This blog post is a little different.
In it, I share my 7 journal entries with my greater community over the course of 4 months. While this is my unedited, authentic experience, I have a winding emotional road still ahead as I navigate what it means to now be a person, still a healthy person, who’s had cancer. Gulp.
And while my particular cancer journey has been full of silver linings, deep gratitude and excellent medical care, I acknowledge this is not the experience of so many with this diagnosis.
Black, brown, native women and every woman our medical system marginalizes and ignores for reasons like economics, being LGBTQ, mental health, age, language, religion-all experience this journey very very differently.
Here’s a great article with links to 10 different organizations empowering and resourcing women of color who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Please check it out and donate where you are able.
Here’s my story:
Here we are
Dear ones near and far, I have some news.
After a difficult week of waiting to hear results of a breast biopsy, on Friday Aug 21 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. (They spotted a small mass on my right breast at my annual mammogram earlier this month, then after a diagnostic mammogram + ultrasound, they determined a biopsy was needed and here we are).
And while I’m not one to sugar-coat real hard facts or emotions, I want you to know that this type of cancer: invasive ductile carcinoma, is good news wrapped in a bad news blanket.
IDC is the most common type of breast cancer, it’s treatable and curable, my tumor is very small (just under a cm) and it’s non-aggressive. Good news!
All that to say, this is definitely not the news I ever wanted to receive or share. It’s a lot to process for me and for my family right now.
Cancer is lonely, and these are already deeply isolating times! My wish is to keep you near, my beloved, supportive, wise, loving community of friends and family, and to stay open to receive your healing vibes, thoughts, prayers and collective wisdom while documenting what I hope will be a very brief cancer journey.
This Caringbridge site is a way to keep you connected & in the loop as I progress toward next steps, so feel free to visit anytime, or not at all. I think the way it works is if you join, you’ll get email updates when I post new information.
My next steps: MRI this Friday then Sept 1, I meet with an excellent team of providers at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance where they determine the staging and treatment options.
I am prepared. I have the most supportive, loving husband who is already proving an excellent cancer doula!
I’m confident & strong and even when I don’t feel confident and strong, I know I can do hard things.
Thank you so much for being here.
You lighten my load
Hi all, and thank you so much for being here and supporting us through what I hope will be my one and only, once in a lifetime cancer journey.
Tuesday was the 6 hour appt with my medical team and while we received some more unwelcome news during this appt, the diagnosis and course of action so far remain the same. And I feel more confident than ever in my super capable team of medical experts at SCCA and they are saying I’m tentatively Stage 1.
Unfortunately, the results of last Friday’s MRI revealed a few more masses, (in same breast & all much smaller), one of which sits far enough away from the original finding that they want to do a biopsy on it. This is scheduled for the 10th and depending on the results of that, and the genetic testing results, I’m scheduled to have a lumpectomy Oct 5 with hopefully, just radiation treatment and oral medication to follow.
It’s taken me a couple days to process all of Tuesday’s info and I suddenly feel more vulnerable than ever in sharing. Perhaps it’s because I’d convinced myself that this whole thing was going to be a simple, straightforward event that would be over quickly, just a blip and done; and in the grand scheme of things, it will be, and thousands of women do this everyday! But, in my experience so far, I underestimated the emotional energy it takes to carry the load. To process, to strategize, to plan, manage, share and juggle and to feel , while all of the fullness of life keeps moving on all around us.
So, thank you for caring enough to read this and to help lighten my load with your hearts full of love and all the care, feels, words, prayers and more-it all matters and is felt. 💗
What’s helping me: the love and support of Seth, jigsaw puzzles, riding my bike, yoga, meditation, phone calls with friends, going to the zoo and far less doing and much more being.
love and more love,
Some Good News
Friends, my heart expands in so much appreciation for ALL your loving words, supportive care and heartfelt presence on this site and beyond. It really means so much to me to receive your care- thank you, thank you for your thoughtfulness and encouragement! Please don’t take my silence as anything other than sheer exhaustion carrying all the things and lack of stamina to respond individually.
Now cue the good news drum roll……….
We received 2 pieces of good news today!
1. The genetics tests came back negative for all 57 high risk cancer markers, including the 9 high risk markers for breast cancers. Negative-wooo!!!
2. The biopsy result of the other mass they found, came back negative for cancer!
Welcome news to be sure, but because the biopsy result (while negative) was also ‘discordant’ (lacking total alignment between pathologist and radiologist), they’re requiring an MRI guided biopsy for sometime next week, just to be conclusive.
So, there it is. More good news wrapped in a bad news blanket.
I’m feeling a lot of relief about the genetics test results for many reasons but mostly because it’s such good news for my kids! And while I want to feel 100% relief about the latest biopsy results, I’m not quite there yet. Until there is total conclusivity post MRI-guided biopsy, I won’t feel totally settled. Hopeful & optimistic, yes!
Where am I at overall? Confident that there’s a clear path forward and that this will be what it will be and then it will be over.
And that, along with my amazing medical team, incredible cancer doula husband (who is taking a family leave from work so he can be 100% together with me in this), my supportive kids who hold me so close, cuddles with Gracie and my community of healers, every one of you, help me stay resilient and present along this path.
Thoughts that don’t serve me: I am damaged. I am alone. How would I know if I have cancer somewhere else in my body. Did I do something to give myself cancer. Recurrence is a thing. Am i doing enough.
Thoughts that do serve me: I’m vibrant, healthy & strong. I still feel young at heart. I am grateful for my incredible life. I am open to receive all the good that is right in front of me. I can ask for what I need. More being, less doing. I don’t have to do this alone. I am whole. Keep receiving.
