Caution: Radiation!

The day had finally arrived… My first radiation treatment. June 7, 2016— that 7 makes it good luck right? 😉 This is a day I will always remember because out of this whole cancer filled journey, 1. I dont have signs of cancer anymore and 2. This is truly the most frightening part for me simply because its long term effects are so unknown.

When I’ve talked to people who had been through chemo and radiation, they literally think I’m crazy because “they sayyyyy” if you made it through chemo the worst is over and radiation is a walk in the park. I guess for me it was moreso looking up side effects and seeing goozing burns, leather burnt skin, and horror stories with post reconstruction, maybe that scared me so badly? Or maybe it’s simply the fact that I truly had noooooo idea what to expect?

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Thank you cancer.org …. 😦
Truthfully, In my crazy (bleached) blonde head… I imagined radiation to be something like a room guarded by laser beams. Come on, like in the movies where you’d have to do back bends and limbo in order to make it through without being killed or an alarm going off and you getting busted! Perhaps I do live in too much of a fairytale land, however this was my fear. And not to mention my pre assumption of the radiation beams or in my head lasers shooting out of the machine, in red strikes of course… And chopping through my body something like in fruit ninja!

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On my first day, it was a Monday and my appointment was for 3:45pm. This appointment was my “radiation stimulation” as they call it so I didn’t actually receive treatment. My husband John came with me and as we arrived in the parking garage my heart was doing tumble saults. I made my radiation oncologist Dr. Trombetta and his staff some homemade strawberries as a sort of bribe to not kill me;).

As we got off the elevator the unit secretary Becky was there. Every single time I see this woman she is smiling, so kind, and always compliments me on something! She literally makes my day. However, I was so nervous that as she asked me questions and I was literally on the verge of tears yet held them back behind my large plate of strawberries! I asked if Dr. Trombetta would be around so I could give him a strawberry and it was like he was on cue. Out from around the corner peeped my doc!

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My superhero! Dr. Trombetta!
Dr. Trombetta is amazing to describe him simply. Along with my other doctors throughout this journey, he truly shows empathy, compassion, love, and drive to help others. He actually has a larger than life personality too… I love a real down to earth doctor! He is always sitting down and speaking to me at my level! It makes me feel like a human and not just another breast cancer case. It’s kinda weird to think about it, but  he never knew the pre-cancer meghan. He never knew of the long blonde hair Meghan that bobbled around without a care in the world. For that reason actually, I did wear my wig when I had my first radiation appointment. That may have been the last time I’ve worn my wig too…

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Me and my mommy at my 1st radiation oncology appointment
Anyways, so I saw Dr. Trombetta in the hall, gave him a strawberry and broke down. I couldn’t hold it in! I was a little weeping willow. John rubbed my back and Dr. Trombetta grabbed my arm and walked me into the treatment room signaling to his nurse to grab some tissues I believe because before I knew it his nurse Scott was handing me a box of tissues! Did I already say this office is absolutely fabulous? After calming me down he explained that today was the monthly breast cancer round table with multiple professionals, and once again they were discussing my case! I am sorta famous in the hospital you know, I might as well walk around doing the princess wave!

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My radiation sessions are performed at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh PA. They have an amazing group of volunteers and one program specifically ran through the volunteers department is making scrub tops for radiation patients for easier accessibility. On this first day, I was guided to a rack sorted by sizes and a kazillion printed scrub tops. Of course I picked the brightest pink with sunshines all over it… What else would describe me so perfectly!

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As I almost embarrassedly grabbed a top because although I was soooo grateful to not wear a hideous normal hospital gown… This was realization that I’m different. I officially have a radiation top :(. The radiation tech who may have only been a few years older than me didn’t really go for the whole “you can just pick me out a pretty one”. Guys just dont get the hints… aka. “I am too uncomfortable please do it for me type thing”… However I suppose he was also just being nice and wanted me to “like” my new top that I would be wearing for the next 3 months or 30 sessions.

He walked me into “the room”. All it is basically is a large room with a ginormous machine in the middle. It also has a computer monitor in one corner of the room and 2 green laser apperatures from one wall and the ceiling directly over the radiation machine. Its kinda self explanatory though when there is a table with a sheet on it you sorta know thats where I lay right?!

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Thanks to good ole HIPAA I’m not allowed to take pics in my treatment room… but this is the same (or close to) the machine they use on me!
So lets back on track a tiny bit. A few weeks prior to my initial session, I was brought in to get “casted”. Basically, they used an x-ray, to get specific measurements of where exactly they would be radiating or using the X-ray to target. Once again, radiation therapy is very specific and targeted therapy. The tumor’s location or sub clavicle, sentinel, and axillary nodes in my case were marked on my skin with a permanenet marker then covered with a little sticky clear plastic bandaid almost. I received three marks down the center of my chest and two on each of my sides near my arm pits. These “marks” or as some describe them as “tattoos” help the doctors to precisely aim the radiation beam and not hit anythig important you know. SIDETONE: many facilities use different things to mark these spots. Some facilities even do permanent tattooing… aka it is extremely important that these marks DO NOT move or get lost! Reminder: the goal in all this is to keep me alive right!– perhaps this is where I get my anxiety from? I’m not the best at trusting…;)

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Anyways, you may receive an immobilizer to help you stay in the same exact position throughout each treatment. I hear they use tape, foam sponges, headrests, or plaster casts. In my case, they used a sort of mold that had material on the outside and what felt to me like small little beads inside… I laid on the xray table and they positioned my arms above my head, hands interlocking. It took probably 15 mins to set… and woolah, I officially had my radiation cast!  Nice hard, and another thing that is permanent in this journey. Not saying it is at all comfortable… But hey, I guess its better than moving and the beam hitting my heart right?!This casting is then labeled and strapped with my permanent marker and used only for me! Every single treatment session my body is now in the exact same position and the radiation beams target the same exact spots every time therefore killing all those evil cancer cells that may still exist in my little pitter aka arm pit aka B-O as I refer to it as.

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For a breast cancer patient and in my case specifically my radiation treatments are targeting my sub clavicular, sentinel and axillary nodes. As per good ole Web MD, “In breast cancer, the sentinel node is usually located in the axillary nodes, under the arm. If the sentinel node is positive, there may be other positive lymph nodes upstream”. In my case 1 axilla lymph node had positive cancer cells therefore they assume that the sentinel node just because of the way our systems are designed would have cancer cells. Therefore, my arm positioning during all sessions are above my head… A tid bit uncomfortable especially right after an expander fill, however by this point about 2 weeks following my last expansion fill, it isn’t too uncomfortable.

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My first session was strictly to make sure that my radiation oncologist used his brilliant brain perfectly and that all the very complex measurements and data are specific and precise enough to kill the cancer and not kill me! Pretty simple you know;). I went in and was probably on the table for maybe 15 mins in my cast, laying on my back with my arms above my head and my head turned to the left (away from my right side radiation). Afterwards, Dr. Trombetta walked John and I into the “data collection” room where different technicians had numerous computer screens with xrays and numbers, and letters, and colors… It made me wayyyyy thankful I’m an occupational therapist and surely DO NOT have their job! However I am over the moon thankful to have them!;)

I went back into the changing room and returned to the person I walked in as. Non gowned, and noone would ever know that I am now officially a radiation patient. Later that night I received a phone call from an unknown number. Dr. Trombetta was checking on me and making sure I still wasn’t crying or too upset over the session! How absolutely incredible and amazing is that! In that moment I knew… I entirely trust this man with my life because he cares!

Tuesday came in a blink of an eye, literally…and I think I was soooo anxious the entire day that all I could think about was “is it going to hurt, will it burn, will I survive or I be death by radiation beam”?! John drove me again, and we got front row parking, SCORE!!! It was a sign, everything would be just fine! John held my hand the entire walk down to the radiation department, underground level 02— even lower than the morgue in this hospital! The elevator opended and Becky again was there to greet me, exchange my parking tag, and check me in. I was instructed to walk around to the radiation waiting room and in that moment I realized that this would soon turn into my daily M-F routine.

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The radiation department waiting room is small but comfy. I mean, if you ask me it could use a fresh coat of paint and modern decor however its none of my business right;) (however this may be my next discussion with good ole Dr. Trombetta:) they do have lots of seats, a table in the middle with a puzzle with a kazillion pieces, and a little coffee bar with snacks! I took this as a sign that hydrating before and after sessions is soooo important and nourishment! Check!! I will forever eat before sessions!

 

In the corner of the waiting room is a gold bell. At the conclusion of someone finishing their radiation rounds, they ring the bell signifying completion and start of a new life! I cannot wait to ring the heck out of that damn bell!

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They called me back, I changed into my scrub top which I brought with me, luckily I remembered… And after a few selfies;) out into the treatment room I went. I was instructed to lay on the xray table, and I met my long lost friend aka my mold which guided my arms into the pefect position. It gave me the sense of comfort to know I was locked in position. My belly began to fill with butterflies, then I had a hot flash, then the technician told me he’d be walking out of the room but will be able to see and hear me the entire time! Once they aligned my body per the measurements they devised, adjusted the bed, turned on some green laser beams, instructed me to keep my head turned left and out they went…

The Beetles were playing overhead, but it was in that moment I felt alone. Perhaps the most alone that i’ve ever felt. I was alone, well aside from them creeping on me from some monitor somewhere. It was me, laying on a table, half dressed, a nippleless tit exposed and vulnerable and a huge machine closer but not touching me. Over an intercom they said they were starting and to hold still. They told me I can breath (per my MD, research doesn’t specifically state any added benefits to holding your breath during sessions) so I tried not to take huge inhales and sorta began a slight meditation.

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When the radiation beam is going it sounds to me anyways like the polishing wand at a dentists office or the swarm of bees that follow Winnie the Pooh around for different amounts of time. I believe I receive 36 seconds-5 seconds at a time. The machine is first positioned right over top of my body, close but never touching, to the right side of my body- I believe shooting upward at my armpit but im not completely sure because I can’t turn my head to look, and then to the left of my body so my face can literally look into the machine but it is shooting downward across the top of my chest.

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Three songs later, about 12 zaps of different lengths and a tinsy bit of a chill over my body because of being exposed, the technician intercomed in “Meghan you are all done you can take your hands down”. “Ahhhh”! I think I say that everytime! Total, I think I lay on the table about 10-15 mins… But it truly feels like eternity! It is soooo hard to lay still, not talk, not sing, not itch that itch that of course appears on my cheek in the very moment I literally cannot itch it! Gosh this sucks! However it could be worse!

So that was it! I hopped off the table, went back to the dressing room to return to being me… And I was done! Upon walking out to the car however I began to feel slightly different. I felt lightheaded, than nauseous, than got the worst headache I have ever felt! John got me home, I drank water, and cuddled up wit Izzy for a nap. I woke up feeling groggy, dang I hopped this wouldn’t be for every session! Well… 29 to go!

Treatment sessions 2-5 were about the same. On Friday I notified the technician of my symptomology and they paged the doctor almost immediately. They took my blood pressure, which was high after my session, brought me into a room and I began to cry… Again. It’s scary when things that aren’t typical happen! Why cant’ I just be normal!

