"Don't spend time worrying about how you are going to die. Worry about how you are going to live today"

Sunday, July 31, 2011

More big changes

So much has happened since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of last year and now even more big changes.  I am fullfilling one of my goals and New Year's Resolutions for this year and that is leaving corporate America!  I am quitting my job tomorrow.  I can't believe it.  I don't know what to think.  I am nervous about calling my boss and friend and breaking the news.  I have been a hard working employee there for almost 4 years and I know my boss won't be expecting this. 

I have mixed feelings.  I have wanted to leave my full time job and continue pursuing my art business for a long time but have never been in a position to actually do it.  I love working but am just kind of over the stress associated with my job as a sales rep.  I love parts of my job, but over the years it has become harder and harder to do and more and more frustrating.  I know it's not my dream job at all, but it is a good job which has provided very well for my family.  Now that we are moving to Chicago I will be quitting my job and will be able to pursue my business.  I am also planning on continuing to teach fitness classes once we get settled there.  It will be a big change for me to not work in a full time capacity. 

I look at all the things that have happened since December and at times I still can't digest it.  Breast cancer hits me out of no where.  I have a lumpectomy, bilateral mastectomy and the first part of reconstructive surgery.  Chemo came along next and more surgery for reconstruction.  My husband got a new job out of state and we sold our house.  We move in two weeks!  Through every step of this I have tried to remain positive and keep life "normal" for my young son.  It has been a very long road.

Months ago we made reservations for a vacation to celebrate me being done with treatment.  The trip is to the beach with four other families (good friends and my sister along with their families).  We leave this week.  When we made the reservations I never thought this trip would also be about good-byes.  This will be the last time I get to spend time with those people I care so much for before we move.  The moving truck comes two days after we return from vacation to move us out of state.  This trip was suppose to be about "celebration", not good-byes.

I think about how life was back in December before breast cancer.  I can vividly remember the morning I went to the breast center for what I thought would be a "routine" thing and a normal day.  It seems like a lifetime ago that I just got up and put my business suit on and said good bye to my husband and son that morning.  I can remember watching them pull out of the garage as I waved good-bye.  I can still remember it all so clearly.  I can remember how sunny it was that day - even in December here where it is cold.  Nothing will ever be the same in so many ways since that sunny, cold and life altering day.  I have experienced more big changes than I could have ever imagined.  Now I can add moving out of state to the long list of changes.  For now I will focus on enjoying my trip with those I love and celebrate my health with them.  I hope we build some wonderful memories that will make me smile no matter how far apart we are.  

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Itch Free for Real??

It has been about 10 days now with no itching!  I am celebrating as I have been itching since before Easter...yes, I said BEFORE Easter!  I never had a severe skin reaction or allergy like this before.  I have had some rashes and have always had sensitive skin, but nothing has ever lasted for months like this.  I am kind of scared to even put in print that my itching is gone as it cycles and has come back so many times before.

This time my dermatologist said she feels I am having an allergic reaction to something I am eating or coming in contact with.  We cut out all vitamins, supplements, nuts and I am using a special soap.  So far, so good!  Now if I only knew what I was really allergic to.  I have had low vitamin D and chemo left me anemic so I need to get on my vitamin D, vitamin C and iron supplements again soon.  I will have to introduce them one at a time and try to figure out if any of them is the issue. 

I have also cut out nuts which is hard since I don't get enough protein.  Following the Anti Cancer type diet makes it very challenging for me to get enough protein in unless I am home to cook all the time.  With our upcoming move and such, I am so busy it is hard to be home enough so when I eat out, I eat mostly salad and veggies only.  Every time we travel I lose weight because I can't eat anything but salad.  We were in Chicago for a few days again and I lost a few more lbs.   At least I lost the 5 lbs I gained during chemo when I was hungry all the time! 

Now that the itching is better, I fixated on my hair again.  It is still shedding a lot.  For the last few days I have just kept it clipped up or in a pony tail so I did not have to deal with it at all.  The days I wear it down, I feel hair fall on my arms ALL DAY...it drives me nuts and serves as a constant reminder that I am shedding a ton.  It stresses me out.  I have to say that wearing it up helps me not focus on how much is falling out all day long.  That's a good thing.

