Search

Sweet T's Story

The Chronicles of a Survivor

After a brief hiatus, I’m back and I’ve got lots of big news…

Friends and fam,

About a month ago, my mom landed in the emergency room with the same symptoms that sent her to the hospital nearly two years ago. After a week spent in the hospital, we got the news that none of us wanted–her cancer was back, and after almost a year cancer free, Mama P vs. Cancer [Part Deux] commenced.

The worst part of all of this is that we had just begun living our lives without the burden of cancer casting a shadow over us. We were getting on with and figuring out life after cancer, things were looking up…

Until recently, my mom was feeling good and looking even better–her vibrancy and life were back. After some difficulty getting pregnant, my sister and her husband were expecting their first baby in October and we were all overwhelmed with the anticipation of a new addition to our family. I had started the process of harvesting and freezing my eggs with the hope that someday I, too, can experience the joy and responsibility of being a parent. Life was going on, and all of this represented something very important–hope and faith in the future, something that cancer has tried to steal away from us many times over the past 7 years.

In typical “when life hands you lemons” “everything happens for a reason” fashion, all of these things came to a culmination on a beautiful Friday afternoon last month.

On September 30th, our little miracle, Madison Joyce Robertson, came into this world, 17 days early at 10:30 am. Ironically this was also the day [and exact hour] that my mom began her second battle with cancer and that I would receive the news that after four long months of unsuccessful tests and procedures, I would be able to start fertility treatments that would enable me to freeze some eggs and give me the opportunity to have children some day.

I haven’t yet made sense of or found the words to describe the juxtaposition of hope, love, joy, relief, fear, and worry that swirled through my body that afternoon. I felt more emotion on that one day than I’ve experienced all of my life.  But if I’ve learned anything along this journey, it’s that true pleasure and joy can only be felt when you’ve experienced the opposite end of the spectrum. I’ve learned to embrace the natural ebb and flow of life–to search for and find the silver lining in every situation–to take the good with the bad and accept that eventually, life balances out and hardship turns to happiness.

My mom has another hard fight ahead of her. It’s unfair and unfortunate that she has to battle this awful disease again, especially during a time that should be nothing but joyful and happy. It’s even more unfortunate that she missed the birth of her first grandchild because she was at chemo. It’s fortunate, however, and I’m grateful, that during this time of struggle, our family was blessed with a little miracle who is the most adorably precious distraction and our source of strength to get through this again with strength and grace.

September 30th, 2016 will go down as one of the most memorable and significant days in Sweet T History thus far, and while this new chapter that will surely bring new challenges, it will also bring new adventures. Looking forward to sharing stories of my mom kicking cancer’s ass again, the joys of being a new aunt, and probably some stories about my dog, Pittsburgh and cupcakes along the way…

-Sweet T

Advertisements

o bla di o bla da

Since I last wrote, the seasons have changed…warm summer sunshine has replaced the harsh winter wind. Holidays and birthdays have been celebrated. Friendships and relationships have grown and diminished. Tears have fallen. Those tears have been replaced with laughs that have been shared with old friends and new friends. I guess this means what they say is true…life goes on.

Life does go on–and it has. Today, July 10, 2015, Mama P is having chemo #10. She’s feeling pretty good and looking extra beautiful, if I do say so myself:)

IMG_8138

Today brought us great news. Chemo is working. Her tumor markers continue to drop and her most recent scan shows that the mass that was off of her pancreas is almost non existent. This morning, we met with her oncologist and the plan is to have two more rounds of chemo over the next month and a half and then start maintenance herceptin while her body prepares for surgery. This is truly fantastic news. There have been many ups and downs during this journey and we weren’t even sure if surgery was going to be an option. No one is sure exactly what the procedure will entail, but it will probably include opening her up and removing any of the cancer that is left (and can be safely removed) and reversing her ileostomy which will, fingers crossed, set her up to get life back on the right and good track.

