Saturday, March 23, 2013

Quit Complaining Debbie Downer

This is not a negative post.  I've done enough of those.  I think I'll be in a much better mood when the weather reflects the season.  I need green grass and outside time and hanging out in Dad's shop.  Yup. That'll do it.  After this snowstorm, that is.  I've honestly not been posting much because even I am sick of my negativity.  Here is a picture:
The end.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cancer Effing Sucks

My echo cardiogram was as clear as every other test has been.  That was a relief, but still left a huge question mark over my head about how we were going to treat the swelling.  I finally met with my oncologist today.  My blood pressure was 150/100 *sigh* but the swelling is mostly gone.

She feels that the swelling and other side effects were direct results of the Tamoxifen.  The problem is that there is no other drug that is effective in pre-menopausal women.  Post-menopausal women have several to choose from.  This demands that we find out where I am in that respect.

Guys, stop reading now.  You're welcome.

I haven't had a period since June of '12, when I started chemo.  That's to be expected.  Starting Tamoxifen was expected to yield the same result, so no shocks there.  The problem is that it prevents us from counting on the obvious symptoms to know my menopausal status.  So they drew blood.  Mom?  This is where you remind me how old you were when you went through it.

For now, I am still off Tamoxifen.  I don't like that, since I want every weapon available to me in this fight, but I'll deal with it for three more weeks.  At that point, I'll go back to see the oncologist and see what my blood work revealed.  If I'm pre-menopausal, they'll likely give me an injection (or injections? I don't remember what she said) to stop my ovaries from working, throwing me into menopause.  Then I can start one of the many drugs aimed at that.

More waiting.  More unsettled worrying.  More and more proof that cancer effing sucks.  I suggest you avoid it.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

One Year Later

Today marks a year since I got the call, confirming my suspicions of breast cancer.  With the help of an amazing team of doctors, I threw everything I could at the beast, and I feel I beat it.  This week's mammogram on the remaining breast came out "all clear," which was an amazing relief.  They tested 10 lymph nodes during my mastectomy, and three of them were positive for those pesky cancer cells.

When it's in your lymph nodes, it is easily carried to other parts of your body.  This is the annoying thing that keeps me on my guard.  Knowing that, even though chemotherapy ended six months ago and radiation ended four months ago, I had a clear mammogram.  That is comforting.

I've been pulled off of Tamoxifen, the hormone suppressing drug, because of my swelling and other symptoms.  An echo-cardiogram has been ordered for next Friday morning to make sure my heart hasn't been damaged.  I had one before my surgery that was good, so we have a baseline for comparison.  Worrying won't help, so I'll just wait.

All of my kids will be together on Wednesday evening, and I'm really looking forward to that.  It's a black-out week at work, so I couldn't take any time off, but Kevin was able to.  We'll try to do some fun stuff with them.  I'm glad there is something positive and fun for me to focus my attention on.  The bottom line is, I've survived a horrible year.  And I'm stronger for it.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Stupid Medical Crap

I'm so done with medical issues!  I had my annual ob-gyn appointment today.  Just routine.  Well, except that it is at last  year's appointment that I talked to her about the lump, and it was at last years appointment that she ordered the mammogram that resulted in the biopsy that happened a year ago today.  Yeah.  Except for that.

My gynecologist's office is down the hall from the cancer center.  This means that I entered the same building and took the same elevator to the same floor.  I was fine this morning, but by the time I got to the office and signed in, I was nervous as heck.  Stupid.

They called me back, I got changed into the gown, and I waited.  Forever.  When Dr. Finkle came in, she said, "So, how are you doing, really?"  That's when I broke down crying.  I'm so done.  I'm done with appointments, I'm done with poking and prodding, and I'm done with questions.  I love her dearly, and she's the reason that cancer didn't win.  I'm not mad at her, I'm just down.

So we talked and she wants to have me try Effexor, which should alleviate the hot flashes and help with anxiety at the same time.  I'm willing to try.  I've been a nightmare to my family for a while now.  Everyone that I know is on my last nerve.  The common denominator is me.  I hope it helps.  But we didn't get to complete that conversation, because that's when she started my exam by looking at my legs.

"Your legs are SO swollen?  How long have they been like that?  Why didn't you say anything?"  Umm, because it's no biggie to me compared to cancer?  Because I'm fat and I figured that was to blame?  Because I'm sick of reporting medical complications?  I don't KNOW!  She completed the exam and then looked at my legs again.  She said I wasn't leaving until she decided what she was going to do.

After getting dressed, I opened the door. She met me at the door and said, "I've decided how we're handling this."  It could be a blood clot, or a heart issue, or just fluid retention.  She ordered an immediate ultrasound of my legs to rule out clots and I headed downstairs to complete that.  My oncologist was not in the office, but she will call her and get me in sooner than my March 19th appointment.  She will let my oncologist decide where to send me to rule out heart issues.

The ultrasound showed no clots.  That was my biggest worry.  Those can mean instant death.  I have no blood clots.  PHEW!  I'll get a call tomorrow with information about what to do next.  Damn.  I'm SO sick of this stuff.  I was in a funk before this, and now I have to concentrate on not letting it pull me down further.  I have a great week ahead of me, and that's what I plan to concentrate on.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Phew! The Mammogram Edition

Today was round one of my appointments that mark one year since my diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma.  I had spent the weekend in Texas, enjoying sunshine and time with friends, so I came back relaxed and happy.  I thought I'd be fine today and just go to my appointments and then come home.  But it wasn't that easy.

I woke up late, since I didn't have to work today.  (I took a vacation day to get through the appointments.)  The closer it got to time to leave, the more worried I became.  I know a lot of people who are approaching the one year mark, and they are finding abnormalities.  I know two who now have metastatic breast cancer.  I know that I'm at greater risk than many people.  I started tearing up and wringing my hands.  (because we all know how much good that does.)

Kevin sent a text and offered to go with me.   You betcha!  He was there a year ago for all of the first appointments.  He acts as a memory and another set of ears for me.  He gets to be the calm one.  He gets to ask questions that I may forget.

Our first stop was at the rehab office for my physical therapy.  I suspected that she'd release me and I was right.  She told me to continue my at-home exercises right up until surgery, and then resume them as soon as the plastic surgeon approves.  My range of motion measurements were great and she was thrilled with my progress.  I'm to ask to see her again ONLY if I have problems.

From there, we went to the diagnostic center for the mammogram.  I was starting to really stress.  I tried to breathe through it and calm down.  Kevin and I played games on the iPad and made nonsense conversation to pass the time.  I had the mammogram (on the remaining side only) and then waited to get results.  I could see some weird areas on the screen as I went by, and my panic increased.

Finally, a doctor that I'd never met knocked on the door and came in.  "Here we go," I thought.  "This is where it all started.  She's going to tell me I have cancer."  She smiled, shook my  hand, and said, "I've looked over the images and everything looks great."  I instantly teared up.  I was more relieved than I've ever been in my life.  All that was left was to see the breast surgeon.

His nurse practitioner came in first and asked some questions and examined me.  Then Dr. Shook came in and examined me again.  He's very pleased with the way the tissue expander side has healed.  (I don't like to call it the "cancer side.")  He asked some questions about the plastic surgeon's plan.  We talked for a bit and then he told me that he didn't need to see me for a year.  What?  No doctor has told me that for a long time!

My emotions are raw and I still have many appointments coming up over the next few months.  I made it through a diagnostic test without finding cancer.  It can be done.  Breathe in, breathe out.  I'll go to work tomorrow and keep moving forward.  Each day is a bright new day.  It should get easier from here.  PHEW!