Thursday, December 31, 2009

happy new year!

May 2010 bring good health, mental stability, and spiritual peace to all!

Friday, December 25, 2009

brief holiday musings

I am constantly reminded how lucky I am.

It's Christmas — a holiday I don't really celebrate but my family does, so I do by proximity — and I am healthy. I'm working, I'm exercising, I'm doing pretty much whatever I want ... well, I'm not restricted by a tumor or white blood cell counts or anything of that nature, at least. We're not gathering this year in fear that it's my last. I'm not in a hospital.

For the people who are in one of those situations ... I would do something for you, but I don't have the first clue what that would be. If you have a suggestion (in general, for yourself, for someone you know), let me know. In person visits need to be local ;)

In the mean time, it's a day of celebration. If you celebrate and love Christmas and look forward to today all year — here it is! Merry Christmas! If you celebrate it and dread it, or if you don't celebrate it, it's a day of celebration — in another few hours, it'll finally be gone for another year ;)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Since I decided to stop doing a post a day, I have gotten a bit lazy over here. Well, lazy on the blog.

Fortunately, there's not much going on on the cancer front.

I was given a neat pair of silver earrings in the shape of a ribbon for my two years cancer free anniversary. I wore them to work one day and was asked if they were breast cancer earrings.

ARGH!!! NO!!!!

Shit. Ribbons don't even necessarily signify cancer awareness, much less cancer awareness. The pink ribbon has got to go.

I am still in the process of becoming a Certified Personal Trainer. I have big dreams of opening a small studio in my house where I can help fellow survivors make their bodies strong. I will definitely post more when I have more to post.

In the mean time, just living life. Lots going on at/for work, lots going on with the CPT stuff. I've managed to keep myself healthy so far this school year which is nice (and is no easy task!).

Life is good :-)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

new plan

OK, so I realized that these posts were ... boring? When I came up with the blog-a-day idea, I had a lot in my head, and as soon as I sat down to type, it all dissipated. So I will save blogging for days when I have something to say or something to share :)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Year 3, Day 7

I'm attempting to blog every day in my third year of remission with info, news, or on a person front, what's in my head, how I'm keeping my body healthy, etc.

One of the things I've gotten much better about is taking care of myself in small ways. I'm getting better at saying "no" which is a huge help. I'm better about going to bed early when I'm super-tired, even if that makes me a big dork. As I've come to be a healthier eater, I crave sweets much less frequently — close to never. I'm better about not letting other people's food issues influence me. For example, if I'm at a small social gathering and there are cookies and I don't want one, I won't eat one. Yes, that sounds simple enough, but have you ever declined a cookie in a group of cookie-eaters? You know what happens :)

Anyway, small things. Yesterday I slept in. Mid-afternoon, I was sleepy again, so I took a nap instead of arguing with myself that I shouldn't be sleepy since I slept in and staying up anyway.

Tonight, I am sleepy again. I am going to bed here shortly, even though it's barely 7:00.

(I'm not worried about all of this sleepiness right now: hubby's been sick and I'm sure I'm fighting his germs. Also have my period which often makes me sleepier.)

If there's anything you'd like me to write about, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Year 3, Day 6

I'm attempting to blog every day in my third year of remission with info, news, or on a person front, what's in my head, how I'm keeping my body healthy, etc.


If you're unfamiliar with them, I'm Too Young For This is a resource for young adults with cancer, and Voices of Survivors is a compilation of the voices of many and varied survivors on what it means to be a survivor.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Year 3, Day 5

I'm attempting to blog every day in my third year of remission with info, news, or on a person front, what's in my head, how I'm keeping my body healthy, etc.

For Thanksgiving, I am thankful

• for good health
• for fun in-laws
• for self-control

My cancer was diagnosed in May. My treatment ended one week before Thanksgiving. It was a matter of sheer luck that I spent no major holidays in the hospital or in bed.

My treatment ended just over two years ago. That incites a bit of thoughtfulness in itself. Plus it's Thanksgiving, which also incites thoughtfulness.

So very many people helped to carry me to where I am right now.

Thank you to all. As if thank you is enough.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Year 3, Day 4

I'm attempting to blog every day in my third year of remission with info, news, or on a person front, what's in my head, how I'm keeping my body healthy, etc.

