Today we introduce you to our last and youngest recipient for Cancer Freeze 2019. Meet Jaylen Burnice of Enterprise, AL. Below is his story:
Jaylen’s Journey started on the morning of May 19, 2018. He came to me saying his neck was hurting and that he couldn’t move it. I told him it will be ok you just probably slept wrong. We tried everything possible to work it out but he would say it hurt to bad. I remember trying to massage it and I felt a knot but didn’t think anything of it because I just thought his muscles were tensed up. So on May 23rd, my mother called me and said, ” Teela, have you seen Jaylen’s neck?” I said, ” No Mom, he was okay this morning before he left besides he still couldn’t move it.” She told me to call his doctor immediately because his neck is swollen. I called Dr. Parker as soon as possible and went and checked Jaylen out of school and went to the doctors office. He was in so much pain that he wouldn’t let anyone touch his neck. Dr. Parker sent us over to the hospital to get an ultrasound done. The ultrasound showed huge lymph nodes on the left side of his neck. So we went back to Dr. Parker’s office where they drew blood to see if he tested positive for any of the causes of swollen lymph nodes. They called me a couple hours later and told me he tested negative so she will just prescribe him some antibiotics that he needed to take for the next 10 days. So Jaylen took his last dosage that Saturday, June 2nd. He wasn’t in pain, he felt better. June 5th was the first day of camp for him and he was so excited about it. When he got home he said, ” Mama, they came back, the bumps came back but they don’t hurt.” I instantly called his doctor again to tell her they came back. We went back to do blood work to see if he tested positive for ways of getting lymph nodes, which again it came back negative. This time Dr. Parker decided to get a second opinion from a doctor at UAB hospital. We waited for the call and were told that we had an appointment for a biopsy. June 12th, we went to the hospital to get Jaylen a small procedure done to get one of the swollen lymph nodes out of his neck to be tested. I’m praying this isn’t going to be that bad, he may just be allergic to something. Procedure went great, we waited a week to get results back. We went back on June 19th and that is when we got the news that Jaylen may have ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) but we were still expecting a call from Children’s Hospital of Alabama for a second opinion. Jaylen looked at me and said “Mama, what is that?” I said, ” Oh baby, it’s nothing, everything is going to be ok.” It took everything in me to hold back my tears, I felt my heart drop to my stomach. This can’t be true, my Jaylen may have cancer. He is my straight A student who loves and cares for everybody he comes in contact with. I took him back to school after the appointment and went to my mom and told her. I can see in her eyes that her heart did the same as mine, all we could do was comfort each other. Thursday, June 21, I received a call from a nurse at Children’s Hospital stating we need to be in Birmingham that next day, I panicked because it was all happening so fast. We got on the road the next day and they ran CT scans and other test on Jaylen and made us an appointment for the following Friday, June 29th to get the results. When we arrived that following Friday we were told that Jaylen had a rare cancer called T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma Cancer and we had to start chemotherapy the following week. Then we would know what stage he was in. Jaylen was diagnosed with Stage 2 Lymphoma Cancer where he now has a port in his left chest. Jaylen had an allergic reaction to one of his chemo (the PEG) which we had to get the sister chemo to it which made us go to Birmingham from one to two times a week to three times a week (Monday-Wednesday-Friday). We will travel to Birmingham on Sunday for his appointment on Monday, come back on Monday and get on the road on Wednesday morning and stay until Friday. A couple of weeks ago, they wanted to try the PEG again on Jaylen to see if he would have an allergic reaction because they were having a shortage on the sister chemo to the PEG. By God’s grace he didn’t have an allergic reaction so as of now we are going to Birmingham once a week. This journey has been a life changing event for my family. I am a single mother it’s just Jaylen, my daughter Madison and I. My mom helps me by keeping my daughter while I travel with Jaylen. Jaylen is homeschooled where he makes straight A’s, he loves playing Pokémon, he loves to sing and play basketball. He is a die hard Enterprise Wildcat fan, he really looks up to them. Auburn is his favorite college team and Cam Newton is his favorite NFL player. Through all of this all Jaylen asks for is when he can go back to school because he misses his friends. We have received so much love and support from people I’m so grateful that they want to help me and my family. God is an awesome God! To everyone that knows us thank you so much for everything. You can follow Jaylen’s Journey on Facebook at #prayersforjaylen
Please mark your calendars for Saturday, February 2, 2019, and join us in Florala, Al, at Lake Jackson, where we’ll be “freezin’ ” for Jaylen and all of our 2019 Cancer Freeze recipients.
Today we are going to meet Cancer Freeze 2019 recipient #5. Below is Andrea & her story.
**PICTURED: My #1 motivation, my family and my second family of nurses (not all nurses pictured) who have won a special place in my heart during my stay at the Children’s Hospital in Pensacola.**
My name is Andrea Delgadillo. I am the youngest of four siblings. I consider myself very happy, smart and outgoing. I am 17 years old, a junior at South Walth High School, I LOVE school and helping others out.
My Journey started on July 31, 2018 when I went to a dental appointment at LECOM in Defuniak Springs, FL accompanied by my mother and older sister. Due to my gums overgrowing which began to cover my top and bottom teeth, making it very difficult to eat. I had to go back on August 7, 2018 for dental surgery to have my gums cut back to “normal.” My follow up appointment was scheduled for August 22, 2018 at that time the dentist noticed that in a very short period of time my gums had grown back 50%. He suggested to go have blood work done but I needed a doctor’s referral. Thankfully I was able to get a referral from a doctor at Palmetto Family Health Care in Santa Rosa Beach, Fl that same afternoon. My mother drove me the following morning to Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast for blood work as it had to be done while I was fasting. That same afternoon half of my labs came back. As school was coming to an end, I began to walk outside of the building towards the bus ramp, I noticed I started to get dizzy and was feeling a little weak as if I was about to faint any second. I received a phone call from my older sister saying I had to be rushed to the hospital because they had found something in my blood tests. All I remember was her telling me that my tests showed my white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets were all EXTREMLY low. At this time I was rushed to the emergency room at Sacred Heart on the Emerald Coast. Since I am technically still considered a child and being high risk, ER doctor immediately sent a transfer to the Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Pensacola by ambulance.
After a great deal of testing including several blood transfusions on Monday, August 27, 2018 it was confirmed, my doctor diagnosed me with having Acute Myeloid Leukemia. The news was very shocking and extremely hard for all of us including myself. I began chemo therapy the next day and have continued with it for the past few months.
As I started my first month of chemo I was sent to Intensive Care Unit due not being able to breathe on my own. I was connected to a breathing mask 24/7 for a few days and wasn’t able to eat or drink at all. My doctor suggested me not to remove the mask, I could possibly choke on my food. I was in ICU a little over a week, then was moved back to the School Age floor in the Oncology Unit. As I was recovering, from the miserable week I had from when my Journey began. My family and myself were admiring all the amazing nurses in The Children’s Hospital. I am very blessed to have such wonderful nurses. Each and everyone of them have been very helpful, patient but most of all, they are my support team of nurses in motivating me to fight for my life.
I was recently sent back to ICU from catching an infection, But I am back in my room normal room. As of now I am on my third round of treatment and currently waiting as my counts recover from chemo therapy. Every 4 weeks I have gone through surgery to check for any improvement. I will soon be on my forth Bone Marrow surgery and begin my fourth chemo treatment.
My mother, Virignia and father, Gustavo have been my #1 support along with my older siblings Gina, Abigail and Gustavo. My mother has never left my side, I don’t have enough words to ever explain how much I love her and appreciate everything she has done. All my family and friends who have came to visit me have been one of the biggest motivators. I thank them all for spending the time with me and driving 2 hours to come see me. It means the world to me. But most Importantly having faith in God has helped me the most.
“I Can Do All Thing Through Christ Who Strengthens Me”- Phillipians 4:13
*Please mark your calendars to join us in Florala,Al on Saturday, February 2nd for our 13th annual Cancer Freeze event where we’ll be “FREEZIN” for Andrea and our other 2019 chosen Cancer Freeze recipients.
July 18, 2018 – a day that will forever be seared in my brain. On this day I was told “the tumor is cancerous.” Only moments before, my husband and I were sitting in this same room cutting up and joking with each other. The only concern we had was where we were going to eat lunch. There was no way I had cancer we thought. I had been a little irritated I had to drive back to the doctor’s office which is an hour and a half from home just for them to tell me it was nothing. I told my husband “they can tell me that over the phone.” I’ve never been more gobsmacked in all my life. Needless to say, we skipped lunch and went straight home, tears pouring the whole way.
Rewind two days prior to this infamous day in the same room with the same doctor a biopsy was taken of a lump I had been noticing for the past year. I had shown it to my OBGYN but he was not too concerned about it but because of my family history (my mom is a two-time breast cancer survivor) he strongly suggested I have a mammogram and ultra sound done. I’m sure right about now you are thinking “this girl’s mom has had cancer twice and she’s had a lump under her arm for at least a year and she didn’t think there was anything to be concerned about?!” Well, my only response is, “nope!” I thought I was too young and surely I was invincible!
Immediately after July 18, the never ending testing ensued. We headed to MD ANDERSON for a week of poking, prodding, smashing, very long and uncomfortable positioning and the list goes on. While I am very thankful no stone was left unturned the process of sniffing out any possible existence of this horrible disease is quite unpleasant and very exhausting.
The visit to MD ANDERSON resulted in two more biopsies which both came back negative and confirmation that I had one tumor measuring approximately 2.5 cm on the right axillary (underarm area) that was in fact cancerous. It was determined that there was one lymph node beside the tumor that was also cancerous. The carcinoma that was present was very aggressive and spreading fairly rapidly. It was being fed by Estrogen and Progesterone which I produce at a high rate because of my age. The possibility that I had a genetic mutation was thought to be very high because we now had three breast cancer diagnosis in two family members. But the genetic testing was done and came back negative!
We now had all the information. The next step was deciding what the best course of action would be. We knew whatever it was things needed to start soon. After meeting with three different Oncologists it was determined by all of them that my treatment needed to be the most aggressive. I would start with four rounds of Adriamycin Cytoxan- dose dense (every 2 weeks instead of every 3 weeks), after the four rounds of “red devil” the tumor would be removed, followed by 12 weeks of Taxol and finish up with a month of radiation.
On August 26, 2018 I received my very first chemo treatment. WOW! I was NOT prepared! The next 8 weeks were the hardest weeks, days, and moments of my life! I was SICK – oh so sick! Almost every second of every day was shear agony. But PRAISE GOD it did not last! It did come to an end and I got through it. After four rounds of AC I went in for a lumpectomy on my right breast. The tumor had shrunk to almost nothing. Unfortunately, there were three lymph nodes positive for cancer so all the nodes on the right side were removed. I am now on week 4 of the Taxol treatment and will finish up the twelfth round the end of February. No sickness yet! I will start radiation when the Taxol treatments are complete.
To say the past 5 months have been life-changing would be an understatement. It has been a hurricane of emotions, feelings, thoughts, actions, and information. For most of my life, I have been a fairly fearful person. Very fearful, actually. I have allowed fear to control me. As a child of God I know this is not what He wants for His children and I have tried to conquer this spirit of fear but with no avail. Fortunately, He does not give up on His children! I am always amazed at how He can transform a person or situation for the better. After the initial shock of “holy cow I have cancer, I could die!” a peace that I know I did not muster up because I am naturally a scaredy cat has been with me every step of this journey. That does not mean I haven’t cried or asked why or had myself plenty of pity parties. But it does mean when I stood up from those very low points and dusted myself off I knew HE was there. He’s been there the whole time and He will NEVER leave me. I feel so empowered by my new found bravery and confidence in Him and I refuse to let it go! ALL GLORY TO HIM!
There are so many things I have learned through this journey but I will leave you with only one more. People are amazing! My family and I have been so overwhelmed with love and support from our friends, family, community and complete strangers. I will never be able to thank everyone as they should be. I have had the privilege of experiencing such genuine love and giving and it has forever left a mark on my heart. I have felt the hand of my God through the giving and loving hands of His children. THANK YOU!
Please remember Kimberly and our other chosen recipients in your prayers. Mark your calendars to come & help support these amazing families on Saturday, February 2,2019, in Florala,Al, at beautiful Lake Jackson.
Good morning! Today we’re going to meet Dee Brundidge from Opp, AL. Below is his story:
Malcom Dakota “Dee” Brundidge’s story started November 7, 2001 when he was 18 months old. Hello I am Holley Brundidge, Dee’s mother. We were in my parents backyard, we were leaving, going to Wal-mart, and Dee just stood there in front of the car. He was just looking off in the wild blue yonder. I got ticked with him thinking he was being a rebellious toddler but, his daddy realized something wasn’t right so as he went to pick Dee up he collapsed in his daddy’s arms. We live in Opp so obviously we could get to the emergency room as fast as the ambulance, so we put the petal to the metal. Once at the Opp emergency room ay Mizell Memorial Hospital they did a cat-scan, saw something, then put us on the ambulance to Southeast Hopsital in Dothan AL. They did a brain biopsy there, so we waited for Bethesda, Maryland doctors and the doctors at UAB to decided what kind of cancer he had. He had an Anaplastic Oligodendroglioma grade 3 at age 18 months. Dr Jeffery Blount at Childrens Hospital in Birmingham AL did his craniotomy removing a tumor the size of the palm of your hand, about an inch and a half deep. Long story short he took chemo (Procarbazine, Vincristine, Lomustine) for over 2 and a half years and when he was 5 the cancer came back in the same spot. We then went through 33 rounds of high dose whole brain radiation and 3 years of Temodar chemotherapy. We had various late effects (for all these years) from the life saving whole brain radiation and chemotherapy drugs that saved his life but because he was so young we didn’t realize until this May 2018 just how bad the late effects of the whole brain radiation was. (we knew he had cognative issues as well of emotional, educational, growth systems issues, etc…)
Fast forward from 2005 (keep in mind we had so many late effects from the life saving treatments 13 years ago) to the end of March and beginning of April 2018. Dee kept compaining of very bad headaches. I brushed it off as allergies and treated him at home but, day in and day out he would hurt in his temples and nothing eased the pain. I took him to his local doctor Dr Bhagwan Bang that has always been wonderful. We did Nasonex and other allergy meds because pollen was rough during this time. I myself was battling allergies really bad and my own health issues so I did not do my normal “go to the doctor and get pushy til Dee gets the help he needs right then” helicopter mom routine because he is 18 years old now and a guy so I figured he just needed some TLC from mom. Me and Dr Bang decided Dee needed a cat-scan when a small soft lump came up on the old surgery site (about the size of a dime). Opp’s Mizell Memorial Hospital did a cat-scan and the radiologist said it was nothing but scar tissue. I trusted that, so I let several more weeks rock on by but, Dee was still in pain and the lump got larger (nickel size) so I asked Dr Bang to send us to Dr Amanda Day, his dermatologist, in Enterprise AL. She agreed with the Opp cat-scan and Mizell Memorial Hospital’s radiologist that it was either a fluid filled cyst on the outside and scar tissue in the brain. So again never dreaming it was cancer again, I let a few more weeks go by because his yearly cancer appointment was in May so I figured it wasn’t that serious because 2 different doctor’s said it was nothing to worry about. Dee was still hurting but, on the night of Mother’s Day this year 2018 Dee drove his friend home and had blurred vision to the point I came and drove him home. The next morning was Monday, May 14, 2018 Dee slept late and when he got up he said “mama I see 20 fingers” so immediately we went to Dr Bang’s office and I said “something has to be done today/now” Dr Bang said he needs to go to Birmingham but, Dee didn’t want to ride the ambulance or fly (when he was 18months a Lear jet from UAB had to fly down to Opp and get Dee when he was on life support) Dee said “mama yall take me”. Dr Bang got on the phone with Birmingham and they asked how quick could we be there and I said by 7pm, it was currently 2pm then. My other kids were getting out of school and his daddy was getting off work. We got home, bathed, and packed then loaded the car and off to Birmingham we went. We got there just after 7pm on Monday and Dr Jeffery Blount (the same neurosurgeon that did his brain surgery when he was 18 months old and 5 years old did it again at age 18 years old) came in after tests and labs and told us he needed emergency brain surgery, he had a tumor that had grown through his skull causing the small lump on his head but, it also grew through the sinus cavity in the top of his head ( re-routing blood flow) and is growing along the Vagus Nerve. He then had an immediate 9 hour brain surgery on May 15, 2018. While recovering and waiting to see what kind of cancer he had, Dee kept running very high blood pressures, enough they put him on 2 seperate blood pressure medications, which he is still currently taking. It took over a month for anyone to agree on what type of cancer was in Dee’s brain. UAB sent it San Fransisco and Cleveland but all 3 said it was 3 different cancers. In that short month the cancer grew more and faster (they said it was angry looking and extremely aggressive) but its to dangerous to attempt another brain surgery in the area of the Vagus Nerve (its growing upon the Vagus) so we took Ifosfamide and Doxyrubicin chemo (just a generic chemo combo trying to slow the growth) as we waited for them to agree on what kind of cancer Dee had in his head/brain. (during the last brain surgery they removed his skull where the cancer grew through it and they could not replace it, eventually he will need a bone graft to cover his soft spot since they just closed the scalp up with no skull) Still running high blood pressure while on 2 different BP meds, they decided to do an ultrasound of Dee’s kidneys since the kidneys regulate blood pressue (which I did not know). Something wasn’t right with the ultrasound because they immediately did a CT scan of his kidneys. They then told us both of his kidneys were filled with so many tumors they couldn’t count them all. They told us to imagine a bag of marbles in various sizes, well thats how his kidneys looked. So now its Fathers Day (June 2018) and Dee is having a kidney biopsy to remove one of the larger fluid filled tumors about the size of a golf ball that was in and out the left kidney. So again they sent that pathology off and almost instantly told us he has Renal Cell Carcinoma filling both kidneys. As we still wait to see what is in the brain, they did a PET scan and found a spot (actually 2) on his right lung. By now they decide Dee has Osteosarcoma in his brain. I refuse to believe its bone cancer in his brain. But the life saving whole brain radiation he received when he was 5 years old, actually is the direct cause of the cancer he has now, 13 years later. I’m in shock and they are too. They say it isn’t documented anywhere someone having these 2 seperate cancers in their body at the same time so we must make up a treatment plan as we go, and thats currently what we are doing, trial and error. We tried to fight both cancers at once time by taking Doxyrubicin, Cisplatin, high dose Methotrexate, and Everolimus. Dee got really sick and had several other complications going on at the same time so we had to agree that the Osteosarcoma in his brain would be treated first, then in Febuary/March 2019 (when chemo is finished for his brain) we will have lung surgery to remove those spots and see which cancer that is. They feel it looks calcified meaning probably the Osteosarcoma from the brain metastisized there but it could be the Renal Cell Carcinoma because it would go to the lung as well. So we currently are just watching the lung while we treat the brain but the kidneys constantly give us trouble (they don’t filter the chemo and toxins fast enough beating them up severely) so it slows the whole process down. After March, if (better yet when) we have killed the Osteosarcoma in his brain, we will have to remove both kidneys and have a kidney transplant, thats the normal procedure/treatment for Renal Cell Carcinoma. But to be able to get a transplant he must be free of cancer anywhere else in his body and off chemo or the transplant would not be successful. So we will be looking at needing a kidney next year people 2019 (in a few months) and have been told because the brain cancer, we can not be on a donor list for atleast 5 years, so we must find our son a kidney match.
By the way, he turned 19 years old in July. Yes, everyone, its rough I will not candy coat it but I know the good Lord is gonna heal Dee completely of all the cancer and he will live a safe, long, healthy, happy life! Dee tells me “mom, God’s got this” and as bad as it hurts to see my son go through this his whole life, I also have a peace knowing Dee is righ,t God does “got this”. Yes, I’m looking ahead trying to find my son a kidney but, the doctors tell me to” slow down you’re getting your cart ahead of your horse, the time will come soon enough”.
They tell me all the time how Dee is amazing and is a miracle and even though he has an extremely rare and very difficult diagnosis he is so strong and resilient and amazing and that Dee never ceases to amaze them because his whole life he has defied the odds and still is/will. As his mother and caregiver he keeps me held together, strong and uplifted. He has 5 other siblings. (4 in house) Myself and my husband are currently not working while Dee takes chemo weekly and because his kidneys constantly “act up” (Dee needing us is more important than anything right now) we spend more time in Birmingham than in Opp since May (but our other kids stay at home in Opp) its rough maintaining our family and lives but God’s got this! As I type this I keep stopping to cry because it hurts just thinking of it and I am only giving you the tip of the iceburg of the 18 years and everything Dee/we have been through because of cancer. (my family has the inherited cancer) I just want to thank God and so many people that have been there for us. We are truly blessed and Malcom “Dee” Brundidge is a hero, a survivor and he/we will get through this! In Jesus sweet name AMEN.
#go like/follow Dee’s Journey Facebook page
**Update as of 11/29/18**
Instead of being ready to think about kidney transplant plant around March 2019 we agreed to, after the lung surgery, immediately start another 29 plus weeks of chemo for the Renal Cell Carcinoma in both kidneys and the Osteosarcoma in his brain. Yes, we tried it unsuccessfully before but, these will be yet another chemo cocktail combination attempt. So maybe by next Christmas or around January 2020 then maybe we can think new kidney. Still so uncertain, it’s new to them and us. They call it uncharted territory but, one thing I/we know is, God’s got Dee/us.
Please remember to keep this family in your thoughts & prayers. Our God is an awesome, miracle working God! Mark those calendars to join us exactly 2 months from today on Saturday,February 2,2019, at Lake Jackson in Florala,Al, where we’ll be “freezin” for Dee and our other chosen recipients for 2019. See y’all soon….
Good morning on this beautiful Sunday after Thanksgiving. Today we share 2019 Cancer Freeze Recipient #2. Meet Brandy Baggett & her beautiful family from Crestview, Fl. Below is her story:
My mother died May 4, 1997. I watched my mother suffer for 3 years with breast cancer. She endured chemo, radiation, mastectomy, failed bone marrow transplant and contracted a rare infection and was placed on a ventilator for a few weeks. Through it all she showed the most amazing grace, courage and strength. Even though it seemed to metastasize to another part of her body, she never gave up or lost hope.
My biggest fear came true and I began my battle with breast cancer August 2, 2018. A few weeks prior I had gone in for my routine mammogram. I knew in my heart this time was different. A month prior to my scheduled appointment I had began to have sharp pains in my left breast. I had also found a lump in my left breast that did not feel like the normal benign cyst I usually have. I tried to ease my mind by convincing myself it was nothing. I had always heard cancer doesn’t hurt, so it must be nothing. With that said I hope women that read this story will not dismiss any pain in their breast and will have it checked out. Go for your annual checkups and be diligent against this disease, early detection and self breast exams are key to catching and treating breast cancer early. After my appointment on July 11th, I was asked to return for additional views of both breast and ultrasound on July 25th. This led to meeting with a surgeon on July 30th for a possible biopsy. Due to having multiple cysts in the past and dense breast tissue my surgeon believed there was no need for a biopsy that the lump we felt was a benign cyst. He aspirated fluid from the left breast lump in his office. As soon as he pulled back on the needle and didn’t say a word just proceeded to get smears of fluid on slides ready for the lab I knew it wasn’t a cyst (and he confirmed my suspicion) He told me to come back to his office on August 2nd for the results.
I believe God had prepared me for the news I would receive on August 2nd. It was almost like watching someone else’s life unfold before my eyes. My doctor explained my pathology report was vague. We didn’t know what kind of cancer I had or how bad it was just that 90% of the fluid he had collected was cancer cells. I just remember staying focused and asking what the next step was. My surgeon recommended UAB due to my mother’s history and with my new diagnosis. I agreed with him and in that moment I remember my husband was in the office with us. That was the first time I had looked at him since getting the news. The look of shock and sadness on my husband’s face broke my heart. My daughter Chloe had been waiting for us in the lobby, I knew I had to put on a brave and positive face before going out to tell her the news. As we left the office we held on to each other and cried for what seemed like forever.
August 13th was my 1st appointment at UAB and I was scheduled for a MRI of the breast.
August 14th I was scheduled for an ultrasound guided biopsy of the left breast. I was not aware until I went back for the procedure that they had found spots in my right breast during the MRI and I would need to have those biopsied as well. Markers were placed in both breasts to help them later identify the places that had been biopsied. I was told my results wouldn’t be back for 3 days.
August 15th UAB called me with my result two days early. Even though I already knew it was cancer in the left breast, to have it confirmed and to hear those words out loud was devastating all over again.
Right breast was benign. Left breast was ductal carcinoma stage 3 “very angry and aggressive”. I would need another biopsy on the right breast for another spot that was seen on the MRI and couldn’t be reached accurately with the ultrasound.
August 22nd Back to UAB for a MRI guided biopsy and to meet my team of doctors. Before the procedure began I was informed the biopsy on the right breast was done on the wrong spot and markers were placed in the wrong area. Not sure how much I actually heard them say after that. All I could think was I may have cancer in both breast.
The MRI guided biopsies took 2 hours and 30 minutes. Thus far this had been the most painful and uncomfortable thing I had been through. The whole procedure is performed while I’m lying on my stomach. The masses in my breast were very difficult for the doctors to reach, due to their placement in my breast. Once the procedure was over and the bleeding was under control. I was sent to have mammograms to make sure the new markers were in the correct spot. After two tubes of the medical superglue were applied to the right breast and I was given a cold ice compress it was time to go meet my team.
My family and I patiently waited to meet my team of doctors for them to explain the treatment plan. It had already been a very long and stressful day not to mention I had not eaten all day. For almost two hours my doctors argued over what was best for me in a conference room down the hall. I prayed that God would give them the knowledge to accurately treat me and my situation. It was hard not think about my mother and what all I had seen her endure.
Finally my doctors entered the room to explain my future. It was overwhelming to say the least. My oncologist surgeon explained due to the mass of calcification in both breast it was best to have a double mastectomy to decrease my chances of a recurrence. At this time we knew what we were working with the left breast it would be a few days before the results came back on the right breast. The earlier ultrasound had shown a lymph node on the left side appeared to be enlarged and I would need to have a biopsy. I would also need to be tested for the BRCA genes. She went on to explain I was Stage 2, Grade 3 and it was Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC)
*** STAGE 2- My tumor was to 2cm but with the cluster of calcifications around it they would say mine was 4cm. Until another ultrasound and or biopsy is done we won’t know for sure if it had spread to my lymph nodes.
Grade3 –The cancer looks different to normal cells and is usually faster growing than normal cells.
TNBC – Doesn’t grow in response to the hormones estrogen, progesterone or HER2/neu. Therefore, TNBC doesn’t respond to hormonal therapies that target the receptors of these hormones. TNBC grows rapidly. It also has a higher grade and tends to metastasize (spread). With TNBC there’s a higher risk of death when the cancer recurs. TNBC characteristically has a higher recurrence rate, which is greatest within the first three years.
My oncologist gave me two options 1. Trial chemo or 2. Protocol.
My family and I chose Protocol which would be.
Taxol I.V. chemotherapy once weekly for 12 weeks. Then Adriamycin and Cytoxan chemotherapy AKA: RED DEVIL I.V. every 2 weeks for a total 4 doses. Due to the cancer being so aggressive we needed to get started as soon as possible. With my mother’s history and with my cancer being aggressive the doctors didn’t feel comfortable with me getting my treatments closer to home. They wanted to be able to monitor me closely. I would need a port but they couldn’t get me scheduled until after my first chemotherapy treatment.
My radiation oncologist advised me I would need radiation once a day for 30 days.
At seven o’clock, my family and I walked out of UAB Kirklin Clinic with a much better understanding of what we were up against.
August 24th God had blessed me once again with great news! UAB called me with the results of my right breast biopsies and they were all benign.
August 27th Back to UAB for a possible biopsy on my lymph nodes and my first chemotherapy treatment. After doing multiple ultrasound views the doctors didn’t see a need to biopsy my lymph nodes on the left side, they all looked good. They thought it had been enlarged due to the previous biopsy and the node was swollen and aggravated from that. My first infusion was very scary, just because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t have any pain or complications. Each infusion will take up to 1hr 30 min. Each visit I receive 30 minutes of pre meds which try to help you tolerate the chemo. Once those are given my chemo therapy takes 1 hour for infusion. Prior to each infusion I have to have labs drawn to check my counts to make sure my body is healthy enough to take treatments.
August 29th Back to UAB for my port placement. I honestly didn’t think anything could be more painful than the MRI guided biopsy but I was wrong. The procedure itself was not bad but the pain and discomfort that came afterward was another story. I remember being so exhausted, mentally and physically by the time I got home from Birmingham that night. It hurt to lie down, rollover and much less move. As I lie there feeling miserable and feeling sorry for myself. I prayed that God
would be with me and give me strength to get through this. My thoughts were, “I’ll never make it to have a double mastectomy if I can’t make it through this”. I ask my husband to bring me some Tylenol. I sat up in bed, not completely pain free but so much more bearable. My prayers had been answered.
Sept. 17th My fourth chemo treatment and I get to see my oncologist to see if the treatment protocol is working. After being examined by my oncologist she was very pleased with results so far. My tumor was noticeable smaller and softer. As of now I would stay on the protocol they had me on.
Sept. 18th My hair had fallen out enough and was so thin I need to have it cut shorter. My scalp pain was almost unbearable. At this point I was ready to have my whole head shaved. I held off for a few more days.
Sept. 20th I had came to terms with the fact I was going to lose my hair and I didn’t care. I stayed positive and thought this means I’m one step closer to getting better. I braved the shave and I felt so much better.
Nov. 8th I’ve completed 11 out of the 12 Taxol chemo treatments. You can read all the books and the blogs you want but nothing can fully prepare you for what cancer will do to you or how it changes your life and the people around you.
Each day I get up with a positive outlook and a smile on my face. I’m truly happy to be alive. Even though some days the joint pain is unbearable . I have developed some neuropathy in my hands and feet. Not to mention chemo brain, which makes it hard to concentrate and find the right words to use. My nail beds hurt constantly and I have sore throat that want go away. The fatigue is the worst part. It’s like being trapped in someone else’s body. My mind is ready but my body can’t keep up. And that’s only a few of worst of my side-effects of chemo.
It hasn’t been easy but it has been doable. Doable for the fact I want to live to see my kids grow up, get married and have kids of their own. Something my mother never got to watch me do because cancer took her away from us. So yes, I’m going to fight cancer with everything I have in me. Cancer has forever changed my life but in return I want to think God has opened my eyes and my heart to a whole new world and the way I look at things and what is truly important.
Please keep Brandy in your prayers! Mark your calendars and join us on Saturday, February 2, 2019, at Lake Jackson in Florala, AL, where we’ll be “Freezin” for Brandy and her family along with our other 2019 chosen recipients. God bless!
Good afternoon, everyone. It is that time to begin sharing our 2019 Cancer Freeze recipients. Every Sunday, we will share 1 of our 6 chosen recipients. We are beginning with Mrs. Christy Brunson from Baker, Fl. This is her story:
As I begin to share my story, I have to start by giving God glory…glory for his grace, his mercy, his strength and his love. I am a stay home mom with a wonderful husband and three amazing kids. Like most people, we stay pretty busy which explains why I missed my annual checkup in the summer of 2017. It didn’t seem like a big deal, I felt fine.
I started having a pain in my left breast but it didn’t bother me too much. It only hurt when I bumped it & everybody says cancer doesn’t hurt. This continued for a few months and one Thursday in early December my husband called me from work and said he felt like I needed to call and schedule the checkup that I had missed. I figured it would be a while before they could see me with the holidays coming but they actually had an opening the following Monday.
I was getting ready for bed on that Saturday night and bumped it again. However, this time it was pretty painful. Like so many women, I never did self exams. I had no idea what I would even be feeling for but I began to check and there was no doubt something there. I told my husband and that night was spent with prayer (which I recommend) and google searches (which I do not recommend). I wasn’t too concerned but thank God I had an appointment Monday so my doctor could check it.
I went to see my primary care doctor on Monday December 4 and she was concerned. Now, I was getting a little nervous. She ordered a mammogram & diagnostic ultrasound. I had never even had a mammogram, I was only 39.
I was able, by God’s grace, to get in for a mammogram on Friday December 8. After the mammogram and ultrasound, the radiologist came into the room to talk with us. He explained that he felt like it was a fluid filled cyst that could easily be treated by simply draining it and it would go away. He told us that he didn’t feel like we should worry based on my age and family history. I wasn’t a high risk for cancer and besides that, about 98% of breast cancer doesn’t hurt. However, he didn’t want to wait too long to get this done.
I was scheduled for the cyst to be drained on the following Friday. I felt pretty good, the odds of it being cancer were low. When they got in to drain the cyst it wasn’t fluid filled as they had thought. This simple procedure then turned into a biopsy.
On December 19, my 40th birthday, I was informed that my biopsy had come back and it was cancer. It still amazes me the effect that one little word can have. So many thoughts go through your mind. Why? How will we get through this? How will we afford all of this? We met with the surgeon that day who explained to us that I had about a 1 inch tumor and he didn’t want to waste any time removing it. I was at the hospital December 26 to have the dye injected and back on December 27 for surgery. They tumor along with 6 lymph nodes that concerned him were removed.
A few days later we received news that my lymph nodes were all clear. Praise God! However, the margins weren’t clear which meant they had to perform another surgery and remove more tissue.
On January 22, 2018 I went in for a second surgery. If they got clear margins, I could opt for radiation with no chemo since my lymph nodes were negative for cancer. Good news this time, they got clear margins. No more surgery! The bad news was that all the tests had come back and they showed that I had triple negative breast cancer. Only about 10-15% of all breast cancer is triple negative and unfortunately it is a more aggressive form of breast cancer. Without chemo, the chances of recurrence within 3 years are very high.
On February 27, 2018 I started my first round of aggressive chemo. I received my last treatment on July 24. I was ready to move on to radiation when my oncologist wanted to do more tests due to a lymph node that was staying swollen. The scan was done on a Friday and showed an area of concern. But God!! He moved and when the radiologist read the scan, he saw nothing. I continued on to radiation and am more than blessed to report that all scans and tests have come back showing no cancer.
I thank God for strength and peace through this battle. I am so grateful for Cancer Freeze and their willingness to follow what God has led them to do. The financial burdens of cancer are overwhelming and Cancer Freeze takes some of that burden off families so they can focus on what’s important, SURVIVING!
*PLEASE REMEMBER TO MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2019, WHERE WE’LL BE “FREEZIN’ FOR 6 AMAZING REASONS” AT LAKE JACKSON IN FLORALA, AL.
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