Looking back, moving forward

Looking back, moving forward

Hi loves! Where do I start?

These past few months since surgery have been nothing short of exhausting. Coaching, working, getting back into a “normal” routine… scratch that. My new “normal” is far from what it’s ever been.

I still receive Herceptin infusions every three weeks until August of 2017 and next week I start the T word. For those of you unfamiliar with what I’m referring to, it’s tamoxifen. I’m triple positive, which basically means that my tumor grew from my hormone receptor cells being like “Hey body, grow these cells like it’s your job, overachieve the average and create a tumor!”and here we are ;] Tamoxifen will block the hormone receptors from the hormones in hopes that I don’t grow a tumor the size of a golf ball again. It is expected that I will be taking Tamoxifen for the next ten years. Along with tamoxifen, my oncologist will slowly introduce my body to another drug, Zoladex. Zoladex will make my ovaries “quiet.” Theses drugs can be harsh on the body and if it begins to hinder my quality of life significantly, my oncologist will talk other options. Common side effects include: weight gain, hot flashes (don’t miss you), bone pain, mood swings, amongst other things. Risk of other diseases, such as other cancers can come about from taking these drugs. Lovely thought, huh?

What else?

I’ve gained seven pounds since I was diagnosed… seven pounds doesn’t seem like much to some of you, especially when the whole pharmacy has been through your body the past six months, but to my sweet little messed up head… seven pounds means that I have lost control. I’ve spent most of my 20’s working on a mindset to let go of that mentality.  I’ve had anxiety since I can remember and these eating disordered thoughts weirdly enough, served my mind almost like a safety net. A place where my mind could focus on something and give myself a sense of control. Weight gain in many eating disordered heads means loss of that “control.”  Call me Dr. Jessica because I believe now that I don’t what’s to happen with my future and cancer, my mind is reverting back to these thoughts, a sick and falsely twisted sense of control and right now, my mind thinks I’m losing, that I am weak. So now, I’m faced with this challenge again. A challenge that I didn’t think I would revisit so soon and sudden.

Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond thankful to have found my tumor, to receive treatment, to live in a time where there are pills that help the chance of recurrence, but God I am scared.

Cancer is a bitch, mental illness is a bitch.

Cheers to this new battle I’m about to face! My history tells me that I can beat this and that’s what I will try and focus on ❤

“It took cancer to find my voice and I won’t stay silent” -speaker at the YSC Summit.

 

 

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These Breasts

These Breasts

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Those breasts? The breasts that replaced the cancer along with the tissue from the other breast as a precaution because of the multiple cysts that were benign but that could’ve changed with time. Those bandages? The bandages currently being worn to make sure my incisions heal correctly… & yes, the scars are that long. The lumps on the left breast? It’s from the drain within my breast removing the fluids. I had four after surgery. I had minor complications with the left breast healing so it’s on a little longer than the rest. The extra fat you see near my armpits? I went smaller in breast size so I’m left with excess fat from the breasts that will require yet another procedure to remove it once I’m healed. It’s also a reminder of the breasts that gave me years of insecurity, and clearly cancer. Those implants? The implants take away the ability to ever have the opportunity to breast feed children in the future. That key hanging from my neck? One of the most beautiful gifts that I have ever received. It’s from the Giving Key’s  with the word “HOPE” in the middle. I’m supposed to “embrace the word” and “pay it forward by passing on the key to a person that needs the message more” than myself. Reconstruction surgery isn’t glamorous, and it’s far from easy. However, with this simple reminder perfectly placed near the scars and damage as I’m still healing, is the best reminder to never lose hope, and strive for a better tomorrow & the healthiest possible life.

 (The key was gifted from one of my cancer sisters, Grace) 

Initially posted this on Instagram: jessheleno

 

What’s up, buttercup?

What’s up, buttercup?

HELLO!

It’s been awhile since I’ve lasted posted a blog entry. Big changes have happened since my last post and big changes will be happening over the next few months.

Just over a month ago I finished my last round of ‘hefty’ chemotherapy. I say that because for the next six months I will be receiving Herceptin every three weeks.

Herceptin is used for a variety of breast cancer patients. In my case, I fall under the  HER+ positive people (Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2-positive ) along with being high risk. The high risk factors are considered either being  ER/PR-positive with one of the following features: tumor size >2 cm, < 35 years of age, or tumor grade 2 or 3… & guess what!? I have all of those features (5+ centimeters, younger than 35 aaand grade 3 tumor) SUP.

HER2+ is aggressive, but I’m fortunate enough to have Herceptin. It’s been proven beneficial for patients like me. And plus, these infusions will be significantly shorter than my previous treatments.

