Winter Family Update April 2020

So many things have happened since we last shared any news on our Eat Travel Fun site. We traveled to Spain and Italy and had an incredible time with our kids! I, meaning me Natalia, will get you guys all caught up and and will provide you with as many wonderful tips that we can share during our two week trip to Barcelona, Ibiza and Rome (In another blog post). In the meantime, let me catch you up on what’s happened since August of 2019 (yikes I can’t believe it’s been that long).

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Barcelona Spain
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Rome Italy

I, Natalia was diagnosed with Colon Cancer on November 7, 2019. This was a huge shock to all of us! My world, our world got turned upside down real quick. How in the hell could this be happening??? I am healthy, I am fit, I am a marathon runner, marathon pacer, self proclaimed workout junkie, I eat good clean food, we cook at home, I don’t use drugs, I had no signs of what would be cancer…. no blood in my stool, no excessive weight loss, no weakness or fatigue. What I did have was occasional gas and bathroom issues but nothing that was ever consistent or alarming or that we could place blame on. Needless to say it happened, I have cancer. My immediate thoughts were more like, “Fuck Me” now what???

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Third Round of Chemo

Fortunately, my husband was by my side when we got the dreaded news. I froze, I didn’t know how to respond and I was looking at my husband for his reaction and his face was also stunned. I wanted to yell and scream and cry but didn’t. I knew that I had two more calls to make, one to my Mother and the other to my Sister and that I needed to keep my shit together before dropping this bomb on them. How do you call someone and say, hey it’s me I have cancer? I made the call to my Mom and made sure that she was sitting down and not driving before I proceeded to tell her this life altering news. She immediately started crying and I told her that I would be OK and that we would figure this out and then hung up. My second call was to my Sissy and I shared the same screwed up news with her and hung up. We didn’t say anything to the kids at least not immediately, I needed, my husband and I needed to digest everything and figure out a way to talk to them without causing a ton of worry. We eventually told the kids (several weeks later) and for the most part they handled the news as best as they could.

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Thank you Sandy M for my awesome tank
FU Cancer!

Let’s backtrack a bit, if you check our site and go back several months you will see a write-up about Gluten Free Anxiety, where my doctor who was treating me for IBS placed me on a Gluten Free and Dairy Free diet. Geez, I’d really like to kick him in the balls right now and tell him to go eat rocks. If I only knew then what I know now, I would have requested a colonoscopy. I should have demanded a colonoscopy, but you can’t ask for what you don’t know. Knowledge is power and my goal is to educate as many people as possible on early Colon Cancer detection. I hope to accomplish what my idiot doctor failed to do, push for screenings and keep asking for further testing instead of just accepting and assuming that what I had was IBS. I was told that I was too young for a colonoscopy and with no history of cancer in my family, cancer was never on the radar…. fools, damn fools I tell you! Always go with your gut, if something doesn’t seem right it probably isn’t, you are your best advocate.

I have several Colon Cancer Awareness Pop Sockets, if you’d like one let me know and I will send you one for free.

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Colon Cancer Awareness Pop Sockets

No, our Eat, Travel, Fun website is not going to become a Cancer site, but we will share occasional updates and any pertinent information that might help save a life. As for myself, I had surgery on November 13, 2019 to remove a pretty large tumor in my Sigmoid Colon. Do you see that blue area in the photo? That’s where your Sigmoid Colon is located and that’s where they found the almost fully obstructing mass aka tumor from hell. I will spare you the details and wont share the disgusting image of what this unwanted invader looked like inside my body.

Sigmoid Colon

I had to wait several weeks after surgery before I could begin my chemo treatment, but on December 12, 2019 I had my first “chemo cocktail” and it tasted like shit! Chemo cocktails suck they’re certainly not tasty like a margarita or a vodka tonic or an old fashioned and the chemo hangover blows compares to a full night of debauchery. Ok, ok, all hangovers suck, but you get where I’m going with this… One is fun and the other is crappy. Hahahahh, do you see what I did there? (Perfect timing as this Facebook memory from three years ago popped up today)

Each chemo round has been very different. I’ve had horrible nausea, hiccups, heartburn, fatigue, loss of taste buds, nasty taste buds, loss of appetite, neuropathy, cold sensitivity, hair loss, back pain, I’ve been up all night having to pee and sneeze attacks. I hate the smell of the saline flush and can taste the icky metal taste that it leaves you with. My long infusion day is on Thursday which usually starts at about 9am with an appointment with my oncologist first. My port is accessed and labs are drawn to see if I’m eligible for treatment. Just in case you don’t know what a port is, it’s an implanted device which allows easy access to a patient’s veins. A port-a-cath is surgically-inserted completely beneath the skin and consists of two parts – the portal and the catheter. The port was my second surgery on this jacked up journey.

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Port a Catheter

My doctor checks my vitals, we go over the plan and then I wait for about one to one and half hours to see if I have the all clear to start. I then get pre-meds started and at this point, I can’t recall all of the medicine they give me, but there’s a lot of them. Usually another hour has gone by and then I can officially start my first cocktail which is given over four hours. Once the first drug is completed I have a few more meds given to me plus an actual needle injection and then we start on the second cocktail which takes two hours. Once the second drug is finished comes in “Buzzy” as I so affectionately have named my chemo pump. Buzzy stays with me for an additional 46 hours of chemo drugs being administered through my port a catheter.

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Buzzy

Fast forward to April 2020, I’ve now completed nine rounds of chemo and I’m scheduled through 12 for now. Waiting to see what the next steps will be in order to get me to NED which means No Evidence Of Disease. In the Colon Cancer world, they use NED instead of remission and I will need to have five years worth of ‘clean scans” before they would declare me cancer free. This process certainly isn’t a sprint, it’s definitely more of an Ultra Marathon, that I personally did not sign up for, with lots of high peaks to climb. I’m lucky though, I have an amazing “Race Crew” which is making sure that all of my needs are met in order for me to keep fighting, climbing and putting one step in front of the other so that I can and will reach that finish line and be declared NED.

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CT Scan Machine – I had a panic attack during my second encounter with this machine

My crew has certainly been amazing with many people stepping up to help me that I never would have imagined would be there for me. I’ve had friends and neighbors helping to do just about everything and anything possible to help my family and we’re certainly appreciative of everyone. I’ve received many text messages, Facebook messages, phone calls, cards, flowers, food, comfort items that I cherish, blankets, hats, ears, socks, cups, mugs, signs and daily inspirational quotes. I have had old friendships mended which I hope continue to grow and new friendships quickly develop that were previously non existent. I’ve also had friendships that have expired and that’s OK because not everyone is strong enough to deal with the blows that life hits us with. I don’t expect things from people, but I am forever grateful for those of you who have been so kind to me and my family, thank you!

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Lots of Amazing Notes of Inspiration from Fiends and Family

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Having cancer does something weird, it makes you look at life in a different way that you had never seen life before. Things that used to make me angry don’t really bother me anymore. Things that used to seem important are really not on the priority list of things. Cancer makes you appreciate life and makes you grateful for those who are a part of it. Cancer makes me want to spend more time with my family doing the things that we love to do Eat, Travel, and have Fun. Although we’ve had to cancel a few trips since my diagnosis, Washington DC in December, Park City Utah for a ski trip over Superbowl weekend, Riviera Maya because of Coronvirus and Australia because of Coronavirus, we still have four other trips on the calendar for this year, Hawaii, Riviera Maya (we rebooked), Cabo and Washington DC. These trips keep me hopeful, make me feel better about the future and we can’t wait to share them with you!

My final two cents about Cancer (at this time) learn about your cancer and understand what you can do to be an active partner in your care. Your chances of winning and getting to NED are better now than they have ever been before. Lean on your tribe and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember that millions of people who have had cancer are alive today. Have faith, be thankful, stay positive, love unconditionally and enjoy life.

With a Side of ~ Eat Travel Fun

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Love you!! Natalia, Continue your great work sharing with others & Enter Each Day with a Purpose & a Plan.
    Mom

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  2. Nicky says:

    Thank you for sharing so openly with us all. This blog brought tears to my eyes but also made me smile. You are one unbelievably strong woman and I’m proud to call you my friend! Love you.

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  3. Cindy says:

    WOW. Great 👍 update. I especially like the part where you’re looking forward to trips and staying positive which I know can be hard I went through 15 years of cancer ♋️ treatments with my sister and all were horrific. She never stopped living and stayed positive. You inspire me and so many others. Katie loves to run 🏃‍♀️ and I got my DNA 🧬 genetic tests where I found that I’m positive for B1. I’ll be doing elective surgery later this year hoping to avoid the same fate as my sister. You inspired me and probably saved my life. You are one of the most amazing people I know. You’re awesome 👏 in every way. We love ❤️ you and are always here for you. We’re truly blessed to have you in our lives. You have an amazing family. We continue to pray for you and we don’t get to see you but we love ❤️ you from here and we are your cheering section and know that soon we will hear cancer ♋️ free. I’m still convinced that it’s the water 💦. I loved that you share your experiences. Good and bad and take us on the journey with you. Thank you 🙏 for being so amazing. I loved the lasagna you brought over. Super thoughtful and very much appreciated. It was so great just to see you even though it was just for a minute. WOW. I really miss you 😘. Thank you 🙏 again. Love ❤️ you 😘

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  4. Gretchen Strong-Betten says:

    Natalia- we love you!! You totally got this and we are so very excited to travel early and have fun with you and your amazing family in July!!! Your post is so real- honest and brave. You continue to amaze me. Can’t wait to hug you!!!!

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