Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another Angel on my Path, Kimberly

Hi everyone.  There is someone special I'd like you to meet tonight.  One of my cancer peeps, my friend Kimberly, and she's from Buffalo, New York.  Kimberly responded to one of my posts on the Breast Cancer Network of Strength message boards.  What immediately follows is a timeline for Kimberly, which is part of her profile on the site.  She was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma; mine is lobular carcinoma.  She had a 3 cm tumor on her right breast but elected to have a double mastectomy.  She had her surgery first, and then the same chemo regimen as me, 4 rounds of AC, followed by 12 rounds of Taxol.

Kimberly's Cancer Chronology
9/27/09: Found breast lump myself (Right-side/11 O'Clock)
Age 38
10/2/09: Mammogram/Ultrasound/Core Biopsy
10/6/09: Diagnosed Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
10/10/09 - 10/30/09: Tests and Doctors! Breast MRI; PET Scan; 3 Surgical Consultations; Genetic Testing
11/2/09: BRCA 2+
11/13/09: Double mastectomy (did left for peace of mind)- No Reconstruction
11/17/09: Final Pathology: 3 cm tumor, Clear Margins, 1/9 lymph-node positive, Grade 3, triple negative tumor
12/7/09: Port surgery - DONE!
Chemotherapy Regime: ACT (4 Rounds AC/12 Weekly Rounds Taxol)
12/18/09: Started Chemo
02/03/10: AC DONE!!!!!!!!!
3/16/10-3/22/10: Hospitalized: Right Atrial Thrombus from indwelling atrial catheter (AKA: Port/Blood Clot) UGH.
05/12/10: Taxol - DONE! YAHOO!! DONE WITH CHEMO!!!!!!!!!!!!
07/26/10-7/30/10: Hospitalized: Two lesions on brain from micrometasis from original dx. One lesion removed surgically on 7/28/10. Gamma Knife Procedure to remove second lesion and clean tumor bed of first surgery (8/6/10). Feeling great and blessed to have found this minor complication to wellness!!! "Stage Smage......."
8/6/10: Blood Clot in Right Atrium - GONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
TBD: Port Removal
Fall 2010 Ovaries and Tubes coming out!!

And I thought I had trouble with my port.  Kimberly was hospitalized due to a blot clot that resulted from her port.  She completed all her surgeries and chemo, and made it through the whole blood clot episode only to find out she had two micro metastases on her brain.

Kimberly sent me a message after reading my message board post about questioning chemo after receiving a clear PET/CT scan after two rounds of AC.  I could paraphrase what she had to say, but it is just so good, I wanted you to read it as she wrote it.  I asked Kimberly if this was ok.  She said she'd be honored to be included in my blog.

Honey, I bow to you. I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy.  :) 

From her first message to me:

Just picked up on your chemo journey - love your blog. SO glad you are doing the chemo - you WILL NOT REGRET IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am the one dealing with two brain mets - that escaped and hid out. CLAVICLE DOWN: CLEAN!!!!!!!!!!!!! (4 AC/12 Taxol). THANK GOD - you cannot for one minute convince me that shit wasn't running all over my body. PET/CT - prior to diagnosis - nothing. You never know with microscopic cells!!!!!

So - way to go!!!!!!!!!!! Take it from me - chemo is a bitch, but it is killing cancer. And - now that you are on the Taxol, you will find life gets a bit easier. Keep on truckin' girl - you're almost out the other side xoxoxoxoxoxoxo Kimberly
From her second message to me:
I am doing great!! Two brain mets, not so scary. Really. Chemo saved my life. It could have been everywhere. I am confident the surgery and Gamma Knife procedure will kick those lesions to the curb. I am in Buffalo, New York. Thank God. Major Cancer Institute - Roswell Park - in my backyard and a wonderful oncologist and medical team. Just wanted to let you know I had the SAME chemo regime as you - I dreaded it - kicked and screamed - didn't want to do it. Felt like shit on AC - but Taxol was better. And, I thank God everyday for chemotherapy. It is the best weapon we have. I will count down the weeks with you, but know - it is killing cancer and it is your friend. The hair comes back, the good cells come back - your body is amazingly resilient. Love to you.........xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoox
In one of my messages to her, I asked her this:
Tell me, what makes you so optimistic and hopeful? Tell me, in your quiet moments, what do you fear and grieve?

