Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Earthquake, Hurricane and Back to School

This has been a crazy couple weeks.  First, last Tuesday we had the rare earthquake event here on the east coast.  Although it centered in Virginia, it was felt all the way here in NY.  Feeling it, however, depended on where you were standing since I didn't feel anything at all.  Yet others near and further away did indeed feel it!  I was in my office at church, talking to the church secretary and we both were oblivious to any movement of the earth. Makes me feel good about the strength of that building.  In fact, the first I heard of the earthquake was when my son called from PA to make sure we were OK in NY.  I was surprised to hear his building had been evacuated.  NYC seemed to feel it even more and many people piled out of office buildings into the street.  It was eerily familiar since the same had happened after 9/11.

Then I went for my Herceptin treatment on Friday.  It was non-eventful and went well.  We arrived at 8:45 and left at 10:50 am.  It's great to get in and out of there fast.  My oncologist said the anemia is still there, but holding its own (darn...have to keep taking those iron pills!).  My blood pressure was better (and I think due to the stress level of some personal matters not being such a factor this time).  And...as I thought...I have to go for the Muga Scan again just before the next treatment.  They need to see if my heart ejection factor will keep going down or if that number will hold for a while also.

In the meantime, my hair continues to fill in and grow.  Many people keep telling me that they like it the way it is now.  I am beginning to like the grey, but not sure I want to keep it this short.  (I am going to upload a picture of me in my short grey hair with my granddaughter by my side for this site.)  The "red area" still there, but again no better, no worse.  I also continue to feel "more normal".  My energy, while not up to par because of the anemia, is still not bad.  I feel like my brain is working much better now also!  Everything is "OK" right now....and I am beginning to love "OK".

Then came Hurricane Irene with all the media hype, and with all her power.  My area was pretty lucky and we escaped from flooding and still have our electricity.  But all around are families and houses that did not escape so well and it is a lesson learned about Mother Nature.  She just has a mind and strength of her own.  Of course, we all checked in with those around us; especially those who were alone.  It's what God expects of us and is a part of our connection with Him and with each other.

My next appointment is with the plastic surgeon on next Tuesday.  I don't expect much to happen then, since as I told you, they are taking it slow.  We go this weekend to see my son & family in PA and we are really looking forward to that.  Once we come back, it is time for school to begin once again....only this time I will appreciate this time of year and life so much more!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Half Past Summer

I can't believe that summer is almost over.  While I did spend most of the summer recuperating, it seems like there is just no time left to accomplish anything else this summer.  We did get away last week to the beach with quite a few friends and had a great time.  I couldn't really go in the pool water as I still have stitches and my doc gave me the ratio of pool water/chemicals vs. pee...and it wasn't a good ratio.  So, I had orders to go in the pool only up to my waist.  The ocean water was actually the more preferable option.  However, the surf was very rough and the jellyfish were present, so I didn't go in too far there either.  I also had orders to stay out of the sun since the Herceptin and the Bactrim (for infection) I am on are medications that make the skin more susceptible to sunburn.  The weather, for me, cooperated, and thankfully not every day was full of sun.  Even when it was, the air was a little cooler than it has been.  I found it to be just right for me...and glad it was so!

We got back a couple days ago and then met up with some relatives for a BBQ.  It was good to see family and share all that's been going on in our lives.  We are not the only ones with some craziness going on, and it was even good to share our stories.  

Went back to plastic surgeon's office today.  That dreaded red area is still there, but still no worse, no better.  I saw my regular surgeon's partner (since my guy is away), and he told me that it is just possible that it may never go away.  It is good it is not getting worse, however.  He also said that they will be going very slowly on the inflation, and will probably not get me to anymore than a "B" cup....which is just sooooo fine for me!  I was not looking to be the next Dolly Parton, and just wanted "enough padding" to feel feminine.  The size really didn't (and doesn't) matter.  But I was glad he shared this and that it confirmed what I was already thinnking.

The next appointment is this Friday for another Herceptin treatment.  After this one, I believe my oncologist will be sending me for another Muga Scan since the heart ejection factor needs to be addressed and watched as I am on this medication.  I don't need to see my plastic surgeon for another two weeks (they said slow...they mean slow) since they don't want to do anything to jeopardize the precariousness of the "red spot". 

A few weeks ago, I went to the "kick-off" breakfast for the "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" walk on October 16th which I am taking part in and someone there tapped me on the shoulder.  When I turned around, it was, of all people, my breast surgeon!  It was good to see her (her medical group is one of the supporters of this walk), and she reminded me that I am overdue to see her.  Of course, with all the others looking at me, I forgot she wanted "a look" also.  So, I need to make an appointment with her soon also.  Then, it is back to my internist and I need to see my gyno.  Doctors are just going to be a part of the continuous landscape anymore.

For now, I am glad to be feeling a little stronger, have more energy, be able to wear a "sports bra", and to know the worst is now behind me (I hope).  My husband and I were looking at our fall schedule the other day and realized that we could actually start making plans here and there for different events/activities.  It does indeed feel good to be able to get back to life.

This doesn't mean that I think things are done.  I know they will never "be done" anymore.  There will always be more and more checking and watching.  You never know what could "pop up" here and there.  And it doesn't mean that the implants feel entirely comfortable or "normal".  They don't...not yet.  Plus, my back is still numb and under my arms is still somewhat swollen and my chest feels "tight" and sometimes more uncomfortable than other times.  I am told that it will take quite a while before I feel even near "normal".  But I will take this present time as a gift from God and as the most normal concentration of time I have had in a good long while.  I look forward now to the fall and holidays and the walk and celebrating just how far I've come.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Slow Climb

OK...it's been a week again!  I guess in this "slow climb" around that mountain, I will be posting weekly from now on...unless something occurs.

I'm "on hold".  I went to my plastic surgeon on Monday and the same little area is still red.  Nothing seems to change this.  He is just happy that the surgery is healing well and that the area seems to be the same.  I got the "OK" to go away next week, and I will be back to his office on the 22nd.  In the meantime, as an added prevention, he gave me a prescription for Bactrim, because at the last surgery, there was some bacteria found.  He wants to make sure that it is cleared up.

I also had a Herceptin infusion on Friday and received the results on my latest muga scan.  The scan did show that my heart ejection factor did go down somewhat, but still in "normal" range.  They will be doing another one after the next Herceptin.  My oncologist also said my anemia is much better and I am to stay on those iron "horse pills"

Remember in the last post when I said "...and just dealing with life is now the easy part"?  Well, I take that back.  This weekend, my husband and I received some concerning news about a family member and it is very troublesome.  I am somewhat relieved to be feeling better so I can deal with the problem before us.  Sometimes you just want to say...."You're kidding, God...right?  Cancer and now this?"  But it's life and I just gotta put on those "big girl panties" again and deal with it.  I have spent the better part of two nights wide awake praying about all this.  I've also prayed for the poor lady who disappeared from our town.  She was an Alzheimer patient and staying with her daughter when she "escaped" during the middle of the night...not to be seen since.  It reminds me of life with my mom, who also had Altzheimer's, and lived with us for a few years during the worst of this disease that robbed her personality.  It was a difficult time.

The whole world seems kinda funny lately, doesn't it?  So much seems out of control.  Starvation in Somalia, senseless rioting in London, economies all over the world bouncing out of control, newspapers and news reports full of people hurting and/or killing each other....and so much more.

Somehow I think we need to take back control of our world.  We need to stop turning from God with the busyness we have created.  We have to find a way to communicate with and to help one another.  We need to stop buying more and more and start looking around us to work on the important changes needed for our world.  We need to be better role models for our children.

In the midst of so much unrest, I sit here "on hold" and just wait for a while.  It's OK.  It's just a campsite on the slow climb around the mountain.

So while at the campsite, I have put together a team, Rivertown's Bosom Buddies, for the 2011 American Cancer Society's "Making Strides against Breast Cancer" Walk in October.  It's only been a week and we have raised $730!  I also have 32 people who have said they want to walk with me.  After all I've been through, this feels like a real positive thing to do.  It's helping the next generation of girls and women.  If you are reading this, go to their webpage and put in our Team name.  Join us on the walk...or donate to a good cause!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Long and the Short of It

First, I know it's been over a week.  Put that down to a very busy schedule last week and a troublesome computer line.  But here we are once more...

The Long of It
The obvious point is that it has been a long, long time.  I feel sometimes like I have been on this path forever!  But it has also been a most amazing journey that has changed me.  Like anyone diagnosed with cancer, life looks different, feels different, smells different, tastes different, and sounds different.  You can't help but be changed by an event of this proportion.  Life changes to fear, fear changes to survival, survival changes to hope, and hope changes to life once again.  But you are always aware that the cycle could repeat itself at some point with a different ending.  The only reality is that you have made it through before, so you are somewhat familiar with the roads and paths along the way.

The lessons are fast and furious.  
  • You learn about strength: strength of faith, strength of character, strength of attitude, strength of relationships, strength of integrity and strength of endurance.  
  • You confront what is really important in your life; you change your way of looking at what is important; and you realize many things are not really important at all.  
  • You view relationships in a whole new light.  Most people are wonderful and supportive and "there" for you.  But there are some who will disappoint you, who will say upsetting things, and whom you cannot count on.  
  • You find that just when you think you have reached your "breaking point"; you need to change that boundary to be just a little further away; that you cannot "break", because it would be so hard to put yourself back together.  
  • You stop being so vain about your appearance and just be glad to get up in the morning and be able to get dressed and get out of the house.
  • You become very aware of God's voice and find yourself concentrating more to hear it.
I know there is much more, but these are the major lessons.  They are now a part of me and who I will continue to be along the way.  and I will continue throughout my life to be shaped by these moments.  The long of it is...the journey itself and all it includes.

The Short of It
Well, I am rather short (5 feet!)...but that is not the point (LOL).  The "short of it" pertains to those moments when I am "caught up short" by realizing that I AM a cancer patient.  Even going through all I have gone through, and carrying all that baggage up above, I still have moments when I am confronted with the cancer itself and don't quite believe that I am where I am.  For instance, three weeks ago, I was back at the cancer center getting my "every three week" Herceptin treatment.  One minute I was joking with a few of the patients, and then the next minute I looked up at the IV bag...and my heart stopped for a minute.  I thought, "What am I doing here?"...it just didn't seem right!  The other night I was taking a shower and of course, I looked down and saw the evidence of the cancer itself and thought, "How am I going to do this?".  But of course, I am already DOING it, so the answer is....by just putting one foot in front of the other, one prayer at a time.  The short of it is...each and every day I have and making each of those days count!

This last week was good as there was no surgery scheduled, no drains to bother me, just plain old life to deal with...and that is now the easier part.  The last surgery still seems to be holding.  I had a muga scan this past Monday to once again check heart function for the Herceptin.  I saw my surgeon today and he still thinks everything is "good to go".  It is a good week.  

Thanks be to God.