Wendy's Triple Neg. Cancer Battle
I found out on 2/4, World Cancer Day, the same day doctors told me my teenage son would be okay after life-threatening emergency appendix/intestinal surgery, that I have breast cancer. They originally said it was Invasive Ductal Cancer (IDC), a very common, highly treatable cancer. My prognosis was good. I had a lumpectomy on 2/17 and I thought I'd have surgery, do 6 weeks of radiation and then be done and ready to rock.
I thought wrong. My doctor told me on 2/23 that I actually have Triple Negative Metaplastic Carcinoma. This is a very rare and aggressive type of cancer. It only occurs in 1% of women compared to Invasive Ductal which occurs in 80%.
The good news is that it has not spread to my lymph nodes. I am only Stage 1. The bad news is that this type of cancer can come back and spread to other parts of the body (bones, skin, lungs, etc.) so I will need to monitor it closely.
As soon as I found my lump (oddly while dying my red hair), I knew that my cancer diagnosis had to be about something much more than just me. I was low risk, no family history and get a mammogram each year. But I still got cancer. So I began an awareness campaign on my blog www.wendipoprock.wordpress.com to remind people to do monthly self breast exams. Through posting selfies of their clothed left boob, and using the hash tag #MyLeftBoob, dozens of women and men are helping me remind people of the life-saving importance of doing monthly self breast exams.
Because my cancer is an aggressive kind, treatment will be aggressive. I'll be doing chemotherapy beginning in early April. I'll lose my fiery red hair, dark eyebrows and long eyelashes. But I won't lose my sense of humor, inner strength or fighting spirit.
The best thing I can do now to get better is to eat healthy, get lots of rest and stay calm. Part of keeping stress levels down will be not worrying about all the bills piling up since my son's surgery (his 3rd in 3 years) which are now adding on to mine. My husband has a high deductible insurance plan that we have to pay before it kicks in. Then there are the prescriptions, the treatment (many months chemotherapy followed by radiation), a special cancer killing homeopathic diet plan, chiropractor bills (I also have 3 herniated discs in my neck) and other expenses related to my illness such as housecleaning, travel and wigs. Wigs are expensive!
For the past 15 years I have volunteered thousands of hours to church groups, community groups, arts groups and many more organizations through volunteerism. In 2012 after the tragedy of 12/14 in Sandy Hook, I helped my hometown heal by founding the Sandy Hook Arts Center for Kids (SHACK).
Through art, music and pet therapy we ran free events and classes so children, youth and families could heal through the arts. I donated thousands to pay overhead expenses when the donations stopped. I did this gladly because I felt this was the least I could do to help.
Whether you want to call it good karma or reaping what you sow, I'm hoping that the good I've put out over the years will come back to help me and my family in our time of need. Any amount you can spare will be so greatly appreciated.
I will fight as hard as humanly possible. And when I'm done I will call upon divine inner strength from above to fight for me the rest of the battle. And I will win. I will stay positive and keep my sense of humor (read more on my blog- www.wendipoprock.wordpress.com )
Will you join my fight?
Thank you for reading my story and for your donation. Please share if you know someone whose life has been touched by cancer.
Follow me on Twiter & Instagram: @WendiPopRock
Read my blog: www.wendipoprock.wordpress.com
Thank you all so much for your love and prayers and support. I definitely felt God's spirit and the good vibes being sent my way from each and every one of you and I am so lucky and blessed to have been able to receive such love and positivity.
Last month was crazy— 3 news spots on lungs, elevated blood markers for new cancer, brain scan, chest x-ray, MRIs, CT scan, etc. but in the end it was all well worth it to know that from the top of my head to the soles of my feet, I AM HEALED!
In addition to being diagnosed with Metaplastic Carcinoma, I am also Triple Negative which means I can't be on any meds so follow-up and a healthy lifestyle is crucial for me to stay cancer free. For anyone reading this who knows someone who is Triple Negative, yes it is rare (only found in 15% of woman diagnosed) and yes it's scary due to its high recurrence rate, but there is hope! And there is a great resource— check out Joan Lunden's website if you haven't already.
While I am jumping for joy to be cancer free, sadly, I still have a lot of cancer warriors fighting the battle. I will do whatever I can to be there for them with love, prayers and kind words....and hopefully after I'm done paying an exorbitant amount of hospital bills, financial helps as well.
If I learned anything from this fight it is:
~I am stronger than I think or knew
~Life is short, live it to the fullest!
