It’s hard to believe that July marks one year since my BI-RAD 5 (there’s a high suspicion of malignancy) result. I could never have imagined the path that this diagnosis would put me on. Every morning since has been filled with uncertainty and a constant morning assessment of how I feel and what I need to do to get through the day. There is so much treatment already behind me but still so much ahead. The hardest challenge is and will continue to be learning to live despite cancer. There are days when the continued medical appointments and uncertainty weigh heavy on my mind, but family, philanthropy and community keep my spirits high.
July in a Nutshell
Since writing my last blog a mere month ago, I am delighted to say I am no longer the bald poster child for cancer patients and the return of my hair is delightful. Along with the hair now covering my entire head, I must also report a fine blond fuzz that covers my face, but I will take it all. I am just so grateful that my body is bouncing back from the grueling effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
As planned, I started taking Zoladex and Letrozole. The side effects are moderate with hot flashes and joint pain being the most profound. Dr. Mahtani has given me Relizen (hormone-free supplement made with pure plant-based ingredients from the pollen of four plants grown in Sweden) to help with the hot flashes and night sweats.
I started lymphedema therapy three-times a week. I am in compression garments during the day and sleep with one on at night. As a result of the treatment, I have had some relief from the pain of the lymphedema but its obvious that without surgery it will become worse and eventually the effects of this disease will limit my ability to function. Of course, there is always the chance of severe infection and hospitalization, although I have decided to proceed with the surgery scheduled for September.
I met with Dr. Kyle Yikan Xu on July 14, 2021. I have always stated, I could not be more grateful to UM for the incredible medical team that has provided me with lifesaving treatment to date. Dr. Xu is just another example of this. There are very few facilities that can offer lymph node transplant and bypass surgeries. Thankfully, Dr. Xu can provide me with this surgery a mere 50 minutes from my home.
During my consultation, he confirmed I now have stage two lymphedema (Stage 1-3) and recommended both the transplant and bypass surgery without delay to prevent further progression of the disease. He will work with another surgeon for about eight hours, removing lymph nodes from under my chin and in my neck on the left-hand side of my body and transplant them under my right armpit. Once the nodes are transplanted successfully, he will then cut a three-inch incision into my right forearm and connect my lymph to my blood vessels. I will remain in hospital for 4-5 days before being discharged and hopefully make a speedy and full recovery.
This surgery is a microsurgery, and he is operating on veins and vessels that are as big as an eyelash. He is considered a leading surgeon in his field, and I am so blessed to have the means available to undergo this important surgery. For those of you interested in the surgery, I have included a video about Dr. Xu and his work.
HOW AM I, YOU ASK?
I have been asked so many times in recent weeks if I am all good. Truth is, I don’t know.
This is going to be the hardest obstacle for me to overcome. The not knowing is particularly challenging. I know you all think like I did – I will get a PET Scan and will know whether I have active cancer or not. Sadly, though, with Lobular Carcinoma, it is mostly undetectable to scans. It’s a sneaky cancer that marches around undetected. Dr. Mahtani will do my tumor markers and liver function every three months, but they are not always reliable.
So, as much as I would love to report I had a complete result from the chemo and radiation, I simply don’t know - but must believe I did. I must believe that I have walked into battle and whooped cancer’s ass with my army of millions right beside me.
I must tell you, in moments of darkness, the support of my family and friends pushing me forward has been a force of positivity and strength that has literally carried me through. The generosity and compassion that I have been showered upon me from so many people through this process has been such a boost to my spirit, my energy, and my outlook. I feel so lucky to have that love and support in my life.
TIME TO BOOGIE FOR A GOOD CAUSE!
StudioHERS was yet another example of that generosity and love. My fellow ambassadors once again pulled out all the stops for a night filled with Disco and donation.
Benny, owner of Daniel Events, transformed the Addison from a historic event venue into StudioHers to pay homage to the iconic night club Studio 54. Guests were transported to an era known for glamour, music, celebrity, and glitz.
JR Productions’ LED dance floor lit up the room while his outstanding DJ skills kept the party going all night.
Guests were treated to a surprise performance by the 11 talented members of the Original Studio 54 Band. The partiers were on their feet from the second they hit the stage.
Glasses remained full all night with rosé wine generously donated by Bodvar House of Rosé. Thank you to Palm Beach Distillery for their specialty cocktails and to Pearth and Kendra Scott for their pop-up shops.
While the party was happening, on the other side of the pond, my beloved mother and brother were sleeping rough in the Scottish Highlands as they decided that to support my fundraising efforts, they would cycle the Scottish 500.
My beautiful friend Piya, who recently lost her mother to cancer, and her husband Larksman generously donated $5,000 in her mother’s name, in honor of mine cycling 516 miles in all-weather while carrying everything she needs on her bicycle to raise funds and awareness.
Donate to support my mum's efforts here: https://gofund.me/7c16f035
Harry and Amy Seidman, as always, stepped up and donated $5,000. Lauren Munoz and Kristin Singh donated $20,000, taking my fundraising total to $95,204.00!
A Bittersweet End to the Evening
Sadly, the end of the event also meant I had to say goodbye to Melanie. Five years ago, Melanie walked into the Addison for her interview. I felt an instant connection to her and have loved her and our friendship every day since. I am certainly going to miss her, but I know she will remain part of the Addison family for many years to come. Her replacement, Dana, is a noteworthy addition to our team.
“TOUGH” DOESN’T MEAN “BAD”
I've learned many lessons throughout this battle with cancer that have changed my perspective on life. One of the lessons I’ve learned and want to share is that just because it is a tough day, doesn’t mean it has to be a bad day.
There are many tough days that I’ve had, and I know I have more to come. With my friends and loving family right next to me, I know I can conquer whatever adversity I am tested with. I’m constantly reminded that I’m not alone and I can’t stress enough how important that reminder has been to me through this past year. Remember every tough day is one step closer to a good day for us all.