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.

 

 

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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 am rare – Rare Disease Day

Although I would like to think that I use every day as an opportunity to make this disease a little more exposed, february 29th 2016 is rare disease day.

A day to remind the world that although rare… diseases like mine do in fact exist, and because they are rare, they don’t get any attention, and as a result – we suffer.

We suffer through misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and lack of information when dealing with our rare conditions. We suffer through painful surgeries, lack of treatment options, and invasive trials, with no cure in the end. We suffer in silence.

February 29th is our day to make our voices heard, help me get a little bit louder.

I have pheochromocytoma cancer, adrenal insufficiency, I’m 25 years old, and I am rare.

Rare disease day, 2016

#mirandastrong #pheochromocytoma #netcancer #ai #zebra #rarediseaseday #pheovsfabulous

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It can only get better…

WELL I CERTAINLY HOPE SO.

I keep being told it will be worse before there’s a chance of it getting better… I’ve had quite a bit of proof of the first portion of this statement, now I will have to practice my patience and good faith for the second.

MIBG, NOT my favorite treatment.

So far we have not gotten along so well you could say… I’ve been meaning to update everyone since my last appointment and share what I know so far. Except I really haven’t been well, and I had a pretty big dose of reality lately.

As much as I like to share when things are on a positive note … Well, the reality is, living with this disease is often dark and all consuming – although I AM bright and try to find the good in everything despite this constant torment, there are times when I must be candid and speak through my pain and suffering. I’ve actually been telling myself, “I’ll wait until I feel better to update, I’ll wait until I have something good to share” until I realized… That isn’t how MY life works, I wish I had the luxury of blocking out all of the bad and fast forward until I had something good to hear, or skip over all of the parts where I suffer and wait until I feel better…

I also know that nobody else expects that of me, so here I am, sharing the in between with you, I may even throw in an f bomb if you’re lucky. That’s how angry my pheos are, yes I’m blaming any profanity on the tumors, they’re really being assholes. MIBG has got them all kinds of angry… Let me just tell you. Ok, where do I start?

So it’s been 22 days since I had MIBG radioactive iodine injected into my blood stream, 22 days of radioactive pheo cancer hell, 22 days of worsening symptoms, and every day is a new adventure. Rather than get better, I get worse. See how fun that is? I thought the idea was that you get better as the days went on, most people do, NOPE. My symptoms get stronger, more aggressive each day, it’s super awesome. I like the spontaneity and danger of it all I guess, who wants to wake up and be normal for a day? How boring. (I would also like to be excused from any and all sarcasm, I’m going to blame the excess of Catecholamines (adrenaline) being made by my angry tumors, thereby making me very sarcastic… I think too much epinephrine and norepinephrine makes people very sarcastic) Science. YES! Science.

We went to my last appointment with some expectations and no expectations: I’ll explain.

Some expectations meaning… We thought we were going in to do a day of tests, and meet with my pheo Doctor, and have an idea of how the treatment was working so far. Since I was doing another MIBG scan, 2 week blood work, we were under the impression that we would be seeing how the treatment was taking.

What I meant about having no expectations? Well, I didn’t want to get my hopes up, so when nuclear medicine told me I would be having a MIBG scan 2 weeks after my treatment to see how I was doing, I didn’t want to get too excited about results, so I remained neutral, and said to myself “I’m going to go in with no expectations, that way I can’t be disappointed”

It was the first time I had left the house since treatment, it was an incredibly hard day. We drove out normal 3 hours to the hospital. The scan was long, painful, with the way I feel it’s so hard to do just about anything…Being scanned for 2 hours is not ideal, Laying with my arms above my head for 52 of those minutes isn’t at the top of my list. Then I gave blood, and then I waited to see my doctor to discuss the results of my blood, and maybe the scan.

We then saw my doctor, and at this point we realized there was a misunderstanding, the scan wasn’t being done to see how the treatment was working. It was actually being done to take advantage of how much MIBG radiation was in my body, and the MIBG scan was being done at this time to find any MORE cancer that’s potentially in my body that otherwise would not be picked up normally in regular circumstances with trace amounts of MIBG. NOT what I was expecting…. Good thing I had no expectations LOL. We went from thinking we would hear how the treatment was working, to hearing they were looking for MORE cancer.. So, not in any rush for those results. Moving on!

So once we got that misunderstanding out of the way, we then of course asked when it would be that we would find out if the treatment was working or not, since it was clearly not now. It turns out it won’t be for a while, it’s a long process, a few months. We will revisit this in a couple months, maybe at that point we will start having an idea if the treatment is lessening the output of adrenaline the tumors are having.

