Saturday, October 3, 2009

I Like My Cancer Rare with a Side of Strides

Today I participated in my first breast cancer walk ever at the Making Strides 10th anniversary. It was bittersweet, to celebrate my life when so many others have died. I had a chat with a phyllodes friend about survivor's guilt and she expressed the same issue from time to time. She made it clear that those who are gone would kick my ass for feeling guilty about being alive and that my job is to share my gift through my story and spread awareness. So this is what I will do. How wild to be 1 month clear just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. As I said before, everything seems to fall right into place so I will continue to go with the flow!

My third day back to work I threw my back out, BEFORE the start of my shift! I wasn't lifting anything or doing any strenuous activity. My back just froze. I got on the phone to our dispatch center to let them know I wasn't able to go in service for the day and I just balled. I was so frustrated! I just wanted to work and get back to normalcy! The dispatcher got off the phone with me and immediately ran downstairs to see me. By then I mellowed out and felt stupid for losing control for a minute, but everyone was very understanding. I've been on light duty for about a week now and dispatch has threatened to pull the tapes of me crying on the phone because everyone knows I'm way too tough to shed any tears! They own me now! Hahahaha!

I celebrated the VERY first day of awareness month with a visit to my doctor. I kept getting these insane tearing/ripping pains just below my surgical breast on down to my ribs. Sometimes for no reason but usually with movement these horrible pains would strike. The other day I attempted to pull my shirt over my head and HOLY SMOKES!! Out of reaction I grabbed my breast and rib area and felt the craziest things. If you were to run your finger from the middle of my chest just below my breast and out towards my armpit, it would feel like you were strumming a guitar. Underneath my skin were these very thick, hard, ropey strands that ran up and down my ribs. Some even extended as far as down to my waist. Freaked me out. My doctor felt these strings, smiled, and said to me "Boy it's always a pleasure to see you!"

We can add more rareness to my order. Blood clots typically occur in the brain (stroke), the heart (myocardial infarction/heart attack), or the legs (DVT - deep vein thrombosis). Not me. I get what's called "Mondor's Disease." Mondor's Disease is a blood clot(s) in the breast and occurs in only 10% of all breast patients. It's super rare and pretty much no one is slick enough to pull off this kind of clot! All I can do is laugh!! Just when you think it's smooth sailing for a bit, something funky happens! I will totally be ok though. I'm on anti-inflammatories for a couple of weeks then another follow-up with my doctor. Hopefully that will do the trick and if not we will go from there! Day by day!

I continue to get such crazy, random support from everyone in my life. I was given a pink stuffed monkey the other day. A firefighter friend sent me a pic of a bottle of water he bought because it had a breast cancer ribbon on it. A nurse friend purchased a breast cancer thermos for me, proceeds going to breast cancer research. Someone told me they signed up for something called "Workout for the Cure" at Gold's Gym in which he paid more money for his membership because proceeds went to breast cancer research. Another paramedic shaved his head in my honor and expressed to me that he is forcing his mother and mother-in-law to schedule their very first mammograms. I've received so many emails from women telling me I've motivated them to get their very first mammograms as well. I've received a ring, a bracelet, t-shirts, stickers - all proceeds going to breast cancer research. Because of my "enthusiasm," Feel Your Boobies (a non-profit breast cancer awareness organization) sent me a huge stack of awareness cards to hand out. The list goes on. So many people have already been affected by my voice and I'm so excited to continue this campaign.

I was officially cleared of any cancer cells on August 31st, threw my back out on September 23rd, got a blood clot in my breast on October 1st, and participated in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on October 3rd with a humongous smile on my face! I encourage any more obstacles that may come my way, because I don't lose! Haha! Life is the best it's ever been and nothing can shake the world that I'm in! I will cherish my first breast cancer awareness month and all the other firsts that come along with this mission. Watch out for me everyone, I'm pretty rare!

