Surgery – Now What?

I had surgery this past week to have my remaining ovary removed. However, when the doctor went in, my left ovary was atrophied and it had attached itself to my intestine. The good doctor made the decision to not remove the ovary as it could potentially cause more harm than good. It was a decision we had both discussed prior to the surgery and we had agreed with the decision.

Now I have three nice holes in my belly (I wish I could have told him to suck out some of the belly fat while he had me there but I don’t think a gynecologist can do that). One hole in my belly button and then two on either side. It was done with a laprascope. I wish my gall bladder could have waited until gall bladders were removed with a laprascope. But, no, I have this nice long scar on the right side of my belly.

I told you in a previous blog how the Letrozole made me into a crazy woman. I cried pretty much every night and I was in this deep, deep black hole. I stopped taking the medicine on Monday. Three days after my surgery and I am still feeling the effects of all the drugs I was given. My oncologist told me to stop taking the Letrozole and see how I am feeling in two weeks. Does she really think I want to go back on it? My poor husband can’t take the Letrozole. I can’t either.

I am such a lightweight with drugs. My body rebels against drugs. It very quickly lets me know that it does not want this foreign crap in my body. I just have to agree with my body.

My next visit with my oncologist will be interesting. She wanted my ovary removed because she does not want anything in my body that could produce estrogen. Well, I think atrophied means that ovary is dead. The second estrogen suppressing medication punched me down and out. There are only two more medications to try. Anastrazole = bad flu like symptoms. Letrozole = totally crazy lady. I will let you know what happens with the next one.

Letrozole

My oncologist started me on Letrozole. I have been on it for one month and thought things were going fairly well. Although there were two days where I had a severe headache and I had blurry vision. Then I started feeling nauseous in the mornings.

But, emotionally, the past two weeks have been horrible. I suffer from depression and I have medication which helps me. However, someone threw a heavy, black blanket on me and it was sucking me down. I have not felt this terrible in a long time. It was like I had the wind knocked out of me. I couldn’t breathe. I cried at the slightest thing and any comment my husband made had me in this black hole of despair where I could not stop crying. I was in anguish. I was in such pain that I just wanted to die. Unless one has gone through this emotional pain, you just can’t imagine how much it hurts.

Before the weekend, I messaged my oncologist and told her what was happening. I was told that the Letrozole shouldn’t be affecting the Venlafaxine I am on. It was suggested I go off the Letrozole and see how I am in two weeks. Like a trooper, I said I would keep taking the Letrozole and see how it was going.

Saturday started out kind of fine. But the day quickly deteriorated. By Sunday, I was a massive mess and I was playing hell on my poor husband. I told him he would end up hating me and that he should leave me. I just kept thinking, I need to talk to someone. So I picked up my phone and called my best friend. I was crying when I told her I needed to talk to her. Thank goodness for Elizabeth.

As I was sobbing, I told her what was happening and she said it certainly sounded like the Letrozole was really messing me up. She managed to calm me down and we even laughed at my craziness. I have stopped taking the Letrozole. Even though I know it will take a while for the drug to get out of my system, I feel better.

I did google Letrozole and found that there are many common side effects. One of the less common side effects are depression. Bingo! Exactly. Do I want to risk it and try taking the Letrozole in two weeks, just when I am starting to feel better? Would you blame me if I said, I am afraid to? The Anastrazole made me sick. I was stuck in my bed, sick. I don’t go to bed sick unless it is bad. The Letrozole made me despicably depressed. There are only four estrogen suppressing medications. Two more to go?

Onwards to A New Medication

Anastrozole did not treat me very well. I was taking it for about three weeks when it knocked me a one-two punch that left me quite sick.

I got up one morning and it was a struggle. I definitely felt like I had had one bad drinking night. Getting up and walking was not easy. I felt like the room was spinning, I was nauseous. My head felt huge. I had bad diarrhea. It was like a bad stomach flu and a bad drinking night.

I emailed my oncologist and she said to stop taking it. Then after a couple of weeks, if I was feeling better, I should start taking it again. Well, in between all of this, I had the visit with the gynecologist and I was not going to take anything again until I could see my oncologist.

The first thing my oncologist told me was since I had diseased lymph nodes, I must take an estrogen suppressing medication. She told me the statistics are that the medication suppresses reoccurrence by 50 percent. There are four different medications that I can try. We now know Anastrozole is out. I am now on Letrozole. I was told the side effects were similar but she is hoping my body will be good with this one. She also told me that there are creams and gels that I can be given to alleviate the dryness in the vagina. However, she said not many of her patients experience this problem.

I then asked about doing tests to make sure that all the cancer is gone. I have many friends and my children who are asking this question. She said that they have done a battery of studies on people who underwent many tests after treatment compared to those who didn’t. They determined that there was nothing to indicate running tests after cancer treatment was beneficial.

My oncologist then went on to tell me how she loved my hair coming in. I told her it had a mind of its own. She has extremely curly hair and told me there are hair products for curly hair. She uses one that she puts on while her hair is wet and then lets it air dry. Not only does my oncologist give great medical information but really important information on hair products. Cool!

Anastrazole

Going through this cancer journey can really do a number on a person. When it is breast cancer for a woman, what it does emotionally to a woman’s sense of sensuality, really hits hard.

First, you are diagnosed with breast cancer. Then a woman needs to make the decision to have a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. I can’t imagine having a mastectomy and going through the healing process. A lumpectomy still leaves a scar and I also have scars from the lymph node removal but the breast is still left with a permanent reminder.

As a woman goes through chemotherapy, there is the hair loss. Total hair loss over the entire body. Men love women with long hair. Hair has such power with women. Beautiful long tresses. Thick, full hair. Gone. Eyelashes, eyebrows, gone. All body hair gone. Then the next step is radiation that burns the skin. Everything is tender and sore after the chemotherapy but then to lie in a room where no one but you is there, listening to the machine zero in on the spots in your breast and armpit, leaves one feeling exposed and cold and alone and unfeminine.

Chemotherapy and radiation is done. There is weight gain which has made me feel terrible and I am now on a strict diet. The hair finally starts to grow back. Eyelashes were huge for me. The lashes are not all there yet but they are coming. The eyebrows have come back and the hair on my scalp is doing whatever it wants. I don’t want to put any creams into my hair to control it. Then it will look flat. And I don’t want to go with the spiked look.

My oncologist put me on Anastrazole, an estrogen suppressing medication. But after two weeks of feeling extremely headachy, dizzy, lightheaded, wanting to throw up and having bouts of diarrhea, my doctor agreed to let me get off and see how I do. Another requirement was for me to see a gynecologist to have my remaining ovary removed. I had a hysterectomy at the age of 40 due to complications.

I saw that gynecologist today. We went over my health history and then he talked to me about Anastrazole. He said it is a powerful hormone suppressing medication. He also said that it will dry up my vagina into a little knot and be painful. He said sex will be impossible. After I said, I had no idea, he said I need to talk to my oncologist about these estrogen suppressing drugs and get all the facts before I make the decision to continue or not. We also discussed having my ovary removed. We will go ahead with this.

I left the gynecologist and burst into tears as I was driving home. It feels like I am being punished. First this breast cancer where I am still struggling to feel feminine. Where I am struggling to think I might be attractive. Those are all very real feelings and it takes time to work through all of them. But now this. Urinating will cause pain. The vagina will be in pain and no sex. I didn’t know. I was relying on my oncologist to tell me. I want to be able to make an informed decision. Especially since it will be affecting such an enjoyable part of life. I will be calling for an appointment where I can get the statistics and find out what the percentages are. Right now, I feel like a truck has hit me. I don’t know if I will ever feel like a sensual woman again.

Anastrazole – My last Cancer Steps

I met with my oncologist who has now put me on Anastrazole which is an estrogen suppressing medication. I am supposed to take one pill a day for five years.

There are a number of side effects with this drug. So far, after two weeks of taking this drug, I am feeling fine. However, one of the side effects can be bone density loss. For someone who has osteoporosis, this is a concern for both my oncologist and myself. I could not remember the last time I have had a bone density scan done so my oncologist scheduled me for a scan. Currently, I am trying to set up an injection for Prolia for the osteoporosis.

Yesterday, I went for the scan. This was the easiest test I have had to go through. The technician scanned my back and then the pelvis area and then my left arm. She said that I have good, strong bones. Then she showed me where the points line up, that determines if I have osteopenia or osteoporosis. They have a green area for good, strong bones, a yellow area for osteopenia and a red area for osteoporosis.

My back, pelvis and arm bones all show up in the green area. I almost started to cry. The technician said the radiologist doctor had to examine the scans but I do not have osteopenia or osteoporosis. I tried to give the technician a hug and then bounced out of the examining room with the biggest smile on my face.

I felt free. Whatever I have been doing lately, changing my diet, exercising, the vitamins I am taking andĀ  even through chemotherapy and radiation treatments or maybe just that I am so much in love with my new husband, has made my bones strong and healthy again. One more step towards being healthy.

Thank you God. Thank you Jesus. If you let yourself, Jesus will never let you walk alone, through whatever you are going through. The problem is, you have to have faith and trust and love. I can feel Jesus is just as happy with my news from yesterday.

Breast Cancer Warrior

The battle is done. I have won! I am marching on, ready to snuggle, cuddle and play with my granddaughter. I am ready to help my children. I am ready to properly ride my horse, take my dog for longer walks and play with my cats. But most of all, I am ready to fully take care of and love my new husband.

I have started a vitamin regimen and I am beginning to eat more healthy. Not that I was not already eating healthy but I intend to really watch the foods I eat. The internal oncologist told me I need to eat hormone free beef. I started yoga and tai chi classes through Levine Cancer Institute. In September, I will begin a survivorship program with the YMCA.

And, I am looking forward to getting my tattoo. I found both these tattoos which I really like on a tattoo website. Now I just have to decide where I want to put the tattoo. On my calf or on my shoulder? I like both tattoos but the ribbon needs to be pink. I also want the word Warrior with the tattoo. I also love the butterflies and I don’t need the zipper idea with the ribbon. I want to keep the tattoo delicate and not large.

The next steps on my warrior crusade against breast cancer is to go on a hormone suppressing medication starting the end of this month. I will need to be on the medication for five years. I have had several women tell me they did not do well on the medication and had to be taken off. I will see. I also have to have my mammogram on the right breast in July. My surgeon will then decide when to have the mammogram done on both breasts. I will also need to have my remaining ovary taken out. My team at Levine Cancer Institute does not want any potential estrogen making organs in my body.

Life after cancer diagnosis? Does one ever truly move on and forget about what one went through? Does one ever truly not worry that it might come back? I know Jesus has said to place your worries with Him and that He will take care of it. I need to be able to trust in that and I do trust in Jesus. But I am only human and there will always be that worry. Especially when all my other mammograms have had irregularities.

Right now, this warrior is moving forward. Eager to see what new things will happen in life. I have this wonderful, fantastic, handsome new husband that I want to share the rest of our lives with. There are so many beautiful things that God has put on this earth for us to appreciate. I want to appreciate as much as He will allow me to.

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, theĀ  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.

 

 

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.