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

 

 

Walking Together- One Foot in Front of the Other

One of the things that keeps me up at night and brings tears to my eyes every time i think about it (even now as I type this) is the thought of how Trevor and the kids will cope and handle things when this disease and my life takes a turn for the worst.  Well i have to say looking at the wonderful people that surround us, support us and show us unconditional love gives me some peace in this situation.

A couple of weeks ago we took to the streets of Boston and participated in the 30th Annual Jimmy Fund Walk. We had the largest team to date and one of my personal highlights are the Mini- Crusaders. I feel like we have the most kids on our team and to see my own children surrounded by their cousins and friends brings peace to my heart. We are so blessed to have so much love and support in all of you. I can never thank you enough.

I look at the photos in the slideshow and my Jimmy Fund sign along the course route and i see a smiling woman, who from the looks of it seems fine. Well, I have found that I am one hell of an actress!!! For two and a half years i have gotten up every day and put one foot in front of the other, most times with a smile on my face. And to be quite honest it is exhausting. I truly believe in the power of positivity and that what you give out you receive back so putting on a brave face and moving on is something i believe will help this battle be a little easier but it is really hard. It is hard to be in pain or feel awful most days and still go on. It is hard to wake up in the middle of the night in tears b/c you just need to let them out. It is hard to watch your husband struggle with what is going on with you. It is hard to live a life-month to month- based on a doctors appointment and what news they may give you.

For the past couple of months i have not been feeling my best. My side effects have been heightened and some new minor issues have come up. The past few weeks though i have been in a lot of pain. It could be nothing, it could be something. When you have Cancer you just never know. Pain in your body could mean progression in your cancer, it could mean you need a new bed! I had just had my most recent doctors appointment a couple of days ago and will get my next set of scans at the end of the month. This will be where we see what happens next. Best case, my pain is not cancer related and we continue on the same regimen I am on. Worst case, my cancer is progressing and we switch up my treatment to the next one.

Thankfully, through all of the research, which we raise funds for there are many treatment options for me if we have to move on. I am a creature of habit though and changing things up is very, very scary to me. But until we know, we move forward and hope for the best.

I hope you enjoy this years slideshow. We always enjoy being with everyone on walk day and everyday!! So much love to everyone who supported, donated and especially those that walked with us!!

 

 

 

 

2018 Jimmy Fund Walk

I haven’t posted for a while and there are many  reasons for that. The most important bring that I really focused this summer on spending quality time with Trevor and the kids and really tried to not focus on Cancer and all things that come along with it (the Walk etc.)

With that said, the 2018 Jimmy Fund Walk is only two weeks away and we are SO behind with all of our planning. We have decided on this years shirts and they can be purchased via the following link:

https://www.customink.com/g/xqy0-00bj-9pgy

Please note that the order will closed on September 12th so that we get them in time for the walk.

Thank you to everyone that has signed up for the walk and contributed thus far. To my family, it is more than a walk and your involvement means the world to us.

If you would like to join us on walk day or make a contribution, please visit:

http://jimmyfundwalk.org/goto/cabralscrusaders

With love,

April

Battle Wounds

Often times people refer to the scars on their bodies as their “battle wounds”.  I have a small scar on the back of my ankle from falling off of my bike as a teenager. This scar I laugh about because it is the reminder of my first attempt to run away as a kid. I fell off of my bike two houses down from mine and had to turn around! HAHA. I have a lovely C-Section scar that I am proud of because my two beautiful kids came from there! Now I have a two inch scar on my chest. A result of my recent lumpectomy. This scar, while I know it is small, bothers me. I hate to look at it, feel it. This is my first true “battle wound” from this fight with cancer. It is my first visual reminder of this really shitty battle.

I had my lumpectomy on May 22nd. I found it to be an easy procedure and recovery. Aside from some soreness at the incision site, I felt fine. I received a call a couple of days later letting me know that the tissue surrounding my tumor tested positive for cancer cells as well. It was suggested that we go back in and take out more tissue in an effort to achieve clean margins. I had several more appointments and it was decided, as my oncologist says “let’s finish what we started”. So that is what we are going to do! In a few days I will go back in and have more tissue removed and hope that this will get us the clear margins we are hoping for!! Again, we hope that this surgery and recovery are just as easy.

The past few weeks and this whole ordeal has been…..annoying to me. I say annoying b/c there really isn’t a better way to describe it. I have had a bunch of appointments, all in Boston, lately and so much talk surrounding this whole thing. For the past two years I have felt like I was living my life with Cancer as a small part of it. For the past couple of months, for the first time, I feel like I have CANCER in the forefront and just a little bit of my normal life. Throw in all of the end of the school year business, our efforts to keep home life as normal as possible, and work and I have found all of this, this Cancer to be disruptive and I am annoyed this crappy disease gets to disrupt my life.

I am really looking forward to putting this all behind me and moving forward with a really great summer.

As always, thank you all for the continued support. All of the flowers, edible arrangements, text messages and phone calls mean the world to me!

