Chemo Brain Revisited

Today I realized the importance of the after c part of this blog. I thought all the important stuff was in all the during posts. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I worked this morning, then made lunch before I had to go to an appointment with my oncologist. As I was putting my sandwich together, my phone started to ring. It was one of the universities I requested information from, and I wasn’t going to answer. I wanted to eat my lunch in peace. But I hadn’t picked up the last couple times (because they always called me when I was at work), and I really wanted to talk to them, so I picked up.

So I answered, and we talked about the program I was interested in. I talked about my goals with finishing my masters, including my thesis and graduate certificate, and then my plans of taking the BCBA certification exam. I mentioned how I wanted to take next summer to focus on studying for the certification exam, and didn’t want to start any new education programs until the fall, at the very earliest, assuming I pass the certification exam on the first try.

I told the guy about how I was apprehensive about the certification exam because I still struggle to read and retain information due to chemo brain. That tiny little statement changed the entire course of our conversation. It turned out, the guy I was talking to is also a cancer survivor. He told me that he knew exactly what I meant about the chemo brain, and told me that he talked to his oncologist about it when he experienced it, and his oncologist made recommendations that assisted him in overcoming it. I won’t mention what his oncologist’s recommendations were, both because he had a totally different cancer and the actual treatment was irrelevant. The point is that just because my cancer is gone doesn’t mean there aren’t still going to be things that I should consult with my oncologist for.

I thought chemo brain was just something I was going to have to live with. I play games, try to read, and otherwise keep my brain engaged as often as I possibly can. I thought that would help exercise my brain back into shape. I didn’t know they were other options. Now I do.

And I think it’s important to share this information because other people might feel the same way. They may finish their treatment and think that there’s nothing else they need to do, or that there’s nothing else they can do, because the cancer is over. That’s simply not true. And these are things I may not have even considered if I hadn’t picked up the phone.

So at my appointment today I talked about two things. One thing was the chemo brain, for which he referred me to a neurologist. Dr. YB said the neurologist might have different activities and exercises for me to do to help alleviate the symptoms of the chemo brain. The second thing is the aching in my toes, feet, ankles, and knees. Whenever I get up after sitting for a while, I struggle to get moving and am so sore in those areas. Dr. YB knew exactly what I was talking about and said it was a side effect of the hormone blocker. He advised me to stay off it for two weeks, then resume for two weeks, and see how I feel. If it is the hormone blocker, then we may switch to Tamoxifen. So I’ll report back on that.

We talked about some other things, and I’ll share more about that in another post!

Anniversaries, Relay For Life, Cancer Sucks, and Maybe More

It was kind of hard to come up with a title for this post…can you tell? Just lots to update on!

May 10th will be one year cancer-free for me! I kind of had that “ah-ha moment” yesterday, where I suddenly realized it’s May and I had my mastectomy in May so it was almost one full year. Pretty cool, I think.

Also, on May 3rd Brad and I celebrated our 11 year anniversary. Congrats to us for putting up with each other this long! Here’s to another 11! Er…here’s to forever! Kidding…I love you, Brad.

The Relay For Life event was April 26. We had a great time. The survivor lap was humbling. Just seeing all those cancer survivors…how crazy. I always knew cancer sucked, but going to an event like that REALLY shows you just how much it sucks. We did not last until midnight, we were SO tired, but we stayed until the luminaries were lit, which was around 10:30. Here are some pics from the event.

The Relay For Life was a Friday night, and that Sunday we went to the hospital to visit our friend Heather who has been fighting a fierce fight with a very aggressive cancer. Unfortunately Heather lost her fight on Tuesday. She left behind a husband and two young kids who are going to miss her so much. We attended her services this passed weekend, and it was beautiful, but completely heartbreaking.

It makes you want to know why, you know? Why did she have to lose the fight? There are two kids out there now without a mommy. Two adorable, sweet 5 and 7 year old kids. A husband without a wife. It sucks. Cancer sucks.

And that’s the reason why I participate in the Relay For Life. I do it for the Heathers, the Matts, the Alyssas and the Lukes. I do it for the parents, sisters, brothers, friends, and other relatives of people fighting cancer. I do it for every single person in that funeral home and the church.

No one should have to attend the funeral of a 32 year old mom who died from cancer.

Cancer Sucks.

Need I say more?

I think I’ve talked about this before, how when you’re diagnosed with cancer, you seem to realize how many people around you have or have had cancer. It’s a horrible, horrible number, which is why I will probably volunteer and raise funds for cancer organizations for the rest of my life. We seriously NEED a world without cancer, and if I can put even the tiniest dent in that goal, I will.

In recent months, I’ve had two friends diagnosed with cancer. In the past year, another one of my friends joined the ranks, and prior to my diagnosis, another friend had started his fight with cancer. These are people who are my age…mid to late 30s. There have been other people I’ve been acquainted with or told about over the last couple years who have been diagnosed, too, varying ages. It’s just crazy how widespread this disease is. It’s crazy and so damn frustrating.

It makes me mad that cancer doesn’t care that these people have friends and family who love them. That they are good people just trying to make it through life and do the best they can. Between the four people I mentioned, there are nine kids who have to watch their parent struggle in one way or another. Two of those friends are in the hospital, one is home recovering from surgery, and the other one is going for radiation this week. I’m sure every single one of them has shouted at the top of their lungs, “Give me a break!!!” I know I did at least once during my fight.

Sometimes when I hear of the struggles others with cancer are going through, I feel guilty. I feel like I got off easy, you know? Deep down, I know that’s not true. I know my body fought hard through chemo and recovery from my bazillion surgeries. I know my body was so weak and I had to rebuild my strength. I know it wasn’t easy when everything was happening, that I looked and felt like shit, but it’s so easy to look back and say, “What I went through wasn’t so bad,” when I see my friends being hospitalized because their bodies are being beaten down by their diseases. When I see them going through it longer than I went through it. My treatment was short. I was never hospitalized. My side effects were always pretty manageable with medications.

My fight is over and I feel great. And sometimes I feel guilty for that, and I think that’s an OK think to feel. I think that’s normal. Survivor’s guilt, in a sense?

Anyway…Barkley is absolutely fantastic and if you have Instagram, you should follow his shenanigans at @sirbarkleyelkins It’s mostly pictures of him sleeping because he’s a pup and that’s what he does, but he’s ADORABLE! And tomorrow he is 7 weeks!

This is the part where you find out who you are.

One of my Facebook friends posted this today and it resonated with me so much that I felt the need to share it here right now.

This is me in 2019. This is me now. I’m cancer-free, BS free, and working on maintaining a healthy mind and body in the new year and forever.

This isn’t “another one of those new year’s resolution” posts that we see so many of and criticize. Shame on us for that, too. We should always be lifting our friends up, not letting them down. If they’re making an effort to get healthy, we should be their biggest cheerleaders, regardless the circumstances. Maybe they’re doing it for the 12th time because they didn’t get the support they so desperately needed but were too embarrassed or proud to ask for in the past, so they’re having to do it again and again. Let’s lift those friends up.

This is a lifestyle change. A mind and body cleanse and overhaul. I’m eating healthy again and ready to be active. I’m ready to exercise my mind and do some personal development as well.

This is the part where I find out who I am.

How about you?

Conflicted

I’ve been lucky. I’m going into 2019 cancer-free. I have friends who are not as lucky. There are many people who aren’t as lucky. It’s just one of my motivations for joining the Relay For Life.

Around this time of year, we often think about resolutions. We think about what we want for ourselves in the new year, and what we don’t want.

I may sound like a kindergartner here, but it’s my blog so I really don’t care (point proven). And, for the record, kudos to kindergarteners for being transparent about their feelings. More people should do that and then maybe our world wouldn’t be so messed up and dishonest. Back to my stuff…

Things I tend to carry with me year to year are … wait for it … grudges. It’s not like I sit around festering about things, but when I see someone I have a grudge against, or hear their name, I’m always reminded of whatever they did to piss me off in the first place, and for that moment, I get pissed at them all over again. I’m not necessarily “present mad” at the person, but it reminds me of the “past mad,” and I do get a little “present mad.” This may seem petty, but it’s no joke! There’s someone who got on my shit list more than 10 years ago, and that “past mad” still makes me “present mad.” Granted, that person consistently does things to piss me off, so they’re forever renewing their spot on my list, but still… The same actually goes for when people hurt my feelings and make me sad. I never forget it.

So this year, with all the good I have going in my life, I’ve been speculating this. On one hand, I wonder if I need to remove these people from my life completely. Why keep people in my life who make me unhappy? On the other hand, I wonder if I should just let it all go. Can I just put all the grudges in little bubbles and let them float away? Or write them all down and set them on fire?? Ha. I wish I was kidding. It’s something that’s been heavy on my mind.

Either way, I want to go into 2019 without these burdens. I want to be the best me, and carrying old grudges (and making new ones) isn’t a productive use of my time. So what do I do?

There is no easy answer, but over the next few weeks I am going to try to let go of the things I can’t control. I’m always telling Brad to do that. When he’s upset about something someone did, I tell him he can’t control other people and their outcomes, so he shouldn’t let it bother him. He shouldn’t let someone else ruin his day in that way. I tell him to put it in a balloon and let it float away. Apparently, I don’t practice what I preach.

But I am going to try. I’m going to try to let go of my grudges. If for nothing else than to be a big “screw you” to any of those people who may have been enjoying getting a negative reaction from me. They’re either not going to get it, or they’ll get the opposite of what they’re looking for. Some people are just like that. They’re sour, rotten, and miserable in their own lives so they find ways to negatively affect someone else so that someone else feels as miserable as they do. Then they hide behind their confidences when they’re not really that confident at all. It’s a shame.

Anyway…I’ll be working on this cleansing of sorts. I’ll share whatever I choose to do and whether it works. I really want to go into 2019 with my mind being as healthy as my body.

And sleep…sleep would be great.

One year!

It’s been a year since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and time has flown. If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be chilling in bed reading a book in a year, I’d probably have laughed at you. I had no idea where I’d be in a year. Not that I thought I was going to die or anything, I just had no earthly clue what my life was going to look like.

So here I am, one year later. I kicked ass and took names. I met some new people along the way. I inspired people. It sounds weird and selfish to say that, but it’s true, which is even weirder.

So I’m going to go back to reading my book, hopefully dig up a snack here in a little while, and relax.

For those of you who have been reading from the beginning, thank you for your support. For those of you who have just begun, welcome to my brand of crazy. 💕

10 Months

It’s surreal to me that I’ve “been there, done that” with cancer already, and it’s only been ten months, give or take a week.

Maybe it’s because I still have the port, maybe it’s because my hair is so short, or maybe it’s because I still see my oncologist every three weeks.

Before my diagnosis, I feel like I always thought you had cancer forever, you know? Well, maybe not forever, but not that you’d get diagnosed, blink, and then not have cancer anymore. Ok, so all the middle stuff wasn’t a blink…chemo, multiple surgeries, side effects, etc…all those things took time.

But still…Dr. JB told me in the beginning that one day, this would all just be a blip on my radar. Just a piece of my past. I’m not quite there yet, I still have 4 cycles of Herceptin to go and this Lupron shot, but chemo is done and the last surgery removed the cancer. Blip. That’s exactly what it feels like…a blip. Like it’s surreal that I even went through chemo. I can’t believe that’s behind me. If it weren’t for the short hair and the scars and the soreness, it would be hard to believe it happened at all. I feel like that’s all that’s left to remind me sometimes.

I’m not naive, I know reoccurrence is always a possibility, but dang…ten months ago I would have never guessed that ten months would go by so quickly! That I’d be cancer free in under a year. Before I knew anything about anything, I figured I’d have cancer longer. It just seems like people have cancer for a while.

I don’t know…it sounds dumb, but I don’t know how to better articulate this feeling.

I’m relieved. I’m hopeful. I’m surprised.

It’s just weird. I feel lucky. So lucky.

I saw a picture of Brad and I from the solar eclipse last year, just days before I was diagnosed, and it reminded me of how things can change so quickly. Now, we’re about two months from that same date, and things almost feel ((dare I say it?)) normal.

Crazy.

Crazy crazy crazy.

Officially Cancer Free! Like for real, this time.

I may have jumped the gun in announcing that I was cancer free back in January.

It was the initial thought after the lumpectomy, that whatever cancer was left after the chemo, was removed during the lumpectomy. But when the pathology cane back for that, the margins weren’t great, so it was assumed some was left behind. Not a big deal since the mastectomy was in the works anyway.

Fast forward to today, when I saw Dr JB and got the results of the mastectomy pathology, and now we know it’s really gone! There was even more left behind from the lumpectomy than they’d initially assumed, but that was completely removed and the margins were great.

So hooray! I can officially say I’m cancer free! ❤️

Feels good.