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Kimberly A. Morales
Sep 10, 2018 Latest post:
Sep 13, 2018
On February 23, 2018, I received the call no woman wants to get: I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite the extensive history of breast cancer in my family, it still came as a shock to me to get this diagnosis at age 41.
After numerous screenings, it was determined that I have Stage 3B, triple positive Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. This is considered advance stage, and IDC is one of the most common forms of breast cancer; unfortunately for me, the hormone response I have also makes it one of the most aggressive. By the time of my diagnosis, the cancer had already affected the skin, as well as 5 or more lymph nodes. Had I waited even just a couple more weeks to be screened, it would have been at Stage 4.
Because of how aggressive it is, my treatment also had to be fast and aggressive. Less than a month after my diagnosis, I was started on chemotherapy in the hopes of shrinking the tumor and prevent further spread in the lymph nodes. Chemo was just the first of many phases of treatment I'll be going through for the next year or so. I went through 6 rounds (18 weeks) of TCHP, which is a very potent chemo "cocktail" but has been proven to be effective. I completed my final round on July 5th, and I'm still struggling with the side effects and overall exhaustion of so many months of such intensive medication. The great news is that as of my last scans, I've shown a great response to those 6 rounds of chemo! My tumor has shrunk to a more manageable size, and my lymph nodes are clearing out, which is exactly what we were hoping for.
On September 12th, I will be having a double mastectomy with sentinel node dissection, and stage 1 reconstruction. Basically, I will have both my breasts removed, along with the "main" affected lymph node (and some friends), as well as having expanders put in. Even though my response to chemo has been good, the kind of cancer I have has a high rate of recurrence, and I just don't want to be worrying about it affecting the other breast. While I had hoped to have both the full reconstruction and mastectomy done in the same surgery, it wasn't recommended because I am still in the middle of treatment.
You see, even after surgery, I still have 30 rounds of radiation to get through, not to mention a year of immunotherapy. Don't worry... I will still be having reconstructive surgery, but not until next year, so my body has time to heal.
As you can see, it's a long road to travel. I've been reassured that the hardest part, the chemo, is over; but the reality is that the whole thing is hard. I haven't been able to work full time since I started chemo in March. I've tried to do as much as I can, but chemo is extremely hard on the body. And because those chemicals remain in your system for at least 3 months after the infusions are over, the lingering effects make it difficult to bounce back to a normal energy level. It's been great returning to the office part time before it's time for surgery; chemo time can get very lonely and isolating, so it's nice to interact with others again. I just miss the go! go! GO! level I used to operate on.
But I knew early on that "normal" for me would take on a very different meaning after all this. And that's okay. It's just a lot to accept.
The recovery time from my mastectomy will be anywhere from 8-12 weeks, provided everything goes well, and that there is no need to go back in to remove more lymph nodes (we're rooting for clear margins everywhere!). In that time, I'll be very limited in what I can do, since I won't be able to use my arms normally for several weeks. Towards the end of that healing window, I will be starting radiation, and will resume the immunotherapy infusions. Those are jokingly referred to as "Lysol", since they're basically given to clean out any last microscopic bits of cancer that might remain. I know it will be challenging, but I want to attack this from every angle possible. I am DETERMINED to survive this!
This wasn't how I had intended to spend 2018. I am still fairly new to my job, and was on track to promote within a year. I had plans to finally start going to concerts again (live music gives me life), and possibly take that mini vacation I've been trying to take for my 40th since I turned 40 (I'll be 42 in a couple weeks). I was revamping my blog and finally starting the new one...
I had plans. But cancer took over.
Unfortunately for cancer, it chose the wrong person to mess with. Yes, it is a formidable foe, but I have a lot more life to get through, and I have no intention of letting cancer stop that. It may have hit "pause", but I still have plans. I will enjoy live music again. I will go to the beach and feel the warm sand between my toes while I gaze at the ocean. I will write my books, and save all the cats, and taste all the food, and see the world. This is hard, but I'm not giving up. I'm giving this everything I've got. I WILL beat this!
Thank you for being my cheerleaders. Your support means more than you'll ever know.