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

Monday, February 28, 2011

Chemo is around the corner

Here I sit with my hair in tact and a bit dirty (since with the cold caps you can't wash your hair 2 days before and 2 days after chemo).  I am trying to figure out how all of this is going to go.  I am really nervous.  I know there is no turning back now and I have to go forward.  It feels so hard.  It feels so uncertain.  The fear of the unknown is really sinking in at this point.

Tomorrow I start taking the oral steroids.  They have you take them a day before chemo to help your body not react to the chemo.  One of the added side effects of the steroids is tons of energy.  Normally that would be a plus, but already have tons of energy and don't sleep well even with xanax so I will probably be sleepless for a few days.  Won't that just make the whole chemo experience even better hu?  On Wednesday they will also give me more steroids with the chemo.  I will also continue to take the steroids the day after chemo.  I am praying that I will sleep at night.  The last time I went without sleep after surgery I was a emotional wreck. 

On Wednesday we need to be at the infusion room at 8am.  They will start to get me ready and do my pre meds.  I will wear the sub-zero frozen caps for 50 minutes before chemo begins.  Then for the next two hours while my chemo is administered, I will continue to wear the caps, putting a new one on every 30 minutes.  Once chemo is done I have to continue to wear the caps for 4 hours, changing them every 30 minutes.  It will be a minimum of 7 hours with sub zero caps on my head.  I am taking Ativan and Tylenol, but somehow I don't think I will get off not feeling awful.  I just don't know how I will get through Wednesday.  The thought of it seems so unbearable.

I remember when I was pregnant with my son and I knew I was going to be induced I was so scared.  I remember telling myself "it's just one day in a lifetime and at the end you will have something so amazing".  I guess I have to tell myself the same thing this time..."it's just one day in a lifetime and at the end you will have something amazing".  It's just that the something "amazing" is my life this time.  I know that I have to walk through this right now and I have to find every ounce of my emotional energy to push myself through this.  I keep thinking that every time I want to give up I want to look at my son's picture and see his beautiful face and just push myself for him.  I love him so much and want more than anything to be here to raise him and watch him grow into a good man. 

I know I have to do this.  Like I said before, there is no turning back.  Chemo is right in front of me.  I keep telling myself I will walk through chemo just like I did with my surgeries.  Those were easier than I thought and the recovery has been easier than I ever imagined.  I hope with every ounce of myself that I can walk through chemo the same way.  I am trying to stay positive but it is hard at times.  I know I will break down at some point....I hate doing that in front of the people that love me.  I hate breast cancer and I hate chemo....period.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The last wash........ahhhh, it's going to be a long few months

Chemo officially starts on Wednesday.  I don't feel ready.  I guess you are never really ready to do chemo, but what I really mean is I am not ready literally.  I have so much to do before then!  Ugh!

Since I am doing the Penguin Cold Caps to try to keep my hair through chemo, I am overwhelmed with that.  I spent the day doing trial runs with the caps with my husband so we could figure out what to do and how they worked.  I tried out my new electric blanket.  My husband searched all over town for an infrared sub zero thermometer so we can check the temperature on the caps.  I still have a few haircare supplies to get tomorrow.  Who knew I would spend so much time on hair with breast cancer?  I am so hopeful that I can spend a lot of time on my hair in the coming weeks and months!  That will mean the cold caps work wonderfully!

The title of my post is referring to the last normal hair wash.   With doing the cold caps, the normal hair routine of the past is tossed out the window for several months until my hair is definitely in tact and doing good.  So tonight I took a very long hot shower and washed my hair a long time.  I put the conditioner in and let it hang for a long time.  I then rinsed with nice, hot water over my head for what seemed like an eternity knowing it would be the last time I do this for months.  Ugh!

With cold caps, you have to wash your hair in tepid water - no warm or hot water for months.  You can only wash your hair once or twice a week too during chemo and beyond.  You have to really baby your hair.  No curling irons, flat irons, hot or warm hair drying (that is going to be fun since it is freezing here where I live and February!).  I have already switched to all organic hair care products that don't contain sulfates or parabens too.  That has been an adjustment in the past few weeks.  I have to give up coloring my hair for months too....ick!  I have already purchased the temporary hair color for my root touch up.  I have invested in a few cute hats and headbands with anticipation of many bad hair days to come.  I hope I do have many bad hair days - that will mean I have hair!!!

I don't mean to sound like I am complaining...it's just so hard to give up so many things you take for granted.  Even simple things like a relaxing hot shower with a good hair wash, or styling your hair pretty for a date with your husband.  With all I am dealing with, this should be the least of my worries, but yes, I confess, I am getting obsessed with the hair!  This is funny considering I am not much of a primper and don't always even wash my hair daily to begin with.  Now I am so worried it will be gone and for me that represents carrying a huge pink sign that says "I have breast cancer" around everywhere so the whole world will know my medical status.  This is bad enough to go through privately let alone announcing "I have cancer" to strangers at the grocery store. 

That shower with a nice hair wash tonight felt like "The Last Supper" or something.  It was odd.  I guess I will be dreaming about "the first wash" in the coming months, but for know I keep praying I will have something to wash in the coming weeks.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What a pain in the back!

I got my tissue expanders filled yesterday again.  Now I am up to 360cc's. This was my third fill in three weeks.  I kind of knew what to expect from the previous two fills and thought I would just have a tight chest for a few days and not sleep so well for the first two nights.  Last night was a rude awakening!  My chest is tight as expected, but my upper back is in agony!  I exercise all the time and have never experienced pain like this in my muscles.  My poor back is hurting constantly.  It's so uncomfortable I can barely sit propped up on pillows or lay on it propped up on pillows.  Ugh! 

I took some tylenol and that helped just a little.  The hot shower helped while I was in the shower, but the pain returned after I got out of the shower.  My husband rubbed my back and it even hurts to the touch.  All I can say is ouch! 

Last night I did take the xanax and a tylenol before bed.  I did finally fall asleep and slept for about 4-5 hours ok.  Then I was up and in pain again.  I did do my rehabilitation exercises and stretches last night and first thing this morning despite the pain thinking it would provide some relief.  It didn't really do that, but I will keep doing them anyway.  I have not been that uncomfortable in weeks from all of this. 

My poor back is going to take some time to get use to having these larger breasts I guess.  I hope this pain does not last long.  It is really hard to even find a position to get comfortable in.  So far the most comfortable thing is to sit up and just let my body hang forward and round out my upper back.  I can't sit like that for long, but it provides some relief.  Ugh......it is going to be a long day.  I am bummed because my husband got a sitter and planned a surprise date tonight!  He had even booked a hotel for the night but since I am so uncomfortable we both decided to sleep at home so I can have all of my favorite pillows.  I hope I can manage to enjoy the evening.  I feel so bad that my hubby planned this nice surprise and I feel so crappy.  I will go with a smile on my face and find a way to have some fun.  I am so excited but just wished I felt better.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My hair-saving arsonal

I am trying to finalize everything I need to start chemo next week.  I am trying to get my chemo diet in order so I can make sure to eat as healthy as I can all through chemo to keep my body strong.  I am also trying to get all the supplies together that I need for the whole hair-saving extravaganza!  I had no idea this would be so labor intensive.  Oh well, I guess it gives me something to do in the coming weeks! 

