The Final One

Tuesday, May 22, 2018 was the last day of radiation treatment. Everyone who finishes treatment gets this certificate. Kind of like when parents or grandparents go on holidays and they bring back a tshirt for their children. Whoopee!

Or I should look at it, like now my poor breast and back can heal. I was told it would get worse before it gets better. It definitely is getting worse. There is bleeding going on from the wounds on my back and in my armpit. Not a lot but enough that I can see it when I dry myself off after a shower. Trotting with my horse is definitely not comfortable right now. I will trudge on with the ointments, that is for sure.

What is next? My port will be removed the beginning of June. Then the end of June, I will see both oncologists. Dr. Bobo will check how things are healing and Dr. Hellner will start me on my medication. I was also told to have my last ovary removed. We do not want any chance of anything leading to estrogen production.

Lately, I have been quite moody. My daughter told me that her friend’s father went through a personality change after his radiation treatments. She wasn’t sure what kind of a change but the friend’s mother said there was a change. I researched that and couldn’t find anything about personality change. I just know that I have been quick to cry and certain sad things hit me harder than before.

Is that because of the chemo drugs and radiation? I don’t know. I certainly know that being diagnosed with cancer, having a lumpectomy that deforms my left breast along with lymph node removal that has left me with no feeling in my left armpit, going through powerful drugs that have warning labels on them, going through radiation where the technicians run out of the room when the machine starts, probably contributes to the emotional feelings.

Right now both my daughters are going through a difficult time and it breaks my heart. I have been crying for them. I have been going through Bill’s old photographs and I have been left in tears. He is such a handsome man and all his old pictures show how handsome he was as a younger man. This has left me feeling inadequate, when I shouldn’t. I see pictures of abused animals and I begin to cry. So far, I am not angry. Just sad and teary eyed.

I am hoping that riding and loving on my horse, going to tai chi and yoga classes will help with my emotions. I am determined to make changes in my lifestyle. I am going green. Not only for myself but for this beautiful planet and my children and grandchildren. I will be using the Environmental Working Group website (ewg.org) to make better selections.

Oh, and I am looking up breast cancer tattoos. At the end of June, I will add a tattoo to my arm of a pink ribbon. I am not sure if I want Warrior or Survivor included on the ribbon. I am still debating that.

Tai Chi/Qigong and yoga

While still living in Canada, I took a number of tai chi classes. I enjoyed them but that was several years ago. Levine Cancer Institute offers free tai chi/qigong and yoga classes to its patients, survivors, care givers and employees. My oncologist recommended that I start taking a class.

I am glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed the first tai chi class. Several people there were quick to let me know that it has taken them three years to remember all the patterns. Not sure how long it will take me. I learned a pattern called, Embrace the Moon. So many different steps, stands, hand movements, all moving together. Not easy but I can laugh at myself and my attempts.

Tai Chi and Qigong are very old forms of martial art. They combine breathing and slow, fluid movements to help restore balance in the body’s energy system. “Qi” (or “Chi”) means the life force or internal energy in our bodies.

The cancer related benefits are many. Tai Chi and Qigong can calm the mind and emotions. Although when you are first learning the movements, it can be frustrating. But if you are patient and keep watching, it will happen. I’m still not sure if I should just focus on my feet and then get the hand movements or what I should do.

Tai Chi and Qigong can improve balance and help prevent falls. I noticed I was focusing on my core and breathing with the movements. This is from my previous days in yoga, I think. So that helps. Also, many cancer patients suffer from neuropathy in the hands or feet. I am experiencing neuropathy in my feet. I have many knitting projects and have found the knitting has helped with my hands. I am noticing that the neuropathy is slowly getting less in my feet. Right now it is just in my toes, a really strange feeling. But I now know that this neuropathy will not last.

It can help reduce muscle and joint pain. Cancer patients suffer with this depending on the chemotherapy drugs given to them. I have noticed more joint pain, especially in my back where I have arthritis in my spine. And now that I think about it, my back felt much better after the class.