It is harder to blog every day than I expected it to be. Some days I just don't have much to say.

So I will just say that today, on Thanksgiving Eve, I am grateful to be alive, to be healthy, to have good friends and family, to have a roof over my head and food in the fridge and a million other things that I have but don't deserve (any more than any of us deserve them).

While tomorrow will not be a day of great (read: healthy) eating, I will honor my body and not stuff it until it hurts. I'll have a little of everything (well, everything not meat), and it will be super-tasty

If nothing else, pounds go on way faster and easier than they come off, and I'm tired of losing these five pounds. Easiest way not to need to lose them is not to gain them. That starts tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Year 3, Day 3

I'm attempting to blog every day in my third year of remission with info, news, or on a person front, what's in my head, how I'm keeping my body healthy, etc.

Not directly related to cancer, but in my adult life, I have become much better about taking care of myself. I go to the dentist twice a year (this morning checked that off the list for another six months), I brush and floss, I eat healthy food in healthy quantities most of the time, I exercise on a regular basis, I stretch. While not everything that goes wrong in our bodies is preventable, a lot of it is. So I might not prevent any bad thing from ever invading my body again, but if I can keep systems in good working order, fewer things are likely to malfunction. And I feel better, have more energy, am generally more positive when my body feels good.

Recently, to complement my physical health endeavors, I have been working on mental health: working through/getting over crap that has happened at various points in my life, working on being less ignite-able (being angry all the time isn't healthy), working on having healthy relationships with people, working on setting boundaries for people who can't/won't have a healthy relationship, being kind and patient to people whether they "deserve" it or not. I'm trying to remember that people who I bump into in the grocery store don't know my life story any more than I know theirs. I hate it when people judge me based on not enough information, and so I am trying not to judge others. (By the same token, having a bad day is not a good reason to be an asshole.)

Am I living and breathing this in such a way that y'all should model yourselves after me? No. But I'm working on it. And as I work on it, I get better at it.

I already feel better much of the time at work, I feel much better when I'm driving, and when those two things are feeling pretty good, the rest of life is often not far behind.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Year 3, Day 2

I celebrated two years cancer-free on Saturday! It is fabulous and amazing.

I have been having very significant memory problems recently. I'm not sure it's entirely chemo-brain — why would it suddenly nosedive this far out of treatment? — but I'm sure that's where it's rooted. Even before this recent episode of "What's your name again?" my memory has certainly not been at the same strength that it was pre-chemo. It drives me mad.

I have decided, memory-permitting (haha?), that I am going to attempt to post here every day with something that I'm doing to take care of my body or with news I've come across.

Of course, I was going to start this yesterday and forgot :(

So today's installment is a link to a blog post regarding cancer-related memory issues: click here

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I am not a cancer warrior

So I'm a card-carrying member of the Cancer Club.

I'd say that half the time (maybe more?), it's not anywhere in my consciousness.

The other roughly half of the time is split between many things:

• There is a good amount of time that what I'm doing is because of the cancer, though most of the time by now, the action/reaction is pretty habitual and "cancer" isn't in the front of my mind (i.e. sunscreen, avoiding plastics, avoiding synthetics and pesticides in foods).

• I have periodic conversations with people about health-related things — whether it's my experience with cancer, theirs, their experience in something else equally as crappy.

• I continue to have run-ins with physiological chemo leftovers (chemo brain, chemo boobs, heart rate issues).

• There are cancer blogs that I follow and cancer-related organizations that send me e-mails and show up in my Facebook news feed.

• I get an e-mail every so often from the oncology counselor at the hospital, letting me know about an event at the hospital.

• I learn about someone else getting cancer, which always instantly puts me back sitting on the hospital bed in the ER on that fateful day.

• I very rarely get an e-mail from someone who stumbled across my blog and writes to me looking for advice. I always answer those.

• And every once in a great while, I think, "Yeah, I had cancer ... Holy crap! I had cancer!" It is somehow still kind of surreal.

I have friends who I've met through cancer treatments and cancer-related events. There are many people who have started organizations, websites, etc. in their survivorship. They are very active in the cancer community (most often in the young adult cancer community). They (seem to) feel a deep connection with others with this disease and an angry passion about eradicating it.

