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.