I am over-joyed with the progress my mom is making, but I’m still super pissed at this disease. It’s left her fatigued and worn down, scarred and bruised. It’s taken toll on her and everyone that is along for the ride. I’m extra super pissed at cancer for my dear friend Jessi Marsh (check out her blog it’s awesome!), who just last night, got confirmation that her cancer is back and that she will have to fight the good fight once again. Please send all of the peace and postivity you can muster in her direction, friends. She’s an amazing soul with great faith and a wonder woman attitude, but we could all use a little help sometimes.

Jessi, my sister, I hope that you can find hope in the progress that my mom is making and follow in the footsteps of all of the amazing cancer survivors that have paved the way for us. I know this isn’t the news that you wanted, but life WILL go on and you WILL kick cancer’s ass with grace and strength again. Lots of love xo.

#KUWTP

Long time no blog. Sorry, friends. I’m here with an update!

Mom rocked chemo #4 today. Rocked it hard. And was even up for soup, salad, breadsticks and a little bit of wine afterwards. Continue reading “#KUWTP”

the flip side, flipped.

In May 2013, I posted a blog about the flip side of cancer. The side where you’re the supporter, not the fighter. The side where you often feel helpless, not determined. The side where you spend most of your free minutes worrying, not living in the moment. The side where you’re the healthy one and want to give some of that health to your loved one so they don’t have to carry the weight alone. Well–now I am literally living the flip side, trying to navigate being on the outside looking in, to be the support that I felt when I was smack dab in the middle of my own fight.

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s this: no level of experience or knowledge will ever prepare or equip you to fight cancer. It isn’t easy. No matter what side you’re on. And it’s different for everyone and every situation. My mom’s battle looks and feels much different than mine ever did. The notion of “being experienced” and “knowing what it’s like” isn’t as comforting or as useful as I thought it would be. She’s experiencing things that I never did. Chemo is effecting her differently than it did me. I’m learning that it’s not experience that will help us get through this, it’s love, hope, perseverance and patience.

I know you all have been awaiting an update, and who am I to deny the people what they want?? The update is this: we’ve been very busy doing just that–loving each other, remaining hopeful, persevering through the hard days and patiently measuring progress along the way.

My mom is HOME, doing very well and making good progress everyday. She started chemo and will have chemo #2 this Friday. Her oncologist got Herceptin approved and it will be added to her chemo regimen next round. She’s rocking a super hip pre-myhairisgoingtofallout cut and is stocking up on scarves, hats and caps for when it does fall out. She’s figuring out the right balance of medication and what she can (and wants to) eat and drink without getting sick. The whole gang–family, friends, co-workers, neighbors are chipping in to help and support. Everyone is naturally settling into their respective roles–the caregiver, the comforter, the inspirer, the tough-love giver, the cook, the masseuse, the distractor…

In addition to an update, this is also a shout-out to everyone who is on this journey with us. Thank you, thank YOU, THANK YOU for all that you do each and every day. We couldn’t do it with out you. And I would be remiss if I didn’t give an extra special shout out to my Dad and Sister and the rest of our family. You all have been on the flip side of this awful disease too many times. Your strength impresses and inspires me every day. Much love to you all xo!

IMG_7163IMG_7105IMG_7158

“The day will come. The sun will shine. And we’ll be fine.”

-The Avett Brothers

Today is a big day.

As I type, my mom is in surgery–having stents put in her ureters to improve her kidney function. Later on this morning, she will be having an endoscopy to check the placement and function of the stent that was previously placed in her duodenum. They may also put in a gastronomy tube (g tube) to relieve some of the reflux that she is having. All of this is an effort to mitigate the effects this tumor and cancer are having on her. If all goes well, the plan is to begin chemo later on today or tomorrow and get to shrinking that tumor!

Lots has happened since I last posted. Last Tuesday, my mom was discharged from AGH. We finally got her home after 23 long days in the hospital. They took her off the PCA pain pump and started her on some pretty serious oral pain meds and coordinated for a home care nurse to come by the house a few days a week to help out with the administration of the other medications, tube feedings and other care that was happening in the hospital that we would be taking over. We had her home for one week, and had a couple of good days, and a couple of not so good days.  We just weren’t able to manage all of the pain she was having with oral pain meds so we made an appointment with palliative care (pain management) and when they saw her and all of the pain she was in they said it would be best to have her admitted again to get her pain under control.