Look out for Team Trish d'Lish in May at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure! I'm in the process of getting a sponsor and getting as many people on the team as possible! EVERYONE is encouraged to join us and help make an impact like none other! If ANYONE is interested feel free to email me. We've got plenty of time, but we're shooting big! Squeeze a boob, save a life...I promise it works. or friend request me on Facebook

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Well alright!! I had another follow-up appointment today. At my last appointment I had some nice swelling and my doc wouldn't let me return to work, so I had to come back in another 2 weeks to check my progress. Ok, I'm not gonna lie...I may or may not have started jogging and lifting light weights 4 days after my surgery. This may or may not have contributed to the excessive bruising and inflammation. I cannot confirm nor deny this, as I am not a doctor :). For the record my friends did yell at me, so I got my punishment (but I'm not sorry...haha).
It's official...I'm here and I'm clear! All test results show no signs of funky cells! YAY!! I do my lift/physical test for work in 2 days and start poundin' the pavement on Monday. Wow, I hope I remember how to do my job after almost 3 months off!!
I don't want to get cheesey, but I sincerely want to thank ALL my friends for making sure I would always be ok. I was surrounded by such amazing people this entire time who made this whole experience way too easy for me! I had friends of friends, who I had never met, asking how I was doing and if I was feeling ok. My dear nurse friends Lori and Carolyn from Spring Valley ER made personalized pink bracelets that read "For Trish" and sold them in my honor. I received so many phone calls, emails, text messages, and cards; truly overwhelming. Unbelievable.
One thing I've learned through all this is compassion. So many people stepped up just to help me and the way my doctor and his nurses treated me like gold really opened my eyes. I learned a lot about myself and others and will hopefully inspire people the same way I've been inspired. It's been a challenge for me to really celebrate when my Phyllodes friends have had so many recurrences, one who had a tumor return several times and 7 years later! There's a fear in me that thinks this will never really be over, but it's those with the worst experiences who have kicked my butt and told me to stop being a baby. These are some amazing women and because of them I will do my best to live in the moment before these wonderful moments pass me by. I'm a vessel and I will NEVER stop spreading the word about the effectiveness of early detection.
I hope to one day find a way to show appreciation and express just how much everyone's efforts and kindness has affected me. You have no idea.
During my time off I did many things that I never really took the time to experience. I'm so open to try anything new now. I took a hike at Mt. Charleston, visited the Hoover Dam for the first time in the 20 years I've lived here and even got my first pedicure courtesy of my crazy friend Ashley. Me, a pedicure?? I know, right?? I've definitely learned to appreciate every lit bit I have and value every person I know.
I have some unfinished San Diego business to tend to, now where was I?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Not as tough as I thought I was...whoah

It's been exactly one week since my last surgery and lemme tell you, that one kicked my tushy!! I'm gonna break this down...

I've got 3 clips in my breast from my first surgery to mark the area the tumor once was. So, I'm doing my pre-op paperwork for my second surgery and was told to be there at 6:30am and surgery would be at 10am. Wow, why am I going so early?? Apparently I had to get some guidewires put in right before surgery to mark the area of my breast that will be removed. It's done under local anesthesia and then I'll head to surgery. Cool. No, not cool AT ALL.

