2016, you have taught me that my scars are beautiful! I started the year bald as Mr. Clean! Much of the year I battled accepting my “new” cancer look as every strand of hair left my body… and I mean every strand! I worked my way into February as I battled severe reactions to chemo, practically scaring my family half to death each time they would pump the poison through my port. I finished 12 rounds of chemo, then had my double mastectomy in April. Oh I almost forgot, my Tata to the tatas party! My hair slowly began to grown back and soon enough I looked like a chinchilla! My sister of course helped me through as her locks grew back after she shaved her head late last year, we battled the awkward stages together! I went through many painful expander fills then faced my next cancer hurdle of 30 rounds of intensive radiation! Now we cant forget our dear puppers Izzy beating cancer as well! He too went through two rounds of chemo and multiple major surgeries… we are both so blessed to be cancer free today! I had begun battling many of the residual treatment side effects like fatigue, hot flashes, and pain, then I was forced to find a new job towards the end of summer because working in acute care was just too much for my damaged body. Luckily, I accepted my dream job working with kids come September! Finally, life was restarting!
Now lets not just focus on the woooohs of 2016, John and I actually found time to do some trAveling! Thanks to our amazing family, we were able to go on a honeymoon cruise and it was so amazing to get away! We also visited Wildwood, NYC, and Canada! We went to multiple Pittsburgh based team games, and always found something fun to do together, with friends, and family! John was in two weddings, and I was in two different weddings, each was a celebration of love and we were so blessed to take part in those special days! Team SparkleOn even got to run in its very 1st 5K race in Pittsburgh, and I must say that my super hero cape from my alma mater Misericordia University just made the day unforgettable!Come Fall, I had the opportunity to attend Jamies Dream Team 2nd annual gala where I got to do my 1st major speech, and yes I cried through the whole thing! I even had the opportunity to return to Misericordia University, my alma mater and speak about breast cancer!I have kept up with my blog http://www.shesparkleson.com and have found myself becoming more and more of an advocate to other lovely survivors!
I think the biggest thing that 2016 has taught me is that I am beautiful. I am beautiful from the inside out. Stripped of my hair, lashes, lipstick, and foundation… I am me! It doesnt matter how much makeup I wear, what designer shoes are on my feet, how my highlights look, or if Im wearing sweatpants in public… if someone doesnt take the time to know me before judging me from the outside, than they aren’t worth it! 2016 has taught me to be one tough cookie, and truthfully I dont think I would have ever become this Meghan without my cancer journey! I say it all the time, cancer has truly saved my life by making me a better ME!
I have an absolutely amazing husband! Like I cant even explain how freakin thankful I am to have you in my life! When I was bald you loved me, when I was swollen from steroids you loved me! Boobs or no boobs, you loved me! You have done research, have been to every appointment and surgery, you have lost hoursssss of sleep because you were worried about me being in pain so you would wake me up every few hours. Not to mention working, cleaning, cooking, and dealing with Izzy! I cant imagine my life without you, thank you and I love you!
My parents, I am so blessed to have you two in my life. Now I’m not gonna say that we haven’t had our share of arguments, however I truly feel that this year tested our whole family, and I was given the opportunity to see first handedly how a parent would drop their life to be by my side. I have no idea how much money I even owe my dad for everything hes helped with this past year and weve done sooo many things together, the memories are truly unforgettable! And mom, you spent an entire month away from your life to help me when I was having cold sweats and nauseous from chemo! Oh, and thanks for the awkward shopping trips when weird old women would pray over my bald head… awkward! But truly, i could not have survived 2016 without the two of you! Thank you, and I love you!
To my little sister Jill, my rock and partner in crime! You have been there for me for every single part of this past year whether it be trying on wigs, yelling for the nurse to save me as I couldnt breath, or to wipe my tears before or after a surgery because I was scared or in pain. You drove all the way to Pittsburgh, soooo many times just to be with me, and it meant the world to me! Last year, when you shaved off your freakin hair just to help me through the hardest part of the cancer journey battling baldness, I still cant believe you did that! But, this year, you rocked that short hair and still help me daily to feel pretty in my new skin! Whether you were taking pictures of me or Izzy, you gave me memories I will have forever! Thank you, and I love you!
To my in laws and brother! Bet you would have never expected this past year to go the way it did after last years magical wedding! I am so thankful I am now part of your family! You have taught me to love with my entire heart, and you have loved me, accepted my family, and have been there to hold my hand throughout this entire journey! Thank you for the endless dinners you’ve paid for, and the countless memories and laughs! Thank you, and I love you!
My best friends, and a special shout out to my cousin Cindy, best friends Dustin, Amy, BFF Greg… thank you for standing by my side. If I had an appointment, surgery, or simply a bad day… you all in your own way loved me and my family and helped us to make it through some of the hardest times! I truly forever owe you thanks! Thank you, and I love you all!
Finally, my followers, aquantences, and other cancer sisters… I could not have made it through this year without you! Thank you for loving me and supporting my journey to #sparkleon!
2016 sucked alot but it was wonderful all at the same time! I cant say I would ever want to relive this past year… but if I had to, I would use my lessons this past year to strive and overcome like I do everything in life! This year, I have learned to love myself! I love my family. I love helping other people like me battling this awful disease! I love my job and being an Occupational Therapist. I truly love my life! So 2017, I know for a fact you could never beat out 2016… so I dare you, bring it on, but please be kind!
I look back at my Timehop, and the past 5 years at least… I’ve been sick on Christmas. Now, I’m not even talking like cancer sick. I swear, people at my old jobs had to of thought I was just trying to get more holiday time off… because I swear its like Christmas eve eve and BANG its like sickness shall dwell upon Meghan. I am not even kidding.
So, as you all know I had my lovely breast reconstruction or “foobies” as I like to refer to them placed last Thursday– blog to come. It really time-wise worked out perfectly because with my new school-based job, I get an extended holiday break as it is vs. working Christmas eve late shift in the hospital, working the day after Christmas and only having New Years off as my “holiday” because I would always let the people with kids get Christmas time. Plus, I used to love to party it up for New Years!
Anyways… so the days leading to my surgery, Meghan’s luck what happens… I get a sore throat and cough. Like go freakin figure. I swear i chugged about 3 boxes of Theraflu because I refused for the doctor to cancel my procedure. So ya dada, I get my foobies. Of course, learning experience! Infection aside, I get why doctors ask if you’ve had a cough in X amount of days, because holy hells does it hurt to cough post op boob job! I mean, I’m sure they don’t really care about that reason… but for reals! Every time I had to cough I was legit doubled over and couldn’t actually complete a full cough, pathetic I know but it freakin hurt!
Okay, back to Christmas sicknesses. So, one week and a few days post foobies, Christmas eve eve and John and I are running around like majority of The world because Christmas is only a few days a way. Side note: Why do people wait until the last minute for Christmas shopping? I told John today, its not like Christmas magically changes every year… hells, its legit on December 25th every stinkin year… and we have a whole 364 days to prepare for it yearly… why do we wait for days before to rush around to make it perfect? I dont know… but, John has been complaining about a headache all day. Ive loaded him up with Exedrin and hes been busy with power tools in the garage and “im not allowed” in my closet… thats all I know, i guess we will have to wait until Christmas to debunk that mystery.
Anyways, on and off all day hed come upstairs and say how he has this headache in the front of his head. Hed sit down a while, play on his phone, then get back to tinkering. Its probably like 6:00 pm and his little cousins come over so their parents and make the Christmas magic come to life… and we had all these plans to watch ALL “The Santa Clause” movies and go see the lights downtown. John says again, “wow my head really hurts”. He sits down and starts complaining that hes cold. Big red flag, John is NEVER ever cold! I decide to feel his head and hes burning up. I grab my thermometer and he has a freakin fever of 102*. Oh just lovely.
So, I quarantined him in the basement and am running around making snacks etc for the boys. I gave him some tylenol and theraflu and in a little while his lovely fever started to go down as beads of sweat dripped down his forehead.
Our upstairs bathroom needed toilet paper so I brought some up and came back downstairs to check on my sickied up little hubby because Im usually the one sick and he takes care of me, I’m not used to this reversed role here! So I’m walking down the stairs and BAM. Yup, a week post-op and I fell right down the stairs. Damn protective reflexes caused my arms to out stretch to help catch my fall and I felt a pop. FUCK!
Instant pain down my chest, anxiety because I’m scared I messed up my tits, and back to the jolts of pain that were shooting down my right boob. Mother of pearl! John jumps up from a dead sleep, I’m hysterical… were a freakin mess.
He does what he does best and calms me down. I take some pain medicine, and decide to drive his little cousins down the road to my mother in laws house. I decided John and I officially need to go to bed. I instructed my dear hubby to jump in the shower and scrub off the sweat from his fever breaking. I get home and his hair is dry.
