Wednesday, November 11, 2009

One year anniversary

This day last year, I was told I had cancer. It's my one year anniversary today--Remembrance Day has a whole other meaning for me now. I'm trying not to be negative about it, that it was the first day of getting better, but all I can think about is how it's the day my life changed forever. When I read books about people's experiences and they would talk about the one year diagnosis anniversary, I would think how great it would be, it being just a memory, all in past tense. But it isn't. It's so much closer to me than I thought it would be at this point. I still feel shell shocked. What the hell happened? Yes, I'm better --my hair is growing back, my energy levels are just starting to get better and my depression starting to calm itself down. But I'm still flat chested and will be for awhile and I have oncology follow up appointments and blood tests every 3 months. It's still so fresh and I hope it's will fade with time. I don't want to forget, just move on.

I feel it's time to retire this blog, which helped me get through one of the most difficult years on my life. I'll still write the MoreofLess blog though. Thank you for reading.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Breast cancer awareness

It's breast cancer awareness month and so far, I'm getting through it. I went to my annual doctor's appointment last week and I was reminded that this hell started exactly a year ago. I remember the panic I felt at the idea of a simple mammogram. I think I knew something was wrong, even if there were no symptoms. It's a year later and I'm a bit afraid to take stock, but here goes:

I'm alive and well as far as I know, but I look and feel different. I'm tired and no longer fit. I'm sad most of the time right now and apprehensive about the future. My hair is slowly growing back to something I don't recognize, and I'm waiting patiently for a new chest I won't recognize. I might look similar to what I used to be in a year from now, but I know I will never be the same again. It don't wanna dwell on it, but it's like something was broken and glued back together but the chip will remain. Now that's awareness.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Yes, I'm deflated

It's never simple, I should know that by now. I should be the queen of Neversimpleland. I feel sore from getting hit my the reality bus once again. And deflated, pun intended.

I met my plastic surgeon this morning. She seems like a no nonsense kind of person just like my surgical oncologist. That's good considering the crap I was given, by no fault of hers. I need two surgeries, one to expand the muscle and one to position the permanent implants (then there's all the nipple procedures). The fact that I had a skin saving mastectomy makes no difference, so I've been living this wrinkly for nothing. My skin is very thin, and even though part of my breast area will be covered my muscles, only silicone implants could make them feel as close to real as I'm going to get. That's fine, since I have no extra fat to donate (and I didn't want the extra scar), and I had read that saline implants don't feel as real (but I might be wrong). The big hit, however, is that the waiting list for the first surgery is 6 to 8 months. Then it's another 6 months of expanding muscles. So I still have years of surgery and recovery ahead of me, and another half year of living in my temporary flat chested state. Needless to say I'm disappointed and feeling sorry for myself.

Will it never end? I'm strong and I'll cope, but I just want things to be back to normal, if that's possible. Maybe I'll get lucky and they'll call me in a few months with a cancellation. Let's hope.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Work, hair and lots of doctors

My family doctor called yesterday before she signed my work plan to make sure I was feeling good and not pressured into going back to work. I'm not and I'll be going back on the 19th. Now, how much I can do is a mystery. When I started paying attention to my days at home, I realized that they are short. I get up with C. de Lune and D to send them off --getting her ready and fed, making her lunch and making sure he gets up, then I chill until 10:00, I get dressed at that point and go do something. Usually, I go out to lunch or I bring Oli to the park or paint, or research and write my other blog... then by 2:00 I'm ready for a bath and a nap. After that, I'm ready for the evening, then I'm dead at 8:00. I wonder how that's going to work with work. Good thing I have 2 weeks of part time half days to get used to it.

My hair is growing in finally. It had to come in where I didn't want it first, of course. Now I'm just waiting for it to show up on the top of my head so I can stop wearing scarves --in time to wear them around my neck. I'm also feeling fine a week after starting my pills. I get hot flashes, and I can feel them coming on, but only at night. I'm still eating just real food, and I think that's helping. But, it's only been a week so I'll let you know in about a month.