I think I've been pretty tough from the get go, but guidewires broke me down. Holy smokes. I've already expressed how painful mammograms are. It basically feels like the Incredible Hulk is stepping on your boobie for a solid 5 seconds straight, you'd think it couldn't get any worse than that. I sat in a chair in front of the mammogram machine, my breast was in full compression for what I believe to be a good 30 mins. Meanwhile, I just had my first surgery a few weeks earlier and was still tender. The very second that machine clamped down on me, I couldn't control the tears. I couldn't believe I was crying, but I just couldn't stop it no matter what I tried to think about. I sat quietly, but the tears rolled on and this was only the beginning. Once I was stuck in this vice grip, they inserted 2 "fish hooks" (as they described it) into my breast and lined them up with the clips that were inside waiting. They said these wires resemble fish hooks. Once they're in, the ends will hook to the inside of my breast and stay in place. That sounds great in theory, if they get them to line up on the first shot. No such luck. They occasionally stopped and let the mammogram take a picture so they could see if the wires were lined up with the clips the way they should be, made some hook adjustments (ouch), took more pictures, made some hook adjustments (ouch), took more pictures...all the while my poor little A cup was screaming for me to do something! I could NOT control my tears. This was the VERY first time I wanted to get up, walk out, and call it game over. I had enough and for the first time I was angry, but stayed in control of myself. They rolled me into this private little waiting room where my redhead was waiting, and I lost it. I just balled. She coached me through it and I moved forward to surgery. For the record, I NEVER want to do that again.

Surgery took a little longer this time around and it beat me down. Last time I was pretty awake a few hours later, but this time I felt super sick and I slept for 2 days straight - all day and all night. I just felt horrible and had a lot of pain. I got an IV a couple days after surgery for some nausea medicine and rehydration and my juicy veins were nowhere in sight. It took 6 pokes to get the IV in; I think my body was done. Surgery was on Monday and I started feeling more with it by Thursday. Shew!

I tell you what though, I have the best friends and EMS family on the planet. My paramedic/dispatch brothers and sisters held a car wash for me to supplement my disability check, as I just came back from a vacation spree when this started and had ZERO time to take off. I spent the day with them and helped dry cars and not once did any of them complain about the "excessive heat warning" that day. We were fried! Medicwest Ambulance, Mesquite Fire Dept, Clark County Fire Dept, and Las Vegas Fire Dept all came by to contribute. EVERYONE was there! My fellow medic Esteban offered to shave his gorgeous locks if $500 was raised. This was quite intriguing to everyone, as we all make fun of his metrosexuality and for being a little too into his thick, wavy hair. At the end of the day, a whopping $3,600 was raised and I had the pleasure of shaving his head! It was an amazing day and it was truly overwhelming to see the way everyone worked together for one of their own. I'm quite independent and have a hard time accepting anything from others. This was a struggle for me from the start. I was once told that everytime I refuse to let anyone help me, I strip them of any joy that they'd be getting out if it. I've learned to relax and go with the flow and I will forever be grateful.

The next step is a follow-up appointment to assess test results and the effectiveness of my current surgery...ain't nothin' gonna breaka my stride!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I had my post-op appt yesterday. My main concern was having to get drained. The tumor was so big that when I do heal I will have a deformity. My doc warned me that if my surgical breast didn't look smaller than the other one, then I'd probably need to have fluid removed. This is all I worried about. I just wanted him to look at me and tell me to have a good day. Yeah, not so much.

When I initially found out I was having surgery, I was all about awareness and I was super emotional. Once the tumor was removed I was so different. I didn't wanna talk about it anymore. I didn't wanna answer questions. I just wanted to forget about it and move on with a normal life! Well, I'm back to spreading the word.

Yesterday at my appointment I didn't have to get drained, although now that doesn't seem so bad! Because my tumor is so rare, it's not graded like other cancers that are Stage 1, 2, 3, or 4; mine was graded "low-grade malignant" which means more scans and a partial mastectomy to remove more breast tissue/margins around where my lump was to ensure EVERY foreign cell is removed. DAMN! I'll be even more deformed after the second surgery and I soooo thought it was all over! Of course I balled on the way home.

This tumor is quite rare and makes up only 1% of all breast tumors/cancers - I'm officially a case study. Kinda cool. Once I have my next surgery I will have frequent scans to make sure nothing has returned. There is no cure for this yet and again chemo, radiation, and medication don't work on this thing. Since my Phyllodes Tumor is infamous for returning, we will discuss removing my entire breast (total mastectomy) if it comes back. I'm not really down with that, but I will deal with it later.