I have to wash my hair again on Saturday...it's my son's 5th birthday party.  When I started this journey I never imagined I would be looking like this on his birthday.  That is a wonderful gift.  I have had my exchange surgery with my new implants that I love.  I still have my hair too.  I can't wait to welcome our friends and celebrate this birthday with them all before we move.  It will be our last shin-dig in our wonderful home.  I will miss our parties and all the amazing memories we created here......this feels like home.  Maybe by moving it will help me start with a clean slate...cancer free with my hair.  I am going to focus on that and try not to be so sad about leaving here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I have no time for breast cancer

If I felt like my life was out of control before just dealing with breast cancer, things are really out of control now!  With our upcoming move out of state, I have had NO time to even think about breast cancer.   That has been a welcomed break for sure.

I spent the weekend looking for a place to rent and a new house to buy in Chicago with my husband and son.  It was a completely busy weekend with really no time to dwell on my breast cancer.  Somehow life is getting back to normal or at least a different version of the old life.  For now I am consumed with researching schools, neighborhoods, commute time to my husband's job and moving.  Maybe all of this distraction is good. 

I am still emotionally trying to get under control at times.  I am sad that our house already got an offer.  It's bittersweet. We need the house to sell so we can move, but it is our house...the place we built a life and family.  I get sad at the thought of not being able to go in my son's room and remember rocking him as a baby in there.  I am sad I won't be able to look out in the yard and see him playing on his swing set.  I am sad I won't look out the very sliding door my son was holding on to before he took his first steps in my kitchen.  I am mourning my house and the memories we built here.

I know I will always have my memories, but this is home....our home.  We bought this house with the intent of building our family and life here and sharing that with our family and friends.  I am so sad to say goodbye to all of that.  It's really hard, especially after all of the breast cancer things I have had to endure in the past seven months. 

Somehow I know it will all be OK.   I know that moving will also continue to bring my family closer together. I know that we can build a new life...a good one in Chicago too.  I am trying to remain optimistic and look to the future with hope.  I still have my moments though which I guess is normal.  Going through another major life change of moving right after a cancer diagnosis and treatment is hard so I am trying to be kind to myself and realize it will take time to accept all of this.

For now, my hair is still shedding.  I can't even bring myself to wash it....blech!  I figure if I am not going anywhere, why wash it?  So I am home with my dirty hair, but at least I still have hair.  It is still much thinner than it was.  I look back at my pre-cancer photos and realize what beautiful hair I had.  It has been so long since I looked "normal" I forgot what the healthy me looked like.  In photos I am smiling, happy and full of life.  I don't look so tired and weathered as I do now.  I keep hoping soon enough when I can resume normal hair care and get a good cut I can look a bit more like the old me.   For now, I am happy that I have hair on my head, eyelashes are growing back like crazy and I no longer have to connect the dots with an eyeliner on my eyebrows.  I am celebrating these things today!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Itching myself crazy

I am 9 weeks out after my last chemo and I still have this horrible rash.  I can't take it any more!  The rash started after my 3rd chemo and came back again after my 4th chemo.  Essentially, the rash has been here since before Easter.  So I have had this rash for over 3 months and no one seems to know why.  I am so frustrated.  I really can't take it any more.

I have been on steroids and have tried numerous creams and lotions.  Nothing makes it stay away.  I itch all the time.  My chest and neck are flaming red and looks like I have a bad sunburn with some bumps.  I also get it on my arms and torso.  It seems to get better with the treatments but once I get relief and the treatment stops, the rash and uncontrollable itching come raging back.

I woke up at 3am last night again itching out of control. I sat on the edge of the bed and just sobbed.  I just want someone to help me.  I have been like this for 3 months.  I literally feel like I am going to go crazy from this.

My medical oncologist seems to wipe her hands of it.  She says it's not from chemo.  She offers no suggestions and just moves on to the next thing she wants to talk about.  The internist is stumped and offered steroids so I could get relief and referred me to a dermatologist.  I have been to the dermatologist three times and they don't know what is causing it. They thought it was the chemo but now they are convinced it is something else I am still being exposed to.  Now they want me to stop all vitamins/supplements in case it is related to that.  Ugh! 

