Happy New Year! Oh and Some Life Lessons

It's been quite a while since I've posted anything.  I've been a bit of a slacker the last few months so allow me to cram everything into one post.  I actually started to write an update in November, but never got around to finishing it and then the holidays came around and here we are.  First let me say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!!  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and is looking forward to what lies ahead in 2013.  I am excited to see what this year holds for me and I have a lot of personal goals I've set that I can't wait to accomplish.  I thrive on goal setting, which I feel I've been missing the last couple of months as I've gotten into the same old routine of life.  I'm re-focusing for 2013 and can't wait to see what happens. 

October 27th was the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis.  Hard to believe it's been a year-but at the same time I find myself thinking "it's only been a year?".  I really can't remember what it felt like to not have cancer in the back of my mind 24/7.  Not that I obsess about it; it's just become a part of my identity I guess.  I've certainly gotten on with life and feel amazing.

My anniversary gift to myself was running a 10k.  Yes, I'm serious.  Some of my boot camp buddies and I committed to running the Snohomish River 10k which happened to fall on the anniversary of my diagnosis.  I couldn't think of a better way to say F-YOU to cancer, can you?  Let me be clear, I do not "enjoy" running.  What I do enjoy is a challenge. Setting a goal to run a 10k was definitely out of my comfort zone and not something I ever thought I'd CHOOSE to do.  I trained and prepared, and with the help of my buddies, managed to complete the whole 6.2 miles without stopping-which was my ultimate goal.  I didn't care about the time, just finishing.  It really was coming full circle for me.  One year ago I wasn't sure if I would be alive (sounds dramatic but true) much less physically capable of pushing my body like that...I am so thankful.  I plan to run a half marathon in April, the Ragnar relay race in July, and potentially the Susan G. 3 Day again in September.  Who is this person????

Leading up to the anniversary, I couldn't help but think about where I was and what I was doing a year before.  I had no idea what the next few months were going to be like.  That my world would be rocked and flipped and would never be the same.  I remember the terror and helplessness, but I also remember the outpouring of love and support from everyone around me. 

Here are a few of the things I learned during the past year.

1.  There are some really great people in this world.  Seriously.  People that would drop everything to help me or my family, even people I hardly knew.  I was stopped on the street on more than one occasion by people who just wanted to say some encouraging words.  I wasn't embarrassed at all, but grateful.  I absorbed every ounce of hope I could get.

2.  Oncology is the least appreciated specialty in medicine.  Nobody wants to talk about Oncology, but chances are at some point in our lives we'll all have to deal with cancer-for ourselves or a loved one.  I was constantly amazed at how kind and compassionate the majority of the doctors, nurses, lab techs, and support staff are to patients.  They have always been willing to answer questions-no matter how silly.  They ooze hope and optimism, which is critical when you are facing a deadly disease.  We are so lucky to have access to such amazing health care professionals in this area. 

3.  Get over yourself and love the people around you, even when you don't feel like it.  This is a biggy.  It is SO easy to get complacent with life.  There's constant pressure to be this person, or have that.  Perfect marriage, perfect parent, perfect house.  It's all a bunch of crap.  When the s*** hits the fan, nothing matters but the people you love, and the people that love you.  All of the unnecessary stuff falls away and your focus becomes waking up one more day to see your child, or husband, or dear friend.  To be alive and see the snow, or the Christmas lights, to cuddle with my cat.  Very simple.

4.  Take care of your body.  Yeah, who doesn't need a reminder?  Watch what you eat.  Exercise people!!!!  Don't smoke, drink in moderation, get some sleep.  Don't let stress and pressure rule your life.  IT. IS. NOT. WORTH IT.  I am certainly not perfect-not even close.  But I have definitely learned how important it is to take care of yourself.  If I had not been in such great physical condition prior to being diagnosed, my experience may have turned out quite differently and I may not have bounced back as quickly.  Change just one bad habit-just one.  You won't regret it.

5.  YES YOU CAN.  How many times do you catch yourself saying "I can't do THAT".  Ummm...yes you can.  "I can't lose weight".  Yep.  You can.  "I can't live through cancer!".  Be quiet, yes you can.  "I can't walk 60 miles in 3 days".  Whatever.  "I can't run 6.2 miles-are you on crack?!"  Oh reeeealllly? You know what's coming-yes you can.  Guess what?  There are very few things in life that are impossible.  Going through this experience really taught me that.  It might be uncomfortable or hard, but "can't" is rarely a given, it's a choice.  Don't sell yourself short.  There is no greater feeling of accomplishment than doing something you thought was impossible. 

