I was not as nervous as you would think on April 23rd. Martin, my mother and I drove up to Dana Farber. All weekend I wanted plan for Poland, Barbados and Florida, as we brainstormed ideas of what could be attainable or possible.
I started to realize I looked pregnant… but that couldn’t be.
When the appointment began I noticed it felt like a routine visit. Everything went smoothly, but what were we focusing on? It was this: if I did nothing the outlook for me was living three weeks to a few months longer. So, is that my only option, I wanted to know?
No, I was told we can try a low dose chemo and see how it works. Since it is low dose, they said, it won’t do much harm, but we truly don’t know how it will work. It’s not a treatment we have used a lot at low dose and technically you are in liver failure, leaving you with limited options. Of course, the goal would still be to get you to be stable; however, this is a blind treatment. We don’t know if this approach will be any different than if we do nothing, and not have you connected to any IV pole. I’m 32 years old, I thought, how could I sit here and do nothing if there might still be something that might work and fight back against my liver metastasis?
I’m a fighter, a thriver, and I don’t give up! Just because I choose not to toss my hands in the air, I’m not oblivious to my current outlook. It does look grim. And at the same time, I’m seeing my husband grasping his thoughts, and watching my mom absorb this news.
Even though I don’t know what I physically can or can’t do, I want to choose to live for now. I’m not the kind of person to sit back and hope for a miracle with my legs up in the air.
So, I thought about it and said I would like to try the low dose chemo approach. Yes, it ties me to the chemo pole, but I haven’t had a long life and if there is a chance to extend it, I will raise my hand high in the air and try the treatment. The new chemo has me tired but so did the last one and so does my liver, so, really, what else is new?
My liver and stomach are very enlarged right now, and based on my scans and blood count numbers, I’m in liver failure. I have to pray and hope this chemo can shrink or zap some of the nasty liver cancer. Since I’m so uncomfortable I don’t go to many places right now, and because I wobble like a duck when I walk, it knocks the wind out of me. Your body does what it can to save itself. For me, the fatigue means I need to rest, and I respect that. Unfortunately, I constantly need help these days with everything because of all of that.
As for my Bucket List, it’s still there. It will just have to be taken step by step. Barbados is still in the cards, but Poland will be too much at this time. My doctors’ orders say small RV trips will be okay, but we will have to play Florida by ear for now, and make a decision closer to when that time comes.
We really do hope some local community members, friends and family will assist us in a local fundraiser. Or help me in sharing my GoFundMe page. Having peace of mind for my husband, my near-end preparations, and medical assistance is always welcome – and more greatly appreciated than you know.
My short rollercoaster ride could be coming to an end, but I am always hoping to remain on this ride a little longer. I would love your support for the reminder of the ride, and to help me make it less stressful for my husband, friends, and family.
How can you help?
When you get hit with cancer early in life there are several aspects you don't prepare for. Help us during the end of my rollercoaster but assisting us in our GoFundMe champgain or if your local to Connecticut help us with a local fundraiser.
Wow, this past week has been emotional and unreal. For the past several months I have noticed that thrivers would become quiet on social media, then someone would post news on their passing. I always wondered how so soon? But on Wednesday, April 17th 2018, I went for scans and an already scheduled doctor’s appointment. What I wasn’t expecting to hear is this: “We should start planning end of life discussions.” The nurse practitioner looked at me and realized how shocked I was for those words to pass her mouth. End of life?
Well, yes, I haven’t been having the easiest time lately, but its cancer it’s not always easy. It has been an extremely bumpy road between my recent hospital visit and other moments where I was seeing brighter days. The APRN looked at me and said “you still look as though you have more fight in you.” I said of course, but how do you process this? She said that on Monday, when your doctor returns, we will discuss all the options. She said there are treatment options but they won’t be easy; they could potentially do more harm but they could help, too.
Monday… 5 days away… do I count this as 5 days till judgment day?!? But I began to ask myself, how would I choose to live my life out if it’s only a matter of months. If I have 6 months to live what should I do? Revamp my bucket list and make as many memories as I can. This is not easy on a small budget, without my income and with a husband who building & working for a new non-profit. I have been assisting him with the non-profit while I have been well, but the truth is that we will need support to get us through the duration.
How do you plan a quick last run on a bucket list when currently your days are hit or miss? Since I’ve been struggling, I’ve noticed that the people who surround me the most are my family. So I would love to plan out three more adventures, one with my cousins and family to our pre-booked trip to Barbados with Martin for my cousin’s wedding. If I need a helping hand there, I’ll have family in the room right next door. The next would be to go to Poland, where Martin’s mother has her home. That can stand as home base in case I need to stay put in bed or just stay home and view the mountains from my mother-in-law’s deck with my mother, sister, and Martin & his family. Then hopefully I’ll go to my father’s home for short trips around Florida; once again with that as a home base in case I’m struggling. If by July flying is too much, then we have the RV Martin revamped last year that could take us down and up.
It’s a mixture of the power of distraction and the power of positivity.
But, still, Monday April 23rdis judgment day. If we choose treatment this could move the timing around, but I know I have to plan my memories and moments now.
If you are local to Connecticut and wouldn’t mind helping me put on a fundraiser like a pasta dinner, or just something simple and quick, I would love and appreciate the support! I will also update my go-fund me page soon if anyone would like to support my end of life planning. I’d also enjoy just hearing from you. You’ve heard my hopes and dreams now; I’d love to hear yours.
Next update will hopefully be posted between 4-24-18 or 4-26-18 pending on how I feel.
Over the past month my cancer has tested me emotionally, physically, spiritually and cognitively. This rollercoaster loop was like nothing I have experienced ever in my journey. My first summer in 2016 I had excruciating pain due to mets in my hip and collar bone, I was lucky and didn’t experience intense chemotherapy related side effects. For the most part I carried on life, blogging and volunteering at the Community Navigators the non-profit I dedicated a lot of myself too as I saw it as my legacy.
I never knew and don’t ever wish to know what I feel and felt over the past 2 months. The back pain started in February but it was similar at first to my liver spasms. Deep down I knew they were in fact different. Turing your pain into words is a very tricky thing to do for any of us, it’s just not simple. It’s like how did cutting your finger this time feel verse the time you had cut it two years ago.
I remember pushing myself to a meditation class with liver and back spasms, no idea what to come or the trials I will soon come to face. Cancer has never been a walk in the park, and I have become used to spasms to a degree but, like I said, nothing that my rollercoaster cart soon would circle me around to. I saw friends come and go as the pain, fear and sickness crept in. Some could handle Larissa slipping away, while others ran. By March, I knew things were going to be different -- I just didn’t know how. I knew I wanted to put off a scan because the last one didn’t show anything in December! How can cancer grow that fast? I kept asking myself…
But that decision too would be soon taken from me. I became too sick to drink, eat and basically function on my own. Then boom! An immense tension and power started play slinky with my spine, I held on to the counter with all my might and wondered will anyone come? After my husband came and launched me up, got me to the couch, had someone run and grab my heating pad, I shook from pain, fear and shock.
The next day = emergency MRI of my spine. I went to the outpatient MRI location but it became clear that we wouldn’t be able to do it there without pain control as laying flat on the bed would be excruciating and impossible. My mom sat in the other room traumatized as she heard me scream bloody murder. So to the ER we went, both me and my mom trying to hold it together for me. (I see this now but of course not in the moment.) I was immediately admitted which frightened me more: I’m in the wrong hospital, this isn’t Dana Farber, and oh no I’m at Hartford Hospital! What will they do to me now?
Finally, after lots of battles, Dana Farber was able to get me admitted to them. I remember closing my eyes during transport thankful to be on my way to a team of doctors who truly know my case all around. I went from hearing 10 back radiations to 1 at Dana. I was grateful to feel in good hands, pain management that was working and tests to continue to monitor me.
After having a team of doctors launch ideas around me, including me & my family, I felt safe and in good hands. No mention you will meet this doctor Tuesday, or this doctor Thursday, just a team of doctors who all wanted wanted one thing: Larissa to get better.
It took days to get my pain under control and my back to stop playing slinky. I knew I had little teeny tiny spots on my back but I never knew I grew lesions from the top all the way to the very end. I underwent radiation so I can continue to fight my liver mets. It wasn’t just back lesions I was battling -- my liver decided to hop into action too and blew up like an air balloon. We needed to act fast on both areas, so getting back to chemo was just as important. But the trick is you can only do one – radiation or chemo - at a time.
After my stay at the hospital, I went home with a very involved pain management plan and, if you follow me on social media, you would have noticed I held back on posting. It is not the easiest to post, make sense and adjust to a very involved pain management plan. I was definitely not looking my normal glam & shine self and in the first few weeks I barely saw sunshine. My first real day out consisted of Easter, we went to church, and we ate and I went to bed. But it was an accomplishment! My husband has had to be superman like he has never had to do before while standing strong - making sure I was eating, drinking, helping me clean myself up in every single way imaginable, not complain or melt down and Yes I’m happy to announce he still loves loves loves me! Somehow…. My mother who I am not always so nice to stayed strong to keep me afloat. My dad and my Aunt made sure I didn’t miss my Italian traditions: she battled her fear of dogs to bring me comfort. My mother in law flew from Poland to help take care of me and to make sure I was packing on pounds whenever she could get a piece of food near my mouth which, already 10 lbs lighter needed!
I look around at my family and I see just how blessed I am! There were moments I prepared my celebration of life and what is next for me. I struggled to hold onto hope and faith so much I really didn’t see a way out. I tried to prepare myself for the end. Then I asked my doctor is this my time? She said I don’t know but I think you’re getting better, it’s just taking awhile. I went home and looked at myself and realized the same thing: this is not yet my time. I might hurt, I might be uncomfortable, I might still experience more bad days versus good days but I’m still experiencing. Life keeps entering my eyes each and every day. Some days I WOW myself and maybe this chemo isn’t for me and the next will be. That’s ok. Maybe I’ll need more radiation and that’s ok too. But I’m not done fighting, I’m not done living! But I do pronounce April as Larissa’s Recuperation April so I can see my cousin get married in May!
No one said cancer would be easy, but no one can put into words what type of pain you can or will endure because everyone’s journey will be so different. I thought I felt cancer but now I know this stinky MBC has a lot up its sleeves and my living and loving life might be my emotional strength to arise in these dark moments. I ask people to be patient with me, I ask for your support and I ask for your endless love!
Metastatically Speaking Blogger: Larissa Podermanski