My days @ the chemotherapy infusion center of NWGA Oncology 2011-2012

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Here is a montage of pics from my year of getting chemotherapy:  Let us first chat briefly about my experience and what I felt during chemotherapy treatments.  Everybody will have a different experience from chemotherapy, none of it is fun or easy. My doctor explained it  to me in this way, “  it was going to feel  like I was bringing you  to the brink of death … in order to save your  life”.  For the record, She could not  have been more right!

So, depending on the pre-meds on average my chemotherapy took anywhere from 2 hrs-6hrs. Yup, toxic agents take time!!!Slow and steady is the best otherwise you will just get sick faster… I  mean lets be clear you ARE giong to be sick there is NO question!!. Although they will pump you full of steroids, anti-nausea and benedryl to help some with the immediate effects of the Chemotherapy. Chemo is a tricky tricky jerk, because most likely you will only feel extremely tired the day of chemo and  then BAM!!! 2-3 later is when the storm hits and your new friend become Zofran and Compazine and you feel like complete and utter dog poo!! The  infusion of the actual chemo is where I felt like there was metal in my mouth, somedays I felt like there were bugs crawling under my skin, tired (thank you benedryl) and overall anxiety about how little I could control. Chemo will rob you of you hair, your fingernails, a couple of toenails, eyelashes and taste buds, it will kill red and white blood cells but its  all in a days work in the path of destruction to eradicate your body of those dam cancer cells.

In those moments when you feel out of control all you have is your faith. God strips away everything else and asks you to put every ounce of everything you have left in him and the power of the medicine and the team of healers who he has sent to cure you.  So it doesnt matter if you pray to God, Jesus, Muhamed, Budda, Allah, Ganesh or whomever , cancer will test your faith and you will need something bigger than yourself  to hold on to , something to give you the strength which will   guide and comfort you during this dark and confusing time. I say do not limit yourself to one diety… emplore them all… there is power in numbers. lol

IMG_1230 THIS IS A PERFECT GLIMPSE INTO THE WEEKLY RITUAL : THEY GAVE ME CHEMO/HERCEPTIN THROUGH MY PORT-A -CATH BUT DESPITE THE NUMBING CREAM I ALWAYS FELT LIKE THEY WERE STABBING ME IN THE HEART. THE AGONY.   LISTEN PEOPLE IT NEVER GOT BETTER OR EVEN LESS PAINFUL!!

YUP! PRETTY MUCH SUMS IT UP!!!- CARD FROM MY BROTHER THOMAS

YUP! PRETTY MUCH SUMS IT UP!!!- CARD FROM MY BROTHER THOMASIT NEVER GOT BETTER OR LESS PAINFUL!

BETTER OR LESS PAINFUL!

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THOMAS AND ME

THOMAS AND ME

AMANDA AND ME

AMANDA AND ME

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messages from Mary Anne on my cancer juice!

messages from Mary Anne on my cancer juice!

ME AND MY DAD

ME AND MY DAD

once porta-cath was removed bc i was encapsulated my viens got abused from the chemoonce porta-cath was removed bc it was encapsulated my viens got abused from the chemo

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CHEMO SELFIE

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IMG_1037 THANKS TO SHAY AND THE GIRLS, I ALWAYS HAD MY OWN TREATMENT ROOM. I JOKED THAT SHE KEPT ME OUT OF ” GENERAL POPULATION” I AM GRATEFUL FOR THAT .I ALSO THINK I WAS AWARDED (AS I LIKE TO TERM) , A PRIVATE SUITE WAS BECAUSE I ALWAYS HAD A  ROWDY  ENTOOURAGE OF SUPPORTERS IN TOW. IT WAS INTERESTING OBSERVATION WHEN I LOOK BACK, GIVEN THE REASON I WAS THERE… WHICH WAS  TO HAVE THESE  TOXINS PUMPED THROUGH MY BODY TO KILL  THE CANCER and SAVE MY LIFE …  AND AS TENSE AND UNCERTAIN THIS TIME WAS, EVERYONE WHO ACCOMPANIED ME TO THE INFUSION CENTER ALWAYS MADE IT AS POSITIVE OF AN EXPERIENCE AS POSSIBLE.  THERE WAS LUNCH BROUGHT IN, TREATS, FUNNY YOU-TUBE VIEWINGS (GO THE F$%& TO SLEEP) , SHARING OF  STORIES AND SURPRISINGLY A LOT MORE LAUGHTER THAN TEARS. I REMEBER THE DAY THAT THOMAS, KIM MILLER AND MY FRIEND AMY GARDNER WE THERE WITH ME AND WE WERE CARRYING ON LAUGHING SO MUCH SHAY HAD TO SHUT THE DOOR. WE WERE HAVING ENTIRELY TOO MUCH FUN AS POISION PUMPED THROUGH MY VIENS. IT IS STRANGE TO THINK OF IT AS A HAPPY MEMORY BUT IT WAS JUST THAT!!

