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Meet DefLeppardGirl

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As we march into a new month please join me in welcoming a new neighbour in our community DefLeppardGirl, who has kindly shared her story with us.
 
Hello from the beautiful coast of British Columbia!  I live in Surrey with my husband, my grown son, and my darling Blue Point Siamese named Chloe.  She follows me everywhere and sleeps in my arms.   I am turning 49 this month.  I’m looking forward to having a big party when I turn 50!  I work as a clerk in a large hospital which I very much enjoy, as it satisfies my need to hyper-organize!  My hobbies include cross-stitching, scrapbooking, and following Def Leppard.  I make a point of seeing the band in concert at least once a year, which usually involves a little traveling.  After I was finished chemo, my hubby treated me to Meet & Greet tickets.
 
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                                                            Before Chemo
 
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Meet Chloe!

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Meet and Greet
 

In 2009 I went for my yearly pap test and the results came back abnormal. It’s strange because I knew it was abnormal as soon as I had it done.  I had cervical dysplasia and was sent immediately to a GYN.  I had a colposcopy, then a LEEP procedure.  My GYN wanted 2 clear biopsies after the LEEP, but my cervix had scarred shut from the procedure.  Each attempt at a biopsy was horribly painful.  I would load up on Ativan just to keep myself from flying off the table and holding onto the ceiling with my fingernails (insert cartoon image here).  We were not able to obtain enough tissue off my cervix for pathology.  My periods couldn’t get through, and stopping them with the Pill was making me cramp all month long.  I had a hysterectomy.  Some time around the 4 week mark I realized I couldn’t sit for more than 20 minutes without severe tearing pains across my pelvic region.  This pain became worse as I continued to heal.  No one could give me a reason.  I saw many medical professionals and tried lots of alternative medicine throughout the next 5 years.   I attended the Pain Clinics at Surrey Memorial and also at Women’s Hospital.  I am doing my best to live with the pain but it has altered my life significantly.  However, I am grateful that I never have to walk into the Colposcopy Clinic again.

In September 2015 I went for my yearly screening mammography.  Just as with my pap test, I knew something was wrong.  I didn’t feel a lump, but I knew before I even booked the appointment.  I have been called back for diagnostics and ultrasound before.  But this time I also had an appointment with the Breast Surgeon.  We did the core needle biopsy the same day.  I was sick with fear.  They were telling me 50-60% chances it was cancer.  I felt certain they were easing me into my diagnosis.  At a later date I was reading my reports from that day and the notes indicated 90% chance of cancer.  I received my diagnosis on October 9, 2015.  Those dreaded and surreal words “You have breast cancer”.  I was shattered, sick, crying constantly and unable to eat.  The rest of the world was continuing to spin around me but I had stopped.  We celebrated my son’s 21st birthday that week with me wondering if it was the last birthday card I would ever give him, the last birthday dinner I would ever prepare.  Then everything sped up.  Phone calls, counsellors, tests, appointments, specialists.  I had to keep repeating to myself “I have an Oncologist”.  Who thought that would happen?  Thankfully all my tests were good.   My tumor was large (6x5x3cm).  It was not the round bump we are told to look for, but flat and slightly harder than my breast tissue.  It was decided to remove the tumor immediately and then focus on treatment.  I met my plastic surgeon and made a plan for reconstruction.  I had my port-a-cath put in.  I had my mastectomy and phase one of reconstruction.  Emotionally I did well with my mastectomy, which surprised me.  The “fills” for the tissue expander were difficult.  I never slept the night of fills.  I had muscle spasms in my chest, around my side to my back.  My arm and hand would become numb and painful to move. 

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cycle 8 infusion

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                                                                Cycle 8 resting with Chloe
 
For chemo I had 4 rounds of Adriamycin & Cytoxan.  It made me very sick, even with all the amazing anti-emetics they prescribe.  I was admitted through Emerg after my first chemo and after that my oncologist decided to admit me to the Oncology Ward for each treatment.  I did better in the hospital, with the IV fluids and medications.  My next 4 rounds were Taxol & Herceptin.  I had some issues while infusing the Taxol, which caused delays.  After each infusion I would have 5 days or so of very bad muscle pain, mostly in my legs.  Walking was difficult and I couldn’t get much sleep.  Then I had 13 rounds of Herceptin alone.  Herceptin was much easier than chemo, but still made me feel unwell.  The joint pains were my biggest complaint; every joint in my body hurt.  After chemo finished I had 28 doses of radiation.  Radiation was definitely the easiest part of my treatment.  I found being alone in the room while the machine worked around me very relaxing and calming.  I had very little burning, just a little redness. 

Before radiation finished, I had my yearly mammogram on my remaining breast.  There was an area of concern, but the Breast Surgeon couldn’t locate it well enough to do a biopsy.  The next step would be MRI, but this was not possible because my expander had metal in it.  The plan was to exchange the expander for an implant 6 months post radiation.  This would give my tissues time to heal.  The doctors felt my mammogram results were concerning enough that we couldn’t wait 6 months.   In the end, we waited only 6 weeks.   The implant was not what I expected; I was disappointed that it didn’t feel like a real breast and was located high on my chest and off to the side.  As I recovered, my incision bled a lot and then started separating and leaking serous fluid.  The separation became bigger and the pocket around the implant became infected.  I had emergency surgery to remove it; my reconstruction failed.  This was extremely disappointing to me.  Losing my reconstruction has been far more difficult than losing my breast.  In time, we hope to try again.
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Def Leppard Tacoma

I have just finished active treatment this week.  I’m not feeling as celebratory as I anticipated; it’s been a long 1 ½ years and I think it will take some time to  shift gears for this part of my journey.  I’m wondering how to return to my regular life, but maybe regular life is past and the future is just something different.  I don’t know if we are really quite the same after cancer has been in our lives and our bodies.  I am looking forward to moving past this disease and onto beautiful things.

Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. It sure has been a long year and a half. Now on to beautiful things DefLeppardGirl...you sure have earned them! If you anyone is interested in being a featured member please let Lacey_adminCCS know.
 

 




Comments

Thanks so much for sharing your story and for your support.  It is wonderful to have a face to put to the name.  You strength and courage is encouraging :)
  • Posted Fri 05 May 2017 05:02 PM EDT
Wow you have been through alot. You may not feel it, but I think you are very brave. Not only for making it through to the other side, but for being open about it. Chloe is beautiful! And Def Leppard rocks! (though Im more of a GNR girl ;))
  • Posted Sun 05 Mar 2017 12:42 PM EST
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I felt like crying reading about your pain and then of your perseverance! Bravo to you, and whether the old life or a new one, you have life to live :)
  • Posted Thu 02 Mar 2017 08:26 PM EST
What gorgeous hair you have! I'm looking forward to see if you still have your curls!
  • Posted Thu 02 Mar 2017 11:17 AM EST

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