Thursday, October 1, 2015

On perspective

Chemo #6! I chose to wear the first bandanna
I wore, because after my week of respite I was
recharged to take on the first of the last three
treatments and get this thing over with!
Update on how I'm doing at the bottom. But first, my philosophical thought for the day!

A boss once told me, "Perception is 70% of reality." In other words, if you perceive something to be true, it is true to you. Two people can walk away from the same experience with wildly different perceptions of what happened or how it made them feel.

Often when I hear a friend (usually on facebook) talking about having a cold or some other trouble, when I express sympathy they will reply with something like, "At least I'm not going through what you are! I don't have cancer...I shouldn't whine." But you know what? We're all going through our own battles. And when you feel cruddy, you feel cruddy. Whether it's cancer, or a cold, or an annoying legal matter, or whatever, the fact that I am suffering in a different way (possibly worse, but in some ways maybe not) doesn't mean you're suffering any less than you are or that you don't have the right to whine about it. Within one likes a Debbie Downer.

Even though I have cancer, which is a pretty good excuse to whine, I really don't have it so bad. When I hear about cases where the cancer has metastasized or is inoperable or the person is having way worse side effects, it makes me feel a little guilty. What right do I have to be blogging about this, whining about my measly four months of chemo, when some people have to have it for a year, or two, or the rest of their life? Why should I complain about a bout with hives or mild anemia, when some people end up in the hospital every cycle for low blood counts? Why should I feel sad about having cancer and my body being changed, in some ways irreparably, when some people will lose their fight? But then, I remind myself I have the right to have my voice heard, too. And it always makes me happy to hear that sharing my thoughts and experience helps someone else.

I do think it's good to get some perspective, though. When you're feeling bad, and you don't see an end in sight, it's very depressing. But if you can remind yourself it could be so much worse, I think that's helpful. And when facing a long journey, I think it's less depressing to focus on the present, the next step, and enjoying your life in whatever way you can. Obviously, you have to do some planning for the future as far as finances, wills, etc...and sometimes it's fun to plan celebratory things for when milestones have been reached, but other than that, I try not to think about how long I will be out of commission.

A couple other things people have said gave me some pretty good perspective. I was complaining to Michael last night about how some aspects of my body are being permanently changed without my consent or input. He pointed out that as we age, a lot of that stuff happens anyway. We don't get to enjoy our youthful bodies forever, and everyone faces that. OK, fair enough. I was chatting with a cancer friend a couple weeks ago about mastectomies. She pointed out that she had awesome breasts for many years, so even though she'll now have reconstructed ones, "I had my day." I have to say, that's a pretty good lesson. I spent many years being overall pretty healthy. No surgeries, no real major illnesses, I don't even have many allergies. So, I had my day. 42 may be young for cancer, but it's the first really awful thing I've dealt with, so that's not so bad. And much of what I'm dealing with is temporary. So I'm going to go ahead and suck it up.

As for how I'm doing...I had infusion yesterday, and so far so good but the first couple days are usually pretty easy. Energy levels aren't bad, and I generally feel pretty good. I didn't get enough sleep last night despite a double dose of Trazodone (too much on my mind, I guess, including composing this blog post), but most nights I'm getting enough. The tumor is all but gone--you can feel where it was, but it's hard to find the actual thing. The doctor was very pleased. And I still have two more treatments to hopefully knock out any remaining baddies.

Love watching that chain get shorter!
Trying to think of something fun to do with
the links to save them.
I'll be making an appointment soon with my surgeon to start finalizing plans. We originally talked about a double mastectomy, but that was before I found out I have no genetic mutations. We talked about a single mastectomy since my tumor was large, poorly differentiated, and had started into the chest wall, but that was before I started chemo and responded so well.

My medical oncologist's nurse said I might consider doing a lumpectomy and having them examine the tissue to see if it's still cancerous. If it's not, survival rates are about as good as having a mastectomy. And if it is, I can always go back and have them take the rest. If I start with the more radical procedure, I can't go back. I'm sure they'll have me come in for mammograms every four months for the next couple years, so if anything shows up it would be caught early and I wouldn't have to go through as much to get rid of it. I would love to go with the least invasive surgery possible, but I will discuss with my surgeon and go with her recommendations. So, we'll see.

As for timelines, the doc said usually surgery happens four weeks after the last chemo (which would be the week of Thanksgiving), and radiation starts four weeks after surgery (which would be the week of Christmas). I'm not sure what the docs will want to do with the holidays. The medical oncologist said he'd refer me to the radiation oncologist so I can meet with him to find out how much I'll need and if he wants to start during the holidays. Apparently, they don't like to delay radiation so I might be stuck with it.

Happy to be nearing the end of this part of last chemo is THIS MONTH! Yay!


  1. I think you have a wonderful perspective on this whole thing and life in general.