Every now and then, I feel like I should be like them. Or like I should want to be like them.

But I don't.

I certainly believe that cancer is an awful thing, though there are many other conditions that are much higher on my "don't want it" list. I believe, more or less, that people don't deserve it, and that the current treatments for it are barbaric and awful — in too many cases, worse than the disease itself. I would love for there to be no more cancer, but I also believe that regardless of how much money we raise for research and awareness, we will always have cancer because we love our carcinogens too much.

It surprises me how many people go through cancer hell and don't change what they put into their bodies. (Not judging, just surprised.)

I have been told that Hodgkin's is not a lifestyle-related cancer. That means that it happened regardless of whether or not I was making healthy choices. It means that the plastics I am avoiding, the grilled meat I am avoiding, the cigarettes I am avoiding, the belly fat I am keeping off, the sun I block most of the time, have/had no influence on my cancer. But those things can help to cause other cancers, and I don't want those, either, so I have made choices. They're not always easy choices (have I mentioned how much I hate sunscreen?), but in my opinion, they're worth it. Suncreen is better than chemo. Life is still worth it, even without meat, without convenient drinks, without artificial sweeteners.

I'm rambling. I'm not really sure where I'm going. I guess I feel like there's a lot of ducking personal responsibility in this whole cancer thing. It's easier to yell at other people to fix the problem than to see how we are contributing to it ourselves. If we refused to purchase/consume items that were carcinogenic, companies would need to find another way to produce/package. Of course, that includes damn near everything, it seems, including carpet, particleboard, stain-master-type fabrics, most plastics, canned food/drinks (they line the insides with plastic), the list goes on and on. But I think food and drink would be the best place to start, followed by cleaning agents (soap, shampoo, detergents — we absorb a lot of the crap we put on our bodies).

So I suppose my efforts to gently influence people to change their habits, or even one habit could be considered cancer advocacy.

Of course, we've known for a while that smoking causes cancer, and there are still plenty of smokers. I don't suspect most people are even going to give a second thought to lesser evils. But it does frustrate me that they hand out water in plastic bottles at the Race for the Cure.

99% of the time, I have no negative feelings about not being a cancer warrior, so this is really not a quality-of-life issue. It just pops up every now and then.

It's not really even "popped" right now — I just felt like blogging and this issue was on my list of things to blog about. I'm sure I put it on the list the last time something triggered it. I wonder if that post would have been more interesting. Or more off-putting. Hm.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I don't have breast cancer

While the title of this post could lead you to believe that this post is a rant on Pinktober, and while I could easily rant for a long time about the disgusting commercialization of boobs at the expense of real women dealing with a potentially fatal disease, that's not what this post is about :)

I went to see an ob-gyn about chemo boobs at the recommendation of my PCP. She was a neat lady and I felt like she was competent. She sent me for a mammogram and a breast ultrasound, since breast cancer risk is higher for those who have had radiation to the chest.

I went for those tests the next day. It's funny. At no point have I even remotely thought that I might have breast cancer. And yet, going for a mammogram — my first ever, since I'm just shy of 34 — I was nervous at the outcome.

It varied between pretty uncomfortable and low-grade pain. I can see why women don't go for these things when they're supposed to. The ultrasound, of course, was easy.

The ob-gyn had written the orders so that I could be given the results by the radiologist right then and there, which was nice. I have a few small cysts, but that's pretty normal. Both docs could feel them, though I can't. Nothing to be concerned about. Fabulous.

So later this week, I went to the podiatrist about some plantar warts. In the course of talking, I mentioned that I've had these removed once before, though clearly, it didn't work. He asked if they'd been biopsied. Um... no?

Apparently, there is some kind of carcinoma that looks like plantar warts, and if they've been around for a while and don't respond to treatment, they should be biopsied.

Huh.

Well, in the time that these things (two of them) have been growing, I've had five PET scans. I'm going to need to believe that if they were cancerous, we would have known about that by now. He said that he's never had a patient whose warts turned out not to be warts, and he's been a podiatrist for 30 years, but he's read about it in the literature. At least he's keeping up to date.

