The response

Dwayne and I are overcome with the response from my simple blog post. My intention in writing it was not to receive any handouts, I really wanted to get my family as many prayers as I could, and to just release all of the thoughts and emotions that I had over these short few weeks. Never in a million years did we anticipate such an out pour of love and support. We feel flabbergasted and overwhelmed by all the people who have rallied behind us in this time of need and we could never say thank you enough. Devastating times can really bring out the generosity and goodness in people and we are thankful to have so many good kind hearted people in our lives. The financial support we have so far received is beyond our wildest dreams. Dwayne can take time away from working and we can focus on our family thanks to the relief of the financial burden. The meals and just plain kindness of people has been so heart warming that I feel like I can conquer anything. Each chemotherapy day or tough day I can read each of your inspiring messages and know that I am loved and have a network of support to get me through wherever this journey is meant to go. I hope to spend my time in treatment really embracing my family and creating memories as much as possible.

I have also received messages and phone calls from people I have never met. These people have told me that my story has touched them and they experienced similar battles. If anything can come from my blog, I hope it is the knowledge that cancer affects so many people in so many ways. When I had to make the phone call to my family about my diagnosis, I felt like in a single moment all their lives changed and not just mine. I want to spread awareness about the detection and treatment of cancer, but I also want to be raw and real about my emotional experience. Hopefully, god willing, I will be able to look at this blog in the future and feel inspired by the journey we have gone on. Thank you again to all the people who have sent us their sentiments, donated their time or money, and for all the hugs of pure love. We are forever grateful.

How it all began…

I am writing this today because I feel like it is therapy for me in helping me cope with my current situation. My family is about to embark on a journey that will be the toughest yet. I hope we can stay strong through all the tough moments to come.

March 18, 2017
A beautiful day. Two little angels were brought into this world. Lauren and Leah. My heart how I love them. Dwayne and I cried when we heard them cry at the warmers and our hearts grew twice as big as we could have ever imagined in that moment. A beautiful moment that dwayne and I share and that I treasure. The next day, my parents brought my sweet sweet son to come meet his sisters. My heart sang as his little shoulders swelled with pride at being a big brother to his sisters. I hope in the future his sisters know how proud he was of the both of you. This is one of my most cherished memories of that time. It was a beautiful time in our lives where dwayne and knew just how blessed we were. We agreed we just want to love these babies as best we can from this day forward. A happy time.

My post partum at home with twin newborns and a 2 year old was hard. I was extremely fatigued and often felt like I was failing in my duties as wife and mother. I kept thinking to myself, of course you are tired and struggling, you just had TWO babies and Eric is not a sit in the corner type of boy. I was reassured with the same sentiment from those close to me; my mother, mother in law, sisters, friends. But still something inside me was nagging that this was different. I am ashamed to admit the amount of times I fell asleep sitting up while holding a newborn in the night. It’s an adjustment I thought, I will get better at this I thought.

About two weeks after being home I felt a lump in my left breast. Being that I was breastfeeding I assumed it was a blocked milk duct. I used warm compresses, massaged it while I nursed and watched for signs of infection as a good nurse would. The odd thing was, there was no pain. Oh well, I will mention it when I see the doctor next; I’m sure it’s nothing serious. About a week or two after first discovering the lump, I noticed a second lump in the armpit area. Perhaps that is the origin of the blocked duct? Oh well I will mention it to my family doctor on our one month visit.

By the time of my one month visit with our family doctor I will admit to you that I was considering post partum depression as the source of my extreme fatigue. I also by this time had been experiencing some unusual stomach pain/spasms. They were always a few seconds but left me feeling nauseated for a time before I felt normal again. I am sure the human body goes through a lot to reach equilibrium after the birth of twins. Also, I was taking
an iron supplement, and I know that these tablets could cause stomach upset. My solution to this was to take the iron every second day instead to relieve the discomfort. I had by this point mentioned to both my mom and my husband more than once that I didn’t feel right, this isn’t like when I had Eric. Of course it is different kelly, you just a had TWO babies! Fair point.

So now we are at the doctors to ensure my sweet angels are doing well. This visit is not for me. They are weighed measured and plotted on the graph.. they look great he said, any questions? Yes actually, doctor I have been feeling off and very tired. Also, I found this lump. He said, here is a requisition for blood work, maybe your iron and b12 are off. Lay on the table so I can look at the lump. After exam, he said this really does not hurt? I said no, not at all. What could it be? He said I will send you for an ultrasound on this lump to find out. Good plan, I want to go home and sleep.

April 28, 2017
My family doctor calls me in to the office to review my blood work results. That’s odd. I am pretty certain that I rolled my eyes. I’m sure he wants me to take iron everyday instead or something. I pack up my babies and go to the appointment. He said that my blood work showed some unusually high values for my liver enzymes. Strange. He said that values like this can happen typically with gallstones. I know that gallstones is somewhat common in pregnant or recently pregnant women I told him I have no current symptoms or any previous symptoms so he said, let’s send you for a liver ultrasound to rule out gallstones. Okay, that sounds fair, I’ll make the appointment for this after I nap.

May 2, 2017
My breast ultrasound day. Anyone who has newborns knows that some mornings, no matter how well you plan or prepare are challenging to get out the door! It was one of those mornings, two crying babies, an almost crying mother, and the thought crossed my mind not to go to the appointment at all, I’ll reschedule today is just overwhelming and I didn’t sleep last night. Oh well kelly, just pull up your socks and get there, get it over with. After I get there they put me in a separate waiting room and as I wait I’m thinking that I really hope these babies don’t wake up, I’m by myself and have no idea how I will feed them while they do an ultrasound on me. My name gets called. I have this young blonde girl as my technologist and she seems like she is in a bad mood. She asked me the preliminary questionnaire (history of breast cancer? No. Any significant health history? No. etc) without ever looking at my face. I honestly thought look girl, if you only knew how hard it was for me to get here! I lay on the table and she begins the exam. No small talk. It is silent. I’m sure 20 minutes have gone by. The blonde girl still doesn’t look at me and says I have to talk to my superior to review the results; I’ll be back in a few minutes. 20 minutes go by when the blonde girl and doctor walk into the room. The doctor says, can I have a look? I say sure! A million questions, when did you notice this? Does it hurt? Does this hurt? Only on the one side? Can I exam the other side? Then she says, okay get dressed and I will come back and talk to you . When she returns her look is serious and she says that she has spoken to a colleague to confirm what she thinks she sees and she know it is not a blocked tear duct and it is not a cyst or anything diagnosable like that. Turns out that the smaller lump in my armpit is a swollen lymph node. What do you think it is I ask. She said she is unsure but would highly recommend that I have a biopsy. Humm that’s a scary word. Okay. When? I will get this lady to book you an appointment , please wait here. Thanks doctor. This older lady returns with an information sheet and places her hand on my left shoulder and with a great amount of sadness in her eyes says here you go dear, call us if you have any questions. I walk out with my twin newborns feeling concerned. How do I tell my husband and my mom about these results. They will both be so upset and think the worst. I know that this biopsy does not mean the worst. So I call them and reassure them that it is all precautionary and not to worry.

May 3, 2017
Another day as a mother. Send Eric to daycare early morning kiss my husband goodbye as he goes for work and I wonder when I am going to get a nap in today and what I can make for dinner. My mom texts me in the afternoon and asked if I would like her and dad to come over to help me with the kids for the witching hour (in my house it is 5pm-7pm; cranky tired inconsolable toddlers combined with two hungry newborns who never seem to be satisfied at this time) i of course say yes to my parents; thank you and I will see you later. 4pm I hop into the van to go and pick up my sweet boy from daycare. Two bucket seats locked and loaded and I head to the driver seat. Before I place the key in the ignition I get this odd pain in my middle upper abdomen; feels heavy, tight, with spasmodic sharp pain that comes and goes. I breathe through the pain on my way to day care. As I pull up, Eric is playing with the other kids outside and sees me and runs to the gate exclaiming “mommy!!” Despite my discomfort, I shrugged of the pain, picked him up and hugged him while I patiently listened to the caregiver tell me about his day. I struggle putting him in his car seat, the pain is getting worse. Thank goodness my mom and dad are coming over. This is bad. Half way through the drive I call my mom almost in tears, can you come sooner, this pain is really bad. We are on our way she says. I sit in the car waiting for my mom, I know I won’t be able to take Eric out of the car seat. I start singing “the wheels on the bus” to distract him. My dad takes Eric out of the van and helps me with the girls bucket seats. We get in the house and the girls need to eat, I take one out and begin to feed her. The pain continues and it is bad at least a 6 on the scale! My mom says you should go to the hospital. My mind races; should I go? What about the kids where will they go? What about dwayne? I think that I know that my recent blood result showed signs of possible gallstones, i should go to hospital because if I am needing surgery than the hospital is the obvious place to be. I call dwayne crying, ask him to come home; he drops everything at work and is home in 30 minutes. Meanwhile my mom helps me pack all the items I will need for myself and each child. Eric will go to my parents overnight and the girls will stay with me; I am breastfeeding after all.

