Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Update: Finished treatment September 2016

It's been a month since my last radiation treatment and I guess I'm finally coming around to posting about it (kind of tells you how busy life has been). First of all HOORAY to be DONE! We've all been waiting for the fall season to be here when I would be complete with my cancer treatments.  I had a hard time accepting this because I am annoyingly stage 4 and I had this constant nagging reminder of treatment for life you'll never be done, Lisa! A few weeks ago I was playing the piano in our home. Little Violet was puttering around dancing and hitting the keys and I was playing music from the Primary Children's Songbook. I was struck with a thought/revelation. It was so overwhelming and powerful.

See, I was understandably carrying a burden I didn't know what to do with. I was doing well, but still living with metastatic breast cancer, My life stopped and I was face to face with my own mortality. How do I live with this disease? The unknowns? How do I be happy to be done with treatment, knowing it technically isn't over? What I felt that day was I didn't need to worry about being stage 4. I don't need to focus on that part right now. It sounds simple, but it was a big moment for me. I had to really let go of those fears. I decided right then to not live in more fear than I need to. I now have freedom to experience joy and be happy. What a liberating feeling! I'm focusing on becoming healthy and doing everything that I've always wanted to do in my life. So grateful to be alive, but more importantly so grateful to feel JOY. Because I fought so hard to live, I now have a different perspective on life and that is truly a gift.

I want to update everyone on what is going on from here on out. First of all, radiation was exhausting both physically and mentally and I think it's going to take a long time to recover.  Matt's parents came over everyday for my 6 weeks of radiation, my mother-in-law would stay with the kids and do whatever was needed at home (I just wanted her to love up on the kids and play with them) and my father-in-law drove me the 40 minutes to the hospital. Some days I had other appointments, but most days it was just my 20 minute radiation appointment. Then he'd drive me back home and based on how I felt that day they would stay or I would want to take over and attempt at motherhood. I'm so grateful to have had them by our side everyday for so many months. A lot of people don't have that kind of support, I don't take it for granted. My kids benefited the most, having gotten so much closer to their grandparents :) I stayed strong for the most part, but I have to say I did struggle leaving my kids everyday. My heart completely broke when Nicholas would cry when I'd leave or if I had to miss picking up my Kindergartner on his first week of school. I needed a daily nap and I needed help with my kids. It was hard and humbling. It made me appreciate things that were always taken for granted. The hard part wasn't receiving radiation, it was not being me because I was so sick from treatment. Slowly, week by week, I gained more energy. Now that it's been a month, I can take care of the kids without help and Matt can get a full work day in. We've figured out a new normal and hopefully as each week or month goes by, I will get stronger and stronger.

Matt came with me to my last radiation appointment. It was a cute date! He got to meet my technicians and see them prep me on the machine. The last 5 treatments were a boost radiation dose to my scar line. It was like a big metal stencil and they radiated the heck out of my scar. I also met with my radiation oncologist one last time. Here we are waiting for that appointment.
I found the photo of Matt and me at my very first appointment when I was first diagnosed (with Violet in tow). Quite the comparison. Can't you see the change in our eyes? But mostly we both have less hair, haha.
My radiation oncologist expressed the hope he had for me. He said he'd like to see scans in a few months and there was probably a 50/50 chance of seeing the cancer again. A coin toss, you guys. I don't think I'll forget the look on his face when he held up crossed fingers and then so sweetly grabbed my hands and said "We'll pray."

My doctors have finally come to the point where their work is done. They did everything they could to save me and rid my body of cancer and it worked. I can always see the relief in their eyes (vs the fear I saw when I was first diagnosed) and so I will continue to do my part to keep my body as healthy as I can: breathe, drink lots of water, receive all my vitamins through healthy food (I do take a vitamin D supplement because I don't drink milk and one girl can only eat so much salmon...), exercise daily, stretch, stress relief. I began endocrine therapy which is a daily pill call Tamoxifen. So far little side-effects (mild hot flashes). I need this pill because my cancer was 10% estrogen positive so we know we can inhibit growth to any lingering cancer cells. I will also be receiving my targeted therapy drugs Herceptin and Perjeta every 3 weeks. The Huntsman opened up an infusion center at the new University of Utah Healthcare Clinic in Farmington (if you're local, you know how exciting that is!) so I only have to drive 10 minutes for those appointments. I didn't realize how quickly 3 weeks creeps up, it's a new way of life but it's doable. I have minimal side effects from these drugs too. I had a lymphatic massage from my lymphedema specialist last week and was relieved to confirm there is no lymphedema or swelling or fluids or inflammation in my arm or chest. What a blessing! I am still and always will be at risk, but it is very manageable to do a small massage and stretching every night to lower my risk and treat any fluids that may be built up. Radiation did a lot of damage, but I exercised, stretched, lotioned, and massaged my way through it and that made all the difference. My skin looks and feels amazing now and I couldn't be happier.

The radiation department left me with a certificate of completion which was super cute of them. I also got a lovely soft blanket that is one of the new household favorites. Here we are outside celebrating this mom being done with treatment!
Thank you for all the continual love and support and prayers! I know so many are still praying for me and my cute family. I have a CT scan scheduled in November, pray I stay NED. Pray we see no tumors. Matt and I are picking up the pieces from our crazy year and figuring out how to move on, but we are doing it with smiles on our faces and while holding hands. Life is so good and I'm grateful to be alive, be a mom to my cute silly kids, and to still plan a future with Matt. Find joy in the journey.

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