I have been wearing my sandals off and on as the weather has been getting warmer but I have been extremely self conscious of my toes. After making the decision to have my big toenails removed, I have been not comfortable wearing sandals.
I used to go every six weeks or so for manicures and pedicures. I loved being able to choose different colors. Getting leg massages with the pedicures was so relaxing. But after being diagnosed with breast cancer, manicures and pedicures stopped. I was concerned with the cleanliness of nail spas and also the chemicals used in the nail polish.
Now that I am a breast cancer survivor, I just decided that manicures and pedicures was a luxury I did not need. But I did yearn for a pedicure. Just not with these toes.
However, my beautiful daughter wanted to go for a pedicure and asked me to come along. I did but I was nervous and so self conscious. The salon we went to was very clean and all the tools were in plastic wrap. I told the technician that I was a breast cancer survivor and that I did not have toenails on my big toes. I told her not to do anything with them – just paint them.
My daughter told me I didn’t have to be nervous and just relax. I don’t think I relaxed at all but I picked out a really nice lavender color and watched the nail technician for a while and then tried to concentrate on the television that was playing CNN.
How many people have cried after a pedicure? I almost did because my nails look normal. It looks like I have normal toenails. Who woulda thunk? For those of you who have all your toenails, this is a big deal for me. This has just made me cherish what I have. We don’t realize the gifts we have until they are gone. And for something as simple as toenails, for a woman, it is a big deal to once again have pretty feet.
It is now done. I have lived through the reconstruction surgery on my right breast. I did mention previously that the left breast had been affected by the radiation treatment. It shrank. A lot. So I was lopsided. I still wish the radiation could have shrunk my belly but that wasn’t an option I was allowed.
The reconstruction surgery came up pretty quickly. I wanted to take care of my back issues first which I did. The steroid injection was done to relieve the sciatica in my lower back and down my right leg. It seemed to work for a few days but I still have sciatic pain along with an annoying pain in the front of my right leg. Let me just say this, I will not go for another steroid injection. The injection was not pleasant and for the cost, I am not willing to make another attempt at that.
Instead, I am going to try acupuncture. I just need to set up an appointment for that. I am also doing yoga / pilates exercises for my lower back. Considering the alternative of surgery for my back, I really don’t know what I am going to do. But I will try acupuncture and yoga before seriously considering surgery.
As for my poor right breast, the surgery went well. My doctor had re-positioned the nipple on my right breast during surgery. I was just barely coming out of the anesthetic and my doctor wanted to make sure the nipple was live, so he stuck a needle into the nipple which promptly bled. I kind of freaked out in my lethargic state but was glad that I didn’t feel it. The doctor tried to tell me that there isn’t much feeling in breasts. I went back to sleep unconvinced about that one.
I was told that I shouldn’t do any heavy lifting and to rest. Well. More or less. We participated in a yard sale two days after surgery. Then Sunday, my husband and I picked up azalea bushes and flowers which I planted. I also spread mulch in the rose bed. Then, naturally I needed to go visit Gizmo and Lance Monday. Groomed them and gave them grass time. I think I’ll wait until next week to ride but we’ll see how that goes.
All in all, I feel tired but really good. Until I showered today and the bandages came off my right breast. The doctor had marked up my breast prior to surgery and I still had the four different colors of pen on my chest but I’m pretty sure he didn’t use yellow or green. My breast grossed me out and I quickly covered it with a comfortable bra. I was told I will no longer want to wear any bras with underwire.
I’m okay with that and I was also given the name of a bra store that has everything for a woman like me who just can’t decide on or find a comfortable bra. I have no idea what bra size I am now.
Even though I am a breast cancer survivor, I am still struggling with lingering issues from the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I still have tingling and numbness in my toes. I have much better movement in my left arm but it is only because I push myself. I have not yet gone for my tattoo but that will happen. But – I – am – a – survivor.
I had my survivorship appointment with the oncologist PA last week. We went through everything I need to know as a survivor. I like the word warrior better but I suppose that applies to someone who is fighting the disease, not after. The PA examined all the areas she needed to. I was glad because I am not good at checking for lumps in the breasts.
We talked about getting me on the next estrogen suppressing medication. Number 3 with only one more to try. This one is called Exemestane. The PA told me to wait another week or two before starting this one. She said most patients have hot flashes or joint pain with the medications. I seem to be stretching their side effect limits.
We went through all the doctors I saw through the lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. A print out was given with all the information of the size, type and classification of my tumor. We went through all the residual side effects. Fatigue, difficulty sleeping is at the top of the list. I do get tired easily but it is getting better. I still have neuropathy in the toes. This may be a condition I might have for the rest of my life.
Osteoporosis is also listed as a side effect. Funny that. I had osteoporosis since 2010. I had been taking Fosamax then switched to the twice yearly injections. I was sent for a bone scan prior to starting on the estrogen suppressing medications. My bones are now healthy and strong. Every doctor is totally surprised that has happened. They cannot explain how it happened. I was taking a good calcium/magnesium supplement. I was riding my horse five days per week. I consider it a blessing from God.
Anxiety and stress are another residual effect. Great. I am going through a lot of stresses right now. Just pile it on higher and deeper. I wonder if I can get a lobotomy. I am having arguments with Canada Revenue (Canadian IRS) who have been holding onto a sizable refund check to me for more than one year. I am being sued by my ex husband for the illegal activities he did during our marriage. Thankfully I have an excellent lawyer and I have so much documentation that I am certain we thinned out a few forests. I am also going through a huge personal stress. Please Jesus, help me with this one.
Another side effect is weight gain from the chemotherapy. Apparently every breast cancer patient gains weight. Even though the furthest thing from your mind while you are undergoing chemo is food. I had no appetite. Unfortunately, the things I did eat and could keep down were carbs. I ate some vegetables and fruit but so many things were just too hard on my stomach. I can no longer eat anything spicy. You do not want to be too close to me should I eat something spicy, or at least sit down wind.
I did gain weight. More than 25 pounds. After the radiation treatments and when I started to feel a little normal again, I was tired of running past mirrors. Or just looking into them and saying, “Oh, yech!” I finally got tired of this and was just angry enough with myself to look for a weight loss program.
I am the type of person that needs results now. Losing 2 pounds per week after starving myself to death was not an option. So with my determination in hand, I went to Carolina Health Center. I think they call themselves Align now. This diet is very similar to the HCG diet. I lost over 20 pounds in one month. That’s the way to do it. I want to lose another 7 pounds and then I will be at my goal weight. I have slowed down the weight loss now for the last 10 pounds and that is okay by me. I started having chocolate cravings and I knew if I waited until the end, I would probably gorge myself with chocolate. So I bought a couple cartons of delicious Ben & Jerry’s chocolate flavored ice creams. I was very careful in how much I ate. Still losing weight but at least enjoying chocolate in moderation. I also started adding nuts into the diet. Just a handful at a time but it is enough to curb the munchies.
The recipes with this diet are superb. I have tried almost all of the recipes and have been so happy with the flavors. All fats, carbs and dairy are excluded from my diet. Only hormone free beef, chicken, turkey and certain fish, certain vegetables and certain fruits. I have switched all my food to natural. Not organic but natural. All cosmetics are natural without oil. I am gradually changing all my cleaning products to natural.
I was told by the PA oncologist to keep my BMI to 25 or 26. This is something I can do. If this is going to keep me cancer free, I will do it. Gizmo, my horse, is so much happier that I am 20 plus pounds lighter. Some time soon, I won’t get winded when I am playing with my grandchildren. I am the one who cuts the lawn at our house. I will enjoy being able to push that lawnmower and not have to take breaks. Our yard is not that big.
Now I am a survivor. At some point, I want to get a pink ribbon tattoo with a pink butterfly and the word survivor. My husband is worried that I am going to get all tatted up. I won’t. I have the butterfly breaking free of the ball and chain on my back close to my shoulder. No one can see it really. The pink ribbon tattoo, I do want more visible and I think the calf will be a good place. Then that will be it for the tattoos. Maybe. Perhaps. I don’t know. Probably.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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 and 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.
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.
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.