He goes you will not believe what happened. So apparently, he went down the lower basement stairs (side note: i fell down the middle basement stairs), and he fell whacking his elbow and back. In his words “i went down hard”. Like what are the freakin chances…
So, both Koziel’s are all banged up… no hospital visits just yet, but we shall see in the morning. For now it is safe to say, we need to get some sleep! And I hope and pray we are both better for some Christmas fun in the days to come!
UPDATE: I had many Christmas surprises this year! 1. My little sister surprised me and came all the way to Pittsburgh with my dad, so it was truly magical getting to spend the weekend with her! and 2. John made me the ultimate organized closet! He is truly my handyman! Life is oh so good<3
It is finally time during my cancer journey for me to have three-month check-ups. It is so crazy and feels so weird that I don’t have to go to the doctors every day/ multiple times a week, in a way I felt lost at first when my oncologist said to me, “I will see you in three months”! Like my thoughts were, what do you mean three months! I cannot go without a check-up! A cancer patients worst nightmare is “what if the cancer comes back”! To me, if I wasn’t seeing my doctors so often, maybe I would miss a symptom or something, I don’t know… perhaps I’ve just become dependent on my team! With my oncologist, surgeons, fertility specialists, geneticists, gynecologist, dietician, and primary care physician… I was so used to all angles being covered.
My three-month check up was scheduled and I decided to go without my hubby because basically it was just a check-up right? WRONG. So, I got all dolled up because I love showing my medical team that even though I have cancer, I can still look fabulous. At this point, I feel good, I have a new job, life is good! Until that appointment…
I signed in and said some hellos then was called back for my vitals assessment. I stepped on the scale, wanted to throw-up over my weight, they took my blood pressure and pulse and walked me to an exam room. A “normal” patient waits for the nurse to walk out before changing into a gown however its so usual for me to talk and change, I’m sure the nurse just laughs at me— I mean lets be real, what do I have to hide?!
My amazing oncologist Dr. Raymond came in a few minutes later, and performed her little exam. It always makes me laugh because the pre-cancer me would have felt so awkward having a doctor feel me up… then the cancer me whips open the gown and encourages a thorough wax on/ wax off of the titty tatas… I DO NOT want her to miss a bump!
She explained everything was normal, which was what I expected and the reason I didn’t drag John to yet another appointment. I closed up my gown and she sat down… FYI: when doctors sit down and make themselves comfy, typically there is something about to come out of their mouth that you may not want to hear! The next few words out of her mouth I only caught in bits and pieces. “Chemo… six months… minimal side effects… increase survival” were a few words I may have heard prior to my heart practically jumping out of my body.
When I focused more onto what my doctor was saying, it turned out that she was recommending a preventative chemo regimen because—news to me, I didn’t respond to typical chemo as good as they had hoped. Just to remind you all, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer with tumor and 2 lymph node involvement. I am HER 2 (-), Estrogen (+) therefore my treatment is kind of tricky.
Xeloda (chemical name: capecitabine) is an oral chemotherapy that newest research has found to be a beneficial preventative drug when used along with regular chemo regimens. In the past, this specific drug has been used to treat advanced-stage breast cancer that had stopped responding to regular chemotherapy. It is typically given before surgery to weaken or shrink the cancer cells as a neoadjuvant treatment. “Neoadjuvant treatment often is recommended when the breast cancer is large, aggressive, and/or has spread beyond the breast to surrounding tissue” (thank you breastcancer.org).
As per my doctor, because I had to stop traditional chemotherapy early due to my multiple allergic reactions, when my surgical oncologist performed my mastectomy and my tumor/ surrounding tissues were assessed, it turns out that my tumor actually looked like swiss cheese. Basically, the chemo had an effect however not a complete effect therefore in doctor terms, there is “residual disease”. There were still cancer cells found in my tumor however lucky for me, my amazing surgeon DID get clear margins during my procedure. This means that the outline of tissue taken was clean of cancer cells. In essence and hopefully reality, if there is clear margins there are no lingering cancer cells… hopefully however being that there is still residual disease, that’s the problem and that’s where this lovely cancer journey just never seems to end!
Anyways back to Xeloda. So basically, my doctor who I literally and trusting with my life is telling me to go back through chemo. I felt like my life was crumbling from underneath my feet! Just when I felt like I had a grasp on my situation and things were looking good for me and my family… BOOM, cancer reminds you it is still there… DAMN L As I held back my tears with a huge ball in my throat, she explained why she was recommending this treatment and what the research says because she knows I only trust in the numbers.
There was a Japanese study conducted that used Xeloda on women diagnosed with early-stage, HER2-negative breast cancer with residual disease after surgery and it turns out, they had a better survival compared to women who didn’t get chemotherapy after surgery. It always upsets me hearing something like this because when I step back and look at my whole picture. I am 27 years young and just because of CANCER my life expectancy is already lower than other healthy girls my age… that’s a little bit sad in a way. I mean of course anyone can die tomorrow, but like GOSH I hate being a statistic…
So about the numbers, and these are from the link below… “Half the women in the study were younger than 48 years old and half were older; 58% of them were premenopausal. About 63% of the cancers were hormone-receptor-positive. After about 5 years of follow-up, the researchers found that women who were treated with Xeloda after surgery had better disease-free survival than women who didn’t get chemotherapy after surgery:
1% of the women treated with Xeloda were alive with no recurrence
7% of the women who didn’t get chemotherapy were alive with no recurrence
Xeloda also improved overall survival:
2% of the women treated with Xeloda were alive
9% of the women who didn’t get chemotherapy were alive
When the researchers grouped the women by age, hormone-receptor-status, cancer grade, or type of neoadjuvant chemotherapy, they found that Xeloda still improved survival.”
Okay, well after all those amazing stats I would be dumb to say no right?! I think my doctor saw the shock in my eyes though and sent me home to “think about it” and talk it over with my family. I literally left her office, walked to my car, and began hysterical crying. I called John and could hardly get the words out. In that moment, I felt defeated. Although it’s all preventative and technically I am CANCER FREE… its just so upsetting. Its like I take 1 step forward and 5 steps backward, it sucks!
After doing my own independent research, talking to my family, and ultimately trusting in GOD, I decided that this is something I have to atleast try. Heck, an oral chemo is better than normal chemo right?! The next day Dr. Raymond actually called me personally after office hours because she felt that I was overwhelmed at my appointment. She sort of set my mind to ease by explaining this decision is up to me… however they always get you when they say, “but if you were my daughter..”, Gosh just sign me up then!
After almost two weeks of getting insurance clearance then delivery from a specialty pharmacy… I finally had my lovely chemo pills in my possession. The pharmacist actually had to verbally go over all the side effects and precautions because it is a chemotherapy drug so of course I hear all the worst of the worst things that “may” happen however they always follow-up by saying, “don’t worry though normally people do really good on this drug”— they don’t know me though!
I was not allowed to start the drug until I had bloodwork done and met with Dr. Raymond again. I packed my pills up and went into her office again—however this time, a little more prepared for shocking news than the last time. Still upset over the whole situation, her nurse who I absolutely love and feel as though ive grown extremely close walked in and I started hysterical crying. WHY MEGHAN!!!! I always feel like such a loser when I do these sort of things however… GOSH do I feel so much better after!
I guess facing chemo and “cancer treatments” again and just knowing all I went through during my traditional treatment, basically I’m scared! I already absolutely HATE taking medications, it just doesn’t sit too well with me that Im putting poison into my body to supposedy “heal me”. It just overwhelming L
After a big hug and the doctor explaining to me that she will not force me to do this yadada… I was given paperwork to sign and in about two seconds of signing my name I felt like I was signing the trust of my life to another person Ive barely known for more than a year! What has my life become…
Next we discussed the part I was most interested in: Side effects. Being that Xeloda is a chemotherapy drug, it does have all the same side effects as any typical chemo nausea, vomiting, hair loss you know everything people typically relate to CANCER. However, the most common side effects of Xeloda are
neutropenia (low white blood cell count)
hand-foot syndrome- dry cracked skin as my doctor describes it
Per my doctor and the pharmacist, turns out side effects are “typically” very minimal, but like anything else in this journey— its all trial and error, especially with me.
My doctor decided to put me on the lowest doseage of 2500 mg a day (2 pills in the am, 3 pills in the pm) for 6 months (1 week on/ 1 week). After receiving my doseage, I immediately made a stop at our local pharmacy to pick up my prescription once it was all cleared by insurance yadada. John and I decided to go away for the weekend and coincidentally it was the same weekend that I would be starting to take my chemo pills.
Side note: I probably dont say it enough… but my husband is absolutely amazing. Knowing how nervous I was about beginning chemo again, he made arrangements for us to take a mini weekend trip to his families cabin where me and Izzy literally sat on the couch for two days watching Netflix! It was sooooo needed!