That was two days ago. In hindsight, it’s better that she’s back in the hospital. She’s so much better when her pain is under control and now the doctors are taking necessary steps to prepare her mind and body for the battle that is ahead of us. The first step in that battle is chemo. Although we still don’t know the origin of her cancer, we are going to proceed with treatment based on the pathology results that have come back. They are going to be treating her for ovarian cancer and also with a drug called herceptin because some of the biopsies came back her 2 positive. The docs say that only about 5% of cancer diagnoses are classified as having an unknown primary source. This isn’t ideal, because the best, most effective way to treat cancer is to use drugs that are tried, tested and true for your specific type of cancer. Luckily, even with out knowing the primary, medicine is evolved enough to develop a chemo regimen to treat even unknown primary sources. Yet again, the Piazzas are a medical mystery.

All of that being said, I have to end with the most important message. The real story that I’m trying to share with you all…

The strength and resiliency that my mother (and the rest of my family) has shown through this entire process is nothing short of amazing. She has been through so much in just a few short weeks and the journey ahead will certainly be a long and hard road.  Despite all of the bad days and set-backs that we’ve encountered thus far, she’s ready to take on this awful disease head on. We’ve always known that she was a tough lady. We’ve always respected and admired her inner strength and drive. But seeing the way she is taking on this disease and the determination she has to beat this, is truly astonishing. THANK YOU, all, for the love and support, friendship, good vibes, prayers, positive thoughts…phone calls, texts, emails…cards, food, laughs that you have sent our way. It is so very much appreciated!10154571_556687441117809_5574138086695347820_n

#tellcancer

Cancer: “I’m back again, and this time I’m coming after your family…”

Me: “Oh, helllz no.”

My dear mother, the rock of our family, the woman who was by my side during every single doctor appointment, chemo, surgery…the woman who does everything right–who takes great care of herself, eats all the right things, exercises regularly, remembers to take her vitamins, doesn’t drink or smoke, who has dedicated her life to helping other people–has cancer.

I know. I can’t believe it either…

The news has been a pretty big shock to all of us. Honestly, I’m still not sure it’s completely sunk in. We’re not even sure what kind of cancer it is, or where the primary source is…and the doctors say we may never know, which is frustrating AS SHIT. But, what we do know, is that my mom is one strong ass woman and that she’s up to the challenge.

My Mom is taking on cancer, and I’m blogging about it…

mom rally for the cureMeet my mother, Juliana. She’s a special lady–a patient and loving wife, mother, sister and aunt, a fantastic and trusting friend, a caring and compassionate nurse of 37+ years and overall positive presence to everyone that is lucky enough to know her. She’s a great cook, has superb musical taste and a knack for enjoying life that is contagious.

3 weeks ago today, my mom was admitted to the hospital. She hadn’t been feeling well for a couple of months…she wasn’t able to eat regularly and was having a lot of pain. When she finally couldn’t take it anymore and went to the emergency room with severe abdominal and back pain, we never, in our wildest dreams, thought that cancer was the culprit. Fast forward 3 weeks, and this woman has been through the ringer–3 hospitals, 2 surgeries, too many doctors, residents, nurses, IV’s, bowel preps, scans and tests and diagnoses to count–and still no firm diagnosis.

After about a week in the hospital, the word cancer starting getting thrown around. First, they were convinced that it was ovarian cancer. Then they thought colon. All of her symptoms were related to her digestive system but the previous diagnosis of IBS and/or colitis proved to be wrong. When they couldn’t figure it out exactly what was still making her so sick, they decided the best option was to open her up and take a look around.

The surgeons told us that a full hysterectomy and a colon resection to remove the cancer were both options. Well, 1606472_625949420858277_6347427016512052128_oneither of those things happened. When they opened her up, they found the tumor off of her pancreas–it is fused to a bunch of other organs, and at this point, it isn’t operable. She woke up from surgery with an ileostomy bag, a feeding tube and news that a preliminary diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was their best guess. They also took a bunch of biopsies of the tumor and sent those off to be analyzed.

At that moment, devastation and shock pretty much took over.  Pancreatic or some form of unclassified cancer was not the news we wanted or expected. The fear and frustration of not having an exact diagnosis or treatment plan is really hard. But luckily (or unluckily), we’ve been through this before. When it comes to cancer, we Piazzas have experience. Some days have been really tough, especially on my mom, but also on everyone who is supporting her through this. We’ve managed to stay pretty positive and optimistic and as preliminary pathology reports from the biopsies come back a plan for fighting this cancer is slowly coming together.

What we do know at this point, is that she has a pretty large malignant tumor off of her pancreas and that the cancer 920406_10101399131326659_1894844767_ocells have begun to spread to other organs in her abdomen. The biopsies show poorly differentiated cells, so ovarian, pancreatic, breast and other types of cancer all have to be considered as possible sources or origins when developing a treatment plan. We’ve got her at Allegheny General Hospital (these are the folks who saved my life, TWICE) and her oncology team is going to develop a chemo regimen that can fight all of those cancers.

Right now, the #1 priority is to get her healed, healthy and home so that she can start chemo and get to shrinking that tumor and kicking cancer’s ass. That’s what I want to #tellcancer10294243_556687407784479_7131952711156868342_n

If I ever wonder why…

Lots of people ask me if I ever wonder “why me?” Most of the time, I think that question comes from a sympathetic and empathetic viewpoint. And although it’s unintentional, the question “why me?” is laced with underlying negativity. Sort of implying that my situation is kinda shitty and that it sucks that these are the cards that I’ve been dealt. Sort of like, wtf, cancer? Leave that chick the hell alone.

I guess that is one way to look at it.

For me, I’ve truthfully never really dwelled on that question. I don’t see the point. I guess I’ve just made peace with the situation and kept faith that someday this will all make sense to me…

A few days ago, an old childhood friend that I probably haven’t spoken to in at least 10 years reached out to me and shared a personal story about her daughter. One that I would now like to share with you all, too.  It brought tears to my eyes and reminded me that if I ever do find myself wondering “why?” this is it. This is why I’m in this situation.

Here is the story of her little girl, Melody, who is now a healthy and beautiful 9 year old,

at birth she was 1lb 10 oz as a result her head had to be shaved on several occasions and until she saw your photos she was extremely ashamed. Long story short she has given her jet ski money to add to the cause as well as my hair (locks of love) thanks ppl like you bring out the best in ppl like us. She says I can put her “bad” photos in frames again because she does look like a princess. She died 3 times and had a 0% chance of a normal life. Like her I recall that you are a tough little gal and god has put you in this situation so that you can defy all odds. I wish you the best and thank you for helping my sweet little girl to accept herself for who she is. You were in her prayers tonight and god will sent u a kiss from her. Sorry to bother you but nearly 10 yrs later and she is finally able to begin to understand what her beginning was like without shame…..huge milestone.”

Wow! Right?!? What a special little lady!

Melody and Renee–you have no idea the depth of how you’ve touched my heart with this story. I’m sending lots of peace and love your way!

t peace creations

I discovered a few things about myself this summer. Wonderful things that are making me feel whole…making me feel full…making me feel alive. I like to think of those things as little gifts…made and picked especially for me, that make this battle I’ve been fighting ok. Gifts that make up for and reward me for the hard times and the sad times I’ve been through. Gifts that are replacing and far surpassing what this battle has taken away from me. But gifts from who? Cancer? God? Mother Earth? Myself?

I don’t really know, but they’re gifts nonetheless. And I like gifts.

One of those gifts is painting.

