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

 

 

 

 

 

Moving on…….

After a rough January, I was happy in the past couple of weeks to start feeling much better, even great. Two years and nine months ago, I received the initial diagnosis of this cancer. Out of no where. I felt great and healthy when I went into the doctors for that first mammogram and felt great when I was told that I had Stage IV, end stage, incurable breast cancer. This past Wednesday morning I went into Dana Farber feeling great for my routine scans. I was eerily calm and the whole morning moved along quickly, everything on time and without a hitch. Except for my minor freak out in the bone scan machine.

As I sat waiting for the doctor to come into the room to review my results I felt calm. Confident that my scans would show that I am still stable, the same as my last scans at the end of October. It’s funny b/c as soon as the oncologist comes in the room, you can tell immediately what is about to be said.

Well for me, the time has come to move on from my first treatment regimen as it has been found that my cancer has now spread to my liver. This news devastates me. I am not quite sure why this is happening to me. Why I am allowed to feel great while deep within my body there is constant havoc. I am nervous that now instead of having disease that has only spread to my bones, I now have disease that has spread to my bones and my liver. I feel sucker punched.  I feel defeated. I am angry with myself that I allowed this cancer diagnosis to become “normal” in my life. That I felt that I could stay on that initial treatment forever. I am not sure why this is happening to me but I ask myself all the time what I could have possible done to be punished this way. Why my family is being punished. Why my kids will never know a time when there mom did not have this disease and was not sick.

I was offered to become part of a study at DFCI as my next treatment plan. There are three “arms” to this study and a computer selects at random which arm I am chosen for. All three arms are good options for me but there is one that we are really hopeful that I am chosen for. So please if you are reading this, you must know/care for me and my family, please say a prayer or make a wish that we are selected for this choice. I will know within the next week and report to DFCI on February 27th to start the next chapter of this disease.

To say I am scared is an understatement. I am scared, sad, angry and right now feeling really sorry for myself. To get used the side effects of the medication I have been on for the past few years was a lot and I am nervous to see how these new meds will make me feel.

I was  unsure if I wanted to share this news and to be honest have not been quite ready for the past few days. For the past few days, except for doing things that I had to do, or tried to do to make life normal for the kids, I feel like I am falling deeper and deeper into a dark hole of my own emotions. I decided this morning, after I have been sitting on the couch for hours, that I wanted to write this post, share my feelings and release them. I am going to try my hardest to work myself out of this not so great place and try to accept this thing that I really cannot change.

 

 

 

 

2019; Go F**k Yourself

I started to write a blog post on NY Eve that was titled 2019: Bring it On. Well I was pretty sick on NY Eve and never finished the post. As you can see, the title of the post has since changed and the year is off to a rough start. I have been plagued with a cold for about 8 weeks now that my weakened body cannot seem to fight off and then last week was hit with the flu. After two rounds of antibiotics, I am starting to finally feel better, not 100% but definitely better.

I had my first appointment of the year at DFCI last week. Part of every appointment is discussion on how I am feeling and anything new that may have come up. When you have stage 4 cancer every little thing could be something and needs to be mentioned. Well some pain in my back, and some other odd occurrences led me to have to have an MRI of my spine. See i have cancer spots on my spine and the smallest thing could mean something for me.

I reported yesterday morning to DFCI for a 6:30 MRI. I checked in, and called my kids to wish them a great day at school. For some reason this kills me and i have to do it at least once a month. There is something that breaks my heart when i have to call my kids from the waiting room of a cancer center as i wait for my appointments. Thankfully my nurse was able to get my IV in on the first try and they loaded my cancer riddled body into the “tunnel”. I have gotten pretty used to the CT and Bone Scan that i get every three months but i have not had an MRI since my initial diagnosis. At first i felt like i could not breathe. But i calmed myself down and they started the test. For 45 minutes, i laid in this tunnel, headphones on, with tears streaming down my face as this machine checked my spine. See when you are laying in this tunnel, unable to move and escape your own thoughts it gets real. Real in the way that all you can do is think. Think about the fact that you are starting your morning in this god damn machine checking your body because you have Cancer. Think about the fact that you have Cancer and wonder why. Why me? Think about how you really never feel great, how you are always in some sort of pain or discomfort. Think about how exhausted you are most of the time.

While i try to remain positive, keep this blog positive. Right now I want to be real. I know that most around me cannot handle it but this disease and life with this disease sucks. I get it, i am in a better position than most with this Stage 4 Cancer that has consumed my life, body and mind but it sucks and right now i feel defeated. Here’s to hoping that 2019 turns itself around quickly and hopefully after a rough start this year gets much better.

XO

 

Blessings….sometimes in disguise.

I wanted to just take a moment to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. Many people take a holiday like the one tomorrow to look at what they are thankful for in the past year. I do this daily. This is one of the disguised “blessings” that this disease has given me.

I reflect on the opportunities that cancer has brought me; the chance to give back through our fundraising, the chance to potentially help others through this blog, the chance to receive a writing credit in a to be published book.  Most importantly a chance to see how truly good people can be. For that I am forever thankful. I can only hope that in this horrible world that often times focuses solely on the bad, that more people can see and really feel the good as I have. Obviously I hope that this happens for others through better circumstances.

I am thankful for another year. One that was a bit trying at times but one that we have gotten through, a little but stronger. May you all have a blessed day with the ones that you love.

 

Happy Thanksgiving. XO