I have paid for the cold caps and gotten my instructions for how to use them so that is ready to go.  Now all the supplies!  I have been trying all different organic, sulfate free and paraben free hair products in the past few weeks to see if I can find things that will work with my new hair care program.  In addition I had to get some ColormarkPro natural root touch up kit (you can't dye your hair for a while and I need root coverage!) at the tune of $21 for a small bottle!  Ouch!  I then had to get some headbands and hair scrunchies (yes, I did say scrunchies...who knew they still existed?  I thought they were gone in the 90's....I can't believe I have to wear them - but the will pull less on my hair).  I then had to get a satin sleep cap to protect my long hair while I sleep so it doesn't get pulled by rolling around.  Well what's a satin sleep cap without a satin pillowcase?  Got one of those too.  Then I bought a water misting bottle for the days I can't wash my hair.  I also had to get moleskin pads to protect my forehead while wearing the cold caps.  I even had to buy some panty liners to cut and put on my ears during the cold cap treatment so my ears don't freeze.  So now I am sitting here picturing what I am going to look like with moleskin on my forehead, panty liners on my ears and a frozen cap on my head!   This will be quite a look.  Now I am on the hunt for a subzero thermometer...all in the name of hair.  The good news is that my new electric blanket arrived today - that will be my new favorite thing for chemo days. 

I am trying to get myself emotionally ready for this.  For some reason this whole chemo thing really freaks me out.  Maybe it's because it somehow really makes me a cancer patient...maybe I am in denial....I don't know.  I just know that I am very anxious.  I got an Rx of Ativan just for the occasion and plan to take it right before I leave the house that morning.  I am scared of the whole process of the cold caps and worried that we won't do them right or something.  I am scared that I will feel really bad from the chemo and have side effects.  I know once I start walking the chemo road, I will just keep walking like I did on the mastectomy road (and that road had not been that bad for me so far).  I have to really dig deep within myself to get through the first chemo day.  I am scared I will want to give up on the caps because it will be so uncomfortable.  I need to set my mind on finishing chemo and just moving on with my life with my hair in tact so there is no daily reminder of chemo and cancer.  I just want to keep picturing a wonderful summer with my family.  I just have to keep that picture in my mind during every hard moment of the chemo.   It is going to be a long nine weeks. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chemo port is in

Today I had to go to the hospital to get my chemo port placed.  As usual, I had major anxiety over having another procedure done and yet another nasty scar on my body.  I feel like I look like a road map without my clothes on.  I now have 4 scars.  Nice.  I hope one day they will fade.

I got to the hospital at 9am.  My brother took me today as my husband had to travel for work this morning and will be gone until the end of the week.  So once they took me back to the pre-op area in the Heart and Vascular Center, we waited and waited.  They informed me shortly after being there that I would be awake for the procedure.  I was good all morning and did not cry until that moment when the resident told me.  I just wanted this over with and certainly did not want to "experience" it and remember it.  They were going to use "twilight sedation" on me meaning that I would be awake but pain free and perhaps not remember anything.  I just lost it....the tears started falling.  My poor brother did not know what to do.  At that moment I just wanted my husband to be with me.....it sucked.

They finally took me in for the procedure around 11:30am.  Way to go making me wait for over 2 hours agonizing over the misinformation I was given about sedation.  The nurses were all very nice and understanding given my situation and really took good care of me.  The doctor only came in once I was sedated...never really spoke to me, just got to work.  An interventional radiologist did the procedure.  The only nice perk of being awake in not in the OR area was they allowed me to bring my IPOD and use it during the entire procedure.  I put on my calming, peaceful music and closed my eyes to just not be "present" for the experience.

I was not really in any pain.  I just felt poking and some pricks here and there.  I do remember mostly everything, but I was calm and relaxed.  I am glad it is over with.  They placed the port in my right am as my plastic surgeon did not want the port placed in my chest.  The port is on the inside of my upper arm about mid-bicep.  It looks like there is a small grape under my skin.  You can't see the port at all, it is completely under my skin.  The lump of the port is bruised right now.  Hopefully that will fade quickly. I finally got home from the hospital around 3pm.  By the time I got home I was feeling queasy so I had some toast, took some zofran and laid down for a while.  I felt better within 45 minutes or so. 

My arm is quite tender especially when I move it around.  It's not sharp pain or anything, just enough to be a little uncomfortable.  I took some tylenol for the pain and that seems to be helping a little.  I hope I can sleep tonight without it being painful.  It seems like everything always hurts worse at night. 

I had to skip my rehabilitation exercises tonight as my arm is just uncomfortable.  I hope tomorrow I can go for my morning walk and do my exercises and stretches to get moving again.  I don't want any setbacks.

I am glad this is over now as it was causing me anxiety.  Now I can just focus on the next step (and the next source of anxiety), chemo.  Six more days until the poison flows through my body.  Ugh!  I am dreading it completely.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Feeling Normal

Last night we went to a birthday party and the only people there that know of my diagnosis were the hosts of the party.  It was only the second time in a long time that I went somewhere and people did not know I had cancer.  It was odd to just mingle and talk with people that I know and not have anyone look at me and say "how ARE you?"  It was actually quite refreshing.  I felt like this was the first really "normal" thing I have done in a really long time. 

The only part that was hard was when people asked what was new or how's work.  Hummmmm, how do I answer that?  So "what's new"?  Maybe I should say something like "oh, not too much, I have breast cancer, had a lumpectomy, bilateral mastectomy, I start chemo soon and these are my new fake boobs!"  Or to the work question...."I wouldn't know about work, I am on disability for this stupid cancer thing.....".  So I quickly realized I need some "canned" answers to these questions if I am going to continue to try to do "normal" things.  So by the end of the evening I had perfected my canned answers.  On the work thing it was something like "oh, you know work - busy and crazy".  For the what's new thing, it was something like "oh working and trying to push through winter in hopes of an early spring".   After saying these things, I tried to shift the conversation to the other person just so I could have something to talk about. 

I guess this goes with the territory of not shouting out to the entire world that I have cancer.  If the cold caps are successful in keeping my hair during treatment, no one will ever have any idea that I have cancer.  I will definitely have to perfect my "canned answers".  I never knew that an acting class should be part of the process when you have cancer! 

