Wednesday, July 20, 2016

I'm beginning to see the light

I think I'm starting to come out of the haze I'm living in lately. I still have pain, physical therapy still sucks and has only minimally improved my range of motion, and I still get too tired too often. But I'm feeling more accepting about it all, having raged and cried until I'm sick of it.

As far as exercise goes, I've accepted that I just can't follow any regular training plan because I have to take it day by day depending on my energy level. This week, it's very low, and since I have a few dance lessons to teach, that's going to have to be my exercise a couple of the days. However, on days I feel good or don't have to reserve my energy for something else, I'll get a work out in (and I am still doing the personal training twice a week). I'm done being angry about it and just will have to deal with it.

So, I don't know which, if any, races I'll be able to do this year. When my energy levels improve, then I'll look at getting more serious again. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to be careful about what I eat although that's always been a struggle for me.

I'm feeling a little better about work, too. I'm getting some help with the writing work getting everything done, so the looming deadlines aren't stressing me out so much. At the dance studio, I'm teaching a few hours a week, and my boss there is great about not over-working me. It helps that I work for such supportive people!

So, I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel again. And that's nice.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Anxiously waiting UPDATED!

I should get a call some time tomorrow either telling me the results were negative (which is what we want) or that I need to make an appointment to go in and talk to my doctor, which would mean it's positive (which we don't want). I managed to not think too much about it over the weekend or today since I was focused on missing Isis. What thinking I did do, I managed to become resigned to to the fact that this probably is cancer. I know I'm supposed to think positive, but last year I was absolutely convinced I didn't have cancer, and I did. So, it's hard to think positive. But it's ok. I got through it last time, and this time we're catching it super early so maybe it won't be so hard.

In general, I feel better today. A little less sad, a little less overwhelmed. The support I get from you all really makes a difference for me, so thank you. Let's all keep our fingers crossed, and I'll post tomorrow as soon as I know anything.


There are no cancer cells. It's a mucusoidal lesion (i think that's what he said), which is basically pre-cancerous. I need to have it removed, which is an outpatient procedure. WOOT!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Fun with needles

My update on facebook was pretty brief, so I thought I'd give more of the details.

So yesterday I went in for my follow-up mammogram. They told me they would start with getting the magnified images, and only do an ultrasound if they felt like they needed it. They took several pictures, squishing me in super tight, then had me wait while they looked at them. Ten minutes later, the ultrasound tech came and got me to do the ultrasound. This was painless and pretty quick, but she had me wait there while she went to get the doctor so he could take a look. As it turned out, the doctor and I know each other from dance. He was super kind...but then, pretty much everyone I've run into at Sutter has been.

He ran the ultrasound wand over me himself and said that the asymmetry and dense tissue they saw doesn't seem to be concerning. He told me to get dressed and we would talk about the calcifications. I did so, and in his office he showed me the mammogram pictures, including the ones from last year. There was clearly an increase in the number of calcifications (which are really, really tiny) since last year, which  he said is a concern. He also said the fact that they are clustered, rather than randomly scattered, is sometimes indicative of cancer but not necessarily. About 75% of calcifications are benign, but since I'm high risk, he wanted to biopsy it. He did say that there was no rush and I could do it at my convenience. I asked if we could do it that day, so they worked me in and did it. I'm going to drive myself crazy until I know, so no reason to wait.

Last year, they tried to biopsy this same spot, but because of its location at the bottom near the chest wall, they couldn't get to them and decided I'd been through so much with the biopsy on the other side (it was painful, they drained fluid, etc) and there was little concern about the calcifications at that time, they decided to just keep an eye on them. So, again this year they had a hard time getting to them and finally decided to go at it from the top of the breast, meaning a longer route to get to the tissue they needed to sample. Why do I have to make everything difficult? It was a good 10 minutes of one painful position after another before they finally came to this conclusion. The tech felt bad and I know she was trying her best, but it was not fun.

They did numb me, so there was only mild discomfort for most of it. There were a couple points when the needle was deep inside that there was some pinching and it was pretty unpleasant for a few seconds here and there. The doctor put in more anesthetic, but then decided they had enough samples and wrapped it up. They had me ice for about 10 minutes, then took a few more mammogram pictures (gentle this time) to document the metal marker he'd left inside to mark the biopsy site, and I was done. They will send results to my oncologist, and I should hear back Tuesday or so. I'm still a little sore.

It took all day to get all that done, and when we finally got home, we soon noticed that my 17-year-old cat Isis, who seemed fine in the morning, was acting very odd. She probably had a stroke or a blood clot or something, but in any case her condition quickly worsened and we took her to the vet knowing that in all likelihood we would not bring her home--and we were right. I didn't want her to suffer, and after talking it over with the vet, we decided to let her go. I think this was quite possibly the saddest day of my life. That cat and I went through a lot together, and she was a stalwart friend.

In general, I'm having a really hard time of it, physically and emotionally. They told me this might happen--that when the fighting was over, the enormity of it all would hit me and I might become depressed. I thought I'd escape it because I'm so strong and smart and blah blah blah, but it's hitting me harder and harder every day. All that I've lost, and how hard it is to get back. The fear of that biopsy coming back positive for cancer. The pain. Getting exhausted so easily. At physical therapy on Thursday, he told me I'm not stretching enough--I need to do each exercise three times, three times per day (so nine times per day), and I was only doing each one once, often only twice per day. They're painful. So by the time the ten minutes of torture is finally done, I'm a wreck. I feel like I have no tolerance any more. It's all I can do to get my work done, and I'm pretty sure i'm doing a shoddy job of it.

As always, Michael is my rock. I've soaked more of his shirts in tears than I can count. He understands me like few people do, and he offers perspective and comfort and lets me talk, but in the end I just have live through it and keep taking steps toward it being better. It's hard. I'll take all the love I can get, my friends.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Et tu, Lefty?

It's probably nothing. I'm trying not to panic. But...Tuesday I had my annual mammogram, and I got my results electronically last night. They said, "Questionable increase in left breast calcifications
for which further evaluation with magnification views is again recommended. Left breast asymmetry for which further evaluation to include spot CC, spot MLO, and full lateral view with possible
ultrasound is also recommended." They're going to call me for a follow up. Those calcifications were there last year, but they couldn't get to them to biopsy them and they were not concerned at the time because they were tiny. It was not fun trying to get it done last time, and I don't suspect it will be much fun this time.

Thank you to all of you who told me stories of your loved ones who beat this, never to have it come back. I need that like crazy right now. I try so  hard to just live my life and keep out the "what if?" thoughts, but then this happens. Statistically speaking, it would be very unusual to have a recurrence so quickly--but it was statistically unlikely for a 42-year-old non-jewish white girl to have triple negative breast cancer. What if I'm one of the "lucky" few? On the other hand, I just had a bucket load of chemo a few months ago, and it is systemic and should have killed everything. But what if it didn't? I had a couple friends who had something like this come up within a few months or a couple years after they were declared NED, and it was nothing. But what if I'm not like them, and it's something?

This is my life now. Worrying about every test, every lump, every pain. What if I am one of those people who spends the rest of their life fighting cancer? I know it's better than being dead, but it's a far cry from living a reasonably normal life. What if I never get me back?

On the bright side, I had my third personal training session today and it was great. Loving my trainer. Tomorrow I have my 5K at the Davis Moo-nlight, so wish me luck. According to the weather forecast, this should be the coolest it's ever been for this race--thank goodness. I know I made the right decision downgrading from the 10K, and I know I'm supposed to be grateful that I'm able to run at all, but I hate, hate, hate admitting I can't do something.

I'll keep y'all updated about when I go in for this biopsy, results, etc. Please pray for me and continue with those success stories. Thank you for your continued support!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Let's Get Physical!

My hair, 35 weeks PFC. I'd really hoped it
would be longer by now based on what I've
seen on other people, but alas I am not hair
blessed. Happy to have this much!
These days, I'm all about getting physical. I officially started marathon training for my event in December. But I gotta tell you, it is so much harder this time around. I knew it would be, but I didn't know what to expect of this new body. The good thing is, it's responding to training. I can do the workouts I'm scheduled to do. Slow, but I get them done. I'm swimming and doing some weights in addition to the running.

The problem is the recovery. I work out, then I go home and crash. I'm literally so exhausted, I have to take a nap or at least veg out for 2-3 hours. People tell me, "I get tired after a workout, too!" Not the same thing. I know what "normal" post-workout tired is, and this ain't it. So, I may have to back off a bit and take things more slowly. This may mean no marathon. We'll just have to see. I'm not giving up yet. I'll be doing a 10k (6.2 miles) next Saturday, so wish me luck!

I went to 24-Hour Fitness to re-join (I'd cancelled my membership when I got sick). I was talking to the manager, and he decided to give me this whole big sell on how important it is to eat right (um...I know) and how exercise is a part of that (um...I know), trying to talk me into his personal diet plan, telling me not to do things I know work for me, telling me I need to do things I know don't work for me, telling me to do things I'm already doing. He was clearly not listening to anything I had to say, and it was incredibly frustrating. I could tell he was another one of those who thinks fat people do nothing but eat bon bons all day and never exercise, and he has all the answers on weight management even though he's never struggled with it.

I was just about getting to the point of putting the kibosh on the whole thing, and he offered to pay for me to have two personal training sessions per week for a whole month. The only catch is that I have to show up no matter what, and if I do the whole month he'll keep paying for it. The implication being that I need motivation to go work out...well, he doesn't know me very well because that is the very least of my worries. But, hey, free training. I'll take it! So I took him up on that offer.

That was Wednesday. We set my first appointment for this morning, and I was braced for more of the same crap. I was already feeling defensive before I met my trainer, Matt. We started at a computer kiosk, where he went over their philosophy and got my background from me. He listened to everything I had to say, asked the right questions, and made no assumptions. We talked about my diet, and he completely understood what I talked about with making good choices most of the time, but having willpower failures that sideline me. He agreed with doing what works for me and made suggestions. He recognized my goals and talked about how he would design my program to help me meet them, rather than expecting me to follow some routine he does with everyone. I could feel the walls I had put up melting as the conversation went on, and I was excited to work with him by the time we were ready to actually get to work.

I don't know how long the workout was, maybe 20 or 30 minutes since we'd spent so much time talking, but it was a good level for me--challenging, but not overly so. He was clearly very cognizant of my limitations, checking in with me about how things felt, telling me to take a breather if I needed to. I left there feeling really awesome.

And then I came home and slept for about an hour and a half. And now I'm drinking coffee and trying to wake up and do a little work before we go out tonight. How is this cup empty already?

I started physical therapy last week for the pain and loss of range of motion in my shoulders and chest wall. They said it's not exactly frozen shoulder--there's just a lot of impingement on the joint from the stress. So, I have lots of super fun (not), totally comfortable (in opposite world) stretches to do to help get that range of motion back. It was really hard for me to be a lady when he was working on me in the office and not swear while he tortured me, but my momma done brought me up right. Anyway, I'll have four more sessions, with a lot of homework in between. I'm already seeing improvement.

Oh...and yesterday I realized I missed the one year anniversary of my diagnosis by a week. I had thought I'd make some amazingly wise and insightful blog post about it, but I forgot. I guess I'll have to wait for the next milestone!