It is very hard to sum up the last two years of my life in one article, but Amy from West Michigan Woman did an amazing job of pulling all of the major details together. I owe a big thank you to Kasie Bomer-Smith and the rest of the WMW team for for sharing my story and for sharing the Forgotten Fighters Mission and I owe a big thank you to all of my hair and makeup stylists for making me look and feel a little bit like my pre-cancer self for the day. Now if I could just get them to make me up like this every morning…
You can read the article here: http://www.mydigipub.com/publication/frame.php…
#WestMichiganWoman #mypersonalpinktime #ForgottenFighters
15 months ago now I was initiated into a very elite group that I have never aspired to be a member of, but I proudly join all cancer survivors on this National Cancer Survivor’s Day, by honoring those who have lost their battle, by encouraging those who are still fighting, and by celebrating those who are wining their battles with the awful “C”.
I was honored to have Spectrum Health Beat write a story on my journey with breast cancer and the oncologist who has guided me through this cancer jungle.
So today marks the one year anniversary of the day I started my chemotherapy treatments at Lemmon Holton cancer pavilion and I find it ironic and yet very very meant to be that one year later I am again spending my day here at Lemmon Holton. As I walked …. ok hobbled the floors, to different appointments, my mind was flooded with memories of that first, very long scary day.
The tearful hug I got from my amazing biopsy nurse and friend before I entered the infusion center, to the first nurses Jeanne and Mindy who put my mind at ease and made me smile and laugh through the fear of what was to come as they accessed my port for the first time and started the line that would deliver my first dose of the magic medicine that made me so sick yet also saved my life. I am reminded that on this scary day I was surrounded by the love and support of my husband Jordan and my dear friend Sarah and the virtual support of all of you and I am also reminded that one year ago today I met my now very, very dear friend, Liz.
There are a lot of posts rattling around in my mind right now because every day seems to be the one year anniversary of something scary from the beginning stages of my cancer journey, but I had to finally put this post into words tonight because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I have always cared about my appearance and I have always liked to look or dress nice, but I didn’t realize what a difference it made until I was about 18. Right about the time I graduated from high school, I started to realize that people treated me differently when I was dressed down, in comparison to when I was dressed up. So beyond the hours that I spent working at a local daycare, I almost exclusively dressed like a business professional at the age of 17-18. To the point that most people that met me actually thought I was, or at least thought that I was older and more mature. I kept this up all the way through college and even early on into my career. Actually I think I kept it up until I turned 30, and it hit me that it was now better to try to look younger and more hip. However, I still have a love for business attire and I have never forgotten the difference in how people treated me when I was dressed like a professional rather then a student. I just didn’t realize that the entire notion would come back into play for me again later in life…. Just in a very different way.
I met with my amazingly sweet surgical oncologist today. It seems like forever since I have seen her, but she and my chemo nurse greeted me with a big smile, a hug, and told me I look incredible which made me feel good. I am still very anxiously waiting on the results from my blood work, but I’m happy to report my appointment went well. I do have some residual painand loss of mobility in my arms due to the double mastectomy, so she sending me to the Spectrum Health Star Oncology Rehabilitation Program for physical therapy and she is also putting me into a acupuncture trial that treats the awful side effects to the hormone therapy I am on. But otherwise things are looking pretty good and I am still on track for 3 of my surgeries on December 15th. Fingers crossed my labs come back good and my breast cancer marker has went down…
Photo was taken the day Dr. Melnik told me I needed Chemo and radiation.
Sometimes the post chemo look makes the best Halloween Costumes.
#mypersonalpinktime #GIJANE #kickingcancersass
I started my day at Lemmon Holton at 7:15 with a somewhat tearful, very long, tight, and powerful embrace from my biopsy nurse Jan who I now refer to as my sister-like forever-friend. Through her connections I also got to meet with my very first nurse Susan and blessed to have had the opportunity to have a very special conversation with her as she was my diagnosis day one nurse and there with me when I was hit with the news. I also met one other breast care nurse I hadn’t met before who is follow my page and had great things to say before heading up to the 5th floor infusion center. This was exactly what I needed in more ways then I can count.
After my diagnosis things happened so fast and I had so much information thrown at me. I had put my game face on early on in the process and I was able to calmly sit through most appointments with my ears open and my pen ready. I did my best to take it all in and make sense of things but at some point your mind just goes on numb and the words begin to spin around your head. You can hear them, but they no longer make sense. I was OK with not knowing everything in the beginning and I had even made a promise to myself that I would not start researching what was happening to me for fear that the sad stores would bring me down. However, now that I have had some time to let things sink in and I am half way into treatment, I have had a lot of questions as to what my diagnosis really means and what it is that I should be doing so I scheduled an appointment with my nurse practitioner to go over a few side effects I was having and of course to set my mind at ease.
Today was in a sense “D” day with my amazing Surgical Oncologist Dr. Marianne Melnik who performed my bilateral mastectomy just over 3 weeks ago (My first surgery). Before walking into the exam room I was greeted by hugs from both Dr. Melnik and her amazingly sweet and helpful nurse practitioner, Kim. With a camera in tow I began to explain that I had a photographer documenting my journey in photos and that I really wanted something bigger and more positive to come from all of the negative that seemed to be surrounding me. Although Sam was not able to be with us today, Jordan acted as a stand-in to capture the raw moments. Watching both of their faces light up as I talked of my plans filled my heart with warmth and joy and oddly distracted me from our meeting intentions.
I’ll be honest, over the past few weeks I have been preparing myself to hear that I would only require 5 years of hormone therapy and at the most 5 weeks of radiation treatment, however the Onco-type testing results from tissues taken at the time of surgery came back with higher levels then expected which means that my treatment course now requires Chemo, radiation, and hormone therapy. As Dr. Melnik gave me the news my heart sank and my body and mind instantly went numb. In a weird way having cancer without the need for Chemo almost felt like not exactly having cancer, or at least having a lesser form. Now that Chemo is in my future this cancer and this diagnosis seems so much more real and in a way it feels like I am now having to tell everyone the bad news for the very first time all over again.
I will admit hearing the words Chemo hit me like a ton of bricks, yet I still haven’t broken down and cried. I’m not sure why that is really but I think keeping my game face on gives me the strength I need to get through this. I know going forward that the loss of my hair will be my hardest day. Right now I have the ability to put on a strong face and hide behind my healthy looking exterior however I am facing the reality that Chemo will without a doubt strip my healthy exterior and bring me down to my most vulnerable of forms. Not being able to hide what is happening to me is my greatest fear, but I’m doing all that I can to embrace the good in all this and stay as positive as possible. Even though each day seems to bring a little more negative news my way, I am also reminded of all of the wonderful people and more importantly I am reminded of the amazing doctors I have fighting in my corner. I’m so happy to have the medical team that I have surrounding me right now and just as grateful for all of the wonderful people that have come into or even come back into my life since this journey started.
In talking with Dr. Melnik and a Chemo specialist I was comforted in the fact that cancer treatment in general has come a long way in recent years. There is no doubt that this year is not going to be a fun one for me, however I am being told that the side effects have greatly lessened, and I will not only be able to function, but that I will also be able to work throughout my entire treatment course which was huge for me.
I’m not sure how, but even in the moments the news was delivered Jordan was able to spring into action and capture the rawness of today’s meeting in Sam’s place. Perhaps it was the perfect distraction for him or and he saw how special it was that I was at least among the kindest of medical professionals when given the news or maybe he himself found it comforting to hide behind the camera. Either way I am so thankful he got the shots he did
Going forward I will admit I have fears but I am also VERY confident that my specialist’s extensive knowledge paired with the care I see in their eyes and the hope i feel in their hearts is going to give me my life back. I am sure that Spectrum Health has a ton of exceptional Oncology Physicians on staff but I can openly say that I hold Dr. Marianne Melnik, at the very top of my list.