First Chemo and Miami Trip

So my mom called like two and half weeks ago to tell me she was coming to Honduras on May 20th because her employer agreed to let her work from home and even gifted her with the plane ticket. I tell her she should use that plane ticket for later because this is just the first chemo and the side effects will be mild, if there are any at all. Thank God she did come because there were side effects and if that is mild I understand better why mom felt she needed to be there and my doctors keep giving me warnings of what it'll be like.

My wonderful father was at the hospital at 4 am to make sure I was the first one in line to get chemo. Even getting that early, he was second in line. We got there at 5:30 and went inside at 6. They had told me chemo would only last for two hours, but it ended up being four hours and a half. I came out at 11:30 am. I was so happy to be sitting next to a triple negative breast cancer patient. I could finally feel there was someone talking to me who really understood me. It was really hard to see most of the patients were older people. The lady to my other side had finished her last chemo December the 4th. Her cancer came back exactly 4 monts later and she was there on her fourth chemo second time around. You could feel the sadness oozing from her. It was very hard to comfort her fearing her fate was mine. Luckily, there was an on-call psychologist that spent most of the time with her and other patients.

Side effects began exactly 72 hrs after chemo. among them where extreme fatigue, strong stomache, mild to strong but not severe headache, general body pain, nausea, and reflux. The worst part was the smell of chemo that was constantly in my mouth and nose, and I could swear even in my ears. The strongest chemo I am receiving right now has a red-orange color, and I was surprised to see I was still peeing orange 9-10 days after. How could that be in my system for so long? No wonder they do checks on my kidneys and liver. Poor filtering systems! I was so grateful my mom was here.

My husband has a childhood friend called Leonor. We have never met, but she follows me on Facebook and always likes all the pics I put of the girls. Her mom is also suffering from cancer and is in great need of a liver transplant. She is 25 years old and has been carrying the medical and financial bills for her mom and siblings since she was 18 years old. She is so brave and inspiring. Because she has done so much research and medical connections because of her mom, she got a lab to do the genetic test for 3500$. This girl who didn't know me at all had done so much to try to help me. We thought it over and reached the conclusion that with the test's discount we could afford to travel to Miami, make sure the blood sample wasn't tampered by sending it through DHL, and maybe get the chance to see an oncologist there and do connections for future clinical trials.

My dad very sacrificially gave me 1,500$ from his savings. My sister had sent 1,000$, which was almost 90% of two months worth of her salary. My aunt had gotten donations from my uncles, aunts, and cousins from the US and Honduras and gave me 2340$. It was amazing how we had raised enough money without having to burden my mom, who had already paid my surgery.

I contacted many hospitals to try to get an appointment with an oncologist and only Memorial Cancer Institute was willing to help us get an appointment, but we had to give her my medical records, which in this third world country I get in physical and not digital form, wednesday before 5pm. Our plane arrived at 3:40pm, and because I was on a wheel chair, we were able to get out at 4pm. We called Victoria, from Memorial, saying we would't make it before 5 and she agreed to wait until 5;30. We made it there at 5;10!

On thursday we went to get the genetic panel done, which included the BRCA 1 and 2 I needed, and even a more comprehensive genetic testing for other known genes for breast cancer. The doctor was wonderful. He told us he was also a cancer survivor and even shared his cancer story with me. He shared even the alternative medicine research he has done and gave us a prescription for some of these dietary supplements and vitamins. Victoria called us that afternoon to tell us we got an appointment friday at 1.