I just want relief.  I can't take this anymore......I never thought 9 weeks after chemo I would still be dealing with crap like this. I am just spent.  I am sick of being uncomfortable.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Moving on

I am moving on in more than one way.  We are definitely moving.  My husband accepted a job in Chicago and starts on 7/26.  My head is spinning.  I am trying to continue recovering from my surgery and now I have to put my house up for sale this week..yikes!  I thought life was crazy before.  It just went completely nuts!

I am doing ok from surgery but still have pain in one of my ribs.  The last few days it has been painful when I move or try to do anything.  I guess that is why my plastic surgeon wants me home from work for a month...it makes sense.  I guess even if you think you feel OK you have to continue to rest and let you body recover from the surgery.  I am going crazy not exercising....I can't wait until my doctor clears me to hit the gym.  With all the stress of breast cancer and now moving, the exercise is really needed!

I guess it is nice to have a distraction from breast cancer.  The last several days were busy with talking to the relocation specialist, the realtor in Chicago and meeting with the two realtor's here that want to list our home.  My poor husband is painting the bathroom, putting up new blinds and cleaning the closet.  Boy we have lived here almost 7 years and I am have wanted to get rid of those stupid blinds in our bathroom the entire time!  I guess it took moving to do it!  Now the new owner will have nice blinds...not those ugly ones that we hated.

I was feeling very overwhelmed before we formally made the decision to move.  Now I seem focused on just doing what needs to be done to make it happen.  I am glad I am off work right now so I can make these phone calls and get things organized.  I find my poor husband is completely stressed out.  I keep telling him "it will be OK".  I guess it is role reversal.  He has been telling me that for the last 7 months.  It feels good to take care of him now and be the one reassuring him for a change. 

So we are moving on.  I hope that when we move I can feel like it is a new start and move beyond breast cancer too.  It will be hard to leave family and friends behind.  That will make me sad.  I know even as badly as I want to leave breast cancer behind, it will be hard.  I wish I could just "move away" from breast cancer but it will never be that simple.  For now I will look to the future with hope - oh and hair!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A little color

Well I finally could not stand it any more and decided to try coloring my hair.  I had the no peroxide, no ammonia hair color kit on stand by since before I even started chemo.  I have waited for this day since February!  I was scared horribly though...worried all my hair would fall out!  Help!

I mentioned that I wanted to color my hair to my sister and she immediately said "I will do it"!  So we put a movie on for the kids downstairs and went for it.  I was having her try so hard to not get color on my scalp (the cold cap protocol says to avoid getting it on your scalp) but that was nearly impossible...so it was on my scalp.   It took so long to do the color and be super gentle.  After the color was all on my hair I looked down at the towel that was covering me while we colored and it had quite a bit of hair on it.  More hair than I even thought would come out!  I about died!  I started freaking out. 

My sister was super cool about it.  She said "we knew from combing it, some hair would fall out.  Don't look at it...don't think about it...I will clean it up."  She immediately got out my cone vacuum and sucked it all up.  She said "don't even picture that in your head anymore...just look in the mirror".  She was so good...I was so glad she was here to help.

I was scared to leave the color on too long so I only waited about 10 minutes after we got it all covered before rinsing.  I was bummed to see it didn't completely cover the gray, but it looks a lot better.  I then had her trim an additional 2 inches off the bottom of my hair as it looked super thin at the ends.  That made it look a lot thicker.

Despite the gray not being totally gone, I feel like a new woman.  The color really makes my hair look richer and the trim makes it look thicker.  Even though I continue to shed and worry about my hair getting even thinner, I still have a full head of hair.  To most people I look completely normal and no one would even guess I had breast cancer.

We went to a BBQ this weekend and I was with people that did not know I had breast cancer.  I felt completely normal and had a whole day of not talking about breast cancer.  It was nice to feel like there was no big "pink" elephant in the room that no one wanted to talk about.  I felt like it was a vacation from BC for the day......I need more of these!