October 2nd, 2017
Remember that time I had cancer? IT’S OVER!
This is my last medical update for now 🙂 I am 100% cancer-free and happy as can be. I am now 2 years from my diagnosis and am just in awe of this whole journey.
What. A. Gift.
I’ve written a few blog posts about my experience with breast reconstruction and life after treatment…here are the links:
I am so passionate to work with others who are affected by the cancer journey through private sessions, workshops, online classes, and retreats. One of the many blessings this path has shown me ~ an inspiring new direction in my career. My first book is also in creation-mode! I know….What???!!!! Just can’t tame the writing beast in me 😉
Much LOVE to YOU and I’ll continue to share my journey, inner work, and tips for finding peace in this crazy, beautiful world. If you’d like to stay in touch, please follow my blog and join my event’s mailing list.
September 14th, 2016
On September 4th, I celebrated my 35th birthday. I think birthdays will officially take on a brand new meaning ~ I’m just so grateful to have one! Now that it’s been almost a year since my diagnosis, I LOVE watching my mind compare this moment to one year ago…right now, I’d be getting ready for my biopsy, and two days after that (September 16th), I’d get the call that would change my life forever.
One year ago, if someone would have told me, “Guess what?!! Those lulu lumps in your boobies & armpit are CANCER and in ONE year, you will have been through 5 months of chemo, lost your mermaid hair, had your natural breasts surgically removed & replaced with boobs-of-steel tissue expanders, and floated through 5 1/2 weeks of radiation therapy…” I would have responded: “YOU CRAZY.” And then if you said, “And even more surprising, is that you will actually ENJOY a lot of it. It will open your heart in ways you never thought possible. It will open doors that you never knew existed. It will give you strength, purpose, presence, and gratitude. You will feel an enormous amount of love and support from so many. It will be one of the greatest gifts of your life.” I’d say, “WHAT? NOW YOU REALLY CRAY CRAY.”
Crazy. Awesome. Beautiful. Life.
So to catch you up…I am officially DONE with all of the major parts of cancer treatment! Radiation was so much easier than I expected. I’ll write a separate blog piece sharing details, but right now my skin has healed well and it feels as soft as a baby’s ass.
Last Friday, my plastic surgeon leveled out my fembot boobs so that they are the same size for once! I have to say, they look pretty darn good. Still indestructible ~ when you hug me, it feels like I am wearing armor. I’m having fun planning out the final surgery which will take place sometime next Spring or Summer. The surgeon usually waits 8-12 months after radiation which allows extra time for the skin to fully heal ~ it can sometimes continue to tighten and shrink. Lots of stretching and I apply a homemade cream w/Frankincense, Lemon, Argan, Jojoba, and Vitamin E oils daily.
I had another ultrasound to check out the cyst on my ovary…I’m ecstatic to report that not only is it nothing to worry about, my doctor doesn’t even see a need to continue monitoring it. What?!!! So that’s done too.
I have begun taking Tamoxifen – a drug used to prevent reoccurrence for hormone-positive cancers. It is a systemic treatment (meaning it treats the whole body) and if there are any remaining cancer cells, it will bind their mouths closed so that they can not feed on estrogen. No food = No life.
I had mixed feelings about taking any type of drug for 5-10 years, so I did my best to explore a well-researched alternative. Each doctor and naturopath I talked with had the same answer: there is no alternative. Because I am young and know this body is awesome at producing estrogen – aka “cancer candy” – it is very important to me to address this part of the cancer treatment plan. The way I look at it, Tamoxifen is the best option available for me now and I’m open to that changing. My oncologist put it nicely, “I don’t like to tell anyone that they will be taking a drug for 10 years…because we don’t know…new research could show up or circumstances may change…let’s just try it out and see how you do.” When I got the bottle from the pharmacy, I laughed out loud when I saw the pills. I was picturing some kind of huge scary, horse pill…it just looks like an innocent, little baby aspirin. So far, no noticeable side effects other than I’ve been getting a little hot flashy at night – and this is also summer in Texas, so who doesn’t?
August was incredible. I gifted myself a month-long sabbatical to celebrate the end of treatment. Zero doctor visits…I was just a regular gal living an amazingly free-flowing life of travel! The trip started with a few days in NYC with my sister-in-law, Annie, and then we joined our soon-to-be sister-in-law, Emma, for her bachelorette party in Brooklyn. We drank wine, ate great food, and danced until 3am! I was pretty impressed this body kept up with the girls!
