Monday, August 15, 2011

The Next Chapter: Our Plan of Attack!

     It has been quite the ride with this melanoma beast since 2006 when it first showed it's face.  It has been an even bigger roller coaster as we learned this monster has joined my body in a stage 4 fashion.  It's not something that easily gets processed completely.  You go through your moments of denial, shock, anger, confusion, frustration, disbelief, and rage and then realize that the only one all those emotions hurt are yourself.

     You get to a place where you realize that petty/meaningless stuff is just that...  petty and meaningless.  It always was and always will be so why waste your energy.   You find yourself traveling down this path that you have no idea where you are going and the truth is, no one around you does either.  Sometimes it feels like the blind leading the blind, but you just keep putting one foot in front of the other not looking back and desperately trying not to make sense of what is ahead.

     The only thing you do is BELIEVE!  You breathe it, you own it, you are it.....  BELIEVE!  There is no room in my physical body to accept any other path than that.  That is my story and that is what I'm sticking too.  ;-p  My goal setting, stubborn demeanor allows me to not accept anything less.  All the rest will fall into place.   Slowly but surely with all your help we are beginning to see some results to all that positivity and I in my core truly believe that.

     So, this appt today was highly anticipated as we were eager to at least have a plan.  Two things we specifically prayed for were that my results came back BRAF + and that we had a plan.  Both of those things came true.  In my book, not a coincidence so thank you for your prayers, support, and positivity.  If solving my melanoma issue was as easy as BRAF, well then there wouldn't be millions of people struggling with this beast, but at least it gives me that option.  We knew full well that this wasn't going to be easy so let me explain the steps.

      Ok, so BRAF isn't FDA approved just yet and getting me into a study could take a couple of weeks. It's going to be approved soon, but no one knows exactly when.  It could be tom, next week, or in a couple of months.  Either way, I would need to wait to get the drug.  Wait to be included in the study, or wait for FDA approval.  BRAF also isn't exactly a cure either.  The issue with it is if you take it and it shrinks the tumors and then reoccurs, my understanding is that if it comes back there is a resistance to the drug.  Nothing is an exact Science but it is a nice option to have in our back pocket.  I'll take as many options as I can get.  It can prolong life quite considerably which means that much more time for research.  I just have to keep the FAITH.  With the rate my tumors were growing, waiting doesn't set well with the medical team, so what do we do first is the question.  The answer for now  is biochemotherapy!

     Before I get there, I did want to tell you a bit about my body beginning to shrink these tumors on their own.  Like I said on a previous entry, my tumors taken out on friday seemed to be dead/dying and the one on my scar line is now pretty much non existent.  How do you make since of this and is this something that can really happen?  Let me explain...

      Dr. Ross and Dr. Kim are perplexed enough to order a new CT scan on wed. to see if there is any SIGNIFICANT change of growth of the tumors on my lungs, liver, bowel, and T7.  We do know the one on my scar line is gone, but only if there is SIGNIFICANT change will we hold off on any treatments to see what my body will do on its own.  I stress SIGNIFICANT change so chances of me still beginning biochemotherapy is still high.  It is something to pray for though, it doesn't hurt to try. At the time I discovered the reoccurrence I was 18 weeks pregnant.  This was over Easter weekend in April.  Dr. Ross explains that during pregnancy our bodies immune system is suppressed in order for it to not reject the growing fetus.  After the loss of my beautiful angel (that let me tell you is giving me more strength than you know) my body was ramping itself up to normal immune levels and pushing out all the hormones that were responsible for pregnancy.  This could be a reason why my body may be fighting the melanoma on it's own.  How cool would that be if my body is doing it naturally.   I'll keep visualizing this terrible monster out of my body, and with the WILL to be there for Zachary's wedding, and the constant prayers it will be known that this girl has a lot more life left to do on this planet.

     So, this week I will be prepping for my admission to the hospital and the beginning of biochemotherapy.  Visitors are welcome and you can coordinate with my mom or Jeff whether or not it would be a good idea.  On wed. I go back to MDA for bloodwork, my CT scan, to do an Echo cardio test on my heart, and a pulmonary test for my lungs.  The chemo I will be given is pretty hard core so they want to make sure all bodily functions can handle the stress.  I will lose my hair (maybe not right away), and chances of it causing infertility are high.  The hair part is what it is and will grow back, the fertility part is harder for me to swallow but I'm accepting it.  If I can be a part of the happenings of this planet for 40+ more years and see Zachary accomplish all of the wonderful things I know he will then it is all worth it.  Jeff already told me adoption is not out of the question.  Let's just get me in remission and get this beast OUT!  I love my husband!