October is doctor's appointment month --surgeon, family doctor, oncologist and dentist. This Friday is my first plastic surgery appointment since it was brought forward by almost a month. I'm excited to see how that works. It's already been 8 months since my surgery. Funny how I've had them since I was 13, yet I don't remember how they felt. I'm starting to get feeling back just in time for them to be cut open again. Oh well, I have good skin, it'll heal.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Paris therapy

I'm back from Paris today. I'm tired and sore, but happy we went. I think it's fantastic what C. de Lune got to experience at such a young age. By yesterday she was a genuine city dweller, navigating the metro and the crowds like a pro, eating baguette with pâté de campagne and cheese most kids wouldn't touch. It was a good idea to rent an apartment for the week, since I got tired and achy quickly. Getting up in the mornings was a challenge too--my body gets stiff from staying still and I feel like I'm a 100 years old. I tend to forget the severity of what I've been through in the last year and wonder why I can't keep up. I read an article in a French magazine on the plane back that reminded me. The author talked about her model mother dying from cancer. She thought cancer was the result of sadness and loneliness (cancer is still very taboo in France I was told), and she compared chemo to an atomic bomb. She said that if you're not an amazingly strong person, it kills you. I don't remember it being THAT bad, but I get the idea. Actually, the magazine had a full spread on breast cancer for October, with 10 celebrities showing their breasts to promote early detection. I felt I was shopping for new breasts --small ones, big ones, pink ones, brown ones, etc. There was a lot of great information about "supporting" treatments like stress management, diet, exercise etc, and making them an official part of treatment like chemo is. It's been proven that they reduce the chance of recurrence by a landslide. The article also confirmed a lot of my thoughts and conclusions about our environment and it's effect on cancer cells --see my new blog MoreofLess for more info.

Now that I'm back, "real" life will start again very soon and breast cancer month is just around the corner. I'm not sure how well I'll do around all that awareness --I'll have to wait and see. Tomorrow I start my Tamoxifen. The pills look normal but I know they pack a hard punch. Hopefully, they punch cancer out, not me. Seeing the beautiful, impressive French National Archives building made me depressed about going back to work. I don't know how tired I'll get, but that's why I'm going back slowly and pacing myself. Not going back is not an option though, because my brain is now at the melting point. I'll let you know how it all goes down.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The road to sanity

There are 3 reasons I feel better today.

1) My ultrasound was clear. It's a palpable normal-looking lymph node or a fat deposit on my ribs. Even so, I lied there looking at the screen, worried. Then I waited to find out if they needed to biopsy. They don't make you wait for test results when you've had cancer. But that's not much of a silver lining. I got rid of my breast to avoid biopsies. Reminded me just how much this will never be over. Still, no real lump. That's good.

2) I found out today that going back to work full time next month is crazy talk. The reasonable thing to do is go back in stages, working up to full time. And I have to see my family doctor first. Odd that it never occurred to me that I might not have the energy to do my job like I did before --yet. As if cancer is not a big enough deal. But if I think about it, I'm exhausted 1 day out of 2. Luckily, I have disability insurance, hurray for the public service. I can do what's right for me.

3) Talked to my oncologist friend tonight. I had a tone of questions because in the oncology office, my brain goes blank. I learned a lot and now I wonder why I wasn't told all this before. I guess cancer is so complicated and different from one person to another, that if you don't ask the right questions, you don't get the right answers. Or maybe I'm just thick. Either way, found out just how Tamoxifen works. I wanted to know if it was going to shut down my ovaries and stop them from secreting other hormones or block all estrogen from my body, even the one secreted my other glands. The answer is neither. Tamoxifen will not put me in menopause, chemo did --most likely temporarily in my case. My age and the fact that it took lots of chemo to shock my ovaries means they are healthy and hardy and should keep working again in a few years regardless of taking this medication. For many women, they never start again and therefore, they are in menopause. How this medication really works is it competes with the estrogen in my body to fit in receptors. In other words, they are fake keys that fit in receptor locks. What these keys do is tell cells what to do. In the cancer cells' case, die. I think I might get symptoms of low estrogen if the fakes fit in other normal receptors, but I can accept that, especially if my periods come back. Woohoo! That's definitely good news --Not the period coming back part per say, just that it's the normal functions of my body.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Avoidance, maybe?

I forgot my ultrasound appointment yesterday for the lump under my arm. I thought it would go away on it's own --**never do that when you find a lump**-- but for me, it wasn't there before chemo and it feels like a regular period lump (I'm just not getting my period). I would have never found that one. Who looks in an arm pit? I'm still having trouble feeling it since I confuse it with a rib. The point is they could send me for another biopsy and I really don't want to go through that again. The point of getting a double mastectomy was to avoid these tests. We'll see, no use worrying about it now, or so I tell myself. My new appointment in on Thursday.

On another note, I think I'm going to start the Tamoxifen medication shortly. Good thing I have insurance because I'm sure it's expensive. I still want to talk to my friend oncologist first, I just have to find a good time. In the mean time, I think I'm in a chemo induced temporary menopause in it's not so bad. I seem to be controlling side effects with my diet.

And where is my hair? It's growing in patches. I hope I don't end up with a bald spot on the top of my head, which is what it looks like right now. That thought is just plain nerve wracking.

My new blog is up. It's called More of Less and it's about all I'm learning from my research on health, food, toxins, consumption and sustainability. Check it out: