..these past couple of posts have been very personal to me. While, I promise in the future I will post many, many blogs about my business and my amazing clients – this post is going to be another personal one. For me, the two – my personal life and my business life – blend together in more ways than one.
For most people, 05. 05. 15 was just a Tuesday. For my mom and I, it was pretty sucky day. The Friday before she had a PET scan at Albany Medical Center to assess the progression of her disease. You never find anything out the day of the scan, which totally sucks. The waiting feels like the worst part – until you get to the results appointment. We got to her 9:15am appointment with her oncologist a little bit early yesterday. We both knew that he would be discussing the results. All the appointments were running late and he didn’t get into the exam room until about 10:15am. We just sat in the room waiting. It was torture. Her oncologist finally walks in with a medical student. He sits down and told us that we need to change the treatment regimen – the disease was progressing. My heart just sank. It felt like hours and hours were going by when really it was only a matter of seconds. He handed her the PET scan results. It looked like a different language to both of us. At this point, no one was saying anything. I asked what the next steps were going to be. Her oncologist suggested a couple of things – 1) we go back to a chemo drug, carboplatin, that seemed to have worked in the past, but was not considered a maintenance drug and/or 2) enter into a clinical trial at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. I am not sure I have really talked about what type of cancer my mom has, but here goes she has anal cancer. MD Anderson’s Colorectal Center treats more patients with anal cancer than most other cancer centers in the nation. If she was eligible for a clinical trial at MD Anderson she would need to stop all other chemotherapy medications. Her oncologist wanted to get in touch with the lead investigator at MD Anderson and find more information about the clinical trial and wait to give her any treatment. She was NOT alright with that. I just looked at him and told him that she needed to get some kind of treatment, period. We all decided that she would get the carboplatin that seemed to have worked in the past for a couple/few cycles and we would investigate the clinical trial at MD Anderson in the meantime.
This is the point in the appointment were she goes into the infusion center and I make the next appointments for her with the scheduler. I think I was in total shock. Everything seemed foggy. I made the appointments, thanked the scheduler, stood up, and walked out of the building to my car. I just looked at my phone and called my husband, Lucas, and one of my best friends, Meghan. I was explaining everything that had just happened to them, but it felt like everything as going in slow motion – like this isn’t really happening. It all seemed like one big, scary nightmare. I had such high hopes for this appointment to go well, to get some decent results back even if there was still some active disease. She has been feeling good, eating, gaining weight, being somewhat positive about the situation (ish), going on vacations with her boyfriend/friends – it really seemed like things were moving in the right direction. Most days, I have to bring myself back to 2014 because it was just such an awful year. She was so very sick. The medication they started her on when we found out about the cancer was 5FU and cisplatin and these two medication combined gave her terrible mouth sores, unbearable nausea, no appetite – the food she did eat didn’t taste like it used to so it was very unappealing to her, low blood counts, her fingers and toes were cracking and peeling, extreme fatigue, tingling of her hands and feet, and the least abrasive was hair loss. She was in and out of the hospital every time she got treatment – every 4-5 weeks – she would get out and a week later have to go right back after a treatment. I would know it was time to bring her to the hospital when she would tell me she didn’t know if she needed to go or not. Wellllll…yes you do. The saying is very true – you don’t know how strong you are, until strong is the only choice you have. I was/am her advocate, her voice when she couldn’t even talk or open her mouth, her sounding board when she just needed to cry because why is this happening to her/us, I have never been so strong in my entire life. I would drive to the hospital daily to see her, to bring her anything she needed, to help her shower, to make sure she had something to even just put in her mouth even if she couldn’t swallow it. I was on a first name basis with most of the nurses – god bless those nurses, god bless all nurses, seriously god bless them all – every. single. one. They filled in for me when I had to go home and put my kids to bed and see my husband for just a few minutes before it was time to go to bed. I could never thank them enough – never. I will forever be grateful to them.
The end of 2014 was when things started to turn around a little bit. She had a PET scan in the fall and it came back not good. The awful medication that was hurting her so badly wasn’t even killing the stupid cancer. In some ways, I was relieved. She wouldn’t be in pain anymore. Her oncologist suggested a totally different regimen – it is actually a regimen for ovarian cancer. He kept telling us that we were in uncharted territory, that she was uncharted territory. Her started her on taxol and carboplatin and it seemed to be working, the tumor was getting smaller, and the nodules in her lungs were going away if not gone. I was happy; however, apparently, carboplatin isn’t a maintenance drug so he took her off of that and just gave her the taxol for quite a few months. It wasn’t working. She is now back on just the carboplatin until we can get more information about the clinical trial at MD Anderson.
How has this changed me? How do I function everyday without losing it? I get asked a ton of questions all the time and it does help to talk about it most of the time. I have an amazing support system of family, my absolute friends, and my mom’s dear, dear friends who all come running when I need help or just need to talk. I am not going to lie, medication has helped along the way, but I really try and take one day at a time, one minute at a time if I need too. I tell her that everyday. We just need to take one day at a time and not focus on the bad, focus on the good. I look at my kids and my husband – they need me to be strong and functioning for them too. I have found if I surround myself with positivity – positive words, positive people, positive business – that it pushes me to live a positive life. I am sooooooooooooo very grateful for this time with my mom. I don’t think of a timeline, we don’t know statistics, I don’t Google them, I just take one day at a time with her and tell her EVERY SINGLE DAY that I love her and how much she means to me. While she has always wanted me to keep all of this hush, hush – she is a very private person – it is very therapeutic for me to blog about it and essentially let it all out. I asked, she agreed and allowed me to write about her/our journey. For now, I enjoy the little things, I really and try to be gentle with myself, I keep going no matter what, I love more and worry less, I do more of what makes me happy, I let it be, and I cherish every dang second with the people I love. I am writing this blog because I want people to know that are going through a similar journey that strength doesn’t come from what you do, it comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t…you are always, always stronger than you think! <3