~Don't take anything for granted— especially loved ones
~The good you put out will come back to you 100-fold
~ I am SO blessed to have such an amazing husband, awesome kids, wonderful family and friends and an incredible cancer support group at my church, Walnut Hill.
Yes, this all sounds cliche but it is so true. Until you have stared death in the face, multiple times, and have come out on the other side stronger, wiser and more grateful, it's hard to understand. But I know through all of this my mission remains the same since Day #1 when I started writing and telling my story—
~Early detection saves lives, not all lives, unfortunately, but it is SO important
~Sometimes mammograms are not enough, squeeze your boobs monthly!
~Listen to your gut- it's usually right even when doctors or others don't believe you
~Get a second opinion and a third if you have to, your life could depend on it
~Don't neglect routine doctor's visits
~Don't ignore aches or pains, recurrence is an evil and ugly thing but it does happen- better safe than sorry. The worst (and best) the doctor could say is- "You're FINE!"
Next on the agenda for me is more surgery on my shoulder (4 surgeries on my boob/chest wasn't enough apparently). Who knew you could get a torn rotator cuff from SLEEPING?! :D
While this GoFundMe fundraiser is coming to a close for me (although I didn't meet my goal, I know we will get there somehow), I will continue to write, blog, and tell my story of all the GOOD that has come from something so evil. And I will do my best to pay it forward.
If you want to continue to read about my journey, look up #MyLeftBoob on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. or follow my blog wendipoprock.wordpress.com.
Peace, love & light to all of you and my deepest gratitude!
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind but here's the scoop:
About 5 weeks ago I went for an MRI for migraines and pre-tests showed my blood markers were elevated for new breast cancer. WHAT?! This can't be happening..... again.
My Danbury doc sent me for a Pet Scan and I got BEAT UP by the inexperienced tech. I have a high pain tolerance but when he injected the sugar tracer it HURT. I told him.....three times...but he kept trying.
Before going in the tube I told him I have a torn rotator cuff and couldn't lift my arm. Guess what he did? YANKED my arm over my head, jammed pillows under it and told me to lay still or we'd have to do it over again. I tried not to cry from the pain, comforting myself with the fact that this would be over soon.
After laying in pain for 45 minutes, I had a new ache in my back and rolled off the table like a frail 90-year-old. I hobbled to the changing room to carefully dress without subjecting myself to more torture...a difficult task.....and couldn't wait to get out of there.
Bad news— "The sugar tracer did not get completely in your arm so you're going to have to come back for another test." No apology. No admitting fault.
I said I'm absolutely NOT going back to Danbury Hospital after their inability to perform a test that should not make me feel like I'd been hit by a Mack truck. I'd be going to Sloan Kettering. At least when I go to SK they put my feet up in a comfy chair, give me a warm blanket, I get to drink banana flavored glucose, relax and pretend I'm on vacation. I asked to speak to his supervisor about the horrible experience but he was equally unapologetic.
It took 3 weeks to finally get info transferred to SK, and all the while I tried not to worry about the "elevated blood markers.".... until last Friday when I got an email from Danbury Hospital. It showed every gory detail of the results in a language most people of normal intelligence would have a hard time understanding.
One minute I was having a grand old time with my hilarious oldest son, joking and cooking for 90 people for my daughter's Sweet 16, and the next minute? BAM! Another curveball right in the gut. The test results said I have "new growth" in my left breast, "nodules in my left lung" and a bunch of other things I couldn't pronounce.
I called my Danbury oncologist but her insensitive receptionist wouldn’t put me through and said they don't read test results on the weekends. Then WHY the heck do they send results on a Friday night?! I tried not to get upset and returned back to prepping for my daughter's special day.
We had a great time, celebrating life and another milestone- my baby girl turning 16. It's been a rough year. I got choked up as I looked around the packed room of people who came to celebrate our beautiful girl. When I attempted to say the toast I could barely make it through the words of how proud we are of her and how wonderful she's been during the last year-and-a-half of my fight.
But all I could think of was- will I be going through more chemo next year at this time? Or another surgery? Or worse? I didn’t want to experience that ever again— feeling like I would die as the chemo killed all the bad cells along with the good, feeling like I might never wake up, wondering who would take care of my kids if I didn't make it this time— thoughts I imagine most cancer patients think about. And they are scary.