At this point, I feel good.  I can't believe it has only been three weeks since my surgery.  I figured it would take way longer to feel this good.  I was even feeling pretty sore from getting my tissue expanders filled on Friday, but now I feel a lot better.  I know I have to buckle down because the next two weeks are going to be really hard.   I know I have to take one step at a time and not look ahead at everything.  I am trying hard to do that, but it feels impossible at times.  It is very overwhelming.  I guess this week I just have to get through having the chemo port put in on Wednesday.  That will be a long day for me with a lot of anxiety for sure.  It has to be easier than a bilateral mastectomy, right?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bigger and bigger

Yesterday I had my second fill in my tissue expanders.  That was fun (said sarcastically!).  I drove an hour to the plastic surgeon's office and my nurse was so happy that I was doing so well.  She was amazed and so encouraging.  That was nice and made me feel good as a lot of this feels like a struggle.  She also told me that she was so excited I was doing the cold caps to keep my hair.  She said I was the first patient in her 12 years of doing this that has ever tried it.  She wants to follow up close with me on the whole process and wants information for her other patients.  It's just so sad to me that more people don't know about the cold caps and are not told about this choice to keep their hair and dignity during chemo.  I hope to change that a little and be living proof it works.  Gosh now I really feel some pressure for it to work well....I would hate to show up in the office in a wig...nothing like a little more pressure.  Yikes!

After my first fill last week, I was up to 220 cc's in each breast.  She wanted to put an additional 100cc's in each side yesterday!  I told her I was concerned because I drove there myself and had an hour drive home!  So she listened to me and put in less....an additional 70cc's in each side.  I could feel the pressure as she put more saline in.  It doesn't really hurt bad it just feels tighter and tighter.  The needle part doesn't really hurt either...you barely feel anything.  It's really not that scary.  I just felt tight when I left and took it real easy driving home. 

So now I have these two, round, awkward tissue expander breasts - one is higher than the other (which is common....they never know how they are going to lay in there).  I don't notice it so much in clothes, but naked looking in the mirror I can tell.  They are probably a little bigger than my own breasts were so I am getting use to that.  I will try another fill next week and try and decide how big I want to go.  It's kind of cool.  I have been waiting for my breasts to grow since I was twelve!  The boobie fairy finally came!

I can say that last night my chest muscles were almost spasming!  Ouch!  I had a rough night sleeping.  I did force myself to do the physical therapy exercises before bed and I cursed the whole way through because it hurt horribly!  I woke up a lot during the night so sleep was not good.  I did the exercises again this morning and they were a little easier.  In a day or two I will be back to where I was yesterday before the fill.  I keep saying it feels like "just a bad workout".  I can do this.  I can't wait to have my real implants and have a little cleavage! 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cancer is a full time job

I can't believe how much time it takes to do everything I need to do related to having cancer.  I am so glad I am on short term disability at this point because I am so busy just trying to keep up with all the cancer BS I don't know how I would get work done.  I know a ton of women go through breast cancer and work full time during treatment.  I commend them, really!  

I try to walk each morning because it is good for me.  Some days I don't want to so much, but I make myself go.  I do my rehabilitation exercises twice a day and attend a session with a physical therapist two days a week.  I am trying to get ready for chemo which seems to take a lot of time too.  I need to keep up with all the medical bills that seem to come every day in the mail (I got one today for my bilateral mastectomy surgery and yowsa!!! $24K - thank goodness I have great insurance and only have to pay a small amount!).  I also am trying to organize all the medications I have - what they are, how to take them and when to take them.  Figuring out what I can eat is a whole other story.  Making the switch to all natural and organic make up and health care products is exhausting too!  Trying to keep up with my medical records requires numerous phone calls as well.  I could go on and on.....I am overwhelmed just thinking about it. 

Right now my biggest task is getting ready for chemo.  Since I am doing the Penguin Cold Caps I have to get a bunch of things ready.  I will be faxing in payment and all of the forms tomorrow - and saying a huge prayer this will work well for me.  Then I have to get all the direction and teach my husband and helper how the process will go each time.  I am so lucky my husband and friends are on board to help me with this.  Now I need to investigate all new hair products and get the right one's that are recommended during this process.  That is on tomorrow's list!  Now I need to order an electric blanket to keep me warm on chemo days.  I need a satin cap and pillow case to sleep in so my hair is safer.  I need other things that will help me with the cold cap process....moleskin, gauze, etc....so I have some more shopping to do this week!  I did manage to get the special hair dye to cover up any gray that grows in....that was a priority!

Right now I just wish I had all of this stuff done and in place so I could just spend some time doing some "non-cancer" related things.  I guess I will spend the rest of the night making a huge list of things to get done in the next few days.  I hope over the weekend I can just "chill" with my family.  I need that right now. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Falling apart today

Today is the worst I have felt emotionally since my surgery.  I just feel so sad, scared an panicked.  I just want to curl up in bed and sit in the dark and cry.  I am not sure why I feel like this today.  I just feel so down.

Sometimes I just go on being positive and strong and push through this but today for some reason I just can't.  I just can't believe I have cancer today.  I keep thinking about my family and my son and just crumble inside.  I just can't fathom why this is happening to me.  Why?  Just tell me what I did?  Why me???

I know since getting the news of the big "C" I have asked this but keep telling myself it's a question I just have to let go.  I will never know why this happened or how.  I just find myself getting angry.  It's just so unfair.  No one should EVER have to go through this.  I am so far one of the lucky ones because it was caught early.  Regardless, no one should have to fight cancer and go through all of the physical and emotional challenges that come with it. 

Yes it's scary for me, but I just can't bear the thought of my young innocent son going through watching me have cancer.  I can't bear the thought of him going through life without me if I can't beat this.  He's so young and so sweet.  He doesn't deserve this.  I want to protect him and I can't.  I feel so helpless.  It just breaks me inside. 

I know how desperate I sound and I HATE that.  I just keep wondering how I go on after all of this treatment and just live and be.  It seems so impossible and like you would always feel like you were looking over your shoulder to see if cancer is chasing you down.  The only bad thing is that you can't see the cancer until it already has you if it comes back.  By then it would be stage IV.  I am scared today.

I just want my life back.  I just want those moments where you live without a care in the world and just be in the moment with no fear.  I guess I was naive to live like that before because bad things can happen at any time.  I guess I just had faith in life and God's will.  Now I don't.  Those feelings are replaced with fear, panic and questions.  I just long for a living a day like I did before having cancer.  Just the peace of that feeling would be a vacation from the mental torture cancer brings forever. 

Everyone tells me in time you learn to live again and not panic.  I know I need to have faith in that, but for now it seems so impossible.  I know I have to take things one step at a time and for now my next steps are getting my chemo port put in and starting chemo.  As Scarlett O'Hara said in Gone With The Wind, "I will worry about that tomorrow".  Tomorrow is a new day, thank God. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Physical therapy here I come!

I am so glad that my plastic surgeon mentioned the possibility of physical therapy.  He said in a few weeks he may recommend it.  I said "can I do it now?"  So I left with a prescription for physical therapy.  So I researched around and found a physical therapist that works with breast cancer patients and has experience with helping people post bilateral mastectomy.  I was nervous and wasn't sure what to expect, but it went great!

I was happy the physical therapist was a woman.  It just made me more comfortable.  I liked the fact that she knew all about tissue expanders and different types of reconstruction.  She immediately made me feel at ease. 

