Cancer Fight Part Two

Armor-of-GodLate last summer, I began to have back pain. Initially, it felt like a muscle spasm. I would have these daily and often more than once during the day. I was working out and running almost every day. I was even doing the whole HIIT (high intensity interval training) phenomenon with my running routine. So, when back pain came along, I figured I was becoming a true athlete and had suffered a mild sport injury. Until my sport injury didn’t go away.  I eventually ran into some sense (late in October), realized that something wasn’t right and went to the doctor.

Originally my doctor ordered x-rays for my back. From the x-rays she ordered a MRI of my spine and back. The MRI results showed small spots on the right side of my middle back. My oncologist was notified and my doctor ordered a PET-Scan for confirmation of these suspicious spots. My oncologist wanted to test a sample of these spots and scheduled me for a procedure to occur mid-November. Early November my health started declining. It felt like I had been hit with a sack of bricks. I was achy, feverish and extremely tired. I chalked it up to the common cold. But it wasn’t.

I walked around ill for the first two and a half weeks in November. Running an on again, off again fever, having excruciating pain on my right side, and coughing uncontrollably didn’t cause me to step on the brake. I was going to work, running errands and helping other folks out. I totally ignored my body screaming at me – “I’m ill! Go see the doctor now!” Not smart at all and I’m ashamed of how reckless I was.

After a long day of work on a Saturday, I came home to climb in the bed with my husband’s assistance. I was running a fever again and was even having difficulty breathing. Enough was enough! My husband drove me to UAMS’ Emergency Room. In the ER I had several tests ran and more scans. The ER doctor discovered lots of fluid around my lungs and diagnosed me with a pleural effusion. A pleural effusion is the build-up of excess fluid between the layers of the pleura outside the lungs. In former breast cancer patients, a pleural effusion can be a sign that the primary breast cancer has metastasized (moved to another body part or organ) near or on the lungs.

From the ER, I was admitted to the hospital where I would stay for a week and learn that I had pneumonia and that there was a lot of fluid around my lungs. During that week, I had surgery to remove the fluid, a fusion of tissue so that fluid can no longer enter the pleura layers of my lungs and a biopsy of the suspicious spots near my lungs. Unfortunately, the biopsy did confirm that the spots (tumors) were cancerous.

So a little less than two months before my 30th birthday, I was once again diagnosed with breast cancer – Stage 4 metastatic. But my story will not end here. I’m rolling up my sleeves, putting on the whole armor of God and fighting! You see, God promised me life and life more abundantly. And I’m going to stand on that promise. I have a lot more living to do. There’s no way I’m stopping or giving up now.

Be Strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil…Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. – Ephesians 6:10 – 13

Peace and Love

Advice to 20 Year Old Me

20somethingsurvivor

Me at age 21 during college on The Hill

One of my best friends re-posted a hilarious (the gifs put it over the top) article on Facebook titled 29 Awesome Things About Being 29 (if you’re 29…you can probably relate to a few items on this list). I’m in the last days of my 20s – yay me! Friday will mark my 30th year of life in this big ‘ole world. Yep, I’m excited about turning 30… can’t believe a decade has passed. Geesh it goes by fast!

Well with all of that being said I guess I’ll do the whole “What would the 29 year old self tell the 20 year old self” post. So hold on, give me a second, this is my time for reflection. Reflection is good (smile).

To the 20 year old me…

Keep Christ at the center of every area of your life. You’ve been a believer the majority of your life – way before you were baptized at the age of 16. Be on fire for Christ! Don’t be a lukewarm Christian! Don’t wait until your world turns upside down to run to Jesus.  He longs for a relationship with you.

You are strong.  After you are diagnosed with cancer, your life will never be the same. But life isn’t over – it’s just beginning.  You will be healed and restored. God has good plans for your life. Trust Him. He is still in control.

Date with a purpose. That purpose should be marriage. So if you do not want to be married – don’t date – I’m just saying. You’ll kiss a lot of frogs and won’t marry your prince until your 29. Ewww!  Don’t waste your time on those lame men! Totally don’t date any of them (or anyone else). Enjoy being single and do your own thing until you meet your husband.

Just say no to credit cards/loans. Yes. This is high on the list. No debt = freedom. Cash rules the world! Use cash from this day forward. End of story. Period.

Travel more.  You’ve been to many places. So maybe I should be more specific…

Travel internationally. You’ve never been out of the states but crossing the pond is going to be way cool. You have a long list of places to see and experience. Go for it!

Broaden your circle of friends. Your friends don’t have to look like you. Sound like you. Grow up similar to how you did. Step outside of that imaginary, limiting box.

Treat your body well. Proper rest, nutrition and exercise will carry you a long way.  I know you still won’t grasp this concept until you’re 25! 

Be bold and take a risk. Start that blog. Start that business. Go to dinner by yourself. Cut your hair off…you get the picture.

Love your family and friends. A good friend is hard to find so treat her well. Family is family. You’re fortunate to have an awesome family so thank God for them and keep on loving them.

