Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 149 - 75% Done, Past the Icky Phase

Up for sale: 3 hours of chemo and 10 days of ickyness ... any takers? I
keep asking Mike (in my whiny, feeling defeated voice) if I have to do
the last treatment. "3 is better than none, right?" I say. I wonder what
the odds are that my Onc will say, "You know, you've done so well with
the last 3 treatments that I don't think you need to do the last one."
Like it's a reward for good behavior or getting my homework in on
time... or for not puking thus far into treatment. Mike always hugs me
and reminds me that I've come so far - and that I'm almost done, it's
almost over ... and that it's just one more.

So, 10 more days of ickyness left in this phase of treatment. He's right
- I've come this far. But how far is it really? I counted out the days.
My exchange surgery is day 193, which means one week after surgery
(which should be an adequate amount of "recovery") is the 200th day. 200
days of breast cancer. Could it really be that quick? 55% of a year. A
little over half of 2010. I never thought, as the new year turned over,
that I'd be spending half of the upcoming year battling cancer. And
really, from this side of things - that's really a misstatement. To me,
I'm not really battling cancer ... I'm battling treatment. If you think
about it, it was a lump, that was caught early, that gave no indication
of its presence, other than being palpable, and it never made me feel
sick. In that scenario, what is there to really "battle?" Treatment - on
the other hand - is quite the battle. Recovery from major surgery - an
amputation - a removal of a body part. The relearning of muscles that
are now in a new place and the regaining of strength in those muscles --
which extends beyond bench pressing. Opening the lid to a jar is a whole
new experience because you don't realize how much of your chest muscle
is used until you can actually feel the contraction of the muscle like
you do when it's put into a new, permanent position. And the battle to
get through chemo - well - it's a war on your system. Period. In the
early stages of cancer, Cancer wasn't really much of fight at all --
it's the surgeries and medications that are the heavyweights in the
ring, and you have to take them both on at the same time in order to
earn your belt.

Treatment is truly the physical and emotional battle that one has to
worry about with early stage cancer. But I've almost done. This part of
the battle is drawing to a close. And it's sad really, because there are
no winners when it's over. Yes, I've survived treatment and "should"
have many long years ahead of me. But there is still no cure - and
beyond that - there is no guarantee to years of life to come.

It's hard to think of Cancer as a gift - but in many ways, if you
survive it - it is. It's a perspective shifter - an outlook on life that
you couldn't possibly have without it coming into your life to start
with - for survivors and supporters alike. It's been a big month for the
Susan G. Komen foundation - an organization started by a supporter, for
her sister who didn't survive it. It's had a huge impact on a newly
married couple - testing their vows right out of the gate. A gift of
perspective - and a healthy dose of it. I see our future with new eyes,
with a new respect for the people that are important to me and with a
deepened sense of appreciation for the new day. I have an increased
willingness to take risks and face challenges ... to experience new
things. A heightened desire to do the things that I want to do, and to
do them now - and not put them off. All, not because I've "brushed with
death," because that certainly didn't happen but - because of the
indiscriminate nature of the beast.

Day 138 - Chemo Infusion #3

Chemo #3 - what a long day. My sister brought a few magazines,
thankfully. There was a lot of waiting this go round. We showed up 30
minutes early for the oncology appointment and were first seen 30
minutes after the appointment time. And that was only after we flagged
someone down in the hallway to ask what the deal was. By the time we
needed to be checking in for chemo - we were still in the exam room,
just beginning our conversation with my oncologist. Consequently - we
were 30 minutes late getting on the list for the infusion center, waited
another 15 before getting called in and set up. Once I was plugged in,
my sister had to flag down the chemo nurse to tell her my bag was done
on multiple occasions. We didn't end up leaving until 6:00 pm. Mike and
Maria were handing out delay of game penalties to just about everyone
that day.

But we got through it - and left all the nurses intact. We're all ready
for it to be over.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

FC Gear

A wonderful friend and co-worker of mine was the source of my pink FC shirt. Turns out ... she has one of her own! Thank you Keri, for being such a wonderful friend and supportive spirit to me!

