Tag Archive | young women & breast cancer

No Hair, Don’t Care

IMG_6-3159382308-OBack in February, I had the idea to do a photo shoot with my new bald head.  I shaved my head at the end of January.  By then, I had two chemotherapy treatments under my belt and I couldn’t stand seeing the clumps of hair that would fall whenever I simply scratched my head. So, I decided to get rid of my thick and curly tresses.

I spassed out a couple of times after the big shave.  This was surprising since I had experienced losing all of my hair during the first cancer diagnosis in 2010. Nevertheless, I had a moment…or two. I don’t have any bald pictures from the first diagnoses. I have a couple of pictures of my short boy cut but none where I’m bald or almost bald.

So after losing my hair this time around, I decided that I wanted to take pictures in a pretty dress. And I did just that. My friend Niguel – who is an awesome photographer AND also shot my wedding – took a few pictures of me. On a crisp March afternoon, I had photo shoot time with Niguel and his sweet wife, Kristen. Here are a few of my favorites…

IMG_3-3159381955-O

IMG_3-3159381496-O

IMG_4-3159382402-O

IMG_12-3159383308-O

IMG_11-3159383204-O

Thank you Niguel for the beautiful pictures! You rock! Check out more of Niguel’s work at niguelvalley.com.

Peace and Love

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

Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer

Are you still experiencing cold winter weather? *Sigh* I’m not! Sorry to rub it in your face but the temperature here is mid 60s and man I’m happy about it.  It gets better though.  Next week I’ll be traveling to sunny Orlando, Florida for the Annual Conference for Young Women affected by Breast Cancer (C4YW). I received a registration waiver from the conference.  In addition, my other generous sponsors (mom and dad) are covering my plane ticket to and from Florida.  I’m super excited!

“C4YW is the only international event focused on the unique needs and issues faced by women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 45.  Living Beyond Breast Cancer and Young Survival Coalition have created this conference for young women affected by breast cancer and those who support them.”

I’m looking forward to meeting other young survivors, learning more about trending research, attending workshops, sightseeing and of course the sunny warm weather.  A few of the workshops that I plan to attend are…The Case for a Greener World: Breast Cancer and the Environment…Advocacy and Inclusion: Coming Together for Good…Cancer and Careers: Understanding Your Rights in the Workplace…and many more interesting topics that’ll be a part of this year’s conference.  I’ll be sure to share more when I return.

The conference agenda is packed with tons of activities to keep busy.  In between workshops and conference speakers I do plan on venturing out into the city.  So, if you’re from Orlando or you’ve been to Orlando…

Where should I go? (Other than Disney World) What should I do?

Peace and Love

Your Health. Your Priority.

When I was finishing chemotherapy a few months ago, I witnessed something very troubling.  There was a young lady in the infusion center (place where you receive chemo) who was having a not so good day.  She was arguing with a not so helpful nurse.  See the young lady was thoroughly confused about why she was in the infusion center. 

The patient thought she was there to receive chemo.  The infusion center nurse was trying to explain to her that the doctor’s orders were not chemo.  Apparently, the patient did not like the nurse’s tone as the nurse was trying to explain chemo to her.  So she went in on the nurse exclaiming how she’s not an idiot, you can’t talk to me any ‘ole kind of way, and I really don’t know why I’m here today. I thought it was for chemo because that’s what I always get when I’m here. I don’t know, my doctor just told me to come down here so I’m here.

It got loud. Both parties were angry and frustrated.  I couldn’t believe this craziness that was transpiring in front of me.  Well, actually I could.  I’ve been there.  I’ve been the completely confused patient before.  I’ve been frustrated because I didn’t understand.

Before I found my way to UAMS, I was angry because a nurse or staff person was unpleasant or not helpful.  I was frustrated at a doctor who somewhat blew me off as being overly anxious. I’ve wanted to give those people a piece of my mind. I was thoroughly upset with how I was treated.  But I think I was more so disappointed in the fact that I had no idea what was going on with me medically. I decided that I’d never be in that situation again.  I had to be proactive about my health.

I’ve had more doctors’ visits in the past year than I’ve had over the span of my life.  Here’s what I do to prepare for and during a doctor’s visit –

Recruit someone to go along with me. Whoever it is, have him/her play the role of recording secretary.  Ask him/her to write down everything discussed while your doctor is in the exam room.

Ask for additional information.  There are usually free pamphlets that your doctor can provide.  My doctor is always helpful in printing info sheets for the various drugs that are being used during my treatments. 

Ask questions.  Usually, I have one or two questions ready before I even see my doctor. Ask away.  Let your doctor see that you want to be an active participant during the course of your care.

Do your research.  Refer to books, medical journals, or online sites to become more knowledgeable about various procedures, treatments, and drugs.

Be pleasant. Your attitude can make a big difference in the way you feel, how you interpret things, and often how others will treat you. Even when it’s difficult, remain positive and respectful when interacting with your care providers.

Be on time. Time is a precious commodity that no person can get back.  Trust, you are not as important as you think you may be…there are other patients who need care too. Be timely for all lab appointments, doctor’s visits, and/or scheduled treatments.

Follow your doctor’s orders.  I believe something like 99.8 percent (some random non-scientific statistic I made up) of doctors really are looking out for the best interest of their patients. So, if your doctor asks you to stay in the bed and get some rest. Do so.  If your doctor wants you to lose a few pounds. What are you waiting for?

Make your health a priority.  Always be proactive when receiving medical care.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Confide in a close friend or family member when you feel nervous or unsure about what’s happening with you health wise.

Have you had an unpleasant doctor or hospital visit?  How did it affect you?

Peace and Love

Life After Cancer

Did you know that approximately 11,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 40 every year?  On January 6, 2010 I was counted in that number.  Four days before my 26th birthday, my doctor entered the cold sterile room where my mom and I patiently waited for the results from a biopsy of my left breast.  It didn’t even take my doctor thirty minutes to return with the results.  Before she even opened her mouth, I had a gut feeling that she would say – You have cancer. And she did.  Since those words were spoken to me, my life has never been the same.

The past year has been one filled with heartache, sickness, confusion, fatigue, and extreme emotions.  And though people always reiterate how positive I’ve remained throughout this entire process, I’ve struggled many times to keep the negative thoughts and the pain from invading my life.  I can’t believe I ever questioned God and asked Him why? Why would He allow this to happen to me?  What did I do to deserve this?  Why didn’t He intervene?

I’ve come to realize that this was an attack by the devil. God didn’t want this to happen to me.  The devil tried to use cancer to turn my world upside down…to break me…to push me to lose my faith…to become unloving and cynical.  What was meant to hurt me and what was meant to have me distrust Jesus made me a better person and made my love for Him even stronger.  It may sound bizarre but I am grateful for this experience.

Since my diagnosis, my outlook on the world has changed.  My thought process is so much different.  The way I interact with others has evolved. The list of things I want to experience in life has grown. Now the importance of how I spend my time and who I spend my time with has become a major consideration. I feel and believe that I can and will do everything and anything that I set out to accomplish.  Many people wait until much later in life, often after they’ve been consumed by a demanding career, exhausted from raising a family, beat-up by destructive behavior, to re-evaluate what’s important to them or to define who they are as a person.

Being diagnosed with such a life threatening illness at a young age has helped me to realize who I am, to give me the confidence needed to face my fears, to value life, to be proactive in regards to my health, to build a stronger relationship with God, to reevaluate friendships and relationships, and to show my appreciation to my parents and family for all of their love and support over the years.