The main priority over the next few months is just constant monitoring of all of the other complications that could potentially happen from the treatment itself, and making sure my bone marrow doesn’t deplete, I don’t get any infections, my tumors don’t kill me from all the adrenaline they are producing, and we control all of the worsening symptoms and side effects being caused. Easy peasy.

It’s a long process, I will be feeling like this for a long while. I knew that, but it’s hard to know what to expect until you’re in the situation. Surgeries are the most difficult things I’ve had to endure, but I’ve known what to expect once they’re done, this is so different, because not only is every day a surprise … I also can’t know if it’s even worth doing in the end.

It seems like every couple days we are increasing all of my medications to try and control my vitals, to keep me out of the hospital, and despite these efforts… They’re still out of control. I literally have left the house once since I have been back, the stairs are a danger zone, getting up too quickly is a danger, going to the bathroom is a danger, showering is a HUGE danger, breathing too hard is a danger.
It’s not as if I am doing anything at all to provoke these episodes, I cannot cut down my activity level any further… Existing is and breathing is all that is left lol. When you are told to stop showering, because it is a danger to your health, it is quite frustrating.

I can be sitting in bed doing nothing at all, and when these new “MIBG spikes” is what I’m calling them – happen, it feels like my heart is being dredged in cement suddenly, and it takes everything it has to beat… It hurts so much, each beat is accompanied by a very unique pain, and my head is filled with pressure, so much that my eyes feel like they’re going to pop out of my face, my chest is filled with pain, and it feels like I am having a heart attack. This lasts for a few minutes, and then I’m so very fatigued… And nauseous, I feel I could sleep forever. Except then I am plagued with insomnia later at night. I’ve had plenty of pheo attacks, I still do, except this is above and beyond those, it’s the effect of my blood pressure sky rocketing while my tumors release a dangerous amount of catecholamines from the MIBG treatment. The problem is that … my medication continues to be increased, which should lower this, except this continues to actually go higher and higher, NOT supposed to happen. So I will continue to do nothing, relax, and just endure this vicious assault MIBG has on my body, because what choice do I have? It’s scary knowing that every time this happens, thinking about the damage it has on my body, I try not to think about those parts, I try to remain naive to that, you can only do that for so long though.

I will continue to be closely monitored, AND I decided while writing this…. The good I am taking out of this so far, is … My bone marrow is good so far!!! (YAY) for strong marrow results, that’s good right? SEE, I knew I’d find a positive in there, f*ck you pheo. I also found an f bomb, HA. I will continue to go every 2 weeks to do blood, make sure I’m alive, check my cell counts, make sure my thyroid is functioning… And all of these other great and scary things. SO MANY COMPLICATED FUN PUZZLES! So….. Let’s hope I can stay out of the hospital between then, yes?! Today was A SUPER CLOSE CALL, crisis level was high in the Simard house, Doctor Serge to the rescue as usual, formally known from now on as doctor cupcakes (lol) – when in doubt… Just prescribe cupcakes. Words to live by

Hm what else…. Oh! The taste of eating batteries has calmed down a bit also, that has been a welcome change! It’s not quite as strong. Yes yes more good news! See, as I continue, I find more good. So yes even though the adrenaline, heart, blood pressure, vital elevation attack side of things are worsening …. The taste of batteries has decreased and my blood work was okay so far, SOOOOO there’s a bit of a bright side. Now we just have to make it through the next 6 months or so of this, and we are smooth sailing.

The last time I put on makeup was Christmas, a random thought I know, but it is strange not physically being able to do anything.. Especially things that were once just an everyday routine for me, now they are a “luxury” Now since I am barely allowed to shower – or closely monitored when doing so because it is my most dangerous activity, (you should see the calories my Fitbit claims I burn just by breathing) 😂 I’m gonna get really crazy and say… I really would love to be able to be normal and plan a vacation, or EVEN just go out for dinner one night, or actually just do anything at all.. At this point I’d like to just be able to walk up or down the stairs without my body imploding. I would like to be able to go a day without my body attacking itself while doing nothing. So I will say this, I’d like to be able to soon be well enough to just .. Have a day where I can feel good enough to just leave the house, change my surroundings, and feel like my normal fabulous self for even just a few hours. This is me being realistic with my expectations, I will find a way to be FAB… I always do 😉💋

Day 22, I pray this disease will become a little more manageable – because nobody should have to fight this hard.

I promise to update as my body allows, but for now…. It is tired xox

Pheo VS Fabulous

There’s always a reason to smile

With so many awful things to worry about, feel, and experience… Cancer gives you two options: succumb to it’s misery and pain, and let yourself be one with it physically and mentally, or… Allow yourself to feel the inevitable pain and misery, be honest about the trials it imposes upon your life, and still find a reason to smile every single day… because let’s put this differently, with so many awful things to worry about, why NOT smile?

If you are still able to see the beauty amongst all that pain, that is a smile worth having.

It’s been 16 days since I did MIBG radioactive therapy (read link here) – It is definitely still an imposition, and I certainly can go on and on about my struggles, but instead I’m just going to focus on today – with no expectations, and just keep smiling my way through it for now.

Today I will get a look at how my body is performing after my high dose of MIBG radioactive therapy, and make sure I’m not in any imminent danger, we like knowing I’m safe and sound and my tumors aren’t going to do anything sneaky. You never know… Since the surprise attack we initiated on them, they can be very vindictive.

So happy world cancer day my friends ✌🏼️💜

Smile & Stay Fab

pheo VS fabulous 💖

#mirandastrong

#pheovsfabulous

Instagram: @mirandasimard

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Perfect days…

It seemed as though I was having a rough time for a little while, getting all of my recent results, putting a date to my radiation, having issues with my adrenal insufficiency, and meanwhile I was just praying for some special moments of time before radiation.. I wanted to do some Christmas baking, see my best friends for a day, decorate my Christmas tree with my husband, wrap gifts, and of course eventually spend Christmas with my family.

These tasks were honestly beginning to seem impossible, especially since all of my energy was being spent in the hospital, and what little was left was recuperating at home. Until one magical day when my new medication started working, and my prayers and hopes and fairy dust seemed to have been answered. My being tired of tomorrow finally turned into “I can do it today!!!”

So not only did I bake cookies, I BAKED COOKIES. I had my mother over, and God bless her, she did most of the work, because let’s be honest… I can’t possibly be mixing hard dough with the condition of my poor massacred abdomen, but still, we made so many cookies and treats!!! It was the most amazing day. I may have slept until 4:30 in the afternoon the following day, and felt like I was run over by a vehicle, but I didn’t care, it was so worth it! 😁🎄🎅🏻

Second on my list of must dos, was seeing my best friends before Christmas. What do best friends do? Eat, laugh, talk about old times, laugh more, eat more, take photos and laugh while taking photos. It was fabulous, as you can imagine. So I had my husband, my two best friends, the fresh air of one of my favorite parks, and my absolute favorite restaurant to follow, like….. Heaven!

These things may have taken months to do, literally, we’ve been trying to set this day up for months, but as I always say – quality over quantity. We had the perfect day, and that’s what counts. I may not get to have a great day every week, but when I do have one, it’s perfect. That’s what best friends do, they patiently wait until you’re ready, and when you are they are at your side – making every second with you count.

I still have some things to achieve on my perfect day list, but understandably I’m exhausted 😂 – so I’ll highlight you on the two big activities I’ve done so far, in photos, because photos are just so beautiful… I feel like you can see every bit of happiness I experienced those days with me, and since I make you go through every emotion with me here, I will give you a break this time and let you have a moment of pure joy 😄

Christmas Baking Day:

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 And… Our perfect day in the park:

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You find your people, you find your person, and you lean on them. (Literally)

Pheo VS Fabulous ❤️

Normal

November, the month we all start to feel the holidays creep in, the parties start, the snow starts trickling down, Christmas is everywhere, and the thought that another year has passed finally hits you.

Normally by this time, I would be finalizing the details of my work Christmas party, I would have chosen my gown for said event, baked dozens of holiday treats, planned my vacations for when it’s too cold to stay in Canada, and I would have looked at my planner and not known where am I possibly going to find the time to do anything except be this very normal busy person during the holiday season, as we all normally are.

Normal.

Such a painful word, I look at that word as I write it and I feel a resentment, a certain envy, and a bit of sadness.

As I await what’s to come, I can’t help but to be reminded of what used to be my normal. My busy planner is still full, but not with parties, work, and holidays. It is full with hospitals, tests, results, procedures, more tests, more doctors, alarms every couple hours for medication, and bed.

Normal is being twenty five and your biggest concern is when you’re going to find time to do all of your Christmas shopping. It’s getting upset that the venue you chose for the Christmas party changed your menu at the last minute. It is choosing which dress to wear to your work gala, spending all day finding the perfect shoes to match. It is setting daily goals to be a better version of yourself, it’s having a clear vision of exactly who you want to become and how you will get there, because you have your whole life ahead of you to achieve it. 

