Thursday, September 11, 2014

Life after TNBC & a pCR

Sometimes I think I'm rockin' it as a Cancer Survivor and have full confidence that I'll be around to raise Elise and nag love my husband for many many more years to come.

Then sometimes I get an ache or pain and I'll spiral into fear and worry that cancer is back as stage IV. I know that despite my strong faith it's human to worry. Luckily each pain has gone away and I thank God every day for that.

But when I'm in the midst of worry I try to look for reasons I should be optimistic. The biggest one for me is that even though Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) has the worst prognosis of all breast cancer types, having a pCR (pathological complete response) after chemo yields an excellent prognosis. Like, look that this chart:

Source
Now that I'm one year out from surgery what's even more encouraging to me is that all "dips" in the graph for pCR/TNBC are before one year, which means that if I was going to have a reoccurrence I'd likely have it by now. Not 100%, but likely according to studies.

I know that statistics are just statistics and ultimately I'm an individual here by the grace of God. But sometimes that graph reassures me a little.  

And now, for fun, look how good my hair looks now...
Yay for a "Mom-Bob"!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I'm Still Here

It's been a little over one year since I was declared "cancer-free". August 8, 2013. One of the best days of my life. I wasn't ready to celebrate with a big "I beat cancer" party just yet but I did treat myself to this awesome Stella & Dot Necklace as my survivor-versary gift. Maybe when I hit three years cancer-free I'll have a big party. That the prize my eye is on.

Survivor

I've had very few cancer "scares" since I've finished treatment and for that I feel really blessed. I feel good overall. I did have a small rubbery lump above my right foob (non-cancer side) ultrasounded a couple weeks ago that was declared to be "fatty tissue" and nothing at all suspicious for malignancy. It was pretty nerve-wracking though because the last time I had a breast ultrasound they told me there was a 95% chance I had breast cancer. 

In the past couple of months I've finally started to really like my hair. I've been wearing it wavy which is easy and people say it looks cute. Here's a recent pic of Elise and I that I love. She's so stinkin' cute and I like my hair in it.
July 2014
I feel so blessed to here today -- going to work, chasing around my rowdy toddler, and living life. I couldn't really imagine that I could be here 17 months ago. God is so good. He really is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.

 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Yes, They're Fake, The Real Ones Tried to Kill Me

Last week on Thursday I had my breast reconstruction surgery!

It was a three hour surgery that consisted of removing my temporary expander implants and replacing them with permanent silicone implants. Then my plastic surgeon harvested some fat from my thighs to put around the implants to fill in gaps and make my breasts look my natural since I have zero breast tissue after the double mastectomy.

The surgery went really well and my recovery is coming slowly but surely. My chest is super sore and tight but already looks a lot better than before the reconstruction. My thighs where they harvested the fat are so bruised and sore but already feeling less sore. My plastic surgeon and his team are the best, and our family friend who's was my anesthesiologist again did a great job.

I've had the last few days off work and hope to return to work in a couple of days. I'm not allowed to lift anything over 10 lbs for four weeks, which means no picking up Elise, which has been emotionally tough already. Luckily I have great help lined up for Elise. I am so thankful for my family and friends.

I hate feeling pained and helpless again but hopefully this is my last surgery and the pain is not near as bad as the mastectomy and I survived that.

I think when all is said and done I need to get this shirt...

Love.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Pregnant with Cancer?

Recently I've had a couple of comments from people who have found my blog and are pregnant with breast cancer. But I've not been able to respond to them because I don't have emails or any way of contacting them.

So if you're pregnant with breast cancer and ever want to chat with me via email, phone, etc. please email me at abumpandalump {at} gmail.com . I've done a ton of research about pregnancy and breast cancer and even have some private groups online that I can add you to connect with women in the same situation.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

One year and making each day count

The one year anniversary of my diagnosis was on March 1.

On my "cancer-versy" I met up with a young, local mom who is also TNBC survivor to spend the day at the zoo with our little girls. She was diagnosed when her daughter was six weeks old. (Note: WHY is this terrible disease happening to many beautiful, young women? I wish I had millions of dollars to pour into research to understand what's causing this? I hate cancer so much). Then that evening Jonathan I ordered Thai food, drank wine, and hung out with Elise -- thanking God that we'd survived this year.

I've spent a lot of the day thinking about the prayers God answered this year, how much I've been through, and how much I've changed. My faith in God is so much stronger, I think much less about the distant future, and I focus on appreciating the things in life that really matter. March 1, 2013 was such a horrible day that I honestly feel blessed just to have made it through that day and the 364 that followed.

Here is Elise on March 1, 2014. What a difference a year makes.
God, I love this girl.

Shortly after I was diagnosed I found a private, online group that is called the "Kick Ass Cancer Mamas." All of us were diagnosed with cancer while pregnant or with young children (the majority of us with breast cancer). Several women in this group have been and are an amazing resource for me. They've given me encouragement, medical advice, prayers, group therapy, and so much more.

This week I learned that one of my TNBC sisters from the group now has metastasis to the liver. Also known as Stage IV breast cancer. She was declared cancer free a year ago but the f*ing cancer is back. I'm just so mad and sad that this happened to her. Did I mention that I hate cancer?! (Note: If you want to read more and contribute to her fund, go here.)

Hearing that her cancer is back has made me examine my life yet again. So often I feel like I've beat this beast and can move on, but then there are times like this when I wonder if I'm just living on borrowed time and the cancer will return to get me any day. But then I remember that the reality is, all of us are living on borrowed time. I'm just more keenly aware of it at the young age of 30. All us will die someday and give an account of our lives to God. There is no way around that, so you gotta make each day count. 

I actually feel pretty darn good these days, so every morning I tell myself "today, I am healthy" and aim to make each day count. I do this by...
  • Cherishing every moment with Elise, even when she is up in middle of the night.
  • Working hard at my job to make good money so that we can pay for Jonathan's master's degree and he can have a great career like I do.
  • Seeing my family and extended family as much as I can.
  • Looking for opportunities to serve and help people with my time, prayers, or resources. 
  • Keeping in contact with friends, both new and old, and finding quality time to spend together. Every weekend I try to see someone (or multiple someones) that I care about.
  • Telling my story as much as I can so that people will see the power of God and His ability to answer prayers. If you read my prayer request page, you'll be amazed at just how many specific prayers God has answered over the course of this year. I want people to see that when times get tough God will provide emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Jesus said in John 16, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." After this year I know that this statement is true, and my prayers is that others do too. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

39 weeks in, 39 weeks out

Elise has now been here as long as she was inside of me!

Then: Just shy of 39 weeks pregnant. Now: Just shy of 39 weeks old
She's gained 14 lbs since her birth day and I've lost 26 lbs.

I've gotten say, these last 9 months have been way, way better than the 9 before it. I love seeing my little girl grow up. Every single day with her a gift from God.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Will you have more kids?

This is a question that a lot of people ask me, so I thought I'd address it on the ole blog...

The answer is complex.

First, I need to wait until I'm NED (no evidence of disease) for three years before I can consider another pregnancy. That will make me 33 (and Elise 3). I simply cannot risk the cancer returning while I'm pregnant again because I'd basically have to choose between my life and the fetus' life if it came back. In December I got an IUD to make sure I don't get pregnant accidentally (btw I love it).

Secondly, chemo can cause infertility for a woman of my age about 25% of the time. There are tons of stories of young breast cancer survivors going on to have multiple kids after chemo but it's not a sure thing. I did get my periods back just a few weeks after finishing treatment which is a good sign!

Thirdly, I have a pretty rough time getting pregnant with Elise. It took one pregnancy loss and 1.5 years to get pregnant with her. I actually was doing acupuncture and herbs for two months to boost my chances of getting pregnant when I got the positive pregnancy test (so it worked!). But I'm clearly not the most fertile person in the world.

Fourth, emotionally I think another pregnancy would be really tough. I've never had an easy, normal pregnancy. For the first 14 weeks of my pregnancy with Elise I was worried I'd lose her (because I'd lost a baby before) and then for the last 12 weeks of my pregnancy I was battling cancer. Just the thought of all the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with being pregnant makes my heart race.

So sounds like my answer is "no", right? Not exactly...

If in three years I'm feeling healthy and if somehow we manage to get pregnant with me being sub-fertile and potentially chemo-damaged, then we'd be overjoyed to welcome another baby. But I'm not banking on all that happening because, as you can see, there are a lot of ifs in that sentence. 

I thank God multiple times a day that we have healthy, happy, sweet Elise. She is a true miracle. I know people throw that term around for babies, but she really is a miracle straight from God. And if she's our only child I am more than OK with that. I am an only child and actually really enjoyed/enjoy being an only child.

So I guess what I'm saying is that in 2.5 years, we'll likely be open to having one more child and at that point we'd just trust God to decide if family grows.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

New Hair & Other Updates

Thanks everyone for the love on my hair post. I did end up getting it cut and dyed and I like it a A LOT better.
Straight from the salon, loving it!

I went with a warm brown and I'm loving the color. Now i just need it to grow a little bit and my pixie will look pretty good.

My sweet baby girl is now 8.5 months. How did this happen?! I'm loving this age so much, I wish I could just bottle her up! She's wearing 12 month clothes now and weighs around 21 lbs and she's tall (I'll find out the exact inches in a few weeks). Chemo didn't growth restrict her one bit! She's going to be tall like her mom and dad.

My little love


When I was pregnant with Elise I set out to complete all the photo album/digital scrapbooks I was behind on. I did 2010-2011 when I was pregnant with her and have now finished 2012-2013! I'm all caught up. Wahoo! In a strange way it gives me a little comfort that if for some reason I'm not around when Elise is older, she'll have these memories of her family from before she was born and when she was a baby.
Collage of some of the 2012 album

I'm feeling pretty good overall. My chest and upper back and left armpit still hurt. Not bad pain, just consistent nagging pain. I know this from the mastectomy, lymph node removal, and implants. It's just annoying. I'll be having my next reconstruction surgery in May (more on that later) so I'm hoping that helps reduce some of the chest pain.

If you have a moment please say a prayer for my continued health. I'm now 6 months cancer-free. I need to make it 2.5 more years before I'm really "out of the woods." I feel really optimistic about my prognosis and life, but I'd appreciate the prayers nevertheless.