Sunday, October 13, 2013

Another fall...

At this time last year we had just done the CIBC 5 k Run For the Cure with family and friends and I was waiting for my first appointment at the BC Cancer Agency. Now a year later I am trying to move forward to a more normal life. It was not the fun summer I had anticipated when I completed the 6 week course of radiation in June. Rather, it felt like one step forward, two steps back. But now that fall is in full swing and Vancouver's monsoon season is upon us, I am feeling hopeful again.

Las Vegas was great. Spending a long weekend with 14 other women who have faced this past year with breast cancer was strangely liberating. It allowed us all to immerse ourselves in the sharing of our breast cancer stories without reservation. Age seemed no barrier and though the youngest was only 29 and the oldest (me) 64 our common bonds created instant friendship. Considering the main topic was in fact breast cancer,  one might surmise that it could have been rather sad or even scary. But in fact, the weekend was entirely positive and I came away with a real desire to move forward.

I even had my first haircut in 14 months, just before flying off to Vegas. I don't count the head shaving of just under a year ago to count. So I look normal and now need to work at feeling normal. I hope to start a course at the cancer agency next week for memory and attention training post chemo. It is hard to say whether chemo has had an effect on my brain but when I went to an Apple appointment last Friday a week early, I called and signed up.

I did not finish this post but rather than start over I will just add to it. It is Thanksgiving weekend and as thanks are being given across Canada I know that I am fortunate. I am feeling a little sad today as I miss our family being together. Steven is here for the weekend though and with Andy we will celebrate together. Mary and Dick are together in Rabat, Morocco on Van Kedisi and I just got to talk to them both, and even with a bit of static it was so good. Mary was sick and I was worried; being a mom never changes even when there is little I can do from thousands of miles ago. She is better and I can relax!

I now have a surgical date and that was a huge relief. December 6th I will have my tissue expander replaced with an implant. Something called fat grafting will also be done I gather to make the new "breast" look more normal. I will also have what is called augmentation on the other side to try to match  the new one. This will be done in a Surgical Ambulatory Clinic which our medical system has contracted to. I feel as though this surgery will for the most part, end a year and a half of craziness. Three surgeries, 4 months of chemotherapy, 6 weeks of intense radiation and a few scares I think legitimately can be called crazy. For at least 5 years I will take an aromatase inhibitor, Anastrozole which is supposed to ward off recurrence. The AI's as these drugs are called, inhibit estrogen so there are side effects, some of which are unclear so I don't really know if osteoporosis, the worst side effect, is occurring. But I know it is my biggest gun so I take it faithfully every morning.

My thyroid nodules are benign but I still have big lumps which I have to swallow over~~kind of like having a bad cold all the time. I see an endocrinologist in November and I guess if they continue to grow, at some point I will also see a head and neck specialist but no point in dwelling on that now. My plastic surgeon says the lump on my breast is just a stitch. My head pain associated with neck movement continues and I can only hope that with physio, acupuncture and energy healing along with yoga, walking and exercises, it will dissipate. I did start the Memory and Attention Adaptation Training course at the cancer agency.  This course was developed by doctors in the US and for us, it is a pilot project funded by the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Thanks Lance!

It is actually hard to understate the effects of chemotherapy. I do not doubt that it saved my life and I am lucky only to have lingering effects like numb toes, eyelashes still falling out and memory issues. Dr. Susan Love said recently that neuropathy (numb toes are due to neuropathy) is a small price to pay for still being alive. She is right.

On to Thanksgiving dinner preparations~~there is much to be thankful for.

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