Let’s be honest…

Having cancer is no cup of tea!

A personal note to you: To say being diagnosed with cancer is traumatic is an understatement. And it’s not just traumatic for you, it reverberates throughout your family and friends. Everyone wants to help. It’s hard to know what to do or who to trust. It is exhausting to constantly be on your toes, analyzing every treatment choice and every single doctor, but it’s necessary. I will continue to provide resources here on Kick That Cancer to help you.

You will come to understand I believe in a balanced approach to healing. It is important to surround yourself with open-minded conventional doctors as well as highly educated holistic practitioners.  More and more I see these forces of knowledge joining together.  

Yet, throughout my journey, I have been told many contradictory things by doctors, nurses, specialists, therapists, gurus, books and documentaries. Please be true to yourself and do your own research. Follow your instincts and also read my free eBook Put Up Your Dukes, Your First 3 Steps to Winning the Fight. You can opt-in for this on the Home Page.

Also, it is important to let you know this:  The choices I made were the right choices for me.  Each of us is different.  We are at different stages in our lives.  Our disease is unique to us and is discovered at different stages of its life.  So, it is impossible to think our treatments would be identical. However, I am hoping my story will inspire you to put your gloves on and know  YOU ARE POWERFUL!

My Cancer Story…

This is an overview of my journey through three cancers. If you would like a more detailed account you can click the link at the bottom of this page and opt-in to receive a free copy of Blow by Blow, My Cancer Story.

2002 The BeginningColon Cancer

In February 2002, I had an intuition: Get a colonoscopy.  I could not shake this feeling.  After visiting my GP, he said, “We can probably do a sample test since you don’t really have any indications.”  I said “No. I need a colonoscopy.” Somehow, I just “knew.”

In the recovery room, the surgical nurse told me the doctor would like to speak to me. He said they found a very large polyp that couldn’t be removed during the procedure and was questionably cancer.  He wanted to admit me to the hospital.  He had already arranged for a local surgeon to operate the next day because they were very concerned. I was shocked but not surprised.  I knew my gut had been guiding me.

I prayed but I didn’t cry.  Had I known what I know now, I would have insisted on a second opinion, etc.  But, as it turned out this was the right decision.  I had a great surgeon who removed about a third of my colon (partial colectomy) because of an extremely large right-sided adenoma.  Adenomas are growths that are precursor lesions to colorectal cancer.  If they are not removed they become cancerous.  I was told mine was caught in the “nick” of time.  My intuition (A Nod from God) coupled with my persistence was my savior for sure.  No chemo or radiation was suggested.

I spent 5 days in the hospital.  I resumed my life.  I had to wear a portable urine bag for 10 days because my bladder did not immediately return to function.  That didn’t stop me from giving a presentation in front of a group of about 40 people while having this contraption strapped to my thigh.  No one was the wiser.  Life went on.  I was considered lucky.  Strike one!

2006 The Gene Mutation and the Double Mastectomy

My youngest sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006.  On the day of her last chemo treatment she received the news that she carried the BRCA2 breast cancer gene mutation.  Her original request for the gene test was rejected because insurance wouldn’t pay for it.  She insisted.  Having this mutation means that each of her siblings had a 50/50 chance of carrying it as well.  Being positive for this gene also means there is an 87% chance of getting breast cancer in addition to varying percentages of getting other cancers.  As a proactive person, I tested for the gene.  Yep, I am also BRCA2 positive.   

I decided to have a prophylactic (preventative) double mastectomy.  The surgery and reconstruction were performed on January 23, 2007.   Everyone’s situation is different.  There are reasons I made this choice. 

You can read the details of my choice; why I made it, where I went for surgery, what kind of reconstruction I had, etc. by opting in to get a free copy of Blow by Blow, My Cancer Story at the link below.

2014 Seven Years LaterBreast Cancer

I have been journaling since childhood. I write a Daily Letter.  It’s my meditation.  It’s my prayer.  I have books filled.     

On May 15, 2014, I was sitting in a chair in my living room writing and I felt my bra rubbing against my skin.  I lifted it and felt a lump. I immediately made an appointment with my GP for the next day.  He said it was most likely scar tissue.  However, once again, I “knew.” 

The next two months consisted of back and forth conversations between my GP who said it was scar tissue, a local radiologist who said it was “just my rib” and the surgeons who had performed my double mastectomy seven years earlier. They each had different opinions. My forceful insistence is what led to the ultimate breast cancer diagnosis on July 16, 2014. 

