of balance; including the ability to give and receive”. And that was what I had to keep in the back of my mind knowing I really needed the help now…, but could also pass it on later.
It took a while but I eventually LEARNED to accept help… But how?
1. Let go and let love. One of the hardest parts of accepting help to me was letting go. It was me trying to hold onto one thing that I thought I still had control over. I had to remind myself every day that it was okay to let go because it was out of love. Your family and friends want to help when things get tough. This also gives them a way to show that they care. So if someone says “let me know if you need anything”—have a list ready and give them something to do that will help!
2. Be gracious. Truly the only thing that your friends and family want in return right now is acknowledgement. A simple thank you is all you have to give right now. This was sooooo difficult for me because I am the one typically doing for everyone else. Be gracious, if you have the energy to share a hug or a smile do it. Noone expects anything in return right now, this is the one time in life when you can skip thethank you cards or going out of your way to return the favor… a simple heartfelt thank you is plenty of acknowledgement at this time.
3. Give Back… but only when you are ready and able Tough times are temporary, or so they say… so when your tough times subside, only THEN is it appropriate for you to pass on the good that was once given to you. It feels great to help others, and sometime is awkward to be on the receiving end of that. When the opportunity finds you, don’t forget to give back. It will makes you feel better; and it will help someone else in return. In the end, we are all in thi thing called life TOGETHER<3
Let’s normalize asking for and accepting help! No matter the age… sometimes we just need an extra hand, and that’s okay! Caregiving comes in different forms. Maybe it’s someone offering a meal, a ride, or to help put your shoes on your feet, asking and receiving help is OK, and doesn’t make you any less strong or less human
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of @CaringBridgeOfficial , June 7 is recognized as World Caring Day. I am so honored to be able to continue to share my story in hopes of helping another family get through another day!
On the #WorldCaringDay I challenge YOU to identify all the amazing caregivers in your life! Give them a hug, let them know you CARE and share your caregiver story at www.worldcaringday.org.
Scanxiety: its a fear of the unknown when it comes to routine or diagnostic testing. It can be any test from and ultrasound, an mri, a pet scan, or blood work! Plain and simple, especially after having Cancer at any age I would imagine… but more particularly in your 20’s when you are planning out your whole entire life and future, it freakin sucks! It’s scary, your mind literally Fucks with you anyway it can. It’s literally like your playing the Worst Case Scenario game from This Is Us! Pretty much before any appointment, test, or scan I assess every single whatif I can possibly think of with the deep hope that the scan will be Clear and Nothing new will magically be found.
Fast forward to post cancer treatment life, remission I guess some people call it, I prefer to describe it as thriving. Whichever way you decide to explain it, once I received my last radiation and was deemed NED or with No evidence of disease… I think I was more scared than when I knew I had a huge ass cancerous tumor taking over my whole entire tit, oh and spreading quickly throughout my lymph nodes. I was fearful because it’s as if it were now a waiting game. I basically was now instructed to only go to my oncologist every couple of months for routine checks—-and basically I’m waiting for a sign that the cancer is back. It’s the worst feeling ever! I’m always touching, poking, massaging any lump bump or pain that may pop up on my 28 year old body and I instantly jump to the “Fuck it’s back” mind set.
Let’s make the story a little more interesting though! Now I’m 28 years old and my dream come true! Well, kinda. I’m now living with a history of ER/PR+ breast cancer and pregnant! Wowsers… I really like to live on the edge don’t I 😉 I’ve said it before and I will say it a kazillion times again… Just because I had cancer does not mean I will LIVE in fear and stop it from LIVING my life! Point in case, why I decided to attempt pregnancy!
Back to the point of this blog though… scanxiety. So, you may be wondering why I haven’t been updating you all with every second of our little miracle babies journey into this world. And I believe a large part of this has to due with my own fears. I am so so so beyond words excited to have been granted this path in my crazy journey of life and basically I’m afraid to jynx it! The past almost 3 years of my life have been filled with hardly any good medical news… so in a way, I’m preparing myself for the worst… which is a freakin awful way to think but it is just a reality of life, we cannot guaranteed anything about our futures!
Scanxiety has now taken quite the shift in my now pregnant mommy to be life. Although I have been showing many signs of pregnancy including vomiting near daily, severe exhaustion, oh and yes a growing belly, I can’t really “feel” the pregnancy yet so it’s easy for my mind to wonder for the worst. It is an extremely weird transition of me freaking out for my scans to not see anything new to now crossing my fingers and toes TO see something on my ultrasounds of Baby Kozy! I feel like once they scan me and I see that little Baby Kozy is as happy as can be doing tumblesaults and moving their hands and feet all around is when I feel most at ease.
I have made comments to John and others a kazillion times, “ I hope it’s still in there”—- and every single scan my biggest fear is now that we won’t see anything! A huge transition from holding each others hands and praying to God that we don’t see anything on a cancer test! It is extremely weird. It’s extremely different. It’s a huge shift in hopes and expectation.
But finally, as I enter my 2nd trimester I am realizing that… scanxiety is just going to be a part of my life now. Cancer happened to me at a young age, and I can’t change any of that. I do have fears that many people my age don’t necessarily think of like is that bump cancer, or has my skin changed colors and do I have to contact my doctor. I may be a little more cautious and ask more questions than the average 20 something year old, and I most definitely have more doctors and specialists than many of my friends. Oh and yes… I make all my own appointments! Can you believe it! Oh how I wish to go back to the days my mom and dad did that for me… however now a days, it would have to be their full time job;)
This new journey is sooooo exciting I can hardly explain, but also the scariest thing aside from my initial cancer diagnosis and that is simply because, I’m not just taking care of me… we have a Baby Kozy now that We also have to worry and care for. So, in preparation for my first 2nd trimester appointment today, I am fighting my scanxiety (of hearing the heartbeat for the first time), and so will preemptively be posting this blog because in my heart I do know that little Baby Kozy is just fine and dandy, and PTSD from stupid cancer can go suck a D!
For now on, you will have weekly updates of Baby Kozy! We are so excited to share this journey with you all!
So if you haven’t heard by now, There is a little Baby Kozy growing in my belly! The news was the absolute BEST we could have ever imagined for! A true miracle! But I am getting absolutely flooded with questions, so… like I do with everything in my life, I am ready to share!
Recap of our fertility journey
October 12, 2015- I was diagnosed with Er/Pr+ HER2- breast cancer at 26 years young
October 2015– went through IVF for egg retrieval and egg/ embryo freezing due to the need for aggressive chemo. My fertility specialist did not take every egg she saw, she had a very specific qualification based on the size after fertility treatments and harvested a grand total of 14 eggs. From there, we made the decision to split them half and half pending my genetic testing results (which I did later find out I carry the PALB2 gene). 7 eggs were immediately frozen. The other 7 met Johns sperm and we attempted fertilization of embryos under a microscope of course (gosh no privacy I tell ya!) Once again, another long and stressful process… but out of our 7 embryos, 3 made it to day 3 and we’re deemed “viable” for freezing.
(Circa 2015- The beginning of my cancer journey all started with FERTILITY!)
November 2015– right before starting chemotherapy, I was placed on a Lupron injection every 3 months to temporarily shut down my ovaries (putting me in metabolic menopause) in hopes that it would preserve their function following an aggressive chemo regimen). I also made the decision with my oncologist to utilize Arimadex (vs Tamoxifen) which is a hormonal inhibitor for 5-10 years due to my hormone sensitivity of my cancer— basically it blocks my body from making estrogen and progesterone which is what my cancer type thrives and spreads on. I was recommended by my oncologist to have a copper IUD placed as well through the course of active treatment to prevent any oopsy babies being that chemo could have potentially harmful effects on a fetus.
November 2015-February 2016– underwent 4 rounds of Adriamycin and 8 rounds of Taxol (plan was 16 rounds total however had to stop due to anaphylactic reactions)- did not have a complete response to chemotherapy
April 2016-double mastectomy with lymph node resection and immediate expanded placement- clear margins!
May- July 2016-30 rounds radiation
December 2016- first Breast Reconstruction, attempted oral chemo Xeloda however due to severe symptoms, quit after 3rd doseage.
June 2017- finally feeling a bit more like myself, I made the decision with my husband, oncologist, and fertility specialist after reviewing much research to pause the use of all hormone blockers (lupron and arimadex) and sort of place my body into a cleanse period. This is extremely risky considering my cancer could potentially return with if there is one micro-cancer cell present anywhere in my body, especially because it had already spread to my lymph nodes when I was diagnosed. The research that my oncologist presented to us DID NOT show an increase in cancer recurrence with a pause in hormone therapy for fertility. Of course, there is always a risk… but thats life— there is always risks! If someone doesn’t take risks, they would never move forward!
The way I see it and the question that i’ve been getting asked the most is “how could you risk your cancer coming back?” My response: well, first off… its my life! I absolutely REFUSE to let cancer stop me from living. I refuse for cancer to cause me anymore FEAR than it already had! I REFUSE to live in fear, and second guess how I want to live life just because i’m afraid my cancer may or may not come back. The way I see it, everything that is meant to happen will happen. If my cancer is meant to come back, it will o matter if I get pregnant or not! And what will I do— I will FIGHT, just like I did before! BUT that will absolutely NOT stop me from my greatest dream of starting a family and having this baby! Basically CANCER CAN FUCK OFF:)
Back to the story here— We were recommended to make a time line (we chose 6 months) and if my ovaries didn’t show signs of activation then we would start looking into our other options of fertility—- we began researching costs of adoption, surrogacy, and IVF and began to get extremely overwhelmed!
(Yes my daily pill and tri-monthly BUTT shot!)
June 27, 2017- Happy birthday to me, out comes your IUD!!!! And goshhhh did that flipping hurt! It felt like I just lost a small piece of myself! Literally, legit felt like my uterus was ripped from my vag. Oddly enough. A few days of spotting then I was back to normal! Phewf, the things we do ladies, the things we do!
