Chemo and the Corona Virus

I started my new Chemo regimen on February 19th. Accompanied by my friend Lauren, we started our day at DFCI around 11 and did not leave until close to 7 pm. Very long day. I started a new trial consisting of a non-approved drug called Tesataxol. This is a pill form of a common IV chemo Taxol which is said to have less harsh side effects. I also take Xeloda which is also chemo in pill form that can be taken at home for two weeks on and then you get a break for one week. As is standard in trials, you are started off on the maximum dosage. This dosage proved to be way too toxic for me as two days into the meds, i was so so sick. Nauseous, vomiting, couldn’t eat, slight fevers, sleeping constantly and basically stayed in bed or on the couch for five days. I continued the meds in hopes that the side effects would subside. They did not and the doctors had me stop the meds only 5 days in. I started to feel better but was neutropenic- meaning that I had a very low white blood cell count. This was the first time in all of my treatments that I felt this sick. I started round two of these meds yesterday at a reduced dosage in hopes that the the meds will be kinder to me and my body can tolerate it more. I hope and pray that i can tolerate this better because, I really need a win here with this disease. I have been on four different treatment regimens and my life literally depends on finding something that will work.

For some reason, i had a very tough day at DFCI yesterday in regards to my emotions. It could be b/c every time i do in to the doctors there is always a new issue. One week its low white blood cells and this week it was heightened liver enzymes. It could have been because it was my favorite nurse practioner is leaving the practice and yesterday was my last visit with her. It could be because these weekly visits are becoming exhausting for me. It could be b/c my hair is falling out in large clumps even though I was told that i would not lose my hair (we are hopeful this is temporary). I could be all of the talk about the Corona virus is triggering me in some ways.

Trust me I understand more than most the severity of this situation with this virus. I am in the category of people who this virus is most dangerous for- those with compromised immune systems. I also know that for the past four years my family and I have had to make new habits b/c of my disease- always sanitizing and hand washing. Thankfully b/c of this I have a stockpile of hand soap and sanitizer! I get that this virus is new and there are so many unknowns and very limited resources in regards to it but i wish that Cancer and Metastatic Breast Cancer got awareness and attention like this and it really ticks me off.

While we have been going through probably the toughest time this past month or so with me being so sick, the outpouring of support has been tremendous. Our hearts and our fridge have remained full throughout and i cannot thank everyone enough. It means the world to me and my family and it makes me feel so amazing to feel so much love. It definitely helps me on the days that i feel my lowest and gives me the push i need to keep moving forward.

Tough day yesterday.
Just a little hair loss.

It Is What It Is

I find myself saying this a lot lately “It is what is is”. I also heard another cancer fighter say the same thing today and it pissed me off. This is where we are in this life with terminal cancer. Honestly, it is the truth. It is what it is and we have very little control over it. I am a prisoner to this cancer. In my cancer riddled body. Cancer has stolen so much from me. My freedom in some ways, my future in many ways, my hopes and dreams. I have become my cancer. Many of the things I do are based on and off of my disease and I am very over it. As you all know we learned my cancer had spread in November and I entered a new trial in December. The month of December was so tough for me. Many side effects and lots of pain from the new treatment. I got through it and through a dose reduction started to feel “fine” on the new meds for the month of January.

I was scanned on January 30th and found out this week that the past trial did not work. At all. My current liver spots grew and two more have popped up. There are also suspicious spots now in my lungs that will be watched. 2019 was such a hard year for me with this disease and I was really hoping that 2020 was going to be easier for me. This will not be my reality. I am now switching over to chemotherapy in a couple of weeks. We will attempt to hit the cancer with a “double whammy” and be very aggressive to try to get this under control. I will enter into a new trial that involves two chemotherapy pills. One that is not FDA approved yet and has to be administered at the hospital and one that i will take at home. They come with there own new side effects and lots of additional doctor’s appointments.

I am terrified. I am sad. I think everyday what I could have done to deserve this. I am struggling to remain positive and have hope. I do know that having your health is something that should never be taken for granted.

