I have news …

Five years ago I was told I had 1-5 years to live. I sat in a white office with the same diabetes posters and bland medical facts I had looked at several times, and contemplated how angry I was. Angry because had I not been so ‘rare’, something might be different. Perhaps someone might have listened to me, instead of blaming my symptoms on anxiety. This was the worst day of my life.

If someone had just listened to me while I complained of symptoms for years, I would not be sitting here listening to how I had 18 tumors that metastasized all over my organs, and were now killing me at an aggressive rate.

I left the office that day SO angry, but that anger turned into determination. The fiercest determination I could have ever felt, I was not going to die because I wasn’t heard.

I would be heard.

For the last five years, I’ve been heard. I may have suffered along the way, I may have had to do every form of treatment possible, but I’ve been heard.

Not accepting my fate was one of the best decisions I could have made, even after countless disappointments and setbacks, despite being told again and again mountains of bad news, I didn’t give up.

We didn’t give up.

I have news …

Today I sat in a white office, waiting to see my oncologist to hear an update of my cancer progression. For the first time in the last five years, I held onto the hope I felt countless times, and waited for news.

It’s always bad news …

Not this time.

Today, for the first time since my diagnosis, I was told I was stable.

Stable

There’s no cure for the cancer I have, not at this stage. I was given palliative care, and supposed to await death. I was sent away to die at 24 years old.

I didn’t accept that, I fought. Hard.

Now I’m stable!!! DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS?

Stable means that for now I don’t have to continue treatment, I can take a break. Stable means I don’t have to go do any more scans for 6 whole months, 6 months! Stable means I can be in less pain, it means less attacks.

It means hope...

I’m writing this with tears in my eyes, because when I started this journey I just wanted to make a difference in as many peoples lives possible. To prevent suffering like mine. Today I feel that I can finally GIVE hope, the hope I’ve been clinging to so hard for the last few years.

Many of you have followed my journey from the beginning, clinging onto that hope just as hard. I’m finally able to tell you that I have good news, and it feels incredible.

If you’re reading this and you’re going through treatment, if you’re in pain, if you’re suffering, if you’ve just received your diagnosis, wherever you are in your journey… just know that I’ve been there.

Now I’m here.

It’s an amazing thing.

My life will never be normal, and I’m certainly not cured, but this is the first time I can say that I’m able to breathe a little. I don’t have to plan my life around what treatment is next, wondering if it will work, or what side effects it will have. I can just live. For now, I can breathe again.

If you’d like to see more of my journey, and learn about what treatments I’ve done… take a look around my blog. My most recent treatment plan was PRRT, although scary, it definitely made a difference in my condition.

Not giving up saved my life, being heard by the best of doctors for this condition… changed everything.

Never, ever, give up.

Hope is the hardest thing to have, but it’s worth it.

Pheo VS Fabulous 💖

Facebook & instagram: @pheovsfabulous

Beating the odds

  • Five years ago, October 10th, I was told I had 1-5 years to live.
  • I remember sitting there, so full of hate and anger. Thinking to myself, “if they had just listened to me, I wouldn’t be here”

    It took me a long time to push past this, and focus on what’s important. Living

    We often forget when we’re fighting for our lives, that we have to still live our lives. What are we fighting for? To live. But each day that passes and we forget that, we are missing the opportunity to just enjoy and embrace the moments we are given.

    I’ll never forget anymore, what I’m fighting for.

    I beat the odds, I am a miracle.

    It’s so hard to think about the fact that someone gave me a death sentence, but now all I can see is how I’m so full of hope, more than I’ve ever been.

    I’ve learned so much throughout this journey, but what I take away from it the most is…. you HAVE to fight.

    Fight with every piece of your heart, your soul, your mind, your body, it takes every part of you to fight this. It can be done, and it can be won. Despite being told you’re living with an incurable illness, and some day you will die, there’s still so many days we are fighting for and can live such a beautiful life if you allow it.

    I didn’t get here by rolling over, I have done EVERY possible treatment, clinical trial, diet, physio, I have been challenged so much mentally and physically. I have been poked and prodded, had my dignity ripped away, but I’m here and I’m so happy to say that I’m alive.

    Although I have no actual news to report as far as a medical update, (that will come soon)… somehow I just KNOW I’m doing better. My hope reaches so far that I just know how I feel, and that feeling is pretty damn good. Once I get my results, hopefully we will be able to back up that feeling with some actual numbers and a better outcome.

    I didn’t get this way by any means of an easy journey, no. I did a surgery that was more like scraping out the innards of a pumpkin, (me being the pumpkin). I did an experimental radiotherapy, called Mibg. I then plunged into another even more experimental therapy called PRRT, I have flirted with chemo, lost most of my hair, been treated palliatively. Adjusted my meds more times than I can count, started new meds, gotten off all my meds. Nearly died a thousand times.

    But I’m here to tell you about it, and that’s enough for me. It has to be enough. I’ve made strides I never thought I’d ever be able to make again, like walking again instead of being bound to my wheelchair.

    We have to take these small victories and celebrate them!

    I’m here to deliver a message of hope, that there is a way of fighting an incurable illness. That in our own way… we can win.

    I’m here to tell you that I’m still fabulous, despite the odds.

    Pheo VS Fabulous

    The Perfect Storm

    Having a neuroendocrine tumor is complicated, we hear this all the time.

    I’d like to break down a few topics that are well.. yes, complicated.. but can be better understood in order for us to enjoy a better quality of life.

    Before I explain where I’m going, let me tell you where this all began…

    It all started when I was hospitalized for 2 whole months, one of the symptoms I was having was extreme facial flushing. I was literally roasting like a turkey. My skin was peeling off, I was so uncomfortable and in pain.

     

    This was a side effect from my tumors secreting their awful hormones. No one could seem to offer me any solution, until one day…

    I met one of the endocrinologists on staff and he immediately said he would start me on this magic pill that would get rid of my flushing. I thought he was crazy, how could there be such a thing that exists and NO ONE mentioned it before? How can so many other people I know be suffering and no one knows about this?

    Little did I know, this magic pill was ALSO going to balance my moods, by reducing the amount of serotonin in my body. Bingo, so many complicated topics are now so easy! 

    Taking medication isn’t really a choice when you have a neuroendocrine tumor, but certain types of medications can be dangerous, even fatal. This isn’t always explained in detail, or at all. Why? Because our tumors secrete hormones that make it difficult to be matched with certain drugs. A lot of medications actually cause the same type of secretion as our tumors, making it the perfect storm.

    I don’t normally like getting too scientific, or talking about specific drugs, but if it can help so many people with this disease be more comfortable… I’ll take the risk.

    Have you ever heard of the term serotonin storm? Who here has been told that they can’t take an anti-depressant, or that it’s dangerous with our disease? Who is currently suffering with depression and can no longer take their medication?

    Let me be the one to explain why these medications can be dangerous:

    I’ve heard of a lot of people suffering with depression with this disease, but the problem is… most typical anti-depressants produce serotonin. (The same hormone that our tumors produce), making a serotonin storm! This can be fatal, or just extremely dangerous to the body. Which is why they say to avoid SSRI medication when you have a neuroendocrine tumor.

    What did any of this have to do with my flushing I was talking about earlier?

    Well, that’s why I call it the magic pill…

    Most people who have a neuroendocrine tumor that is secreting serotonin will experience flushing, following so far? 

    These tumors also secrete a lot of other hormones, throwing off our moods. Creating a chemical imbalance in the body. Causing depression. But since we can’t take regular anti-depressants that doctors will prescribe, what can be done?

    Aha! The magic pill. Chlorpromazine is considered a serotonin antagonist, it inhibits the action of serotonin receptors. Without getting too scientific, it also works similarly for dopamine, another hormone that’s secreted by our tumors.

    This one pill that was prescribed for my facial flushing, happened to take care of several other issues for me, because of its root purpose, balancing out that ‘perfect storm’. 

    I’ve heard so many people lost hope because of their depression and not being able to properly treat it. I myself was at my end with my mood swings, as well as the most uncomfortable side effect – facial flushing. Until I began this medication, it changed everything for me.

    It may not be for everyone, and I’m certainly no doctor… but I thought it would be best to share this little bit of knowledge with my fellow zebras. Maybe, just maybe, it can help you too.

    Pheo VS Fabulous ❤

    Zebra or Unicorn 🦄

    If you have been in the “rare disease” world with us, you may wonder what the reference is to the zebra.

    When you hear hoofbeats, we are trained to think horses, not zebras … 🦓

    This means that in a world full of thinkers where the first answer is always to rule out the “obvious” answers first, us “rare” zebras often get misdiagnosed because it’s just too bizarre or too complex to possibly be real. Right? Wrong. We are real, we are rare, but we’re there.

    NOW, imagine living in a world where you’ve only JUST started to find ways of settling in becoming a zebra, but now….. you’ve become even more confusing that even that doesn’t fit – Shall we say….. exhausted? Now you must be a unicorn 🦄

    As much as I LOVE unicorns, it’s not something I wish to be health wise. However, we don’t always get what we wish for…

    Or else I wouldn’t be a continuous medical mystery. A zebra, a unicorn, stomping my hooves as loudly as I can to no avail… A very complicated, extremely complex little unicorn. So desperate to be figured out but constantly misheard, misunderstood, and continuously misdiagnosed.

    I was able to begin discussing this journey when I began to regain my mental stamina a few days ago here, thanks to my amazing specialists who are working towards figuring out what I am now referring to as my puzzle 🧩

    With so many pieces (symptoms), and crisis’ happening – it’s proved difficult to sort out another compounding diagnosis when already living with such a rare disease.

    Does that excuse make it okay for our hooves to be ignored? No. It clouds what is potentially a more potent and dangerous lurking enemy. So, what does one do? Well I’m not going to lie. It’s been a hell of a ride, it’s been isolating, I’ve felt ways I can’t begin or want to describe right now, but what I’m here to say right NOW is that we are still fighting. 

    I’ve said it now and I’ll say it again, if you don’t fight for yourself… who’s going to fight for you?

    It’s the unfortunate truth.

    This is your life. It’s yours to save.

    We have come to realize this through a series of challenges I’d prefer to have not had to endure, but change is the only constant so we are now looking ahead to the journey we are choosing to see as a positive one. Because that’s how you get through this, often we talk about ‘fighting it’ but we don’t talk about how to beat it. 

    We have to, because to us we see it as an opportunity FOR change, for answers. We just want answers. No matter what they are. Going back to basics and feeling helpless is certainly not the answer.

    Going backwards when you have already been robbed of the ability to move forwards is one of the most helpless feelings to have in the world.

    We are coming on 3 weeks in the hospital, with the help of my incredible team I am functioning at a much more tolerable level so far – so that I can actually do plenty of testing in order to get these answers. This journey is tough, but we are fighting our hearts out. I hope you will be alongside with us, because I have a feeling we might just need that little extra bit of prayer and pixie dust

    🌎✨🌈

    Remember that gold standard Gallium-68 super amazing impossible-to-get fancy scan I got in order to get accepted to this clinical trial a while back? Well…

    My amazing husband Doctor cupcakes was able to get me in AGAIN directly from the hospital on a day pass to get that super amazing scan today. What would normally take 4-6 weeks, took 48 hours, so a huge huge huge thank you to everyone in Sherbrooke, QC. You guys truly were my angels and we are so grateful for everything you did for my situation. Thank you for understanding and extreme considerations 😭😷

    My heart is so full of gratitude, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share that.

    Here’s a little glimpse of our radioactive day pass mission, a day in the life of a hospitalized unicorn 🦄 😂

    https://youtu.be/AHerMoNa9AY

    Pheo VS Fabulous

    XOX

    I will try & update as much as I can, (on my good days) 😘

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    A zebra can be a unicorn

    Pheo VS Fabulous 🚨 Coming to you live from the comforts of her 15×25 hospital suite 🏥

    It’s incredible when the mental fog begins to clear just a touch and you’re able to begin to make the smallest of revelations.

    Such as, did I just type a sentence?

    Or spell revelation without going into one of my “coma like states”?

    Or the bigger ones…like, it truly has been exactly a year since I fell off the planet. But did you guys really think it was by choice 😐 ?!

    Warning: things may get a bit sassy while my brain function is working, I’m not letting this opportunity waste ⚠️

    Do you think I would devote my entire personal life to opening up about this disease and then suddenly withdraw that responsibility unless it was for the fact that I was too sick myself? …

    I made a promise, a vow if you will, and I HAVE every intention of keeping it: to not let this cancer take my “Fabulous

    ….Then, what good is it if there’s no one to share it with? PheoVSFab was started for others like me, and others like me seeking guidance for the ones who SO desperately need it. My greatest devastation over the last year has been losing the ability to communicate, not knowing why, and being so confused all the time that I didn’t know how or where to even begin.

    Yes, that’s right, updating a status, sending a text message, menial tasks sent me into a 🆕 full “crisis” mode. Eventually leaving it impossible to do just about anything. Depressing much?

    You’re telling me.

    I’m just beginning to talk about menial tasks that have to do with blogging, but that was my direct connection with the outside world, also my outlet. I’m not even skimming the surface on how it’s felt to lose further mobility, forget the days of bathing yourself, most recently even the bathroom became a hot date between my husband and I, sometimes even breathing was a chore. When you can no longer sit on your couch, or touch your legs at ALL because you’re in so much pain, when your facial “flushing” is so bad that you feel you’re in an actual oven because your skin literally comes off like an inside out sunburn 🥵 , you start to question WTF IS HAPPENING TO ME!

    This isn’t Just MY disease anymore.

    This can’t be happening.

    This can’t be happening.

    This can’t be happening.

    This disease, my already very weak body, and what will be known as incredibly sneaky symptoms are responsible for yet another impossibly long road to a complicated diagnosis.

    But before I get into any of that..

    I just want to share one very important thing, without support we are nothing, and over the years I’ve come to have such a massive family throughout the PHEO VS FAB network. YOU guys have kept us alive, and full of hope.

    It has killed me every day to not be able to actively participate in helping others. Without being able to do this, I had never felt so isolated. This isn’t me.

    I would never distance myself like this by choice.

    So, if you DO know someone who’s sick, do everything you can to adapt to them, with them, and for them. Even if it seems they don’t want to, or can’t, they do. They maybe can’t tell you, like literally physically cannot tell you, but they need you. Everybody needs someone. No one can do this alone.

    Most importantly, never ever ever ever, give up hope. No matter how bad it gets. Hope is one of the scariest things to have – but it’s the only thing worth holding onto, and when everyone & everything else is gone, it will be the only thing you have left.

    Hope is something no one can take away from you. Not even cancer.

    This disease can change your sight, your mental capacity, your ability to walk, it can put you into so much pain you can no longer move, it will even change who you are as a human being via a shit load of foreign hormones everyday that don’t belong, but it can’t change deep down who you are in your soul. Who I will always be is fabulous – Broken, scarred, bruised, but fab AF and ready to say F you to whatever this new chapter is going to be.

    That’s the thing when you come after a fighter, eventually they WILL find a way to fight back.

    Although we are still very early days and don’t have answers just yet — the fact that I am finally in my “super hospital” surrounded by my angels, being taken care of by my specialists, being HEARD, contributing, they’ve already given me the ability to write this blog post.

    I’ve been in the hospital now (2018/11/30) for 2 weeks and we are slowly on a road to a very complex and delicate recovery, yet also a diagnosis progress.

    Yes, you heard me. A diagnosis. What? Don’t you already have 17 diseases some may ask?

    *insert laughter attempt here*

    I thought I had enough as well.

    WELL Apparently not.

    This is what I’ve been getting at.

    Some may be thinking, how come no one helped sooner?

    WELCOME TO THE DANGERS OF BEING RARE

    I have never been sent home so many times to die in my life.

    That part was a little depressing.

    One year, a lot of Dejavu, endless suffering pain, new fun attacks and a long- but -urgent -semi -coherent drive to Montreal in the end of it all ➡️ …..

    …. We are now safe in the Montreal hospital, where they are amazing, and actually treat their patients 🧩

    Thanks to MY own personal doctor cupcakes. My Superman. Who I think hasn’t slept in the last year in order to keep me alive and also smiling every day despite the screaming in between.

    If you’re going through something similar, whether you’re in early stages of diagnosis, newly diagnosed, or like me, being diagnosed again, and again, and AGAIN.. remember this one thing – no matter how difficult, or how unexpected, eventually… things WILL come together, and when they do, only YOU have the ability to decide what you make of the rest of your story.

    Through my suffering I’ve been able to reach out into so many people’s hearts and lives:

    Through my pain I’ve been able to see humanity like you wouldn’t believe. Through all of the trial and tortures I’ve been able to treasure other people’s proper diagnosis and the removal of suffering.

    Through the tears I’ve laughed harder than I’ve cried, and seen more beauty in darkness than I can ever describe. There is so much in the world that is to be discovered through these miracles, we just have to be mindful.

    https://youtu.be/9LJGcxTB4u0

    I love all of you more than I could ever describe my beautiful zebra unicorns 🦄✨

    Read my other pages for more information or visit my Facebook to say hi & sometimes quick updates 💋

    📸 @pheovsfabulous

    THE Unicorn 🦄

    This is Cancer.

    How do you tell the ones you love… something you can’t begin to explain yourself”

    I moved into my dream home 22 days ago

    Twenty two days of contemplation and careful thought of how I was going to share this, or whether or not I would. I’ve always said I would share the good, the bad, and the fab.

    I thought I would have so much to celebrate with my move, my clinical trial finishing… so many triumphs.

    …But Cancer doesn’t work that way.

    I couldn’t write this.

    I want you to see what we live through in between treatments, not just during, I want you to see the hope, the pain… the before, middle, the after.

    This is why Pheo VS Fabulous exists.

     

     

    Please watch the full video 🎥
    Pheo VS Fabulous has reached so many people around the world, my dream is it will continue to do so. 🌎 Please keep sharing, keep following, each time you do it’s one more person who is diagnosed sooner, or who finds hope 💫

    I never want anyone to have to feel what I feel – Pheo vs Fabulous

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    I said I would never do that again 😭

    But I learned something new again yesterday

    these bodies we think are ours?

    They’re not.

    We think they own them, we signed them over the moment we agreed to save our selves from the disease that’s killing us every day, see how that works?

    Cancer: you get to kill me.

    Doctors: you get to save me by any means necessary

    Me: I TECHNICALLY have a say… but…

    Believe me, there is ALWAYS a but

    If you start saying no to things, how can they save you by any means necessary?

    Anyone can go on from the outside and say there’s always a choice etc etc, and yes there absolutely is. We always have choices, mine often look something like this:

    your veins aren’t working for the 189th time in your life, let’s rush you off to a secret room after after having poked you 7 times – and we will surprise you with a procedure you swore you would NEVER.EVER.EVER do Again – (text here)  I wrote about in previous times to GREAT lengths because it caused you such trauma the last therapy during MIBG (and out of all the things you’ve had done.. that’s saying a lot), just the mention of it is traumatic. 

    My words aren’t coming out, no one is listening to me. What good would it do anyways? It’s now my only alternative to receive the treatment I’m here for. 

    Ever wonder why the term cancer sucks is so popular? Why so many people want to say fuck cancer? ….

    this is why. 

    It’s because of situations like this, when you are no longer a person, when you no longer have a say in your own body in order to save yourself.. because you know that you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. 



    Facetune

    Part 1: 05/23/2017 – PRRT treatment prep

    jugular insertion 



    Facetune

    But I’m tired now

    Facetune

    I’ll leave you with something good, as I always do… I was greeted with my Doctor cupcakes (my husband), after some kisses 💋, and pain control, I was ready to start my treatment in a little less agony.

    (My clinical trial doctor) is amazing, and does everything to administer the treatment in a comfortable fashion.

    The treatment itself was a bit improved VS the last few times.

    More on that later once I’m not so traumatized from the morning, and tired & in pain.

    FABULLLLUS IS EXHAUSTED. 🖐🏼🏥

    more fun trial stuff soon, byeeeeee

    #pheovsfabulous