BEING ABLE TO SURVIVE IT, DOESN'T MEAN IT WAS EVER OK...
August 26, 2011 2 years ago today, I had that cancerous tumor removed from my breast. I can't really complain a whole lot, I'm still standing! I have become a much stronger woman with determination to deal with what's thrown at me and have compassion and a strong connection with those who are still battling this dreaded disease. I pray that soon there will be a breakthrough in our much needed targeted therapy for triple negative breast cancer and a Cure to rid the world of breast cancer.
I thank my husband and son for always loving and needing me... I need you two so much also. I thank my family and friends for always believing in me and for your continued support in the fight against breast cancer. In return, I'll continue to fight for my Triple Negative Breast Cancer Survivor friends who have taught me so much of the appreciation of LIFE, for those who's journey had just begun, for those who are still fiercely battling, for my Tracy whom I've become very close to and is like a sister to me and for one special friend that I had to say goodbye to... I fight for all of you, I fight for LIFE! Thank you and much love, Melissa
My husband had just left that day for Traverse City when that evening I felt a lump on my left breast along the bra band. At first I thought it was just my rib, maybe a little swollen. After comparing it with the right breast, I realized it was different from the left and couldn't believe it was actually a breast lump. I was thinking this just can't be happening and my heart just sunk. I was down and it was late and there was nothing I can do that night so I went to bed. The next morning, Monday, I kept trying to call my family doctor but couldn't get through so I called Toledo Hospital to schedule a Mammogram. I told them that I couldn't get ahold of my doctor and needed a mammogram appt. right away and asked if there was any cancellations that day. They said, " how about 8:30am tomorrow morning?" I said, "I'll be there." I think they said they'll get ahold of my doctor for the referral. I didn't want to tell my husband for he was on vacation with our son, I knew if I told him, he would worry and come back home. I decided to wait until after I have the mammogram when I know more of what I'm dealing with.
Tuesday, August 3, 2009
I went to Toledo Hospital for my mammogram, haven't had one since my baseline at age 36. I told them that I found a lump and they put a marker on it in that area and took digital images and told me that this was the newest state of the art technology that is more accurate and shows more detail. After the mammogram, they performed an ultrasound of the lump in my breast, I saw a large mass showed up on the monitor and it looked huge to me. I asked if that was the tumor and she replied, "yes." I asked if the tumor was really that big and she replied that it was a medium size lump measuring 2cm.
The breast cancer doctor told me the results of my mammogram and said it came back negative. I told him it's there I can feel it. He said there is a lump that showed up on the ultrasound but didn't show up on the mammogram because my tissues were too dense. The doc said it's probably nothing to worry about that it was probably just a cyst but said I might want to make an appointment with my family doctor to get a referral for a surgeon to get a biopsy done, that that's the only way you'll know for sure that its not cancer. I asked if he can do it now. He replied, "the biopsy, yeah I can do it now, do you want to do it now? I said yes, "that's why I'm here today, I'm concerned". He then asked, "Do you have any place I have to be in the next half hour? No, nothings more important right now. Doc said he would need to set up and will need to call Dr. Elizabeth Hoffman to get a referral for the procedure. They tried to call several times to Dr. Hoffman and were waiting on a call back from her. At this time, I called my mother and told her about the lump and that I was getting a biopsy done it, she says it's probably just a cyst that she gets them all the time. After waiting awhile for a returned call from Dr. Hoffman, The Doc decided to go a head with the needle biopsy and get the referral later. The doc inserted a needle into my breast into the tumor as I watched the needle poking the tumor on the ultrasound screen. After the Doc got the specimen, I asked him what he thought. Doc said, "before the biopsy, I was 50/50 on it, now that I did the biopsy, I say there's about 25% chance you could be cancer but I really think it's just a cyst for as I was doing the biopsy, the lump changed in shape leading me to believe that it's not solid". The Doc further said, " I don't want to say too much, you'll have to wait for the lab results".
So I went home feeling relieved, thinking I just have a cyst in my breast. I called my husband in Traverse City and told him about the lump, mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. I told him that it was nothing to worry about that the Doc thinks the lump is just a cyst and should have the lab results back in a couple of days. My husband did come home the next day.
Thursday, August 4, 2009
I remained calm and didn't cry but had all these thoughts and fears in my head," Am I going to die?", "My son living without his mother", "What stage is my breast cancer, has it spread?", "Is it in my lymph nodes?", "I, now have to tell my husband and how am I going to tell my 7 year old son?" All of a sudden nothing else mattered, I have breast cancer! Not going to worry about jobs, money or material things because right now it doesn't matter, I'm going to die! I now had to go outside and break the bad news to my husband of 17 years after I assured him not to worry that I'll be Ok. I went outside and my husband asked me, "Who was on the phone?" I told him, "Dr. Beth". I think he asked, "What did she want?" I told him that she had my lab results and that they were positive, "I have breast cancer' and detailed him in on my conversation. The look on his face, he was just devastated. My husband broke down crying and grabbed me and held me in his arms and telling me, he's sorry. I still couldn't cry and kept telling him that I will be ok as I felt how much he was hurting. At this time, our mail lady approached us on the porch and asked what was wrong. I told her that I had just found out a few minutes ago from a call from my doctor that I have breast cancer and told her what was going on.
Now, our concern was how we're going to tell our son. We decided not to tell him at this time until after we see the surgeon and decide from there on how much to tell him. It was getting close to the time to pick our son up and we're thinking about how we're going to keeping our composure around our son without losing it. I went over to my mother's house and told her of the news, she was shocked and couldn't believe it for she had had lumps removed from her breast twice and they were benign. My husband had called both of his parents and told them of my cancer. I got a call back from Dr. Butler's office and a consultation visit was scheduled for in 2 weeks. 2 weeks of worry, still not knowing how bad my breast cancer was and not having any answers to the questions running through my head. I immediately took a leave of absence from my jobs as I had several medical appointments and constantly on the run for blood work, MRI, other testings, etc. and just trying to keep head together.
GOD NEVER PROMISED US AN EASY JOURNEY IN LIFE, ONLY SAFE ARRIVAL...
August 4, 2009
Dear God, it's me Melissa - Thanks for honoring my friend, Shannon's request and for me please, I pray for negative results. Thank you and I did tell my husband today.
So not pregnant!! had a biopsy done on lump in left breast - right now it's going in my favor but 25% the other way. Being strong but alone - husband and son been out of town.
August 8, 2009
TOTAL SHOCK for me, Last week I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Stage IIC(pT2,PNO,mMX), found 1 in. lump under breast on Sunday. Mammogram, ultrasound, needle biopsy, marker and mammogram again, all on Tuesday. Yesterday, I received the call from my doctor that my biopsy tested positive for breast cancer. As of now, their plan is to do a lumpectomy, look at the lymph nodes and run more tests and go from there.
Information and details are still very preliminary and will keep you all informed. I did send out a few posts prior to other friends who I did not talk to one on one on FaceBook to keep them in the loop too. I’m very public about this as like everything else that goes on in my life and would not exclude anyone that mean so much to me. I do see the breast care surgeon on August 17th and will discuss their plan of action. I have a lot of medical forms to fill out now and pick up mammogram and ultra sound images to take with to Dr. Butler. Dr. Butler is well know in Toledo, and I have a few breast cancer survivor friends that are being treated and/or have been treated by her and have had excellent results and experiences with her.
You all know that I’m a strong woman, very hopeful, and ready for this fight to beat this cancer – I have to for my 7 yr. old son who needs his mommy to be healthy and for my husband who is the best thing that ever happened to me. I know most of you all for a very long time and you are all very dear to me. I hate breaking this news but can’t hold it in me and need to remind you to please do your breast self exam every month, early detection is the key. Many of you know that my lump did not show up on the mammogram so please, please do your self exams, press firmly and be thorough. I know I’m surrounded by lots of great people, positive energy and laughter which will get me through this. For things are still sketchy for me, this is gonna be a long week till the 17th so keep the wise cracks on FaceBook coming to me! Peace, Love and Friendship, Melissa Stukenborg Paskvan
August 11, 2009
Wow, what an overwhelming amount of support I'm receiving, what can I say... you're all the best, Thank you! Thank you all for your thoughts, good humor, positive energy and many prayers sent my way and to my family.
Filled out all my medical forms and picked up my mammo/ultra sound images and took them directly to my surgeon's office today. Now that I got that out of the way, 6 more days of waiting!
Always Peace, Love and Friendship, Melissa
August 12, 2009 at 10:44pm
Is it normal for me to be this anxious? I wish I can just Chill! My husband wants me to get some sleep tonight.
On my way for consultation with the breast care surgeon, I will remain strong !
