Monday, June 6, 2016

You can take cancer out of the girl...

My hair, 33 weeks post final chemo.
Getting shaggy!
Wow! It's been a long time since I posted here--about two months. I'm happy to say that I've been too busy traveling and enjoying life and working! Things are going well in some ways, but not in others. My energy is good and I'm slowly regaining fitness. I can see improvement each week when I work out, and that's heartening. I officially started marathon training (for my event in December) yesterday, and I was able to do the required mileage and run/walk intervals. Other than the last week when I had a cold, I've been exercising six days a week--running, swimming, biking, light weights.

I finally got my prosthetic breast, two days before we left for our cruise (which was amazing!). However, I'm still so tender from surgery and radiation that I can't tolerate a bra for more than an hour or two, so most of the time I just go au naturel and lopsided. I'm used to it at this point and don't really care, but it is nice to have the option when I want to look nicer.

The bad part is my shoulders started hurting after I finished radiation. I did my stretches my surgeon gave me for regaining range of motion, exercised, used my little TENS unit, had a massage, used KT Tape, and took ibuprofen, but nothing helped and it just kept getting worse. I finally got in to see my oncologist, and he gave me a referral for physical therapy. They're full up, so I won't be able to start for a couple more weeks. I'm also supposed to get an MRI to rule out anything else, but he said this is pretty typical with all I've been through. Of course, this has a huge impact on my dancing.

Emotionally, it's still a roller coaster. I'm sure part of it is the sudden onset of menopause and my hormones are all out of whack. But part of it is that the whole experience was just exhausting and traumatizing. Sometimes I hear people say, to me or someone else, that it's "time to move on." But you know what? It's just not that easy. You don't just move on from having cancer; it's always with you, even when it's been physically removed.

In my day-to-day life, I do focus on what I'm doing now and making plans for the future. But in everything I do, I'm reminded how I've been changed. I get tired too easily. People tend to think I'm done with treatment now so I must be my old self, but I'm not. I don't have the stamina to work all day like I used to. To dance like I used to. Even to sit at my computer for hours. Because of the issue with my shoulders, a hundred times a day I do something that tweaks one or the other and it's agonizing. Even something as simple as putting on my shoes is difficult because of the ache and loss of flexibility in all my joints.

And then there's the things that blindside me. Someone tells me their cancer came back, and I wonder if that will happen to me. Three friends have died of cancer since I had my surgery and the pathology report showed no remaining cancer--in December. Each one reminds me that I could have died. Each one reminds me of how lucky I was. I manage to work through the feelings and get back to living my life, but have had some rough days. And I had it relatively easy. My friends with small kids? I don't know how they do it. The ones who have to fight tooth and nail to get their treatment covered, or whose treatment isn't working? it's awful. I feel blessed and guilty that it went so smoothly for me.

So, no, I don't know if I'll ever leave cancer behind me totally. But I am grateful I'm still here, and that I'm in a loving home in a life I enjoy. And you can't ask for much more than that, can you?