Done

10 months and 10 days ago i woke up from a colonoscopy and was told i had a very large mass that was for sure cancer. Later that day i found out that it had spread to my lymph nodes (stage 3c) but not any other organs. The next day i learned that i would be doing radiation/chemo, then having surgery, and then would undergo 6 months of chemotherapy.Like many other people my age (and younger) cancer was not on my radar, especially colorectal cancer, or what i lovingly like to call it, “old man butt cancer.” Sure, i was having blood in my stool but i was stressed out, so i rationalized that it was normal….for 2.5 years. By the way, blood in your stool is NEVER normal.

I was in complete shock with this new diagnosis and knew that the next year would be a challenge as i would undergo lifesaving treatments. This cancer gave me new tattoos (for radiation), multiple scars from my two surgeries (ileostomy and then the reversal), a port (which will be coming out ASAP), and months of chemo induced side effects, not limited to but including diarrhea, fatigue, neuropathy, sloughing of the skin on my feet and bleeding oral ulcers. And let’s not forget the overwhelming anxiety of how this terrible disease changed my life so quickly.

Today however, i am blessed to say that i have completed my treatment. I had my 8th, and final, round of iv chemotherapy, and after today, i will be on oral chemotherapy for two weeks, and then i am DONE. Of course my final chemotherapy has to be in the midst of a global pandemic, which just demonstrates that my life is (and always will be) a little complicated. I mean, my ileostomy surgery was the day before a hurricane hit Charleston, so i feel this is just par for the course.

These past months have changed my whole life and who i am as a person. It has humbled me, it has strengthened my relationship with God, it has shown me that i am resilient, it has shown me that i am loved, and i have gained a viewpoint on life that i am not sure i would have had otherwise. Because of cancer, i am a better physician, wife, daughter, mother and friend. I have been blessed to have the most supportive husband, daughter, parents, siblings, and coworkers that anyone could ask for. I have also made friends via social media who are going through this same situation and i know that i would not have made it without them.You never think these kinds of thing will happen to you. We are all so focused on the future and what is ahead that we do not take time to really live in the moment. I have learned that we are not promised tomorrow and that we should live a life that we are proud of everyday, like it is your last (except for right now in the pandemic, please listen to the CDC guidelines and our government officials).

Thank you for supporting my journey. I will continue to annoy everyone on social media with my #orangetheory and #peloton workout updates as well as pictures of my pets, all the meanwhile trying to educate the masses about colorectal cancer, its symptoms and prevention. With that being said, love you all and get your butts checked!

A Hiccup

I haven’t been updating as much as i should because things are just moving along, steady and without any issues…..until today.

So today was suppose to be my 7th (out of 8) cycle of chemo.  And i was ready.  I got some good sleep last night, woke up early to do a one hour peloton ride, showered and washed my hair, and arrived at the cancer center on time.  My vitals were perfect and my weight was back to normal (i was down 5 lbs 3 weeks ago).  And then i met with my Oncologist who told me chemo was cancelled today.

It seems that the chemotherapy is causing some issues with my blood counts, more specifically my platelets.  Platelets are a component of blood whose function is to react to bleeding (a blood vessel injury) by clumping and forming a clot.  Because of platelets, when we injure ouselves with a scrape or cut, it stops bleeding (in a person with a normal amount of platelets in their body).  Well, my platelet count is low today- like REALLY low.   Low enough that it is unsafe to give chemotherapy because they will go down even more with the treatment and can cause more issues.

It is fair to say that i’m disappointed.  I really wanted to have chemo today (who am i?) because that means i am one step closer to being done with chemo!  But as i always tell my patients, it is better to be safe than sorry, so i am ok (ish) with holding off on chemo.  The plan is to get labs again next Monday and if they look ok, chemo will be next Wednesday (the 26th).  Say some prayers that my platelets increase!

I’m Sick

Yep. Working around sick people finally got me. I’m (finally) writing an update from the comfort of my couch, all bundled up (in a heavy coat, sweats and uggs), pounding fluids, Vitamin C, zicam, and yes, i started antibiotics (despite knowing this is most likely viral etiology). You see, i’m suppose to have chemo tomorrow and i REALLY just want to get it done, so i’m doing everything i can to feel better so we can start cycle 5 of chemo (out of 8) and not have it be put off a week (which would really mess up things considering my birthday is next week).

