Happy New Year and welcome!
This is my first blog post. For those of you that don't know me, my name is Bianca Muñiz and I am 22 years old. I've never written a blog before, so please no harsh comments. The point of this blog is to share my journey and fight with cancer and life in general. I currently have breast cancer and just had a double mastectomy. Let me start from the beginning.
When I was 11 years old I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. How did we find out? I was actually in the doctor's office for my knees. I had something called Osgood-Schlatter. (A common cause of knee pain in adolescents. Most often occurs during growth spurts, when bones, muscles, tendons, and other structures are changing rapidly.) I was having tests done. The doctor left the room to get the test results, so my mom and I were waiting for her to come back. I was laying down and my mom put her hand on my stomach. "Stop making weird shapes with your stomach" she said. "I'm not doing anything." I replied. "You're not making a muscle?" she asked. "No mom I'm not doing anything." My mom freaked out and called the doctors and nurses back in. The doctor felt my stomach and said we should go straight to the hospital. That day I was rushed into surgery that ended up lasting for 13 hours. The doctors told my parents I had ovarian cancer. They removed my right ovary, stripped my diaphragm and still weren't able to get everything out. We were told I would need to go through 6 months of chemotherapy. My dad freaked out of course (what parent wouldn't) and took us to Paris the next month. It was a beautiful trip from what I can remember.
After we got back, my aunt, a homeopathic dentist, got me started on alternative medicine. I went through six months of alternative medicine before I started chemotherapy. It boosted my immune system to keep me strong and healthy for the chemo. Because of that, I got through chemo with flying colors. I was only sick and nauseous once and that was during the first treatment! During the chemo, I lost my hair and honestly to me, an 11 year old girl- that was the worst part of it. I was home schooled for most of seventh grade. I refused to fall behind a grade in school, so they sent home a tutor (one of my favorite teachers.) When I was in the hospital, I remember being surrounded by friends and family. We would have "P" parties where everything had to start with a P. We would wear pajamas, eat Penne a la vodka, pizza, watch movies that started with the letter P, and just have a great time. Everyone would squish into my little hospital room and enjoy each other's company. I feel really blessed to have family and friends that are so incredibly supportive. They definitely made the experience so much better.
Another thing that got me through this rough time was music. That year, my middle school was putting on the show, "High School Musical." I absolutely had to be in it! I begged my mom and doctors to let me audition and be in the show, and I ended up getting the lead, Gabriella! This was a huge deal for me. I had been wanting voice lessons for my entire life and my mom said in order to get voice lessons, I needed to get a lead in a show. Well here we were! I got a lead! Being in this show meant the world to me. In the hospital I would practice my lines and sing the songs for the doctors and nurses. Being in the show gave me something to look forward to. Every week I looked forward to going to rehearsals. However, I do remember one time where my blood count was a little low (making me more susceptible to getting sick) but I reallllyyyyy wanted to go to rehearsal! So the compromise: my mom made me wear a surgical mask to rehearsal. I absolutely hated it, it was embarrassing for me. I was trying to pretend like nothing was happening, I wasn't sick, I even wore a wig and tried to pretend it wasn't a wig. I just wanted to be normal and this surgical mask was like a neon sign above my head saying "THIS GIRL HAS CANCER, SHE'S SICK EVERYONE!!!" Obviously I had to get over it if I wanted to go to rehearsal, but I definitely was not pleased.
Another surgical mask memory is the time where I wanted to go bowling. Again, my blood count was a little low so my mom wanted me to wear the mask again. I obviously did not want to, so I was refusing to go at all at this point. But this time my friends offered to wear masks with me. We all decorated our masks and went bowling together. To this day that is one of my favorite memories.
Six months later and I'm done with chemotherapy. Make a Wish sends me to California. My wish was to go to Disney Land in California, and they ended up sending me to all sorts of amusement parks. We got picked up in a limo from our house! (I am now 12 at this point and that is so incredibly cool! Actually.... it's still cool to me lol) I absolutely love roller coasters and it just feels so good to be out of the hospital and in the sun with my family, having a good time. This trip was my first time not wearing a wig in public (I didn't want it to fly off on a roller coaster so I decided to go without it.) I was so nervous and self conscious, but then all of that changed. My mom and I had just gotten off of a roller coaster. We were walking back to my dad and sisters when we passed a lady. I didn't know her and she didn't know me, but she was looking at me as we were getting closer. Then she turns and says, "Excuse me, where did you get your haircut?" My mom and I look at each other and then she says, "Westchester." The lady then says, "Wow, I love it! You are so beautiful!" I say thank you and then we both go on our way. As we walked away my mom and I turn to each other, start laughing and say, "Westchester medical center!!!!!" We were hysterical! But that moment changed everything to me. That lady will never know what a difference she made in my life. I no longer felt self conscious and insecure. I felt strong and beautiful.
That feeling that she helped me realize is now helping me through what is going on now. In November I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I had gone to get a mammogram done because I felt some bumps in my breasts. In high school I had a benign tumor removed, so I had already been on the lookout for little bumps. I went in and got the tests done. The doctor seemed very concerned. She wanted me to come back a couple of days later and have biopsies done. We got the results back a week later. She called me while I was at work. She told me I had breast cancer. I was honestly not surprised, I didn't have much of a reaction. I asked her to call my mom and tell her so I wouldn't have to, I knew it would devastate her. I went to visit my mom after work to console her. I told her I wasn't upset and that everything happens for a reason! I also told her I wanted to get a double mastectomy. She was not happy about that and fought me. She wanted me to try to keep my breasts, but it didn't make any sense to me. I was under the age of forty and already had breast cancer. It wasn't even my first time having cancer! The most logical thing for me to do was to get my breasts removed, and the doctors agreed with me 100%. I decided to have a farewell show before my surgery. My show was December 2nd and it was packed. I absolutely loved it! A lot of my friends already knew I had cancer at that point, so I felt a lot of love and support from everyone. It was the best feeling.
My surgery was scheduled for December 23rd. I could hardly sleep the night before. Call me crazy, but I was excited. I was excited to get the cancer out of my body finally! It had been a waiting game at this point. All of the doctors appointments getting ready for the surgery, I just wanted it done already so I could move on with my life! I spent the entire night before preparing. I packed my clothing for the hospital, a journal to write in, and took an extremely long, hot shower because I didn't know when I would be allowed to again. Finally it was time to leave. We blasted music in the car and I was singing loud and proud at 5 am. I was enjoying life, getting ready for what was about to happen. When we got to the hospital, I had some friends and family there already. We had the waiting room packed! The nurses and doctors thought we were hilarious. I was sent back to change and get ready. When I was changing, I took a minute to myself to take pictures of my body and the way it was. I was saying goodbye to it, and thanking it for everything it has gone through with me. I was thanking it for being so strong and able and for protecting me. Finally ready, my family and I were brought back to talk to the nurses and doctors one last time before surgery. Everyone was goofing around and got reprimanded lol!!!
Now I'm being brought back to the OR. I am sitting on the table and one nurse tells me she has to inject nerve blockers into my back, while another nurse tells me she is going to put some medicine in my IV. The last thing I remember is the nurse drawing lines on my back for where the blockers would be injected. I wake up in the recovery room. My mom is next to me. It's really foggy to me, I was in and out, but I remember my sisters being brought back to see me. We had this joke that I would dab once I'm awake after surgery, but since I just had my breasts cut off, that was a little bit difficult. That didn't stop me from trying! As I was on all sorts of painkillers, I tried to lift my arms and say "It's liiiitttttttt," while attempting to dab. Everyone was laughing. I remember some more family and friends coming and saying hi while I was waking up. When I fully woke up, I was in the hospital room that I'd be staying in that night. Everyone argued over who would stay with me, but since my mom was sick, my sister (and best friend) Jacqueline ended up staying with me. Since there was no futon bed, she slept with me in my bed. I am so lucky to have such wonderful sisters. I adore them.
That first night after surgery, I was woken up every hour to have my blood pressure taken and make sure everything was okay. It was definitely a rough night. I was exhausted the next day and all I wanted to do was go home and sleep in my own bed. The doctors gave me the go ahead so my dad came and picked us up mid day. As soon as I got home, my sisters helped me upstairs into my bed. A little while later my mom comes in with a bundle of blankets in her arms. It was a puppy! She knew how badly I wanted a puppy. My baby dog Onyx passed away 2 years ago from cancer. We got her when I was diagnosed the first time. When I was diagnosed this time I said I wanted a puppy, but I had been unable to find one, so she surprised me when I got home! I started crying immediately, I was so happy. I named her Bella.
Bella has been a bundle of light and life for me during these trying times. She keeps me busy. She loves me unconditionally. My first few weeks at home, I couldn't do much but sit on the couch and watch tv. Bella and I would just lie down together and watch netflix all day. She is the perfect companion.
Now for my caretakers. I must be the luckiest girl in the world. Every night my sisters, Jacqueline and Khassandra, would take turns sleeping in my bed with me. I wasn't able to get up by myself or go to the bathroom by myself, or pretty much do anything by myself. I would wake them up every hour to help me sit up and go to the bathroom. They did it with nothing but love. My best friend Michael would make sure that I took all my medicine on time and did my breathing exercises every hour, no matter how much I didn't want to. My parents offered nothing but love and support. My dad got me whatever I wanted or needed, friends dropped off delicious dishes of food every week and would come spend time with me, and my mom is just incredible and does so much for everyone all the time. I could not be luckier.
I just feel lucky and blessed to be alive, and surrounded by such wonderful people. One of the things that I live by is that everything happens for a reason. I firmly believe that. This is my path, and I am making the most of it.
Well that is it for my first blog post! I didn't realize I'd be typing so much. I just started and kept going. The next post will be about my experience with the drains post surgery and the fillings of my tissue expander and whatnot.
Have a wonderful night, and thank you for taking a chance on me and taking a chance on my music.