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!