My life was turned upside down in September of 2017 with a diagnosis of Stage 2B Triple Negative Breast Cancer. And since then I have undergone 16 rounds of chemo, the birth of my twin boys and I'm currently undergoing 30 rounds of radiation. To say it's been a roller coaster is an understatement. But my faith, family and friends have gotten me through the toughest moments of my life. I don't know what lies ahead but it's organizations like Stand Up to Cancer that give me hope. Having Triple Negative Breast Cancer is not in my favor. Not only is it the most aggressive but there are far fewer drug options. With more research, I hope one day that will not be the case. And it would be even better to have a cure!
I wanted to share with you my first journal entry on my blog written on September 26th. It tells my story the best from the beginning of it all...
There are things in life you can't imagine yourself ever doing and this would be one of them. Not to say that I thought I was invincible, but I have a healthy family history, I take care of myself and if you saw my chart, you'd say the same thing two nurses said to me in the last week..."Wow, you're easy. There's nothing we have to go over." On paper, I look like a very healthy female who has only had fertility issues. That chart has changed dramatically now and I'll forever be impacted by the results of this last week.
I, like many other women, have been on a fertility journey for almost six years now. Our miracle, Isaiah, was born August 12, 2015 through IVF and has been our pride and joy ever since. Over the last year we have gone through three more IVF transfers, the last being on August 30th. Since this was our "last chance" transfer because it was our last two embryos left (frozen together and the worst quality out of the lot), we decided to try a new protocol leading up to the transfer that was a more natural one. Normally, you take birth control pills, you're utilizing more hormones, etc. but this time around I had a natural cycle and we followed my body instead. I am normally lumpy during my cycles so I didn't think much of it when I thought part of my left breast had a good knot in it. It wasn't until the night before my transfer that it was brought to my attention again. I can't exactly tell you how but I think Isaiah must've bumped into me and I felt the same knot I had felt before and it was a pretty good size. I called the doctor that night but they had already left for the day. I called again in the morning to let them know I found this lump in my left breast and when they called me back, they let me know to come in for my scheduled transfer at noon and we would discuss. My embryos had already been thawed at that point and were ready for my procedure. Sergio and I went in concerned, but at the same time, knew I had no family history of breast cancer, I'm 35 and what are the chances??! So we sat with our wonderful fertility doctor and talked through the scenarios. One of our biggest concerns was if you decide not to transfer and re-freeze the embryos, there's a high chance that when you go to thaw those embryos again they will not survive. We also knew that there have been cases of breast cancer in pregnancy and you can receive treatment. A great example is one of the doctors in the fertility practice was diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy and now has a healthy 20 something year old and she's living a healthy life. We knew what we wanted to do and after sitting on that information for a bit, we put it all in God's hands and decided to go through with the transfer. Honestly, though, in the back of our minds we didn't think it was going to be breast cancer.
That day I called and made an appointment with my OB for a breast lump exam. I went in on September 5th. I was then referred for an ultrasound of the breast and I had my ultrasound the next day on the 6th. The radiologist confirmed that he was not happy with what he saw and they also found a lymph node in my armpit he was concerned about. So I was then scheduled on the 14th for a biopsy. September 12th, I went in for my pregnancy blood test and got the amazing news that we were pregnant! It worked!!! But don't get too excited yet because I always seem to get pregnant with the transfers. It's just a matter of keeping the baby after that. Then fast forward a couple more days to September 14th. I went in, met with the surgical oncologist and things started to get real. He expressed his concern and that he wasn't expecting a great outcome. I rolled with the punches, went through the consult, then went in for my ultrasound led biopsy of the lump in my breast and one (yes, now there are maybe one or two more in question) lymph node in my armpit. The waiting game begins. Enjoy your weekend!
September 18th. A day I don't think I'll ever forget. Although, my sister might disagree because she thinks I forget everything...which for the most part is true lol. I knew they'd either call Monday EOD or Tuesday morning. So when 6:30 rolls around, I don't think I'm going to hear from them. No big deal. I'm enjoying my time with Isaiah and soaking up every moment I have with him. 6:42pm I get a phone call. Sergio's at the gym, Isaiah is in the stage of needing to all of a sudden have a discussion with me while I'm on the phone and I'm just trying to hear what the doctor is saying. "We got your results, and unfortunately, they did come back positive for breast cancer. Both of them." The rest of the conversation was a blur really and all I could take from that was it was Stage 2, we're going to put a great team together, you have a long and tough road ahead BUT you are going to make it through this. I was hanging on to those last words. I am going to make it through this.
September 21st was an overwhelming day. I met with a medical oncologist, a surgical oncologist and then a radiation oncologist. Then the next day, the 22nd, we traveled to Jacksonville, FL to MD Anderson Cancer Center and met with their team there. Let me just add in that I have the best friends any one could ask for. I have been blessed to have so many medical friends in our lives that have called with words of encouragement and information, etc. Lori and Julie, though, have been my rock stars. Lori is a surgical oncologist in Charlotte and Julie is a radiation oncologist at MD Anderson Jacksonville. Julie made it all happen, talking to her team and getting them to go out of their ways to meet with me. They were amazing and I will forever be grateful to everyone that day that made those meetings happen. I went home overwhelmed but so thankful to God for already showing His hand in this whole process by opening up all of these doors for me.
September 25th I went in for my 7 week scan early so that I could be sure that my pregnancy was viable and doing well since I was making all of these decisions based on me being pregnant. Side note: Normally, in my case, you would do chemo, surgery then radiation. But due to the fact I am so early in pregnancy and you can't do chemo until the 2nd trimester, I was going to have to do surgery, chemo then radiation. I was 6 weeks 3 days so there was a chance that it might be too early to hear a heartbeat. Sergio left on the 24th for a work trip so my mom went with me to the appointment. My doctor came in, we had our chat about how we couldn't believe this was all happening, etc but that whatever the outcome, we were going to make it through. She starts the scan and immediately I saw the two sacs. My mom asked what those were and I told her, "That's two sacs. Two babies!" I was just smiling from ear to ear. Everything that had just happened had vanished and I was just so happy to see those two little babies. Then came the heart beats. I got to hear both babies heart beat strong. One measured 6 weeks, 4 days and the other measured 6 weeks, 5 days. Both had a heartbeat of 117 bpm which is normal at this early a stage. I haven't heard that beautiful sound since I had Isaiah. It was heavenly music to my ears. This was exactly what I needed. A break in the clouds, the sun beaming through and a beautiful sound. The sound of my babies. It worked! God is so good!
I can't tell you why this is all happening. I don't know why I found that lump right before my transfer and had to make the tough decision to move forward. I don't know why no one has had breast cancer in my family (or really any cancer for that matter) but here I am at 35 with Triple Negative Stage 2B Breast Cancer. But I do know this. God has a plan for my life. It may not be what I would envision or what I would want and I may never understand why I have been given this path but I know for sure that His plans are far greater than I could ever dream. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11. I am putting my faith and trust in God. And He has already given me so much peace throughout this process.