January 7, 2023

Well, I’m thankful today that the urgent care clinic wasn’t busy when I showed up this morning. Again. For some reason, I keep getting bladder infections. The doctors say that it’s more likely post menopause, so just one more reason to hate chemotherapy and its menopause-inducing effect. I think these are the things doctors need to prepare people for post cancer. Sigh.

I got an antibiotic today before my symptoms got worse than the need for the bathroom every half hour. By tomorrow that should be better, too. I’m thankful that the meds work quickly. And I’m hoping at my next doctor’s appointment in February I can find a fix for these reoccurrences.

December 30, 2021

I’m going to talk about my hair. I know, I know, not again. But hear me out because this is my next lesson.

P.C. (Pre-cancer) my hair was thick, wavy, and pretty easy to style whether it was short or long. I kept it long, mostly, I would change the color periodically without doing much damage. I could curl it quickly and the curls would hold. I was often stopped by complete strangers who commented on how much they liked my hair.

P.C. hair

Once my hair began coming back after chemo, I’ve been shocked to see how it’s growing. I’ve pointed out before the crazy amounts of cowlicks I have. And it seems to be growing in all different directions. Some forward, some straight down. Some areas are kinda flat. The back has curl.

Post chemo hair

I don’t believe chemo completely changed my hair. What I believe is that I never knew the craziness that was going on underneath. Who would have thought that all these cowlicks worked to make my hair full in just the right spots? Or that the variety of directions helped it lay right or gave it the waviness that I took for granted. If I didn’t know what my hair normally looked like, I’d be worried about this mess of new growth. How can this possibly end up looking good?

And isn’t that a great metaphor for life in general? How often does it seem like everything is going wrong and only later do we see that what appeared to be mistakes were the steps getting us to where we needed to be. Sometimes what we worry are problems are just things working in ways we couldn’t imagine. So maybe the lesson is to be patient. Or have faith. Or keep holding on and not freak out at every setback. While losing my hair was a big deal, and I’m still getting used to its current state, I’m actually thankful I got this peek underneath. This lesson is one I really needed to be reminded of.

August 20, 2021

Last night I started feeling tired of my drains, tired of the heaviness in my chest, tired of sleeping in the recliner. Today I think it’s the emotional toll of this surgery that has been weighing on me. I feel broken in a way I haven’t up until now.

I knew having a bi-lateral mastectomy would be hard. Since the binding the surgeon put on during my surgery is clear, I’ve seen the bruising and swelling, although the dressings hide my incisions. It was startling at first, but not unexpected, and every day it looks a little better. I’m not sure why the sadness has hit me at this point. Maybe it’s that I’ve spent the last couple of weeks mostly sitting around, and the inactivity makes me feel like an invalid. Maybe it’s these stupid drains that I’ve been carrying around in a fanny pack in front of me that I’m constantly aware of. Maybe it’s that my mom (bless her!) has spent all day cleaning my house for us while I’ve sat outside, out of her way.

Or maybe it’s that I haven’t quite accepted the changes that I knew were inevitable. I wish it were quicker. Off with the old, on with the new. But it can’t work that way. It’s coming in stages and requires healing time. As I type this I realize that really is the crux of it for me. I want to be finished, so I can really move on. I don’t like the unknowns that still linger.

The pathology from my surgery showed positive margins which means some cancer cells may have been left behind. If we weren’t going to do radiation already, we would be now. I was told there’s also a chance my oncologist could suggest more chemo. I hope not. Next week I see him as well as the radiation oncologist. I also see both surgeons again. By Wednesday, I’ll know the next steps.

Still, I’m thankful today that I’m on the mend. That I had such great help from my mom and sister the last couple of weeks. That I’ll have answers early next week. And I’m grateful that my days feeling broken are few and quickly over.

August 3, 2021

One week to surgery and I had my pre-op appointment with my general doctor to get clearance. Unfortunately, I didn’t know I’d have bloodwork done or I wouldn’t have eaten a chocolate cupcake just beforehand. Surprise! My glucose is high. I should just put that on a t-shirt. I’m pretty sure it was high every time I had bloodwork during chemo.

And even though my swollen fingers have gotten a bit better, they’re still not right after several weeks, so I mentioned it to the doctor. She added a couple tests for arthritis to the blood panel, so there’s that. Every week I get about ten years older. The first test results looked normal to my untrained eye, but the other results aren’t posted in my online chart yet. I’d cross my fingers if they weren’t too fat.

The nurse who did my blood draw was flabbergasted by my picture in my chart. She looked at it, then looked at me, then back at my picture. Finally, she asked, Have you seen your picture on here?! I laughed when I realized what she meant and told her I was sporting my chemo hair. I’m pretty sure she thought they hadn’t updated my picture in 20 years. She had the grace to tell me it looked good, and I think she felt bad for not noticing the diagnosis in my chart.

So while I seem to be falling apart bit by bit, I’m still good to go for surgery. The countdown now begins while I keep telling myself it will be fine. All is good. At least I’ll have young boobs when it’s all over.

August 1, 2021

It’s August! Ack. Where has the summer gone? It’s like the weekend; it blows by too quickly.

I FaceTimed with my daughter yesterday, and she mentioned how long my hair looked, so of course, I had to measure it. It’s an inch and a quarter. It does look long, considering, but that’s growth over the last three months. At this rate, assuming it doesn’t accelerate, it should be to my shoulders in about 2 years. I’m going to hope it starts to speed up.

It’s kind of fun to see how my hair is growing out. One thing I find crazy is how many cowlicks I have that I never noticed before. The center of my “bangs” points down towards my forehead but the edges wing out like little horns. And now I’m getting a spot on top of my head that sticks straight up. What the actual heck. I heard on Jeopardy that cowlicks are formed in utero so I must have had these prior to chemo. Luckily, they weren’t this noticeable. Slow or quick, I’m thankful my hair is growing, even though it’s still rather white.

July 23, 2021

Yesterday I went to the dentist because I canceled my last cleaning due to chemo. However, I was having some pain around a tooth as well as a weird bump that showed up on my gum. I was nervous about going. I’m always nervous now about catching something before my surgery. But I was also afraid I had something going on with my teeth and didn’t want to put it off several more months. I asked my sister, who works in a dental office, how risky she thought it was to go. Obviously, she didn’t think it posed too much of a risk since I went. And it turns out the bump is a benign cyst and my pain is from a cracked filling that my dentist agreed to fix for free after my surgery.

Today I had an eye exam scheduled because my eyesight seems to have gotten worse while on chemo, and I was noticing wavy lines in my peripheral vision pretty regularly. My oncologist said to get it checked once chemo was over. Well, my eye doctor says that the decline in my eyesight is probably more age-related than chemo-related. Dang it, and I liked her. Overall, my eyes are fine, even with the occasional wavy lines.

I’m thankful both appointments went well and gave me nothing more to worry about. I mean, I don’t think I could handle anything more at this point. Now I just need to figure out why a couple of my fingers have been swollen for two weeks. (Insert eye roll here.)

July 9, 2021

I’m going to whine for a minute, but I promise to end on a high note. I was hoping my neuropathy would start getting better but it isn’t. The numbness in my finger tips doesn’t bother me too much. It’s sometimes weird touching things and not getting a normal sensation. My feet, however, have really been bothering me lately.

When I was warned about neuropathy during chemo, my doctor described it as numbness or maybe tingling. Most websites describe it that way as well, with the added potential for sharp pain or burning. The best way I can describe it is to imagine walking around a big city all day in shoes that have no arch support. Then, when your feet are really sore, taking the shoes off and walking across hot pavement. My feet are achy, hot, and difficult to stand on for very long. Wearing closed toe shoes and socks makes it worse. Sadly, by the end of the day, my calves and knees also ache, and when I lay down, I periodically get sharp pains going through them.

The thing I keep thinking sounds good is wrapping them in something cool, especially at bedtime, and/or soaking them. So today I got a foot spa. It has vibration and is supposed to have bubbles, but it isn’t working quite right. However, I’m happy to say it helped. The cool water is soothing and relaxing, especially while sipping a glass of wine! I’m going to find a better spa and use it regularly. I’m thankful to find things like this that will help instead of resorting to pain medication. And I’m not losing hope that the neuropathy will eventually go away.

June 14, 2021

Last week I called my nurse coordinator to ask her about some test results that I got. During our conversation, we talked about the next steps in my treatment. I mentioned that I thought I should have an MRI before meeting with my surgeon again. She agreed and said she’d call his office, which she did. So today I had an MRI. Next week I meet with my surgeon.

Getting an MRI is an uncomfortable experience, but today I’m thankful for it because it confirmed that chemo works. The results showed “markedly improved appearance” compared to the previous one. My last MRI showed a 2-inch tumor spanning all four “quadrants.” This one showed 3 small spots, about 5mm or less each.

I think it’s probably a common fear for those with cancer to worry that the medicine won’t help. I had read that sometimes lobular cancer doesn’t respond well to chemo, and that was stuck in the back of my mind. That’s most likely why I felt such relief today. Even though the improvement doesn’t change the fact that I still need surgery and radiation, I’ll go into the next step feeling like the chemo has already made a big difference.

June 8, 2021

I was crabby today. I’ve been feeling like there is so much in pause mode again. I spent so long in chemo which felt like I was actively working towards my cure, and now, I’m just waiting. It’s frustrating. I thought I had learned patience but some days, it’s really hard. I called my doctors’s office yesterday just to make sure they had let my surgeon know I was done with chemo since I expected to have an MRI to check how much the tumor had (hopefully) shrunk. Thankfully late this afternoon, the surgeon’s office called to schedule an appointment to discuss next options. Not the MRI I was hoping for, but I’ll take it.

June 2, 2021

So…the last week or so I’ve been struggling with extremely sore legs. Like keep me up at night, need to put menthol on them, sore. If I sit too long, it becomes hard to walk. Mix the leg soreness with the stupid rash that doesn’t want to seem to leave my face and my neuropathy that’s even more present, and I feel like my chemo effects have ramped up for a last hurrah. Man, I hope it’s short-lived.

No what, though, there’s always something to be thankful for. for example, just as we were wondering what to have for dinner, our neighbor showed up with homemade egg rolls just out of the fryer. They were delicious.