Thursday, March 10, 2016

CANCER: Sometimes I have to do what's best for me.

In November of 2015, I was taken to the Emergency Room because I was so sick, dehydrated, and nauseated. Right at that same time, a family friend who happened to be a doctor, stopped by to visit me and told me that I should go to the ER immediately.  So I did. (By the way, that was the first time I had EVER been to an ER!) We finally figured out why I was so sick. My gall bladder was eventually removed on December 14th. Yeah.  But while in the ER, the physician assistant who spoke with me understood my cancer type as she once worked in Oncology.  She told me twice that evening, "You need to do what's best for you."  Now in a general sense that's true. But I never really understood what she meant until a month or so later.

Since September 17, 2015, (The day my daughter Emma opened up singing for a movie premiere) I had been battling a very sore tooth. The pain of this one tooth made the entire side of my mouth hurt badly.  By the end of December, I had seen two dentists, three oral surgeons, and two endodontists. I know that seems a little much, but when you have cancer there are MANY side effects to the various medications you have to take to stay alive.  I take Arimidex and Xgeva. Arimidex takes the estrogen out of my body.  It's the estrogen in my body that fuels my cancer. Xgeva is an injection that I receive every 28 days. It's only purpose is to prevent my bones from breaking. HOWEVER, by taking Xgeva, you can get a rare condition called Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (ONJ) in which the cells in the jawbone start to die. Hence, your teeth will fall out. After your last injection of Xgeva, you have to wait 60 days before you can have any invasive dental work performed on your teeth.

So here I am with horrific tooth pain (in my lower right jaw) since September 2015.  I find out that since my last Xgeva injection was October 30, 2015, I can't have any invasive work done on my teeth until December 30, 2015!  One oral surgeon told me, " I will NEVER pull that tooth!" (Pulling teeth can cause ONJ.) Another oral surgeon told me, "Yeah I can pull the tooth, but let's do a root canal first." Two different dentists told me to go somewhere else. (That's because I'm a high risk patient and I almost don't blame them.) So why do I have such different opinions from doctors in the same profession? WHY?  Then finally, a different oral surgeon that a friend highly recommended told me, "We can take the tooth out. I've worked on cancer patients just like you. You have a healthy jaw and it will be just fine to remove your tooth." My eyes welled up with tears and he said, "Do you feel like no doctors want to help you because you have cancer?" I said, "Yes." By the way, he is thee BEST oral surgeon EVER! Then we both decided that I wanted to take a conservative route and first have a root canal performed on the #30 tooth. (right lower jaw, second to last tooth.) I did that on December 30, 2015. That didn't seem to help, so on February 1, 2016, I had another root canal performed on the #29 tooth. I woke up the next morning and said, "WOW, I don't have much pain!" However, #30 still was very sensitive to touch. So on March 8, 2016, under general anesthesia, after 6 months of tooth pain and realizing that the tooth showed symptoms of being cracked along with a jaw filled with sores and puss, I had my tooth removed along with a bone biopsy to make sure I didn't have cancer in my jaw.  Ouch.  FINALLY,  I DID WHAT WAS BEST FOR ME!

Just a side note. During this same time, I had excruciating pain coming down my shoulder, into my arm, and finally landing in my thumb. My left thumb was so numb I couldn't even feel it. Scary. Plus I found out that my cancer was spreading further into my left hip. That's what cancer does. It just seems to find it's way out of every box. But that's ok. When my tooth heals in another month, I'll start a new chemo pill treatment called Ibrance along with another injection called Faslodex. I'll be taking these along with Arimidex and Xgeva. The side effects are awful, so I'll have to check it out and maybe do what's best for me.

I hope you don't think I'm selfish. I want to live as long as I possibly can. Maybe even long enough to find a cure for cancer.  Is it too much for me to ask for the quality of life that can help me spend what I have left with my family in a way that is decent enough to enjoy the few months or years I will have with them?  I think I have a pretty positive attitude.  I try to appreciate all I have and know there are many who pray for me daily. I feel every prayer! My husband is so kind and patient and helps me at every turn. My kids are very helpful too and are concerned beyond measure. I've had doctors tell me that I should be flat in the bed not being able to move with how bad my bone scan looks. I have so much cancer that my spine looks like someone drew a black line down my back. My shoulder, hips, and pelvis are covered in black. If it wasn't for the bone biopsy I had to actually determine I have cancer, I would almost doubt I do. I've always said that it's the medications that kill you and not the cancer. Sometimes I feel so tired of fighting this, but in life there is always a bright side. Just smile at someone. Just thank those who care so much about you. When you wake up each morning, be grateful you have another day with those that love you and care about you.

My last note: There was a knock at my door last week.  I opened it and found someone delivering me the most BEAUTIFUL bouquet of flowers I have ever seen!! It was sent by my endodontist wishing me a speedy recovery knowing I had to have my tooth pulled. He too just a week earlier lost his sister to cancer. She was married with three small children. I felt so sad for him. But he too knew what I was going through and wanted to make sure that I felt special during a difficult time in my life.  Here is a picture of the flowers that I received. Thanks for listening. Have a great day!

1 Peter: 7 "The trial of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perish."