Two weeks ago Shannon and I won 12 Hours of Mesa Verde.
It is with a huge dose of disbelief that I type this, but last week I was diagnosed with a breast cancer recurrence.
How's that for perspective?
Since then my life has been a whirlwind of medical appointments and I have been through the full spectrum of emotions including defeat, fear, anxiety, gratitude, empowerment, and just plain happy to be alive and healthy at this moment.
Although this is technically considered a recurrence, based on the medical information we have so far, it is likely there were some cancer cells established in this lymph node at my original diagnosis in 2011, however it appears as though I fell into the 5-10% of false negatives with sentinel lymph node biopsy.
Here is a timeline for the past week and a half:
Wednesday: Spoke with NP at Huntsman regarding my concern about an axillary lymph node that I felt was changing (ie more noticable). I have been able to feel this lymph node for quite some time, however it was not of concern as it was mobile and rubbery. She set me up to come in the following morning.
Thursday: Breast exam, ultrasound, followed by core biopsy. It is never a good sign when after reading an ultrasound the radiologist recommends an immediate core biopsy.
Friday: Received the news that metastatic breast disease was in fact found in the lymph node.
Saturday/Sunday: Spent the weekend riding my bike, playing with Dizzy, talking with family, and trying to wrap my head around this very unexpected and scary news.
Monday: Received my first bit of positive news. The receptor status of the cancer came back the same as the original cancer. This gave me hope for two reasons: 1-the cancer had not changed to a less treatable type of breast cancer and 2-The cancer was Estrogen/Progesterone receptor positive which meant that hopefully the Tamoxifen I have been diligently taking for the past two years had helped prevent distant metastases to bones/organs.
Tuesday: PET scan scheduled. After fasting all day I was sent home without scan because I exercised prior. Apparently you can't exercise within 24 hours of PET scans!
Wednesday: PET scan. This is a 2.5-3 hour procedure that requires six hours of fasting and no exercise for 24 hours prior. Upon arriving to Huntsman, I was taken to a small lead lined room and injected with radioactive glucose. This allows the scanning device to locate metabolic activity indicative of cancer metastasis. I then spent the next 75 minutes resting in a dimly lit room to reduce brain activity and allow the radioactive glucose to evenly distribute inside the body all while drinking an enormous quantity of Barium Sulfate. The PET scan itself was less than 30 minutes. Since there was no music to listen to during the procedure, I focused on spreading positive energy over my body and repeated the mantra "I am strong, I am healthy, I am super duper fast" over and over again. I am not sure if it was a sugar crash from the radioactive glucose or the stress of the day-likely a combination of both- but after the procedure I was a beast and just wanted to get home to start eating lots of fiber and vegetables to counteract the chemicals I had just put in my body. It wasn't long before I got the news that the PET scan was negative for distant metastasis. With the exception of the 1.3 cm lymph node, no other cancer was found in my body. This was excellent news and such a relief!
Thursday: Returned to Huntsman for a breast MRI. This test also came back negative indicating that the cancer did not originate in leftover breast tissue from my 2011 mastectomy.
Today: One more test. Brain MRI.
Next week: Axial Lymph Node Dissection to remove lymph node(s).
How quickly life can change. One week racing my bike, the next dealing with cancer.
For the past week or so I have been so consumed with Round 2 that it hasn't really hit me that I won't be racing for the rest of the season. Instead, I will likely be having surgery, chemo, and radiation. As my key events come and go, I know there will be sadness. I have worked incredibly hard training for races this year. Perhaps I was training for something more?
Although I am taking this one-step-at-a-time, this I know for sure. Mountain biking will be a huge part of my mental therapy and physical rehab as I undergo Round 2 of treatment for breast cancer. It just so happens that I have a brand new, super fun, 29er full suspension bike to enjoy.
Additionally, don't count me out for comeback #2!
A few notes:
I have enormous gratitude to a Nurse Practitioner at Huntsman who made me get my butt in there to check out this lymph node. I easily may have dismissed this if I were told not to worry about it until my next scheduled check-up. She has gone above and beyond to take exceptionally good care of me. Thank you Victoria!
I feel incredibly fortunate that it is looking like the cancer is contained to the lymph node. Although I don't believe that a healthy diet can cure cancer, I do believe that my anti-cancer diet, along with Tamoxifen, has helped protect my body from disease spreading to other organs. Sometimes the things that we are thankful for are different than we thought.
Additionally, I want to apologize to my many close friends who I have not yet told in person. Not only does coming out make it real, after a day filled with medical appointments, it is sometimes the last thing Shannon and I want to talk about. I love you all and appreciate your support and love though Round 2.
In unrelated news, Shannon and I are the proud new owners of a condo in sunny St. George, Utah. We closed yesterday right after my MRI. The condo is a stone's throw from mountain bike trails and we are looking forward to some off-road rehab in the desert this winter! Also, we will be renting our little unit out for short-term rentals. More info to come!