Wednesday, April 29, 2009

6 breaths


Today was my first regular day of radiation.  It was so quick!  It took about 3 minutes to get into the right position on the table, then the radiation began.  I had time to breathe in and out 6 times, repeating my phrase, "I'm loved, I'm healed, I'm protected" only twice, then I was done!  

I picked up a bottle of something from my naturopath to spray on my breast each time after radiation.  It's made of aloe vera, calendula, lavender, and a few other things.  It's supposed to help prevent burning.  I'm also using emu oil.  My breast hurts again on the inside- sort of a deep throbbing.  But so far the skin is ok.

I cut my nails today and pulled chunks of dead skin out from underneath them.  Pretty gross, but they don't stink anymore and I can feel the healthy nail growing and pushing the dead nail out.

My chemo cough is gone!  And my tongue is no longer numb (it was numb after my surgery, probably because I bit it).

I'm exhausted and on the couch, but my mood is way better than it was this morning.  I had acupuncture yesterday and she did something for the hot flashes, but said it could take a few days to work.  I'm hopeful that tonight will be a better sleeping night for me.

2 down, 31 to go.



I woke up Hungry/Angry/Lonely/Tired today.  Not a great way to start the day after feeling so good yesterday and last night.  The hot flashes continue to wake me several times a night and I have trouble getting back to sleep.  More disturbing dreams.  It was very hard to get out of bed this morning.  I was hungry, but still have a stomach ache, so couldn't eat.  Lonely from waking up all night long and not wanting to call anyone at 2, 4, 6 in the morning.  Angry/frustrated at my out of control emotions.  It took a huge effort to get dressed and I couldn't stop crying.  Karina was so incredibly sweet- she's been so cheerful lately and she came in and gave me a hug.  Who knows, maybe all this that I'm going through will help her understand herself better when her hormones kick in and get all out of whack.

It took another great effort, but I made it in to work.  I had to call several people first to talk.  I am so grateful that I have such wise people to call.  I took some time to walk along the river and although I was sore, it was good to move and to be outside.  I just finished a nice meal in a cute little cafe in Junction City, and I've been sipping tea and watching small town life go by on the main street out the window.  I am so very tired, but much calmer and peaceful now.  I know this hard stuff won't last forever.  It just sucks when I'm right in the middle of it!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

32 Left


1 down, 32 more radiation treatments to go!  Today was not nearly as bad as I had imagined.  Parts of it were creepy, but I found ways to cope.  I went in, got into a gown, walked to a back waiting room, and waited for my therapist to call me back.  Went into a cold room with a big machine.  This room was decorated with Christmas lights and pretty pictures all over the ceiling and the machine.  The therapist is a youngish rapster looking dude and he has two nice, young female assistants.  They will be the ones I see most of the time.  On the machine they did some more drawing on me with a black pen- I ended up with a big square around my breast and a bunch of x's and dots on other areas of my chest.  They took more digital pictures with a camera (just what I want- pictures of myself taken when I'm exposed and marked on)  And they took a bunch of xrays to mark my position, then I got radiated, then more xrays.  The actual radiation part goes twice and lasts about 30 seconds.  At the end I got my tattoos- three little dots.  The needle really hurt!  Made me re-think getting a real tattoo.  The room was cold and the people kept speaking in codes- calling out different numbers.  It was all very clinical and not at all warm and cozy like in Dr. T's office.  So, I'm not going to get my nurturing from the place or the staff.  I decided to close my eyes and meditate.  I repeated these words with each breath:  "I am loved, I am healed, I am protected".  Not sure why I picked those, but that's what came to me.  I was on the machine for maybe 25 minutes today and by the end I was very relaxed.  As I was laying there I thought about how I've been wanting to start meditating, but haven't started yet because I never take the time.  I think I'll use my 10 minutes a day on the machine to meditate.  Tomorrow I pick up an herbal spray from the naturopath that is supposed to help prevent burning.  I saw the acupuncturist today and she said she can help with my night sweats and my digestion problems (my tummy has been upset for the last week or so). 

All in all, I feel like I'll be ok.  I've got people to help me with side effects and I think the remaining 32 days will go by fast.  I've decided to do extra self-care for myself for the next 6 weeks.  I'm going to reward myself each Friday- maybe with Sweet Life, maybe with coffee- whatever I feel like.  And, I'm planning on trying to begin running next week.  I walked again today and felt great.  Today was my first day with no pain killers.  I'm tired now, but not in pain!  I plan to walk the rest of the week, then on Monday I thought I could bring my running clothes to radiation, put them on when I'm changing out of the gown, and go straight to Alton Baker Park.  Even if I can't actually run yet, I think I'll feel more motivated wearing the clothes.  Maybe I'll just start mostly walking, and add running in for a few minutes at a time.  Today I feel hopeful, like I can get back in shape and like I can get strong again.  Today I feel happy!

