Sunday, June 23, 2019

Baking and Running And Fundraising

It's bake sale and Lahey 5K season!

We launched our Team NED (No Evidence of Disease) campaign this year on NED Day (February 27th) and geared up for our annual bake sale. The dietitians (and a speech language pathologist) baked in full force. We had 3 tables full of goodies. We take great pride in people letting us know that it is one of the most professional bake sales people have been to.

Unfortunately, I cannot seem to find the photo of our tables packed with goodies. It is one of my favorite days, I  get to spend the day meeting fellow cancer survivor/fighters and discussing baking with people who stop by the table. Our bake sale broke all the records this year as we raised, $2,198! That's just nuts for baked goods! 

Yesterday, was a great day for the Lahey Health 5K Cancer Walk and Run! Team NED was out in full force with friends, family, and colleagues. Team NED recruited 3 more cancer survivors to our little team the could. We had a great day running, walking, and our finally fundraising tally was $5,043! Yay! Team NED had the overall female runner winner, again, yesterday (2015, 2017, 2018). It's fun to still have fast running friends! It's such a joy each year to have all my friends and family there and bringing their friends and family and watch the team expand (and their kids grow!) Shout out to my high school teammate who helped me run a respectable 26:52 (slowest 5K ever), but way better than what my training runs have been. But, I still beat my oncologist, so that's a good day. 

Thank you to all who donated, baked, ran or walked. It made yesterday a great day and raised money for the Lahey Health Cancer Institute. 

PS. Had may mammogram on Friday and got the all clear. Made for an extra great race! 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Survivorship is not a linear process

Survivorship is definitely not a linear process. There are many peaks and valleys and sometimes sharp cliffs. There are days you don't feel well, and days you are frustrated by the amount of medication you take, days that things get biopsied and sometimes there are days where you end up in the Emergency Room with blood streaming down your face.

Ok, well not everyone ends up in the ER with blood streaming down their face. Some folks don't continue to have unfortunate things happen to them during survivorship, but many of us continue to struggle with side effects of a) chemo b) radiation c) surgery d) long-term hormonal therapy. Sometimes when trying to figure out the etiology of things it feels like a multiple choice exam.

So, here's what happened. I was selling some things out of the house and made a time to sell a box of foam floor mats in the parking lot of local Dunkin's. I drank a bunch of water, ate breakast and then left with plenty of time and slowly walked my way to meet the buyer carrying the awkward, but not heavy box. I walked the 400 ft, put the box down, stood up and then....felt that familiar chest tightness and the next thing I knew, I was in the gutter and could see my glasses lens on the ground. I realized I was soaked in puddle and that I had blood running down my face. I also realized a piece of my glasses was in my eyebrow...less than ideal. But, being who I am I steady myself on my two feet, tell they buyer he'll have to lift the box himself, take his cash, assure him that I am fine, I say "Don't worry, this happens all the time". And by all the time I mean that one time 5.5 years ago. I reassure that I am all set, make sure I've picked up all the pieces of my glasses, walk the 400 ft home and change my puddle soaked clothes. Bonus, I was wearing a white fleece, so you can see that my shoulder took a fair amount of the puddle dirt.

I then proceed to get in a Lyft and go to the ER. Oh, right, other fun detail my boyfriend was out of town and our roommate and my parents were not in the state. Picked a good time to pass out.

Anyways, get to the ER and one the nurse's I work with happens to be in the ER that day and she ushers me in. I let her know that I am on the poop emoji of blood thinners (xarelto) because of d) long term hormonal therapy and that means that I have to have my head scanned.

This lovely RN looks at my eyebrow and tells me that I should ask to have plastic surgery come stitch it back up. She reminds me that it is on my face. After the ER physician irrigates the wound he happily calls the on-call plastic surgeon to come in.

In the meantime, the usual. Get an IV, get some blood work, remind everyone I'm left arm only; get hooked up to the heart rate monitor, have and EKG done and then take a quick trip for a head CT. Good news then starts rolling on in...EKG normal, head CT normal (yay! not going to lie had a little fear of a brain met like any cancer survivor). Then the lovely on call plastic surgeon comes in to stitch me up.