Be happy. No need to waste time and energy being angry at the world. Remember happiness and peace comes from within.

What advice would you give your 20 year old self? Please share.

Peace and Love

Speak On It

speakersbubble_recitethisNationally, October is recognized as breast cancer awareness month. At the beginning of the year, I made a goal to schedule at least three speaking engagements where I could share my cancer survivor story – regardless of if it was breast cancer awareness month or not.

So far, I’ve had the opportunity to share my story during the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life Survivor Sunday. Today, I’ll be speaking at a women’s shelter. During the month of October, I’ll present at a cancer awareness seminar. In addition, I’ll speak before my hometown church family and at a fundraiser for my survivor sister’s cancer support organization. Earlier this year, my mom and I had an awesome opportunity to participate in a video interview for UAMS’ Cancer Institute. I shared my cancer survivor story and my mom shared her story as a care giver. The video premiered on Friday – September 20 at the UAMS Winthrop Rockefeller Cancer Institute gala (I’ll post the video as soon as it’s uploaded online :)).

When people hear that I’m a breast cancer survivor, often their jaws drop in total disbelief. Yeah, it is somewhat of a shocker but it is my reality. I want to share my story so that people will see that you can be happy, whole, and healed after a cancer diagnosis. God’s children are victorious over sickness, anger, depression, addiction, selfishness, fear and any other tactic used to try and destroy us. God is so faithful! With Him nothing is impossible. Every day is a new day full of promises from God and an opportunity to share His love with others.

Peace and Love

Lonely?

forest_recitethis

We often feel left out or all alone. We never truly are…God is with us, always.

There have been periods of time in my life when I’ve felt lonely but I was comforted in knowing that God had not left me. My loneliness turned into an awesome opportunity to spend time with God and grow closer to Him.

Be encouraged! God promised to never leave you. He is faithful. Go ahead and trust Him.

Peace and Love

Moderation and Self Control

Array of Cream Filled CupcakesAhhhh moderation. Moderation in our nutrition world is the word used to justify drinking only one soda a day – instead of the four that you used to drink. Or eating three slices of your favorite meat lovers pizza for lunch instead of five. Oh the struggle!

I’m quite sure the warning “eat in moderation” does not translate to eat this once a day or eat this every other day. It can be a constant battle to say no to those tasty, salty, sugary, fatty foods. Let’s face the facts, we know for certain that sugary and salty foods are highly addictive. I won’t go into a long rant on how the food industry is more concerned about making a dollar than the clogging of my arteries. But I’m certain they would prefer that I eat their potato chips for an afternoon snack instead of a banana.

As a self-proclaimed foodie, it takes everything in me to walk away from all of the awesome feel good comfort foods! But deep down I know that eating in moderation means maybe one serving, once a week. Or perhaps, limit eating that food to once a month!

By no means should I have to permanently give up Popeye’s yummy fried chicken but maybe I shouldn’t eat it every Sunday for dinner. A little self-control never hurt anyone! I came across this video of one of my favorite Sesame Street characters – Cookie Monster. Have a look at this super cuteness:

If anyone knows how hard it is to control a food craving, it’s Cookie Monster! So, what’s the food that you need to eat in moderation? Do share. (My in moderation food is a cupcake – but trust there are many more).

Peace and Love

It’s Gettin Hot in Here

Hot flashes at the age of 29 should be considered cruel and unusual punishment. It was about this time three years ago when I began a cancer treatment combo of zoladex and tamoxifen. Shortly thereafter, that combo was reduced to just tamoxifen. For the past 2.5 years, I’ve been going strong with tamoxifen. Until recently when a couple of routine checkups revealed that my estrogen levels were increasing. Increasing to the point of being 100s over what’s normal for a woman.

Oh great, just what I wanted to hear. A lot of estrogen in my body is no bueno. The type of breast cancer I had feeds off of estrogen. My doctors have a theory of why my body is producing all of this estrogen, here’s my short take…

Tamoxifen (the drug I take daily) blocks the activity of estrogen in the breast. Because the estrogen is being blocked (which is a good thing) my brain thinks that I don’t have enough estrogen in my body. So it calls my good ‘ole ovaries to tell them that I need more estrogen in my body. So being faithful and loyal to me, my ovaries work overtime to pump more estrogen (that’s not needed) into my body. Therefore my doctors have to figure out a way for those ovaries to quit working overtime. So, the doctor orders me to get this injection of a drug called Zoladex in my belly (again). Yes in my belly (you should see the needle – if you want to call it a needle – that they shoot poke me with). Well Zoladex’s job is to shut down the ovaries and stop them from producing estrogen and its working.

So now I’m a pre-menopausal woman that has been temporarily forced to be postmenopausal. Which means hot flashes won’t leave me alone! All of the mature ladies in my office, my mom, and now me are all experiencing hot flashes at the same time. Such fun! *insert sarcasm* Well, at least I won’t have to hear people around me whine about how cold it is because we’re all in the hot flash boat together!

Do you know of or have you tried any natural and healthy remedies to forge through a hot flash? Do share.

Peace and Love