Alright, long day today, calling it the night. Not great news from the doctor but not the worst either. Really tired, don't feel like talking much right now. Will send out a message soon and thanks for all your positive thoughts - it does help. I'm strong and gonna have to fight like hell! Peace
Quick update: 2 hour visit with Dr. Butler, my breast care surgeon on Monday.
Right now I'm looking at Stage IIB aggressive breast cancer. Now had a biopsy done on lymph node clump, abnormality in size there - waiting for the test results.
Another ultrasound of the breast lump performed. Where the lump is located it would be hard to pick up on mammogram and may be difficult to detect during breast self exams.
2 doctors were surprised that I had found the lump myself. Therefore, on top of my annual mammogram I will also have a MRI performed in addition for life.
Right now I have a difficult choice to make: Lumpectomy with radiation or a Mastectomy with no radiation - both with the same end results. Then I'll have 4-8 months of Chemotherapy either way I go. Since the cancer is aggressive, I will be having an MRI performed on Wednesday, on Thursday- a bone scan, chest xray, and blood work (Happy Birthday to me). Surgery next week with chemo to follow about a month later.
Now, if the MRI results shows anything MORE than this singular lump then the choice will already be made for me, they will have to take the whole breast.
Two things: I need to change my diet, cut out my 3 evils- Pepsi, chocolate and donuts, cut my carbs and sugars and need to eat 5 servings daily of fruits/vegetables.
My 9 month bout with MRSA staph infection that I finally kicked in April had knocked my immune system down contributing with cancer being aggressive. Will always be a carrier of MRSA and is very important I don't get it again during treatment.
I'm strong and am now realizing I have a long road a head of me to recovery, but I promise I may be tired now but I'm gonna give it all I have and beat this cancer.
My husband is taking this very hard and now will have to sit down with my 7 yr. old son and some how explain to him... Did I mention I'm kinda scared but haven't been able to cry?
I really do appreciate all your support and prayers, Thanks!
Peace, Love and Friendship, Melissa Stukenborg Paskvan
August 19, 2009
MRI went well today, cancer contained to the one area only . Finally some good news, Wooo Hooo! Still an area of concern in the lymph nodes thou. I'm leaning towards the lumpectomy with radiation and chemo depending on how the rest of my tests go tomorrow. I say this was a good day for me! Thanks again for your support, Melissa
August 20, 2009 at 4:49p
Received some gag gifts for my Birthday today: a bone scan, blood work and 2 chest x-rays! LOL!
6½ hours of tests at the hospital but well worth it!
Great news: First, I want to thank everyone for my Birthday wishes, had a real nice day. Surgeon called to tell me that my lymph node biopsy came back normal which is a major plus!
Busy week - Another Dr. visit with my gyn, Breast MRI performed - cancer isolated to the one area, 6½ hours of testing at the hospital: Had a Bone Scan done - tests came back normal, blood work came back normal and chest x-rays which are expected to come back good too.
Having some piece of mind now and I pray I'm making the right decision as I opt to having the lumpectomy done with 6 weeks of radiation, Monday through Friday along with Chemotherapy once every 3 weeks 4-8 months. Surgery on Wed. Aug. 26. I'm feeling pretty good about this, my spirits are good and am confident that I'm going to beat this breast cancer!
Pre-admittance today at the Hospital - moving right along!
I told my son some of what is going on, medical tests and having surgery to remove a lump - will tell him more as it happens, didn't want to overwhelm him.
Always Peace, Love and Friendship, Melissa Stukenborg Paskvan
August 25, 2009 at 9:08pm
Had a nice N.Y. strip steak dinner at Texas Roadhouse with my husband and son night before my surgery.
Dear God, it's me Cancer, I'm about to get deported from Melissa's body.
Please give her peace of mind knowing that she will be rid of me and have no plans of returning.
August 26, 2009 at 7:27am
"Feeling Alright, I'm not feeling to good myself..." Im doing fine, but can not be on the computer, not suppose to be typing so I'll be lying low for a little bit. Huge THANKS to all my friends and family for all your prayers and positive thoughts, believe me it really helped. Surgery went really great, details at another time - gonna rest now and love you all!
Hey, 2 hour surgery went great last week. I did go with the lumpectomy, removed 5 lymph nodes, no cancer in the nodes! Thank you all, your prayers have been heard. Thank you God, thank you. Incision under breast, in armpit, and side where the draining tube comes out, ICK!
I am fairly bruised and swollen on whole left side. Did spend the night in the hospital.
Spent most of the week resting, am experiencing a lot of bad dreams recently ???
