Daisypath Anniversary tickers

Daisypath Anniversary tickers

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Being Friends with NED

Today I had my second post-treatment diagnostic mammogram.  These will be part of my life, every six months, for four more years.  I'm grateful for the oversight and tracking.  I'm also aware that the anxiety that goes before these tests is normal, and for many women, decreases over time.  And I also know that the risk for a return of breast cancer never goes away, and so some anxiety is natural.  And I confess, after being told I would only have to wait ten or so minutes for my results, and that ten minutes turned into 45, I was feeling plenty of anxiety!

But I'm doing a happy dance, glad that one year after first being declared NED ("no evidence of disease," what they once termed "in remission."  Semantics.  Potato, potahto), I'm still showing no signs of cancer!  A milestone that I am celebrating by having my port removed in a few weeks! 

An education note for those who may not know, NED doesn't mean cured.  As has been pointed out many times by many, there is no cure for breast cancer.  Some cancers are considered cured if you reach a certain time away from disease, because statistically, your chances of that cancer returning after so many years drop dramatically.    This isn't true with breast cancer; it can return 1 year, 3 years, 18 years out. 

But for today I'm NED, I'm happy, and I'm moving forward!


Some people have asked why I haven't been updating more often.  Here's why:  Yes, I still have struggles and some issues.  I'm still working on getting energy and strength back, still working on getting my heart rate and blood pressure where they should be, still dealing with sometimes painful side effects of one of the cancer-blocking meds I'm on.  But these seem like relatively minor issues at this point in my life.  Not that they aren't frustrating issues -- but I just can't see complaining.  Or even, most of the time, reporting.  I'm tired some, but I'm happy a lot, and I'm finding joy daily.  And for me, for now, that's what's important.

I'm going to go find some of that joy right now with a walk in the woods.

Happy dance, everyone!  

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Breast Cancer Needs Your Support!

Two critically important issues surrounding breast cancer treatment/research

Avastin and the FDA

The FDA is considering taking away Avastin for metastatic breast cancer, not for safety reasons, but because current clinical studies didn't show that it extends lives as long as the FDA thinks it should. While the drug doesn't help everyone, many women respond well to it and have been able to continue to enjoy their lives and families.

PLEASE consider signing this petition: Avastin petition

Don't let the FDA take hope and life away from anyone who may need this.

Breast Cancer Vaccine

A second and potentially life-changing petition for breast cancer research:  Help urge Congress to support research of a vaccine against breast cancer developed by Dr. Touhy of the Cleveland Clinic.  It's been shown to prevent and stop breast cancer tumors in mice and needs funding for research with people.  Please help! 

Breast cancer vaccine 

You can find more on Dr.  Touhy's reseach here:

Dr. Touhy vaccine research

Feel free to copy and paste this on your FB page, tweet it, whatever it takes to get the word out!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Courage begins when we can admit that there is no life without some pain, some frustration; that there is no tragic accident to which we are immune; and that beyond the normal exercise of prudence we can do nothing about it.  But courage goes on to see that the triumph of life is not in pains avoided, but in joys lived completely in the moment of their happening.  Courage lies in never taking so much as a good meal or a day of health and fair weather for granted.  It lies in learning to be aware of our moments of happiness as sharply as our moments of pain.  We need not be afraid to weep when we have cause to weep, so long as we can really rejoice at every cause for rejoicing.
Victoria Lincoln

In other words, don't forget to do the happy dance!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Quiet, quiet

Nothing startling or new to report -- and that's good! Routine and quiet is just fine with me.

My recent heart med adjustment seems to be working much better -- emphasis on seems -- it needs more time before everything is certain.  But at this point, after a week or so of fatigue, my body is adjusting and I'm starting to feel better.  My heart rate isn't lower yet but I think that's just a question of time.  Once we get this dose figured out and make sure my thyroid is where it should be, I'll be in good shape!

It's terrific to feel some energy returning; now I'm able to focus on things like exercise.  On the days it's too hot, I work out inside.  I'm also checking into a local exercise program design for people who have had cancer -- it's co-sponsored by Purdue, where there's a strong cancer research center, and includes awareness of issues that are unique to people who've had cancer.  It might be a really good option for me.  So far, I’ve kept measurable lymphedema at bay, and I plan to keep it so!

So I'm a happy camper, in spite of the hot and muggies, and grateful to be where I am.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Out, damned spot!

Ah, thank you Lady Macbeth (via Shakespeare) for the title to today's post... and the reason for it? The spot on my lung that has been monitored since last fall is gone, gone, gone... yay!   I took a deep breath, said a quiet thanks, and broke into my happy dance.  Finally, no more scheduled tests (well, mammogram in 6 months but that's going to be routine for awhile), no more vague or nebulous things hanging over my head.  I can focus on healing and recovery much more fully now.


I'm currently battling some significant fatigue.  Again. The thyroid meds have helped a little but my heart rate is still much too high and I'm on a third heart med to try to strengthen and slow down my heart.  So far all it's doing is making me feel even more tired but my pharmacist is confident my body will adapt and I'll get past that. I'll give it a little longer; if things don't improve I'm going back to the cardiologist.

Bone and joint aches and pains (from Arimidex) are down some since I upped my vitamin D3.  Let's hope that continues.  Some mornings I walked like an old lady. Painful.

Our weather has gone from pleasant and cool (70's), to suddenly very hot and humid.  Pollen counts are very high for the area and my sinuses are responding with lots of sinus pressure and pain, plus I have swollen glands.  That's OK -- it'll pass -- it's just allergies.

Looks like we're in for a nice Memorial Day weekend.  Enjoy, everyone!  and do a little happy dance while you're at it!


PS  Car update:  I Fed-Ex'ed my car title to the salvage company so my car could be released to them and I could receive my insurance payment... the title was delivered and signed for... and lost once it got to the salvage company.  Idiots.  Apparently a stack of FedEx packages vanished that day.  Idiots.  Things will still get settled, but it's more hurry-up-and-wait.  And a warning:  just because you send something with a tracking number and it gets delivered, that STILL doesn't mean it'll end up where it's supposed to!  I credit my insurance company with the way they're handling all this. For me, it's another frustration over an accident that I had no part in causing, but I just take a deep breath and remind myself that it's small stuff.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I Loves the Happy Dance!

Wooo hooooo!! Happy dance, happy dance!

Diagnostic mammogram came back all clear! Woo hoo!

Next one in 6 months with possible MRI. However, my surgeon was very encouraging, still pleased that I'm one of the 10%, loves my white hair, and told me that my prognosis wouldn't have been any better if I'd had a mastectomy, so I defintely did the right thing. I like a surgeon who can admit that his original advice (which was to have the mastectomy) wasn't the right advice for me. I understand his point of view and reasons for his original thinking but I'm glad I followed my gut on that one.

So.... one more test in a couple of weeks and then the beasties are off my back for awhile!

Happy dance, happy dance!


Thursday, May 6, 2010

When Bad Things Happen to Good Cars


A rather flip expression for a not-very-fun experience.

My cute little Saturn is totaled but I'm OK (still debating a trip to urgent care, but I'm waiting to see how much the bruises and aches develop)*, so that's the important part.

Still, it's making me plenty sad that I've lost my car.

To add to the experience, the driver pulled a hit-and-run, but thanks to three witnesses from three other vehicles, the police quickly caught her.  Of course, she has no insurance, which is why she didn't stick around to begin with.

I'm grateful for my own insurance company, who have been very kind in dealing with me, and were johnny-on-the-spot in getting an appraiser to look at my car within a few hours of my calling the accident in.

I'll see my car one more time, to clean it out, and then I'll have to say goodbye.

In other news, 6-month diagnostic mammogram coming up Monday, so keep me in your thoughts.

Our mild and really enjoyable spring continues with a slight cool down over the next few days.  I could take this kind of weather all year!

That's the news from the flatlands.  Watch out for those T-bones!


*edited Saturday to add:  no bruises or aches, so I skipped the urgent care trip. I went back to the collision center and cleaned out my car; I cried when I saw it.  But, it's only a car... in the overall scheme of things, just a bump in the road (slight joke unintended) :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What the Cluck?!

Before your next trip to KFC, read this.  Under the guise of helping cure breast cancer, KFC has partnered with Susan G. Komen for the Cure to donate the whopping rate of 50 cents per each $20 pink bucket of chicken bought.  Don't get me wrong, though, it's not the donation I object to...  this campaign is problematic on many levels, not the least of which is the idea of buying unhealthy food and promoting a cancer cure in the same breath.  It's an empty corporate gesture designed primarily to make KFC look better. 

To understand it best, I quote from a letter written by Breast Cancer Action for people to use as a starting point for notifying KFC and Komen for the Cure about how they feel about this partnership:

"I am appalled by your "Buckets for the Cure" partnership. I share Breast Cancer Action's shock at this outrageous campaign, which uses the breast cancer epidemic to improve the American public's perception of KFC, and increase the company's profits from the sale of pink buckets of chicken...  KFC (with Susan G. Komen for the Cure's blessing) is engaged in one of the worst examples of pinkwashing. A pinkwasher is a company that purports to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink-ribboned product while at the same time manufacturing products that contribute to the disease. In this case, KFC is encouraging people to buy pink buckets of chicken to demonstrate its alleged commitment to ending the breast cancer epidemic. However, KFC's food is unhealthy and much of it is marketed to low-income communities. KFC thus contributes to the significant problem of providing poor food choices for low-income communities in the United States, who disproportionately suffer from poor breast cancer outcomes and other problems that may be exacerbated by an unhealthy diet.

Instead of partnering with a corporation that sells unhealthy food, I believe that Susan G. Komen for the Cure should work with companies that do not contribute to the breast cancer epidemic."

I would like to add that KFC's grilled chicken isn't a better choice than its fried -- the grilled chicken is known to contain carcinogenic substances that contribute to cancer, as reported by Physicians for Responsible Medicine.

It's unfortunate that an organization like Susan G. Komen for the Cure chooses to a support a company that contributes to cancer.

Please do not participate in this campaign.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Well, No WONDER I'm Tired!

I had a lot of blood work done recently and picked up the results this week.  I haven't had a consult with my oncologist or any other doctor about any of it yet but (if you know me well you already know) I will.

In the meantime, my ongoing fatigue makes more sense (not that it didn't already -- nine months of pounding does take it out of your body!).

My hemoglobin and red blood cell counts are both low, which is not unusual post-chemo.  These low counts cause fatigue, and, interestingly, a low RBC count can also cause a higher heart rate, which I still have, in spite of being on two heart meds. Bone marrow cells, which produce RBC's, get zapped by chemo the same as every other cell in your body, and they need time to recover.  I think on that score I mainly need to be patient.  I'm not overly anxious to get on any of the meds that can help this, and it's something that I think will heal on its own.

My TSH is high and my T4 is normal.  Translation:  mild hypothyroidism, which, as you probably know, causes fatigue as well.   It can also contribute to high cholesterol, which has nothing to do with fatigue, but I have a "borderline high" LDL (not good) and a very high HDL (very good), which push my total numbers up to borderline high.  I'm not worried about it since my HDL is so high but I'm thinking now if I can get my TSH under control, that might help with the cholesterol and keep my cardiologist happy.  The cholesterol is something I know I can control without meds but if the thyroid issues are contributing, and I get that under control, so much the better.

The thyroid issues may be age related but are most likely caused by chemo damage. Meds for this are simple and relatively benign and I will be more than happy to take them to help get some of this fatigue under control.  Three hour naps just take too much out of the day!

I also am now in a search for a primary care physician.  The doctor I saw when I lived in the area previously has retired so I have to find someone new.  I have someone I know of who I listed as my PCP and who has been getting all my reports (for a year now!) but I haven't yet been in to see him -- but with all the various parts and pieces of things going on, I think it's time to have a PCP to help with oversight of everything.  And now I have the time and energy to deal with breaking in another doctor :)

In spite of these fairly minor issues, and ongoing fatigue, I do feel better than I did even a month ago. My spirits are great, I've had lots more emotional energy, and my one week post-heart cath restrictions are over, so I'm released to get out there and do whatever my body will let me (although the lymphedema restrictions are life-long so I have to be careful about those!).  But all in all, I'm one happy camper!! So, since yesterday was my last day on exercise and other restrictions, if you want to find me, you'll have to look for the crazy lady in the woods, happy-dancin' with the wildflowers!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy birthday, mom!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Happy Dance in a Quote

A friend shared this quote and I love it so much I'm passing it on...

Today a new sun rises for me;
everything lives;
everything is animated;
everything seems to speak to me of my passion;
everything invites me to cherish it.
Anne De Lenclos 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sound the All Clear!

Results from my heart cath showed only the minor impairment I knew about going into the procedure.  No blockages, pressure in all areas is normal, no other damage.  I have pretty significant physical restrictions for one week but then I'm cleared to shovel snow, dance a jig, or start jogging!  Whatever I feel like!

Happy dance!

Thank you to everyone who did some hand-holding and reassuring as I went into things.  It was much appreciated!

It was really cool to be able to see live video of my heart as they did the procedure.

I'm glad I did it, glad it's over, and glad of the good results!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Heart Cath

My heart cath is coming up, I'm dreading it for no good reason except that it sounds so creepy.  I appreciate the support of those of you who have held my hand and offered reassurances!  Please keep me in your thoughts.

Other tests coming up in May for other stuff but right now, one test at a time!

In other news, I just found out I don't have to pay a medical bill I thought I might have to pay.  Happy dance!!  Funny the little things that make me want to celebrate! :)

Happy spring, happy dance, everyone!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

One Year Canciversary

One year ago today I received the official diagnosis of my breast cancer, and a mad whirlwind of treatment began. It was chaotic, frightening, sometimes confusing, often stunning, and almost always overwhelming.

Everything happened rapidly so I could begin treatment as soon as possible, and then, of course, once treatment began, so did the side effects of treatment (in my case, Adriamycin and Cytoxin), and pretty soon I was too darned tired to do anything except try to get through each day as best I could.

I barely was able to register that I had cancer; I certainly didn't have energy to process what was happening to me, how it would impact my life, and what it meant to me.

Now I'm a year out from the initial diagnosis and a couple of months past my last treatment. I'm still dealing with some of the side effects, most notably fatigue, and will be for some time, but I'm slowly getting better, and for that I'm deeply grateful.

And now I have time for the cancer diagnosis to really register with me.

My initial response and attitude throughout treatment, apart from all the emotions, was that this was simply something that I had to get through, and I would. 

And I did.

Of course, it's been so much more than that.

Although I learned several years ago when I was a caregiver for a friend with terminal cancer to not sweat the small stuff, my own cancer was a reminder not only to not sweat the small stuff -- but also to not sweat the big stuff. And to not take on what isn't mine, including what people may try to make mine.  People often project their own fears and feelings onto others -- we all do that -- but with a cancer diagnosis, it seems to stir up things people may not want to face.  Instead of looking at those unpleasant thoughts and feelings as theirs, they tried to give them to me.  Fortunately, I know when something is mine, and when it isn't.

Early on in my treatment, my own cancer was a reminder of how important it is to process whatever feeling I was having – to respect that feeling for what it was telling me, let it be there, and then let it go. This is especially important with feelings that, let's face it, we'd all rather avoid or never even have, like fear.  Ignoring it, or saying it doesn't exist, or telling myself I "shouldn't" feel it, only denies it and stuffs it down to reemerge later and often with more of a vengeance. My body and my soul send me these emotions for a reason, and I only hurt myself if I don't allow them the same space that I allow other, more pleasant emotions. So sometimes I sit with pain, or hurt, or fear, or whatever is nagging at me at that particular time. It doesn't stop me from living my life, or even from enjoying my life. These feelings are part of my life. Beneath them, they often have a deeper message that I'm open to receiving once I allow the feelings in.  And once I allow them to exist, and look at them and what they mean, they dissolve and leave room for other emotions. Like joy, happiness, wonder. Gratitude. Love.

Cancer has been a reminder to live the lifestyle I want to live, now. Don't wait for better weather, or to lose 10 pounds, or any other future event that may or may not happen.  Do it.  Now.

How does that play out for me?  Since I'm still dealing with a fair amount of fatigue, I'm not going to run any marathons any time soon; but if I get out for walks several days a week, I feel good. I'm eating lots of fruit and veggies, whole grains, and cutting out or at least down on things that aren't good for anyone, but especially people who have had cancer. Eating well also makes me feel good: physically, yes; and on a deeper level, because I’m following a path that’s right for me.

I spend time doing things that are meaningful to me, that bring me joy. I spend time in meditation.  I practice self-discipline in large and small ways. And I spend time doing things that are fun!

I don’t do any of these things because I think they’ll make me invincible; I know there's no magic bullet that will prevent my cancer from coming back, just as I know that doing one good thing won’t counteract doing something that isn't good for me.   But the whole package, doing all these things, gives me an edge. 

And most of all, I do it because I feel better here and now: better physically, because I'm getting regular exercise and eating well; better mentally, because as I feel better physically, I have energy and clarity to let my brain do what it needs to do; better emotionally, because I'm taking care of me, in all the many ways that help me most; and better spiritually, because many of the things I do nourish my soul and deepen my spirituality.

My cancer was a reminder of my values, and how I can live my values. It's easier said than done and will always be a work in progress, but I try to hold certain questions in front of me: will this nourish me? will this nourish someone else? That doesn't mean everything that I do or say is positive or that I won't conflict with others; sometimes it means standing up for what I know is right for me (or, just what is right as I see it), and that can be in disagreement with what others think. But I learn more and more about how important it is for me to listen to my gut and trust it.  And act on it accordingly.

And that's another thing my cancer was a reminder of: how much I can trust myself to know what's right for me. Other people tell me what they think is right for me, give suggestions, offer advice; and I usually listen and take in what they say, but in the end, I know best what works for me, regardless of what anyone else thinks. When I follow my gut, my instincts, whatever you chose to call it, I not only have no regrets, but I end up knowing I've done what is best for me, and I'm at peace with myself.

My cancer diagnosis was, ultimately, a reminder of my mortality. A reminder that (watch out, here come the cliches!) life is short, and whatever I want to do with it, I'd best be doing now. The future is promised to no one. As the bumper sticker says, “Don't postpone joy!”  It's difficult to feel joy in the middle of cancer treatment, but now I'm moving beyond that.  Now it's time to dance with the wildflowers!

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do
than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Mark Twain

Thursday, April 1, 2010

In Another's Words

Two articles, both well worth reading, especially for those who haven't had cancer.  The first is a link to a good post about mood and cancer.  In short, it reminds us that owning our feelings (good and bad) is far better than pretending to be cheerful all the time, and that our mood does not and did not cause our cancer.

The second is an eloquent essay on how inadequate words are, posted in its entirety here.

Well said, Mr. Jennings!  (The italics near the end are mine, not Dana Jennings').

With Cancer ... Let's Face it:  Words are Inadequate
Dana Jennings, New York Times, March 15, 2010

We're all familiar with sentences like this one: Mr. Smith died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. We think we know what it means, but we read it and hear it so often that it carries little weight, bears no meaning. It's one of the clichés of cancer.

It is easy shorthand. But it says more about the writer or speaker than it does about the deceased. We like to say that people "fight" cancer because we wrestle fearfully with the notion of ever having the disease. We have turned cancer into one of our modern devils.

But after staggering through prostate cancer and its treatment - surgery, radiation and hormone therapy - the words "fight" and "battle" make me cringe and bristle.

I sometimes think of cancer as a long and difficult journey, a quest out of Tolkien, or a dark waltz - but never a battle. How can it be a battle when we patients are the actual battleground? We are caught in the middle, between our doctors and their potential tools of healing and the cell-devouring horde.

We become a wasteland, at once infested by the black dust of cancer and damaged by the "friendly fire" of treatment. And ordinary language falls far short of explaining that keen sense of oblivion.

As a patient, it's hard to articulate how being seriously ill feels. In a profound way, we are boiled down to our essential animal selves. We crave survival. We long for pain to end, for ice chips on parched lips, for the brush of a soft hand.

It pays to have a positive outlook, I think, but that in no way translates to "fighting" cancer. Cancer simply is. You can deny its presence in your body, cower at the thought or boldly state that you're going to whup it. But the cancer does not care. You're here, the cancer has arrived, and the disease is going to feed until your doctors destroy it or, at least, discourage it.

Then there's the matter of bravery. We call cancer patients "brave," perhaps, because the very word cancer makes most of us tremble in fear. But there is nothing brave about showing up for surgery or radiation sessions. Is a tree brave for still standing after its leaves shrivel and fall? Bravery entails choice, and most patients have very little choice but to undergo treatment.

Which brings me to "victim." I didn't feel like a victim when I learned that I had cancer. Sure, I felt unlucky and sad and angry, but not like a victim. And I have no patience for the modern cult of victimology.

Victim implies an assailant, and there is no malice or intent with cancer. Some cells in my body mutinied, and I became a host organism - all of it completely organic and natural.

And what are we once treatment ends? Are we survivors? I don't feel much like a survivor in the traditional (or even reality TV) sense. I didn't crawl from a burning building or come home whole from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

I'm just trying to lead a positive postcancer life, grateful that my surging Stage 3 cancer has been turned aside, pleased that I can realistically think about the future. I'm trying to complete the metamorphosis from brittle husk to being just me again.

The phrase "salvage radiation" is not used much anymore, but when one doctor said it in reference to my treatment, it made me feel less human and more like a "case." It meant I needed radiation after surgery, because the cancer was more aggressive than expected - I needed to be "salvaged."

I felt as if I had been plopped into some screwy sequel to "Raise the Titanic!" - time to raise the U.S.S. Jennings, lads. Or maybe I was going to get picked up by a scrap-metal truck and then get zapped at Frank's Junkyard, laid out in the back seat of a 1960 Ford Fairlane.

And I'm still troubled by this sentence, which I've heard many times: "Well, at least it's a good cancer." It's usually applied to cancers that are considered highly treatable, like those of the prostate and thyroid.

Most people mean well, but the idea of a good cancer makes no sense. At best, the words break meaninglessly over the patient. There are no good cancers, just as there are no good wars, no good earthquakes.

Words can just be inadequate. And as we stumble and trip toward trying to say the right and true thing, we often reach for the nearest rotted-out cliché for support. Better to say nothing, and offer the gift of your presence, than to utter bankrupt bromides.

Silences make us squirm. But when I was sickest, most numbed by my treatment, it was more than healing to bask in a friend's compassionate silence, to receive and give a hug, to be sustained by a genuine smile.

Strangely enough, although cancer threatened my life it also exalted it, brought with it a bright and terrible clarity.

So, no, cancer isn't a battle, a fight. It's simply life - life raised to a higher power.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy birthday, dad!


Monday, March 8, 2010

Just a short update -- and since there's nothing new to report, it really will be short!

Still need to schedule and have a heart catheterization; will probably take care of that this month.

I'm still dealing with more fatigue than I'd like but I know it just takes time.  I do get out for walks several days a week.  Early spring bird song greets me most days: sandhill cranes with their discordant cries as they wing north, red-winged blackbirds' ruckus in the marsh, song sparrows' delicate notes.

Whenever I'm in the woods I look for first growth.  So far I've only seen the maple flower buds swelling but I know I'll see early wildflower shoots before long.  Skunk cabbage in the marshes, hepatica on hillsides, will be blooming soon.

Happy almost spring, everyone!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stepping Stones

I reached a small milestone yesterday:  my first hair cut in 10 months!  Woo hoo!

Don't misunderstand:  my hair is still very short, but it was shaggy and messy enough that it needed trimming.

The normal color is starting to come back so trimming got rid of some of the white ends.  I was liking the all-white look, but having a lot more brown back won't be a bad thing.

Getting a haircut may be a small step, but it was a significant one to me. 

Haircut Happy Dance!

Monday, February 15, 2010

And The Beat Goes On...

... and the beat goes on.  La de da de de, la de da de da...

My heart beat, that is. 

Thank goodness!

I'm on a beta-blocker for my heart.  Hopefully that will strengthen it and all will be well at some point and I can cease and desist with heart meds, but it's entirely possible I'll be on the beta-blocker for life. 

Meanwhile, my cardiologist thinks I should have an angiogram just to rule out any other possible causes of the heart damage besides chemo.  Not a bad idea, but I'm putting that off for a short while until I regain some energy.  My body has been through enough over the last 10 months; I need some time to rest and recover before I subject myself to more trauma, even if it's relatively minor.

And also meanwhile, my orders for limited exercise continue:  no aerobic exercise, no heavy lifting, no shoveling, etc.  But I can walk as much as I like and as much as my body can tolerate, as long as I don't walk too fast.  I'm also getting back into yoga.  Although it's frustrating to have limitations on what I can do physically, it's also OK.  This is all small stuff after what I've been through.

And the beat goes on... and the beat goes on!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Yes, sometimes all this feels like some kind of crazy dance.

Lately (and into the immediate future), it's the scan-scan.

Thank you, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,
for this image that somehow captures both the French can-can,
and how I feel about all the scans I've had lately.

I still have a couple of tests coming up, but here's the results from what I've had so far:

DXA scan results (DXA measures mineral bone density.  I'm now on a daily estrogen-blocking pill that can affect bone density, and of course chemo can also alter bone density.  The DXA was to establish the baseline as I start the estrogen-blocking pill): normal, normal, normal!  That's the good news.

Muga scan results (muga measures the percentage of blood the left ventricle is pumping out into the body; 50% and above is normal.  Below 50% is not good.  They monitor this for heart damage from chemo, radiation, and Herceptin):  I went from 46% three weeks ago to 45.3% this week.   That's not good news.  I'm officially off Herceptin although I was supposed to have it until June or July.  I'm comfortable with that -- one, I certainly don't want any more heart damage. What I have now has tossed me back down in the trenches, so that's quite enough, thank you.  And two, there's some research that shows that one year on Herceptin may not be necessary, that 13 or as few as 9 weeks may be just as effective as one year.  I've had 26 weeks.

My oncologist still feels the damage is from the aftermath of Adriamycin (which, granted, is part of what saved my life, but it's one nasty treatment) and Herceptin and thinks my heart will improve; in the meantime, I'm seeing a cardiologist this week.  Hopefully he'll have some good news for me in terms of recovery.  I'm so blasted tired all the time, I can barely function, and I hate it.  This fatigue is for the birds.

For now I've been ordered to stay away from aerobic exercise or any strenuous activity.  I can walk, gently, but that's about it.

Because it wouldn't be much fun to get all through chemo and all the lovely stuff related to that, just to drop dead from a heart attack.

I and my heart appreciate all your thoughts, energy, and prayers. 

Stay tuned.   Still happy-dancin', but not strenously :)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

More Happy Dancin'!

The greatest mistake in the treatment of diseases is that there are physicians for the body and physicians for the soul, although the two cannot be separated.

Radiation is done.  Woo hooo!!  I can't believe all my major treatments are done and that I've made it this far.  I need to recuperate from all my body, mind, and soul have been through the last year, but I already feel glimmers of energy.  And thanks to support from so many, my spirit is not only intact, but is stronger than ever.  Friends and family -- the physicians for my soul -- thank you.  You held my hand, you listened, you laughed with me, and maybe best of all, you cried with me.  You knew I was going through much more than a treatment to free my body of cancer, and you understood.

Other news, in brief:

Still have some neuropathy pain/numbness, but I also still think I see slow and gradual progress. Still taking meds to help control the pain.

Started hormonal therapy today. It's simply a daily pill that blocks estrogen; I'll be taking them for the next five years, or as long as I have insurance to cover the bulk of the $461 monthly fee! Keep your fingers crossed that I find a decent job with great insurance!

Have another mugascan next week to see if my heart has rebounded since the last scan.  More finger crossing!

Have a CTscan at the end of Feb. to check a spot on my lung.  I've been assured that this kind of spot is normal and nothing to be alarmed about but they want to do follow-up to make sure.  So, I'm not being alarmed.

Now you'll excuse me while I go do a happy dance....

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Latest News

Good news:  I had my last full-breast radiation today; tomorrow I get the first of 8 that are targeted to the original lump.  Then I'll be done!  I'm hoping my skin and my energy can slowly start rebounding with the reduced radiation.*  Last night I was in bed at 7 and slept all night -- and I wanted to stay in bed longer.  So I'm ready to see my energy return.

Not quite as good news:  my latest mugascan showed more heart damage (chemo/radiation) which could be permanent or could be temporary -- either way, I couldn't get my herceptin today.  Another mugascan in three weeks will hopefully show improvement and I'll be able to resume herceptin.  Please keep your fingers crossed for me.

Meanwhile, I think I hear a pillow calling my name :)

Keep moving forward!


*edited to add:  it's actually not reduced radiation -- it's all concentrated in a smaller area.  I'll still be getting full doses, so fatigue relief is still a little ways away!

Friday, January 8, 2010

21 Down, 12 To Go

If you read the last post and were paying attention, you're thinking, wait, the numbers don't add up the same.

You're right, they don't, because I'm actually getting 33 treatments, not the 30 I thought.

25 are for the entire breast area, and the last 8 target the original tumor site only.

I'm having a lot of tenderness, my skin is moving from pink to red, and I'm pretty constantly tired (although I can push through it, I just don't have any energy).

At least after treatment 25, most of my skin will be out of the radiation area and can start healing.

Projected last radiation:  January 27.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

19 Down, 11 to Go

Radiation treatments, that is.  At least, I think I have 11 to go -- 30 in all.  That will put my final treatment somewhere around Jan. 20, assuming I don't miss any between now and then.   Missed treatments get added to the end so that I get the full 30.

As much as I haven't always felt like it, life goes on even after a big loss, and keeping up with treatments has been important.  I was glad to see the pages of the calendar turn over to Jan. 1 -- although it's just another day in a series of days, it still felt good to put 2009 behind me.  It was a difficult year for me, and for many others as well, and I know I wasn't alone in being glad to greet a new year.

I haven't had any horrendous side effects although my skin is getting brown/pink from the radiation. I have some tenderness and pulling in muscles/scar tissue/ligaments, and where they put the small stickers on to mark critical spots (so they can line me up for treatments the same way each day), my skin is torn and red.  I slather aloe vera gel on the entire area and then put shea butter or Aquaphor on top of that, which is helping prevent dry, itchy skin, and so far has prevented blisters and peeling.  Lovely thought, eh?

I also have some fatigue, although nothing like during chemo.  Enough to keep me from feeling perky, and I tend to go to bed pretty early most nights, and I have to admit to some extra enjoyment when I can sleep in on the weekends, but really nothing to complain about.

It's been fairly cold here but it hasn't kept me from getting out for some walks, although if it's windy the walks have been short.  I'm just not fond of those below-zero wind chills!

A happy and healthy new year to everyone.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow;
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
                                       from the poem by Alfred Tennyson