It has been a busy week, and a week of learning limits. I continue recovering very nicely; muscle soreness was almost gone, and I continued to find time and motivation to walk every day about 3 – 4 miles. I continue to lose weight at a rate of 2 pounds a week and find myself this week down 17 pounds in total.
Tuesday, I taught a class; Nuts & Bolts of Money, at PAFA. I loved it, a full class of students interested in getting their financial lives in order. I had a lot of fun and got a tour of the Frank Furness building PAFA resides as well as the art galleries in the building. All very interesting and educational. I encourage you to explore PAFA, the art is interesting and diverse.
Wednesday was my post-operative appointment with the surgeon. She was thrilled with the progress I have made recovering, and yes, I surpassed her expectations. She told me to go ahead and use the arm, just do not lift any weight. So, I did. I spent the rest of the day carting light stuff around and up and down stairs. Then I went for a walk before heading home late in the afternoon. By that evening my upper arm was swelling and I was getting scared I was getting Lymphedema. The next morning, I called for guidance on what was happening and what I could do about it. The assessment was that I had over extended myself. But to make sure all is ok, and I have the information to work through recovery properly I should go to physical therapy Friday morning.
The appointment with physical therapy was productive. It turns out the last bit of muscle soreness would not have been worked out with the exercises I was doing. I was given new ones to target the specific muscles that were still an issue. In addition, I was given exercises to address fluid buildup in my body. With the lymph nodes removed my body has not yet acclimated to how to handle the fluid created with exertion. So, although I feel fine and ready for anything, my body was telling me otherwise. Hence the price one pays for trying to be “superwoman”.
The coming week is going to be busy. I have many activities scheduled, and the oncologist appointment on Wednesday. After the oncologist appointment, I will decide which oncology/radiology team I will go with for the remainder of my treatment. I have also decided that I am going to try to save my hair. There is something called a Cold Cap, which basically freezes the hair follicles before during and after treatments. This prevents the chemo from damaging the cells in the hair follicles and therefore hair is not lost. After talking to many people, the percentage of success makes it worth trying. In addition, being the accountant that I am it is also cost effective – dying my hair for the next 10 years is approximately $7K, where the cost of the cold cap is $2.5K, and the cold cap is a medical expense deductible on my taxes.
So as of right now I still do not need help. But if anyone would like to walk with me, I am tending to walk in the mornings around 8:30 or 9am, and sometimes in the late afternoons. Even if you do not walk with me, I challenge all my lions to get out there and exercise. It is always easier with a buddy.
I am anticipating I will learn my schedule for Chemo in the coming week. Based on my desire to use the Cold cap I will likely need help on treatment days when my sister is not with me. I still do not need help with meals but will keep you all posted. In the coming week, hug the ones you love, and make sure they know you care. We have all seen that life can change in an instant. Do not take it for granted.
As expected I received a call from the doctor’s office regarding the pathology of the tumor and lymph nodes taken out with surgery. It was all good news; the margins around the tumor were wide and negative, and there were no tumors found in the lymph nodes. I have the post-operative appointment with the surgeon next week, and the following week the appointment with the oncologist. At the oncology appointment the course of treatment will be discussed. Since this is the outcome that was expected based on the biopsy, the course of treatment will likely not change much from prior conversations.
I am still recovering from surgery. The incisions now look like I was knifed in a dark alley, so do not mess with me. I clearly came out of the alley, not so much for the other guy, LOL. I still have muscle soreness that I am working through, and focused on the exercise plan, and meal planning to stick to a more plant-based diet.
I have had time to reflect on the last month and a half. There are some eerie things that have happened, that make me wonder if a higher power exists or for those beyond us a way to influence what happens in this world. My diagnosis came on Dec 29th, my mom’s birthday. Mom had been saying to me over the last year, that I should not follow in my grandmother’s footsteps, burn the candle at both ends. That it would not be good for my health. Since this was caught so early, is she trying to make me slow down? Then a very good friend called and offered me a ticket to Hamilton in NYC on Jan 18th, my father’s birthday. Originally this was to be my gift to myself after the treatments were finished. Instead it was landing in my lap before everything starts on Dad’s day. It felt like a gift.
All these things have really made me slow down and think about the little things in life that matter; family, friends, experiences, memories… I am working on ways to make this year memorable for good reasons. My hope is that my relationships with family and friends grow stronger, and that I get the breathing room to work on projects that are not time bound.
For my posse, I am doing great and I do not need anything, but I do have an assignment for you. This week, look around your world, identify the most important people, tell then “I love you” at least once, and think about what matters to them. Then identify a way to fill that need in the coming months.
This week had its highs and lows. I am quickly recovery from surgery, no Tylenol after Friday, almost full mobility by Sunday, and able to drive by late Monday afternoon. The incisions are butt ugly, but who is wearing a bathing suit in this weather?
My friends are being super; I have had flowers delivered, gifts to prepare for the next phases, and people walking with me each day to start and continue the exercise plan. I am truly humbled, and do not feel worthy.
And then word came that one of the partners of the CPA firm I worked for when I returned to the east coast suddenly passed away over the weekend. The funeral was Tuesday. He died too young, and for reasons that should have been preventable. It was a serious gut check. As a friend and I commiserated and shared memories, it put life very much in focus. We get only one turn in this world. As my father like to say, “there are no do overs.” I am determined to make every day count and find something to enjoy and laugh about every day, no matter what each day brings this year.
For those of you on this journey with me, I challenge you to stop stressing about the minutia in your lives. Focus on the things that count; experiences you have and the people that surround you. Find something to laugh about and enjoy every single day. And Never forget to say “I Love You”, to those in your life that matter.
Recovering from the surgery has been uneventful. I have already been able to start my exercise plan and work through the muscle soreness. Full mobility of my left arm is not completely back, but after just a few days, I have significantly improved.
So now I have a staycation, time to focus on a project each day, sticking to an exercise plan, and starting to research the book I intend to write this year. My short-term goal is to try to take off another 10 pounds in the next 5 weeks. I will still be very careful of being in large groups or crowds so that I do not catch any colds or flu bugs.
My posse is chomping at the bit to help me out. So here is your challenge for the next few weeks: Lets all get exercising. I will be walking in the mornings about 9am (I am finding my sleep patterns are a bit later than normal for me), again after lunch, and maybe a short walk in the evening. Anyone that would like to join me, I would be thrilled with the company.
I am a Smurf! Who new you could surgically become a Smurf? And I thought I was going in for a lumpectomy on Feb 2nd.
The morning started out at o’dark thirty and my sister picking me up. We arrived at Pennsylvania Hospital early which was fortuitous. After I checked into admissions the computers went down and there was a backup in the process. Luckily, I sailed through without a hitch. As someone pointed out to me, it was Groundhogs Day, which was supposed to mean good luck for me. I went in on time, and all the people I encountered were tremendous. But it was a good thing I did not have a watch and there were no clocks because there was a lot of waiting time before I went into surgery. You quickly lose track of time in a hospital.
One of the steps to the process is injecting blue dye to identify the lymph nodes that are likely to be engaged with the tumor. Those Lymph nodes are removed and biopsied as well as more testing on the tumor that is removed. According to my sister I was in surgery for 2 hours. I came to about 1pm and felt like one of the drunk frat house dogs. I could not find my words, had trouble remembering things, and was walking on a slant. One of my sister’s first observations was that I looked gray. It turned out it was the blue dye showing through my skin, and I was told I will be expelling the dye for the next two weeks. When we finally took the bandages off before bed, I found that my boob was neon blue. It is official, I am of the Smurf class.
We arrived home around 3:30pm. My sister very kindly made me dinner, homemade pizza, and it was yummy. I am thinking I need to milk this for all I can this year, because there is most definitely an expiration date.
I was disappointed to learn that my desire for a boob reduction was not quite what I anticipated; they did not take enough and only on one side so I am lopsided, LOL. On a more serious note, larger breasted women are more apt to have breast cancer because there is more fatty tissue available for the tumors to grow, who new.
We had a relaxing night watching comedies and went to bed. I only needed one Tylenol late that night. I have had no pain at the incision points or where the tumor was removed. I only have muscle soreness which I can work through with movement. I likely will not drive until I feel I have full movement and can make quick moves without pain or fear of opening the incisions. It is only day 2 after surgery and I have a lot of mobility back, as well as very little muscle soreness, and I have not taken more Tylenol. The incisions are still ugly, but already showing signs of healing. Here’s to looking to the next step and that it is as uneventful as the first step has been.
As a means of staying positive, I am searching for the silver linings in the very overwhelming surreal world I have entered.
- First among them as previously mentioned is kickstarting my weight loss – 12 pounds in 5 weeks.
- The next is the opportunity to step away from my life and all the commitments and reassess what I really want to be doing. I have paired down my life to only those activities that do not require deadlines or people depending on me to deliver something. This gives me space to work on projects I have always meant to get to but had no time.
- And for the fun part, time and space to get caught up on all those magazines that are piling up, and TV shows I have not had time to binge watch over the years.
But the most extraordinary silver lining is coming to the realization of how many people in my life love and support me. So many people have stepped up to help during the coming year. And the best part is they know me well enough to know how hard it is for me to ask for help. And my hope is that all of these people from different parts of my life also meet and forge new friendships as well.
I am working hard to put in the front of my brain that people like to help. But I am like my father, I do not want to be a burden. I looked for ways to not have to ask directly but afford people the opportunity to help when they are able. This is where technology is a god send. Not only does this blog streamline communications but using a tool like signup genius puts it out there, and people can self-select.
As hard as this journey may be, I will fight to focus on the silver linings, and find love and laughter in all that I do. And maybe at the end of this journey I will figure out the reason this happened now, and what good will come from it.
The silver lining, I have lost 12 pounds in 5 weeks. Of course, this is due to never-ending stomach ache that is making my meals smaller and eliminating sweets and foods with no nutritional value. But I cannot ignore the fear. I search for the primary cause, so I can mitigate it and stop the stomach aches and stress. Oddly enough, the word cancer is not causing the fear, my mom survived two fights with cancer. The fear is stemming from the thought of ingesting all of the drugs into my body when I have a history of drug allergies.
Again, I attack the problem with logic and actionable steps. I find an allergist that takes me seriously and is interested in testing each drug as a stand alone to see what my body does. Then I start looking into the homeopathic ways of dealing with the symptoms; chief among them, diet, acupuncture, and exercise. I start by developing a diet plan and moving to a primarily plant-based diet. I have received recommendations for a good local acupuncturist. And of course, finally start to move toward a regular exercise plan. I have talked about doing it, now I need to act.
As I take each of these steps I feel calmer. The stomach is not so jumpy, and I sleep a little better at night. When I talk to people, they are amazed at how calm and matter of fact I am. It is real, not just a face I am putting on. For me information and action make me feel in control, and positive about the outcome. My mother proved to me time and again that your mental outlook is more than 50% of the battle of coming out the other side as good if not better than before. Here is to keeping positive and focused on success.
I think I am in denial. I feel great, and have nothing wrong with me. Except I have this tiny little tumor inside my breast that needs to come out, or I will be very sick in the future.
So, I organize my life to add another level of chaos. I stepped away from all my commitments, so that I can focus on "beating the beast", as a friend referred to it. I looked to what personal and work-related projects I can focus on that do not have deadlines or people counting on me to deliver against a deadline. I view myself as incredibly fortunate to have the flexibility to do this. And I start trying to view this as a vacation where I get to read all the magazines that have piled up, binge watch the TV shows I have missed over the years, and possibly write the book that has been running through my head for a few years now. These things I can do regardless of how I feel.
To my astounding surprise, friends and family do not hesitate to offer help and support. I am not sure they have any idea what they are getting into, I am a horrible patient; cranky, whiny, and bitchy when I do not feel well. I guess if we focus on the laughter …
So again, I do what I do best, create organization out of chaos. Start to work on ways to channel the support. I find tools like this blog post and signupgenius.com to streamline the process. Because I know me, I do not ask for help well. If I must ask more than once, I will give up and find a way to do it myself, or not do it at all. And I realize that people like to help, it makes them feel good, so who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth.
I have always believed that there is a reason for everything, and things happen when they are supposed to. I am now focused on figuring out what the positive reason for this diagnosis is, and what good things will result.
I am not the first and I will not be the last to be diagnosed with breast cancer. I do not even have a very advanced form of breast cancer. But regardless, it is a disconcerting world I have entered, and I need to find purpose and calm in the storm. If this blog/website can help others as they navigate their journey, I will feel there is some purpose.
The calendar year 2017 had not closed yet when I was told I had stage 1 triple positive breast cancer. My mother had survived cancer twice in her lifetime, so the word "cancer" did not have the same horror that others might experience. But being who I am , I started researching. I made sure I was using legitimate and authoritative sites. This kept me away form the horror stories and complete and utter panic. I learned very quickly that the stage of the cancer does not mean the treatment is any less or easier. It is the markers (triple positive) that determines the treatment recommended. The positive estrogen and progesterone was a good thing, because it is very responsive to hormone therapy. But the HER2 positive meant I was going to need Chemotherapy. So although it is stage 1 and very contained, my treatment plan based on the biopsy would be lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation; so the whole nine yards. Once the lumpectomy is complete, they will test the tumor and lymph nodes to confirm the diagnosis, but I am told that it is not likely to change dramatically. So I plan for the worst, hope for the best, because hope is not a strategy.