My local oncologist urged me to get chemotherapy as part of my treatment plan based on tissue testing she submitted.  But my research brought me to a new testing methodology and I forced that issue until she finally relented.  This testing ultimately determined I would not benefit from chemo.  I had a lumpectomy, followed by targeted radiation twice a day for one week. Amazingly had I not insisted on foregoing chemo for my breast cancer, there is a strong chance the treatment for my subsequent pancreatic cancer may not have worked. 

I have been breast cancer free since 2014.  I am lucky.  Strike two!

Get a free copy of Blow by Blow, My Cancer Story by opting in at the link below.       

2016 Now We’re Getting Serious – Pancreatic Cancer

I started feeling sick at the beginning of January 2016.  On January 19th, we closed on a home we built.  Prior to the house completion, we sold our previous home. The building process was delayed so we moved into a short-term rental and then moved to a second rental prior to the third and final move into our new home.  This, in conjunction with the holidays, was very stressful.  At first,  I secretly hoped it was just related to stress but intuitively I “knew” it was more than that.

Because of the breast cancer debacle, I had changed doctors and finally got an appointment with my new GP on March 10, 2016.  By this time my blood pressure was soaring which is very unusual for me. I also had terrible pain in my stomach.  I couldn’t eat and was losing weight.  The doctor did an EKG which was fine and said I had gastroenteritis.  He gave me Omeprazole.

This did not solve the problem.  I got sicker and sicker.  Over the next four months my weight dropped to 93 lbs. (I’m 5’4”) and I could barely eat.  I spent day and night on the computer researching because no one could figure out what was wrong.  Between March and July, I saw a total of ten doctors, as well as two naturopathic doctors. I also made two emergency trips to the hospital. During this time, I was given every test available.  Besides numerous blood work-ups, I had 3 CT Scans, a HIDA Scan to check gallbladder, an EKG, an Endoscopy, 2 Endoscopy Ultrasounds (EUS), 2 MRI’s and a PET scan. 

The diagnoses ran the gamut.  Gastroenteritis, Anxiety, Pancreatitis, Candida and Hiatal Hernia.  Finally, the second EUS procedure discovered cancer in a lymph node near my pancreas but since (at this point it wasn’t identified in the pancreas) it was deemed to be Cancer of Unknown Primary (CUP).  There was a thought that it could have originated from my breast cancer, but a specimen test eventually ruled out breast cancer as the primary.

Ultimately in July at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, I got the Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis.  The doctors at Mayo were phenomenal.  I was prescribed a chemo combo that had proven to have great results on pancreatic cancer patients who also carry the BRCA2 gene mutation.  My treatment consisted of five months of chemotherapy (15 treatments).

Every chemo I would get swollen like this. It was grueling but doable.

I utilized Cold Cap therapy.  I was so sick.  I thought if I could save my hair I would feel better.  Everyone is different.  This is a choice I made.  There were a total of 8 Cold Caps placed on dry ice and rotated every 20 minutes to keep them at negative 32 degrees Celsius for 8 hours; prior, during and after every chemo.  BRRRRR!  But it worked! As a side note, I could not color my hair during this process so my natural gray grew in. I decided to leave it.  It’s my personal badge of honor for having survived.

This is me right before my very last chemo on November 30, 2016.  The chemo worked so well that surgery became an option after just four months. I had to complete my fifth month but I was ecstatic because originally I was scheduled for six months minimum of chemo.

My surgery was to be a distal pancreatectomy which included removal of my spleen and 50% of my pancreas.  I had this surgery on January 13, 2017. My sister Patricia and my brother Thom flew to Scottsdale, AZ to be with me.  This was taken the night before my surgery.

Four days after surgery.  All tubes have been removed.  What a relief!

I have been cancer free since my surgery.  Every three months I return to Mayo Clinic for follow up.  I will do this for two years. Then every six months for five more years and so on. I am VERY lucky.  Strike three! But I’m not out!

Blow by Blow, My Cancer Story

If you are on your own cancer journey or you have a loved one who is, you will want to read Blow by Blow, My Cancer Story. This book is a detailed “bulleted” account of my doctor appointments, my conversations with the doctors, my research and my continued pressing forward in spite of pushback at every turn.  I believe it is extremely helpful to witness first-hand what it takes to push through.  It will also give you the confidence to do it yourself or help your loved one through it.