I was supposed to be back to work August 23, but now I won't be returning until mid-September sometime. While this is stressful at times and puts a strain on me financially, I get an occasional kick in the butt from my friends who remind me that my health takes precedence over any money or job. So I will keep my chin up and look on the bright side of not having to work out in the Las Vegas heat this summer! Hollaaaaa...

I've been wanting to move to San Diego since I was a teenager and decided a couple of months ago to stop talking and take action. I got rid of my 4 bedroom house and put ALL of my things in storage, with the exception of my clothes and Roxy G. I moved in with a childhood friend of mine in an attempt to save money. Soon I could finally move to my dream city because for once in my life I wasn't involved in a relationship, which is what always trapped me in Vegas. Shortly after this I ended up on medical leave. I'm living proof that things happen for a reason. If I had to deal with this while still in my house, I have no clue what I would have done financially. My wonderful friend Carly provided me with this roof over my head while I got my health straightened out. Everything has fallen right into place since my diagnosis.

I truly believe Phyllodes was given to me as a gift, that I was hand-picked for this one. I've had such great support and resources to get me through. I've met such wonderful Phyllodes friends who know just what to say when I'm completely discouraged. I've been asked several times how is it that I constantly smile and stay in a happy mood? It's only because I make a conscious decision to do so. So many other women have gone through way more than I have with doctors who had no clue what a Phyllodes tumor even was or insurance companies refusing to pay for their mammograms because they were "too young" to need one. I'm truly fortunate and will take advantage of this tumor by telling EVERYONE about it and setting a positive example. I will show people how important early detection is and help people realize that no one is exempt. This is why this tumor was handed to me special delivery style!

PLEASE CHECK YOURSELVES as I leave you with a pic of my tumor that took up such a large space in my breast...3.8cm in February to 7.2cm in July when it was next surgery is Monday, August 24, 2009.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Follow Up...

See, I had a feeling this wasn't over...

I haven't written in a while. After my biopsy report came back negative for cancer, I never wanted to see this blog ever again! Well, I'm back.

You read it right, back in February my biopsy results showed no cancer cells. I was diagnosed with a Fibroadenoma (remember that for later), a very common benign tumor in women my age. I was so relieved and so happy it was all over with! The nurse from my OB office called and gave me the great news over the phone. She was ready to hang up when I said WAIT!! I told her I want this thing out!! She sounded a little surprised and responded with, "Oh. Well, you don't really need to have it removed but if you choose that option then you'll just have to find a general surgeon on your insurance plan." Uuuuhhh, ok then.

I shared the great news with my friends and informed them that I really didn't even have to go through surgery! YAY! Yeah, telling that to a bunch of paramedics and nurses doesn't really call for a celebration! No one was impressed with this conclusion. The general consensus was there's NO way I should walk around with this hunk of junk marinating in me. Ok fine. So I'll handle it, but not right now. I had a bunch of little mini-vacations planned and I wanted to enjoy life for a little bit! That's exactly what I did. What's the rush??

Alright, so the vacations were over and my next one isn't scheduled until November. Now it was time to handle this lovely lady lump that everyone's been on me about. I got the name of an awesome breast specialist and made my surgical consult. It seemed to me that my lump was getting bigger. I've been going to the gym and eating better and I realize things may have shifted and repositioned and that this could just be some paranoia surfacing.

My appointment was on Tuesday, June 30, 2009. The doctor looked at my scans from February and let out a big "WHOAH!" Yeah, it's huge. I know. I've tried to tell people just how big this thing is but it's really hard to grasp, no pun intended. When I let him know it felt bigger, he immediately brought in his ultrasound machine and hooked me up himself. He wasn't excited about what he was seeing. He was very professional and calm and objective. He's a pro - he's not here to freak me out. It's all business, and I get it. Here it is in perspective...the average tumor size is 1.5 cm. In February my tumor was 3.8 cm, and today (just a few months later) it has blown up to a whopping 7.2 cm. Ok, once he told me this I was officially worried. I mean, if he let out a big "whoah" when looking at my mammogram from February, what's he wanting to say about it now that it's almost double in size??

