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
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.
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.
I forgot to write an update 1.5 weeks ago when i started chemo. It really wasn’t that i forgot…..i got the chemo and then felt like i had been hit by a bus. Then 6 days later i felt better and went back to work and now, 10 days after i started it, i’m finally updating my blog. Such is life.
I am currently doing 6 months (8 rounds) of CAPEOX. That is Capecitabine (oral chemo) and Oxaliplatin (iv chemo). The IV chemo is an infusion at Hollings Cancer Center once every three weeks and then the oral chemo is something i take for 14 days, twice a day. Then i don’t take the oral chemo for days 15-21. And then the cycle starts all over again. I’m ALMOST done with my first round of the oral chemo (three more days), so i’m hoping the 7 days of no chemo at all will be GLORIOUS!
The oral chemo is the same one that i was on during radiation. It makes me nauseated. It can cause hand/foot sores (i’m trying to keep them moisturized and work out a lot to keep the blood flow going to them). I did ok on it the last time…..this time, it is just a lot longer time being on the medicine, so i hope the side effects are minimal. The IV chemo is a beast. Side effects are cold sensitivities (like not being able to drink anything but room temp liquids and requiring gloves when going into the fridge) and neuropathy (tingling in hands/feet). To combat both side effects, i am doing “icing” of my mouth, and hands and feet. I ate ice during my infusion and put cold packs in my socks and held a cold pack in my hands. I think it worked pretty well for the first infusion (although it scared my chemo nurse a little bit) and in the days after chemo i was able to eat icecream and i did not have any cold issues with my hands or feet. There is a journal article that came out this year (Journal of National Comprehensive Cancer Network, April 2019) that shows cancer patients who kept ice chips in their mouth during their oxaliplatin infusion reported that they subsequently developed less cold sensitivity in their mouths and could eat and drink with less discomfort compared to patients who did not keep ice in their mouth. I thought it was worth a try and i’m going to continue to do it as long as i can. 🙂
The IV chemo really kicked my butt. For the first few days, i spent most of the day sleeping. Slowly but surely i started feeling better after a couple of days and as i’m writing this, i’m feeling decent. Not 100% (not sure i will ever feel that way while doing this 6 months of hell) but good enough to work out and eat what i can and feel like a normal person. I’ll take it.
This picture sums up how i feel about the next step in my battle against cancer. 😂
In 2 weeks, on October 16th, i will start 6 months (8 cycles) of IV and oral chemo- Capecitabine and Oxaliplatin.
I am approaching this final step like i have approached the previous two steps in treatment: with minimal fear, a plan to work and workout as much as possible, with lots of prayers, and with my friends and family by my side. 💙
I realize that i haven’t written in a while and i don’t really have an excuse for it. Life has been pretty boring since my 2nd surgery. I walk daily. I eat lots of protein (for wound healing). I let the dogs in and out and in and out and in and out (lol). And i’ve caught up on most of the tv shows that i had saved for my time off.
This upcoming week i have a couple of doctors appointments. I see my oncologist and will get confirmation on a start date for chemo (i think it will be October 16th). And then i see my surgeon for follow-up and hopefully get cleared to workout, lift something heavier than 6 lbs, and hopefully start back to work…at least part time work since i’ll be doing chemo.
I’m so thankful i’ve had an uneventful recovery and while the unknown of 6 months of chemotherapy is daunting, i’m ready to get started and complete the last part of my treatment!
I haven’t posted this on social media because i feel like i would be bragging. And i’m not bragging, i am sharing good news, but still it is hard to put it out there. It is hard to put it out there knowing some of my friends on social media are my “new cancer friends” (as carson likes to put it) and i worry that some of them might not ever achieve what i have or will achieve what i have but then will progress with another cancer occurrence. And then to add to why i don’t want to post it- i feel like i’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like i don’t deserve what i have and how quickly i have recovered. I am thankful that my journey has been free of any major complications (and i would like to keep it that way) but being a doctor, i know all the risks and problems that can plague cancer patients……so i’m just waiting for mine to happen.
But i have to acknowledge how great God is, and that i truly believe that He answered mine (and all of your) prayers. He heard us and was merciful to me, allowing me to achieve complete pathologic response!
Complete pathologic response is: The lack of all signs of cancer in tissue samples removed during surgery or biopsy after treatment with radiation or chemotherapy. To find out if there is a pathologic complete response, a pathologist checks the tissue samples under a microscope to see if there are still cancer cells left after the anticancer treatment. Knowing if the cancer is in pathologic complete response may help show how well treatment is working or if the cancer will come back. Also called pathologic complete remission.
So praise the Lord. The radiation and oral chemo killed all of the tumor and in the pathology report, there were no cancer cells left in the tumor!!! He is so good!