And so these little cancer things pop up and pop back down. And it's so weird when and how they show up. And I wonder if I would react to them the same way without my history, and I have to assume it would be different. If I hadn't had cancer, the possibility of a wart being cancer would be ridiculous, because things like cancer happen to other people, to older people, to less healthy people, not to me...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

my amazing body

My two-year cancer-versary approaches. Chemo ended the week before Thanksgiving, 2007.

There are things with my body that still aren't right. There is muscle strength and endurance that, despite training with a trainer for well over a year, I haven't yet been able to regain. (I will get there, it's just taking an awfully long time.)

But this morning, I had the opportunity again to say F-you to cancer, to chemo, to radiation. I completed my second sprint triathlon :)

My body might not be right yet, or right ever, but I am going to use it and push it and take advantage of having it every day.

Also in the exercise realm, I just started the process to become a certified personal trainer. A far-off goal I have is to start a program for cancer survivors who want to start to get their bodies back (regardless of what shape their body was in before treatment or what shape treatment left it in). It's a ways off for now.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

blood test results

I went the other day to get blood tests done, one of the things to do from my doc's appointment. I was supposed to go on a specific day in my cycle, which is why I waited so long.

So I went with orders for three tests, plus my orders for my oncologist, since I'm seeing him soon enough. Lots of vials.

I got a message from the doc's office yesterday: "You are not menopausal."

Now, early menopause was a possible side effect of chemo, but if that was going to happen, it would have happened a long time ago. Given that I'm still having regular periods and so on, I had assumed I wasn't menopausal.

I'm a bit disappointed that that's all I found out from those tests. Hm.

Well, I have an ob-gyn who the doc recommended I go see, which I will do shortly. See what she has to say.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

the search for a cure for chemo boobs

Time wears on, and still, my boobs rise and fall like the tides.

OK, maybe not really like tides. But they do swell and un-swell on a monthly basis. Except in June they swelled and didn't un-swell until August, and then it was only part way. And now they're swelling again. It's so weird.

So I went to a doc shortly after my previous post. She told me that everyone has a "thing" from chemo, and that's mine. Wow. That was a highly unsatisfying answer.

I made an appointment with the doc who I had initially wanted to see, but her next appointment was a month out. Again, my appointment was a month away, but I decided she had come highly recommended and that it was hopefully worth the wait.

So on Thursday, I had my appointment. She was great. I don't have any more answers than I had a month ago, but there are lots of things we're going to do to see what answers we get. She also gave me recommendations for supplements to take (vitamin E apparently can help to relieve symptoms of PMS) and called yesterday with a recommendation for an OB-gyn to go to. So I need to make an appointment with her.

It very well may end up that this is just a "thing" and there's not much to do about it — or that the treatment for it is something I'm not willing to do — but at least we're looking for some answers.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

two years!!

Happy two-year cancer-versary to me!

The doc counts years beginning at the end of chemo, which isn't until November, but today is the anniversary of when I got the good news that the cancer was dead — first negative PET scan. Hooray!!

Hodgkin lymphoma is most likely to recur in the first two years, so this is a big milestone!

I plan to celebrate in November, when I get the high-five from the doc. Giving thanks at Thanksgiving indeed!

Monday, July 20, 2009

a video from a long time ago

This is a little outdated, but I just learned basic video editing...

Anyway, the hospital I stayed in does an internal video newsletter once every few months. There is a segment they include called "Patient Perspective" and I was the focus patient in December 2007. This is the clip from the newsletter. Yes, I know the resolution isn't great, but the original was much too large to upload to Blogger.



Chad, my dance teacher, is a great person and a fabulous teacher. He was an amazing help to me through the entire cancer ordeal, just by being himself. (Contrary to what Patricia says in her interview, I actually danced through treatment — I didn't wait until I was done.) Click here for more info about Chad.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

it's been doctor week!

I had many doc's appointments this week.

My visit to the new GP was completely unsatisfying. She said that everyone has "a thing" after chemo, and it looks like chemo boobs are my thing. She gave me a referral to a cardiologist (who I saw yesterday). She said she could take the plantar warts out herself (appointment for that was Thursday). She recommended Kirkland (read: Costco) vitamins.

In response to a query about why my water weight from my last period hasn't gone away, she said she didn't think it was water, and asked if I've gotten happy. *sigh* She prescribed me a water pill (which, as it turns out, has sun sensitivity as a side effect, so I've not taken it). She said she didn't think it would do anything, but if I wasn't careful, it would make me pass out. Thanks.

Not a great visit.

I went Tuesday night to the i[2]y meeting about fertility issues. The nurse there suggested that a general hormone panel would be an appropriate first step to finding out what's going on. When I find my next new doctor, I will make an inquiry.

Also at that meeting, I met a Hodgkin's patient. She's almost exactly two years behind me, as far as treatments and all are concerned. She's the first person I've met who has what I had. It was kind of neat to talk to her; I hope we talk again.

Wednesday, I saw the dermatologist. Well, I saw the derm's assistant. She did a full-body check-over, said that my skin looks good, I have a little sun damage on my shoulders (not surprising - years of red shoulders will do that), watch out for changes in about 15 years to the areas where I had radiation, keep using sunscreen but no need to flip out about turning a little pink as long as I'm sunscreen-ed. That was good news and definitely lowered the sun paranoia factor by a lot.

Thursday, I had the plantar warts frozen ... but they're still there. I'll need to look up how long it should take before they disappear.

Friday I saw the cardiologist regarding my crazy high heart rate when I exercise. He said basically that I'm unusual, that HR usually only spikes in people who are sedentary. They're going to do a few tests (next week and the week after) and see what's going on. He said he's not worried and doesn't expect to find anything worrisome and that I should keep doing what I'm doing. He also said that the effects of radiation wouldn't show up for another 10-15 or more years. I'm holding out for them never to show up :)

There it is! So I'm less sun-scared, I'm holding out for answers from the cardiologist, and I'm still looking for a new good doctor. Not bad.

In the mean time, I think I'm ready to register and commit to triathlon #2...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

stupid side effects ... still

I am ranty about side effects!

I finished chemo a year and 8 months ago. I expected all of the physical chemo baggage to be gone by now. But I'm still having chemo boobs, and I'm pretty sure that some of my memory issues and struggles with speaking are related to chemo brain.

When I asked my oncologist about chemo boobs, he told me to ask my regular doctor. I made an appointment with a new doctor (my old one is no longer available, which is super-sad) and asked who in the practice would be best equipped to answer questions about chemotherapy side effects. After being on hold for a while, the receptionist came back and gave me an appointment but stressed that they might need to refer me.

Who are they going to refer me to? Is there a branch of medicine that deals with long term side effects of chemo? (If yes, why wasn't I pointed in their direction a long time ago???) If not (which I assume is the right answer), where are they going to send me? To an oncologist? I have one already.

It will be interesting.

I have a laundry list of questions for her. I want to ask about chemo boobs and chemo brain, and when they're going to flippin' GO AWAY. I had some weird breathing troubles at the end of my triathlon and again once when I was training at the gym; I'd like to know what might cause that to happen. My heart rate is pretty high when I exercise; I want to know if that's a problem (and if/how I can ever make that better). I have some plantar warts on my right foot and need a referral to a podiatrist who can make them go away. (They were removed once, about 4 years ago...) I want to know about vitamins and supplements and which ones she might recommend as being the most effective/safest.

I have a lot of questions :) I hope she has at least *some* answers.

The whole thing is ... frustrating. The oncologist's job, as far as I can tell, is to make sure I don't die of cancer. Great! He did that. I'm exceptionally grateful to him for that. But there are other things going on that are impeding my quality of life. Who deals with those?

The local chapter of i[2]y is having a meeting next week on Tuesday regarding fertility issues. I am planning to go, as chemo boobs would be tied into hormones and therefore fertility. Maybe it'll be good.

I'm realizing, through reading comments of people on Facebook, that my way of looking at my cancer seems to be different than many other young adult cancer survivors. There is a conversation going on about people who are depressed when they finish treatment. The structure of treatments is gone, the friends who are nurses and other patients are suddenly not there on a regular basis any more. I get that. but DUDE! You're ALIVE! Celebrate! But that's just me, apparently.

I wonder if this is what made the difference for me: I never thought of cancer or chemo or how my life was at the time as "the new normal." It was always just an aberration. A long, pain-in-the-ass-kinda-scary-sometimes-terrifying inconvenience. And so when it was over, I was joyful! It was like I'd been sitting at this damned light forever and it finally turned green.

Is my life "back to normal"? In most ways, yes. I am working, I am exercising, I am over-extending my schedule, I am not sleeping enough, I am doing all the things I was doing before this ordeal. Is my psyche the same? Nope. It changes you. It has to. I don't think you can come up against any life-threatening experience and not leave a changed person. It hasn't changed me in the clich├ęd way that people asked about. But if nothing else, it's always there. It's not part of my daily routine. It's not part of my regular consciousness. But it's definitely there.

Going back to the thing on Facebook. The consensus in the small sample of people is that the oncologist should be taking care of their patients' mental health needs through this process. I completely disagree. Therapists who are trained to deal with cancer patients and survivors should absolutely be made available by the oncologist (or his/her office/nurses), but I don't think it's the oncologist's job. That's not what they're trained in.

I would like to help people who need help in dealing with cancer as a diagnosis, or cancer as a part of their history, or anything in between. I'm not really sure how I best can do that. If you have suggestions, please post them.

I'll let you know what the doc says on Monday. I am also going to see a dermatologist on Wednesday. Hopefully, there will be no news on that front.

The saga continues...

Also, I just have to mention that while my hair started growing back in October '07 (before chemo ended!), and I have been getting regular hair cuts for the last year, I still occasionally get comments on having "all that hair!" Bets on when the last comment will be made? I would have lost that bet already...

Monday, June 22, 2009

hello, strangers

Just a quick hello to random passers-by. I know this blog has been linked on several cancer blog lists and that I'm getting some traffic that way.

The quick-and-dirty recap: I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in May, 2007. I had 6 months of ABVD chemo and a month of radiation. I was in remission by my 4th chemo treatment (though I had all 12 treatments anyway...). I'm approaching the two-year anniversary of my first negative PET scan (late July), though the doc started counting from my last chemo treatment (late November). I am healthy, feeling good, eating well, exercising regularly, loving life!

I had a PICC line which was a godsend for me and my little veins. I had a blood clot in one arm for a while.

I am very open to talking about what all went on, and have received messages from several random strangers asking for advice.

Regardless of why you're here or how long you stay, enjoy :) Fortunately, I don't have occasion to post too frequently now-a-days...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

survivor's celebration

Saturday is Banner Desert's Cancer Survivor Celebration. I am always somewhat iffy about going to these things, especially as I get farther out, but hey — an afternoon to celebrate survivorship! And there will be ice cream :) Hopefully some people I know will be there. We'll see...

Otherwise, I've been in good health, working out hard, training for another triathlon in the fall ... Life is good. Living well is the best revenge!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

it seems like so long ago

I was just thinking tonight, while getting my ass kicked all over the place in spin class, that two years ago, I was in the hospital waiting for the results of the biopsy to tell me what kind of cancer I had. Tomorrow is the anniversary of getting the answer, and Sunday is the anniversary of chemo starting.

It is almost surreal.

It feels like a really long time ago. So much just plain ol' living has happened since then. How fabulous is that?

I am grateful to have a healthy body, and I'm doing my part to keep it that way!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

another clean bill of health

I had an appointment with my oncologist yesterday. It was my 3-month check-up. Xray was clean, bloodwork was good, and I don't have to go back for another four months :)

I do want to see a dermatologist, though. Anyone in the Phoenix area have a good one they recommend?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I win :-)

Yesterday, I participated in my first-ever triathlon. It was "sprint" distance, with a 750-meter swim, a 21K bike ride (that's 13.5 miles) and a 5K (3.1-mile) run.

It was hard, and it was amazing, and it hurt, and it was wonderful, and it came one week before the two-year anniversary of me being admitted to the hospital for Hodgkins.

I have taken back my body from the chemo, and I plan to continue to work out, get stronger, gain endurance, and keep my body healthy and strong.

It feels great!

(If you'd like to read more about the race, you can read it here.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

sick ≠ cancer

Three passing things, all somewhat related...

First, I have some kind of upper respiratory infection thing going on. Haven't had a fever in a couple of days, but I'm coughing off and on like mad and have close to no voice. My throat hurt really badly for a few days but is feeling mostly better. In the days that I was feverish, I knew it was because of whatever viruses were ravaging my body ... but that doesn't stop the little cancer voice from reminding me: persistent, low-grade fever is a symptom of Hodgkins.

