No news is good news!

Y’all. I’m so sorry it’s been over a month since my last post. Since this is a cancer blog, that’s a good thing, right? I really want to include some of the life after cancer stuff, so I’m sorry about that.

First things first (priorities!!), Barkley is doing great. He’s 12 weeks and had some more vaccines today. He’s still a maniac, and can be found at @sirbarkleyelkins on Instagram.

I’ve actually seen each of my three doctors in the last 2 weeks and everything is going great. Oncologist, breast surgeon, and plastic surgeon. I’ll be seeing them again in 3, 6, and 12 months, respectively. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life not being dictated by doctors’ appointments anymore, with the exception of my Lupron shot every few weeks.

What else is new? Classes are finishing up and I’ll be off for the summer before starting my LAST official semester of grad school. I plan to work on my thesis this summer to wrap up my masters degree, and then take my last two classes in the fall to finish my additional graduate certificate. The end is near, and when it happens, I’ll have my Masters in Psychology with a certificate in Behavior Intervention in Autism. I feel like I’ve been going to school forever, but I love it, so it hasn’t been a hardship, it’ll just be nice to have one thing off my plate. The whole student loan payback thing is gonna suck though.

A couple things related to my recovery that I’ve been meaning to talk about…I still have no feeling in my breasts, though it is returning a little bit around the outside and working its way in. Dr H said the feeling may never fully return, but it’s interesting to see how it’s gradually coming back. Same with my belly area. On the surface, I have no feeling. It also feels really funny underneath because I can feel soreness in my abs when I workout, but that’s about it. Sometimes I can’t tell if I have a stomach ache, sore abs, or cramps because it’s so hard to determine where exactly the feeling is coming from.

Second thing is also ab related. Well, abdomen related I guess. The docs took the fat from my abdominal area on the outside of my abs. My “flab,” so to speak. So now my abs are right beneath my skin, and as I gain weight, I’ll gain it underneath them – visceral fat that hangs out around my organs. We all need some of that fat to an extent to protect our organs, but too much can be detrimental. I certainly hope to not harvest a whole bunch of that crap, and I’m working hard to lose it, but because I’m post menopausal due to my current maintenance treatment (Lupron and Letrozole combo), it’ll be more challenging for me to lose weight. That’s not going to stop me from trying though. In the last 2 weeks, I’ve dropped an inch around my waist and an inch around my hips. I’ve also lost around 5 lbs.

I had to change my nutrition plan to better suit my current needs and situation, and it’s working great for me. I’m still eating very healthy foods that I choose and I’m feeling satiated. It’s a good plan and SO easy to implement. I love it. Brad is even following it without difficulty.

Anyway, I do want to talk about the golf tournament, but I’m exhausted, so I’ll share that another day. Hope you’re all doing well!

What’s in a victory?

I’m in a couple fitness groups. One is on Facebook and the other is a challenge group with other people living the lifestyle.

It’s been a week since I’ve fully committed to this again. Back in the beginning of this year I had some major losses with inches and pounds. This time, not so much. I still lost, but the numbers weren’t as high so it gave me pause. I did the self-doubt thing, the shaming. Then I straightened myself out. Loss is loss. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I could have gained muscle, which weighs more than fat, so the scale wouldn’t have reflected that. Not to mention, I have non scale victories! I can sit up just by using my core. I don’t need to use my legs to grip onto or propel myself forward. I feel better, emotionally and physically. Whether or not I see it on the scale or on the measuring tape, I can FEEL the difference, and that’s huge!

So I’m going to exercise again today, tomorrow, and the next day. I’m going to do it because it makes me feel good.

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?

Is it hot in here?

Yowza! The last two weeks, the hot flashes episodes were off the charts. I even checked my temperature one night just to make sure I wasn’t overlooking a fever. They’re like how they were when I was going through chemo.

During the first few cycles of the Lupron, the hot flashes were just that…flashes. I’d blink and then they were gone. I thought they were a piece of cake. Ha. Hahahaha.

I should have known better. Nothing about life with C was easy, why should anything after C be easy?

I have an appointment with Dr YB tomorrow, so I’ll talk hot “flash” management with him then. That and sleep. I’ve had a heck of a time falling asleep this last week, which I don’t believe is related to the hot flashes since they don’t necessarily occur together. I forget what number my infusion cycle is tomorrow, but I know it’s close to the end. I want to say I have one or two more after this.

I also have an appointment with Dr H tomorrow. I’ll get drained again. I know this because I can tell there’s extra juice in my abdomen. Yay.

I’m restarting my clean eating tomorrow, and exercise, I’m looking forward to fueling my body with stuff that’s good for me again. I felt so good, physically, when I was eating clean before the surgery, and I wish I could have kept up with it post-surgery, but my appetite was just so off that I felt like I needed to just eat what I could.

Also, I’m creating a team and registering for the local Komen Race for the Cure. I’ll post the details here once I’ve got it all together, in case anyone is interested in joining or supporting the efforts. It’ll be Saturday, September 22.

Three down, one to go…

So this is a little late, but I had my follow up appointments with Dr H and Dr JB on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Dr H – Drain removed from left hip. Hopefully right hip drain will slow it’s roll, and the numbers will be low enough for it to be removed at my appointment on Monday. Seems like I’ll be losing my right nipple, it’s back to its black color regardless of the ointment/Vaseline. I’m ok with that. Dr H said we can reconstruct that later on, if I want to. My tummy wound is opening a little bit, but not a lot. (Seriously don’t Google it!)

Dr JB – Pretty much said the same stuff as Dr H. I did ask about these tiny little blister bumps I have around my chest. It seems that the surgical bra, that I have to wear like all the time, is irritating my skin. Yay! So I’m trying to give myself breaks from it, and I’ll wear a tight tank top to keep things contained instead. They also recommended lotion for the rash.

It’s just been a blah week for me. Lots of emotional ups and downs. I’m ready to go back to normal, you know? This has been dictating my life for several months, and I want to dictate my life again. I want to be able to go run errands and not be exhausted. I want to work! (Which I’m doing a little of next week whether anyone likes it or not!)

The week after next we go on vacation. I’ll be chilling poolSIDE for a week, unable to actually get in the pool due to my wounds not being fully closed. When we get back from the trip, I plan to return to work. I’ll have an appointment with Dr YB for my infusion and Lipton shot Monday the 18th, and I’ll probably have a follow up with the surgeons that same day.

I’m anticipating being in much better shape by that point. I think the key is going to be doing a little each day and gradually building myself up. I think I’m being too sporadic, and that’s the problem. Like going 75% one day, 50% the next, then 100%, 0%, and then back to 50% isn’t helping. It’s inconsistent and I think it’s confusing my body. So I’m going to try to start small and keep going up. I don’t feel like I’m pushing myself too far, I just feel like I haven’t been building myself up, I’ve just been randomly diving in, depending on my mood.

Anyway, something else to note is that I haven’t had much of an appetite post-surgery. I’ve had hunger, but I’m not 3-square-meals hungry. Like it’s after 1, I haven’t eaten, and I’m not even a little hungry. So, needless to say, I haven’t been sticking to my eating plan. I’ve been trying to focus on protein when I do eat, since I know I’m not getting a good sampling of nutrients and that’s the key nutrient for healing. I’m certainly not starving, I do get random cravings throughout the day and snack. I get late night cravings, too, and I have healthy snacks like fruit. I always eat dinner, it’s just breakfast and lunch are sometimes a wash. I am also having my superfood shake every day, which helps with protein and other nutrients. So hopefully my appetite will sort itself out soon and I can get back on track with nutrition!

Advice: Fit for Surgery

Whenever you feel well enough, exercise. This was a huge help for me before my mastectomy. I finished chemo in January and started to feel human in February. In March, I started exercising and eating well again. It may not seem worth it to exercise for such a short time (I had about 6 weeks between feeling good and my surgery), but it has made a huge difference.

Squats are fantastic because that’s how you’re going to want to sit down/lower yourself onto a chair or the toilet.

Overall leg strength is also so important because you can’t use your arms except for some no pressure balancing. You’re going to want your abs to be strong, even though they’re going to feel sore. They’re probably not actually sore though, it’s just the belly skin pulled tightly. You’ll need your abs to shimmy into position when you can’t use your arms, and you’ll need them to sit up, lay back, and gain balance.

Of course you can do these things with assistance, but you are eventually going to have to do it alone, and that’s a good thing, as long as you’re not pushing yourself with too much, too fast. But if you’re anything like me, you’re going to want your independence back ASAP.

Listen to your body, but don’t be afraid. I was terrified to sit up because I thought my gut was going to come out. It’s irrational, but the thought was there. That’s the kind of afraid you don’t need to be. Your gut isn’t going to fall out. Not even when you cough.

Don’t over do it, but don’t be afraid to try.

And of course, the sequence of your treatment or your physical condition may not allow for exercise. You may feel like garbage all the time, or you may have your surgery immediately, with no time to prepare. You may not be able to or even want to do it the way I was able to, but if you can even just squeeze in some walks or squats or lunges, you’ll thank yourself later, trust me!

Ten Years?!

Last week, on May 3rd, Brad and I celebrated our ten (10!!!) year wedding anniversary. I honestly don’t feel old enough to be married for 10 years, but I definitely am. I’m old enough to be married longer, but it just seems weird. We’ve been together for 15 years! Almost half my life. Crazy.

Each year, for our anniversary, we head to Concord, NC for Carolina Rebellion with Brad’s brother, Jeff. It’s a three day rock music festival held up at the campgrounds at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Sort of like what I imagine Woodstock would have been, complete with the dirt and the stink. We don’t camp, though. We stay in a hotel, conveniently located directly across the street from the event. Because beds and showers, duh. I can’t imagine being sore and hot from being on my feet in the heat all day long, then having to sleep on the ground. Heck no.

Anyway, this year was as much fun as years passed. We get VIP tickets so we can leave the venue and gain re-entry later on, which we took advantage of when there were bands playing that we were less interested in seeing. We love to experience as much of the festival as we can, but sometimes we need a break.

I’ve been staying on my food and exercise plan as much as I can. It’s not easy eating clean at a music festival, but I’m doing the best I can and opting for the least processed foods. Surprisingly, it’s not impossible since there are a lot of food trucks at the event and you can get things that aren’t greasy or fried. I’ve also been exercising at the hotel (thank you Beachbody® On Demand!). I did cardio and yoga, and it felt good. Just the right balance of energy and stretching. My feet and legs didn’t get nearly as sore as they usually did at the event, and I think that goes back to my increased endurance from staying active over the last few weeks.

Anyway, if you like rock music and haven’t been to one of these festivals, I highly recommend going. Carolina Rebellion is awesome, but there are others that are part of the same series, like Rock on the Range (Ohio), Welcome to Rockville (Florida), Rocklahoma (Oklahoma), and more. So much fun.

And a lot of people say, “Aren’t you too old for that?” The answer is “No.” There are all ages at these shows, and I mean that. Babies to seniors, no joke. There was a woman in her 80s crowd surfing one year…someone in a wheelchair, even. You don’t have to be in the center of a mosh pit to be at a concert, there are plenty of safer, calmer places to be and still have a good time.

Plus, I’m a firm believer that you’re only as old as you feel. Some days I feel like I’m 100 years old, other days I don’t. Bottom line: I’m going to enjoy myself.

High-Five!

I’m at the oncologist at the moment, and I wish I’d brought some of the things I have to do from my to-do list! All this idle time! I’ve been updating my lists of things to do in between blood draws, meeting with the doc, and now sitting here for my infusion. I feel so organized.

Anyway, things are still looking good for me. I’m going to have to get another echocardiogram soon, so it’ll probably be planned for next week so I can get it done before surgery.

Dr YB told me to eat at least a fist-sized portion of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussel sprouts) every day. I was like, I’m already doing that. I eat 5 portions of veggies, and one is almost always cruciferous because that’s what I like. He also said he wants me exercising, heart rate up to 150, 30 minutes every day. Well, I’m doing that already, too! He said he wants me to build to 150, I told him I’ve been doing this for weeks. He hive-fived me. So yeah, I’m ahead of the game, which is exactly where I hoped to be.

I’ve had 2 appointments with the PT where I’ve done different exercises. I’ll share about that in a separate post.

Some fun stuff…over the weekend I did the autism walk in Hampton Park in downtown Charleston with my nephew. I also attended my niece’s 6th birthday party! Then we had a funeral for a Brad’s Aunt on Sunday. It was a nice weekend spent with lots of friends and family.

At the birthday party was our friend, James, who was diagnosed with colon cancer several months before I was diagnosed. He’s had chemo and surgery, and is starting chemo again because it’s starting to come back. He’s in good spirits, like me, and it was actually really cool talking to (commiserating with) someone I know well, and who is going through something similar. We have a similar sense of humor, which only people going to through cancer or who are close to someone going through cancer understand. It tends to freak people out when we joke or laugh about stuff, but when you deal with the variety of BS cancer brings to the table, you have to joke and laugh. Some people get that and some people don’t. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Anyway, I’m trying to wrap up a bunch of things before surgery…tie up lots of loose ends! Wednesday is our 10 year wedding anniversary, and we’re going out of town for the weekend to a concert in Charlotte. I’m looking forward to the break before the surgery!!

And here’s a cute baby goose butt before I go. My view at the oncologist.

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Super cute siblings!

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I’ve Lost 6.8 lbs in One Week!

Yep, you read that right. I’ve lost 6.8lbs (and a couple inches) in one week!

What is it? I’m so glad you asked! It’s fantastic exercise and nutrition program.

You all know how important food is to me. I love to eat. I love tasty food and I enjoy variety. I don’t like being told what to eat, and I don’t do well with restrictions. This blog has been live for just a few short months and I think I’ve communicated my passion for food quite well in that time. Why is this important? Because I wouldn’t choose a food plan that didn’t allow me to still be passionate about food. That’s how awesome this plan is.

So a new nutrition plan, exercise…my gains so far in this program aren’t just related to the scale. I also feel a thousand times better overall. I have become more regular, which has been a pretty decent issue for me since chemo started back in September. I have better endurance. I want to get up and do stuff. I also feel good mentally. I’m happy to be doing something and seeing results. It makes me feel good.

Anyway, this post probably sounds like an advertisement. It’s not really. It is a testimonial though. It’s me sharing my success because I’m so excited to have found success and I feel like I need to share it because I want anyone else who wants to be successful to find theirs, too.

If you want to talk to me more about the program, please reach out. I want to help.

So I’ve got the oncologist tomorrow. Should be uneventful, just my Herceptin injection. Next week will be the evil arm shot. I’ll post an update if something exciting happens.

New Nutrition and Exercise Plan

So last Monday I was pretty bummed following my appointment. I’ve done well this week to get some extra exercise in and be careful about what I’m eating. I haven’t devoured a bunch of junk like I usually do, although I did chow down on some awesome carrot cake sandwich cookies I found at Publix. I allowed myself the little splurge after a week of being good. Not sure if it has made any difference as I don’t typically weigh-in until Sundays.

Anyway, I’m super excited about this new plan I’m starting. It’s not a diet, it’s similar to what I was doing when I was counting calories, only it’s looking at quantities of food in a different way. I’ll go into more detail after I’ve completed the first week and have a bit more to share. It’s going to be challenging, but I feel like it’s going to be great, too.

I have a great coach, and I’m not even certain how it came about exactly, but we connected on the subject and boom! A plan was born. A plan I feel good about, which is exactly what I needed. I’m already feeling motivated by the group, and I haven’t even officially started yet. The science behind it seems pretty simple, which is what I like. And what I appreciate most is that the nutrition aspect is something I can keep up with while I’m stuck being a lump after surgery, so yay for that!

2018 will be a year of positive change for me!  <— New mantra.

Happy Easter!