Christmas Wishes

Starting off with the positive; we had an amazing trip to Aruba. It was the perfect trip and I felt better than I have in a really long time. We were able to make some amazing memories and are hopeful that we will make it back to island very soon.

Upon our return from the trip, I reported to Brigham and Women’s on December 4th for my liver biopsy. I was prepped and ready to be wheeled into the procedure room when my medical team called to let me know that my liver enzymes were too high to have the procedure done that day and that I needed to go home. My oncologist called me later in the day to discuss and we reviewed that the cancerous spots in my spine are larger than they were before, there are new cancerous spots on my ribs and as we knew there was a new spot on my liver. Basically, my “slow growing” cancer became more aggressive in the past few months. We decided to try to give my liver a few more days in hopes that the enzymes would normalize. I went back in on Monday and they were still to high.  I then went back in again on Wednesday and my enzymes- while still higher than normal, were within the parameters needed for the biopsy and the trial.

I was to have what should have been a routine liver biopsy- normally a 45 minute procedure. Due to different complications during the procedure, I was on the procedure table for 2 1/2 hours. The sedation and anesthetic provided to me during the procedure did not work resulting in me being aware of and feeling everything during the procedure. Very painful and traumatic. Also, proving me right as I had told the Dr in the beginning that if there are “possible” complications they usually happen to me.

I started the new treatment Wednesday evening. The new treatment includes shot every other week and six pills a day. This treatment so far has brought on some very intense and unpleasant side effects. I am hoping that I can get a handle on these side effects as I am not really sure how much more I can take of all of this.

This bringing me to my wishes for this Christmas:

I wish that 2020 brings me better health than this past year did.

I wish that this treatment works so that this will not be my last Christmas.

I wish that I did not have to worry or think about every holiday or vacation being my last.

I wish that my husband and kids did not have to deal with this.

I wish that I was strong enough to show people how I really am feeling rather than always putting on a brave face and pretending I am ok.

I wish that everyone who has showed us an overwhelming amount of support, knows how very thankful we are.

I wish all my fellow cancer fighters finds some sort of peace this holiday season.

I wish for more treatments and medications so that the list of options for me and others like me continues to grow.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. Hoping everyone is filled with love and peace this holiday season. I wish Happiness and Health to all in the New Year.

XO

 

 

 

 

 

One Cell with a Suit of Armor

Is all it takes……one sneaky little cell. I have been on my current clinical trial since the end of February which involved a pill, shots and an immunotherapy infusion. Well the time has come for me to move on from this current treatment as we just discovered that there is a new cancerous spot on my liver that was not there before. My other tumors (bone and the original liver tumors) remain stable and reactive to this current treatment but one sneaky cell, with a suit of armor, as described by my brilliant oncologist managed to outsmart these meds and create this nuisance. I had a gut feeling that something was going on. My tumor markers have been rising and something inside prepared me for this news. I had done my own research on what my next options could be (something no cancer patient should ever do) and have spent the last week devastated about my options. I had prepared myself for one option that would make me very sick daily and then for another option where i would lose my hair. Both options terrified me and really pissed me off. SO when my oncologist came in and confidently had a plan that involved neither of my self researched treatments i felt relieved. I am so blessed to have the doctor that i do. She came in with confidence, options and reassurance that i would be OK. That this bump is not the end of my road. She is an amazing doctor with so much knowledge but she is also a kind person who takes into account what is important to me and my life.

So next i move on to another clinical trial. I will receive the same shots as i have been getting for the past nine months but a new drug- Verzenio- will be added to the mix. This is a new class of medication so we are hoping that this will kill/stop these cells from attacking my body. I have lots of appointments and testing in the next few weeks to prepare for this new trial but we will get started on December 4th. Here’s to hoping that this new trial will work wonders for me and that the new side effects will be manageable.

On top of all of the chaos that surrounds my cancer we lost our dear dog Buddy this past weekend. His death was not unexpected as he was almost thirteen years old and had been battling different medical issues for the past 6 year. We are taking it hard and our home is not the same without him. I remember the day that i was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, i had to be given a sedative at the hospital and came home to sleep off the pain of my diagnosis. Buddy laid next to me for 5 hours, never barking or asking to go out to the bathroom- which was abnormal for him. He just laid there next to me, silently giving me so much love. He was the best, my very first child, and a part of our family. We will miss him terribly.

