Kicking Christine's Cancer

In May of 2018, during a self-breast exam I perform about 5 days after my moon cycle, I found 2 areas of concern. One seemed like a painful thickened area, but I had been under the misconception that pain meant it was likely nothing to concern yourself over. That was in the left breast. In the right breast, I found a clearly defined round lump. I had been having lymph gland swelling in both arm pits and had my concerns. I got out of the shower and called Susan Shinn, my PA at Western Carolina Women's Specialty Center. They got me in the next day. I have had many breast surgeries to remove fibrocystic masts since I was 19, but this scared me instinctively. My brain told me there was something wrong and the hints from my body could not be ignored. Anyone who knows me, knows I run wide open and rarely take me time. However, I am religious on my breast exams. Susan checked me and sent me immediately to Mission Breast Center for imaging. It became very apparent early in that visit just how worried the staff was. After my 15th "sorry", I knew without an official diagnosis that I was in trouble. Lots of staff and lots of repeat images that day. That evening, my breast specialist, Dr. Michelle LeBlanc, called from her cell and asked me to come in the next day. We have been friends for 20 years and I just point blank said, this is bad and she said yes. The next day I went in and was not prepared for lots of biopsy work and the pain that caused. Xavier was with me and thank goodness Wendy came along for the ride. On May 31st, I was diagnosed with Stage 2A/1B Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, estrogen, progesterone and HERS2 over-expressed positive that had caused 2 tumors in my left breast and spread to my left lymph nodes. Hard to hear, but not a big surprise at that point. I spent the next 10 days having massive panic attacks (not the norm for me at all and not experienced since the loss of my father in 2004).

I waited 4 days for Xavier to finish 3rd grade, and we left to find solace in the arms of Pat and Roy Borden in Florida. We spent a week doing all the things I promised my son for our Florida vacation together. I rode roller coasters and let the wind blow through my hair, bidding it farewell. I snuggled my beautiful son and made piece with the battle ahead and the days where I wouldn't be able to care for him. I mourned the loss of my life cancer free. I cried and I laughed and I tried to swallow the big C word and allow it to become a part of me, of my identity. I laughed at myself for taking it all so seriously. Then I started to deal with it. My way. I began to make lists of questions, of things that I knew I needed to do, of the doctors and phone numbers and staff members. I notified my employer and began to work on paperwork that had to get done. I called my attorney to update my POA, living will, will, guardianship of Xavier, etc. I did the best I could to start down the long road of treatment and living with cancer.

I came home and the rigorous testing began. I had well checks with every specialist I had, as well as a new dermatologist. I spent the next 3 weeks in 5-9 doctor appointment each week. It was exhausting and nerve wracking. I dealt with a failed port placement, scaring intubation and three weeks of healing my bruised and battered body. Then to get the port in and start chemo the very next day. It was a whirlwind of stress and left me struggling to find the energy and time to work. I juggled being a mom, running a business and working with my mortgage team, all while maintaining a home and family. I am not going to lie, I had many a meltdown. And then... the skies turned blue and my living angels came to hold my hand, tell me everything was going to be ok and they started doing their thing. Duchess, Sue, Wendy, Meghan, Sita, Waverly, Patricia, Pat and Roy, John, Scott, Mom, Julie and Julie, Heather,Tanya, Jennifer, Veronica, Sabrina, Melonie, Tenise, Melissa, Embry, Kimberly, Alan, Derek, Heidi, Vincent, Lauren, Sue LaLa, Logan, Carla, Susan, Mimi, Mom, Kim,Federico, Luiz, Susan, Dan, Brenda, Oma, my amazing WNC Cancer Care team, my healthcare practitioners that call and text me from their cell phones, and so many more stepped up, came over, sent supplies, cleaned, bathed dogs, took Xman, loaded supplies, took me out to have some fun, stayed on the phone with me at all hours and saved me. When I say "saved" I mean it. I don't know if I would be sitting here writing this without them. I can usually self-regulate and talk myself off a ledge. I consider myself rubber and bouncy or non-stick teflon, but this C word, well it stuck and it beat me to a place I am hardly familiar with staying more than a day. To ALL of you named and unnamed that have been here and will be here for me, I thank you and love you more than I can ever express.

Needless to say, chemo is brutal on the mind and the body. The closest way I can describe it is the worst hangover, with the flu, with a stomach bug, on top of severe PMS, with horrible muscle spasms, joint pain, swelling and tightness everywhere, tremors, headaches that bring you to your knees, no body temperature control, emotional rollercoasters, and moments where you feel normal and tell everyone you are fine. There are no good days and bad days. There are moments, hours and flashes. It is a wild ride and each chemo response is different. But you know what, I am lucky. My tumors shrank the 3rd day into my first chemo treatment. I felt pins and needles and ants crawling around my breast. The next day, I had the sensation in my lymph and I knew what they confirmed with imaging. I was beating the hell out of those IDC cells and sending them straight to hell where cancer belongs. I prayed that it would continue and the lord answered my prayers. I heard the devil one night whisper in my ear that he would give me a good run and I should prepare myself. So, I laughed at him and I called on my spirits and angels to help me make it through whatever came my way. They rose to the occasion and I booked 3 days in my favorite little motel in Charleston and I laughed at that damn devil the whole time while eating she crab soup and having virgin bloody marys.

And my story continues and one day, perhaps in my memoires, I will tell whomever wants to listen all I have learned. I appreciate you reading this and taking the time to consider helping with whatever financial assistance you can. Before chemo, my monthly budget was almost half of what it is now. I cannot tell you the amount of financial pressure I am under. I need to supplement about $3000 a month compared to what I am bringing in. I am working as hard as I can, but I can't be front and center and top of mind with my business referral sources and it is taking its toll. I want to rent the additional room I have and I am ready to do that as of November 15th, if anyone can assist me with that, too. I have a long treatment road ahead of me, but I will wrap up on my chemo major effects by 11/22/18. Then I have about 3-4 surgeries and radiation. All to be in conjuntion with a year of Perjeta and Herceptin targeted therapy infusions every three weeks starting 11/22/18. I am saddled up for a long ride, but I will beat this thing. Question is how will I keep the lights on and not lose my house during the process. The financial stress I am feeling is overwhelming and I hate to ask for help. A small few have given big and so far, I am not behind on the mortgage as of October, but I don't have enough to pay the November bills. So that is why I am setting aside my pride to ask for your help. I am still trying to keep my diagnosis and treatment out of the public eye, so please ask me before sharing this link or if you want to and you know the person will not distribute indiscriminately in a way that could cost me more business, go ahead. I can work and I am working and nothing has fallen through the cracks during the hardest of the treatment plan, chemo. So you can trust me with your business and know that my team and I are on top of it!

I appreciate any and all that you can do to help me as a single mom to provide for my son and myself and making through this journey. Shall you ever need anything from me, just ask. I am a generous person, but right now need to ask for others to be generous with me. Much love and respect to you all.
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    • $100 
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    • $100 
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Organizer and beneficiary

Tanya Clontz 
Asheville, NC
Christine Aiken 

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