Sunday, February 14, 2010

Our Little Tiger (definitely not Tiger Woods though)

Cancer really amplifies everything in life and makes you think twice about every option. One of the hard questions that was asked during my oncologist visit was how would I feel about potentially giving birth to another child that I might not be around to raise very long. It's probably the question that resounded in my head most of the time during the weeks we spent visiting specialists and gathering as much information as we could about the situation. The fact is that the rate of recurrence of cancer within the first five years of remission for triple negative breast cancer survivors is much higher than for other survivors. But once you make it past the five-year mark, the chance of recurrence plummets dramatically. I'm nearing year two. And I feel awesome. I beat the odds of not being able to conceive; who says I can't beat the odds of living a cancer-free life for the next 70 years?

One huge pro of our situation: we are here in Canada, where I receive top-notch health care from the best medical specialists. I have an art therapist, a lymphatic drainage massage therapist, another registered massage therapist (for my shoulder pain due to the lymphedema), an acupuncturist, an oncologist, a high-risk pregnancy ob-gyn, a plastic surgeon (for my breast reconstruction, who's also going to monitor my pregnancy because of the TRAM flap surgery I had), and other medical resources that ensure that I have the best possible health I can. And the beauty of it all is that I only pay a small amount for all that (mostly for the massage therapy, acupuncture, and counselling, but I get reimbursed for that too), thanks to universal health care. On the health side, I have tons of people looking out for me.

As for the "what if's" answer to those devils is that no matter what happens, Baby Worrall Soriano is going to have two parents and two siblings who will always love him/her, and an army of aunties and uncles to guide him/her through this crazy world. We are rich in friends.

We see the ob-gyn this week, and we'll be able to hear the baby's heartbeat. And the week after, it's off to the oncologist to get a check-up on the fight against Monster C. In the meantime, I'll also make appointments with my lymphatic draining massage therapist to help me with my lymphedema, and with my acupuncturist, who luckily for me, is specialized in cancer and fertility!

Happy Year of the Tiger!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Eye of the Tiger

Sorry, world, for not posting anything in seven months. Lots has been going on. I feel as if a lifetime of stuff has been crammed into a year. On February 11th, it was a year ago that I got my latest reconstruction surgery (ie, saline implants). It's been a year since the break-up of my marriage. So perhaps now is a good time for reflection.

Last April was probably the lowest point of my life ever. I fell into an abyss from the thought of having to rebuild my life yet again. It seemed as if my bad fortune was endless. But as you know, things started looking up when I was featured on Entertainment Tonight Canada. After that, I had a new sense of empowerment and confidence--something I hadn't experienced in years, perhaps even before my cancer diagnosis.

Toward the end of the summer, I made a trip to Los Angeles to be in my friend Irene's wedding. I hadn't been to LA since before my bilateral mastectomy--almost one and a half years. It was great to reconnect with friends and get some southern California sunshine. But something else was written in the stars. Irene's brother, Anton, and I started hanging out, partly because of all the wedding preparations. And we really connected...really REALLY connected. :) It wasn't long before we realized that we were meant to be together (god, this is starting to sound like the ultimate cheesy romantic comedy, but hey, it's the day before Valentine's Day, so deal with it).

In the meantime, my divorce was in full-swing, and with new love shining bright (sorry, I watch Days of Our Lives sometimes, know), I had even more confidence that I could start a more promising life. But one shocker was that I happened to get pregnant. I consulted with my doctors, and I was told that it would be risky for me to carry a pregnancy given my cancer history. I've been in remission for less than two years, and the recommendation is to wait five-years post-treatment to carry a pregnancy. Typically, the hormone surge during a pregnancy would pose a higher risk of recurrence for a breast cancer survivor. However, little research has been done on the particular type of breast cancer I had--triple negative breast cancer--so it was a big question mark for me. Proceeding out of caution and also with the idea that I had to be as healthy as possible and be around for the two kids I already have, with a heavy heart I decided to terminate the pregnancy. It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make in my entire life, and it was in the midst of all else that was going on.

I had an non-hormone IUD inserted during the procedure, as that is the only safe type of birth control for me. A few weeks later, I had an incredible pain in my pelvis. I went to the docs, and it was discovered during an ultrasound to check the placement of the IUD that I had ovarian cysts. They were non-malignant, but the pain I experienced was from one of them rupturing. The recommendation was that I go in for another ultrasound after a few weeks to see if the cysts would resolve themselves.