Trevor, the kids and I are taking off in a week or so to celebrate Thanksgiving in Aruba. We booked this trip last Spring after I had started on the immunotherapy trial. It is just fitting that it is now coming up after we received this news and are starting on a new trial. My family and I have never needed a vacation like we do now. I am so excited to relax, slow down and reconnect with the ones that i love the most.

Cancer Land

I am writing this post today from my infusion chair at Dana Farber. I realize that I have not posted much often and the only excuse that i have is life…. life is very busy right now as i am sure many parents are feeling. School, activities, events etc. are keeping our family very busy. So here is a brief recap of all that has been going on in our life and in our cancer land!

The 2019 Jimmy Fund walk took place on September 22nd. It was a hot day this year but we all did so well and the day was very successful. Every year that we sign up i wonder if people are sick of doing the walk, sick of the fundraising etc. and every year I am in awe of the people that support and come all the way into the city to walk and show support. We have raised over $23,000 this year and the donations are still coming in! Our total for the past four years is over $120,000 donated to Metastatic Breast Cancer research – we should all be very proud! Our team continues to grow and the love that is shown and felt is immeasurable. The song I used for this years slideshow was introduced to me by my friend Paul after he lost his mom to breast cancer. The title is “Fight on Fighter”. Perfect for me and all my fellow cancer fighters!!

A local company (out of Braintree) recently was looking for breast cancer patients to partner with them on a campaign that they were working on. I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of those patients! I recently met with the team at Oofos to hear what their mission was and why breast cancer research is so important to them. Oofos is a footwear company that “creates an incredibly comfortable shoe” geared towards runners and athletes for their recovery. I have several pairs of these shoes and they honestly feel like you are walking on clouds! One of their first employees was a woman named Duncan. Duncan was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer and was treated here at DFCI. Through her hard work, she and the team at Oofos created “Project Pink” where a portion of the sales of each shoe is donated to Breast Cancer Research!! Since April 2019 (6 months) , Oofos has donated $250,000 to breast cancer research. I truly enjoyed meeting everyone at Oofos a couple of weeks ago and sharing my story with them. I also enjoyed meeting the other patient partner, Sharon. It is amazing how nice it is to speak with other patients who just truly understand what you are going through. Check out their shoes at www.oofos.com

The month of October is always a little tough since it is breast cancer awareness month and this horrid disease is everywhere you turn. While tough, i am so thankful for the support i have seen not only this month but always. I feel that those close to me are feeling the need for more research towards a cure and how important it is to raise the funds for this research. Quinn’s cheerleading community hosted a “Pink it up Game” this past weekend complete with vendors, raffles and an amazingly yummy bake sale. A portion of the proceeds from this event are being donated to our Jimmy Fund Walk team! To see the cheerleaders wearing pink shirts with Cabral’s Crusaders on it was very heartwarming. I am so thankful to everyone that took part in, organized and ran the event. To know that my family is surrounded by so much support is amazing.

Behind the scenes, I am dealing with some things with my cancer. My tumor markers are rising and have been for the past few months. Could mean nothing, most likely means that this current line of treatment is no longer working for me. I will be scanned next week to determine what is going on and what the next steps are. So please say an extra prayer for good scan results.

Where I Live

It has been about four months since my last blog. I think about blog posts often and what i would like to share with whomever is reading this but have found this summer that my desire to share these things was just not there. We had a wonderful summer this year and made many, many memories as a family. I am very thankful for all these moments together- even the ones where the kids drove me crazy (please god let this be a phase!)

I currently live in a space where I am constantly tired. Tired, literally, as fatigue is one the main side effects of my treatment. It is an exhaustion that is so hard to describe and I feel myself slowing down a bit. Tired as well of it ALL. I am tired of being a patient. Tired of the treatments and tired of having to try to remain positive.

I live in a space where I met a woman yesterday in the waiting room who has been in treatment for 11 years. I completely understand that this is amazing but I honestly cannot fathom the idea of being in treatment all of the time for that long. Sometimes I wish that someone could tell me how much time i have left with this disease. At least I would be able to gauge how to spend the rest of the time. Do what means the most to me in the time I have left instead of pretending that i have a whole lifetime ahead of me.

I live in a space where I know that the treatment I am currently on is relatively “easy” and the treatments only get harder from here. I haven’t felt like myself or “normal” since 2016 and I am terrified of what is to come. I am part of groups online and on FB that is made up of so many woman in the same situation as me. There is not a day that goes by where there is not a post announcing the death of one of these women. It is terrifying.

As I have said before in past posts, the start of the school years feels like a refresh/reset button. We are starting new. The kids are off to 3rd grade and Kindergarten. Colin was only 2 when i was diagnosed and to watch him start Kindergarten this week was amazing to me. In the beginning of this journey I honestly never thought that I was going to be here to witness this moment and I thank God that I am. The kids are off and running and I am going to push reset on my outlook and attitude towards this whole situation that is my life.

How I feel during treatment
How I pretend to feel.
How I make myself feel better. DFCI Pizza in the car (best Pizza in Boston!)

The 2019 Jimmy Fund walk is two weeks away. To register or donate, please visit: http://danafarber.jimmyfund.org/goto/CabralsCrusaders

To Purchase the 2019 T-shirt, please visit: https://www.customink.com/g/xqy0-00by-yncd?pc=TXN-173480&utm_campaign=gof_org_open&utm_content=body_gof&utm_medium=email&utm_source=gof_org_txn

XO

30%

30% can mean so many different things. 30% off on something is a great sale! 30% increase in some things could be a big deal. In my case a 30% reduction is huge news!! We found out a couple of weeks ago, after my first CT scan on this new treatment, that I have had a “partial response” to my treatment and my tumors have had a 30% reduction in the two months since I started on this new treatment.

This is great news, I know. I am thankful and excited that this treatment is working. I feel so guilty when people are so excited and happy to hear this news. I feel guilty b/c while I am thankful we have found something that works these past few months have not been easy at all. I have not had one appointment go smoothly (with the exception of this past weeks appt.). I have been deemed “one of those patients” at DFCI b/c there is always something.

I have had appointments where my port has not worked at all. We had to wait hours for the TPA agent to work and unblock my port. I have gone in and had the port work in the lab only to go up for treatment and have it not work. I have had my white blood cell count be too low to continue on certain meds. I have had to walk around DFCI and briskly walk the stairs in the hallways with nurses and Sarah in order to try to get my white blood cell count up- this actually works believe it or not!! I have had allergic reactions. Bottom line- it has not been easy.

The scary part for me is after this setback and the progression to my liver, the reality of it all has really become more evident than ever. I am not invincible. The reason that I was told I had a “partial response” to my treatment is b/c I will NEVER have a total response to treatment. As a Stage 4 patient, since this cancer has decided to make a home in multiple spots in my body- I can never truly be rid of it. For the remainder of my life, the goal is to keep the cancer at bay, contained where it is and hope that it does not spread. I will need to be on treatment forever. Move from one treatment to the next in hope that one works for longer than the one before. In hopes to just get more time. Very scary and very sad for me. I am living in a way on borrowed time and the reality of that has been a little too much for me lately.

Thankfully, my appointment this week went well. My port tried to act up in the beginning but we got it to work! Treatment went well, I received acupuncture during my treatment and had a room with a view on the first sunny day in a really long time!! I am hoping that this means that things have turned a corner and it will start to get a bit easier.

Even while dealing with all of this, we are trying to focus on the bright points in our life. Quinn’s recent first communion, our 11th wedding anniversary, Colin’s upcoming pre-school graduation. All memories that I cherish and really am just thankful to be here for.

XO

Don’t forget to join us for our 2019 fundraiser on June 1st. A fun family night complete with a BBQ, Paw Sox game and fireworks!! Please buy your tickets ASAP so we can plan accordingly! aprilcabral.com/tickets

Living in the Now

 

A couple of weeks ago I attended a Metastatic Breast Cancer conference in Philadelphia. Thankfully, Sarah joined me. If she hadn’t I probably would have spent the entire weekend in my hotel room! The whole thing was overwhelming. The thought of spending the entire weekend talking about my cancer was a lot for me to grasp. After the initial shock of it all, the weekend became easier and really a great time. I met women who i have followed on FB or Instagram for years as they are somewhat “Superstars” in this cancer land that i live in. I met women who were recently diagnosed who thought it was amazing that I am entering my fourth year of treatment with this disease. I also met women who have been living with this disease for far longer than I have. To be in a room with over 400 women who nodded their head at the same things I did and who teared up at the same time I did, was amazing and very therapeutic.

One of my favorite moments at this conference was when a therapist/ social worker spoke. She mainly works with patients who are on hospice and are at the end of their battle. She spoke about how, as Stage 4 Cancer Patients, we must GRIEVE. Grieve the life we thought we would have. From grieving this and accepting that my life will not be 100% what I had hoped for because of this, then I can start living in the NOW. Live in the now and focus on what is right in front of me now.

Oddly enough when I went to my appointment yesterday, I had an agonizing day. My port did not work. Yes THE PORT. The one that I hate. The one that sticks out of my chest and reminds me constantly of my dire situation. The one that was supposed to make my life easier- freaking did not work!!! To be honest I am not surprised. I honestly feel like I am constantly being tested. Nothing goes easy or the way it is supposed to. After hours of waiting, having an IV put in my arm, and getting some magic medicine that “fixes” the port. We were on our way and i received my treatment. What i originally thought was going to be a 3 hour day turned into a 7 hour day. I spent a lot of the day in tears. My nurse yesterday told me that I cannot be worried about the things that I cannot control. I could not control that my port did not work. I could not control that it took so long to receive my treatment. Those that know me know that the hardest part of this disease for me is losing so much control of my own life. My control freak side is really struggling.

As I enter my fourth year of treatment and am really feeling like a full time cancer patient it is all becoming a little bit too much. The part that scares me the most is that while I am dealing with a lot right now, I could also be dealing with a lot more and I am not sure I am ready to see what could be in store for me. I will have scans next week to see if this line of treatment is working and for now we can only just hope, pray and wait to see.

On a happier note, I just took Colin to his Kindergarten screening. I had taken Quinn to hers two weeks before I was diagnosed in 2016. For some reason, I remember thinking and saying when i was diagnosed that i would probably not be alive to take Colin to his screening. For something so small, i was so unbelievably happy to have been there with him and just have to hope I can be there for much more.

Our 2019 fundraiser for the Cabral’s Crusaders will be a Paw Sox Family night complete with an all you can eat BBQ, Game, Events for the kids, and fireworks. Please join us as this will be a fun night with proceeds going to Metastatic Breast Cancer research at Dana Farber.

Please visit the link below to purchase your tickets.

https://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?orgid=53855&schedule=list&agency=PRSV_B2B52&fbclid=IwAR2NE0PPtepcU-pr0IY8FYsoceZ0S1Vk91jUyZ0TVPMH_9Owu5q781DG458

 

Enjoying a Philly Cheesesteak!

My Kindergartner

 

 

A Fragile Flower

Yesterday I received a port. Right in my chest. Something that will allow the meds to be given since i have week veins. For whatever reason I cannot get over this. It is breaking my heart and I think since the beginning, when i was first diagnosed, is making my cancer very “real” to me (if that makes any sense whatsoever since i have had cancer for three years).

I had a 6 AM arrival time at the Brigham. Trevor and I left our house at 4 am, valet’d the car and got started. After checking in we were brought to to the pre-operation room (I don’t think that is what is really called). I got undressed and the nurse attempted to put my IV in. Well guess what- she had a hard time (hence the need for the port). When i started to, or rather continued to cry, she told me that “I am what nurses call a “FRAGILE FLOWER”. Now I LOVE nurses, especially the ones that take care of me on a regular basis. Lauren, Roxanne, Meghan and Trish are all women that i adore and that take such great care of me. This nurse yesterday took good care of me as well but i definitely had to tell her that ” if she had gone through even half of what i have been through she would be a “fragile flower” too.

