My 1/2 birthday

Today i am 40 and a 1/2 years old. I usually celebrate my half birthday, as it was a tradition in our family when we were kids. But i actually didn’t realize it was my half birthday until i looked at my Facebook memories and saw that 11 years ago i announced that i was 29 1/2 years old, and 10 years ago i announced that i was 30 1/2 years old. Ahhh, to be young again. 🙂

And now today i’m 40 and a 1/2 years old. And i have cancer. That is all that i can think about now.

I know i will make it to 41 and then 41 and a 1/2 and so on and so forth, but my perspective is different. Unfortunately cancer makes you worry that you wont see those years. I do have my fears but most of them are irrational and i have to be talked down from a ledge that i shouldn’t be on in the first place. Carson has been a source of strength and tolerance/patience that i don’t always feel like i deserve….i go down this rabbit hole of “doom and gloom” and have to be pulled out.

Anyway, today i’m 40 and a 1/2 years old. I am fortunate to be here. I am looking forward to many many years of celebrating 1/2 birthdays in the future.

28/28

Today was my last day of radiation.

28 days of burning my tumor and lymph nodes (in the most simple of terms) and also taking oral chemotherapy twice a day.

The last treatment turned out to be pretty uneventful but also didn’t go as planned at the same time. I am dehydrated (GI issues) and my bladder wasn’t full, so treatment was delayed while i chugged water. And once i did that, i climbed on that table for my last time (106 seconds), and then it was over and i was done. I got a certificate of completion (which i will hang on my fridge), hugged my radiation therapist girls (who have been a wonderful source of encouragement and laughter), and walked out. In my own stubborn style, i refused to ring the bell. 😜

I am thankful for my family and friends, who have been an ever constant support over the past six weeks. I am thankful for the hospital staff, the radiation therapists and my physician who came up with my treatment plan. This was the first big hurdle i had to overcome with this cancer diagnosis. But it is not the last.

I now have 8 weeks of “rest” while my body recovers from radiation and then the next step is surgery on September 3rd. From now until then, i will be working on getting my body back to normal and being as healthy as possible.

Thank you for accompanying me on this journey and for your continued thoughts and prayers. 💙

Two. More. Treatments.

I know it has been a bit since i last posted.

Nothing really has been happening. I’ve been working. Working out. And sleeping. A lot. Radiation makes me really tired and i have found that a new bedtime of 9:30 pm is glorious….and also makes me feel like an 80 year old lady.

Today’s radiation treatment (and the next two days) are considered “booster” days. This means that while previously the radiation was focused at all of my tumor and the area around it, including my lymph nodes that look cancerous, the booster treatment is just aimed at the tumor itself. So a smaller area. Basically clean up of the area. The length of treatment is the same (106 seconds) but the field of treatment is smaller. It means we have come to an end.

I cannot believe that i have gone through 26 treatments. It has flown by but also has gone by slowly. I can’t really explain it except to say that life moves quickly (how is it even July?!?!) but sometimes when things are stressful like this, it feels like it is dragging by. This morning i woke up and wished that my diagnosis on May 8th was just a dream (well, nightmare). But that isn’t the case. Instead of being a normal 40 year old with a kid and dogs and a fiancee and a career, i’m a cancer-ass-kicking 40 year old with a kid and dogs and a fiancee and a career. 😉

Also, let me take a second to remind people to get their bums checked! 45 is the age to now get a screening colonoscopy (unless there is a colorectal cancer family history). Don’t wait like i did!!

I’m late for Father’s Day!

Wanted to write quickly to say that i hope all the fathers out there had a wonderful Father’s Day.

I was able to have brunch with Carson and his girls that morning. We went to Rutledge Cab Company and unfortunately didn’t see Bill Murray (he is a co-owner of the restaurant).

Carson has been an amazing and supportive fiancée. He’s always been calm and understanding (very opposite of me) and i hate that we are starting out our marriage with this diagnosis hanging over our heads. But it has brought us closer (funny how that happens) and I’m thankful that he is walking this path with me.

And that evening i was able to have dinner with my parents.

My father is an amazing, God fearing, man. He taught me the value of hard work at a young age (he use to bring me to the hospital before church on Sundays while he did rounds). He has been a pillar of support and encouragement throughout my life. And now, while trying to find a balance between a father and a surgeon and daughter and physician, our relationship has grown and i am so thankful that we have grown closer (despite a cancer diagnosis).

And let’s not forget Tiberius, as he has been the man in my life for the past 11 years. And he did father six puppies, so he is celebrated on Father’s Day too.

Tiberius is my sweet old man. I got him as a present for my ex-husband 11 years ago and he was meant to be a hunting dog. Well, how many times do you think he has been hunting? ZERO! He’s been a momma’s boy from day one. He’s been my steadfast love and although he can be grouchy in his old age, he unconditionally loves me. 💙

In other news, I’m done with 16/28 radiation treatments. Not much new to report from that standpoint. I still have some nausea and now some GI distress. But I’m keeping hydrated and taking care of myself as much as possible. They say this is the easy part. Let’s hope it stays that way!!

1/2 way done with radiation!

Today i am 1/2 way done!

I have had 14 of 28 radiation treatments for my colorectal cancer. So strange because i feel like it is flying by but also taking forever to complete.

I am doing Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) which is a high precision radiotherapy that delivers a precise radiation doses to my tumor. IMRT also allows higher doses of radiation focused on the tumor while minimizing the dose to the surrounding normal structures (although it is inevitable that i will be put into menopause because of the location and the fact that my ovaries are right there too- so yay me 😐).

Each treatment lasts 106 seconds (yes, i count each day) and that is it. It is important for me to count each day because i know I’m 106 seconds closer to the finish line (for this part at least). So i have had 1484 seconds of radiation since starting. After today, i have another 1484 seconds to go. Doesn’t seem like a lot of time in the long run.

Also to update everyone, I’m doing ok. I am a bit more tired but that is to be expected. I am enjoying the days where i can sleep in (usually til 7:30 which is late for me) but i also like getting up early and going to Orange Theory to work out before i go to radiation and then work. I’m trying to stay as active as possible because i know that will help my recovery from surgery. I have no radiation burns (yay!) but i do have some pain in my lower back/bum from the radiation but it is manageable. So when i say I’m ok, i am really ok!

Thank you to everyone checking on me and sending me prayers. It is much appreciated. 💙

I waited….you shouldn’t

So i’m going to be honest about my diagnosis, which is really hard to do because this is the thing that crushes me when it comes to my cancer story. But if me being honest helps ONE person, then there is a reason why i am going through this.

I had colorectal cancer symptoms for over two years.

There it is. I shook my head as i wrote that. I also can see people’s eyes when i tell them that. And i hear “Oh Lara….” when i say it. I had symptoms for over two years. And i didn’t go to my doctor about it. Because why would a young, healthy DOCTOR believe she had cancer. I thought i was stressed. I thought i had IBS. Cancer was not a thought in my mind.

I started having blood in my stool (very little) when i was studying for an exam 2.5 years ago. I was stressed out to the max and figured it was that. Then the blood went away once i finished studying and life was normal. See, it was the stress (that’s what i told myself). The blood came back a couple months later but was very little and then it was gone again. I never had constipation or pain and being a physician, we see blood in stool ALL THE TIME. Guess what it usually is? Not cancer. And so my symptoms went on like that for two years, but got a little worse over the past holiday season. So when i saw my PCP this February i told her and she urged me to get a colonoscopy.

I sometimes go down the path of “what if i had gone earlier?” What stage would i be? Or if had gone right when it started, would it just have been a pre-cancerous polyp that was removed? And alternatively, what if i waited even longer? I was (well still am) a busy physician who felt like i didn’t have the time to take TWO days off for a colonoscopy. My life would be so different when i think about all of these things. But i cannot dwell on that part. I cannot change my past and can only control my future. So here i am, battling Stage 3 cancer, for better or for worse.

So i’m once again sharing symptoms because Colorectal cancer (cancer in the colon or rectum) first develops with few, if any, symptoms. Please be proactive and talk to your doctor and don’t wait like i did. If symptoms are present, they may include:

  1. A Change in Bowel Habits, including diarrhea, constipation, a change in the consistency of your stool or finding your stools are narrower than usual
  2. Persistent Abdominal Discomfort, such as cramps, gas, or pain and/or feeling full, bloated or that your bowel does not empty completely
  3. Rectal Bleeding- finding blood (either bright red or very dark) in your stool
  4. Weakness or Fatigue- can also accompany losing weight for no known reason, nausea or vomiting

Additionally, the American Cancer Society recently recommended that adults without a family history should begin colorectal cancer screening at age 45. This is a change as of this year- it use to be 50, so take note!