I can’t believe i actually want to have chemo tomorrow. That is the complete opposite of how i’ve been feeling for the last few rounds….i even told Carson that he might have to drag me into chemo kicking and screaming because i DO NOT like it. And to be honest, cycle 4 was really really hard on me mentally. I had chemo one week before Christmas and had NO holiday spirit and i just sort of spiraled into a dark place. I won’t go into details but it was bad and i’m glad i’m not in that place anymore. Yes, i know i should see a therapist. Yes, i have one but with the holidays, it was hard to get together. But 2020 i know i need to work on my mental health……step 1…..I’m attempting to work on finding Joy in all that i do, including chemo. So bring on cycle 5. I can do it and i’m going to be ok.

It’s funny that it takes an illness (another illness) to get me to slow down. I’ve spent the last 12 weeks (4 chemo cycles) taking minimal time off and working as much as i can….not going overboard, but just to keep myself occupied. But working at a hospital comes with risks….and working around sick people means that i can get sick too. I need to make an effort to wear a mask AT ALL TIMES (which i rarely do). So now……i’m slowing down (for today) and hope, and pray, that i can get chemo tomorrow.

Humbled by kindness

Two weeks ago my coworker asked me for my shoe size (saying his sister was selling her Louis Vuitton shoes!!!) and for my address (for Christmas cards). I willingly gave up those answers and a couple hours later found out those questions were all a ruse (dang it i wanted those shoes)! But i got something even better- it turns out that my coworkers had bought me a #peloton bike as a “we love you” present and a “kick cancer’s ass” present.
Y’all- i ugly cried at work because i was not only totally surprised but also was in shock. Their act of kindness was above and beyond anything that i could imagine.
As i am going through these cycles of chemo i can tell that I’m slowing down and the side effects are worsening. I’m also realistic and know that my counts will trend downward and being out in public will be more and more difficult (this flu season is no joke). This bike is a perfect way to help me continue my exercise regimen in the setting of my own germs. lol.
I am so thankful for my amazing coworkers and their generosity. I realize i will have to pay them back in lots of chocolate chip cookies and covering all the holidays once I’m done with chemo next year. 💙
Today the bike was delivered and i will do my first of many peloton rides. I am beyond excited and am so grateful for my coworkers.

National Caregivers Month is November

Yesterday was the last day of #nationalcaregiversmonth and i wanted to give a shoutout to my better half, Carson Thomas, who took our wedding vows very seriously when he promised to love me “in sickness and in health.” Although we had dated 5 years prior to getting married, it is still a shock to enter into a marriage with one person facing months and months of treatment.
Babe, i appreciate you carrying my ice packs to chemo, getting me #jimmyjohns when i don’t want to eat anything else, going with me to #orangetheory (because the couples that workout together, stay together 😜), and so much more. 💙
📷 by: High Cotton Studios

Do I have good genes?

Last week i got a message from my provider saying that i had a gene abnormality come back on my genetic testing and i needed to see a genetic counselor. So i spent the last couple days freaking out (hello Pubmed literature searches). 🔬🔬
Today i met with a genetic counselor and we talked about my gene mutation, which is MSK3. Unfortunately all she could tell me is that it is of “undetermined significance.” 🦠🦠
Apparently the mutation is really rare- it is associated with colon cancer- but it also might not be contributing to my cancer…..i might just have bad luck. 💉💉


The good news is that nobody in my family needs genetic testing (Including my daughter and my siblings) so that makes me feel better. 🧬🧬
So for now, my gene mutation does not change my course of treatment at this time. It just makes me unique. And today was just another loop on this wild rollercoaster ride that is my cancer.

A little perspective

As i completed a workout today at Orangetheory Charleston, this was on the screen as we were cooling down (which i usually never stay for) and it spoke to me.

This is not news to anyone who knows me, but my diagnosis of stage 3 colorectal cancer was almost exactly 6 months ago. I have spent those months fighting for my life, attacking those cancer cells with radiation/chemo and surgery and am currently undergoing 6 more months of IV and oral chemo. I’m stubborn and hardheaded and determined- a perfect combo for kicking cancer’s ass.

But there are times when anxiety and fear are crippling because i worry about the unknown and “what could happen.” What if i have a complication? What if i can’t work? What if i have progression? What if i have to live my life glued to the toilet? What if i have to think about cancer every day for the rest of my life?

But today, I got a gentle reminder that it is about what i have, not what i don’t have. I have cancer but I’m living. I’m being treated. I’m working. I’m exercising. I have the support of amazing family and friends. And i have people all over the world praying for me and cheering me on.

And for those unknowns (that i currently don’t have but tend to worry about) – whether they happen or not, i will handle them when their time comes. Life will go on. And most likely, i will deal with them with the same determination and stubbornness i have right now.
So for now, i am going to focus on what i do have. I am thankful for that reminder today.