We had lunch one day at Smorgasburg – an outdoor flea market with about 100 eclectic food tents. I was standing in line for some Vegetarian Venetian wrappy things and asked the woman in front of me if she would take my picture. She asked what brought me to Brooklyn and I told her that I was there for a bachelorette party and then blurted out that I also just finished a year of cancer treatment. She said, “Oh my god – ME TOO!” She just had her final reconstruction surgery and she asked if I wanted to feel them. Immediately, I said “YES!” and within seconds of meeting, I’m feeling up a stranger’s boobs with people all around us. Ahhhhh….I just love how going through this experience breaks down all boundaries. PS – they felt AHHHHHMAZING!
After the high energy of NYC, I took a train to Westpoint to stay with my girlfriend, Krissy, and her sweet baby. We’ve known each other since 3rd grade and had so much fun lounging around, cooking meals, and reminiscing about all of the crazy things we use to do when we were “young.” And how we still feel just as awesomely immature. Time is a funny concept.
Then back to the train to Boston where I stayed with my brother, his fiancée, and my furry Niece. They just moved into a cool new neighborhood and we spent our days walking, doing yoga, and eating yet more amazing food. I abandoned my diet a bit and treated myself to local fresh breads, organic coffee, and some kickass desserts. And oh, pizza…how I’ve missed you. To my surprise, I felt really good! My energy came back although I would often take an afternoon siesta.
I then hopped on a bus to Burlington, VT, where I stayed with my friend, Todd Smith. He is also a facilitator for The Work of Byron Katie and hosts personal retreats at his home – I can attest first-hand that WOW, what an amazing home they have! And He and his partner are wonderful hosts. We ate Ayurvedic meals and at night we took a swim in Lake Champlain under the full moon. It felt cleansing and purifying.
The next day, I moved into the finale of my sabbatical: a week-long retreat called “Love is the Power” led by Tom Compton in Quebec. It was hosted at the country home of one of sweetest families I know – Sarah Maya, Matthieu, and Zia. Another great friend, Susan, helped to organize the retreat. Sarah Maya and Susan reached out to me when I was diagnosed and offered to do The Work with me whenever I needed support – and I said yes. In all of my “People are kind” experiences throughout the cancer journey, this one was over-the-top generous. They all invited me to join the retreat as a gift. And what an incredible gift it was on so many levels.
In such a loving and supportive environment, I was able to explore deep fears around cancer returning, judgements about me choosing conventional medicine
over doing all alternative, the fear of death, and much more. Vegetarian meals, walking meditation, dancing like no-ones watching…and I even led a few morning yoga classes in nature. It was the perfect experience for me – mind, body, & soul. Perhaps I will share more in a separate post (OK, I have a billion blog post ideas I want to write!!!), but one key takeaway I am continuing to explore is “who would I be without the label of right and wrong?” This was an invitation from Tom and it’s definitely taking root in me. I notice so much of my life is lived out of needing to know “the right way” and “the right answers.”
What if it’s ALL right? ALL good? ALL Love?
After the retreat, Susan and I spent a few nights in the amazing city of Montreal before I flew home. I loved hearing French every day and am already plotting my return. Although I experienced sadness to leave, I was also excited to return to my “new” life in Dallas. No more daily doctor appointments – just some follow-ups here and there. Back to a new reality.
A new chapter has definitely begun. And the universe has already given me some really cool opportunities! I was asked to create yoga videos for CanSurround, a web-based tool designed to help with the mental & emotional journey through cancer. The videos just went live today!!! There are three: 10-min Yoga for Deep Sleep, 20-min Chair Yoga for Peace, & 30-min Yoga for Strength, Flexibility, & Presence. I had so much fun creating them with my own cancer experience in mind, and I hope it will help many others move through their journeys with more grace and ease.
I have also been asked to be a Yoga Coach for Reset Retreat, a company of like-minded ladies who create life-changing retreats across the globe. The first one is THIS weekend in Texas Hill Country and it’s sold out! And I just get to show up and teach the yoga!? Click here to read a recent interview I had with the company. It shares how I came to yoga, my experience with cancer, and how I weave in The Work of Byron Katie into my yoga teachings and life.
Speaking of The Work, I also just started my first e-course as a trainer in the Institute for The Work. I am co-training with a dear friend, Robyn ~ another amazing facilitator who reached out to support me when I was diagnosed. Travis and I will also be staffing the 9-day School for The Work in Ojai in the fall. My life is definitely calling me to share this work in many different platforms and I just love seeing what shows up for me.
So..yeah…life is good.!!!!
April 13th, 2016
Spring is definitely bringing a lot of change & transformation – I always love this time of year. Lots of updates…
Well, my friends, as of March 2nd ~ C-Love is officially DONE! Although overall I had a pretty darn good experience going through chemotherapy ~ it feels SO GOOD to have one big part of this treatment plan complete. If you missed my Nae Nae Bell Ring, you can check it out here.
I will write more about my time in C-Love and will also include some tips on all-natural cures for various side effects. I attribute my positive experience mainly to my mindset: I chose to gratefully receive chemo as a healing cleanse instead of fearing it as a poisonous necessary evil. And it worked. More on how I got to this genuine space of gratitude later…HINT: The Work of Byron Katie 😉
My hair is coming in much more quickly than I anticipated! It’s been extremely entertaining; it’s like all of my hair follicles became over-excited to jump start again, which produced a strange layer of fuzz on MY FACE and neck. Yep, I shaved my face on more than one occasion. It seems to have simmered down for now. My head feels like a combo of a soft bunny rabbit + baby chick and I have to say the color is leaning wayyyyyyy more towards gray than I prefer at the age of 34. I’m excited to see what it will look like when I grow up. The only place my hair has yet to return is on my thighs and hamstrings ~ WEIRD and I’ll take it!
During the past 6 weeks, I have been slowly building my strength back, cleansing w/foods & supplements, and am still enjoying afternoon naps. Muscles have been achier – it feels like no matter which activity I do, I end up being soar from it. I had the complaining thought, “geez, my body is feeling everything” and then it dawned on me…”awesome! my body is feeling EVERYTHING!” My energy is now steadily increasing and I noticed a HUGE boost after I made the decision to do the double mastectomy. I continue to be amazed at the mind/body connection of this process.
Click here to learn more about my decision-making process for surgery. Just a few days after the post, I attended the pre-op visit and I had a feeling that I would have an even clearer answer of how to move forward after that appointment. And I was right. It felt right. Since then, I have felt so much more relief and am enjoying the process of preparing for this big event which is scheduled for THIS Monday!
It may sound strange, but doing little things – like buying post-surgical bras, frozen peas, & button-down shirts – feels like a way of emotionally processing this shift. A way to move from unease to acceptance. I even bought my current boobs a cute little lacy bra to wear for a few weeks and some funny underwear to wear during surgery. (Hey, there’s nothing wrong with making the surgeons laugh while their working on my body, right?).
Last weekend, I took my boobs on a relaxing retreat at Living Waters near Austin ~ the retreat property I use to manage and is now run by my brother and his fiancée. This turned out to be THE BEST possible way to prepare…I went on nature walks/hikes, journaled, was able to participate in a women’s yoga retreat, ate amazing meals prepared by my chef brother, and had an incredibly healing Reiki session with someone I feel a soul connection with. It. was. just. awesome. Plus the wildflowers are beyond gorgeous this time of year!
On the last night, Emma (my soon-to-be sister) and I decided to do a ceremonial skinny dip plunge in the lake. The water was so refreshing! Then the next day, my brother and I hiked Reimers Ranch and spontaneously decided to jump in the river with our clothes on and then lay on the warm rocks under the sun. I have a thing for water…it’s always a mental game-changer for me whether it’s an ocean, lake, bath, or shower. I left this trip feeling pure adrenaline for life and what is to come. I’m so grateful I gave this gift to myself.
I have also been exploring a really interesting inquiry – I have been questioning the thought “I am losing my breasts” using The Work and I’ve come to realize two things:
- I am not losing MY breasts. They are not mine. I do not own them (or this body). THESE breasts are changing which makes it so much less personal. The reality is, some tissue (which I’ve never even seen before) is getting replaced. That’s it. Same skin. Same nipples. Much simpler.
- I am GAINING my breasts. Isn’t this also happening? Even though these new breasts will have expanders and then implants, they will, in fact, be my new natural, healthy breasts.
