I've finally made it through all of my appointments this month, and the news I have to share is very, very good. But along with the relief comes emotional exhaustion, and I'm just allowing myself to feel that after everything I've come through in the past two weeks. I am also praising and thanking God for the good news, and I'm very happy to share it with you. Many of you have prayed me through these days and weeks and asked God on my behalf for these good results. He has truly answered our prayers! Thank you so, so much for this. I love you.
After meeting with Dr. Awesome yesterday, going over the scan results with her, and investigating the pain and changes in the breast, she has assured us that the changes are not cancer-related, and the pain is from the scar tissue (which is cancer that has been destroyed) and its interaction with the surrounding healthy tissue. Apparently the death of cancer cells can cause pain too. She didn't even order further imaging, because she is certain nothing is worsening! Praise God!
I will likely continue to have this pain indefinitely, but if it is a sign of progress and not regression, I can't complain too much about living with it!
It's quite a mental shift to change my perspective from "pain=cancer advancing" to "pain=cancer dead and dying." I was told to give myself about a month to re-calibrate my thinking in this department so I stop having a knee-jerk fear reaction to the pain I feel. I'm so used to associating this pain with the time just before I was diagnosed, when the cancer was rapidly gaining ground.
I am also rejoicing because of another answer to prayer: the bone agent injection I receive (into my stomach) every three months can now be administered just once every six months. Dr. Awesome made this call after the scans revealed that there is improvement in my bones. She said these scan results are absolutely as good as it gets, and she is extremely pleased. Thank you again for praying for these things!!
God answered our prayers, and is caring for me so well and so kindly. I'm deeply, deeply grateful. As I wait for this emotional and mental fatigue to lift, I'm trying to spend some time resting and recovering from the upheaval, but I'm also thanking God that I've come through another round of scans safely and that I am looking at quieter months ahead in which I will have a break from the more invasive elements of treating and managing the disease.
I have a few more details to share that I'll mention next time, but for now I'll sign off, thanking God for you and all you've done to help me get this far. Love to you all!
Thank you for all of your faithful prayers for me over the past week. We got some good news from Dr. Awesome today! The scans showed that my organs are still all clean, and there is no sign of the cancer progressing. There is even some improvement in my bones! She said she is "very, very pleased with the results" !
They did notice a very small change in the breast, but the CT scan isn't the best imaging for soft tissue, so next week when I see Dr. Awesome, she will determine whether we should do additional imaging to get more specific information. She doesn't seem too concerned about it though; everything else looked very good, which is an indication that the treatment is still working well. Apparently the tumor can appear to be different if there are any (benign) changes in the surrounding tissue. So this is all very hopeful!
I have an appointment with Dr. Awesome and treatment this coming Wednesday, so I will update after that. Thank you again for praying! I am so grateful that we got the results so quickly, and that we are continuing in the right direction!
You all are the BEST! Thank you for praying for my scans today. A variety of unusual factors came together to make these scans easier to get through than any I've ever had! I'm so thankful. I'm resting now and feeling very tired, but I don't feel beat up like I usually do after scans. It's really a relief!
Dr. Fixit will be receiving these scan results, as well as Dr. Awesome, so he can check on my spine. He was happy to hear that I still have no back pain in the months following the vertebroplasty, and we will look forward to hearing his results. We should hear from Dr. Awesome with the rest of the results by the end of the week. I'll keep you posted!
Thank you again for all of your support and prayer! Please keep it up for me in asking for very good results as we wait through these next few days. ❤
We had a little bit of a scare this morning. I had some pain and some unusual bleeding, so the doctors wanted me to come in to get checked out. Unfortunately Dr. Awesome is out of the state today, so I had to see a doctor I'd never met before.
After some blood work (I was really fortunate that my usual treatment nurse was there and made time to do the blood draw herself- she's wonderful and won't let anyone else stick me 😊) and some exams, they let me go home, telling me to keep an eye on things and to come back if the pain gets worse.