I've mentioned this before, but it my favorite quote in the whole world.  I often say it to myself when I'm having a bad day, or when I'm running and miserable and want to stop.  It was especially important last year when I was in the midst of the crisis and I needed some inspiration.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience by which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.  You must do the thing you think you cannot do. " 

Eleanor Roosevelt

My favorite part is the last sentence- "You must do the thing you think you cannot do."  I had a t-shirt made with that on it that I wore during the race with "Survivor-One Year" on the back.  I'm proud to have walked through this and made it out the other side with optimism and a sense of purpose.  I'm grateful for that aspect of it.

I had my second post-treatment mammogram in November and all was well.  I will continue to have them six months apart until I'm two years post-treatment then will go down to once a year.  I met with my oncologist recently and other than being a little low in calcium, all of my blood work was great.  We had a frank discussion about recurrence and the future.  He told me the first two years are the most crucial-as that's when they see the most cases of recurrence in the same area or the other breast.  We talked about what a toll going through this takes on people physically and emotionally, and he made it a point to tell me to be patient.  I must admit that I've really been "lazy" the past month in terms of eating right and exercise.  I started missing more and more boot camp, got sick and slacked on my running routine, and took full advantage of the holidays and ate TERRIBLE!!!  Like most people, it's easy to fall back into old bad habits, but I don't have the luxury of denial anymore.  I know it's imperitive to be healthy.  I don't want cancer again...EVER!

Sadly, breast cancer continues to touch my life.  I found out recently that my best friend from grade school was diagnosed.  We've communicated some and there is so much I wish I could say but can't find the words.  I wish it weren't happening to her-I wish it didn't happen to anyone.  I want to fight her battle for her, but also know she will learn so much through this and is strong and will be okay.  It still sucks.  I hope anyone going through this or who knows someone going through this knows that there is HOPE.  That surviving is the goal, but don't stop there.  LEARN from it and pass it on.  Don't be embarrassed by or selfish with your story.  I was inspired by every person that went through it before me.  I knew if they could do it, so could I.  I knew that if there were children in the world battling cancer, who the hell was I to think I couldn't handle it.  Puts things in perspective. 

So, that's the 411 for now!  Thanks for taking the time to read my story.  I truly do appreciate each and every person in my life...I am so lucky! 



Suck it Cancer-I just walked all over your a**!

Opening Day

I did it!  I walked 60 (Komen) miles…which translates closer to 66 ACTUAL miles, in three days.  Hello blisters and shin splints, allow me to introduce myself! 

Crossing I-90 Day One
I really could go on and on about the logistics of it.  How we walked from Seattle to Marymoor Park.  Through Redmond, Kirkland, and back through Redmond again.   From the UW through Fremont, Ballard, Magnolia, and finished in downtown Seattle.  I think the more important thing for me to share would be what I found so SPECIAL about the Susan G. Komen 3 Day.

Tracy and I on the Kirkland Waterfront Day 2
First of all I’d like to thank my partner Tracy for being craze enough to volunteer to do this thing with me.  I don’t think either of us had ANY CLUE what kind of physical toll this would take on our bodies.  We had some great moments and made some great friends at the medical tent (Tracy’s new BFF Holly was the best!).  Thank you so much for making me laugh!

The people that organize this event are incredible.  The sheer number of volunteers it takes to make something of this magnitude run smoothly was astounding.  Every single volunteer I encountered along the route or at camp was kind, encouraging, and helpful.  All along the route we had these guys (and a couple of gals) that stood at certain streets to make sure we crossed safely.  These guys (and gals) were all dolled up.  Pink from head to toe, the men wearing bras (stuffed with balloons and in one case bears), wigs, nothing was off limits for these people.  It was so fun to see them all along the route encouraging us to keep moving.  Believe me-sometimes seeing those faces was the motivation I needed to keep going.  There was this elderly couple that showed up all along the route with these huge homemade signs on canvas.  I think they had a different one at each location.  They were so cute!  There was also this one man who would park his truck and blast his country music and cheer us on.  He was great!  Apparently his wife walks every year but couldn’t do it this year for some reason, but he still went out and cheered us on.  These folks were with us the entire weekend!  It was unbelievably selfless.

