Thursday, July 30, 2015

Divine intervention and cry/laughing

So I went to an on-site health screening for the school district today.  $20 off our monthly insurance rates is the incentive for taking the time to go and do it.  Fill out a survey, pin-prick blood drawn for cholesterol checks, height, weight, blood pressure, and personal consultation with a nurse practitioner on the results.

Good news, guys.  I'm in perfect health! *sarcasm*  My waist line is perfect.  My cholesterol could not be better.  Blood pressure is good.  You name it - picture perfect good health.  (Its a little unsettling that the state of health in our world is that someone who appears to be perfectly healthy can, in fact, not be.)

There was a red flag on just one thing.  I don't exercise frequently enough, according to the survey I filled out.  Of which I said, I do a little bit of moderate activity and NEVER vigorous activity.

The nice nurse practitioner/Blue Cross lady says, "Really??? You don't exercise AT ALL?"  I explained to her that I just finished 5 months of chemotherapy and I'm tired ALL THE TIME, so currently, aside from gentle yoga, no, I am not exercising.

*shocked silence*  The Blue Cross lady will be praying for me.

I find this all outrageously humorous.  I'm glad I'm getting $20 off my insurance rates though.  Too bad for them that this year they are paying close to a million dollars for my cancer treatment.  ha.  I cry/laughed about it on the drive back to my building.  Sigh.

I do plan to start exercising soon.  After I heal up from surgery.   I've been pondering different things that I can do, including considering getting a personal trainer to enforce that I actually do them.  Zumba has always been on my list of "exercise I can tolerate doing".

Well, I discovered today that the new teacher across the hallway is a Zumba certified instructor and will be starting up some after-school Zumba classes for any of the staff interested in attending.

If that isn't divine intervention, I don't know what is.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Side Effect: Social Awkwardness

The "look".  I feel like I've got a big 'ol "C" stamped on my forehead now.

I have, TWO times, in the past week, saw someone I knew in a public place and purposely slinked away and pretended I didn't see them because I don't like making people feel awkward.  I need to stop  doing this.  Let's face it, people who know me will be thinking about and asking about my health for the. rest. of. my. life.  And I can't run away, or stand there awkwardly fumbling for words anymore.

I know that the "look" means people care.   And I've seen this "look" very frequently lately, because I've happened to hang out recently with a lot of friends who I haven't seen since I was a normal healthy person.  I'm not upset, or mad at anyone about anything.  I just hate making people uncomfortable.  And people, in general, are uncomfortable with cancer.

I see a mixture of reactions from people.  Without fail, saying "you look good", and followed by one or more of the following -
1.  Silent, avoiding asking questions of any kind about any topic
2.  Pretending nothing is different, but can't disguise the "look"
3.  Huggy, lovely, showering me with good wishes and gestures
4.  Asking pointed questions, usually accompanied with apologies for being so forward

Any and all of these reactions are completely acceptable.  I used to a be a cancer-free person myself with NO IDEA how to treat someone with or caring for a person with cancer.  I just hate, hate, hate creating an awkward situation.  I've always been a little (or a lot) socially awkward anyway.  I've always been overly sensitive to making people comfortable, and yet on the flip-side, completely unskilled at doing that very thing.

Its not a huge deal.  I just feel ashamed with myself when I end up hiding from someone I know at the grocery store.  One of my least favorite side effects.

In other news, I came across an awesome website.

Great articles about health & wellness in general.  I read this one recently.
5 easy things you need to do today to dramatically lower your cancer risk

This quote resonated with me, because its how I often feel:

"Cancer has become an increasingly overwhelming and confusing subject. Not only for everyday people, but also practitioners in the healthcare field. There are studies coming out left and right about protecting yourself from the dangers of “X, Y and Z,” so much so that it makes you wonder if you should order a Hazmat suit and just sit in a padded room to protect yourself."

Hazmat suit.   Where can I get one of those?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sloth & Motivation

1.5 more weeks of summer vacation left.

So, I was contemplating starting out the school year wearing scarves.  Its gonna be really hot to wear hair!  I was hoping my real hair would've grown enough that I could go without anything.  But I look kind of like this right now:

(He's got way more eyelashes than I do though.  I'm down to three left.  Curley, Larry, and Moe.)

With my healing and hopefully getting some energy back soon, I've been thinking about how I'm going to motivate myself to become more active.  My seven deadly sin is:  SLOTH.  I am so so lazy.  I watched about 14 straight hours of Netflix yesterday.  And I do this more than I'm proud to admit, and long before I was ever diagnosed with cancer.   When I'm at work, I work work work.  But once I get home, I don't want to do a darn thing.  In great part because I'm exhausted at the end of the day.  So I want to change that.   I want to get moving more.  Yoga has been a great thing for me and I plan to continue doing it, but I need to find some other active interests too.

I walk, sometimes, with the dogs.  I've done some biking before, and Zumba classes at the gym.  Also, swimming.

I. hate. running. though.

I was thinking about getting a personal trainer, someone with experience with recovering after cancer.  Somebody I make an appointment with and pay money to go see (because that will motivate me to actually go).  I've done a few quick google searches but haven't found anything/anyone yet.

However, I've been pleased with my progress in making changes with the way I eat.  I've majorly increased fruits, veggies, nuts, and grains.  I've decreased my dairy intake and meat intake.  Meats, I stick to fish and poultry mainly.  I avoid processed-packaged foods, white flour, and sugary foods, though I occasionally splurge on the sweets.  I just need to make sure I stick to it.

As evil as Sloth is for me, the animal sloths are super cute!

Monday, July 13, 2015


Today I had an MRI, ordered by my surgeon, just to make sure there are no surprises before having my surgery.
I thought I had had one of these before, but I was wrong, because this is an experience that I would've remembered very clearly and distinctly from the other tests I've had (Bone scan, CT scan).

MRI = torture by stillness, claustrophobia, and nipple stickers.

I had to lay face-down, topless, in boob stirrups, for 30 minutes, without moving, in a tube of expensive LOUD equipment.  About 10 minutes in, they put some sort of contrasting cocktail in my IV that made me feel SUPER WIERD and unpleasant.  The sensation went away quickly, but holy cow, some warning would've been nice.

The only thing that kept me from going bat-crazy was the rhythmic patterns of the imaging.  About every five minutes it would change.  Mostly simple meter and on beat rhythms.  Until there was the one triple meter one where after 22 beats, it would pause and hiccup.  22 beats, yes I counted.  But the beats were going by so quickly that after about 16, my brain couldn't speak the word fast enough and I would lose count.  I did this for awhile trying to keep up, and finally switched to starting over after 10.  1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10  2-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10    3-2  OH, there's the skip.  22 beats.  Does it do that same thing again?  1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10  2-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10  3-2, yep, it sure does.  They haven't said single word to me since this started?  Are they still there?  They went to Dunkin Donuts, didn't they?  I hope everything is ok.  Ya know, if something happened out there, I would have no idea.  Completely oblivious stuck inside this psychological torture noise machine.

"Alright Heather, you have about 4 minutes left."


So tomorrow marks the first week in 3 MONTHS that I'm not getting chemo.  Woohoo!  I don't feel any different yet.  Made it through the tough part this weekend.  Now I'm primarily physically tired and my hands are annoying me, but my brain is becoming alert again.  Cheers to that!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Surgery Details

So the surgery plan is:
-sentinel lymph node biopsy
-remove my port.

The surgeon said her decision to recommend and feel sure that she can perform the lumpectomy was based on size.  She will be taking out the 2 cm mass plus about 1 cm of normal tissue surrounding it, even though literature recommends as little as 2 mm.  She also said that usually a lumpectomy can take out as much as ONE THIRD of the breast and still have it heal up pretty nicely.  I think mine will be just under one fourth to one third.  I guess.
However, she said with my radiation therapy, my breast will shrink a bit more.  So all-in-all, I'll end up with a 1/2 cup to 1 cup size smaller.  Which I'm honestly quite ok with.  She said underneath clothes and everything, you can't really see a difference.

She explained the entire process for us.  She will find the lump with sonogram and then insert a little wire that sticks out through the skin to mark it, and then she will remove the lump.  It will take about 30-40 minutes to take it out.  Actually the very first thing they will do is take me to radiology and do four quick injections of dye around my nipple (BLECK!  THAT'S HORRIFYING!  She said its unpleasant but quick.  ug.  But that I can request happy medicine beforehand to relieve anxiety.  YES PLEASE!).  The dye will drain into my lymph nodes just like the cancer would likely do and they will take out about 3 of those after they are done taking out the lump.
If those 3 nodes are free from cancer, then we are done.  If all 3 have cancer in them, then she'll remove more.  If there is just 1 or 2, research says that its ok and we don't need to take anymore out.  There's no benefit in survival, because I will be getting radiation therapy later.  And lymph nodes were not looking positive on my MRI imaging from before so that's a really good sign.  So she is very hopeful that there will not be any involved nodes, but we just have to wait and see.  Total, this will all take about 1 1/2 hours.  Removing the port is super easy.  They just open the incision, take it out, and that's done.  Technically she could've done it right there in the office, but since we'll be in the surgery room, she will just wait.   I should go home that day.  I shouldn't have to have any drains, but they sent me home with a drain bag today just in case.  That would be if they had to remove more than 3 lymph nodes.  I'm supposed to pack an overnight bag too, just in case.