Thank you for being here and for being you.
With the warmest hugs, love and gratitude,
An entry from my husband
October 2, 2020
Dear FOJ (Friends of Jenny),
A quick update on how Jenny is doing:
I am happy to share that we recently got some positive news. As Jenny mentioned earlier, the doctors had found an additional “mass” near the original tumor that looked suspicious. After a biopsy, several meetings, an additional MRI scan and multiple consultations they have determined it is not cancerous. This was a huge relief – it means the cancer is localized in a very small area and is less likely to have spread.
So, what’s next? Jenny is all set for surgery this Monday the 5th at noon where they will take out the tumor (lumpectomy) and her sentinel lymph nodes (the nodes closest to the cancer). While a major surgery, it is an outpatient treatment, so she gets to come home the same day. In 7-10 days we will get the results from the pathologist. This is the pivotal call. We are hoping to hear that the “margins are clear” (there are no cancer cells at the outer edge of tissue that was removed) and the lymph nodes are cancer free.
At this point we are optimistic and feeling positive. The surgeon is a pro and our oncologist thinks it is unlikely (90%) that the cancer has spread given Jenny’s particulars. Assuming good news, the suggested course of action is a ~4 weeks of recovery and then a month of radiation which is tiring, but nowhere near as draining as chemotherapy. At the end of that, she should be cancer free. Of course, she will need to monitor carefully, but the prognosis is excellent.
As you can imagine, this is all a lot to go through. As anyone who has had to navigate the medical industrial complex knows, it is tiring and can be overwhelming. But, we feel in very good hands with the team at our provider (SCCA – Seattle Cancer Care Alliance) and we are ready.
So, to all of you who are “holding space” (as Jenny says) for her and our family, thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It is wonderful and comforting to have your support on Team Jenny!
Friends and family, I’m 3 days post-op and physically doing great.
Surgery went well and just this morning we got the good news from my surgeon that she successfully removed my cancer-got it all– pathology confirms clean, negative margins which is what we want to hear. Also, the sentinel lymph node was negative, which means it hasn’t spread. This excellent news means no more surgery is needed. Phew! I feel like celebrating and crying at once.
Next steps: We wait 2-3 weeks for a more detailed pathology report that determines the percentage likelihood of recurrence, which will dictate the recommended course of treatment. My oncologist is very optimistic that these numbers will be low and that a month course of radiation will be coming up in Nov (rather than 3 mos of chemo & then radiation).
Time to heal…
I was able to be in the studio early this morning and practice a little yoga, breathe and be still and listen to the silence before the crew arrived on site. Sacred time. I recognize every minute how fortunate I am to be receiving the medical care I am, to be witnessing a vision come to life in our backyard, to be receiving the love, kindness, heartwords, prayers, healing energy and support from you. All of it is everything.
The reality that I’ve only just stepped onto this path is humbling. What is only just beginning to take shape and be realized is that I have a long journey ahead of me, that I’ve joined the ranks of the warriors before me, and that I’m a cancer person now. There’s a clarity to it that’s both sharp and tender and a weight to it that I’ll slowly learn to weave into my new way of being.
Thank you for listening, your presence is a gift.
December 3, 2020
Hi there, friends and family💛
Thank you so much for reaching out in all the many ways that you do. I appreciate every single one of your cards, prayers, well wishes, gifts and heart-thoughts for me. I feel you.
Post-op healing in all the ways, goes well and I love my PT and naturopath! My PT is also a breast cancer survivor so it’s really assuring to be able to share our experiences and receive validation and wisdom from her. I lean into learning all I can from the experts, staying curious with this whole process, and steering away from getting answers from the google rabbithole!
So, I’m 2 weeks into radiation with 2 more weeks to go, finishing on the 15th of December. Yay!! Seth takes me every day, 5 days a week up to NW Hospital & we’re usually in and out in less than 40 mins. Mondays are longer appointments where I check in with my radiation oncologist, who is also excellent.
So while I’m officially cancer-free!, this is the recommended course of treatment to prevent recurrence .
I have a lot of feelings about radiation and some uncomfortable side effects but overall, I feel grateful for the quality of care I receive, that I had a treatable cancer, and that I get to leave this treatment in the 2020 rearview mirror!
Your outpourings of love and support mean everything to me. Here’s a pic of our piano piled high with it all! I also included pic of one of my favorite puzzles I saved (mod podge is amazing!) which has now become part of our annual Day of the Dead altar. And a pic of cancer doula, Seth and me, and sweet Harper at our Thanksgiving table set for just 3 this year. We miss you!!!
December 16, 2020
Friends, yesterday, 12/15 was my FINAL radiation treatment-Hurray!!!! 👏
And while I’ve been taking good care of myself throughout, my doctor warns that the effects of radiation will get worse before they get better (!).
She’s explained that because of the cumulative effects of radiation, I may become very fatigued (which I so far haven’t really felt), and warns that my current inflammation, soreness, & redness/tender skin, will increase for a week or so before it starts to decrease. SO, no soaking tub for me quite yet!😌
Frankly, I’m more focused on feeling so grateful to be done with daily hospital visits!! And I know I’ve got what I need to get through to the day when my body feels like mine again.
I’m also super grateful for the excellent medical care I’ve received and massively grateful toYOU! My incredibly supportive community of loving friends, family, wise women, well wishers, poets, heart warriors, porch fairies, meditators, puzzle angels, nourish-givers, doula care, prayer senders, cheerleaders and all the many ways you’ve helped me feel held during this hard time. THANK YOU!
Thank you for being on my team. It has meant everything to me❣️