Monday, April 27, 2009



I started arimidex today- the little pill that will block the rest of my estrogen and that I'll take for 5 years.  And, most importantly, that can block the return of breast cancer.  I can stop on April 26, 2014.  Dr. T asked today if I had started it and when I said no, he asked why.  I told him I was afraid of the side effects.  He promised me that the return of breast cancer would be way worse than any of the side effects from this drug.  That was enough to prompt me to get my prescription filled.  Here is a bit of what the drug info says are common side effects:  constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, upset stomach, loss of appetite, body aches and pains, breast swelling/tenderness/pain, headache, dry mouth, cough, dizziness (take care when engaging in activities requiring alertness such as driving.....for 5 years?!), trouble sleeping, weakness, hot flashes, hair thinning, weight change (up or down I wonder?)  I won't even list the serious side effects. I'm not too thrilled about beginning this.  I'm hopeful, of course, that I won't get the side effects.  I'm seriously considering hypnosis.  I read somewhere that it can help with post-surgical recovery.  I wonder if it could help with my fears around radiation?  Right when Dr. W (my new doc) started talking about the side effect of breast pain, my breast started throbbing.  It's hurt ever since.  That's got to be my mind.  I'd be willing to try hypnosis- anyone ever try it for anything like this before?  What do people think?

I got the call today that I'll start radiation tomorrow at 10:15.  I thought I was ok, but after the call I got scared (my normal pre-procedure anxiety).  I saw Dr. T this afternoon and everything was ok with my stomach xray and he recommended that I get back to playing soccer next week.  Gotta love a doctor like that.  As I was leaving his office, I got one of those calls from a time share offering me a couple of very cheap vacations in exchange for listening to their sales pitch.  I've done it twice before with this company and gone to Seaside and Newport and had a great time with the girls (the key is to ask no questions during the sales pitch and to repeat the phrase "that won't work for me, but thank you for your presentation" at the end when they really put the pressure on).  I am so badly in need of a vacation that I agreed immediately to the one they offered over the phone.  I was probably the easiest sell they've ever had.  They sure did pick the right time to call- right when I needed something to look forward to!  So, hopefully sometime in June the girls and I will go to Sunriver and we're still hoping for Mexico in Aug- staying in a friend's house (thanks B!) and maybe now adding on a few nights at a resort as part of the thing I got today.

So even though I went through a rough patch today, I'm feeling better now.  Although very sore and tired- from what I'm not sure.  I think I'll hold the image of swimming with dolphins each time I have to be in the radiation machine.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Getting Myself Back


Another of Karina's soccer games today at a field where my team plays.  I got there feeling exhausted, having spent the morning helping the girls rearrange their rooms and set up bunk beds (with lots of help from friends).  When we arrived at the game there was a woman running around the track.  She kind of reminded me of myself- similar in age, appearance, and running style.  She was still running at half time and I was so envious of her and feeling sorry for myself.  Then something fired up in me and I decided to be inspired by her instead of envious.  I got up and walked around the track 3 times.  It's my first walk since the surgery. The first lap felt great, the second one I slowed down, and the third one I just sort of hobbled along.  I figured that if I'm ever going to get back in shape, I need to stop moping about and get up and start at the beginning with slow walking.  It was SO good for my mental health today to walk, and I had a strong sense of believing that I will get my self back.  About an hour after the walk, I was in a lot of pain.  I ended the evening on the couch, taking another vicadin.  I feel like I did a couple hundred sit ups.  I can hardly hold my body up straight when I stand up.  But, I feel so very happy! 

 When I was having such sadness this morning I went to the garden and thinned out the peas for about 20 minutes.  Something about being in the quiet with my hands in the dirt really calmed me.  

My house is a wreck at the moment- it looks like a tornado came through- a result of the room rearranging.  But, I've told myself that the girls and I will just do a little bit each day this week and it will be ok.  No one really cares what my house looks like.  Best of all, I managed to make another meal.  It was simple, just soup in bread bowls, but the girls were really grateful.  Kaycee told me she's so happy that I'm starting to make meals again.  Yeah!  I'm happy too.  Only for some reason my oven decided to stop working, just when I was ready to start cooking again!  Oh well, that's a problem for another day.

I am so very exhausted right now and I am hoping to sleep peacefully and deeply.



Feeling so blah today.  My stupid mind won't leave me alone.  Two nights now of nightmares.  The first night was full of me in machines and loud noises and cold rooms and me naked on a table with people all around poking at my body.  Won't 33 days of that be fun?  During the day I'm fine with radiation- a bit nervous, but looking forward to starting so I can be done.  At night, all my fears get me while I try to sleep.

Sleep is still weird- I can fall asleep ok, but start waking around 2 and don't really sleep well after that.  My stomach feels better.  Now it feels like I've got a side ache on both sides.  It keeps me walking slow still, but it's better than straight out pain.  I actually had energy to make oatmeal for breakfast- the kind you cook on the stove and add cinnamon and sugar to.  But the kids are in shock at non-packaged food and won't eat it.  Last night I was out of energy and we ate chips, cheese, lunch meat, hummus,  salsa, and grapes for dinner in front of the fire place.  The girls asked me several times, "Is this dinner?"  Hey, I covered most of the food groups, why not call it dinner?  

My plan for next week, or I should say my hope, is to do radiation at the end of the day, then go over to Alton Baker Park each time and walk a bit along the river.  I really, really want to start exercising again.  I saw a woman running the hurdles yesterday at Karina's soccer game and I was filled with envy.  There is no way I could run right now.  It makes me sad.  I asked the doc how long until I'll feel back to my normal self after radiation.  She said that people who just have radiation return to their normal energy level in a few months.  People that have chemo and radiation take about a year.  I blocked that answer out of my mind because it seemed too cruel.  Plus, maybe it will be different for me.  I'll stick to my plan of a good diet, exercise, and whatever the naturopath and acupuncturist can do for me.  I'm trying to talk myself into feeling better, but it's not working so far.