My session was only 30 minutes and we spent a good deal of that time today reviewing my current rehabilitation exercises, my health and evaluating my current status.  When she had me do several things so she could evaluate my starting point she said she was impressed and I was doing great!  That made me feel like the painful rehab exercises I have been doing twice a day are paying off.  I only fell short in two areas for range of motion and not by much at all.  She was confident we could get me back to where I was shortly.  That was nice to hear!

So she then evaluated when I was having pain and where it was.  She proceeded with some passive stretching exercises (where she stretched my body while I just relaxed) and some muscle massage to the tight areas.  That part actually felt really good to me.  I definitely have a tightness way up in my arm pit when I do the stretches overhead.  She reviewed with me that it is where the pectoral muscles insert up into the arm area.  She only worked on me a short time today as we spent most of the time doing the evaluation, but I felt much looser later.

Tonight I did my rehab exercises and stretches and they felt easier!  I think just the little bit my PT did helped.  I go back on Thursday and she said she is getting me in the gym to see what I can do then.  I am excited that I am being proactive and getting my movement back.  I don't want to sit around and wait to get my body back, I want to do something about it now before I start chemo.  I hope this helps me get moving again and back to a level I am use to soon.  I hope to be teaching my aerobics class again really soon and this is a step in the right direction!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Now I am getting nervous

I met with my medical oncologist today and scheduled my first chemo session.  We reviewed all of my questions.  I talked to her about my vitamins and things that I wanted to take to help boost my overall health during chemo.  My vitamin D is really low which is concerning to me so she gave me a high dose prescription for that.  I asked about using Latisse for my eyelashes and eyebrows during chemo and she is looking into that.  I also asked about some type of anti-anxiety medication I can take on chemo days.  I think emotionally those days are going to be very hard for me - especially the first one.  So yet another Rx for Ativan to help.  I have never had so many medications in my life!  I feel like a freak.  I need medications for the side effects from the other medications and so on and so on.   Can I just say that cancer and chemo stink???? 

The doctor reviewed my final pathology report with me and of course the other 2mm area that was found was invasive.  I just hate the thought that there was even more cancer in me than I knew of.  Ugh!  Can I say one more time how much I hate cancer???

After I was done with the doctor I talked to the nurse and got my chemo scheduled for March 2nd.  It is really going to happen.  Now that there is a date I feel a bit panicked.  She then went on to ask when I was going to have a port put in.  I told her that the doctor and I had discussed no port and that I didn't plan on having one.  She said she was going to check my veins in my good arm.  I reminded her that I had sentinel nodes out of both sides and then she said she had to talk to the doctor.  After that she came back and informed me that I would need to get a port installed for them to infuse the chemo through for sure.  My other choice is a pic line.  Well what great choices I have...(said sarcastically).  A port requires yet one more surgery.  When the nurse explained this....I just got upset and said "do you have any idea what I look like and how many incisions are on my body?".  I could not help myself.  Then she pulled me into a private room and I began to cry.  I am so sick of cancer.  It's moments like this where it all comes out and I just get so overwhelmed and start to cry that makes me panic.  I left the office crying yet again.  I guess I should now sedate myself each time I go to the doctor's office just to deal with whatever they dish up that day.  I keep thinking "they already told me I had cancer so whatever they say today can't be that bad" and just go.  Now I am thinking I should medicate before each appointment.

Sometimes I look back at all of this and get sick of all of the disappointments.  Granted, I am lucky I was early stage breast cancer, but all of this is still so real and scary.  I am grateful that I don't have a worse diagnosis (trust me) but it doesn't mean that makes having cancer easier.  It is still cancer, surgery, chemo and a lifetime of worry. 

Maybe when you get diagnosed they should just tell you all of the crap on one day to get it over with.  As you learn and read in this process you keep thinking you will somehow be the one that won't need a bilateral mastectomy, chemo, port or lose your hair.  In the end, you end up getting it all anyway.  Every time you find out one more of these things apply to you, you feel shaken, disappointed, sad and angry.  It's like you just have to succumb to all the cancer bullshit and just lay down and take it.  I wish they could have just laid this out on December 12th when I learned I had cancer and then maybe I wouldn't feel like this each time another bad thing applies to me!  I am just having a bad day - Happy Valentine's Day to me. 

I guess a lot of it is the reality of starting chemo in two weeks.  I am scared.  It doesn't help either that each time I tell a nurse I am doing cold caps to keep my hair they have to make sure I realize that many people don't have success with this.  Thanks a lot!  I appreciate you making me feel good after you just got done telling me I need another surgery Ms. Nurse!  I hope to God I can go in and see her 4 months from now with all of my hair in tact. 

I did manage to make myself go to the mall and walk for 35 minutes after that.  I didn't want to go after leaving the doctor's office, but I knew I should so I did go.  I guess that made me feel a little better.  I am just not coping well today.  I am so sick of cancer.  I am going to eat some chocolate right now.  Remember....dark chocolate is full of antioxidants (smile) and that is good for fighting cancer. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My breasts are growing!

On Friday I went in for my first fill on my tissue expanders.  I was not sure what to expect.  Prior to surgery I was a size A+ or small B.  After surgery with my tissue expanders in and filled with 120cc's of saline, I was a small A size.  Since I had lost 15 lbs after getting the big "C" due to stress, my breasts had gotten smaller anyway.  So now after surgery, they were really not that different in size than before surgery which was a relief to me.  It really didn't freak me out too much at the size.  I have been wearing my regular clothes since surgery and don't really look that different.  I don't think anyone would notice if I didn't say anything.

So back to my first "fill" appointment.  I arrived and saw the room all set up like a small surgery was going on.  That kind of freaked me out a bit...which is odd because I sell surgical products for a living and spend time in the operating room and watch surgeries a lot.  I guess I just don't like being the patient...that part freaks me out.

The nurse practitioner came in and she was so sweet.  She immediately put me at ease and explained everything.  She even showed us a sample of the tissue expander that was in my body so we could see what it would look like.  She got me all cleaned up and sterilized and got things started.  She first had to locate the port where she would inject the saline. She used a small "stud finder" like device and found the port quickly and marked it on my chest on each side.  Then she started to inject the saline in.  I thought because I was smaller to begin with they would inject a small amount.  WRONG!  She injected an additional 100cc's into each tissue expander.  That was odd.  I couldn't feel much of the needle, just the increased pressure of the saline going in. 

I wasn't sure how it was going to look or how it was going to feel after getting more saline put in.  I could definitely feel some uncomfortable pressure in my chest and it felt harder ot move my arms.  I took some motrin when I got home to help a bit.  My breasts looked a little bigger, but they seem to expand sideways before projecting outward.  It feels like the tissue expanders exanded under my arms!  It's a bit odd since I never had breasts under my arms before.  The nurse said that is normal and they will expand in the width first before expanding forward.  Oh well.  They look strange to me undressed but in clothes so far, it's not noticeable at all even without a bra.

I did notice that sleeping flat was now uncomfortable again so I was back to being propped up on pillows at night (boo!).  I also noticed the beginnings of the nerve pain I felt after my first surgery.  Everything across my chest and under my left arm (where the sentinel nodes were removed) feels chaffed and raw.  Just the fabric touching my skin when I move my arms makes it all burn.  I know from my first surgery that this started out small an got worse each day before it got better.  Last time it lasted about two weeks.  I hope this goes away quick.  It's annoying and uncomfortable.  I know there is nothing I can do about it but push on through it.  As Dori in the moving Finding Nemo says "just keep swimming, just keep swimming"!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A trip to the grocery store

So I gathered up my notes on what I can eat/not eat and headed to Whole Foods.  Wow did that cause some serious $$$$$ damage!  Oh well.  Right now I need to eat good, organic foods that are healthy.  I knew this would be a long trip as I had so many labels to read while there, but overall, I came out with a lot of good finds.  In the coming weeks I am going to compare prices on organic items at my other local markets as more of them are carrying a wider selection of organic products now.  In time I hope to figure out which store offers the best pricing on these foods.  This is going to cost a fortune if I don't to some research!

For protein, I usually eat lean beef, ground turkey and chicken.  I ended up selecting hormone free chicken and ground turkey for this week's menu.  I bought the large family pack of chicken and just quickly divided it into smaller amounts and popped it into the freezer.  I did not have time to hit Costco today, but they do offer hormone free meats for much less of a price than Whole Foods.  I plan on heading to Costco next week to stock up on meats for a while and to save some money! 

I ended up with lots of fresh, organic produce too.  Apples - love them so I am slicing them and tossing them in lemon juice and popping them in the refrigerator in a bowl so they are always ready to snack on.  Baby carrots are an easy, quick snack I bought too.  I did also get lots of fresh veggies for the week - green beans and broccoli along with fresh herbs. 

I started reading the labels on things like breads, flour tortillas, English muffins and tortilla chips.  Why does everything contain safflower, sunflower, corn oil or soybean oil anyway?  It's in everything!  I kept reading labels and was finally able to find a few things that contained none of these oils - whole wheat pita bread, whole grain English muffins and whole wheat flour tortilla shells.  I gave up on the tortilla chips....they all contain these oils, so I just bought some anyway.  I can't give those up!  I also love whole wheat pretzels..and you guessed it.  They also contain those stupid oils.  Ugh!  Some things I just can't give up.  My compromise was the Snyders Wheat and Oat Organic Pretzels.  They still have some of the oil, but the rest is all whole grain and organic.  That's as good as I can do.

So a few things on my menu this week are:
-Tomato, Basil and Artichoke Chicken, Garlic Green Beans and Brown Rice
-Veggie Pizza on Whole Wheat Crust with Sauted Spinach, Portabella Mushrooms and Garlic with a Spinach Salad/Sundried Tomato Dressing
-Broccoli, Shallots, Chicken and Whole Wheat Pasta tossed in Olive Oil with Parmesan with tossed salad (romaine, carrots, bell pepper, tomato and organic feta cheese)
-Turkey Tacos with veggies on Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas, Organic Fat Free Refried Beans, Roasted Corn

I also walked out with Kashi Organic Cereal, organic eggs, almond butter (since peanut butter is on the "bad" list now), organic low fat cheese (hormone free!) and fresh turkey breast (with no nitrates - for sandwiches).   I feel like I can at least get through this week knowing that I have good food that won't be harmful to me.  Maybe I will actually go in the kitchen and not feel paralyzed anymore!!!  I can't lose any more weight at this point....I need to eat healthy and maintain where I am to get ready for chemo.

I am so glad to get back to cooking this week.  It is something I really enjoy and I have not been doing it for a while now since everyone has been bringing us dinner each night.  It is relaxing to me when I cook.  I like making a nice dinner for my husband and son.  Maybe something will start to feel "normal" again around here again, at least at dinner time.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My make up and deoderant are killing me....

The more I read, the more I freak out.  I have been reading about all of the bad substances that put in all types of health care products that are not friendly for people like me with breast cancer.  So now I realize in addition to changing everything I eat, I have to change my health care products.  Geez!  Anything else?

So today I have been online researching aluminum free deodorant.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Who knew that not wanting to smell could be bad for my breast cancer.  I have been reading reviews of these metal free deodorants and trying to find one that looks like it may work well.  It seems like there are a lot of choices, but most of the reviews say they don't really work.  That's encouraging - not only do I have breast cancer, but I will now stink too!

After my reading of all the information I could find, I ordered some deodorant off the Internet.  Isn't that crazy?  I ordered something called Pitt Putty from Bubble and Bee which makes all organic health care products.  I would have never guessed that a stick of deodorant would cost $10 plus shipping.  Just nuts!  I hope it works.   I am sitting here in my own stink waiting for my new deodorant in the mail.  Ugh!

So now I must move on to the rest of my health care products.  That means soap, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, hand lotion, lip balm, make up and hairspray.  This is going to get expensive.  I can tell.  I never knew that there was organic health care products.  I guess I just never thought about it.  I talked to my sister who uses a lot of organic things and she pointed me in the right direction.  So this weekend I have a whole shopping list!

The other thing is vitamins.  Yes, many vitamins contain soy which is a big "no-no" for me!  So I also have to pitch my vitamins and get soy free vitamins.  Who knew?  I know much of this sounds extreme to some.  I don't care though.  I just want all of the crap out of my body!  I just want to do the things I can when I can so that when I can't control that things are organic I won't worry about it. 

I guess at some point maybe I will be in some type of routine with all of this.  For now it seems overwhelming to research all of these new products and find things that will work for me.  I know that when I do go shopping it will be a four hour adventure as I stand in the aisle reading every stinking label to determine if the product is chemical free or not.  That combined with grocery shopping should be completely exhausting.  Oh what fun....

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What is safe to eat anymore???

Now that time has gone by since getting diagnosed and I am into my treatment plan I am slowly trying to figure out how I have to make changes in my life to reduce my chances of recurrence.  I have been reading so much about food lately and how hormone receptor positive breast cancer can be effected by foods.  I bought a few books on cancer and nutrition and have been searching the Internet for information.  I feel completely freaked out by what to eat and not eat.  Many days I am hungry and head to the kitchen and look around.  Then I start to wonder what I can eat..what is bad for me?  Sometimes I just get so frustrated I leave with no food and still hungry and try again later.  Ugh!  This is just hard!

I decided to put all my notes in a binder I can keep handy in the kitchen so my husband and I can try to have some type of quick reference to what I can have and what I should avoid.  There are so many foods now that I won't be able to enjoy anymore.  I love peanut butter...now it will have to be almond butter.  I love tortilla chips but so far I see they are full of corn oil which is on the don't eat list.  I don't eat tons of soy food, but who knew that soybean oil was in just about everything in my pantry?  No processed meat so no Italian salami or my favorite honey turkey anymore either.  Can someone explain to me how an Italian woman gives up wine?  That doesn't seem right at all!

I guess I just have to take this in small steps.  I know I can't control everything I eat everywhere I go, but when I am in control at home I should at least try to eat things that don't effect the estrogen in my body so I can reduce my risk of recurrence.  I don't even know whether it will really make a difference, but it's worth trying.  I guess if I am as good as I can be 90% of the time I can do what I want the rest of the time. 

The books I am reading now are:
Anti Cancer:  A New Life
Foods that Fight Cancer
What to Eat When You Have Cancer

The website I have been reading is:

For now I will continue to organize this crazy list of food related do's and don'ts and slowly try to make changes to my diet to move in a healthier direction.  I guess that is a small sacrifice at this point considering all of the other things I need to go through.  I can tell you this, when I cook my homemade Italian meatballs and sauce, I am splurging!  I am not going to avoid that the few times a year I make it.  There is no substitute and a little glass of wine must go with it.  That's just the way it is!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What am I going to do with all of this cancer info

I can't believe how much I have learned since finding out I had breast cancer.  I feel like I have been on the fast track to getting my degree in "breast cancer for dummies" or something.  I have already mastered getting diagnosed, pathology 101, lumpectomy and bilateral mastectomy.  Now we move on to chemo.  I just can't believe that in a matter of months I can now discuss cancer grading, staging and sentinel nodes.  It's just crazy!

I have also been reading so much on how foods effect my hormone sensitive breast cancer.  For now I am completely overwhelmed by selecting foods.  It seems like there is so little credible information out there on foods and impact on ER/PR+ breast cancer it's a big guessing game.  Sometimes I go to the kitchen when I am starving and just look in the refrigerator or pantry and get paralyzed by what I should eat.  My head says "hmmm,what can I eat that won't kill me?"  Sometimes I get so frustrated I just leave the kitchen with no food and an empty stomach and just don't eat.  I guess that has probably contributed to the 15 pounds I have lost since getting diagnosed.  I really have to get a grip on this so I can get back to enjoying food.  I am 100% Italian...this is torture not enjoying food!  Come on...you know what I mean, "mangia" already!

So I was thinking about this wealth of knowledge I am gaining and wondering what am I going to do with all of my new information?  I know that I can't be the only person going through this, especially with the whole food thing.  Maybe once I master the list of "good foods" I can come up with good ways to enjoy them.  I LOVE cooking and entertaining.  I love taking recipes and making them healthier so I can indulge guilt free.  Maybe I should develop some of my own recipes that incorporate all of these good foods and find a way to really enjoy eating them.  I can't imagine a life of eating sticks and weeds and never enjoying a great meal.  Being Italian, I am not sure that is even possible!  Maybe I can develop a small cookbook or something.....just an idea.  I don't know when I would find the time to do this while working, being a mom and wife, working on my new business, getting better from cancer and all, but maybe, just maybe it would be fun.  I know for sure it would make me feel great to help someone else who is paralyzed in front of the refrigerator or pantry because of breast cancer. 

The other thing I have been thinking about is exercise.  I use to be a personal trainer in addition to teaching aerobics, but let that certification go because I just didn't have time to do everything.  Now I am wondering if down the road it would be rewarding to work with other breast cancer patients with exercise during and after treatment/surgery.  I know how important it is to stay healthy and strengthen your body and spirit.  Exercise plays such an important role in helping with that.  I also know that it has been so comforting talking to people that have actually walked the long, dark and scary breast cancer road.  Maybe as I move forward I can shift my career back to my roots of fitness, but in a way that brings even more satisfaction and purpose into my life.  I don't know if all of this is possible, but these are things I am thinking about.  I feel that once you get the big "C", you evaluate everything in your life.  These are some of the things I have been thinking about.  I feel like helping others through something like this would really make me feel good and like what I do gives others hope and encouragement. 

Well, these are some "lofty" goals and ideas especially since I have such a long way to go myself.  I guess I will put them on the back burner just a little since I have a ton to get through in the coming months.  I just made a promise to myself that I would in some way do something to help people get through breast cancer, increase awareness or raise money to help find a cure.  I want to make sure I follow through on my commitment.  This is too important. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Physical therapy and exercising

So how much longer can I sit around in this house without exercising?  I am going crazy in here!  My body is so use to moving and exercising it does not know what to do anymore sitting and laying around.  My poor hip is so sore from sitting.  I can't wait to start moving again.

My plastic surgeon talked to me a little about starting physical therapy.  I jumped at the chance because I love the idea of working with a PT that can help me get moving quicker.  I really want to be proactive on doing things that will help me avoid losing range of motion in my arms and shoulders from my surgery.  I also got full clearance to start doing the post surgery rehabilitation exercises here at home.  I got a jump on that this morning.  I felt stiff this morning, so I waited to do them after I had a nice, long, hot shower so my muscles would be warmed up and not so tight. I did the eight or so exercises and it felt pretty good!  I was a little tight, but not as much as I thought and I felt better after I completed them.  I have to do these twice a day so I will do them again tonight. 

I decided that I am driving again next week.  All I want to do is drive myself to the mall so I can go walking and drive myself to physical therapy.  Oh - one more thing, drive myself to church.  I would love some spiritual time and church.  That has been missing since my surgery.  The mall is only 3 miles from my house so I think I can handle that.  PT is not much further and it's kind of close to my church.   I can't wait to actually get of the house next week by myself!  I promise to not go if it's snowing bad or during rush hour...I swear!

I also started looking into other things to help me get through chemo.  I called on acupuncture. It costs over $100 an hour and they don't bill insurance.  Ouch!  I looked on my insurance company's website and they say they do cover some acupuncture for nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy.  I am calling about that today!  I am going to find a way to get that covered.  My hospital also offers a yoga class just for cancer patients.  It is offered two days a week (Monday and Thursday)!  I can start 4 weeks after surgery so I am going to do it.  It is done on a drop in basis and only costs $10 per class.  I think that will be a good thing for me.  I am excited about that.  

I also am looking for a massage therapist that works with breast cancer patients.  I have a Spa Finder gift card and hope I can find a way to use it.  That sounds SOOOO good right now.  A massage.  The hard part is you can't just go to any massage therapist now that I am at risk of lymphedema.  I have to find a massage therapist that knows how to deal with this and is specially trained.  I know they must exist so I am going to search for that today. 

I have also been stretching my lower body.  I need to keep doing that.  All of the sitting around is killing me.  My poor hips and butt are sore from being so inactive and sitting around for weeks.  I hope this helps!  I can't wait to get movin' again!  I think it will bring some new life in to me. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Getting ready for chemo with my husband at my side

Now that the decision is made, I have another whole thing to plan out and figure out.  Today I called about the Penguin Cold Caps for my hair.  It was nice to talk to someone in person about this and feel like I am getting the ball rolling.  I am so lucky that my oncology office has a freezer for them and supports patients that want to use them.  That will make this so much easier than having to bring them there in coolers on dry ice.  It's one less thing I will have to worry about which is huge at this point!

I have also read and heard from others that acupuncture really helps with chemo side effects.  I am going to check that out too!  I feel like everyone tells you how crappy chemo is (and I am sure it is crappy) and I just don't want to sit around and take it.  I want to DO SOMETHING about it.  If I can prevent some of those nasty side effects, I am going to take action and do just that.  I have control over that...not that I got cancer.  I just refuse to sit around and whine about it!  I am not going to do it!  I am NOT!  So now is the time to try new things and think new ways, right?  Heck, I have to since I got diagnosed with breast cancer....it's not like the same old same old, will do anymore.  These are new times with new, difficult things to deal with and I have to do just that, deal with it.  The more I take action, the more I feel like I have some control in this.  Yes, this is good for a self proclaimed control freak like myself.  I am going to get through chemo and feel pretty darn good if I have anything to say about it.

Yoga is the next thing on my list as soon as my plastic surgeon gives the big OK.  I have done a few Yoga CD's at home, but never taken a class.  I am going to look into this as I think I need something different in my exercise routine and I think the spiritual part of it will really help me achieve more inner peace.  I am looking forward to this and wondering how it will help me stay calm.  I also plan to continue to take time for positive thoughts and relaxation with deep breathing....I have to clear my mind and chill. That is so hard for me.  I am really high strung most of the time.  This is a change I want to make; a change I need to make for me.  Oh how cancer touches your life....

My husband and I talked about the hair thing today.  He has been so cool about it and supportive.  It's great!  I am so glad he is supporting me and plans to be there for every chemo to help me save my hair.  He is really saving more than my hair - it's my sense of peace and sanity through this crappy time.  I try to thank him for everything in some small ways, but I just can't even put into words how much I love him and how great he is.  I am tearing up as I write this because there is so much I want to say and need to say to him, but for some reason it seems so hard.  I know I need to work on this.  He needs to hear how much I need him and appreciate him.  He's a wonderful man.  He's not perfect, but neither am I.  I know he will be by my side and that makes me calm in some ways.  I know for now one thing I am planning is getting him tickets for a pro-basketball game in the coming weeks.  This way he can get out with one of his buddies and have fun doing what he likes - watching sports and having a beer.  He needs a break from my cancer and caring for me and our son.  He deserves that.  I want him to have that time to himself.  I am going to shop for tickets online tonight!  I can't wait to give him tickets to a game.  He will love it.  I will be happy that he is happy.  Life is good :)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Turning a corner

I feel good this morning.  First of all I did sleep last night.  I do wake often in the night, but at least I did fall back to sleep!  I actually feel rested today!  That's a good feeling for a change.  I also feel OK with my treatment.  I have to have chemo....I can actually say that without crying, which is a first.  I am going to keep my hair and have chemo and no one will know I am going through chemo....that is my plan.  I have been reading more and more about the Penguin Cold Caps to keep my hair and I am doing it!  It has a 90% success rate for keeping hair on the type of chemo I will be getting.  Chemo is going to suck, but I will get through it.  I have to.  I want to go back to teaching my aerobics classes now that I think I can keep my hair.  No one will even know! I am so excited.  This is the first time I have ever used the word "excited" on my blog!  I do feel like I have turned a corner.  That feels great!

So now I am focused on getting back to exercising, getting through chemo, and altering my diet and health care products to be chemical free.  It seems like so much to do, but this is what I need to do.  So for now I am writing down all the tips for using the cold caps from other women that have done it and putting that in a notebook to review for my husband (since he will be doing it all for me).  Then I have notes and information on how to keep eyelashes and eyebrows......adding that to the notebook.  Now my focus will turn to the food and health care products.  Having a hormone positive breast cancer is hard. Hormones and soy are in so many products I eat! Bummer.  No more Cheeze It's?  Are you kidding me?  Bummer....my son and I love to snack on Cheeze It's together all the time.  I guess we need to find a new snack to keep mommy healthy....bummer.  I bought 3 good books on food/diet for cancer.....I guess I have a lot of reading to do hu?  I went to the mall and scheduled a makeover at Bare Essentials....they use all natural products and no chemicals in their makeup.  I guess I need a makeover anyway....I look so pale from it being winter and going through this.  I look so tired.....I need some miracle cure for the dark circles under my eyes!!!  This part will be fun I think...a make up person to show me what to do with myself to look pretty and all new makeup!  I never do this kind of stuff so it will be fun. 

I have so many phone calls to make this week..........insurance bills piling up so I need to get that organized.  I have to call and get scheduled with a counselor.  I think talking to someone through this disease will help me a bit.  I also want to start writing thank you notes.  I have gotten so many wonderful cards, gifts, meals and more from so many friends and family in the last week...I will be writing thank you's forever!  I feel like having cancer is a full time job!  I also go back to my plastic surgeon tomorrow to have my post OP check up.  I can actually take a shower today for the first time since surgery!  That feels like a big thing...I have been enjoying the baths, but a nice, hot shower will feel pretty darn good at this point!

Tonight I am off to a Super Bowl Party at my brother's!  I can't wait to have my family see how good I am doing!  We had friends over last night and they were stunned when they saw me...in regular clothes, hair and makeup done just like normal and I was flying down the stairs when they arrived.  They thought I would be in bed or on the couch with a blankie.....I laughed!  I am doing way better than that! I really can't wait to go out of the house tonight!  That feels "normal" and that is what I have been searching for since getting diagnosed...something "normal" again!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Chemo it is

I feel a sense of calm a little since I committed to myself that I will do the chemo.  Don't get me wrong....I am petrified of chemo, but I just am glad the decision is no longer hanging over my head.  I am going to have chemo.  I told my mom that yesterday.  It was the first time I had said it out loud.  It was hard to say that.  I guess I have to get use to saying that now.

I met with the oncologist and really feel that it is my best chance to rid my body of cancer forever.  That is what I want more than ANYTHING!  I want to live my life and raise my son and be here for  long time.  I know if I forgo chemo I will have doubt and regret, especially if any cancer returns.  I know I have to do everything I can right now.  I have one chance to blast this cancer and that is right now.  I hate that I have to go through chemo.  I am mad!  I hate cancer!  I hate chemo!  The thought of being hooked up to an IV of poison for hours and have it running through my body makes me completely panic.  I just can't believe this is what I have to do.

Now I am trying to figure out how I accept this and how I get myself through it.  I talked to my medical oncologist about preserving my hair.  She supports me in that decision.  I think emotionally that will make things easier for me.  It sounds like for my type of chemo (taxotere and cytoxin) that there is a high success rate in hair retention.  I hope so. 

I keep asking myself why I am so worried about losing my hair.  I guess it's about control.  I want to control some parts of my life - like who knows that I have cancer.  If I have hair, no one will know unless I tell them I have cancer.  I just want to feel like everyone doesn't know I have cancer.  I just want some parts of my life to seem normal.  I want to continue to exercise, teach aerobics, pick up my son from school and go out and just feel like me.  Is that so bad?   Is it vain because it's all about the hair loss?

I got up this morning and looked at my beautiful long, long brown hair.  It just never looked so pretty to me.   I just stood in front of the mirror, admiring my hair like I never had before.  I always thought it was too frizzy or not thick enough, but today it looked gorgeous to me.  I styled it in a small black headband and it just flowed down so pretty.  I told myself "it is going to look like this through chemo....it will!". 