Two days later, I met with Dr. Raymond my oncologist. It was official! I did not receive my lupron dose and I was officially “temporarily” going off my Arimadex (hormone inhibitor)! I had my fingers and toes crossed that my ovaries would turn back on! The worst part was all we could do is wait:( And the best part, John and I chose to keep it our little secret—away from our family in hopes have having a grand surprise one day!
July 2017- One month had gone by and I must say, it was soooo nice to not worry about taking any medication! I felt like the old me again, well with short hair though. Still no sign of a period, but I was still so hopeful.
August 2017- They said wait about a month so and a month has come and gone. We are going on a cruise and we hoped this would be the perfect getaway to try! We were in New Orleans and because We haven’t been protected for sex I figured I thought I’d might as well take a test and see because my plan was going to include lots of drinking on the cruise. I woke up early one morning and went to CVS and bought a 3 pack of pregnancy tests. There’s something about holding that box in your hand. It’s like the biggest secret in the world! I couldn’t wait to get back and pee on that little stick… one line, darn—- oh well, Ill take another daiquiri!
When we got home No period and another negative test… oh boo.
September 2017- Back to school and still no period:(
October 2017– Fall is in full swing and even though I still haven’t gotten a period, I’m starting to wonder if maybe it won’t come back at all. Thinking about that heartbreak literally kills me inside. Our 2 year anniversary came and went. And yes of course we’re having sex and hoping something magical will just happen, I just don’t know anymore…
November 2017- Still no period… but I did go to Disney for thanksgiving that was super cool! It would have been so fun to be able to announce to our families that we were pregnant for Christmas. I pray everyday that something good will happen for us. It’s weird but I still truly don’t feel like I’m gonna have a hard time getting pregnant! Which is so weird because I’m yet to get a period… either way, we’re giving it one more month then looking into our options with IVF.
December 2017- I started to get cramps, and my Lower back was killing me. Could it be! Then dec 10, I woke up to pee, wiped and WABAM—— holy shit I got my period! I legit wanted to cry! I pulled out my box of tampons—- and it came back like riding a bike how to use one of those things! Later thy day, I could hardly contain myself when I told John. And yes, he cried!!!!
Omg my ovaries could be working!!!! We could make a baby this year! I immediately downloaded an app and began looking into my ovulation dates. Looks like it’s right around my surgery date. Which was a real bummer because we wouldn’t even be able to actually tryyyy. I’ve made it a promise to myself though that I’m not going to become a psycho about having sex. If it happens, it happens—- however I will check the probability everyday for fun:)
A week after having my first period after stopping hormone therapy 6 months prior, I underwent my 2nd breast reconstruction. **I tested negative with the pre-op urine pregnancy screen and a part of me was so heart broken even though I was super excited for new boobs! My husband and I were aware that my ovulation window would be directly out of surgery and into recovery with drains and would not be the most sexy form to be wam bam thank you mamming to make a baby. We decided to defer our chances to the following month after I have new boobies and the energy to undergo a pregnancy.
January 2018- the universe had other plans for us because the date came and went and I didn’t get another period. I was heart broken, because immediately I thought it was all a false alarm and my ovaries tricked me into a false hope.
Jan 13-today I finally made the call, with my period being over a week late as per my tracking app, its time to call. Despite 3 negative pregnancy tests… I’m soooo hopeful!
I called my fertility specialist requesting blood work to check my ovary function and hormone levels to see if I were in fact out of metabolic menopause.
Jan 15- sitting here in the waiting room at the fertility specialists office amongst a half dozen other hopeful women. Though we don’t know each other at all, and we are all living different lives… we surprisingly have one thing in common. Our urge and craving, almost addiction to having a baby, one day.Please please please some how some way make that blood test say positive!
“Meghan” the nurse opens the door and looks in my direction. I stand up and walk across the waiting room half embarrassed and the other half anxious for what’s in store. The nurse walked me back to the blood draw room where I took a seat in the chair. 2 vials later, she handed me a slip and said follow the signs to the check out. Wait wait wait?! The first thought to cross my mind was I really just drove all this way for only blood work? I checked out, and home I went. Hmn.. now how long until I get the results?
I got home and took the pups out just in time for This Is Us and some puppy cuddles. I’ve been noticing myself following into a deep afternoon nap, normally after PT probably because I’m tired and not used to working out., right? As I dosed off I was awoken just in time to pick John up from work. I looked at my phone and saw a missed call! Dr. Kubik’s Office! They left a voicemail asking me to call back because me results were in and I had to schedule more blood work on Monday! OMG!
I quickly logged on to my patient portal and my heart was nearly beating out of my chest. I click on labs and HCg and Progesteone were in. 37.4hcg—- well what does that mean?! Okay google help me out! Progesterone 24— ummmm—— no ranges listed for normal or anything?! As I’m frantically googling because he’s the ultimate doctor these days anyway… I see a positive blood test is greater than 24 hcg—-oh my Gosh could I really be pregnant?
I immediately called my fertility office back and the voice on the other end of the line reported “Well, we don’t exactly know how to say this… but you didn’t get a period because you are potentially pregnant!” WHAT!!!! My inner “want to be mommy so bad” was screaming yes yes yes! However the educated cancer survivor part of me was screaming FUCK! This is risky– will my cancer come back too?!
They couldn’t clearly identify a pregnancy off of my first HCG blood work test because there was potential of a “chemical pregnancy”. I waited 2 days and had the blood work repeated. Again, I went home awaiting a call and boom! The phone rang, “your labs indicate a pregnancy! We will set you up for an ultrasound of Monday to clarify that it is viable!” What! I was in complete shock! I couldn’t wait to surprise John with the news! Even though at this point, there could see potentially be the chance of it not implanting correctly, or a high risk of miscarriage, it was still SUPER EXCITING to dream!
John wasn’t completely in the dark with this whole thing. He new about the initial blood work and how they said I may have been pregnant… however, he did not know once it was a near definite (the 2nd time for blood work). I decided to come up with something super special for him, because out of my whole cancer journey… he was often times left in the dust, and nothing truly magical ever happened for him!
It killed me to keep the news a secret all day but I knew he would so love the magic of a surprise. I didn’t text him all day and when I picked him up from work, he asked about the results and I said the office hadn’t gotten back to me yet…
I knew I had to do something over the top but absolutely adorable at the same time! I didn’t want it to be corny… butt the same time I TOTALLY DID! I even went out to buy a pregnancy test (even after getting a positive blood test) just to make it part of the grand reveal! (I know so corny, but I NEEDED the traditional pose with the pee stick type deal 😉
*Surprising JOHN with the BEST NEWS EVER!
January 22, 2018-First ultrasound: today is the day that we get to see if there really is a little something growing inside my belly! Although I want to be positive and believe that everything will be just fine… deep down I’m terrified! I’m just waiting for them to take a peek and be nothing there. I feel like all our medical news for the past couple of years have just been BAD! So I’m really not getting my hopes up.
Cancer takes a lot away from someone when it strikes in your 20s. It is prime time for engagements, marriage, showers, and babies! We had a magical wedding but really did miss out on all the pre- wedding prep excitement of planning our wedding in 2 weeks time. John and I really wanted to make this chapter in our lives so special for our friends and family! Now, it was our turn to surprise them with one of the most incredible surprises of their life!
We had to keep our magical news a secret for almost 4 weeks because we wanted to make it special for both his parents and mine. It worked out perfectly that I would be walking at NYFW for the AnaOno/ Cancerland show and both our parents would be there! It was the absolute perfect time to share the surprise. Now don’t think we were really able to keep it a complete secret that whole time! I swear that was the absolute worst because we would still see our parents and have this amazing thing we wanted to tell and celebrate, however… we couldn’t ruin the surprise! My sister and Johns brother however did get to share in our excitement!
February 10th, almost a whole month after getting the best news of our entire lives, we could finally tell our parents that they were about to be promoted to grand parents!!! With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it was a perfect surprise to give them the news as part of their Valentines Day gifts! I found adorable gift boxes and inside attached a cute roses are red poem. Deep in the box laid the first ultrasound photo and some silver, pink, and red Hershey kisses!
On the count of 3, they were to open the gifts together and we all instantly thrilled!! Below is a video of our grand reveal!
Monday February 12th at 2:00pm, we drove all the way home from my dads house in Bethlehem following a jam packed weekend of New York travels and fashion week excitement to another ultrasound appointment to see our babies heartbeat! Not only did I throw up all the way home (being in the car and the motion of driving literally give me instant nausea and often leads to vomiting), but… I was sooooo nervous that after telling our parents and getting them soooo excited, nothing would show up on the ultrasound.
We sat in the waiting room until they called me back. Just like before, they took my vitals and we waited for the ultrasound tech. I was called back, instructed to take off my bottoms and walked out wrapped in a paper sheet. Being that I am only 7weeks and a few days pregnant, I would be getting a transvaginal ultrasound to check the babies size, placement, and see if we could see a heart beating in there!
The wand went in, and the picture popped up on the screen. There is most definitely a baby in there, and it’s definitely bigger than a few weeks ago! All I could think about was, thank goodness, we are really having a baby! After the tech taking the measurements she needed and a few pics, she said “are you ready to see the heart beat”! Below is a video of some baby magic!
That appointment made it real for me! I can finally relax and calm down… there is really a baby growing inside of me! It’s our baby, a natural baby, our miracle baby!
Today, I am 8 1/2 weeks pregnant and still having nausea but less vomiting than last week! I have put together the past couple weeks in symptoms, but other than that… I am just resting, and letting Little Baby Kozy grow!
** I really want to share our fertility journey because it is truly a miracle. Having a baby in any aspect after cancer or life in general is true magic! But, when it happens in any way.. it is a gift from above! I want the young 20 something’s reading this who lock themselves in their rooms crying that you may never get the chance to be a mom know that miracles do happen! I AM PROOF! There are sooooo many ways to make motherhood possible, whether it happens naturally, through IVF, adoption, foster care, or HECK adopting a kazillion dogs or cats (legit I was on that path and it was wonderful I might add)—- there is always a chance for you to be a mom! Never ever give up, fertility happens on its own. Do not stress, do not become obsessive… and just let life happen! Everything will happen how it’s supposed to, we just have to give life TIME*
**This is a song that I found when I went to Guyana for the first time in college, its words are sooooo relevant to my overall life and I hope you find meaning of it as well<3 Life is beautiful, that is why I LOVE MY LIFE!
My Symptom Tracker
Week 5-6 Symptoms
-emotional/ crying- literally out of nowhere, John legit thought I was losing my mind
-craving snacks- but not my usual ice cream and chocolate— like weird snacks like buffalo chicken pretzels!
-thirsty beyond belief- I was literally drinking bottle after bottle of water
-left lower abdomen pain
-midday naps- NECCESSARY!
-near daily vommiting
-exhaustion (daily naps needed)
-craving salty/ tangy/ spicy tastes—- pickles and hot sauce are my bff!
-heightened sex drive- thank you hormones (I guess after 2 years of not having any, my body is like THANK YOU JESUS, we have a sex drive again!
-lost 1-2 lbs but doctor says that normal at this stage of the game
-Crazy Dreams- about baby and NOT about the baby
-Nose of a blood hound! Legit I can sniff out the slightest scents, its legit like a super power! You can’t get anything by this sniffer!
December 15, 2016- 1st Reconstruction/ December 18, 2017- 2nd Reconstruction
December 18, 2017– One year and 3 days following my first breast reconstruction I headed back under the knife. As discussed in my previous post (Trilogy Part One), this decision was a combination of Capsular Contracture (residual of 30 rounds of radiation and falling down the stairs days after my first reconstruction, my own discomfort from tightness of my right breast, asymmetry due to the tightness from scar tissue build up, and firmness of the implant all together. I also began presenting with unexplained symptomology presenting as itching under the implant and around the center of my breasts. After numerous clear ultrasounds, an MRI, and my circulating tumor cell test (to be explained in a later post), my plastic surgeon presented to me a research study and updated warning from the FDA linking textured implants (which I had) to anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare type of non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Being that I already had breast cancer that was found in my lymph nodes, this and my symptoms made me a candidate for an implant exchange and re-reconstruction. (I have NOT been diagnosed with ALCL**)
**SIDE NOTE: I do want to stress from my last post because I have gotten a lot of messages regarding this warning… Currently it is not recommended by the FDA for a surgeon to exchange textured implants just because of this warning and it also does not mean that all implants CAUSE cancer! As stated by the Mayo Clinic, “The FDA believes that women with breast implants that have textured surfaces have an extremely low but increased risk of developing breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). However, that doesn’t mean that these implants cause BIA-ALCL.” With the ongoing research that is being completed daily, the FDA is simply recommending at this time that patients with textured implants be monitored regularly and aware of signs and symptoms leading to a ALCL diagnosis *after the surgical incision has been fully healed*. BIA-ALCL is diagnosed by using a CD30 immunohistochemistry, please ask your doctors more regarding this assessment if this pertains to you!
BIA-ALCL Symptoms include: new breast swelling, lumps, pain or changes in breast shape. **Often times this type of cancer is found in the scar tissue, not necessarily the breast itself!
Case studies of people who have been found to have this link between this BIA-ALCL and implants are a very small population, however this does NOT give any medical professional the right to NOT disclose this information! As per the Mayo Clinic: “Researchers haven’t yet determined whether the type of implant — saline or silicone — affects the risk of developing BIA-ALCL.” Statistics aside, it is 100% something that anyone with breast implants should be aware of and consider when discussing reconstructive options with their physician. I am thankful to report that since this warning has been updated, my hospital has banned the use of textured implants all together! THIS IS WHY WE NEED ONGOING RESEARCH PEOPLE!!!!
Back to my story, so you are probably at this point wondering well what the heck is this girl going back in for different implants! Well good question, and my answer is simple. I feel more comfortable in my body with boobs! Call me vain, call me insecure, the truth of the matter is I am the one that has to wake up every day of my life, look into that mirror and be reminded “I had cancer”. “My tits were cut off, my nipples incinerated, and my body was filled with poison to keep me alive” and for that I am eternally grateful! However this is my day after day reality.
I actually have vivid memories looking into the mirror for the first time following my mastectomy, I was bald, I was fragile, and I was flat chested and I just cried. To me, and this is my opinion of my own body, my boobs made me feel feminine and beautiful. I loved having boobs! Those little balls of fat which laid amongst my chest were mine! I was 26 years old and I wanted cleavage and to look like the models strutting their stuff down the runway at the Victoria Secret fashion show. To me, if I didn’t have boobs how would I wear my 50+ bras that I own after spending thousands (literally) of dollars at VS, or fit in my perfect little black dress with a scoop neck, or heck how would I flaunt what I got on the beach in a bikini! These are the thoughts of a 20 something year old with cancer, and these are very REAL very TRAGIC thoughts that many young women experience everyday! You have to love yourself in life in order to be truly happy, and I knew deep in my heart that I would never accept my physical appearance without boobs, therefore I opted on breast reconstruction!
The truth of the matter is, you think of plastic surgery as the solution or quick and easy fix for any physical challenges a person may face. What I have learned is that this is sooooo far from the truth and that just goes to show how naive our Barbie Girl culture really is. The most important thing to remember is that Breast Reconstruction following a mastectomy is completely different than a BOOB JOB! Cancer breast reconstruction will most likely require multiple surgeries, extended recoveries, and potential complications… and thats just part of the journey that we have to accept! AND IT SUCKS! As everything in life they says its a process, a long painstaking windy road where nothing EVER seems to go as planned however, it forces you to love the small successes and that is exactly what my most recent surgery has taught me!
With the knowledge of ALCL now, I was able to make a more educated decision of my 2nd reconstructive process. I have read up on the condition, did my own research, and I ASKED QUESTIONS to my doctor, which the first time around I have to admit… I didn’t do too much of.
There are kazillions of breast reconstructive options available to people following breast cancer. What I’ve found is every surgeon does things differently and that doesn’t necessarily mean that one way is right or one way is wrong. However, it is SO SO SO important to shop around and become aware on the options. With that knowledge you will be able to make the choice that is right for you!
My reconstructive journey began immediately in April 2016 when I underwent my double mastectomy. Following the removal of all my breast tissue (on both sides) and multiple lymph nodes were dissected (on the right), my surgical oncologist switched out with my plastic surgeon and he placed expanders filled to 100cc and supported with alloderm to withstand 30 rounds of pre-planned radiation.
I underwent 4 saline fills of about 75cc per fill prior to starting radiation to stretch my muscle and skin in preparation for implant placement. I finished my fills at 360cc expander size which to me was a little bigger than my old boobs of size 34B.
On the day of my surgery, my plastic surgeon had 3 different sized implants and pretty much tried them out and chose which looks best for my body. I was pretty adamant for him to place the largest implant possible, and I came out with 470CC Natrelle 410 Highly Cohesive teardrop gummy bear implants. They are known as gummy bears, because if sliced open, there is a very thick viscous silicone that is similar to that of a gummy bear candy and won’t leak like traditional silicone or saline if by chance they were to rupture.
A quote from my initial reconstructive blog post, ” I have days that I look at my chest and I feel really self conscious and upset, but then I have days where I put on a shirt and see a little cleavage and I get really excited. Basically, my foobies are not real boobs, and I guess thats why I don’t really feel uncomfortable sharing my photos and advocating for mastectomy survivors everywhere. My scars tell my story, and I am so blessed for all my doctors for taking such amazing care of me!”
Despite my instant dissatisfaction with my new set of foobies, my doctor continued to reassure me to wait 6 months for them to settle and another 6 months for any sort of revisions to let the skin heal and tissue settle.
March-December 2017: Mystery Symptoms
I began presenting with increased tightness and itching under my implant. I had multiple scans, physical examinations, and blood tests all of which were inconclusive. I was diagnosed with capsular contracture as a complication from my 30 rounds of radiation and presented with the updated warning regarding textured implants and ALCL link. I became a candidate for implant exchange with fun reconstruction of my right (radiated) side to release my contracture.
December 2017- 2nd Reconstruction with Fat grafting
That brings us to where we are today. Currently I have 2.5 weeks post op and healing right on schedule (minus some nerve damage under my armpit and under parts of my upper arm which will require physical therapy). I completely switched out my old textured implants for Natrelle Inspira Smooth Round silicone implants filled to 495CC with a higher fuller profile. After TONS and I mean TONS of research and really finding pics of foobs that I could picture on my own body, I decided the round vs. teardrop shape was much perkier and more of the look I was going for.
How I came about my decision for this 2nd Reconstruction
Funny quick story about advocating for yourself. When I went in for my pre-op appointment, my surgeon gave me two standard surgical choices. 1. simply switching out the textured implants for smooth and reconstructing my right contracture. 2. Latissimus dorsi flap reconstruction surgery, which involves an incision made into your back near your shoulder blade, then, an oval section of skin, fat, blood vessels, and muscle is slid through a tunnel under the skin under your arm to your chest and formed into a breast shape– this is a great option for people post radiation because it produces healthy non damaged skin onto the chest with a MUCH less chance of contracting and complications. **I did not have enough belly for a DIEP procedure and I have MULTIPLE medication allergies so I was not a candidate for my foobs to be fully made out of my own body fat, which also HIGHLY decreases risk of complications.
Oh, back to my story… so I go in and the resident asks me what surgery I decided on 1, or 2. Of which my response was NEITHER. She looked at me so confused and said, “so you decided on no surgery?” Of which my response was, well I came up with my own surgical plan!” Talk about self advocating— lets just say she quickly got my surgeon to have a little discussion.
