Putting the cancer in it’s place

It’s such a strange experience to have someone tell you that cancer is growing in your body.  I made a decision not to let it wrap itself around my identity, but it didn’t really work. Or, rather, I shoved the awful fear and angst that it brought into a bag somewhere and pretended it didn’t exist.  From that bag two things grew… pretty awful TMJ, and a bad case of plantar fasciitis.  These were actual things that hurt and they bloomed last year.

That brought me to see a wonderful practitioner of cranial sacral therapy.  It’s a hands on, fully clothed kind of healing therapy.  Nancy works with many of the babies in my practice who have structural problems to great effect.  When the cancer happened she offered to work with me, but I kind of blew it off.  I was busy being tough.  I wanted to run as far as I could from the true sorrow and pain.  At that time, I preferred distraction.

But the pain in my foot and my jaw placed me on her table. She made me feel better!  Some parts were physical, and sometimes, she would ask a question, very innocently and it would lead to an avalanche of emotion that I didn’t know was there.  It allowed me to take a more compassionate view, as I would for a friend.  That cancer was a shitty occurrence and it hurt on a lot of levels.  Admitting that, rather than insisting that I was fine…  I totally got cancer lite… Surgery and radiation is getting off easy compared to those who suffer chemotherapy… that this was a mere nuisance.  Working with Nancy changed how I thought about the cancer and the treatment and the hormone blocking meds I now take.  I allowed time to be sad about it rather that just avoiding it, and it helped me heal.

Now cancer is almost forgettable as my neighbor promised it would be.  It does not enter my mind almost ever.  Sometimes I see a friend that I haven’t seen in a while and they will ask in a really kind way… “How is your health?”  My first thought isn’t that I have anything wrong with me!  I think, well, I could lose some weight… I could exercise more.  Then it dawns on me that they are kindly asking about the cancer thing.  The answer is that I am totally fine.  I’m grateful for that.

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All Clear

Happy News all around.  No cancer found in the mammogram.  Estrogen blocking medicine, Tamoxifen is working out really just fine, too.  I’m writing today to tell you that I rarely think of cancer, and that is something I did not think would happen, um, ever!  Folks, it’s a miracle to be released from that heavy topic.  

Thank you for taking time with me here in the last year.  It made me feel heard and cared for.  I hope I will be as kind as you have been should you ever need support.  Be well!

 

Tamoxifen

At the end of July, I saw my oncologist, a tall guy of Indian heritage who has distractingly crooked lower teeth.  He asked if I was ready to start the next phase of my treatment.  Despite my worry about the early onset of menopause, I was ready.  I did not want to allow any more cancer to grow, and the doctor made it clear that this was statistically proven as the way to insure that.  I filled the prescription and took my first pill that very day.

Of course I waited.  I watched as days went by.  There wasn’t any detectable difference in how I felt unless you count an embarrassing crying jag at my son’s swim meet.  That was weird because I couldn’t stop crying for about 3 hours.  It hasn’t repeated!  Maybe it was just accumulated emotional gunk.  Some women never get another period, but I did, so that was normal.

I’m one month in, and I’m here to say the hormone blocker isn’t so bad. The worst part is remembering why I need to take a pill.  

Thankfully my current life is pleasantly mundane.  I try to help as many Moms feed their babies as possible, while balancing life with two teenaged boys, a husband and my in laws.  The rough stuff is behind me and boy am I glad.  Thank you for being with me here.  I will write here when I have to do anything cancer related.  For now, I think that will be oncology appointments every 3 months and a mammogram in February.  

I am really OK!

A couple of people have asked me recently if I was going to blog anymore.  The idea for this bog was to record the experience related to the stupid cancer.  That, and writing therapy.  The plan is to continue to update with treatment stuff and anything else that is cancer related.  Posts are likely to be few and far between.  

Haven’t started the tamoxifen yet.  I emailed the doctor and he said I could wait a bit.  I am trying to reduce my weight a bit before I start.  My friend gave me a book about eating to fight breast cancer.  One thing that you may not know already, is that estrogen lives in fat.  SInce the cancer I had requires estrogen to grow, I can reduce my chance of recurrence by having less fat.

Now that it is June, and the weather is hot, and we are getting into the swing of summer, I recognize that this winter and spring were spent in hermit mode.  I didn’t see it then, but I just didn’t seek out anyone’s company.  

I’m getting back to normal energy and endurance and interests.  I am not thinking about cancer much at all.  The radiated breast feels a little tender, the nipple is a color it never was before,  and there is no hair growing in that armpit.  These are my reminders.  Otherwise life is normal, filled with normal problems like what to make for dinner, what to do with my sons while I am at work, and how to get my exercise in.  It’s very, very, good.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Benefits

 

Cancer Free.  Survivor.  Oh the drama!  I’m not sure, now that the radiation is done, how to identify this experience.  It was a sticky wicket of runaway emotions.  No doubt some of my reactions to the simple word cancer were wrapped in grief from losing both of my parents to cancer.  

I keep relating this life event to becoming a parent.  There is a definite before and after to that experience.  Kids are much better, because then you have wonderful company at your table, people to talk to and laugh with.  But Cancer has given me some stuff, some good stuff that I wouldn’t have gotten without it.

Here is my current list of Cancer Benies:

  • Shakedown of priorities. I will not live forever. Relationships first.  Always.
  • Great excuse for not doing something.  “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.  I am in cancer treatment.”  Who is going to argue?  Never had to use it, but enjoyed having it available.
  • Evidence that people are good, at least the population surrounding me is good.  I have such solid, generous friends.  I have received gifts of meals, and a CD with very cool healing music, the compassion of my partners in my business, cards and books and emails and phone calls filled with sincere wishes and hope for my good health.  These messages always come when I need them most.
  • Free Make-Up.  The cancer society supports a program called Look Good Feel Better.  It’s sponsored by the fragrance and cosmetic industry.  It was fun to get a bad of stuff I wouldn’t buy and get a refresher on application.  Mac and Nars and Este Lauder.  Very nice.
  • My sisters.  I don’t know if it would have happened without the stupid diagnoses, but I sure was nourished by having all three of my sisters in the same place.  No one knows you and accepts you like your sisters. It’s wonderful.  It had been years since we did that. 
  • New Friends who have cancer.  What can I say?  We are in a club not unlike new mothers groups.  They get my particular weirdness and moodiness like no other.  It’s great.
  • Connection to you here, through this blog.  I know I haven’t commented on your comments much, if at all, but boy have I appreciated hearing from you.  I wasn’t sure in the beginning if this was too self indulgent, but honestly I don’t know what I would have done with all the intensity without it.  Thank you so much for being with me through this.
  • Increased Compassion for emotional and physical suffering, especially breast and nipples.  Very good in my line of work.  

More will reveal themselves I am sure, as time goes on.  

It’s been GREAT not going to radiation.  Effects from the treatment are still showing up in terms of skin inflammation and burn type reactions and fatigue.  Not too bad.  I’m tired, but committed to exercising as a first defense to all ills.  I’m hoping to delay the tamoxifen until I lose a few pounds.  Will discuss with the oncologist to make sure that is a smart idea.

That’s all for today.  Just wanted you to know the latest stream of thought.  I’m grateful you are here.

 

 

One more week.

6 more radiation treatments means that I will most likely be done next Friday with the radiation chapter of this cancer experience.  So far, I have very pink skin and no blisters or real skin problems.  They warn you that it gets worse at the end and for a couple of weeks after the treatment, so I am afraid that it will still happen.

Life feels like a freight train.  This spring season was already loaded with built in busy-ness.  I have an eighth grader who will graduate from Intermediate school.  It’s a much bigger thing than it was when I graduated.  (We had a picnic and a ceremony.) There are many events.  My seventh grader is on a swim team, so there is built in running around there too.  Weekends are exercises in logistics.   My business is doing OK without me!  That is great news, but on the flip side, I need to nurture it to keep it moving.  

I’m tired.  Not so tired that I can sleep in.  I never can, even when I have attended a very long birth.  It’s a defect!  No, I’m tired in a, let-the-weeds-grow, wash-but-don’t-fold-the-laundry, can’t-imagine-anything-will-ever-be-accomplished, sort of way.  I’m forgetting what I am saying midway through talking.  I don’t have peaks and valleys of energy.  I wake up this way.  Basically, I wake up unrefreshed, and requiring two cups of coffee, to do the minimum.

This is not how I planned to be as a cancer patient!  I wanted to be vigorously exercising and drinking more kale smoothies, and staying really positive!  Instead, I’m just getting through it.  Complaining about this is dull as paint!  I hope you will forgive me.  We are almost done here, with our adventure with cancer.  I will have the chapter of tamoxifen to do for the next 5-10 years after this, and I have dread.  Who knows, maybe it will be no big deal!

Well, I had better get the show on the road this morning.  Thanks again for being here with me.

7 out of 21

I’m getting used my old pal PRIMUS, and it isn’t bad.

Emotions don’t run as fast as last week, either.ImageDuring treatments I can think about the moon, or river rocks found on the beach in Oregon, or the ocean.  I say to myself, ‘Everything is exactly as it should be.’ or, ‘Everything is OK.’  It’s probably true, and it helps me get through those few minutes when I am supposed to be still.

If you have been reading and counting, you may notice that I’m three days short of what you might think! That is because the first day was a dry run, and last Friday I arrived to have Margaret tell me that the machine was broken and that I could reschedule or take the day off.

“Will it hurt my treatment if I take the day off?”

“No, not at all!”

So, I skipped.  And was happy about it!  When it happened again this Wednesday, they called me early in the morning so I wouldn’t make the trip.  They had two different time slots available as alternatives, but I shove a bunch of stuff into my Wednesdays that involves other people.  It is the worst day to rearrange, so after they talked to my radiation oncologist and found that skipping twice was OK, I took another day off.

Fun Fact: Margaret the radiation tech says that the new Snow White movie is great and snickers when she says it.  She has seen it Twice!  “Hilarious!” she tells me!  I feel like going just to see what makes Margaret laugh like that.

I push away this thought: ‘what is wrong with the machine!  Will it hurt me?’  And replace it with this thought: ‘Some cleaning person accidentally loosened a plug on old Primus and everyone used the word broken, mistakenly.  The tech guy was laughing when he discovered it.’  I don’t understand how radiation is created in the first place, so I prefer to leave it all a mystery.

I’m getting back to my regular life v e r y   s  l  o  w  l  y.   I’m still not taking on many clients, but have resumed the behind the scenes work for my business.  I don’t feel shell shocked anymore.

What I do feel is tired when I wake up, which is totally odd for me, as a morning person.  Old leftie has what looks like a peculiar sun burn.  She is pink and tender as with PMS.  Not more.  I’ve walked every day I’ve had a treatment and gone back to yoga a couple of times.  Exercise is medicine. 

A little dull, but I’ll take it!  Thanks for sticking around.