Sunday, January 15, 2012

Keep busy

I feel so good, in fact I haven't felt this good in a long long time. On my last check up for the hysterectomy I told my surgeon, " I don't know what you did or took out or fixed but whatever it was, THANK YOU!!" He said to his assistant in the room, "I'm picking up on some good vibes on this one." I think that's Dr speak for he could tell it was a success!!
I feel terrific, lots of energy. None of the nasty moods and depressions they told me might happen at sudden onset Menopause from the surgery, nope. I'm feeling amazing!!!
I'm loving the vegetarian diet too. I'm eating a bit more cheeses than I'd like, so have to cut back. Its just a matter of eating out really, the only vegetarian foods accessible when I eat out it seems is cheese laden pastas. Or saucy cheesy pastas. With cheese. Or cheesy casadillas stuffed with cheese. Oh they are all yummy and filling but they don't just fill up my stomach, they fill up my butt and thighs too and make me queasy with their too much cheesy. So I have to go back more to the soups and the steamed veggies I like to make and stay out of the restaurants.
I've been so busy. Painting commissioned paintings, getting a calendar ready and out there of my paintings and doing some charity work. Taking my son places and visiting and organizing and just being busy at work and home. Its all been fantastic and great. The busier I am the better.
Time goes faster, I feel better, my son is with me and is helping so it feels like old times. Happier times.
The weather has been glorious and that helps too.
I do however feel the mid life crisis feeling. That feeling of oh my gosh what is all this for feeling. A friend was talking about how they might pack up and move to this small cabin of a house not too far from here but definitely in the boonies and I kept thinking of how I'd love the peace from that. Just peace and quiet. If I owned a bazillion dollars I would do that. Well no that's not true. If I owned a bazillion bucks I'd buy a Barnes and Nobles and a Michael's store and I'd live in the book store and go visit my other one every day. I'd invite you and we'd do crafts all day and then go to my home at night and have coffee and pastries and read books all night!
THAT would be my dream.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Checkup and TMI

Well its been a long time coming so here is the update: I Have gone through quite the year since last December when I last got off the Radiation Van and walked to my car for the last time. Its hard to believe its been a full year; it seems so long ago.
Time has gone by swiftly.

I have had several great checkups with all good news: no breast cancer signs!!

This is the news everyone wants to hear, especially those asking me "so How are you doing".

But the journey hasn't been all that smooth and I still have long strides ahead.

Let me explain:

My last chemo session was in May; just a week before my son graduated from high school. It wasn't all the chemo meds the last session; just one and it was the mild one that only gave me allergy type symptoms; headachey, sinus pressure, runny nose, bloody noses but nothing severe or nauseous making. I was so relieved to be done!!

It was joyous saying good bye to the nurses and fully embracing the finality of getting through a years worth of chemo and radiation!!! VICTORY!!

But there was so much to be done for graduation and my family all arriving to visit that I had no time to relax and rest and just absorb that I was done and I could heal.
The flurry of the May/June's activities completely wiped me out and I was whipped and sad and really really wanted to savour the summer since I really hadn't been able to enjoy anything for so long and I wanted every single last minute my son was to be home to be memorable. Basically I wanted to float through the summer and get rejuvenated.

Well that wasn't to be.

I had relatives and staying visitors all the rest of the summer right up until a few days before we had to bring my son to his dorm for his new adventure. So many people, so much to do to prepare; so much to do as hostess; so much activity.

I was really seething inside and finally exploded with anger one night. I actually felt menopausal with my instantaneous eruption. But I hadn't had any kind of a cycle since starting the chemo so that was out of the question since my oncologist told me that I probably would never cycle again and I should desperately hope not to since that would be hormonal and show that my body was developing all those female hormones that I wouldn't want since my cancer feeds on hormones. It would bode bad things. But it sure felt like that. It felt like PMS. That out of control unreasonable fury.

I continued to feel angry/bitter/overwhelmed and completely over my head with resentment while packing my son up and doing all the last minute worrying, sorting, packing and organizing. Dealing with visitors in and out. I was really out of sorts about it all.

The day we moved my son in to his college dorm room I was a mess; Oh I didn't show it on the outside that day; but inside I was a mess.

It was about 107* with a high humidity index where his school is. The emotions and heat and exhaustion was overwhelming. I thought I was just way exaggerating the moment and really thought I was going to have a panic attack. Just before we left to take him, I started a period. I hadn't had one in a year!!! I surely was experiencing PMS!!

Needless to say I was freaked out and panicked and the day was spent in this emotional haze that cant be explained. I didn't say a word.

I finally broke down and told my husband on the way home.

I called and made an appointment with my oncologist after the weekend and of course he shook his head and said this was not good. It prompted him to send me for genetic testing which is this amazing process by which they take a blood sample and send it away to this testing laboratory. they actually extract DNA and test it for all the genes and chromosomes that predisposition people to some disease; in my case only hormonal cancers.

Yes it came back positive and that news has sent me on a whirlwind of doctors visits; specialists and yadda yadda yadda.

Boil it all down to this; I tested positive for BRCA 2. Which means that I am predisposed to certainly having breast or ovarian cancer. Well I already had breast cancer so that means that within 5 years I most certainly will have it again.

I had testing and biopsies and yes, my body miraculously healed itself and fought to start producing again.

Prescription: have all areas removed that are certain to get cancer.

Yes that means ovaries, fallopian tubes and breasts.

I had the hysterectomy 3 weeks ago. It was a smooth and easy surgery; it was all done with three small insicions and I am doing great. Healing was easy. When you take the ovaries out it throws a body into instant menopause. I will be ok with that. During chemo it does too so I'm pretty well accustomed to the symptoms. It'll be ok.

Now I just need to recover and figure out which route of reconstruction I want to do for the next stage of surgery and then schedule the next one. I am so not certain how I want to proceed with reconstruction and my brain balks at even thinking about it.

But yet this is all I think about.

I wake up in the night thinking about it.

I cant stop thinking about it.

It is too huge for my brain to absorb.

I don't want to be thinking about this.

But if I do this it reduces my chances to less than 2% of getting any of these cancers and I have to do it.

So I must think about this; and I must do this!

I want to see my son grow and flourish and have children and I want to retire and go on old peoples cruises.

I want to clean dentures with those fizzy pills and pick out tennis balls for my walker.

I want to join the mall walkers senior club so that I can go have coffee and cinnabun every morning.

I want to grow old and die in my sleep naturally with my kids, grand kids and great grand kids around me.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Relay for Life

Today was Relay for life in our local town. I got a letter a few months ago declaring it was coming up and to gear up the local American Cancer Society was hosting a dinner for Survivors.

I didnt want to go but a fellow radiation van rider asked me if I was going to the dinner as she was going so I forced myself to go. She never showed up but my son went with me as a support.

It was a really lovely evening with raffle prizes, a nice pasta dinner and they did a wonderful job on decorations and so many volunteers and helpers and donations that you just felt really overwhelmed with gratitude and hope.
Which is the purpose.

Then today was the Big Day. Relay for Life. Started by a man who walked around a race track like at a track meet to raise money that other folks pledged to him if he walked this track 24 hours. He donated all the money to cancer research. That is what started it and now its swept the nation and there are teams of people that go and collect donations and then walk the track. They set up booths and donate baked goods and homemade craft items and donate that money too, its all so generous and wonderful of so many people.

Before the teams begin their walk, they have first a Survivors walk and then a Caregivers walk. They give all the survivors a purple t shirt and we walk once around the track. On the next walk around, our caregivers join us and we make one more round of the track. All the while folks are cheering and clapping and calling out encourageing words. My son walked the Caregiver lap with me, he gave me such a warm and really wonderful heartfelt hug when it was over, one of those hugs you will never forget.

It was one of those really tight squeezes that last an extra moment and in that hug was all that he meant and all the words he couldnt say at that moment. I could feel his love and encouragement and how proud he was of me. He quick pecked me on the cheek and in the moment it was over and he went scampering off to go meet up with his friends to go pick up their prom tickets. I was so happy for that typical momemt. It means life is good, normal and all is healthy and on track.

They had a special breakfast for survivors. Local restaraunts all donate food and that was a nice treat and they give everyone raffle tickets and during breakfast they raffle off gifts. Gift baskets, homemade pillows, inspirational books. I really want to put together some baskets for next time, they were so fun. I didnt win anything but my seatmate next to me did and she gave me a book out of her basket, its called Chicken Soup for the Mother with inspirational stories in it.

The energy was good, the whole thing was uplifting.

It just filled me with an amazing boost of energy, of hope and of such gratefulness.

It was a glorious day.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stress Reducer

This following tale is not one I'm proud of but one I need to get off my chest.

It reflects poorly on me but it was a really important step in continuing my life.

Every since my child could talk he wanted a dog. Pleaded for a Scottie dog. His Dad doesn't like pets and said no......Until one day we were coming out of the shopping mall to leave a little cute girl with a cardboard box of dogs begged us to take one of her cute puppies home because her Dad told her she couldn't come home until they were gone. The dog grew in three months to a giant Rottweiler/German Sheppard mix as best as the vet could tell. It knocked us down and tore up trees roots and all and my husband gave it away to the lawn service guys who loved that dog. They have a ranch outside of town and wanted a big ol guard dog. Happy ending for all.

Years went by and my son continued to beg. He wanted a real dog. He said real dogs are like Scottie dogs, small and you can hug them. He begs and pleads and his Dad practically turns purple each time he asks he just wont hear of it. Then friends of ours say that they found a dog, an adorable sweet dog wandering in front of their home and its trained and sweet but they already have dogs and their big dogs don't like the little dog and they have to keep them all separated and the husband says to take the found dog to the pound. On the final day of the dogs life she begs me to go get it. I beg my husband and he says finally with huge sighs that I may go to the pound and get that dog and ONLY that one dog. I go to save the dog and it turns out that our friends husband relents and she already has picked it back up.
But OF COURSE they show me the other dogs all locked up and I swear to you by all that is true that they look at you with these huge "save me" eyes and you HAVE to take one home if not two or twenty. I bent down to pet them and this little black dog leaps right into my arms and rubs her nose on my cheek like kisses. We bring her home, and she proceeds to turn into a Tasmanian devil and rips our drapes to shreds, tears up the couch, ruins the carpet with determined defecating with vengeance. We brought her to the vet and the vet says the dog must have been abandoned and it has issues. You think??. The vet advises that we get one or two more little dogs to help this one live in a "pack" and she would be calm and relax and not want to "get back" at humans for the past. My husband about freaked out and demanded we find a new home. I did. I gave it to a family who had two little dogs and were looking for a third. They loved her and it was a good match. Happy ending for all.

Years go by and soon my son is begging again. This time I really want another dog too, I just really missed the last one and I had loved that little black dog even if she was a devil in cute doggies clothing. So I chime in. This time surprisingly my husband is not as adamant but he is weary worn in his listening. He says the only dog he would even consider is a white dog. A Maltese. We went to every rescue we could to search. We scoured the newspaper and penny saver ads. We became hunters. My husband went out of town for a couple of weeks (this is 5 years ago) and we see an ad in the paper for the PERFECT dog! A new puppy this lady had to get rid of as her dog had puppies and she couldn't keep them and had one left.

We fell in love with this little ball of white fur. It was really young and cute and we carried it in our arms. I spent hours training the dog, and took it to puppy class even. He was a really quick learner. But he had hip and knee problems and then allergies. Pretty soon I was taking the dog to the vet every three months for shots and medicine and pain pills. Then we spent two years trying different dog foods to try to modify its diet because it was allergic to everything, even rubbing on our clothes would make him break out and we discovered he was allergic to fabric softener. Because of this he was a miserable dog. He was grouchy and didn't like kids. Didn't like other dogs, didn't like to be petted anywhere except on the top of his head and his belly scratched. Anywhere else and he'd likely bite you. He bit me hard once when I was putting medicine on him and after that I was leery of him. Its never a good thing to hate your own dog but that is exactly what I did. I hated that dog and all the fussing it took to care for him. My son never liked the dog to begin with and my husband felt that we betrayed him by getting a dog while he was out of town. He said that just because he said he would consider that kind of dog didn't mean we could have one without him being there to approve.

So for 5 years I insisted that we care for this mess of a dog with its poo balls, and diarrhea and runny eyes and biting teeth and red oozing skin because it was a responsibility and I just couldn't bear to again give another dog away like we were failures. So we kept it. Kept paying the vet to give him allergy shots (2$ a day) and special food and special salve and we got it to where with much care we managed to keep him going without all the sores and misery, then I got cancer and they told me the one unifying thing in breast cancer studies is the amount of stress the women are under.

With a heavy heart I determined that one of my greater stresses of life was this dog. I finally conceded that its not necessary to torture myself or this family any longer with the misery it is to keep this dog.Its been a year in trying to find the perfect home for him but finally a family looking for a little dog called and we met them and we told them all about the food and how they would have to care for him and they really didn't mind. We gave them a 25lb bag of his special food, his special bed, his salve, and all his toys and things and bid him well. I told them that if it didn't turn out to be what they wanted that they would have to be responsible to pass him on or bring him to a shelter. Breaks my heart to admit that. I am the rescuer not the relinquish er.

Our family life has improved 1000% without the dog. The amount of relief is palpable. Every day is like a joy to wake up and not have to deal with that grouch. As a huge pet lover it was really sad to have to realize how much I resented him.How much my husband hated having that dog and how much happier we would be once he was gone.

I feel like I've let the pet lovers down. We havent really told anyone, just whomever comes over and asks what happened to our dog. So there, now you know another reason I'm enjoying life now. But its with a bit of guilt.

And the lesson learned? Third time is NOT always the charm.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One Year Today

No one in my family or even any of my friends realized it but today was one year since my surgery to remove the cancer.

Its been quite the journey. Not a bad journey, not really a good journey but a life changing journey to be sure. There were devastating moments and there were some sick moments and a few pain filled moments but the things that I thought were going to be the worst weren't and the things I thought would be no big deal turned out to be bigger than I thought. Most moments were ok. I guess that is the surprise in this cancer journey. I had little physical pain....mostly overwhelming exhaustion.

My prognosis is good, my tumor markers are good, I'm almost done with going to the chemo room and getting my infusions....I have two sessions left. I'm so happy to hear the great news and yet.......There are still moments where my heart freezes and my eyes get wide, a flush of searing heat goes through me and I'm filled with terror. Terror of the 'what if'. Then the moment passes and life goes on just like a swift river and I have to run to catch up and I forget about the terror. I have been really redirecting my mind when it wants to dwell on the what ifs. I cant live a life filled with terror.

But mostly......mostly this journey has filled me with the power to voice my desires, my wants, my needs and to speak up when I feel slighted, or wronged and that is the surprise to me. I used to be filled with gumption as they used to say in the old days.......then I got passive and became almost a martyr with my overwhelming desire to avoid confrontation. Over the years I changed from brazen to whispy voiced and then I carried life's responsibilities like burdens; well more like stones upon my back.

Weary with the crushing responsibility to do everything for everyone every day and all the time. Rushing here and there, going and doing and then running and rushing and just running myself ragged all in the unrealistic wish to be the perfect wife, mom, manager, bookkeeper, cleaner, washer, volunteer, working woman, partner, lover, listener, and woman. I juggled so many things like cooking old fashioned meals every night and yet rushing home to excersize to look well and being a cool mom and have
good balanced homelife and a house with with discipline and yet wholesome attention doing all the work stuff and school stuff and still be that old fashioned wife who was above reproach. And I did it all very well.
I was proud of how I managed it all.
Proud of my crazy blurry life.

This journey into the world of cancer has halted all that in its tracks and made me voice to others that that life I led is just ridiculous and got me NOWHERE and if the risk is to loose my life than I want to live life in a relaxed normal manner that lets me BREATH. Do you know that sometimes I wouldn't even get a chance to go to the bathroom all day or two days until I'd crawl into bed at night and be sick to my lower stomach and realize I really needed to use the restroom? That kind of living is nuts. And I lived like that and STILL felt like I wasn't doing enough.

Its taken one year for my family to realize that I'm not like before. They still want me to be. But I'm not going to do that again.

Do you know what it was like? It was like I was in one of those whirlpooly things in the drain when you let the wash water out in the sink and its twirling down the drain. But cancer was the stopper and it stopped me from draining away and now I have a chance to live life nicely. In pace. With grace and peace.

I've been painting and relaxing and taking naps and watching TV and cooking and meeting friends for coffee and lunch and taking time with my son. I even signed up for a class at the local craft store and paid for it and went and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I've gone to a jazz music night with a friend. I went and had a makeover in a department store cosmetic counter. I have been easing back into real living and I don't intend to stop. I will even insist on growing some vegetables this summer!

Next on the agenda is to get my son properly graduated, enjoy the summer properly and then see him off to school and then figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pudge. Bloop. Pooch.

Ah yes, its the middle of January. Its that time again when all the guilt of the past two and a half months of jolly eating starts chiming in my head. I always say I'm not going to care, just enjoy each morsel. Then January 15th rolls around and I have that bloated pooch and the bloop hanging over the waist band and pudge everywhere else and then I feel bad. But this year I noticed that I was feeling a little bit of something else too. Defiance of that guilty feeling.

I also realized that I bought Pop Tarts. Now when you are a 46 year old secreting away a box of pop tarts then you KNOW you have to stop and rethink things. heh.
I realized when I was rethunking... I've been rewarding myself. I 've been eating even more sweets and breads and goodies with a feeling that "oh well, I deserve this since I've had such a rough time".

Thats never good.

I wish I loved the taste of carrots. Rewarding ones self with carrot sticks would be so much nicer to talk about and I wouldnt feel so guilty and POOCHED. I wonder if I dipped carrots in chocolate if that would help?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Boots to my soul

Yesterday I got a new pair of boots. The process made me feel like a Princess. It was all in how it went 'down' as they say.

Here is the back story.
I have a husband who is amazing. He works hard, is a good provider, has solid loyalty for his family and takes care of many and has a huge heart and can be extraordinarily generous. I have many faults so I am not nit picking but the one fault that hurts me the most is that he has a hard time picking or buying me gifts. He gets almost angry and bitter about the process. When I first got diagnosed with cancer my son suggested that I should get a gift to make me feel better after surgery.....its a very inside family traditional 'joke' of sorts that when he was a child I'd get his mind off of shots or blood work or surgeries by making him think of a gift he wanted after it was done.....the size of gift corresponded to how big the procedure would he told his Dad that I needed a BIG gift. My husband was irritated and grouchy when they went to go get this gift, (my son told me he was pevish and couldnt think of anything so told my son to think of something)They bought me a Wii.

Now here I am with surgery done on one side immobilizing my left side and then on the right they inserted a pic line with is an IV with a tube threaded in my artery on my right side. NOT ABLE TO USE ARMS. Wii is athletic and the use of arms very much needed. I of course was thrilled with the gift and watched my son play it.

At times during this past year I would well up inside with anger and be really bitter because I received no flowers, no cards and no little encouraging presents to cheer up my days as I thought I should get. I would do that for them and have done that for them when they've been ill or had surgeries. It really made me hateful sometimes. Not for long but if I would get mad this subject comes to mind and then I get madder. Not reasonable I know, but there ya go......its the truth. I like little reminders that a person has thought of me. But my husband is incapable of understanding this and really cant fathom why this matters. His love is huge he says and he has given me a nice house and we eat out and I drive the truck of my dreams and we go on vacations. He views these as gifts. Huge gifts. He feels that I should float on the feeling of the huge gift and not worry about stupid things like cards and flowers. He usually has employees or my son pick gifts or cards. Its not that he is trying to be callous, he just has no imagination or patience for it.

I have been on the quest for black suede flat heeled boots to wear with jeans or leggings since 2005. Every time he asks what I want I tell him: flat black suede boots. I have received blue suede shoes, 5 inch high heeled sparkling brown boots to wear to a night club if I ever could stand up longer than 5 minutes in them and went to night clubs, I received high heeled black slipper shoes with rhinestones but no flat black suede boots. I bought myself some brown winter boots but couldn't find black ones the day I needed to buy these boots. I have shown the brown ones to my husband saying "If you ever want to buy me something, I need these in black." I received beige shoes. I think he goes with it in his mind but somehow he sees sparkle and goes for the sparkle.

Yesterday we went to someones house to visit and I wore high heels thinking that I would only be sitting in the car and sitting there so the prettiness factor could outweigh the comfortability factor in my choice of shoes. Do you do that too? Figure out what you will be doing to figure out what shoes, then figure out the outfit to go with the shoes? Well yesterday I calculated that I wouldn't be walking.

We left their house and on the way home my husband on a whim decides to go to the nearest 3 level shopping mall "to walk around and see what has changed". Well as you can imagine my heart plummeted right down to those nasty heels and no support and I said, "I don't know how much walking I can do, but lets start" and then halfway through I said I couldn't go any more and my husband became truly sorrowful and he felt bad and said, "you know what, lets go to the department store and get you some black flat boots, you've always wanted some. " Now this people was amazing that he actually said that, and that he remembered the boots and then that he'd ACT on it.
Then we went to the nearest large dept store and I got the boots!!! And they are so cute, cuter than anything I've ever seen, they even have laces on the back. And he took my shoes and put them in the box and told the lady to let me wear the boots out!!

Boots to sooth the soul!

And my ouchy feet.