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It started with a backache. A simple enough thing, lots of people have those and I (we) do have a 3-year-old after all. On April 1st the back pain was bothersome enough for me to seek out chiropractic care that week. Despite several adjustments over the next few weeks, the pain remained and was increasing. It was beginning to be quite an ordeal just to do everyday tasks like carrying a basket of laundry, put on shoes, bend over the pickup toys, etc. I could not even pick up my daughter without feeling pain flood through my back muscles. I had never had this type of pain before and knew something must be very wrong. I had tried everything suggested to me: Ice, heat, pain relievers, acupuncture, KT tape, exercises. At this point, the Chiropractor suggested an MRI because chronic, unresolved back pain in an otherwise healthy 32-year-old adult is unusual. We needed to see what was the root of the problem.
On May 14th, I had my first MRI scan. I’ve never had problems with small spaces before, but something about that machine felt like it would entrap me there forever. This was the first time I felt truly claustrophobic- added on to the pain and the unknown of what the scan would show. That evening the results of the scans revealed that my back pain was due to a compression fracture of my T8 vertebrae (WHAT!?). There is nothing that could have caused this. No car wreaks, no extreme falls, nothing. This was the beginning of the blur.
I was setup with a second MRI with contrast to get a better look at the fracture and possible causes. Within two days, May 16th, the pain was reaching a new height. Going in for the second scan was excruciating, but I knew I had to push through it. (Thankful for the distraction an anti-anxiety medication gave me.) After I had finished the scan, the back pain, unfortunately, was off the chart! So my husband checked me into the ER, which was one floor down. However, due to what I can only guess was a full moon, the ER was packed mid-day. We waited for 3 hrs to be admitted which felt more like 10. By the time we were finally put in a room, I was exhausted and weary, but the results from the MRI had come back. The spine specialist came to talk to us and explained the spinal fracture was caused by a 2cm tumor. He then ordered an urgent CT scan of my body to screen for any other masses in my organs. The blur continues, and the fear starts rushing in. My husband and I start praying.
A few hours later, I went for my CT scan, praying 2 Timothy 1:7 over me (For God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.) There was nothing else that I could do. Once back to the room, the waiting continued. Amidst feeling emotionally drained and frozen with fear, I did feel the first relief from the intense pain under the warmed blankets provided and the Morphine IV. A doctor comes in and reveals the results of the CT scan. He kept saying, “I’m so sorry," over and over. All I could do was stare at him. He shared that a mass was spotted on my right breast, and just like that-I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The tears start falling…cancer.
I was admitted to the hospital that same evening for pain management and with a plan to biopsy the mass on the spine the following morning. Its purpose was to find out if the tumor was cancerous. Everything was happening on overdrive. After the biopsy, I was fitted for my new accessory-the back brace. It is a cumbersome and awkward device. I had to learn how to put it on, walk with it, and sit with it. While dealing with continued intense back pain, this just made the situation worse. The brace plays an important role in keeping my spine stable and allowing the fracture to heal properly. We were finally released from the hospital Friday evening May 18th, and allowed to head home to wait on the results of the spine biopsy. It was a long weekend. The following Monday, May 21st, our doctor called explaining that the pathology report results showed the tumor is an extremely rare cancer called Neuro-Endocrine Breast Cancer. Apparently this is diagnosed in only 1% of all breast cancers.
Our world came to a complete halt. I had just undergone a full physical in early April that showed me to be the picture of health. I had never had a mammogram because screenings don’t typically start until age 40. There is no family history of breast cancer. To say we were shocked and devastated when all of this was found out is a HUGE understatement.
These last 4 weeks, post diagnosis, have been a blur of all kinds of emotions, oncology appointments and facts…praying…2 different breast biopsies…more praying, scans, lab draws, pain and finding the victories. The PET scan did NOT reveal any cancer in my brain or other organs (Praise God!) However, it did find 3 more areas where cancer is present: a spot on the last rib on my right, a spot on the right side of my pelvis, and upper right femur. The cancer is large cell, which means that it is slow growing and not aggressive. I did not have to begin immediate treatment. This allowed my oncologist to feel there is enough time to refer me to MD Anderson Cancer Research Center in Houston, Texas. Due to the rarity of how the cancer has presented itself in my body, there are clinical trials that I would qualify for to receive the best possible care for my situation, but will be very expensive. While waiting to hear back from MD Anderson, she referred me to meet with the radiation doctor. This would begin the process of treating the tumor on my spine so it can begin to heal and reduce the constant pain from the fracture. This treatment will not affect me qualifying for the clinical trials available. Through this process we are getting better at learning to wait and rely on God's timing.
I am determined to fight this! Isaiah 41:10 is the verse I am clinging to through this journey: “So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ I am believing and trusting God that He will be faithful to that promise!