Basically my symptoms lightheadedness, nausea, senstivity to light or photophobia, and a headache behind my eyes or squeezing my head describe migraines! What in the world!?! I’ve almost never had even a headache before, one week of radiation and I have yet another diagnosis to add to my list? Migraines?! They wanted to get a brain MRI but I would have had to go through the ED and we all know that would completely ruin my Friday plans, so I made a deal to monitor my symptoms, try some exedrin, sleep and return to the hospital if they got any worse.

Saturday and Sundays are my break days! I went to bed Friday at almost 5 am because I took exedrin and drank a mountain dew thinking the caffeine would help my head. WRONG! I decided to watch some lifetime movies and scare the daylights out of myself as I’m sitting in the dark (next to a snoring John and Izzy) as different wives kill their husbands, daughters get raped and kidnapped, and someone lurking in the corn fields is spying on someone plotting their death! You know, typical lifetime! Hahaha

So far sessions 5-10 have been rather uneventful compared to the first week. My headaches have lessened and no skin changes just yet! That reminds me!!

My skin regimen: (since everybody asks…)

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Get yours today at: http://www.rxcannacare.com
Although I am sooo thankful for so many recommendations for lotions, aquaphor, aloe or cocoa butter as my doctor recommended, I like research and experimenting… So, I have strictly been using CBD oil (lotion by RX Canna Care) that I apply 2-3 times a day.

** I also used CBD oil through this company during my chemo treatments and NEVER threw up!!! Read my prior posts for details…

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Look for me on their website;) told you I’m famous!
This Canna Cream is all handmade.  All Natural and Organic Ingredients sourced from around the world. Flavors are: Lemon Grass, Egyptian Lotus, Pineapple Guava and Grapefruit Quench. EACH CAN CONTAINS A REAL Amethyst, Citrine, or Quartz CRYSTAL !!! SOLAR CHARGED FOR ADDITIONAL ENERGY!

Natural Ingredients:
Bulgarian lavender essential oil, vitamin E (tocopherol), neroli, cornstarch, grape seed oil, Rose Geranium Essential oil, Italian extra virgin olive oil, Baja avocado oil, sweet almond oil

Organic ingredients:
Sri Lankan virgin coconut oil raw cold pressed, African ivory shea butter raw unrefined, raw cocoa butter, whole flower calendula extract.

*I have also been instructed to apply no more than 3 hours before treatment sessions because they don’t like oily residue on you doing treatments. I also drink atleast 2 water bottles in the morning before sessions, and 1-2 following treatments to stay hydrated!

Attire:

Like I said before… my hospital does provide scrub tops adapted by the volunteers of the hospital.  However, The Radiant Wrap provided me with a gorgeous, sparkly, soft like butter, silk designer wrap that makes going to radiation actually something I look forward to doing because I get to change into this piece of art! The company is run by a survivor herself! She puts her heart and passion into making these beauties… and that is exactly what they are!  They give me spunk, increase my self esteem, and make me feel comfortable in an uncomfortable situation!

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You HAVE to check out these Radiant Wraps!
All in all, I am taking every day one step at a time.  I lead by the quote “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”… and that is exactly what I am doing with this part of the journey.  The fatigue is setting in slightly, however I will NOT allow it to ever dull my sparkle*

Here are some pics (1 from each day of radiation) sessions 1-12! More updates to come! (Sorry this post was soooo long… I guess I should keep up on this blogging thing 🙂 ).


Xo Meg

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Back to Work as an Occupational Therapist

***Half of this was written at my return to work following chemo before going out again for my bilateral mastectomies***  Return to work post mastectomies will be written once it happens!

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So it’s my first week back at working as an acute care occupational therapist and I must say… I am exhausted!!! Although I am so so so happy and blessed to be back and working with my amazing co-workers and of course the patients, I would be lying if I didnt say that I have  had times late at night or early the next morning when that lovely alarm goes off and I just want to crush my iphone… Or that I have  questioned if I went back to work too soon, or if I should have returned back to work at all!

Only 2 weeks after chemo and my multitude of allergic reactions, I was feeling back to myself at home, therefore my doctors and I decided it was a safe decision to return to the rather physical job of an OT! I mean, how hard could it be? Some people go through treatments and work at the same time! I was lucky enough to be out of work for five months and still have a job to come back to! I returned to work basically with a little angel and devil on each of my shoulders. The angel is telling me that my energy level isnt normal, that im going to have to pace myself and im most likely not going to be as productive as before I went out on leave. However, the other side is that little devil that pushes me to be productive, drives me to see as many patients as possible, and go on full blast all day so at night I just want to face dive into bed!

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Lets go back to Monday March 14th, my first day back and treating on the floor! That Sunday night I was a wreck! Train wreck to be exact. That weekend we traveled to Harrisburg for our good friends beautiful wedding, we let lose… Had a puppy sitter for Izzy for the very first time (thanks bff!) and just raged! #shouldaseenjohnssnapchats However, come Sunday night and after a 3.5 hr drive home… I was exhausted!

That night, soooo many things were running through my mind. Would I remember what to do, would I make it through the day, what if I forget something, what about the computers, I hope its not too different, and that question thats always dawning on me… What about my hair! I was a nervous wreck that my coworkers and more importantly patients wouldnt know why I had short hair and ask a million questions… Or think I was “sick” therefore not trust my skills as a therapist!

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Oh the drama my little mind creates for me. I swear I even had a dream of exact wording of the assessment portion of an evaluation! For those of you working as a therapist, you have to know what i’m talking about. Basically, we are kinda like little robots… We have the same greeting and introduction, the same questions regarding home setup and previous level of function, then evaluations differ depending upon diagnosis, you explain the plan and goals– and most importantly the patients goals or concerns, say your goodbyes and on to the next patient we go! Why was I so scared that I would have magically forgotten my routine that literally is engraved into my white matter!

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First Morning back to work!

Walking into work that day I was so nervous. Then, I walked into the OT office and there stood many of my collegues and literally a breakfast feast! It was like I could breath! My coworkers 1. Didnt forget who I was, and 2. Cared enough to go out of their way to welcome me back in such a touching way… It literally meant so much!

After numerous hugs and hellos with my long lost therapy team, off to a meeting with my new director and supervisor! Turns out a few changes had been made, I explained my plan of coming back for a few weeks before my double mastectomy but I was so grateful to be back!  In no time I was off to the floor I went to treat my first patient!

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It was all so new and exciting! Literally I jumped in ready to be the best OT I could… So basically that means ADLs and Independence all day long people!! Lets move your little behinds, go to the bathroom on a toilet, shower, get dressed (okay maybe i’ll let you use some long handled equipment), and lets find the meaning of life together! My first patient of the day literally was like riding a bike. Guess what everyone… It all came right back to me!

Okay, so I remembered what it was like to be an OT… But my hair! Oh ya, hello Meghan you are not the little long blonde haired OT anymore. You now walk into patients rooms with a near bald look so obviously patients and other people working in the hospital are going to ask questions… Or would they?!

Truthfully out of about 8 patients I saw my first day back, maybe one mentioned my hair. It wasn’t even like they said “oh whats wrong” or “are you sick”… It was simply, “I really like that hair cut on you”! Say what?! The human race is kind? The human race really isn’t paying attention to my baldness?! Nope!

I mean, I have to be fair, I did have a patient or two with dementia who may have said “whats wrong, where is your hair” or “are you sick”… But truthfully it was rare in the days events! I actually had a fellow PT come up to me and ask how I was explaining my lack of hair to patients because one of her patients made a comment about me to her and I decided to go the truthful route. Sure I could play it off like I just cut my hair… By why should I be ashamed or embarrassed of the life I am living? I simply explained, “I recently finished chemo and am awaiting surgery and the word that I am cancer free!”

Truthfully, I am completely shocked how people reacted. It was unlike any reaction scenario that I could have ever dreamt up. Though some people appeared sad or empathetic and went into story telling of their own loved ones cancer journeys, others stopped everything right then and there, grabbed my hand and began to pray. I had one elderly woman who actually said to me, “you know i’ve never met anyone with cancer before”… Of which my response was “well good thing you met me because i’m practically famous;)”

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All in all, returning to my life as an OT has been challenging yet so so so rewarding at the same time. Although I am awful at energy conservation techniques and turning down my gear to slow down… I absolutely LOVE the fact that I get to 1. Help others, 2. Share my story, and 3. Give people hope and courage to push through their battles and show them that they cannot give up! Oh and to… #sparkleon

Xoxo

Meg

 

Pump Pump Pump it Up

 After meeting with my radiation oncologist on Monday, I received my radiation timeline and it looks like I will be starting targeted radiation therapy the week of June 1st. With that being said, it is time to hunker down and stretch the skin and muscle of these teenie tittie tatas before radiation begins so I can get the max amount of stretch (Go Big or Go Home right!) and work towards “throw some D’s on this Bish”. Radiation “uses high-energy particles or waves, such as x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams, or protons, to destroy or damage cancer cells” (American Cancer Society). Once someone begins radiation, one of the most common side effects are skin damage. I mean to put it in Meghan terms, radiation is literally x ray beams slicing through your body to kill any lingering “bad boy” cancer cells if any even still exist. However ,those lovely high tech, targeted beams can’t tell good cells from bad cells… therefore they all get zapped! They say the damage that the radiation will cause may tighten or thicken the skin around my breast creating a leather-like texture, therefore all expanding must be completed prior to my being burnt by beams.

What does this “pump up” I speak of entail? So I am exactly 4 weeks out from my bilateral mactectomies (non nipple sparring) and finally beginning to be releived of pain. Actually its kinda funny because the  mastectomy pain itself is nothing, its these dang expanders causing all the drama! Prior to my first expansion, I was actually done taking pain medications and doing more  around the house and things, which is GREAT! Now folks,  before you all get all up in arms I admit… I am probably the worst patient in the world (I blame it on me being a therapist), however at 4 weeks I do still have lifting precautions <10 lbs and NO pectorial movements or stregthening due to risk of tearing or rupture.

Anyways, so I was brought into my plastic surgeons office 1 week earlier than he initially made my appointment just because of my time restraints for radiation. Just call me that annoying pest of a patient that calls and calls and calls until they give me the appointment that I want… but hey, thats why they love me;) (squeaky wheel gets the grease right?) Therefore, I began expansion at exactly 2 weeks out from surgery.

**Sidenote: My doctor explained that he does not begin expansion until the patient is pain free.  At two weeks I stopped all pain medications and only had slight tenderness under my breasts where the two drains were inserted thats why I started expansion so soon.

Due to my post-op limitations and precautions following my titty chopping procedure, my hot red head mother dearest had so graciously stayed with John and I about 3 weeks after surgery.  I honestly would not have been able to make it through these weeks without her help! It was very convenient because I am not allowed to drive therefore she was able to take me to appointments, take care of Izzy, and keep my house nice and tidy.  I definitely owe her BIG TIME!

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So pumping up… each expander fill is performed in my plastic surgeons office. It is an in and out sterile procedure that probably take max about 10 mins. My first fill, I didn’t really know what to expect. As the nurse walked me down the hall to the “Land of the Unknown”, this one room stood out because it had big lights above the bed, and multiple bags of saline and tubing hanging from above. Because I have no filter… I blurted out “omg thats a scary room!” To which the nurses response was, “thats where you’re heading!” Say whatttttt!!!! In my head my little Lizzie Mcguire type character was saying “hold up! Im here for a titty fill, not some Edward Scissorhands type shiz!”