I stumbled upon a stunning photo online of a bunch of autumn trees and a beautiful bright blue sky. Not only was it a great photo, it also reminded me of places that I have been and made me day-dream of going to places like that again. At that moment, I decided that I wanted to try to paint that picture so I could hang it in my home and look at it everyday. I’m not a painter, but I felt like I wanted to try it, so I did. I went to the art store and bought a couple of canvas’ and a beginners acrylic paint value pack–it had 5 primary color paints and two paint brushes included–and then set up at my kitchen table and started to paint.

I wasn’t expecting much. I’ve always been kinda creative, so I figured I could at least make a half decent piece of artwork–something worthy of sticking on the wall and filling in some space in the guest bedroom:) To my surprise, the painting turned out really good and I really enjoyed making it. So I just kept on painting and creating more and more.

Now, my home is speckled with pieces of art that I created with my own two hands. They’re paintings to most, but to me they’re memories and experiences and dreams of mine. It’s great to be surrounded by that. I even started an etsy shop where I’m selling some of my stuff…and a couple of my paintings are being used to stage a home that is for sale in my neighborhood. Who knows? Maybe I can play a small role in attracting a super cool neighbor to our community with my art?

It feels great to create and share a part of myself. I think it’s a gift.

So, thank you, cancer…god…buddah….LIFE for these little gifts that you continue to give to me. Much appreciated.

-Sweet T

big strides

It’s been entirely too long. I know. My apologies go out to those of you who are going through Sweet T withdrawal. Life is tough without me, eh? Good thing my docs have been busy whipping me into tip top shape getting me ready to live a long, full, healthy life so y’all will never have to experience that.

So what’s dilly? Welllll…I finished chemo 5 weeks ago today (the crowd erupts with excitement) and will be starting my last leg of treatment–radiation–this week or next. Those are big strides in the cancer world. Unlike chemo, radiation, although inconvenient…shouldn’t be too bad in terms of side effects. The worst part…I’ll have to go into the hospital for treatment every Monday-Friday for the next 6 weeks or so. Sheesh. Good thing I live close. The second worst part–being all marked up for the next 2 months.

Image

Those marks will stay there until treatment is done. Like all of my scars, I have a love/hate relationship with them. I hate that I can’t rock my deep v shirts or show off my perky boobs in my bikini without people looking at me weirdly, or immediately knowing that I am battling cancer. On the other hand, these marks are testament to my strength, my journey and my life and I am trying very hard to rock them with pride.

Anyway…radiation…every day…for the next two months…then I’m done! One more crazy chapter closed! A lot of you have been asking if treatment is working–is my cancer gone? Am I cured? Well, that’s the assumption my doctors and I are working under. Unfortunately, there’s really not a magical test or a scan that can be done at the current time to confirm whether or not my body has been rid of every last cancer cell. That being said…I feel great. And there’s no reason to not believe that I’ve kicked cancer’s ass over and over for the past 5 months and that this radiation will be the knockout punch that puts a final end to her muahahahaaa (that’s my evil laugh).

Speaking of big strides…

  • My hair should start growing back soon. All I have to say is that the day I have eyebrows again is going to be the best day of my life. I may even have a party to celebrate. Until then…I’m going to embrace and enjoy these last couple weeks of being body hair-free. It really has been marvelous.
  • Spike, my port, is being removed. I have to pay homage to Spike…he’s made ease of all of those needle pricks. So–word up, Spike. I won’t miss you, but it sure has been real.
  • I started taking my anti-cancer drug, arimedex. One little magical pill a day will be keeping me cancer free for the rest of my life (annnnd giving me hot-flashes like it’s no ones biznass). I guess that’s an alright compromise HA.
  • I’ll be going back to work, probably part-time, pretty soon. This time away from work and that responsibility has been absolutely amazing. And I’ve enjoyed it in more ways than I will ever be able to explain. BUT like all of these big strides, going back to work symbolizes normalcy–real life–moving forward.

So, until next time, I’ll be keepin’ on keepin’ on…just living and loving life and hopefully inspiring y’all to do the same. Speaking of inspiration…I’ll leave you with this little gem of an interview I did a couple of months back. Please enjoy!

Peace and Love,

Sweet T

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