Friday, April 24, 2009


I just now realized that my eyes stopped watering!  They ran and watered and gooped non-stop for weeks and I just now realized that it stopped!  Wow, I've been so miserable this week that I didn't even notice!  Wonder when they stopped.  GRATITUDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



What a day.  I had my appointment with my new doctor, a radiation oncologist.  She was very nice, very smart, and had GREAT people skills- gotta love doctors who've got it all.  I also got a CT scan and got some points marked on my body so the radiation will only go to one certain spot.  They'll tattoo those spots next week.   I spent most of the afternoon there and realized that this is the first day since the surgery that I've started feeling better.  By the end, though, I was ready for a rest and as I type this I'm laying down and my tummy muscles are hurting again.  But, I have more energy and although I'm tired, the chemo fatigue is mostly gone.  

When the doc started talking about side effects, I cringed, remembering all the potential side effects of chemo.  But there were really only three main ones- fatigue, swelling/pain/tenderness in my breast, and red, dry, itchy skin on my breast.  No nausea, no bone aches, no muscle aches, none of the horrid ones from chemo.  She said that most people feel that radiation is much easier than chemo, but that it is still hard.  

Here's the weird part of the visit- I was telling her about how this cancer stuff keeps happening on holidays- 

Wait, I've just been interrupted by Kaycee.  Here's what she had to say, "Whoa, your hair's growing back!  It's soft and it's black and white!"  I guess if Kaycee noticed it, it's really true, it's really growing back!!!!  I don't even care about the "white", I'm just happy to be getting it back.

Ok, so I explained to the doc about the biopsy on Halloween and the first chemo on Christmas Eve and the last chemo on April Fool's Day and I said that radiation would probably end on my birthday just to keep the pattern going.  She said I'll have 33 days of radiation and I'll probably start next week on Tuesday.  My friend who was with me went to a calendar on the wall and counted out 33 weekdays and guess what............the last day is June 12th, my 40th birthday.  Weird, weird, weird.  She also said that she could do two radiations on June 11th if I wanted to not come in on my birthday.  And, she said that there are various reasons why I might miss a day and have to add it onto the end.  So, no guarantees that it'll be on my birthday, but I am celebrating big time anyway.  I never thought I'd be so excited and so looking forward to my 40th birthday!

What feels the best about this is that I have an end date.  I now know when I'll be finished with cancer treatment and ready to mend and rejuvenate my body.  THE END IS REALLY, REALLY IN SIGHT!  I went into the appointment full of dread, for many reasons.  One of which was because I felt like I was starting over- new doctor, new nurses, new treatment.  Now I don't feel like I'm starting over- I feel kind of excited, like I can't wait to begin because the sooner I begin, the sooner I'm done.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009



I am impatient with the slow speed of my recovery from surgery.  I was expecting it to go faster.  Yesterday was hard, I got hit with a huge emotional uncontrollable sobbing thing, right in the middle of picking out cheese at Albertsons.  I had thought that I'd drop the kids at school and go into work for a bit, but I headed back home instead.  The crying was weird- it felt so out of my control and it wasn't related to any specific sadness.  I called the naturopath and she said it was most likely one of my menopause symptoms related to seratonin levels and she gave me something with St. John's Wart and Triptophan (no idea how to spell this- I think it's the stuff in turkey).  I took it and sat in the sun for a while and got to feeling somewhat better.  I had an afternoon of appointments with my counselor and acupuncture, so it was an easy afternoon of laying down and relaxing.  But, by 4:00 I was in a lot of pain and it dawned on me that something might be wrong if I'm getting worse each day rather than better.  I called the doc's office and they started me on anti-biotics.  When I went into Albertsons yesterday evening to get the prescription, the lady told me they were behind and it'd be about 10 minutes.  I embarrassingly started sobbing again!  She looked alarmed and I tried to tell her I was just in pain.  She got my stuff ready in about 2 minutes.  It's interesting how uncomfortable tears in public make people (myself included).  

I went into work this morning for a few hours.  I just couldn't bear the thought of laying in bed all day again today.  I took vicadin, but it doesn't seem to be helping much any more.  It hurt to sit in my chair at my desk, but it felt so good to be out in the world, doing something productive.  And it was so nice to see my lovely co-workers.  I work with the nicest people.  I got caught up a bit, then couldn't stand the pain any more, so I'm back home in bed.  I don't feel too bad, though, because I feel like I at least did a little something today.  I am SO impatient to be able to MOVE again.  Karina had a soccer game last night at the same field where I played all last summer.  It was really hard to sit and watch and to know that there is no way I can play soccer right now.  I know that this is temporary, but I sort of told myself that I'd be better once the weather got better.  At least I love my house and my yard- my own private retreat.  I'm in bed right now, but the window is open and there's a nice breeze blowing and I can smell my pear and plum blossoms.  I woke up at 3:00 this morning to what sounded like a big, heavy person walking around my back yard outside my window.  I looked, and there were 4 lady deer eating the pear blossoms, drinking water, walking through the sand box, and exploring the rose bushes under my window (the deer fence held- they didn't go near the garden!)  They were so pretty and magical to watch.  I'm planning on getting a comfy chaise lounge for the back yard so I can lay back there and relax in the sun.  Ok, I think I'll try for a nap.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009



I spent most of the day in bed yesterday.  I believe I'll need more than 4 days to heal from this surgery.  I may have over done it over the weekend (but it was worth it).  I feel fine as long as I'm laying down, but sitting up and walking is tough.  I did get up and move about some because I believe that speeds recovery.  The girls are getting their own breakfasts and lunches again and seem to be doing ok.  They are capable of getting themselves ready in the morning, they just prefer it if I help more.

My fingernail polish was getting chipped so I removed it last night, thinking I would just leave it off.  I was shocked at the condition of my nails! Some of them are yellow, some are black/blue, and some are white and dead looking.  On all of them, I can see a line toward the bottom where new growth is happening, and a little bit of healthy nail coming back.  I cut them as short as I could and I know that the healthy part will keep pushing the sick part up and I'll keep cutting the sick stuff away.  Right now, they are really gross looking.  I'm so glad I've kept polish on them- it would have been devastating to watch them while going through chemo.  It was hard enough seeing it last night.  But, I"VE STILL GOT MY NAILS, and I can just keep them covered in polish till they grow back.  They're hot pink at the moment.

Best news of all is that MY HAIR HAS STARTED TO GROW BACK!!!  It's pretty funny looking-fuzzy and my scalp still shows through and it's black, white, and blond in different patches.  But I don't care- any hair growth at all makes me happy.  I had a dream last night that I was at work and got so hot with my hat on that I just took it off and went without.  I did really get very hot yesterday and went around the house with no head covering.  Not brave enough to do it in public yet, but soon it won't matter!  I'll have a cool, very short, multi-colored new hair do soon enough.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Beautifully Overwhelmed

Where to even begin? What a beautiful weekend, in every sense of the word. I am so emotional right now I feel like a crazy person- I keep going from crying to laughing and both hurt my stomach and make me cry more. I am really, really, peaceful and so amazingly happy right now, although to look at my emotions I'm sure I look just plain crazy. What is going on?! The best I can describe it is like one of those Texas rainstorms I remember from when I lived there. One minute all would be still, the next huge thunderclouds would roll in and then the lightning would start and the winds would pick up and the rain would come pelting down. I had a friend who had a car with a sun roof and we used to like to sit in the car and tilt the seats way back and watch the lightning and the rain from the sun roof. Afterwards I would feel bathed in God's awesome power and beauty and be filled with immense joy at being alive. That's what happened for me this weekend, but the storm came from the amazing people in my life.

First, It was a beautiful, warm, sunny, perfect weekend- very rare and wonderful for an Oregon weekend in April. The weather made the perfect back-drop to the weekend. On Friday I left town for an Alanon retreat at a monastery right on the Mckenzie River. My bed was the bottom bunk next to a window that looked right out over the river. At night I slept with the window open and could hear the rushing river and smell the clean smell of the water. I was nervous about going so soon after surgery, but was feeling not too bad with all the pain killers. Friday evening was nice- there was a great speaker, a great meeting, and a HUGE fire place with a couch right in front that I sat on. I met a bunch of amazing, wise, strong, kind women. I got to talk to several women who have been through similar medical stuff as me, and it gave me such hope.

Saturday morning I woke up after sleeping very well- even in a room full of other women and on a tiny, not soft bunk bed. The river outside my window was the best sleeping pill ever. I had a great breakfast in the company of great women, heard the speaker again, then headed back to Eugene for the afternoon. My writing won't be able to do this next bit justice, but I'm going to try anyway. There was a fundraiser for me that afternoon at Cosmic Pizza. I walked in and was overjoyed to see almost all of my favorite people in the whole world, all in the same place at the same time. There was an amazing, loving, vibrating energy in that place that I absorbed the entire time I was there. The ride into town had left me tired and with very sore, painful tummy muscles, so I thought I'd take it easy while there. And I mostly did, but my pain began to lessen a bunch while I was there and although I was tired, I felt great. Even though I couldn't dance, my spirit was on the dance floor (great music!) I couldn't help but cry from happiness and awe.

I think God was guiding me and protecting me when I decided to move back to Eugene 4 1/2 years ago. I have lived in many, many different cities, and this is the most amazing community I've ever lived in. The people I am surrounded with are so kind, wise, loving, and giving. It inspires me and has left me with this big, neon, blazing message, that actually woke me up from a sound sleep Saturday night- LIFE IS GOOD AND I'M OK. Simple, but profound for me. I actually woke up Saturday night with that blazing thought in my head. I've wondered for a while now if I was going to be ok and what the heck was happening to my out of control life. After being filled with the COSMIC PIZZA EUGENE ENERGY, I feel ok now. The event raised a tremendous amount of money, which hasn't really sunk in for me yet, but which I am so grateful for. It also raised my level of hope higher than it's ever been before.

, I feel like I'm rambling on here and not really expressing myself well- I feel a little self-conscious here, but it's important to me to keep trying to express myself. I went back to the retreat Saturday evening and I would just start to cry when people spoke to me. I wasn't able to explain why, and I think they all just thought I was emotional. I was, but I was also speechless. I got to hear more great things from the speaker and got to attend more amazing meetings with strong women. The speaker had such a hopeful story- she was a tall, beautiful, self-confident woman who had come to the states from Mexico years ago as a teenager by illegally jumping the border fence. She told a story of how she worked on a chicken farm and would hide in the part of the coup that held the chicken crap when immigration officials would come. This woman had literally been through crap so she could make a better life for herself. Her story really inspired me- it is possible to go through really crappy times and come out the other side strong, wise, and self-confident.

Today (Sunday) I ended the retreat by walking a labyrinth with 2 friends. It was in a sunny meadow, surrounded by tall trees and even taller mountains with snow on top. All three of us have been through some crappy times, and yet here we were, walking the labyrinth, filled with hope.

I was riding high on the vibrations of love and hope and thought I could be done with the pain killers. I SO want to be done with all the medication I've been taking. Big mistake. I started feeling a LOT of pain on the drive home and just started sobbing. I quickly took some vicadin (ah vicadin, my old friend) but it takes a while to kick in. D was driving and she just talked me through it. I settled down and we got home and I immediately noticed something different in my back yard. I have been dreaming of having a little table and a chair in my garden so I can sit there on nice mornings with a cup of tea and the sun and meditate on all the growing things. I looked in my garden, and there was a table and a chair! I looked closer and saw that my lawn was all mowed and the third garden bed was put in and filled with dirt, and raspberry plants had been planted, and the peas all popped up over the weekend. I was so tired and in so much pain and had planned on laying down in bed, but instead I hobbled out to my garden and sat in the chair and just cried and cried. It's always hard to go away for the weekend and have a good time and then come back to the old routine of home, and this little surprise made me feel like I left one retreat and came home to another one. Thank you sweet F (the best boyfriend ever) for my sweet garden retreat.

Off to bed now. Good night!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Surgery


The surgery is over and I'm home recovering.  It went fine and I was much less anxious than during the previous two.  I threw up afterwards, and again on the drive home on the side of the road, and that was the worst of it so far.  My tummy muscles aren't working too well, so sitting up and getting out of bed is tricky.  But, I feel like I'm going to heal quickly.  Funny, I never threw up all during the chemo, but I sure did yesterday.  I HATE throwing up!  Especially on the side of the road.  Ah, well, at least it's over.  I'm home resting now, hanging out with the cats and watching the rain fall and waiting to go to my acupuncture appointment.  More later.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Here Goes!


It's the eve of surgery number three for me.  I'm nervous, but not as much as the last two times.  I did all my pre-op stuff at the hospital today and it was all familiar and boring.  I just hope the whole hospital experience tomorrow goes fast.  I'm looking forward to getting home and getting into my own bed and watching a cool soccer movie I have.  

I'm feeling better about the whole ovary thing.  Chances are I'll have some of the side effects, but not all of them.  I'm committed to having an excellent diet and regular exercise after all this- I think it'll be key to feeling good and handling side effects.  My garden is doing well and is full of yummy greens just waiting to make me healthy.  Two deer were in the back yard yesterday morning grazing on the lawn- they didn't breech the garden fence!  They were so beautiful and peaceful to watch.

My one concern is that I've had a sore throat for the past couple of days, and right now it's really sore.  During anesthesia, a tube is put down my throat and the last times I remember waking up with a sore throat from the tube.  I'm concerned that my throat will be really sore this time.  Isn't it great that this is my biggest concern!

Ok, more after the surgery.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rested At Last!


I went to sleep AGAIN last night with no sleeping pill!  And, I woke up this morning feeling RESTED and HAPPY!  I can't remember the last time I woke up feeling rested.  It was such a delicious feeling- like I'm getting myself back when I've been away somewhere for a long, long time.  I walked for half and hour this morning and I walked pretty fast for the first 15 minutes and felt like I had some energy.  The last 15 minutes I was tired, but didn't have the muscle aches like before.  I'm getting better, I can feel it!  Just in time for surgery day after tomorrow.  I called the doc today to ask more about my recovery and was told that I shouldn't drive for 4 days because I'll be on pain killers.  I was also told that I'd go into instant menopause and that I might be irritable and have mood swings and night sweats.  I already knew this, but it strikes me as weird that on Wednesday I'll be pre-menopausal and Thursday I'll be post-menopausal.  Talk about instant!  I apologized to my body today for the shock it's about to go through.  I still think it really, really sucks to be losing my ovaries.  I know it's totally unrealistic, but I have this though that on Wed I'll be a young, vibrant woman and on Thur I'll be an old, tired woman. I know it's not true, but that's the thought rattling around in my brain right now.  I'm trying to think of all the woman I know who have gone through menopause.  The women I'm thinking of all have some things in common- wisdom and incredible self-confidence.  Maybe I'll get some of that.  My self-esteem has taken a nose-dive these past few months.  Luckily I had enough to begin with that I could afford to lose a little.  I haven't talked much about my hair lately, but it gets harder and harder to look at myself in the mirror.  I'm bald, my eyes are tired and puffy looking, and I've lost my muscle tone.  Sometimes I just have to look myself in the eye and remind myself that this is all temporary.  I'm checking my head every day to see if there's any new hair growth- it's supposed to start growing back in the next few weeks.  The fuzz I do have seems to be getting a bit longer.  I'm not looking forward to wearing something on my head when the weather gets warm, so it better grow back fast!  I bought myself a pretty sun dress last week just to cheer myself up.  I tried it on in the dressing room and my scars show in it and I looked ridiculous in it bald, but I bought it anyway.  I'm both embarrassed and not by my scars.  It's weird- they look bad, but they tell me how strong and resilient my body is.
I have tried really hard not to google certain things, but I'm just going to google "instant menopause" and see what comes up.

-So much for my happy mood.  I just googled "surgical menopause" and read the first thing I came across-how depressing and scary.  Now I know why I don't google.  

Monday, April 13, 2009

Full Speed Ahead!


I started back to a more normal work schedule last week.  When I started chemo, I was able to change my work duties a bit so that instead of doing home visits with kids and families, I was doing phone screenings.  This was to protect my immune system as much as possible and so that I didn't have to do so much driving while on medication that causes drowsiness.  Last week, I started transitioning back into doing home visits again. I found myself driving to a home visit today, eating a veggie burger from Burger King in the car on the way.  It struck me that this was my old life style- race as fast as possible through the day, eating in the car to save time.  I really, really don't want to start doing that again.  I haven't been as careful about what I've been eating lately- too tired and too busy with work to plan meals.  On a positive note, I was able to cook a meal this past week, rather than just heating up Trader Joe's ready meals.

In spite of work being busy, it feels really, really good to be doing home visits again.  I really love working directly with little kids and parents, on the floor, with the toys and the slobber and the snot and even the family dog.  It's crazy, but fun.  Even though I'm so tired, it feels really good to be doing work that I love and that I'm good at.  And, it's totally absorbing- for the hour that I'm at a home visit, I have an hour that I don't think about cancer.  

Today was one of those Mondays where I woke up and didn't want to get out of bed.  My legs ached and I woke exhausted.  As the day progressed, though, I felt better and now that it's the end of the day, I find that I'm not as achy and tired as I was last week.  The best news of all is that I've had two night's sleep with NO sleeping pills!  I take my herbs and my opium and it seems to be helping- I've been able to fall asleep within an hour.  I wake up a lot, and I am having lots of weird, vivid dreams, but they're not nightmares.  I'm confident that my body will readjust and pretty soon I'll be a normal sleeper again.

My surgery is coming up this week and I'm focusing on the positive- the port-a-cath is coming out!  I haven't much idea of what it'll feel like to have no ovaries.  I know my estrogen level will go way down and the naturopath says that my body could respond in a variety of ways, from little changes to lots of changes.  I've been talking to different women about menopause and I'm not too freaked out about it at this point.  I feel like I'm surrounded by enough wise women that there will be help with any discomfort menopause brings my way.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Back on the Couch


It's 7:00 and I'm back on the couch again for the evening, as I've been every night this week.  The good news is that each day I am a little less fatigued!  It's happening slowly, but I can tell my energy is going to come back.  I hit such a bottom earlier in the week.  I haven't been sleeping well and I wake up exhausted.  I found myself awake still at midnight on Tuesday and just started sobbing out of sheer frustration.  Then I found I couldn't stop.  I was hit full force by the hell cancer has put me through, and the fear of that washed over me.  I think I've been holding the fear at bay, just getting through one day and one chemo at a time.  Now that the chemo is over, the fear found a place to settle.  It was ok to feel it, and it was ok to let it go.  I know it will always be in my mind- will the cancer come back, will each check up be clear, for the rest of my life.  But, I'm not going to let it take me over.  

On Wed I went in for my blood draw and it was fine.  No more shots!!!  But, the nurses took one look at me and said I looked like crap and needed some fluids.  Well, they didn't actually say "crap" but I knew that's what they meant.  My eyes have been running for a few weeks now- a side effect of the chemo (although around here it could also be allergies).  On Wed they were all swollen and red and I did look pretty awful.  I have been drinking a lot of fluids, but still feel like my body is all dried out- another side effect.  I sat in the chemo chair yet again getting fluids.  I was there for an hour and it was pretty relaxing since I was so tired.  I put an ice pack on my eyes and took a little rest.  Afterwards I had a visit with the naturopath.  I explained my level of fatigue to her and she said it sounded like my adrenal gland and my hormones where out of whack, and also that I probably wasn't absorbing certain vitamins.  She gave me some different things to take, along with a sleep remedy.  It is made from poppies, among other things, so I call it my little bottle of opium.  I also have some herbs to take in the evening to calm my racing thoughts.  And, she recommended soaking my nails in vinegar, then dipping them in rubbing alcohol and blowing them dry.  She said the smell is from water getting underneath them and causing organisms to grow.  So, I've been doing the naturopath stuff for a few days now and my nails don't smell as bad and my sleep is better.  Well, when I say better that means that when I finally fall asleep, I stay asleep the whole night and don't have nightmares.  It still takes me hours to fall asleep.  I'm trying so hard to get off the sleeping pills, but ended up taking one when I found myself still awake at 2:00 this morning.  The stuff she gave me for energy seemed to work the first day.  Instead of crashing at 2:00, I've been crashing around 5:00.  After a few hours on the couch, I've got the energy to get up, clean up a bit, and get the girls off to bed.

I have given up soccer for awhile.  There is no way I can be running around a soccer field right now without the steroid boost.  I have decided to start walking and I've walked every day this week, first for 20 minutes and now for 30 minutes.  It feels great to be out walking, but it is exhausting.  My muscle aches make a 20 minute walk feel more like a 10 mile run.  My goal for the next few weeks is to rest as much as possible, but get in one walk a day.

I have an appointment with a radiology cancer doctor on the 24th, a week after my surgery.  She will get me set up for radiation.  I learned that I will be getting that tattoo I've always wanted.  They tattoo little marks on the breast so that they can get the radiation machine lined up correctly each time.  So much for my winding rose vine around my scar tattoo.  I'll have little dots instead, forever.

I was given a book this week, called Cancer Vixen.  It's hilarious.  It's written by a New York woman who is a cartoonist who got breast cancer.  The whole book is her experiences, written in cartoon.  Her life style is WAY different from mine, but I found my self relating to certain experiences.  Like when she goes in with her mom for her first chemo and she gets scared and she draws herself shrinking all the way back down to being a little girl crawling into her mama's lap and she says she wishes she could go back into the womb.  And when she first got the diagnosis she draws herself getting sucked off the planet earth and hurled into a black hole.  She also has a romance going the whole time she's in treatment, and a bunch of friends helping her out, and fun things happen for her, along with the crappy stuff.  Reading this book made me feel more normal than I have in a long time.

Hope to see you there!

Just click on the flyer below to see it bigger and read the details easier.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009



Totally exhausted today. First day back to work yesterday after spring break and couldn't get off the couch once I got home. Horrible muscle/body aches and just so tired. Karina's birthday today- feeling happy, emotional, exhausted. My little baby somehow got to be 11 years old. I so wanted her to have a great day and for us to do all our usual birthday stuff. We did, and I put on a happy, energetic face and I think she had a good birthday. I'm off to bed now and plan to get to bed as early as possible for the next week or two. Haven't been sleeping well. Got some herbs today from the acupuncturist that are supposed to help with sleep. Yeah, I can start taking herbs now that chemo is over. Meeting with naturopath tomorrow to get set up for surgery/radiation and hopefully some help with my aching lymph crazy arm. And a blood draw tomorrow- hopefully all is well and I'm done with those damn shots. Ok, bed time!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Road to Recovery


I feel like I'm on the road to recovery! People have told me to take it easy for the next few weeks and that these next few weeks could be the hardest. But, I'm ready to be done with hard and get back to my old self! I got out and played soccer on Thursday- my first outdoor game of the season. I did not feel up to it at all. I was nauseous and tired and it was cold and rainy. But, I NEEDED to play. I don't know why- I just needed to be able to say that I played soccer the day after my last chemo. Probably foolish, but great for my spirit. I couldn't do much running, but I did get a few good touches on the ball.

Yesterday was beautiful- sunny and warm and the first real spring day of the season I believe. I spent the afternoon with friends creating my survivor mobile in a clay studio. I made a bunch of different little plaques with different words representing all the positives I've experienced over the last 5 months or so. This is to balance out all my rocks that I made last week. My plan is to put the plaques together into a mobile and hang them over my garden gate. It felt really good to be doing something creative and positive amongst friends. By the time I got home, I was exhausted and felt like I'd been running around all day. A friend had made a meal for the girls and I and I was so grateful not to have to cook. I ate lying down on the couch I was so tired! My arm, where the lymph nodes have been taken out, has been giving me some trouble. Yesterday it was so sore and had throbbing pain at the incision site. As I've started to get a bit more active I realize that every time I use it any extra, it starts to hurt. I'm doing lymph massage on it every day, but I'm also going to try to see a new PT who specializes in the lymph system. It seems like it shouldn't hurt so much.

Today was glorious! I got to sleep in some, then the girls and I planted the garden! It is full of many types of lettuce, peas, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions, and a few more things. I'm supposed to be keeping my fingernails very clean so they don't get infected. They are still loose and painful, and the finger tip numbness has come back. I tried keeping gloves on and using a little shovel to plant, but it just wasn't fun. There's nothing I like better than getting my hands down into the soil while planting. So I decided I didn't care if my nails come off or not- I took the gloves off and just had fun with the planting. My garden is beautiful and I hope the dear will stay away! I soaked my hands afterwards in lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide, and scrubbed underneath the nails. Hopefully it will help- I don't really want to lose them! I had a nice lunch with some friends and we went on a long walk up some very steep hills. Well, I take that back. I don't think it was really a very long walk. But, again I found myself getting exhausted way too early. By the time I got home my legs where aching, my arm was throbbing, and I couldn't get off the couch. I'm finding that I hit an exhaustion wall around 4 or 5 o'clock each evening. As long as I can rest on the couch for an hour or two, I'm usually able to then get up and do a few things before bed. I really, really am looking forward to getting more energy back. I'm trying to be patient- it hasn't even been a week yet since the last chemo. But with the weather so nice, I just want to be outside running, playing soccer, hiking, biking, roller blading, chasing kids, all that fun stuff. I got to spend some time in my hammock today laying in the sun. I remember back last winter that the vision of me in my hammock was one of the visions that got me through some very rough times. I'm hoping the roughest of the rough times are behind me now.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Last Rock- Chemo # 8!

Chemo Rock # 8

The Discovery of the Lump Rock

Discovering "The Lump" was a hard, scary, chilling, awful day. A nightmare come to life. And it's now behind me and I believe if I can survive a discovery like that, I just might be able to survive anything.

The Tube Rock

The tube is such a distant memory, but it's one of my bad ones. It was in for 3 weeks after the second surgery. It hurt, it was gross, I HATED it and it's behind me!

Fatigue Rock

Bridge Throw

Throwing one of my many rocks into the Willamette River. Throwing it down stream so the river can wash it away.

Me and My Rocks

Me and all my rocks at Alton Baker Park.

*****Click on "older posts" to read about today's experience with my last chemo.

Last Chemo!

April 1, 2009

Today was festive and fun- strange for a chemo day, but it was the last one!!!!! I met with Dr. T and got some great answers. My ovarian removal surgery will be two weeks from tomorrow- April 16. I'll get my port out then too- yeah! He said there was no reason to leave it in. Double Yeah! Also in two weeks I'll meet with a radiation oncologist, get set up for some sort of scan, have a mold made of my breast, and find out how many days of radiation I'll get. I had to laugh when he said the radiation typically starts 30 days after the last chemo- that would put me starting on May 1st- May Day! Of course, another holiday. Wouldn't it be funny if the last day of radiation was June 12- my birthday?! I will go back in next week for a blood draw, then after that I'll go in every 3 months for a blood draw (I think for the first year), and any other testing I might need. He also said it's pretty rare to lose finger nails and that mine could just stay loose.

I got flowers from some friends and D brought in 8 huge pink balloons, with Chemo #1 through 8 written on them. My little chair area was quite festive! After the chemo, as I was leaving, the entire staff had gathered in the front office to give me a hug and a present and a card and to congratulate me. They are so very, very sweet. In the parking lot I took a knife and popped each of the balloons, did a cart wheel, and left!

During the chemo I wrote on my rocks,and we stopped off at the river to chuck them in. More pictures to follow. It felt SO GOOD to heave each one of those rocks into the water and to let each thing go. I did another cartwheel on the bridge and off we went to Sweet Life. We spontaneously met up with a few other friends and had a nice, yummy celebration.

I am mulling over an idea. I want to gather more river rocks and this time write all the positives that happened during this period. Then, I'd like to put them together into something permanent for me to keep. I'm thinking of cementing them onto a flower pot, or making a big stepping stone out of them for the garden, or something. A friend had an idea to make a clay mobil with each positive carved into a piece of clay and then string them all together.

I'm feeling a bit icky right now- too full of too much cake and tired. I'll try posting a few more pictures, then take a rest.

Here Goes!

April Fools' Day, 2009

I've just dropped off the kids and am sitting at home waiting for my ride to my LAST chemo! For the first time, I'm excited to go so I can be done with it. I've got my cool new orange flower hat on, my bag full of rocks, and I'm ready!

Of course, me being the perpetual worrier, and a bit superstitious, I'm worried about it being April Fools Day. I'm meeting with Dr. T first (I met with him in the beginning, in the middle, and now at the end) and what if he tells me I need more chemo? I know this won't happen- he hasn't done any kind of tests that he would base a decision like that on. I just really, really want the chemo to be over and I'm so afraid that maybe it won't really be. Probably an unfounded fear. I do have lots of questions for him that I hope he can answer today- when is my surgery, when is the port coming out (I've heard some people have them left in for a year just in case they need more chemo), when do I meet with a radiation doctor, when do I start radiation, how many days will it be, what further tests will I get, and in general, what will the next few months look like for me. I've gotten into quite the two week routine with chemo and as much as I like my routines, this is one I'll be HAPPY to break. I just would like to know what my new routine is going to be.

Update on my nails. They have not fallen off! They are still loose on the nail beds, and I can see kind of a hallow area underneath them, and there is a gross smell about them. At first I thought it was the fish gloves. In Seaside, I loaned Karina my gloves so she didn't have to touch the dead fish she was feeding to the seals at the aquarium. They spent the rest of the trip wadded up in the trunk. Yesterday F and I put the finishing touches on the garden fence, and I wore the gloves to protect my nails. When I took them off, I noticed a strange fish-like oder. I've since washed my hands many times, and tried using lemon juice on them too. But, this morning there is still a strange odor that seems to be coming from underneath my finger nails. Guess I'll add that to a rock-stinky finger nails. Just one more thing to put up with for a short while, then it'll be gone!

I'm also SO excited that I'm almost done with the steroids! Just a few days of them. This last time I didn't get the depression like before. Even when I was so fatigued and laying in bed, there was no depression. Someone asked me what the difference is between fatigue and depression. For me, laying in bed with depression means as I lay there, thoughts go through my head about how I wish I wasn't laying there and about how I wish I was up doing something fun. With just the fatigue, the thoughts that go through my head are all about how good it feels to lay in bed and how my bed is so comfortable and how I'm so tired and I hope the kids leave me alone so I can just rest.

I've been warned that many people have the hardest recovery period after the last chemo. It's the max amount the doc feels the body can take, so with the last one, the body is completely saturated. I've been told to expect 2-3 weeks of the fatigue to continue and to expect that it might be even worse than what I've experienced so far. Ok, I can be prepared for that. But, my work schedule is picking up some in April, so how am I going to do that with fatigue? I'm hoping that I will be the exception and that with acupuncture and the naturopath, I'll be ok. I do need to keep going to bed early- I'm usually in bed now by 9:00 instead of my normal time of 11:00. And I might need to skip my 8:00 outdoor soccer games for the next month or so. No matter what, I'll manage and nothing can be as bad as the first chemos with all the nausea and misery.

Ride's here, time to go!