Normal is being twenty five and my biggest concern is whether or not I’m going to find the time to have a Christmas, if I will instead be locked away being pumped full of radioactive isotopes that will hopefully shrink the spreading cancer in my body, and what kind of impact this will have on my body that doesn’t seem capable of handling anymore pain. It’s getting upset that my cancer changed it’s mind and decided to spread even more making it more difficult to treat, more so than it already was. It is still setting daily goals to become a better version of myself, and attempt to use this unfortunate situation I am given to become a stronger person, it’s having a clear vision of who I want to be and how I will get there, because I know I may not have very much time to achieve this greatness, so every day has to count. 

Pheo cancer can take away my normal, but it still won’t take away my fabulous.

It’s too much.. and that’s okay

Somewhere along this path I created, pheo VS fabulous, I must have convinced myself that I had a responsibility to maintain this “fabulous” persona at all times.

I said at the very beginning, I would never lose my fabulous, this disease would never take that away from me. Well, it hasn’t, and it never will, but I also find myself incredibly reluctant to write when I need it most… when I’m tired of being strong, when I’m literally barely holding on.

I find myself grateful for a dear friend who reminded me of the most important fact I seem to have forgotten; I am sharing with the world one of the most personal, dark, painful, vulnerable, and trying times of my life. It would be insincere of me to say that I am this painfully positive robot at all times, and a slap in the face to every person who is struggling in private, but reading my very public journey.
This is not to say I have not shared my true feelings, struggled to find the words to express my unimaginable pain, and attempted to share on an emotional level what a toll this has taken on me in the last year.. I have been one hundred percent authentic, as I promised I would be when I started.
I just know that these past few weeks have been insurmountable, I have deliberately avoided sharing anything specifically because I knew I would not have the same “uplifting” message as normal. Well, that IS the point. Positivity is part of my heart, my soul, it is me, nothing changes that. I’ve realized it takes a lot more strength to share your weakness… 

I continue to posses this attitude…thinking, “this is what will get me through, we’re going to get through this, I just have to continue on like this”, and then you read the scientific facts like how pheochromocytoma cancer only impacts 1 in 4.3million people, and how if it’s gone to the liver like mine has those people have the worst chances of survival even though they only give five years in the first place, and despite my attitude, every time I go to the doctor, I’m told something else is wrong with me, this isn’t working properly, this body part has failed, this tumor around your heart is suspicious (wait what?! I have a tumor around my heart?!?!) this may be something more, but we will do more tests and come back to it (what does that mean?!) meanwhile my pain level yo-yos and tortures me and feels like a cruel joke on-top of everything else, and my hair is falling out, and my life is falling apart, or what little I have left. 

My mind does this lately, not to mention the worry I have for regular every day people things. I worry for my friends, my family, and other people’s problems. The moment I lose my compassion for others, well… let’s just say I don’t want to ever meet that person, because surely that’s not me. It’s exhausting, I’m tired.

My mind is tired, I recently said to myself that I really wanted to go on a vacation, I wanted to go to the happiest place on earth, Disney World. I had it all planned, how I would be able to go in a wheelchair and no one would be able to say I can’t go because I had all of their objections handled in advance, and I had the best trip planned and I was so excited. I’m still wishing, and dreaming, and hoping. The more news I get, and the way everything is progressing, I don’t think it will happen in the time line I wanted it to , maybe one day… but not in December for Christmas. No one is too old for Disney World, and I’ve never been, so christmas time would have been magical, and less busy (lol) I wanted to be able to go before radiation, as a way of resetting my mind and body before it goes through another trauma, because that’s what this is, a trauma. Every experience your body has to endure, it’s traumatic, and you need to prepare mentally and physically. I’m at a point where I need something to just be on my side, as much as I can find something great in everyday, I can pick and choose every little moment and find a special something, I really would just like something to come to me and show its-self at face value and reward me for being so patient and positive.

So there it is, I’ve given a basic summary of all of the horrible things that have been floating around in my mind in the past few days. I wouldn’t be fabulous if I left it at that though…you didn’t think I would let you have this one, did you pheo? 😉

Today I said to myself, “No matter how hard it is, I don’t care how nauseous I am, how much I hurt, and how weak I feel, I am getting up, and getting ready, I am going to have a fabulous day… and do something I’ve wanted to do and also been dreading for days now!” 

Hours later, many breaks, help from Serge, encouragement from both my puppies (lol), I was ready to go for my favorite lunch, and go shop for…..wigs!!! 

I didn’t want this shopping trip to be a depressing, poor me, crying experiencing. I am happy to report that I was successful in finding many beautiful styles, I overindulged as usual, true to form I shopped as I normally would.. exhausted myself and got way too excited, and couldn’t be happier. 

I suppose all of my stories DO still have a happy ending ❤ 🙂

Pheo VS Fabulous

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Continuing to find beauty in every day… Smiling through every bit of pain!

#mirandastrong