Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sisterhood of the Traveling Bear Part II

This week came another milestone in recovery. Passing along the bear. Unfortunately, another young woman who works at the hospital is in the midst of her breast cancer treatment and needs the courage and good fortune that the bear has brought through 4 cancer battles. The bear originated with a Nurse, KC, in the MICU who had breast and then ovarian cancer. Both primaries, as she says she was just one of the lucky ones to get cancer twice. She held onto the bear for 7 years until she passed it onto Stacey.  Stacey who was finishing up her herceptin treatments when she passed him along to me. My mother said she had hoped the bear's travels ended with me, but we don't yet live in a cancer free world. Having the bear was so important to me and it represented so much. First, it let me know that I would get through treatment and come out the other end. Second, it let me know that there was always someone who understood exactly what I was going through. Third, it was just so darn cute. He is now passed along with a book. Each of the us wrote a couple of pages about our story and how we got the bear and what it meant to us. He is a physical representation of all of our good thoughts and well wishes and I know he'll continue to spread joy and luck.
 In my head this was what the bear was singing to me as I packed him up. Go get' em Bear! Keep kicking cancers ass!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bumpy Leg Day

I really enjoy this commericial:

and right now I would say I'm happier than a camel on Hump Day.

Today was round 5 of clinical trial vaccine injections! Yes. And the day did not go so well, but still riding the NED (no evidence of disease) high from the clean CT.

I started off today's appointments with the longest blood draw ever. We are talking 15 minutes for the 4 tubes they wanted.  And two sticks. First stick in the elbow was followed by a hold on I'm just going to fish around a little. Yup, nothing I love more than needles in my arm fishing around for veins. No luck in the elbow crease so then my least favorite vein of all time was selected. The big one on top of my hand that runs over the middle finger (did refrain from using the middle finger). In fairness to the tech, who was very nice, I ate my weight in pizza last night. Fried eggplant and cheese pizza. For a person who doesn't usually eat that much sodium my veins were not happy. The nice tech did get the hand vein to work and then my blood dripped/trickled out at what my have been a new slowest land speed record for blood filling tubes. She was amazed and asked me if this was the longest it had ever taken for my blood to be drawn. I told her it was. She apologized. I let her know it was my fault (maybe should have stopped at 3 slices of pizza).

Meeting with the oncologist, NP and research nurse was good. Only major side effect from tamoxifen is my face looks like it did when I was 14. Yup, acne. However, unlike when I was 14 it takes forever for a zit to leave my face. I'm talking weeks. I'm pretty sure that I will take acne over muscle pain and joint stiffness and definitely over hot flashes. You know as if I had a choice in the side affects...

I also mentioned to the Research RN that while here colleague was nice enough who filled in for her last time, the engineer in me was really bothered by the lack of symmetry in the 4 shots. She made certain this time to make sure they were symmetrical. It's a small gesture, but when it's your thigh getting intradermal shots I feel like I can let the engineer in me get what it wants. Plus, if I have to measure them with the tool this just makes it easier.

The shots themselves hurt more than they have before. And the last shot hurt the most. Both the RN and I thought maybe outside thigh would hurt less so she did the inner thigh before the outer. But wrong-o. Last one felt like being stabbed with a pencil in the thigh. Went away after 30 seconds, but that was a little new.

Right now it looks like I have 4 (but thank god symmetrical) mosquito bites on the thigh. I am going to blame my heavy legs that I had during my run and weight lifting on the shot (and maybe a lot on the pizza). Last time I had to take some benedryl because these suckers itched like mosquito bites, so we shall see what round 5 brings.

Next up, return visit to the dentist. One of my fillings still isn't right. Part of me wants to use a Ginger Chew just to rip it out, but I'm pretty sure that would be counter productive.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

It was a bright sunshiny day

Thursday, when I woke up I was in a great mood and was on a mission. I was healthy and felt the need to prove it all day long.

First up, a 4 mile run. With hills. I picked the least hilly run available but still ended up with 6 or 7 large hills. Thankfully, the first half was mostly uphill and a bit difficult. The second half was mostly flat or easy cruising downhill, kinda like the last year. I wore my favorite hot pink breast cancer gear and ran it in about 30 minutes (really picked it up while going down hill).

Next up, water skiing. A little bit of a rough start, but after some coaching from my Uncle to stay in my crouch longer I ended up with this (I hope you can see the ear to ear grin I was sporting):
Victory! Until the boat needed to turn and then I fell off the wake and wiped out. But, I got back up and went for a nice long (well for a newbie) ski. Another great analogy for the last year.

At 3:30 pm I found myself a year later again sitting beside my mother. This time it was not in a dark room, but out in the sun on a dock at the Lake. At 3:30 pm I played this song for the two of us to listen to:
as we both agreed, the best is yet to come.

Then because my quads were dead from running and skiing, I kayaked down part of the shoreline of the lake. Just because I could.

What a difference a year makes. : )

Thursday, August 8, 2013

365 days ago

August 8th, 2012 at 3:30 pm was the official phone call from the Nurse Practitioner to tell me that I had cancer. The words were foreign and scary. Breast Cancer. A year later and I am cancer free and no longer scared by the word cancer. What a long strange trip it's been.

There are many lessons learns, but first and foremost Andi Dufrane was right:

I learned is that people in general are good. There are a few Sh*theads out there, but the majority of people are kind and generous. I learned that when the chips are down my family and friends rally and give support, even if your not sure what you need. Having cancer has brought me closer to all of them and it's nice to see people who are generally excited to see.

One year later instead of a lump I have a dimple in my right boob. I have a four inch scar with about a cm thick layer of scar tissue. I have a 0.5 inch scar under my right arm pit and a thick tendon that moves around sometimes because there are two lymph nodes missing. When I do any hanging exercises there is still some soreness, but nothing more than a little "hello" from the removed pectoral fascia.  From radiation I have 3 blue freckles, only half my axilla grows hair and some of the sweat glands have still not reactivated (I'll take it). From Chemo I know I have a pretty sweet head shape and now have thick, fluffy hair.  Yes, fluffy.

After being a Cancer Kick@ss Machine for 7 months I have fully transitioned into Recurrance Prevention mode. Scrutinizing everything that goes in my body, on my person or used to clean my environment. I have changed toothpastes, hand soaps and now actively by organic foods for the dirty dozen. I occasionally put on my crazy pants and get into intense research mode and spend late nights on my computer looking at endocrine disrupters. Things I never new about before August 8th, 2012. I continue to get injections monthly in my right thigh that may or may not leave permanent discoloration and may or may not be a cancer vaccine. I will never know the truth on that, but thankfully in the past year I have learned to accept some things. I take tamoxifen daily, my handy little SERM which in reality is daily low dose chemotherapy. I am thankful that the major side effect that I have is calf cramps and not hot flashes or more major joint stiffness.

I am not afraid of recurrance. I am a little more of a hypochondriach, but from my cancer friends I know that that's normal. "What's that ache? What's that lump? Why am I tired? What is that bruise from?" Nothing like a constant internal dialogue question everything that used to be shrugged off as it's probably nothing. I have seen and lived through the other side and know that it's not always nothing. The more time I put between me and cancer the quieter the inner dialogue gets. Eventually, I know that I'll forget (or hope I'll forget) the anniversaries; August 8th, September 11th, December 10th, February 27th. [Diagnosis, Surgery, Last Chemo Infusion, Last XRT-treatment complete]

One thing I don't think will ever go away is taking it personally every single time I hear that someone else has breast cancer. It's a sisterhood and everyone I've met will share their story and we root for those  battling. I have a collection of breast cancer gear and I wear it proudly.

Last year, my mom and Aunts were going to spend time up at Lake Sunapee. A well deserved vacation for all. Instead I filled it with biopsies and anxiety. My mother swore she would never go on another vacation with me. This year, with clean CT in hand, we are headed up to the Lake. No cancellations this year!

August 8th 2013 is a great cancer free day. Not bad for a Thursday.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

No time for Tom Petty this year

This time a year ago I was waiting to have my biopsy. I had had the ultra sound with the radiologist who had zero sense of humor and was attempting to enjoy the summer olympics during my sleepless nights. This year I am not waiting on any test results, I am basking in the glory of being cancer free (with a clean CT) and I am making the most of my free time. Last year while waiting for the biopsy I was the MC at our track club's fundraiser. While happy to have the distraction I know I had a short temper that day and was easily annoyed by anything that didn't go well. This year, I spent the weekend at a Bachelorette party for my friend who ran with me through chemo and am tired from the festivities (and squeezing every last moment of fun out that I can).

Curly Hair
Right now my biggest adjustment is my hair (which I am aware is very vain). I sometimes don't know who the person in the mirror is and I can't get it too look similar from one day to the next. I am very thankful to have hair, however and I think having the 2nd post chemo haircut might help my hair anxiety. But, lets be real, how nice of it a year later and my biggest issue is curly hair? That's straight up awesome.

This time instead of having "Waiting is the Hardest Part" stuck in my head I have this version of the most popular song in America: