Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Off Tam ... for now. - August 31, 2011

So ... I took July off as a mini-break from tamoxifen. I was really sad and unmotivated ... and weepy. I would cry in the produce section of the grocery store probably at least once a week ... or I'd cry at night when I'm putting laundry away. And I know, laundry isn't all that exciting, but it shouldn't bring me to tears - at least not a regular basis.

July was really nice. I felt happy again and more like myself than I've felt since this whole ordeal began. When August came around - it was really hard to let that go. But I did. I had about 10 doses left in the bottle before I had to refill. So I started back on tamoxifen. Everything I've read said it takes about 2 months for it to fully clear you system, so there was most likely still some residual chemicals running around my system. About 7 days into being back on the wagon, I started to feel that all too familiar sadness. It was Sunday night and I was putting laundry away, and Mike could just see it on my face. All it took was him asking if I was ok - and the water works began. Sigh. Another Sunday with tears in the laundry. I couldn't do it. I didn't want to do it. After feeling so much like myself in July, this breakdown was even harder because I had known what it was like to start to feel normal - to go back to normal - back to who I was pre-cancer. Almost anyway.

At close to midnight I was still awake. I decided to email my Onc. I told her I took July off because I was sad and seriously affected ... that I had come back on it in August, but a week into it I was already so sad, so soon. I told her, "I know I don't see you until September, but is there something I can do in the mean time? Can we talk in September about maybe a different type of monitoring? Regular MRI screenings instead of tamoxifen? I'm just so sad."

She replied the next day and told me that it was OK to stay off of tamoxifen until I see her in September. She said it can be a really hard drug for some people.

Did I do a little dance? Not on the outside, but I was happy and my heart was dancing. I was relieved. I had another month of feeling like myself.

But now that month is quickly coming to a close. I have about 2 weeks before I go see my Onc again for our 6 month follow up. I'm a little apprehensive about what she's going to tell me I need to do treatment wise. As much as I'm not looking forward to going back on the drug, I will if she says I need to.

I'm just so torn. We're walking the line between quality of life, and quantity of life. On tamoxifen, my quality of life goes down, but my quantity of life is potentially going up. I say potentially, because despite all the treatments, there's no cure for cancer thus there's no guarantee that even after all of everything I've done, it won't come back and claim my life. Off of tamoxifen, my quality of life goes up, but my quantity of life potentially goes down. Again, "potentially". And then there's chance. I could step off the curb and get hit by a bus and die. So what it comes down to really, is how do I want to be feeling when I step off that curb?

My life is right now. And right now, I want to be me. I want to feel like me. It might be selfish, but I'm the one who has to live this life of mine. And if I only have a handful of years, I want them to be good. I don't want to spend them sad. I don't want any future children we have to know me as a depressed and sad personality - because that's not me. Mike and I always talk about how much the drug impacts my personality. We both acknowledge that this is the hardest part of treatment. It's the silent part ... the slow part. The treatment unseen, unlike chemo - there's no hair loss, no sallowness, no sickly-ness about me. It's a slow starvation at the cellular level of any rogue cancer cells that somehow have cockroach like powers and survived the chemotherapy bombs and aggressive surgery.

What is comes down to is this - we have a limited time on this earth, how do you spend it?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Life Keeps on Going - July 30, 2011

It's astonishing how quickly life just picks back up and keeps going. It doesn't miss a beat. And I don't want to miss a beat either.

It's really crazy how much my perspective on life has been altered. I don't see the point in waiting now. I mean, I'm still one of the most patient people you'll ever meet, but in terms of delaying things, I don't see the point. If I want to indulge and have ice cream, I will. I won't say no - I really shouldn't, or I haven't worked out enough this month to justify having that. I'm going to have it. I don't feel like there's really any more time to wait for things. On the same token, every experience I have now means just that much more. I'm that much more engaged, involved, outspoken. I talk to strangers, even more now. I laugh with them, strike up random conversations out of the blue. I connect more. I'm not as reserved in my personality as I used to be. Before - my primary concern was making sure everyone else was happy, unoffended, comfortable ... even if that meant I was sacrificing my own wants to ensure others were happy. That was OK by me. It was a regular thing. But now, I do what I want to do. If I don't want to do what you want to do, I say so. I'm still nice about it, obviously, but I speak up. This is new for me. I like this new me. I feel like I don't have time to wait for things to happen, instead I'm going to make them happen, insist they happen, because I don't have any time to wait, despite fighting for more time to live, and winning.