THE B TEAM AS SHAY SO AFFECTIONATELY TERMED THEM: AMY, KIM AND THOMAS

THE B TEAM AS SHAY SO AFFECTIONATELY TERMED THEM: AMY, KIM AND THOMAS

I AM SO FORTUNATE TO SHARE THAT THROUGHOUT MY ONE YEAR OF CHEMOTHERAPY  I NEVER ONCE HAD TO  ENDURE A SINGLE INFUSION ALONE!!! I  WAS BLESSED AND HONORED  TO HAVE AT LEASE ONE PERSON WITH ME EACH TIME. I KNEW HOW DIFFICULT THAT TASK WAS FOR MOST EVERYONE BECAUSE THEY WERE WILLFULLY ENTERING A PLACE THAT FEW PEOPLE GET TO SEE, WANT TO SEE AND UNFORTUNATELY IS NOT THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH.  BUT SHOW UP SOME OF THEM DID!! THANKS TO MOM, DAD, THOMAS, AMANDAD, AMY, KIM, TRAVIS, TERRY, LATOYA, ISABELLA , LIONELL, JOHANNA AND MELODIE ! I OWE YOU A DEBT OF GRATITUDE FOR SELFLESSLY  SHARING YOUR TIME WITH ME AND VISITING DURING CHEMOTHERAPY.

I WAS OFTEN HUMBLED  AS I WANDERED THROUGH THE OTHER AREA OF THE INFUSION CENTER WHERE I WOULD SEE  OTHER PATIENTS THERE ALONE AND  I JUST  COULD NOT IMAGINE GOING THROUGH THIS BATTLE WITHOUT  ALL THE AMAZING AND WONDERFUL PEOPLE WHO SOMEDAYS JUST SHOWED UP UNIVITED !! TO EACH OF THEM I SAY THANK YOU FOR NOT LETTING ME DO THIS ALONE!!                                                                                                                                             IMG_1585IMG_1786IMG_1109IMG_0872

THE  EVERY SO FASHIONABLE AND STYLISH CHEMO CHAIR:IMG_1597 NO MATTER HOW MANY PEOPLE SURROUND YOU, THIS IS WITHOUT QUESTION, IS THE LONELIEST PLACE ON EARTH!

Day after chemo you get a wonderful shot called Neulasta.

Neulasta is an injection they give you the day after chemotherapy, it helps rebuild the red blood cells that chemotherapy is killing, in order to save your life. Red blood cells are made in the marrow of your bones and you usually feel the effect of the drug in the largest bones in your body, femur, pelvis etc. The trouble with this shot is that it made my bones ache like I can hardly describe. My hip bones and femurs were  actually sore to the touch. My doctor said it was a good thing, it meant that the Neulasta was working. Along with my worsening neuropathy ( sharp stabbing  pain in my legs, feet, arms and hands from the  chemo) this made walking and moving around so hard. I felt like I was living in a 90 year old body, I was exhausted, nauseas and in pain most every day. I could not stand or walk for very long. Here I am almost 2 years after this treatment and I still suffer from exhaustion and nerve damage( neuropathy) in my legs and hands from the chemotherapy. Its like the gift that keeps giving.

