But you don’t look sick…..

I dont look sickI can’t tell you how many times I have heard these words. Oh, I’m so glad you beat cancer, you look great! Since you aren’t doing chemo, your cancer is gone, right?

I’m not sure I can blame people. I live in denial myself. Once the pain in my back subsided and for the most part I had weaned myself off of pain medication, it was easy to live that lie. I take a total of three prescription medications a day (only two more than my pre-cancer days). I am able to work and live a fairly normal life with scattered doctors appointments. Basically I live my life as though I have a chronic disease such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Unfortunately, the chronic disease can turn into a terminal one at the blink of an eye.

I had a sad reminder of just how serious metastatic breast cancer can become last week. My appointments have always been positive spots in my month. A reminder that I am beating this. I had my lab work done the day before my appointment so that I could have the results when I met with my oncologist.

2019-06-26 CA 27-29My tumor markers every month have been improving, a sign that the cancer is taking a back seat for now. Until this month.

My oncologist normally has such a positive tone to his voice. Thursday there was a different sound and when he talked about my lab work he didn’t mention the tumor marker. I finally asked him for the number and he told me it went from just under 40 to just above 50. He also said that the number could fluctuate, so not to worry too much about it.

We discussed how I was already scheduled for a PET scan the following day and unlike the previous scan he told me he wanted to meet with me after the test so we could discuss whether I would have surgery on Monday. Again, a change from my previous appointment where he was enthusiastic about removing my primary tumor. He went from let’s do this to let’s see what the scan says.

2019-06-26 Platelets

It wasn’t until I saw the final results that I noticed a second lab that had jumped dramatically. My platelet count which had been improving to almost normal levels had also taken a significant increase, the second highest result since I first found out I had cancer in September. For those unfamiliar with what these labs mean, ‘A high platelet count may be referred to as thrombocytosis. This is usually the result of an existing condition (also called secondary or reactive thrombocytosis) such as: Cancer, most commonly lung, gastrointestinal, ovarian, breast or lymphoma. Anemia, in particular iron-deficiency anemia and hemolytic anemia.’

I was more lucky than others in my situation. I already was scheduled for a PET scan the following day so I didn’t have long to worry, but that night was one of the longest since this ordeal began. The last scan was one I was excited about because it would determine whether I was healthy enough to return to work. This one had a darker cloud over it. This one would show whether my cancer had returned. This time I was genuinely terrified of what it would reveal.

The wait following my test seemed like an eternity. The term ‘scanxiety’ is real. The wait is something I can’t begin to describe. This is another reason I absolutely love my oncologist. He fit me into his already busy schedule so that I wouldn’t need to spend the weekend worrying about the results. When you are already nervous, having a doctor that is compassionate enough to make sure you don’t have to wait is something I can’t appreciate more.

2019-06-28 PET

There is a lot of positives to be gained from this scan. It showed that the mets to my bones has improved quite a bit. Even with the positive, there were the words that spell out my worst fears, ‘a new area of activity in the outer left breast. New or recurrent disease is possible here.’ The tone of my oncologist’s voice returned to his normally positive sound. He was very impressed with my scan, saying that the new area was most likely ‘background,’ but either way the tumor would be removed a few days later and the improvement to my bones has been terrific. He did however admit that the dramatic change in my lab values has given him something to worry about.

As I drove home from my scan the breast cancer navigator called me and we talked about the test. I told her that for the first time I was reminded how quickly I can go from healthy to facing recurrent cancer. She said unfortunately that is something I will have to live with for the rest of my life. Cancer can rear its ugly head at any time. I can go from completely healthy to sick in a matter of months.

My week of ‘cancer patient’ continued into Monday. I had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor from my left breast. Due to the location of the tumor my surgeon couldn’t remove it using an ultrasound, instead needing me to have a wire marker placed by the radiologist using a mammogram. While this mammogram was much better than the last one (where I had spasms of pain running up and down my back and legs), multiple mammograms while placement was found still was not the most pleasant experience.

1-metastatic-breast-cancer-awareness-art-for-women-dark-nikita-goel

The surgery itself wasn’t too bad as it was done under a general anesthetic. My surgeon told me that everything went very well and my scar should be minimal and hidden. He also inserted a biozorb to help maintain the natural shape of my breast as well as give the radiation oncologist a marker for when we start radiation in a few weeks. I have been able to remove the larger dressing and the incision is covered by steri-strips so I am not sure what it looks like, but hopefully it will be as small as my surgeon told me it would be.

One more hurdle has been passed in this journey. Three weeks or so from now I will begin radiation therapy. Radiation was one of the things I had wanted most to avoid and here I am, getting ready to begin three weeks of five day a week external radiation treatments.

