Kicking Cancer's Butt
On July 11, 2014 I received the shocking news that I had stage 4 stomach cancer. You can probably imagine, me waking up from surgery to find that my whole stomach (last-minute) had to be removed and it was because of that horrid C word. I was in such disbelief. What's really crazy is this gastric cancer is completely unrelated to the first...but I'll take it. I am thankful it's not a relapse.
After removing my whole stomach and then some, I began chemotherapy at the end of August and am now on my 3rd round of chemotherapy. Every couple of months, we will re-do my CT scans to monitor the other "spots" that were found to see how effective the chemotherapy is.
Each day has its ups and downs with the side effects of chemotherapy, lifestyle changes, and the difficulty of day-to-day tasks. However, the love from my family and friends (and boyfriend!) has never been stronger. I have never felt so loved, supported, and uplifted in my life.
I know that I'm in God's hands and that he will take care of me physically, mentally, and spiritually. He has performed countless miracles in my life that I can testify to and I have no doubt that there are more to come. Life can be unexplainable and crazy sometimes, but we move forward regardless of the circumstances. I've beaten cancer once and plan to do it again with flying colors.
If you'd like to support me (in big and small ways) in this journey, I would really appreciate it. As this is all in God's hands, I especially appreciate all of your continuous prayers.
In the past 3 months, so much has happened:
1. I had another surgery: In January I went to the Queens ER because I couldn't stop throwing up bile. The doctors thought I had a blockage due to my intestines being "kinked" or "twisted." These usually resolve themselves, so in the hospital I waited about a week. When they didn't fix, I had to have exploratory surgery. I woke up with a larger scar down my stomach and a large tube coming out of my side. They said my intestines had so many blockages from cancer, they couldn't take any of them out. Instead, they put a tube in before all the blockages to drain anything I eat or drink. However, the tube was so high up my intestines that I wasn't able to absorb any nutrients from anything I ate. So, two weeks later, I went home with the plan of being fed through IV every night for 14 hours.
2. More hospital stays: Being home while having to be connected to IV meds (and the draining tube) was a real bummer. It limited mobility and made me feel like something other than myself. Nevertheless, I kept my mind and body focused on getting better and stronger. After that, I had some visits to the ER because of things like dehydration, fever, etc. and they found another blockage higher up (even higher than the drainage tube).
3. I was put into ICU: This most recent hospital stay was a rough one. It started in February an lasted 3 weeks. I can't tell you much because while in the ICU, I don't remember a lot. But, I can tell you it consisted of water in my lungs, a feeding tube, breathing machine, stomach drains, and tons of medication. When I woke up from it all, I couldn't even walk. I was so dang weak. Austin, my family, and my bridesmaids REALLY stepped up during this time. They took turns staying with me, made wedding decisions, completed DIY projects for the wedding, etc. I will be forever thankful.
4. I GOT MARRIED!: On March 19, Austin and I were blessed to have our long-awaited wedding we planned so hard for. I was discharged from the hospital just 7 days before, so I was determined physically and spiritually to become strong enough for the day. I'm telling you, I did not think I would make it, but it was a miracle. God gave me the strength and energy to stand for the whole wedding ceremony, dance with Austin and my dad, sit throughout reception, say my vows, and everything. ...It was a true miracle! Although our wedding was not 100% what we expected, it was all that we could hope for it to be. We will cherish the day forever! I miss it so much.
Anyway, I am still on the road to recovery. I'm currently on daily IV antibiotics and nutrition to keep me going and keep things going smoothly. I've finally started to leave the house for small periods of time and just try to strengthen myself. My family, Austin, and friends have helped me so much, I really can't thank them enough. Every day, there are small successes that remind me God is with me helping me along the way. Don't get me wrong, I still have my doubts, my breakdowns, and my bad days, but there is just so much to be thankful and so much to look forward to.
