The breast MRI results are in. Drum roll please... The scan showed wildly significant improvement!!! Lymph nodes that had been abnormal are now completely normal, the lesion located in my rib (the rib that had been broken during the winter) is now much smaller, and most notably the mass in my breast is substantially reduced- as in, it's barely a tumor and more like dense tissue. Dr. Awesome said she is "incredibly pleased" with all of this wonderful progress! This malignant nightmare is becoming seriously subdued!! Thank you God!!!
At our appointment today we also discussed the surgery and (attempted) biopsy of the T9 vertebra. Because the needle for the biopsy was so small, it seems that it actually missed the cancer, so they did not get a sample to analyze. Oh well. It was an add-on, "while we're in there anyway we might as well do a biopsy" kind of thing. So it's really not a big issue that we don't have that data. Dr. Awesome is also very pleased that the surgery went so well, that I have no back pain, and that we don't have to worry about a more serious problem in my spine down the road.
And here's another piece of great news: Because of the fantabulous scan results, starting now I will only need to have an appointment with Dr. Awesome once every other month! I will continue to go in for treatment every month, but not having the Dr.'s appointment on top of treatment each month will be a nice break.
I also get more of a break from blood work; blood work will not be necessary until early September! But one of the best benefits of the cancer becoming suppressed (other than the obvious, most wonderful, "This disease is totally not killing me" thing) is that, going forward (as long as the results from the mammogram I have scheduled for the end of this month correlates with the breast MRI results), we can now continue to monitor the situation via mammogram rather than breast MRIs!! Ooooh this makes me happy. To me, mammograms= piece of cake; MRIs= I'd rather eat tar. I will still probably need the spine MRI at the end of the month along with my follow-up with Dr. Fixit, but after that one it looks like I will have a good, long break from MRIs. Pop the bubbly!
In addition to all this fantastic news, next week I have zero- count 'em: Zero- appointments! I was really struggling with the intense pace and deeply challenging procedures I've been enduring, and now with the combination of the terrific report and a time of reprieve from rough ordeals, I feel like I can relax and grab a big, deep, delicious breath of fresh air. Ahhhhhh! So sweet. I feel safe in a way that I haven't for a very long time. And I just want to celebrate this amazing progress.
I feel overwhelmed with gratitude when I think about how much you have helped me and lifted me up, especially last week when everything felt too heavy. It must be true that the night is darkest before the dawn- right when I thought I couldn't take any more, the darkness finally lifted, and glimmers of light broke through. There is so much hope, and sweet rest from the rigors of battle. Amazing.
Brad and I are thanking God with all our hearts, and we thank you for every bit of love and support you've given. We love you. Thank you for rejoicing with us!!
I just got out of the MRI- dizzy, tired, sore- but really glad I got through it. I can rest today and tomorrow, and then Wednesday I have treatment and an appointment with Dr. Awesome. At the appointment we will go over scan results and talk about the surgery. It's just one step at a time, and I am going to do my best to focus on enjoying the rest of today and tomorrow. Thanks for reaching out with encouragement and keeping me in prayer. ❤
I am healing up really well from the surgery- thank you again for your kindness and well wishes!! I am very grateful that, while the wound itself is still somewhat painful and irritating, I can twist and bend without pain in my spine! It seems like I am enjoying the best possible outcome from this procedure, and this makes me feel happy, thankful, blessed, and crazy relieved that the whole @#$%! thing is behind me.
Which means, of course, that it's on to the next @#$%! thing: My breast MRI is at 8:30 in the morning. Now, while I am super happy that everything went well with the surgery, emotionally I was having a tough time during recovery. Everything so far has just been a lot to go through, and I've been starting to run out of steam. It felt like this grueling journey is something I just can't keep on doing. I'm tired. And there is still So. Much. to get through, with no end in sight. I felt like I had no strength left to get through the scan tomorrow. But my wonderful and compassionate church family was so loving this morning, filling me up with encouragement and lots of hugs, praying for me and cheering me on. I can feel God's grace in answering their prayers tonight. I also had a great talk with an amazing friend who prayed for me, and with all this support I'm now feeling like, "Okay, so it's the next @#$%! thing. Let's just do it." Anyway, it's not like it's surgery or anything... ha.ha. But I really am in a much better place. I'm back on the path, up and running, and looking forward to things that make me happy, so I'm feeling more like me again. What a difficult road this is to navigate! But I'm so so so glad you're there all along the way to help me get back up so I can keep going.
Thank you all so much for praying me through surgery on Friday!! I'm so relieved that it's over and that everything went perfectly! This is what we were praying for.
I remember snippets of my time in the OR- mostly feeling terribly uncomfortable. But one of the drugs they gave me made me forget pretty much everything that happened while I was conscious... I remember asking questions with slurred speech (which surprised me in the moment, haha) and then all of a sudden they were putting me under full anesthesia. I'm told that they made that call about an hour after they brought me in to the OR.
When it was all over I had plenty of mascara under my eyes, so tears must have been involved at some point during the procedure (yes, I was actually wearing makeup... I decided that one should always look fabulous, even in surgery 😉). But I'm so thankful that I don't remember most of what happened in there and that the surgery went so well even without them getting my feedback.
I still have a very sore throat from the breathing tube they had to insert, but we've been mostly staying on top of the back pain. I am very fatigued and was told not to lift anything heavier than a milk carton while I'm healing, but once I'm recovered I am hoping that I will be cleared to lift more than I've been able to for many months. And I'm so grateful that I've been able to recover at home, in my own comfy bed! Thank you again for all the love and well wishes!
A week from today, Monday the 8th, I have a breast MRI first thing in the morning. I will also have a follow up appointment with Dr. Fixit in a few weeks and another spine MRI. I am seriously hoping that August will be a quieter month! For now, I'm just trying to take it one step at a time. Hugs to all!
We are finally home, and Danielle is resting comfortably in her own bed. The procedure was a success! Dr. Fixit showed us a quick video on his phone of a scan of the vertebral body. The video showed that the vertebral body was thoroughly filled with cement, and there was no leaking. Then he told us, “It made it onto my phone, which means I’m really happy with it.” This was an answer to prayer: last night I prayed that the procedure would go so well that the doctors would want to tell their parents about it! Praise God for his loving kindness!
There were some hiccups along the way. First, the hospital ran out of big girl pants (fortunately she was given some scrubs instead)! Then, Danielle’s anxiety spiked immediately before the IV was administered. She felt better rapidly after the drugs were given, but the sedation was so effective that her breathing slowed and blood pressure dropped. Because of that the doctors decided to let Danielle be unconscious for the remainder of the procedure. This meant a little extra time in the OR and in recovery, but thankfully Danielle was spared any awareness of Dr. Fixit’s infamous “fire probe!”
We are so grateful to God for granting Danielle so much peace through most of the day, and that we don’t have to worry any longer about her bone collapsing! And thanks to all of you for your continual prayers and encouragement! They have made all the difference, and have provided Danielle with supernatural peace and calm for the past two days.
P.S. Sorry to those of you who received notifications before this post was completed. Four-year-olds love to tap buttons while their parents are using devices!
Danielle’s procedure is being delayed for about two hours due to a miscommunication about how long she had to fast this morning. We were told that she could eat a “light breakfast” 6 hours beforehand. Now the anesthesiologists are saying 8 hours fasting are required, and apparently the medical definition of “light breakfast” is:
Toast. Just toast.
So now we wait. Danielle is a bit deflated but is remarkably calm, thanks to all of your prayers and encouragement.
As I write this, we just learned that the hospital may not have an anesthesiology team available two hours from now. We are waiting 45 minutes to find out, but is seems like there is a chance we will have to reschedule.
Please pray that we will have everything required to move forward with the procedure today, and that Danielle will soon be recovering in her own bed. Thank you!
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior... Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you." -Isaiah 43:1-4
Thank you so much for all of the support and love that has flooded in this week!! I am overwhelmed by your kindness, and very heartened. The level of peace I have experienced this week has been amazing. Thank you so much for your prayers!! I have this image of you all crowded in the hallway at the hospital as they roll me into the OR! Like a pep rally- I'll be high-fiving everyone all the way down the hall. Your love and encouragement and prayer are truly sustaining me!
I am doing incredibly well this morning. I slept in as long as I could so I wouldn't have to think, and then I took a relaxing bubble bath- so calming. But your prayers have given me the incredible peace that transcends understanding. I thank God for this, and I thank you! It's really amazing!
We will be heading to the hospital in about half an hour, and the procedure will be from about 1-3pm. I know that getting to the hospital is where things can get very hard for me. But I am trusting God, and I know He is with me and is giving so much grace today.
Again, I'm so grateful for your prayers! Please keep sending them up for me!!
Either Brad or I will post an update when I'm out of surgery.
I have decided to go forward with the surgery to strengthen my broken vertebra, and it is now scheduled for this coming Friday, June 28th. This was the first date Dr. Fixit had available, but I already had a MRI and mammogram scheduled for that day. So I ended up rescheduling the MRI for July 8th, and the earliest I could get the mammogram was July 30th. I'll talk to Dr. Awesome on Monday to see if this is acceptable or if she can have them get me in sooner.
I feel settled in the decision to have the surgery, and I feel fairly certain that it is the right thing to do. This helps me to feel more confident, although I am still dreading being awake for the procedure. It should only take about an hour, so it helps to know that I will only need to hang in there for a limited amount of time.
Back in November I was only partially sedated during a bone biopsy, and I was definitely aware of what was happening (Aaaaagggghhhhh you just took a piece of my bone!!!) and could feel pain, so I have a reasonable idea of what this may be like. I think this knowledge is not helping! However in the past I have endured two root canals without novocaine, not to mention child birth, so this should be a piece of cake. Right? Right? That's what I'm trying to tell myself anyway.
I will report to the hospital at noon on the 28th, and surgery will be at 1pm. They told me to pack a bag in case I have to spend the night in the hospital, but if everything goes very well they will just keep me there for a few hours after the surgery for observation, and then I will get to go home.
While I wait for this whole ordeal to be behind me, I am trying to plan plenty of distractions for this coming week, and I'm trying to figure out a way to get through Friday morning, as I wait to have the surgery, without having a panic attack. It will just be hard. There's no getting around that. But I'm trying to plan some fun things before and after the procedure so I can focus more on happy things than on dreadful ones. On the day I made the appointment for the surgery, I got to go to opening night of Cirque du Soleil, and that proved to be a terrific distraction. It was amazing, and we even got to go backstage after the show!
The other thing that I think will help me is to focus on the benefits of having a repaired spine: I won't have to always worry about the vertebral body collapsing, and I will be able to lift things again. Please just pray that everything goes exactly as it is supposed to and that I would have peace throughout this week and especially on Friday morning. I hate being afraid.
Thank you so much for standing with me in the hard times and supporting me in so many ways. It truly makes an incredible difference. I am so grateful. ❤ And at this time next week I may be quite uncomfortable, but the hardest part will be over, and that is a happy thought.
I'm on my way back from Hartford Hospital, having just had my consult with Dr. Fixit. While there is healing around the T9 vertebral body, and it may never actually collapse, we cannot know for sure that it will not collapse. Therefore, Dr. Fixit still recommends that I have this preventative procedure so that I won't have to have major, horrible back surgery at some point, in the event that it does collapse. Ugh. Okay. Fine. I'll do it. I think. There is still risk associated with this procedure, including run-ins with the spinal cord during the procedure, which makes it difficult to determine what is best.
Here's what I learned about this surgery. (It's actually pretty cool and innovative... you know, in a strictly theoretical kind of way.) Basically, it will be an X-Ray guided surgery in which Dr. Fixit will insert a needle through the bone, just dodging the spinal cord, and do a biopsy. Then, with a burning probe, he will literally burn as much of the cancer out of T9 as possible. Yikes, right? Then, with a hooked needle, he will inject cement in order to reinforce the vertebral body, being careful not to leak any toward the spinal cord. He said if I can be up for it, he wants me to be awake during the surgery (😰). This is so I can provide live feedback. He wants to burn out as much of the cancer as possible, but if/when the pain spreads along my nerves, all around my ribs to my chest, he'll know it's going too far, and he will need to stop. And he'll need me to tell him that. Fantastic.
Here's how I imagine this going:
Dr. Fixit (brandishing his fire probe): "Now, is this an excruciating burning feeling, or just your average, run of the mill bones- on- fire sensation?"
Me: ""Hmm, well, the fire in my bones is currently making me want to scream obcenities. Would you mind dialing it back a bit?"
Dr. Fixit: "Is the tormenting flame still feeling localized to your spine or has it spread around to your chest yet?
Me: "JUST PUT ME UNDER, YOU SADIST!"
I do understand why all this may be necessary, even the "being unmercifiully kept conscious during a painful procedure" part. And they will provide at least some pain medication. After the procedure, he said I should only be uncomfortable for about 3-5 days.
They will also need to repeat the spine MRI a month following the surgery.
[Insert screaming here]
Obviously I'm not thrilled. I am experiencing dread. But if it must be done, I just want to get it over with as soon as possible and hope and pray that everything goes well. Dr. Fixit is a kind man with steady hands who looks like he regularly gets enough sleep. This is rather comforting. We are just trying to make the best decision possible. They will be calling to set up the appointment in the next couple of days, and if this is definitely a go (which I think is probable), I will update when I have the date. In the meantime, please pray that we would have wisdom in making this decision and if this all has to go down, that everything goes perfectly and safely and that I will be very brave.
Happily, in the more immediate future I have wonderful things to look forward to, including seeing Cirque du Soleil in a few days, courtesy of my lovely sister, Liz.
Thank you for all the delightful birthday wishes and your kindness. I know God loves me and is with me, even in the OR. I can get through this if I must.
Learning that we had Stage IV cancer was (and still is) a tough blow. We were absolutely stunned, and not a little frightened. There was, however, a little bit of good news. Although cancer was detected in Danielle's bones, it was not found to be present in any of her organs (aside from her breast and lymph nodes). Even better, the pathologist reported that our cancer is strongly estrogen receptive (ER+); on a scale of 0 to 8, we're an 8. This means that the cancer should respond very well to hormone therapy; if the cancer feeds on estrogen, then we can starve it by shutting down estrogen production.
The surgeon who discussed these findings with us sent us immediately from his office to our new medical oncologist, who he raved about, calling her "my favorite" and "the best in the state, possibly in New England". In fact, she is the Director of Hartford HealthCare's Cancer Institute, breast program. She went over the details of the diagnosis with us, explained what we know about the cancer and what further tests are required. She also described the tentative treatment plan, pending results of genetic testing, bone scan, and bone biopsy.
From the breast biopsy we have proof that the cancer started in the breast. This is good news because it means that there isn't a worse tumor lurking somewhere else. We also know that it should respond well to hormone therapy, which is her first choice for treatment options. That could change based on the results of the genetic test; if a genetic link is found, there are specific medications that are more effective.
Both our doctors did their best to encourage us. Breast cancer research is incredibly well funded, and treatments are becoming ever more effective. New treatments are being released practically on a weekly basis, and medical progress continues to accelerate. We learned that the treatment we are currently considering is new within the last two years and has shown remarkable results in shrinking and healing tumors. It may be possible for us to avoid chemotherapy and surgery, although it is too soon to tell. We also learned that women with Stage IV breast cancer often live for decades on pills or injections. We are encouraged to hear that breast cancer is becoming a chronic disease instead of a terminal one.
Despite this positive news, and our hope in God’s healing power, we are struggling with fear of the unknown. Please continue to pray with us for full healing. Also pray for relief from fear and anxiety, particularly as we undergo these last few tests before treatment can begin. Our bone biopsy is scheduled for Monday at 9:30 am, and this procedure is especially scary for Danielle.
Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your prayers, support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting!
On Wednesday, November 7, 2018 Danielle went to her doctor with a painful lump in her breast that we thought would be a cyst. Her doctor, expressing concern, sent her for an urgent mammogram and ultrasound the same day, where she was told that she had breast cancer. The next week was packed with a biopsy, MRI, and CT scan. At the end of the week we received more bad news: the biopsy confirmed that the cancer was invasive, and imaging tests revealed that it had spread to her bones. We were suddenly dealing with stage 4 breast cancer at age 33.
Though we were shocked and frightened, we had a sense that God had a purpose for us in this situation, we are trusting that God will heal Danielle and preserve her life, allowing her to raise her little boy into adulthood.
Danielle is a warm and spirited woman who cherishes her family and friends, and she has even continued to make them laugh in the midst of this difficult diagnosis. She and her husband, Brad, the love of her life and her best friend, just celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary in July, and she is a wonderful stay-at-home mother to their enegetic and adorable three-year-old boy. Danielle is also active in ministry in her church and is just starting a business as a part-time interior decorator.
We are grateful to all of you who are offering your support during this difficult time. The most important thing you can do to help is to pray boldly and earnestly for Danielle's full healing and for peace of mind. The second is to send Danielle your notes of encouragement. It has done us a world of good to hear from family, friends, and strangers who are all praying for us and lovingly expressing their support. We know that we are not alone, and we look forward in hope with all of you.
Keep In Touch
Tips on supporting a friend in tough times through stories, articles, videos and more.