This was her reply.

Optimism and hope come from a place in my soul, that no doubt is connected to faith. I have never been overly religious, do not go to church every week, but always had a private spiritual connection with God. I am Roman Catholic - but also believe in angels and saints and signs and the power of prayer.

When you go through cancer, you hold your faith near. I always believed; but now I KNOW.

I have put my life in God's hands now. It's easier that way. It has given me the opportunity to continue to live each day as it comes and enjoy life's small miracles. The laughter of my nieces and nephews, family and friends, sunrises and sunsets, and to truly appreciate and understand what is important in this life. It is a gift. There is a beauty and freedom that comes from living life this way. This journey has also solidified my marriage. If we can weather this storm and come out the other side - truly appreciating and loving each other - what a beautiful gift for our marriage and life. There is NOTHING we can't get through.

In my private moments, I grieve feeling "invincible" and assuming I will live until I am 89. I have moments that when I look at my scars, I think, "What the hell just happened to me?" The dark side of cancer is that if you let it, it will steal your soul.

The physical symptoms of cancer are treatable. Almost prescriptive. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, etc. But - the emotional and psychological toll is never really discussed by your doctors. And shouldn't be - as they are not qualified psychologists. They treat symptoms of disease. But, cancer makes you look over your shoulder. Cancer tries to invade your peace. And not just yours, but tries to steal it from your family too. Perhaps what I am most upset about - is the worry it has put on my husband. There are times when I look at him, the emotional toll and fear of losing me is there. I have accepted my disease and will fight it.......but, sometimes I can see fear and sadness in his eyes.

Each day when I get out of bed - I smile. I have another day! What will I do with it today? Who can I help? Who can I make smile? You have the choice everyday how you will live with cancer. Each morning, I choose to live. I choose not to feel sorry for myself. I choose to laugh. And if the darkness of cancer tries to steal that from me - a few tearful moments, then on with my day. I will NOT let cancer take away my peace. It will NOT take away my soul, or faith, or love. Fuck you cancer.

First let me say, in the most holy respectful way I can, with God's understanding:

Fuck cancer Lord, fuck cancer.  Hear our prayer.  Hear our prayer.

Kimberly, I have been perceiving chemo as a punishment.  Girl, I bow to you and praise you for helping me see chemo as a gift.  Wow.  Isn't that ironic?  All of you writing me how I have caused a shift in your thinking, and at the same time, a shift is happening in me because of the wisdom of one of my sisters in this sorority none of us wanted to be part of.

Kimberly?  I may still whine and complain and tell the truth about chemo's challenges and side effects, but I will never again question it's gift to me.

This is the update on Kimberly, from one of her posts on the Network message boards.

Thanks for all the prayers and positive vibes you all have been sending my way the past week!! Just wanted to touch-base and give updates and let everyone know I am doing fine......

First, the Gamma Knife procedure went fantastic on Friday. I arrived at the hospital at 6:45 and was home by 2:00. Aside from the discomfort of about 10 minutes when they were fastening the halo on my head (with screws that felt like Frankenstein bolts - but were really tiny) - the procedure was simple. And - the answer to the question - YES, I was awake. The gave me some Ativan - but they need you sitting up and alert while they put the contraption on your head. The measurements have to be so precise - but I got numbing shots. And, quite frankly, my neurosurgeon let me swear through the entire process and told me that he had larger men on that table that didn't handle it so well. Kudos to me!! I told my husband - that procedure right there, separated the men from the boys. But this is how I see it ladies - put on your big girl panties and suck it up. You have a tumor that needs to be destroyed. Once the halo is on - you are pain free. And, you could dance it the CT tube and it didn't matter - because your head is stable. So, really not so terrible and I would screw that damn thing on my head myself again - if I needed to zap some stupid ass tumor. So - there's the perspective. And, they did not find anymore lesions - which can typically happen and they prepared me for that. The technology is so incredible they can find things that MRI's just can't pick-up. They would have blasted those too - if they had found them. But, they didn't.