     The way they describe having a stage 4 diagnosis is it's like having a chronic illness as there is no cure.  It seems less daunting when put into the category of High Blood Pressure which he did.  There is no cure, but it can be managed and needs to be monitored closely.  I will always have Cancer.  We can only hope I get to that point of remission and stay there for many, many years.

     Tues. I get admitted to the hospital, and get all the tubes I need for the chemo to be administered.  They originally wanted me to start monday, but are letting me do it tues. so i can be there for Zachary's 1st day of his new school.  Super important in my book.  How can I miss....I'm excited for him.  I will stay overnight for 7 days.  This will be hard on me to be away from Zachary, but I know I have to do it.  I know visitors are welcome and to manage doctors coming in and out with updates either Jeff or my mom will be with me at all times.  I will have 5 days of chemo and 2 days building my body back up to go home.  It's supposed to wipe the living BLEEP out of you.

      If everything goes as planned, I'm released  to home for 2 weeks.  The first week, I won't be feeling so hot and prob. get up to about 80% better by the 2nd week just in time to be readmitted all over again for another week of chemo.  After that session I will get rescanned.  If they see shrinkage, we know the cocktail is working and potentially I will stay on this routine 1 week in the hospital two weeks home for 6 rounds of chemo.  A fight is an understatement.  If it doesn't show signs of treatment, we will be forced to table it and try a new approach.  This is where it is music to our ears to have options like BRAF because in 2006, there weren't any other options.  The other option would be manage symptoms until well....  death which is what we all must look at at some point in our lives.

    I do love you all, I am gaining strength from everyone, and feel blessed to be given the stage to tell my story.  Hopefully through my experience I can make this road for someone else a little less confusing,  take some of the anxiety out of not knowing, and shed some hope onto the journey.  I do know I love my life and the people in it and hopefully this is just a temporary hiccup in the road that brings the gifts of perspective and a life full of wonderfulness for many years to come.  I know I am loved and I hope you all know that too.  WE can do this....I WILL DO THIS AND I WILL BE HERE TO TELL EVERYONE EXACTLY HOW IT IS DONE WITH A SMILE ON MY FACE.  Once a teacher, always a teacher.. it's in my blood.  I will never quit, I love the life I have been given the opportunity to live.  NO REGRETS!

hugs and kisses,



  1. I am with you 125% of the way. You are the biggest fighter this planet knows and if anybody is going to surprise the Dr's and this damn melanoma, it is going to be you. I am going to come visit whether you like it or not. Maybe mid September. I just have to wait to see when Scott might be traveling for his job so I can coordinate. Even if I just see you for 5 minutes, I want to give you a hug. Or, I am happy to sit there with you all day long to give your Mom or Jeff a break. I know you can do this. xoxoxo

  2. (sorry, that was Heather B, not you talking to yourself :))

  3. Wow! You are so awesome Jen!! We are all with you in this fight!! You are so inspiring. =)

  4. Jen, you are amazing,and brave,and I love your positive spirit! You are a fighter and I know you can do this. One of these days soon I am going to fly over there. We miss you and we love you!

  5. Jen, love your fighting spirit! I wanted to post this to help you or other women with cancer feel a little better about themselves while going through Chemo. Pantene has a program called Pantene Beautiful lengths that provides wigs to women with cancer. The hair is from donations just like Locks of Love. However, you only need 8 inches, not 10 inches to donate. Not sure if you are interested in getting one, but I donated my hair this past April and welcome others to do the same.

  6. Jen, just been reading all the blog posts aloud with (Big) Jeff. We are encouraged by the fact that your body is fighting these tumors on it's own, and are so happy that you have received some good news. We are all beside you as you start the rounds of chemo. You can do this. You ARE doing this. Holy cow!!!

    Big will call Little tomorrow and find out a good time for us to come see you this weekend as we are coming to Houston. I just can't wait to see you!!!