Long story short, he's calling this a Phyllodes tumor. It's a form of breast cancer that is often mistaken for a Fibroadenoma, which was my initial diagnosis. I had a few questions about this that were later answered by the breast cancer website when I went home. Here are some of those answers...

"Phyllodes tumors account for less than 1% of all breast cancers. Even if the tumor is benign, it is still considered a type of breast cancer, because it has the potential to become malignant...This type of breast tumor grows very fast — so much so that the lump can become bigger in a couple of weeks. Since a Phyllodes tumor may resemble a fibroadenoma, these two conditions are often mistaken for each other...Neither a mammogram nor a breast ultrasound can clearly distinguish between a fibroadenoma and a phyllodes tumor...Cells from a needle biopsy can be tested in the lab but seldom give a clear diagnosis. An open surgical biopsy, which results in a slice of tissue, will provide a better sample of cells and will result in a proper diagnosis for a Phyllodes tumor...Surgery to remove a Phyllodes tumor is the standard treatment. This type of tumor does not respond well to radiation, chemotherapy or hormonal therapies."

Why didn't all the scans catch it?? Why didn't my initial biopsy catch it?? Why is it growing so fast?? All the answers to my questions right there! Scans can't give a definitive diagnosis because it looks much like a Fribroadenoma. A needle biopsy, which pulls out small bits of tissue for testing, doesn't offer enough cells to get a clear diagnosis. A phyllodes tumor requires a good, full slice of tissue to get a consistent reading. It all makes sense now. For all of us in the medical profession, we can spot heart attacks or infections or diabetic issues a mile away. We do EKGs and blood sugars and blood pressures so we have proof on paper, but we know when people are sick. It's what we do. Just as this doctor knew to call this a Phyllodes tumor. Of course he needs to do his thing to get it all on paper, but his final words were "If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's a duck."

I'm so thankful for the friends who pushed me and wouldn't allow this thing to rent space in my breast for free. The upside is, I won't ever have to go through chemo or radiation, since this particular tumor doesn't respond to either. If this were to ever spread throughout my body, the downside would be that chemo and radiation could never get me better. I don't think I'll ever have to worry about that though. I can't be mad at any doctors or pathologists for saying I was homefree back in February. Everyone did their part and their job when and how they were supposed to. Period. My point is, I found this lump on my own. If everyone would just examine themselves and become familiar with what feels normal for their body and what feels foreign, lives could be saved. It's also so very important to get second or third opinions. I walked around for 5 months after my first biopsy thinking I was healthy, all the while this monster was growing rapidly inside me. This is YOUR body, and you only get one. I'm healthy and young and things happen for no rhyme or reason. I'm posting a VERY personal pic of my "old" mammogram from February, taken before this grew to the ridiculous 7.2cm by July. This is a view of me getting squashed in the vice grip, as if I were looking straight down at my own right breast. I just want everyone to be aware. Starting now.

I'm scheduled for a lumpectomy on Monday, July 13th, 2009. I'll be off for 6 LONG weeks. What the heck am I going to do for a month and a half?? I've shed a couple of tears here and there and I'm sure as surgery gets closer I'll be more emotional. The surgeon will send my tumor in for another biopsy and this time there will be plenty of tissue to properly diagnose me, and get it on paper. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Itty Bitty Titty Committee

Photographer and journalist at heart, I wanted to capture and remember every moment and feeling I experience on this journey...

Alright, so I do a self breast exam every now and again, whenever I remember. My last exam had to have been maybe 8 months ago or so. On the night of January 16th, 2009 (just ONE week after my 34th birthday) I was about to go to sleep when I decided to do my "every now and again" breast exam. This time it was different though. I have little mosquito bites, I get it, but I felt a lump in my right breast. My gut sank. It was weird. I double checked and triple checked. Yeah, there was a lump there. It was the shape and size of an egg and it was rock solid. I checked all day the next day too, still there. I kept thinking maybe THIS time the lump will be gone. Maybe I'm imagining it. No such luck. I processed this on my own for about a week and eventually told some friends. Naturally they yelled at me and I made an appointment with my OB.

I saw my OB on January 27, 2009. She felt my lovely lady lump and paused in her tracks and quickly continued the exam as to not alarm me. She tried to keep her poker face on, but I'm a paramedic. I'm slick. I notice everything. Her only verbal response was, "yeah that's a lump." She ordered a mammogram and an ultrasound and asked if I had any questions. I know when my patients ask me questions I always tell them that until we get more test results we won't really know anything. Of course I knew she'd say "until we get more test results we won't really know anything." I saved all my questions. Nothing sunk in at the Dr's office. She gave me the orders for my tests and I had to make all the arrangements.

I walked out to my car and made my appointments in the parking lot of the Dr's office. Something slapped me in the face once I got off the phone. I cried the whole drive home. I had no clue what I was crying about though. Just all the "what ifs" I guess; my head was spinning. I got it together by the time I pulled into my garage.

On January 30th, 2009 I had my mammogram and ultrasound done. First off, the mammogram was no joke. I can't even describe the pain and have no clue how they got my little pancakes in that machine. Both the ultrasound and mammogram techs felt my lovely lady lump. Each of them paused with big eyes and asked the same questions - does it hurt and does it move? No. This thing doesn't hurt and it's quite stationary. A lot of my friends were asking me if it hurt too. Why was EVERYONE asking me if it hurt?? It was Friday and I had big plans that weekend - I had awesome seats to see my favorite UFC fighter Georges St. Pierre at the MGM on Saturday and it was Super Bowl weekend. Again, on the drive home I balled my eyes out. I got a strange vibe from both techs. They were very nice and professional, but I could read them like the ninja that I am. Something was up, but I didn't want to know anything just yet. Not right now.

I had the best weekend ever and called my OB on Tuesday February 3rd, 2009. The nurse explained to me that she couldn't tell me anything since my OB hadn't seen the results yet. After a few words, she finally tells me the radiologist ordered an ultrasound guided biopsy. Again, I asked her what the results showed. She just streeeeetched out all of her words with loooong pauses in between. I was getting dizzy!! All she gave me was that they confirmed it was a "solid mass". We knew this, but had to rule out a cyst. A cyst would be awesome at this point, but nah - it's a solid tumor. Again, I cried like a little, bitty, baby girl on the drive home from work and was golden by the time I walked through the front door. So I've figured out my cry baby pattern - seems it happens right after an visits, or after a test, or test results, etc. At least now I know when I'm gonna explode into tears and I can take cover!

I've been doing ALL kinds of reading about different types of breast cancers. The descriptions are very specific and detailed. From the point of origin to the direction of travel. The shape and feel. Sooo detailed. Breast cancer doesn't hurt and it can't be moved because it grows on and in the tissue. Just like my lovely lady lump. It's not just a random tumor the size of a pea or a grain of rice that has nothing to do with nothing. A couple of my friends who know a thing or two about this have agreed with me as well. They, too, feel that this isn't the last I'll be hearing about this tumor.

I'm not afraid. I have my moments when I'm alone that a tear or two manages to sneak out of my eyes. I finally figured out that it's ok to cry. I've decided that I'm getting all my fear out now so it's gone from my system. When it's time to get down to business and take care of myself I'll be ready and focused.

The real party hasn't even started yet and I've already gotten so much support from my awesome friends and paramedic family. I'm ok with the inevitable. This is just another task on my "to-do" list that needs to be taken care of and I'm ready to handle it. I got this.

My biopsy will be done on Monday February 16th, 2009 at 7am...exactly 1 month after I found my lovely lady lump...tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock...