Reclaiming my power

I’m feeling very inspired lately, my urge to make a difference is strong.

I sometimes get an overwhelming feeling of responsibility to prevent what happened to me, from happening to someone else.

I know I can’t save the world, I know I can’t prevent every terminal diagnosis, misdiagnosis, and suffering.

That’s not going to stop me from trying.

There’s a number of things I’ve learned over the past year or so, my brain is more awake. I’ve come to realize there are so many important aspects of healing, and improving quality of life.

The issue started with the moment I was diagnosed with terminal illness, it was like my life became less important. That my life was no longer going to be about living, but dying.

I don’t accept this view, this is why I’m challenging the way terminal illness is viewed. Even by ourselves.

The purpose of this post was to share some specific points of my treatment and management journey, so that maybe someone who’s living with metastatic pheochromocytoma or similar, can maybe take something from my experience. As we know, there’s no cure. Only symptom management.

But as I write, it’s become more powerful than just a bullet point list of things that have helped me.

Treatment isn’t a one size fits all, nor can it happen overnight.

I’ve suffered, I’ve triumphed, I’ve lost hope, regained hope, fought for my life, and continue to keep living. Really living. I’ve accepted that I’ll never ring a bell that tells the world “I’m cured!”

So I’m going to share with you a recap of my treatment journey, and then I’m going to expand into what I’ve learned about healing and improving my overall quality of life.

Feel free to get lost in the highlighted linked words and read detailed past experiences

Keep reading, it gets good.

October 2014diagnosed with terminal metastatic pheochromocytoma after being misdiagnosed with anxiety for 4 years

November 2014– changed doctors and formed an entire medical team specializing in rare neuroendocrine tumors

I didn’t know why, but I felt that overwhelming urge to share. To document. I wanted my misdiagnosis to have purpose. I wanted to be heard. I wanted it to matter.

April 2015– started my blog, sharing my experience, channeling my anger into helping others.

May 2015- first treatment effort: had a massive surgery to de-bulk the amount of disease

(I had over 50 tumors at this time)

November 2015- started losing my hair, no known reason at the time other than stress on the body, started to see more physical impact of the disease

Exactly one year later after my terminal diagnosis, I received another life changing diagnosis.

My remaining adrenal died. I was now going to be reliant on steroids to live for the remainder of my life. I was now adrenal insufficient.

Atleast this explained the hair loss and not being able to keep my eyes open for more than 30 seconds at a time. Problem solved.

Not quite… but more on that later

January 2016- happy new year! Just kidding, time for my introduction to specialized radiotherapy. This is not radiation, this is direct radioactive poison into your blood stream.

Things would move quickly now, my symptoms were out of control. They needed to intervene, and quickly. But there’s a lot of prep to do for a serious procedure like this safely.

Within the first 20 days of January:

Bone marrow transplant: This was one of the most uncomfortable things I did, as far as pain. Who knew I’d have to go through several procedures just to get ONE treatment? It’s a stem cell transfer where you donate your bone marrow to yourself in case of failure after radiotherapy treatment. It’s quite genius actually. I highly recommend doing this, because if your marrow fails, you need to find a transplant match. In my case, it was just waiting for me on ice in a special vault. Cool, right?

pharmaceutical blockade: preparing my body for the extreme dose of poison. Trying to get my vitals to a low level so that when my tumors explode adrenaline during treatment, I won’t die.

Complications: my thyroid stopped working. More medication for life. But atleast I won’t keep suffering from all those weird unexplained symptoms, right? Wrong, my adrenal insufficiency would continuously be an issue with all of the stress on my body, I could never get enough cortisol. I was burning it too quickly, my body was too stressed from all of the prep, I hadn’t even done the treatment yet.

Well now that I’m ready for MIBG, it’s time to administer the treatment.

January 20th: 3:30pm-5:30pm I became a medical experiment, a spectacle. One of the first to undergo such a treatment at the hospital for this disease. A scary, and confusing time for everyone involved. You can read about my experience here

All better. Just kidding, I actually felt a lot worse. I was in so much pain, and I couldn’t get my attacks under control. The MIBG treatment actually set off my tumors more, so I was suffering greatly. I was praying every day for a moment of reprieve. I thought I’d never see a good day again. I didn’t know what it felt like to be normal anymore. I just knew pain.

March 2016– “I don’t know what to do next…” this is not something you want to hear from your highly specialized doctor. But even the best doctors become perplexed when it comes to such a rare disease. Especially when it’s not cooperating. At all. It was just getting worse. It would be a bit of time before I’d get the official round of data compiled to know whether or not it had worked. Let’s stay hopeful

May 2016- it had kind of made a difference, but the results were ‘disappointing’. Great. Now what do we do? More tests of course.

June 2016– test month. Sooo many tests. So much travel. We are exhausted 😢

July 2016- it can’t get worse? Can it? Until it did. Chemo is being discussed. No no no, chemo is the last option. That’s what I was told in the beginning and it never left my mind. “Chemo is only something we do when there’s nothing left, it’s not a very effective option for this type of cancer”. So why are we doing it now?! It’s not the end. I’ll keep fighting. I promise! I’ll do anything.

Too bad, it’s time to introduce another team member: an oncologist.

July 27 2016- the oncologist. I actually really liked him, I still do. He’s an essential part of my team. Every mind is better than one. But I didn’t agree with his ideas at the time. I did NOT want to chemo, I did however that day learn about immunotherapy, TK inhibitor therapies, and so much more.

August 2016: new plan. I want PRRT. I heard about it from a support group, yes that’s right. A potential radiotherapy experimental treatment I was betting my future on, I heard from another thriver. See the importance of sharing? So we pushed heavily for this treatment, but it was still in clinical trial phase, oh boy. I’d need to meet a lot of requirements, only 50 people were being accepted.. only 4 places in the world were doing it.. ok my odds aren’t looking great.

You haven’t met doctor cupcakes.

Within 24 hours I was accepted into the testing for the clinical trial. My husband is a miracle worker, or he just really loves me. This is only part 1, a highly specialized scan that can look at the tumors at a cellular level. This was considered the gold standard. I wanted it, I needed it. I was getting it!

Here’s the thing with the scan, it’s not like a regular CT scan or MRI. These types of scans are specific to neuroendocrine tumors like mine. It won’t pick up a regular cancer. It also requires your tumors to be receptive. Still following me?

In order for your tumors to light up on the scan, a gallium scan is designed to be highly sensitive to somatostatin receptors. If your tumors don’t have this, they won’t light up. And you can’t get the PRRT treatment.

Lucky for me… my tumors lit up like a Christmas tree.

Accepted!

Isn’t it weird you can be excited to see an abundance of tumors on a scan? This disease is weird.

I’m getting tired, so please read about my PRRT experience here. In one year I did 3 super high doses of radiotherapy, different treatments entirely, and so many tests your head would literally spin.

January 2017- I still needed 2 more rounds of PRRT. It was so hard on me. It seemed like I had every side effect possible. My experience wasn’t going as smoothly as others. I kept wondering 💭 why do I always have it so much worse? Am I weaker? Do I just complain more? No, it can’t be. This is too much.

Fast forward

I had completed the 2 more rounds of PRRT. I had such high hopes. It was getting more difficult to live, to function, stairs were impossible, I was living in the main room of my house, in a hospital bed. My life was very different now.

We sold our home, I moved into my dream condo. No stairs, open concept, cozy, peaceful view, everything I ever wanted to be comfortable and continue to find a way to live with this disease. You have to find ways to adapt. This was ours.

November 2017- I spent my first night on my new condo, I slept beside my husband for the first time in months. Since the bedroom was accessible now.

I received a phone call, unknown caller. I always know that’s bad news. It’s the hospital.

“Can no longer participate in the clinical trial…”

Tumors not responding…”

Palliative care…”

Just keep her comfortable”

This is what I remember. I’m sure there was a lot more to it. But what I took from it, I’m dying. I’m being told this is the end of my road over the phone. There’s no more hope. I politely asked my husband and my mom to give me some time to myself. I locked myself in my room. This seemed like another moment I should document. I felt I should grieve privately, but my heart was telling me I should share my raw feelings and reaction. I thought of all the other people who had been in this situation, and I felt that urge to share again. It was bigger than me. So I filmed my initial thoughts.

Palliative– I went down a very confusing road, it all seemed to blur together. The only time I got out was to go to hospital appts. I could barely make it to the bathroom alone. My home care team always wanted to talk about ‘my wishes’. My wish is to live, for as long as possible. My wish is to not talk about dying. But that’s apparently not an appropriate wish when you’re palliative.

Unbelievable things started happening.. I started to realize what it really was like the moment your status changes to ‘palliative’

You’re seen differently. You no longer get the same options. Your life becomes about dying. When to die. How to die. Where to die.

It was when I was kicked out of my local hospital for refusing to sign a DNR (do not resuscitate) that I realized… I’m in trouble. This is no joke. I need to get better, I need to show them! I’m still here, I’m not dying, I have so much life in me, please listen!

My husband and I started to feel very overwhelmed and for the first time… unsafe. Unsettled. We no longer felt protected. Nothing made sense. He would keep me alive with breathing machines we bought ourself, to treat my pneumonia at home.

We clung to each other, we held onto our last shreds of hope, we would lay down in my twin sized hospital bed that made its way back into my living room. We would hold each other so damn tight, as if I’d disappear if he let go, the tears falling on one another, reminding us that I’m still alive. I’m still here. You can feel me. My heart is beating against yours, my tears are warm, only he could see it.

Everyone else was giving up on me.

The trauma we went through during this period… it’s indescribable. So much happened. I’m not going to go into it, you can choose to look further into my blog, but this post isn’t for that.

My pain was out of control, despite “keeping me comfortable”, home care was unable to get my pain under control. My medications kept increasing, the pain would get worse.

Any time we would call for advise, they’d say to give more medication. Get me out of pain. The cycle would repeat, and I’d be in more pain.

What is happening? Is this what dying feels like? You’re just in a constant state of pain? I thought it was supposed to be comfortable.

Maybe I wasn’t ready to die

I will quote myself from a previous blog entry:

“As my limbs become so weak I can no longer walk around, touch becomes unbearable, my speech is becoming more strained, my brain becoming mush. The pain is excruciating. My doses become even more frequent”

“So tired. So so tired”

“As my breath becomes more and more painful, more shallow, harder to gasp for air, my skin begins to heat up so much that it starts to fall off. Why is this happening? It has to be the cancer. Time for more medication”

“Miranda is having a lot of breathing troubles, what do I do??”

“She’s unable to walk or and can barely form a sentence, she’s passing out ALL the time, can’t keep her eyes open! What do I do??”

More medication.

November 2018- if we weren’t going to get the proper help locally, it was time to get me to my super doctors. The ones who kept me alive before all of this palliative care nonsense. If my husband had to carry me on his shoulders to the car, he would have. Luckily I had a wheelchair. We drove to Montreal, I was admitted immediately. No one could figure out why I was so damn sick. Why I was in so much pain. How could I be on so much pain controlling medication, but be suffering THIS much? I was a medical mystery, sometimes a zebra is a unicorn.

Every.single.day was a guessing game, what’s wrong with Miranda?

I will quote myself again from a previous blog post …

The one thing I knew so far: every nurse, doctor, and specialist could not believe how much pain medication I was taking. Some didn’t even want to administer it. I was getting worried, it’s the one thing that gives me relief, why are they so against it?”

My nurse, we will call her Angel, she outright said to Serge that the medication is what’s causing all of my pain. She said that some people react differently to opioids, and that not everything meant to help you is going to. Sometimes it can be the problem, and you can have a reverse effect. Just like that, mind blown”

But it can’t be that. I have cancer, it’s what’s causing my pain. I’m dying. They told me. All my doctors told me. That’s what everyone has been saying for years now, take more medication to be comfortable”

I was so angry at Nurse Angel, what did she know? Medication, bullshit

Fast forward two months in the hospital 🏥

It was my medication, kind of. What no one knew at this time was that I had suspected mast cell disease. Even as I’m writing this I am not officially diagnosed but being actively treated.

Since the very beginning, the unknown sensitivity to treatment, to chemicals, my amplified side effects, my heightened symptoms, the unexplained pain, the inability to breathe, the declining unexplained health… it all makes sense suddenly

My master cells were being attacked by the disease, causing them to be broken. High levels of mast cells mediators were being released into my system, similar to my tumors, bursting chemicals into my system that make you flare up into extreme reactions.

The pain medication was making everything worse, since it was making the mast cell flares worse and more frequent. It was just a vicious cycle that wouldn’t end.

Until we fought like hell for answers. Until we demanded that I wouldn’t die like this. Until we changed the narrative. We saved my life. You can read about that part here

The funny part? I wouldn’t have known about mast cell disease had it not been for another patient/friend/advocate. I was too sick and confused to understand it at the time. So I didn’t push for answers.

I accepted that it was the medication causing it, and I moved on.

It would be an incredibly long road of healing, it still is.

Healing – we moved away, we moved to the city that saved me. We wanted to be close to the hospital that saved my life. We wanted to feel safe. So we left our friends and family, took our life savings, and we moved to what I imagined would be my ‘retirement home’. I still thought I was going to die soon, but I was happy to do it in peace. Without pain. With a clear mind.

But that’s not what happened is it?

I started walking to the elevator, using my legs, my muscles had completely died at this point. So I walked little steps every day. I finally made it to the door of my building. Then outside to the street. Then around the block. Then down to the water.

My body was healing, it was slowly recovering from all of the trauma. I was reconnecting with myself. We were finally able to take a breath.

Remember that moment when I started writing this, when I said I never thought I’d have a moment of reprieve? Well I did. I finally experienced it that day I made it to the water.

My mind was next, I was healing physically, but now I needed to heal mentally. We both did. We had gone through so much, how do you come back from that?

I was unable to share for quite some time during this period, I lost my ability to share my story.

The minute I got my voice back, I started sharing slowly, cautiously. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t understand it myself.

I didn’t understand how this could happen to me. How something could go so wrong. How I could be so close to death… but be so alive. I could have died because of a lack of knowledge.

I don’t like to blame, it’s not healthy for my mental well being. The lack of knowledge that exists is not a fault of anyone, it’s a flaw in our medical system that exists because of the rareness of this disease. It’s not fair, but it’s real.

Why do I share? Because it’s going to educate whoever reads this.

It’s going to push boundaries of the rules we are supposed to follow. We are supposed to be good patients and accept our fate.

Well I’m reclaiming my power, I’m slowly every day working on myself mentally and physically.

I’m doing things that bring me joy, I’m sharing things that make others aware, I’m connecting with who I’ve always been, I’m learning why I started this blog in the first place.

It wasn’t a choice, it was my purpose, it was a promise.

I promised I wouldn’t let this cancer take my fabulous, “Fabulous is your light, your smile, your energy, your positivity, your willfulness, your vitality, passion, excitement, beauty, laugh, and how you share it!” –

What you’re about to read is the very first statement I made when I started this blog. The blog that changed my life and so many others.

“This is my very first post, my first time writing a blog, and my first time speaking freely about my personal journey with pheochromocytoma cancer…. and staying fabulous while doing it!

Pheo VS Fabulous was born from the promise that I would never let this disease take away the one thing I could control, and I’ve labeled that my fabulous. When I became ill I realized how much we take for granted, and it started with how day to day tasks are so challenging when you’re battling an illness like pheochromocytoma cancer, that’s when I decided I wouldn’t let it that away from me. It’s more than just looking a certain way, it’s about BEING fabulous, strong, and positive when you have every reason not to be.

The danger of something being so rare is that it goes undetected, unrecognized, and is one of the most misdiagnosed conditions. Leaving many of us undiagnosed, and looking for answers.

If you’re reading this, you might still be looking for some…

My goal is through sharing my vulnerabilities with all of you, finding the courage to share something so painfully personal, someone else may have less of a challenge in the future of being diagnosed, treated, and living with this disease, #pheochromocytoma – or any other ‘neuroendocrine cancers. #netcancer  #raredisease

The idea is that the more I share, the more information there will be available for a disease where this is so much lacking. Every procedure, every test, every treatment I will suffer through – I will continue to share my experiences so that others don’t have to keep grasping for answers like I did.

Although there is so much to cover… first off, pheo-chromo-cy-whatta?! We will get there darlings, I just want to say…

This blog is meant for awareness:

Awareness for a disease that only a handful of people in this massive universe know about, probably only because they were diagnosed”

—————————————————-

Isn’t that incredible? I told you, it was my purpose. Before I even knew what was I was talking about, why I was saying it, and what it would mean. I knew.

NOW – I’m finally in a place where I feel things are improved and better controlled. I have good days, I never thought I’d say that.

I think the most important aspect is treating comorbidity, if you have other illnesses going on, and they’re not being treated as effectively or focused on as much as the main cancer, the issue is it exhausts the nervous system and keeps triggering the Pheo episodes. Everything from the adrenals, the thyroid, mast cells, anything that can be impacted, make sure it’s being properly treated. Even my endometriosis finally being diagnosed and treated has helped, because it took so much pain and stress off my body. Pheo is so triggered by stress, so the more stress we can eliminate from our bodies physically, the better quality of life we will have.

I started this blog post wanted to share a bullet point list of what has helped me, my meds, my treatments, but I think my heart needed to share, and my soul needed to be emptied of everything I’ve been holding onto.

I started this entry by saying I sometimes get an overwhelming feeling of responsibility to prevent what happened to me, from happening to someone else. So now I’ve shared everything I possibly can to do that. Even after I’m gone, my story and my information will remain available forever.

I will continue to share, every experience, every new piece of the puzzle, but most of all… I’ll continue to share why I have hope.

We can’t heal until we are treated, so hopefully this will help you begin your journey for better treatment. I truly hope you will be able to feel that moment of reprieve I described.

I am terminal, and I am thriving.

I still have bad days, but more importantly… I have goood days!

I still have attacks almost every day, and mast cell flares, but I live with hope, happiness, faith, love, and I control what I can. I no longer live in fear, I am in control, I decide.

I live with a new mindset, I see clearly, I live purposefully, and I remember who I am.

More importantly, I want to help you do the same. That’s my purpose.

The rest is out of my hands, the rest i cope with. The rest I made peace with.

My terminal cancer and I live in peace with one another.

I live in peace

“We have Cancer”

My husband and I often say “we have cancer”. A cancer diagnosis affects everyone involved, your spouse, your kids, parents, your friends, anyone who is a pivotal part of your life.

Anytime we’re in the doctors office we catch ourselves saying “we”, and we will be greeted with odd looks. But that’s the thing, WE do have cancer. It hits home like a bomb, it shakes up all of our worlds. One is physically fighting the disease, the other is fighting in every other way on their behalf.

We fight for one another when the other is down, we are each other’s voice when we don’t have one, and we continue to carry the load whenever we need to for one another. That’s a partnership. That’s a family.

The first instinct that everyone wants to do is help, fix, and act. Everyone gets into a very adrenaline like state the first few months after diagnosis, just going through the motions, trying to hold it together. This is normal.

However, it’s so important to be communicating. My husband and I in the beginning would hide our feelings a lot not to upset each other more. We didn’t even realize we were doing it.

He would be so overwhelmed with the fear of losing me, and I’d be overwhelmed with the thought of losing him. I hear a lot of people go through the same experience, but the issue is we often don’t communicate our fears to one another. This can be challenging for a lot of people.

We end up getting a bit edgy, holding in so many toxic emotions, we need an outlet. We HAVE to talk about it!

It’s important for it at least sometimes be with each other, that way everyone knows how sensitive to be with one another, how patient, and where your mindsets are at.

The thing is with the instinct to act, is that we’re always wanting to jump into motion the moment our loved one is suffering. We want to find a solution, fix their problem. We try to control all the things we can control.

Meanwhile feeling completely helpless, and out of control.

It’s a vicious cycle.

Even after all this time fighting this disease, and knowing it’s better to just listen to someone’s fears and thoughts… whenever my husband is having a tough time or not feeling well, I STILL have the instinct to react and try to mend my his heart, his body, or his mind. I think it’s just in our nature.

So I can only imagine how he feels with me. He has way more restraint than I do though! 🤭

That’s the thing, once we understand that we will ALWAYS have that immediate urge to fix… but first, we must listen! Truly listen. Let the other person talk whenever they’re ready, only when they’re ready. Offer for them to talk about what’s bothering them, ask them..

“do you want to talk about it?” Don’t push too much or ask too many questions. Just be a sounding board. Also, giving a choice is very empowering.

When the person has truly gotten everything off of their chest, in time… we can start introducing helpful solutions, small acts of care, and things that help, but not necessarily FIX… just alleviate some of the pain or pressure they’re holding onto.

This can be by simple things. Like massage, meditating together, taking a walk in the fresh air, setting a time each week to have vent and have an open communication session, anything that works for your rhythm in your household.

It’s so important to remember that when someone is sick, we are ALL feeling it in different ways. Add on the pressure of the pandemic…. and oooo boy, it really is a life altering and uncertain time.

When supporting one another, try to think:

“how would I want someone to respond to ME right now?”

“What would make me feel better in this situation?”

“What kind of support would I appreciate after sharing what I just shared?”

If we are mindful of this, we can offer better support to our partner or family. Anyone who is involved.

If you’re trying to support a friend or a family member (not your partner or someone in the household), the same rules apply. You should consider everyone involved.

So if you’d like to reach out and help, try to make suggestions that take a bit of pressure of everyone.

Whether that be a kind gesture like offering to bring groceries, drive them to an appointment to give the care giver a break, or simply send them a little thoughtful note, letter, book, maybe an uplifting journal, anything to just brighten their day. As we all know, most of us have more bad days than good.. so chances are, you will completely change their day or week with one small gesture of help or kindness.

I will share more soon on how to support a loved one with cancer, but for now I just found it important to remind us all…

WE have cancer.

We ALL need support.

We all need to come together.

WE will get through this!

Comment down below if this was helpful to you 🤍🙏🏼

Pheo VS Fabulous 🦄

Your Questions…

A few weeks ago I asked you guys to ask me anything, I’m so happy to share with you the answers to your questions!

Watch below 🎬

Like and share!

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10 things I’ve learned about fading relationships

Support comes in all forms when you receive a diagnosis, but as you become sicker and the “old you” starts fading away, so do your relationships.

So many people want to be there for you when you first receive your diagnosis, but as you become sicker, when it all becomes real, it seems you start losing people one by one. There’s nothing worse than having to grieve your old self, plus have to mourn each relationship lost as you go.

One day you wake up, and all of a sudden you feel like you have no one left.

‘Hanging out’ and visits turn into text messages, the text messages turn into the occasional Facebook chat, and then even those just stop abruptly. Until there’s no more communication. Everyone just went away...

You can’t help but blame yourself,

if I wasn’t this sick, I’d still have friends.

If I was healthy and could have a normal conversation about monotonous things, I wouldn’t push people away.

If only I could be healthy and not intimidate people who are unsure how to approach this new “sick” me.

If only I wasn’t intimidated by them thinking about me being sick, and could fill in the awkward silences.

…If only I could erase all the sad eyes, the weakened expressions, and not have people who once respected me feel sorry for me.

This is the worst part, the pity.

If only these people knew that I’m the exact same person, the same person who was their friend for all those years. The same family member, the very same.

People change regardless of being ill, but it seems being ill puts a wedge in between the healthy and the sick. The unknown is often just too much. If I changed because I became an asshole I’d understand, but I’m the very same person.

This is the first time I’ve ever expressed how much it hurts.

How at my sickest I’ve never been so alone.

When someone says, “you must have a lot of people around you!” And you just don’t know how to respond.

How I don’t want to come off as ungrateful or selfish because there are some amazing people who have come into my life despite me being sick.

But those relationships lost still weigh heavily on my heart, and I wish I could have every single one back. Back to normal.

But I’ll never be normal.

So it shall remain…

What I will say is I’ve learned a few things while these relationships have come and gone.

  1. It’s not your fault, even though it may feel like it is, stop blaming yourself.
  2. Often people want to be there, they just don’t know how.
  3. It’s exhausting trying to make others feel comfortable around you, focus on yourself being comfortable and the rest will follow.
  4. It’s not your job to put everyone else at ease, if they are your friend, they will try to find a way to understand your new situation.
  5. People who are truly your friend, WANT to know how you are. They don’t want the sugar coated answer, be honest with your friends.
  6. Your best friends don’t mind changing plans, or understand when you can’t make it because you’re not feeling up to it suddenly.
  7. Your best friends will make an effort to make YOU comfortable in this new changing circumstance, they’ll go out of their way to make sure you have a place to lay down in their home if you get tired, or have a fan handy for when you get too warm etc.
  8. The people you lost were probably not meant to be close to you in the first place.
  9. Don’t feel bad for making the decision to cut out toxic relationships, even though you might feel like you can’t afford to lose anyone else, it’s not worth putting yourself through hell to have “friends”.
  10. Don’t take for granted the people who did stay around, know that they love you so much, and cherish them every day.

Pheo VS Fabulous 💖

Facebook: @pheovsfabulous

Instagram: @pheovsfabulous

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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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. 



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

jugular insertion 



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But I’m tired now

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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

4th..5th time? I’ve lost count! IS a charm 💛✨

There are two things this disease has made me become an expert with:

learning how to be okay with never leaving your little comfy space (or rather being confined to it). 

or

constantly leaving that comfort zone you’ve been confined to for the purpose of being EVERYTHING but comfortable. 

Luckily I’ve acquired the most important lesson of my own, & that was to stay fabulous no matter what. Have YOU guys figured out the meaning of ‘Staying Fabulous’ yet?

This past year my health has declined significantly despite doing the most treatments packed into one time frame ever. 

With that said, my wardrobe mostly consists of comfy pyjamas, my hair is done by my husband (bless his heart). Speaking of hair, let’s be real… I can’t even wash my own hair, there I go again painting a whole different picture for you guys. I have care almost every day, and a lot of things I’m unable to do. Fabulous means SO many different things, but I still haven’t lost my fabulous, even if I’ve lost my ability to do all of these things by myself.

When I choose to do my makeup it takes me sometimes close to 5 hours or more, but I don’t mind because it’s every couple of months or so – and it makes me SO happy! Despite what I share in photos, we create a picture to make others happy as well.

What matters is the love, the laughter, the same outlook I’ve promised to have from the beginning hasn’t changed.

My message is being delivered with the same sparkle (most days)  ☺️✨ because that’s what PHEO VS FABULOUS is all about.

Regardless of everything that we have been going through to make it here, we’re here, and we feel just as grateful as ever.

When we were challenged, we leaned on each other for the support we so badly needed.

We felt so blessed for the support we constantly receive.

It isn’t in me to give up, the only thing to do now is move forward. To unfortunately just keep receiving another treatment and see what’s next.


What IS next you ask? 

Remember option 1 or 2? Well, today is # 2. Actually this week is a bit of both… except today is …

leaving the spot I’m most comfortable in. (You know, normally I’m confined to my house)

AND, this week is being confined to a space … but unfortunately not the space I’m most comfortable in, quite the opposite actually – I wouldn’t call the hospital or a radiation room my comfort zone. 🏥☠️

BUT that’s the life of being terminally ill 😷 treatments, clinical trials, being radioactive, a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do! ✌🏼🏥👸🏻

After all that jazz I will be laying in the big spaceship scans later in the week… pretending I’m getting a facial in my Dream bungalow house in the trees that has NO stairs, one of those swim spa pools where my poor body can float all year round, and a little all year round sunroom for my puppies & me to relax when I’m feeling down  🏡 sounds wonderful right? My mind is escaping there already. 