It can help promote clear thinking and focus. Boy! Is that true. You have to stay focused on the teacher and people around you or you will walk into someone and/or get run over. I know that I have complained many times about “chemo brain” from the chemotherapy. It is very true and not just old age creeping up on me.

It can increase flexibility and energy. The tai chi has slow, fluid movements which helps with stretching your muscles. I know my energy levels have been quite low from first, the chemotherapy, and now the radiation treatments. But the tai chi will help with that.

It can uplift your spirits and improve breathing. The teacher at the tai chi class kept telling us to smile with our breathing. The people in the group were very encouraging and positive. Surrounding yourself with positive people, helps your state of mind. Following along with all the movements also encouraged me to breathe properly.

All I know is that I really enjoyed the class and I am determined to keep up with it. I know that the tai chi and qigong will help with my core which will benefit my riding abilities. I know Gizmo will appreciate that. Now on to my yoga class!

*Please note that I am referencing an article written by Susan Yaguda, RN, MSN who is with Levine Cancer Institute.

Also, the teacher recommended a series of youtube videos by Dr. Paul Lam (when you google Dr. Paul Lam include tai chi after his name). The videos are free and he gives instructions on tai chi.

Changes

I met with my medical oncologist last week, who scared me a little. Well, she has me rethinking a lot of things now. I started seeing Dr. Bailey-Dorton when my oncologist who was overseeing my chemo treatments thought I would be better suited with Dr. Bailey-Dorton for all my supplement questions.

Dr. Bailey-Dorton gave me a breast cancer integrative health plan where it shows I am overweight. Yah, I knew that. I can’t blame the chemo drugs totally. I think the containers of Ben & Jerry chocolate therapy and Magnum ice creams contributed quite a few pounds. So I know I need to lose weight.

But when Dr. Bailey-Dorton said that all the recommendations she was giving me would be good preventive measures to help stop the cancer from coming back. That is when I sorta kinda stopped breathing a little. I was not expecting that. I thought once the lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments were done, that would be it for me.

She told me that riding my horse was excellent equine therapy. She also said I should find other exercise programs, like yoga or Qigong. Levine Cancer Institute provides these programs free of charge to their cancer patients. I have already done yoga and qigong so I was ready to sign up for those classes.

She gave me a list of supplements to take. Turmeric is used to help with heartburn, stomach ulcers and inflammation. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is an antioxidant which may help decrease inflammation in the body. Long term inflammation may lead to a wide number of chronic health conditions including heart disease and cancer.

It was also recommended to take omega-3 fatty acids, a probiotic, and Vitamin D. She gave me a list of foods that are good for me and told me to eat hormone free meats. She also directed me to the website www.ewg.org, the  Environmental Working Group site. This website has a wealth of information.

Now I am registered for yoga one day per week and qigong one day per week. Along with riding Gizmo four to five times per week, plus walking Roscoe five days per week, my exercise program should be good.

I am slowly going to replace all my cleaning products with environmentally friendly products. I am going to start purchasing healthy food (poor Bill). I need to watch my sun exposure. I have ordered a good sunscreen and two Coolibar long sleeved shirts. The large sun hat I purchased from Coolibar is wonderful. The brim is wide enough to protect my face and my shoulders. I am replacing all my makeup products with verified natural products.

I intend on living a good, long, healthy life. I have a handsome husband I want to grow older with (so he is going to get some changes incorporated into his lifestyle). I have beautiful children and the most adorable grandchildren. I want to be able to play with my grandchildren and spend as much time as possible with them. In other words, I want to be a problem to my children, in that they will never know what to expect from me.

 

 

What Brings Me to Tears

What brings me to tears?

A sad love song. Or an inspiring one that gives me hope. A moving movie where someone or a favored pet has died. A romantic movie where there was no hope, then suddenly hope is found. The loser will finally win against all odds. Almost all the old animated Disney movies have made me cry.

