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?


  1. You are normal for the time period and the situation. You have PTSD from this, trust me. I don't know when it gets better all the way. It does get better, but I think the little black cloud always hoovers above us. We have guilt because we know we made it, and others we thought would did not, also a PTSD problem. Every time someone we had treatment with dies, we loose a little hope. Every time we hear of some one we didn't know dies, we feel guilty, especially if they are children, or younger than us.Trying to regain what we had, before the experience sometimes seems daunting. I joke about being half the person I was, or feeling useless because I can't work or do what I used to, and wonder if I ever will, or if it is age related. Those that have not had this experience can't relate. Loved ones, friends, associates just don't understand, they think Cancer is gone, life resumes to normal, just as it was. This joint pain, lack of mobility/flexibility or exhaustion just doesn't make sense to them. Just keep climbing your hills, it will get better, but I don't know how much better. Rejoice in life, do as much as you can of what you want to do. We know how short it is...we really do.

    1. Thank you, Evelyn. I wish no one were in this club with me, but knowing others who feel the same way gives me some comfort.

  2. Karen Pizzuto SharpJune 6, 2016 at 6:10 PM

    Jennifer, Evelyn said it so well ^ above. We all have all these feelings at varying levels, on varying days. Please be patient with yourself. And know that everything you are feeling is So Completely Normal to your new normal. I have pretty much learned to let "you're all better, go back to the way it was before" comments go, because if I focus too hard on them, I find myself getting cranky, and I'm trying hard not to be cranky. Most people don't understand and often don't know what to say. It makes _them_ more comfortable to think you are 'back to normal'. And so I just (in the immortal words of Frozen) let it go. ;-) Sending love and hugs - and there are a few of us who understand. Hang in there my friend. <3