As much as I don’t desire to celebrate cancerversaries or many other dates that mark my cancer journey, today is a date I will never forget. It was two years ago on this day that I had my lumpectomy to remove the nasty cancer from my body.
I remember the entire long day as my surgery was scheduled for 2pm. I was nervous because not eating for that many hours was going to be hard for me. There was also the issue with my frequent potty breaks. For some reason I had to go so many times while waiting for the surgery and I trotted across the hall to the restroom dragging iv lines while trying to hold closed my gown. There was also the wire that had to be placed in my breast and then a radioactive substance was injected there as well. The nurse came in carrying the stuff with large gloves. It was out of a sci-fi flick and I kept thinking “they’re going to put that in my body?” Yes they were. The things we endure to try to become well again.
The last thing I remember before going into surgery was begging for something to take the edge off. The nurses kept putting that off and it wasn’t until the anesthesiologist came in and saw that I was in a state (from nerves and not eating ) that I got a shot of some very nice stuff. I recall happily babbling all the way down the hall into the operating room and saying something to Dr Bahl my rockstar surgeon. She laughed and then I was waking up in recovery. Cancer gone.
Two years later. I’m ever so grateful for this time I’ve had. I’m was so thankful for the clear mammo I had in August. The intense pain of the 3D mammogram-where smashing the boobs down as far as they can crank the Machine is mandatory- was worth the “normal/benign” finding that came ten minutes later. Note to anyone facing 3D for the first time:Take Advil or something before and after. It helps some with the discomfort.
So two years later. Life hasn’t been the same. It’s so much better in the most important ways and harder in others. And the funny thing is some of the hard things have actually blossomed into good things.
Case in point. My brain. Somehow my brain was affected by this whole thing. I’m not able to multi-task like before. I get overwhelmed easily and my brain is foggy a lot. There are so many things that play a role in this. The cancer treatments themselves. Radiation and the anti-cancer meds I take now can play a part in the change to my brain. I’ve also been in peri-menopause and now full blown menopause (well I hope but can’t say for sure until May 7,2016). This can wreak havoc on the brain. I take piles of natural things to combat this fog and to keep my body as healthy as possible. But the brain thing is still there. It is frustrating. It makes working at my job hard. I can’t keep focus. But I’ve come to realize that it’s ok. I had to finally admit to myself that I really dislike the job anyway. It’s a business that has been struggling and I’m tired of it and the stress of it. It took a lot to admit this but my new brain made me realize that sometimes you have to let go before you can move on. And I really want to move from that to something else. I’d like to continue to work from home so I suppose I’ll see what happens as I think in those turns. Karma (or God) has a way of bringing things to light. So I imagine one day the next thing for me will become clear.
There have been been frustrations with my new brain but there have been huge blessings too. As I mentioned above I realized I didn’t want to work in my job anymore and that is big but there is more. When I had my old brain I could multi-task and I was always bouncing from one thing to another. I had little down time. Now I find I can stop and chill. At first I didn’t like it – I could sit and do nothing and 45 minutes would just be gone…so not a thing I would have ever let happen when I had my old brain. But now I see the good things about this change. I hate cleaning the house now and am not bothered like I was before with clutter and mess. Before I couldn’t fathom letting the house get too unkempt- I would vacuum and swiffer daily…now once a week works for me. Its freeing and maybe a bit embarrassing if someone pops over and we have some dust bunnies and crap piled up on tables- but only mildly. And there is more! For years I liked the idea of baseball but I couldn’t settle my mind to watch a the long game. I even went to local games and would drink a beer and eat some food and chat with people never paying much attention to the game. I had a hard time waiting for the pitch -yawn yawn- just throw the ball. Now- I love baseball. It just happened one night while sitting and watching a game with my husband I became all things baseball. I now have the MLB app on my phone and get my team line up sent to me daily. I know all the names of the guys on the team and understand lots of the radio chatter on the sports stations. I love the stats and the all the strategy and nuances that go into the game . I will talk baseball on and on with my husband and I must say he considers this blip in my brain a great coup for him! And because we have a business partner that works with the my the team I love, we have gotten to go to a game and sit in some awesome seats. I saw one of the best games of the season with Bryce Harper scoring three homers. And we are going to see the Baseball Hall of Fame very soon. I like this part of my new brain. Who would have thought I would love baseball?
My new brain has also brought out a new creative side. I’m taking more chances and trying new creative things. My most recent endeavor is furniture painting. I am new at it but it is fun and I am learning a lot. And many of our crappy pieces have been reborn. I think my entire family is shocked that I have the patience (I still deal with impatience but in some areas it is better) for this – my old brain would not have been. I would not have taken my time to get it just right- I would have just wanted it finished. Finding this new outlet has been good for me. I can see that even though my new brain had impediments – it had gifts as well.
Physically I still suffer. Before the cancer – physically I was more whole than I am now. Now I am in some ways- broken. I have pain each day and since it is not extreme pain I am able to deal with this pretty well. I have lymphedema which is uncomfortable some days- I have gotten a pump to deal help manage it. It is a condition that will not go away but it can be well managed so it is not a daily bother. I have frozen shoulder and this has been a bigger issue for me. Not know which way to go with treatment has been a challenge. I have some type of nerve damage that has the doctors puzzled and this damage is exacerbated by the shoulder. I am not sure if I have this damage from surgery or lymphedema or what. I do know that from the first day after surgery I had a stiff shoulder and I also know radiation made that worse and I know that I made it worse by shoveling ice and muck during the winter following treatment.
No doctor understands why I feel the way I do and that is frustrating. I have gotten to a point where the symptoms are tolerable and I am not sure having shoulder surgery to release the capsule is a good choice when the doctors who don’t know why you get the painful sensations (that lead to chronic coughing) in your upper body – and who cannot assure you that you would be cured from said discomfort- nor can they guarantee it would not be worse. So here I sit. I have my own stretching regime and I have seen some thawing in the shoulder but I still have the nerve discomfort. For a long time this really got me down.
I have to admit the after the cancer has been worse for me physically than the during. Before the cancer I had some back issues but physically I was strong. I worked out daily and I was in good shape and I need these workouts for my sanity. Before the cancer I could get up on my horse and ride without thinking. Now there is more planning involved…but hey I can still do it. I can still work out – again I am limited and there are more things to consider – but I do it. Before the cancer I didn’t feel sick. I didn’t feel sick on the day I was told I had cancer. The after is different. The battle leaves you with scars. For a good while after i suffered with depression and issues with fear. That eventually ebbed. I have had to come to terms with the fact that I may never be without some issues – thats a hard pill to swallow sometimes. But so many people walk around each day and live their lives with issues. Before cancer I dealt with anxiety and issues with an auto-immune disease. We all deal with stuff. I know I am not alone in that and I don’t want to wallow in a pity party for myself. So instead of putting off doing things until I felt a certain way I vowed that I would get busy living my life. You never know, the way I feel today might be what I long to feel at some point in the future -we don’t know what the future holds for us-and we only have today to really live. So living is what I have been doing. When I flip through the pictures on my phone over the last ten months or so I see a life well lived. I have done more than I ever could have imagined. No I haven’t scaled a mountain or been on a safari but I have done things that I may have never done before the cancer because my anxiety would hold me back. I still battle with it but I battled cancer and that was harder so I push anxiety aside and try to live the life I have now the best I possibly can.
Some days are hard…my nerve issues have been bugging me lately and the shoulder is bothersome- but we all have good days and bad days. The old me could not accept this about myself. Even then when I would not do something bc the beast anxiety had a hold over me I would beat myself up for having a bad day. Now I love myself more and though I don’t like having a bad day where I am not feeling up to snuff I try to allow it to just be and accept it. It is hard bc sometimes I have found that living life after cancer makes you want to speed life up. In that you want to check every item on your bucket list off for fear that you will never get to do it. Two years out from cancer that has subsided some and my new brain in its inability to deal with too much input shuts down – so I have slowed down the manic “I better do this before it is too late” mantra. Because when you are living manic you aren’t really enjoying the moment.
Two years later. I find that my life is sweeter and better than ever before. There are challenges. We all have them. I have found that we will never be without them and it is how we face them and deal with them that makes a difference in our lives, Each day I try to live a good life. I try to find joy. I try to learn something new. I try to laugh. I try to be better to my people. I try to love well. I am not exactly where I would like to be in some aspects of my life but I am happy and blessed to be right where I am.
Thanks for reading…..