Last milestone: my port came out yesterday, finally. I am sore, and probably will be until the stitches dissolve, but that is normal. Below is one last look at that under-the-skin foreign object.
My procedure was done at a nearby Catholic hospital, and this time, part of my experience was having an extremely cute, tiny nun come in, hold my hand, and pray for me. It was very sweet. And I must admit that I panicked when I first saw her, thinking she was the phlebotomist. That was just blatant ageism! She might be an octogenarian, but her hands were steady.
Anyway, it's not necessary to say this, but I am hoping and wishing with all my heart that this was the last surgery I will have to undergo. Of course, I wish none of this had happened with the same intensity, but it did. And now, it's over. I would like to resolve to start using my dumbbells on a regular basis. I miss running, but will resolve to be flexible enough to do what is most appropriate.
The other resolution is to try to hold on to some perspective, to not let the little stuff get me down, especially at work. Drama happens. Mike and I plan to retire at the end of 2019, and with that as a beacon...I can roll with what happens.
Last, I will try very hard to make sure I do something I enjoy each day--or try to enjoy something I do each day. I'd like to stop wishing my life away.
Ah, early this morning, I finally lay down on that hard surface with my arms behind my head, one. last time. And waited. And looked up (with my eyes; I am not to move), and Sandra, the radiation therapist helping me this morning, is obviously struggling. She sighs, tells me this is a hardware problem. "This did have to happen on your last day!" She got out the ladder. Put it back. Finally, she called John, one of the other therapists. Resorting to male muscles. And he does not need the ladder. John comes in, touches something, then the world is once again in order.
And so, the 33rd radiation treatment is over, I get discharged, tagged for a later visit, and out the door I get.
The number 33 will always remind me of Rolling Rock. See, some people have those little ovals on the back of their cars with 13.1 or 26.2?
Hmm, not as much fun. Just kidding.
But seriously, I can take a shower now, and wash all those markings off. And get up with more time to walk/trot.
Yesterday, I was proud that I finished my three mile walking routine in 43:44. Today, I discovered that it's possible to improve that time by trotting short distances during each lap. And no, this is not running. It's trotting, adding a little more weight bearing exercise, that's all, from, say, one corner to that mailbox. It's been so long since I've run that I have to be careful to avoid hurting myself. Anyway, I finished in 41:15!
Timing distances: the girl can't help it.
On one of my more leisurely outings, while speaking to a neighbor I hadn't seen for quite awhile, I spied Mystery Cat in his yard, and said, "Oh! Is he one of your kitties?" Nabor replied, "Oh, no no no no, I just have the two Persians (he pointed to his house), that's just a wild, stray cat. 'Course, I am feeding him...and he sleeps in the carport. He's a nice little guy, actually affectionate, he even likes Daisy (his elderly, blind dog). He's been leavin' me dead birds, though. Uh oh! there's those bunnies--excuse me--"
I've been seeing this cat around for at least a couple years, out in all weather, looking all handsome and taken care of. And now, mystery solved. Except Nabor doesn't seem to know that he has three cats. I'm getting a chuckle out of that.
This weekend is the Greek Festival, though I'll be tied up tomorrow. One of my coworkers pointed out that it always rains on this festival and--I think she's right. It's The Greek Rain Dance. Much of it is inside, anyway, especially the food.
Last weekend, Mike and I had dinner with his parents at a place they've adored for years, and as usual, it was scrumptious. I need to mention that I wore one of the dressy hats that my mother gifted me with for the occasion. I know that if I don't wear the wig, I might get questions, but the wig is so uncomfortable that it comes off as soon as I leave work. So anyway, I got more than questions that night; one of the regular waitresses sat down beside me and started talking, and cutting to the chase: she also had triple-negative breast cancer, about three years ago, and was diagnosed at my age. She is also BRAC negative, as I am. She mused that breast cancer was almost like the flu--she's known so many women to have it, and, she said, we're all okay.
Holy coincidence, Batman!
Robin: You risked your life to save that riff raff in the bar!
Batman: They may be drinkers, but they are also human beings and may be salvaged. I had to do it!
Yes, we may be salvaged... Happy Weekend!
p.s. All but one of the balloons in the picture below are still up in the air. Looking a little wilted, but they've still got it.
When I think of the phrase, you've come a long way, I remember those ridiculous adverts for Virginia Slims cigarettes I saw in the magazines of my childhood. Cancerous, but slimming. Oh, wait, the slim part was just a description of the cigarette. Right.
Anyway, forgive that silly, random memory, but actually, I have come a long way on the road of my cancer treatment...which has nothing to do with smoking. Or bad adverts.
The early days were hard. Those weeks I spent waiting for test results, knowing they were not going to be good, were torturous. After surgery (mastectomy), my squeamish self hated looking at and emptying my drains. I actually arranged the bathroom mirrors in such a way that I didn't have to look at myself! It was a shock to my brain.
Having those drains come out was the first uplifting thing that happened. The memory of that physical and mental liberation is a happy milestone to be forever cherished.
The following tests, MUGA and CT scans, felt ominous, but the results were as good as they could be. I had my mediport installed in early January and started chemotherapy on January 15th.
Going back to work a week later was at first very stressful, especially since I had to deal with a human resources department filled with people who were packing up and leaving; our small bank had been bought out, and the complete conversion would happen very soon. When I started back half days, I was not aware that "half" meant exactly four hours, not a minute more or less; if I clocked in at 8:03, I'd better clock out at 12:03. When the new company took over, I had three chemo treatments completed, and quickly decided to come back full time.
Returning to a more normal work week was another chance to exhale. New Company actually gave us sick days! I haven't had separate sick days since my very first job--thirty years ago. I did not have to touch one of those until recently, since I was able to work every other weekend to make up for the time I spent in the chemo chair.
Ah, weekends: every other one was nice--even if I was working, I got out in time to enjoy feeling good. My treatments were on Thursdays, and my worst day would be two days later, the following Saturday. I wouldn't get up. Oh, I'd change my pj's, move from the bed to the futon, but....that's not fooling myself. I listened to NPR. Mike jokes that is seems a bit ghoulish, how they've kept Car Talk on the air, but those guys did so many shows that are too much fun to archive just yet. And Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me is too entertaining to resist, and if I was still awake, I'd catch This American Life. Sometimes I could actually get some reading done.
The bad days were not all equal. After four treatments of Adriamycin and Cytoxan (lovely name, that), I was ready for four treatments of Taxol, which was not as fatiguing. And gradually, I regained full range of motion in my left arm.
Which brings me to another happy milestone: two weeks after my first Taxol treatment, my blood work improved quite a bit. I'd been frightened by the possibility that my treatment might be interrupted for a blood transfusion. Again, I'm squeamish. And want to get this over with. So, this was happy dance time, and I had the energy to do it!
That's not to say Taxol was a picnic. I developed neuropathy and my nails hurt. One morning, I had to use a pair of scissors to open a sugar packet, and opening jars was not an option. After that first treatment, I decided to hold an ice pack during the following ones, and I'm convinced it helped keep the side-effects from worsening in my fingers. Some people lose their nails, but I didn't. They are an intriguing--orange.
And then, the day of Last Chemo Treatment came. The treatment itself was uneventful and quiet. The Benadryl drip I got along with the Taxol put me to sleep for one last time....
When I got home, there were balloons!
My mother brought me a gift for each treatment. Yes, there's beer in that picture. Really good, local, hoppy stuff. Those balloons are still in the air this morning!
No, you may not have my mother. She's mine. (Well, not all mine, I do have siblings and nibblings and there are other special people who claim her as a surrogate.)
Along the way, there was another very important, happy outcome. Working for another company, starting in mid-February, meant that I also had to switch insurance coverage mid-chemo. Having already satisfied my maximum out-of-pocket expenses (chemotherapy is incredibly expensive), I feared that we'd have to start all over again with the new insurance company, and that is usually what would happen, fair or no. However, that is not what happened. New Company gave me full credit! The office staff where I was receiving treatment have yet to pick their chins up off the floor.
Yesterday was my day to meet another doctor. Silly me, I'd entertained the possibility that there might not be any reason to do anything else. Perhaps cancer treatment was over? Get the mediport out?
No. Dr. Radiologist and his friendly, helpful staff were very cheerful, but there will be six weeks of radiation. This form of cancer does have a woeful habit of recurring in a couple years, so radiating certain areas, just to make sure bad cells don't even think about growing back in the wake of chemo, is very much encouraged. My surgeon had already told me that this would be something I should do, but a girl can dream...
It's okay. It won't be chemo. Dr. Rad wears a button that says, Chemo is over. Forget the chemo. He's right. I'll get a sunburn, I'll put special lotion on it, then I'll be finished--probably around July 4th. These appointments will be a logistical pain, more than anything.
And the mediport will stay in until I'm done, and I won't whine about it. After all, it rarely bugs me.
And along the way, friends and family have sent me cards, good vibes, and food. Mike has been my personal protector, vacuumer, and fact-keeper.
And--I'm aware that I'm no fun anymore. And it's time to get up and out for walkies...
It's Friday, and I'm working a later schedule at work, which suits me; life is nicer with more time in the morning.
I did start working full time in mid February, and have now finished five out of eight chemotherapy treatments. Since my last post here, I've had some ups and downs, of course, but I'm still hanging in there.
One thing to be grateful for is my lack of drug allergies. Two drugs that have done me a world of good are Neulasta and steroids. One keeps my white blood cell count up, reducing infections, and the other helps make chemo more effective and reduce reactions. There are plenty of people who cannot easily tolerate these benefits, but I can. This is probably why I'm able to work.
My fear is my hemoglobin level, which has been dropping a little bit each time...I am not severely anemic, and know that I must simply keep eating and keep my mind off of it. Sure, I'm careful not to do too much, and I'm getting plenty of rest outside work. Maybe too much...
My fear might be my biggest handicap. I'm afraid of the toll this is taking on my body, though I do know that chemo is something that is done for me, not to me. And I am looking forward to recovering from it--honestly, I will embrace getting out there and getting my energy and stamina back. Every gain will be something to celebrate.
The Taxol does not make me crash the way the previous drug did, but it is an irritant. So far, I am not experiencing the extreme joint pain that some people have. I did have a mild case of that, and also a very annoying finger reaction, which I am hoping doesn't get worse. Bowel issues have been a constant problem, on and off since surgery--sorry, that's not a polite topic, but it's a major annoyance.
Three more treatments until I can start recovering...that last treatment is thirty-five (35) days away. It won't be over over, but chemo will be...
And tomorrow, I have off...and will show, to the best of my ability, the appreciation for the man who has put up with all my moods and needs...
About work: My health insurance did change mid-chemo, which was frightening, BUT my new employer has given me credit for my out-of-pocket expenses! This is major. They did not have to do this. As customers complain about the changes, I carefully sympathize, but--this new company has been good to me. My last employer did cater to customers a lot more than my present one, it's true. I'm sorry about this, but--I have to be grateful for what the new company is giving us, the employees.
Happy, gentle Thursday! I'm happy to say that this is a pleasant morning for me; I caught up on some sleep and was able to go out for a nice walk, which really helps my spirits.
Yesterday was not as cheery, I must admit. One side effect of the chemo drugs I'm currently on (dose dense A/C) is anxiety and emotional episodes. Simply knowing that I'm not alone in this does help; it's great to know that it's a kind of normal, and I shouldn't feel bad about myself for not always appearing strong and positive. Of course, my prognosis is very positive, and my anxiety is caused mostly by outside issues, such as work.
Work. I'm currently on intermittent FMLA, working half days, which I'm beginning to think is not the best thing for me. There is way too much time to ruminate on stuff that I would ignore or simly not think about, were I at work. I am currently contemplating other options. Also, the bank I work for is about to become another bank, so I'll need to communicate with another set of people. We'll also be using a different computer program with a whole set of different policies. The change will be stressful for everyone.
However, there is so much to be positive about! For one thing, I've been lurking breast cancer forums and am shocked by what some women suffer during the same treatment. I could tell that I was doing better than average, but after reading some of these posts, it is clear that I should be very, very thankful. And I am half way through the A/C treatment. After that, I will have four treatments of Taxol, which almost everyone agrees is easier.
So. Last treatment will be in late April. Seventy-seven (77) days away, most of which can be pleasant days.
Those minions are so cute! I'm looking forward to my old relaxed, healthy life. And seeing it with different eyes, amazingly grateful eyes!
Happy Friday. This is the fifth Friday I've been absent from work. My first Friday off was spent in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the day before our yearly December cruise. On the second Friday, I was three days post-surgery, by the third Friday, I had my post-op visit, and before the fourth Friday, I'd had my drains removed and was feeling better. A week later, I have had my mediport procedure, and a week from now, I will probably know everything about what my chemo routine will be.
Things are happening as quickly as can be expected, even if it feels as if I'm inhabiting a slow-mo, alternative universe. I'll be back to work on the seventh Friday. And my workplace will accommodate my schedule. I will stop worrying about that right now; I've had an on and off stress headache about logistics. It will be okay.
I'm trying to treat this time period as a pleasant break, trying not to focus or pay too much attention to the unpleasant parts, but I admit that that can be hard; I'm lucky that I haven't had much pain--it's discomfort that I've been experiencing, which is annoying, but it's not pain. It's frustrating, sometimes, when I cannot get comfortable, but then I remind myself that I do not know PAIN. And fretting over how well I'm healing isn't going to help me heal faster.*
I'm feeling good this morning, better rested. Perhaps I'm getting used to sleeping on my back. Port on the right, surgery on the left, so that's how it's going to be for awhile. Mike and his computer geek coworker made up some puns about the port, but I'm just looking forward to that bright and shiny day that I will celebrate as deportation day...not that I hate the port. It will be a good thing for me, but of course everyone wants chemo treatments to be past tense. It will be hard not to wish my life away.
In the present, I am thankful that we have a good treadmill, so that I can make myself walk in all weather. And, I'm still working on the left arm mobility, and I'm reading. Not as much as I'd thought, but more than usual. It's really hard not to spend pointless time googling stuff I'm worried about--pointless because it only increases the worry and frustration about The Unknown. Honestly, I should put controls on myself...
Actually, from here on out, I am going to do exactly what I'm told to do, to the best of my ability. There will be eight chemo treatments over a sixteen week period. I will go bald and not have a beer for a very long time. I predict that I will miss the beer more than my hair. And yes, these two things will be the least of my worries.
This year is off to an unusual start, in more ways than one, but I'm optimistic...
....and I'm gonna roll with it.
*My left breast and seventeen (17) lymph nodes were removed, only two of which were cancerous. And I had an excellent surgeon.
My last post seems to be from a different lifetime. Here we are, at
the beginning of Christmas week, and so much has happened. Mike
remarked, just this morning, that it seems as if that cruise we took was
a lot longer than a week ago.
At the end of November, I
was diagnosed with breast cancer. I almost capitalized that, for some
reason. Stage II, triple-negative. Since that day, we've been on a
cruise, followed immediately by my MRI the following Monday, then surgery the next day.
Scratch what I said about losing that banked sick time.
further ado, I will post pictures of our cruise. Usually, I post them
on my Fly Away blog, so that I bore only people who want to go
there, but today I'm feeling lazy and so will put everything in one
Oops, I closed my eyes for this one...but, it's become a tradition to seek out this same spot in San Juan because it makes us laugh; on one side, a creche, on the other side--The Three Wise Mariachis with a pig on a spit. For dinner, we went to a place called El Alambique. We happened upon it last year, and wouldn't think of going anywhere else! It's right on the beach and does not look special;
it was a surprise.
....and on the next morning, we go out for breakfast and walk on the beach before taking a taxi to the cruise pier
There was some rainbow action on the day we left...
The first stop was Tortola...we were on the way to the beach. It was a rainy day, but still beautiful.
The ship was decked out, of course. The poincettias were set out shortly after we departed San Juan, and we always look forward to seeing them. This staircase is lit up from the bottom, too, which isn't obvious from the picture.
We had some fabulous meals and drinks. I had to get a picture of this bottle (and Mike).
We went whale watching on Dominica, and saw several sperm whales.
Mike actually managed to time a picture perfectly, here. The crew had a
fluke album to help them identify the individuals we saw that day. All
happened to be females. At the very end of the tour, as we were on our
way back, we saw two adult females together, and watched them for
awhile, until--they both dove under at the same time, a double-fluke
sighting! No, I was not able to record that.
I always enjoy the boat rides. And when I see that orange "11" tour sticker on Mike's shirt, I'm reminded of the cute little five-year-old girl on the tour who had ALL the stickers by the end of the outing. Before she left, though, she bestowed one of them on Irwin, one of the guides, seen here with the underwater microphone.
On St. Kitts, we went to the beach again, a day that turned out to be gloriously perfect. We stopped along the way at a scenic point at which the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea are separated by a strip of land--
We visited the Carambola Beach Club, which was beautiful, and on that day, not very crowded--
On St. Thomas, we took a snorkeling tour, much like the one we've done a few times before. The catamaran takes us out to St. John, an undeveloped island with a beautiful beach. Some people spend more time lounging on the beach than snorkeling. This year, since the snorkeling wasn't as good, we enjoyed that, too.
On the way back, the snorkeling gear is put away and the beer, rum punch, and champagne flow. It's a fun ride and a great party.
A couple more evening pics-- I love it when Mike smiles! My astonishing husband.
It was a great time, and time away. Yes, we both thought about The Situation. I feel so lucky to have had this time away, to get prepared, to eat, drink, and relax. It helped--distance of any kind grants perspective.
And now surgery is behind me. I'm still recovering, still tending the drainage tubes, doing the arm exercises, and trying not to dread what comes next. It will all be for my benefit, and the chances are good that we'll be on another cruise next year...
And, I am not alone in this. I am thankful for everyone around me, and look forward to seeing my family at Christmas. Hmm, that's actually good timing...