Anyways, my Xeloda schedule was to be taken twice a day, 12 hrs apart. This sounds simple until I realized that my weekend and weekday pill schedule had to remain the same. So, finding a time that would work for work hours and attempting to sleep in a little on the weekend was a little bit of a challenge. I decided that 8:00 am and pm would be my magic numbers. As the clock read 7:58…7:59…8:00 my heart sunk as I placed the rather large pills into my mouth. A big gulp of water and ai was officially a chemo patient, again:(
Coincidentally, I signed onto TimeHop and on this exact day 1 year ago, I began IV chemo! So weird! After taking my first doseage I tried to relax and not imagine that I literally just ingested poison. The first day ai really didnt notice any major side effects other than being tired but I also had to account for my laziness and being relaxed away from society at the cabin.
That night I took my next dose and it wasnt until the following morning dose that that good ole sense of nausea presented itself. I tried to get something in my stomach but literally just did not feel well. We headed home and I called my doctor to see if she could call me in some nausea medicine. Being a Sunday, the on call doctor had to be paged then once I finally talked to her my pharmacy closed.
WHY I HATE CVS…
I called around and found that the local CVS had late hours on a Sunday, so I called them to see if I was allowed to have my prescription called in there. Long story short I hate CVS. Basically they didnt tell me that they dont take my insurance, then… I called them around 7:00 because I hadn’t received a message or phone call that my prescription was filled and the girl says, “oh were closing in 5 minutes”. SAY WHAT! I wanting to burst into tears! 1. feeling nauseated is one of the absolute worst feelings in the world, and 2. this girl knew I just started chemo and was nauseous from it, why in the world would she not call me knowing I went out of my way to have it sent to their pharmacy! What kind of heartless individuals does CVS hire! I immediately begged her to wait 10 minutes so I could come and pick up the prescription. She said she could only wait 5, and my mother in law flew out of the house in a rush to get there before closing. About 4 minutes later, the pharmacist called me back and said we have to close the store… my response was my mother in law is probably right outside– however they were unable to remain open, despite it being their fault for not letting me know the prescription was filled.
Can you believe my mother in law got there as they were closing up and the girl had the nerve to say she could get the prescription transferred to another CVS 15 minutes away! THE FREAKIN NERVE! I mean, I never ever ever pull the “cancer card”… but BITCH I FEEL LIKE IM GOING TO VOM FROM POISON THAT KEEPS YOU HAVING A JOB! How in the hell does a person with any sort of heart just close knowing that someone is suffering? I don’t get it! When you go into a position in the helping field, sometimes things happen and you have to go out of your way to help people… I get it, her shift was done, but I could never do that to someone! My whole thing is… there had been plenty of days when I was working in the hospital and things happen at the end of the day and I stayed late… doctors stay late… nurses stay late, why would a pharmacist literally not wait 2 minutes! Biatch gets paid enough, she could have waited… I may or may not have wished her to have severe diarrhea as payback 😉
Anyways, my amazing mother in law did get the prescription transferred to another CVS and the man working was extremely caring and got the medication I needed. I literally was so irrate and now I refuse to go to CVS for anything because they SUCK! 😉
Okay back to Xeloda…
So, the next day I went to work despite feeling really sick… but made it through the day. The following day I woke up extremely nauseous and dizzy. I was having an increase in hot flashes and just felt sick. I called my doctor to request another anti-nausea pill and we came to the conclusion that being that this is a preventative treatment, there is no reason for me to be suffering and having this medicine affect my overall life. I mean, I literally just started my dream job, I don’t have time right now to be a chemo patient again.
In conclusion, I was a chemo patient for an additional 4-5 days. I have since quit taking the medication and am once again back to being me and sparkling on!
I knew this day was bound to come… but this morning, I officially woke up in night sweats and it being hard to breath due to a nightmare about my upcoming breast reconstruction. As many of you that have been following my journey know, I had a double mastectomy with expanders placed in April, and my six months is officially up… therefore, I am supposedly healed enough to pop out the expanders and get some “real” but “fake” boobies, or foobies as I like to refer to them as!
Anyone that knows me personally is aware that my whole life I have wanted fake boobs. Therefore, I am not one of those breast cancer victims who is anti the free boob job thing. Okay, I get it… its not really “free” considering all i’ve been through and i’m sure in all actuality its like ten times more expensive so thank God I have insurance. Truthfully, I’m pretty freakin excited about it.
All judgements aside, to me a little bit of Nip Tuck is a good thing sometimes. I have always had smaller boobs than any of my sisters. Not saying my boobs weren’t adorable before they had to be chopped off (thank you stupid cancer!) because they really were! My dad would always say, “more than a handful (or for the more censored ears– mouth full) is just a waste”. 1. Dad gross, please don’t give me that advice ever again, and 2. I have always watched the celebrities and was simply fascinated with having that fake boob, Barbie girl look. Bring on the DDs, I want some big ole titties!!!
But really, my pre-cancer B cup boobies were just a teensy bit too small for my liking. I mean, come on my one sister is in Play Boy for God sake! I want cleavage without having to spend 100.00 on a Victoria Secret Miraculous Bombshell bra that literally makes you feel like a phoney with about 5 pairs of socks shoved in your bra per booby! And DO NOT even get me started on the Miraculous bikinis! You go into the water and all the padding swells up with water and your once beloved (but still fake) cleavage practically pours out of your shirt as you literally have to wring out each tit because they are now 10lb water balloons! Now don’t even get me started about once you take that Miraculous bra off in the bed room for a little she bang she bang… its like a freakin magic trick. Look she has cleavage… unsnap the bra clasp and woolahhh cleavage gone! Its an awful itty bitty titty commitee life.
So, if I haven’t made myself clear already, I am super excited for the whole idea of a boob job! However, at my pre-op appointment with my plastic surgeon, my hopes and dreams have slowly began to fizzle away. Freakin cancer has reminded me that no bit of this journey is ever actually “fun” or “free”. I met with my doctor within 30 days of my anticipated breast reconstructive surgery date of December 15, 2016… and LORDYYYY I cannot wait until that day to get these freakin uncomfortable, rock, ball, brick, however you want to describe them expanders out of my body! Being me, and initially super excited as my doctor is talking about the surgery and asked my favorite statement, “do you have any questions”— the little girl walking down for christmas to see a tree filled with toys excitement lit up in my face. First, I wanted to know if when he took my expanders out he could put them in a jar and I could take them home, of which his response was “well no, I typically puncture them in surgery anyway to pull them out easier”. Oh dang, well it was worth a try… Then I thought about it an DUDE you better take it easy on me in that dang OR!
Anyways, I did ask some real questions as well but mostly focusing on will they be squishy like real boobs, will I have cleavage, can I go BIG? You gotta love when a doctor simply rolls his eyes and laughs and comes back with “you girls…” as his response. Here is what I learned about a CANCER boob job vs. Barbie girl boob job:
What cup size will I be? Basically all the hopes and dreams of waking up after surgery with DDs is out the window. After a mastectomy, they take all the infected cancer filled tissue from your body. The expander is placed under your pec muscle which is then covered with skin. Basically without expanding, you don’t typically have a lot of room for a HUGE implant to go. I also had my nipple removed during my mastectomy, so thats even more skin that was once there… that is now in a garbage dump or burnt up into ashes by now. Implants go by cc or how much of the product fills the implant. My expanders are currently filled to 360cc which to me look pretty close to my old 34B boobies. On the day of my surgery, my plastic surgeon will have 3 different sized implants and pretty much try them out and pick which looks best. I am half tempted to write 470CC on my forehead as a way to convince him to smoosh in the bigger implants:)
What kind of implant will be my new foobies? Well, there are a lot more choices than silicone or saline. My surgeon is actually recommending a gummy implant. It is actually a firmer implant so it wont move like a normal boob, however because of my smaller stature and that fact that my pec muscle isn’t the biggest, this option will provide me with the most stable and aesthetic option. Basically, the firmer implant will provide me with less of a risk of rippling. Because the skin is stretched from the expanders and basically I am missing the fat of my natural boobs, there is a chance that once the boobs settle, you could see the outline and the movement of the implant through my skin if I were to chose something like a straight saline implant.
Will they pop or leak? With a cohesive gel, or gummy implant the risk of popping or leaking is pretty low. The silicone filled in the implant is much denser than a traditional silicone implant, and the outer cover is thicker.
What kind of incision are we talking? I take pride in my mastectomy scars in a way. I didn’t take the advice of any of my doctors on skin care regimens and went with a trial of my own using http://www.rxcannacare.com CBD based lotions and truthfully my scars are so light truly you hardly see them. It sort of upsets me that he will be cutting open my chest again… however his plan will be to reuse my scars and also “tidy” them up as he said during a process called a scar revision— we shall see how this goes. Gummy implants do require larger incisions due to their harder nature than other implant types, another reason they are used with mastectomies when the scar is there anyways.
And finally, the topic everyone is wondering… NIPPLES! Well, I have officially chosen to remain nipples. After my reconstruction heals, I could opt to have an additional surgery where my plastic surgeon could go in, again and place a ball of tissue to give me a lump-like nipple then have a cosmetic tattoo placed as an areola. I have spoken to some women who say that the reconstructed nipples eventually help to gain a connection with a baby which I hope will be in the future, however, I have grown so accustom to a nice clean chest, and quite frankly, I love not wearing a bra with a white shirt… so, I have decided that these girls are remaining nipple-less!!
Back to my dream… this morning I woke up with my first nightmare involving my upcoming boob job. I went in for surgery and it was very similar to my mastectomy… I woke up in the recovery room and looked up at the clock and wasn’t sure if I had surgery or if I was still waiting to go into surgery. I looked down at my boobs and they were covered in bandages. Because I am that patient that always peaks under the bandages, I peaked and was instantly unsatisfied. In my dream, I looked down and had tiny, saggy, boobs and just wanted to cry. I remember telling my doctor that he better redo them because I was so unsatisfied… looks like I really better write him a note or something and say GO BIG OR GO HOME!
One year ago today I received a call. A call that would change my life forever. This picture was taken 2 days prior after I went in for an ultrasound, mammogram, and biopsy of my right breast. This was my first breast cancer selfie! One year ago today, I had two boobs. I had two nipples. I was naive to life!
I thought I knew what strength, courage and success was. I was engaged, with a new house and a crazy puppy! One year ago today, sitting in the giant eagle parking lot I found out that I had breast cancer! October 12, 2016 was my 1 year #cancerversary . There are soooo many feelings that I feel towards this day.
Although many may think I am sad looking back on this past year of my crazy life… but that is completely opposite of how I see this day! Today, I am alive! I am technically cancer free! I have learned what life is all about! I have an amazing loving husband, extremely supportive family, incredible friends, and have met so many wonderful people along my cancer journey! I have the opportunity to advocate, and share my story… and people actually care enough to listen! On my one year #cancerversary , and during #breastcancerawarenessmonth I challenge YOU to feel those boobies and reach out for help if ANYThInG is abnormal! It is scary, I get it… I was there, but getting help saved my life! #sparkleon
One year ago, this was the face as I waited for my PCP to eventually feel my boob and be concerned enough to send me for further stat testing. I had long golden hair, and I thought I had my life planned, little did I know that one year ago today Id be diagnosed with stage 2b breast cancer…Dr. Dutta, thank you for saving my 26 year old life❤️ #cancerversary #breastcancerawarenessmonth #sparkleon #throwback #prechemo #precancer #breastcancer #sothankful
I received THE most beautiful gift from my #chemoversary date partner and absolutely talented designer @byyoursidecollection ! I wore this today, on my official one year of diagnosis and all the kids at school kept grabbing my wrist to look at it! What you have done with your journey and sharing happiness and sparkle is so amazing! I look up to you in sooo many ways! Words do t even describe how amazing this gift is and how i will treasure it everyday I look down and say “hell yes i did it by taking it one step at a time”!
And to my husband, thank you for always bringing a smile to my face and making these “weird” “special days” as special as they can be! I ABSOLUTELY LOVEEEEE my flowers and you really should be a famous poet 😉 Thank you for standing by my side this past year, I could NOT have done it without you!
This has been one CRAZY year for sure. It has had many ups and a kazillion downs, but with my fantastic family and friends by my side… Ive made it, just like I promised from the very beginning. This journey has made me a stronger, more courageous, creative, and a better me, and that is one thing that I would never change about this journey!
Xoxox Cheers to a lifetime of clear, healthy cancerversaries to come
I almost feel dumb writing this blog, but if I feel it… Maybe someone else does too! Or else, i’m just a fool, one or the other. Anyways, what is this blog about? It isn’t about blamming cancer, it isn’t using cancer as an excuse for me having these feelings. It isnt me wanting sympathy, because that is the very last thing I am looking for! Actually, I’m just looking for a good ole place to vent, I mean that is what a blog is for right?!
Everybody knows that when I was diagnosed last October, I was right smack in the middle of wedding planning! I had my “knot wedding planner” all filled out, ideas were rather finalized, and vendor contracts were signed. I just started asking my bridesmaids to be my “girls”, and John was in the progress of planning the perfect way to ask his “gents”. I had the colors, the photographer, the venue, and yes… I said yes to the dress!
My whole entire life I’ve dreamed of being a bride and a mom. I remember being little and playing barbies with my sisters and if we were pretending our dolls were getting married, mine would be the bride and my sister Samii Ryan who is now a model and the farthest thing from a tom boy would always be the groom. If we were playing house, I would often be the mom and my littlest sister Jill would be my baby. When you’re young, you see how typical female roles are done and simply expect life to play out how you’ve observed it all your life. To me, I was to get good grades, go to college, fall in love, get married, have babies, and live happily ever after. Never was Cancer supposed to come and change my life plan.
In the rhyme “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage”, it never ever included oh but just in case you are the lucky girl to get Cancer at age 26, the rhyme may become”you will find love then be diagnosed with breast cancer, you’ll be planning your wedding, you’ll have to go through IVF because you have to start chemo and may permanently destroy your ovaries, youll be forced to get married early so you’re not bald on the biggest day of your life, then there is a huge chance you wont be able to have kids naturally, oh ya and your tits will be chopped off so breast feeding isnt even an option!” I mean, come on… What little girl would be excited for growing up if reality were actually the rhymes we grew up memorizing and expecting our life to become!
Some may think that I simply was raised with unrealistic expectations of life, but come on… Isn’t that what we want from our life? Don’t we want our young kids to believe in fairy tales, and princesses, fairies, dragons, and knights in shining armor? Perhaps my “fairy tale” expectations and way I chose to live my life may be upsurd to some… However I love Disney and I believe those stories and being raised to be the creative girl I have been all my life has made me the positive and motivating young woman I have become when dealt a series of shit luck! Never ever ever did it cross my mind that I did something wrong to deserve my life, nor did I truthfully ever wish it hadnt of happened to me because frankly I 100% would have rather of had cancer over seeing my sisters battling this awful disease… Basically, because I knew from the beginning with their help, I could beat this thin
Anyway back to my wedding blues…From the very beginning I was planning a fairytale themed wedding (go figure). I always dreamed of being a princess… And what better time to make that dream a reality other than your wedding day! I took my mom, sisters, and mother in law-to-be dress shopping, and yes I said “yes to the dress” after only trying on about 6 dresses. I was soooo excited to start building our registries, and having showers, and of course getting wild and crazy with every tacky plastic penis bachelorette memorabillia my sisters could get their hands on because Why the Hell not! You do it once, its goofy and fun, and the next night your back to sleeping with your hubby-to-be #suchsinnersthesedays ! Oh well, such is life. My motto is you should always test the car before buying it… also absolutely important with the penis you chose to have forever (just saying…)
All of these plans and festivities leading up to my big day came to a screeching hault when I received that call. I will never ever forget, midday October 12, 2015 my mother in law (soon-to-be) at the time just pulled us into the Giant Eagle parking lot when I heard those dreaded words, “you have cancer!” Like HOLD the EFF up, sayyyy whattttt! Almost immediately I felt like Alice falling down the bunny hole as my entire life was literally flipped upside down.
John and I decided that we would move our wedding up so I didnt have to lose my hair and not feel as beautiful as I always wanted to be on my wedding day. Along with the help of a local non profit Jamies Dream Team who helps to grant dreams for people with cancers, transplant, and other serious illness. My sisters and cousin were such a huge help… We all came together, pulled out my already filled out Knot Wedding Binder and we got to work. After a few texts to my friends and family because there was simply no time to mail out invitations, we were ready for our dream wedding to come true!
The days prior to my wedding I was shooting IVF meds into my stomach multiple times a day. The day of my wedding my ovaries were huge and I was simply uncomfortable… However I was not about to let that kill my vibe. What many people dont know is when I would go to the bathroom with my cousin, amidst her managing my multiple layers of tulle to my cupcake looking dress, I was also injecting needles into my stomach and hoping and praying they would stop bleeding soon enough to get back out on the dance floor.
I wasnt able to drink at my wedding. Doctors did say I could have a sip or two of champagne however my belly was so bloated and uncomfortable as it was… Drinking was the last thing I was thinking of.
And yes, We are always yet another statistic… According to a survey, the biggest reason why couples aren’t having sex on their wedding night is exhaustion. In fact,” 48 percent of people said they were just too tired after the wedding” thank you bustle.com ! Ok aside from being tired, I actually was not allowed to have sex on my wedding night because of my IVF schedule. I had an appointment at my specialist the day before and bright and early at 8:00am after our wedding (so yes we also didnt even get to sleep in on the morning following our wedding) because I was scheduled for an internal ultrasound— yes I had a wand shoved up my whoo haa if u know what I mean! That following Monday, I was scheduled for my first surgery married, first surgery as a patient Franz to Koziel, and first surgery with my husband holding my hand and telling me that everything would be alright. Our vows of “in sickness and in health” were tested on that 2nd day of marriage, lucky us right!
Because our wedding was planned so quickly, I also missed out on a lot of the fun pre-wedding celebrations! The truth is, about a year prior when John proposed to me, my family was frankly angry. He decided to ask my sisters for their permission because I am soooo close to them of which they responded “no”and expressed their concerns of them not knowing him well enough etc. So, after you get one family denial… Why try for another even though your going to propose whether they want you to or not. Guys, please learn from his mistake and ALWAYS ask the permission from the parents! Its nice if you include siblings, but PLEASE let me save you from the torture… ALWAYS ask the parents for permission and go the most traditional route because it does mean a lot!
Plain and simple I didnt have an engagement party because we were more at a point that it was important for my family and his family to really have the chance to get to know eachother prior to us all becoming one big family. I can honestly say that my cancer was a blessing in the fact that my family was able to see how amazing John is and how he will do anything and everything for me, support me, and love me. Cancer has brought our families together, closer than I think we would have ever been and we all truly are my dream come true and one big happy family.. for the most part ;)!
Although our wedding was absolutely everything and more than what i’ve ever dreamed, it does sort of make me sad when I am part of planning and attending my friends engagement parties, showers, and bachelorette parties as awful as it sounds because I will never be able to have those things! I dont want to be jealous but I just always thought I’d have those traditional events in my life and I didnt. But then I look at my life and how blessed I am to have such a wonderful life! I may not have had a huge engagement party and had initial support from my friends and family over my life decisions. I may not have received 3 boxes of the same wine glasses, or multiple sets of the same serving trays. I may not have been able to spend the day covered in plastic penises and getting lap dances from male strippers that are most likely gay anyways. I may not have been able to have sex on my wedding night. However, I can honestly say that Cancer gave me something that many people dont get.
I had festivities that some NOT going through cancer will never have like my Tata to the Tatas celebration! I had a Cancer Free party where all my friends and family came to celebrate the end of my treatments! I have team “sparkle on” that has participated in its 1st 5K, and I will be having a Welcome party for my New Boobies, and yes I will be requesting new lingerie for that one girls;) Most importantly… I got a second chance at life! I had the wedding of my dreams, and both of our families are closer than they would have ever been! I love my life, and althought I still miss my hair, and would have loved to have all those special parties and celebrations… I would have given them all up time over time again to be alive!
Positive vibes that I will be able to have a baby thanks to modern science and you know what if I can’t, then it wasn’t meant to be and I am sureeeee we will adopt some of the most beautiful children on the planet! Life is good, life is fabulous! #sparkleon
What does PINK mean to you? To some it may remind them of underwear or bras from Victoria Secrets younger line. To some like me, it is the symbol of Barbie. Maybe you relate the color to flowers, jewelry, watermelon, or a favorite pair of high heels. Some may relate it to female in correlation to the color blue referring to male. When you mention PINK and the month of October, I could probably place money that one of the most common words would be Breast Cancer.
As a recent cancer survivor, I was asked a few days ago how I felt about the color pink and its connection to breast cancer awareness. My response, “I love it”! I actually do not mind it at all! I mean, there’s nothing wrong with pink its just the best color on the planet! Maybe i’m a little bit bias because if you haven’t realized, my favorite color is pink and anything pink I typically love. Literally I drive a car with pink wheels and eyelashes, but thats for a later blog) Truthfully, if I had to chose a color to represent my cancer, it 100% would be pink! However, it turns out that the pink ribbon symbolizing breast cancer awareness has been surrounded in controversy for yearsssss.
In my mind, when I think of boobs… they typically have nipples. My nipples were more of a pinkish color being a little more fare in complexion. Could this be where the “pink” reference came from? Then there is that misconception that breast cancer affects women aka the pink color would represent the female race that this disease affects? Maybe that was the initial thought, however we all know that guys have breasts too, therefore this cancer does not pick and chose its prey! So where the heck did the pink color and the symbol of the ribbon come from anyways?
Well… I did some research… and it turns out it has an interesting story! First, lets address the symbol of the “ribbon”. Okay, so I love the color pick as a part of the breast cancer symbol, but the pink ribbon— UGHHH I HATE IT! Why? I don’t really know why, like I said before… its only a ribbon and I loveeee the color pink! However, since my diagnosis I have received many gifts with pink ribbons on them and literally I want to strangle myself with a ribbon thats how badly I hate it. Not that I don’t absolutely cherish every single gift I’ve received along the way, it’s just unsettling to me, but why?
Before cancer, I saw “cancer ribbons” of all sorts of colors to be a sign of fundraising, awareness, hope, and memory of those affected by an awful disease. Now that I am one of those people affected, its like I don’t want one stupid little symbol to label me. The whole hope, faith, and courage words that often surround the pink ribbon sort of makes me want to throw up! Its like it unintentionally is saying “oh you have cancer so you need to (my other dreaded quote “fight like a girl”) have hope, strength, and faith and you will get through it”. Like GOSHHHH lets be a little more optimistic here! How about, you sell those ribbons— actually give the money towards research or womens health in general and lets 1. advocate, 2. prevent, and 3. find a fucking cure!
Basically, to me the ribbon itself has lost its effectiveness and is sort of turning into a marketing tool to sell “stuff” and make someone behind a desk a lotttt of cash! I feel like we live in the land of the pink ribbon especially in October! Its sad to me that breast cancer awareness literally is “tied ” to shopping instead of tying women and men to talk to their doctors and get mammograms especially the younger generations like me! It just makes me so angry! I feel as though some corporate monster is straight up making money on me because they are selling the merchandise with the pink ribbon attached and saying it supports breast cancer. News flash, when I was sick and my husband couldn’t work because he was taking care of me… the money from that pink ribbon Wal Mart shirt you just bought did not put food on my table or buy me my anti nausea meds… just saying!
Heres a quick little history lesson for you all. The symbol of the ribbon came about sometime in the 70s they say by a woman named Penney Laingen. Supposedly she was a wife of a hostage taken in Iran and she was inspired by a song to tie tons of yellow ribbons around trees in her front yard. The act was publicized and new stations were claiming that the ribbon was a symbol of her desire to see her husband again. That was the first time that the symbol of a yellow ribbon had become a visual message. Perhaps one of hope, maybe desperation? It wasn’t long before the yellow ribbon movement stretched across the country.
The next big historical event surrounding ribbons came around 80’s when the AIDS epidemic spanned the country. A group of individuals saw the awareness the yellow ribbon had on bringing our troops home, and decided to use the red ribbon to symbolize the strength and hope needed for the men dying on our own US soil from an awful and at the time unfamiliar disease. An activist art group known as “Visual AIDS” decided on a bright red color—“because it’s the color of passion”. They looped it to make it different, and placed the symbol on stage at Tony awards pinned to the chest of actor Jeremy Irons. It wasn’t long after that that every charity had their own “colored” ribbon as a visual symbol of their cause. Heres a Snapple Cap fact for you… did you know that The New York Times named the year 1992 as “The Year of the Ribbon” due to the amount of support gained from this simple symbol?!
Fast forward to the 90s when Susan G. Komen began handing out bright pink visors to breast cancer survivors running in its Race for the Cure event. In fall 1991, after seeing the effects of Jeremy Irons wearing the symbol, the foundation gave out pink ribbons to every participant in its New York City race that year. Basically the pink ribbons were cute however to catch on, Komen knew she had to gain nationwide attention on a much greater scale.
That opportunity came through in 1992 when the then editor in chief of Self Magazine Alexandra Penney was busy designing the magazine’s 2nd annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month issue. With inspiration from the prior years issue which was edited by Evelyn Lauder—Estée Lauder senior corporate vice president and a breast cancer survivor. They decided they had to step up their game the following year… thats when inspiration hit Penney right in the face, a ribbon! She created a ribbon, and had them distributed on cosmetics in NYC! With Evelyn Lauder on her side, she decided to put the ribbon on cosmetics counters across the country. But that wasn’t all…
Somewhere around a week later,writer Liz Smith wrote a story about a woman who was using a peach-colored ribbon as a symbol for breast cancer awareness. Who was this woman you ask? Reportedly, 68-year-old Charlotte Haley who had multiple women in her family affected by the awful disease. She made peach-colored loops by hand and was selling them by the set with a card saying: “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.” Once her story was picked up by Liz and her phone number was printed, through word of mouth and shear determination she had distributed thousands of ribbons across the country!
Self magazine decided to reach out to Haley! Reports say they wanted to collaborate to give the movement national attention, however Haley declined their offer saying they would make it more commercial than she wanted it to be. Like it would lose its effect to gain awareness of funds by legislators and turn into more of a makeup symbol. Liz Smith later in the year wrote a follow-up article on Haley’s efforts and reported a controversial piece between Self Magazine and Estee Lauder. Reportedly, it was announced that Self magazine brought up the fact that they really wanted the ribbon as a symbol and with Haley refusing to collaborate, they reached out to their lawyers who stated that as long as they didn’t use the same color ribbon as Haley they could run with it! And BOOM— we have the pink ribbon as a symbol for breast cancer! About a year later, poor little Charlotte Haley’s peach colored ribbons were history, and basically never to be known or related to breast cancer ever again! Harsh right?! Basically the point of the story is play nice, be a team player, collaborate, and support each other and you can be a part of something much larger!
