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....
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!
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
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.
Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart...
Who looks outside, dreams.
Who looks inside, awakens.
Last chemo: Sept. 23, 2009 -- Done!! WOO HOOOO!!!!!!
Surgery, Oct. 29, lumpectomy with removal of 17 lymph nodes. Biopsy results: all negative. WOO HOOOO! again! The surgeon said I was in a group (of women with my cancer type, stage, etc.) of only 10% that comes back totally clear and negative. Happy dance!
Radiation begain Dec. 7; I had daily (weekday) treatments for 38 treatments, with a few days off for holidays and when my mom died.
Herceptin continued until I had "minor heart impairment." I'm on a beta blocker and doing well.
I'm on an estrogen-blocking med for five years. Update, 2015: I've been put on it for an additional five years.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
So often, we believe that we have come to a place that is void of hope and void of possibilities, only to find that it is the very hopelessness that allows us to hit bottom, give up our illusion of control, turn it over, and ask for help. Out of the ashes of our hopelessness comes the fire of our hope.
Anne Wilson Shaef
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. Kahlil Gibran
The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs.
As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit.
Peace comes from within your own heart and mind, not from some outside source, and when you refuse to be disturbed by things about you, life will flood your being with dynamic energy.
Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control. We can love and care for others but we cannot possess our children, lovers, family, or friends. We can assist them, pray for them, and wish them well, yet in the end their happiness and suffering depend on their thoughts and actions, not on our wishes.
I pray to the birds. I pray to the birds because I believe they will carry the messages of my heart upward.
I pray to them because I believe in their existence, the way their songs begin and end each day - the invocations and benedictions of Earth.
I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love rather than what I fear.
And at the end of my prayers, they teach me how to listen.
Terry Tempest Williams
Faith is the bird that feels the light And sings when the dawn is still dark.
Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it.
We have no right to ask when sorrow comes, "Why did this happen to me?" unless we ask the same question for every moment of happiness that comes our way.
Do, or do not. There is no try.
If you're going through hell, keep going.
I seem to get some questions often, so I'm going to address a few of them here. I'll update from time to time, too. Unless you read otherwise in a post or email, these things hold true:
1. I'm still working and plan to do so throughout treatment. My oncologist, his staff, my boss, and I all see no reason I can't continue, although I may have to make schedule adjustments from time to time. I have bills to pay so I don't really have the option of quitting anyway.
2. Mom is holding her own. I have to put my own health first right now but I'm going to do everything I can to help her. And she's doing what she can to help herself and to help me as well. We're working as a team, even if it's a cancer-ridden, chemo-taking, sometimes bumbling one!
3. As I've shared with most of you, and I want to keep emphasizing, don't feel like you have to wait to hear from me. In fact, sometimes it helps when you take the initiative, because I may not always have the energy to do such a simple thing myself. Call or email any time -- you can't disturb me -- if I'm too tired or otherwise unavailable, my cell ringer is off; and I answer email as I can and know you understand if it's not always in a timely manner.
4. My last A/C treatment was June 17. Taxol has begun and in spite of what's normal, for me it's been harder than the A/C. Lots of immediate, significant side effects that need frequent adjustments to control. I had to drop one week of Taxol and am on reduced doses for the duration of treatments because of the severe neuropathy I'm getting. Herceptin began with the taxol and continues for a year; surgery sometime in the fall. Radiation, maybe.
5. I was told not to expect hair growth until after the Taxol is over, but I'm getting white (! my hair was only partly gray when this started!) and spikey regrowth right now (late August). It may or may not fall out as the Taxol continues, but whatever! It's been an amusing part of the journey for me to go bald, see funny regrowth, etc. I still don't expect any real hair length until next spring. Going bald has it's own freedom, and I love the feeling of wind on my scalp, but I can't say I feel like bald is "beautiful" in my case!
6. This isn't an FAQ, but as a reminder: I prefer you do not share this blog with others unless you ask me first. I probably won't mind your sharing, but I'd rather be asked first. I consider this a personal journey, and while it's no secret that I'm dealing with cancer, I prefer to chose who to share details with. Thank you for understanding.
7. For those asking about my photos, I mostly post them on my nature blog. However, some of the photos here aren't mine and I don't want to take credit for them. Ask if you're curious -- I haven't been taking the time to tag what's mine and what isn't. If it's really good, it probably isn't mine! :)
8. Details on my diagnosis: localized, no lymph nodes involved, HER2+, ER slightly+, PR- (those last three have to do with cancer receptors -- the positives mean more treatment options, so are a good thing in their own way), IDC, stage IIa, I'm probably forgetting a piece but most of this won't mean much to most anyway and those are the highlights.
9. I'm not afraid of the cancer. Not too thrilled about the side effects of the chemo, but I'm not afraid of the cancer! My prognosis is excellent; I have confidence that I will beat this and have an incredible circle of support: oncologist, staff, counselors, support groups, family, friends, even friends of friends... (listed in no particular order, as all of you are prime!)... thanks to all of you, I will get through this! Hugs to every one of you!