When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 I never imagined it would result in me making the decision to remove my ovaries. But here I am. Today marks a week since I had my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed and I still feel the same as I did before. Sure, I have had some pain this past week from the incisions and the gas they pump you up with for a laproscopic procedure. Overall, on the inside, I feel the same.
This is a week out of surgery. I am feeling much more mobile and I am happy it is healing well.
Since February of this year I have been dealing with some heavy shit. I found out the cancer came back, and in a bone. Thankfully just one bone, but a bone nonetheless. This makes it stage 4, metastatic breast cancer automatically. When you start hearing doctors and people in the medical profession tell you how long you get to breathe, the decisions to remove a vital organ becomes a lot easier.
First off on that, I think it should be a standard in medicine to not compare every case to statistics. In some cases this is fair but in others you are taking something away from someone that doesn’t belong to you. Hope belongs with your patient and once you strip them of that it makes this very hard for them. If there are any doctors reading this please just imagine how you would cope with news like “you probably only have three years left and I would really be surprised if you were alive in twenty years” at age 27. Imagine how these words about your own pranyama, or lifeforce, would skew your hope and your drive to stay alive. So once I heard these words, I lost my hope for a few weeks. Once I met with a doctor that specialized in Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, I gained my hope back. The lesson has been learned to hold onto hope, no matter what.
Once I arrived to Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH (my hometown), I felt the weight of death lift off of my shoulders. And boy, was that shit heavy. Once my fabulous doctor and nurse duo, aka the dream team, reassured me that there was more to my life than what this one oncologist said, I felt much more hopeful. I felt excited to start this treatment plan. Let me tell you about the cancer I had and then let me tell you how we are keeping it dormant in my body.
Lake Erie nature therapy helped me during my stay in Cleveland. Thankful we were in Ohio during spring/summer.
To start, let’s discuss breast cancer in general. Breast cancer is one of the most talked about cancers. There are tons of 5k races and fundraisers to raise money for research. There are so many people diagnosed with this type of cancer daily but I feel like most people helping to raise money don’t know much about the disease besides the fact that it takes the life force from too many amazing people. The thing about breast cancer and all cancer is that there are different kinds and different ways to fight it. I used to be just as ill-informed on the topic as most. I used to think chemo was an automatic treatment plan for all cancers. When I was originally diagnosed at age 25, we found out, after removing the Stage 1 tumor from my left breast in a mastectomy, that the characteristics in the tumor would not respond to chemotherapy. This could be viewed as a good thing or a bad thing. For me, I am grateful that it was not but also that there was another way to fight it. The cancer I had was estrogen positive or ER +. This means that it feeds off of the estrogen in my body. This also means that if we can starve it of its source of food, we can potentially get ahead of it and stay ahead of it.
My doctor in Cleveland did not even recommend chemo. He knew that starving this cancer of its food was a better tactic than chemo so that is what we are doing. Initially, we started with a monthly injection of a drug called Lupron, a type of ovarian suppression. (The ovaries produce a lot of hormones that help your body function and grow as well as those needed to grow a little baby.) Lupron turns off the ovaries, which leads to a drug-induced menopause. Lupron is a monthly injection and the side effects are hot flashes, headaches, joint pain, and many others. Once your ovaries are off, your adrenal glands produce estrogen. So along with the ovarian suppression there is a drug called letrizole that I take daily. The final drug is a newer one (being used since 2015) and it actively fights against the cancer and it is called Ibrance. The three together, from what we know about estrogen positve tumors, should put the disease into a deep sleep. Ultimately, that is the goal – to put it to sleep since it may always reside in my body, and that may be the best we can do.
The drugs mentioned in the last paragraph are not ones that I get to stop taking anytime soon. According to my doctor, these are drugs that I will be taking as long as I hold pramayama. So think of that. I know many people take pills every day and deal with pharmacies and insurance but this is not something I am happy with doing. The decision to remove my ovaries was a partial result of me trying to minimize my doctors visits, lab work and pharmacy visits. It was also a result of me trying to minimize my monthly healthcare bills and the amount of drugs being pumped into my body, confusing it.
Ultimately I came to the decision to remove my ovaries because of wanting to simplify my treatment as I have my life over the past few years. I realized that even if I wanted to carry a baby in my body that the result would be a surplus of hormones that could feed the dormant cancer. That alone was reason enough. The money and time saved on the monthly injections were just icing on the cake. This was a decision that was possibly easier for me than others. I only say that because for the past two years while on my original hormone therapy, tamoxifen, I knew that I was unable to have kids (this one is for pre-menopausal women and was not very effective for me). In other words, for the past two years I haven’t been able to factor kids in as an option in my 20s so when I learned what I just explained it made it crystal clear. I will never have kids in my body. This does not mean I will never have a kid – we can adopt someday if that is right for us.
And the decision was ultimately mine but it was made much easier with the help of my husband. The one who has been by my side through all of this. WE decided that this was what was best if we wanted to be climbing mountains in twenty years. WE decided that this worked for us. WE also are happy pup parents to a crazy wonderful pup, named Leo. We love him dearly and right now, we are happy as can be. Not every day as some days are harder than others but we are doing everything we can to create the life we dream about.
This is my husband Cody and Leo, our crazy Pup. We have had him for two years and he has visited Ohio many times but this year was his first time seeing Lake Erie. He won’t go in the water but he likes to drink it!
So if someone makes a joke that a woman is of no worth because she doesn’t have ovaries (yes, this happened and my husband was very close to starting a brawl), don’t listen to them. Not everyone is meant to be a parent. Not everyone can be a parent. And that is ok. Maybe I was put into this body to show others that following your heart and your gut is the best thing you can do. Maybe I was meant to inspire others by leading a life of adventure and finding my way while leading with love.
This one is from June in San Isabel National Forest at one of our all time favorite campsites. Follow your heart!
Life doesn’t have to change or be looked down on if you lose your reproductive organs at a young age. And no less power to the badass mamas that can create a human being inside of their body because that shit is magic, wild woman wonder type shit. Everyone is different and everyone has a different story. This is just a chapter in my story.
We got to visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park in May! An old friend from High School took some gorgeous photos of us. Her name is Darcy Fine and she is the BEST – if you’re looking for an amazing photog in the Cleveland/Akron area, click here.
Please, always feel free to connect or ask questions if you are going through something similar, or not similar at all. I share this to spread awareness and love to connect with anyone who needs someone to talk to.