I keep thinking of all the stories and posts I have read online from other women with breast cancer about the pain, discomfort, sadness and more and just keep telling myself "I am not going to be that person".  I got through a bilateral mastectomy pretty easy.  I really didn't think it was that bad.  I did a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy and baked home made chocolate chip pound cake that same evening.  I am strong, healthy and headstrong.....I can get through chemo, right?  My medical oncologist tells me "you can do this...you will be telling me it's way easier than you thought in a month and you will be saying it to me just like I am telling you today - with confidence".  I think she believes in me....that really helps. 

I am trying to get my life back to what little normal I can.  We are having friends over tonight for a visit and to play some Wii (yes, I can play Wii too!).  Tomorrow I am surprising my family and going to their Superbowl party!  I can't wait to see my niece and nephews.  My youngest nephew (age 7) is very scared about my diagnosis.  He tells his dad "I don't want to talk about this anymore" and walks out of the room.  It breaks my heart.  I can't wait to see him and show him I am doing great.  I hope he starts to believe in me.  I don't want him to be sad or scared.  Kids have such a different way of handling this.

I had a strong realization about this whole thing yesterday when it comes to my own son.  Yesterday was the first day I was up, dressed, styled hair and make up on just like normal.  When my son came in the door from school and saw me like that, he got the happiest smile on his face...his face lit up!  I have never seen him so happy.  He came running over to me and hugged me crazy and said "Mommy!  I am so proud of you! I love you!  I love you!".  I said "you are proud of me?".  He said "Yes, because you are all better!".  I guess for him, he saw me as I was before......the regular old healthy me.  I know now that doing the cold caps to preserve my hair and not sitting in my room in jammies will make all the difference for my son.  I have to do all of this for him.  I keep saying that with every freezing cap they put on my head and every nasty chemo IV they give me, I have to picture his beautiful, happy face and that moment where he said "Mommy I am so proud of you!".  That is what will get me through this.  It has to.  I love him more than anything.  I want to see that fabulous smile.  That's what makes me happy.

This whole journey is such a process.  Some days are easier than others.  It's full of ups and downs.  Sometimes I feel fine and then just start crying for no reason.  I know it will be a battle.  I have to walk this road though.  I don't have a choice.  This is my life whether I like it or not.  Others have done this before me.  I can do this.  I have to.  For now I take it one day at a time and one emotion at a time.  I am so blessed to have a wonderful family and large circle of devoted friends.  That support can get me through this.  I can't wait until I am done with all of this and on the other side of the huge mountain I face and look back and see the good in all of this and the beauty of that mountain.  I know with each day I move forward, I am one day closer to that sense of peace.  One day at a time........

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Still recovering

Surgery was 6 days ago and I continue to feel better.  I got up this morning and my husband stripped my drains.  They are hardly draining anything so I will get them out tomorrow.  I could get them out today, but the blizzard has put a stop to that!  Oh well, it's OK though.  They really don't bother me much.  Quite honestly the hardest part for me is having my husband clean them and see me without my clothes on.  I just feel so uncomfortable with my temporary body.  I feel so sad every time he has to do this.  I keep finding myself telling him how sorry I am that he has to do this and deal with me.  The first time he did my drains was yesterday as my friend (a nurse) has been here doing it.  I was so nervous he was going to hurt me and do it wrong.  I feel bad about that....he did great and was so gentle and careful.  Why can't I give him more credit than I do???

Yesterday was hard when my best friend left. She has been at my side since I came home from the hospital.  She has taken care of my every need not matter how embarrassing it could be.  Somehow with her here it seemed like a break from my reality of cancer.  Even though I was recovering from surgery, she kept my mind occupied.  She made me laugh.  For the first time in weeks, I didn't feel so lonely and sad.  Oddly it was the first time since my diagnosis that I didn't spend every minute thinking about my cancer.  When I woke up yesterday, I began to cry because knew she had to go home (several hours away).  I just felt so much better with her here.  It was the most touching thing anyone has done for me since this started.  I can't even put into words the value of my friendship with Lori.  We've been best friends since 1990 and even though we have lived in different states the past 11 years, nothing has changed except I miss her more.   I am so incredibly blessed to have such a friend.

Yesterday I tried to take less pain pills and it was a bit hard.  I did take a few and took only one before bed.  I slept only for a few hours even with a sleeping pill on board.  I woke up in the middle of the night and just couldn't sleep well.  By 5am my husband offered another pain pill and I took it.  I quickly ate 2 crackers so I wouldn't upset my stomach and swallowed my pill.  I think I dosed off for a while, but not much more sleep.  I really have not been sleeping much.  The first few nights while loaded up on pain meds, I slept pretty good.  Now my sleep is less and I just can't even fall asleep for a nap during the day.  I am tired.  I wish I could just get one good night of sleep - like 8 straight hours.  That would really help.

Today it is almost 3pm and I did not take any pain pills since 5am.  I don't hurt too much.  Definitely a little more sore than when I take the pills, but I hate the way I feel on them and just hate feeling loopy all the time and queasy.  My poor bottom is so sore from sitting and laying down all the time.  I am actually standing up right now in he kitchen with my laptop on the counter typing this so I can get off my dang sore butt! 

Tomorrow I go to the medical oncologist appointment to discuss chemo.  It just makes me sick to have to face that.  The surgery seems like nothing compared to how chemo makes me feel.  I am petrified.  I just hate thinking that the next 3 months of my life will be consumed with chemo, side effects and dragging out my obsession with having cancer.  I feel panicked at the thought of it.  I just don't want to face it.  Last night I just sobbed over it.  The reality is that is the next step for me and I just don't feel ready to face it.

I talked to a breast cancer survivor last night (my angel, Kathy) and she did not have chemo, but it was helpful to speak to her about my fears.  I guess in talking to her I realized that I just am not accepting that I have cancer.  She kept saying "It's OK to have cancer.  No one goes out and wants to get it.  It just happens, even to healthy, young people like you.  You have to let yourself say it's OK to have cancer".  Why is this so hard for me?  I guess it's because this is something that happens to other people.  It wasn't suppose to happen to me.  I still can't accept it all.  It's been almost 2 months since this started and I still feel like I can't accept it.  I keep searching for the word to describe what I feel about it and I can't find the right word.  It's a combination of pathetic, embarrassed, weak, sick and like a bit of a freak all rolled up into one thing.  I hate this.  I really hate this. This IS my life and I did have cancer!  Why can't I say that out loud?  Why do I want to keep it private and feel so strange about people knowing?  I need some serious counseling.....really.  That is on my agenda as soon as I can drive my car again.  I need to heal my mind too so I can help my body deal with this physically.  I think the mind is the harder part to heal.  That mountain seems ginormous and scary to me right now.

For now I can honestly say each day my body feels a little better.  I am able to take a bath, wash my hair, get dressed and get something to eat (as long as things are within reaching zone) by myself.  I guess this is way more than I thought I would be able to do at this point.  I am going to get my drains out tomorrow and have my friend take me to the mall for a while on Friday to walk around a bit and just get out.  I am even going to put on some make up tomorrow when I go out....maybe it will make me feel normal again....whatever normal is.