Okay so after researching I 100% needed the textured implants OUT. I didn’t want an extended time off of work and really dislike the scars from the Lat flap procedure even though it probably would have been a “safer” procedure due to the high amounts of radiation my skin has underwent. I requested a simple swap of the implants, cleaning out of my right contracture, then with the addition of liposuction, he could line the implant with fat grafting to “trick” my body from seeing the implant as a forge in object therefore decreasing the risk of another contracture! AND HE AGREED!!!!! (Basically I should really just be a doctor at this point– Dr. Koziel, has a good ring to it!)
So that was my plan: Changing out my implants, releasing my capsular contracture of the Right breast, reconstructing the right side with alloderm (which is why I required a drain) and liposuction for fat grafting.
Stay tuned for Part three of this Reconstructive Trilogy for a peek into recovery and what I think of my NEWEST pair of Foobs. (PS: I may or may not have had my doctor put my foobs in a jar… 😉
Almost one year ago to the exact day, I was preparing for my initial breast reconstruction following 30 rounds of sizzling sweet cancer torching radiation treatments. It would be about 8 months of living with “boulder boobies”, thank you expanders… and I absolutely could not wait to wake up post-op with my dream foobs, or at least so I thought…
As a breast cancer survivor, doing everything from chemo to a double mastectomy to radiation, at this point in my journey and about a year and a half since my initial diagnosis; I was ready for it to be DONE! I simply wanted to get back to living my life, being me, looking cute and feeling sexy as I always have.
I remember having a few surgical consultations with my plastic surgeon however I truthfully don’t remember doing a ton of research of breast implants prior to my initial surgery. I guess reaching what I thought as the “end of my journey” and pretty much being physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted… I basically put all my faith in my surgeon and let him chose what HE thought was my best option. HUGE mistake people! One, why I would ever let a man chose what my boobs should look like is beyond me (even though my surgeon is absolutely fabulous, What is envisioned and what he envisioned were completely different doll parts). Two, there are a kazillion different implant options, why was I only recommended one or two? Hmnnn…
I even remember having second thoughts the week before my reconstruction! As I was getting my pre-op blood work done, I actually called my plastic surgeons office and spoke with the surgical resident basically explaining my fears of waking up with “pancake boobs”, oh no one wants pancake boobs! I swear at this point, I was having dreams almost nightly, okay not dreams… these were freakin nightmares of me waking up, looking down and just crying. Was this a premonition? Perhaps… or something internal pushing for me to use my voice and be very outspoken about what I picture myself looking like, and what is acceptable in my eyes as a beautiful boobiful rack of titty tatas!
Surgery day came and went and I woke up with the larger size implant (praise Jesus), 470cc Natrelle textured teardrop gummy bear implants. Immediately POD #1 I was unhappy with my newly sculpted chest. As I opened the clasps of my front closure surgical bra, I couldn’t help but think of everything I was upset with. After talking to my doctor and him continuing to reassure me that “they have to settle” and “it takes time”… something deep down told me that it simply wasn’t right.
Then, I fell down the stairs. Oh yes… talk about an extremely frightening and painful experience. Luckily this swap for implants from expanders I did not need a drain, but as my arms stretched out to catch my body from slamming into the 6th step from the top, I felt a tear and immediate pain. No blood thank God and my incisions remained closed however It effing hurt! And that’s me describing it nicely. I called my surgeon in tears of which I could only talk to the I call doctor because of the Christmas Holiday. Oh yes… that was a painfully useless conversation. Basically all I did was monitor my incisions as I watched my right foob raise higher and higher on my chest…
Six months post op came and went and well, just as I had expected… my new foobs were wonky as all heck! I would try to look at my chest from different angles, and grew to really love my left non radiated boob much more than it’s evil step sister, the cancer filled radiation burnt beast righty. I remember begging my surgeon from the very beginning to redo my surgery but of course he wouldn’t touch me for about a year post-op to give my skin and surrounding tissues time to settle and heal. That’s when he mentioned a condition known as Capsular Contracture.
“Capsular contracture is a breast augmentation complication that develops when internal scar tissue forms a tight or constricting capsule around a breast implant, contracting it until it becomes misshapen and hard. … Capsules actually form around every breast implant, silicone or saline but has an increased likelihood with radiation” – google
Oh freaking fabulous! So add my fall down the stairs with a feeling of a tear, 30 rounds of radiation with extra boosts because of node positive breast cancer and WAM, you have yourself the perfect candidate for effed up breast reconstruction!
Then, I began to itch. Okay, not that big of a deal right, I mean… it’s newly operated skin, it must be dry- use more moisturizers, or maybe I’m allergic to something I’m using right? Or could it be that my cancer was hiding and has chosen 1 year post active treatment to recur and ruin my start of my new life forever? After multiple scans, tons of follow-up appointments, and continual discussions with all the genius minded doctors on my oncology team, we came to the conclusion that I am still cancer free! Wahooooooo! However, why am I so stinkin itchy? Could it be the implants? Hmn…
Turns out, the FDA released a warning in 2011 identifying “a possible association between breast implants (specifically textured type) and the development of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma”. At that time, they were simply encouraging doctors to explain risks to their patients and simply perform routine monitoring reporting basically there is nothing to really do unless a patient presents with abnormally symptomology including lumps, bumps, swelling, or asymmetry. Well, I don’t exactly remember my surgeon specifically reporting these details to me aside from any of the other hundred warning regarding surgery so allowing him to place “textured” style implants wasn’t even a question because the reward of them not moving out weighed the risk of malfunction right? Everything causes cancer these days, and I already had it once could it really happen to me again? Gosh… I was sooooo naive.
Anyways, my mystery itchy foobs continued on and on with no real explanation. I finally met with my plastic surgeon and my mystery symptom of itchy boobies along with asymmetry due to potential capsular contracture as well as my loathing toward my crooked boobies was just enough ammo to encourage him to take me under the knife yet again. And this time… I’m having everything done exactly as I want!
Stay Tuned for Part 2: Surgery Options- It’s My Choice This Time!
“I hate October”. “Damn pink washing”. “Cancer is not pretty in pink”. “You can’t tie it up with a pink ribbon and make it okay”. These are all direct quotes from people on Instagram this October 1st morning…
Pinktober is here again! Yes…October, the month that is most known as Breast Cancer Awareness month. It is the month where countless brands and organizations are reaching out to survivors and thrivers across the nation to find that new shocking stories of survivorship, heartache, and out of the norm circumstances. Brands and organizations are bringing out their pink memorabilia and every end cap in a store typically has something pink! The array of bald heads, boobs, and ribbons are endless. Then of course there are those dress down days at work where they encourage you to wear pink or you walk into any store and that little pink ribbon is staring back at you saying “buy me, I support the cause…” but what exactly are we raising awareness for? Is any of these pink notions really helping to find the cure or save mine or my breast friends life?
The controversy of the breast cancer symbol has been around from the VERY beginning in the history of the pink ribbon (check out my earlier blog post about the history of the ribbon History of the Pink Ribbon) Still to this day, people seem to either love it and wear the ribbon proudly while giving thanks for both the symbol and its attention for donations and research. Or, others loath it entirely- it ignites fury and anger… But contrary to many of society’s mixed-views, what is the big deal about the little pink ribbon after all?
My pre-cancer twenty something self obviously knew of this month being dedicated to breast cancer, however the extent of my knowledge of why it was such a big deal went no further than the purchasing the cheesy pink t-shirt or pair of socks with a ribbon at my local Target. I would always donate my change or buy a baked good from a fundraiser at work saying it was “supporting breast cancer”. I knew the pink ribbon meant breast cancer, and the little quote “save the boobies” seemed cute because boobs were cute and although I had compassion for people going through cancer, I was under the very ignorant perception that breast cancer was the “best cancer” because people hardly die from it right? You get your boobs cut off, you get new ones, and back to life you go…
Looking back on my young, immature, naive interpretation of this disease came first hand when I received my official diagnosis of an aggressive breast cancer at 26 years young… in October 2015, so to me October really is breast cancer month!
“I have good news and bad news, it is cancer… BUT, we have a lot of treatments that really work for breast cancer”. Wait wait wait…. hold up, say whattttttt?! And with that folks my life began swirling down the rabbit hole of the breast cancer journey which I now consider my life!
So, after IVF and numerous needles to preserve my chances for fertility, 12/16 rounds if chemo which was cut short due to anaphylaxis from being allergic to the poisonous cancer killing drugs, a double mastectomy that took all my tissue and nipples, lymph node resection and dissection that did indeed detect that my cancer had spread, immediate breast reconstruction with expanders, 30 rounds of radiation, and 8 months later having breast reconstruction (which now needs to be redone thanks to radiation and capsular contracture)… I have lived the journey of breast cancer. But, that long list doesnt even touch on the countless pricks and blood tests, port surgeries, heart tests, hormone medications, medications that counter react the symptoms from those medications, hot flashes, anxiety attacks, the tears about losing my hair, the weight loss, the weight gain, the unknown permanent loss of natural fertility, the scars, the pain, my families exhaustion, fears, and pain. This is breast cancer! So yes, I get it people— BREAST CANCER FUCKING SUCKS! And obviously, PINK does not capture the horror, fear, and complete life disruption that this awful disease dawns upon a person! AND, this also doesnt even touch on the absolute heart break of METASTATIC breast cancer that has absolutely NO CURE!!!!!
But lets get back to my pre-cancer self and my understanding of breast cancer. Its the “good cancer” if I had to get cancer right? The symbol is a pink ribbon, and thats my favorite color so thats cool right? I’ll get new fake boobs and get back living my life right? It only happens to old women, it will never happen to me at 26 years old right? Sadly, I am embarrassed to say… I was so so so so so so WRONG!
This is what we MUST change about PINKTOBER!
