Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chemo style pics

Since I never did get around to writing about these, I'm just going to post a bunch of the different wig/hat/scarf looks I had fun with while I was bald. Mostly on weekends I just went bald, but I didn't really like that look for the office, so here's what I did.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Still alive, October and stuff

I'm a terrible blogger. But here's an awesome link.

The other things...there are a few, actually. I had another bilateral mammogram today. The tech was just going to do the left, but I could have sworn the plan was another bilateral to confirm that the calcifications that showed up on the right side last time were still looking benign and stable. So I spoke up (Do that! You are your best advocate!) and it turns out I was right, so I got a little extra flattened on the right side (5 images) and moderately flattened on the left (3 images). Everything looked good.

Which brings me to the next point, which is actually the earlier point only I neglected to bring it up when it was current. That point is FEAR. I'm still working out how to live with the fear of recurrence, what to take seriously and what to let go. In late June I discovered a new back pain, and I couldn't place anything I could have done to injure myself, but it wasn't going away. It isn't severe by any means, and really it only hurts when I bend my spine in a way I rarely do - so I kind of have to try to make it hurt. But the fact that it wasn't resolving and I didn't know what caused it threw me into a giant funk. I tried not to think about it too much, tried to give it time to heal, because there are SO many things that can happen with your back, and most of them take time to resolve. But I couldn't do it. I was really depressed and afraid and I just couldn't shake the notion that I might have bone mets. I read up on treatment options, I imagined what I would do, how long I would be able to work, how long I would need to be NOT working while still feeling well enough to go through all my things so my husband wouldn't have to do it after I was gone, who I wanted to have my bellydance costumes and my fabric, how I would tell my parents...I mean the whole sick fantasy. I was in it, and I didn't know how to get out of it without a real answer. I needed to hear it: "I don't know what's causing your back pain, but it isn't cancer - I know because I checked."

So I kept calling my oncologist when the pain didn't go away. (It has lessened now, but it is still there if I look for it. I guess it's part of my normal now.) She had me give it a couple of weeks to resolve, but when it didn't she took my concerns seriously even though I think she was pretty sure they were unfounded - so she ordered a bone scan. The tech scared me a little - he kept asking if I'd had recent head injuries and said there were dark spots on my skull. If I'd been feeling more like myself I would have told him "Oh, that's just the evil." But I was busy planning my tragic death.

So yeah, the scan came up clear. The nurse said there were "normal degenerative changes", medical code for YOU'RE GETTING OLD. No cancer. More recently, I felt a little like coughing after taking some deep breaths, and naturally that was lung mets. I did manage to talk myself down from that one. But only because it went away. What happens the next time I get bronchitis or something?

Am I part of the problem? Am I making medical care more expensive for everyone by getting unnecessary tests?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Still Kicking

Working, dancing, cooking, and treating myself like a spoiled princess so nobody else has to.

Oh, and I was in a commercial for Stampede For The Cure, a local organization that provides mammograms for low-income women.

I only have about a week left to be 40. But really, let's face it, 40 was not a great year. I can't say I'm that sorry to see it go.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Another haircut

I got my third post-chemo haircut yesterday. The first two were a little emotional, but this was just no big deal. It's a bit sad, really. Well, maybe not specifically that, but in general it makes me wonder if I'm taking it all for granted again - being alive, being healthy. It's been almost a year since my diagnosis, and about six months since I finished chemo. Radiation is three months behind me. It's all kind of a big blur. Did all of that happen? Did I really have cancer? There are scars, there's evidence, but it all seems so surreal.

Something I'm noticing the last couple of days: I feel distinctly lousy if I don't exercise often enough. I've slacked off quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, blowing off most of my Bar Method workouts, and I'm feeling more and more of the joint stiffness and achiness that hit at the end of chemo. This morning (for the first time in months) I woke up with that old familiar ache in the middle of my upper back. I've decided to consider this a good thing, because it's extra motivation to exercise. Exercise always increases my general sense of well-being, but I've never had such a direct and profound correlation between exercise and feeling better. It makes continuing to miss a lot of workouts pretty unthinkable.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cancer Free? Awesome if true.

Yesterday at my post-post-radiation-mammogram-followup, my Rad Onc told me she was putting "Cancer-Free" in my chart. I felt a little weird about that. It sounds great, of course! But I tend to lean toward the more conservative "no evidence of disease". Cancer-free (as far as we know). No (detectable) cancer. Because really, that's as much as we can say for sure right now. It's a great thing, it's a lot and I feel very, very lucky and relieved; but how many other women have had this declaration of a clean slate and ended up recurring? At least some. I hope I will not be one of them.

Am I being too picky over details? Should I just embrace the cancer-free label? I'm in a positive frame of mind overall, and I tend to think of cancer as something I had last year. I'm not dwelling on it, and I don't have much scanxiety (or last Wednesday's mammo with repeated callbacks for closer pics of the "other" breast would have completely freaked me out) - I just have a stubbornly realistic streak. I hear "cancer-free" and I think it sounds like a promise nobody can make. It's probably true, and I intend to live happily assuming that it is until and unless there's evidence otherwise. But as they say, the only way you know for sure you've beaten cancer is when you die of something else.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Negligence! and Rads

I can't believe I didn't put up a single post about radiation. My last treatment was on February 11. It went pretty smoothly - I'll summarize:

Treatment started on the first Monday in January. I set my appointments up for 8:30 a.m., the earliest I could get. I was usually a few minutes early, and they were almost always ready for me as soon as I got there. I remember being horrified when I first found out that radiation treatment is done daily (well every weekday anyway) - but it hardly takes any time at all. The first 5 weeks they zapped the whole breast and much of the armpit for 30 seconds each from 2 different directions; the last week just hit the surgical incision area. Once a week I'd see my doctor right after the treatment, but that was always pretty quick too, just a check-in, how's your skin doing, any other problems, and so on.

So how's my skin? It held up pretty well. It got darker, but that was the only sign for the first 5 weeks. At that point I did finally have some peeling, and it was more like blister peeling than sunburn peeling - the skin underneath was not ready to be exposed! It hurt, and it was weepy. The wound care nurse was a lot of help. That lasted for a little over a week after the treatment was over. Since then it's been peeling like a sunburn. It's still dark, and I still don't have any hair growth in the treatment field. But there's no tenderness at all anymore.

It's a little strange not being in active treatment anymore. But that's a post for another day.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hair again.

I've been meaning to respond to yet another thought-provoking post over at Nancy's Point about the chemo look, how it makes you feel, and how long afterward you still have to wear it around even though you're done with chemo. Great post, great comments, go read it if you haven't.

As I say, I've been meaning to post a comment there, but I guess now that I think about it I felt awkward because I couldn't really commiserate much. My hair started growing back during the last few weeks of my Taxol treatments, but it was pale and fuzzy and I still looked bald. After that I did go through a really ugly phase where the sides came in thicker than the top, and I hated that. I still wore it out in public because by that time I couldn't stand having anything on my head for long, but it did not look good, and at that point I was definitely feeling what Nancy is talking about. (For Trek-loving nerds like me, I went from Lt. Ilia to Captain Picard - which looks great on Patrick Stewart, but on a woman not so much.)

But other than those few weeks I have liked the way I looked all through this process. I wouldn't have believed it, but it's true. I liked the way I looked bald. I didn't like it when my eyebrows and eyelashes finally went, and it's true I never went out of the house without drawing them back in, but I didn't mind looking at myself without them. It was oddly fascinating, actually. I still liked that girl in the mirror even when she looked like an alien.

Now my hair is growing back in pretty fast. I've gone from having hair to having a hairstyle. And I like it short so much I plan to keep it this way for awhile. It's a HUGE difference from last May, when I was mourning the anticipated loss of my hip-length red hair. I guess my assumption was something like this: I have big features, big curves, I need big hair to balance it all out; but once that hair was gone I found I didn't need it after all, and it actually hid more than it should have.

Chemo hair loss showed me my face and I found out that I like it.