About a week ago my eyebrows and eyelashes started falling out like it was their JOB. I hopped out of the shower one day, looked in the mirror and immediately said “What the F*CK” (It takes a lot for me to swear so apparently this made me really upset) – I know it’s only hair and blah blah blah, it might sound vain and blah blah blah, but that was probably the only PHYSICAL feature I used to have confidence in- nice brows and long eyelashes. probably have 20% of eyelash and eyebrow hair in comparison what I typically have. So basically now I look like a fuzzy bug-eyed girl rather than my typical hairy bug-eyed girl look.

me
…or this stud.

SHOUT OUT TO MAKEUP. but hey- it’s helping me build confidence in more than one way.

Side note: Don’t make sarcastic jokes to the 6th graders that you coach, they won’t catch the sarcasm and they’ll look mortified that you said such a thing. Or… do it. It was quite entertaining. I LOVE being a coach again.

Up next, I have FINALS before graduating.  I also have all my appointments leading up to SURGERY the 22nd. A colonoscopy is also included this month hahaha okay, life.  ❤  The 21st is my Lymphoscintigraphy. Try saying that twice! LOL JK this mushy brain can’t even say it once. The 22nd will be bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction.

LOVE YOU ALL.

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I relate to Cynthia as well. The hair on my head sticks straight up after I shower and I always think of home girl. In reality though, those dots on her head are more representative.
Short & (not so) sweet.

Short & (not so) sweet.

The other day I looked in the mirror, and I didn’t recognize the person staring back at me. Physically speaking, I am exhausted looking, little to no affect, eyebrows that might as well be zebra stripes to name a few; but what I am talking about transcends past the physical features- the toll that chemotherapy takes on a person mentally and emotionally reflects like the days I’d hope to never see again. My darkest days. I’m hesitant to be social because I feel trapped within my own body. Even if I wanted to be present, I often can’t because of how exhausted I am.

Chemotherapy is taking away the cancer, but it’s also taking away other aspects of what once was my daily life. I look in the mirror and see someone hardly present, someone just going through the motions, a person so still and it’s heartbreaking to me. Are these days worth it? Absolutely. It’s these types of days that make me hate everything about cancer. Knowing there are millions of people all over the world going through hell to kill what’s trying to kill us just tugs at my soul. I know at the end of all of this I will come out appreciating life more than I already do, with an even deeper perspective than ever before.

Monday was round five of six! One more to go followed by surgery in December.

I cannot wait for the day where I look back in the mirror and see myself again.

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This genuine smile, this person, this Jessica.

 

 

❤ Love you all & I’m so thankful for everyone that has remained patient and supportive through it all.

At the end of the day-

At the end of the day-

 

What a two weeks it has been. Last week was BY FAR the the most difficult week through all of this so far. Everything hit me at once. By that I mean, emotionally, physically, mentally, I got hit by the rock bottom bus.

Monday was my third round of chemotherapy. I am exhausted. I am not myself. Chemotherapy takes away the growth of cancer cells… but it also takes away much more. It takes away energy, personality, sleep, independence, motivation; it takes away who I am.

(it even has taken away about 50% of my eyebrows and eyelashes)

Chemotherapy is like a cocktail. Well in the medical aspect, my cocktail is Taxotere/Carbo/Herceptin/Pertuzumab. In the ‘living’ aspect, it’s always a surprise mixture. Currently I am 70% tired, 30% motivated to do homework. Some days my head is so foggy I can’t even hold a standard conversation.  Some days my head is clear but physically I’m so weak that I do not want to talk. Most days look like this:14423674_10207944407385009_2036926596_o

Too tired to do anything. Watching TV even is out of the picture most days because it requires paying attention which surprisingly takes a lot of energy.

I knew that chemotherapy wasn’t going to be a cake walk, but MAN I didn’t know how exhausting it would be. The fact that I can’t be ‘myself’ is so damn frustrating. I feel like I am nothing more than a lump on log. Thankfully, there are moments (even a day or two) where I’m feeling almost normal and those are the times where I gain motivation. My definition of motivation is slightly different from what it once was, but it will always involve the words “keep on keeping on.”

At the end of the day, cancer and chemotherapy can’t take away my heart. My heart is so full of love for the people by my side, that keep me going, that take me places (literally I don’t have the energy to drive most days), that take care of me, that check in on me. Every single person that has reached out to me, thank you. It helps more than you know. Sending a text can even be difficult for me- so thank you for your patience.

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This beauty finished her last round of chemotherapy on Monday. Thank you for being a role model…. and agreeing that the word ‘moist’ is one of the worst words to ever exist ;] Grace will continue to inspire through the rest of her journey. #teampuffyface

 

 

Breast Cancer with a side of baggage. Part one: The Egg Freezing Experience

Breast Cancer with a side of baggage. Part one: The Egg Freezing Experience

When I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, I was expecting either chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or all of the above. With my specific type of cancer, chemotherapy before all else is recommended to shrink the tumor first. What I wasn’t expecting was everything else that comes along with the diagnosis. In my mind it basically went like this: “Hey you have cancer and since you’re going through chemotherapy, do you want kids in the future ? There is a big chance you will become infertile after treatment.”

Um… what? I may be 25 but being a college student along with my financial status, I cannot picture having kids of my own for AT LEAST 8-10 years. If I decide to have kids that is. I LOVE kids; I work with them and my career will involve working with kids- just the idea of having my own is way out of the picture currently. WAY*

As a sweet little birdie put it (boyfriend’s mom) freezing my eggs is like a “savings account.” It’ll be there if/when I need it.

So then the egg-freezing process started. Insurance doesn’t cover this because I am not proven to be infertile, nor have tried to get pregnant. Christ no I have not tried to get pregnant. So about 4500 dollars later, I had appointments with the specialists every other day to track my treatment progress. Internal ultrasounds and having my blood drawn every other day is as fun as it sounds; especially when the appointments take place bright and early in Evanston. But hey! At least I found out I’m allergic to one of the medications (Letrozole) It looked a little something like this:

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Go big or go home amiright?

 

During the time of retrieval,  they retrieved a lot of eggs. After examining each egg, they keep the ‘good’ ones to freeze. Don’t ask me the exact amount because I have chemo brain and I don’t know what the exact number is LOL. Chemo brain is very very real, it can also be frustrating, but sometimes hilarious. Sometimes I can’t form words and stutter like it’s my job. Thanks chemo, or lack of sleep…or both.

Here’s some more baggage and how I saw it in my mind:

“OH P.S  your hair will fall out, this particular regimen of chemo can cause weight gain and can be very hard to lose and we are going to place a portacath in before you can start chemo.” “PS PS- You like dairy? Too bad, limit it to a very minimum.”

… To be continued on part ii of this blog, next week. I initially had the rest posted here, but it was WAY TOO LONG

❤ Until next time

(Here’s a song that I listen to on those tough days. I love allll types of music. For those of you who don’t know me well, I especially love Pretty Lights. Who knows, maybe this song will help you too. Listen here THANKFULLY I GET MY PL FIX IN CHICAGO THIS MONTH)

I promise I’ll get better with titles.

I promise I’ll get better with titles.

First of all, THANK YOU for the overwhelming amount of love and support. Each and every one of you reading this, every message, every visit, thank you. Now pop a squat, and eat some frozen grapes because it gives life meaning. Kidding, but they are amazing and I’m pretty sure I’m 85% frozen grapes, 15% cancer now.

I realized that I didn’t go into detail about my diagnosis… So here I go!

Well over a year ago, I felt a small lump in my breast and at that time I thought nothing of it. Being 24 (at the time) why would I think anything of it? A few months later, I noticed it again but only bigger than I remembered. I wasn’t worried much so my next OBGYN appointment I very subtly mentioned that there was a lump, and asked her to examine. So she did… and said nothing. Me *okay cool nothing to worry about.*

Wrong.

From THEN, it grew drastically bigger and more noticeable that it felt like the size of a golf ball. No matter what size breasts you may have, a lump that big becomes noticeable and concerning. I decided to contact my doctor to get a second opinion on the lump. I really was just hoping to get another silent reaction which in my eyes meant “Jessica you weirdo. You’re 25 it’s just part of the breast. Now don’t worry about it again.” The appointment with my doctor took no longer than ten minutes. She immediately felt the lump and requested an ultrasound. (Note: because of my age, she wanted only wanted to do the ultrasound because it was safer for my age.)

The ultrasound results lead to a biopsy, the biopsy results lead to a diagnosis of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. After the diagnosis, many more tests were done including a mammogram and all testing confirmed that yes, this 25 year old does have cancer.

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Here’s a fun little statistic. AKA why everyone and their mother was surprised to hear about my diagnosis.

Now those of you know who know me, know how I always try and remain positive. The reason I’m still here is because I decided to choose positivity almost five years ago. However, I would be lying if I said this diagnosis is a walk in park. The moment I received the phone call from my doctor asking me to come in to discuss the biopsy results, I knew I had cancer. I cried, and cried, and tried cleaning to distract me from crying but it just turned into a big, loud, vacuuming ,sobbing, cry session. By the time I arrived to my doctor’s office, I accepted my soon to be reality, life with cancer. The weeks to follow have  been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. You know like, egg freezing, hair buzzing, hair falling out, nuclear bone scans, the usual. This ride is not easy, but I have some pretty awesome people in my corner & have met some of the toughest fighters on the way. This includes a 36 year old breast cancer fighter that I now schedule hydration dates with. You can view her blog here. It’s amazing. She’s amazing.

Part two of this blog will follow next week. Chemotherapy has turned me into the napping queen, the sleepy queen, the mushy brain queen and quite frankly,  I don’t have the energy to write right now queen. Tomorrow is the first day of the semester for me, so I need all the coherent brain cells left that I can get.

If you’re able, please donate to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. All money goes directly towards the American Cancer Society. Donate/Register here

Until next time! ❤

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