I was stunned. It was not a hospital building. It was not a cancer building. It was a breast cancer center building. Amazing! The doctor was so incredibly nice. He told me he had been studying the day before my case and spent the night debating my treatment. He came to the conclusion that he thoroughly agreed with the chemotherapy regiment my Honduran doctor is giving me. He was debating because the sessions, dosage, and time between sessions was above the standard care and very aggressive. He was positive it was the best fighting chance for me because of my cancer type and my age would help me withstand the treatment. He did clarify that I would need radiotherapy, which is something to look into because I don't think I can get that done in the public hospital, and he prescribed 33 radiotherapy sessions for six weeks, with a daily session monday through friday. He said that he was 95% certain my genetic test would come back negative, and it was a good thing to have it done to be 100% sure and know if my daughters were in danger and if I need to do a bilateral mastectomy and ooforectomy (removal of ovaries and phalopian tubes). Then he mentioned something of my future children and at that moment I interrupted him and said "What??" And he said "yeah, if you aren't done having children..." And then I interrupted him again. "What are you talking about? I can have more children?". At this point I burst into tears. I even made his nurse burst into tears. "I was definitely not done having children." He said that if the genetic test is negative there is no reason for me not to have more children. He made it clear that my pregnancy had nothing to with my cancer, except maybe the sadness the miscarriage gave me that dropped my immune system and helped the cancer spread. This is why he tells me this battle is a battle of the mind, something I tell him everyone tells me. He says I need to keep positive. He says that I have a 70% chance of being cured with just the surgery, chemo will bring me to 90%, and radio to 95%. He is certain I will be cured. He told me that for the next six months I am a cancer patient, but once I am done I will be a cancer survivor and I need to see myself as such. No thinking in recurrence or reading anything more. I told him it would be hard for me to consider becoming a mom again as my greatest fear is orphaning the children I already have. He said that the good thing about my cancer is that if it doesn't recur in two years, the chances of recurring drastically drop, and if there is no recurrence in five years, I am cancer free for the rest of my life. In five years, you are 35, so why not the kids my heart desires?

I tell you, I left that office feeling uplifted. He told me there weren't any clinical trials I could participate in because my cancer is not considered metastasic yet. But he told me that the chemo I am receiving, paired with the Carboplatin (one of the 4 chemos I am receiving) is already a clinical trial in itself and my chemo regiment is 5 years ahead of it's time. Imagine hearing that of the treatment I am receiving in Honduras in the public hospital?!!! How wonderful! We got answers, we got hope of things I had already given up hope, and a positive outlook. The nurse that called us had even said the appointment would cost 500$. God's grace was with us at all times that when the recepcionist charged my mom 100$ she started crying and made the receptionist cry too.

We got to share a lot of time with Leonor. We even said she is our new baby sister. She had such a special connection with my mom. With all the burden she has had to carry alone, we were happy to meet her, make her part of our family, and get to share with her in the future. She treated us to dinner and drove us all over Miami. She had to leave on friday to Nicaragua to an emergency surgery for her brother and insisted she left her car at our disposal.
We slept the first two nights there with Tia Sara's sister Sara (yeah, they are both called Sara). She and her husband were kind enough to receive us in their home even if we hadn't met and were gracious hosts.
We got to spend the remaining of our time in Miami with Diane, a good friend of my mom. It was awesome to share time with her. She has been mourning the passing of her husband, and we were so happy to share with her and comfort her. I even felt blessed if my cancer could uplift her in the beauty of life. She cooked for us and took us to dinner. It was so amazing the people, doctors, nurses, everyone we encountered. God was felt at every step.

Here are a few pictures of our time there:

Pictures of downtown Miami after the genetic test

We went to La Boulangerie, a cafe we walked to to have lunch and wait for Leo to pick us up after the genetic test. It was a great one on one with mom I hadn't had in years.

Leo treating us to Latin American restaurant.

Diane treating us to Brio, Tuscan grill

First time at Chick-fil-A with Diane

Diane's pancakes, with strawberries and blueberries

Mom and me at Diane's ranch

A view of the ranch and Diane's dog Emely. If I ever visit with the girls, which we hope to do so one day, there will be confusion with Emely and Emmalee. XD
She is a sweetheart.

My head was starting to feel sensitive with a little pain, so we went ahead with shaving my head before it got too sensitive and shaving got too painful. There was a specific area that was already very sensible and I shed a couple of tears. My darling husband who still looks dashingly handsome went ahead and shaved his. The girls had no problem with mom and dad's shaved heads.

Lovely family. My mother-in-love had a fall last Saturday and has been in a lot of pain. Please include her in your prayers.


A good person with cancer?

"Why did I get breast cancer at 30?" I asked my oncologist.
A cancer that 95% of the time ails women older than 50 years of age. Not just any breast cancer; triple negative breast cancer, the rarest form of breast cancer, the cancer with the worst prognosis, the cancer with the least available treatments.
"That is the only question I can't answer," replied the doctor.
"You know what, I take that question back. You must have mothers whose children have cancer asking why their perfect little one has cancer," I told him.

It is very easy to be negative. It is very easy to be fearful. It is very easy to be ungrateful. I don't mean to make any of this an easy battle for the Devil. If you have read my blog, you know that I mostly preach about gratitude. Gratitude is the attitude. I can sit there feeling sorry for myself, which many would understand, or I can look for perspective and seek gratitude.

