Is there something wrong with me?

Throughout my journey, I’ve often asked myself that question.

Is there something wrong with me?

Aside from the obvious, of course. I knew I had cancer, but I often wondered if my emotions were off or something.

I didn’t read too much about my disease. I’ve mentioned that before. Mostly because I’m well aware that not everything you read online is true. I’d rather hear it from the medical professionals who know me, my body, and my disease.

But occasionally I’d see blog posts by others with cancer or cancer survivors that pop up on my Facebook wall. If it was a topic that interested me, I’d read it. Sometimes it was a cartoon or a meme. Sometimes I’d read the comments on the post, too.

This is where I’d always sort of question my sanity.

People post and comment a lot about the emotions they felt and feel. There’s a lot of depression and anxiety, anger and sadness. I get all that, I do. As a psych student, I completely understand why someone with a cancer diagnosis would feel all of those things.

I was pretty pissed off when I was diagnosed. I had plans, and cancer really screwed those plans up. I fell behind in school, I couldn’t work as much, had to break commitments. The side effects of chemo were annoying and uncomfortable. It downright pissed me off. I get the anger.

Depression, anxiety, and sadness? I understand those emotions, but I didn’t feel them. Yeah, I was probably sad for a minute when I was given the diagnosis – it’s not exactly a happy time, but I didn’t break down. Not once.

So, that begs the question: is there something wrong with me?

I’ve thought about this a lot because I read where people feel anxiety even after they’re cancer free because they’re constantly worrying about the return of their cancer. I’ve read where people feel depressed because of the hair loss, mastectomy, feeling sick, etc. People often ask how I’m doing, and I always answer “great!” (unless I’m in the sick week of chemo, in which case they’ll get a laundry list of complaints) because it’s true, I have been great! So naturally I’ve wondered why I haven’t felt those things. I’ve even dug deep down inside me to see if maybe I was feeling those things but was in denial about it. But I really haven’t. I haven’t felt much negativity at all during this process.

Why?

Well, I have a few ideas.

I tried to keep my schedule and routine as close to what it was as I possibly could. I continued to go to work and go to school as long as I could and as often as I could. I think that helped keep things normal and kept me feeling normal.

I had the mindset that everything I was going through was temporary. Chemo, all it’s side effects, hair loss, hot flashes, surgeries, adjustments to my schedule/routine…none of it was going to last forever.

I have a great support system. My husband is constantly feeding me compliments, which he also did before all this started so I know he’s not just giving me fluff. My parents and sisters and in-laws have all been great. Friends, teammates, and classmates, too. I haven’t wanted or needed for anything.

I have an awesome medical team. From the very first appointment, Dr JB has been the picture of optimism. She hasn’t given me the opportunity to feel sad or unsure. She’s positive and confident, and leaves no room for me to feel wishy washy. And Dr YB is similar. He’s very confident and direct, says “this is what we’re going to do and it’s going to work.” He told me in my first appointment with him to let him do the worrying, I should just focus on healing and getting better.

So I did. I let him do the worrying. I stayed positive and went with the flow. I did what the doctors told me to do, showed up when I was supposed to. I didn’t let myself get all caught up in the doom and gloom, and when people would say something negative or have a negative tone, I’d change the subject or flat out ignore it. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

So yeah…I guess those things have helped me remain positive and, dare I say it, “normal.” Maybe there’s nothing wrong with me after all? Maybe I’m processing everything just as I should be. I like the sound of that.

Post-Op

I had my first post-op appointment with Dr JB and Dr H today. It went pretty well. They’re happy I have been comfortable and taking minimal pains medication, and everything looks good as far as the incision sites.

Unfortunately the margins weren’t perfect and there’s still a little bit of cancer left, like two or three cells. It’s nothing terrible and nothing should have to change as far as treatment goes. It means I will definitely have to have a mastectomy on the right side, but since I was planning on doing a bilateral mastectomy anyway, that doesn’t affect anything. Dr JB said that since I still have several cycles of Herceptin left, I should be fine as far as the oncology side goes, meaning I shouldn’t need to have more chemo. But I have an appointment with Dr YB this afternoon so I’ll talk to him more about that.

