This story begins with one of the bravest of brave’s, resilient battle with cancer. No one can tell her story as she can so it’s only right to begin this dedication with the words she wrote ever so painfully purposeful.
March 9, 2019 · #CHECKYOURSELF The Series
Age at diagnosis: 30
My name is Randi and I am a 32 year old mother, wife, and nurse. About 8 weeks before graduating nursing school, I had gone to the hospital for a migraine, I had never had one before so when I woke up vomiting and felt like I couldn’t see, I was of course terrified; I was treated and sent home the same day. The next morning when I woke up I felt a huge, golf ball size lump right below my left collar bone, I was definitely curious as to what it was but never in a million years did I think it was breast cancer. I always thought that the lump had to be on your breast for it to be breast cancer. I assumed that the large nodule was probably a swollen lymph node from being so sick. I called my GYN and explained what had happened the day before, the nurse told me to keep an eye on the lump for about 2 weeks to see if there was any change to it. I waited two weeks and there was no change. The lump didn’t hurt, it didn’t move around, and was of no discomfort. I called my doctor’s office back and gave the report, they scheduled me an appointment to come in to be checked out. About a week later I went to the appointment to be examined. The doctor told me “I really don’t think you have anything to be worried about, I doubt it is cancer”. He ordered for me to have a mammogram just to be certain and probably to shut me up because I was so paranoid. I had the mammogram done 2 weeks later. I have now had this massive lump for 5-6 weeks. After the mammogram was complete, the radiologist sat down and spoke with me, he told me that younger women have very dense breast tissue and that he sees several nodules but only one was of concern….the one under my collar bone. He sent the report to my GYN who then ordered for me to have a biopsy of the large lump under my collar bone and a couple other smaller nodules on my breast. My appointment for the biopsy took MONTHS! I was originally scheduled for about 2 weeks out but it seemed like every time it was the day of my appointment, the office would call and reschedule. Apparently the doctor who does the biopsy is only in office once a week and he seems to always get called into surgery. By the time I was finally IN OFFICE for the actual biopsy, it was October 8th….I reported the lump to my GYN on May 17th! On October 10th, my two year wedding anniversary, I was at clinicals for my schooling, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing on that day. I had received a phone call but didn’t recognize the number so I ignored it. The called left a voicemail which popped up on my phone as a text. The text said “Hi Randi, this is Dr. (To remain anonymous)please give my office a call back when you have a moment”. I thought to myself “why the heck is the DOCTOR calling me?!”. I went outside and returned his call, I wasn’t even on hold for 30 seconds before he was on the other line. He told me that he had received the biopsy results and he was so sorry but “you have breast cancer”. Those four words literally brought me to my knees. How could this happen? I was only 30years old. I had a 3 year old. I was class president and only 8 weeks away from graduating nursing school. Over the next week I remember having a doctors appointment every single day, I was exhausted and missing a lot of school. Within 2 weeks of finding out that I had breast cancer, I had also found out that it was grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma, stage 2b triple negative breast cancer, BRCA+, and that my tumor was 6.5 X 8.5cm large. It was advised that I leave school because I was starting chemo the following week and they didn’t want me getting sick from being in the hospitals to do clinicals. My heart was broken, I felt like everything had come crashing down on me. I was so worried about not only my future but I was worried about my family, my husband, my son. I had met my treatment team on October 28th (my birthday). After speaking to all of them, I felt much better. They made me feel confident in kicking cancers butt! Because my tumor was so large, they suggested that I start chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor. I had started with 4 rounds of Adriamycin “the red devil” and Cytoxan. Both chemos were to be given bi-weekly. After each treatment I would come in the following day and get an injection called Neulasta. Neulasta is a white blood cell booster, so basically it puts your bone marrow into over drive to help boost your WBC count to prevent neutropenia. After I finished with the A/C, I was then to do 12 treatments of Taxol and 4 treatments of Carboplatin. Unfortunately, that didn’t go as planned. My first treatment of the two, I had a sever allergic reacting to the taxol and my blood counts dropped tremendously from the carbo. I was then to do 6 treatments of Taxotere, once every other week (I think). I did 3 rounds of that before my tumor started to grow back and I was once again taken off from that and scheduled for a double mastectomy. With my mastectomy, I had tissue expanders put in and completed 28 rounds of radiation which was a piece of cake compared to the chemo. After I had finished the radiation, I started taking Xeloda for 24 weeks. The Xeloda is an oral chemo that I took 2x a day. The side effects were very minimal with no nausea or hair loss which was a huge bonus for me. The only real issue I had with the Xeloda was that my feet and hands would get burned and peel. There was never an issue with low blood counts on this medication so about half way through, I had a total hysterectomy since ovarian/cervical cancer was also a high risk for me. On week 22/24 of the Xeloda, I was scheduled for a follow up CT of my chest/abdomen area to make sure everything was going well. Sadly, I had 3 lung nodules appear on the CT that were worrisome. After several more scans, a PET, and a bronchoscopy, I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer on January 4th 2019. I am currently a patient at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL and I’m on a clinical trial with another oral chemo pill called Lynparza. I am doing well and keeping hope.