Ordered to do nothing for a week including staying off the computer, LOL - been caught by a few of you... and I did make it to the McAuley Alumni Gathering which was really nice.
5 hours at the hospital prior to surgery for pre-op and another fun, fun procedure that no one warned me about, Grrr! - Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy, a NEEDLE injection of blue dye into my areola just below the nipple. OMG, that was the worst pain that I have ever felt, the stinging shot across my chest to my shoulder and down my arm. Thanks for the free piercing but I'd rather have passed!
Only 3 days of Percocet, drinking a lot of V8 and protein drinks, good food for the most part to build up my strength and immune system for the next phase,Chemotherapy. Looking to start chemo in about 5 weeks when healed pretty good.
Thank you all again for supporting me through this 1st Phase to my road to a successful recovery, take a bow! Couldn't have done this alone. Hugs and Kisses to all, Melissa Stukenborg Paskvan
November 25, 2009
Wow, it's been about 3 months post-op and I just now reached my halfway point with my chemo treatments with 4 more to go. Here's a run down on what's been going on since I last posted. I developed a touch of MRSA, cleared up easily with antibiotics. Had the post-op draining tube in me for 5½ weeks and when they finally removed it, I developed a temp. of 102, chills and pain to the area as a result of an infection in breast and side - more antibiotics, about 5 hours in the hospital hooked up to an antibiotic I-V drip and a couple more trips back to the doctors.
Back at the hospital 5 days later for surgery to have my port installed for the chemo. Two more incisions; one in the neck where they guide the port through my juggler vein and another incision in my chest by collarbone where the the port rests. Also had chest x-rays and a Muga (heart scan) done all in preparation for chemo treatment.
I have chemo treatments (2½ hour sessions) every other week for 16 weeks; with three visits to UTMC for blood work, Chemo, then I go back the following day to get a shot to bring my white blood cell back up. I just finished my first set of Chemo, Adriamycin and Cytoxan that was pretty potent but for the most part I did very well - some nausea controlled by meds, tingling and numbness in hands, some upset stomach, back pain, lost of appetite and food tasting bland from time to time, tingling in scalp before losing my hair, red blood cell count decreasing and now experiencing early menopause with my nightly hot flashes. I've have maintained my weight so far and it does takes me several days to bounce back after each treatment.
My hair loss started about 3 days after 2nd treatment from shedding to rapidly falling out in clumps just by running my fingers through my hair until most came out. I have very little thinned scalp hair left but as you can see from my photos I'm ok with it- no wig, just my bandanas and fleece hats keeping my head warm. My son was a little freaked out about it for a few days thou.
Next week, I'll being starting my 2nd set of 4 Chemo treatments that are suppose to be easier on me so that should be a blessing in itself. After Chemo's done, I'll get a 6 week break before I start radiation, 5 days a week for 6 weeks. Having triple negative breast cancer in that it's aggressive to where it has a tendency to want to reoccur within 2-3 years, I am signing up for a clinical treatment as a "preventive" for bone cancer and other soft tissue. Right now, my prognosis looks very good with 85% survival rate and am doing everything I can to increase my chances of having a healthy life again. Happy Holidays! Peace, love and friendship, Melissa Stukenborg Paskvan
March 14, 2010
Sorry, I haven't posted an update in a long while... Just been focusing on my treatments and getting my thoughts together.
Finished my chemo treatments and Neulasta (white blood cell count boost) in mid January, Woo Hoo! The 2nd set of chemo,Taxol was a little easier on me - no nausea but the tradeoff was that it made me extremely tired... I was down most of the time sleeping, my bones in my legs ached all the time and these chemo sessions were about 6 hours long! The hot flashes and night sweats continued waking me a lot from my sleep, Grrrr! I managed to keep my eyebrows and lashes until the last chemo treatment. I've lost most of my muscle tone, fingernails turned yellowish-orange, 4 toenails turn black and had clicking noises in my ears.
I started the bone study clinical trial in January, taking 2 pills 1600mg daily of Clodronate daily for the next 3 years as a preventive for bone cancer. That's going really good, no side effects, see the research coordinator and blood work monthly.