My lymph nodes came back clear, yay, so no radiation! That makes me super happy.

So I’ll update more later if Dr YB says something different regarding treatment, but for now everything still looks good and we’re on target for the mastectomy and reconstruction surgery in about three months.

😁👍🏻

Surgery

I’ve decided what I want to do in terms of surgery, and I’m opting for the bilateral mastectomy.

Unfortunately, nothing will eliminate the risk of recurrence, or new cancer, so I’m going with what reduces the risks the most.

This is a two part thing.

First is the lumpectomy, which is scheduled for Tuesday, January 23rd. During the lumpectomy, whatever is left of the lump (not much according to ultrasounds and feeling around) will be removed and any of the lymph nodes connected to the breast (I forget the technical terms, but it’s the ones that connect to the ducts) will also be removed. So at some point before the surgery, they inject a dye to see which nodes “light up” and remove those. Dr. JB will do the lumpectomy. The same day, while I’m still knocked out, Dr. H will also do some cosmetic work to preserve my nipples in preparation for the reconstruction, as well as balance things out so I’m not uneven and lumpy for the next several months.

Part two of the process is the actual mastectomy and reconstruction. Dr. JB will do the mastectomy, and Dr. H will do the reconstruction. The reconstruction will use belly fat, and I described all that in a previous post so I won’t go through it all again. But this will take place three months after the lumpectomy, per insurance guidelines…so some time in May.

The recovery for the lumpectomy is about two weeks, give or take. There will be drains (yay, vomit) for some of that time. So I’m pretty much out of commission as far as filling in shifts for work and anything else physical for the rest of February.

I’m hoping for smooth sailing! I’m totally over all the yucky parts of this disease, so I don’t particularly care to deal with any more of it!

In other news, my former supervisor at my last admin job, K, is sending us some meals over so we don’t have to worry about food for a little while following the surgery. It’ll be nice to have one less thing to think about and have to do! People have been amazing and supportive, and we appreciate it so much.

Roy, Road Trip, and Snow!

This is gonna be one of those “real” TMI posts, or at least part of it will be, when I tell you about Roy.

Roy is my hemorrhoid.

Yep.

Because why the heck not?

Most people get them because they’re constipated or they strain. Not me. I get it from the diarrhea.

He’s a little…?$&@!

So, over New Years, Brad and I went to Florida with his family. They own a time share in Kissimmee and I’ve been going with them for years. Anyway, we usually do summer, but have made the occasional winter trip.

Lemme tell you, this will probably be the last winter trip! Don’t get me wrong, time with the family was great and we had a good time. But it was just one of those “nothing is working out” types of trips.

First, traffic going down. Not fun. Brad and I left the night before because we were going to have to leave early to head home because he had work. We had a hotel voucher that was going to expire, so we decided to use it so we can start our day earlier in Kissimmee. Traffic leaving SC to enter GA sucked. Traffic on I4 around Orlando sucked. Trafffffffic succccccckkkkeed. We drove to Jacksonville Friday night and then to Kissimmee Saturday morning. (The hotel in Jacksonville was awesome, though!) His family left SC on Saturday and it took them all day to get to FL, no lie. Traffic was awful, again.

Next, it was cold. Not the usual January in Florida cold either, where it was tolerable in the day and a little less tolerable at night. It was cold, windy, and rainy. We wanted to do stuff outside but couldn’t. It didn’t help that I was trying to avoid the elements to avoid getting sick. With the exception of maybe 2 of our 5 days there, I stayed inside in my PJs and comfy clothes. It was cold. Cold.

The entire trip was such a contrast to what we usually experienced when we go there. We payed bingo and trivia, went to the bar (I had Shirley Temples, thank you very much), the guys golfed, we played games…it was still fun, but there were no long days by the pool, walking around doing nothing, nights at the bar…it was lacking because it was just so cold and dreary and dark. It seemed overcast and dark the entire time. I can’t wait for our next summer visit, because that’ll be fun.

Now let me segue back to Roy. Florida is when I discovered Roy. I think the multiple hours sitting in the car on the way down helped him make his presence known. So once I discovered what I was dealing with, we (we as in Brad) got Preparation H, and I’m pretty much good to go. Roy is quite literally a pain in the ass, but he’s fairly decent as far as hemorrhoids go. (Don’t ever Google hemorrhoids, just don’t do it. If you think you have one, just accept it and get the butt cream. Don’t look it up.) He’s of a very small and tame variety, and I’ll leave it at that.

Snow. I did mention snow in the title of this post. It’s something I’m quite familiar with, having spent 20 years in New York, however it’s something I’ve grown accustomed to not having to deal with the last 15 years. (For the record, it took me a really REALLY long time to do that math. I know I moved to SC when I was 20, but since I’m 36 – yes, I had a birthday last month, Happy Birthday to me 🎂 🎈- I thought I’d been here in SC for 16 years. Not the case since I came here in 2002. 15.5 to be exact. Anyway…….)

We left Florida on Wednesday to return home to SC. Wednesday was the day SC was expecting a few inches of snow. A. Few. Inches. Of. Snow. I don’t know about you, but when I hear “few” I think 3, maybe 4. Anything more than that is “several.” Right? I swear, the only job where you can be wrong like 80% of the time and not get fired: meteorology. Granted, the weather is a difficult, difficult thing to predict. Anyway, Summerville got 7 inches of snow that day. Not so bad in comparison to what I grew up with. What wasn’t really considered was the ice. Everything kept freezing and melting and melting and freezing, over and over and over again. The Charleston area was pretty much closed down from Wednesday through the weekend. Some schools didn’t return until Tuesday, extending winter break by another week. It’s not that state weather emergency people are obtuse, it’s that the state is not equipped to deal with this kind of weather since it snows maybe once every 5-10 years, and is usually just a dusting. I kind of feel like something more could have been done on the highways, though, particularly I95.

So let’s talk about that trip home, shall we? We left Kissimmee at 7:00am on Wednesday. ETA was somewhere in the early afternoon, maybe 2:00? I can’t remember. Started out ok, made it out of Florida in decent time. There was some rain that slowed us down, but we weren’t expecting the wintry mix until Georgia.

Traffic started about 3/4 of the way through Georgia, when the snow started to accumulate.

It was pretty to look at.

Then we sat in traffic FOREVER trying to get into SC. Anyone who has gone north on 95 from Florida knows that when the lanes go from 3 to 2 at the GA/SC line, it’s a mess. A mess!! Add snow.

So we stopped to use the bathroom and grab a bite to eat, then continued to sit in not moving traffic.

Then we’re in SC, and for a moment, traffic parts and we see a rare sight…SCDOT plows! Note that the plows are not actually touching the roadway…

Note the surface of I95 at that point. That photo was taken near Ridgeland at about 4:00pm. It was still snowing and about to get dark. We were probably driving 25-30 mph, if that. Why? Well, because we were in a rear wheel drive V8 vehicle and anytime you hit the gas, the back end went sideways.

Enter night, and that snowy, packed down road surface turned to ice. No lie. We slid everywhere. Even going less than 5 mph in the nearly dead stop traffic. Even stopped in place. I swear the vibrations of the car alone had us sliding off the road. We weren’t the only ones having the issue, though it is the south so most people were in trucks and SUVs, or front wheel/all wheel drive vehicles.

The only way we could get traction was to ride partially in the shoulder where we could get a grip the powdery snow that hadn’t been packed down. But that only worked so much since some people were pulled over in the shoulder because no one wanted to drive in that crap! We spent about an hour within a mile of our exit, partly stuck in the shoulder, partly stuck in traffic, and partly trying to decide if we just wanted to park and walk.

So we got off in Walterboro around 6:00 pm. We were about 45 minutes from home, but decided we’d stay at a hotel because if the highway was that bad, we just knew the road home would be worse. And the hotels off the exit had no vacancies. Yay! So we said to heck with it, we would just keep going, make it to my parents to get Daisy and stay there overnight. We drove down 17a at 20 mph the entire way, with two wheels in the shoulder and every muscle clenched. We went sideways once on Highway 61, after moving back into the road after letting an emergency vehicle pass. We also only hit one curb while riding the shoulder. We finally made it to my parents house at 8:30 that night. We didn’t leave for 2 days. We couldn’t.

Brad wanted to sell his car and get a truck or something built for all weather. I talked him off the ledge. It’s not like this happens often, and we do have an SUV, we just decided to take the newer car on vacation to FLORIDA where we shouldn’t have to deal with winter weather.

So yeah…that was our snowpocalypse/snowmaggedon drama. Of course neither of us had boots or a winter jacket with us since we packed for Florida, so once we settled down, we couldn’t even go out and enjoy the snow. I’m so glad it’s over and we made it home without crashing! That was just an absolute mess.

What’s New?

Not much going on here, but a lot going on at the same time…if that makes sense.

As far as this cycle goes, it’s been about the same as the last. Maybe, dare I say it, easier. I’m either use to this crap, or the still reduced dosage of Taxotere is making my life easier. Hot flashes, diarrhea, head fog, fatigue, etc.

I can eat (a.k.a. tolerate) pretty much anything I crave, though I’m avoiding potatoes in case I have those starchy texture issues again (don’t want to ruin a favorite food for myself), and fresh brewed sweet iced tea tastes like dirt. I know, I know, not the best food/drink choices. But considering how finicky my tastes have been throughout treatment, I eat what I crave so that I can actually eat. I like and I eat healthy foods, but I can’t force myself to eat what I don’t want at that moment. It’s probably definitely most likely at least 90% mental, and that’s ok. This whole experience has been about the mental and the physical, not just the physical.

I missed my first two classes last week, but I spoke to my professors beforehand and they were cool with me missing. I’m hoping I feel well enough to go to class Thursday (Monday’s class this week was canceled for the holiday) since I’m going to miss my Thursday class next week due to surgery (future post coming about that!).

Brad and I are supposed to be going to a concert tonight with this brother, which will be nice. There’s seating, it’s not just general admission, so I feel comfortable going and not getting jostled. We’ll just have to see if I’m feeling up to it. I sure hope so. It’s In This Moment, P.O.D., Ded, and New Years Day at the Performing Arts Center.

I think what makes me feel the worst these days is muscle soreness and shortness of breath. It’s from the fatigue. I get so tired after the chemo, I end up laying around and doing nothing. Then when I want to actually do something, my muscles are like, “Yeah right,” and my lungs are like, “Yup, walking from the bed to the couch is now considered high rate cardio, ya bum!” So once I’m able to start moving again, I have to move at a sloth’s pace and work my way up to a normal human speed.

So what’s next? Here’s a little bit of what I’ll be talking about the next few days: Surgery, Roy, Road Trip, Snow, and Moving Fun!

The Last Chemo

Imagine the title of this post said by one of the dodo birds from Ice Age…you know, the way they say “the last melon.” Ok, so maybe I’m a little crazy.

Today is my last chemo. I’ve got about 15 minutes left and then I’m done!! I will keep on the 3 week schedule for the Herceptin until September, I believe, since that’s when I started. But that’ll be a cakewalk, only about 30 minutes.

The hard part will be over soon (in about 2 weeks, after I’ve gotten sick from this cycle and then well again).

I’m tired and not looking forward to feeling sick in a few days, but other than that, I feel good. I’m excited even.

So next up is Neulasta tomorrow, then my Herceptin day in three weeks, and then my lumpectomy. I’ll talk more about the lumpectomy and surgery stuff in another post.

I was solo at chemo today. Brad had to work since he took time off for our trip to Florida, so my parents dropped me off this morning. My mom would have stayed, but it’s honestly so boring here for visitors, so I told her she didn’t have to. They’ll be back to pick me up shortly.

A woman was sitting sort of across from me today, maybe in her 30s. I don’t know her diagnosis, or the drugs she’s on as part of her treatment, but she was hit with some of the nasty reactions/side effects today. They had to stop her treatment. It made me thankful for my body, and the fact that it has tolerated so much of the junk we’ve put it through. Sure, my liver still isn’t pleased with the chemo and my GI tract hates me, but all in all, I’ve done pretty darn well. My side effects have been almost entirely manageable, I’ve been able to function when I’ve had to…I look at what she went through and realized I could have had it so much worse. Imagine if I’d felt nasty sick every cycle while receiving treatment? Not being able to receive the full treatment? I can’t.

Anyway, I’ve got a few things on deck for future posts, so stay tuned!

Chemo & Gas

Guess what this post is about?

It’s about gas.

Farts.

Everybody does it, so why can’t we talk about it?

I posted in the beginning about chemo brain, how I didn’t know if it was a thing, but if it wasn’t it should be. (And for the record, it totally is a thing that people going through chemo understand, and those close to them understand as well.) Well, the same goes for chemo farts. I don’t know if they’re a thing, but if they’re not they should be.

And they’re terrible!!!!!

This cycle they were the absolute worst though. I think I nearly killed Brad a few times. It’s not intentional, it just happens.

Something to understand…when you’re dealing with the lower digestive issues I’ve been dealing with, you have to be super careful when passing gas because there’s always the chance that it’s not gas.

Some of Brad’s wisest words were, and still are, “If you have the squirts, don’t fart.” Maybe not something someone should be memorialized for, but it’s very good advice nonetheless.

But yeah, chemo farts.

It’s a thing. A terrible, terrible thing.

And there’s not a thing you can do about it either!

It’s been a while!

Happy New Year!!

Sorry I haven’t checked in since before Christmas. I was chemo sick during the holiday and haven’t had much new stuff to report.

I can say that I didn’t have the texture issues with food that I have had in previous cycles, with the exception of potatoes last week. I had steak fries at lunch on Friday when we went out for Brad’s birthday, and the texture of the fries felt gritty and gross. Same problem with McDonald’s fries when Brad and I were road-tripping. I’ve been avoiding French fries ever since. Probably not entirely a bad thing, but I can’t say I’ll never eat another French fry again. Ha. Right.

All in all, the fatigue this cycle has been brutal as always, and I’ve had this insane sinus garbage going on. The sinus issues are causing an evil post-nasal drip that will not go away, and subsequent dry cough, particularly in the AM and late PM. I tried a humidifier, and I’m not sure if the humidifier doesn’t work, or if the humidifier just isn’t helping. So there’s that. I’ve also tried a variety of meds. Most alleviate some, but not all, of the symptoms, so it’s just not worth it to take them. I have enough of a cocktail going on.

I took the generic Prilosec for heartburn this time around, and it either worked or I didn’t have heartburn, at least not in the beginning of the cycle. I started taking it the evening of chemo as sort of a preventative measure, and like I said, it either worked or I never had the heartburn, which works for me either way. I did have heartburn a couple days ago, and a combination of Tums and Prilosec knocked it out. Yay.

Diarrhea is still super present. It’s been the one constant through this entire experience. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I’m finally regular again. It has become the new normal for me to be irregular, but I’ve learned how to manage and alleviate some of the less than desirable things associated with diarrhea (which, let’s get real here, is pretty much everything associated with diarrhea). Vaseline is my best friend. I even bought one of the small tubs (normally used as lip gloss) to keep in my purse for emergencies.

My last chemo is January 8th. I’m super excited for that part of this journey to be over and done with. I’ll still have to go for injections for the hormones, and I’ll find out the schedule for that on the 8th, but the days won’t be as long and the side effects won’t be as bad (except for the hot flashes, yuck!).

I hope everyone reading has had a nice holiday season! Despite feeling utterly crappy on Christmas, I had a nice day. And despite falling asleep before midnight last night, I had a nice evening yesterday as well.