Last year, three friends of mine and I prayed fervently for baby bailey. My daughter Kaylee was a year younger when a neuroblastoma claimed bailey's life at two years of age. Her parents fought fiercely for their baby girl, and in return, their baby girl never lost her beautiful spirit and smile. I still shed tears when I remember her and remember how hard I asked God to spare her.

I have loved the support and encouragement people give me, but it is really hard when people assert I will come out healed. It is a little hard to feel understood when they do this because cancer kills and it could kill me. I fear for my life and I wish that fear was acknowledged and respected instead of buried under claims that only God can make.

I don't fear death. I fear leaving my girls. People usually correct me when I say this saying I should include my husband. Ever since we got engaged, I made it clear to my husband he wasn't my happiness. No one can carry that responsibility because people are imperfect and imperfect beings fail. The only one who will not fail is God. My husband knows my happiness comes from God and I know so does his. My girls are the ones I fear for. I don't want to make them orphans at such a young age. This has been the reason for my cries to the Lord. "Oh, God, I didn't want them to grow in a broken home like mine, and now they could not have me at all!"

I was very bitter during mother's day. I am very sorry if you tagged me on a congratulation posts or sent me messages that day and I replied none. I felt there was no reason to celebrate mother's day and I was feeling really down and in need of isolation. I even told a friend I wish I hadn't become a mom just to have my girls watch me be consumed by cancer while they wonder why their mom can't hold them or play with them. "I don't want to put them through that," I said. "You are not putting them through anything," my dear Bram Van Den Heuvel said.

I have not questioned God once, which is why I even took it back when I questioned my doctor. God had been preparing me for this time. How could I question God with what others have endured? When I read stories like Zephany´s, Lauren's, Elisabeth's, I cry my eyes out. How can there be such evil on earth? I have prayed for their lives many, many nights crying fountains of tears. "Why do things like this (referring to my cancer) only happen to good people, and there are many evil men in the world healthy?" my sister-in-law asked. "You are brave and good (referring to me) and the Lord will see you out of this," a friend claimed. No. No. No. No!

I liked a post a friend shared on Facebook: "Why do bad things happen to good people? Answer: Because there are no good people.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
The real question is: Why do good things happen to bad people? Answer: Because God is good."
When someone tries to give me any sort of praise for any "good" they see in me as claims that I will be healed, I share Kara Tipetts story. A mother of four whose life was claimed by a "better" breast cancer than mine at 36 years of age, she is my example of praising God in the storm. She is ten times more "deserving" to have been spared than I am. Yet, God's will was done and it was still good. If you clicked the link to Kara's blog, it will take you to a post of request to vulnerability and hurt. 

"I don't know how to pray," I told Bram. "Do I ask God to heal me or do I ask Him to help me accept His will?". "Both" was his reply. "Just look at Jesus; He did the same."
Matthew 26
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed,“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come

Kara explains how hard it was when people tried to force her to be joyful when she was feeling broken because she had God with her and thus had no excuse or reason to feel down. Well, Jesus knew this better than anyone, and he was in distress. He asked to be spared. He asked His friends to ask that He was spared. He cried and pleaded and so can I and so will my friends.

I went to my first appointment at the public hospital last friday. Most of the women there were older ladies, but there were two 30 year-olds. "At least you got to be a mother" tells me this woman fighting lymphoma cancer whose husband abandoned her after he found out about the cancer. "I will never be a mom" tells me the other young woman who had a hysterectomy to save her from cervical cancer. And there I was lamenting my lost dream of a big family with 4-6 children. Count your blessings!
And so, gratitude sustains me most days. Some days, I am broken by my own fears. In those days I lay awake praying so I won't fall into temptation, knowing His will is done and in His will He will sustain and look over for my girls, through me or without me. 

Thank you for your support. It has been overwhelming. I could not concentrate on living and going through this season if I could not rest in the support I have received from all the wonderful mothers, family, and friends that have been active in helping me beat this cancer. Yesterday we found out that the genetic test I need to be able to participate in a clinical trial and take further action in my treatment has a cost of $5,000. I am confident we will be able to raise this money. I am grateful for the sacrifices and the strong fight my mother has been giving this cancer. Cancer should fear such an opponent; she is, after all, supermom! 
I start chemotherapy tomorrow. Bald head, come to me! I am excited to make you look good. 