The lymph node incision will actually bother me the most because its connected to my muscle and range of arm movement area.  I can resume normal activities pretty quickly, just don't do any bouncy like activities for awhile and avoid carrying/lifting things with my right arm.  She said I could even go back to work on Monday, if I feel up to it.  (I however have decided to take Friday off - for surgery obviously- and Monday and half a day on Tuesday, then I'll re-evaluate how I feel from there.)  3-4 weeks to heal fully.

I'm doing an MRI again next week to take one last look at the size of the mass, with clearer imaging, just to make sure there are no surprises before proceeding forward, but she doesn't expect there to be.

So what happens if there is not "clean margins" in the tissue they take off, meaning cancer cells in less than 2mm from the edge?  She said if the mass was skewed and there were cancer cells located one edge with less than 2mm, they would go back in and do a re-excision to get that clean margin.  However, if they take out the mass and the pathology report said that there are cancer or pre-cancer cells all throughout the edges of the tissue, then they would want to do a mastectomy, which she says is rare.  Over 90% of the time, they get it all the first time.  Because I have a solid tumor, as opposed to DCIS which is stage I pre-cancer, it is so easy to locate and take all of it out on the first try.

Then radiation therapy will start 3-4 weeks after surgery, so beginning of September.  Chemotherapy is the hardest part.  Surgery is irritating and there is some pain associated with it but its easy to recover from.   She said radiation is very well tolerated by most women.  So the HARD PART IS OVER!

The nurse came in later and gave us some paper work explaining logistics for the day of surgery.  There was some question, which I'm still unclear on, whether I will be allowed to drive before they see me in my follow-up appointment.  I THINK we figured out that its only if they have to send me home with drains.  But I'm not sure yet.  The reason why is because of the risk of getting into a car accident and smashing my chest into the steering wheel.  That would be a very bad thing.  So, I may be having to arrange hitching a ride with someone to work for a short bit.

But I'm so happy to hear this news today!  SO SO SO happy!

Double positive article

I am 50% estrogen, 50% progesterone positive. So that makes me double positive, I guess!  I have been wondering why my doctors have only talked about estrogen inhibitors and nothing about progesterone. 

This article helps answer that. It also excites me and comforts me at the same time. #science #researchnerd

Initiate Mission LuMpEcToMy!!!!!!!!!!!

My lumpectomy (also known as breast-conserving surgery) is scheduled for Friday, August 7th. 


This was very very very much the news I wanted to hear. More details later. 

*recommencing dance party*

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

LAST CHEMO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today comes with mixed feelings.  I'm obviously super relieved and grateful that I made it to the end of chemo.  But I'm also going to miss seeing the wonderful people at Lawrence Memorial Hospital on a weekly basis.

Superman made cookies for them all as a thank you, and they were the talk of the oncology unit.  (they were extremely delicious.  I picked out the recipe  - Lemonade cookies - and he made them.)

Today's Harrison Ford movie was Working Girl, officially one of my favorites.  I had been requesting that one for awhile and Superman couldn't find it anywhere around town.  So finally he had Netflix mail it to him and saved it for my last day as a surprise.   :)  We had nurses and office staff coming in and out the whole time complimenting on the cookies, and they would stay for a few minutes and watch some of the movie.  It was a fun day.

So then when it was time to go, I knew that something big would happen because they have a tradition of singing a "no more chemo" song to everyone on their last time.  They went all out and even gave me a fake Harrison Ford autographed picture, as well as a balloon and an Oncology Alumni shirt.  It was a such a great day, and I cried and felt silly.

 Harrison Ford autographed photo on the right.  haha...

balloon and shirt

hooked up to my last bag of chemo. :)

Random bathroom photo of my increasingly fuzzy head (and painted on eyebrows...) from last week..  Thought I would document my hair-regrowth.

I can't believe I made it.  (well almost.  Still have to make it through the side effects this week, but it will be the LAST TIME!)

I could not have done it without my support people.  My husband has been OUTSTANDINGLY amazing.  Truly Superman.  He didn't miss a single chemo appointment.  My family so helpful and encouraging.  Presents and food, oh my goodness.  So much food and so much appreciation.  My friends constantly sending me messages of positivity, and humor.  My work colleagues out doing themselves on a daily basis.  I'm one lucky gal.

So, now on to the next step.  Tomorrow is a big day.  We see my surgeon in the morning and hopefully putting surgery and the type of surgery on the calendar.  Here's hoping for the lumpectomy!