I have been following several other women’s blogs about their trials and tribulations with their cancers. One woman’s is exceptional. She is doing what I wanted to do 14 months ago: writing her blog as she learns what is happening to her. I wanted to do that but was so overwhelmed by it all, emotionally, mentally, and physically that I simply could not. Nor could I find the grace, that she seems to have in spades, to do it so well.
Her latest post, hearing the news first hand that it is cancer and what all of her options are, has me screaming, itching to reply. But, I won’t. I want to tell her everything that I now know, through experience, my own and those of my fellow female travelers on this sojourn of pain and mystery. But I won’t. Here follows what I wish I had the guts to tell her…
FYI: She is not living in the USA.
(I find it interesting your GP told you about the cancer and not the surgeon who did the work and sent off the labs. Poor guy. How can you get pissed at someone you’ve known for years?) But I digress…
You have a great way of looking at all of this and I am so proud of you for that. Fourteen months later and I still waffle between buckets of tears or searing anger. And yes, more days of feeling normal now that my hair has grown back in.
My tumor was estrogen and Her2 positive which, like yours, makes for a fast growing tumor. That was said and quickly followed by “But that’s great because we can treat it!” Hooray!?! Great in my book is winning the lottery or having another grandchild. (My surgeon was great, technically and medically speaking, but I still had moments when I wanted to bitch slap her.) She was actually surprised by my initial response to being told I HAD cancer. Like I was supposed to grok it somehow before she had told me the lab results? (Again my palm ‘burned’ to become one with her exquisite complexion.) But hey, she’s AMA to the core. I found an acupuncturist to actually deal with my medical issues and empathize with my situation.
Both of my sentinel nodes and 4 out of 7 axillary lymph nodes were positive, so you are doing better than me already! Hooray?!?
Downer Alert: Since my cancer arrived post-menopausal (and I am a DES daughter. Gee, thanks Mom!) my three daughters may escape my fate. I would recommend you grill your various doctors about DNA testing. You have young children, but early onset breast cancer could be genetic and male descendants may often inherit the gene. For males or females it could manifest as breast or colon cancer later. In fact other family members with a history of colon/breast cancer could also indicate a genetic pre-disposition.
I am so sorry to be the bearer of such potentially depressing news. But I have learned that you/your husband are your only advocates and BE AGGRESSIVE. Not just for yourself, but for your children.
You have a great attitude, but I give you permission to be angry, and not only angry but to let it out. And let it out at the doctors and medical staff who are putting your body through the mill. It is okay! They are paid well to take your shit and a little extra. Then you can go home and be Mommy Angel for your children. Your husband can handle whatever you are dealing. (He sounds like a keeper.) I took care of my grandson through all of this. He was 8 months old when I was diagnosed and I arranged my treatments around caring for him. F*** their schedule.
I have one question to ask you: why go through reconstruction?
You are young, you are beautiful, you have small breasts already. Oh, did they tell you it’s their job to push reconstruction? Did they tell you about nerve damage and insensitivity (I am still numb 14 months post lumpectomy). Because as a runner, having implants slogging around on your chest is no picnic. And if the cancer comes back it won’t be easily detected through the implants. I know, you must be thinking, what kind of a crazy bitch has hooked up to your blog? But at 59 I have known many women who have walked down this path and I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly.
Advice I received from four great oncology nurses: cut your hair (mine was long) short so you can deal with it easily. If it starts to fall out (mine did two weeks after the first chemo) shave it off, unless you are into that patchy look. I have a phobia about ingesting hair, so it was a no brainer for me!
My husband and I had a little ceremony with family, including my 10 month old grandson. My Dearest Friend (husband of 37 years) buzzed my head, I did the same for him. Champagne/beer and toasting to the new us followed. Before and after pics, all posted on Facebook. Sunscreen is needed thereafter in Florida, even in winter, but I was proud of my baldness. (wigs and hats sent me into hot-flash overdrive anyways!)
Keep a journal. Not this blog, but an actual log of how you are physically responding to the drugs on a day-to-day basis. Every day jot something down even if it is only a smiley or sad face. Enough time goes by that it can become a blur and it is nice to have a log you can point to for the docs. It helped me from losing my mind once chemo brain set in. “See, this is when the membranes over my eyes sloughed off (call your ophthalmologist for that one). Here is when my feet and ankles swelled and I had shortness of breath. This is when my heart-felt like it was pounding through my sternum.
For instance, once I started on the aromatase inhibitor, my heart began to race. When I told them, they ran the ekgs, whatever, and came back with, Oh, your normal, 90 beats per minute. Well, what’s normal? ANYTHING BELOW 150 BEATS PER MINUTE. Excuse me?
When I eventually got to the point that my heart rate was over 130 for over 24 hours I went to the ER. At the check-in I finally came within an inch of ripping someone’s throat out as I explained to them that “normal” for me was no more than 60-70bpm, so they needed to rethink their normal AND DO SOMETHING! because I wasn’t going to live with this. At which point I was wheeled back to the ER cubbies and hooked up to every beeping monitor known to mankind. It was then that my heart started to return to normal, after two weeks of feeling like it was about to come through my chest.
My punishment: another specialist, cardiologist this time, and wearing a heart monitor for 6 weeks. Which proved nothing other than I was acclimating to my new best drug-friend.
Such is life, my friends. Such is life.