Grace Alegre Grace's Race

First post: May 8, 2019 Latest post: Jun 15, 2019
Hello family and friends! I will be using this site to post updates of my healing journey. You can sign up for notifications when there are new posts or check back often.

After several hospitalizations and brain surgery (I have a metal plate in my head now!),resulting tests eventually pointed to a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma, a non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that can occur among Asian women who are nonsmokers. The tumor that began in my left lung moved to two other sites--to my left adrenal gland and to my brain (which was already removed...the tumor, that is, not my brain!) Treatment of this type of cancer affords me multiple and encouraging options to extend life by years.  

After my beautiful mama passed away on December 18, 2018, the pace of caregiving for her abruptly stopped and I thought I was just tired from the build up of long days over an extended period of time. However, I could never seem to get enough rest. I developed a small cough in February. We were finally able to lay mama to rest with my dad in Arlington National Cemetery on February 24, 2019. I thought then, I could truly rest, but the cough developed a fever and I figured I was just rundown. Some blood started to show in my coughs so I went to the "doc in the box," was given a z-pack for potential bronchitis, and was told. "If you don't feel better, come back."

My family took a short trip to the Cherry Blossom Festival the last weekend in March to fly a kite near the Washington monument where we planned to also visit our parents' resting place. I slept most of the trip. Flew a kite for a little while and completely crashed afterward. The next day, we were traveling home and a higher grade fever with chills developed. When we arrived back, we took the kids home and Dave took me to the ER to get more medicine. That's when they discovered I had a dense pneumonia in my upper left lung. I also complained about pain in my stomach so they did a CT scan of my abdomen and they "found nothing" except that my left adrenal gland was enlarged. With the previous stress I had encountered, the medical staff suspected it was benign and that the pneumonia would be the primary ailment to address and I could follow up with the adrenal gland as an outpatient.

Hospitalization #1
I was admitted to Sentara Princess Anne Hospital (SPAH) from the ER on March 31, 2019 and stayed for 10 days. Fevers were recurring and not subsiding while my white blood cell (WBC)count was still very elevated. I had two bronchosopies performed which gave some relief and it dissipated the fevers and my WBC count came down. I was discharged and told that if I developed another fever, to return to the ER immediately because the pneumonia may come back. Five days later, got a fever, went to the ER, and got admitted again.

Hospitalization #2
The pneumonia showed no signs of change. Using a different contrast for the CT scan, the medical team speculated that there may have been an abscess around the pneumonia preventing the antibiotics from performing its typical effectiveness. Attention began to shift to my adrenal gland to investigate the potential of metastatic malignancy underneath the pneumonia.  So I was back on more antibiotics. On day 4 of this hospitalization, I developed an excruciating headache that lasted over 6 hours. As I was wrenching in pain, my pulmonary doctor came to my room and saw how much pain I was in and immediately sent me for a CT scan of my head. It was discovered that I had a 2.2 mm brain lesion that hemorrhaged on that day. I was sent to Virginia Beach General Hospital where they had the facilities for neurosurgery. After several days of MRIs, CT scans, and biopsies (and over the course of these tests, I like fentanyl best), I was scheduled to have the brain lesion removed on Tuesday, April 22, 2019. It was a successful surgery and the entire lesion was removed. It was located in the occipital lobe that houses vision and balance. Some of my peripheral vision has started to return and I can walk unassisted. I was taking anti-seizure meds and steroids to reduce swelling after the surgery. Those medicines tend to raise blood sugar. I'm diabetic so that extended my recovery time, but I was soon released on Friday, April 26, 2019, to await the results of the biopsy from the brain lesion. 

Hospitalization #3
On a follow up visit with my pulmonary doctor, I reported a limited amount of space on my left side to  expand when I took a deep breath. I otherwise had no complaints, but pain was still present in my left shoulder blade as with the pneumonia. When the doctor discovered my resting heart rate was 130, he sent me to the ER to check for possible pulmonary embolisms. Those tests returned negative, which was great, but the mass in my lung grew larger. They were determined to find out what the infection was that kept my WBC count and fevers high and they were also starting to pay more attention to the possibility of cancer. After the CT scan, I was admitted back to SPAH on Wednesday, May 1, 2019.  The same routine began, but this time, the pain in my left shoulder and flank was increasing. I've always resisted taking pain meds, but good pain management helped keep me comfortable as more tests were conducted. A final report of a possible bacteria was discovered from one of the bronchoscopies from the first hospitalization. They targeted that to investigate TB. I was placed in isolation on Saturday, May the Fourth Be With You, 2019. At this time, they were close to ruling out the last of any possible infections.

After many weeks, doctors are indicating that there was no pneumonia to begin with. These health issues have likely stemmed from the lung cancer and metastases. After I'm cleared from isolation, I will be discharged and begin cancer treatment and will chronicle my journey here if you would like to follow my story. You are welcome to share this page with others so they can receive accurate information from the horse's mouth. And, yes, I forced that expression to ask--did you see the Kentucky Derby? Was Steve Harvey involved? 

I have a race ahead of me. And I intend to win. But I know I can't do it alone. It's very difficult for me to sufficiently thank everyone who has been praying for me, offering encouragement, and providing meals for my family. I'm overwhelmed by it all. I always felt compelled to be of service to others,  but my mama always said, you don't really know how to give properly if you don't know how to receive properly. So with everything in me, I humbly receive all that you've poured out for me and my family. I can never repay you for your generosity.

Among my racing buddies, every time we want to do another race, we always ask, "What's the medal look like?" We would complain before the race, "Why did we sign up for this again?" Then silently as we were running, "Why am I doing this?" Then at the end, we donned our medals and would say, "When's the next one?" and "What's the medal look like?" I have much more than a medal for incentive on this one. I have all the faces of my family and friends. All of you keep me going. 


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