There’s a smile under that mask!

Emily Nebel

First post: Mar 6, 2018 Latest post: Jun 22, 2021
In October 2010, while six months pregnant with my daughter Makayla, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. After undergoing a lumpectomy while pregnant, I was induced 3 weeks early to begin chemotherapy. Following six rounds of chemotherapy with a subsequent 30 days of radiation treatment the cancer was gone, or so I thought… Over the next nearly seven years life resumed some normalcy, and I even enjoyed a “normal” pregnancy with our second child, Caden, who is now two years old.

In December of 2017 I began experiencing some back pain. I sought out consultation and met with my PCP multiple times, who believed it was some type of muscular-skeletal issue. However, following a routine breast MRI and check-up with my oncologist we discovered some abnormalities, so we obtained a full-body PET scan. The PET scan revealed a large mass in one of my lungs, in addition to multiple spots elsewhere throughout my body (spine, ribs, pelvis, liver, and others). The spine and ribs were deemed to be the likely culprit of the back pain. A biopsy procedure of the mass in the lung (which resulted in a 3-night hospital stay due to a complication involving a collapsed lung) confirmed a cancer diagnosis identical to the previous type (breast = ER+, HER2+). Subsequent testing in the hospital revealed the cancer had also metastasized to my brain.

Routine bloodwork, mammograms, and scans over the last several years have all been negative, so this has all been quite a shock. After nearly seven years of believing I was cancer free it’s hard to imagine it’s been hiding in my body the entire time, particularly following my pregnancy with Caden.

I had my port put in and the following day I began my cocktail of chemo.  Over the next several weeks I had a targeted radiofrequency ablation treatment on my back (on March 7th 2018) which targeted the area of my spine and my rib to provide some immediate relief of back pain. The procedure used electrical energy and heat to destroy the cancer cells. The next procedure (on Tuesday March 13th 2018) was what they call a gamma knife radiation treatment to target the multiple spots of cancer in my brain.

I took a leave from work in order to focus my energy on healing for both myself and my family. We’re so incredibly fortunate to have so many amazing people in our lives who have already reached out and offer so much support: family, friends (old and new), neighbors, co-workers, and more.  Thank you for all that so many of you have already done and continue to do. My hope with this page is to help keep you all informed because I know it will be challenging to always respond to each of you individually as things progress. While we don’t want this to be received as a solicitation, so many of you have also asked how you might be able to help (which we greatly appreciate), we thought this might also be a way to highlight things that could be helpful for us at this point, allow us to relax and spend more quality family time together.  I’ve updated the below list as of 2019 although I’m sure our needs will continue to evolve over the coming months/years (hopefully decades!!) as we continue this crazy journey.   Thank you from the bottom of our hearts ❤️

To help: see the journal entry “How To Help” posted on October 9, 2020

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