Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Finish Line is in Sight!

Two down......28 to go! I started radiation yesterday. Last week I was scanned and marked and evaluated so my "design" could be completed. Yesterday all I had to do was show up. I was shown where to change and leave my belongings, then I was led to the radiation room. There was this moment the technicians and I just stood there looking at each other. Elton John was playing on their radio. It was so cold in there. Time felt frozen. Eventually the technician said..."Are you ready? You're going to have to lay down."  I had such a mix of emotions. I was thrilled to make it this far in this journey but scared of the unknown. I knew I had to do this so I stretched out on the table in my previously made body mold (intended to keep you in the same position every time so the radiation doesn't zap anything it's not supposed to!)   The two technicians immediately began adjusting me and the machine lurking over me when I felt it start. I felt overwhelmed. I tried so hard to stop it but I could feel the tears welling up. Oh mercy stop....think of the beach or a glass of wine or anything else...but then I felt them running down my cheeks. The technicians were so sweet and understanding.  They asked did I need some time. One even got a tissue and dabbed my face (remember I'm stretched out on this hard table with both arms over my head). But I said let's do this. I promise I'll get myself together and be ok!  Well about 5 minutes later we were done!  Not embarrassing at all!  

Today I walked in with a smile!  I changed into that beautiful gown they provide, went to the radiation room, put my key on the counter and got on the table!  I was ready!

Five days a week for six weeks!  I can do this!
 Survivor Carnations

I had another "first" this weekend. I attended my first Breast Cancer fundraising and awareness event. We went to the Dragon Boat Festival in downtown Jacksonville, FL. Wow! There were three boats that raced with nothing but breast cancer survivors! The strength and passion in this event was moving. I just stood back and watched. To see such a large gathering of breast cancer survivors together and all receive pink carnations was emotional. But as they all moved towards the beautiful St. Johns River, some with teary eyes and some kissing their flower, they began one by one tossing them in the water. It was as if they were all tossing the bad memories away and moving on with their lives.  It's hard to explain the way it made me feel. I realized even though I'm not finished with treatments....I'm a survivor too!  All the proceeds went to a local organization called In the Pink - A Boutique for Women Living With Cancer.

22 Women Per Boat x 3 boats = 66 Breast Cancer Survivors!

Support Team Witherspoon
Saturday October 10, 2015 is the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5k in Orange Park, FL. I want to see a world without breast cancer!  It should never be allowed to steal a year from another person's life like it has mine. Nobody should ever have to live with the fear of recurrence or watch someone they love suffer.  I can't do this alone but Team Witherspoon can make a difference. I need everyone to join the efforts of our team. If coming out to walk isn't an option, you can sponsor our team with a donation. Every little bit helps. Any amount can make a difference. 

Click here to join Team Witherspoon and/or make a donation to support our team.

Me and Max
As always, thank you all for your love and prayers.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Colossians 3:12 NIV

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Imagine being on a journey. The train stops. You get off. Feeling pretty good and ready to face the world. The train full of people pulls out of the station. Then it happens. You hear the collision. The train crashes.  You can't see it but you close your eyes and in your head you see it all. 

Dr. Bagaria, my breast surgeon, called almost a week after my surgery. The pathology report was back and he was happy to report that the initial findings were correct. The chemo had killed all the cancer in my breast and lymph nodes. I was ready to cruise through radiation now because life is good!  He then told me that Dr. Robertson, my gynecologic oncology surgeon, would call with the fallopian tubes/ovaries report.  That threw up a flag. Why couldn't he just tell me everything was fine?  The next day I got the call. At first all I heard was "let me explain what we found".....then several long words followed by the word "carcinoma".  After that, everything he said sounded like the school teacher from the Peanuts cartoon.......wah wah wawah wah.  Then it all started in my head. The wreck. The pain and suffering of watching my Mom's two year fight with ovarian cancer. The fight against almost inevitable statistics. The long days and nights in the hospital. The prayers. Falling to my knees begging God to save her. But the wreck in my head only got worse. I saw the broken heart of my Dad.  Watching the love of his life for almost 50 years try so hard.  His heart attack.  His emergency open heart bypass surgery.  My Dad in ICU. My Mom in critical care.  A horrible crash.  

But then I heard Dr. Robertson say something I've never had a doctor tell me. "God is looking out for you!"  I quickly opened my eyes. 

What are the odds?  A normal mammogram but enlarged nodes.  That leads to treatable/curable breast cancer but during diagnostic testing they find my mucinous appendix.  And that leads to a breast surgeon with an interest in diseases of the appendix.  The discussion of removing my appendix during breast surgery leads to......"we're going to be in the abdomen so let's remove the ovaries." 

What are the odds?  What are the odds that removing my fallopian tubes and ovaries would lead to the discovery of serous tubal intraepithelial carcinoma (STIC)? And what does this mean?

What we are learning is that most ovarian cancer starts in the distal end of the fallopian tube as STIC lesions.  This is the precursor of high grade serous ovarian carcinoma. Within 3-5 years this usually develops into full blown ovarian cancer. These lesions are very rarely found this early except in BRCA positive patients undergoing preventative surgery.  Ovarian cancer has very few symptoms until it has spread - when it's usually too late.  This explains the poor prognosis for most ovarian cancer patients.  These cells were microscopic and all contained within my right fallopian tube.  But the most important part is mine are gone. Totally removed. What are the odds? Is it crazy to say my breast cancer saved my life?  This all brings a new meaning to the saying....things happen for a reason. Never question. Never doubt. God is in control. 

I've experienced a whirlwind of emotions.  Some I can't even explain.  I know I've been blessed.  I'm counting my lucky stars.  But what about those still on the train? The feelings of responsibility to help them are overwhelming.  I've prayed many prayers of thanks to God. But I'm also praying for God to give me guidance. To point me in the right direction to help them. And I'm confident he will. 

"From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I."
Psalm 61:2 KJV

American Cancer Society

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


The anticipation of surgery day, September 3, 2015 was almost torturous!  I'd never had surgery so I had no idea what to expect. But I was ready to take it on. I was ready to do whatever I needed to continue this journey to become cancer free.  I had several weeks after my last chemo to go home and spend time with family and friends, help out with the ALWS, and spend a little time resting at my Dad's before returning to Jacksonville for the next BIG step.

I had a lot of confidence in both surgeons but was still an absolute wreck.....until "Happy Hour" in the prep room!  
Oh mercy!  If I could remember any of it I think I should be embarrassed!  I've been told I was talking to everybody, telling jokes and making new Facebook friends! I even offered to make Pink Lemonade Martinis for everyone!

was having so much fun I almost forgot I was there for surgery! Anyways, they used laparoscopic surgery to  remove both ovaries, Fallopian tubes and my appendix. They also removed the tumor area from my breast with the help of the radioactive seed that had been placed. Now for the lymph nodes. As most of you know, I was very worried about that. So they used a dye to identify my sentinel lymph nodes and removed 4 of them. The pathologist checked them immediately and they were astonished to find no cancer. There was only scar tissue where the cancer had been! They will look at them closer to make sure the margins are clear but I'm sure it's gone!

Recovery is going well and I'm ready for the next step. Radiation Therapy. In the words of my friend Carol...cancer hi-jacked my life for a year and I'm ready to get it back!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV