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Liza’s Story

Liza was diagnosed with stage 2b breast cancer Dec 13, 2010. She completed chemo, radiotherapy and bilateral mastectomies in 2011. In December 2012 she was diagnosed with a recurrence, with brain and liver metastases. She has completed Gamma Knife for the brain lesions and is currently on oral chemo: Xeloda and Tykerb. 

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Latest Journal Update

the scans are in

Liza here-

It has been a while since I updated about my health status.  I will begin with the important news. I am stable.  The last few test cycles have caused some stress in my life.

In July, I had an abnormal blood tumor marker. It had increases to outside the normal range and was higher than in previous years. i was lucky in that I already had scans scheduled, although if they hadn't been my oncologist would have ordered them.  My echo was normal, my head looked great and my CT scans showed one tiny little tumor spot almost too tiny to detect. So after much fear and anxiety, I was ok.  My radiation oncologist even told me that after this next head MRI, I could move to every 6 month scans instead of every 3.  A move in the right direction.  I was very pleased.  

Now move to October for my next set of tests.  My tumor markers have returned to normal with no explanation as to why it had climbed in July.  I am feeling about as well as I can while on my treatment.  I had my echocardiogram and that went well.  Nothing to worry about. I went to have my brain MRI next.  The test went well.  I was thinking this was the visit where I graduate to longer times between brain scans. Normally, i spend about 10 minutes with the radiation oncologist as there is nothing new to report other than I am doing great. See you in 3 months.  but that isn't what happened. This time around, the first person I saw was the neuro surgeon whom I had met when I initially was diagnosed with brain mets.  Not what I expected and now who you want to see.  Thank goodness that my wonderful neighbor was with me to provide a calming presence.  The good news is that I have no new brain tumors and that you can't even see evidence of one that I had previously. The concerning news was there was more swelling around one of the old tumor sites and that there looked to be some growth of some sort.  The question now is whether this is tumor growing back, or if it is radiation necrosis.  The only way to know for sure is to go in and take it out; in other words brain surgery.  The neuro surgeon was confident that they could get it all and I would do well.  The radiation oncologist would then follow up with another gamma knife treatment to ensure all the bad cells were gone.  I had another choice. I could wait another 3 months and get scanned again to see what changes. If there is continued growth in the tumor site and swelling the decision is made- time to have surgery. If there is no change or a very little change we can play the wait and see game.  Most people would probably take the wait and see approach.  But the emotional toil of not knowing if the cancer is back and spreading is something that you can't put into words.  I decided to talk with Liam (who wasn't with me) and wait for the results of my CT scan that I was to have the following day.  If my Ct scans showed that i had more cancer in my liver, I would most likely opt for brain surgery. If it was fine, I had a little more reassurance that waiting 3 more months would be ok.  So on to CT I went the next day.  The good news is I have a great oncologist who called to tell me the results that night. My scans looked good. My interpretation is that I am stable and that means the change in my brain scan is most likely necrosis from radiation and not new cancer.  I will wait another 3 months before I have to think about brain surgery.  I am so thankful for this and my good health.

So I am stable and doing as well as I can be living with stage 4 cancer.  I have side effects from my daily treatment that have forever changed me.  I will continue to take them as they have allowed me to watch my kids grow older.  My feet hurt, I have fatigue you can't describe and never goes away, and my digestive tract is always upset. These things I can handle.  What is hard to take is how the cancer effects both my life and my family's life on a daily basis.  The fear I  felt when my scan came back with changes or my blood work is abnormal.  it is constant. I live with a constant fear that the cancer will come back and dictate my life.  I fear for the day, my medication stops working and I run out of options.  I fear for the day when Liam and I have to sit down and do things like plan my funeral and prepare for life without me.  Most days I can live life without acknowledging this fear. But it is always there.  Cancer has done that.  Not a day goes by where I don't have a thought about what my children's life will be like without me; what wonderful life celebrations I will miss.  My kids feel it too. Teachers tell me about how their demeanor changes at school until they know my scans come back with good results.  They are strong but the fear is always with them as well.   That is why cancer is evil.  Even when it isn't affecting your physical well being it is present.  It takes away your innocence.  It leaves you with knowing how different your life is today from what it was before cancer.  My kids often talk about how they wish cancer had never come.  It breaks my heart.  I know it isn't my fault but the guilt I have it is heavy.  Knowing that my loved ones lives are forever changed due to my illness.  That there is no going back. You remember life before cancer but can't go back. 