I started a new job on June 3rd. I'm a marketing manager for the investment banking unit of the company. Someone asked me how I found the job and if I was "actively" looking for new employment when I found it. It made me think ... was I "actively" looking? No ... no, I was just seeing what's out there and it caught my attention. Forward progress. I'm in constant motion, constantly seeking growth, before cancer and after cancer. Just now, after cancer - I'm more aggressive with going forward. I don't have time to wait. I don't have time. Letting life happen isn't a courtesy I feel like I can afford. I have to go get it. Because hell, despite your best efforts, you're always subject to indiscriminate circumstance.

--

I took July off from Tamoxifen ... on my own accord. OK - I mean my Onc implied it was an option so I took a little liberty with that and took July off by my own choice. I was just SO sad and so unmotivated and that lack of motivation was impacting my desire to get up in the morning and my desire to exercise - which resulted in a few extra lbs. - which didn't do anything to help counter the sadness. It was awful. Not a week off the tamoxifen and I felt amazing. I could feel a change in spirit and motivation. But I told myself that I would go back on in August. That's Monday. (sigh). BUT, there's only 5 months left to the year and the deal with my Onc was that I'd take it for 1 year after treatment before I came off of it and we could try for kids. I meet with my Onc again in September. Mike said he thought this would be the hardest part - the tamoxifen - because it was for so long and because it had a slow, subtle impact on my temperament. He was right. At least surgery was quick in comparison. Chemo too for that matter.

Speaking of chemo, my hair is coming in so curly! It's a lot of fun.

--

Bright Pink. I went to the BP Ambassador summit in July in Chicago. PS - I love Chicago! I had never been there and it was such a beautiful city! Anyhow, during the summit we worked on our "story" ... our reason for being involved in BP. Initially, when I became involved with BP, I thought my diagnosis was just a fluke, random occurrence ... an anomaly. We had no genetic disposition nor any family history to speak of ... so at the summit I talked about how BP's mission of early detection and education rang true for me because early detection and education is what saved my life. People always asked me, how did I know to check? I never really knew how to answer this because I feel like I just always thought I should be checking, it's what they taught us to do in health class so many years ago. Yes ... I paid attention.

When I got home from the summit, I got an email from my mom who had correspondence with a cousin on my father's side of the family. In this email I found out some interesting news. I'm more high risk than I thought. Here's how it kind of works out - my paternal first cousin's, father's mother died of cancer in her early 40's. My paternal grandfather died of cancer at 43. My paternal aunt died of cancer close to 50 years old. My paternal grandfather's sister died of cancer at 65. I have yet to know what kind of cancer everyone suffered from, but in my eyes, it's irrelevant. I've just gone from no family history to speak of, to a familial risk of cancer ... low risk to more risk than I thought. It makes me rethink my opinions of taking Tamoxifen now.

--

Mike and I regularly talk about whether or not we think my cancer will make a recurrence. When I thought my diagnosis was just a fluke, I would whole-heartedly answer no, I don't think it will. I don't think that's my fate. But now, in light of new information, my answer is not so whole-hearted. There's doubt where there was none before. It's somewhat dis-empowering because it feels like I've lost some control over my future. At least when I thought I didn't a family history, I felt in control. But now ... as foolish as it is to think I have any control over things like this, I feel truly scared because it feels more unpredictable.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

1 Year Ago Today - May 25, 2011

It's been one year. One year gone so quickly and so much has changed. One year gone, and Mike and I just plain forgot! Until now anyhow, after our day at work, after our workouts, after dinner -- it just suddenly dawned on me that oh yeah - today's my 1 year mark.