Being surrounded by those I love, my husband, children, grandchildren and close friends. Enjoying each others company. Laughing together. Holding hands. Touching hands with hugs and sighs. Showing our love for each other in kind words and special tasks. Baking, cooking the food everyone enjoys. Showing respect and kindness to those I meet in my travels.

Peaceful walks outside where I can see God’s creation all around me. The trees, flowers, birds singing. The gentle lap of water against a riverbank or the sand of a beach. Sunsets and sunrises. The whisper of the wind against my face. The Carolina blue of the sky with a few fat cotton ball clouds lazily drifting. The warm feeling of the sun on my face.

Riding my horse, who has learned to trust me. She knows me now and she is now taking care of me. She helps me groom her and she loves taking the treats I have made for her. When I sit on her back, I know she is willing to take me where I would like to go and she is willing to do the exercises I set out for both of us. It is taking time to build up my strength again but I am grateful for what I can do. I am grateful that my Gizmo is careful with me and listens to me. I am trying to be a good rider and I am trying to understand what she understands. The sun and the wind on my face is glorious. I appreciate the songs of the birds around me and I pause to listen.

These are all things that will bring tears to my eyes.

But as a woman going through breast cancer treatments, the pain that sometimes wracks my body, will not bring tears to my eyes. The fear of the unknown. The uncertainty. The way the treatments have changed my body. These things will bring tears to my eyes but NOT the physical pain. I have cried enough for the emotions. I will not cry for the physical pain. The pain I can endure and I will rise above it. I have so much to live for. I have so much I need to do.

I am a warrior and I will survive.

Radiation Treatments Have Begun

It has been a while since I have been here. Let’s just say that the chemo treatments took their toll on me. But the treatments are done. I rang that bell on March 2nd. My beautiful youngest daughter was with me when I rang the bell. I tried to be sure that everyone was awake and they were. But I still managed to make one woman jump at the sound of the bell.

After the chemo treatments, I was given one month off. Yippee! During that time off, my husband and I drove down to the Keys to visit my good friends. They are a wonderful couple who have opened their house many, many times so that friends and family could visit. The week in the Keys was much needed by both myself and my husband.

The radiation treatments began Wednesday, April 11th and will continue for five days per week for six weeks. A total of thirty treatments. As of today, the treatments have been going fairly well. No side effects or issues to report, as of today.

In the mean time, I am still riding my horse at the most five days per week, walking our dog five days per week, working on my novels and doing knitting and crocheting projects at night. I also take care of cleaning the house and it looks like I might have to start cutting the lawn. And I love to cook so I try to cook, from scratch, our meals at least four or five times per week.

Did I say I will beat this cancer out the door? No? Well, I am. I have a husband, children, grandchildren and pets to spoil and argue with. I have books to write and places to see. I have life to live as long as God will let me. I have a lot of people who are praying for me. So I need to keep up the good fight and keep praying that God will see me through this.

 

Self Publishing

I took the plunge today. I opened an account in Createspace and intend on self publishing my second novel, You Are Mine. I did win an award last year for this novel at the Blueridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference. Third in  Fiction: Speculative/Mystery/Suspense.

After reading from other writers/authors about finding a publisher or self publishing, I was more and more convinced to just self publish. It isn’t just finding a publishing company, one also has to find an agent. Both tasks are next to impossible. A writer needs the proper query letter and expect rejection after rejection. Most publishing companies will not look at a writer unless they have an agent. And unless you have an angle or a shtick, an agent won’t look at you.

Now I have opened an account in Createspace. My novel has already gone through a thorough edit. Any author who is worthwhile, will tell you to edit, edit and edit even more. Especially if you are going to self publish. Anyone who tells you they can successfully edit their own work, well, I won’t even look at that person’s book. Although there is one author, who I greatly respect, who does a really thorough job of editing before submitting her book to her publisher. But they still edit her work.

You Are Mine will be published by Createspace. While I am going through this process, I am working on my third novel. Right now I don’t have a title for it but it is a paranormal story. At times, it frightens me. My imagination is pretty lively. But I have a story to tell with this book and with the support of God, I will finish it.

I will keep you posted on these novels.

 

Taxol – My Cancer Journey

It is now 2018. The start of a new year. I am into my Taxol treatments. I am scheduled for 12 treatments, once a week over 12 weeks. I will be heading into my fifth treatment on Friday. So far, so good.

I am not as tired as I was. The Adriamycin and Cytoxin with Neulasta treatments were rough. But the Taxol is much easier. I am experiencing a burning, tingling sensation on the soles of my feet but this is only at night and it isn’t constant. My hands have a slight tingling and burning sensation but not worrisome. As long as I can continue knitting and crocheting, I am happy. My mouth is tender and sore so I have switched to Sensodyne which is helping.

Most of the hair on my body has disappeared. My eyebrows are faint and I still have eyelashes. Yeah for eyelashes. I was seriously considering fake eyelashes but I know that I am not very steady or picky and I would end up with crooked eyelashes. I looked into the magnetic eyelashes but the reviews on those are not consistent. Some of my friends suggested I should draw on eyebrows. I could put various angles on the eyebrows which would leave Bill wondering how I was feeling. I could put on angry brows, surprised brows, puzzled brows, or just straight across. Hmmm. Will have to think on that.

We are now experiencing a deep chill here in South Carolina. Temperatures are below freezing. Not good for a woman with no hair. You really become sensitive to the cold with no hair. Even though what hair I had, was thin, it was still better than no hair. My poor horse won’t be seeing me until it warms up a bit. I just can’t do outside. I am prone to bronchitis and I just don’t want that right now.

As for my probe, I mean port, I have been experiencing tenderness and it is sore. The last couple treatments, the nurses had problems drawing blood from my port. Every time the nurses clean off the area with the alcohol, it turns my stomach. I turn my head away every time. But I think the smell of the alcohol will always stay with me and not give me pleasant memories.

All in all, I am feeling better. I even made the comment to Bill that I thought I was better off health wise than Bill. Seriously. But there is an end in sight for me. Once these Taxol treatments are finished, I will get one month of rest and no treatments before the radiation treatments being. Five days a week for six weeks. Bill and I are wanting to get away for one week before radiation begins. Bill and I need to have some alone time with each other. Just relax and rest without thinking about cancer. Without thinking about Bill’s injuries. Somewhere warm with the sun on our faces. I can almost feel it.

2017 Thoughts on My Year

2017 – I hope a year like this doesn’t happen again. I shouldn’t say that because my daughter and I both got married to the most wonderful men.  My year started off fairly normally. Except, I was tired of the travel back and forth from Reidsville to Charlotte.

Move closer to Charlotte, I thought. Buy a house and be closer to Bill, I thought. Be somewhere between Charlotte and Columbia where Bill has his office. Piece of cake, right? First I had to find a horse barn that had a good reputation and would be a good fit financially for my beautiful mare. Bill was overwhelmed that I had to find a good barn before I would consider where I would end up purchasing a house. We spent many weekends driving on back country roads and I spent many hours looking up horse barns on the internet.

I finally found a barn that was perfect for Gizmo and I. Only problem was that it was close to Fort Mill – close to Charlotte. Not anywhere close to Columbia. Another problem was that there really weren’t any great communities between Charlotte and Columbia. Bill and I ended up purchasing a bungalow – oh, right, ranch style house – in Indian Land which really has a Lancaster address. The community we purchased our house in is young and thriving.

While our house purchase was happening, people kept advising Bill that he and I should marry. It would make it so much easier with the house purchase and everything else. I would just look at Bill when he said this to me and shrug my shoulders. I had found the man of my dreams but had he found the woman of his?

Right around this time, Joe Bahemuka, Veronika’s boyfriend proposed to her before he had to leave for South Sudan. Joe had accepted a position with the UN to work in South Sudan to set up food and health programs for this newly developing country. I could look forward to a wedding.

Then, out of the blue, Bill calls me one day and told me that my father had given his blessing to us. So Bill proposed to me while I was driving. I accepted. Wait! What kind of a proposal was this? Bill ended up proposing to me three times before I told him that his proposal was good enough. His very good friend, Dee Dee, also shamed him into getting me an engagement ring since he hadn’t thought of purchasing something before the proposal. Seems like he wasn’t going to do anything like his previous two marriages. But no engagement ring? Bill was lucky that I did not want a typical diamond ring. I love pearls and a pearl ring with diamonds was exactly what I wanted.

Plans for our wedding were started. My son, Peter, was having two graduations at the end of May and June. One was for his Masters in Business and the other was from law school. We wanted to plan our wedding after that. And with Bill being in the navy and previously owning a yacht, I thought, wouldn’t it be perfect to have our wedding on a boat. Bill told me Lake Norman had a paddle wheel and we should drive up there to take a look. the wedding planner and I had a date booked and arrangements for our wedding before Bill could flutter his beautiful eyes. Bill kept mumbling, “I thought we were just going to look at the paddle wheel.”

We happily told our children about our wedding date when Veronika announced that she and Joe had set their wedding date. Bill and I were getting married June 24. Veronika and Joe set their date for May 21. Okay! I thought that the reason for the date was that Veronika would then be joining Joe in South Sudan until we were told that she was pregnant. Okay! Yippee! I was going to be a grandmother.

Veronika and Joe’s wedding was beautiful. I cried and was happy to see their happiness. Unfortunately, Joe could only get one week away from his work. Their time together was short but sweet. My oldest daughter is married!

Every year in April I dutifully do my mammogram. In previous years, I was always called back for abnormalities in my right breast. This year, I was called back for abnormalities in my left breast. Something was there. I went in for a biopsy. One week before my wedding, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Bill and I did not plan on going on a honeymoon after our wedding. We thought with the purchase of a new house, our honeymoon and especially now with the breast cancer diagnosis, it could wait. With all the screening and tests, my decision to have a lumpectomy waited until August. Once my decision was made, the lumpectomy was performed. During the lumpectomy, two of four lymph nodes were diseased and my cancer was upgraded to Stage 2A.

Two nights after my lumpectomy, Bill fell in our house. We went to emergency only to discover that he had fractured his skull and had two hematomas. Thank goodness I was sitting. I was still recovering from my lumpectomy and now the horrible thought that Bill could have died from this injury. Bill spent three days in the hospital. He was released but that night he started vomiting and could not stop. We went back to emergency and he was admitted to the hospital where he stayed for one week.

Bill is recovering although this could very well take one year to finally be resolved. His short term memory is terrible. He suffers with balance issues although the balance is getting better. He has gone back to work. His headaches, fortunately, are not anything what they were like after the fall.

My chemo treatments started in September. The first drugs knocked me off my feet. The second drug is much better. I still tire easily and find I need to rest often. I am so tired of being tired. But there is an end in sight for me.

My very first grandchild, a girl, was born October 21st. Eliora Louise came into our lives at a robust 9.2 pounds with a very healthy set of lungs. I, unfortunately, am not advised to travel so I am waiting to meet my granddaughter Christmas day.

My son, Peter, his wife, Carol, my daughter, Veronika with Eliora and my youngest daughter, Natasha with her boyfriend, Darren will be arriving here on Christmas day. I am beyond excited and happy to have my children here with me. Bill has not spent Christmas with family for a long time. To have a house full of people who do not have indoor voices will be quite an adjustment for Bill. Bill knows how much this means to me and I think he is looking forward to a house full of vocal adults and a baby who is as stubborn as her mother.

As i make preparations for a house full of people, I wish everyone true blessings over this holiday season. Treating others with kindness and love is the most wonderful gift to receive. Always remember that we do not always know what others are going through or dealing with. Angry actions cannot be undone. Kindness will always be remembered and treasured. I am hoping for a healthy new year and good fortune for 2018. As Ellen DeGeneres says, Be kind to one another.

 

Seriously? Pimples? My Cancer Journey

This has got to be a joke. I mean, seriously. Really. Pimples.

Here I am in my late 50s, battling breast cancer and what happens? A number of pimples decide to show up on my chin. I had to rub my eyes and get my reading glasses. Yup! There they are. Three or four pimples on my chin.

This is so not funny. One would think that the cancer drugs that have been injected into me would take care of something as stupid as pimples. I mean, I am filled with drugs that are labelled “Hazardous Drugs”. The nurses put this stuff into me. It’s supposed to get rid of any and all cancer cells. But I guess not pimples.

I rubbed my chin just to be sure and yes, they are pimples. Daring to show up on my skin. This is insane. Ludicrous. Stupid. I mean, for crying out loud. Am I not past the point of still getting pimples? I guess not.

Well, whoever decided to blast my chin with pimples, I hope you are having a good laugh. Bald head with pimples on my chin. Great. Just great. I suppose you can’t mistake my head for a cue ball. What cue ball has pimples? Me. Just so ridiculous.

Auf Wiedersehen – My Cancer Journey

I started taking my anti nausea medication the very next day after the second round of chemotherapy. I still did feel nauseas even with the medication. My energy level was very low. I slept most of the night away Thursday. Riding my horse Friday morning, left me very tired.  But I had decided to make a decision about my hair. It was coming out. There is no way my hair would be spared. If I thought Monday to Wednesday was bad, Thursday and Friday were horrific.

Friday morning after my shower, there was a lot of hair by the shower drain. So much so, that it looked like a small mouse. Then when I combed my hair, there was so much hair in the comb, well, I cried. I put some in a pile beside Bill’s sink so that he could see how much I had lost.

This was it. I decided that after my Neulasta shot, I would go to Great Clips and be done with it. That is me. When I decide something, I do it. I do not let the grass grow beneath my feet. This does not always work out well for me but, unfortunately, that is the way I am and I was done with crying every morning.

Arrived at Great Clips and told the stylist that I needed to have my head shaved. I told him my hair is coming out and I just wanted to be done with it. There were two stylists in the store at that time with one other customer. I was seated and the stylist asked me twice if I was ready for this. I told him I was fine. I did not want to think about this any more. Just do it.

The hair came off really quickly and, surprisingly, there was no sudden gasp or scream or tears or any kind of feeling when I saw my bald head. The stylist told me I had a really nice head, not uneven or a weird shape or anything. I slowly reached up and touched my scalp. There still are hair bristles as the stylist could not shave right down but the hair is gone.

I looked behind the chair to see my hair. I was kind of surprised that I was calm. That I could look at my hair on the floor and have no emotions. Nothing.  Just a firm realization that it needed to be done. I asked the stylist to take a picture of me bald and then wearing the two wigs I had purchased. He was very kind and did so.

The female stylist told me about a young friend who was battling Stage 4 breast cancer and had thick long hair. She shaved it off for her friend when she started chemotherapy. It really hurts me to hear when young people are battling such aggressive types of cancer. I feel I am lucky.

My stylist picked up some of my hair and put it into an envelope. He said it would be a great keepsake which I was thankful for. I got hugs all around and left Great Clips wearing one of my turbans.

I look at myself in the mirror now and I am surprised by the bald head. Surprised a little. Not shocked. Not overly emotional. I have cried a couple of times. This cancer has stripped away some of my feelings of a sensual woman. I now have a puckered left breast. The lumpectomy incision healed but it has made a pucker in the area. Now my hair is gone.

I wonder what my husband thinks when he looks at me. I mean, he has to be feeling something. He says he liked my hair. But now it is gone. Cancer does not just affect the person battling it. Cancer also affects the people around the cancer patient. There is nothing they can do to ease the pain or the emotions or the fatigue or all of the other side effects from the drugs that are bombarding the cancer patient’s body. Well, there is something they can do. Treat us with love, and respect and patience.