Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ow! Ow! Ouch! Ow!

If you see me around muttering, "Ow! Ow! Ouch! Ow!" there's a reason.

Though, I'm not entirely sure what the reason is, I'm achy and sore.

Not all the time.  But enough of the time to look a little strange (more so than usual, my friends).

I don't know what is causing the aching and stiffness.  It could be leftover from chemo (side effects can last a year or longer!).  More likely it's a side effect of the cancer drug that I'm taking, Anastrozole.

One of my most persistent side effects during my chemo treatment was the aching, soreness and stiffness.  When I finished chemo and moved on to taking the daily cancer pill, my oncologist warned me that these side effects might still be an issue.

At first, as I resumed my daily life activities, I just figured that I was (woefully) out of shape.  My body had a lot of catching up to do.  The most I'd done in the last 9 months was walk to and from the kitchen for an occasional cookie (which is another issue altogether).  I surmised, that, as I got more used to life, I'd be less sore.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have worked that way.  In fact, I would say that I struggle more with the aches and pains than I did just a couple of months ago.  Perhaps I'm doing drastically more or maybe the oral cancer drug just took this long to really build up in my system and make its presence known.

Some days are better than others.  Some days I feel pretty good.  Other days, I'm just so sore.  I feel like I went to the gym and spent hours on the torture machines (I haven't - in fact, it's been so long, I might get lost trying to FIND my gym again).  It does seem to follow that the busier I am, the more sore I am.

Oh cookie, how I love thee.
The other night, after a particularly full day or errands, doctor appointments (yes, I still have quite a few of them for various reasons) and kid activities - I lay in bed in agony.  I had a raging headache and everything hurt.  I seriously pondered getting up to take some Motrin.  But, I knew the Motrin was all the way in the kitchen.  I also knew there were no more cookies.  It just wasn't quite worth it to ONLY get up for the Motrin (without a cookie for a reward).  So, instead, I lay there in pain.

I tried to not move even the slightest muscle.  I tried to not even breathe too much.  At that point, the only thing that would have gotten me out of bed wouldn't have been a natural disaster.

I eventually did fall asleep and I woke the next morning feeling a little better.

It feels wrong to complain about such silly things.  Taking a drug that might keep you from getting cancer but makes you achy seems better than the alternative, I suppose.

I'll try to remember that as my bones creak and my muscles scream.

I wonder if there are any cookies in the kitchen...

Monday, May 7, 2012

I'm Okay...I Think

A few days ago, I went to my 6 month check-up.  After having blood tests, a chest x-ray and ultrasounds of my kidneys and thyroid, I was to find out the results.  Was there any cancer lurking?

I was so ecstatic to find out that all tests were clear!  Everything looked normal!  I. Am. Normal.  As much as I ever was, that is.

I practically skipped out of the cancer center.  My cancer days behind me.

An hour later, I ran into an acquaintance at the grocery store.  She remarked at how fast my hair is growing back.  She asked, "How are you?"

I said, "I'm okay."

and then I added,

"I think..."

Immediately after I said it, I wondered why.  Why did I add, "I think."  Just an hour earlier, I'd been at the oncologist where he assured me that everything was fine.  There are no signs of cancer.  Nothing in any of the tests to worry about.  No indication of anything wrong.

And yet, here I was saying, "I think..."

This is how you feel after getting an All Clear on your test results.
This is not actually me - if I tried to do this jumping stunt,
I'd have bigger things to worry about than cancer.
It's no secret that cancer patients dread these tests.  It's not the tests themselves that we dread - it's the waiting and then the finding out.  Once you find out the test results, your anxiety level decreases down to the lowest levels possible.  You feel FREE!  You feel ALIVE!  You are ECSTATIC!

As the days and weeks and then months pass, getting closer to the next check-up, the next round of tests; slowly your anxiety levels creep up.  Slowly, more and more doubt leaks in about whether or not you are healthy - whether or not cancer has returned.

Healthy people don't generally think too much about their health.  You live your life with the assumptions that you are fine.  I remember when I found out that I had cancer (both times).  It was such a blow.  "But, I feel FINE!" I remember thinking.  "How could I be so sick?!"  "How could there be something trying to kill me right now?"

Once you have cancer, though, you are always looking over your shoulder waiting for it to return.  Watching your back.  You know that cancer could be silently lurking, you've been there before.  You've lived it.

I've pondered the reasons that I said, "I think..." a lot since I said it.

I've wondered if I said it because I just like the attention.  Someone WITH cancer is much more interesting than just someone who HAD cancer.  I do like to be interesting...

But, I think I said it because, once you have cancer, you are just never sure.  Never 100% positive that there isn't something else lurking.  More cancer to face.

The further I get from cancer treatment, the more days I spend being "in remission," the less I do think about cancer.  Of course, it still is a main topic in my brain every day - but it's not the thought obsession that it was in the beginning when I could think of nothing else.

I wonder though, if I'll always say (or think) "I think..." when people ask me how I am.  Doctors may say that I'm cured at some point, but will I ever really FEEL "cured?"


Thursday, May 3, 2012

What Double Mastectomy Means to a 7 Year Old...

Last night, my 7 year old son was studying me.  When I noticed he asked:

Carter:  Mom, so you don't have to wear breasts anymore?
Me: (confused) What do you mean?
Carter:  You know, you don't have to WEAR BREASTS anymore?
Me: Well, I don't HAVE breasts anymore, is that what you mean?
Carter: Ya, how come?
Me: Remember, I had surgery to remove my breasts because I had cancer?
Carter: Yes, but you know, you don't have to WEAR them anymore? (does motions with hands)
Me: Oh, you mean BRAS?
Carter: YES!  So, you don't have to WEAR them anymore?
Me: Nope!
Carter:  Oh.  Okay!  (trots out of room pretending to be a Pokemon character)

Alrighty then.


Our local paper published a story I wrote for them about my cancer journey.  I'm feeling very famous right now, I especially like how they put "Contributing Writer" under my name like I'm legit!

After seeing that I was in the newspaper, Kyra (10) asked:

Kyra: Will the paparazzi start following you around now like they do with other famous people?
Me: Yes, sweetie, that is exactly what's going to happen.
Kyra: Oh.  Wow.  I hope no one follows me home...