This inquiry is leaving me with a sense of child-like curiosity as I approach surgery, recovery, and reconstruction. My mind is also looking at the reality of the procedure: I show up Monday morning and go to sleep. When I wake up, it’s done. I rest. Experience wonderful drugs. Get 24/hr care in the hospital for 2 nights (and organic meals…what?!). I then go home, chill out, see what it’s like to have T-rex arms (you’re not supposed to lift your arms for a few weeks), read, watch movies, go for walks, get waited on, and bond with my “nurse” mom and husband. My part sounds pretty easy: be present and enjoy the ride. I can do this.
The surgery starts at 7:30am on Monday, April 18th, and will last about 6 1/2 hours ~ if you’re into praying or meditation ~ I invite you to send me some love at that time!
February 8th, 2016
There has been a lot of movement over the past few weeks! On January 21st, we met with the breast surgeon and confirmed that I have all 3 surgery options: lumpectomy, mastectomy, double mastectomy. The surgeon was overwhelmingly excited about my breast MRI results, and I learned that even though my response to chemo has been amazing at shrinking the tumors, she still needs to take out all of the tissue that was originally affected by the cancer. This means the lumpectomy (my original preference) would be rather large and noticeable. Click here to read more about my appointment with the surgeon.
I have been in “information gathering” mode as well as “sitting with myself in stillness and compassion” mode (which yes, has involved a lot of tears). Last week I had a consultation with the plastic surgeon; this week we’ll meet with another breast surgeon for a 2nd opinion, and I will continue to speak with other women who have been faced with the same decision. Although I don’t know which option I will choose (or which option will choose me), I trust that at some point something will stand out as a clear YES.
Remember those fun little cysts on my ovaries? This month, I will have another ultrasound and follow-up visit to confirm that they have either shrunken or disappeared. In the VERY unlikely chance they have gotten larger, Dr. Oh (yes, that’s my gynecologist’s name!) may recommend surgery. I envision them gone 🙂
I am in my 5th and final month of chemo ~ only 4 more sessions to go and let me tell you, I am ready! My symptoms continue to be manageable, plus my hair is starting to grow back in the form of fuzzies! Because my WBC (white blood count ~ oh yeah, I’m getting these medical terms down) has been low, the oncologist asked me to skip chemo for a week so that my body can build its immunity back up. This is normal for chemo patients yet feels strange because I feel great! I have re-scheduled my weekly acupuncture to be the day before chemo to help boost my count. Assuming I don’t need to skip any additional weeks, my last chemo day will be March 2nd. Hearing that bell ring….
It was so awesome having my mom in town for a few weeks in January and then my Dad joined her for 5 days. Sound healing & yoga with Mom, acupuncture with Dad, a fun trip to Living Waters for wedding dress shopping with Emma, and time to just chill and be. I am continuing to follow the same diet plus fish & eggs and now 2 daily green juices (instead of 1). And I just finished my 1st “cancer” painting that I will share soon! I love nurturing this little vessel every way that I can.
Something new and fun is that I have started a monthly inquiry circle in Dallas for The Work of Byron Katie. We had our 1st meeting on Sunday and we’ll continue to meet the 1st Sunday of every month. Please join us if you’re in the area! Unfortunately, I made a tough decision to postpone May’s Inner Peace Retreat (Yoga + The Work) so that I can give my full attention to my body in post-surgery recovery. Once this treatment plan is complete, I will be “sharing the crap” out of The Work in many ways: workshops, class series, and retreats.
That’s it for now! xoxo
January 7th, 2016
“Oh my god, I have the most amazing news for you!” said my oncologist as she walked in the door to our appointment yesterday. Music to my ears. The Breast MRI results came in and the tumor in my breast is almost non-existent ~ there are some microscopic cells left that can’t even be measured. It was 4.2 cm when I was diagnosed and the mass in my lymph node has shrunken from 3.8 cm to 1.2 cm. Having this quick of such an amazing response is quite shocking to the medical staff ~ she commended me on how well I’m doing and she credits a lot of the alternative therapies too. I am so proud of this body…and me!!!
What a great way to start the new year, eh?
We’ll meet with the breast surgeon in 2 weeks ~ I personally expect the cancer to be gone by the time surgery rolls around in March and if that is the case, they still recommend taking out some tissue in the breast and lymph nodes just to be sure it’s all clear under a microscope. I’m actually really looking forward to hearing what the surgeon recommends and getting a better understanding of the what’s involved with the rest of my treatment plan (radiation & hormone therapy). Feeling zero stress about the future ~ it’s amazing to be walking this path with a clear and open mind.