Survivors and thrivers alike have many thoughts about the color pink and the symbol of the pink ribbon being used to encompass such a dark and scary disease. But to me… thats just it! It is a symbol, a marketing tactic. THATS IT! When you take a step back from the prettiness of pink, pink being a “womans” color, the fact that a single pink ribbon does nothing actually to help detect or save lives… well yes it is heart breaking that it is used so widely amongst our society… HOWEVER! How absolutely amazing and incredible is it that people DO KNOW what the pink ribbon supports/ stands for, hmm…
In the past 2 years ive lost countless breasties to metastasis and have gained many friends who will be battling breast cancer for the rest of their lives… where does the money go that is raised from the kazillion of items slapped with a pink ribbon on it? Where is the fucking cure?!
This is my thoughts and feelings only, and everyone is able to have their own opinions… but I do support the pink ribbon movement— SLIGHTLY!
How can you support something slightly? Well let me explain… the pink ribbon is a symbol, and that is just it! It is a symbol like a red octagon is a stop sign! If you hold a pink ribbon in the air, I would bet 9 times out of 10, people will be able to tell you that means breast cancer. Just like red means stop, green means go, a stick figure without a skirt is a man and with a skirt is a woman. Hello people! Our lives are surrounded by symbols! Its what we do as human beings, we use symbolism such as in the alphabet, or the shapes that form numbers— as a way to communicate! So yes, I am very thankful for the pink ribbon and its legendary history of gaining awareness as a symbol to mean “breast cancer”.
BUT… let me stop right there! Why do people have such controversial outlooks on this movement then? Well.. it’s sort of the same reason people are arguing over NFL teams kneeling or standing for the National Anthem… everyone has an opinion.
Instead of hating and despising the pink ribbon as a symbol, lets change the culture, change the awareness, lets educate and use the pink ribbon to our benefit! We have the foundation, people know that a pink ribbon means breast cancer… but now we have to shape that thought and notion. It is up to us to take OUR SYMBOL and make it into exactly what we want— TO SAVE LIVES and to FIND A FUCKING CURE!
EDUCATION AND EARLY DETECTION= SAVING LIVES!!!
We must educate on early detection. Lets encourage thrivers like Nalie Agustin and her “feel it on the first” movement where every first of the month you publically through social media, or privately in your own home cop a feel of your boobies and check for changes or irregularities. The more awareness we spread to society especially younger generations, the poor comfortable both MEN and WOMEN are with feeling their bodies and going to a doctor is anything seems abnormal! I also put advocating into this category. Being a young survivor, I wasn’t exactly taken seriously initially when I first felt my lump— so by encouraging people to push for testing and early screenings, we could save lives!
HEALTHCARE REFORM, SERVICES, AND TECHNOLOGIES
I surely am NOT getting into politics here… however, WE MUST make congress aware that this is NOT just an “older” person disease! Statistics are proof “1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime”. That is absolutely RIDICULOUS!!!!! Lets just take a quick look at some of these startling facts thanks to The Young Survival Coalition.
There is no effective breast cancer screening tool yet for women under 40, most of whom have dense breast tissue that prevents routine mammograms from being a useful screening tool.
Each year, approximately 70,000 men and women age 15 to 39 are diagnosed with cancer in the US.1 Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in this age group.
Every year, more than 1,000 women under age 40 die from breast cancer.
LIKE WHAT!!!!!! Why are insurance companies denying claims. Why aren’t younger girls like me being taken seriously when they find lumps or bumps? THIS MUST CHANGE!
And finally donations. I get it, everyone has to make a living. Do you really think Susan J Komen would be thriving off of only “volunteers” working countless hours for nothing? Of course not! Now, do I agree with how salaries are determined, not so much… and do I think majority of the money should go directly to research and individuals fighting for their lives ABSOLUTELY… but, I challenge you to go out and volunteer for one week straight without compensation. You have nooooo money coming in to support your family… would you sign a life long contract to keep volunteering? Of course not!
Come on people how stupid does that sound! Reality is…money makes the world go round, and quite frankly… people NEED money to eat and have a home. So enough with the whole “non profits” shouldn’t pay salaries… because of course they should— its only fair for the work that their fulltime employees provide to make the organization successful… however, should they be making enormous salaries Probably not… but that is something us as a society are flawed in daily.
Truthfully, I have no idea who or what makes salary decisions- HECK I don’t believe I make nearly enough as I should working as a full-time Occupational Therapist, helping people and making a difference in the world… but thats the society we are living in today. No one would want to be a doctor if they were getting paid the same amount as a 10 year old working a lemon aid stand on the side of the street. I However… WHERE donations go, and what they are used for should most definitely should be played out and truthfully disclosed! We NEED this money to be used for research, education, and finding the FUCKING CURE! It is 2017… modern medicine has far surpassed the dark ages. We must join forces, support eachother, pressure the government and pharmaceutical companies to free the cure—- not only find it but free it because there is no way in hell that the incredible geniouses on this planet have not uncovered one of the most profitable diagnoses on the planet— CANCER!
It is our responsibility as survivors and thrivers to share organizations that are reputable but also know what those organizations do with their funds for people going through this disease. ALL MONEY DOES NOT JUST GO TO ONE FOUNDATION!!!! You can chose where you make a donation to. THE PINK RIBBON IS NOT OWNED BY ONE ORGANIZATION!!! Check out these three foundations listed below for reputable sources and money directly benefitting the people affected by this awful disease!
What would changing the pink ribbon symbol do? Noone will ever agree on the same thing to change it to something new, thats just our lives today! Instead of bashing it… lets bring it to life! Lets change the reasons for the pink ribbon and lets form it into the symbol we as survivors and thrivers want as our identity! Lets cash in on the fact that people are aware of the basics, what the pink ribbon stands for and now lets do the hard part… lets change what society has done with our symbol!
So, whether you love or hate that little pink ribbon, lets come together like we do every October and cherish the support from those inside and outside the breast cancer community! Lets spread positivity, love, and enjoy the spirit of pinktober in your own way! Take a step back from our own journies and admire how absolutely incredible it is that people support our diagnosis and know our symbol!
I challenge you today on October 1st and throughout EVERY MONTH OF THE YEAR to first and foremost to feel your boobies. Educate yourself and those around you on the signs and importance of early detection for breast cancer. Whether you are a survivor or thriver, stop worrying about the color of pink and people thinking your journey is happy like the color— everyone atleast knows cancer sucks— and most of society feels for patients going through such a devastating journey. So, lets pull ourselves out of the corner, share our stories, and make a change for our disease! Look at the links above and donate specifically towards organizations that are fighting for the areas of advocacy you believe in whether it be education, research, healthcare reform, technology, or individuals fighting the disease, know where your money is going and feel confdent in your donation. Finally, wear the ribbon or hate the ribbon… LETS JUST FIND THE FUCKING CURE!
Shop my store She Sparkles On Boutique for the official October monthly designs! For every shirt purchased, one will be donated to a person going through a cancer battle! Portions of the proceeds are also donated annually to different cancer organzations listed above ❤
**Use coupon code: PINKTOBER for a surprise discount!
A lump, a bump, a random pain or itch. These are all rather common symptoms that my pre-cancer self may have over looked at first. Nowadays, I search my body daily for any sign that my cancer has come back to take vengence over my soul. It is as if in my brain the cancer still resides. Its just hiding, waiting to make its next move.
Back up to a few months ago…
A few months ago, I was #feelinmyself , and noticed a small bump on the upper part of my right (cancer side) implant. Panic filled every pore of my body and I franctically began performing a thorough breast exam, comparing each sides, and praying John would be home soon enough to also feel and contrast. After a busy weekend, John got home and had to do laundry and get ready for the week ahead. We went out to dinner which got my mind of my new lump for a moment anyways.
We were getting ready for bed as I turned over to my loving hubby and said that dreaded phrase “I found a lump”. Now i’m sure if you’ve been following my story you know… im a little bit of a hyperchondriac with lumps and bumps these days. Whether it be on myself or Izzy, my fingers are like magnets! Ive found inflamed lymph nodes in my neck not too long ago, so this also gave me reservations about telling John and calling a doctor despite knowing what was the right thing to do. You don’t want to be seen as dramatic… but there is always that “what if” it is something really serious!
After I told him about the lump, I moved his hand over the spot that I found earlier in the day. To my surprise, he didnt say its nothing. I instantly got a frog in my throat and held back my tears. Why isnt he saying im crazy and nothing is wrong! Instead his response was “lets just call the doctor in the morning”. Well what the hell does that mean! Then my nightly anxiety kicked in…
A long sleepless night later, and my 6:00am morning alarm was much louder and more annoying than Ive ever realized before. Lumps and bumps aside, life goes on. I got ready for work, had a few meetings, and after running around with my kiddos all morning I was finally able to get a hold of my amazing oncologist Dr. Raymond.
Her nurse “Jackie” made me feel comfortable and also made time for me to come into the office after work. I once again, just like when I found my initial tumor explained to my boss, quite openly because truly I have no shame that I found a lump and had to go to the doctor. My job is soooo kind and understanding that she actually let me leave immediately and I was off to the hospital.
Each and every single time I return to the cancer center and see that welcome sign I want to vom. I remember first walking up upon that sign with John when I went for my ultrasound and biopsy… a huge sign with Cancer Center quite frankly SUCKS and is scary and depressing, and shouldnt be allowed;)
Anyways… I was taken back and my beloved oncologist Dr.Raymond did a physical exam and explained although she doesnt feel like it is anything serious, she would order an ultrasound to get a clearer look and put my mind at peace. So, I went from her office upstairs to the breast center and because i’m a creature of habit, I sat in the same exact seat as I did my first ultrasound and biopsy. I was the only one there so they took my right back.
The tech could tell how anxious and scared I was as the look of fear had to be radiating from my eyes. What if my cancer was back?! I took all the right steps and just feel good as new and boom! The doctor came in and tried to calm my berves by talking me through the exam. A whole lot of cold goo and multiple swipes with the ultrasound wand and the doctor replied…” i dont think its anything more than a ripple”.
A part of my body wanted to cheer and do a backflip… however my fearxiety kicked in and I didnt fully trust the phsyician. I requested her to check one more time which she so graviously did and once again nothing! I could partially breath! But I still had that unsure part back in my mind that cancer could be lurking around!
Fast forward to my 3 month checkup…
The past couple of months as been rather busy with training and new advocacy activities! I really havent had all that much time to freak over every bump or pain however still have rather frequent anxiety attacks at night. I was due for a 3 month follow-up with my oncologist and for the first time I didnt really have any pushing concerns! I was feeling good and determined to have a quick in and out “visit” per say vs. checkup.
When I arrived the office staff as always welcomed me with open arms and I was taken right back for vitals. Praise jesus, I finally was happy to see that the scale was reading my pre-cabcer weigt of 124!!!!! Wooty woot! Considering ive been hovering anywhere from 128-130 this was a hugeeeeee accomplishment (even though I have lots of toning that still needs to be done!)
I was taken back and my Nurse Jackie came in and gave me a huge hug! We talked about life as usual and she went to get Dr. Raymond. First a fellow came in and introduced herself. She conducted a breast exam and began asking me questions of which I decided to mention the only thing really bothering me aside from hating my implants, was this intermittent itching on the inside of my breast! And normally I wouldnt be so concerned however… aside from my tumor, itching was m only symptom that I had cancer to begin with!
She jotted down some notes and explained that she would go give Dr. Raymond the run down and they would be right back. In that instant I kinda realized this quick little meet up to say hi and get my foobs felt up may be turning into a once again not so fun appointment with potentially crappy news. Dr. Raymond returned within minutes and once again performed a very thorough exam. She explained that typically recurrence will forst show up around the scar line, which mine look very good! However, because Im not very typical with symptoms and side effects, she wanted further diagnostic testing just to be sure.
My immediate thought was “FUCK”! Like really, this is not the time for this BS! Im leaving for vacation Friday, I feel good, I look good… please dont let any “bad news” come out of this. I gathered my paperwork abd headed downstairs to get bloodwork and tests that my doctor ordered completed. She ordered a whole panel of blood tests, a breast MRI which I scheduled for when I return from vacation, and a test called Circulating Tumor Cell Test of the Breast…
Turned out, the typical lab in the hospital couldnt complete the test so I have to go to the specialty lab today. All in all, this has reminded me of a lesson. You may have beat cancer… but cancer always has a way of returning. Even through distant memory and anxiety, fear or recurrence. Cherish your health, enjoy every single moment in life, live like its tour last, and pray that everything will be okay!
Off to my test! I will write up a quick blog when I know the details:(
That little green leaf, it changed my life forever. Let me explain though. First off, I have never smoked a thing in my life. Never a cigarette, never a cigar, never even a real hookah… and I surely have never smoked that little green leaf. Call it weed, call it marijuana, call it pot, mary jane, or hash… I just never saw the need to dive into this little world of green.
Living in Pennsylvania my whole life, cannabis had always been illegal to my understanding. Sure, I’ve had friends that played around with this little plant in high school and probably even college, however It was never something I ever felt the urge to be around personally. I have always been the girl to “follow the rules”. Growing up I rarely got into trouble for actions other than being a brat. I never drank underage, never really partied… call me boring but it just wasn’t my thing. My parents had it easy with me at least;)
When I received the news of my initial breast cancer diagnosis in 2015 and facing the true fact that I did indeed have breast cancer at only 26 years young, there was never a thought to cross my mind that I wouldn’t be doing traditional treatment including chemo, surgery, and radiation. I get asked all the time, why I chose the treatment regimen I did… and truthfully, it’s because research has shown that the poison I had injected into my veins, the lasers that I had shot through my chest, and the multiple surgeries I had to remove my lovely lady lumps… have proven through research of modern medicine to save lives! The downside to these life saving treatments are the side effects because they make you the most sick. As the chemo or radiation rays are killing the evil cancer cells that have invaded your body, the good cells are also being slaughter in a battle of the body. That is where lies the problem and reality of a patient going through cancer.
Alopecia, weight loss, steroid induced weight gain, joint pain and discomfort, neuropathy, lymphedema, anxiety, sleep issues, nausea, vomiting and vitamin deficiencies are only a “few” of the side effects that these “life saving” treatments produce. So, in my mind… if I did research and utilize non traditional treatments with traditional measures, I would have a better chance at fighting the side effects and ultimately winning my battle against cancer, right?
So, your probably wondering “okay but why the hell did she start this talking about the little green leaf and now your running a rampage. Well, back in October 2015 when I first received my “you have cancer” call, my middle sister Samii had an agenda of her own. Living in California and having a medical marijuana card for her own use, one of her initial instincts was that I had to smoke pot. Plain and simple the topic was brought up and I immediately shot it down. One, i’ve never been into “smoking”, I have asthma, to me its not “cool” and the unknown of a “high” is scary to me. Being that medical marijuana at the time was still illegal in PA, the whole idea was just another headache and I couldn’t deal with her flight of thoughts as I had to worry about potentially dying.
My Introduction to Twompson and Rx Canna Care
With appointment after appointment and finally getting a plan in place, myself and my family prepared for my battle. However, my persistent middle sister just would’t drop the subject. She made a few calls and reached out to her friend and Master grower of over 15 years Twompson. I truly don’t even know what to say about such an incredible man because he truly saved my life! Around that time, Twompson was simply growing cannabis in California. His beautiful sister Alyxis actually suffers from eczema and psoriasis and around the same time in 2015 was begging him to come up with some sort of balm that would help her major out break and stop the spread of her skin condition from worsening on her face.
Twompson being skilled in his trade and always fascinated by science, began his own research into the medicinal practices of extracting the purest form of CBD and incorporating it into a cream (now known as Canna Cream). Around that exact time was when I was entering my cancer battle. To tell you the truth, back in 2015 and still to this day… not much research exists on CBD. But, in my mind… what did I have to lose, I already had cancer! So, Twompson so graciously mailed me the purest for of CBD oil to begin prior to chemo… and I utilized his magical potion throughout my entire cancer journey.
What is CBD?
CBD stands for Cannabidiol. Our bodies actually all have something called an endocannabinoid system in our brains. Little Snapple cap fact, the only way to activate this system is 1. Through women breast milk (so hopefully we are all done suckling on that after around age one or so, and 2. supplementing with CBD just like any vitamin on the market. HOLD UP… what am I saying about breast milk????
Cannabinoids and Breast Milk
The human body (and animals none the less) contains cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system of our brains that are specifically designed to process cannabinoids. This system consists of a series of receptors that are made only to accept cannabinoids, especially the most common compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and 2nd common cannabidiol (CBD). Studies have actually shown that human mothers naturally produce cannabinoids in breast milk and that they play a very important role in infant development.
Cannabinoids are classified as a neuromodulatory lipid. One of the main functions of these cannabinoids in women’s breast milk is to help a baby to feed by stimulating the suckling process. Basically, if there were not cannabinoids in breast milk, newborns would not know how to eat or have the desire to eat. Similar to when an adult smokes and gets the “munchies”- in babies, the CB1 receptors are being activated through natural breast milk trigger hunger and therefore promoting growth and development.
Supplemental CBD can come from two places, the HEMP plant (WHICH IS CRAP!), or cannabis plant. When looking into using CBD especially during a diagnosis such as cancer, you want to be using WHOLE FLOWER CBD (aka, the oil is being extracted from the cannabis plant. Why you ask? Well, let me lay out a picture in your minds.
Hemp is a tall growing plant that is typically bred for industrial use in oils, topical creams, and clothing/ constructional fibers. It grows in rows of stalks sorta resembling bamboo. When the compound CBD is extracted, only trace amounts are actually found from hemp plants. What is most annoying is that companies have monopolized on the “hemp” industry because yes, it is technically CBD however the purity of it is garbage!
In the United States, the cannabinoid compound of THC is illegal, but once again that is only 1/80 compounds found in marijuana, how is that fair! This is why companies are able to use the hemp businesses to market knockoff CBD treatments. Basically unless people research it like me, these companies claim that they have the same healing power as pure CBD strains and its all a freakin lie! Its sort of like going to the grocery store and buying a hot dog then putting it under a microscope and seeing eye balls, hair, dust, and every other kind of garbage when you ‘think” you are eating pork. (SO PLEASE STOP EATING HOT DOGS)… oh and DO NOT BUY industrial hemp CBD! 🙂
WHOLE FLOWER CBD
That leaves us with an explanation about our little green friend…. marijuana! The cannabis plant is where the purest form of CBD lies. I already mentioned that marijuana is comprised with over 80 different compounds. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)- the most known compound, is 1/80 of the compounds found in cannabis that has psychoactive effects therefore making marijuana illegal (until recently in many states). Tell me how this makes sense at all… so there are 79 additional compounds that come from marijuana but because 1 compound makes you high is it ILLEGAL?! The way I see it… perhaps our little green friend is “illegal” because those other 79 other compounds can actually SAVE LIVES!!!! grrrr… DAMN you pharmaceutical companies!
Did you know that our cells naturally have cannabinoid receptors. When activated by cannabinoids (like THC or CBD) they help protect cells against viruses, harmful bacteria, cancers, and many other malignancies. Well that makes perfect sense… and why don’t we have the cure for cancer again? EXACTLY— a big FUCK YOU to pharmaceutical, sincerely, Meghan!
How CBD Works
Anyways… (sorry for being so heated!) CBD is simply another compound extracted from the marijuana plant. THC and CBD have been found the have different effects on our bodies and our endocannabinoid systems. THC binds to our CB1 and CB2 receptors which have direct effects on our central nervous system (CNS), and peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS system consists of two parts including the brain and the spinal cord. Obviously our brain is how we think and interpret our environment and how we control the movement and actions of our bodies. So, being that THC has psychoactive effects and its receptors are CB1 in our CNS system, thats why we get HIGH when using THC! OHHHH NOW I GET IT!