Then, 10 minutes in an MRI and then 35 minutes in the Gamma Radiation tube. I was home by 2:00 and have only needed Tylenol for residual pain. This morning - I feel amazing. Yesterday, I think the Gamma Radiation gave me a buzz. I was up at 2:00 am yesterday - ready to start my day. I made pasta salad for my sister-in-law's wedding shower, did dishes, laundry, called Laurie at an un-Godly hour - ask her!!, got caught up on email and bill paying - it was nuts. I think if a box of toothpicks fell on the floor of my kitchen - I would have known how many toothpicks there were. I am telling you, I think I am now a savant. I am also speed-typer. It was hilarious!!!! I even walked my dogs yesterday and had to laugh that it took brain surgery for me to figure out that they "new" way of walking my dog on the four-wheeler with a flexi-lead is the bomb!!!

So, here is what happens from here: currently, the radiation is blasting that stupid freakin' tumor and the tumor bed of the one that was surgically removed. On September 8th, I go for a follow-up MRI to see the devastation. I visualize white light breaking that shit apart in my head. Then - we go from there with follow-up CT's every three months for awhile. The Gamma Radiation has over an 85% success rate with completely destroying the tumor. If the tumors decide they may want to come back, they are very predictable. They come back in the same, exact spot. Which is why the halo and screws are a crucial piece of this puzzle. My brain is mapped in quadrants and they know exactly where those tumors were and exactly where they would re-appear. If they come back - you zap them again. My neurosurgeon is brilliant and kind. He studied at Indiana University, has been in the field for 20-something years, his specialty is actually Parkinson's. He is one of 4 neurosurgeons in Buffalo that can run the Gamma Knife. I am in GREAT hands. And, I found out through my husband yesterday, that he scheduled me Friday because he was going on vacation next week and didn't want to wait. There is less than a 15% chance the tumors will come back - once they are gone.

So, here is what I ask - keep me in your prayers or send positive vibes - that the scan will be clean in September. I thank God that I presented symptoms and this was caught very early. I have no restrictions - other than driving right now. They have me on anti-seizures meds (Keppra) because the "surgical" procedure on the left side of my brain is on a "seizure center." I did not have a seizure, it is just preventative. It seems that I will have the green light to go back to work for the fall semester and just keep on truckin'. I hope this message makes everyone warm and fuzzy ........medicine is amazing and brain mets sound a lot scarier than reality. Thank God.

Lastly, my crazy, cancer-sniffing dog, who knew something was not right and was acting like a complete a-hole for three months; is now clam, submissive, happy, and back to normal. Guess what - I can tell from him that all will be well. His momma is back........and healthy.....and will be cancer-free.

Will you do me a favor, my faithful readers?  Will you include Kimberly in your prayers and good thoughts and send your love and light to her tonight, or whenever you read this.  The angels will know which Kimberly you speak of and will give the message to God.

Hopefully the angels will also have my back when God hears about my "fuck cancer" prayer.

Kimberly.  You are the bomb.  A time bomb that arrived right on time for me, and exploded into a thousand tiny stars of hope and faith raining down on me.

Kimberly.   May God bless you as you bless others with your grace and optimism and courage.

Kimberly.  You done good girl.  You are a force for good in the universe.


Thank you.

with all my heart.

1 comment:

Adelia Marie Panzetta said...

I have known kim for most of my natural born life... she is a song, my love song....a friend... what the word "friend" truly means. I keep a candle burning for her not only in my home, but in my heart as well.... thank you Kim for showing us that .... wow! Problems? What problems...? I love you Kimberly....Adele Panzetta

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