Today I turned a year older.  Not so long ago, birthdays were just another day for me.  No reason to get excited.  No hurt feelings if people didn’t send me birthday wishes.  Just another day in the neighborhood. I must admit that I was looking forward to today.  No, I didn’t have any super plans.  In fact, where I live, we got several inches of snow last night.  And in the South if we get two snow flurries we shut everything down! So, I’ve spent my birthday – or snow day – at home, on my couch, watching countless reruns of sitcoms, and taking impromptu naps.  A perfect birthday.  And every birthday that I’m blessed to see from this year forward will be perfect.

I’m thankful for today…I’m thankful for life…I’m thankful for the support and love of family and great friends…I’m thankful for Doctors Henry-Tillman, Hutchins, and Yuen for their care and their vigilance in seeing that cancer will never invade my body again…I’m thankful for the nurses and staff at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute for their warmth, optimism, and ability to make me feel comfortable on my worse days…lastly I’m thankful for a loving and merciful God. If He never does anything else for me again…He’s already done more than enough.

Peace and Love

Still Standing

I’m slowly winding down my treatments. I began radiation therapy at the beginning of November.  It has been a very painless process.  Thank God!  The only thing that I’ve been overly concerned with during my treatments is skin burns.

I was warned that the area where I am being treated during therapy may darken.  That has happened. In addition, there may be some burning of the skin. Similar to what happens when you play in the sun without sunscreen.  You get a what?…Sunburn.

I’m doing pretty well.  I have a few burns.  My surgical oncologist told me to make them stop giving me therapy if I begin to burn.  I’m so close to finishing treatments that I don’t want to stop! Sad I know. But it’s almost over.  Today is my last day…woo-hoo! No more going to radiation everyday to have someone touch all over your boobs.

I think my oncologist knows that I can be passive at times so she made sure to call the radiation oncologist and let her know the deal.  She’s a pistol of a doctor! I definitely appreciate how she goes the extra mile to make sure I’m being treated properly.

I know this treatment will make sure that the cancer will never return.  But it’s pretty embarrassing when you walk in the room for your radiation treatment and one of your therapists for the day is a young and very attractive man.  Geesh! Can I have old and ugly please?  I guess he saw it in my eyes that I was mortified about him seeing me topless.  So he stepped back and let his partner for the day, a female therapist, do all of the touchy feely parts of the treatment.

CARTI patients receive two complimentary massages while they’re receiving treatment.  I went for my first massage, ever, Friday after work.  It was pretty great!  I think massages are going to be a bi-monthly requirement for me now.  I’m going back today and I’m pretty sure before I walk out of the door, I’ll be scheduling a follow-up appointment.

So tell me. Do you have any embarrassing doctor’s office stories? I know I’m not the only one. Also, have you ever received a massage? Did you enjoy it? How do you relax? Please share.

Peace and Love

Race for the Cure

Last year's race...my great aunt is a survivor

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is just around the corner. I would love love love if you would give a donation to support the cause.  I’m including the link where you can learn more about the race and donate to my fundraising goal.  But first…here are some facts about young women and breast cancer from www.youngsurvival.org.

Young women under age 45 can and do develop breast cancer. In the U.S. about 10 percent of all breast cancer occurs in women under age 45.

24,000 women in the U.S. under age 45 are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year…More than 3,000 will die.

There is no effective breast cancer screening tool for women 40 and under.

Young women are often diagnosed at a later stage than their older counterparts.

There is very little research focused on issues unique to this younger population, such as fertility, pregnancy, genetic predisposition, the impact of hormonal status on the effectiveness of treatment, psycho-social and long-term survivorship issues and higher mortality rates for young women, particularly for African-Americans and Latinas.

As the incidence of young women with breast cancer is much lower than in older women, young women are underrepresented in many research studies.

Here’s the link to my race page…

http://arkansas.info-komen.org/site/TR/RacefortheCure/LIT_ArkansasAffiliate?px=8106272&pg=personal&fr_id=1815

No donation  is too small for the cause…thanks for your support.

Peace and Love