Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 184 - Another Successful Thanksgiving

It's Sunday - the Sunday after Thanksgiving. My mom is in town and we're playing with wreaths for the door. We're decorating. It's fun - and it's normal. Tomorrow I have an appointment with my Oncologist to follow up post chemotherapy. I know the next step in treatment is Tamoxifen. What I don't know is whether or not I want to take that next step. I kind of want my body back. I'm tired of side effects. I'm tired of not feeling like myself. And right now - as I'm starting to feel more and more like myself - I'm less and less inclined to let that go.

Thursday, as we sat around the dinner table - we took time to share our thanks. Needless to say there were some teary moments. What am I thankful for? It was an easy question with an easy answer - but it wasn't easily put into words. I'm thankful for so much this year. It's been a year of such highs that were  only matched by such lows. Mike and I were married this year - remember? Sometimes it feels like our wedding day has been so shadowed by my cancer diagnosis that our wedding day doesn't even feel like it was just 8 months ago. We are still newlyweds -- and this past Thursday was our first Thanksgiving as husband and wife.

If I had to pick one thing, I guess it would be for the opportunity that lay ahead of me. I have so much opportunity in front of me - it's overwhelming. I have the chance to do something good with this experience -- and help other people - and return the kindnesses that were shown to me. I have the chance to take what I've learned and apply it in every aspect of my life. Mike and I have the opportunity to continue to grow as a couple from this experience - and apply some serious life lessons to our new marriage. And really - the simple fact that I have these opportunities -- means that I'm alive -- and that's certainly something to be thankful for.

Things were a little bit crazy coming home from our trip to Boston on Monday night and hosting Thanksgiving 3 nights later. It was a slight whirlwind, but it was totally worth it. Boston was fun - and it was nice to do something away from home and away from work that was 100% unrelated to cancer. It also made me really happy to be there to watch Mike enjoy something that he loves - to watch him spend time for himself, as much as he could anyway, unrelated to my cancer diagnosis. It was certainly well earned, well deserved -- and thoroughly enjoyed. This year it was our turn to host Thanksgiving, and it would have made me terribly sad if we didn't. It would have meant Cancer changed something that we had planned -- a victory for the opposing team.

My exchange surgery is just around the corner now, a little over a week to December 8th. My reconstruction "team" tells me that this time shouldn't nearly be as painful or difficult to recover from as the initial surgery. I keep holding on to that. I don't feel the same sense of fear as I had for my first surgery (not yet anyhow), and I'm not sure why. But - I'm a little tougher now, so maybe that's it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 173 - Getting There

I made it to my "Day 10" mark where my counts are lowest and I'm most susceptible. We got through that weekend without a fever and only a little fatigue. I even went out with my girlfriends for dinner. I must say, looking back - either I tolerated the drugs really well - or they weren't really that bad - because overall it wasn't nearly what I expected. I'm happy that it didn't seem that bad - I'm sure it could have been a lot worse. It felt like I was in a holding pattern. For 12 weeks - my life was on pause ... waiting until I felt better was the main activity which was nothing more than watching movies, sleeping and experimenting with food to see what tasted good and when. Now that I'm starting to feel better and regain my energy - I'm growing more and more impatient waiting for the side effects to fully subside. Because I know I don't have to do it again ... well - I'm assuming I won't have to - at the very least - for a really, really long time - I'm ready to start feeling like myself again, fully.

But, as I near the end of the side effects from the last treatment, I can't help but wonder if 4 was too much. Should I have stopped at 3? Did we push it too far? Was it too damaging undergoing 4 treatments, when 3 might have been sufficient? I wonder because my cycle stopped. I'm told that it should start again in a few weeks -- but that's what making me wonder. Things were fine up through infusion number 3. Infusion number 4 seemed to throw everything out of whack. Did I cross a line? Can still have kids? ....And more importantly - will they be well?

We're a few weeks out from my exchange surgery. That's adding to my impatience. I have a date on the calendar and I know it's right around the corner ... and the expansion appointments are only one or two more until we're finished. I'm just ready to have my body back - to be as much of me as I can be, again. I'm told the exchange surgery won't be nearly as physically challenging as the initial surgery. I really hope that's true. The expansions are beginning to hurt now -- for a couple days after the appointment I have tight, sharp pains -- and I can't sleep very well. But we're up to 500 now, and I'll most likely stay there. We'll expand up to 550 so there's a little extra room - but I'm pretty sure the implants will be at 500. Ask me in a week when I'm not having any pain from the expansion and I might have a different answer, but right now - I feel finished. I'm tired of hurting.

We leave in the morning for Boston - we're taking a trip to see the Patriots play the Colts. I'm excited. It's something non-medical related, and I'm feeling up for going -- up for something normal. I had to ask the doctor if I was going to set off the metal detector though ... It's a legitimate question. The expanders have stainless steel ports on them that help guide a little magnet that tells them where to stick me. How do you explain that to TSA? And -- my port-a-cath is still in, and that has a metal back to it too. They said that I shouldn't set anything off though. That's good. But with this new, more touchy-feely pat down procedure they've implemented -- I'm fully expecting to be questioned. The expanders are hard. They don't feel normal by any means. And - what would they see if I have to do a fully body scan?

Ugh - "safely violated" by TSA. Yay.

I'm also apprehensive about being asked to take off my beanie as I go through security. I only walk around like that at home -- inside our home. If I go out into the backyard, I grab a hat. The though of being forced to bare all in the middle of airport security -- makes me feel vulnerable -- open for all to stare at. I know when I'm standing in that zig zagging, switchback of a security line I'm people watching as everyone strips down by the conveyor belt. Why wouldn't they look at me - there's not much else better to do while you're waiting your turn. At the very least - I hope they'll let me pull up my hood -- that is, if they don't make me strip down to my tank top.

But - we're getting there. Things are wrapping up and drawing to a close. And - for that -- I'm truly Thankful.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day 160 - Chemo #4, The Final Infusion!

It's hard to describe how happy I am that yesterday was the last infusion. It's a huge relief to have it over with. I feel like we've accomplished something - something serious. And it really isn't like I did anything other than have stuff done to me ... but I've survived it. I've survived chemo. There are only 3 other times in my life that I've cried true tears of joy. The first was when I witnessed the birth of my first nephew. The second was when Mike proposed. The third time was only a few months ago, when we were married. And the fourth - was yesterday - when we were standing outside the Breast Center waiting for our car. Mike was hugging me -- and I was so happy that it was over. I hugged my mom ... and just kept tearing up. We met up with Mike's mom and went to dinner. We got home, got ready for bed - all the while I just smiled to myself. Chemo was over.

I still have to endure the 10 days or so of the after-effects of this last infusion, but the thought of it is easier to deal with knowing that I don't have to do it again ... at least not anytime soon anyhow. The Nurse Practitioner started talking about the emotional impact of finishing chemo and consequently coming into the Oncologists office less and less often - being monitored not so closely. It naturally raised worry ... the "what ifs" - what if we missed something? What if there's a recurrence? How do we know it will be "OK" ...

It's another leap of faith - that's what it is. Like the leap of faith I had to take with my Oncologist and not freeze my eggs prior to chemotherapy. It's a leap of faith that I'm going to be OK. It will be just as difficult to take, if not harder. I won't be actively doing something to make sure the cancer cells are at bay, or dying off - that is - if any survived the 4 bombs we set off in my body. And that's another thing we're just going to have to trust to faith -- that chemo did it's job -- that during these 4 rounds all the potential cancer cells that may have remained were actively dividing and thus impacted by the chemo and killed. What are my odds of a distant metastasis? What are my odds of local recurrence? Even though there isn't suppose to be any breast tissue left, there's always the chance that one cell remained - or that there's a recurrence in the scar tissue. Or that one cell snuck out of my lymph nodes and is floating around in my blood stream and was lying dormant during these last 8 weeks.

But these aren't things I can (or really want) to think about right now. My exchange surgery is on the horizon. 5 weeks until surgery -- another close to another chapter. Reconstruction has been going well. Not much more to go right now. I'm looking forward to being through with this phase as well. I'm looking forward to sleeping comfortably, most of all. It's progress - I'm moving forward in my life - and I'm finally able to check things off my compartmentalized approach to dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Thank goodness.