So, I'm feeling good and am cancer free. I'm down to 6 month and 1 year follow up appointments with my doctors. I've got 4 more years of monitoring until I'm fully in the clear. I can go back to my regular health appointments - which were put aside when my Onc took over. Did I mention my hair is coming in curly?



The curly hair is kind of expected, but unexpected all at the same time. I mean, I knew that it was possible - because of the damage the chemo does to the hair follicle - but it's another thing when it actually happens. It's fun. I mean, my hair was extremely straight before chemo, and now it's like I'm a totally different person. The curls may last, or they might just go away -- I'm good with either. I'm just thankful it came back, and it came back well thus far.

But what I think is most unexpected is how much my perspective on life has been seriously altered. I think I knew I would feel different once this was all over, but I don't think I really knew to what degree I would feel different. I feel very different. Not only do I feel like I am different on the outside, with the implants and curly hair, not to mention the length of the hair, and the extra pounds that don't seem to want to come off -- but I feel tremendously different inside.

I don't want to wait. I've lost some of my passive nature. I don't want to miss out on anything. I speak up more now - you're more likely to hear what's on my mind now, than ever before. It's a different type of confidence. It's a confidence that's driven by a heightened sense of appreciation for living. I have a drive to maximize everything - I feel like I was given (earned?) a second chance, a second life - and as cliche as it sounds, I don't want to waste any of these new minutes. Everything that I wanted to do before I went through treatment, everything I felt like I had time to do ... I want to do even more now, sooner. I feel like I actually don't have that much time any more. That "we" don't, as people. I want to do everything that I've ever wanted to do, and I want to pursue all those goals that I've set for myself -- all with a new sense of urgency.

And on the same token, things that were so "important" before, aren't really such a big deal now. The small things are really small things that don't get a second thought anymore. I mean I care - I still care a lot about everything - but if it's not truly meaningful or important, I don't get hung up on it. There's not enough time to.

I've been given a new appreciation for life. I can truly say I LOVE life. I love living. It's an amazing and intriguing thing. You really just float through it, connecting and disconnecting as time passes. Meeting new people, finding old friends .... changing over and over again as you're impacted by these relationships. Making memories, laughing at memories, crying at memories - it all goes so quickly. So if there's one thing that I've learned from this last year of experiences, it's that you shouldn't wait. You never know when it's your time or whether or not you're going to get a second chance. And if you happen to do get a second chance, then go for it. All of it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Day 346 - Feeling Better

I'm slowly starting to feel better -- more and more like me again. I'm not sure if it's because I've been inconsistent with taking my Tamoxifen ... but it could be a factor.

But for now, I'm happy feeling happier. =)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Day 339 - Not me

I'm feeling sad ... depressed ... maybe not depressed -- but blue. I smile and laugh when there's something to smile and laugh at, but then I revert back to feeling sad. My motivation is gone -- my "get up and go," got up and went -- and left me standing alone trying to figure out how to move out of the dust. There's no sparkle to my day, no urgency to do anything -- it's hard to get up in the morning. Time just ticks away.

It's really hard feeling like this. This isn't me.

My perspective is so different than it was before cancer. Things that used to be urgent and important, really aren't so anymore. I do what I do because I have to, not because I want to right now. I feel like I got a new lease on life, but I don't know what I'm supposed to do with it. Am I suppose to just go back and live it like I was before? Like none of this happened? That feels shallow -- unappreciative of my survival.

"When you have no other choice, you have no fear. You do what you have to do," ... Survival.

But then what? What happens after you survive? How are you suppose to go back when you've gone through something that has altered you at the core. I know it sounds a little dramatic ... but it's how I'm feeling -- at least right now anyway.

I look back at our wedding pictures and it feels like it was so long ago. It's hard to identify with the "me" I was then. I mean -- I still love the same things, but so much has changed. So many important things have changed. It's like we have a whole different life now. Even our dog is different. So much change in not so much time. Maybe I have whiplash.

I asked my doctor if this is a normal side effect of the tamoxifen -- this sadness. She said it could be, but it could also be a normal phase after undergoing treatment in the way that I did. Lately, I could cry at the drop of a hat. I cried when I emailed her to ask her what the hell was wrong with me. I cried when I read her reply. I cried at dinner when I was telling Mike I'm not sure what's wrong with me. I cried when I told him that working out is really hard - that it's tough to feel the muscles move the way do, that I can't stretch my arms back the way I used to -- it's tough not feeling any strength in your upper body any more. It makes yoga really tough sometimes ... and I love yoga. Mike said maybe I just need to sit and have a good cry -- get it out.

Maybe.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 329 - So Many Things

So many things have happened since I've last posted. I was reading the blog of another young woman who was diagnosed, and she reminded me that we only have today, and that our time is brief. I won't always have tomorrow to post - so I thought I better get on it. Thanks Michelle. =)

Let me pick up where I left off I guess...

A week after we said goodbye to our beloved Tomo, we welcomed Shin into our home. "Shinakio" (Shin-ah-kio) is the 3rd name he was given while in the shelter, so we decided not to change it anymore. In Japanese it translates to "Faithful and Bright" - and that he is. He's now 6 months old and has trace behaviors that remind us of our Tomo, but is still his own dog in so many ways. I found him listed on a Shiba Breed Rescue website, and even though it had only been a week - I felt like I needed to apply to adopt him. He had a sweet face, and was a puppy - which is rare to find in a rescue org. When he came into the house for the home visit, he ran right up and licked me on the face. I was won over. If she would have said we weren't a right fit for him after the visit, I would have cried. When he ran up the stairs and stuck his head through the railing like Tomo did when he was just 8 weeks old, Mike was won over. So -- it's puppy time all over again in our house and we're happy because of it.


We're also waiting for another litter of shibas to be born sometime this week. The sire is black and tan and the same one who sired Tomo. The dam is also a black and tan and we're hoping to get a little black and tan female from this litter. Fingers crossed.



Next, I'm pleased to announce I was selected as the Colorado Chapter Ambassador for Be Bright Pink! Bright Pink is a non-profit organization dedicated to the education and support of women under 40 who are high risk for breast and/or ovarian cancer. High-risk meaning testing positive for the genetic markers and/or having a strong family history. How do I fit in to that category? Well, despite not having the genetic marker and not having strong family history - I'm now high-risk for the simple fact that I was diagnosed. They are having their ambassador summit in July in Chicago so I'll be flying out to go through training and to meet the leaders and other ambassadors. I'm truly excited about the position and must admit that I'm slightly nervous as well. I was in these types of roles in high school and college, but nothing as a professional, so this is my first. I'm really looking forward to getting started and meeting some truly wonderful people.



And finally, Mike and I just got back from two wonderful weeks in the Riveria Maya, Mexico. Specifically we were in Puerto Aventuras, about 60 miles south of Cancun. It was WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL! Did I mention it was wonderful? We really needed the break away and two weeks was truly needed. After the first week we couldn't fathom going home yet because it just didn't feel like we disconnected. By day 10, we felt like we lived there - we were finally disconnected. This was our first all-inclusive resort, and we really believe that if you can do all-inclusive, you should. Note, we researched this all inclusive very thoroughly and made sure that the food was excellent before we committed -- we didn't want only buffet service and this resort offered both buffet as well as a la carte service. They also offered premium liquors as well, which was equally important.

Everyday, we got up, put on our suits, made our way to breakfast, and then went out to the main pool or hung out by the lagoon. The activities staff at this resort was by far the best, and they really made the trip. Not only did they remember our names after the first day, they were very involved in making sure we all had a great time. Each day there was water aerobics, a demomstration of some sort - sangria, margaritas, guacamole - water volleyball, water polo, bocce ball, snorkeling tours, monkey tours .... there was always something to do, if you wanted to do it - and we did. Every night there was a special show - one night it was fire dancers, another it was capoeira and samba, a magic show, a circus show ... even a Michael Jackson show. They brought in professional performers who were all very good. The resort even had its very own "discoteca" (a club). Mike even danced with me, a lot! It was really fun.

We met some really great people while there as well. One couple from Philly, one couple from Canada, another from Boston, and yet another from Wisconsin, who had been to this resort 8 times. To us, that spoke volumes about how much they enjoyed the place and the staff.

Here are just a few pictures from the trip.
Cancun Airport, we just arrived!

Our Honeymooners Special Dinner

One of the beautiful inlets

We took bread from breakfast and fed the fish

There were so many of them!

Our other special dinner, courtesy of Eric, our waiter

Our last night there, we celebrated Mike's 29th birthday. Fausto, the main evening bartender in the lobby bar, was such a good person and was great at his job. We made friends with him early on in our trip and he remembered that our final day was Mike's birthday. So, after dinner we went to the bar like normal, to hang out with Fausto. Shortly after walking in, he rang his bell and out came a birthday cake, specially made for Mike. In addition, Fausto had arranged for the live band in the lobby to play a traditional "Happy Birthday" song for Mike and wish him happy birthday over the microphone. Mike was completely surprised, and very touched. We cut the cake and Fausto made everyone in the bar a round of chocolate cake shots. After we said "salud!" Fausto got everyone together and told me to get the camera ready and they all picked up Mike! It was great!


So we left the bar shortly after midnight and headed home that morning. When we got home we were very excited to see Shin. We've had a lazy weekend getting ready for the work week, and Easter was quiet. We're already talking about going back next year, making a "thing" of it for Mike's 30th birthday.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Husbands Perspective

The following story was a great reminder on just how lucky Melissa and I were to discover her cancer at such at early stage. This family is facing the biggest challenge I could ever imagine, and doing so with a very young daughter.

Please give all the positives thoughts you can to this family.

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/03/25/brooklyn-couple-both-diagnosed-with-cancer-in-about-a-week/

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tribute to Tomo - 12/27/2006 to 03/12/2011

Tomo means "Buddy" or "Friend" in Japanese. He was our buddy.















One of the last pictures of our little monster. We love you Tomo, so much.

Day 289 - Collisions of Happy and Sad

What do you do when life puts happy moments on a crash course with disasters? How are you suppose to feel? Like our wedding in one month and a cancer diagnosis the next. Like getting the news from your oncologist at your 3 month follow up appointment that you can now say you're "cancer free" - and you're so happy and overwhelmed by this new "status" - like you've accomplished such a tremendous feat and can truly put it behind you for now and go forward with a lighter heart, that you cry tears of joy as you exit the hospital - and then you catch a plane to your hometown to celebrate your 30th birthday weekend and the second morning you're there - you get a phone call that your beloved dog was hit by car and didn't survive.

I miss my dog so much.

So many highs and so many lows - all colliding with each other. I don't know what I did or who I pissed off - but I'm really, really sorry. I'm sorry for whatever it was that I did to justify all this sadness. I try to only do good things - to help people whenever I can. I volunteer with charities, I give when I can give. I don't stand for people being mean to other people and I speak up about it. I try to be a good person, wife, friend, family member -- I always try to make the right decision with the best intentions behind it, and nothing else.

I just don't get it. And it hurts.

We celebrated my 30th birthday with a heavy heart ... and said goodbye to 29 with a heavy pour.

As soon as we landed on Monday we went to the vet to see Tomo, and say our goodbyes. They had kept him in the freezer so he was cold when we touched him on the exam table. They had him covered in blankets, but you could still see that he was in a black bag. His normally pointed ear was folded over a bit from being inside the bag and it froze that way. I wanted so bad to straighten it out. I kept waiting for him to open his eyes and give me a dirty look for disturbing his nap - and stretch out his legs - like he used to do when I'd mess with him when he was sleeping. The other side of his little face had wrinkles frozen in place. There were little ice bits around his feet. He looked like he was asleep - he looked peaceful --- but he's never going to wake up from this nap. They're going to take his paw prints and have him cremated. We're suppose to have his ashes by the end of this week.

I woke up this morning - the first morning without Tomo in the house - and reached for his blanket -- his place on our bed. Throughout the night I would catch myself sticking my feet under his blanket -- and realizing how not warm it was. He would always sleep on my feet -- and he would groan whenever I moved too much, and kept him up. He'd always sleep in while we were getting ready in the morning. He'd turn his head toward the bathroom so he could see us, but he wasn't about to get up until he absolutely had to.

Our house is just too quiet now. I keep expecting to see him pop around the corner with something in his mouth he isn't suppose to have and his tail wagging - waiting for us to chase him. I expect to see him when I walk in from the garage after getting home from work. He would wrap himself around your leg as you scratch him hello. And that fur ... he was so soft. I'm really going to miss that. When Nic picked him up the morning we were leaving, I grabbed Tomo's face in my hands, kissed him on his face and said "bye baby" and stroked the sides of his face with my thumbs.

When we saw him at the vet - all I could do was apologize for not being there - and telling him that I loved him. He was only 4 years old. He was still a baby. He was our baby.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Patience - Day 269

Patience is a virtue ... something I’ve always tried to live by – something I preach to Mike all the time. But let me tell you, it’s not always so easy – and this is coming from someone who typically has an obscene amount of patience.


Cancer treatment is like a tornado – or more timely, an earthquake – things are broken down in the blink of an eye and recovery takes a lifetime, and nothing will ever really be as it was before the storm. There will always be some remaining trace of “what happened here” – some fracture in the foundation, that was repaired but is still visible to those who really look, or know it’s there. It’s the caveat in the story ... “the original structure was built in 1981, but after the earthquake of 2010, what you see now is a replica of the upper architecture on the original support structure.”


But I’m happy to say that I’m getting better and accepting the new me, and this new era of my life. I’m being as patient as I can with my hair re-growth (much credit is due to my husband for that) – I haven’t (yet) jumped off the deep end in an effort to control the schedule of Mother Nature. My hair is coming back, and every week it looks a little thicker, a little longer – Just this morning I almost got the top into a faux hawk. My eyelashes are in, they’re just short still, but they’re long enough for mascara, so that’s good. The multivitamin I ordered arrived from New Zealand and I’ve been taking it for 2 weeks now. I feel great on it, I’m noticing my skin is looking better, more balanced, hydrated and soft again. Another two weeks and I think my nails will be completely free of the damage from chemo. My cycle is semi-regular at least thus far, 5 weeks instead of 4 – we’ll have to see how that goes as this year progresses. Sun sensitivity – none that I can tell. I’ve been indoor tanning the last two weeks – and before we start down the path of tanning beds can cause skin cancer, haven’t I already had enough of cancer - I’d like to throw in the bag that Tamoxifen can cause uterine cancer, so it really is mixed opinion on all accounts. Plus, the color has done wonders for my self-esteem. I grew up in sunny San Diego remember? I’m accustomed to having some color in my skin – and since I was unable to catch any rays last summer, I was especially ghostly this winter. We’re also headed to San Diego for my 30th and I’d like not to glow. We’ve also booked our 2nd honeymoon (hooray!) and everything is set. We’re going to be staying at Aventura Spa Palace in Puerto Aventuras, across from Cozumel, and a little pre-tanning is necessary so as not to burn while we’re away. I can’t wait!


We celebrated our first Valentine’s as a married couple on Saturday the 12th. It was lovely – a slight comedy of errors, but lovely nonetheless. (And the restaurant more than made up for it by sending us a generous gift certificate to return and have a better experience.) It was also the first time I ventured out without a hat, hood or scarf. It took me almost two hours to figure out an outfit that I felt confident enough in to do so, but I was determined to get that first appearance out of the way. As you can see, the martini helped.







And now, a week and a half later, you can see my hair has some more growth.
 




Things are on the up and up ... I just need to keep my patience going. I have my 3 month follow up appointments with both my Onc and my plastic surgeon in early March. Physically, I’m dropping some of the weight that I put on during treatment and am feeling better about it every week- like I’m getting back to my old self. I have a phone interview, today actually, with Be Bright Pink for the Colorado Ambassador role. It will be their first Colorado ambassador and first Colorado Chapter of the non-profit. Hopefully, regardless of their selection, we can keep spreading the word and educating young women about their risk.


Oh, and I went out for my first real ladies night last Friday. It was super fun. We went out for sushi and then went dancing. I was approached by a few people about my “edgy hairstyle” ... the comments were all really sweet, along the lines of “not everyone can pull that off”, evidently the perception was it was my choice to buzz my hair, but – it would have been tough to yell over the music “IT’S FROM CHEMO” ... so I just nodded, smiled and said thank you. It made me feel good to know that I don’t look like a cancer patient, because I never did identify with that image anyway.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February 2011

So it's February 2011 ... it's winter ... it's cold ... there's a good amount of snow on the ground. I'm about 1.5 months into the Tamoxifen treatment. I think my doc thought I might have just been complaining when I sent her that email because she hasn't yet responded. She is usually very prompt. I'm fine without a response however - because after reading it over a few times, it really did sound like I was complaining.

So how are things going thus far? Well - the hot flashes are flickering less, you could say. It's been a few weeks where I've slept through the night without waking up in a sweat. They aren't happening at work either, so I'm thankful for that. I'm still experiencing acne across my forehead - which I'm attributing to the hormone imbalance, or rather the lack of hormone absorption by my body. I ordered a multi-vitamin that is suppose to help correct the imbalance - or at least, I believe it's suppose to help level things out, in addition to helping my hair grow and counteracting the tamoxifen effects on my skin. We'll see how it goes once it gets here.

The chemo damage is almost out of my nails completely. There's only 1 ring left at the top of each nail. That's exciting. The nail bed below it is nice and pink and healthy looking. Now if only my hair would come in in such a way that I could track it! No such luck. Each day, I look in the mirror and unfortunately sigh - wishing my hair would come in faster. It went away so quickly, I guess I somehow believed it would come back just as quick - like it was a joke that it fell out in the first place. Again, no such luck. Ah well. I'll just be the boy in the back who looks curiously like a girl.

The only other issue on my radar screen right now is my cycle. I have a feeling it's not going to follow a nice 4 week pattern while I'm on tamoxifen. I have a feeling it's going to slow down and maybe even stop altogether. Not that I would complain about not having a monthly cycle -- it's just, I don't have any other way of knowing that things are OK other than a regular, reliable cycle. And since I don't have any other mechanism for tracking, it puts me a little on edge -- a little worrisome.

Overall though, things are good. Mike and I are planning our 2nd honeymoon/spring vacation somewhere sunny, warm and for two weeks. Neither of us has taken a two week vacation before, so this will be the first time. I feel somewhat guilty leaving the office for that long -- but the more I think about the sun and the ocean, the less guilty I feel. Because truthfully - we've had one HECK of a year in 2010 and I can honestly say we deserve two weeks away. But again - I'll be the boy on the beach. At least my head won't get hot. I might even have to put sunscreen on my scalp!

And finally my 30th ... my "Flirty Thirty" will be held at my mom's house in just a few weeks. I'm super excited to be home and to see my family and play with the kiddos. I miss them a lot and every day they just get bigger and smarter and sassier. Pre-BC I would have been sad about turning 30 ... but now ... I'm actually really happy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Letter to my Doctor, 1/22/10

> Hi Dr. B,
>
> Happy Saturday! So ... I was reading (again) and I was wondering if you could help me make sense of what I'm finding. I know I see you in March but I was hoping you could answer these questions for me early.
>
> About the tamoxifen - and the menopausal side effects ... First my skin, I'm breaking out across my forehead and it's starting on my cheeks now. I know I mentioned I went through Accutane treatment and currently it feels all for naught. I read that acne is normal in menopause. Is the tamoxifen causing such a menopausal side effect that it's causing me to break out? If so, is there something I can supplement with to help my skin not just against the acne but against the dryness, dullness, loss of plumpness, etc. that also happens in menopause? Fish oil? Vitamin E? Topical estrogen, if that's the cause?
>
> Second, about my hair. Thinning hair is common for menopause (so I read) ... Since my hair is still less than an inch long, I can't assess whether or not it's much thinner than before but it made me wonder if the Tamoxifen will cause that to happen too? Or if it slows down the growth? If so, when I come off of it, "should" things go back to normal? I decided against the Rogaine and am just letting nature work here - but if I'm circumventing it's return, I'd rather wait for it to come back fully and then re-start the drug.
>
> Finally, sunning .... Articles say there is increased sun sensitivity but don't really specify what about sun exposure changes. Is this a side effect of the tamoxifen and if so, is it just burning more easily or is it a rash or just redness that occurs? I'd like to get by the pool this summer but not for the price of harsh burns.
>
> Overall, I'm curious if all the typical menopausal side effects that I can find out about online are applicable to being on tamoxifen, or if it's just a select few. If all the typical side effects apply, what can I do to balance out these changes? I know we talked about all this before I started taking it, it's just more applicable now that I know what's actually happening, side effect wise.
>
> At 3 weeks in, and aside from the skin changes, I seem to be tolerating the drug well. My menstrual cycle even started again this month where October was the last time I had had it. I'm just wanting to know what I can do tolerate the drug even better. I trust you're plan and intend to stay on it for a year before we try for kids, but I would be a liar if I said I didn't care about how it's affecting my appearance and in turn how that effects my self esteem. BC, a BMX and chemo is a big blow to one's sense of femininity and confidence. Now that recon is finished, my period returned and my hair is on it's way back, I really don't want to trade one self-esteem blow for another if I can help it somehow.
>
> Looking forward to hearing from you,
>
> Melissa
>
> --
> Melissa Bingham
>

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Happy New Year 2011!

Happy New Year All! It's 2011 ... and 2010 is behind us, for the most part. I can tell you it certainly feels  good to be into the new year feeling like as much of my old self as possible. At my last appointment with my Oncologist, I told her I wanted my body back - I wanted to just get back to normal. She responded with "I'll never be back to 'normal' - it's going to be a new normal from this point on." And she's right.

As I walk around the house I see myself in our wedding pictures - I look at myself and wonder if I'm ever going to get back to "that" ... and in the same glance, I catch my reflection in the glass of the frame - and feel so different. Different, but the same ... but not. I lost so much of my femininity in 2010 - I lost my breasts, my long hair, most of my eyelashes and eyebrows - even my period stopped. My yoga body got soft and is now -- very cushy. Embarking on 2011 I realize that this year will be about regaining all that was lost, but it won't ever be the same as it was before - so yes, it will be a new normal for me. My reconstruction is complete so I have my "breasts" back, my eyebrows have come back and I can see tiny little eyelashes growing back in everyday. Even my period came back the other day, just two months of being absent. That must be a good sign, right? And it's going to take a lot of work to get back to where I was physically before the diagnosis. And my long hair -- well, I only have about a half an inch of hair, and catching my reflection in the picture frame only serves to remind me of how slow it's growing. But it's growing, so for that I must be thankful.

Since the turn of the year, I've had 2 or 3 breakdowns. It's only been 15 days into 2011. I attribute it to the slow down of activity - the lack of "things to do" for treatment. It's like when you are out and about all day, running errands and checking things off your list -- and then when you get home and you finally sit for a moment - your mind quiets and you reflect on all that you've done that day. It's like that. My mind is finally quieting, and the emotions are rising to the surface after being ignored for 7 months.

But things are good. I got involved with a non-profit called Be Bright Pink, an organization dedicated to young women who have, had or are at high risk for breast and/or ovarian cancer. I've applied to be an ambassador for the organization and lead a chapter in Colorado, something they don't have yet. We had our first meeting last weekend and I'm excited to be involved. It's going to be a good thing, and it's providing me with an outlet to turn my diagnosis into something positive and constructive. Most importantly, it's allowing me to help others who are going through what I went through.

It's hard to know where to go from here, because it's hard to define where "here" is. It feels like the same place we've always been, but it's obviously changed. I started the Tamoxifen treatment on January 2 -- just to try it and see how it affects me. So far - I don't notice anything, so that's good. I hope it continues like that. Making a resolution for myself for 2011 seemed trivial, so I didn't make one. Usually a resolution means you want to be better in some fashion in the new year. I don't want to be better than I was in 2010 ... I just want to be the same.


The Fuzz