Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Shell Shocked

The last time I updated my blog I was awaiting my PET scan which would determine the next steps of this cancer journey. After being hassled by UCSF's "amazing" (sarcasm) receptionists, I finally received an appointment to hear the results of my scan.
As I was sitting in the waiting room among numerous other cancer patients, I began to get really anxious and nervous. I didn't have the highest hopes that the ICE treatment had worked, because a week after the last treatment I began to feel the mass creeping up in my neck once again.
 A nurse called out my name and began introducing himself to me. I thought he was only going to say "follow me" and lead me to the room where I would just await the doctor to hear the outcome. Instead he said, "hi, I'm so and so, and I will be giving you your chemo today." At first I didn't think much of it then realized, did he just say chemo? I wasn't supposed to get chemo! I just was there to get my results! I freaked out a little and began to panic! Chemo?! What does this mean? Why was this not communicated to me before I came? I was not prepared to get chemo at all! Mentally, you have to gear up for this kind of thing, and I was just going to be thrown in blind. After throwing a little bit of a fit, the doctor came in to talk to me. She then revealed that I did not react at all to the ICE treatments. I then broke down completely. I didn't understand and was horribly confused. She then told me she would like to give me this new treatment right away. After hesitation, I gave in and decided to get the treatment right then.
The new treatment Brentuximab, or also called SGN-35, is the new drug I am receiving. This is an anti-body conjugate which targets malignant cancer cells. It is effective on most people and has less side effects, which is awesome! I am going to be getting a total of three doses, every three weeks. I already had my first dose which I just explained. The side effects were minimal. But after getting discharged from the hospital after the first round, I almost immediately got excruciating leg cramping in both legs. The pain went away by the next day and I only had a bit of nausea. Not too bad at all. I go for my next treatment, dose two, in a couple more days. I feel very hopeful that this will be the trick to get me into remission and on to my stem cell transplant!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Worried Wanda

I have been waiting three weeks for my PT scan, that will determine if I go forward with my stem cell transplant or continue with chemo because the cancer hasn't disappeared yet. The day has finally come! Tomorrow I get my scan.
I have been so worried about this scan. Some days I feel no lump in my neck, just a smooth surface where cancer once lived. Other days my neck flares up and cancer says "Hello! I'm BACK!" and I feel a mass once again. It's scaring me! The anxiety is horrible, and my stomach keeps turning. I am not sure if the flare ups are because I am extremely stressed or it really hasn't gone away. I want to be on the right track so badly! I just want to hear those two words, "cancer free!"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cancer Rant

It's really sad that "Cancer" is becoming a popularity contest in this world!
People are labeling others with misperceived perceptions, like how others should feel, look like, or which cancer is worse than others. It's a shame. I know I don't even want to have this label over my head. I wish cancer never knocked on my front door and kicked me in the face! But it did and now I have to deal with it, trying to make the best of the situation.
Any form of Cancer is horrible! There is no better cancer than the other! Everyone has a different experience in any situation. It's weird to me that we segregate these diseases. Don't get me wrong, I think it's cool that each cancer has its own colored ribbon or National "Blank" Cancer Month, but we make a big hype with certain diseases more thank others. Such as Breast cancer! It is made into a whole huge ordeal! I see kids, young kids, not even teenagers, wear the "I love boobies" bracelets around like it is just something cool, the next fashion fad. But do they really know what that stands for?
Anyways, I could go on and on, but it would be ridiculous! LOL! I just want to state, scream rather, that I HATE cancer! I wish it didn't exist. And I don't care what kind of disease people are diagnosed with, it sucks! ALL cancers suck! That's the best label I can put on it.

ICE phase two

I'm just starting to feel better from the second round of ICE chemotherapy.
It was a roller coaster ride this time. I immediately got sick when leaving the hospital. I felt so bad for my mom! It was a long ride home. Fortunately, I was prepared ahead of time with my Nuelasta shots, which boost my immune system, and extra nausea medication to help me out. Otherwise, I would be as miserable as last time!
I feel so relieved I'm on the up swing of this journey. I am very ready to be over with this! Next stop, PT scan and praying that it comes back CLEAR!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Losing IT!

When I started my previous chemo treatments they told me that my hair would definitely fall out. They almost never had seen people who kept their hair. My hair did start falling out about a month after my very first treatment of ABVD. But it only thinned a lot and didn't fall out completely. I felt extremely lucky that I didn't lose it all. My Dr. and the oncology nurses were shocked and surprised that I kept the majority of my hair.
I never experienced the outer side effects of chemo and cancer. So when others I talked to, that were going through a similar journey as I am, expressed how emotional it was to lose their hair throughout chemo and how hard it was to deal with hair loss, I felt a little sad that I couldn't relate.
I still don't really know how others feel about their experience on losing their hair because I think I am going through a whole different change.
With the new treatment plan, ICE, the nurses and Dr. assured me this time that my hair WILL fall out! I thought to myself, we'll see, because they told me that last time! But they were right! It started to fall out dramatically two weeks after my first treatment. It was definitely a little shocking and I kept thinking, how am I going to look bald? The unknown was scary for sure! When hair was eventually falling out in hand fulls and I could literally see trails of hair on the floor, I knew it was time. Time to shave it all off! My fiance' also shaves is head willingly so we already had the tools to do it.
We both went into the bathroom, I took a deep breath and started to shave my head!. Ahhhh! I couldn't believe I was actually doing it! I was frightened I was going to not like it and wish that I would have waited, but when I was done with the shaving, I felt so much BETTER! It was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I felt happy and relieved in a very bizarre way.
A lot of people who I have chatted with said they started to break down and cry when their hair started to go. Or they felt like less of a person. I would feel so sad for these people, and hoped I would never feel like this when the time came.
I didn't feel any sadness when I was getting rid of my hair. I knew it was only a matter of time anyways and I was lucky I had a year of preparation already before it actually left for good! The next day though, I will admit, when Ricky, my fiance', looked at me and said, how do you like your new do?, I started to cry a little. For a split second I thought, he's not going to love me anymore because I'm bald! He re-assured me that he loves me unconditionally and he understood my feelings, which made me feel all warm and fussy inside lol!
I actually never would have thought I would say this, but I enjoy my baldness! I'm thankful that I am handling it rather well and embracing change. I do get stares and a lot of awkward moments with people, but that comes with the territory. If I was normal looking, I would probably glance at a bald chick too, and wonder what is the matter with her?!

                                               This is what I looked like before cancer.
This is what I looked like during ABVD treatment 
And this is me now during ICE treatments!

Monday, October 8, 2012

ICE phase one

Last week I had my first ICE chemo treatment. Three days in the hospital was quite challenging.
The first day was OK, felt the normal fatigue of chemo. The second day I had infusion for 24 hours. It was extremely difficult. I was so tired! On top of feeling nauseous, having a splitting headache and body aches, they wouldn't let me sleep, waking me up every hour! I always feel somewhat emotional when I receive treatment, but this time it hit me hard. I didn't want to be in the hospital at all. I just wanted to be in the comfort of my house, my own bed.
Going home was hard also. Ricky, my fiance', already had prior obligations, the marathon he was training for, for a long time, so he wasn't able to be there when I got home. I asked my mom to be there for me because it's really hard to do anything when your done with treatment. She was amazing! And she helped me a lot!
I usually don't get too sick after treatment but this one seemed to hit me harder. I was sick for almost three days, not being able to keep anything down. On top of all this I got a horrible cold which didn't help my symptoms any.
With the other chemo I received, the day after I would need to get a shot called Neulasta to boost my white blood cell count up. It was one shot that pushed your body to the limit even more and made you feel like you got ran over! This time I am taking a shot called Neupogen which I give to myself for seven days after treatment. My doctor said he would have the shots ready for me when I got out of the hospital, but that never happened! I have been having a hell of a time getting this doctor to follow through on what he says. I was pretty mad that he didn't have these ready for me when he said he was going to! He had three days to do it, and the nurse said he forgot! Ugh, so annoying!! On Monday, feeling really sick, I called the office to see what the scoop was on these shots. I got the run-around from the nurses who finally told me hours later to just come in the office to take the first shot. It's so difficult to drag your butt out of bed and drive thirty minutes so the Dr.s to take a shot that takes three seconds, so I had my mom come pick me up and take me. Thank god for mommies! After I received the shot I almost immediately felt a little better. My immune system and white cell count was so low, that I definitely needed that shot!
The next day I picked up the rest of my shots to give to myself at home for the next six days. The first time I gave myself the shot I almost passed out LOL! I'm not even scared of needles and they usually don't bother me, but doing it myself and seeing the needle go into my stomach made me very unsettled! The affect of the shots didn't hit me until the third day. It leaves you with pounding headaches, which hasn't gone away yet, and lower back pulsating pain.
After about a week of recuperating after treatment, you start to feel better. Slowly but surely you become normal again. I think this is one of the most difficult things for me. People know that I had treatment, but they don't know the affects it has on my body, because when they see me I look normal, I look happy.
I try to write a lot of details to try to inform people that don't know what I am going through how truly difficult this is. Chemotherapy is no joke! It is literally the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life!
Having Cancer has changed my life so much! It has left me with slight neuropathy in my toes which is getting worse with this new treatment, crazy looking hair LOL, and lung damage just to name a few. Of course it has taught me very valuable life lessons, but it has also shattered dreams! But one thing it can't take away is how much I have learned how strong I truly am!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Missing Out

Lately I have been feeling like I have been missing out on a lot that is happening around me. My life is consumed by this cancer and that entails waiting on Dr.s and going to appointments, stressing, worrying, and developing some bad habits. While I am doing all this it seems the world is going on without me, but why wouldn't it?
My friends are having fun going to baseball games, traveling, concerts, exercising, and doing other random things that make them happy. Although at the moment I can still go do all of these things I just feel like I'm being held back by something. My fiance is getting ready to go do a fun marathon next weekend and he has been preparing for it for about six months now. He is working hard and getting excited about it. I am very happy for him, but all I think about is wow, I wish I had something to look forward to. All I see in my future is a hospital bed. He also coaches soccer which makes him feel on top of the world, I have yet to feel like this about anything.
I guess I am just being a baby about this whole situation. When I start acting like this my biggest bad habit comes into play. When I think of being in the hospital I think of what I am going to be eating. Horrible hospital food doesn't sound desiring when you feel sick already from chemo. So I have been telling myself a lot lately that I am going to eat whatever I want right now no matter how bad it is for me, just because I will not be able to eat it for awhile. This is the worst idea ever! Food has become my go to thing to rely on when I am feeling down on myself. It makes me feel great for a split second then I realize what I am doing to myself. I am never going to get better if I keep treating myself this way. I really don't know what to do about it.

I really wish I could go back in time and fix things that were starting to unravel and I just didn't notice.
It is hard to sit and think what life is going to be like after I am done with this. I know things will never be the same. When I was younger I never would have imagined my life like this. I either thought I would be married with a beautiful family or polar opposite, traveling and seeing the world. Hopefully one day I will reach my goal, But at the moment I just feel stuck.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Receiving and Creating Love

My Fiance came up with an idea for a fundraiser two weeks ago, to benefit myself, and to help me out financially with the new treatment plan I am about to start. We held a car wash at our local Les Shwaub.
When he first presented the idea I was extremely nervous! I really wanted to do something along these lines but didn't know how to go about it. Usually I have ideas like this but are too afraid to go forward with them. I really don't like being center of attention. I get really anxious and can't keep composure and I just start to cry! Especially when I feel a lot of love, because I don't know how to handle it and have a tough time accepting love. I didn't know how the car wash was going to turn out, or who would show up, and who would help, but it was Amazing! It came together perfectly, and we were busy the whole entire time! The family, friends, and volunteers who helped were great! I don't know if I will ever be able to thank them enough! They all put so much effort and hard work into helping me!

Receiving love is a lot harder then giving love! It puts you on the spot! Most of the time I just want to push it away, it's a lot easier this way for me. When somebody is there for you when you need them it's a really great feeling, but for me I always feel horrible, like I am a burden. I have been trying to let this feeling go and just let myself receive all the love people want to give me. It is so difficult! I know though if one of my friends or family members needed me I would be there no matter what the same way they are here for me, and I wouldn't expect anything in return, maybe just a smile on their face! It feels great to Give, and I'm working on the Receiving part lol! At the car wash this weekend I felt that we created so much Love! Everybody seemed like they were having fun and they were happy. I saw a lot of hugs and smiles and that was priceless! Thank you to everyone who helped and those who donated! It means the World to me!! Thank you also for teaching me the lesson on Receiving. And one day I will help create more love for all of you!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Hardest Decision

Tuesday I was faced with the hardest decision of my life thus far.
Before I can start my new treatment plan, I needed to see a fertility doctor to see what my odds are for having a child in the future. The doctor was extremely nice and very informative. I felt at ease hearing that there was a chance that one day I could conceive. He then explained to me that a young woman my age who is healthy should have around twenty eggs stored in her ovaries. He gave me a ultrasound to see the damage of the chemo I had already had, and to get an estimate of my egg count.
I only had eight eggs that he could physically see. My chances then dropped even more! There is always a chance that the eggs won't survive or won't take when I am ready to have a child. The chance of having a disabled child because of the toxins in my body is there also. Then they hit me with a huge bomb!! I need to have $10,000 by next Tuesday which is one week from now. I immediately broke down. My dreams were just shattered by mere numbers, paper and statistics!
I have always known that I wanted to me a mother. To hear this news was shocking and devastating! I had to make a choice: to try and figure out the money situation and go for the procedure or let life take its course. I ultimately have decided not to continue with the fertility treatments. First I am being rushed and have no time. I have learned through this experience that when you rush things they usually don't end up great. Second, I have a slim chance that it will work because of the amount of eggs I have and the toll my body has endured through this process already. And Third, a week to receive $10.000 is crazy!! I hope that I am making the right decision and that I defy all odds! Maybe my role in life is to adopt a child in need of a great loving home. I don't know! But now I have to live with this decision for the rest of my life! It's going to be difficult to stay strong but I know I have to! I can't give up!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A life turned sideways

Before I was diagnosed, I lived a pretty normal life. But let me take you back a bit farther.

When I was a child and throughout my teen-age years I felt like I was shut off. Closed off from the world. I honestly was depressed and felt so alone. I was angry towards others and didn't care who saw it. I had a limited amount of friends because I didn't know how to show happiness. This feeling lasted well into my twenties, until I was 22.
I met Ricky in 2007. He was totally different from other people I had dated. But in every way we were great for each other. We began seeing each other and quickly moved in together. We even moved to another state! We barely knew each other but if felt as though I had known him for years. Our relationship was totally normal. Bickering and fights did occur, but we always managed to speak with each other about our differences in a healthy way. Two years into our life together I became pregnant. I thought I had a nasty bug that was going around but doctors told me, 'Ugh, your really pregnant!' I was shocked but ecstatic! I have always wanted to be a mom. And waited for the day to come to hear those words. I was on cloud nine. When we went to our appointment to hear the babies heart beat for the first time, we were joking with the nurses and having so much fun. The nurse casually asked us to wait for a moment so that she could get another doctor to look at the sonogram. My heart sank. I immediately started to cry because I knew what had just happened. Doctors could not find a heart beat.
I was crushed. It took me a very long time to understand why, and come to terms with it. It just didn't seem fair. I now realize everything happens for a reason!
On September 11th 2011, another crazy thing happened in my life! Ricky asked me to marry him. I was the happiest person on earth. I was shocked at the same time because I never thought it would happen lol!!
We planned on getting married on November 12th of that same year. Literally, a month after the engagement and a month before the wedding I was diagnosed with cancer. We put off the wedding due to insurance reasons. Hopefully one day we will have everything come together as planned. But that's the crazy thing about life, you never know whats going to happen!!


I just have to share how amazing my life is right now, despite fighting cancer. I have a whole team of people that support me and are standing by my side! People definitely come together in a time of need!
A lot of my friends have been sharing my new blog and my fundraiser that I am having soon! Also I had help setting up a donation site for my lymphoma fund! Thank you everyone!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Process

After being diagnosed, I almost immediately started treatment. I received a type of Chemotherapy known as ABVD, an acronym standing for a whole bunch of crazy drugs! I had 12 rounds which lasted about six months. Every time I had treatment it got harder. The taste was the worst!! Not being able to eat was literally  torture. But somehow, with a lot of patience and trying to have a positive attitude, I made it through! The last treatment was bittersweet. I was so happy to be done with Chemo, but scared of the unknown after. At the end of these treatments I had a scan. The scan came back positive still for cancer. I was shocked because I thought I was done for good! I mean it was the end of April 2012, I had summer to look forward to and plans that were emerging. But now life was turned upside down again.

I have waited almost 4 months now and finally have a new treatment plan and goal. It's going to be one crazy ride! And this is why I am creating this blog, so I can share with whoever reads this! Feel free to comment on anything, good or bad.

What's Lymphoma?!

When I felt a lump on the right side of my neck, I didn't think much of it. Numerous people told me I probably was just swollen from a cold I had previously or maybe I even had a slight thyroid problem. I let it go and tried to forget about it, but the lump didn't go away, in fact it got larger. 
After biting the bullet and getting over my procrastination, I saw a local family practitioner, who sent me to have an ultra sound of my neck, but got no real answers there.
Three months later on October 2nd, 2011, I was suffering from a high fever, and by this time the lump in my neck was pressing so hard on my throat that I could barely breathe. Still not thinking the worse, I assumed I had pneumonia. After consulting my fiance we decided that I would go to the hospital.
There at the hospital they gave me the run-around. 'Yes you have a fever, but no pneumonia, maybe you just need to rest?' Like they thought I knew what was going on? Four hours later just laying there in the hospital bed, and the doctors just wanting to send me home, I put my foot down and proclaimed, 'There has to be something wrong with me, why do I have this lump and why cant I breathe?!!'
Soon after that they gave me a chest x-ray. I watched as the doctors face went blank as they stared at the image from across the room.

'Cierra, have you heard of Lymphoma?'
'No, What is that? Is that what you get when you smoke? I have never smoked!'
'No, that's not what this is. Maybe you should do some research on it."

With this vague answer, (and thank god for smart phones!), It was determined and backed up with a CT scan that I had Lymphoma, A type of blood cancer which attacks your lymphatic system. Going from thinking I had pneumonia to Cancer was extremely shocking and seemed unreal.The next week they took a biopsy of the mass in my neck which was sent to UCSF medical center and declared Hodgkins Lymphoma. Because I had masses in my neck and a large mass which consumed 3/4 of my chest internally and classic symptoms such as night sweats, fever, and a rash, I was stage 2B. Then, the fun began!


This is my first time as a Blogger! I am excited and nervous to share with you what is going on in my life, something that is extremely difficult yet rewarding in a way, which is fighting cancer!