Self

Never in my life have I ever felt so self-conscious as I do now. I’m in this limbo area where my hair is so short I can’t do anything with it, but it’s not too bald that I look like I chose to shave it this short.

I have been back at the gym for awhile now, but only yesterday came in without a hat. I try to keep my hood up to minimize my own discomfort, but after a minute or so on the treadmill, it’s impossible. Furthermore, my sweatshirt doesn’t have breasts to keep it in place so bouncing all over the place with my hood up makes for a goofy looking belly-shirt. Soooooo cute, right?! 😩

Radiation week two will begin tomorrow. I hate to ask time to speed up, but I am so ready to be done with treatments.

Cheers! To a great workout and a day where I will feel pretty again.

Fifty-one

Today marks my 51st appointment. Unreal how many trips to and from the Cancer Center, hospital and plastics that I’ve had.

A couple of weeks ago I had my radiation simulation appointment. Just this Monday, I started radiation therapy. Today is day 3.

Today I miss my Kayla. I wish I had a companion for all of the “waits” before my appointments, but I’m so glad my treatment is so close to home.

I’ve been able to start running at the gym again. It feels incredible to have more endurance, but radiation may take a bit of that away now as part of my lung will be radiated during treatment. Everyday I feel a little bit closer to normal.

One Big HUGE Sigh of Relief

Today was a big day.  A really big one.
It was my first check-up post mastectomies with my oncologist.  I knew we would be starting a new medication and I knew that I’d get my blood panel results, but I also knew I would get to hear the interpretation of my progress.
When this whole journey began, it was supposed to be easy.  I was going to have my breasts removed and reconstructed right away.  I would be done after that.  I’d keep my hair, I’d skip all the hard parts of cancer….  I remember feeling guilty.  I wondered how I could honestly tell people that I had breast cancer when I didn’t have to go through chemo or radiation or any of the other things that other women had to.  I felt lucky and so glad I had found the small lump before it had gotten worse.  We told the kids that it was all going to be okay.  It was, right?
Then there was that fateful phone call.  The one that changed everything.  My surgeon, the one that would be removing my breasts and the cancer had ordered a routine lymph biopsy just prior to mastectomy/reconstruction.  It’s routine.  Juuuuuust to be sure.  Well, thankfully, she did.
That phone call changed everything.  The cancer had metastasized.  We didn’t know where else it had gone, so we entered a new phase of treatment planning called Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy, meaning that I couldn’t have surgery to remove the cancer in my breast until we had all of the cancer that had metastasized under control.
The amazing thing about medicine is that when you are in this situation, you have to trust that your providers know how to cure you.
I remember feeling so vulnerable at that stage and questioning myself and my team.  One thing I knew was that I trusted my surgeon more than anyone else, and she trusted my oncologist.  That was enough for me.
This man treatment planned everything, gave my my chemical cocktail and was able to tell me today that I was in complete remission.  He let me know that normally, he couldn’t give that prognosis until after 5 years of no recurrence, as usually, surgery is before chemo, but because pathology could read my tissue after chemo, he could give my those results now.  I didn’t have to wait 5 years.
Today was a good day.  My battle is still not over.  Radiation will happen Monday and I’ll continue to take medication forever.  I still have different therapy and lot’s of appointments that will continue.  But today?  Today was full of awesome.  You see, in less than 6 months I have gone from having stage III invasive ductal carcinoma to being in complete remission.
I’ll take it.  Everyday.  CHEERS!

Friday

TGIF!  Except when you get to spend all day (or at least the morning) at the doctor’s office!  For real.
Tomorrow is my first check-up with my oncologist post mastectomies.  I’ll have labs drawn and a treatment plan with my new long-term prescriptions handed over.  I think we get to talk about breast prosthetics, too.  YAY! (insert crying emoji here).
My new medication regime will ensure that I stay in medically induced menopause.  Letmetellyouaboutmenopause.  OMG.  When a woman is having a hot flash, she means it.  It’s this all consuming temperature change that comes from within.  Like, from the depth of my bones.  This shit is real.
So, well, anyway.  About that.  I will take medication for at least 10-15 years, potentially longer.  Because my cancer was estrogen driven, we have to be sure that estrogen is gone forever and ever.
CHEERS!  To living another day!

A New Year, Another Deductible

It’s real.  When you have cancer, you come to realize that you must financially re-arrange your entire life.  Now, please understand that we are not destitute.  We still have a decent income, we don’t have terrible worries about finances, we still pay our bills, but it isn’t easy.

Last year, I had hundreds (yes, multiple hundreds) of thousands of dollars that my medical insurance company had to pay for my cancer.  HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS!  It’s insane.  In the grand scheme of it all, we paid a mere fraction of the total cost of my treatments, but, still, not easy.

When it’s all broken down, it’s not just the annual deductible that we have to pay.  It’s the missed work for appointments, travel costs to get to those appointments, different aids purchased for recovery (did I REALLY want to buy that super-hot Velcro compression bra for $100?), drug costs I can’t even imagine what that would look like if I had taken a leave from work during chemo… not. easy.

I do a lot of reflecting (dreaming) about what I would have bought with the money spent on medical bills.  A new furnace?  New central air? New flooring upstairs?  Paid off more on the house?  Nothing?  After mastectomies, I’ve come to realize that a lot of my clothes either don’t fit or aren’t appropriate (show the radiation “tattoos” and/or where cleavage was once upon a time (about 19 years ago 😂😩)) but I get a terrible case of the guilts when I think about buying anything for myself.

This year we are slightly more prepared.  Radiation will have me reach my max out-of-pocket costs, but we recently learned that reconstruction will likely go into NEXT YEAR!  FML.

I’m thankful every single day for what we have, my reaction to treatments and all of the support we have gotten.  This is just another piece to this process.

Fuzzy Wuzzy

My hair has FINALLY decided to grow back. Will it be blonde? Will it be curly? Will I look ridiculous with short hair? Even with short hair, will people know it’s not by choice?

I met with an amazing woman for happy hour today. She has gone through much of what I’ve gone through so far. Her name is Becca. We both know what it’s like to be bald. I’m so grateful for her.

Radiation Appointment Two

Appointment number two was Friday.  It was my measurement and tattoo appointment.  I didn’t really have a tattoo done, but will soon if my stickers don’t stay in place.
During the appointment, I laid in a CT machine for about 1/2 hour for measurements and markings (or tattoos) that will assist in giving me the most precise radiation treatments as possible.
Before I laid on the table, I was given the instructions to disrobe from the waist up (including my head covering) and proceeded to go behind the curtain to take off my clothes. My technician gave me a towel (a very small hand towel) and let me know that I could cover up with it while I walked to the machine.  I wasn’t sure what I was covering.  Was it the scars?  The incisions?  My belly?  What the hell was I supposed to cover with the hand towel?
It’s very uncomfortable laying on a table, half naked, with no boobs. Should I feel exposed?  SHOULD I cover myself?  I felt the most awkward I have possibly ever felt in my life.
Thankfully, my technician was so kind.  We spoke of ALL the podcasts as he marked my body with a Sharpie.  He placed me in the most uncomfortable position that I was supposed to stay immobilized in so that the position I was in is the most “repeatable” for live radiation.  He invited a couple of guests as I was there.  One was my oncology radiologist.  He wrote his initials on my right upper quadrant as we chatted briefly.  Oh, and the whole time I had guests, I was not supposed to move.  It’s like laying in bed staring straight at the ceiling while meeting new people but unable to make eye contact or REALLY meeting them.
The other person I met was a dosimetrist.  For real, I didn’t even know there was such a thing.  She is the person that will help decide the amount of radiation that I will need to help me kick this thing.  She was also very kind but came in to take a look, touch a little and be sure she had a full picture of the situation.
My new team will take a couple of weeks to get everything ready for my new therapy.  The plan is to have radiation for 25 sessions.  5 days a week for 5 weeks.  It should be a breeze.

Radiation Appointment Number One

Today was my first radiation appointment. It was a lonely sort of appointment. The kind of appointment that happens after the big cancer-free, post mastectomies celebration where I’ve gone to work two weeks after said surgery. Similar to waking up after a New Year party that you hosted and you have a 2 and 3 year old staring you in the face at 6 am, ready to start the day (amiright?!). The kind of appointment where I don’t REALLY need help or support because I’ve already (kinda) beat this beast. There was something about it that was just plain lonely.

I met my oncology radiologist who is incredibly kind and thorough. I had no idea he would actually give me a choice as to whether I wanted to proceed with radiation therapy. He explained that I have a 40% chance of recurrence if I opt out. He also explained that I was very, very, very lucky to have found the lump when I did and that the type of cancer that I had was very aggressive so he wants to see me for my next appointment tomorrow and that I was diagnosed on his birthday. June 7th.

June 7th. It was the day I saved my own life.

Time’s Up!

Tomorrow I go back to work. I’ve been off for two weeks, and quite honestly I am ready (kinda?!). I love my job most days and my team is pretty great.

However, I’m having a couple of issues that I didn’t anticipate with healing. #1. I’ve developed a seroma (pocket of fluid) on both sides and they need to be drained. The one in my left side is easy to see and access, but the one on my right is somewhat complicated. I had a seroma after my sentinel lymph node removal, and somehow that is the easiest place to develop another one this time. Well, from what I can understand, I’ve actually developed two on my right side that are “communicating” with each other. Picture a small water balloon in your armpit and one in your ribs. They have sloshed around and decided to become one. Still sloshing. It’s really bizarre. It’s also really painful. So, on my first day back, I’ll have to figure out how to also get to my surgeon (or her representative) to have the seromas drained. Last time, I drained them myself (OMG, do not try that at home), but this time I’m worried about infection or anything else that would hinder the beginning of radiation. #2? I’m so. Tired. Today I slept most of the day away. Woke up at 10ish (hasn’t happened since, like, 1996) and then napped for 2-3 hours). I’m not sure why the day before I go back I’m suddenly exhausted, but alas! I am. I’m so hopeful that radiation will pass by quickly. We’ll see. Thursday is my initial appointment with my oncology radiologist. 2018 has got to be better than 2017. Here is a picture of my husband doctoring his wife. He has done more than any husband should ever have to ❤️<<<<<<
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