The plastic surgeon asks if I've ever had surgery before. I tell her yes, a lumpectomy. She then asks if breast cancer ran in my family. I reply "no". She has no further questions for me and proceeds to numb my eyebrown and drape my face to do her thing. She tells me not to move, and I'm thinking "Um, yeah, you are working on my face". She stitches me up, with 2 different stitches, on for the skin and the other for where there is eyebrow hair.  When she is done I am happy to report I won't look surprised on one side of my face forever.

My ECHO is normal and they decide I can go home. My friends, as demonstrated through out the blog, are the best people ever. One had already come to meet me at the hospital in case I wanted/needed someone with me and another stayed with me at my home overnight so I didn't have to stay in the hospital. How kind are they?

The cause of my syncopal episode....unknown. Well, that is reassuring. Seeing as the last one I had they blamed on the breast cancer vaccine trial (which turns out I was only on placebo), the cause of that one also turns out to be....unknown.

The working theory is that every so often I have an irregular heart rhythm. But, it happens very rarely and so in order to prove that theory I am now hooked up to heart rate monitor at all times during the day except when I am shower. 3 leads attached via the itchiest circles ever created hooked up to something reminiscent of a pager that has a large blinking button on it that says "symptom". Every time I have a "symptom" I have to press the button and then log it in the cell phone that has to be within a couple of feet of the pager at all times. Nearly a week in and I have not had to hit the symptom button. I'll be wearing this for 30 days.

What is the cause of this potential irregular rhythm it could be from a) chemo b) chest radiation c) long term hormonal therapy d) bad luck. Or maybe there isn't an irregular rhythm. I guess we are on the hunt to find out.

As a bonus, I am now able that I have had work done on my face by a plastic surgeon.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

6 Years of NED

6 years of NED...seems like we were just celebrating the final day of radiation, but here we are. On my last day of radiation, when I had to go to work after, I told myself that I would not work any other February 27th as long as I was cancer free. And so, I created for myself NED Day! I must tell you it is glorious day filled with gratitude, friends and of course...Boob Cake.

Survivorship is not a linear process. There are more good days than bad, but there are more anxious moments, more foot cramps, a lot more pills and a lot more doctors visits then there was before cancer. The more weeks, days, months and years that I put together the FOR (fear of recurrence) lessens, but it can still take hold at the strangest moments. For example, I bruised my rib this past Fall (while making bread in my mixer, I am talented, don't ask) and while I knew exactly how this injury happen it sent me down the rabbit hole. When the pain didn't immediately go away and the days turned into a week I began to think that what if this wasn't a rib injury what if the cancer had returned? Thankfully, a good nights sleep and repositioning of the way I slept helped to make certain the FOR didn't get to set up camp fully. Survivorship is full of highs and lows. And that is why I choose to celebrate the highest of the high, NED day.

I started the day with a run. Nothing says I enjoy being alive like going for a run on 11 degree day (with a negative wind chill). At one point I came around the corner to face the wind head on and actually just yelled. As if the cold startled me. But, getting an ice cream headache while running couldn't wipe the smile from my face.

Next up, my friend and I ate our weight in pancakes and tater tots and had a great time catching up. Eating good food, chatting and visiting with some of my favorite people was a theme of the day.

Then I had the remainder of the day to work on the Year 6 Boob Cake.
6 layers (oh man these cakes are getting bigger) of vanilla bean sponge, key lime curd, coconut butter cream, coconut whipped cream and toasted coconut (which is like my irradiated boob) and a key lime nipple. When it's cold outside, my brain apparently wanted a warm weather flavors, so I went with it. 

My friends then came over (on a work night no less) and very kindly helped me celebrate by eating the cake. chatting and spreading general merriment. 

As if all of yesterday wasn't wonderful colleagues in the intensive care unit where I work (and the same ICU that I once had a breakdown about my upcoming PET scan when first diagnosed), wanted in on the celebration. So they surprised me with a card and cake! (I forgot to take a picture until after we ate a good portion of it). 

How awesome are the people I work with? 

Survivorship might not be a linear process, but when your surrounded by such wonderful people there are always people to pick you up when you hit the lows and there to celebrate with you when you hit the highs!