Hair Sequence

I went to the American Cancer Society site on Thursday. I found that they give wigs out for free to those who need them/want them as a result of treatment. I tried on a cute pixie cut - blond ... I was really tempted to get it ... but thought I really couldn't pull it off. I also tried on a red one and some shorter curlier ones, but they really weren't me. I ended up with a longer one, that was straight and just slightly lighter in shade than my natural color. And to my surprise, despite its being donated - it was a brand new wig, well cut and felt better than expected to the touch. I wore it to work ... and giggled as everyone had to do a double take before they realized it was me. And I wore it out Friday night during my evening out with the girls. What I realized is - is that it feels just like a hat or a scarf. It's just a head covering and after a while, I didn't even equate the feeling of it on my head to a wig - I am who I am, and felt like myself, regardless of what was on my head. And that's a nice feeling to have.

But - since I have the wig, I thought I would put all the pictures together to show the progression of the "hair" ... so here they are!

Before Treatment

The Donation Cut

The Pixie Cut

The Shave

The Wig, Courtesy of the American Cancer Society

And, the back of the wig, just for fun!

Day 134 - 10.10.10

Today is my sister's birthday, 10/10/10! I know it will be a wonderful birth year for her! She's coming into town this Wednesday to go through chemo number 3 with me. I tried to convince her to bring at least one of the kids ... but I wasn't successful. It's a nice little break for her. It's ok. I'll hopefully get to see the kiddies sooner than later. She goes back Sunday morning so I'm hoping this treatment is like my most recent one - easy and not so taxing - so I can actually be awake for her visit.

The other day I was watching the Today Show as I was getting ready for work. Every morning, they have Willard announce "Happy Birthday" to those are celebrating their 99th or 100th birthday. The other day there was an announcement for twins ... sisters - who were turning 100. They said they spoke every day. I thought to myself, that's how my sister and I will be ... old and still calling each other every day ... if not living together.

Happy Birthday Maria!!! I love you! See you soon!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day 127 - No More Lamenting

It's funny how far away "next week" can feel when you're feeling like poo ... or when "next week" is your vacation. Then suddenly, next week is here - and I feel better. And I look back and think to myself, where did last week go?

This infusion period is very different than the first round. No aches or pains this time through, just the fatigue. No anxiety attack or fever, just a lazy weekend spent waiting for a fever that never came. GI side effects were more noticeable this time around, but nothing a Fiber One bar couldn't cure. The breakout I had this time - I think came from wearing my hats. It was just on my forehead and scalp -- irritation from the various types of yarn my crochet hats are made from. And - thankfully - like round 1, no irritation in my mouth except the burnt taste buds. Dairy and sweet flavors - all wonderful things for my waistline - taste good. Salads tasted bitter last time and I haven't yet tried them this time through. I'm waiting until things start to taste good again and then I'll swap out some of those dairy laden foods for a salad. I'll keep the ice cream though. It's a must.

I was poking around the forums and it always astonishes me at what I find. Perhaps it's because the experiences are so "bad" that the contributors are compelled to air them out somewhere - but I'm always caught off guard at how bad it is for some women. Am I just that lucky? Or did I just ask enough questions that I'm not surprised when something happens? Or is it as simple as I paid attention to what the doctor's were telling me? I read along in a forum that discussed my type of chemo regiment - the cytoxan and taxotere, 4 times over 12 weeks - and found a recent post by a woman who was in her early 40s who was getting ready to start her treatment. I instantly felt compelled to respond to her post. I wanted her to know - that amidst all of these "scary" stories, there is one that wasn't scary. There is one woman who isn't having it so bad. That I'm here, going through it - living with it - just fine.

I try to remember that the women who post their gripes and scary stories all over forums are so affected by their treatment, that they almost have no choice but to post. That they must feel so helpless and frustrated and alone ... that by posting into cyberspace, they're actually asking for a sympathetic response. They're looking for someone - anyone - a sister and stranger - to reply and validate them. To tell them that they aren't alone.

I can't express how lucky I am, to have the support system I have. My family and friends are more than amazing and more than supportive and are holding me up through this. They're making this whole process, not so bad.

I was telling Mike the other night that I was feeling a little insecure about going out with my girlfriends this coming Friday night. I'm going to be the girl in the scarf in a group of young women out for a night on the town. It will be the first time since I've shaved my head that I'm going out "out" - with the girls - out for a fun night. But after reading those forums today - I'm okay with it. I'm thankful I'm feeling well enough to be able to go out with my friends. So I'll be covering my head - oh well. There are worse things.