The tumor seems to have become more dense, which was alarming and unsettling, but apparently it is possible that there are innocuous reasons for this. Fortunately I already have scans scheduled for this coming Tuesday, the 14th, and then I have an appointment with Dr. Awesome the following week. So until we know more, they think it is likely that I'm okay and the bleeding was just an isolated incident.
The CT scans and bone scan on Tuesday should shed more light on what's going on, and in the meantime I'd like to ask you to pray for the following things:
Very good results from the scans, that they would show substantial healing in my breast and bones, and that the cancer has spread no further.
That my bones will look much stronger and that we will be able to reduce the frequency with which I need the bone agent injections. (Those are the ones I have to take in the stomach, so I'd very much like to be able to back off on them!)
Peace as we wait for the scans and the results.
For stamina and peace on Tuesday.
Scan day is always a long day. I start the morning by drinking the contrast for the abdominal CT scan, and then upon arrival I'll be injected with radioactive calcium for the bone scan. Then while we wait for my bones to absorb that mess, I have the CT scans (chest and abdominal) and then a couple of hours of waiting. Then the bone scan itself takes about 45 minutes. I'll be ordering a nice dinner that night, which I will enjoy all curled up in bed!
Tonight I'm exhausted from all the uncertainty, concern, and exams today, but I'm resting and feeling much more at ease- and still very hopeful that we will get some good news after Tuesday's scans. Again, please keep me in prayer! Your care and support makes all the difference.
Today we're reflecting on the past year, on the difficulties and trials, but even more on God's faithfulness that never ever fails. We're also looking ahead in thankfulness to what this new year will bring. In truth, we are feeling super grateful that 2019 is over! We feel lots of hope going into 2020, and we know that we are incredibly blessed to be starting this year on firmer footing than last year. We're celebrating that the uncertainty we felt about whether or not the treatment would work is behind us, that I am thriving, and that our family is able to move forward and establish new goals and dreams. Amazing. What a gift!
As we celebrate today, we are thinking of all of you and how you have helped us in every possible way to get through the trials of 2019, and how you are with us still as we head into this new year. This brings me to my knees in gratitude. We love you and thank you, and we wish you a blessed and beautiful 2020. Love love love you!
I got back from treatment a few hours ago and then crashed for quite a while. Treatment was stupid painful today, but now as I am recovering, I am turning my thoughts to more joyful things.
J is thrilled about Christmas and has been asking us every day for a week if *today* is Christmas Day. Tonight, at the Christmas Eve service at our church, we will be giving a brief reading as a family, and I've been practicing his line with him: "We thank God for the gift of His Son, Jesus." This is the crux of our celebration, isn't it? I love that that is what He is memorizing and practicing on Christmas Eve. I think he has the line down, and he really likes talking into a microphone . I love Christmas with a four year old!
I have a CT scan and bone scan coming up on January 14th- more on those next time. I've been having a hard time anticipating the scans, but I'm trying to put that anxiety away for the next week while we celebrate Christmas and New Years. Brad has the week off, and I'm so grateful for some time to rest and make memories. I definitely don't want to waste it worrying! I trust that God has comfort and joy in store for us in the new year too, just as He has throughout all of this past year, and I appreciate all your prayers and encouragement!
And now, on to big, meaningful things to celebrate! I am filled with gratitude and wonder at the incredible gifts God has given, to me personally, and to everyone the whole world over. Love you all, and Merry Christmas!
I want to wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving!! I am deeply thankful for you, my spectacular community of support, and I am thanking God for providing everything I have needed along this difficult road.
I'm heading out to a treatment session in a couple of hours, but I'm squeezing in a little baking this morning, and I'm planning a nice, relaxing evening. So despite having to get treatment today, I am determined to enjoy this wonderful holiday weekend!
Please pray for me if you get a chance in the midst of all your holiday preparations! I have to take a needle in the stomach today, so I could definitely use some love coming my way! I am also hoping to recover relatively quickly so I can participate in all the festivities I have planned with my family. But right now, more baking to distract me!
Love you all! Warmest wishes for a happy, happy Thanksgiving!
It's another anniversary. One year ago today I received my full diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer: Invasive ductal carcinoma, metastatic to the bone. In other words, stage IV. Boo.
Last year on November 16th we received this terribly bleak news. It was an incredibly frightening and grueling day, full of appointments with specialists and genetic testing with the guy I call "Genetics John" at Hartford Hospital. There was not even time to eat, so the breast surgeon who delivered the bad news gave me a chocolate cupcake they had on hand for an office party. I remember thinking, Well, I don't know how much longer I will be alive, but I'm alive right now and I'm going to eat the heck out of that cupcake. But receiving all of the disappointing results was super intense. I could barely sit up by the end of the day.
Before this date last year we had hope that the cancer had not metastasized and that I would go through treatment and the whole nightmare would be over within a year. That day shattered this hope, and even my primary care doctor confided to me later on that she felt deeply depressed when she saw my scan and biopsy results. Things looked bad.
But I met Dr. Awesome that day. She stayed after hours to meet with me and lay out our plan to suppress the cancer. She said, "We can treat this." And in the following weeks we started seeing remarkable results from the treatment, and from there the miracle of healing continued.
I am overcome with relief and thankfulness today! I'm having a relaxing day, enjoying my family, and though this cancer journey is not behind me, one full year has brought a return to my normal activities. I am amazed by how normal my life is while still living with this disease. The shattered hope of being cancer-free has not been nearly as crushing as I feared it would be. Here are some highlights I am celebrating today:
The pain in my hips and in my rib, from the cancer that had carved itself a home in those bones, is completely gone. My bones are healing wonderfully.
The fatigue and difficult side effects have become manageable, and my tolerance of the treatment is continuing to wow my whole medical team.
My hot flashes are FINALLY easing up a bit! During the past month or so I started noticing that they don't seem to be as frequent or intense.
I can focus on living my life, not on the fear of death that was hovering so close to me last year.
Due to the intense nature of my circumstances last Fall, I felt like I had missed out on the whole lovely season, but now I am savoring and enjoying it, fully present.
I'm going out to enjoy a wonderful dinner tonight, in glorious contrast to the pain and fear I experienced a year ago. That feels so wonderful and so life affirming. I am thankful to God and thankful to you for helping me heal and embrace life. It has taken a lot of resilience to get to this point, and I know I have that due to God's protection over me and because of your love and support. Hugs and love to you.
It's my cancerversary! One year ago today, November 7, 2018, was the day I found out that I have advanced breast cancer. In acknowledgement of this anniversary, and in celebration of how far we have come since then, I've decided to share 10 recurring themes I've embraced over the past year. These are things I've discovered and employed in the days since my diagnosis.
10. Get Your Groove On
The right music can help dissipate discouragement, promote contentment, and energize, soothe, or empower the spirit when you desperately need it.
9. Express Gratitude
Being thankful and talking about the things I'm grateful for is the quickest route to cheerfulness. Gratitude is essential!
8. Keep Your Friends Close
Excellent friends are instrumental in maintaining sanity when times get super tough. Lean on them. They want to help!
7. Remain Optimistic!
Waiting for scan results feels like standing on the edge of a cliff, and you don't know which way the wind is going to blow. I'm not always good at this, but I've found that it's really important not to let my mind dwell on worst case scenario possibilities. Why not hope for the best?
6. Pray and Read Scripture
Praying and Bible reading gets my head back on straight and soothes the soul, and praying for other people is the absolute best way to get through periods of intense physical pain.
5. Be Prepared
Bring distractions, music, a friend, or husband to appointments. Call ahead to see if Dr. Awesome is running behind to reduce wait time. I have a checklist of comforts and essentials to bring with me that I review before heading out the door!
4. Let the Ugly Out Sometimes
A cancer diagnosis is like being drop- kicked into Hell and having to army-crawl your way out. It's definitely okay, and even healthy, to express your deepest, darkest fears- even if only in a private journal.
3. Don't Underestimate Sensory Comforts
A soft blanket, a favorite meal, fragrant essential oils, soothing sounds... when stuck in a low, sensory treats can make all the difference in making you feel taken care of and healthy. They definitely help turn things around.
2. Own the Positive
I can live a wonderful, fulfilling life even with stage IV breast cancer. This is huge! And definitely worth celebrating.
1. Trust God
God knows where I am and where I'm going, and He is always there with His presence and provision in whatever He has for me and my family. And it is safe to feel whatever I need to feel with Him.
I know I've expressed this many times before, but thank you from the bottom of my heart for being on this journey with me. You all are amazing for reading my posts and caring about me and contributing to my well being in so many ways. I love you.
Brad is with me today, and it's already so much better than last year when I had to tell him over the phone that I have breast cancer!
And now I'm off to celebrate being alive and thriving, one year post-diagnosis.
I got through another treatment session this week, blood work, and an appointment with Doctor Awesome. She continues to be "very pleased" with my progress and I have several great updates to share!
It has already been six months since my last CT scan and bone scan, so ordinarily I would be due for those now. However, Doc Awesome is cutting me some slack in that department because each time she sees me, my exams reveal that I am getting better and better. So she is letting me put off the next scans until after the holidays- probably mid-January. What a gift! Dr. Fixit will also be looking for those CT scan results so he can check on my spine several months post-surgery.
Because progress has been steady, for the first time now, I will go three months without seeing Dr. Awesome. And this will be the deal from now on: Excluding special circumstances, I will see her only four times a year. The treatment sessions every four weeks are easier to endure when the oncology follow-up appointment isn't tacked on too, so this is happy news. We are definitely achieving the goal of getting the cancer to a boring state!
Another astonishingly positive update is that I will only need mammograms on an annual basis from here on out! Like a normal person! (You know, a normal person age 40 or over... But whatever, I won't quibble.) While it is possible that this could change and Dr. Awesome could determine I need one sooner, and I will certainly have scans at least a few times a year, this felt like a major win to me. We are managing the cancer in a much more predictable rhythm now, compared to the frantic, putting-out-threatening-fires phase we were in several months ago.
She also pointed out that my blood work has been rock solid for just about a year now, so we can back off even more on the frequency with which I have those appointments. It still shocks and delights me that my cell counts are terrific even after being on a chemo pill for almost a year. After my December blood work (which I need to have before the scans) it will only be necessary to have a blood draw about once every three months. I am so grateful for all of these small victories that add up to a great time of rest!!
There is much to be grateful for, but of course there are always ups and downs and unforeseeable challenges. I had pretty disconcerting pain earlier last month that my doctors are aware of and want me to monitor, but that has thankfully subsided. Additionally my energy levels fluctuate, side effects get the better of me sometimes, and I get frustrated with my limitations. But even in these challenges there are slow, steady improvements, and the overall trend is extremely encouraging.
Next week I will be marking the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. Amazing, everything that has gone down in the past year. I will be celebrating survival and my very good quality of life and hope for the future. It's such a strange, bittersweet time.
I want to thank you for the encouraging notes and other kindnesses many of you have shown in the past month. Each one means so much to me and helps me get through the discouraging days. often it is all too huge to process and every once in a while I am utterly stunned anew that this is what my little family is dealing with. But each gesture of love is very big to me too. Each night when my son says his bedtime prayers he asks God to take away Mommy's cancer, and I believe that God is answering that sweet prayer a little bit every day. Thank you for joining in that prayer, for holding me up, and for being light and sustenance in my life.
Love to all my dear ones, Danielle
P.S. My brain is SUPER fuzzy today- the writing struggle is real. I apologize for any clumsy wording or lack of clarity!
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.
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