Sweet T's Story

The Chronicles of a Survivor


November 2014

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



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

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