Monday, November 30, 2015

Countdown to surgery

I have just a couple more days until surgery. It's been nice to have this break from cancer stuff...I can almost forget I have it, except for the bald head, weight gain, and getting winded if I walk up the stairs too fast. So surgery is Thursday, and then my "cancer vacation" will be over. I check in at 10:30 for a 12:30 surgery. I'm not sure how long it will take, but probably a couple of hours. I'll be asleep, so that part will be easy for me. Then I spend the night in the hospital and leave in the morning after the doc makes sure I'm not hemorrhaging or anything. I probably won't post on this blog while I'm there, but I'll try to post quick updates on facebook or have Michael do so.

Once I get home, I'll have Michael to take care of me and a big wedge thing to sleep on to make me as comfortable as possible. I should feel pretty bad for a few days, but after a week or so I'll start to feel better. Then a few weeks of recovery before radiation begins. I'll be done with treatments in just a few months. I think I'm more nervous about recovery than the actual surgery.

I had an awesome Thanksgiving. Dinner with part of my family on the actual day, then another one on Saturday with Michael's kids and a couple dear friends. We laughed, ate, talked, all to excess. It felt wonderful to be surrounded by so much love and to laugh until I was sick. I am extraordinarily blessed to have an awesome family--both sides of it--full of caring, intelligent, fun people. I am so thankful for them, for my support network, and that this cancer journey has not been as bad as I feared it would be. I was on my feet for most of Saturday cooking and going through Christmas decorations, and I held up through all of it. I was pretty sore and tired yesterday so I took it easy, but I'm happy with how much I was able to do.

Please keep me in your thoughts on Thursday!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Continuing to improve

Things are continuing to improve for me. I've been able to dance a little--even some swing last week (lindy and balboa), although I think I did a grand total of four songs with a song to rest in between. It was good to get out and see my friends.

We went to Half Moon Bay for our End of Chemo Celebration and had a really nice time. Mostly we sat and looked at water, walked on the beach, and ate. We really wanted to see the tide pools, but the tide was too high so now we have to go back another time. I kept up pretty well energy-wise, although I am certainly nowhere close to normal.

Previous to the trip, I had gotten out for a few walks, 20-30 minutes at enough pace to get my heart rate up, but I've been lazy ever since we got home so I need to get back on track. We've also gotten out for some lengthy shopping trips, and I held up pretty well. In fact, I keep up with Michael for the most part when it comes to regular daily activities. It's just things that require more energy, like dance or long, quick walks that I get tired more quickly than I used to. I'm also dealing with the extra pounds I put on during chemo. We're making some healthier eating choices to try to get some of that off, without stressing me out too much about food since I still have a lot to deal with. One thing at a time.

I talked in a recent post about how I feel weird going out in public bald, so I always cover my head. The funny thing is, twice since that post I've literally forgotten to put something on until we were in the car and it wasn't worth it to go back, so I went out bald. I totally didn't die. I will probably continue to cover for the most part, but at least I feel less weird now. The hair is growing slowly, but it is getting thicker and a little longer. Still hard to see it in the pics, but I can feel a difference when I run my hand over it.

Surgery is a week from tomorrow. I'm torn between being anxious about getting it over with (and cutting any remaining cancer out of my body) and nervous about it. Plus, my port is starting to bother me a little and it's sort of trying to push its way out of my body. So I'd sort of like to go ahead and get rid of that. I've talked to enough people now to know it will probably not be too bad, recovery wise. My new surgeon is nice, and I'm sure he'll do a fine job.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I definitely have a lot to be thankful for! Here's wishing you all a wonderful holiday.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Change in surgeon

I just got a call from the surgeon's office, and she will be out another week due to an injury she sustained during an accident. Rather than delay me further, they are reassigning me to another surgeon. I'll meet with him on Tuesday. I'm not overly pleased; I really liked Dr. Eaker and felt very comfortable with her. But what can I do but accept it? Yes, I know I can interview different surgeons, but I need to get this done and there are only so many in this town who take my insurance.

Tuesday night I taught one dance lesson and it went pretty well. My feet are groaning under the weight I've gained, so I really need to work on getting it off. A little bit at a time.

Here is my week two hair picture. It's hard to see in the pics but it does look and feel a tiny bit longer. I'm still guessing it'll come in grey. It's funny...of everything I've had to deal with so far, losing my hair was really the least of my worries. I was far more upset about giving up sushi and the hit to my energy level. It's nice to have it growing back already, but it wasn't devastating to lose it. On the other hand, I have this aversion to being bald in public. I'll post pics here and on facebook and not think twice about it, but go out like that? No. I even feel a little vulnerable taking off my scarf when I go to a friend's house or the wig shop. I don't know why. So there's my "Jennifer is human" thought for the day.

ETA: Just saw my electrocardiogram results from my last appointment. No significant changes since before chemo, so that's good. My heart rate was slightly higher but still very comfortably in the normal range. So, no damage from the chemo.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Small steps, big excitement

I'm really amazed at how quickly I'm recovering from chemo. This is just day 14 since the last treatment, and I'm feeling a little stronger every day. As I posted on facebook last night, I did some tango last night. I snuck up to Grass Valley to take Sean Dockery's class with my dad (Sean and Juliana are great teachers, BTW, although she wasn't there last night). It was a good opportunity to see how my body would respond in a low-pressure setting and get a visit in with Dad at the same time. I also introduced Michael to tango and he liked it, so that was fun. We got there about halfway through the beginning class and they were short on women so I stepped in, then there was a short practice session (called a "practica"), during which I did a couple songs with Dad and Michael, then the intermediate class.

In sum, it went as well as I could have expected given that I've had very little exercise while pumping my body full of toxic chemicals for the past four months. I've lost a lot of core strength and my balance is a little compromised, so some movements were challenging. During the second lesson, I had to sit down to rest whenever the teacher was talking, and while practicing I'd be panting and sweating. By the end of each song I was struggling. Finally, I decided to call it and sat out the rest of the class. I was able to dance a couple more songs during the practica afterward.

Riding home, I was bone tired...but soooo happy. Again, it's a feeling like after you work out, which feels good. I just love this feeling of getting out and being active and feeling like my muscles got used. It's weird to think about how different things are now from just a few months ago, but I'll get there. I may have to stick with tango for quite a while as I don't think I can manage swing or ballroom (other than teaching, which isn't too much of a strain). I'll take it!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Energy returning!

This weekend has been awesome. I feel better than I have since before I got sick. Although I don't think I'll be lacing up and running five miles any time soon, my energy is so much better than it was even a week ago. Yesterday I: had brunch with friends, shopped at Target, walked 3/4 mile around McKinley Park, helped take down our Halloween decorations and did some other household chores, went out to dinner, and then shopped at Home Depot. I was done by the time we finished the last stop, but when we got home I wasn't so exhausted I felt sick or anything. In fact, it was more a feeling of my muscles not being used to doing that much work. Kind of like the feeling after a good workout. What an awesome feeling!

I took it a little more easy today, but we walked for 20 minutes at the mall (it was raining and that was the best place I could think of that would be inside) and then shopped for probably an hour after that, and although my feet hurt I wasn't exhausted. I'm planning to get out and walk for at least 20 minutes a day and work my way up to doing more. I want to have a little fitness back before surgery to help with recovery, then get back to it as soon as possible after that until the fatigue from radiation slows me down. I'm even going to teach a few dance lessons and do some dancing.

I'd signed up for the California International Marathon (Dec 6) earlier this year because I'd planned to run it, but of course getting sick sidelined that. I just processed the deferral so I can run next year instead. That cost me an extra $49 on top of the entry, so that is a lot of money to waste if I don't run next year. Therefore, I have to do it, right? I can't think of a better way to say F*** YOU to cancer than to run a marathon, can you? And I know my awesome running buddies will help me get there.

I love my friends.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


We're calling it!

It's been a week (actually more now) since my last chemo, and the majority of the side effects are gone, so we decided to declare chemo officially over. I'll still hold off on the riskier foods for a couple weeks, and it will take a little time for my energy to return and the neuropathy to go away, but I feel so much better. So, that phase is over for realz. Huzzah!

Just when I think I can't love this man any more than I already do, he surprises me yet again. Remember the racing bibs he was making to mark the end of each cycle? He got me a finisher medal for the last one. On the back, it says, "Presented to Jennifer Walker for Chemotherapy Completion." When he gave it to me, I cried. I do that a lot, I'm afraid. I am such a sap.

The other night we went shopping at Ross, and in the changing room I noticed something in the mirror. Usually I don't get that close to mirrors because there's a counter or whatever in the way and, to be honest, I don't stare at myself in mirrors very often anyway. But in the little changing room, trying on clothes, it was right there and I was staring at it.

And I saw a hair. One white hair, about an inch long, sticking straight up from the top of my head. And while I've had short, soft, thin peach fuzz all along, I realized I had more and it was longer. I ran my hand over my head, and it felt fuzzier. I was not anticipating this so soon...I figured it would be at least a few weeks before I started to notice any growth. I think I'll take a picture every week to chart the progress and then post a slideshow when I have a decent amount of hair. It's probably hard to tell in these pics, but it's there. Michael concurs there is definitely more there, so I'm not crazy! OK, I might be crazy. But I'm not imagining it. :P

Bracelet with the charm for chemo #8, a running shoe.
I'll add one for surgery and one for radiation, then one for the cure!