Update from the mountain

Last year this time, I was in the midst of chemo.

Last year this time, I was still sore from surgery.

Last year this time, I was still ‘looking forward’ to radiation. TakeBreaks

Well, it’s not last year this time. The time is now, and I’m declaring myself healthy and (in the charming cancer vernacular) ‘NED’, no evidence of disease.

So….I’m off the cancer merry-go-round, folks, and unless I have something to report, I’m so outta here!

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Confidence and the lack thereof

Dear Diary,

It’s been six months since my last chemo. And guess what, another ‘side effect’ that no one ever told me about. Post cancer treatment, my confidence really took a dive.

Why, why, why? I’m usually a very confident person, taking everything in my stride. But now? For no reason in particular, I’ll feel a bit wobbly, like I can’t quite handle what might come my way. This is so not me.

courtesy of modifylifestyle.com

courtesy of modifylifestyle.com

So I looked it up (I always research everything – that is not always A Good Thing). I found loads of articles talking about a lack of confidence – yay! But reading the articles, they were talking about confidence in your body image post breast cancer, not about inner confidence. Body image, rightly or wrongly, has never been a problem for me.

I figured maybe it’s because, after years of feeling healthy and pretty invincible, I felt like my body had betrayed me. How sneaky of it to turn off that good ol’ cell death! There is nothing like staring death in the face to make you feel rather vulnerable, right? But … the big ‘but’… was this a ‘normal’ thing, or was I going quietly nuts?

I finally found an article written by a guy working at NBC. He said that post cancer treatment, all of a sudden he was insecure when submitting articles or interviewing people. If criticism of even the gentlest sort was offered, he was totally flummoxed.

Right, that is me, I thought. The good thing? It gradually goes away, you gotta (sic) just keep doing the stuff you always did, until ol’ Ms Confidence is back.

I can do that.

When do you stop?

We had a long talk the other day, my husband and I. We were on holiday in Scotland, and talked about everything – the difficulty of the past year, our hope for the future. stop

I said how hard it was to focus on the ‘normal’. To not worry about what may (or may not) happen cancer-wise. To really believe that it’s over and will remain over. It’s hard not to obsessively read the stats on survival, to hope you’re in the good side of the percentages, to not worry about the upcoming scans. To not worry that some of your indicators from the biopsy are good, some bad.

My husband listens. And, as always, understands.

Do you think it’s time you stopped writing about it? To stop reading your forum?

I’m shocked. But then I consider. Is it time? Do I stop this blog, or should I still write and share? Do I stop reading the forum, and answering? Or, does even reading the digest make me think too much about cancer?

I don’t know. I guess I figure I’ll know when it’s time to stop, and most days I don’t think about “it” at all. But then…

One year on

There is no set time to start counting your ‘cancer anniversary’, from what I’ve read. Some start the count from diagnosis, some from surgery, some from other significant points. I’m counting it as my ‘anniversary’ today, as one year ago, on 22 Sept 2014, was my very first doctor appointment for a suspicious lump.

I count mine from when we first saw the look on the gyn’s face as he did the breast exam. I think that’s a cyst, says I. Hm, he said. I’ll send you for a mammogram.

The mammogram didn’t show anything – how could it, as with such dense breast tissue, it looked like a field of snow? (even when we knew exactly where the tumour was, the surgeon couldn’t make it out on the mammogram)

The doc then sent me for an ultrasound – which showed nothing. This, I believe, was a potentially deadly mistake, a rush job by the doctor doing the ultrasound.

The gyn and I were puzzled. How about if you come back in 6 months and we do another mammogram, he asks. Although sensible, given the test results, this made me nervous. But I have pain here, said I, is that normal?

He stops. He thinks. He looks at me. He sends me for one last test, a breast MRI, which shows…without a doubt…cancer.

Believe it or not, I read the MRI results a year ago with relief. Relief that finally we knew and could get on with a solution.

4 months post chemo

4 months post chemo

So, a year on, I want to say “thanks, Dr Cano”, for listening to what I said, and believing in your own physical exam, instead of relying on initial test results. You just might have saved my life!

he terminado

…and to put it another way, in another language, that’s it, I’m done, no more!

Yup. (image from feedwire.com)

Yup. (image from feedwire.com)

Today was the last day of my ‘radiation therapy’, aka death ray delivery. I had an extra 3 days tagged on at the last minute, to deliver a last shot of the ol’ rays to the tumour area, so hopefully all those nasty cells are dead and buried.

My chemo finished about 6 weeks ago, and so finally, at long last, I feel I’m ready to get back to my life. It’s a life different to what went before, in so many ways. Never again can you take your body and health for granted, never again will you ignore symptoms in the hope they will just go away. Never again (probably) will your body work exactly as it did before, given the possibly life-long effects wreaked on it by chemo.

But hey, I’m still here, as I always say! I view this as a bit of a wake-up call: don’t get too smug with your life, don’t be afraid to tackle new challenges, figure out what is really important to you (you’ll be amazed at how few things really are that important).

I plan on hitting the ground running, alongside the warnings from doctor and husband about letting my body recover!

Prognosis? Well, I’ve looked at the stats. But as my husband has said, statistics are just compiled data, and really have nothing to do with you. If stats show you have a 0% or a 100% chance of survival, it makes no difference unless you are that 0% or 100% affected.

I did ask my doctor about prognosis, and he just smiled and said “bueno” — I think I’ll be happy with that.

Stage envy

Not stage fright, stage envy!

Whatever do I mean by this? Well, I don’t know how other cancer peeps feel, but once you have those pathology results, the envy creeps in.

It’s not nice. I know it’s not nice, but who said I’m always nice? Yeah, I know, cancer folks are supposed to be long-suffering/brave/warrior type people, right? Well, it ain’t that simple folks!

courtesy of wikipedia

courtesy of wikipedia

What makes me so jealous? Well, fellow cancer victim, it could be you, if your cancer is a more favourable stage than mine. It could be you, if you are years and years post-treament, still cancer-free (or “NED”, No Evidence of Disease, as it’s now called, lest you think you may ever be in the clear). It could be you if you don’t need chemo. It could be you if your side effects are ‘better’ than mine. It could be you if you don’t need radiation.

It definitely would be you, if you are walking around, no cancer in your body, free as a jaybird in spring. Is that even a saying? I’m jealous of you if you know the answer! 🙂

I’m not jealous of those worse off than I am, of course, and maybe they are jealous of me.

The language of cancer

When we found the ‘thing’ in my breast, I first called it a lump. I continued calling it a lump for a few weeks.

Shortly after my biopsy, my husband said to someone that I had breast cancer. That hit me right in the gut – cancer, me? But he was right, and eventually I reached the stage where I said I had cancer, too.

After all, it’s only a word. And once you give It a name, you can start work to rid yourself of it.