My loving husband snapped me back to reality to enjoy the moment and we had a delicious cake— vanilla with pink buttercream frosting and fresh strawberry filling— a special treat since I've been living a sugar-free life. It would be four more days of anxiously waiting before I could finally enjoy a little peace.
My oncologist at Sloan is awesome. She’s kind, caring and tells it like it is. I went on Wednesday and got new blood markers done (they take blood from my vein and test it to see if anything shows for levels of active cancer cells). Then she did an exam and said my glucose levels are elevated.....too many birthday cupcakes? She ordered a CT Scan and said we'll take it from there as far as deciding on another Pet Scan.
Will I have to wait 3 more weeks for the new blood marker test results? Nope. In less than 24 hours she called with incredible news: My blood markers are "perfectly normal!" HALLELUJAH!
I can’t say I’m officially “cancer free” yet but this is very hopeful news. I go for the CT Scan on June 8 at Sloan for my lungs and left breast. Dr. Lake said it could be inflammation or scar tissue. Hoping and praying for more good news!
I still have to schedule surgery for the torn rotator cuff but I'm taking things one day at a time. Let's first make sure I’m cancer-free and stay that way! I can deal with some pain in the shoulder for a little while longer.
For those just joining- what I had (past tense) is called Metaplastic Carcinoma which means "change in form." It has a high recurrence rate and can come back, spreading to the lungs, skin or bones, so diligent follow-up is key to staying healthy. I’m also Triple Negative which means I can’t be on any follow-up medication.
Naturally I am concerned. BUT I am also full of faith and know it was no accident or coincidence that I found the lump last year while dying my Vampire Red hair. (I call it a God-incidence). If I wasn't dying my hair myself I wouldn't have found it. If I hadn't dropped the hair dye right there I wouldn't have felt the lump until it grew much larger. I caught it at Stage 1- it didn't spread to my lymph nodes— good, positive and hopeful things are what I hold on to.
So now, with lingering lymphedema and pain, I continue to fight, to write, to pray, to advocate, to feed my spirit, to live life to the fullest, to help others, to eat healthy, volunteer whenever I can and stay busy to distract myself from those evil thoughts swirling through my mind.
The doctors say the things I need to do to prevent recurrence are:
1) Avoid alcohol - easy enough since I haven't drank for almost 2 years.
2) Eat right- avoid animal fat, preservatives, eat lean meat, organic, whole grains.
3) Get enough rest - hard when I work literally 3 jobs and the hubs works 2 to try to pay all the doctor bills. But sadly, our 5 jobs are still not enough :/
4) Avoid stress - See above. This is the hardest one to stick to especially when the doctors and tests are causing me stress! And working 3 jobs (one full-time and 2 part-time on nights and weekends) is stressful enough.
My oncologist gave me wise advice early on— find things that make me happy and do what I love.
What makes me happy? My family. My puppy. Music. Not stressing or worrying about my health or how we're going to pay the $30K+ in debt we've incurred so far with my intense treatment.
With the help of a great nutritionist, the Fit Bit my kids gave me for Mother's Day and lots of support from friends and family, I know I’ll get there....one day at a time.
This campaign will remain up until my battle is over and unfortunately it rages on— physically and financially. Any donation, even $5, the cost of a latte, is greatly appreciated!
Hello all! I have not updated on my health recently but I woke up to a dozen messages and emails from friends asking how I'm doing: FABULOUS!!!!!
Although I'm still in pain here & there due to swelling in my hands, arm and pain in my shoulder, I'm learning to live with it and know it will eventually pass (I hope).
I have lymphedema (swelling) in my left arm and hand due to 4 lymph nodes being removed from the lumpectomy surgery. Doctors took them out to be sure the cancer didn't spread- it didn't. Thank God!
According to The Mayo Clinic: "Lymphedema refers to swelling that generally occurs in one of your arms or legs most commonly caused by the removal of or damage to your lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and the fluid buildup leads to swelling."
I'm going to see a lymphedema specialist on March 30.
On my right side I haven't been able to lift my arm all the way and look like a drunken sailor when I'm trying to get dressed. Doc says I could have a torn rotator cuff in my shoulder and put me on anti-inflammatory medication.
I'll have to get an x-ray and possibly surgery if it doesn't get better but I'm hoping and praying that with physical therapy and a consultation with a homeopathic doctor on diet changes that everything will get better. Lymphedema affects the immune and circulatory system so if I'm on a special diet it should help.
We had an AWESOME fundraiser/cancer-free party a couple of weeks ago and I'm not sure of the exact number as Ann's Place has not yet given me a final figure but I believe it is around $1,500. Thank you to everyone who came out to support me and Ann's Place who sent in your checks. Thanks also to all the businesses who donated amazing prizes and to the bands who donated their time. It was a fun night full of life & love!
With your generosity you will help cancer patients and their families receive free services at a wonderful healing center.
I probably won't be updating on here anymore so if you want to find me search Wendy Leahy Mitchell on Facebook. And if you're not on Facebook feel free to emailme: wendyannmitchell at live dot com
#MyLeftBoob is winning the battle and on the road to recovery!
"Life happens too fast for you ever to think about it. If you could just persuade people of this, but they insist on amassing information." ~Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
On Feb. 2, 2016 I had my fourth and final surgery- this time to get the chemo port removed. This last surgery came almost one year since when I had the first surgery to remove the tumor on Feb. 17, 2015. I have some stitches there, still in pain from the incision and have a nasty scar but I consider it one of my many war wounds, along with 2 lumpectomy scars and 3 tattoos for radiation. It wasn't as "easy peasy" as the nurse at my primary care doctor's office made it sound- no, it knocked me on my butt for a good 3 days with nausea, dizziness, pain and tiredness. But it's over now, thank God and my doctors for that!
For the last year you all have supported me, sent emails, prayers, Facebook messages, texts, gifts, donations and TONS of love and for that I am so grateful! Thank you!
Now it's time to focus on my "new normal" as I learn to adjust to life after cancer. This includes a large amount of follow-up due to the rarity of Metaplastic Carcinoma but I know I'm in extremely good hands. For the next year I'll be seen every 3 months by one of my doctors- radiologist, oncologist, surgeon and my primary care doctor. After I'm at the 2 year mark, it goes to every 6 months and once I reach the magic 5 year mark I'm home free!
I won't bore you with the ongoing after-effects of chemo and radiation, two intense treatments that wreak havoc on a person's body, especially a woman's, as it not only causes joint pain, neuropathy and fatigue, but also brings on "the change" a few years earlier than I would've expected. <--- things they forget to tell you.
I hope to get back to the gym soon now that I'm done with all of my surgeries but can't do any intense movement because of the stitches so I need to take it easy the next couple of weeks....which gives me plenty of time to plan for.......
My one year cancer-free benefit party!
Friday, Feb. 26 from 6 - 10 p.m.
Michael's at the Grove
42 Vail Rd., Bethel, CT
Benefit for Ann's Place for Cancer
Live music! Dinner ! Dancing! Prizes!
I'm excited to play a Bowie tribute set at the party to honor to the man and legend who challenged us young goth chicks and dudes to just be ourselves during those angsty late 80s teen years.
Although treatment is complete, my mission to spread the word about early detection to save lives is just getting warmed up. Check out #MyLeftBoob on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to follow all the ways Wendy's Warriors are working to raise awareness for self breast exams to save lives for women AND men. Squeeze your boobs!
Thank you again to each and every one of you for supporting me over the last year. I pray that you are blessed one hundred times over for all the goodness and generosity you've shown to me!
Peace, love and #MyLeftBoob,
Wendy, another honest, enlightened look at this journey with the big "C" - Metaplastic. You are so gifted and to share your struggle - the good, bad and ugly - is a blessing to all of us. You have been a beacon of hope as I support my sister on this journey. Continued prayers and blessings to you and your family.
Dear Wendy, today I lit a special candle four you . I don't know what the english name is but here we call it an " Noveen" candle. The candle is dedicated specially for you and will burn for nine days in a row. By lighting this candle we will send you all the support,love and strength you will need to help you in this process of fighting your battle. Love and respect from the Netherlands . Patrica & Ivo x
Congratulations Wendy!! Does anyone know what treatment Wendy used to beat her Metaplastic Tripple Negative Breast cancer? My mother has been diagnosed with the very same cancer, and doctors have given up on chemotherapy and wont perform surgery because she underwent Palliative Radiation. If anyone can provide any help or information please contact me! Thank you.
Thanks so much David!
Thanks for your prayers Deborah. The best website I have found so far is the Triple Negative Foundation. http://tnbcfoundation.org/ You can also follow my blog www.wendipoprock.wordpress.com where I am chronicling my journey from start to finish with humor and positivity. Tell your sister NOT to Google. She will find scary stuff out there and she needs to stay focused and positive. I hope she is getting the best care and I wish her and your family all the best.