After thanksgiving, some pain started in my upper abdomen. It would come in waves and when it did, it was so bad I couldn't talk, couldn't move, couldn't breath--nothing. It was so bad. One night, we decided to go to the ER and it turned out I had a blockage in the large intestines/colon. I had to have an emergency surgery to remove it because if not, a rupture would happen. In a rupture, your intestines basically bursts and spills things out into your body. It's fatal. So, some signs while in the hospital indicated that a rupture was slowly beginning, so we had the surgery. He removed a third of my large intestines/colon area and my whole gall bladder (since he saw a suspicious spot on it). The surgeon told me that chemo was not working, so my next step would probably be looking into clinical trials and things of that sort. This was not what I wanted to hear at all.
Anyway, the surgery went well and I began walking the day of. The pathology report came back with the blockage in my intestines being that spot on my "colon" that I have been watching and monitoring the past year or so. So, it was a blockage caused by cancer. The weird part is that many of the cells in that blockage were dead/killed. So, all the treatment I've been doing HAD been working...but the question is: How can something dying or lessening become a "blockage" and cause a blockage so severe? We have several explanations and theories,but we don't know for certain. Anyway, what matters is that something was working....and the doctor felt that he removed 90% of the cancer he saw in my body. Now, we just gotta kick that 10% in it's poophole...I think that's manageable.
So I haven't gone to work since all of this happened. I'm just resting and recovering.....which is great and crappy at the same time. I almost forgot how horrible and painful recovering from surgery is: sitting up, car rides, even trying to talk, eating, everything. It is all so difficult at times and I do feel that I'm getting tired of doing this. I've lost a lot of weight, too, and it's now physically visible. Oh well.
On top of all this, a few months ago I decided to look into other treatment options that are a lot more natural and wholistic. I'm not going to go too in depth to them, but I do feel that they are working and helping me get through this physically, mentally, and emotionally. Although, it's really pricey, I do plan to continue. I can feel the difference in my body, energy, and digestion.
Well, that's it...a quick overview of my steps backward and my steps forward. I'm getting a little better each day and excited to be back on my feet and going.
I hope everyone enjoys this special time of the year. We are lucky to have this holiday to remind us of the countless blessings in our life and of the Rock and the Foundation that we can always trust in.
On the last post, I mentioned the spot on my brain that showed up in the MRI (don't know if I mentioned that a second one had appeared in a later MRI..I probably didn't because I hate giving bad news). I wrote that we weren't sure what it was but it was most likely a brain tumor because of my new Li Fraumeni diagnosis, which basically says that I am prone to multiple types of cancers at a young age. The doctor had just said that we would watch it closely.
Well, I took another brain MRI recently and it revealed that not only did that second spot disappear, but the original one is stable (with a lessened emphasis). So, the spot has in a sense, lessened, but not a significant amount, so it is just stable. At this point, stable is such a miracle in itself. The neurologist who my oncologist consults, is pretty sure that the spot we see is a brain tumor, but it is so unaggressive, that we may lessen our check-ups to once every 6 months. This is great news. I was doing one every other month and that kind of emotional roller coaster really takes a toll on you. It has been pretty rough.
Austin and I are so, so excited and so thankful. We definitely thank God for this awesome and amazing (and unexpected) miracle. We have been doing pre-marital counseling with a pastor to get the most out of our engagement and marriage and it has definitely been pushing us to do things in the way that God had planned, along with trusting him and finding comfort in him. This is definitely a miracle and we thank God for it. Austin and I have been on a great level, lately, and I think that it is due to a change in perspective and new found appreciation and understanding for each other..probably due to the circumstances, as well as the counseling. Things are really, really great.
The chemo treatments that I am still currently on are still going well. I am still at work with enough energy to get through the day. Some days I am so exhausted, but my absolutely crazy students keep me going. It is definitely a love/hate relationship that we have, haha. The side effects have been to a minimum with only a few rough days here and there, so I am so, so thankful for that. I have also been trying to incorporate a more whole foods/keto type of diet (with significantly lessening sugar) just to be healthier and because of some research I've been doing. I want to put good things into my body in the hopes that better things will go on inside of it if that makes sense.