“Pink is the quintessential female color,” says Margaret Welch, director of the Color Association of the United States. “The profile on pink is playful, life-affirming. We have studies as to its calming effect, its quieting effect, its lessening of stress. [Pastel pink] is a shade known to be health-giving. Pink is, in other words, everything cancer notably is not.
Okay, so maybe I feel a little better about the ribbon now that I know the history, and i’m still super stoked about the color being pink, because what girly girl doesn’t LOVE pink!
I’ve also been asked the question of how I feel about social media, girls posting their bra colors, or provocative campaigns in support of breast cancer awareness specifically in the month of October. My response, show those titties all you want as long as you then feel those tits for lumps, bumps, or discharge and if you are at risk or it runs in your family, please get to a doctor and DEMAND a mammogram! It literally can save your life! I don’t feel that these social media attempts make “cancer” more sexy, light-hearted, or saying that cancer is easy because thats not the point of the posts. Basically SEX SELLS and in this day and age, it catches peoples attention. Sure, my boobs were cut off and YEAH I’m jealous over perky natural boobs on models etc. However once again, if it draws attention and gets one girl to notice a lump or bump and to get help! HIGH FIVE TO YOU NUDEY SELFIE! Work that camera girl… 😉
I found this really interesting list of Controversial PINK products. Take a look… basically it really highlights the whole color pink and money not being used correctly controversy when surrounding breast cancer awareness. If you take one thing out of this post…PLEASE be more mindful about where your donations are going…there is a chance that not one single penny goes towards helping a breast cancer patient like me!
Thank you: Think Before You Pink for the history lesson! Basically, wear your pink, support the smaller breast cancer campaigns, love each other, and feel those boobies!!! Oh ya, and #sparkleon!
My radiation posts have been enjoyed by many people, however I’ve been asked a kazillion times about my skin. Because I promised you all to document EVERYTHING… here it is. Now, having radiation daily is tiring and taking pictures adds just one more thing to have to do during sessions, however I did my best to document so enjoy! At the end is my daily selfies I took along my journey… with my clothes on! 🙂
Now, I have mentioned it before… but my savior throughout radiation and to keep skin hydrated was using products from http://www.rxcannacare.com . Alongside of my amazing Canna Creams, I also used fresh aloe leaves (oh yes… from a real live aloe plant— however I just picked mine up from a local grocery store, real fancy I tell ya!) “So, what is RX Canna Care? Its products are ” a proprietary blend of Vitimans and minerals organic neem oil azadirachta indica, whole flower calendula and rose geranium extract, just to name a few. Their blends help with fungicide, conditioning, regenerating, restoring, Psoriasis, skin diseases, herpes, allergies, sensitive skin, itching, sunburns”, oh and RADIATION BURN!
What is CBD you ask? CBD is also known as Cannabidiol so yes it is found in cannabis aka pot. This is a non-psychoactive plant and the specific CBD actually makes up 40% of the plant. CBD is NOT THC, therefore it does NOT cause any behavioral or psychoactive effects. CBD has been found to be “a powerful natural anti-inflammatory/antioxidant protects tissue against free radicals, rejuvenate skin, aid natural toning, wrinkle/scar reduction. Remarkable for damaged, agitated, dry, mature skin”. So, why not try it on radiation burn I decided!
Oh and of course your wondering… is it legal? “Our products are made from industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is bred with trace to zero amounts of THC and is rich in CBD. Industrial hemp is not used as a recreational drug like marijuana is because it cannot get you high. It is legal to be grown for hemp products and commodities in foreign countries. The FDA considers hemp oil produced from industrial hemp to be a dietary supplement, so if you live in the USA, it is legal to purchase and consume our CBD because it contains zero to trace amounts of THC”- Thank you RX Canna Care for clearing that up!
To my surprise, my doctors were SHOCKED by the effects and the outcome of my skin care and ultimately my little research project I decided to undergo. I applied my cream in the morning and >1 hr prior to sessions, right after treatment, and before bed so about 2-3x/ day. Now, something I didn’t know is that you should be moisturizing the entire radiated and SURROUNDING areas including your back if you are getting radiation to your breasts. In my case, I wasn’t instructed to moisturize my back and arm pit therefore I did burn however once I felt the burning occur, I started hydrating instantly and was able to catch it before scarring occured.
All in all, everyones skin is different… CBD worked for me, and I’m sure it can work for you but make sure to talk to your doctor before trying any new regimens. In other lotions like aquaphor, cocoa butter etc— the ingredients are near the same in RX Canna Care lotions, however have all the ingredients of these well known brands that doctors recommend for patient going through radiation.
I hope my tips can help you keep your skin moisture and BURN FREE! Good luck.
July 14, 2016- Radiation Session 27/30 (armpit burn)
On July 21, 2016, it was my last day of radiation. That’s it folks, I am officially cancer free. Of course this was one of the most exciting days of my life! I feel like I’ve been waiting for this day for the past nine months since I was unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer last October. I decided this day had to be perfect and I wanted it to be a celebration! I had the whole day planned out from what I was gonna wear, to baking special cupcakes for my radiation and oncological team. I played music that motivated me to be in a good mood, and I even had family and friends meet me at the hospital for the iconic ringing of the radiation belt. Oh yes and for those of you who follow me on snapchat… Izzy (My pup) and I also had some fun prepping throughout the day. Basically, this was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life… Hello, I am alive!
Surprisingly, although I was so excited and looking forward to this day, it was also filled with a lot of mixed emotions. There was the extreme excitement I had to no longer have to go to the hospital daily for treatments. There was also the happiness that I have overcome one of the biggest obstacles I have ever been faced with in my young life thus far. Then, there were those uncertain feelings I would say. The feelings of curiosity about what am I gonna do next. The feelings of abandonment in a away and what am I gonna do with all my time now. The big uncertainty for me has to do with getting back to work, what if it takes me too long to get my energy back. I even had the feeling of what if my doctors actually made a mistake and I do still have cancer but treatment is ending what will happen to me.
Although this day for me was exactly what I’ve always dreamed of celebrating life, celebrating love, celebrating the end of the chapter to this very long journey thus far. Despite my mom, my dad, my sisters, and my cousin unable to attend, they were all there to text message, face time, and spirit- thank you modern technology. I n’t think it truly hit me until I walked out of that radiation treatment room with my pink high heels on signifying the fact that my life is going to start over being a new me!
My day began with extreme excitement. Im pretty sure that whole morning I literally was on cloud nine! I woke up and got ready. I wanted the perfect outfit, beautiful makeup, and of course a fabulous pair of shoes! I decided on a black outfit, because who doesnt look good in black… And what more perfect than PINK heels! So, the story behind the heels. My besty and roomate from college, Zip Zap sent me a care package when I was going through treatment with a kazillion of my favorite things. At the bottom of this very large box was something pink and sparkly… Omg a pair of heels. Sidenote: Zap is one of the onlyyyy people in my life that I can share shoes with so all through college I put her little piggies through “girly girl boot camp” and yes, that meant shoving her feet in amazing heels! So, getting a pair of heels from her just made my day, and I saved them for a very special occasion… What more special of a day than the start of my new cancer free life?!
I decided early on that because I didnt get a chance to celebrate my last day of chemo because it ended unexpectedly due to allergic reactions, I was going BIG with my radiation party. Technically they say you are cancer free after surgery, aka. my mastectomy had clear margins and they took lymph nodes until they got clear ones… However, the radiation played “clean up”, so any little cancer cells left behind are ZOOM ZOOM ZAPPED away now, thus making me cancer free! I decided to invite close family and friends to celebrate in the hospital then have a “Cancer Free Celebration” on the weekend following for everyone to join! I didn’t think the hospital would really approve me having 100 guests in the radiation waiting room… however, perhaps that can be a new career venture for me, radiation party celebrations!
What is a party without refreshments? I decided to make a few different treats and since I’d be in the hospital, I decided to celebrate by sharing with my chemo and radiation team! Cupcakes ans brownies for everyone! With pink sprinkles, duh! Throughout my treatments I would make the staff multiple treats, side note: I LOVEEEE to bake, so it works out for everyone.
As time got closer and closer to my final treatment sooooo many things were going through my mind but mostly excitement for the party ahead! John and I headed to the hospital early, first we met with the research nurse who needed me to sign my life away for a new study I am in. After answering numerous questions and deciding this study would be good for me, we brought treats to the chemo nurses! It is so crazy going back to the treatment rooms. Walking in there is such a thick air about them. Although the nurses always have such smiles on their faces, you look around and see patients burried under heated blankets, hiding their bald heads with wigs, scarfs, and turbans, and connected to endless lines and bags of poison! It literally breaks my heart, and it was in that moment that in a way… I felt bad for celebrating being cancer free. I felt bad because I remeber feeing like crap sitting in one of those recliners under a pile of blankets. I remember dragging my IV as I peed out pink because of the adriamycin. I remember wondering if I would make it…
After expressing my sincerest thank you’s to the chemo team, and sharing a friendly smile to the patients, to radiation I went! Did I mention… This is my last day, session 30/30!!!!! John and I got there and his parents were already in the waiting room. We laid out some of the treats then Davey (my brother in law) and Greg (my BFF) arrived! The rather small waiting room began to fill and all Johns cousins hadn’t even arrived yet! Not soon after, the Haseleu gang arrived with signs and selfie frames in hand… I literally had a smile from ear to ear!
The radiation nurse called my name and I was walking into my very last radiation treatment! I handed the team my heels to sign as my treatment began. As my arms lay stretched over my head and the buzzing of the radiation machine went on and off, I became teary eyed and a little bit choked up. Many things crossed my mind but the most important was how these last few months not only affected me… But also my family! I was just so so gratfeul.
After a few minutes they said over the intercom for the very last time in my life, “Meghan you can put your arms down, you are done”!!! Sayyy whattttt! I hopped off that table so quick, and hugged the nurse! Thats a freakin wrap! I asked to take a pic with my radiation mold because… Why not, and I switched into my pink heels to take a walk into the waiting room the see my family!
As I walked into the waiting room, everyone was cheering, John was playing Destinys Child “Im a survivor”, his cousin handed me a pink sparkly hammer to ring the heck out of the bell with, and even other patients were joining into the celebration! I walked up to the bell and gave it a ring a ding that I will never forget! And yes, I hope the whole hospital heard!!!!
As I looked out to my husband I saw tears in his eyes thinking “we did it!” I walked away teary eyed and crying but moreso because I was so excited! I gave lots of hugs, and took a kazillion photos until the nurse told me the doctor had to see me.I will never forget that feeling of walking into that waiting room after treatment and the emotion I felt by everybody that loves me, even patients that I’ve made friends with along the way. It was as simple as ringing that bell that I realized this shit is over!I can finally start my life as a 27-year-old woman, newly married, has a crazy puppy, and I’m ready to get back to my normal everyday life .
My radiation oncologist Dr. Trombetta obviously messed up his schedule and decided to go away on vacation on the biggest day of my life… How dare he make such a mistake! Knowing this ahead of time, I didnt think it would be fair for him to miss out on the celebration, but all kidding aside I met with his partner and it was all fine. He checked my skin and that was a wrap! I scheduled a followup for 2 weeks (of which Dr. Trombetta BETTER be at) and we will get to celebrate again;)
It is so crazy to think about every single thing that I have been through. From fertility and IVF, chemo, surgeries, and finally the last stop of radiation; I am cancer free! Though this journey is far from over and it really isnt that easy to just jump back into life, heck actually it is going to take a very long time for me to get even just my energy back, I am just so happy that one of the hardest times of my life is passing. Though this journey was long, exhausting, and many tears were shed… I have realised how wonderful my family is, and without cancer, my family wouldnt be what it is today.
Firstly, John. My husband and love of my life. A few years ago when you met the long blonde hair, carefree girl in a club with a hoochie skirt on… Never did you ever imagine one day she’d be bald and sick, that you’d have to pick her up to go to bed not in a sexy way but because she doesn’t have the strength to make it up the steps alone. It really isn’t fair that you were thrown into my messy life, but you never ever left my side. You decided to propose to me way before cancer, but you decided to marry me knowing that I had cancer. You promised that day in front of all of our friends and family to love me in sickness and in health, and I must say… You have proven to me and my family a kazillion times over how you are going to honor your promise. You went to countless appointments, you cooked, you cleaned, you woke up through the night to give me medicine, you sat by my side through treatments, and you held my hand through my allergic reactions. You never gave up, and you never let me give up! I don’t even have the words to describe the thanks that you deserve for being you. You are an incredible man and I am so blessed to have you in my life!
To my parents. Though you both have always supported us Franz girls through everything we’ve ever done in our lives thus far… I cannot thank you enough for all that you’ve both done for me over the past couple of months. I knew it was going to be hard when I texted you both “I have cancer” hahaha and I will never know exactly why I decided to break the news to you both in that manner, BUT you pulled our family together, supported John and I, and did anything and everything to make sure I would beat this thing!
Mom, you spent weeks at a time in Pittsburgh away from your home and even sacrificed your job for me! You cooked, you cleaned, you brought me shopping to make me feel beautiful, we did nails and makeup, we took selfies, you were by my side on some of my very sickest of days to rub my back and make the pain a little less. You sat in that chemo room on my best, and sadly my worst days however I am sooooo blessed that you were there on those days because duh, your my mom and I wouldn’t have known what to do without you! From you making me boil leaves to keep me from catching a cold, to using a essential oil for any ailment I may come in contact, I don’t know where I would have been without you here. I love you mutter xoxoxo.
And Papi, where do I even begin. Im pretty sure we all thought you were going to go off the deep end in the beginning, and even though at times, your still in denial over this whole ordeal I want to thank you for being strong for me:) You came even though you really hate hospitals, to many of my appointments (whether you sat in the waiting room or the car) it really meant so much to have you there with me. I don’t think I will ever be able to repay you for throwing me the most magical of all weddings, helping to make our house beautiful, and for making sure we didn’t miss out on a getaway for a honeymoon! Without you, i’d be broke and possibly living under a bridge:) okay maybe not that bad off but I truly appreciate every single thing you’ve done for John, Izzy, and I over this past year. Although all the google research you do drives me insane, without your persistence life would be boring. Thank you so much for being you, and I love you!
My lovely Inlaw Kozys. Wow, where do I even begin. I remember the day after I got my biopsies coming to your new home with ice packs in my shirt and explaining that I found a lump and they were just checking to make sure everything was alright. The next day you both planned a fall festive weekend of events for us to forget about reality and just enjoy some good ole family time. That Monday morning when I received the call, Momma Kozy was there to hug me and wipe my tears exactly how my own mom would have done. You both have sacrificed sooooo much for John and I. You helped us throw an amazing wedding that we will never ever forget, you’ve taken us out to dinner so it was one less thing we had to worry about, you even took Izzy on walks to wear him out so he was less of a psycho for us to deal with. You both came to appointments with me from chemo to radiation and never ever missed a surgery– even though you just sat in a waiting room for hours at a time, you were always there! Thank you for treating me like your own daughter, I love you and couldn’t have been more blessed to be a part of your family!
To my little sister Jill (aka. Bean). From the very moment I told you once again through text, “I have cancer”… i’m pretty sure your first response was “WHAT?!” then maybe something like, “no way”, but then I’m pretty sure I remember your positivity and encouraging me that everything would be fine. You drove up that night and spent endless weekends from then on bearing that 5 hour long drive to be by my side. From coming to my appointments, reading to me during chemo to relax my nerves, and even yelling “NURSE” when you though I was dying and couldn’t breath during chemo… I don’t know where I’d be without you, literally. When I couldn’t stop crying over losing my hair, you threatened to shave yours and then did! Who does that! Even though it was entirely uncalled for, and I loved you hair and really didn’t want you to do that… It meant the world to me that I didn’t have to go through looking like a Q-tip alone. Your amazing and I owe you my life! You have supported me, texted me, sent me gifts, and provided me the positivity I’ve need since day 1. I love you, and I am so thankful that you are my sister and my best friend<3
Samii, even though we fight about 99% of our lives, I don’t even have the words to thank you for dropping your life and coming to stay with me for a few weeks when I was first diagnosed. You literally left your life, your work, and reached out to every contact you had to be sure I 1. had a wig, and 2. had a wig made of my own hair to make me remain beautiful. You helped me so much when I needed it the most through encouraging me and teaching me techniques that will forever make me beautiful. I owe you so much for encouraging me to share my story, heck— without you, there would be no Sparkle On blog! You came to Pittsburgh, waited for me while I got my port placed and told my story! I got out of surgery, you did my makeup and I was off to a wedding! You gave me memories of feeling beautiful before, during, and after cancer and I am so thankful! xo
Davey, I knew you before I knew your brother and I can bet a million dollars that you never in a million trillion years ever imagined me to be your sister with cancer. I remember when you first found out about me you came over just to sit with John and I… then when we found out about Izzy you rushed right over once again to sit with the three of us. You have been at every one of my surgeries and whenever we were in a pickle juggling my appointments and Izzys, you always helped when you could! When we wanted to get away for a weekend of our Honeymoon, you were the first one to volunteer to watch our crazy troll of a pup, and we are so so thankful. I am so thankful to have a brother like you, and even though we can yell and scream at each other when we (or I) get mad… i’m so happy we can make up and be the best of friends! I promise now that I am cancer free… I won’t be as boring as the site you once had with cancer 😉
And a shout out to a few very special friends. Cindy, Dustin, Greg, Amy, Jen, Kathleen, Kera, Zap, Aubree, my MU family, my extended family, and Pittsburgh Loves— Thank you soooooooo soooooo sooooo much for everything you all have done to help me and my family survive these past couple of months! From fundraisers, to driving the 5 hours to come visit, to sending texts, mailing me surprises, even a simple phone call truly meant the world to me. Without all of you, I wouldn’t have had the motivation to SURVIVE! I have THE most wonderful friends and I am ready to get back to being me… hey, anybody want a Lemon Drop?!