Let’s talk about the Seattle Bicycle cops.  They were THE BEST!  They were all dressed up; complete with pink bicycle tires and handcuffs.  They started with us in Seattle on day one and rode the entire three day route; making sure we were safe, cheering us on, and making us laugh.  The boring Bellevue and Redmond police couldn’t be bothered to “get pink”.  I’m seriously considering writing a letter.  We gave those poor cops a hard time though, and I'm sure they felt pretty bad.  Anyway, the Seattle cops were wonderful.  It was so great at the finish line too because they were all lined up as we came down the home stretch, it was so sweet.

What was really touching were the many, many, people who came out of their homes or set up tables with snacks and water all along the way.  Like I said before, when you’ve walked 18 miles and you’re exhausted and sore, seeing these people smiling and cheering for you was so inspirational.  At the end of day two when my shin splints were starting to really kill me, it meant the world to have that support.  My dear friend Becky met up with me in Juanita to cheer me on, as did my friend Christine as I passed her condo in Kirkland.  My buddy Don tracked me down in Kirkland and walked with me for three miles.  It was so sweet!  That was towards the end of a VERY long 13 mile stretch for me and I was hurting big time.  He totally kept my mind off of the pain and I was able to keep going.  At the end of day two my mom and aunt met me at camp and I was able to relax and visit with them for a while.  Again, the support was unbelievable.  Even my friend Kimberly’s husband Dan set up our tent for us on the first day so we wouldn’t have to worry about it when we got to camp.  Things like that meant so much!  Of course I told my husband to stay away because they tell you not to bring family and friends in, but later we saw husband’s bringing their wives coffee and meals.  Now I know for next time!  

Day 3
I’d like to give a major shout out to the medical staff.  This team of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, etc. did an incredible job of taking care of us.  I’m sure none of them want to look at another blister in their lives!  I personally had them lanced multiple times and they have it down to a science.  At one point they were threatening to bus everyone who hadn’t been treated yet (the line was very long) to lunch.  Excuse me, you aren’t bussing me anywhere.  But they turned it up a notch and breezed through a line of several people and we all got out on the route in the nick of time.  The medical staff was all volunteer, and although they did have their share of people passing out and others with more emergent symptoms, the majority of their time was spent on blister care.  God bless ‘em! 

Supporters in Magnolia
Day three was the best day (and the worst) for me.  I could not take a single step without pain from my shin splints, and as the day wore on both of my pinky toes were complete blisters.  The blisters were tolerable enough, but there were a few times that the shin splints almost did me in.  By the time I got to our first pit stop which was about 6.5 miles in, I was pretty miserable.  The medical staff taped my left leg up and it made just enough of a difference that I was able to keep going.  I am so glad I did!  We walked from Ballard through Discovery Park, and down through Magnolia.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to Magnolia and it was beautiful.  The people in the neighborhood were great, some blasting their music for us since we weren’t allowed to wear headphones.  And as always, a slew of supporters clapping and cheering us as we passed.  That part of the route was beautiful.  The views were amazing, the weather was beautiful, and we were almost done! 

Kimberly and I
The last four miles of day three were a breeze!  I had my blisters lanced at lunch and the ibuprofen was kicking in and dulled the pain of the shin splints.  We could see the space needle and knew we were so close to being done.  I practically ran that last part!  Luckily I was able to hook up with my friend Kimberly ( a fellow boot camper and survivor) and her group “Kimberly’s Breast Friends” for a celebratory Margarita on the water down by the new Ferris Wheel.  We all walked the remaining couple of miles and crossed the finish line together.  Waiting for me were my amazing husband Jeff, my beautiful daughter Mandi, and her sweet boyfriend Logan.  Wow, we did it.

We're Done!
The closing ceremony was by far the most emotional moment for me.  They had all of the survivors come in last as a group.  The other walkers were all in a circle and we walked into the center of it.  The speaker talked about how we didn’t just give up after being diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment.  We all made a decision to be part of finding the cure.  That did me in.  Less than a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer.  I endured surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.  I had no idea if I would be alive or what my life would be like.  And here I was.  Standing in a group of survivors and we just walked 60 miles in three days and we were happy about it!  Screw you cancer!!!! 

My goal going into this was to walk every single inch of that course.  That’s just me.  I was very determined to finish the entire thing-even if it meant dragging my broken leg behind me.  I was determined to do it.  And I did; every inch of every mile.  It was the most physically challenging thing I have ever done…and I loved every minute of it.  Maybe not EVERY minute, but you know what I mean.  Would I do it again knowing what I know now?  ABSOLUTELY WITHOUT A DOUBT! 
If you ever have the chance to walk in the three day, do it.  If you don't, go out and cheer the walkers on. 

