Stick, Scan, Doctor, Repeat.

Guys, I know it’s been awhile. (Deja vu?)  Yes.  I know, I usually start with some variation of that sentence but this time the delay was completely intentional.  Yes, seriously.  I’ve been super busy getting all my ducks in a row.  (I mean… I had no less than 6 appointments just this week!).  And now all the stats are in and I have so much to share.  But where to begin….

Eli is so helpful... always keeping my head warm!

Eli is so helpful… always keeping my head warm!

So last time we saw each other, we were celebrating my last chemo.  Irony of all irony, I’m currently sitting back in the infusion suite for “maintenance” as the staff here likes to call it.  Still no more chemo (yahoo!), but I still have to show up every three weeks for hormone receptors to help prevent reoccurrence.  So, does that mean I’m in chemo induced remission?

The bad news is… I’m not.  The good news is… I will be (most likely), in exactly 13 days.  The chemo did better than anyone could have ever expected.  The largest mass on my right side (8cm x 6cm, previously) is now down to just 1 centimeter.  And, the three masses on the left have shrunk to one measly 8 MILLIMETER lump.  On August 5th, we’ll finish them off for good.  Singing “Another One Bites the Dust” into the surgical suite,  I’ll be undergoing a bilateral modified radical mastectomy with reconstruction and auxiliary lymph node dissection on the left and a sentinel node biopsy on the right. (Click the links for more info).  Reconstruction will take at least two more surgeries after this one and probably won’t be completely finished until spring of next year.

We can also add one more surgery to that list because my genetic testing came back positive for the BRCA1 gene.  Did you know that only 12% of women get breast cancer, and of that 12% only 5% are connected to this gene.  Once again…. just proving how special I am… yay me! (Could you hear that eye roll?)  I’m choosing to undergo a prophylactic surgery to remove my ovaries.  Helloooooo menopause!  Thank God for my tiny people or this would have been the hardest decision of my entire life.

But back to the game plan, 5-10 weeks after surgery, I’ll have to undergo 6 weeks (5 days a week) of radiation.  Even though I expect to already be cancer free by this time, radiation will help ensure that any microscopic traces of the cancer cells are toast… literally.  Three months post radiation, we’ll start back on the reconstruction surgeries again.

So… now that we have all facts on the table, I guess you are wondering about “human Ashley “and less about the science experiment that has become my body.  The truth is… there is anxiety.  Of course there is!  But the stress seems to be stemming more from being overwhelmed about the time commitment that treatment will be demanding over the next several months. How do I maintain self and still do everything on the agenda?  It will be less of a balancing act and more like juggling.

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Look! It’s here! The hair is coming! The hair is coming!

That aside, I’m scary excited to start this process.  I’ve been waiting for this surgery since February.  Will I mourn my gals?  Well, honestly no.  The betrayal runs deep, y’all.  Adieu and good riddance you big old jerks!  But seriously, the price of remission (and staying that way) could never be too steep for me.  I know when I wake up, there will be some self image issues.  Let’s be real straight here.  I’m thicker than I’ve ever been in my entire life (let’s not count pregnancy, there were twins in there people!). The hair on my head could rival that of a newborn duckling.  Okay, I’m actually fascinated and thrilled about that… for now.  And now, I’m going to be flat as a teenage boy in two weeks.  We aren’t operating with the best proponents for confidence here.  But, I’ll deal with all that if (when?) it happens.

One year ago I would be ashamed of this stats but not too shabby for my first day back!

One year ago I would be ashamed of this stats but not too shabby for my first day back!

For now, I’m focusing hard on some of the things I can control.  Making 300 lists.  Making freezer meals.  And best of all, I’ve hit the gym hard.  Me and that sweet lover have been apart for far too long.  You better believe your sweet sassafras I’m going into this round strong as all get out.  My heart is ready.  My brain is mostly on board.  Now I’m just getting the body built up to once again get hit by a freight train.  Go ahead, knock me down.  I’ll always come back stronger.

Let Freedom Ring. No Mo Chemo!

Today may only be July 2nd, but this is my Independence Day! We just conquered chemo and I’m almost free from the chair!

Just showing the cancer center who is on top!

Just showing the cancer center who is on top!

Now, I’m sitting hooked to bag 3 of 4 and hoping and wishing and praying that this will truly be the last day I have to sit down and pump these poisonous drugs into my system.

You may be asking yourself?  Did we skip from treatment 4 to 6? Did I miss a post somewhere?

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C and G spinning in the cups

Snuck in some 4th Festivities on Saturday

Snuck in some 4th Festivities on Saturday

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B mean muggin’ on the Ferris Wheel she INSISTED on going on.

The answer is yes to the former and no to the latter.  Chemo round 5 was bad.  Really bad.  Symptoms that typically drop by on Saturday night/ Sunday morning made a sharp appearance on the Thursday night.  Then, they persisted for the next two weeks.  I just got my feet back underneath me to wake up from the chemo coma and discover it was that time again.  I’m sure this time will be no better but…. This is the last time I have to do it and that makes it all the more easy to sit here and press on.

So… today we conquered chemo, what is next?  Since I wrote you last, I’ve seen lots of doctors and have lots of information to share with you.  Next week we start the poking and prodding again.  Test after test will be ran to find out where we now stand pre-surgery.  Somewhere in the vicinity of the last week of July, I’ll be undergoing a double bilateral full mastectomy with a full lymph node removal on the left side and the first step of the reconstruction process.

I know that these two snugglers are ready to care of me.

I know that these two snugglers are ready to take care of me, which ever outcome.

Here is where the cancer get’s to play “choose your own adventure” after all the tests come back.  IF I am in chemo induced remission, we are done.  I’ll undergo the final two reconstruction surgeries and pray with each remission check up that this was just a blip in my 20s.  If there does happen to be cancer still hiding out in there, radiation will be on the agenda for an unknown amount of time and we may have to do another 8 week round of chemotherapy.  Both these paths will make reconstruction surgery further away and much more complex.  They’ll have to take muscles from my back to be placed into my chest.  Yes. Seriously.  The thing I wish the most right now is that the doctor could have waited a few more days to tell me about the chemo possibility because my Independence Day now has a dark cloud looming.

Honest to goodness, I FEEL it though.  I’m as sure as I can be that we are in remission. Even though the odds were not high, my oncologist continues to be shocked time and time again that every bump, lump and hardness has vanished.  If the cancer is still there, it is deep.  But even deeper, in my heart, I just feel like I won this battle, whatever the next step happens to be.  I am so excited, so grateful, so proud that we conquered chemo.  Happy Independence Day, y’all!

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No Mo Chemo! Adios Chair!