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Silver Linings

by Kimberly BlakePatient & Survivor, Metastatic Breast Cancer ER/PR+, HER2-April 23, 2024View more posts from Kimberly Blake

When you think of your life and how it’s supposed to go, cancer never enters the picture. But when it does, everything stops, at least temporarily. While you try to wrap your mind around the thought that this disease just might kill you.

In July of 2022, my family and I moved into my granny’s house, which I inherited. It was built for me as I am in a wheelchair from a previous accident. It has five-foot wide hallways and 36-inch doorways.

Then just a week later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Great timing, right? Well, at least we were in the house. The day I found out I also was in the beginning process of getting an appointment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. I had wonderful family members working diligently on that.

I was referred to a breast surgeon in Savannah by my doctor in Vidalia. The day of that appointment he did a biopsy of a suspicious lymph node which also came back positive for Breast Cancer. My cancer was HR+ so that meant I had to come off my birth control.

My mother, Glenda, aunt Cindy, and aunt “Neicy” (Denise) and I headed out for Texas detouring through Savannah as I was scheduled for an Echo that morning at Memorial. After two days on the road, we arrived at The Rotary House, which is the hotel connected to MD Anderson by long walkways. It’s so nice to not have to get out and worry about driving and parking.

On August 12, I had a mammogram, ultrasound, and a CT scan. My appointment with Dr. Ramirez would be the next week. Five days after my tests, we found out that it was in the liver as well. Stage 4, also known as Metastatic Breast Cancer. My husband, who was on the phone, asked what the prognosis was and we were told five years. I was crushed.

Dr. Ramirez in Texas is going to be over my care while Dr. Negrea in Savannah actually administers it so I can be closer to home for my treatment. Being close to home means I get to live my life more normally than I would if I were doing treatment in Houston.

I learned that I would need a liver biopsy. We were told that they take some time to get scheduled at MD Anderson. So Mama and I flew back while Cindy and Denise drove back from Houston. We were going to see who could do the liver biopsy first. Savannah or Houston.

The morning after Mama and I got back from Houston I was lying in my bed just trying to process everything when I got a text that a new appointment was in MyChart, which is the program that MD Anderson uses to communicate with patients. My liver biopsy had been scheduled for the 24th of August in Houston.

This time my husband, Bryan, and my mother went with me and we flew there. I had the liver biopsy, and it just confirmed that it was Breast Cancer metastasized to the liver. The very next day we were flying home.

I saw Dr. Negrea, my medical oncologist in Savannah, on Sept 3, 2022. He prescribed all the medicine per Dr. Ramirez. I’m on a hormone blocker which is Letrozole, targeted therapy in pill form which is Kisqali, and a shot to suppress my ovaries which is Zolodex. I started all these medications in September 2022.

The first few months of taking these medicines I was so sleepy all the time. I missed a lot of work and other activities. But now I just have a bottle of water mixed with a packet of Crystal Light Wild Strawberry with Caffeine and just roll with it.

I went back for scans at MD Anderson in November. It showed that the masses were smaller so the medicine was working. Now in January 2024, I am still doing well. I feel great most days and I’m just living my life.

I don’t need to go back out to MD Anderson until the medicine stops working. Which it will eventually. But there’s always a new medicine they can put me on that will work. Sitting here typing this I should have only four years remaining. But I don’t believe that because I have faith that God’s got this!

I never understood why God chose me to be in a wheelchair but it’s a silver lining now because I don’t get nearly as tired as I would if I had to walk around with this disease. Another silver lining is that I was diagnosed De Novo, from the beginning; so I don’t have to worry about recurrence and have to dread going back to the doctor. Although I do get scanxiety, I’m already stage 4.

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