The first 48 hours

Why does shit always happen on Fridays? It's like the universe wants you sit with that shit all weekend - unable to take any action - and just think about it.

How it all started: I was in the end of my second trimester of my pregnancy with Nicholas. I woke up one morning with a noticeable pain on the left side of my neck. I figured I slept wrong and went about my business. The pain persisted as the days went on and progressed to a noticeable loss of sensation from my the base of skull to about the top of my shoulder. It's like that feeling when the Novocain is wearing off but hasn't yet completely - you have some sensation but not much. I also had occasional tingling. If I did too much or was too active that day, I'd get a burning sensation in those muscles and would only find relief from resting my head back. I tried massage and chiropractic adjustments and they didn't help. So I kept on, dealing with it, accepting that it was most likely just from being pregnant and that post delivery, things would remedy themselves.

I also had a cough and it was hard to breathe. Again - I though just a symptom of pregnancy. My belly was high - little guy was sitting up in my rib cage it felt like - and I assumed the upward pushing on my stomach and ribs, lungs, etc... was the culprit. My OB thought I was having some silent reflux. So she advised I could take a regiment of Pepcid daily to help calm the cough and some tylenol nightly to help ease the pain in my neck. They both helped somewhat. So I kept on - again - assuming after delivery things would resolve.

At the urging of husband, mom and mother-in-law, I went in for an MRI to check my neck. The pain hadn't gone away completely but it had subsided and instead of taking Motrin around the clock, I was only taking it at night sometimes at 4 weeks postpartum. I was just going to wait - give it more time - since it seemed to be resolving. But they said I needed to go. So I did. The cough also calmed down, but is still present. I still feel like I can't breathe at times. Other pregnancy pains have pretty much resolved. I'm feeling more stable - like my joints are starting to harden back up. I still have some pain and some weakness and instability in my hips when I try to get up from a seated position on the couch or from on the floor.

So I had my first MRI on 1/21/16 without contrast. My PCP called me that night and said I needed to go back because they saw something on my scan and wanted to do it again, this time with contrast. So I went back on 1/22. The fear had set in overnight. Halfway through my MRI, when it was time to inject the contrast, I broke down crying. My fear got the better of me. I told the techs my fear and that I just needed a minute. I pulled myself together and finished the scan. My PCP called us later that night with the results.

"Impression: Multiple infiltrative aggressive lesions identified within the neck most compatible with metastatic disease. First, the most concerning lesion (size: 2.4 x1.2 x1.9 cm) is centered within the cricoid cartilage with causes 66% subglottic tracheal narrowing. Second, partially imaged is a superior mediastinal lesion (size: 4.2 x 3.1 cm) which narrows the left brachiocephalic vein and superior vena cava. Third, a large metastasis (size: 3.8 x 2.0 x 1.3 cm) centered at the left C2-C3 facet joint with an associated moderate pathologic fracture of the C3 vertebral body, mild epidural extension, and circumferential encasement of the left vertebral artery. Further evaluation with a contrast-enhanced CT of the neck, chest, abdomen and pelvis is recommended for staging. Given the airway compromise, an ENT or thoracic surgeon evaluation may be appropriate."

Not included in the overall summary, but in the detail, is a nodule on my thyroid of 1.0 x .06 cm as well as some fluid around the top of my right lung.

So what does this mean? It means I can't breathe because I have a lesion growing and pushing on my windpipe. It means the pain in my neck is caused by a moderate fracture of the vertebrae because the lesion there has degenerated the bone and made it weaker, while also pushing on a nerve. It means I have a lesion encircling a major artery in my spine, also creeping into my epidural space toward my spinal cord. It means I need more imaging. It means we haven't ruled out yet that this hasn't spread anywhere else. It means every weird twinge of pain or odd sensation I have right now makes me pay attention and take note. It means lots of breakthrough crying for everyone - for me, my husband, my mom, my sister, my family and friends. It also means I'm trying very hard to live in the moment and not in my head. It means lots of extra kisses and hugs and "I love you"s to everyone around me. Most of all, it means I have to put on not just a fighter face  - but a warrior face.


  1. You don't have to "put on" the warrior face. You are the warrior. F*uck cancer...Beat it to the ground and defeat it. Many many many people are praying for you and are here if you need it. I'm across the country but if you told me to be there I would. I love you Melissa and I know that you will fight. Be mad about it and turn all that into glorious war where you are the victor

    1. Yet you have such a pretty warrior face! Get in on girl!!!! We are all wearing them for you as back up

  2. We are praying for you Melissa. You're strong and we're going to fight this together. You have our love and support. We love you. Xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

  3. You will beat this Melissa. Just like you beat it before. I will continue to pray for you and your family until you defeat this.

  4. I wasn't expecting your blog in my feed today. I am sorry that it is. <3 Let me know if I can help out in any way - my email address is on the about section of my site. There are some closed FB groups that helped me ground myself right after my rediagnosis.

  5. You are an inspiration and a TRUE warrior. Please know that I am sending tons of prayers, positivity, and healing vibes to you and your family!! I

  6. Hello Melissa and Mike - please rest assured that all your loving friends and family are praying and rooting for you. We know it will be tough, and we know you can do this BEAT this sh*t, We want to help. Dinners, babysitting, housecleaning. PLEASE let us know when your mom has a list of things that you need help with so we can support you all. Hugs, prayers and positive thoughts, Kathleen


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