Basically, my life is filled with a million fabulous individuals. I am so blessed and cherish every single one of you for being a part of my life and journey. Without CANCER, I would not have the opportunity to share my story and to touch the lives of people in the way that I have. I feel that because of cancer, I will now be able to use my experience of being a patient to make me a better person and of course occupational therapist!!! Look out world… Meghan is BACK and CANCER FREE!!!!
They say you can return to work 6-8 weeks after a double mastectomy… They say! Just a few weeks after my amputation as I describe it, the day my cancer was FINALLY cut out of my body and my two beloved boobies that tried to kill me also found their new home in an incinerator of some sort! Can you believe it, only about a month and a half- two months to recover from all of that, and then there are some orthopedic surgeries take 3-6 months for recovery! Its so shocking!
When I went out on leave from my job as an Occupational Therapist, I was in constant contact with my boss and director of rehab and we were all under the assumption that just like the doctors were telling me, I’d be good as new in 6 weeks. Here is the problem with doctors coming up with these prospective “ranges” of recovery, it sort of gives a patient a presumption that they “should” be better by that date. This can be a good thing or a bad thing dependent upon the patient, however for me…this was BAD BAD BAD!
Though everyone heals and recovers at their own speed, I am here to tell all those doctors and professionals out there who make up this 6-8 week range for return to work are WRONG!!!! Though some with more sedentary job descriptions may in fact be able to return without a problem, my dilemma was the fact that I lift people for a living. I am teaching people the skills they need to be independent in one of their sickest states (acute care or while they are in the hospital). A lot of times, my patients need help to stand, assistance to ambulate and perhaps training to use a new device like a walker or care, help to get in and out of a tub or shower, a boost on or off a toilet, equipment to put on or take off their socks or shoes, oh and I almost forget about managing the patient and their IV poles and their oxygen lines sometimes all while observing the level of assistance they need, coming up with a discharge plan and what services the patient could benefit from to live a healthy, happy, and safe life after leaving the hospital! How can I return to my job of helping people if I need help my self?
The date of my six weeks out of work was quickly approaching and the stress and pressure of my company was practically causing me anxiety. The week before my anticipated return to work I was reaching out to my physical therapist, oncologist, plastic surgeon, and surgical oncologist for someone to provide me the answer. Am I ready to return to work. I literally felt like I was caught in the movie the Labyrinth. It felt to me that not one doctor wanted to take responsibility for saying “Yes Meghan you are healed and nothing will happen to you if you return to work”. It went from, “well what do you want”, “how do you feel” or my favorite/ the one that pissed me off the worst”just tell me what you want me to write”. I could only imagine what a patient that didn’t work in the healthcare system would do if these were the type of answers they received from people who were supposed to be guiding their care.
I remember sitting with my phone in my hand and just crying because I felt like no-one was listening to me. On one hand I had work asking questions and wondering when Id be returning, I had doctors saying at 6 weeks you can return, I had my physical therapist saying how in the world are you going to go back to work if your only lifting 2 lb weights, and I myself was questioning my abilities and comfort and fear of hurting myself. I remember going to my plastic surgeon who ultimately my doctors said was responsible for my return to work paperwork and I asked straight out, “do I have any restrictions”, of which his response was “not really, you just can’t like lift anyone or pull up because your at a risk of tearing your pec”. Okay lets think about this once again, I AM AN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST, LIFTING PEOPLE ISSSS MY JOB! Grrrrr…
It wasn’t until I met with my lymphedema therapist the day before I was due to return to work that she explained to me the risk of heavy lifting on my chance of getting lymphedema. She had a resident observing out session who coincidently was in the OR for my mastectomy and lymph node removal who FINALLY explained to me exactly why I am still tender around my rib cage and the reason for discomfort in my chest. She informed me that I would feel discomfort for about 6 weeks after my last expander fill— at this time that was only 2 weeks away! FINALLY I had an answer, I was not ready to return back to my highly physical job.
I decided to delay my return to work another 4 weeks to allow my skin and tissue heal a little more, and then I began radiation. My radiation oncologist is very in tuned with my work and decided that I should be out until I see if I have any significant symptoms from my daily radiation sessions. At 12 weeks out from my double mastectomy I decided I would be ready to give it a try.
My job ever so graciously approved my accommodation for a limited work schedule so I would be able to make it to the hospital for my afternoon radiation sessions, and I thought I’d definitely be able to tolerate 20-30 hrs/ week— ~6 hours of work a day until the conclusion of radiation. I started working after the holiday weekend on July 5th.
A few days short of 12 weeks out of surgery, much longer and thicker curly blonde hair on my head from my last return to work after chemo, and the drive to not let anyone down… I was sooooooooo beyond words anxious and nervous about my first day back. I woke up that morning, put on my makeup, searched for my scrubs, and was ready to share my experience of being a patient with my patients! I was excited to see my co-workers although many of the staff are new and I feel sort of odd amongst staff that don’t really know me, know the type of therapist I am, and sort of respect me for being a therapist for years now and not being a new grad. It sort of hurts me that I haven’t been able to work for many months, I don’t have “my floor” anymore, Im not on any certain committees amongst my peers, I haven’t had a student in forever, and I guess I feel a little left out because of all i’ve been through.
What I am so blessed about my job and where I work are how absolutely amazing the management has been to keep my job and welcome me with accommodations. Those that I am close to opened me with open arms,and even those I wasn’t “close to” asked how I was doing. The first day started off with a bang as my boss left me my assigned floor with a note to call her when I got in. WELCOME BACK MEGHAN, YOUR IN THE ICU TODAY! It was sorta funny to me I guess, not that I couldn’t handle the ICU, but typically these are your most involved, heavier patients, I just never expected that on my very 1st day back thats where I’d be placed.
I made my way down to the ICU, logged on the computer, made my patient list, and rounded with the nurses. My first patient of the day was a man with a new diagnosis of lung cancer. I felt like I was put into the ICU that day for a reason! I was able to connect with him, answer questions, and decrease some of his anxiety towards his plan for chemo because i’ve been there! I went through that fear, and I first handedly knew what to expect! It was in that moment that I realized, I am now an Occupational Therapist that has first hand patient experience that will in the end help my patients!
After a few sponge baths, trips to the bathroom, and playing with some long handled adaptive equipment. Four patients later, 2 evaluation and 2 treatment sessions and my 6 hour work day was coming to an end. WOW IM SLOW! Was all I could think. Going from working 8 hour days and seeing around 11 patients to seeing a measly 4 patients, it was depressing. I kinda felt defeated in a way, like I was going to let the staff down… but I couldn’t be too hard on myself, it was my first day back— I had meetings with management, and had some competency tests to take. I had to head straight to radiation, and as I was walking to my car exhaustion hit. I sat into my stuffy car, put the windows down and realized how tired and heavy my body felt.
I got to radiation and passed out on the table for the whole 15 minute treatment session I underwent. It was torture driving home and I went straight to bed. 6am when my alarm starting ringing the next day felt like torture. My body was like it was strapped with a ton of weights, could this be what they say “fatigue” is? I was at radiation session 20/30, and up until now, radiation had been a breeze. I worked my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th day at work and had a melt down. I cried everyday driving to radiation and fell asleep right after I got home. My body ached, I was getting more migraines, my chest skin began to feel tight and tingling… maybe I returned to work to soon?
I had my weekly doctors appointment with my radiation oncologist (who coincidently was out on vacation but my normal nurse Scott was there alongside the fill-in physician) and lost it. Again, he passed me a box of tissues as I turned into a weeping willow. The stress of the week, my physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion just all seemed to be soilling out as I mumbled out the answers to his questions as drippy tears of salt ran into my mouth. Basically I was the definition of a hot mess! The substitute doctor came in, checked my skin, and explained that he wasnt sure I am quite ready to be working such a strenous job.
In a matter of minutes, I found myself with yet another script writing me out of work:(. To some this would be a day for a party or celebration, for me… I literally felt like a loser. This is one of the worst feelings of this journey that I was yet to experience because I feel like a straight loser. I feel defeated, upset, and sort of lost. It just really really sucks to be 27 years old and not be able to physically do something you should in essence be able to do! Its just upsetting… Oh well, 2 more weeks of radiation and I am doneso! Cancer Free at last and completely ready to start my life… Again!