How can I get that little voice to turn off? If I had a persistent low-grade fever for no apparent reason, then perhaps I should be concerned, but sheesh — I was sick!

As a result of said sickness, I missed a dress rehearsal and a performance. When my hubby told the conductor I was missing because I was sick, his reaction was, "Sick sick?!" No... I appreciate the concern (and I enjoy the director very much), but I can be just plain ol' regular sick...

Last, things here have been really stressful recently, peaking over the weekend. Enter that little voice again: you know, the doctor said that the first tumor's growth was most likely triggered by stress, and the first two years are the time most likely to see a recurrence. You know, you're still in the first two years, and you've been having some massive stress. Wonder how your lymph nodes are doing...

If anyone knows how to either turn off or re-program that little voice, I'd appreciate the info...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

random people passing through - edited

I started this blog way back when, to share what was going on with anyone interested (family, friends, acquaintances) without them needing to call and ask or try to ferret things out through the grapevine.

I had no idea so many people I don't know would find it, whether by accident, looking for help, looking for answers.

I get 20-50 hits a week from people looking for information about PICC lines. My post with the picture of my PICC is one of the top returns in Google images. Crazy, no? I sometimes think I should go to that post and modify it to give more information on PICC lines, getting them, taking care of them. Haven't done it, not sure if I will, but it's still a possibility.

I have had this blog linked on three other cancer blogs that I know of and I have some readers through there. (Those are here, here, and here if you're interested.) It's also listed in the i[2]y list of cancer blogs.

Editing to add that I just saw that I've been listed as one of the top 30 inspirational cancer blogs here.

I have this blog in my profile in different places online, and other users have clicked through.

I have no idea how much of it anyone reads at this point. I'm always curious.

I have received multiple messages from people who were just diagnosed themselves or are close to someone who was just diagnosed, asking for advice and help in what to do, in how to deal. I do my best to share the most useful things I learned along the way and hope that it helps.

So to everyone who passes through (well, except the people who just look at the PICC pic, since they'll never read this post):

hello :)

I hope you have found what you were looking for. Feel free to drop me a line.

Friday, March 13, 2009

chemo brain

I'm ready for this whole chemo-brain thing to go away.

I used to have a highly detailed, razor-sharp memory. On occasion, I'd transcribed conversations after they'd happened. I remembered names, faces, events, details within any of that. It was not always a perk, certainly, but it was often useful.

Chemo kicked the shit out of my cognition and memory. My ability to think, carry on a conversation, remember things is MUCH better than it was during and immediately after treatment. But it still ain't right.

There have been days at work when I'm writing a pass for a kid. I look at them and can't remember their name. Sometimes it just takes a few seconds. Sometimes they just tell me. I don't ask. If I need to, I'll find their folder or their instrument (name tag) or glance down my roster.

Earlier this week, I had an e-mail conversation with a friend about some compression shorts. I had gone out to buy a pair, but it turned out that the only size the store I went to had was XL. Paraphrasing the conversation, he said that wasn't very compressive. I said it would be if I put both legs in one leg. He pointed out that I wouldn't be very mobile. I said I'd get good at dolphin kicking. He mentioned that walking and running wouldn't work so well. I agreed and said that I hadn't thought about getting to the pool. Conversation ended.

It did not occur to me until this morning, on my way back from the gym, that what the hell was I talking about? I was buying shorts, not a bathing suit, and so whether or not I could swim in them was irrelevant. (In my slight defense, around this same time, I did buy a bathing suit for exercise.)

I wonder if this is what early stages of dementia are like?

I wonder when this wears off?

I was at a young cancer survivor meeting the other night (will blog about that later) and someone mentioned chemo brain and I said something about it wearing off, and someone else asked, "Does it?" Well shit. I hadn't considered that it wouldn't. I'm just still waiting. And really, that's what I'm going to continue to do. But I wouldn't mind if it hurried up...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Banner Desert fundraiser

I received an e-mail about a fundraiser for cancer stuff at Banner Desert, where I was treated. There was all sorts of neat stuff in it, including some things I could have an extra degree of participation in, but it's on the same day as my triathlon. So I emailed back and said I was interested but it depended on what time because I'm doing a tri, etc., etc.

It turns out that the event is too early (11 a.m.) for me to participate, but she gave my contact info to the PR person (again) regarding the triathlon. She said that it might be inspiring to others who are going through what I went through. So PR might contact me again! How fun! We'll see...

Friday, January 30, 2009

my newest venture...

On Tuesday, I registered to compete in a triathlon! Race date is May 9. I'm not looking to win — just to finish. It should be a pretty amazing experience, I think.

In any case, I decided to blog about training for that. If you want to follow, that blog is here.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

lingering side effects - possibly TMI

About three quarters through my run with chemo, my boobs started swelling and shrinking with my cycle. There were other side effects that mimicked pregnancy (according to my pregnant-at-the-time friend), so I just added this to the list of things that will probably happen to me if/when I get pregnant.

It's still happening.

I had assumed that when the boobs stopped this silly game, I would know that the lingering effects of my favorite poisons were gone and I could declare another small victory :)

But it's still happening.

I asked the oncologist about it some time ago, and he said to ask my OB. My OB was also my PCP and she rocked. And then she moved to MedCo, and I can't see her any more. I haven't found a new PCP or a new OB, so the question remains unasked.

They told me that side effects could last up to 18 months. I am beginning to wonder, though, if this is actually ever going to go away... And if it's a problem, other than bra-logistically.

Monday, January 19, 2009

this morning's check-up

I am freshly home from my appointment with the oncologist.

Chest X-ray came back fine and normal.

Bloodwork came back mostly fine, but white blood cells and lymphocytes are low, so he wants me to have them checked every four weeks.

He said that chance of recurrence is highest in the first two years. One of those is over. He said that because I responded so well to the chemo and because they treated me so aggressively, he doesn't expect there will be any problems.

I mentioned the itchy, and he agreed that it was likely from the pool.

He commended me again for being fit and active, and said that "most women your age are heavy and sedentary, and it really is a shame." I agree (with the shame part, I don't know if "most" are that way or not).

I go back in four months.

I stopped back into the infusion room to say hello, but none of my nurses were there. On Friday, when I had bloodwork done, none of my phlebotomists were there. Where did everybody go? :-(

In any case, I am pleased to still be able to say that I am cancer-free. I hadn't expected otherwise, but I'm not sure that the little almost imperceptible voice of "what if" can be completely turned off.

Back to living life :-)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

small odd gratitude

We had some clementines that weren't so tasty any more. I thought I'd juice them and see if the juice was any good, in an effort not to waste them.

While slicing them, it (randomly) occurred to me that I was able to slice them, juice them, and I could have drunk the juice without thinking twice about it. I was grateful not to have fresh fruits on the "do not consume" list any more. It doesn't matter that there's dirt and germs on the peels. My body takes care of them :)

Not sure why that popped into my head this evening, but it did. One more little thing to be grateful for in this strangely the-same-as-before-but-not life after cancer.

Monday, January 5, 2009

a long, fabulous moment of forgetting

On Saturday, I ran a 5K. I am thrilled to report that I beat my previous time by over 5 minutes :)

The race, of course, was outside. I put on my suncreen and didn't think about it again.

That's the first time I was able to "not think about it again" in roughly a year and a half. It felt good (once I realized I had done it) :)

I suspect that I haven't needed to be so concerned about it for a while - take precautions (sunsreen, long sleeves, umbrella when the sun is intense) and let it go. It was nice to let it go.


There have been a barrage of ads for a new(-ish?) cancer center in the area. They claim to have a wide array of services, including homeopathic docs. I wonder if they take patients who have completed treatment just to talk about lingering side effects and nutrition and things like that. I'm going to check into it.

On that topic, they have a billboard that reads, "Anyone who says winning isn't everything has never fought cancer" or something significantly close to that. My initial reaction was "fuck yeah!" but then I got to thinking about it ...

Having cancer has certainly changed my life (though not in the ways that most people inquired about - my partying hasn't decreased at all ;) ). And while of course I would have needed to survive in order for that to happen long-term, I don't think just getting through it would be considered a "win." Or maybe it'd be like a win because the other team forfeited. It seems to me that for cancer survival to be a win, there needs to come from it more than just surviving ... but that's just me.