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Test… Test and More Test

This is a  small collection of  some of the tests I have endured. Oh how I hate the word “SCAN” now!!

this machines scans your body for radioactive particles that reveal cancer

this machines scans your body for radioactive particles that reveal cancer. Oh yeah they give you radioactive juice beforehand. it is thought that the amount of radiaction that your are exposed to during this one test is equal to the amount a radiation a technition is allowed to be exposed to in a year. hmm just food for though!!

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Vascular Surgery–OUCH! June 17, 2011

This would be the first of  I don’t know 5-6 maybe seven surgery’s I would  endure as a result of my cancer battle. It would be scary and painful. I was not fully sedated when they pulled that  guide wire from my chest as they placed this contraption in what felt like my heart, so they could give me drugs that would save my life.  It was surreal, I was lying on the operating table unable to move, tears of pain streaming from my eyes onto the pillow when it happened. The nurse leaned over and asked me what was wrong. I couldn’t breath, the pain was excruciating and  I felt so alone.

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I cant help but remember a funny moment that day, prior to surgery… My mom in her infinate sweetnes trying to comfort me and telling me Kimberly,  do not worry, it is all up-hill from here. Now if you know my motherr, english is not her first language and when she gets nervous she starts inverting verbs and nouns like in her native tongue of spanish ( even though we always joke that she was adopted and looks more Filipino than Puerto Rican) Back to the story, I tried to correct her and told her , ” no mom,  you mean it’s all down hill from here” She bickered with me for a moment . I kept saying to her I hope it’s not up-hill and she insisted… Kimberly, it’s all up hill from here do not worry. When she finally realized what she was saying, we doubled over in gassps of  laughter. We needed to laugh in that tense moment because I fear we may have been in tears if not!! It was a happy moment that still makes me laugh!! Thanks Mom!!xo

how old are you again?? 5/12/2011

Thursday, May 12, 2011

HOW OLD ARE YOU AGAIN???

Not the words you want to hear when your breast surgeon is excising samples of breast tissue. I sensed his concern and I also knew that something deep in my gut was telling me this was different. He was concerned that the mass did not show up on the mammogram but he could see it with the ultrasound. Dr. Fine explained that was a challenge for women under 40 with healthy dense breast tissue to receive a proper diagnosis. That is why all you ladies and fellas with ladies who are under 40 and have concerns or family history make sure you demand a ultrasound vs a mammogram. You will be happy you did. So, Dr. Fine excised 5-6 pieces of  breast tissue using a “ultrasound guided punch biopsy”. It kinded reminded me of the longer version of the tool they use to piece your ears. 3 small sutures later and I was driving home I couldn’t wait until next Tues. to find out the verdict. Fingers and toes crossed!!!

What do you do after you get a cancer diagnosis???-May 2011

May 2011

… Go to Jamaica of course!

The sand, the salty air, a good friend, some sunshine and lots of frosty libations to make me forget the destiny of what waited for me back home. This trip could not have come at a better time. Just a few short days after my diagnosis I was headed out of the country far far away.

post diagnosis trip

post diagnosis trip

Kim Miller and Me

Kim Miller and Me

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I think I heard the earth Crack… May 19, 2011 (aka D-Day)

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It was as bright, sunny and warm morning heading south on interstate 85 on my way to see a customer in Union City,  having just left one of my physician offices when my phone rang, for some unknown reason I glanced at the time 10:12. Oops I am running late for my 10:30 appointment. It was Dr. Fine’s nurse practioner Julie Pryor.   For the life of me, I cannot tell  you her exact words because I stopped listening after she said, “yes, the mass is malignant”.  I said, I am sorry your going to have to slow down talking because I think I just heard you tell me I have CANCER… that’s when I am  sure I heard it… yep it was the sound of the earth cracking! I remember vaguely asking her, “what do you want me to do with that information?” and then I dont remember much after that but some how I ended up in an empty parking lot wondering what just happened! His nurse practioner would not give me any details, only said that the mass was malignant and that I had to come in right away.

How did this happen…? I am a healthy 37 year old hispanic woman in the prime of my life with no family history of gynecological cancers.  My only real assesment of how I got cancer… was it “spontaneous” or was it   years of living in an emotionally unhealthy and  stressful situation!