 Cancer has done this.  It has taken our lives and divided it into 3 month intervals from one test cycle to the next. We all wonder when will the results change? How bad will that be? How long once it comes back will I have? We don't let those thoughts dictate how we live our lives, we can't.  I can't.  I have to live my life enjoying it, living it.  I won't let cancer take that from me or from my loved ones.  I refuse to let cancer take away my children's childhood and what innocence they have left.  It is a struggle.   Because cancer is always there.  And my husband, my kids, my friends know it.  And that is why cancer is evil. It never goes away even when times are good.  You can suppress it for lack of a better word, but it is always there. For me, I get up every day and try not to focus on what I would be doing if I wasn't limited by the side effects of my treatment.  I focus on what I can do and what I am doing. I try to make my family's life normal. Some days this is easier than others.  

To all of you who support us I say thank you.  It means so much.  One thing cancer has done has made me appreciate my family, my friends, and my acquaintances.  And I enjoy everyday I get to spend with you.  

.  
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Comments

10 Comments

Audrey Ainsworth Kozel
By Audrey K
As a child of someone who lived with and died because of cancer, I really feel the words you express regarding your children. Words cannot really express how much I admire what you are doing everyday. As a friend with kids the same age as yours, I have thought about how your life has changed forever. But and yes there is a positive, your kids won't lever forget you or what you did then now and into the future. They won't forget how you persevered no matter what. And they won't ever forget the love. My mom is still with me everyday, pushing me and inspiring me, too. So keep doing what you are doing. It's perfect.
Ruth Bach
By Ruth (RuBa)
Dearest Liza,
How perfectly you describe what you life living with cancer is for you and your precious family! My heart aches for you!! You are right: it is an evil pressure and only you know how prevalent it is in your being every day......And I know that you are constantly there for your kids and hubby in creating as normal a life as you can. My relief in the results of the recent tests are a miniscule drop in the amount of relief you feel!
I send you so much love and caring,
Ruth
And the memory of your mom is always with me!
Kim Jones
By Kim Jones
I know that your family and friends appreciate your fight. I certainly do! I'm so fortunate to call you a friend...such a courageous, supportive, and caring person. xo
Jeanne Jobes
By Jeanne Jobes
Dear sweet Liza, I am so sorry for all that you and your family have to go through. You are amazing, strong and beautiful. I am so honored to call you my friend. Every time I run into you, you inspire me. You live every minute of life with your beautiful family to the utmost. Hugs and love to you right now.
Sheryl Schecter
By Sheryl & Larry Schecter
Liza,
Thanks for taking the time to update us. Your writing is poignant, heartbreaking, and inspirational all at the same time. We are just around the corner so call on us anytime.
Tiffany Sanders
By Titfany
Liza,
I am so happy and relieved to hear that you are clear for the time being. I am so sorry you and your family have had to deal with this terrible nightmare. I am always amazed by your strength and thinking of you always! It is hard to know how much you want to talk or not talk about things so please know if you want to talk about cancer I'm here and if you want to just talk about "normal" things I am here for that too. xoxo
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Margie Medd
By Margie Medd
Liza, you continue to amaze me. I don't know how you do it - well, actually I do have a sense thanks to your open and honest sharing of your experience. There is a part of me that truly forgets about your battle with cancer. It's impressive enough that you're able to simply show up given what you have to endure - yet you actually go beyond that, leading and even laughing along the way. You inspire me constantly. I, along with your friends and family, are incredibly blessed to have you in our lives. Please do not hesitate to let us know how we can help.
Karalyn H
By Karalyn
((Liza))

I know you don't know me -- I'm a friend of Deb's -- but I am solidly on your (interwebs) team. I understand that you're strong because you have to be -- not because you want to have to be -- but please don't ever think it doesn't matter. No matter what, your family knows that you are fighting tooth and nail for every day with them; that's some powerful stuff right there. We often say that we'd do anything for our kids, but you are putting action behind those words. I'll continue to hope and pray and wish and believe and WANT SO MUCH for a cure for this wretched disease. Cancer takes so much from us. If it helps at all to know that people care, please know that I do.
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Becky Snyder
By Becky Snyder
I love you Liza. I've been thinking about you yesterday and today and wondering how things went. I appreciate you letting us know in such a heartfelt way. Thanks again for letting me join you for the walk last weekend.