Monday, June 12, 2017

Stage 4 Cancer

Hearing the words “you have cancer” a second time is just as devastating as the first time you hear those words. Nothing really prepares you, not even a week of knowing they saw something on a CT scan. It was a Thursday afternoon in April and my girl Emily and I were loading up the car to head to South Carolina for a girls weekend when I received a call from my Oncologist’s office. They had reviewed a CT scan that had been ordered by my urologist (I had what I thought was a kidney infection that was not getting better with antibiotics) and they wanted to see me that day. Because I was heading out of town for the weekend, they said they would touch base with me Monday to discuss my scan and to enjoy my vacation. Around this same time, my CT scan was released to me via the online medical record system, which allows me to review all of my tests and communicate with my doctors. The scan showed some abnormalities within the lower lumbar and included a recommendation that further evaluation was needed to rule out metastatic disease. My heart dropped as I read the scan, but I thought the recommendation could just be super proactive, and I was hopeful that other scans may rule out cancer. The weekend flew by and we had a great girl’s weekend. I was still in a lot of pain around the kidney area (T11) the entire weekend, but was still able to have fun even with the scan in the back of my mind.

First thing Monday morning I received a call from my Oncologist who requested I come in right away to discuss the CT scan. I went by myself on my way to work, which in hindsight was not a good idea. He discussed the scan and the findings with me and we lined up an MRI and a PET scan to confirm metastatic cancer. The MRI was scheduled for that night and the PET scan was later in the week. I knew deep down that these additional scans would show cancer, but I was hopeful that it wouldn’t be extensive. After a teary call to my husband Steve, he immediately went and picked up Charlotte (our 5 year old) from school and met me at home. There were a lot of tears as things began to sink in and the reality of what we may actually be facing took over our thoughts. My mom and sisters showed up shortly after we got home and we spend a few hours just talking and trying to maintain normalcy.

Friday of this same week Steve and I met with my Oncologist to discuss the results of the MRI and PET, which had not been released to me yet so I didn’t know what they showed prior to going in for this appointment. My Oncologist explained that both scans showed extensive cancer throughout my entire skeleton, primarily in my spine. My T11 was very advanced which explained the pain that I was experiencing in this area. The PET also revealed there was cancer in the lymph nodes across both sides of my chest and the nodes in my collarbones. Basically cancer had taken over my body with the exception of any organs or the brain (which is a good thing considering). I actually have cancer in the bones of my face, how crazy is that? A lymph node biopsy done the following week confirmed that my recurrence was ER/PR+ HER2- (the same breast cancer I had fought 5 years earlier)! This was hard news to hear and digest as we sat in the little exam room on a Friday morning. To say we were devastated is probably a gross understatement. To be 36 and facing a second cancer diagnosis in just a few years just didn’t seem real, and this diagnosis meant a lifetime of stage 4 cancer. Cancer in the bones and lymph nodes was a game changer for us.

And so begins this new cancer journey. My biggest fear has been a recurrence of cancer and most especially bone cancer. I watched my Dad deal with prostate cancer that spread to his bones and the pain that he endured was so hard to watch.

1 comment:

  1. I am a friend of Emily's. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for posting this blog so that other people realize that they shouldn't ignore any mysterious pains! So glad you are pursuing this alternative treatment.