Our trip to California to staff Byron Katie’s Mental Cleanse was perfect on so many levels. I got to travel with a face mask for the first time which was pretty entertaining and my ears have become especially attuned to the sounds of coughing, sneezing, sniffing, clearing of throats…EVERYWHERE! Everyone around me seemed to be catching a cold, even my husband who never gets sick, but I guess my little immune system is rocking because I feel great.
Being with our Byron Katie family felt like home, so many hugs, tears, sweet moments. My energy and chemo brain were put to the test working the event and I did a great job of balancing taking care of me and serving the event ~ support was always available when I needed it. I also had an opportunity to share some of my experience with cancer to the 400-500 people who attended the event ~ I shared how important inquiry has been for me in this process and how it has taught me to approach cancer as a friend & teacher, rather than something to fear & fight.
I also had an opportunity to meet some women who have started a company called CanSurround ~ an empowering online tool that guides your mind’s journey through cancer using inquiry, breathing techniques, journaling, meditation, & more….ummmm…can we say PERFECT fit? I was in tears during their presentation ~ helping others achieve peace in illness is a new passion of mine and I am so excited to become involved in this project any way I can.
One more piece of fantastic news ~ I have officially met my $10,000 goal in my gofundme account ~ these funds were raised by over 80 loving, caring individuals within 3 months. WOW. Speechless. Thank you for showing me that it’s ok to ask for support. Thank you for showing me unconditional love. Thank you for being with me on this journey.
The inspiration I feel in this moment is so overwhelming…it’s like my heart is bursting open. 2016 – this is THE year!
December 22nd, 2015
So far, this second phase of chemo is definitely much easier than the first. I will have my 4th treatment of Taxol this Wednesday and it will continue weekly until February 24th. The chemo is also given with Benedryl (to help prevent an allergic reaction) ~ it COMPLETELY knocks me out the rest of the day and then my body is nice and wide awake when it comes time for bed. Luckily, this only happens the first night. A new side effect is night sweats ~ my body turns into a little furnace and the clothing and covers come off quickly. The Katy Perry song lyrics usually pop into my head, “you’re hot then you’re cold. It’s yes then it’s no. You’re in then you’re out (of bed), up and you’re down…” 😉
Some other interesting bodily news is that I seem to longer have menstrual cycles ~ they call it “chemopause” and I am ALL GOOD with this! I would often get migraines around my cycle so they have disappeared as well. Something tragic did happen while I was doing yoga recently: I found hair on my legs and actually needed to shave…I have really gotten use to this whole low maintenance lifestyle!
This past week, I have felt more tired and very emotional. I was able to work with a dear friend and Certified Facilitator, Sarah Maya, who helped me work through some stressful thoughts that were at the core of my emotions. Right now, I feel much lighter and optimistic. Yesterday, I gifted myself an amazing Christmas treat that I will continue to receive: an Ayurvedic Abhyanga with Kathleen Lohr ~ warm oil poured over my bald head, body, and then gentle massage & lymphatic drainage techniques are used. Wow.
Another early Christmas gift has also arrived ~ the results of my gene testing are…..ALL NEGATIVE! I do not carry the gene for cancer (breast, ovarian, uterine, prostate, colon, liver, etc.). We are all over the moon about this and it leads me to believe that a simple lumpectomy may be viable option for surgery.
Today, I will have my 2nd breast MRI which will show us an update of how much the cancer has shrunk (or disappeared?). I am no longer able to feel the lump in my breast at all ~ it use to be visible so this is really exciting! The lump in my armpit is extremely hard to find and feels like the size of a small bean.
I was finally able to have lunch with my new friend, Amy, who is also in breast cancer treatment. Our “baldies” lunch was over 3 hours ~ it was SO MUCH FUN to connect with someone else who is going through what I’m going through ~ we could share side effect stories, laughs, fears, treatment plans, helpful tips…and the best part is a stranger decided to anonymously pay for our bill. I am continued to be amazed at the kindness of the human race. It’s beautiful.
We’ll celebrate Christmas in Dallas with my husband’s side of the family ~ I am having a blast thinking of new vegan recipes! I am beginning to post them on my blog ~ check out the latest, Healing Ginger & Turmeric Teas. Travis and I are thrilled to spend New Years in Los Angeles where we will staff Byron Katie’s annual Mental Cleanse. It will be so good to reconnect & hug all of our ITW family ~ this community has been so supportive during this journey.
Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and a very happy new year! xoxoxo
December 4th, 2015
All good news! I am officially complete with phase 1 of the chemo treatment which doctors describe as the “rough” part. I am still impressed with how well I have felt ~ I would say the hardest part was a couple days after the last round ~ a lot of fatigue and I had some indigestion/acid reflux that brought up the taste of the chemo meds which then in turn made me feel nauseous. Some papaya enzymes, sleeping with an elevated head at night, and eliminating acidic foods helped to alleviate the symptoms so I’m all clear now!
2 days ago, I began the next phase of chemo ~ a drug called Taxol which I will have weekly treatments of for 12 weeks. They say it should be “a walk in the park” and I am feeling AWESOME so far. I’m gaining weight back too (I think our relaxing Thanksgiving at Living Waters with my chef brother may have helped 😉
I had a series of ultrasounds 2 weeks ago (breast & pelvic) ~ they confirmed that the tumors have shrunk over 50% and they are continuing to get smaller. In fact, neither my Oncologist nor I can really even feel the lumps anymore ~ we were both giggling with joy in the exam room on Wednesday! The pelvic ultrasound confirmed that the cysts on my ovaries are benign, and I was referred to a gynecologist for a 2nd look ~ he agreed that it’s completely normal and nothing to worry about now. We will have a follow-up visit and ultrasound in 3 months ~ he expects the cysts to be smaller or disappear by then.
I am exploring adding some additional alternative therapies into my treatment plan: lymphatic drainage massage, CBD oil, and coffee enemas (sexy, eh?). I’ll keep you updated!
This month, I will get another breast MRI for updated measurements of the tumors. We’ll then bring this info and the genetic testing results to the surgeon for our appointment in January. Chemo will be complete mid-February and possibly surgery mid to late March. I am slowly gathering my questions for the surgeon as well as working on my fears around having surgery. Taking everything step by step…breath by breath.
That’s it for now! I need to get some rest for our Godson’s 11th birthday party tomorrow ~ hello, go kart racing! Much love to you all.
November 11th, 2015
This update is much more than medical..here we go! Last week, I received my 3rd chemo treatment and am rocking it! I met with the Oncologist and she is incredibly impressed with my progress. The lump in my axilla (arm pit) is almost gone and the tumor in my breast has decreased by about 75% in size. Woohoo!!! The side effects from chemo have been manageable so far ~ a little nausea, fatigue (mainly in the afternoons ~ hello, siesta time), and a few digestion issues. I was also having some skin rash issues that have now cleared up thanks to a new water filter installed in our home that filters out chlorine, chloramines, flouride, & other creepy stuff that’s added to our Dallas water supply. I’m excited to say I have been able to manage all side effects with little to no additional medication. I created a permanent link on my blog so you can see all of the alternative/complimentary therapies I have added to my treatment plan: check it out.
The doctor was a little concerned about my weight because I’ve lost about 5-6 pounds within the 1st month of treatment. She has prescribed medicine (a synthetic form of THC) to boost my appetite and maintain my weight. The medicine doesn’t work very well for me to take frequently (it’s pretty intense!), but I have been increasing the protein in my diet: I’ve added eggs & vegan protein shakes, plus more of the healthy proteins: quinoa, beans, seeds, nuts, avocados, and oils. Yes, I could gain weight with burgers and chocolate cake, but I’m choosing foods that do NOT feed the cancer. So I’ll be sticking to my diet plan because IT IS WORKING!
This Friday, I will undergo a pelvic sonogram to take a look at some cysts on my ovaries ~ they showed up on the CT scan as benign so this is just a precautionary measure. I will also have another breast ultrasound so we can get more accurate measurements of the size of the tumor in my breast & examine the surrounding tissue. I have declined doing a mammogram again ~ the 1st time I had a mammogram, the results were inconclusive because my breast tissue is so dense. So I prefer not to expose myself to additional radiation if it’s not required. My doctor is on board with this.
Next week is my last round of what doctors call the “roughest part” part of chemo. My mom is coming in town to join me for 5 days and I am so excited to be with her! Next Thursday, we’ll meet with a genetic counselor to determine if genetic testing is right for me, and if so – which tests I should take. I am assuming they will recommend testing to see if I carry the gene for breast and ovarian cancer. I have mixed feelings about the testing ~ I know that we are not locked into our genes; genes can change. But I will go into the counseling session with an open mind. The results of Thursday’s tests & gene testing will be taken to the breast surgeon so she can make a recommendation for next year’s surgery: a lumpectomy, mastectomy, or double mastectomy. I am hopeful for a simple lumpectomy (or nothing at all if the cancer disappears!) ~ for me, less is more in this process.
I had my 1st sound healing session today and loved it. I am also getting more involved with the cancer support center at Presby ~ they offer a wide variety of complimentary healing classes for patients: yoga, tai chi, meditation, art, nutrition, support groups, & more. How cool is that? I am looking forward to both joining the classes and exploring if I can offer The Work of Byron Katie at the center.
A struggle of mine has been dealing with the financial aspects of treating cancer. There have been some surprise medical bills from September when I didn’t have health insurance. I had thought my biopsy was going to be $825 which is why I chose to pay for it out-of-pocket in September, rather than waiting for my insurance to start October 1st. Right now, the biopsy bills are over $6,500! We are contesting the charges with the hospital and also applying for charity funds ~ fingers crossed! I am learning a lot about the medical industry and how you really need to be your own advocate, keep records of conversations, and triple check everything is covered before moving forward with a procedure.
My amazing insurance plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield (Obamacare) is being discontinued next year so we are currently looking for another plan that will cover the expensive treatments/procedures my doctors are planning for next year: 3 more months of chemo, surgery, radiation, & hormone therapy. The alternative treatments such as acupuncture, sound healing, a ton of vitamins/supplements, and eating 100% all organic has boosted our monthly expenses as well. Fortunately, I am able to work a reduced schedule (about half of my regular schedule) and Travis is increasing his work with private clients and music. I have now met my deductible and out-of-pocket max with the insurance company so they should be covering 100% of my treatment for the rest of this year. Yeah!
I have been working with many Certified Facilitators about my fears around money and it has allowed me to see the wonderful ways I have been/am financially supported. My fears about the future are in fact, not real in this moment. So I am learning & growing a lot in this area! I am also asking for help which is a big step for me. If you feel it in your heart to offer financial support, click here to donate to my GoFundMe page. My wonderful friends are also hosting a fundraiser for me in Dallas on Saturday, November 21st, 3-7pm, at Kid Art in Snider Plaza. There will be family-friendly yoga, art projects, live music, and a silent auction. Beautiful things happen when you ask for support!
As many of you have seen on Facebook, I am rocking some new looks these days ~ the “bald & beautiful” look and the “sexy Samantha wig” look! It’s been quite a ride and I am so happy you are all on this journey with me. I’ll be sharing more on the blog soon and hope the blog will be “real time” by the end of the year. You can always click on this page for the most up-to-date medical info.
Lots of Love,
October 17th, 2015
On October 7th, I had my 1st chemo treatment; now I am 10 days in and have had wonderful results. I’ve been experiencing little to no side effects which I attribute to all of the complimentary therapies I am using. The side effects I experienced right after treatment were a little nausea, less appetite, achy muscles, & fatigue. Listening to my body, taking naps, eating small meals more frequently, stretching, and drinking ginger/turmeric tea worked perfectly to alleviate symptoms. Now my energy and appetite are back in full force. During my nadir days (when my blood count is the lowest), I experienced a migraine so I have re-scheduled acupuncture to take place right before my next nadir period to hopefully avoid this. I will also be exploring sound healing soon which I am really exciting about!
On October 14th, I met with the Oncologist to see how I am doing with chemo from her perspective. She said, “you are rocking it and whatever you are doing, please keep doing it!” The lumps are much smaller ~ she had to really search for the one in my axilla. It’s so exciting ~ I really feel these treatments are working and am so happy I have chosen this path of embracing the best of both worlds. I am continuing to learn more about complimentary therapies in a docu-series called, “The Truth About Cancer.” Next chemo session is this Wednesday, my husband’s birthday 🙂
Oh, and I still have all of my hair.
October 3rd, 2015
On October 1st, I completed the testing necessary to determine where the cancer is in my body (CT Scan of the chest/pelvis/abdomen, & a Breast MRI). I also did an Echocardiogram to get a baseline for the functioning of my heart so it can be monitored it during chemo treatment.
Yesterday, we met with the Oncologist and got GREAT NEWS! The cancer has NOT spread anywhere else in my body! My heart is in perfect condition as well. Big relief and we are celebrating! The doctor stayed with us for a while to answer all of our questions. I learned a little more about the benefits of the chemo treatment ~ even though the scans do not show the cancer has spread, there are still mostly likely little “flakes”of cancer flowing throughout my body that are not detectable with these tests. The chemo’s job is to fully clear my body of these flakes; I am thinking of it as a healing cleanse.
We learned that with this specific treatment plan, I will decrease my risk of the cancer coming back from 75% to 10-15%. If the cancer does not come back within 10 years, the risk of reoccurrence drops to 1-2%. She said that with my healthy lifestyle and all of the other amazing things I’m doing to support myself, she expects a cure and full recovery. I like her.
Per my request, the doctor did another manual breast exam and took measurements of the tumors ~ she agreed with me that they do feel smaller. For me, this confirms that what I am doing is working and by making the choice to implement both traditional & alternative paths, I am receiving the best possible treatment available for me. I feel extremely confident and positive going into this!
Next steps: on Monday, I will have a minor surgery to insert the port to receive chemo treatments. Tuesday, we will attend a chemo class, and Wednesday I will receive my 1st chemo treatment.
September 28th, 2015
I have been diagnosed with Invasive Ductile Carsenoma (grade 3), the most common form of breast cancer. It has a high myotonic rate and has spread to my lymph node. Doctors suggest it’s either a high stage 2 or 3. It is ER +, PR +, & HER2 negative which just gives doctors more information to create a customized & efficient treatment plan for my body.
An incredible medical team has come together to support me at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, TX. I have met with the Breast Surgeon, Dr. Archana Ganaraj, and the Oncologist, Dr. Jaya Juturi. I love that the breast care program here is multi-disciplinary ~ meaning I do not need to hop around from facility to facility to get the care I need. They strive to make it as stress-free & seamless as possible. The program also looks at the “whole person” and offers tips & guidance for emotional support, physical exercise, nutrition, & more. I love that Dr. Archana gave me a call Friday afternoon just to check in and see how I am doing. How amazing is that?
The overall plan of the doctors is to do chemo for 5-6 months to shrink the tumor & lymph node. Because this cancer is aggressive (which is very common for young women), it actually responds to chemo the best (as opposed to a slow growing cancer). Surgery will take place in April or May and hopefully it will just be a lumpectomy. I will be doing genetic testing to confirm if I carry the breast cancer gene; if I do, doctors may recommend a mastectomy or double mastectomy. After surgery comes radiation and hormone therapy.
On Thursday, October 1st, I will undergo more testing to confirm that the cancer has not taken root anywhere else in my body. Doctors do not think the cancer has spread, so the tests are just to triple check. To be honest, I already feel the tumor has gotten smaller and I’m curious to see if the tests confirm this! The day of testing will end with a “Chemo Class” that my mother and husband will attend with me.
On Monday, October 5th, I am scheduled to have a “port” installed in my chest. This is like a little “gas cap” with a small tube for chemo treatments. I am told it’s is not painful nor noticeable on my body.
Chemo treatment will begin as early as October 6th and I will be receiving treatments every 2 weeks for 6 sessions, and then weekly treatments for the rest of the duration. I am told the first 6 weeks can be a little rough, but the rest of the treatment has been described as “a walk in the park” for many women.
For managing my emotional, physical, & mental health as well as potential symptoms/side effects of the treatments, I am immersing myself in the following:
- Therapeutic Yoga
- Meditation (I love Yoga Nidra)
- The Work of Byron Katie (facilitating myself, working with other facilitators, and calling the free Helpline)
- Walking & Being in Nature
- Weekly Acupuncture
- Healthy Nutrition (mostly organic vegan with a lot of fresh raw juices, smoothies, veggies, fruits, grains, nuts)
- Supplements: Curecumin (high grade turmeric root), Organic Vitamin C, Multi-Vitamin, & Probiotic, Calm (Calcium & Magnesium), as well as homemade ginger/tumeric/clove decaf green tea. Everything is cleared with my doctors as well.
- Writing, Art, Watching Funny Movies, & Reading Funny Books are all part of my healing process as well and who knows what else I’ll be introduced to in this journey!
Throughout this whole process, I am also open to the miracle of spontaneous healing ~ perhaps the cancer will just disappear ~ so many cases like this have been reported and I am hearing more & more every day. I fully intend to surprise the doctors with how quickly I am cured of this illness. This is a daily visualization practice for me, seeing myself as already cured. Already healed.