Most days I do my best to not to dwell, but I just want my life to be the way it was a year ago. I just want to go back to a life before doctors, surgeries, radiation and labs. I just want to go back to a life without fear or anxiety about whether I will be here six months, a year, five years from today. I just want to be me again.

It’s been a long week of ups and downs and I’m still processing all of it. Today I’m still a little numb just thinking about it. Today I’m feeling like the cancer patient I am. Hopefully tomorrow I will wake up and be able to go back into cancer denial again and just be the happy me I want to be.


Jennifer – Extensive mets to bones. Diagnosed de novo at 43 of ‘unknown cancer’ on 9/25/2018, official diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer with bone metastasis on 10/9/2018. Cancer won’t win. I won’t let it. Life’s too short not to fight for every minute.
Dx 10/9/2018, invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), left breast, 1.5cm, Nottingham Grade 6, hormone receptor positive, ER+ (estrogen receptor)/PR+ (progesterone receptor), HER2- (human epidermal growth factor), BRACA- (genetic mutation), Stage IV, metastasized to spine, pelvis, sternum and right scapula
First CA 27.29 10/9/2018 83 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 10/12/2018 Tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) pills
Targeted Therapy 10/12/2018 Xgeva (Denosumab) injection
Hormonal Therapy 10/19/2018 Lupron Depot (Leuprolide Acetate) injection
Surgery 11/29/2018 Vaginal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
First CA 27.29 post hysterectomy 12/10/2018 73 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 12/11/2018 Femara (letrozole) pills
Targeted Therapy 12/23/2018 Ibrance (palbociclib) capsules
First CA 27.29 post medication change 1/10/2019 60 (goal <38)
CA 27.29 5/2/2019 39 (goal <38)
CA 27.29 6/28/2019 53 (goal <38)
Surgery 7/1/2019 Left breast lumpectomy With Wire Localization, Mammographic, Biozorb Placement
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A (scary) new development (part 2)

Cancer Word Map

The one constant with metastatic breast cancer is that just when you think you know where things are headed at the last minute you find out yourself on a different path.

Today I met with the radiation oncologist. I really do like her. She is straight and to the point. She is honest about statistics and facts. We discussed her role in my treatment plan and she broke it down in plain language to make it easier to understand.

That being said, I’ve been forced to re-examine everything I had been planning on. As my medical oncologist has said, the evidence remains inconclusive as to whether radiation will extend my life. She then told me that she has consulted with her partners and there is no evidence to support brachytherapy in my case and that it is only for early stage breast cancer. She said that while she would not be able to do brachytherapy, she said that we could consider external beam radiation. This would entail fifteen treatments over the course of three weeks.

As I drove home from my appointment things became very real. It’s easy to pretend cancer doesn’t exist when you are taking a couple pills a day. Three weeks of radiation and surgery are enough to remind you that cancer is there. It forces you to remember that yes, I really do have cancer.

The toughest part of this for me is I know this may or may not help me in the end. I am just afraid if my cancer were to return tomorrow and I hadn’t gone down this road I would blame myself for not doing everything possible. This might be the toughest point in my treatment plan so far and I would be lying if I didn’t say I am scared.

When I go to sleep tonight I am going to drift off and hope that when I wake up tomorrow this will have been a bad dream. Unfortunately the rational part of me knows that’s not the case. This is as real as it gets.


Jennifer – Extensive mets to bones. Diagnosed de novo at 43 of ‘unknown cancer’ on 9/25/2018, official diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer with bone metastasis on 10/9/2018. Cancer won’t win. I won’t let it. Life’s too short not to fight for every minute.
Dx 10/9/2018, invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), left breast, 1.5cm, Nottingham Grade 6, hormone receptor positive, ER+ (estrogen receptor)/PR+ (progesterone receptor), HER2- (human epidermal growth factor), BRACA- (genetic mutation), Stage IV, metastasized to bones
First CA 27.29 10/9/2018 83 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 10/12/2018 Tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) pills
Targeted Therapy 10/12/2018 Xgeva (Denosumab) injection
Hormonal Therapy 10/19/2018 Lupron Depot (Leuprolide Acetate) injection
Surgery 11/29/2018 Vaginal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
First CA 27.29 post hysterectomy 12/10/2018 73 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 12/11/2018 Femara (letrozole) pills
Targeted Therapy 12/23/2018 Ibrance (palbociclib) capsules
First CA 27.29 post medication change 1/10/2019 60 (goal <38)
CA 27.29 5/2/2019 39 (goal <38)

Stupid Semis…. (also known as Semi vs me…and I lost)

Laughter is the best medicine

Okay this is old news, but I thought worthy of sharing. My trusty little 2013 Ford Focus was with me through thick and thin. I loved that little car. I had memories with that car. Soccer trips with Sterling. My amazing halfway across the country trip to Arizona and California.

Well, on January 5, 2019 I was leaving to see my younger brother and niece in Nebraska. I haven’t seen either of them in what seems like forever and I thought I would take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to take a daytrip to visit. Apparently fate had better plans for my day.

My car made it to and from California and Arizona, but apparently couldn’t make it 20 miles from home on my trip to Lincoln. As I was driving in St. Joseph, Missouri a car whipped in front of the semi with a grain trailer I was behind and the semi slowed suddenly. My ABS brakes didn’t stop me fast enough and I slid into the bar on the back of the trailer. It actually might have been drivable if the leg airbag hadn’t deployed, but those are super expensive to repair.

It’s funny just how slow motion things like that are. It was like watching a movie in slow motion. There was no loud crash, just a slide followed by a kind of thud and the plume of smoke as my airbag went off. I can’t say enough about how kind the responding officer was and how great the tow truck guys were. I also felt blessed that I didn’t get ticketed since the truck slowed suddenly.

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Considering I slid into a semi and lived, I’m super lucky to still be alive right now. I can’t begin to describe just how devastated I was to see my beautiful baby in a crumpled heap. I think I went into a bit of denial as I let myself believe that they would repair it. When I got the call that Allstate was going to total it out I genuinely cried. Silly, right?

Fate works in mysterious ways though. What would the chances be that I would find a car almost identical to my 2013 Ford Focus at the same dealer I bought my trusty old baby from? I can’t compliment my insurance company enough. They paid the claim in only a couple of days and on January 14th my baby’s younger sibling, a 2014 Ford Focus became my new baby. The two cars are almost identical except instead of the grey interior I used to have, now it’s tan. I also now have tinted windows which has taken a bit to get used to, but it really keeps it much cooler on warm days.

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I’m happy to say that this was my second purchase from Sneed Ford in Gower, Missouri. They take really good care of me! The night we bought it I couldn’t wait to drive it off the lot. I’m happy to report my new baby purrs like a kitten! 🚙

It took a bit of time, but slowly I got my baby the way I want her. I took advantage of the absolutely gorgeous 50 degree weather we had on February 2nd to put my decals on her. My Eagle Scout mom decal is back but the Benedictine soccer one has been replaced by my Metastatic Breast Cancer ribbon to remind people I’m more than pink. I was able to find a similar Sporting KC plate for my front bumper and I added a breast cancer awareness license plate to round it out. 💙💗💚

The one thing I was able to salvage from my old baby was my wonderful Pioneer CarPlay radio. We won’t go into the drama it took to get that installed, but it looks and sounds great in my new one. My other additions to complete everything was a remote starter and alarm system.

2014 Ford FocusI know, this is a random and silly thing to post about, but it was pretty exciting in a good and bad way at the time. I still think back on January 5th and can’t believe just how lucky I was to walk away with nothing more than sore shins and a crumpled car. Honestly I was just more shook up by the experience than anything else.

I’ve had so many blessings this past year. Between my cancer responding so well to treatment and my fun little game of bumper tag with the semi, I’m really starting to believe someone is really watching out for me! How many lives can one person have? I like to tell people that lately I have given my guardian angel more than a few heart attacks.

If you made it this far, congratulations for reading about the randomness that sometimes is my life! 🤣


Jennifer – Extensive mets to bones. Diagnosed de novo at 43 of ‘unknown cancer’ on 9/25/2018, official diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer with bone metastasis on 10/9/2018. Cancer won’t win. I won’t let it. Life’s too short not to fight for every minute.
Dx 10/9/2018, invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), left breast, 1.5cm, Nottingham Grade 6, hormone receptor positive, ER+ (estrogen receptor)/PR+ (progesterone receptor), HER2- (human epidermal growth factor), BRACA- (genetic mutation), Stage IV, metastasized to bones
First CA 27.29 10/9/2018 83 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 10/12/2018 Tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) pills
Targeted Therapy 10/12/2018 Xgeva (Denosumab) injection
Hormonal Therapy 10/19/2018 Lupron Depot (Leuprolide Acetate) injection
Surgery 11/29/2018 Vaginal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
First CA 27.29 post hysterectomy 12/10/2018 73 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 12/11/2018 Femara (letrozole) pills
Targeted Therapy 12/23/2018 Ibrance (palbociclib) capsules
First CA 27.29 post medication change 1/10/2019 60 (goal <38)
CA 27.29 5/2/2019 39 (goal <38)