I’m happy about scanziety because it is what I deal with on a semi-often basis (like doctors visits, follow ups, etc). Most times my issues are well managed with a combination of exercise, activity, meditation, hypnosis (yes, hypnosis) and positive thinking oh and just being soooo busy I can’t find time to think but sometimes, it hits me bad.
Today, in fact, I woke up with pain in my right armpit and what looked, to me, like swelling. I don’t stare at my armpits often but this looked weird and after my surgery in 2016 where 25 lymph nodes were removed (5 of which tested positive for cancer) I don’t feel much on my right arm pit, chest area like at all...
Waking up with pain could be explained away as since I’m numb, I don’t feel something until it hurts but the swelling alarmed me.
I emailed Sloan knowing that it’s thanksgiving week and I just do not have time to take a day to go into them and check (but that I would if I had to - but how to know if I had to) ... a survivor friend of mine had something similar happen in September and she told me she went to her radiation doctor locally to check it out and I had a big lightbulb moment.
My radiation doctor was able to fit me in TODAY same day as my wake up panic and after catching up she checked me out and said it’s all ok and normal. Normal and unremarkable is all I want to be now and knowing in a few short days it will be 2 years since my diagnosis it was that much more important for me to know what was going on as soon as possible.
So yes I’m thankful for scanziety though I hate it, too - it is a big part of my new normal and I have to roll with it. Also thankful for my radiation doctor squeezing me in both literally and figuratively lol!
This, of course, does not float everyone’s boat but for me, I am so grateful for my faith and the quiet strength I have been able to pull from it.
I was raised Catholic and dragged to church every week no matter the issues in my family (and there were many) and I always thought that when I was on my own I would not go.
Then, I moved to Italy at 21 for my MBA - one of the most church centered countries and I, in its capital of churches - Rome - in fact right outside of Vatican City.
I went to mass and I went to mass not only at the Vatican but also at the church on my block, Santa Maria Mediatrice (my address was via Santa Maria Mediatrici, 21).
When I came home, everything happened so quickly - I was single, then dating, then met my husband and was engaged and married in a blink of an eye (it felt like decades but really only a few years) and then I had a child. And then another.
I was that mother - the one who brought my toddler and baby to church, alone, and dealt with the stares and the smiles and the head shaking. My daughter often sat nicely in church and for that grace I was paid back tenfold with my son who often wriggled away and found his way to the alter to dance.
I still went. When my daughter became an alter server in 3rd grade I nearly burst with pride and excitement. Now, it’s my son’s turn to be an alter server and today both children will serve the mass together. I’m just praying no one throws the other off the alter.
I’m blessed in that I believe - not everyone does and that’s ok.
I am not unaware of the issues with organized religion, particularly Catholicism and I wish I could fix it but I can’t. Instead I take what I need from my faith, my prayers and my belief that the best words I ever learned (just recently, though I first heard of Padre Pio as a child) are “Pray, hope and don’t worry.”
This speaks to me and helps me through when I do not know how I will do it.
I skipped out on some fun last night to rest up for the weekend of Christmas fairs and more and celebrating what I did not even know I was worried about - all cancer survivors know that when they take something out of you, they send it to pathology and my ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterine lining were alll sent to be tested though I had been told they “looked good” - last night my pathology was posted to my portal (thanks sloan for the portal) and my parts were all unremarkable and I let out a deep breathe I didn’t even know I was holding...
Shortly after my diagnosis and completion of treatment, I realized that I was now officially off. My blood counts were off, my weight (of course) was off, my hair did not exist and I was basically a big mess.
During my treatment, I could not focus on anything beyond survival. Before my diagnosis, I had been running 5k each day (yes, I was insane); it would take me about 45 minutes to an hour. I ate well but I had creeped up in my weight for years from like 21 years old each year saw 1-8 pounds gained, 2 lost, etc til I had gone from 135 pounds to upwards of 160.
After treatment, I was 180 pounds and yet I knew that was not important to freak out about - I was once 200+ during pregnancy so 180 was not such a big deal...My treatment ended in July; by September, I had an appointment with the Integrative Medicine doctor at Sloan to find out what supplements and basically what I had to do to limit recurrence and other risk factors.
I had already been blogging and built some of my tribe and knew that no matter what I did the risk would be unknown as on paper, I had no risk factors and yet had stage 3 breast cancer.
Our appointment went well, he explained to me the accepted supplements and then examined me. His first response upon feeling my stomach was that I had too much belly fat. I did not kick him, though I wanted to - at this point, I was down to 160 pounds, which was around what I was at diagnosis - he said having hormone positive cancer means that having belly fat is the worst thing to have as fat stores hormones.
He told me that my goal weight should be 147, or lower. I was flabbergasted. I had not seen a "1" and a "4" on my scale in a decade and change and here I was eating less, exercising more and struggling to get down to 160... was he insane?
His advice to me was to do the smoothie challenge and I thought he was insane. I thought this type of thing was a scam but when Sloan tells me to do something, I do it.
I began the "cleanse" and realized how much food I was eating that I just did not need. I did 2 juices a day, one meal (dinner) and snacks of nuts and apples through the day. The weight began to just fall out - my physical activity remained at about 10k steps a day but I was losing weight and fat like crazy.
I now wear a 28inch waist jean with weight of 128-135 pounds. It is incredible. I did not think I would EVER weigh less than 150 again. I feel better and cannot believe how much weight I dropped and have kept off for over a year. I am stable at my current weight and learned vital lessons in nutrition, activity and the delicate balance of being in menopause and having to keep belly fat low.
I wish it wasn’t true - I wish it didn’t happen anymore to anyone but I know that it will...
Just breast cancer alone has a diagnosis rate of every 2 minutes - and that’s not counting all of the kinds of cancer that exist in this world.
Unfortunately I keep hearing of more and more people diagnosed and they are getting closer and closer to my circle and it seems I am the person everyone thinks of - as I am the cancer mom; the woman diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer with no lump and with amazing speed from clogged milk duct (microscopic at that) to a 5.6cm tumor with lymph node involvement and an 8+ month process of treatment and then a further 24 of clinical trial drugs and the big unknown of cancer always in my sights though trying like mad to forget it.
What I want you to know, dear unlucky friend, is that you are one of millions diagnosed probably today - but it does not bring you peace. Instead think of this-
1- know that you are not alone - though you don’t know us yet, you will soon - we are your brothers and sisters in arms against this mighty beast called cancer and we know all too well how sneaky it is and how much we are always in the gray area - until we aren’t again and then we wish for the grey. It can always be worse - until sometimes for some of us, it is. We can do nothing between now and then except wait and give it our all, let us help you do that.
2- grieve your before - mourn as much as you need to the life that seemed so hard even though you were “healthy” but don’t get bogged down too much in the mire - try not to spiral too much - your life, your well being depends on you being able to get through it - and it’s not easy but it will prove to you how much you can do and how much people can love you and also the opposite the bad stuff - but you will be surprised how much you can handle when you have no “choice”.
3- know you always have choices - most important is your medical team and how you want to proceed - know that you still do have some control but also that most of the control is now in the hands of your medical team, your surgical response, your pathology, your options -
4-be prepared to learn a vocabulary no one wants to learn about meds, medical jargon, and more - always have a notebook and pen to write questions to record the answers and to hopefully have someone with you to do both for you
5- be how you have to be - whether it’s strong and warrior like or crying and scared - your reaction to a very bad situation is your own - you are still you. Find what brings you peace and do that - and if you can’t find it, ask me and I will help you try.
I did not get the abrupt end in treatment most other early stage cancer patients get - instead of going for my last follow up after chemo which would then lead to a 6-month or yearly follow up between oncology and surgery, I signed up to be part of a clinical trial.
I have written a lot about my decision making process and the trial itself for an already approved drug called Ibrance but I have not yet written about being thankful for it.
Instead of going the 6-12 month follow up route, I began my life after chemo and radiation with every 2-week visits to Sloan for blood work and then clearance to continue the trial at the original dosage. Many people would get dosage tweaked or changed around if their side effects were too bad (the list of side effects were about 6 pages long on my study sign up paperwork).
Once I hit the 3 month mark, I switched to visits every 3 months instead of every 2 weeks. I now go in and do bloodwork, see oncologist or nurse and then pick up the next 3 month of pills.
I am on cycle (or month) 17 (starts next week) of 24 month study.
I am thankful to be at Sloan and to have been offered this study -
I am also happy, despite the side effects and the potential for infection due to low WBC that means any fever must be checked by hospital, that I am doing this trial. It might one day by the standard of care for early stage breast cancer and hopefully it helps me continue to be NED as I approach my 2 year cancerversary and for many many years beyond.
