Rosa Barbara-Meeks

First post: Oct 14, 2018 Latest post: Sep 2, 2019
Dear family and friends,

I hope this site will be a way to keep evryone updated about my health status and more. As many of you know, my life with breast cancer began back in 2003 with a stage 1 breast cancer diagnosis. I was 37 and knew very little about the disease. At that time I was working as the dean of students at an independent arts and science middle school in Berkeley. I had met Michael 2 years prior and we were busy creating our life together. Life was good. But life took a wicked turn.  I had a lumpectomy 3 days after diagnosis and began chemotherapy 6 weeks after recovering from a mastectomy. It was a six month whirlwind of scans, labs, surgeries, infusion, injections, numerous side effects, and lots of doctors visits. Life moved on and I settled into a new normal with my body and energy level. And in 2004, once my hair grew back, Michael and I were married. About a year after treatment ended we began to explore how to have a baby when a local recurrence to the chest wall put motherhood to a halt. This time after surgery I had 37 sessions of radiation that brought along terrible skin burns. This was followed by more chemotherapy. 

The years that followed this recurrence, were some of my best, my 40s.  I had always loved to take walks and hike but now i walked every single day. I trained for the Avon Breast Cancer walk and raised $3500 and walked a half marathon. I had always had a great diet,  but kicked it up a notch. I practiced yoga 3 times a week and chi Kung.I took a job for a university credential program and developed a program for beginning teachers to "clear" their credential. I loved the work and felt my best during those years. The highlight of my 40s came in 2011 when Michael and I decided to adopt a child. We began an exciting journey that led us to fost-adopt our beautiful twins, Adrien and a Francesca. We first bought our home together in Alameda, a city island,  where we learned would be a great place to raise a family and the kids could walk to school. We instantly became a part of a community of neighbors and friends. Through our love and devotion, and with the help of amazing social workers, our two preemies soon met all of the first year developmental milestones by the time they reached a year of age. We were in a bubble of love, and nothing could stop us now! 

However, tragedy hit our home for a third time. After another reconstructive surgery in June 2014, I began to have off and in back pain late in the summer and through the fall. My babies were now heavy 3 year olds and I figured that's where the back pain originated. By the spring of 2015, the pain increased. I was told I had some thing called "sacroiilitus" and began PT. Things got worse and on July 17, 2015, after a ten year remission and just weeks from my 50th birthday, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer to the bones with multiple sites. I was hospitalized that same day for 4 days for further testing for a pending fracture to my femur and a bone biopsy (ouch!). The good news was that this was the same cancer with the same markers. They called it an indolent cancer, or slow growing. Radiation got me back on my feet and we began to adjust to living life with uncertainty, scanxiety every 3-4 months, and awful and sometimes debilitating pain. I had some stable scans but I've had to switch treatments 1-2 times per years with new lesions. The biggest blow came a week before my birthday this summer (2018). I had just had a great scan on the treatment called Xeloda at the end of April after some uncertainty as to whether or not it was working. Everything had shrunk, or was gone, or was stable. No new lesions! The tumor marker was coming down and I could focus on my son Adrien's upcoming open heart surgery in June. And I did. Together with Michael, we healed our son back to health. After a week of his final post op, all with great news for him, my next scan revealed 3 new lesions to my spine and 5 small tumors in my liver. Terrible, awful, heart breaking, shocking, game changing news. I was rushed to surgery to have a port placed back into my chest after 15 years and began IV infusion chemo on the twins first day of school on  August 20.

As before, I live my life day by day, often moment by moment so I don't get too overwhelmed by the uncertainty of my future. I have been  blessed with a wonderful care time that includes my oncologist, my palliative care doctor, and therapist, acupuncturist, psychologist,  UCSFs reverend, and my naturopathic doctor. I know the long term prognosis isn't good for me. But that's not my focus. My focus is on my loves: my family and friends that love and support us. I will continue treatment from here on end and face each days' challenges with the hope that peace may surround us in the time I have left on this earth. It's not easy and some days I loose my way when merely doing basic routines that are now challenge for me. Yet, I will never give up. When I'm gone I will not have failed or lost. Everyone will know I did my best, most of which was out of my control. 

Thank you for supporting me and my family as we continue to navigate through this awful disease with its many trips to the ER and hospitalizations, and moments of beauty and joy in between. We couldn't do it without your simple texts, visits, words of support, meals, and prayers. 

- 🌹 Rosa

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