In the recovery room after my lumpectomy. Only smiling b/c they gave me some really great meds!

 

XO

 

 

Fun, Sun and a Tumor Removal

A lot can happen in a week! One week ago today, Trevor and I jetted off to the Bahamas for a few days to celebrate our anniversary. We booked this trip a while ago, long before we knew that I would need to have a lumpectomy. We thought about cancelling the trip but after confirmation from my oncologist and surgeon decided to go. Thank god we did!! We have been on many vacations since the kids were born but never any without the kids with the sole purpose of relaxing. Relaxing is just what we did!! We were the quintessential beach bums and loved every minute of it. This trip could not have come at a better time and to have the ability to clear our heads, relax and reconnect made the trip perfect!!

We returned home Sunday evening and bright and early Tuesday morning I reported for my lumpectomy. Alarmingly calm the morning of the surgery-even opting not to take the anxiety meds that I had been given. Getting to the hospital was easy and I even had the energy to confront a woman who cut the registration line!! HAHA- old habits die hard- even on surgery day!! All was fine until two nurses had a hard time getting my IV in. After three attempts, many bruises and an emotional breakdown from me, my IV was in and I was ready to go to the operating room. It was all a blur after that! I woke up a few hours later in the recovery room- very groggy and sore. Trevor and Sarah were brought in to meet me and they confirmed that the surgeon said all had gone well. Soon after we were on our way home! All before noon!

I am surprised at how good I feel. Aside from being very sore at the incision site, I feel good and am even starting to get bored being at home all day!! I will have to wait a week to see what comes back with the pathology reports and have to take it easy for the next couple of weeks- which honestly may be the hardest part for me. Thank you for all of the well wishes!

 

XO

 

 

Peace, Love and Gratitude

When Trevor and I got married 10 years ago (more on that in a minute), someone told me to take a step back at our wedding and take a moment to look around at all of the people who came out to share our day and love with us.  I have spread this advice to several of my friends over the years as they themselves got married. The other night at our 2nd Annual Fundraiser, I took a moment to do just that; step back for a minute, look around the room at the wonderful people who surround and support us and reflect on everyone who donated – their time, raffle items and money. Thinking of the support that surrounds my family and I, gives me peace. Peace in knowing that when times get tough or tougher, we will have many to lean on and the memories that we share will carry on with all of you.

This years fundraiser was a little tough for me. My heart really wasn’t into it. To be quite honest, I am sick of having, talking about and raising money for cancer. It is all consuming. It takes up my everyday. Sometimes I think that if I stop talking about it, it will go away. Then all of you come in to play. So many people reached out, early on in the year, to see what the date of the event would be so you could mark it in your calendars. So many people came to me with ideas and raffle items. So many people reached out to see how they could help. Like I have said before you are all the force behind our strength in this battle and for that I can never express my gratitude. You remind me that all that WE are doing is worth it and is important. You all made this event what it was and it was AMAZING!

I want to say a special thank you to the following people:

Metacomet Country Club: for allowing us back this year, for taking amazing care of us and providing us with great service and food.

Laura Anderson: Laura organized and ran the beer and wine tasting. When I could not get any wine vendor to help us out or even return my calls, Laura stepped in and made it happen!!!

Zach Kahn: Zach thank you for being the best DJ and friend. You were amazing and kept us all dancing all night long. A big thanks also for putting up with your crazy requests!!

Lauren Brady: Lauren thank you for all of the brainstorming sessions and chats we have leading up the event and for all of your help the day of getting everything set up. You are the best friend, sister and therapist a girl could ask for.

Nicolle, Michelle, Carolina, Beth & Sarah: You ladies are the best friends a girl could ever have. You take care of business during the event and I am thankful that I have you all to lean on; with fundraising and in life.

There are so many more, but to name you all would be impossible. We raised close to $15,000 this year and after paying all of the expenses we are going to be able to donate over $10,000 to the Jimmy Fund. Again a huge thank you to everyone that donated!! We had some amazing raffle and auctions items this year and I truly appreciate everyone that contributed!!!

There was one person I did not mention earlier: TREVOR. Sometimes in this whole ordeal whether it be me having Cancer or the fundraising aspect- Trevor does not get the recognition that he deserves. Trevor is the calm to my storm. He talks me down off of my crazy ledges when it is late at night and I am surrounded by fundraising tasks and raffle items have taken over our dining room!Trevor and I met at UMass Dartmouth (or more specifically the Complex!) when we were just 19 years old. We dated on and off throughout college and basically grew up together. When we got married 10 years ago (May 17, 2008!) we never realized that our wedding vows would be tested so much in such a short amount of time. For  better or worse, for richer or poorer and now in sickness and health. This whole thing is not easy on a couple and sometimes I believe that me having cancer is harder on Trevor than it may be on me. We are not perfect but we are perfect for each other. Happy Anniversary my friend and love and I hope that we are blessed with at least ten more together.

Our Wedding Day