Oh, it has been so long. I keep telling myself not to wait so long between posts!
But… it has been a long month…
It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month; I went back to work part-time; I finished the horrible-nasty 5 month part of chemo; Scupper the Wonder Puppy turned one year old; we survived another tsunami here in Maui; Sean and I got engaged…
Oh, yes we did! My lovely man friend is now my fiance and Scupper’s parents are going to be legal! Woohoo! We went out to dinner on October 18th to celebrate the end of the yucky chemo, and Sean surprised me by getting down on one knee and popping the big question. I’m so blessed to have him in my life. Without dealing with cancer, he’s wonderful. And with the cancer part? He’s been my rock and my motivator, he keeps me laughing and doesn’t go easy on me in Fantasy Football (but why should he… I’m #1 in the league!). I know that no matter where we are, what we’re doing or what we’re going through, we’re in this life together (and with a very cute puppy dog too!).
(Ignore the ugly wounded boat hand; just look at the beautiful Rock(s)!)
The end of the horrible nasty chemo was a wonderful day (October 15th). But the two weeks following it were rough. My stomach had to adjust to that thing it once knew as “normal”; you know, no anti-nausea drugs in the system, no evil Taxol coursing through my veins, stomach lining probably regenerating itself (gross, man). I’m still waiting for my eyelashes and nose hairs to come back. My head hair is coming in ever so slowly (Dear Universe, if ever there was a time you wanted to allow me fast-growing thick hair, NOW IS THE TIME! I’ve had slow-growing, straight fine hair my whole life, let’s switch it up for a few months!).
Chemo now is every three weeks with a drug called Herceptin that focuses on blocking estrogen-receptors in the [hopefully nonexistent] cancer cells. This will make the cells decide that they can’t replicate so easily anymore and they will become quitters, give up and die off. Visualize. Visualize.
I finally figured out that I don’t have to tell people I HAVE cancer or had or have had or once had it; I will just say “I’m being treated for cancer.” It sounds so much nicer, doesn’t it?
Treatment now also includes the start of radiation. Basically, this “aggressive” breast cancer has to be treated with everything possible and I mostly accepted that long ago when the Docs first began uttering the “chemo” word. Going to meet with the radiation oncologist, she kindly asked me if I still wanted to proceed with radiation. Just a reminder that it’s all my choice. I don’t look at it as much of a choice, really. How could I see it that way when it’s radiation and survive vs. no radiation and worry about recurrence and/or death every day for the rest of my life? Well, I will still worry about it with radiation but hopefully less. Choice made; let’s start it so we can finish it and move on!
I got three tattoos as part of my radiation mapping. They are about the size of a pencil dot or a smidge bigger than the tops of the “i’s” in this blog. And I have a bunch of sharpie writing all over my chest too. I will be zapped from my collar bone down to below my right breast and from the right edge of my sternum to under my arm slash outer chest wall area. I had a mastectomy; technically, I have no breast tissue left but I still have to get zapped. Those little fuckers (aka cancer cells) could be in my chest wall in the pectoral muscle. Oh, the unknown. How terrible you can be. I wish cancer cells were glow in the dark hot pink and we had a special machine invented to see them (and no, a PET scanner isn’t good enough as a tiny cellular level… plus, I think it glows green). Someone invent that, please. Or an anti-cancer pill. That would be fine too.
Each radiation blast will be about ten minutes. For 28 days. Which will be about 5.5 weeks. The hard part is that I have to keep my arm over my head for blasting. Readers may remember from my MRI that this means: numb tingling arm. Bring on the color-me-in count down calendar! And as Sean says, time to work out and stretch ol’ righty in preparation for it all (all those lymphodema prevention stretches I never did are needed again).
This also means I will be retiring again. I made it through one difficult month of work (ironically, that month being Breast Cancer Awareness month), with sun blisters and exhaustion, bringing me one awful day to wanting to quit then and there and recovering the next day. I have to go in 5 days a week and can’t quite get my schedule to work out (too much rushing to appointments; too much sunscreen when I need to go in clean). Thus, a leave of absence it a better option. Also, no more ocean, hot tubs, pools until I’m done with radiation. Bring back the books, the Redbox movies, the Kardashians and evening walks with the pup!
Amazing movie, especially the part on “Mia.” (The Trailer? Not as great.) Watch it! 5+ cancer stories. Sad, yes, but it’s what I’m dealing with and perhaps someone you know has dealt with.
On a side note, it was an interesting study in working with tourists while going through treatment. I never said anything about cancer or treatment to guests on the boats but I obviously had a handkerchief and hat on; people could tell. Most people either didn’t notice, ignored it or just minded their tongues, as is expected. But every now and then I would get someone–almost always a woman–who would just blurt out, “so, how’s chemo going?” One woman had her own health battles and had been in and out of the hospital a lot recently. Another woman had been a cancer caretaker for a friend; she told me I looked great and had an amazing level of energy. I liked these people who weren’t afraid to bring it up and ask. One can only hide a bald head so well.
And work may have been exhausting and physically not a good choice (the sun can be brutal) but mentally it felt great to be back at it, to feel forward momentum in my life with earning money and being productive and of use. I like to work; I like to have a job, a place to go and something to do.
The next two months will be filled with a lot of holidays and radiation treatment; probably a little bit of frustration and boredom and also some increasing energy and decreasing sun sensitivity. Pretty soon it will be 2013 (so long as we make it through the apocalypse and all) and I hope to be done with most of treatment, back to work for the remainder of whale season, and on to planning a wedding!