I spent that night all alone, in complete darkness both physically and mentally. I had only shared the news with my parents  brother and my manager Melodie.  It was an out of body experience, like the slow motion that occurs right before a car accident. It didnt feel real to me, like it was happening to someone else and  all I realize it was my diagnosis and all that kept replaying in my head  was that I was going to die and cancer would kill me.

DIAGNOSIS: Triple Positive  Breast Cancer: Prog+, Estog+ and Her-2+  , Invasive Ductual Carcinoma with a 3cm tumor growing in my breast. BRACA-1 and BRACA 2 Negative.

Not all breast cancers are the same. HER2+ breast cancer cells have more HER2 receptors (a particular protein found on the surface of cells) than normal breast cells.

  • Having too many HER2 receptors may make the cancer cells grow and divide faster, creating more HER2+ cancer cells
  • HER2+ breast cancer is considered aggressive because it grows and spreads quickly

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Wait for it 5/18/2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wait for it…

 

Wedneseday.. no news is good news??? That is what my mom said that morning. Of course I am not a wait and see type of girl so I called the office and Dr. Fine was in surgery and the girls at the office said he would call be back. Hmmm, I felt pretty good. Surely, if it would have been malignant he would have stopped everything to talk to me right? No problem… he can call me back when has a moment.

 

d-day maybe?? 5/17/2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

D-Day??? Maybe??

Today I should be getting my results. I am a little rattled especially since I have to go and push some pills help the sick and afflicted today with my manager, Melodie. Ride days with a manager are always a little tense, just because I want to do a great job but today was going to be EXTRA hard.  Good news, she is a amazingly sympathetic and supportive. She too was waiting on pins and needles with me. Every phone call we held our breaths.. Work day complete.. no word from Dr. Fines office.

 

let the testing begin 5/2/11

Monday, May 2, 2011

Let the Testing Begin:

So let me give a little back story on Dr. Fine (breast surgeon extraordinare). I consider him my “breast guy” because about 4 years ago I had a small fibroid cyst removed in my right breast. So when it came time to check out this new development… I went straight to the man himself. At this appoint I sensed something was wrong immediately.  He used an ultrasound to locate the area in question.  Dr. Fine said this mass looked quite different from the area he removed 4 yrs ago, this was a solid mass.  He said he did not want to jump to any hasty conclusions and explained that younger breast tissue can have dense areas. Nonetheless he scheduled me for a procedure called a punch biopsy and the dreaded “mammography’ with extended views.

mamography extended view

mamography extended view

i will get to later… tough mudder first

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I will get to that later…

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Around this time… I remember noticing the lump getting larger, more palpable  but not yet being overly concerned. I knew I had a busy month with work and I was getting ready to head to Chicago for a long overdue visit. I had not been back in over a year!! So I put it off and scheduled the appointment May 2 with Dr. Fine. This year had started off really bumpy. Alone for the holidays( long story), horrible flu in January,  homebound with ice storm in Georgia, then I was enticed over a few too many margaritas with  the divine idea and ‘New Years Resolution”  to do something physically challenging this year so signed up with my college friend Pierre to run the first GeorgiaTough Mudder (http://toughmudder.com) in Cedartown Georgia.  Considered to be the toughest event in the US. So off we went March 12,2011,  with 3,000 other people, mostly men  to  raise money for the WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT, trecking, running, swinging, climbing, crawling,cursing, jumping,  obstacle after obstacle, all topped off with a good ol’ dose and  ending of electorshock therapy as we literally crawled to the finish for what they advertised as a 10- 12 mile run but we stopped counting after mile 14.  And that is where I thought my physical challenge would end for the year? Ha..silly girl,  think again! God has a funny sense of humor Kimberly.

A funny mantra from Marcus throughout the day was, “this is the last hill Kim”…how that sentiment would play out into the next real life obstacle I was about to tackle. One more hill Kim…. and so it begins!

the first physical challenge of  2011..

the first physical challenge of 2011..

Tough Mudder

Team Phoenix Hydra Marcus, Pierre, Lynsey

Team Phoenix Hydra
Marcus, Pierre, Lynsey