What she didn’t realize is that this fragile flower has been crying for days. This fragile flower feels like my life will never be the same. This fragile flower knows that this port placement will ultimately make my treatments easier but having this foreign thing in my body makes the cancer very present at all times.  She doesn’t know that i carry a million pounds on my shoulders every single day. She didn’t know that i have been dealing with a very painful allergic reaction to one of my meds for the past five days. She doesn’t realize that this fragile flower’s heart breaks every time her eight year old days the word cancer (something she has become aware of recently). This fragile flower worries 24/7, for my kids, Trevor, my family and for what the future has in store for all of us. I know whatever it may be, it is not going to be easy. So maybe this nurse was right. Right now, i am a “fragile flower”. But i think i damn well deserve to be.

“Strength is what we gain from the madness we survive.”

As you all know, we found out that my cancer has spread to my liver almost one month ago. As a result of this it was decided that I would enter into a study at Dana Farber. This particular study consists of three “arms”:

Arm 1: Consisting of a new drug called Faslodex. This is administered by two very painful shots in the butt.  (25% chance of obtaining this arm)

Arm 2: Faslodex and Ibrance combined. Ibrance is one of the meds that i have been on since the beginning. (50% chance of obtaining this arm)

Arm 3: Faslodex, Ibrance and an Immunotherapy drug.  This is administered via IV and is administered every two weeks. (25% chance of obtaining this arm)

From the first talks of this study, we had obviously hoped to receive arm #3 as this would be a “game changer” for me as quoted by my medical team!! It is all chosen at random so there is no way to know which you will be chosen for.

We reported to DFCI on February 27th as this was when i was due to start the study. My girl Roxanne had a hard time getting an IV in and me getting a port is now a topic of discussion. We moved to the 9th floor where we were told the my liver enzymes were heightened. To be in the study everything needs to be within certain limits. They gave me two bags of fluids and my liver enzyme was one point away from being where it needed to be. ONE POINT. To say we were frustrated, mad, upset is an understatement.  We were sent home and told to report back in a week to try again. I was so mad and upset on the way home. You question why you are being put through all of this. Why you are being tortured? What can you do differently in all aspects of life to have a better outcome? After being pissed for a couple of days, i realized that there really is not much that i can do and that maybe it just was not meant to be that day. Maybe, if i did get to move forward last week then i would not have gotten the arm that i wanted. Who knows, but whatever it was it was worth it.

I reported to DFCI yesterday and all of my enzymes and other tests were right in line to start the study. I was entered into the system and the computer selected me to be in ARM #3!! The immunotherapy arm!! Trevor, Sarah and I along with the doctors were so excited to find this news out!! As they had said this could potentially be a game changer for me. There are also many side effects that could potentially come along with it but we will deal with them if they come up. I started on the study yesterday! I received two Faslodex shots in my butt. These were very painful and the injection site is just as sore, if not worse today then it was yesterday. I also received my monthly Lupron shot (another shot in the bum). An IV of Benadryl, which is a protocol for the immunotherapy drug and then a one hour IV drip of the new med. It was a long day and i will continue to be on this study until the drugs no longer work. Hopefully in a very long time.

I feel like i have now graduated from a “part time” Cancer Patient to a “full time” patient. I used to only have to report to Boston once a month and now i will be going in every two weeks. This will be a big change for our family and something that we will all have to adapt to. We are thankful to have so many in our “village” that are standing by to help when we need it.

This Cancer journey is one giant roller coaster. We have gone from shocked, distraught, worried and angry to now very hopeful all in a course of a few weeks. Here is to hoping that the next leg of this roller coaster ride goes pretty smoothly for a good amount of time.

I thank you all for the prayers, well wishes, calls and texts. I am a firm believer that all of these things helped me to get into the arm of the study, which i so badly wanted,  at the time that I did.

 

When the Benadryl started kicking in!

Now feeling really “funny”

And I’m out (all photos taken within three minutes of each other!! HAHA