Oh yes, I am talking about my kindle. I was born with a book in my hand, I think - I myself was in labor and delivery with my daughter reading a freaking book - my family thinks that might be the first for a book...
At 10 I was reading Wuthering Heights to Forever and had to have books confiscated when I veered into too much adult territory.
When I was a kid, I wanted to read more than anything - until I found boys then I wanted to read while flirting with a boy... couldn’t quite figure that out.
Before I met my husband I would go into bookstores and expect to find a boyfriend - I was the one whose paychecks while in college at a local advertising firm went alllll to the midtown 14th Street Barnes and Noble and I would struggle on the bus laden down with books.
When I moved to Italy in 1998, I got an Amazon delivery of the latest book by a favorite author Charming Billy was the book, the authors name I forgot.
I never thought I would fall for an electronic reading device - I always felt the books themselves spoke to me and led me to them via their titles, their colors, their covers.
Then I had kids and carrying books was replaced with carrying babies. I started with a kindle app on my phone - me who’s more myopic than anyone I know - quickly realized my eyes were strained beyond belief. One Christmas my husband gifted me a paper white kindle and I was converted.
Recently I splurged and got myself a refurbished Voyager kindle with built in internet so I never have to be without a book and I have spent a lot of time over the last few months getting lost in book after book because I love to and because I had been working way too hard and needed to unwind.
Now recovering from my procedure my kindle is my bff again.
Thanks to having one I can read and relax :).
This is a big one for someone who can hold a grudge like none other...
I learned during my illness that harboring bad feelings, being angry and upset only spiraled me to feel worse and worse and worse - I learned that people would leave me and hurt me even though I was missing a tit and bald and barely able to stand.... I learned that people would pity me and think obviously how glad they were not to be me ...
I also learned that holding on to these slights, these betrayals and these absolute bad things would only bring me down worse than I was - soo I instead focused on all who were shining their light to help me and promised myself that I would try to be a light for others and not be so petty so childlike and so negative....
I forgave others but more importantly I forgave myself for being a jerk for being negative and for ultimately having a body that failed. As I continue to heal from my bso, I am still practicing forgiveness of me and all that I continue to struggle with such as forgiving others and being a light and not to shine it on me for who I am but for how I could maybe help others.
It’s so funny how in laws are sometimes not always harmonious - been there, done that ... as part of the old pre-cancer me I inherited an old rivalry of mom vs grandma from my own mom. When she moved out, my grandma was there to raise us. My mom always felt like my grandma monopolized our time and even perhaps was the catalyst for her ultimately leaving when I was about 12 or 13.
This was inbred in me that a mother in law is a threat to a mother’s relationship despite me not being angry at my own grandma - in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I was not mad, I was devastated when she passed away when I was 23 years old and I miss her every day still.
This does not change the fact that I also love my mom - though anyone will tell you we are more like best friends than mother and daughter.
So all of this history really screwed with me - until cancer. I will say that my mother in law and I are freakishly alike in many ways and that in a way my husband married his mother (it’s ok- despite trying really hard NOT to I think I kind of married my father - how to break this cycle for my kids I just don’t know...)
I am thankful for my mother in law - our history is crazy - we have had huge ups and downs but she (and my father in law, may he Rest In Peace) always have been there for us in soo many ways.
During my recent convalescence post ovary and tube removal, I have been struggling hard. My mother in law stayed for as many days as she could and while here she kept the children busy, slept with them downstairs so I could sleep at night, cleaned my whole house (including my fridge and windows), did alll of my laundry (there was a lot) and cooked and fed the people who are always hungry in my house.
She was only supposed to stay 1-2 nights but took pity on my as I hobbled around with intense pain written all over my face. I am thankful to call her mom - though we do still drive each other crazy. That’s normal :).
Of course on this Veteran’s Day I am super grateful for everyone who served and continues to serve to keep us safe. My husband was a police officer for many years and saw many things - I watched a mini-documentary about PTSD today and Vietnam War veterans which was quick and eye opening.
I am also thankful for my continued healing as I actually wore jeans today and went out for a bit.
God bless America and all of our veterans!
Super Mom BC Eradicator - connect with me via the icons above :). Thanks! XOXO LISA (my secret identity ... )