Thanks to Tia Sara for inviting us to La Ceiba for a weekend of fun with the girls before we start my next six months of treatment. Some might find it an extravagance. Some might see it as a necessity to endure the harsh months ahead. I am just glad I had another adventure to tell the girls about. 
And show them, as I will show you, my favorite pictures.  

Yes, only pics of my daughters. How can I help myself, they are just too gorgeous. They are the apple of my eyes. Poor daddy had to work.  


Kaylee's Toy Story 2nd birthday

l am sorry some of you felt that because I wanted no cancer talk, that meant I didn't want people to talk to me at all. It is very difficult to be in my shoes and any distraction is much appreciated. 
Here is a little update. We are currently trying to get a local lab to send a blood sample to the US to have a genetic BRCA 1/2 test done. If I can't get a local lab to help, I will need to travel to the US to get it done, and I don't think I have time for that anymore as we will be beginning chemo soon.
This test will help understand my cancer better and know other treatment options. 
We are praying the test is positive. It has shown to have lower recurrence incidence and there are clinical trials I could be eligible for. 
Please also pray for some headaches I've been experiencing that are making my mind go rampart with thinking the worst. Please pray they disappear, as they are keeping me from my normal activities.
Thank you to everyone who came to the fund raiser yesterday. Every help helps.

I didn't want to write this post because it makes me scared it's my last of these ones. I was late with Kaylee's birthday post last year and I didn't want a repeat. Cancer has already stolen so much from me (more of that in a future post), but I am not gonna let it stop me from enjoying every celebration I can, even if it's my last mother's day, birthday, or Christmas. 
I am already preparin Emmalee's birthday, which I had hers and Kaylee's planned already months ago. 
I really enjoyed this theme and celebrating with everyone.
I noticed that balloon had popped after I saw the pics. I wanted to kick myself in the butt. 

A friend said that I should throw those blocks away when I was cleaning up because no one would use them. He could not have been more wrong. The girls love them. I want to make the rest of the alphabet.
Here you can see my mini lemon cakes (which were to die for) with army men toppers. In the back you can see the handmade Woody. In another pic you can spot the handmade Jessie. Kaylee played with these until they tore apart. I bought the favor boxes last November.

Love my ham with chocolate coins. Couldn't decorate the bucket with the sign "There's a snake in my boot" for th gummy worms, but they all still enjoyed them. Thank goodness green jello was a lot easier to make than the blue jello for Emmalee's Rapunzel party.

Loved the easy, simple backdrop.

I didn't take pics of my giant blocks, except for this one. There were ABC blocks on the other side of the table. Loved using my bullseye rocker. That was the first purchase my husband and I did when we found out we were expecting. Yeah, some people get useful things first; we bought a toy that was more something we wanted.

The fruit was meant to be served on a watermelon spaceship, but I forgot to tell my helpers not to cut the watermelon. I also couldn't find a big star cookie cutter, so the Woddy badges were a little small. Loved the Jessie hay bale.
The straws are decorated with pencil toppers from the Disney family page.
My friends made fun of my infiniTea, but I still thought it was whimsical.

The figurines are from a toy story playset also in the Disney family page. The girls made a small theatre with the first set I made.
The kids thoroughly enjoyed the playground. They specially liked the pool filled with balls.

Wody piƱata!
The easiest cake, but most delicious cake ever.

We enjoyed our photobooth. I used the box afterward to make a playhouse for the girls. I'll be posting the DIY when I finish it.
You can see Emmalee's cheetos fingers in the photobooth. 

Enjoying time with friends.
This girl has been my champion. She helped me with the decoration, set up, the cooking, getting the girls bathe and dressed. She has been my champion in helping me post op, caring for the girls, taking me to doctor appointments, heading fundraisers, and helping me keep my spirits up. I love you, Tia Sara.

Please pray for my family. This cancer is not only happening to me but to my husband, to my mother, to my father, to my sister, to my brother, to my in-laws, my close friends. They are hurting, losing sleep, scared, and worried just as I am. We are all trying to be strong and have faith, but we are also human. The girls have felt that I can't be with them or carry them or play with them. When Kaylee wakes up at night, she won't accept anyone else to comfort or calm her; she wants her mommy. It is heartbreaking for me when I can't hold her. Pray for my girls. Pray they don't lose their mommy. Please.