Wednesday, August 27, 2014

One of the Greatest Myths

People believe that it is some birth right that they be able to live until they are 90 years old with minimal complications. Folks often take for granted that the years fly by on the calendar and believe they are owed more birthdays. This is one of the greatest myths of life that everyone is instilled with unless they have seen or experienced otherwise. 

We are not promised long, healthy lives. 
We are not promised long lives. We are not promised healthy lives. 

Sometimes inexplicably bad things happen to good people. Repeatedly. These folks understand that a long, healthy life is a myth. Today, was one of those days at work that reminded me that not everyone is aware that there is no promise of a long life. I will not repeat the horrific story here, but the death of this young patient has me shaken to the core. She didn't die of cancer, but the manner of death really isn't the issue. In a brief period of time she has passed on. There is an absolute finality and sadness of it reverberated through the hospital today. It has reminded us that as much as we want to believe the myth, we can't. 

Today, I am officially 1.5 years cancer free. Today, I am reminded that life is meant to be lived. Every moment of every day because we are not promised long, healthy lives. Today, I am reminded to be grateful for being alive and having more time to fly by on the calendar. Today, I am thankful that those in my life are working towards their long healthy lives. Today, I am here and I am present. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Running the Checklist

One of the nurses at work finished her breast cancer treatment July 21st. Earlier in the week we ran through the protocols for the different clinical trials we are both on. She had post menopausal ER+/HER2- stage III cancer. We were discussing about how my trial requires MUGA scans and her's will just involve blood work and making sure she does not get too immunosupressed (not good for an ICU nurse who has direct patient care).

This morning however, was a classic interaction between two survivors.

Survivor #1: I drank too much alcohol last week. My oncologist told me I could have a couple of drinks a week.
Survivor #2: I haven't had an alcoholic beverage in 2 years.
#1: Ok, so you just completely abstain.
#2: Right, if I'm going to take the tamoxifen every day to lower my circulating estrogen level then I'm not going to do anything to raise it.
#1: Well, but does the tamoxifen lower it that you wouldn't be working against it to have the occasional drink?
#2: I don't know.
#1: What I'm really struggling with is what to do when we are out with people and they order another drink and I've had my one.
#2: I order dessert.
#1: Well, we both know that too much sugar isn't great...

Other nurse caught in the crossfire: You two have been through so much, you should just do whatever you want. You've worked so hard to get where you are.

#1 and #2 give other RN look. Both telepathically communicate "Right we've worked really hard to get to this cancer free place, and we want to stay here. So please excuse us while we compare the size and color of our crazy pants".

#1: Another survivor told me that I shouldn't eat anything that came from another mammary gland. Do you eat cheese and milk, etc? I try to limit it.
#2: I eat dairy like it's my job. I go through a gallon of milk a week. And I cannot give up yogurt.
#1. Organic, obviously.
#2. Obviously.
#1. I can't give up yogurt. I love it with berries and Grape Nuts.
#2. Oh, I was so excited when they reformulated to make them Soy free!
#1. I know! I need the crunch. Also, are you one of the natural deodorant people?
#2. I was, I read some more research and realized I didn't need to smell on a daily basis and went back to my full strength deodorant. 
#1. Yes, it lasted 35 seconds until I was done with radiation then I switched back.
#2. How is running going now that treatment is completely done?
#1. I had the best run of my life last night and ran my 4 mile loop 2 minutes faster than I ever had. I am so excited.
#2. That is awesome.

The longest conversation I had with this nurse before either of us were cancer survivors was to ask why a patient's tube feeds were turned off. Previously, she scared the crap out of me. Today, we chatted like we had been friends for years. That is the amazing common denominator that is cancer. Everyone has a shared experience and even in survivorship you just want to make certain that people are having the same thought process. And guess what? We all are.

Yay new friends.

PS. I'm Survivor #2.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Diagnosis Day Celebration 2.0

Today it has been 2 years since the nurse practitioner called and said "You have breast cancer". As I fully believe that I should celebrate all anniversaries big and small today was no different. This years celebration was similar to last years celebration, with one major detail. This year both my mother and I didn't even realize when 3:30 pm came around. Last year we both totally fixated on the time and date. This year I woke up to a Happy Anniversary from her and my Aunts. (Like last year we were at one of my favorite places on earth, Lake Sunnappee). But, not until I started typing this post did I realize that both of us just happily bopped along in the car and the time past with out recognition. This is what other cancer survivors have told me about time and how you really do think about having cancer less. This time last year I would have thought they were nuts. This year I was busy scanning the radio for a song to sing along/torture my mother with and the time passed. I noted about 5 days ago my cancer friend Stacey had posted this to her facebook page:

"Ya know how I know I keep sticking it to cancer? Cause yesterday marked 3 years ago when I heard the words confirming I had cancer... And I forgot about it yesterday . Better yet, last night 3 Doors Down sang my conquering cancer song "Let me be myself". Eff you cancer, eff you."

Just think August 8, 2015 I might even forget it is my diagnosis day. Likely not, because I do like all these celebrations. 

Although I missed the time, the day was fully recognized. I celebrated with a run (and thankfully one that felt reallly, really good on my legs) and it was reasonably fast (7:30 mile pace). I had some breakfast and then was able to spend some time out on the lake by myself in a kayak. It was a gorgeous, peaceful morning. And it was a nice to be able to celebrate the day with a quite brain soaking in the sunshine.

It was a great day to spend with my family capped off by a great dinner with my parents and the ultimate celebration food......Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding. For real. Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding. My two favorite things together.

And to follow the tone that Stacey set at the beginning of the week here is a repeat of my conquering cancer song. I still love this song and sing it loudly and fist pump proudly to it.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Nice Easy Follow Up

Today was a standard built in follow up for the PRESENT trial. It involved blood, urine and physical exam.

Easy. Peasy. Lemon. Squeezy.

My veins have really fully recovered. 7 tubes of blood, one stick. No problem.

Chatted with the Nurse Practitioner, we discussed running. We talked about how terrible my legs felt in May and early June. She did tell me that many of my symptoms could be attributed to tamoxifen, so I am not crazy for blaming my creakiness and stiffness on them.

And then I didn't have to have anything injected into my legs and I was free to return to work.

How far have we come.