Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sunny To Partly Cloudy!!!!!

It seems like a very long time ago that I was recovering from surgery and treatment for breast cancer.  In actuality it has only been two years.  I'm really not sure why it seems longer than that because in another sense time seems to fly!

I remember thinking that I just wanted to get everything over with; my plan was to have all my surgeries and treatments complete during the year of 2010.  This way I could put it all behind me and get on with my life.  Everything almost went as planned; I had it all finished by the end of that year.  I was thrilled that I had no complications and my body was healing after being assaulted with toxic chemicals and surgical tools.

I started on the hormone therapy arimidex.  Having estrogen receptive breast cancer is the kind to have.....that is if you get breast cancer. At least, that's what my ob/gyn told me when he called to break the news.  So, in the fall of 2010 I began my hormonal treatment.  Arimidex is an aromatase inhibitor which is medical jargon for keeping the body from making estrogen. The side effects include extreme fatigue, joint pain and bone loss.  It reduces the recurrence rate by as much as 40%!!!

So, on with my life I went!  My husband and I took a trip to San Antonio.  Each day was filled with long excursions.  That's how you row when you choose to travel with him.  I love it but sometimes I just struggle to keep up!  I often tell him he needs a younger woman.  Although I'm joking, I think there is a part of me that believes just that.  When we returned home, I was exhausted!  I reminded myself that my body is still recovering from chemo and to be patient.

After a couple of weeks rest, I head off to Florida to spend a week on the beach with my sisters. It was absolutely wonderful!  The three of us had never been to the beach together and we had such fun. We laughed and cried, we walked on the beach and enjoyed beautiful sunsets together.  The last day there we built a huge sandcastle. I had forgotten how much work actually goes into one of those things!  I was sore for days!  It was a reminder of how out of shape I was!

Thanksgiving arrived and we had about 20 people for dinner.  I remember thinking on Thanksgiving night that I had over extended myself.  I still had Christmas decorations to get up and shopping to do! There never seemed to be enough time to get it all done. Plus, I was trying to listen to my body and rest whenever I felt the need.  I often asked myself how people work during chemo; not to mention, those that run marathons and seem to have some sort of super human strength.  Then I remind myself that we're all different.  Its o.k. if I'm not running marathons! The most important thing is I am regaining my strength; I'm getting my life back.

The problem was it just didn't seem like I was getting my life and myself back to normal.  Things didn't seem to work for me like they did before breast cancer.  I didn't like the clothes in my closet, I didn't like my home decor, I didn't even like the same foods anymore.  I wasn't sure who I was.  It seemed that dealing with breast cancer had stolen my identity! My life had become a series of diagnostic exams, doctor's appointments, surgeries and literally everything I did revolved around my diagnosis.  I was actually having a sort of identity crisis!

The fatigue continued and I went off the arimidex for a month.  I restarted it in hopes that I would tolerate it much better the second time around. That was a pipe dream!  When I realized that my bone density had decreased tremendously in the past couple of years, I made the decision to go off the arimidex for good.  My oncologist switched me to tamoxifen.  I knew this would be a much better choice for me.

In the meantime, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Disease.  This is an autoimmune disease whereas my body was actually being attacked by my own immune system.  I went months before I was able to get in to see an endocrinologist!  I thought I was dying.  The fatigue was enormous; my heart rate was rapid.  It was a struggle to maintain daily activities.   I learned  that people often have problems with their thyroid during or after chemo treatment.  I'll never know whether the chemo therapy actually caused the Hashimoto's Disease.  I do know I was predisposed to it as my sister and father also have been treated for it as well.

So here I am two years later.  I'm now taking a reprieve from the tamoxifen. My oncologist assured me that being off it a month would not be of any harm.  The fatigue had gotten bad again.  I wanted to see if there was improvement in my activity level after going off the medication.  There was a great improvement!  So much so that I landed myself in the ER yesterday with back spasms from muscular inflammation.  

During the past couple of years I have come to realize that I will never get my life back....the life that I had before breast cancer.   I am not that person anymore.  In fact, I don't even want to be her.  I want to be the woman that I have come to know as my own best friend; the woman I depend on  for my own peace of mind and well being.   There is no going back....there is only moving forward.  There will be sunny days, as well as, cloudy! I will take each as they come and look for blessings and joys along the way. 

 Breast cancer does not define me but it has certainly redefined me!  That's how life is! Our trials and tribulations in life mold and shape our very being.  They give us strength and courage to face each day.....and to make the best of each in our own special and unique way!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Calm After The Storm!


We all know what it feels like after a storm has passed; the air has a fresh smell about it. Mother earth has had a nice cleansing, the trees glisten with their freshly washed leaves.  It is refreshing and a sense of renewal hangs everywhere.  However, if the storm has taken lives, if it leaves a wake of damage in its path, we will probably not sense the cleansing affect of the storm. We will only see the damage, we will only see the pain and grief.

The devastating storms that struck Kentucky and Indiana in early March took many lives and changed hearts forever.  It left in its path broken buildings, dead bodies,  and survivors who were in shock and grief stricken. 

 It will take time for people and entire communities to rebuild their homes and lives. It will take time to heal the emotional pain and suffering. It will take time to feel somewhat "normal" again.  Time is the ever present healer.  However, even time cannot completely heal the wounds. Time cannot wipe away the scars that remain.  Time will not erase the memories or fear of another storm on the horizon.

Life itself is a lot like those tornados that wreaked havoc on so many.  We all have many storms to endure.  One thing I've come to realize, as long as we live, as long as we take another breath, there will be something dark and foreboding  on the horizon. There will always be an issue, there will always be something that must be dealt with.  It might be losing a job, divorce, losing a loved one, foreclosure, and it might be cancer.  

When you think about it, our storms are always about losing something or someone.  If we can go through life without holding onto people and things so tightly,  if we can learn to live without thinking we own things that we really don't, if we can only relax a bit and realize that everything we enjoy is only borrowed.  This includes all our material possessions, the people we love, and our life itself.  Everything has a beginning and an end. 

As I grow older, I am always amazed at how fast time has gone. It seems like just yesterday that our kids were small and the school and church activities were endless.  I look in awe at how quickly my youth has vanished.  I know that it is so important to accept and enjoy each stage of life we're in. I also know we must have peace with our past in order to have acceptance of the present and future.  I know that each day, no matter what we are enduring, brings blessings to be had. 

I believe if we can accept the natural flow of life, including the aging process, then we will open our hearts and minds to enjoy each day to the fullest.  If we can accept the fact that we won't live forever, that someday we will leave this life for one much better than we ever imagined, we will have made peace with the fact that we are not immortal. 

 I'm not saying to give up the fight.   I'm not saying to throw in the towel.  Always, always give it your all.   However, sometimes when we think its the end, its only the beginning! Think of the lowly caterpillar and the cocoon; when he thought it was the end, when the caterpillar is wrapped in a small and dark cocoon, when he thought it was over and done, it was only the beginning of a new and beautiful creation.

Life is like that.  We are constantly going through transitions. Most of them are so small we miss them.  Many times they happen in tiny increments that take a lot of time. We are all constantly in a state of change.  Even as we age and our skin starts to wrinkle and our memory is fading, we are growing in awareness of what really matters.  

I wish I had the insight thirty years ago that I have now.   However, perhaps that's not how life happens.  Perhaps I am just where I need to be today.  Perhaps my life will come full circle and I have peace in believing that I will live each day knowing that this moment is all I have. Its all any of us have.

We waste so much of our precious time on negative emotions. This only robs us of positive energy which brings all the good things we need to live, love, and laugh.  

Today I will listen to the birds sing, I will breathe in fresh country air, I will write, I will pray and give thanks for my many blessings.  I will honor my life and who I am.  I will acknowledge to our creator that I am just where I need to be and open my heart to new beginnings.


Thursday, March 8, 2012


I recently made the comment to a friend that I feel like I've never found "my way back" since treatment for breast cancer.  I kept looking for something, an indication that I was back.  Then I had a revelation.  There is no way back! There is only moving forward and making at a time that will bring me to a place of peace.

Its been almost two years now.  I can assure you it has been the longest two years of my life.  It seems like forever since that initial diagnosis, surgery, and then chemo. It has changed me more than any other single event in my life....and I've had a few that were quite earth shattering to say the least.

I recently had a 6 month follow up with my oncologist.  I had been feeling a little blue about having to continue on medications, have regular doctor appointments and blood work.  Then I walked into the waiting area of the clinic.  I felt so ashamed of myself and grateful at the same time.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize someone going through chemo. The look of the living dead was all around the room.  Chemo literally sucks the life out of you.  The air hung heavy with fatigue, suffering, and uncertainty.  

Of course, I immediately felt thankful that my outcome had been so fortunate.  There were no major complications from my surgery or chemo....only a long, drawn out process of healing and recovery. But that's o.k. too.
I know it could have been so much worse and if I needed a reminder, all I had to do was look around the room.

My appointment went well.  My labs were great. We discussed how I was tolerating the tamoxifen.  I haven't been on it quite a year yet but it is much more tolerable than the arimidex. Fatigue is my biggest compliant but since I am still not employed, I am able to deal with it.  I know I am blessed.

Then its off for the annual mammogram. This was negative as well.  WooHoo! That's always a difficult one to get through. Last year I had to go back for a spot compression of my right breast and it scared me to death!

So, I will continue to weather this storm....and the next...and the next.  I will gain strength and courage from each challenge I must face. I will try to take life one day at a time and recognize blessings that each day brings......and there are so many!