Dreaming, dreaming, dreaming ✨✨✨

Ok, time to glow friends 👋🏽😄

Tuesday is the actual day for treatment, PS 🏥☢️ In case you guys forgot what treatment it is, it’s the PRRT clinical trial  – this will be my fourth round.

(Which also happens to be serge and my 7 year anniversary 😑, which also happens to somehow ALWAYS be spent in the hospital 😪😭)

Bye everybody!

🛣🚘

IMG_5823

Reminding You…

I often say that I don’t feel I’m fighting cancer; I live with cancer. What I fight for is the ability to continuously mend myself back to health, piece by piece, taking back what this disease has stolen from me.
Exactly one year ago I wrote this article, it was after what I thought would be the most difficult procedure I would have to endure on my journey with this cancer, and the most suffering I would have to feel.
I was wrong.
I will continue to be wrong, and that’s what this article is about.
It’s a true testament to mine and many others real experiences; how we will continuously have to feel what we thought was the worst pain of our lives, yet wake up and do it all over again – only to be even more painful the next time, and the next time after that… but we will have to find a way to keep going, to WANT to keep going.

You can typically tell how sick I am with my level of activity, (I’ve been MIA) I haven’t been feeling too well lately.

My health has been ‘declining’ as the title says, and I’ve been physically suffering more than ever. 

Who knew my own words would bring ME a bit of comfort a year later after all of these treatments and just a year later?

I truly hope they are doing the same for you as well. 

I just wanted to remind everyone that no matter how hard it gets, these reminders are why you fight so hard.

I’d like to think that some day, I will be in less pain and get my own bit of happiness I’ve been dreaming about so much…but at the very least

I hope I can say I’ve made an impact

Pheo VS Fabulous 

And we leave for round 3 – PRRT

After having said all I have to say in my last Post, gotten that off my chest… everything I’ve been feeling over the past few days…

we are here. At the hospital that will give me my third round of my clinical trial – PRRT 

We travelled yesterday several hours into the night to eventually arrive to the hospital that will eventually administer the experimental liquids that maybe or maybe will not help me diminish some of this pain I’ve been feeling. Maybe it will do nothing. Perhaps it will make me worse. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I was absolutely terrified the last few days, thinking about just driving here and adding to my state of pain, and then actually having to endure treatment?! HA!

of course then having to even consider the next few months…. ugh, my worsening body, and the NEXT round. I just can’t.

I’m not one to cry but it hurts so much lately, kidney stones, complications, the attacks, everything seems to compile at once and just want to break you down.

💊💉🏥😷😭

Well I am broken, but I’m still going to take whatever pieces of me are left and fight this awful cancer and get this Treatment done, that’s why they call it ROUND 3 – they’re throwing me in the ring with some help… well i always win. I always win. I always win. 

🙏🏼👊🏼

To my person,
my eyes reflect the longing for the moments we should have had together and will never see, but love for the time spent together everyday, yet I feel such pain when you cherish the simplicity in our mundane routine, and even more pain when I know that you feel everything I feel.

I love you more than words can ever share, and I wish to go with you as many places as we were ever intended to go, with me in a state where I can enjoy it – this can’t be it. This pain cannot be it.

But if it is… my gift to you is that you were the only one who truly saw what this disease did to me throughout this whole time. The relentless pain of this 24/7 psychological and physical warfare, you’re my number one first. Before anything else, you’re the one who I fight for and dig deep to find my last smile for each time, because you’re the one who’s always there making me laugh.

So if it ends up that this it, things don’t go our way and I’m still in so much pain – just know that I will dig deep and find my smile for you baby.

like you say… we’re going through something so beautiful, when do you ever get to experience this?
💞✨🙏🏼

To my beautiful wife,
We have done allot…
But I had so much more I would of loved to do. Just spending time with you is allready a gift. And one day we will do lots. So let’s go get you in to shape. Quebec here we come. I am bringing you my most precious diamond it’s a bit of a diamond in the rough health wise so please polish it up verry well so I can take her all around the world and show how priceless she is.
💗💗💗

I love you baby!!!

PHEO VS FABULOUS

 

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