Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25, 2012 - Two years ...

It's been two years. Two years since diagnosis. Two years since that day that I got that phone call from my doctor. Two years since I went sobbing down to HR and then into my boss's office and then the awful, lonely drive to Mike's work - to tell him in person. The day is both blurry and vivid at the same time. All of the moments leading up to the call I can't remember - they were so insignificant in comparison - I couldn't tell you what I did that morning, what I ate or what I was wearing. But I can tell you that I can picture the doctor's office's phone number showing up on the screen of my phone. It was to the right of me, on my desk. I had my headphones plugged into my phone. I was typing. I remember taking the call and my doctor telling me he was surprised I hadn't heard from his office sooner. He spouted through a lot of terms related to the results of the biopsy and I remember scrambling to write everything down, circling specific terms like "intraductal carcinoma" ... the ink was blue. I remember in the midst of him telling me other important facts and me scrambling to write everything down, that my cell phone lost it's signal and the call was dropped. I got up and went to the nearby conference room, closer to a window - hoping that would improve my signal - and called my doctor back while at the same time he was trying to call me. I got his voice message just as I was on my third call to his office. We finally connected and he repeated what he left on my voicemail. I wonder now if he thought I just hung up on him. I wonder if that's what usually happens to him in moments like that. I wonder how awful it must be to be him in moments like that.

After a few more dropped calls and re-connections - and a few choice curse words for my cell carrier and their coverage in downtown Denver - I didn't know what to do next. I went to HR and knocked on the door. I didn't care who was in there or what she was working on because I was sure that my problem was more important. The door opened and someone was sitting in the chair. Our eyes met - mine full of tears and those tears taking my mascara down my cheek - she was shooed out of the office and I could only drop my head. I knew I would eventually have to explain that to her - to everyone - because I'm sure it would evolve into gossip about how Melissa came crying to HR and how they all wonder what it was about. Little would they know that the gossip wasn't as salacious as they all were probably hoping for. I went into the office and all I could do was show her my notes - that were now smudged with water spots from my simultaneous crying and writing - and dropped calling. I managed to get out what my doctor told me. We went down to my boss's office, knocked on the door and went in. "I have cancer," was all I could muster before the tears took over. HR said I needed to go home.

I don't remember the walk to my car or the drive to Mike's office. I do remember being paranoid that Mike was going to call me before I made it to his office. I wasn't in any state to disguise my voice and I know that if he asked me where I was, that I wouldn't have been able to hide that I was coming to see him. I wouldn't be able to avoid the question that would send me over the edge - "why?"

I pulled up to a parking spot near the front entrance to his building - the visitor spots. For some reason I picked the spot that was closest to the sidewalk, right in front of the doors. In hindsight, I should have picked a spot in the back - one of the ones that faced away from the building, so anyone walking by would only see the back of my car and the back of the headrests, should they look our direction. I called Mike. I tried to seem OK ... I asked if he could come outside. I told him I was there and that he needed to come out. He must have known something was up because he didn't push for me to tell him why I was there.

I don't remember what I thought about while I waited or how long I waited. I don't really remember Mike's reaction. I remember simply telling him - in just a flood of words that were as run together as a traffic jam - that I got a call from my doctor and the results of the biopsy said that I have cancer. I broke at that point. I couldn't do anything other than cry. Mike shifted in his seat to face me better. And that's all I can remember. We talked, I know. And somehow we got home.

I can't tell you what happened that evening or that night. I can guess though - it most likely involved lots of crying.

Since then, things have moved really quickly. One month after diagnosis, I had my first surgery. Four months after diagnosis, I started chemo. By November, chemo was over and in December I had my final surgery. By the following February, I strutted my stuff, and my very short hair, at our Valentine's dinner - with the help of a few martini's. At the one year mark, Mike and I even forgot that it had been a year. Life just kept going - forward and forward and forward. There was no time to slow down and "have cancer" ... and truthfully - I'm glad for it. There are other things I would much rather slow down for - like smelling tulips or gossiping with my sister and mom or laughing with friends ... or just living my life.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Almost forgot ...

Oh, did I mention that my onc says I get to come back in 6 months, instead of 3? Sorry - the good news slipped my mind. She says the tumor marker number went down ... things look good ... she didn't even ride me about my exercise routine -- or lack thereof. It was a good appointment. See ... when I'm happy ... I skip right along and forget to write about myself. I have nothing to purge. And I guess that's good. I like to keep the good stuff in, and pour the bad stuff out ... on here ... for everyone else. That's nice of me. (insert sarcastic smiley face here).

Anxiety.

I've had two cycles since we started "not, not trying." I didn't expect it to happen right away ... but I can't deny that I didn't hope. I mean, there's always that small part of me that is the eternal optimist regardless of how much science and fact I give myself. It's hard to reverse the consequence of being told that "it only takes that one time you don't use protection" so - in that sense - it's really not that hard to believe that I was optimistic somewhere deep down. A little illogical, maybe ... but ... you never know. And all I've ever needed was a small chance to hang my optimisim on.

It's like steps -- and so far it's two steps closer to my breaking point where I say, "OK - let's go to the fertility doc and see what's up." But then thinking about actually going - brings on more anxiety because then the fact that something might be wrong, is even more real. Right now, it's a true unknown. It's funny that I can be the ever optimist but when it comes down to facing the fertility doc, I have fear. I lose my optimistic conviction.

And I think it's contaigous. I'm trying not to let it get to me, trying to stay optimistic, but I think it's getting to Mike as well. He shared his growing anxiety with me over the weekend, and the last thing I want is for him to be worried too. But that' him. He loves me and he knows how important this is to me - so naturally he's going to be worried too. Depsite my efforts to tell him to let me worry about it - he can't. And that's why I want a family with him. He wants me to be happy.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It's May 2012. It's been a minute.

"OK OK ... It's been a while hasn't it?"

Funny how my last post started with that and it's stillllll appropriate. I've been slacking on posting. But really, that's a good thing. Things are back to normal - life is back in its normal rhythm and there isn't much that's stressing me out. And that's when I like to write - when I'm emotional. I guess that's not right exactly - I'm driven to write when I'm having not-so-good emotions: stress, sadness, worry, anxiety. When I'm happy - I'm good. So I guess in the end, that means I've a lot more happiness in my life than I have since all of this started. And that's good.

Medical updates - things are so-far-so-good. I have another 3 month check up with my Onc this Thursday. More blood drawing I'm sure. And we all know how much I love that. You'd think I'd be comfortable with it by now - but alas - all those sticks in the beginning have yet to desensitize me. No additional news on the tumor marker fluctuations, so that's a good thing too. I've been off of the tamoxifen for a long while now - since August last year officially, but really it's been since May. I only had a handful of doses left for August and it lasted about a week. I can't say that my Onc is thrilled that I decided to come off of it - and she's still pushing me to reconsider post-children. She says the benefit is still there and that perhaps after kids I'll tolerate the hormonal aspect of it better than I am now. I can't say that I'm going to - but I can't say that I'm not either. We'll see what happens. That's a few years down the road and if I've learned one thing from all of this - it's that I can't look or plan too far ahead.  

Things with my monthly cycle have leveled out since about January. My hormones seemed to have calmed down a lot as well too -- not so many breakouts anymore, thank goodness.

A year out from my final reconstructive surgery, the scars look OK. They didn't heal terrible, but they aren't invisible either. They're there. Things I've noticed post-reconstruction: These things don't ever warm up. Unless I'm laying out on a beach somewhere and they're in direct sun for a few hours. For the most part, they're always about room temperature, which feels cold when we humans run much hotter. I've also noticed it's not that easy to sleep on my stomach anymore. They are malleable, but not that malleable, so I don't ever get to a comfortable "flat." Going in for a massage isn't as comfy as it used to be -- all that pushing down on me and such. It's more comfortable to pull my arms up and sleep with them at the sides of my chest with my hands curled under my shoulders, supporting me a bit more, than to sleep with them all the way down at my sides. They don't move. And that's sometimes a pain during yoga ... up dog is a little tough because I have to constantly readjust my arms. And they don't change. They won't change. Even with what's hopefully on the horizon for us.

We say we're "not, not trying" ... We started not, not trying in April just before our annual vacation. It was an interesting moment when we realized that we'd really stepped off that cliff. Everything you're taught growing up is to prevent, prevent, prevent. Practice safely - use this, go on that. You're whole life leading up to the "happily ever after" when you're "allowed" to stop preventing - is about preventing - until you're "ready." So actually being ready ... is a little scary. It's truly embarking on a new part of your life. Especially when you're planning to be ready - it's a conscious choice. You're choosing this new adventure in your life, good or bad - you decided to go down this road. I think that's the most scary thing about it - the choice.

I think cancer would have been scarier to me if I chose to have it, rather than have it thrust upon me without my knowing about it. Choosing it means I had time to think about it, plan for it, expect it .... not choosing it means I just have to deal with it, and survive it.

I'm making an honest effort not to make myself baby crazy. In that, I'm really saying I'm trying not to make Mike crazy. I do have a lot of anxiety about the unknowns ... about my ability to do everything I can possibly do to make sure I'm doing everything I can to get my body in a healthy place so the rest is left up to mother nature ... and the assurances of my Onc. Does that mean I'm working out religiously and eating only dark, green leafy vegetables ... no ... not exactly. I am only human. And I am trying not to make my life, and Mike's life, revolve around this so as to maintain the sanity.

But my mom did send me an article today that said ice cream can help increase fertility ... so maybe I'll try that tactic.

UNFINISHED POST: December 21, 2011 - Almost Christmas

 (this post has been sitting in my drafts since December. It's now May. I figured I'd post it anyway.)

OK OK ... it's been a while hasn't it? Looking back, I had 84 posts in 2010. This year, 13. I guess you could say I have less to vent, worry, stress -- obsess about. I do have more to be "blessed" about though, so those deserve equal play on this blog, I think.

Picking up where I left off, I had a follow up appointment on 9/15/11 with my Onc. Oddly enough, the results I should have blogged about - but I didn't. Real life got in the way of cancer life for once. A few days after my appointment I got a call from my Onc - which hasn't happened after any of my other follow ups yet - so this was interesting. She said, "You're not a smoker are you?" ... I said no. She asked if I had taken it up in the last month or anything and I said no. She said there is a tumor marker that she watches - where if the levels continue to rise, it could be an indication of early re-occurrence. Great, I say to myself. "What's this marker?" I quizzed her ... and she told me, as well as mentioned I could Google it -- she knows me. I'm going to research everything so she might as well as fork over the info.

It's called "CEA" or "Carcinoembryonic antigen" and if the levels swing up, it could be a bad thing. My "normal" level was 4.4. It went up to 4.6. I go back again after 3 months to re-test and see if it's still going up. That appointment is next week, 12/29.

Other odd thing - this level is not only associated with tumors, but also associated with the lady parts. Considering I only have 1 area of lady parts in tact, she wasn't talking about my chest. Any irregular menstrual cycle can throw this level off as well. And yes, it was irregular prior to the appointment. I had a 4 week interval, a 2 week interval and then a 4 week interval. That was enough - she said - to make the tumor marker level increase, so she wasn't worried.

But after that last 4 week interval - I went 8 weeks before my next cycle decided to visit me. And yes, I initially thought maybe I was pregnant. Nope. Just screwy on the inside. And yes, when the pregnancy tests kept coming back negative, I went off the deep end with the anxiety. The fun filled exclamations went like this:

My ovaries are fried! I just know it!
I'm broken forever.
What if there's something really wrong with me?
What if I'm kicking over to menopause? Things haven't been regular since chemo. That's been almost a year. Can I really go into menopause now?
How much damage did I do? My doc said I'd be ok ...

And I'm sure there's a bunch I'm missing. But Mike dealt with them all in stride. He even suggested maybe we start trying for kids after my December follow up appointment, instead of waiting until April 2012, if I was that worried. Tempting ....... but I said no ... let's wait until April. I was just barely a year outside of chemo. I needed (wanted) to give my body a chance to heal itself - as much time as I could give it anyway.

Things are still off. My skin is telling me so. At least it's telling me my hormones are off. I'm breaking out when I'm not on my cycle, and when I am on my cycle, I'm breaking out even more. Bottom line - I'm breaking out all the time. I feel 13 again. I went through Accutane about 4 years ago - skin was lovely after that. I was also on the pill, so that helped regulate my hormones, I think, and keep things in check. Anyhow - looking back at my posts from January this year - I was having skin issues. So it looks like it's been consistent. I considered doing another round of Accutane but the need to have it clear your system before you get pregnant - that would be a while. And then all the pregnancy hormone fluctuations ... I'm sure my skin would just flip out again after pregnancy was all over - so I figure I'll just have to deal with it for now. It sucks.

Other things that have been happening since my last post - We held our first, and very successful, VIPink Fundraiser for Bright Pink on October 13th! We sold over 100 tickets and the raffle was a big hit! Here are a pic from the event. This is Mary, my Bright Pink Partner in Crime. All of the event pics are here on our FB page: www.facebook.com/brightpinkdenver