Well then, what about the magical compound CBD? Well CBD has actually been found to have little binding powers to either CB1 or CB2 receptors however, CBD has been found to activate MANY non-cannabinoid receptors. Instead, it binds to receptors, like the “vanilloid, adenosine and serotonin receptors” (you known fancy smancy science stuff). Because CBD doesn’t only bind to one set of receptors like THC, when it finds another binding agent in our body, it plays a role in overall healing like controlling our body temperature, pain perception and inflammation.
Like I said before, CBD does not produce that psychoactive affect that THC does, and that is simply because CBD inhibits the FAAH (Fatty acid amide hydrolase) enzyme in our bodies. What the heck is that? FAAH is the compound that activates the CB1 receptor. By binding to this receptor, CBD minimizes the activation of CB1 by THC, reducing its psychoactive effects. AKA, CBD will NOT make you high, therefore it is completely legal!
All the health benefits that CBD has to offer have to do with the particular receptors your body makes it bind to. For instance, when it binds to adenosine receptors, it provides anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory effects… and don’t we all need that! Another science lesson, adenosine receptors are also involved in the release of two neurotransmitters known as dopamine and glutamate. Dopamine is involved in cognition, motor control, motivation and reward mechanisms, and glutamate sends excitatory signals and is involved in memory, learning and cognition. Woolah, thank you CBD for helping my body help itself! Shame on you pharmaceutical companies for keeping the magic of healing from our society!
Lets dive a little deeper then… it has also been found that high amounts of CBD (aka only found through whole flower not hemp) have been shown to activate something known as the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, which actually has an anti-depressant effect on the body! Why I want to mention this, is because this same receptor is also involved in processes including pain, appetite, nausea and anxiety, sleep, and addiction. Hello! Thats why CBD is the perfect supplement for people going through a cancer journey! Aren’t all of those things side effects to traditional treatments!!! Do you see where i’m going with all this?
Then there is this little bit of information. CBD has been found to actually block something known as CPR55 signaling, which actually decreases bone re-absorption and cancer cell proliferation. WOOLAH, I’m pretty sure I just found the cure to freakin cancer through a GODDAM GOOGLE SEARCH! Okay, well not exactly but… I could be on to something here…
Basically thats why CBD has whole body effects! The way I explain it is, CBD helps our body, help itself! And that is the honest truth!
Benefits of using THC, CBD, or CBD and THC
Basically, which compounds you want in your body all pretty much is broken down to if you want to get “high” or not. Utilizing CBD and THC will optimize the medical benefits of cannabis however, if you are not in a circumstance to use THC (like me), if it is illegal in your states, if you work professionally, or if you simply don’t enjoy that flighty feeling, then using pure CBD is perfect because you are still accessing the receptors in you brain the heal your body without getting high! AND the best part, it is COMPLETELY LEGAL in the US (and other countries) because it doesn’t have THC in it!
What conditions does CBD help?
Goodness gracious, I hope I didn’t lose you in all of that. But, I really want you to understand the benefits of using CBD especially for a journey that could very well be life and death. The best part is, CBD isn’t just a cancer supplement, but it also can be used for conditions including but not limited to Anxiety, Appetite, Arthritis, Autism, Cancer, Diabetes, Depression, Epilepsy, Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Herniated discs, Immune System, Inflammation, Mood, A sense of well-being, Muscle Spasms, Multiple Sclerosis, Pain Relief, Psychosis, PTSD, Chronic pain, Parkinson’s Disease, Stress, Nausea and Vomiting, Alzheimer’s…
Basically, CBD works! Heres another little piece of info copied straight from cancer.gov– when you search the benefits of CBD and cancer:
Thats all… and your telling me, the government DOESN’T have a cure? They offered 6 measly bullet points about the benefits of CBD— HAHAH thats literally laughable! OKAY! EFFF OFF government and your will to KILL innocent people by HIDING the cure! Grrrrr….
RX Canna Care
That all being said… I have now partnered up with RxCanna Care, the company that saved my life! RxCanna Care went from being a cream created by Twompson for his sister Alyxis for her eczema and psoriasis to that same cream formula being worked with and adjusted to be safe for patients going through a cancer journey like me. RXCanna Care is committed to offering CBD products that meet the needs of every patient. We currently over multiple lines including Relax Organics and Canna Cosmetics providing high quality products that have whole body affects, organic ingredients, and the purest CBD without THC from whole cannabis flower extraction techniques
What is so awesome about Rxcanna Care is the fact that our CBD does NOT come from hemp oil and is from a strain of cannabis that has the lowest THC level on the market! Whole flower CBD must be carefully cared for and nourished so that the cannabis plants will produce flowers, then the cannabidiol compound is extracted to produce the highest purest CBD without THC. Its like would you rather buy fruit from a stand on side of a highway, or from a farm that doesn’t allow planes to fly over and uses all organic treatments to decrease risk of infection, bacteria, and disease? Its all about quality for RXCANNA CARE and thats why I feel 100000000% comfortable sharing their information, their products, and their drive to help others with all of you!
Check out their website and products using coupon code “sparkle4life” for a special discount at RxCanna Care
My use of RxCanna Care during my treatment
Around that time in 2015, I was a 26 year old friend of Twompson’s and was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. He provided me with his CBD in a tincture of oil which she used orally throughout my 12 rounds of intensive chemotherapy. To my and my families surprise, I never threw up, had an appetite, never had a drop in blood cell counts. For me, the taste of the oil he initially provided me was smokey and I would gag with its sublingual administration. However the new tinctures hardly have a taste at all! Perfect for anyone going through chemo when your senses are all over the place!
Back when I was using the oil and could hardly stand the taste, my mom actually placed the oil into a capsule for me to swallow without bearing the flavor. However now looking back and knowing what I do about CBD and your body, taking oil in a pill form is decreasing your overall dosage of the compound. The whole point of the pill is to get it into your stomach, however inside your stomach is stomach acid which breaks down the pill first. Basically, instead of the compound being absorbed straight into your blood stream, its hitting your stomach acid therefore you may need more of a dosage than if you take it under your tongue. Thats why RX Canna Care has the perfect tincture eliminating the taste and providing purest CBD!
I also used RxCanna Care products throughout all of my scare and radiation treatment for skin protection and healing! I’ve explained how the whole idea of the canna creams came from Twompsons sister Alyxis who suffered from psoriasis. Well, around that time that he whipped up his cream formula was the same time I would be having my port, mastectomy, and starting radiation. I looked at his all organic formula and compared it to the recommended aquaphor and coco butter as referred by my radiation oncologist. I chose to take a risk and use only canna creams during my recovery and to our surprise, my healing is beautiful! My prof scar and radiation cuts are already lightened and only 1-1/2 years old!
The biggest benefit I found was bearing my skin during 30 rounds of radiation. Choosing to use a product that really didn’t have any research was risky, but I believed whole heartedly in the formula. To my and my doctors surprise, I had amazing results! I say it all the time, Canna Cosemetics not only saved my skin… but RxCanna Care saved my life! I never burned through full chest radiation! I would apply the cream about 4 times a day and where ever the cream touched, I found that I was protected! I sort of performed my own research study because it turned out that my doctor never told me to coat my chest, armpit and back being that radiation shoots through your chest and out your back. Well, surprise surprise, I didn’t apply the cream to my back, and that was the only place I burnt! Like, thats incredible!
Plain and simple, anyone going through a cancer journey should at minimum be on a CBD regimen. If you are able and willing to use THC all power to you… however because of its psychoactive effects, this simply is not feasible for many people. I am a living testimony that CBD works! I did not have a full response to chemotherapy because I did not get he suggested 16 rounds (I only received 12) because of severe allergic reactions however once my mastectomy was completed I got clear margins and after 30 rounds of radiation, I was deemed cancer free! Now I am NOWHERE saying that CBD cures cancer, however i’m sure with more research one day we may see a link between cannabis and all its compounds affecting the cure! I am however saying that CBD will help your body help itself heal and fight the side effects of traditional treatments.
RxCanna Care is a company that has the purest form of CBD without THC on the market and utilizes all organic ingredients in any of its creams, lotions, or skin care items. They hold the greatest integrity in manufacturing their own items, and everything is overseen my the owner Twompson. He will even answer any questions or concerns directly, he’s incredibly intelligent and literally saved my life!
**This blog post is in no way recommending only using CBD as a treatment for cancer, it is not saying that CBD is the cure for cancer. All recommendations should be cleared by your physician prior to supplementing with CBD and any vitamin for that matter!
Ashton JC, Wright JL, McPartland JM, Tyndall JD, Cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptor ligand specificity and the development of CB-2 selective antagonists, Current medical chemistry, 2008, 15(14):1428-43; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18537620
Racz I, Nadal X, Alferink J et al., Crucial role of CB2 cannabinoid receptor in the regulation of central immune responses during neuropathic pain, The Journal of Neuroscience, 2008, 28(46):12125-35; http://www.jneurosci.org/content/28/46/12125.long
Costa B., Giagnoni G. et al., Vanilloid TRPV1 receptor mediates the antihyperalgesic effect of the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol, in a rat model of acute inflammation, British Journal of Pharmacology, 2004, 143(2):247-50; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1575333/
Wow! It feels like I haven’t written in forever! A part of me wants to blame it on my busy life, getting back to dipping my feet into a kazillion different things from work to hobbies, then theres that part of me that doesn’t feel like the past couple months have been very “cancer exciting” so why should I blog for you all… I mean I guess thats a good thing right?
Today I am one month short of being 1 whole year cancer free (from my last radiation treatment)— and oddly enough, it feels like that July day was way longer than a year ago! Its so bizarre because its as if my brain is naturally blocking the most difficult times of my life as a natural coping mechanism. I feel like this chapter of my life has been closed for such a long time! I mean, my hair is now shoulder length, I have energy to do things, I want so badly to just live my life again! But the truth is… I have a new life now, and I have to find a way to come to terms with this reality.
Survivorship puts you into this awkward limbo state. You are deemed “cancer free” after your last treatment however they don’t necessarily have a test that can actually identify on a cellular level if indeed ALL the cancer is out of your body… so am I supposed to believe my doctors? Even months after receiving my “cancer free” card… I still found it awkward to say “I HAD cancer”, what if I still “HAVE cancer”? Then my hair and outward appearance is still different so it’s just easier to say, “oh I have cancer”thats why my hair is short and I’m chubby… then there is that pity party— UGH its just so complicated!
When cancer treatments are over, we are expected to be happy! We’re expected to just jump on back to the life we once lived. To get back to work, get back to the gym, get back to life… and that is simply so far from the reality of it all. No-one really sees all the PTSD and anxiety that us survivors live every single day. Living in fear that one day we will wake up and the cancer will be back and we will have to live this hell all over again. The truth is, we don’t get to go back in time to our pre-cancer existence, we are simply forced to move forward, and move on, that is one of the most difficult parts of this journey yet!
I remember my doctors telling me, “I am going to bring you to near death with your treatments in order to save your life”. It isn’t until a year and a half later that I am looking back and realizing the true depth of this statement. A part of me is so thankful— HELL IM ALIVE! But, then theres a part of me that looks at how different my life is. I am filled with anxiety, i’m unhappy with my body, my hormones are all over the place, I may never be able to have a child of my own naturally— that hurts! I have only recently realized that the old me is actually gone forever. Yes, physically treatment has saved my life, however cancer has stolen my life- my old life is dead, the new me is alive. But who am I?
There was a time during treatment that all I wanted to hear was that “I am cancer free”. I prayed for a complete response to chemo- I didn’t get that. I begged for clear margins post my mastectomy- I was so blessed to have a perfect surgery. I dreamed of getting back to life… but thats just it, this new life is hard freakin work! I question my existence everyday. Do my old friends not talk to me because I am different? Will I only ever be able to truly connect to Breasties I meet online or through travel?
Once my treatments ended, I think Ive been faced with more fear than during chemo! The fear of the unknown attacks me daily and my incredible husband is always there to build me up from the crumbling mess I become especially at night when my brain doesn’t want to stop thinking about the what ifs. The average person doesn’t realize that when someone is going through cancer, they see atleast one doctor weekly if not multiple times a week. Now, I don’t see my doctors for 3-6 months at a time! It is the weirdest and scariest feeling ever, because what if i’m missing a symptom that they would be able to catch and i’m overlooking.
From looks, to career, to friendships, to hobbies, to overall attitude, views, and determination— my life has completely changed. Heck I’m Meghan Koziel now not even Meghan Franz! My name has even changed thank you marriage:)! I’d say I am a completely different person, and although a part of me is sad for losing my boobs, my cute skinny body, my hair… I am so blessed for becoming a strong, compassionate, lively me!
For the past year and a half I’ve been a 26 year old diagnosed with breast cancer… today, I am Meghan Koziel a 28 year old wife, puppy mommy, daughter, sister, Occupational Therapist, blogger, advocate and boutique owner. I am involved with multiple breast cancer organization, I participate in local and travel meet ups with breasties, I even continue to dedicate countless hours conversing with girls and guy through instagram providing encouragement and experience. Although I will NEVER put my cancer journey behind me… I think it is time to push forward and move on to the “I HAD cancer” phrase… maybe?
Today is Mothers Day! I am so blessed to have such an absolutely incredible mommykins! She raised not one, not two, but three beautiful, independent, creative, and determined daughters! Without her in my life, I could have never ever ever beat that big scary thing called CANCER. I am also blessed enough to have an equally amazing Mother in Law whom has accepted me with open arms into her family. She is loving and shows my husband and I daily how to love!
Over the past two years since my diagnosis, I have had to make some incredibly difficult decisions that the typical 26 year old may never imagine she’d be faced with. Going from being a carefree, outgoing, motivated young adult whom is just finding her place in the world, to having her world shatter from under her feet is the most difficult thing Ive ever had to face in my life.
Then comes looking towards the future. When you are diagnosed with a condition that ultimately may take your life, it changes everything forever. It changes your body, your attitude, your general well being. But more importantly, it changes all your goals and aspirations and paths you may be forced to take to live the life you’ve always imagined. Cancer is like a major detour, at the time it sucks but eventually, somehow, you will get to your final destination.
Being a twenty something young woman in a committed relationship and having cancer, one of the biggest decisions surrounding our future was not us getting married in two weeks so I didnt lose my hair for the wedding pics, but it was moreso how to preserve our chance to ever have a child of our own. It breaks my heart when friends and family members bring up the whole “oh when are you guys going to be starting your family”, when the truth is WHO THE HELL KNOWS!
So, when going through chemo as a girl in her 20s… one of the most important things to consider is your baby making parts. Ovarian preservation is key to holding on to a chance of one day creating a baby naturally. However, then you add estrogen driven cancers into the mix such as mine, and you have a complete recipe for disaster of any chance to ever conceive naturally. My now hubby and I chose to preserve my fertility by going through IVF, making embryos and eggs, and Ive been placed on a medication called Lupron which basically shuts down my ovaries in hopes that when I am done “treatment”, I can stop taking Lupron and my ovaries will stretch, yawn, and awaken from their nap? Maybe…
I am at the age when most of my friends and older cousins are married and beginning their families. I am so blessed that my hair is growing back, i’m in a job I can handle physically, and I am beginning to live again. I feel like people think my cancer is in the past, but they don’t realize that I will be living with cancer for the rest of my life. I spend countless tears on everything that cancer has stolen from me. When your invited to baby shower after baby shower or my facebook is filled with adorable photos of baby giggles… deep down, its heart breaking because it is something Ive always imagined to be so simple to have, and now– there is a great possibility that it is just not in the cards.
For me, I’ve always dreamt of being a mom. Whenever I was little, I would always play the teacher or the mom amongst my sisters and Barbies. I love kids. I have chosen to dedicate my life as a Pediatric Occupational Therapist to help children become as independent as possible on the daily! When my doctors explained to me that motherhood may never happen for me naturally because of chemo… I felt like a part of my being was gone forever. How am I supposed to be a wife when my lady parts are broken? Isn’t that one of the main reasons people get married to have babies. What is my husband who wants nothing more than to coach his kids in sports going to do when I may not be able to provide him babies?!
In mainstream media and the age of Sixteen and Pregnant or Teen Mom, our society (including myself and John— yes we love our reality TV) is raised upon the idea of “making good choices”, “keepin it wrapped”, and the lovely birth control is the way to beat teenage pregnancy. When I was a teen I was all about pregnancy prevention because we are raised with this idea that “your life will be over” or “you will never amount to anything” once you are young with a baby. Young girls are being placed onto birth control in their early teens unaware of all the horrendous side effects and potential cancer causing hormones they are placing into their bodies as a hope to not get knocked up!
You watch these shows and now pretty much every Teen Mom has multiple babies, it looks so easy… a little wam bam thank you man and wooolah, 9 months later your a mommy…
Then, there is the reality of a young girl with cancer. To put is truthfully, there is hardly any research that says when a good time after cancer it is to try to conceive, especially for cancers driven my estrogen. Researchers don’t want to do the studies because what would be worse than a doctor saying “go ahead have a baby”, then your cancer comes back full force! Basically, if I end up getting pregnant the risk would be that if there is any little inkling of cancer left in my body… the natural rise of estrogen that comes with pregnancy could potentially make the cancer cells multiply and i’ll have a huge issue with a major recurrence. Can you believe that today, in 2017 there is yet to be a test that can detect down to the teensy weensy cellular level to say yes you still have cancer cells or no you dont! This is a mere reason that they will only conduct a Ultra sound, mammogram, MRI, or PET scan if there is something visible on a physical exam— but thats for another blog post…
Basically, my loving hubby and I are going to be faced with yet another decision! (Did I mention I absolutely HATE decisions?) Should we just go for it, live our life minus the serious fears that my cancer can come back and kill me? Should we save every single penny we make and look into surrogacy or adoption? Is it fair for me to want a baby, possibly get pregnant then have a recurrence and have John have t raise a baby and care for a sick wife… again? Or should I be satisfied with my puppy son Izzy?
This Mothers Day, I have a whole different look on what a Mother is.
As per google… mother ˈməT͟Hər/noun 1. a woman in relation to her child or children.
Well, as of now, Izzy is my child. So, I will be celebrating Mother’s day as the pretty fantastic puppy mom that I am! I have raised him to have manners (sometimes), Ive taught him to sit and give paw, Ive cleaned up is puke and poop, Ive cuddled him when he was sad or hurt, Ive fed him, ive woken up countless nights because he cant sleep (and wants to run around like a psycho or go outside a kazillion times), ive given him baths, ive given him medicine, and when he was going through chemo… I was there to hold is paw and give him kisses on his head just like me mom did for me. Most of all, I have given him all my love of my entire heart and he will forever be my first child!
Conceiving a child does not make you a mother. Being a mother is hardwork and it isn’t for everyone. A mother is someone who guides their children, cares for their children, teaches their children, protects their children, and most importantly LOVES their children. It doesnt matter if your child has hair or fur, if your child is adopted, a snowflake baby, or an angel baby… its the Love that you give towards that child that makes you a mother.
So, on this Mothers Day… I would like to encourage anyone whom is unable to naturally conceive a child to never give up. Wipe those tears from your eyes and write out a plan. There are kazillions of ways to give your love onto a child, you may not be offered an “easy” route but you will find your way! It is hard for even me to be okay with saying this but, whether I can conceive or not… we will do what we have to and pay any price to either have a surrogate or adopt a child and with all the love that we have in our hearts, and that child will grow to love their life! Never underestimate a pet mommy because you NEVER know the truth or whole story to their child bearing journey. STOP asking WHEN people are going to have a baby, its none of your business honestly unless they discuss it with you. Oh and Have a very Happy Mothers Day, hold those kiddos of yours close because somewhere there is someone like me who would do anything to have a child of their own.