Antonia’s Story

Site created on April 20, 2018

In mid February, I was scratching an itch on my left breast and I found a hard lump.  On March 1st, 24 days before I was due to give birth, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer.  To be specific, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma - an aggressive tumor in my left breast that had spread to 1 or 2 lymph nodes in my left armpit.  Estrogen/Progesterone receptor positive, pregnancy was feeding my tumor.  In a whirlwind of overwhelm, hormones and the C word, Shawn and I started navigating our new reality.  How can I be happy and about to give birth and have Cancer at the same time? Hadn't I suffered enough loss this past year? How long will I be able to breast feed??? So many questions and so much fear and having to learn a whole new language.  Over these two months, so many people I know - and many I don't know - have reached out to support me in spectacular ways and this new journey of ours has shown me so many blessings.  I do not have the BRCA Gene.  Although it has spread to my lymph node it is nowhere else in my body.      

As of now treatment looks like Chemo every 3 weeks for 6 rounds, then surgery - a lumpectomy and removal of the effected lymphs and then radiation.  Not the shortest or most beautiful road to take but hey, perhaps it actually is.  Perhaps this is an opportunity to let go of some toxic ancestral baggage that needs actual poison to get rid of.  I'm so grateful to have found it in the early stages of the Cancer and yet the late stage of my pregnancy.  I got to carry to term and breastfeed my beautiful son for a month- 2 weeks longer than expected.  Do I have bad days? Yes indeed.  Am I terrified of how this is going to change the life of my 5 year old girl, you bet.  This mixed bag of joy of a newborn and Mama having bad cells in her body is Adelaide's experience of having a new brother.  Is that fair?  Doesn't feel like it but it's here, it's on my plate and I can't send it back.  So, shall I wallow in the pain and injustice of it, a little yes, but mostly I'm trying to smile in the face of it all, find the silver lining and enjoy the gifts. 

So, for those of you wondering what Adelaide knows and how we've been talking to her about it, here it is. We have told her that I have bad cells in my body that have to be treated with strong medicine.  We are talking to her about it slowly in a way that is appropriate for a 5 year old brain and emotional body to handle.  Since my brother Craig passed away from Cancer in December, Adelaide knows Cancer to be a killer so we are not using the word in the house or anywhere near her.  She is asking terrific questions and observing, as she does, in a truly heart opening way.  We just recently told her that the medicine was so strong it was going to make my hair fall out and that's why I shaved my head.  She has seemed to take it all in, in a wonderfully supportive and even humorous way - telling me I looked weird and like a troll. Little does she know that I AM a troll, my Swedish Grandpa always told me so.  Though Cancer isn't in my gene pool, being a troll IS.  If any of you were to come across Adelaide and she asked you questions or tells you about any of it, I would ask you to ask her questions in return to see what she knows and also to take in anything she tells you in a matter of fact way without  adding any weight to it, if possible.  She is definitely processing and I know I can't protect her from this, but I'd like to keep it open and information coming from us, her parents.  

I love you all and will be adding journal entries and photos along the way. I will post my treatment schedule in the "Planner" section so you can see where I am, when I will have the most energy (the week before chemo) and the least (the week following chemo). Friends have also organized ways to help and support me that can be found, along with the planner, in the  "Ways To Help" section.  I love hearing from you, even if I'm not able to respond quickly. Please know that your well wishes, experience, and words have landed in my heart and are helping surround me in the blanket that is community.  I am loved. I am Blessed. And...I am going to kick the shit out of Cancer.  

Newest Update

Journal entry by Antonia Stout

Hello Beloveds, 

I am doing well.  Processing, processing.  This experience has been and continues to be a lot.  It continues to challenge my body and mind in new and old ways.  I say again, I am doing well and even went skiing recently!  It felt amazing to be in my body, on skis in the sunshine.  I am tired still, also body and mind.  There is a darkness that comes a knocking more often than I'd like to admit. Don't know why I don't want to admit it...but it's there lurking.  I have Lymphodema and wear a compression sleeve on my left arm and it reminds people of loved ones in their lives that have since passed...from recurrence.  The fear that wasn't, when in survival/treatment mode has since shifted.  Though I have 2 children who take up most of my mental energy, when I do get a moment, sometimes the thought of reoccurrence starts to enter in and though I don't sit in it and roll around in that fear, it's there in the background quietly waiting for me to latch on.  Every once and awhile I take a bite out of that fear sandwich but mostly I just acknowledge it and go on about my day.  Of course it's there, right?!  And yet, I don't believe it to be my story and I don't want to give over my power to that lingering baddy. And so....next steps...

On Wednesday, March 6th 2019, I have chosen to get a bilateral salpingo oophorectomy ie. I'm getting my ovaries and tubes removed, oof.  Here's why.  My breast cancer was Estrogen/Progesterone receptor positive.  That means estrogen was feeding my cancer.  Now that it's gone, I am on Estrogen blockers for the next 5 years.  One of the drugs is a shot in my Gluteus Maximus, my ass, every month for the next 5 years - this one shuts down my ovaries, putting me into menopause.  SO there are a few reasons actually that lead me to choose surgery.  1) Save my poor Glutes from getting poked and scarred. 2) Less chemicals in my body, thank you. 3) I'm 45, chances are at 50 I could potentially come out of menopause only to dive back in again. Who needs THAT rollercoaster. No thank you. And lastly, I haven't looked it up because I don't search my ailments on the web only to get faced with worst case scenarios or totally incorrect or invalid, to me, information, BUT...this is a long sentence...BUT, recurrence from what I've heard can often come back in the ovaries.  There, I said it.  I've had my babies. I am grateful for the job they did and how they have served my life and now, take them I'm done.  

Also, I go one step deeper. You know, a womans eggs, stored in the ovaries, come from her grandmother?  I think this is a beautiful and amazing fact.  That means Adelaide is carrying eggs from my mother!  For better or worse, it's a fact.  So, I've done a great deal of work around and thinking about where this cancer came from.  You know, us control freaks like to have answers damn it! Though I jest, there is a wondering and an exploration of the where and why that is inevitable.  There is a piece here that I mentioned when I first wrote, a piece that this cancer never felt like it was "mine". Like it was some sort of ancestral baggage.  I believe this to be a part of this, my story.  Without disrespecting those who have come before me, I believe there to be some deep melancholy and resentment that has been passed down from generation to generation of women in my lineage.  Not that I'm all powerful and can stop the ball rolling but I do hope to do my part to shift it as much as possible.  I feel something was spiritually cut out of my lineage when they cut the cancer out of my body.  Strange and far out?  Maybe. Even as I write this my heart beat has picked up and chest squeezing for fear of being judged. But I write and I share because it is my truth, take it or leave it.  Now...I am having another surgery, my 4th in under a year, to cut out parts of me that were passed down from my grandmother.  There is this part of me that feels the loss of having such a connection to her literally removed and yet, a part of me that feels uplifted in saying good-bye.  I believe so strongly in the interconnectedness of everything.  I also had a soul level sigh of relief when I decided to do this.  It's not as if my grandmother and mother and all those before them aren't within me but there is a lessening of the grip of their pain.  SO as these beautiful parts of me are taken I bless and release them.  I set my self free in the process.  I feel a contentment and peace in this moment.  Gratitude. The more we clear out, the more room we have to welcome in.

Love,
Antonia
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