I am the mother of three children, Lauren, Walker, and Mason. Lauren, our daughter, is married to Qortney. She is a teacher, and Qortney is an attorney, and they live in Wisconsin. Walker will be graduating from Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Indiana, on May 20, and Mason is our 14-year-old who loves flying planes and anything that comes with wearing cowboy boots. My husband, Mark, has been my partner for over 22 years and is a fantastic golfer. We are a family who love to play golf. I am also the daughter of two amazing parents, Richard and Lydia Gaitan, from Plainview, Texas. Mom and Dad have six children: five girls and one boy. I thank God every day that my parents were trying for that boy because I am the baby of the five girls. Years later, they had their boy. Hallelujah! My dad passed away recently. I was a Daddy's girl, and he was really excited about me sharing my story with others. I am also a Registered Nurse.
The most frequent question I get asked is: What were my symptoms?
Many years ago, my doctor told me I had dense breast tissue and would need yearly diagnostic mammograms. For those of you who do not know what that is, it is a mammogram with a physician present readily available to read the results. Every year, the doctor would walk in and say, "Everything looks good; see you next year!" To my heart's delight, I was relieved but also thought this was silly. Our family has no history of Cancer, and I do many things to stay healthy. We would always say we had the longevity gene on both sides and most lived to be in their 80s and 90s. Now let's go back a few months before Cancer.
My husband and I were living our best life. We were excited to be back in Texas; this is home. We had been transferred to the Midwest for my husband's job for six years. We had just moved back and were thrilled about enjoying family, the warm sun, and, of course, tacos. (pink light) After a busy season of moving, getting Mason settled in his new school, and our daughter marrying her happily ever after, I experienced a few nights in a row of chest pain. It just felt like pressure, nothing too bad, but it woke me up, and the second night I was concerned enough and asked my husband to drive me to the ER. While at the ER, the doctor decided to run labs and noticed my liver enzymes to be slightly elevated. He said it might be a fatty liver, but to follow up with my primary, other labs showed that this chest pain was not cardiac-related. The doctor then decided to scan my gallbladder before he released me to be sure I didn't have gallbladder issues.
During the scan, they saw that my liver was covered in tumors. That's when everything happened fast, but at the same time, not fast enough. I was quickly sent for a CT scan and a biopsy. The ER doctor told me this was Cancer; he did not know what type, but it was Cancer, and he was deeply sorry to have to give me the news. I told him I was strong in my faith. I didn't know what was happening but knew the One who did. We would trust in Him, and I would appreciate his prayers too.
To make a long story short, MD Anderson accepted me as a patient (pink light), and on October 3, at my first appointment, the process of tests began. I met with the Liver oncologist, who told me I did not have liver cancer, but I had breast cancer that was now attacking my liver. Moments later, a young, handsome doctor with the breast cancer department stuck his head in the exam room and informed me that they would see me that same day because they were doing everything to work me in. (pink light, pink light). Later that day, my new breast cancer oncologist informed me of my new diagnosis. Metastatic breast cancer stage 4.
The plan was to run more tests starting with a liver scan the following morning. The following day while I was in the scan, they called my husband and said it was a lot worse than they thought and that he needed to take me directly to MD Anderson's "Critical Care Unit" to be admitted, and that they would be waiting on me. Mark informed me of the call and the directions he received. After my scan, we made our way through a huge MD Anderson building, trying to read signs and get there as quickly as possible. We were stopped by an older gentleman who said he was a doctor there and would personally walk us to the unit. (pink light) In the Critical Care Unit, we were told that my liver was significantly damaged, and a team was reviewing my scans to devise a plan. After getting to my room, I was introduced to a doctor and his NP.
They explained everything they saw and what course of action we would take. He stated it was critical to start treatment immediately because we were running out of time, chemo would start at 9 pm, and he and his NP would be close by to monitor everything. (pink light) He then stepped out of the room, and the NP stated, "Girl, you got the best of the best! Your doctor is over all of MD Anderson's breast cancer unit, and he took your case!" (pink light) I let them know I was ready to get things started. We had many prayer warriors praying for us all. (pink light) At 9 pm, my nurse entered the room clothed in PPE and had the chemo in hand. After she had prepared everything, she laid her hands on me and prayed a beautiful, powerful prayer over me and the therapy that would be entering my body soon. (pink light) During this entire process, I was swept with a peace I couldn't explain, and I decided to sleep and asked my husband and daughter to watch over me. They agreed and woke me up between treatments. I had a total of 3 bags that night. At midnight it was complete. They woke me up and said, "You did it!" I was on my way to killing Cancer. (pink light)
I completed a total of 12 treatments of chemotherapy. There were ups and downs throughout, but my team was excited that it was working and we were killing Cancer. (pink light) However, due to the Cancer's metastasis, I was also treated with immunotherapy, and it will continue every 21 days for the rest of my life until there is a cure. Every 21 days, I go to MD Anderson for labs, MD visits, and treatment. Every three months for scans, CT, Bone, and MRI; and every four months for an echo because my treatment can weaken the heart muscles. It sounds like a lot, well it is. I went from having no diagnosis to having many diagnoses. Cancer has also caused me to have pseudo-cirrhosis of the liver, which has to be monitored closely along with my breast cancer.
I am thankful for every day. My doctors tell me I am a miracle. (pink light) This is my new life with Cancer. My family's new life, but I am here to tell you there is a better way, and today there are many treatments. Don't let that machine scare you; don't let the business of life get in the way, don't let Cancer win.
In closing, I would like to read you 1 Thessalonians 5:18. In everything, give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus. I will embrace this season in my life and keep telling my story if I can save just one person from experiencing my journey.
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