I got about a month break after chemo before I started Phase 3 of my Journey. I started my radiation treatments in early February and am more than halfway through my treatments. I'll have 33 radiation treatments in all, 5 days a week for 6½ weeks. Had to get fitted for a mold of my upper body that I have to lay in during radiation treatments. The techs tattooed 5 dots (Woo Hoo, my first tattoo!) on my chest and breast area where the radiation will enter. So I lay in this thing with my arms pulled back behind my head while this machine closes in on my chest and zaps me 4 times with radiation, probably takes about 10 minutes if that for each treatment and so far I don't feel a thing nor does it hurt. You can't have any modesty with these radiation sessions, you dress and undress daily from the waist up in front of 3 radiation techs and while you laying there, they use a marker to draw lines on my chest and a cross on the nipple to line up where the radiation shoots, and to top it off I'm still laying with my arms behind head and bald (they make me take off my bandana) while one of the techs is taking pics of me with their digital camera for the "file" to make sure the measurements are lining up. Visit with the doctor weekly and more blood work.
After 3 weeks into the radiation, I have one tan boob! I have to keep the skin protected with Aloe Vera gel daily. I can expect some burning of the skin as the sessions go on. There's one thing I learned from my radiation oncologist that's kinda scary that I wish I was informed in the beginning is that the radiation can cause a 2nd cancer in the breast and since the radiation scans over my heart and lungs that I can develop complications like congested heart failure or emphysema that can take decades to show up.
I do have hair growing back now with a mix of gray that I didn't have as much before. Eyebrows and lashes are filling in. Fingernails growing out pink again.
I feel pretty good, feeling the fatigue and only 11 more rad. treatments left - I'm starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Many thanks to all of you that have been so supportive and giving me the encouragement and strength to fight even harder. Peace, Love and Friendship - Melissa Stukenborg Paskvan
April 2, 2010
Finished radiation treatments and am now considered cancer free, Woo Hoo! Now, just a lot of follow up visits and an outpatient surgery to get my port removed from my chest. Thank you friends for seeing me through my journey, very much appreciated – Melissa Stukenborg Paskvan
LIFE IS GOOD AS A SURVIVOR
Friends and family, most of you know that In August 2009 I was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a lumpectomy, chemo, recently finished all of my radiation treatments and am now living my life "cancer free!" Looking back, wow!... I got through this! That Chemo was wicked, I remember telling my husband about a week after the first Chemo treatment that I can't do this, this is awful and that the cancer is going to come back again so what's the point. I had to find that inner strength in me again to just do it, take one day at a time, be determined and focus on reaching the next milestone.
With all my post updates and photos, I kinda felt like you all was going through this with me. I hope that I showed you that breast cancer is a very serious disease, it is beatable and again your best defense is early detection. If you suspect a lump no matter how small, don't hesitate and get it checked out by your doctor ASP, time is critical.
Radiation went well, burnt and made me tired. I embarrassed a male intern who wanted to examine me and I said, "Doesn't it look like a dried up baked potato?", He just smirked. My skin peeled, healed nicely and looks pretty good considering. I've lost 5 toenails that peeled off and very slowly growing back. I had surgery again last month to have my chemo port removed from my chest. I have about 2 inches of hair on my head now, a lot of white, kinda like a salt/pepper look.
It's been a little more than 2 months post treatments and it was kinda weird that I didn't have all these appointments to go to every day. I'm unemployed now, leaving behind 2 great jobs to just focus on me getting better. I'm in a real financial crunch that I've never faced before causing me some anxiety and stress. Going to devote my summer to my health - gain my strength back, build my immune system up again and look for work in the fall. Doc says I need to exercise so I've been taking a lot of walks on my "crushed" foot and even walked "Relay for Life" and "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer " walk raising $130 through generous donations, thank you very much. I've been going to the Victory Center for weekly massages and facials and support group meetings which I found interesting sharing similar stories.
There will be no hormone therapy for me since my cancer is triple negative and doesn't respond to those treatments, chemo was my only option. Also, my cancer is aggressive and does have a tendency to want to reoccur in 2-3 years. Nutrition will be a major factor in preventing recurrence, so my goal is to keep working on balancing my diet trying to cut out as much sugar possible, need to work on low-fat, and Oh, 1 or 2 beers only on "special occasions!"... no biggie, not like I drink that much anyways. I am going to go see a Nutritionist for advise since I'm such a picky eater. After this month, I will only be going for follow up visits every 3 months now. At the end of August, I'll have my 1st mammogram and MRI since my diagnosis, a little anxious about it but optimistic that it will be just fine. I'll keep you posted on those results. Until then, have a safe summer and hopefully I'll see some of you around.
Peace, Love and Good Health, Melissa Stukenborg Paskvan