Friday, March 23, 2012

"Be well, do good work, and keep in touch." ~Garrison Keillor

It's been one month since I finished active treatment. Writing a blog about cancer when you don't have it anymore isn't as easy as you might think. I'm torn about continuing. I've loved writing this blog and I really feel it has been a form of therapy for me but I'm not quite sure where it goes from here. Monthly entries checking in to tell you all I'm still kicking? That seems rather macabre.

Many people have asked me how I've coped so well with a cancer diagnosis. I've had many people say to me that they never could have done what I've done, which I just don't believe. You really don't know how you will react until you are faced with a situation and then, you'll soon find that you don't really have a choice in the matter. I had to deal with cancer (or not, and just wait to die - no thanks!). All the choice I had was in trying to be as positive as I could be. For me, knowing I had an audience that would read what I wrote was helpful. I thought of you all as I went through this.

From the beginning I wondered how I could explain this experience in a way that people I love, who couldn't be here, would understand it. How could I make cancer less scary for you and hopefully, at the same time, for me. That is what this blog has really been about: sharing my experience, letting people know I'm doing okay, and if I'm really lucky, helping other women or their families who are facing a similar diagnosis.

But now, aside from the 6 month check-ins, I don't have the wealth of source material I once did. I'm so grateful that this is the case, but it still doesn't resolve the "cancer blog without cancer" issue. So, for now,  I'm putting Boobey Trapped on hiatus. What does that mean? It means that I'm not going to update very often. I'll try to stop by and update occasionally, about tests or thoughts on cancer and life, but it certainly isn't likely to be as regularly as it once was.

For those of you who stumble upon this blog because you have been diagnosed, please don't worry about the fact that I'm not writing. I hated finding blogs about women with breast cancer that just ended. I, being the eternal pessimist, always worried that this meant something bad for the woman who had written the blog and often that made me very worried for myself. Try not to worry as much I do. Instead, you should assume that I am off, living a happy, active, cancer free life and therefore can't be bothered to write in my old blog. It's the likeliest option anyway.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Remission is a Beautiful Word

I got the results from all my tests and everything looks good. This is extra good news, since I had a biopsy last week on another lump and it was giving me worry. Well that, and the fact that people are poking around in my insides looking for cancer.

On the 6th, I had blood work, a chest x-ray, a chest ultrasound, an abdomen ultrasound and a bone scan.  During the chest ultrasound the tech noticed that one of the lumps in my non-cancer boob had grown. It still looked benign (based on shape) but since it had grown, they wanted to check it. She did a fine needle aspiration in the hospital and pulled out what I can only describe as "black gunk". Her exact words: "I was not expecting that." Well, awesome. This story loses some drama, as you know everything turns out fine, but I didn't know that then. She said they would send it to the lab to test, just to be safe, and I got to spend a week worrying.

In truth I wasn't super worried. I knew the lumps were there, I knew they had been pretty closely examined back in September (MRI, mammogram, ultrasound) and I knew that in all likelihood, the test would come back benign. However, knowing something in your head and knowing something in your heart is not the same thing. Just like I knew that my odds of a reoccurrence, especially this close to finishing treatment, were low but I was still worrying about cancer being all over my body.

The past week has been long and I have been worried. I have combed the internet looking for answers I know it cannot give me. All I could do was wait, and I didn't want to write until I had something to say. I hoped it would be something good, and thankfully, it is.

I met with both my chemo oncologist and my surgeon today, who both had the same good news. Oddly enough, my surgeon never remembers me, but as soon as he sees Paul, he lights up. Today he actually said, when he laid eyes on Paul, "ah, now I know who you are." I mean, honestly, how many foreign women is this guy treating? Aren't I enough? Apparently, no. This isn't very good for my ego.

They do want to do some follow up on the lump in three months but it isn't cancer. He couldn't name it, but he isn't worried. There are many kinds of lumps that can make homes in boobs and I'm just glad this one had the good sense not to be cancer - I did not want to go down that path again. I had the realization today, that at least in the short term, I'm probably not going to be one of those "it's probably nothing" patients. Everything will be investigated and followed. In general, it's nice to know that people are keeping eyes out for problems; I just wish I wasn't in a position where a lookout was required. However, let's not dwell on that.

Tonight I'm focusing on the fact that I'm cancer-free and I have been for six months. The plan now: stay that way. Are you listening boobs? I will cut you off if you can't abide my rules!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tamoxi-fun? (also known as Tamoxifen)

I started hormone therapy about the same time I started radiation. Of the two radiation seemed more immediately severe but that isn't to say I wasn't worried about tamoxifen. In fact, I had a full-blown melt down the night I had to start it. You see, I'd had the misfortune of reading the internet.

I need to remind myself that often people that comment and post on the internet are there because they have an axe to grind. They want to complain and they want people to listen. I'm not saying that isn't valid or even that people shouldn't do that, it's just that when you start doing research about the drug you have to take for the next FIVE years and everyone on every message board is talking about how it is ruining their lives, you start to worry. I was imagining the next five years being a slightly better version of the 4 months of (mostly) hell I'd just completed and trying to tell myself that even a shitty five years was better than no years at all. This was of little consolation.  So what did I do? Well, I cried, a lot. I felt sorry for myself. I whined while Paul dutifully listened. And then, I took the pill.

I got some great advice when I first started taking it, which I will pass along. I take the drug just before bed. I heard through the grapevine of cancer connections that doing this seems to make the side effects much less noticeable. I don't know if I'm just lucky or if this bedtime thing really is the key but tamoxifen (for me, at least) is hardly noticeable. The list of potential side effects is long and depressing. I won't get into it here, you can find that list easily in many places across the internet. I'm just here to say that there is one woman out there taking this drug who isn't having any noticeable side effects. I mean, I think I've had some hot flashes/flushes/whatever the hell they are called, but I can't really be sure. For someone who is always really cold, these bursts of heat have actually been kind of a nice change. And I read somewhere that tamoxifen interacts with grapefruit so that is off the table, literally, for the next five years.

All in all, this has been a great relief. I'd like to say in the future I will wait to have freak outs until I actually have something to worry about, but we all know that just isn't going to happen. Case in point - I have my first round of investigative medical testing on the 6th (totally normal and just to check in, by the way) and I'm already worrying. Even though I'm in a pretty good spot, with pretty good odds. I guess some things never change.