Sunday, June 4, 2017

What Comes Next

I've had a lot of people ask what comes next in my journey. Instead of writing a million different messages, I figured why not another blog post. 

May 12th I finished my final day of radiation. It was one of the most exciting days that I had in a long time.  After my treatment was over I got to ring the bell. For those of you that dont know, when you finish treatments you get to ring a bell to represent the end of radiation. It was the first time in a long time, I felt there was a light at the end of the tunnel... 


5 weeks of radiation had nothing on the next few weeks. Even though I was finished with the treatments, they said my skin would be getting worse before it would get better. Boy were they right. I couldn't wear shoes other then house slippers, I had to use a cane for a bit because it hurt to walk, my skin was getting darker and gross every day. That light I thought I saw at the end of the tunnel started to get further away again. 

A few weeks after radiation ended I had my first appointment with my plastic surgeon. I always thought if I was going to need a plastic surgeon, it would be for a nose job, not reconstructive surgery for my foot. I guess that nose job is going to have to wait! 😀

So now what comes next. This surgery wont be a simple one. Since meeting my doctor, I've spent hours processing what comes next. The surgery is to go back into my foot, clear the remaining cancer and then finish up with a skin transplant. Because they want to make sure there is good blood flow to my foot after surgery they will take the skin and blood vessels from my left forearm and attach them to my foot. Then to close my arm, they will take skin from my stomach or groin. Because this surgery is pretty intense, they will be keeping me in the hospital for 5-7 days. The first few days, I feel are going to be the worst. I wont be able to get out of bed, move my foot, dangle it... I will be stuck with no place to go. After a few days they will start the process of allowing me to dangle my foot off the side of the bed. If all this goes well and there are no issues with blood flow, I will be released to go home. 

But thats not the end of it. It will be weeks before I will be up and walking on that foot. Lucky me, more days spent on crutches. I think about all this and sometimes I just want to burst into tears.  I'm no rookie when it comes to surgeries, however no recovery for those surgeries, comes close to what this will be like. The thought of being hauled up in bed for that long makes me crazy... good thing I like watching movies! 

As time gets closer to the surgery, the light that I saw a while back, is starting to get brighter again. There really is an end to all this. Part of me wishes this journey had never begun. But the other part of me is glad it did. A few months ago, everything was different. I look back and realize how strong I have been, how I was able to get through this difficult time, how I kept putting one foot in front of the other, even though I felt broken at times. I've realized that a few months can do a lot to a person. It can show you the person you want to be. One who wants to live in the now, rather then in the past. One who knows who her real friends are. One who is willing to take the road less traveled and be different. 

A few weeks, months, even years from now, I'll look back on this time and be able to say, remember when I had that crazy thing called Cancer? I still dont know why God chose this life for me, but I will always be grateful for the life I have. I have an amazing family who has bent over backwards for me, friends who have given countless hours out of their schedules to be with me for appointments, or lunches. Even strangers who see me in the store, or at lunch and tell me they will pray for a good outcome. It may feel as though my life sucks at times, but deep down I know I have the best life God could have given me. 

This is just a speed bump in the road. I am choosing to take the road less traveled, and in the end, it will make all the difference.  


Saturday, April 29, 2017

My Journey

This post is about the interesting journey God has taken me on. Back in 2015, I began to have the most excruciating pain in my left foot. Usually it would happen at night when I laid down but sometimes it would continue throughout the day. After weeks of this pain, I went into my Dr. where he took an X-ray and basically told me I was crazy. He said there was nothing in the scan to show that anything was wrong. He put me on some medicine to help with the pain and sent me on my way.

Fast forward a year, in July of 2016 I was offered the Youth Director Position at St. Basil the Great Greek Orthodox Church in Houston TX. As hard as it was to move away from family, I knew this was what God wanted me to do. Mid August, I moved to Houston. That is when I realized not only was I still having pain in my left foot but a lump had begin to grow on my ankle. The lump grew to a pretty big size. I had many people look at it and they all said it seemed to  be a cyst. Everything I had read about cysts, didn't make me too concerned or in a hurry to get it checked out. Boy was that a mistake.

In January 2017, once my insurance kicked in, I finally decided to go to the Dr. to get the lump checked out. By this point, it hurt all the time and I couldn't wear any shoes other then sandals. Again my Dr. said he thought it was a cyst and referred me to a podiatrist. The next month I met with the new Dr. She took an X-ray said it was a cyst and scheduled me for surgery. On Friday February 24th 2017, I went in to have the mass removed from my ankle. The mass was almost 8 cm long. A week later when I went to get my boot she told me that it wasn't a cyst and she was waiting to hear back from pathology on what exactly it was.

On March 9th, I went back to have my stitches removed and that is when my whole world flipped upside down. I could tell something was off from the moment I walked into the room. The Dr. was quiet, distant and looked like she wanted to cry. She sat down next to me and told me the original pathology report stated it was a sarcoma. She informed me that they had sent it to MD Anderson for a second opinion and that was all I heard. I left the office in tears. I immediately called my mom and told her what the Dr. told me. I was in shock, I couldn't believe what she had told me. There was no way this was correct, it had to be a mistake.

A few days later we got a call from the Dr. with the final diagnosis. They labeled it a Myoepithelial Carcinoma. This is a rare form of cancer usually found in the salivary glands... mine was located in my ankle. At that point, I knew it was real.  The first few days of knowing were a blur. I didn't know what to think. I found myself staring off at nothing, wondering how this happened. I would begin to tear up just thinking about it.  My mom came to stay with me and some of my family came down to surprise me.

That was exactly what I needed in that moment. My whole world was crashing down on me. I was a month shy of 28 years old and I had cancer. I knew that I needed to get the best care and I was in the best city for that.

 I called MD Anderson and got an appointment in the sarcoma center. The first day was exhausting. 12 hours at the medical center for blood work, CT scans, MRI's, Ultrasounds and to meet my oncologist. A couple days later, I got a call from the nurse telling me my scans showed nothing had spread. For the first time in weeks, I felt relief, but I knew it wasn't the end. On April 3rd I went in to meet with the Radiation oncologist. He informed me, I would have to go in 5 days a week for 5 weeks and receive radiation on my foot. After that was over, I would have a few weeks rest period and then another extensive surgery to clean out the remaining stuff in my foot.

On April 10th, I began my radiation journey. The first week was a breeze, but as time has gone on, I've noticed a difference in me. I'm getting more tired, my foot is red, swollen, dry skin and I have marks up and down my leg. I just finished my third week of radiation. I am more then half way done with this part of the journey. Two more weeks and I will be done with radiation! I can't believe it has gone by so quickly!

I think about all of this and wonder why me? Why is this happening to me? Was there something I could have done to prevent this? Why didn't I get it looked at sooner? Why didn't I ask my first Dr. to do more scans? Through all this, I have had a lot of mixed emotions. Mad because this has happened, happy because I'm lucky I didn't have to do chemo, sad because cancer sucks.  I will never really know why, but I do know that God has a plan. He has a plan for all of us. I do know that God wouldn't have sent me on this journey if he knew I couldn't survive it. A few years from now I'll look back and remember this time and be able to say I did it. I made it through that difficult time. I beat cancer.

This chapter in my life is definitely one I'll never forget. I would never have been able to get through this without the love and support from my friends and family near and far. I'll never be able to repay those who have taken so much time out of their busy schedules to take me to my appointments or help me keep my mind off everything that is going on. To all those who have sent me get well cards and gifts. All the calls, texts and messages. I truly am so very lucky to have each and every one of you in my life.