Oct 26, 2012

Life Marches On

Here's me & David a few days ago at the Keene, NH Pumpkinfest2012
I haven't been to my breast cancer blog in a long time. That's really good news in itself because it means that I really haven't had any cancer issues to deal with lately.

Well, there was one issue not too long ago. Briefly, I had a broken collarbone from a skiing accident last January. It was quite a bummer because I missed practically the whole ski season. Anyway, I saw an Oncologist Orthopedist (in English, that's a bone doctor who specializes in cancer) for follow-up. He wasn't happy with my x-ray nor with how I was healing. So, he did a bone biopsy on September 14th.

The very next day, we set off on our Tramper Voyage! www.trampervoyage.com

It was funny. I wasn't worried about the outcome of the biopsy. Of course, I also wasn't too worried when I had the very first biopsy in which I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer! So much for my intuition.

A few days after we left Baltimore, I got good results: no cancer in my clavicle. Phew! Dodged that bullet.

My last surgery for reconstruction was back in April. It's nice to have a shape again. I may have already mentioned in this space: the moment I woke up from the very first reconstruction surgery, the one back in October where I had expanders placed, I was grateful to have a normal shape. No more concave monster chest!

So, to be done with everything associated with cancer treatment and follow-up is cause for great celebration! And we are celebrating - every day of the Tramper Voyage is a day of joyful gratitude that we beat cancer, hopefully forever.

But, we can't know what's in store for us in the future, which makes it all the more important to take the Tramper Voyage right now, not 15 or 20 years from now..

Dec 27, 2011

New Year's Resolution

 Right now, my house is filled with Christmas goodies of all kinds. Homemade cookies, chocolate Santa's, peanut butter cups, Chinese food leftovers and a pumpkin pie.

As soon as we eat our way through it all, it's diet and exercise time again. I know - I should just throw most of it out but that seems so wasteful. Especially the homemade cookies and peanut butter cups! And, David's thrifty upbringing doesn't allow him to waste anything (mostly a plus but our overflowing closets and file cabinets could use a good purging).

Starting a get-healthy program will be great for my self-esteem, my heart and my energy level. But, even more importantly, it may help me fight off a breast cancer recurrence. I've been reading lately about how regular  exercise can help lower a women's risk for getting breast cancer. Even women who have already had it can better avoid another bout by being active. Here's a link to an article from the National Cancer Institute if you need some inspiration:


Note especially question number 5. If you live in Baltimore and would like a workout buddy, I'm your girl!

Oct 18, 2011

Doing well, going good

Surgery was 4 days ago and it's going so well! I'm feeling good and I'm able to take walks in the neighborhood and do stairs and get up off the couch all by myself! I am far from by myself, though. I have the best family ever! Today, David and Olivia completed an outdoor project for me. Weeds were cleared, new plants were planted, mulch was spread and everything cleaned up! All I had to do was supervise.

Oct 10, 2011

More Surgery!

So I have another surgery scheduled for this Friday, the 14th. I'm going to start the breast reconstruction process. Step one is expander placement, happening this Friday. Over the next two months, I'll go to the plastic surgeon's office for saline injections each week. Then, I rest for two more months. Then it will be time to get breast implants. Yay! I'll have breasts again! This is no small thing. I feel deformed; I am deformed. My chest is concave. Even a small breasted woman has something there!

I don't want big ones. I want nice little ones that don't bounce too much with exercise. The surgeon can do that - make them have less bounce. So I can still be active and not have to wear the giant masher bra I used to wear:

Speaking of the plastic surgeon, you should have seen his office! Plush, expensive everything. A waterfall in the waiting room. Expensive lighting, expensive carpets and cabinetry. My doctor comes very highly recommended for breast reconstruction after mastectomy. But he makes his money with cosmetic surgeries. Hence, the plush office. David had some amusing comments to make about the office but only I noticed that all the young women working in the outer office were wearing matching, low-ish cut black shirts. And all had matching big boobs! Must have been an employee discount...

I'm having the usual pre-surgery nervousness. Nothing major because I have confidence in the surgeon and the anesthesiologist at Northwest Hospital. I'm hoping that after these two procedures, I won't ever need surgery again!

Aug 5, 2011

A Little Night Cream

I may have already posted my 'plug' for my favorite post-radiation moisturizer. I am far too lazy to look back through my previous posts so I may be saying this again. But, good things are worth saying twice.

Mary Kay Extra Emollient Night Cream is the best! The Radiation Therapy department at Sinai recommended Aquaphor. Aquaphor is nice but the Mary Kay stuff is a bit nicer because it smells nice and it's a pretty rosy-orange color when it comes out of the tube. It also works much better than your average department store moisturizer.

The MK cream made my skin very soft and supple again. That's really saying something because they gave me a large dose of radiation. My skin looked like an oak leaf in winter! I'm sure that there is a more expensive product that works just as well as the Mary Kay. But why spend $100.00 when the MK Extra Emollient Night Cream is $13.00? Pretty much a no-brainer...

I'm not a Mary Kay consultant, just a fan of the good stuff. (My niece used to sell Mary Kay, but not anymore.) So, if you know someone getting Radiation Therapy, you could pass along my tip. Or not.

Aug 1, 2011

Lighten Up!

It's so easy to become a little down. Plenty of sleep, good food and plenty of exercise really go a long way in helping keep my mood up. I try not to think about cancer now. My battle is, for the most part, done. I continue to take my vitamin D and try to be aware of any changes in my body. My new medical oncologist, Dr Mukhtar Hassan, said that he wants to keep an extra eye on me because of the advanced stage in which I presented.
Speaking of Dr Hassan, I want to take a little detour and say something about him. First of all, he is great! I really like him and get a good 'vibe' from him. Very smart, very on top of things. I tried to Google Image him but Dr. Mukhtar Hassan must be a common name in West Africa because there were dozens and dozens of them and I couldn't find my Dr Hassan. (A friend suggested that I include more pictures on my blog.) My previous medical oncologist, Dr Cristina Truica, above, was one of my heroes. She guided me through all the tough treatment. But, she left Sinai for another opportunity and so I was given Dr Hassan. He made quite an initial impression when he walked into the exam room. He is very tall and very black - beautiful color - with an African accent. He was wearing a pale buttery-yellow suit with a pale yellow shirt. He had on shiny leather shoes with a point at the toe. I was delighted! I will see him often over the next few years and feel I'm in good hands.
Anyhoo, my job unfortunately offers me plenty of opportunities to see women with breast cancer who are not doing so well. Some have had treatment but still present with disease. Some are going back into the fray, having had breast cancer a few years ago and are now having a recurrence. So, I try to give them some love and also to separate their battle from my own.
A little humor now and then helps, too. Like the photo below of my new breasts, found on sale at Michael's the other day:
Shiny Coconuts, complete with port-removal scar at upper left

Jul 5, 2011

July the Fourth and other bits

Yesterday was the Fourth of July. We went to see the neighborhood fireworks in the evening. We love these fireworks and have gone to see them every year for quite a while now. It's not a long drive, there isn't much traffic to deal with and, best of all, you're up close so you can lay on a blanket and look up and the fireworks explode right over you in the sky.

As we walked across the school fields, I remembered that I was bald at last year's fireworks.

Tonight, we got a snowball - a great Baltimore summer tradition. I got chocolate, of course, and also remembered, again, that the last time I had a snowball, I was bald. Totally hairless, actually. No eyelashes, no armhair, no eyebrows, etc.

It's amazing the difference a year makes. Now I have hair, and cancer is starting to seem more like a memory and less like a daily reality.

I had a PET/CT scan today. Nothing's wrong - it was just a follow-up. There is still a small (very small) amount of anxiety about the result but I'm confident that the cancer is gone. Last month, I saw a plastic surgeon. He specializes in breast reconstruction after mastectomy. One of the questions I had for him was about recurrence. Of the cancer. I asked what would happen to my new chest if I had a recurrence. He said that it would depend on where the tumor was located. He also said - and this is so great - that I probably wouldn't have a recurrence. He knows what treatments I've had. He said that women who get all the things they threw at me usually didn't get recurrences. Oh, boy, was I happy to hear him say that!