I would not have been able to do any of it without the emotional support of my friends and family, but also the financial support from my wonderful and generous sponsors.  I was able to raise $3,180 but you also gave me the opportunity to create an incredible memory, an experience I will never forget.  I will forever be grateful for your gift. 

  • Diane Johnson
  • Michelle Paige
  • Fred and Kesti Miller
  • Debbie George
  • Dr. Kristina Adams Waldorf
  • Debbie Mickschl
  • April Van Assche
  • Lyndal Balliet
  • The Queen of Kong
  • Scott Hagen
  • Debbi Grieser
  • Linda Strand
  • Vickie Ravenscroft
  • Christine Reatz
  • Bill and Kathy-the best neighbor's ever!
  • Laura Main
  • Rebecca Hettich
  • Lisa Howard
  • Peg Ogle
  • Arlene Escobar
  • Pat Gilosa-DeAngelis
  • Gayle Robinson
  • Sylvia Randal
  • Neil Roche

Seriously, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

Oh...check out my new tattoo!  Yes, I love cats.  Isn't that clever...the tail turns into the breast cancer awareness ribbon?! 



Moving On!

Well, it's been a busy couple of months for me and I'm happy to report that things are AWESOME!!!!

I finished radiation on May 11th and was able to get through all 35 treatments with very little damage.  By the end I had a couple of areas that were peeling and sore, but all in all I tolerated it really well.  I was RELIGIOUS about applying lotion twice a day, and found this Vitamin E and Wheat Germ stuff at Fred Meyer (in the organic section) that was wonderful.  Anyhoo, I just loved my radiation oncologist, Dr. Adam, so it was a little sad to say good bye to him.  Not so sad that I plan on going back any time soon, but he ranks right up there as my number 2 fav for docs.  Number 1 is of course Dr. Kent (see previous posts for an explanation). 

The biggest hurdle for me lately was getting through my first post-treatment mammogram without having a heart attack.  I didn't think it would be that big of a deal until a few days before when the anxiety set in.  I have never had a good mammogram experience (ok, I only had one previously and they found CANCER), so needless to say my body went into fight or flight mode at the mere thought of going back to that place.  Don't get me wrong, they are all soooo nice there and in my mind I knew that I should be the least worried about this particular mammogram (it being so soon after treatment and all).  It's so easy to tell yourself not to worry but it's an entirely different thing to actually believe what you're saying.  I wasn't quite there yet.  I was a wreck the few days before-couldn't help it.  I know it will get easier as time goes on, but this first one was difficult. 

Of course when I got to my appointment I told the tech that I was very nervous and she needed to tell me if she saw anything right away.  I know she can't legally do that, but whatever.  I still tried to convince her that I was special and deserved different treatment than anyone else.  She didn't buy it.  She was actually a nine year breast cancer survivor herself and was very sweet about the whole thing.  Still didn't give me a CLUE!  I left not knowing a thing.  Although that in itself was different than my first experience, when it was pretty obvious they had concerns and I knew it immediately.  Anyway, they told me it could take up to five days to get the results so I left and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Are you kidding me?  Cancer patient here...a little compassion please!  Well, about a week later Jeff called me at work when he got home and said "you got a letter from Group Health.  Your mammogram was normal!".  Ok first-HALLELUJAH!  And second, WTH?  A letter?  How DARE they treat me like any NORMAL patient.  Who cares, right?  It was PERFECT news.  So I'm good to go for another six months, yay!

About a week after my last radiation treatment I started a drug called Tamoxifen, which I'll take for the next five years.  Tamoxifen is a hormone blocking drug that blocks hormone production so my cancer doesn't have any food to grow.  Since my cancer is fed by estrogen and progesterone, the idea is that even if there are some cancer cells that weren't killed off by the chemo and raiation, they'll remain dormant as long as there are no hormones to feed them.  Starve those little puppies!  Once again I am so fortunate because I have had none of the typical side affects associated with this drug.  The most common symptoms are hot flashes (not a one), weight gain (I've actually lost weight since I started), and bone pain (again...nada).  I was on them for about a month before I had a follow up appointment with my oncologist, and I asked him when I should expect to start having the side affects.  He said that I should have already had most likely I won't get them at all.  Can I get an amen?!  AMEN!!! 

I had my port removed, which was great.  I actually stayed awake for it this time, which was a little bit freaky.  Of course tissue had sort of globbed onto the thing and she had to do all this tugging to get it out and I was totally aware of the whole thing.  It was great though because I didn't have to stick around afterward, just got dressed and left.  Now I have to decide exactly what I want the tattoo to look like that I'll be having done around the scar.

I've been back to boot camp for the past couple of months and feel pretty close to normal there.  My endurance still isn't quite what it was, but it gets better every week.  The weight I gained during chemo is coming off slowly and steadily, which is fine by me.  I feel really good and can't wait for the 3 day walk in September.  I haven't been walking as much as I should to train, but I'll buckle down the next couple of months and it'll be fine.

Some of my boot camp buddies walked in the Seattle Susan G. Komen 5k on June 3rd.  It was great!  I've done the walk several times before but never as a survivor.  It's very humbling to look around and see all of the women fighting or who have fought the disease, and to be reminded of the ones who didn't make it.  There were a lot of young women, younger than me, and that is always shocking and sad.  It's such a unique experience looking at people and knowing they've been through the same traumatic experience and made it.  I find myself wondering how it was for them?  How long before they stopped crying every two seconds?  How long before they believed they'd be okay?  Do they still have the wind knocked out of them at the thought of the diagnosis?  Do they get worried when they have their mammograms?  When does it get easier?  I don't dwell on those thoughts but when you're surrounded by people going through the same thing, that's what went through my head.  Above all the day was inspirational!  There were so many people there walking, running, or just supporting the cause.  The weather was great and I was so blessed to have my friends do it with me.  Thank you Tabitha, Peri-Lyn, and Andy!  It meant so much to me!

As you can see in the picture, my hair is growing back.  I've had to wax my eyebrows and shave my legs, the ONE benefit of going through chemo that didn't last.  I've stopped wearing hats for the most part, which still feels a little strange but I was so tired of hats!  Jeff says I almost look like I cut my hair like this on purpose.  Yeah, I don't care, I'll take whatever I can get at this point.  Jeff is obsessed with it and wants to "trim" it up but I've threatened him with death if he touches it.  Seriously, my husband is the best.  He has been the most supportive guy in the world.  On my last day of radiation he surprised me with roses in the morning and after my treatment he had our family surprise me at the restaurant when we went out for breakfast.  It was so thoughtful of him and my family (Karli you count) for being so supportive. 

So my life for the time being is blissfully normal.  I do boot camp, work, watch my husband coach softball, spend time with my girl when she isn't working or in school (or shopping), and just hang out.  How awesome is that?  I see my oncologist every three months and then have mammograms every six months, and that's about it.  I'll be turning 40 on July 4th and I am THRILLED to have another birthday, especially one where I'm happy, healthy, and CANCER FREE! 


Ok...Now What?

Let's recap shall we? 

October 27th, 2011, I was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, stage II.  I had a lumpectomy on November 21st, started chemo on December 22nd, finished chemo on February 28th, started radiation on March 26th, and this Friday May 11th will be my last day of radiation and the end of my more aggressive treatments.  Shortly I'll be starting a hormone blocking drug called Tamoxifen, which I'll take every day for the next five years.  Puh-lease, piece of cake! 

Radiation has gone fairly well for me.  My skin held up quite nicely until the last couple of weeks when I developed some sore spots.  I've been very religious about applying the lotions they recommend and now wear these gauzy sort of bandages that keep the skin from rubbing off.  I know, sounds lovely.  Other than this relatively minor side effect and some fatigue, it's been pretty easy.  The biggest nuisance is just the time involved.  Five days a week for seven weeks started off a bit daunting, but they have things down to such a science that there were days I would leave my car and get back in 12 minutes later.  It's been so convenient going to the Providence Regional Cancer Partnership in Everett because it's only about ten minutes from my house and I don't have to pay for parking!  The doctor's have been so wonderful and the radiation therapists are all so sweet.  Don't get me wrong, I won't miss any of those people.  Have a nice life y'all..peace out!!!

So, this leads me to the next question.  What the hell happens now?

I haven't really been responding much to phone calls and e-mails lately because I feel a bit out of sorts.  When you get a diagnosis like this, you're immediately forced into making major life changing decisions and are consumed by the gobs of information.  I also felt such an urgency to connect with people in my life and to cherish every moment.  Pretty soon you get into a rhythm.  To put it simply, you feel like you are DOING something about it.  So much focus is on getting through chemo and just trying to function and feel OK, it keeps your mind occupied.  When I finished chemo and had my month off before radiation, I thought my life would go back to normal...yay!  Well that's SORT OF what happens, but how could things ever be "normal"?  Normal looks very different now and that's kind of a bummer. 

I've tried getting back into a routine.  Boot camp in the mornings has been harder than I thought it would be, and I'm a big baby about it.  I guess I expected to be planking for 20 minutes after my four month hiatus.  Um, yeah, NOT happening.  I'm up about 15 pounds which Dr. Jiang wants me to lose ASAP.  My Radiation Oncologist said not to lose weight so I was very confused (which is another story but don't get me started).  I think despite all of these things, my bigger issue is the feeling of powerlessness.  I have no control over anything(not that I ever did) but it felt like I did.  All the body aches, hair loss, fatigue, etc. were a sign that my body was fighting the disease.  Those side effects are gone-even my hair is growing back (which is good), but I want to feel like I'm still fighting. 

I had a long conversation with my Radiation Oncologist Dr. Adam about this, and he had some great words of wisdom.  First he told me that it could be many months before my body is normal again and not to expect too much.  He also told me that there are two things I can do that have absolutely been proven to increase chances of long term survival; exercise and weight control.  Okay, that's something I can handle, but do I just move on with my life like nothing ever happened?  How will I feel in six months when it's time for my first mammogram?  How will I handle the fear?  I'm afraid to be afraid...ha! 

Last week I was having a particularly emotional day, voicing my frustration with my body and my fears about the future.  Jeff listened and summed things up rather nicely.  I'm paraphrasing here but the gist of what he said was this:  Cancer has been a chapter in the book of my life.  I can't go back to old chapters and relive them, and I can't skip ahead and write the new chapters.  I have to address each chapter as it comes and find peace in that.  Very true Jeffrey, very true. 

I hope this doesn't sound like whining at all because I am SO grateful to be where I am.  I know I'm lucky to be alive and to have made it through this in good condition and with a very good prognosis for survival. 

I guess Friday I'll be turning another page in the book and moving on to the next chapter.  Better be a good one!!!!


Sorry-I'm a Total Slacker!

I's been forever since I posted anything!  Well, no news is good news in my little world. 

I've basically been getting on with my life.  I started back at boot camp on March 15th, ran in the St. Patrick's Day dash on March 17th, then promptly got deathly ill with a horrible cough and missed boot camp for a whole week because I was hacking up a lung.  Maybe I pushed it a little jumping back into things when my immune system was still not where it should be. 

The biggest news is that I started radiation on March 26th, which is a fascinating process (if you ask me).  First of all, it's very easy.  Before you actually get your treatments, you go in and they do this "mapping" of the area and give you teeny tiny tattoos which helps them to align the lasers for your treatment.  I have a total of four; one under each arm, one in the center of my chest, and one on my cancerous boob.  They created a mold of my head and arms (positioned over my head) and each session you basically lay into the mold and it helps you to know how to position your body.  Once you're laying down, the radiation therapists pull your body a millimeter here and there until the lasers line up exactly with the tattoos.  They strap you in and away we go!  The radiation machine itself is crazy-like something out of a science fiction movie.  Here's a picture of what it looks like. 

The actual treatment only takes a couple of minutes.  For me, they're doing three different areas and the machine spins around you and makes these crazy noises.  You don't actually see or feel anything happening at the time.  Once it's done you hop down, get dressed, and you're done.  From the time I park my car until I get back in to leave, it's about 15 minutes.  Some days they have to do additional x-rays and it takes a little longer, but compared to chemo, it's NOTHING!!!  I have to meet with the radiation oncologist every Wednesday so they can check the skin and how I'm feeling.  So far I've had some minor side affects (sensitivity) and yesterday I noticed my skin is turning red.  I've completed 10 of my 35 treatments so almost a third of the way done...woo hoo!!!! 

My hair is coming in...SLOWLY.  I look like I have baby hair right now but with a bunch of strands that sort of stick straight up.  It is NOT attractive.  I am sick and tired of looking at my ugly bald head.  I just hope I have enough hair by summer that I feel okay going without a hat. 

I'm so ready to get on with my life.  I already feel like I'm moving from being a cancer patient back to a normal person.  Not everything centers around treatment or how I'm feeling, and I think about the future without being paralyzed by fear (most of the time).  The flip side is that you start to lose a little of the perspective that a diagnosis gives you.  It's easy to get caught back up into the monotony of daily life-which is good-but easy to forget that it all means nothing when you're faced with your own mortality.  It's good to remind myself of the journey and to remember what's really important because I really have come to appreciate life as well as my family and friends.  Five months ago I never would have thought I'd feel "normal" again...but life really does goes on! 

Well, that's the latest.  I PROMISE to do a better job of updating!

Bye bye now!


Being Sick Sucks!

I don't mean the "cancer" kind of sick, although that DOES suck.  I'm talking about the lingering cough sick I've got going on right now.  I have not been able to sleep for the past few nights, and I AM CRANKY!

I was supposed to start boot camp this week and get back to my routine, but it's looking like that's going to have to wait at least a few more days.  I have zero patience with all of this right now.  I feel fat (I've gained at least 15 pounds), ugly (I have no hair), and still just don't feel like myself.  I know, I know, give myself a break and yes it could be a lot worse.  I know I'll get over it and do feel like a few nice days around here would definitely help.

On a good note...I continue to be amazed by the support I've gotten for the 3 Day!  I've gone above and beyond the amount of donations I ever thought I would get.  I've been in the process of tracking down addresses to send "thank you" notes to you all, so don't think I'm an ungrateful slacker with no manners.  I had the great idea of sending out hand made cards and did a batch, but they weren't that great, so most of you are getting some store bought-but lovely ones nonetheless.

Anyhoo...that's my rant for the day


Taking the Next Step (and other AWESOME things)

So, I met with my Radiation Oncologist yesterday. His name is Dr. Adam and he is...all that and a bag of chips!  LOVED him!  The totally cool thing about him is the fact that he knows my favorite doctor of all time, Dr. Kent, and worked with him for many years.  I told him my expectations were VERY high and to please not be offended if he wasn't able to unseat Dr. Kent as my fav.  He had a great sense of humor and took all of my nervous wiseass remarks in stride. 

I was there for about 2 1/2 hours and he explained every detail of what radiation treatment entails.  We talked about my diagnosis and prognosis, and he was very good about re-iterating the fact that going through cancer treatment can really take a toll on the body and not to push too hard too fast.  I think I need to be reminded of that fact more often than not because I have gotten my butt kicked this past week. 

Anyway, so I'll be having a total of 35 radiation treatments-Monday through Friday for seven weeks.  They gave me my very own "connect the dot" tattoos yesterday so they know where the radiation will go EVERY time.  I asked if they could do something a little more clever like a heart instead of a plain old dot, but no can do.  They really should give people the option.  Maybe a choice between a heart, a star, a butterfly, something fluffy and cute. Basically the radiation is an in and out thing-just a few minutes for the actual radiation each time-and shouldn't have too many side affects.  They say you can get what equates to a sunburn as the treatments go on, and some people experience added fatigue.  Every person I've talked to who's gone through it has said it's NOTHING compared to chemo.  Amen to that.   

Kimberly, Tracey, and Me
After my appointment I had lunch with two of my cancer friends, Kimberly and Tracey.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them!  We compared war stories and Tracey (who's a year out from treatment) was awesome to talk to and get a perspective on what comes "next" so to speak.  We have all had completely different experiences, although Tracey and I had virtually the same regimen.  Kimberly has had a much rougher regimen but is doing so great.  Some things have been harder on her than were on me, and vice versa.  We can all agree that the going bald and crappy taste in the mouth completely suck.  Again, I am so fortunate to have people around me who are not only inspirational but sympathetic! 

Aren't hey PERFECT?

When I got home I was so excited to see that the new walking shoes I bought especially for the 3 Day came.  They are and cute!  They even have the 3 Day logo on them.  I can't wait to start breaking them in.  I'm going to wait a few days since I've come down with my first cold in about five months.  I totally jinxed myself by saying I'd made it through the whole chemo process without so much as a cold.  Now here I am.  I've definitely had worse, it's mostly in my chest and throat, but it certainly adds to my fatigue.  I literally have about two hours of good energy, but then I feel like I need to sleep for two.  Fortunately it's all worked out well with my job and I've been able to go at a slow pace and do what I need to do.  The weather is so beautiful today and I noticed new leaves sprouting on one of my hydrangeas.  It's going to be a GREAT spring and summer...I just know it! 

Go Honey Badgers!