Six years ago, life took a rapid turn. I was 43 years old and happily married to the love of my life. We had a 9-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son. I was the Head Coach at Orangetheory in Weston. I was in excellent health but had trouble with my voice. I had polyps on my vocal cords that burned so bad. When I couldn't get any relief, I went to see a Gastroenterologist to determine if I had silent reflux. Next, we did an Endoscopy, and according to the doctor, all looked good. But then, I got a call from the Cleveland Clinic and was asked if I could come in to see my doctor that day! I was in such shock, I immediately called my husband Rob and asked him if he could go with me. We knew we were going to be faced with some problem, but we never imagined that we'd be told I had Institu Esophageal Cancer. Insitu is Stage 0. Stage 0 means no chemo, no radiation, just remove the cancer. To remove the cancer, they needed to remove my Esophagus. The procedure is called an Esophagectomy. They would remove my Esophagus and pull up my stomach to take its place.
I went to one of the top Surgical Oncologists at the University of Miami, and we set my surgery for Feb 3. He assured me that once this cancer was cut out of me that I'd be good to go. On Feb 3, 2014, I went in for surgery. I was in ICU for 3 nights and then the hospital for 5 more. It was absolutely brutal. The incision from the surgery was from my belly button to my sternum. When I coughed, sneezed or laughed, I felt like I would actually bust right open. My recovery was long, and my new anatomy was a lot to adjust to, but that's a whole other story.
Fast Forward 2 Years Later
In December 2016, I started to have acid episodes that were absolutely horrific. I got with my Gastro, and she did an endoscopy, and everything looked great. I had some acid issues since my Esophagectomy, so it seemed this was a new side effect from the surgery. Months went by, and the horrific acid episodes started to happen more and more. By April I was so sick. I had lost 15 pounds. We did a gastric emptying study, and that showed that my stomach was not digesting food, so I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis, which is paralysis of the stomach. At this point, I couldn't eat solid foods. Somehow, I made it through May, and then it was June. At this point, I lost 25 lbs. On June 21, I taught my 5am and 6am at Orange, and then I taught my 8am and 9am at Pure Barre. Afterward, I went home to take a nap. Things had progressed so rapidly that I could no longer lay down, I had to prop myself up, or the acid episode would happen instantly. Within five mins of me trying to nap, I had an episode. At this point, I freaked. I called my doctor, and she was extremely concerned and suggested that I go to the ER. That sounded like a great idea to me because I just couldn't live like this anymore.
The ER immediately did a CT Scan and found a 12 cm mass behind my stomach. At this point, I was relieved, it all now made sense to me. I couldn't eat because there was a tumor a little bigger than a softball attached to my stomach. I was admitted to the hospital, and over the next 7 days, we would figure out precisely what this was and what we would do about it. I was diagnosed with Stage 4, Recurrent Metastatic Esophageal Cancer. The primary cancer that was in my Esophagus traveled to my stomach, I had spots on my liver and activity in my gallbladder. The tumor was so large that it was pressing on my lungs, it displaced my liver, and it was very close to my aorta. There was no way the tumor could be removed, so the only options available to me was to see if the cancer would respond to chemo and then radiation. In hopes, this would shrink the tumor, and a Gastrectomy could be preformed. A Gastrectomy is the removal of your stomach. I already had my Esophagus removed, how in the world could I function without my stomach. This was all so overwhelming. When my husband asked the doctors my prognosis, they told him they were just concerned to get me a through a year.
I had very dark days in the hospital. I was so afraid, frail, and sick. They put a pic line in my arm and soon after I started to get much-needed nutrition into my body. I then started to shift my mindset to what was going well and not focusing on all that was wrong. This was when I began to choose HAPPY! not crappy. I knew this was going to be a long road, and being depressed and in a dark place would only make my battle tougher. I started to read devotionals and anything I could find that was inspiring. I was so grateful for everything and everyone in my life, especially my husband, my kids, my mom, and my sister. Every single person that worked at the hospital was amazing. The support and love that my friends gave me daily was so comforting. I had an NG tube up my nose, and it went down into my stomach. The pain that the tumor created was very intense. The tumor was so large that I always had a fever, it was sucking the life out of me. I had my crappy moments, but I continuously reminded myself to Choose HAPPY and enjoy each day, minute by minute.
My story is long and crazy, so let me cut to the miraculous outcome. I did 3 months of intense chemotherapy and 25 rounds of radiation. It was brutal, life-changing, and torturous, but through it all, I was determined to find peace, happiness, and live a full life filled with love. Once my treatment was completed, the next step was getting a scan before the Gastrectomy. When the results came back, the Surgical Oncologist at Sylvester Cancer Center was astonished to see that the tumor was no longer visible. It was determined that the Gastrectomy would not be needed because the cancer had melted away. Till this day, I am absolutely shocked, blown away, and in awe of this outcome. My entire medical team, family, and even I, never imagined this as a possibility. It indeed was a miracle.
The recovery has been very long and hard. Mentally and physically, it leaves a mark forever. I continue to go for regular CT scans that sometimes lead to PET scans. Each time a little something lights up, but so far it hasn't been anything that requires further treatment. I genuinely believe that choosing HAPPY and finding joy in each day is what keeps my cancer away. I think that all this happened to me for a reason. Sharing my story and helping people navigate through life's obstacles is my passion. As a Health Coach and Cancer Coach I'm here to remind everyone that miracles can happen to all of us.
All we need to do is continuously choose HAPPY! not crappy
Help me build a huge army of health, happiness, and good vibes.