All along, I went to LA to visit Anton, and he came to Vancouver to visit me. Things were still going relatively smoothly with the divorce, and the kids seemed to be faring quite well with all these changes. So I went back in for another ultrasound in December, and right after that, went back to LA to visit Anton one last time before the holidays. When I returned from LA, I heard several messages from my doctor, asking me to make an appointment and come back in asap. I did so, and I found out that the IUD had been falling out slowly. I asked the doc if it were possible that I'd gotten preggers again, and she told me it was unlikely since the cervix would do its thing in response to the IUD still being there, despite not being in correct position. So I didn't give too much thought to it. I made an appointment to come back in when I returned from Pennsylvania after the holidays to get another IUD inserted.

However, while in PA, I discovered that I was indeed pregnant. Quite a shocker. Talk about going against all odds. I couldn't believe that this was happening again. I'm not a religious person, but I felt somehow that some higher power was trying to tell me something.

When I got back to Vancouver, I let my doctor know the news. It just so happened that I was also having my next six-month appointment with my oncologist. Anton came to Vancouver and went to the appointment with me, and I filled the doc in on what was going on with my body for the past four months (I had noted with some degree of disbelief that I had been pregnant TWICE during several of my friends' pregnancies in recent months). She asked what our decision was, and we had no idea. We wanted more information on my health and our options before making a decision about this pregnancy. So she set up appointments for us with a high-risk ob-gyn, a specialist in a fertility clinic, and I met with my plastic surgeon to ask her about the mechanics of experiencing a pregnancy with a TRAM flap. She also ordered up blood work, ultrasound, and x-ray.

The consensus among the doctors was that the pregnancy shouldn't increase my risk of recurrence because my cancer was hormone receptor-negative (look that up if you wanna know what the means). However, my risk of recurrence is still higher than usual because of the subset of cancer I had, but that's whether I'm pregnant or not. The plastic surgeon told me that I would have to have a c-section because I have no abdominals with which to push out a baby, and that they could just cut through the mesh in my abdomen (god, I'm like a fucking robot). And the fertility doctor told me that my options were very limited should I want to have a baby in the future because the success rate given my history is low. He said that just because I've been getting pregnant, does not mean that I'm fertile...I'm just lucky. And that if I'd been planning on having children in the future, I should go with this one now. Basically, this is a miracle baby.

My ultrasound, x-ray, and bloodwork all came back with positive news that I am cancer-free. So that piece of information was out of the way.

Weighing all this information and all the pros and cons that come with having a baby, Anton and I decided, after much considerable thought, to go ahead with having this baboose. Chloe and Mylo will have a sibling! I'm continuing to see the high-risk ob-gyn, and the plastic surgeon is monitoring the progress of the pregnancy because I'm the first TRAM flap patient she's had who's gone through a pregnancy post-surgery.

Things have been moving along. However, yesterday provided another cause for pause. I actually didn't want to bring this out into the open because it's quite personal and traumatizing, but because of the decisions other people have made, I have no choice but to address this disturbing issue.

In recent months, it had come to my attention that highly sexually explicit material on the internet had been associated with my name and image without my consent or knowledge. I took steps to make sure these sites were taken down, and I thought that this could be something left in the past. However, I discovered yesterday that this violation has been continuing even up to yesterday. The person or persons putting these disturbing stories and images of me out there has went so far as to link this crap to my real blogs. I'm trying to move past the gut instinct I have to curl up in a ball and think about how I feel like I'm being raped over and over again on the internet in front of countless people, but instead, focus on how I can get my life back once and for all, and have this bullshit be over with. I feel like if I air this shit, instead of hiding from this pervert like I had been, then perhaps he or she will cut the crap. I'm trying to get on with my life, and I need for these jackasses to knock it the fuck off. These actions not only endanger me, but also my family and friends.

So. There is a lot going on, yes? But I know I'm strong, and I know I am able to not only make it through all these challenges, but be of service to others. I'm starting a writing workshop business, and I'm finishing my memoir. And I hope that my stories--my TRUE stories--will have some relevance and provide reflection to other people. Cancer, divorce, sexual predators--weak. By the end of the year, all that will be under my foot, and my new family, my kids, and I can be happy and secure with our present and our future.