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After the initial shock of my new “comfy cozy” environment, my mom and I did what any normal mother/daughter would do in this situation…Duh! Take a selfie;) and multiple snapchats (follow me at franzm) ! If my surgeon had cameras in there he’d think i’m more nuts than I already am!

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I was instructed to gown up. By now, I know what that means like i’m a surgeon getting ready for brain surgery… It’s all routine! I took my clothes off from waist up and donned (OT word) my gown opening in the front for easy access of course;). I sat on the “scary table” as so many different scenarios ran through my mind. My heartbeat became more erratic… Then entered Dr. Michael White, the “titty guru”, and “Picasso of Boobies”, okay I may have named him those… But at the end of this long journey he did promise me one thing… A gorgeous set of boobies!

He greeted me with a friendly smile, he could tell I was nervous. My red chest hives couldn’t have given that one away could it?! In a matter of seconds he was straight to work. I was instructed to lie down on the table as he and his assistant both grabbed a syringe connected to a bag of saline with a needle on the end. He cleaned my breasts, marked where the expander ports were (this is sort of a tiny plastic coffee can lid that allows the needle to enter and exit easily), and then stabbed me not once but twice with about a two inch needle! Okay, i’m being dramatic (surprise, surprise) the good news is my breasts are still so numb from the mastectomies chopping all my nerve endings that I didn’t even feel a pinch as the needles were inserted into my breasts!

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After 1st expansion of 75 cc– Total 175cc (100 cc out of surgery)

They began pumping. Slowly they together filled the expanders by pushing on the syringe and my boobies began to rise! At first I didnt really feel anything. Then my chest started to feel a little bit heavy. Then that heaviness turned to tightness. To me, I would compare the feeling to someone stacking bricks on your chest then a boa constricture capturing a small bunny and wrapping around and around so tight that it constricts its airways and breaks all its bones until it dies… So basically, its not that bad;)

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My doctor goes by the motto “no need to cause pain”, so I was instructed to tell him once the tightness became uncomfortable. 2 weeks after my mastectomies, I tolerated a 75cc fill! We were off to a good start.

Since my radiation is scheduled to begin in only a few weeks, weekly expansion fills were now on my timeline. The next week I tolerated another 75 cc yippee! However this time along with the heaviness and chest tightness, I felt back pain! I was still laying on the table when I said “owww my back!” My mom and I walked out of the office and my back pain was getting worse. I got into the car and felt my first spasm. I took some ibuprofen and my mom drove us home. We were about 2 minutes into the drive that I was in full our hysterics. The pain was severe almost like one of my vertebrae were out of place and every time I breathed it was severe pain. Not to mention it felt like my mom was playing frogger with pot holes. Except everytime she saw a pothole instead of missing it, she would hit it full force. Damn you potholes!!!!

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After 2nd expansion of 75cc (Total:250 cc)

I made my mom push on my back where I felt it spasming and simply felt like poopoo💩. We finally got home, and I immediately headed for the warm bath tub. Still crying due to pain, this was the first time I thought to myself “why the hell am I doing this, are boobs worth this much pain?” Hells YES it is!!

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Now, due to all of my allergies, I don’t have prescription pain medications that I am able to use for instances that I feel that I am on the brink of dying. So, seconds from having my mom bring me to the hospital, I told her to call Reiki Bob!

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Oh Yea, Izzy LOVES reiki too!

Reiki Bob is a volunteer at Allegheny General Hospital who I met during my chemo treatments. Bob aka “Reiki Bob” is a reiki master who volunteers his time in the cancer center and throughout the acute care setting to share his gift and to simply  help others! He is truly gifted and his energy healing is one of the most special I have ever come across!

Sidenote: We also have a bizarre connection to Reiki Bob. When I first met him my first day of chemo, he came up to me in his red volunteer jacket hoping to spread some knowledge and share his gift of reiki. He began to talk and got side tracked (which Bob typicaly does 😉 and he began telling us the story of his grand daughters wedding and the toast he gave but he forgot her new married last name and simply ended the speech without the big formal announcement of the newly married couple! Turns out Bobs grand daughter, Sasha was the photographer who volunteered her services to me for my wedding! Such a small, magical world we live in! (Check out Sasha Danielle Photography because she’s phenomenal!)

Anyways, Bob got my moms SOS message and arrived at my house as soon as he could! He began performing reiki and I immediately felt tingles as his healing energy relaxed my pissed off spasming muscles. In time, he was able to relax me to the point that I was nearly pain-free! Absolutely amazing! Oh did I mention, NO PAIN PILLS?! He then decided to try some hypnotherapy on me where he basically hypnotized me to block out the pain… And it freakin worked! I was pain free and could lift my arms clear above my head, simply fascinating! (Full reiki post to come…)

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After 3rd expansion of 60 cc (Total: 310cc)

My 3rd expander fill was yesterday and my dad was in town so he agreed to drive me. My dad is a little more anxious around all the medical stuff and is like any other good dad that hates to see his daughter in pain, thus sent me into Dr. Whites office solo. By now I feel like a complete professional as I walk right in, strip my clothes, and await Dr. Whites arrival.

This time my anxiety was geared more towards the expansion causing me back pain. Dr. White arrived and I explained the horrible spasms I had  following my last fill. He asked what I used to elimate my discomfort and I explained the benefits of reiki. So, i’ve come to the conclusion that many people don’t really “believe” that different alternative medical practices have true benefit… However I am living proof that this stuff works… So, I will keep Reiki Bob on speed dial and all to myself!

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They cleaned my skin and the needles were inserted. This time, Dr. White had a younger male resident to assist him. Sometimes I feel more awkward when I have doctors or nurses especially males who are moreso around my age examining me or what not, however after my tits being chopped off and me becomming in essence an utterless cow, I am more comfortable than I ever though I would be. If I lived in New Orleans, I may just take it upon myself to make everyday Marti Gras… Because I just want to show these “girls” to everyone! I mean, come on how often to you come across a woman so open and eager to teach everyone about mastectomies?! Maybe thats my purpose in life! Instead of the Naked Cowboy in NYC, I may just become Pittsburghs Booby Princess who prances around showing off my mastectomy “cuts” (because I will never refer to them as scars because that is simply too permanent!)

Anyways, back to the story here. So, they started filling and at first I was shocked because I really wasn’t feeling anything. Then came the heaviness… Then the tightness. Dr. White stopped filling this time at 60cc. Although I was a little disappointed because my goal has always been to have crazy huge titty tatas… I was so thankful cause maybe I wouldnt feel the pain?

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Duh duh dunn*

The nurse took my bandages off and cleaned up my “cuts” and this time sent me home without new bandages! It has been exactly a month since my mastectomies and finally it was time for me to face reality. You would think it would be crazy heart wrenching to look down and not see my perky pink nipples, however although asthetically pleasing, I love having no nipples! No need for a bra, no hypersensitivity… Cheers to the no nipple commitee! (Upcoming blog post To be cont.)

I walked into the waiting room to meet my dad and it was back. The tooth ache in my back that refuses to let me win! I instantly texted Reiki Bob and set up a home visit for later in the night. A warm bath, massage with Doterra Pepermint oil,reiki, and hypnosis later… I was back to a pain free me! Now lets just hope this lasts.

So, PLAN: my plastic surgeon feels only one more expander fill is possible, so appointment is set for next week. Being that radiation starts June 1st, John and I have decided it is the perfect time to get away, relax, and escape (temporarily) from this breast cancer nightmare… AND my dad has very generously purchased us a 6 day cruise to celebrate out 6 month late honeymoon! To say we are farrrrrr overdue is an understatement. Although I still have many restrictions and wont be able to do excursions or anything too physical, getting away together is going to be amazing!

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When life gives you lemons, either put them in your shirt for BIGGER boobs… or make lemonade, you decide*

Until next post, xoxo

Meg

Back the F*** Up.

Throughout my journey and since my original diagnosis in October 2015, I have come across many family members, friends, and even strangers who have made me aware of some sort of study, holistic treatment, or story about someone they knew or have heard of that “this or that” worked to magically “heal” someone of Cancer.  Though I am so so thankful for my amazing support system and absolutely wouldn’t change it for anything in the world, I must take this time to very kindly say, please…BACK THE FUCK UP!

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Okay, okay, let me explain my rage. Beginning my breast cancer journey at the age of 26 years young… I received the news and was extremely upset like anyone naturally would be. I’ve been through a windy road these past couple months and naturally I have had my own ups and downs. However, NEVER EVER EVER did I feel that my life was over, nor acted like I was “dying”, because NEWS FLASH, I am NOT!  Let me break this down for you so we are all on the same page here.

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Cancer. Why the fuck is that word so hard to say? Even to this day, when I come into situations that I am forced to actually say, “I have breast cancer” the words roll off my tongue in a very “awkward” and sort of unsettling way, but why? I’ll tell you why, because our society has made it that way!  Why do WE make “cancer” this big scary disease? Why is it that as soon as someone is diagnosed with “cancer” is it like a death sentence? Or better yet, why does society gauge or rate “cancers” like one is worse than the other?

(ATTENTION: THIS IS MY OPINION AND MY OPINION ONLY)

In my eyes, CANCER is just a diagnosis.  It is exactly like the diagnosis of diabetes or high blood pressure which can lead to heart disease in the fact that it effects your mortality. According to the World Health Organization,  cardiovascular diseases killed 17.5 million people in 2012, that is 3 in every 10 deaths. NOT CANCER… Heart disease! Guess what, many of my own family members have heart diseases or at very high risk for heart disease due to other conditions that make the pre-disposed. So, WHY when I was diagnosed with cancer did people find it okay to shove information, treatments, and studies down my throat when someone with a new diagnosis of diabetes for instance is “normal”  in our world and not “a big deal”.  Why do people think I am going to die, or I have to now “be strong and fight” because I have cancer?

Your probably thinking what is this girl talking about.  Okay, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and CHOSE to go through traditional treatment of chemotherapy. I made the decision to treat my condition through the use of doctors and tests that have been scientifically proven to have some sort of effect to lengthen my life.  That is the “goal” once you are diagnosed with any condition in actuality unless for religious reasons you don’t believe in modern medicine or something.  Can you BELIEVE, I had close FAMILY members and friends angry with me for doing what our “society” encourages to be the right thing to do when treating a medical condition?!

This is what people don’t get…You can’t take CANCER away. “Fixing” the problem is hard, but the end goal is simply just not to die. In our modern world today THERE IS NOT going to be a magical cure because Cancer treatments and fundraising makes way too much money for our selfish society to give up! Can you please explain to me why our society thinks it is okay to make billions of dollars on a simple medical condition… on Cancer?  Why not support a race for coronary artery disease or COPD… BECAUSE IT DOESNT HAVE AS MUCH “SUPPORT” AS THE ALL MIGHTY CANCER!

Even before I was diagnosed, just from having friends or family who have fought their battles with cancer, whenever I see a special colored “ribbon” for whichever specific cancer it represents, I often found myself spending the extra money and wearing it in celebration or in memory of that loved one. To tell you the truth, every time I see a fucking little pink ribbon, I want to actually wrap it around my throat! The way I see it is that these ribbons, colors, and symbols our culture has drilled into our brains, have  normalized the fact that this condition still exists in our world today. How pathetic is it that in the year 2016 despite our ability to send a person to walk on the damn moon we cannot “cure” multiple diseases?

Cancer literally makes a killing! Do you know how much money a year CANCER makes?  As per Google, “In 2012, the reported spending on cancer treatment was 124.6 billion dollars”. (I’m allowed to use google considering I am not in school anymore— HELLS YES its a reliable resource in my eyes!). ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? I didn’t stutter with that number either… we are talking BILLIONS of dollars, on what?

33As a patient with cancer these numbers obviously piss me off, but reality is that this is the world that we live in today. Money makes the world go round. Although many of us don’t want to admit it, it is entirely true. I am simply a number, a statistic, just another young woman with breast cancer in the grand scheme of things. Truthfully, that is NOT okay in my eyes! Actually I am Meghan Elizabeth (Franz) Koziel, a 26 yer old Occupational Therapist by day and damn Super Hero by night! I am not “cancer” and “cancer” is not me!

Lets talk about the many “life changes” people forced upon me once I was diagnosed because this has a direct effect with MONEY!

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Organic diet. Now, I can tell you from experience that organic foods are 100x better than the processed crap that are covering our food stores from floor to ceiling… however did you know that organic foods are sometimes DOUBLE the cost of our “normal” foods that are actually pumped with GMOs and pesticides which are proven carcinogens.  Did you know that other countries actually BAND some additives and preservatives that we Americans intake on the daily? We are literally placing these cancer causing foods into our own mouths because… its cheaper. Our government is making it legal for cancer causing chemicals be ingested by infants, children, teens, and adults of all ages… Could it be so every tomorrow a new person is getting sick and needs medicines and treatments in order to “live?”

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“The cancer must be in your water!” Sad, but possibly true… how pathetic is it that looking at my situation and both myself and my puppy being diagnosed with cancer at the same time I was actually encouraged to contact the water company to examine the local risk of ingesting toxins from my water! Good ole H2O! Pocahontas was able to drink out of a running fucking river with fish and raccoon poo floating downstream, and was never known to have “cancer”, but in 2016 I PAY for “filtered” running water and your telling me we haven’t found a way for it to be the purest damn water ever known to man?  Okay, well then I’ll PAY MORE MONEY to drink bottled water! WRONG!! The plastic that the bottle is made of and that the water sits in on the shelves for who knows how long is also cancer causing and can make you die!

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Oils, teas, and plants Oh My! The day I received my biopsy results that I had breast cancer, my family immediately made an order for CBD (aka hemp oil), I was given an aroma therapy diffuser, and gifts of teas and Himalayan salts were the norm. Although to me, these gifts have been very comforting and relaxing and in my mind using these things in conjunction with modern medicine does no harm at all! I actually find the relaxation benefits of many of these things to be highly beneficial mentally, however… THERE IS NO PUBLISHED LITERATURE THAT ANY OF THIS HAS A DIRECT EFFECT ON “CURING” CANCER! I support the more holistic lifestyle and utilizing these things even daily to promote healthy living, but newsflash THIS STUFF IS NOT GOING TO CURE ME!

This seems to be the truth as I investigate more and more. Cancer represents big money to the pharmaceutical companies and the health industry alone. Now I am not going to be a crazy advocate and grab my posters and megaphone to stand and strike on the street corner, but it is the scariest of thoughts! These companies and sadly some “non profits” supporting different diagnoses have been also found to not use majority of the funds for good use and to directly benefit patients. Many of them simply do NOT have a vested interest in prevention, therefore there will not be a definitive CURE anytime soon. In my case, I was genetically predisposed to breast cancer… Basically I pulled the short stick and the only thing to do is what science has proven to expand my life which is chemo, surgery, and radiation.

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If I took every single persons recommendation for treatment approaches, I would probably look like Bob Marley and smoke as much if not more plants than even he could ever imagine. I would live in some foreign land slightly similar to Loompaland eating only organic worms and bugs like Simba from lion king and perhaps the mysterious cocoa bean, raw and organic of course for dessert. I would rub oils and salves over every orfice of my body, and walk miles upon miles to bath/ drink only water from the Fountain of Youth. I would sleep in a cave filled with Hymalyan salt walls and have absolutely no electronics in case they send off harmful rays that will evntually kill me. Any flower I come across, I would ever so carefully dig it up to protect the root because duh thats the “healthiest part”, and gather random leaves just so I can Drink cup after cup of tea because my body will need this in order to live. Oh, and Dont forget my fruit and veggie, antioxidant rich diet! I will never ever kill an animal for food because that is simply “inhumane” and I will just hope and pray that the circle of life continues to monitor the animal population because I cannot assist in using them for food or items to live off of. The only electronic appliance I shall own is a juicer because basically I will be on a liquid diet and if I dont drink a quart or carrot, beet, and grape juice daily… I am sure to just die!

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Do you see how fucking ridiculous this all sounds?! This is what my life has been since I was diagnosed. Do people attack you with these sorts of treatments when your diagnosed with asthma? Oh I am sure they do for coronary artery disease, right? What makes it right just because I have breast cancer (let me mind you once again, it is just any other medical condition) for people to clobber me with these alternative treatments that may have worked for one or two random people across the universe but do not have substantial evidence to be more of a cure than ignoring that I have cancer all together. Nobody can tell me that I am going to die any sooner than you are just becuse I have the almighty “cancer”! Truth is, people wake up in the morning and die driving on their way to work… Did the oil or tea help to keep them alive?

What I want you to take out of reading this post is this. If a friend, family member, or aquaintance is diagnosed with cancer or any disease for that matter, be supportive. Instead of sending crazy ailments that “are sure to cure them”, send them inspirational quotes or a card that is so funny they cant help but laugh! Make them smile with mail and small gifts to brighten their day. Buy them one of those huge lollipops or a pack of bubble tape and have a contest who can blow the biggest bubble because its fun!  Make them gifts, homemade gifts are the greatest! From kniting them a blanket or hat when going through treatment to buying them comfy soft socks to keep their toesys warm, these are the things that make a huge difference! Sure, Hymalyan salt lamp, oils ,lotions, and teas are wonderful gifts… But do not expect them to use them every second of every day!

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The best gifts i’ve received along this journey had NOTHING to do with my cancer at all! Recieving a box full of letters from long lost friends with a sprinkle of glitter is sure to brighten anyones day. Im pretty sure I had a smile as wide as a Chesser Cat and may have shed tears of joy because of how it brought back so many memories! Jewlery and accessories or a new pair of pink sparkly heels literally made my day when I was down in the dumps, bald, and going through chemo. A “box of sunshine” after a surgery filled with anything and everything yellow! From a comfy blanket to chapstick! So thoughtful and amazing! Cards with words of encourgement and quotes make you know that people are thinking of you. Useful things like pajamas, lotion for chemo skin, or post-op drain holders are one less thing the “patient” has to buy. Even cookbooks are interesting and come in handy! And you can never go wrong with making frozen meals or better yet having a random pizza delivered to someone when their so busy with treatments or surgeries it’s such a wonderful idea because it is one less thing that person has to think about on a busy day.

The most cost efficient gift of them all…CALL them! Do not be the person that is there when the worst hits, but non-existant on any other day. After the initial month or two pass and someone is in the middle of treatments or surgery, go make a surprise visit, i’m telling you it will make their day! Even something as small as a text message or as personal as a handwritten letter through snail mail… These are the true “cures” to disease. Life is about taking risks… Do NOT ever force someone into a bubble and make them feel like they have to hide because at any minute death could be knocking at the door, because in reality it already is!

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On my very first doctors appointment with my AMAZING oncologist Dr. Jane Raymond, she said something to my mom and I that stuck. She said, “Beating Cancer is 80% mental, 20% physical”.  She encouraged me to get back to work and my normal everyday life because I AM NOT DEAD! I AM NOT DYING… I still have a long, sparkly, adventurous life to live!

My philosophy on life is that with love and laughter brings life! So focus more on making amazing memories, not losing out on the very precious minutes we have on this earth for he said/ she said type ailments. If you want to eat a damn Big Mac, you should eat a damn Big Mac and super size the shit! If you want to drink a Dr. Pepper at dinner, honey… drink that damn Dr. Pepper! When someone is sick, brighten their day with small  acts of love and kindness without focusing cherished time on ailments that have no scientific proof of curing anyone more than that of a smile.

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In college I created the mission to change the world one smile at a time. Literally all you have to do is smile at someone to change their entire day. So lets get our pearly whites ready.. hit up your local dentist, and make someone feel better by simply smiling! Now that my friends is proven to work miracles!

 

XOXO Meg

 

Tata to the Ta Ta’s

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Today is one week post my double mastectomy! Here is my story of this life changing event on April 11,2016.

The day had finally arrived, my last day of work until after my “booby break”. This day actually ended up being on Saturday so I was able to take off on Thursday for Izzys first chemo… blog post to come. After work, I rushed home to get the final prep stuff accomplished. Knowing i’d sort of be out of commision for a while, I made sure that my house was near spotless, clothes were adapted, and bags were packed, just in case I’d have to stay a few extra days in the hospital for any reason.

I received the call from the hospital that Friday evening and was instructed to be at the hospital at 5:30 am on Monday, the day of surgery. What in the world! Side note: How do these doctors have a life if they’re preparing surgeries so early in the morning! I mean, there is a lot of waiting around and prep work that goes into it, but still… really 5:30 am! Oh well, I guess having the earlier time is better than a later time when you have all day to be anxious and your stomach doing tumble-saults because of the stress of the unknown. They explained that this would be a one stay stay after surgery and to plan accordingly. This was mind blowing to me! Basically, they are amputating my tits off of my chest and about 12 hours later, see ya… don’t let the door kick you in the ass? How am I ever going to be ready in 1 day to go home!

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Anxiety aside…In hopes of keeping my spirits high, I decided to only go about this life changing event in Meghan fashion… of course why would’t I have a “Ta ta to the Tata’s” party! My sister made a sparkly banner, I made a bunch of party foods, bought pink and black balloons and decor… oh yeah and made booby desserts obvi…it was a wonderful day! Although I really truly missed having many of my friends there to celebrate, with distance and time I understand that people can’t simply stop their lives for me… but I had a wonderful group of friends and family able to celebrate my new boobies and ultimately the end being finally in reach of this cancer chapter.

The next morning, alarms began going off at 4:15 am. My entourage included my mom, dad, little sister Jill, John, Cindy my cousin, and John’s mom, as they all planned to spend the day in the hospital as I got my boobs lopped off! Okay, I’ll be a little bit more sensitive… “as I had my bilateral mastectomies with exploration of lymph nodes and reconstruction involving placement of expanders”. Truthfully, I was not nervous hardly at all! I was more excited to get bigger boobies out of the deal! I was instructed that the surgery would take from 6 to 8 hours, so of course being under anesthesia for that long makes anyone nervous. I mean, I really hope I have a cooler death than something going wrong in surgery for breast cancer, GAWD that would be really anti-climatic!

They called my name, and the nurse walked me back rather quickly to start all the pre-op tasks, I hardly sat with my family at all! First I was weighed, and yes I cursed at the scale because I have in deed gained weight through this whole ordeal which I’m frankly pissed off at…ugh but thats life right now. Then the nurse gave me a cup with a locked lid that I was instructed to pee in for a pregnancy test. This makes me chuckle overtime because it is close to impossible for me to get pregnant during chem–from having an IUD placed, having my eggs removed during fertility treatments, being placed on a medication that “protects my ovaries” and tricks my body into a “temporary menopause”, OH YA, and having the libido of a slug… I am pretty sure unless I am the Mother Mary I am not pregnant. After awkwardly carrying my pee cup into the hallway and handing it to the nurse, I was instructed to remove all my jewelry and clothes and place a hospital gown and slipper socks on as I waited for the next instructions.

The older nurse returned and started the slew of questions as she slowly and painfully inputted my info into their new EPIC system. Im pretty sure I chose the absolute WORST time to get diagnosed with cancer because it was in perfect timing with them learning this new system, and truthfully it is completely obnoxious. I guess it is better than being cavemen and handwriting documentation though, welcome to the modern times AGH! Anyways back to the story… so the nurse got to my allergy section and I requested the anesthesiologist be paged and my information from my last surgery be pulled to help in finding a pain medication for post-op that I will be able to use without having an allergic reaction, YEAH wishful thinking.

She attempted to get my IV placed and instead of using my nice plump vein in my forearm… to the hand she decides to stab! And YES!!! stabbing is exactly what she decided to do. Oh that and moving the needle every which way to try to get the tiniest vein that obviously didn’t want a damn needle puncturing through it. You guessed it, “You’re a bad stick”— Gawd I hate when nurses say that! I always want to look at them and say, “well, your a bad nurse!” I bit my tongue though and waited for the anesthesiologist to place my IV.

She sent back my whole family, which I was so thankful because normally they only allow two people in the pre-op waiting rooms. The anthesiologist and her assistant came into the room as they began questioning me about my prior surgeries and pain medicines I could tolerate as well as allergic reactions. We ended up agreeing that a paraspinal epidural would be the safest route so that I would have some sort of relief post op.

In brief, I am allergic to all Opiate based pain medications. My last leg surgery about a year ago, I had an anaphylactic allergic reaction to Fentanyl. In the past I’ve also had reactions to Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Morphine. The anesthesiologist decided that while I would be intubated during the surgery they would trial my reaction to Dilaudid even though it is an opiate based pain medication. In her explanation, this would be safest because basically there isn’t any other way to know if i’m allergic other than trial and error. At least if i’m already intubated, that would be best case scenario if I were to present with symptoms of difficulty breathing .

As they had me sign a ton of papers and releases, then came the talk… Basically, the risks of anesthesia are scratchy throat, heart attack, confusion, stroke, waking during the procedure, death… lets add growing a tail and perhaps a third eye for heaven sake! So after scaring you half to death because they have to legally… ready ready, they follow up with my favorite phase, “but you should have nothing to worry about”. Thank you Mr. Doctor… So, I may die or become a T-Rex… oh or come out just fine– breath in, breath out… okay I’m ready for you to cut me open!

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But seriously, after I literally signed aware my life, it was truly the first time I started to get those belly butterflies. I looked up at my dad and he was sucking on his upper lip on the verge of crying, my moms rosey red cheeks and blotchy chest was beginning to form, and then the anesthesiologist says, “Okay were going to take you then for your epidural placement, you can say your goodbyes”. GOODBYES!!!! In that moment it hit me! I am about to be put to sleep for 6+ hours, they are placing an epidural which can paralyze me, they are resecting axillary lymph nodes which may give me lymphedema, and removing my beloved titty tats that make me a woman! Wahhhhhh

So, I began to cry. Then everyone else began to cry. They all lined up and after taking farewell selfies with everyone, I gave kisses and hugs, exchanges “I love you’s”, and was off being wheeled down the hall through multiple rooms and freezing cold temperatures to the OR.

I took a few deep breaths and pulled myself together. I met a few more anesthesiologists, residents, and nurses as they placed my IV, stuck oxygen up my nose and connected me to the heart and oxygen monitors. I have definitely mentioned this before, but when I was first diagnosed it was a little bit awkward to take off my shirt or have the doctors touch my boobies on command. When the (rather attractive) resident asked to mark by breast, you would think I was at Marti Gras… except I did;t get any beads:( Truly, it is nothing for me to show my boobs, however being polite, he marked it quickly then gave me a blanket to drape across me to remain a little bit decent. It hit me, that would be the very last time I ever flash my own titty ta ta’s!

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It was time to place the epidural. I was asked to sit on the edge of the bed and relax my arms and drop my shoulders down. The main anesthesiologist came over to my right arm and I remember her telling me that she would be giving me a medication to calm my nerves. I recall her pushing the medication through my IV… then off to dreamland I went I guess…

Literally the next thing I remember is waking up with a nurse at my side and wondering if they performed my surgery yet. As my eyes were still a little blurry and my head was waking up out of a fog, I found myself scanning the room for some sort of sign. I focused in on the clock as it read 2:30. It took me a little while, but I managed to do the math in my head… my surgery was scheduled for 7:30, 1,2,3,4… 7 hours, my surgery had to be done!

The nurse noticed I was waking up and came over to introduce herself. In that moment I realized my throat and mouth were so dry I sort of resembled the zombie man from Hocus Pocus. I got the words out, “may I have an ice chip” as she laughed and said she would be right back with one. My lips were so abnormally dry, and my body was so heavy. A part of me wanted to fall back to sleep, but I was too intrigued to find out if I actually survived my surgery!

The nurse came back and I slurped down my single ice chip that I was allowed. They don’t typically give you liquids right away because anesthesia sometimes provokes nausea or vomitting. They explained to me that they were going to give me a medication called Tramadol to keep my pain at a minimum. The nurse pushed it through my IV and a few minutes later I felt an itch. A few more seconds when by, and my skin got hot. I looked down and started noticing the little red blotches climbing up my arms.

The nurse got my anesthesiologist and my chest began to tighten. Literally it was like a replay of my leg surgery last April. They called the respiratory therapist, got me an EPI treatment and talked me through deep breathing techniques. As they placed a face mask for oxygen on my face and tears rolled down my face, I began to panic. I started yelling to my nurse that my ear was bleeding because I felt a cold wetness pouring out of my head! Thats it, I was dying… I knew I was hemorrhaging and about to see the golden gates! Just kidding, the nurse reached out for my ear and responded “honey its only your tears, you are going to be just fine, now breath”. I closed my eyes and tried to go to my happy place in order to let the medicine reverse the drug reaction. The eery question remained in the back of my mind, what in the world are they going to do for my pain?!

My little reaction after surgery pushed me back about an hour from being taken to my room, seeing my family, as well as investigating my new scars. They rolled me through the hospital which to me felt like a labyrinth and all I could focus on was the fact that I had to pee! They got me to my room and I immediately spotted my dad in the hallway! Once our eyes met I could feel his sort of instant relief that I survived this awful surgery as I shouted “DAD”!

They manipulated the stretcher into the room and with help, they sat me up on the edge of the bed. It was in that moment that my Occupational Therapist brain turned on and I said to myself, “sit up for a second or two, and take deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth just in case my blood pressure drops”. With the nurses help, she stood me up and my legs were literally like jello. With my IV, nurse and dad all following me, they guided me into the tiny bathroom and of course the lowest toilet known to man— Duh why would’t they put those in a hospital! In about a millisecond, ahhhhh…I think you can use your imagination about how absolutely amazing it felt to empty my bladder!

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I finished up and realized just how difficult this whole recovery is going to be. Although the nurse reached for the toilet paper, my occupational therapist self and Miss Independent grabbed the toilet paper and attempted my own peri hygiene. Wow, this is going to suck I said as all the muscles in my shoulder and across my chest pulled.  I stood from the toilet, looked back into the “hat” or container measuring my urine, and OMG… “my pee is BLUE”!  Of course my next statement was “I’m turning into a Smurf!”  This was the ongoing joke, each time after I peed I would look at the color… basically the dye they injected into me for my lymph node mapping changed my urine color temporarily… but YES, I took a pic because it was AMAZING to me:)

They walked me back to the bed inside the room as I gained a tiny bit of my balance but still remained far from my functional baseline with ambulation (see, I told you I am a therapist) ;). The nurse explained that despite my minor rash observed while I was under anesthesia to the Diludid, the team has decided to set up my PCA pump (patient-controlled analgesia pump) aka little button for pain medicine that any normal person would love and push every second that little light flashes green. However in my case, I was healthy afraid that I would have another allergic reaction!

As my lines were organized and I was coming back to the real world from outer space or “land of anesthesia”, my family started trickling in. Minutes turned into hours and after my nurse, a student nurse, and a nurse who was orienting to the oncology floor all did their own assessments, I began to feel more myself. My first question, “why do I only have two drains when typically they place four”? Turns out my doctor told John that due to my smaller stature, two drains were more appropriate. “Why don’t I see ace bandages or blood all over my chest”? Okay this wasn’t Dawn of the Dead, the surgeon told John “my surgery went very well”. “Im really hungry can I eat?” The nurse said you are on clear liquids would you like jello? My response HELLA NO… and a couple minutes later I ordered a chicken gyro;) and finally…”Are they really gone?” I looked down my shirt… and yup, they were gone.

It was a very almost awkward sort of feeling. I didn’t know if my family be offended if I started checking things out under my shirt. My little sister and dad had already stepped out of the room because they “didn’t want to see me in pain”, but when is it time to take a peak? Would I start crying or be fearful of my new chest? Is there a way for me to look without my family seeing my initial reaction?

Turns out my drain was leaking and my gown was covered in bloody fluid-like soiledness, oh ya the nurse noticed immediately so she has to change my gown! She began to unsnap the sleeves and in that moment it hit me, would these cuts now define who I am?

All theatrics aside, It was not scary at all. My family saw my chest the same time I did and i’m not sure if they were significantly shocked, but my boobs weren’t just chopped off by Edward Scissorhands. I wasn’t a freaky octopus woman with drain-like tenticles hanging out of my sides. I was still me! Okay, my breast were smaller but the expanders sort of gave me slight bump like boobs and the scars were so minimal they simply looked like Nelly came off the cover of Nellyville and ever so carefully placed two band aids where my nipples used to be. It was in that first look that I knew, I am going to be just fine.

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In typical Franz Girl Fashion, obviously I had to take a selfie. My mom handed me my phone and as the nurses cleaned my gown and bedding I asked my cousin Cindy to take a picture of me. After she took the photo, the weirdest feeling overcame me that it was almost normal to be shirtless. I mean, it is breasts and nipples that society makes out to be sexual for a woman to show. Guys don’t wear shirts and its okay for them to walk around in public, to me… I have nothing anymore so why would it be weird to not have a gown on in front of my family?It was so natural and sort of invigorating to be topless!

Later in the night I decided to post the picture of me smiling my normal smile, shining from my inner sparkle, and broadcasting to the world my new scars that Cancer again had left behind. After almost a 6 month battle, it may look like Cancer took my hair, took my beauty, made me lose then gain weight, made my dark circles resemble a raccoon, and now result in losing my breasts… however deep down inside, I am still 26 year old ME!

I’m not sure that I actually thought about society’s reaction versus the feelings friends and family may feel after seeing the “new”, post mastectomy “me”. When you first google “mastectomies” horror photos of Frankenstein like surgeries show up… but I’m just me smiling in a hospital bed. I AM STILL ME! Never did I think it would be “liked” and “shared” thousands of times and the eyes of people all over the world! Gosh social media is amazing!