Anyway, thank you to everyone for all your encouragement along the way and for all the small and big ways you have helped me! This sure has been one heck of a year. One year ago at this time was when I was first starting chemo. Crazy.
SCCA (the hospital in Seattle I visited in March) wanted to do some genetic testing for Li Fraumeni, a rare hereditary cancer disorder, which I just found out that I have. Basically, it causes someone to have multiple types of different cancers at a young age (bone, breast, brain, etc.). Since I'm adopted, this is the first I've heard of it. I guess it's so rare that only 500 families in our whole country are known to have the gene...what are the chances? Austin and I were obviously hoping that I wouldn't have it, but we're just trying to stay positive and accept this news and just be thankful to have some answers as to why this is all happening. I haven't yet decided what I want to do with this news, since I mostly just try not to think about it....it does make the light at the end of this tunnel seem a little bit further and a little bit dimmer. Austin repeatedly reminds me that it changes nothing and that we'll get through it together..this cancer, the next, which ever one I may get in the future, whatever. To say that he's amazing is an understatement. I don't think there is even a word in the dictionary that could describe him.
An incident a few months ago also prompted my doctors to do an MRI on my brain, which basically showed a small spot somewhere. After taking a couple more MRIs and consulting a specialist, they have decided that whatever it is is too small to indicate what it is. It may be something, it may be nothing. They just suggested that I do scans every couple of months so that we can keep an eye on it. It feels like all I do is take scans, but like the doctor at SCCA said, "It doesn't matter that there are these spots around your body. What matters is that we know that they are there and can watch them."
I have been off my last chemo regimen since the end of January and it feels so good. I've gained about 20 lbs and am feeling like myself again. My hair is growing back quickly (although I never lost it all, just 70% of it). My baby hairs are coming in strong and sticking up and out above the rest of my hair, making me look constantly electrocuted. However, Austin reminds me to not complain and just be happy that my hair is growing back.
Now that I'm on summer break, I had to start a new regimen of chemo (basically the same chemo I was on before, but now it's in pill form). I did a scan last month and it showed that the spot on my colon is "stable." Contrary to what we had all expected (being off chemo for 4 months), the spot didn't grow. Thank God. Regardless, we are assuming that there are still cancerous cells floating around my body so I need to do SOME type of treatment. Back to this new pill chemo I'm starting, it should be a little bit more mild with a longer rest period in between rounds so that I will hopefully be able to work while doing treatment. So many people tell me to rest, relax and let my body recover....but let me tell you, not doing anything or not working is not living--it sucks. Free time is nice, but amidst all of this going on, I need any feeling of normalcy I can get. Plus, I need to work so I can get paid so I can shop and eat (haha jk but not really). Anyway, I've just completed one round of this pill chemo and it went a lot better than I expected. I had only one out of the long list of side effects and have still been able to continue doing the things I do.
I wouldn't say that things have been in my favor lately, but things are still good. There have definitely been some dark days, in the past couple of weeks especially, but we are keeping our eyes forward. Summer break, free time, and wedding planning has been occupying my mind so I am really thankful for that. My whole situation is complicated and difficult, but having the people in my life that I do and having someone as great as Austin makes this a world easier than it could be. While I may have cancer and now Li Fraumeni, I feel great and that's all I could ask for.
I remember you from Momilani.... I think you were in 5th or 6th grade when I remember hearing the news. I must've been like in 3rd grade at the time. I really hope you beat this again!!! Momilani forever
I just want you to know that even tho I can't help by donating any money, I will be praying for you. My dad has cancer. About 10 years ago he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, he fought for 2 years and won! Then a few years later had some problems with the cadaver bone they put in and had to get a metal rod in. And about a year after that had gland cancer but that was an easy one they just removed. Now his hardest struggle has been his colon cancer. He was good for about a year then it relapsed, the cancer has now moved into his spinal column. He isn't expected to make it to next summer, but he has defeated every other odd out there. I don't know why these things happen to good people but I know you will beat the odds as well.