Dwayne and a double stroller with screaming babies and myself walk in to emerge. We definitely feel like a circus attraction as everyone stares at the odd family with two babies screaming in unison. The triage nurses assess me and say, sounds like gallstones, I’ll bump your pain to an 8 (wink, wink) so we can get you in faster. Thanks so much! This pain is bad. They call us in quickly and I sit in the triage bed and begin to breast feed, can’t concentrate with this screaming, dwayne is bottle feeding the other baby. The resident comes in and sees me breast feeding and gives me the impression that he doesn’t think the pain is that bad if I can breast feed. We wait. The doctor finally returns and says that he is not convinced that I am emergent to require surgery and would recommend an ultrasound to confirm gallstones. Unfortunately it is now 11pm and there is no radiologist on call – we have to do it tomorrow. Seriously?! I’m thinking, does this young dude have any idea what work that will be to pack and load two babies again!! Sure I say, there is no other option. So we head home feeling defeated and still in pain.

May 4th, 2017
We walk in to the hospital early morning; I barely slept. Go to check in and they go through the whole triage experience again. I’m on a wait list for ultrasound. So we sit and wait in a small room in triage with two newborns. The doctors keep coming and going out of the room; assessing and reassessing I have no idea how many I saw. Finally I go down to ultrasound. The probe rolling over my abdomen is like torture and I grit my teeth and swear throughout the whole ultrasound. Now we wait again for results. We wait and wait. Dwayne is amazing and is dealing with the girls like a champ; rocking the stroller with his foot while bottle feeding the other. I love him; he is my rock. Finally the doctor arrives. He tells us that they discovered that there are several masses on my liver that have adhered to the abdominal wall. They recommend a MRI to investigate further and would like me to be an inpatient so that I can get the MRI sooner and to manage my pain. I agree to the plan as long as my babies can stay with me. I am breastfeeding after all.

I get a private room that evening and they provide me with two bassinets for my girls. The rest of my stay is pretty much a blur. It was a long time of waiting since the weekend didn’t allow for much tests to be either run or interpreted. The next 5 days were frustrating with pain and nausea as the constant reminder I was in the hospital. My family took turns helping me with the girls overnight and I was never alone. I remember thinking that really, the silver lining to being in the hospital was the one on one time I got to spend with my girls. Surely this will all be over soon? The days pass with little in the way of diagnosis and we are frustrated, why won’t the doctor come speak with us? Then Tuesday morning he does. He is serious. He says that the MRI results are suggestive of a malignancy and that they are expediting my breast biopsy results. I am to see the breast surgeon on Monday to discuss biopsy results. Whoa! Crazy to hear, but the doctor just said “suggestive” surely there can be another diagnosis. Let’s get out of this hospital. Can we go home? Yes he says, do you need anything for pain going home? No. Just want to get out of here.

May 10th, 2017
After returning home, I immediately feel better. My pain isn’t as bad and my nausea is basically gone. I have a bubble bath and feel relief and play things over in my head. The more I think about the sequence of events, the more I am sure there must be another diagnosis; I am only 30 after all. My best friend comes over to help me with the babies overnight and Eric remains at my moms. We plan to bring Eric back in the morning, I am so looking forward to having my family all under one roof. I missed Eric like crazy. The girls each started showing symptoms of a cold. But the 3am feeding with Leah was different. She had trouble breastfeeding because she had to cough . She was having trouble keeping the stamina to fed, I woke her at the breast several times. I thought let’s see how she sleeps, and I will look for signs of respiratory distress, at this time she is not displaying any. 6:30 am leah wakes to feed, immediately I can see the change, she is now indrawing with every breath and is even harder to keep awake while feeding. After speaking with dwayne we decided it is best to bring her to urgent care for mostly peace of mind. We hurry and pack the two girls out of the still unpacked luggage and eat a quick bite. Eric just arrives at front door with my mom and we have to leave again. Eric is sad we are leaving and puts his shoes on crying to come with us. Man, I love that boy and he is pulling on my heart strings. We arrive at urgent care and as she lays on the bed being examined I can see that she is worse than even an hour before. O2 stats are 89-91% poor little bean, did I wait to long? They send us to children’s hospital within the hour; dwayne takes lauren home to be with my parents and begins his journey to the children’s while I go with Leah in the ambulance . I am numb. No tears. How did this happen so quickly?? My sweet baby! By noon they are discussing whether they should put her in ICU. It feels like touch and go. The staff are lovely and explain everything to us and we are grateful; Leah is definitely where she needs to be. They take her to ICU and try A CPAP mask over the nose and she hates it, she is swatting at it like crazy and the more she cries the worse her vitals get. They settle her finally but find that all the pressurized air provided by this mask is just coming out her mouth. The X-ray shows that her right upper lobe has collapsed. She needs the pressurized air; the only option is a SCUBA mask. She dislikes this mask even more than the first! They have to use sedation to keep her settled. Meanwhile I finally broke down and cried, when I thought I was alone in the room. This sucks on so many levels. The nurse somehow saw me and I was in the perfect vulnerable state and I blurted out everything that is going on. She said she would put us in contact with a social worker. Okay, I am overwhelmed and could use another perspective and some help. The social worker provide us with a “parent room” very close to where our precious daughter is staying in the ICU and a parking pass. We are thankful; we needed a little bit on our side.

For the first three days and nights Leah was in really bad shape. Intubation and full ventilation were discussed more than once. She was fiesty though and the staff commented many times on how much fire she has. That’s my girl! You fight this bug! Anyone who has a child in the hospital knows the feeling of helplessness and a need to hold them and tell them it’s going to be okay. She was struggling so much and it was the hardest thing I have ever had to witness.

My focus remains on my daughter and I ignore the impending biopsy results that I face on Monday. We pray and pray and our family is praying and that’s all we can do.

May 15th, 2017

Sunday night dwayne and I decide that it would be a good idea to leave the hospital and sleep at home. We hadn’t been in our bed in days and we thought it would help us leading into tomorrow. I slept better that night then I have in a long time. That morning dwayne and I barely talk to one another; each with our own thoughts on the impending appointment. Finally it is time to leave. We comment on the weather and a few other small conversations on our drive in, but it is obvious we are nervous and uncertain what we will here. The doctor has a kind face and shakes our hands and says “how are you?” We say not the best, our daughter is in ICU. His eyes become even kinder and very empathetic. I immediately know what is coming. Mrs. Owchar I am sorry to tell you but you have stage 4 invasive distal breast cancer with lymph node involvement and metastasis to the liver. There is no cure and the best we can do is manage this disease. Life expectancy is unknown. Dwayne cries, I am in shock. I don’t know what to say or ask. I just kept saying “but my kids! I’m so young!” He sends in his receptionist and she gives us a large binder full of cancer information sheets and resources. She is talking about my upcoming bone scan which she scheduled for Thursday and that she will call me with an appointment with Tom Baker to being my chemotherapy treatment as soon as possible. I don’t know if I heard anything else that was said. My kids…

Now we must call our families and inform them of the impending diagnosis that affects so many people around me. Everyone cried, dwayne cried and I cried. Hardest thing to do is tell your parents such news, they were devastated. And still all I can think is my kids, my sweet kids don’t deserve this; it isn’t fair.

So I know it was a lengthy story to get to this point but I feel like each stage is important for me to remember and record. What if I hadn’t mentioned to the doctor about the breast lump? What if I didn’t go to the hospital with the pain? So many pieces fell together to give me fast treatment and I hope I have enough in me to fight. I have three beautiful little people counting on me and a loving supportive husband to fight for. I have got to do this. I am not looking for sympathy or hand outs after writing this. I feel like it will be therapeutic for me to look at this in the future and feel inspired by how far my family has come. God will help us through the fire and make us better and stronger humans. I only hope I will get to be a part of many memeories with my children and that my husband and I can grow old together like we always dreamed.