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I ended up staying in the hospital for 2 nights and on Wednesday morning I sort of forced my discharge home. I was never alone throughout my stay my amazing husband John never left my side. My sister Jill and cousin Cindy were the best little nurses aides from emptying my drains to “cupping” my booty for a controlled decent onto the extremely low toilet they truly were the biggest help!

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My dad was there to give me hugs and comfort me after my surgery but tends to get a little overwhelmed in the hospital setting so was more often found “roaming” the halls than at my bedside. After I was comfortable and in my bed, he left the hospital and then returned to say goodbye the following morning before driving back to work for a lecture.  He would NEVER leave empty handed… and of course we received a VERY generous edible arrangement at my bedside later that day!

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My mom, my rock was there to ask questions, update social media, and come up with all sorts of creative details that I still wonder if they actually happened haha!  She brought a smile to my face when she opened up the blanket I brought to the hospital because she was cold and found two of my eyelashes attached!  She shared her amount of tears however always remained strong in front of me and that was so so so much appreciated!

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HOSPITAL FOOD: Chicken or Fried Rat? You decide…

My in laws and brother, Davey were there every minute they could be. No belly went hungry as they were so generous to make sure we all were full on yummy food aka NOT hospital food or questionable fried rat aka “chicken parm” but thats for another story. Finally, BFF Greg! I don;t have too many friends here in Pittsburgh but one of Johns best friends Greg came back into his life over a year ago now and we all actually have become inseparable. That night, BFF Greg showed up with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and even came the next day after work to simply hang out, laugh, and make the time in the hospital a little bit brighter.

I also have to give one more shout out to my best friend Dustin. Even being across the country in Seattle, he made his presence known by secretly having pizza’s delivered late at night for us all to enjoy which truly was so thoughtful and absolutely perfect after the long draining days of being in the hospital.  Im totally stealing this idea the next time someone I know is in the hospital… it was TOTALLY the perfect surprise!

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AND…Reiki Bob. I met Bob as he volunteers for AGH as a reiki master emitting positive healing energies onto willing patients. Bob provided me two amazing healing sessions while in the hospital and I cannot even describe how thankful I am to have him as a mentor! So thank you for supporting me and loving me along this journey, I literally would NOT have been able to come out smiling as much as I do without you!

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Finally, the LOVE of my life and husband John. This picture literally describes our relationship perfectly. From the first day I met you, you have kept your promise to always take care of me.  Throughout this journey, you have 100% been by my side and ever since we left that alter, you have loved me and cherished me in sickness and in health… i don’t know what I would do without you! ❤

ANYWAYS… This is a Meghan involved event here, so of course it wasn’t going to go flawlessly without some sort of drama. After the first night on the PCA pump… itching became my new hobby. Cindy had a new job to literally wipe my whole body from head to toe down with a cool wet wash cloth just to eliminate some of the discomfort. My night nurse was amazing! She attended to my medication schedule and used problem solving to come up with a “pill cocktail” that would work for me! Finally I requested the same mixture of Benadryl, Ultram and Flexural be used being that it provided me relief last year with my leg surgery. The next morning, the doctors trailed the concoction and it appeared to be working. Only problem, I had to have my epidural removed before going home.

Literally Tuesday morning came around and my new “older” nurse came on and immediately I knew we were not going to get along. I am pretty good at “reading” people and sort of get funky feelings when people are “funky” individuals. Well, this un-named nurse didn’t even flash a smirk the entire shift— definitely a South Pole Elf for all you “Elf” fans. After waiting almost 8 hours to see the so called “pain team” and to receive a Benedryl alternative to relieve my itching… MEGHAN came out!

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Now, those of you that know me personally… you know that there is sweet and innocent Meghan who would give the shirt off her back to anyone in need… she farts roses and shits glitter because she truly believes she is a princess at heart, and then there is the “don’t FUCK with me because I will slit your throat” Meghan who doesn’t give a damn and if you piss her off she will make your life a living HELL. Well, Jill and Cindy left to go home and take a shower Tuesday afternoon and I talked over my EXTREME anger regarding this “nurse” not getting me the appropriate medication from 7 am it now being past 3pm. In the next second, I was out of bed, gown wide open advertising my new boyish looking chopped up chest, and darting to the center nurses station DEMANDING proper care!

Now I won’t go into details but I will say I made my point known and the “un-named nurse” is very lucky she “left her shift” before I was able to ream her a new one! Lets just say I was then introduced to the director of the hospital and all steps were taken to ensure that I was appropriately taken care of. As for nurse no-name, your should be FIRED, “Bye Felicia”.

Okay so back to the story here. So, after many allergic reactions to Dilaudid ( yes, I do have a true allergy to this medication and will not be able to receive it any longer), after waiting numerous hours for the “pain team” to come up with an alternative plan that never actually was devised, and finally giving up and realizing that literally there are no pain medications that I am going to be able to take without having an allergic reaction, my family and I decided I would be more comfortable being in pain at my own house versus the loud, irritating, hospital. By lunchtime Wednesday afternoon, I was on my way home!

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All in all, the procedure itself was not “that bad” in fact, I feel that my leg surgery was MUCH more painful. Although I did have an epidural during this surgery and the whole front of my chest was numb, all in all I felt that the pain was tolerable. Yes, there was pain and I do have limited mobility of my arms temporarily, but with Tylenol and a muscle relaxer it is manageable. I describe the pain as more of a chest tightness or muscle soreness in my axilla or armpit region. Praise JESUS for the “axillapilla’s” my dad bought me with my BFFL bag (found on Amazon) all my positioning needs have been met!

Psychosocially, it is all quite shocking. I do feel less feminine but I keep saying to myself… this too is only temporary. My surgeon said my “breasts came off easily” because I don’t have too much fat on my chest and depending on my biopsies.. I shall have a great outcome! Truthfully I cant wait until my plastic surgeon removes my drains and begins my booby plumping process.. DD’s here we come!

To me, this surgery is bringing me one step closer to the end of this exhausting journey. I keep visualizing in a couple months my hair will be long like Rapunzel, my boobs will be plump like Jessica Rabbit, my bubble butt will return to its normal plump state, and I will return to being an upgraded blonde haired, sexy, ME! Mark my word that one day, really soon… I will look into the mirror and finally recognize the girl staring back at me… Soon enough, I will see a new and improved, much stronger and defined, cancer-free…ME!

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XOXO Meg

Blonde and Beautiful


I met a patient today who was blind. Unable to see even shadows, this man primarily utilized his other senses to compensate from his lack of vision. He was a very kind man and had many stories to tell about his pets, his family, and even about his blindness.

Towards the end of my occupational therapy session with this admirable man, he looked up at myself and the physical therapist who was also in the room and said, “I can tell im in the room with two beautiful blonde ladies”. Coincidently he was close to accurate despite being completely blind. The physical therapist I was working with indeed was blonde, and my whole life I was blonde, however since my chemo ended and as my hair is growing back to be a much darker color than Ive ever had… This comment made me slightly uncomfortable.

Im pretty sure this is like the fourth blog post about my hair, and you may be completely fed up with me rambling about how much I miss what I used to look like… But I would be absolutely lying if I were to say that looks dont matter. Truth is, my long haired, thin, bubble butt self was attractive in my eyes. I never exactly had significant body image issues before. Of course I saw my flaws… I knew I should work out more and eat healthier, dont we all know that! What I didnt know and what I wanted to believe was that the person I am on the inside refected on my outside… But what the hell does that even mean?!

The dang truth is, you cannot be truly happy until you are happy with yourself. I am not happy with how I look therefore I have been more sappy and sad. I completely understand now why some girls are so hard on themselves when it comes to looks. Although I have friends and family who tell me im beautiful regularly… Newsflash, I kind of want to punch you in the cooter!

Its very difficult being a girl! You know whats even more difficult, having 1 sister who is a model, and another sister who can literally pull off any style so whether her hair is long like rapunzel or a short shaved bob, she still comes off as the artsy beauty she is in everyday life. It has been sooooo difficult to look in the mirror and see this new, temporary me, or take pictures with my sisters or beautiful cousins when they all are so stunning and I feel fat, bald, and ugly.


Okay okay, cancer isnt all that bad. (What did she just say?!) I mean, Cancer does bring us a few blessings. For six months now, I have NOT had a period! Can we all praise Jesus for this one! Im pretty sure bleeding for almost a week straight from our most cherished whoohas is frankly torture in itself, then you add shoving a wad of compressed tissue (aka a tampon because pads are simply raunch) up your coochie and thats supposed to be a party?! Um no! Its frankly evil! So thank you Cancer for temporarily taking that away…


Did you know I didnt have to shave for about 5 months! Yes, its true… My naked mole rat self was silky smooth for months and I absolutely LOVED it! I didnt have to waste time or razors shaving my legs, the all so cherished parts, and going through womens 2nd torture… Waxing those damn eye brows! Although I did have to spend the time to draw them on everyday, and I will admit that there may have been days that I was rushing and possibly drew crooked brows or a shape that made it seem I had a permanent resting bitch face, however I sort of enjoy getting the perfect shape vs. broadcasting my busted natural brows for the world to see.


Oh and I get a fresh start. Okay, I really have mixed feelings about this one… But by shaving my head, I 1. Was able to try a new hair style ever though I hate it, 2. I am able to cut my time getting ready in the morning to like 15 mins from the 45 mins I used to spend on hair and makeup, and 3. All the years of damage I put my hair through with bleach and Highlights I am finally able to start new! Even my eyelashes are growing in new! However, I refuse to not wear my falsies… Because their fabulous DUH!

But, how could this man that was blind say that the two of us were beautiful? Even more specific, blonde and beautiful? Does being blonde make you beautiful? Okay okay… Do blondes really have more fun? (i added that last question obvi… But really!)

Brunettes, red heads, and dark haired beauties… Im sorry to tell you but I realy miss being a blonde:(! No offense… But in my case, I think my blonde hair image I created for myself gave me the spunk and ability to feel sexy and beautiful. Now that my hair is coming in darker, I cant help but feel bland.

But ultimately… What is beautiful?

In this moment, I learned a lesson that ive been fighting this entire Cancer experience. Some people do see beauty from the inside out. This man who couldnt see anything past the impression he devised after what he heard and felt emotionally through my session. He was able to say that I was a beautiful person, not by what he saw (and especially today because I was lazy and didnt put makeup on) but off of the way I am as a person! Why cant I see that when I look in the mirror (wah))


The truth is, I look in the mirror and I am discusted. (Do not contact me and tell me im beautiful because i already warned you about the crotch shots I will be giving out!) My face is so much rounder, my hair is short and dark, my natural bows are haggered, my skin color has changed and my dark circles are more prominant than ever, oh ya…and my once flat tummy and cute tush is now jiggly and frankly repulsive… However, with a little bit of makeup, a cute wig, and more and more shopping sprees(sorry John!),I have learned to feel pretty again!


I tell myself this is only temporary, and Hells… I can promise you this IS temporary! Heck, next Monday is the start of having my new Barbie parts ive always wanted… Oh ya and being Cancer Free I guess thats the most important part right;) Although I hate how I look naturally, I am so so so blessed that there are so many creative people in the world inventing beauty techniques that indeed make you feel beautiful! They say “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and I cannot agree more! I may not see myself as beautiful now… But watch out, because Meghan is coming back full out Barbie… Blonde hair, pink heels, plastic parts, oh ya and I will still be sparkling on!
Xoxo Meg

 

PS: Thanks to Shofilms… here is a video of me taking control and shaving my head before Cancer took it from me!

When Sparkle Begins to Fade…You MUST Sparkle On!

  
One week until my double mastectomies and I think my sparkle is just starting to fade. Call it anxiety, call it depression… I dont know what it is, but im beginning to feel defeated! Literally after this weekend trying to clean my house perfectly, make adaptations to clothes so I maintain some sort of independence (gotta use my OT skills here people…), juggling work with Izzys appointments and him starting chemo on Thursday, i’ve just about had enough.  I want to have an amazing “last weekend” before my surgery then I realized I said I would work Saturday… FAIL!   On Sunday I am planning a “Ta Ta to the Tata’s” party — (thanks Bean for the name) where I hope to see some friends and just relax! After my complete FAIL yesterday at adding simple zippers to some t-shirts, I felt absolutely defeated. I went to bed really early so I could wake up for work with a smile on my face… But then my anxiety kicked in. 

So, this whole cancer nonsense may have turned me into a hyperchondriac, but 2 days ago the upper part of my chest near my collar bone I noticed hurt like a bruise under my skin. Now let me mind you, my 85lb puppy who thinks hes the size of a tea cup poodle has pounced on my head and body a few times this past week… But of course my first instinct is to feel for lumps and bumps. No sign of enlarged lymph nodes or anything… But it freaked me out.

Today after a longgg day of work, I of course was messing with the spot and decided to call my oncologist… Not that they’ll do anything because my surgery is literally next Monday and everything is coming out, but still. Turns out my oncologist is on vacation to Costa Rico (lucky lady!) and her nurse wasn’t very concerned that it could be anything.

Over concerned me still wasn’t satisfied so I went to the Health Center at work. Turns out the amazingly kind and compassionate nurse working is also a Cancer Survivor and patient of my oncologist! What a small world! She felt the spot, which by this point i’m just in tears because i’m so overwhelmed… And felt nothing! She reassured me that this is what cancer survivors do. Every lump, bump, or pain is cancer. She said one thing to me that stuck as she was handing me tissues and calling my nurse to let her know she didnt feel anything… “You have to stay positive”.

Positivity literally has carried me through this entire Cancer filled journey, and I cannot give up now! After crying all the way home, I opened the door to a beautifully clenaned house because my husband is amazing! As I sat on the couch, Mr. Izzy Monster jumped on my lap, cuddled up in a ball and just laid his head down. John of course came over and hugged me reassuring me that everything is going to be fine, and I start balling again. This time, Izzy decided to lick my entire face and tears away! In that moment, I realized how pointless tears like these really are!

  
John went to class and I walked into the kitchen to find a little pillow I bought this weekend as a “just because” type purchase. In this instant I decided I MUST Sparkle On! Enough of the tears, enough getting overwhelmed… I have to make it through a couple more months to close the book on this chapter of my life forever! There is absolutely No reason to give up now when the end is soooo close! The next couple weeks are going to suck… And I cant promise that there wont be anymore tears… But I absolutely promise to Sparkle On*

  
Xoxo Meg

Bye Bye Boobies

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Finally I am done with chemo! Yipppeeeee! I cannot even describe the feeling! It may possibly be one of the best days of my life… And then I wait. After meeting with my fabulous  oncologist Dr. Raymond, off to the next doctor… My surgical oncologist Dr. Cowher. (And yes for all you Pittsburgh fans, he is Bill Cowhers nephew!!!)

So, obviously after finding out from Dr. Raymond that I was indeed done with chemo, she told me to call Dr. Cowhers office to set up my next appointment and essentially transition me to the next level of care. I wasn’t even out of the parking garage and I was already on the phone with his office. Come on, im my defense… Who wants to wait! Im ready to get this shizzz done with!

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I got a hold of the receptionist and explained I was to make an appointment to decide my surgical approach. She placed me on hold and said he had a 4:00 appointment that day! Literally, I was like… Its destiny! John had just gotten out of work for my appointment with Dr. Raymond and wanted to shower before my next appointment ao my mom, John and I drove 30 mins home for John to take a 5 minute shower, then drive 30 minutes back to the hospital.

John finished his shower and I eagerly rushed everyone out to the car! I literaly couldnt wait to get details… The whole “what is next” was within an arms reach. We got in the car and I was just about to put the car in drive when my phone rang… A “412” number, so I answered!

“Hello Meghan this is Dr. Cowher, we have a little bit of a mix up”. Basically he couldnt see me for the appointment I scheduled because he wanted to review my MRI before talking about options, so I was connected and scheduled my MRI for the following day. Oh darn, more waiting…

My moms plan was to stay until I met the surgery and knew the next step… So she was also then able to take me to my MRI because John is back to work and on a job that he cant really take days off. The morning of my MRI, my mom, Johns cousin Jen and I decided to go antique shopping to pass some time. We ate at an adorable little 50s themed diner, then off to the hospital we were.

We got to the hospital about an hour early, but they we so gracious to let me register as soon as I got there and took me back for my test without too much of a wait. After weaving our way through the construction filled hallways of Allegheny General Hospital, I removed all my jewlery, had an IV placed (for the contrast), and was told to basically strip and put the gown with the opening facing frontward.

Side thought: you know, when I first started this journey, I was always a little awkward and nervous about showing my boobs to doctors, and even more weirded out with family in the room. Heck, now a days its like im at Marti Gras! Where are my beads?! Oh, and just wait until after my surgery!!! Boob selfies all day long;)

Anyways… Back to the story. So breast MRIs, what do they do. Basically they put a foam boob hole thing on the table and you lay on your stomach. There is this “supposibly” comfy head pillow to rest your forehead on and its soooo embarrassing because after the about 20 min test, my head always seems to be dented and bright red! I look like I got bopped in the forehead by something! After 20 mins of booming and clanking (i swear theres no point of the damn ear plugs because really I still came out with a headache)… They make an announcement that the contrast was going to be administered and to hold super still.

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Contrast: it is ran through the IV they place before the test. So NO you do not swallow large abouts of stuff for a breast MRI. Once the contrast is administered though you CANNOT press the “emergency I need out” button or else they have to reschedule the whole test! So naturally, thats the point I had severe hot flashes, felt nauseous, and was fearful of fainting… But thats besides the point.

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A few days later I was scheduled to see Dr. Cowher. My mom and I arrived early just to sit around an hour waiting for the “man of the hour”– literally! Things running through my mind… 1. Has my tumor shrunk and did the chemo work 2. Has my cancer spread 3. When do I get my new tits!

My appointment was scheduled for 2:00 and John didnt get out for work till 3:00 so, we were planning on simply filling him in. However, with fate by our side, he got out a little early and was close enough to the hospital that after a 30 minute walk across the bridge, carrying his lunch box, and spped walking in steel toed boots… His sweaty, hot, steamy (not in a sexy way this time babe:) arrived just as Dr. Cowher entered the room.

My appointment in a nutshell. I am NOT a good candidate for lumpectomy because I was found with a rare genetic mutation PALB2 which gives me a 30% chance of getting cancer in my other breast (um no thank you get ready to chop them both off). My tumor has responded to chemo even though I couldnt make it through the suggested amount of treatments however on xray there is still signs of tumor or it could be scar tissue but they dont know until they perform surgery.

So, mastectomies are truly the best option for me. Those of you that know me are going to laugh because all through college Ive always joked how ONE DAY I would be getting free boobs! My dad even made a bet with me in college if I made deans list every semester in college he would pay for them… turns out I didn’t make the Deans List bet, so heck I just had to get cancer! (kidding kidding… its called humor people!)

The complicated part of my surgery is the fact that I initially tested positive on my first biopsy with cancer in one little lymph node. Heres the tough part about these little pains in the butts… there is no way to know truly how many have cancer cells in them without surgery. RISKS: The biggest and probably the most common is lymphedema. Now this is not going to be a statement from the OT in me… but it will be from the 26 year old girl that I am. I absolutely refuse to start mutating into an elephant armed individual! The issue is, any surgery close to the arm pit where these little guys reside is high risk for lymphedema. OH! For those of you that don’t know what lymphedema is… here is a picture:

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My experiences working with patients with lymphedema include pain, swelling, and funky skin coloring and textures… it doesn’t help that right know the standard care is radiation to play clean up making sure those little devil cancer cells don’t spread. Briefly I’ll explain to you what im doing because it’s a little complicated.

Allegheny General Health Network is working with a research company called Alliance whom is running a research study on women with breast cancer and positive tested lymph nodes. Basically for those that chose to be in the study there are two treatment methods. 1: the standard method that has been used for years now which includes removal of all lymph nodes once one tests positive. 2.: is the “new” trial method involving testing the lymph nodes once im in surgery and ONLY take our the lymph nodes that test positive therefore leaving the remaining lymph nodes in hopes to decrease the risk of lymphedema. There is about 3,000 participants in the study and literally they will flip a coin once I am in surgery to chose my plan.

Those of you who know me personally know that I will do anything and everything to help someone else. Heck, I started this blog and have shared all the good and bad, the highs and the lows of my life since being diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ve done a lot of research in college and was THRILLED when Dr. Cowher said I could be a participant! All in all, what ever is meant to me will happen. If it all turns out how I want it to… they will cut me open and only find scar tissue as the lump and non cancerous lymph nodes, place my new (bigger) boobies and call it a day. However, if they do find some cancer still inside of me… I have full trust in my medical team to make the best possible decisions for me and the rest I leave in Gods hands.

So NEXT STEP:

1. April 11th: double mastectomy with lymph node resection and placement of expanders

2. Approximately six weeks of healing

3. Honeymoon this summer

4. Back to working at a job I love and spreading my story of how I KICKED CANCERS ASS!

XOXO Meg

 

 

 

 

 

 

sBARKle On: Puppy Love

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At the beginning of last year, if you told me that I even had a chance at having cancer later that year, I probably would have told you that you are delusional. I must say I was living the good life. I just moved to Pittsburgh, we bought and were renovating our beautiful home, I underwent my major leg surgery and was just getting my life back. Johns life long dream was to have a house with a yard so he could get a puppy. He spent endless hours researching the perfect breed when finally we found our breeder. We reached out to them, and they had a rather large litter of puppies ready in June. Finally after much convincing, I was on board with the whole idea of having a pup as a part of our little family.

Truth is, I am a cat person if I had to choose between the two. In all actuality, I am not really a pet person at all! I dont like the responsibility, the hair, the vet bills… I just never really saw a point. I grew up with a dad who was deathly afraid of dogs and hated all animals in general. Therefore, all of my moms attempts at having a pet failed and we ended up giving them away.

Then came Izzy. When we went to pick out our puppy son at 3 weeks old from the other numerous yellow lab pups, Izzy caught our eye because he was the plumpest of the bunch and was a little more laid back than his other rambunctious brothers and sisters. I remember flipping him on his back and as I rubbed his little heff-a-lump belly, he began to nibble on my engagement ring, which at the time I found adorable. It was truly love at first bite and from that day forward, John and I were hooked.

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We could not wait to bring Izzy home. Turns out once he was finally 8 weeks old, it was my 26th birthday! I will never forget walking downstairs that morning as John held Izzy in the living room with pink streamers hanging from the ceiling and a banner strung across the wall saying “Happy Birthday”. It was truly a picture perfect moment! My two handsome boys, how did I ever get so lucky.

Well, that picture perfect moment soon began to fade.  On all those cute animal planet shows like “Puppy 101” they never quite show “real puppy behavior”. I mean, for a girl who never had a pup, I was in for a huge surprise! From house breaking, to separation anxiety from his mom and the other pups, to the puppy bites… I’m still convinced our little Izzy Monster is part alligator!

It was an incredibly difficult couple of months, but soon it clicked and Izzy seemed to be on the road to one day being the best, most loving, and well behaved dog ever (or at least in our dreams right;). Though we still needed to attend puppy training classes, and friends and family have a love/ hate relationship with our cherished puppers… We remained hopeful that one day he’d grow up to be the perfect family dog! 😉

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In October I was diagnosed with breast cancer and that was when John and I decided to give our puppy son Izzy a forever pair of the best parents in the world. Not long after our magical wedding, I began my chemo treatments and prepared for the worst. With anticipation of nausea and whatever other awful side effects were to come… There was a part of me that just knew that I would make it through.

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Though John was there initially for all my appointments and anticipated days that I would feel my worst… John wasn’t always the greatest at sitting all day on the couch or laying in bed when it hurt for me to move. It was amazing how my crazy, energetic, psychotic puppy somehow instinctively knew I wasnt feeling myself and he found a way to cuddle up on my lap. At times it wasnt in the most dainty of ways… But I knew his intentions, and I would pet him and he would fall asleep.

I remember my mother in law saying when we first brought Izzy home when I was very much anti having a dog roaming around my house, “he is going to attach to you”. Poor John, because he would dieeee for the attention that Izzy gives me. He typically gets the wild and crazy puppy tantrums because Izzy loves daddy play time.

So, as my treatments went on and Izzy became my new Best Friend, one day I was petting his chest and came across about a dime size lump. I immediately had John feel it because in my old age;) i’ve become somewhat of a hypochondriac… And he said it wasn’t anything to be too concerned about, labs are known to be a rather cysty breed.

As weeks turned into months I obviously asked anyone who came to visit to feel the lump and reinforce Johns idea of it just being a cyst. It wasn’t until finally our friend Greg said that he thought the mass was getting bigger. I finally made the decision to take the Izzy Monster to the vet.

 

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Oh lucky me! So, John is obviously back to working fulltime so I had to play my motherly role in taking our son to the vet by myself (not the easiest of tasks being that our son is practically the size of a mini horse and as crazy and the Energizer Bunny!) I did my best walking him into the vets office on his leash, but he (like he’s done in the past) dragged me across the tiled floor and jumped to give kisses to every person he came in contact with.

They took us back into a treatment room pretty quickly most likely so Izzy didn’t disturb the peace of any other puppy patients coming into the vets office that hour. Our vet Dr. Vana entered the room and after not seeing Izzy since he was neutered she immediately said “hes wayyyy too fat!” Um… Excuse me, im the mother here! My son is perfect the way he is;)

From that minute forward the poor Izzy monster was placed on that dreaded thing we all know as a Diet! Anyways, back to the story… We got Izzy on the scale and he weighed in at 85.6 lbs at 9 months old. She felt the “lump” and truly wasn’t overly concerned other than the fact that he is so young and shouldn’t really have lumps. She was pretty certain it was was she called a “foreign object”. Basically because he’s part psycho, he may have jabbed himself with a stick or thorn, we never knew because the lump never bothered him, and his body natural built a fat deposit all around it rather than pushing it out of his body.

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She gave me options, 1. Leave it alone (but we all know where that got me after I listened to my gyno) 2. Perform an aspiration needle biopsy where there is only a 50% chance she actually grabs cells, or 3. Perform an excision and tumor removal then send away for a full biopsy. In my mind there was absolutely no question. I made his surgery appointment for the following week as we awaited the biopsy to return.

A couple days later I got the call we weren’t overly concerned about getting. I was actually in the hospital room with my grandma after her thyroid stopped working a few days prior. As im awaiting Dr. Vana to start laughing because Izzy had a thorn or stick or something even more bizzarre shoved into his chest… She followed with that dreaded phrase. The phrase that was told to me when my biopsy result had come in. “Well, theres good and bad news… The good news is hes young, the bad news is he has cancer”…

What in the world?! Hold up, so your telling me my 9 month old son, my baby, my best friend has cancer too?! How can that be. I started to instantly cry, just as I did when I received my own news a few months prior. I instantly looked at my mom and with a crackling voice said “Izzy has cancer, how can this be”. As I half listened to what the doctor had to say, my mind literally just replayed that phrase “he has cancer”.

I started jotting down some notes on my grandmas hospital room dry erase board. Words like, “cancer of the blood vessels”, “cutaneous hemangiosarcoma”, “rare”, “oncologist”, “could spread to kidneys or liver”, “chemo”…

My mind literally was doing more round off back handsprings than I could ever do when I was a cheerleader. I honestly couldn’t wait to just hang up the phone and call John. I felt like I was in a a nightmare. I looked at the time and it was 3:00pm, John just texted me maybe an hr prior to tell me he’d be working 2 hours of overtime. But… I needed to tell him!

I called the first time and got his voicemail. I called back immediately and he answered. Through my muffled tears and crackling voice I got the words out “Izzy has cancer”…

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We decided we would talk once I picked him up from work. My heart was broken. My mom and I said our goodbyes to my grandma (who by the way was discharged home the next day and doing fine), and drove straight home to my Izzy baby. I let him out of his play pen and just like any other time, he greeted me with his mid prance, overly excited, tail wagging self that he greets us with whether we were gone 10 minutes or 10 hours.

Izzy and I went to pick up John and as I pulled up to his job site I just see a worn out young guy sitting up against a brick wall with tears and dirt stains pouring down his face. He got in the car and did not say a word. That drive home both of us simply cried to ourselves as Izzy cuddled up on Johns lap and the days news just replayed through our heads.  The thick silence spoke more words than could have ever been said between John and I.

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We cannot lose him. Izzy is our son. He was supposed to teach our kids all the bad things he does now as a puppy. He’s supposed to grow old with us and get us so mad because he eats our shoes, or rolls around in mud puddles and tracks it all through my perfectly cleaned house. He’s a baby, he’s only 9 months old, how can we put him through chemo after knowing what it did to me?

Then there is the reality of the situation. He is a dog, i’m going through chemo, i’m not working, bills are coming in for my own health issues… How are we going to afford treatments for a dog?!

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Fast forward to the next week and Izzys first appointment at the pet oncologists office. BTW, who would have ever known 1. Pet oncologists exist, and 2. That they actually have chemo and radiation for dogs! #mindblown! Anyways, John was unable to take off work so his brother Davey and cousin Jen came along to listen and control the Izzy monster in this new territory.

We pulled up to Pittsburgh Vet and Emergency Services and it literally looked like John Hopkins for dogs. It was ginormous, with a ton of different speciality departments for animals. The last time I was at a vet speciality clinic was when my cousin Jody had to put her rat down. Although it was heartbreaking seeing him struggle to breath and making the decision to end his distress, it was unreal to me that people pay so much money for their pets, and that these vets or specialists are so compassionate… Almost more compassionate than human doctors!

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Anyways, the oncology wing was filled with a ton of other older dogs with their rather depressed looking, stone faced, very serious owners. Izzy runs in with his tongue flopping out the side of his mouth and lunging in attempt to play with someone in this strange place. Thankfully for Davey and his muscles 😉 he took Izzy outside awaiting his name to be called.

The vet assistant “Chris” called Izzy’s name. We ran out to grab him and he was more than excited to walk to the back conference room.  We made our introductions then Izzy was taken into the back room for testing as we awaited the vet.  Dr. Erfourth entered the room and ever so professionally went into detail regarding Izzy’s unfortunate diagnosis at such a young age, described treatment options, and the most depressing part but the main question on all of our minds… prognosis.

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IZZY’S PLAN:

  1.  First things first Izzy had to undergo a whole slew of testing including chest X-ray and abdominal ultrasound to be sure the cancer has not spread to his other organs. Good news is, his liver, kidneys, and lungs are fine!  They did find 1 enlarged lymph node in his abdomen but at this time aren’t entirely concerned that its cancerous.
  2. Izzy will be undergoing another surgery on his chest.  Typically if the vet would have suspected his mass to be cancerous they would have taken a wider area of tissue to be sure to take out as many cells as possible.  This surgery is planned for 3/14/2016.
  3. About 2-3 weeks after Izzy’s surgery he will begin chemo.  Izzy’s chemo will consist of Adriamycin (which oddly is known as the “Red Devil” and was used for my very own chemo regimen). He will have to undergo 5 treatments 2 weeks apart.
  4. After his chemo rounds there will be ongoing radiology and with prayers and positivity he too will kick cancers ASS*

You may be reading this and have finally said to yourself WOW!  This 26 year old girl has breast cancer and now her 9 month old puppy had a tumor on his breast and was diagnosed with blood vessel cancer… WOW is right!

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I have to lay this one out for you because it is just entirely too similar to be creepy! Check out this timeline…

  • Izzy: born April 29th 2015
  • Meghan: major leg surgery and reconstruction April 30th 2015, around May Meghan initially felt her lump in her breast.
  • Meghan and John: brought Izzy home the night of June 26th
  • Meghan’s birthday June 27th
  • Meghan:  Diagnosed October 2015 with stage 2b breast cancer, +tumor right breast and 1 enlarged lymph node
  • Meghan: Began chemo in November, started with 4 treatments of Adriamycin then switched to Taxol
  • Izzy: Meghan felt a lump on Izzy’s right breast in November/December
  • Izzy: was taken to vet February and underwent first mass resection and biopsy– later diagnosed with cutaneous hemangiosarcoma stage 2 cancer
  • Izzy: further testing was conducted finding 1 enlarged lymph node
  • Meghan:From the beginning of treatment has numerous reactions to medications however in the Month of February she began significant allergic reactions to chemo treatments
  • Izzy: Underwent ongoing testing and was placed under mild sedation and had allergic reaction
  • Izzy: Will undergo one more surgery in March then begin Chemo Adriamycin in April with possible radiation
  • Meghan: Will undergo bilateral double mastectomies in April followed by radiation…

**Another weird coincidence, when I first began my journey I needed a slogan.  Those of you that know me personally know my love for anything that sparkles or shines. I chose the phrase “SPARKLE ON” to guide me through my fight.  A co-worker pointed out to me that SPARKLE ON can be turned into sBARKle ON for Izzy and I! HOW WEIRD IS THAT!!!!

Our stories are just too strikingly similar to be a coincidence.  Some have said Izzy is an angel brought into this world to guide me and keep me strong, others have tossed around the idea that something spiritually is going on here along the lines of “a life for a life” and Izzy is my spirit animal… I guess we will never truly know for sure. So we are left with one thing… to fight this awful disease and in our own ways, both Izzy and I will not just SPARKLE ON… we will sBARKle ON together*

PS: If anyone would be so gracious and compelled to help us with Izzy’s cause— feel free to donate through IZZYS DONATION PAGE and also follow Izzy on  Instagram (because he is practically famous at: izzyelliot412

XO Meghan

 

 

Taxol Nightmare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ADENDUM:

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

Xoxo Meg