Giving Life My All

Giving all of myself to everything in my life… God, my family, my health, my mind. This is my story… my ups and downs, struggles and triumphs.

The MRI Results are in…

How about another update!  2 updates in less than a week!  I’m on a roll!

Wednesday was MRI day and WOW…. that was a long day.  The MRI of my spine and right ankle/tibia took a total of 3 hours!!!  3 hours!!!  It was so long they actually let me watch a movie as it was being done!  If you’ve ever had an MRI, you know that even just a one hour scan is long and rough.  With all of the banging noises and high-pitched tones the machine makes, it’s almost impossible not to walk out with a headache.  That night I received a text from my Urologist Oncologist (who was able to see the initial MRI scans) telling me to keep off my feet and use crutches to move around.  On a positive note, he didn’t mention anything about my spine, which to Greg and me meant there was nothing to be concerned about.  Thursday morning we met with my Radiologist Oncologist to discuss the results.

I’ve been to so many doctors’ appointments at this point that they all seem to blend into each other.  I don’t remember if the good news was shared before the bad but… there was good news!  Praise God, again!  There IS good news!  As I mentioned in my previous post, the cancer started growing on/around/in the T9 vertebrae.  We treated it with 10 sessions of radiation about 2 weeks ago and on Thursday, we were told that the radiation worked!  The cancer growth has been stopped on the T9 and T8 vertebrae… the tumor is dead!  It’s no longer a concern of my doctors.  The MRI also showed a new growth on the T1 vertebrae up near my neck… which again, I should’ve known something was wrong up there due to pain… but I’m stubborn and push through pain without thinking anything of it.  So the T1 vertebrae will be treated with a one time shot of radiation this coming Tuesday.  The doctors don’t seem to be as concerned about it as they were the T9… which I’m thinking means we caught it early enough to successfully eliminate it quickly.

Now the bad news.  There is cancer IN and around my right tibia down near my ankle.  The cancer is eating away at the bone and has eaten away so much of it that very little actual bone is left.  Both my Urologist and Radiologist are shocked that I haven’t broken my leg yet… hence, the urgency to stay off my feet and use crutches to get around.  My Radiologist thinks it’s only a matter of time before I break my leg either from my own actions or from the cancer growing so large that it actually fractures the bone from the pressure.  I have a couple of options to treat this one… orthopedic surgery or radiation.  My Radiologist is moving very quickly and seems very concerned that I will break my leg.  He immediately started calling 2 Orthopedic Oncologists to see me ASAP, and thankfully, we were able to get an appointment with one of them on Monday morning.  If surgery is the way we go, they will have to cut open the bone to scrape out the cancer, then rebuild the bone with plates, rods and screws.  Sounds super scary but I’d almost rather do that up front than risk breaking the bone and having to get the surgery anyway.  The bad news with surgery is that I would have to stop my Immunotherapy treatment during surgery and recovery… risking the cancer getting out of control and growing quickly in other areas of my body since it’s so aggressive.  The other option is radiation… which my own Radiologist didn’t sound to fond of.  If we do radiation, it could take weeks to work and it will not build up the bone that the cancer has eaten away…. so I’m still at risk of breaking that bone as we wait for the radiation to work.  For now, I’m trying to stay off of my feet as much as possible (which is super hard to do when you want to be active and have a family to take care of), and I’m just waiting for the Monday appointment with the Orthopedic Oncologist to find out our next steps.

On a side note… after 4 1/2 years of no cable, Greg and I decided to bite the bullet and get it!  The decision clearly came at a great time seeing as I’m going to be sitting for many hours on end by myself with this new Tibia issue.  TLC, HGTV, the Food Channel…. so many options and shows that I have been missing for years!  Say Yes to the Dress, Fixer Upper, Chopped, House Hunters… the choices are endless!!!

And on a final note… more prayers have been answered with the clear scan of my T9 vertebrae.  God is listening… He is answering as we ask.  My cancer is unpredictable and we can’t seem to get ahead of it.  We seem to be a couple of steps behind… but God is pulling me through.  Am I scared about where it will be next?  Of course!  Do I wonder why I have to go through all of this?  Yep.  Do I question what God’s plan is for me and this cancer?  Every day.  But I have to trust that everything will work out for His glory in the end… and I have to take every small victory as it comes… praising the Lord and the doctors working their magic.

And on a final, final note… here’s a picture of my family from Easter for your enjoyment. IMG_3642

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Say it with me…

Hallelujah!  Glory to God!  God, you are so so so good!!!!  AMEN!

If you can’t tell… I’m in a wonderful mood and I wanted to share with you all why!  Instead of waiting until February 9th to have my follow-up scan, I had my chest, abdomen and pelvis scanned this past Friday the 27th.  My doctor ordered a scan STAT because I’ve been having sharp, intense pain on my right side by the rib cage and diaphragm.  It hurts to take deep breaths, it hurts to change position from lying or sitting to standing, and it hurts to bend over.  Since this is the opposite side of my cancer, you can understand how I would be concerned.  It doesn’t make any sense.  My doctor thinks I possibly pulled a muscle along my rib cage since I returned to REFIT® before I should have.  He also thought I could possibly have a pulmonary embolism… blood clot in my lung.  So we had a CT scan done on Friday to see if there was a blood clot or fluid on that side of the lung cavity that could be causing the pain.

By Friday evening, my doctor had texted me.  No pulmonary embolism… AND…. the tumor and hematoma are STABLE!!!!!!  This means they haven’t grown since having radiation and beginning my Opdivo treatment!  You have no idea how ecstatic I was to hear this news.  As I told my Life Group last night, it’s like I have been given my future back.  It’s hard to accurately describe what it feels like to basically be planning on only being around for another couple of years to feeling like you were just given your entire life back.  It may seem dramatic… and I may be jumping the gun since this is just the first scan since having any sort of treatment… but I feel on top of the world… and as I have promised Him… I give ALL of the glory to this happening to God.  Every single prayer that was said has gone to helping heal my body and I am so so thankful for those prayers.  And if you are not religious, or do not believe in God, I ask that you at least consider that there is a higher being (God) who has a part in this.

A couple of months after I was diagnosed with Kidney Cancer, my mom told me about a new drug on the market that was just approved by the FDA called Opdivo.  It’s a drug that is mainly used on Lung Cancer patients but they have been finding that it works for some other forms of cancer as well, some Kidney Cancers included.  My cancer is unclassified… meaning they have very little research on this type of cancer and they have no research on cures or ways to treat it.  Basically, my treatment plan is a shot in the dark as to whether or not it will work.  Opdivo has been the 2nd drug that we are trying.  This cancer has gone from more than doubling in size in a matter of one month to not growing at all.  That to me is divine intervention.  He is the one who put everything into action and has made this drug available to me and thousands of other cancer patients.  And as of now, He has made this drug the treatment that works for my cancer that they have no idea how to treat.

So… we will repeat the scans in 6-8 weeks and I will continue Opdivo treatments every other week.  I ask that you all continue to send good vibes and pray over my family and me.  And if you have never prayed… or if you don’t believe in the power of prayer… I ask that you try it anyway… it can’t hurt but it can definitely help.


Such people will not be overcome by evil. Those who are righteous will be long remembered.  They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and face their foes triumphantly.   ~Psalm 112:6-8




Can I be real for a moment?

Going to try to make this one a quick post…

I just want to be real with everyone for a bit… not that I haven’t been real up until this point…. but things have felt pretty easy for me until a couple of weeks ago.  About 3 weeks ago, this pain that I’ve been having in my Psoas muscle leading from the bottom of my spine through my pelvic bone down my left leg has gotten unbearable.  I take Tylenol Extra Strength regularly now… 3 times a day.  The second the Tylenol starts wearing off, the pain starts coming back… hard.  If the Tylenol didn’t work to take away this pain, I don’t know how I would be able to function day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.  My doctor prescribed me OxyContin but that actually works way less than the Tylenol.  He told me to up the dosage to see if it would work, but I’m hesitant to because I know how drugged up I feel on it and how easy it is to get addicted to this pain-killer.  So… I’ll stick with my Tylenol until my doctor says I have to stop because my liver can’t handle anymore.

I started treatment this weekend.  On Saturday.  My husband forced it.  Whchemo-pillsy would he have to force me to start it you might ask?  Well…. because I was scared.  I don’t know how my body is going to react to this drug.  I don’t know if it’s going to work.  And honestly, starting it made me feel like I was admitting that I still have cancer… and I had been in a bit of denial up until my last NYC scans.  So… today was day 3 on Sutent… my targeted chemotherapy pill.  I’ve had some typical side effects and it sucks.  About 30 minutes after taking it, my body temperature drops and I’m freezing.  Then a small headache starts and lasts for about 30 mins.  Then chills and feeling like I have a fever.  Then overall, feeling like I have the flu… fatigue, weakness, stomach cramps, diarrhea, body aches and pains.   And the scarysnuggles part is that it could get worse.  I could get sores in my mouth, blisters and rashes on my hands and feet, changes in my taste buds, nausea, bleeding, bruising, etc.  Yeah… this sucks knowing that I have to do this for the next 25 days straight… get a 14 day break and then start it all over again. I can’t be the mother I want to be.  I can’t be the wife I want to be.  I have no energy to cook.  I have no energy to clean my house.  I have no energy to interact with my kids other than by having them sit next to me and snuggle.  I feel horrible… and I feel like I’m failing my family.  I know this is a stupid thought… but I feel so useless and when your entire identity in your family is taken away, you feel lost.


But… I have to keep my chin up.  I won’t let anyone see me cry.  I’m trying to be strong but I break down when I’mnew-tattoo alone.  I honestly, truly am fighting for my life and it’s exhausting.  I pray that this cancer disappears from my body… whether it takes a couple of weeks, a couple of months, or a couple of years.  I’m desperate for this to be gone… and when/if it is, all of the glory will go to God.  He is the one pulling me through.  He is the one where when I’m in His house, I feel most at home and at peace.  If I could live in my church, I think I probably would because that is how calm and good I feel when I am there.  He is a miraculous healer and I have to keep reminding myself to trust His plan for me.


1 Year Ago… seeing good in midst of a storm

This is my first attempt at blogging… it may be a bit random at times but hopefully, its an enjoyable read.

I’ve been wondering for a couple of days now what my first post should be about.  Ideas always cross my mind and I think, “Oh this is it… if I just had my computer, I’d type out a couple of paragraphs on XXXXX.”  But those thoughts usually came while driving or while laying in bed at 11:30 pm before I fell asleep.  Well today it finally hit me.  A post combining family, God and how He works in amazing ways.

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Driving home from dropping off my 3 1/2 year old at preschool today, I randomly started thinking about our life a year ago.  We are coming up on our second son’s first birthday and with that birthday, the anniversary of the day we said goodbye to my grandpa.   That thought had me wondering which day exactly it was that he passed.

When I got home, I pulled up my Timehop app to see if I had any fun pictures that I could post as my #TBT, and low and behold, my status from one year ago today was my status update regarding my grandpa.  One year ago today.  March 5, 2014… a day I will remember forever.  We knew the day was coming quickly, but somehow, even trying to expect the passing of a loved one doesn’t prepare you for the actual loss or hearing someone say the words, “he’s gone.”  The entire day I spent working from home (as I usually did on Tuesdays and Thursdays) and thinking about how I just wanted the little baby brewing inside of me to finally make his grand entrance into the world.  We were about a week from his due date and there was no progress or end in sight (in my eyes).  I was in pain, tired, and done with being pregnant.  5 o’clock rolled around, I was finishing up work and waiting for my husband to get home with our son from daycare when the phone rang.  I looked at the number coming in and it was my mom.  I answered the call, and I don’t know how I knew, but the second she said, “Hey Cheryl,” I had a pretty good feeling as to why she was calling.  “I have some news,” she said.  I finished her sentence.  She confirmed it and proceeded to tell me how he passed.  My heart sank.  My eyes filled with tears and the reality of what our entire family had been trying to prepare for for YEARS, had hit me like a ton of bricks.  He finally let go.  He finally went home to our creator and his wife.  God finally called him home.

After my husband got home, I told him that my mom called with the news.  I sat in my glider most of the night, just rocking and staring off with hundreds of thoughts and memories flowing through my head.  So many great memories of Grandpa and the family… and then the thought that I would not be able to go to the funeral.  I was not going to be able to see my grandpa one last time before saying, “Goodbye.”  It was unbelievably hard to face this… to be one of his only grandchildren not to be able to go to his funeral.  You see, a year prior, my small family of 3 decided to pick up and leave the Tri-State area that most of the Cannella family line resides in.  Aunts, Uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins and grandparents, literally live within an hour to 2 hour drive from each other.  Holidays were always spent together and the memories we all created together are priceless.  Greg and I were the first family members in probably over 30 years to branch out and move away… with my younger sister making the move with us.  So I was a week and a half from my due date, my grandpa’s funeral was likely 4 or 5 days away, and there was absolutely no chance I was going to be flying to the east coast for any reason.  I was torn.  I felt guilty.  My grandpa just passed and I was waiting on bringing a new life into the world.  There was no way I could be happy in this moment… the moment that most mothers are looking forward to with joy, meeting the little miracle they spent the last 9 months dreaming about.  My second son will forever have this sorrow hanging over his birthday when I think back to the days leading up to his birth.  Then it hit me… or maybe I should say He hit me with the reason for all of this.

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Grandpa, my younger sister and me… one of the last times we got to spend together – Winter 2013

My grandpa suffered and pushed through 4 or 5 years at the end of his life.  His last year or so was definitely his worst.  I don’t think we will ever know why he pushed for so long and stuck around when every bit of his body and mind seemed to say that he was ready to go home.  But he did.  Every day, we waited to see if he was going to keep going… and he always did.  The last time we saw him, thankfully, was just a couple of months prior at Christmas when we traveled back to CT to spend the holidays with family.  My oldest (then 2 1/2 years old) got to see him one last time, and even though he probably won’t remember it, it meant so much to me to see the 2 of them together.  Cayden and Grandpa bonded.  When no other adults could figure out what to say or do with Grandpa, Cayden and Grandpa always found something to enjoy together… whether it was playing with dinosaurs, pushing matchbox cars back and forth to each other, giving high fives, or just making funny faces at one another… they had a bond.

Cayden and Grandpa

Cayden and Grandpa

Coming to terms with the timing of my Grandpa’s passing was hard and when most people would be angry at God for the timing, I found peace in it.  He took one of the most important people in my life at a time when I was going to be bringing an equally important person into the world.  He helped ease the pain of the loss by blessing us with the gain of another.  Liam wasn’t born the day that we lost my grandpa… nor the day that my grandpa was laid to rest next to my grandma… but about a week after the funeral and a week past his due date.  I had time to deal with our loss… time to try to heal and try to look forward to our unborn child.  I think the Lord knew that I would have had a very difficult and emotional time going into labor during those days following my grandpa’s passing… and so, he kept Liam inside just a bit longer than predicted to make sure that I could 100% be ready and devoted to delivering my baby.

God is good…. even in pain and sorrow… God is good.

I love you Grandpa and I miss you every day.  I look for you in Liam Thomas’s actions and personality hoping to see that God blessed him with bits of you as you left this world and he entered it.  You were one-of-a-kind and I’m so lucky to have been one of your grandchildren.  I’m looking forward to the day that we will be reunited.

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