My biggest advice to anyone and everything who is concerned about their health is, don’t give up! Don’t let doctors push you aside and make you feel like you don’t matter. Be in control of your health, your body, and your mind. I wonder every single day what would have happened if I fought and had my lump looked at the same week that it appeared…what would have happened if I hadn’t let doctors make me feel like there was nothing to worry about and what if I hadn’t waited the six months before it was finally checked out. Cancer is a scary word to hear and it definitely has a ripple effect on everyone who cares about you but stay positive, keep your head up, and fight hard!
Be kind & love yourself,
We see it time and time again… a warrior falling long before, their time was up.
During this new dawn of social media, far too many hearts are broken while simply scrolling their news feeds. We are quickly overtaken by an invisible force that causes us to turn back to that same news feed in an attempt to pay our respects and send one last final-message to the person behind the screen who has stirred up all sorts of those, “Go hug your loved ones before it’s too late“, feelings of grief endured.
It’s necessary to consider other’s during these difficult times as well… To consider their families and loved one’s who have fallen to their knees consumed with loss and hopelessness… To consider the unknowing souls that will become painfully aware of these ‘news-feed-alerted’ messages that should have been heard from a voice of someone who is gentle and empathetic, generously offering, a shoulder to cry on… Also to consider the peaceful departure of the soul gone too soon, who may very well be still here while trying to offer a small piece of closure to the heart’s broken by the loss.
As I sit here typing these words with vision blurred by tears, I am trying so hard to remain focused on helping Randi’s beautiful soul, to bring this closure to her love’s. I have no healing’s to offer… I have no stereotypical advice of, “It will heal in time”, to share either. All I have is my heart that bleeds sympathy and love for the broken-hearted filled with compassionate support.
Losing a loved one is unfortunately an excruciating, price of love. We will never know how to walk this earth without them… we will never be able to just block the pain… we will never just be okay, without them beside us again. Our feelings contain spiritual messages that are often thought to be misery. We misinterpret these messages as excruciating, when they are actually bearing the proof of how very full of love we are for our love’s.
Grief offers us a painful reminder to quit taking life for granted. It tells us that we are never guaranteed another day to tell the one’s we love, of how much they mean to us. These feelings must be boldly faced with faithful acceptance and understood to simply, be.
Yes, it will hurt more than anything else… yes, we will FOREVER be haunted by their memorable ghost where no silver linings will be placed… but life can and will go on. We can memorialize their special spot in our heart of heart’s and begin to feel flooded with gratitude for ever having the chance to love them to begin with.
I will be taking the entire day to really pay my respects to Randi’s angel and mourn this loss that I will never fully understand… while also creating this documented lesson of love to express the beauty-filled-strength, of all that was her.
She was absolutely a force to be reckoned with and our small SW Florida city will surely NEVER, be the same without her… she gifted us ALL a new look on life and the fight she gave, deserves to be recognized in every fashion.
Hearts worldwide are aching this morning with enough tears falling to flood an empty dam. But, there are also grey clouds clearing the sky and promising her day to finally be spent, unconditionally, pain free.
I’m so so very sorry to all that are hurting, but please…. Feel your hurt and do what she would have wanted you to do, spread love and support towards all those in need.