Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Name that Pain

My back hurts. Also my right foot has a pain in it. I have felt shooting pains in both breasts. I am certain that I have had random pains in my life before and not worried that it was cancer. I just don't remember what that felt like. It is a constant battle to tell myself that these are normal aches and pains that people get from overdoing it, or straining a muscle or being tired. I have a very good imagination and unfortunately every time I have an ache or a pain of any kind, my first thought is that it is cancer. When do I get to go back to not worrying about all of these things? When do I get to accept the fact that it might just be something as simple as a pulled muscle?

I keep remembering that great scene from Kindergarten Cop with Arnold Schwartzenegger when he has a headache and the kid tells him "it's probably a tumor". Arnold's response---"it's not a tumor!"

I will try to put Arnold's voice in my head every day and every time I feel an ache or a pain. "It's not a tumor!" If Arnold says it, it must be true.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cheering Section

I was a very shy child and the athletic ability in my family went to my sister. I did not play in any type of organized sport growing up so I have never had been the object of a cheering section.

Last night was the auction/fundraiser for our 3 Day walk. It was a great night and I had a really great time. Part of the event was a slideshow of pictures from the 44 people who make up the Valley Girls and Guys team. Since I was not on the team last year, I did not have a picture of myself participating in the walk. Instead I submitted one of my favorite pictures of Head Shaving Day that shows my family's hands on my newly shorn head. I had not seen the slide show so I didn't know what to expect.

All together there were 17 friends and family sitting at my table and the table behind me. When that picture of me came up on the slide show under the heading of "those who are fighting", I heard all of them cheer for me. For me! I have never heard such a thing in my life. It was my first cheering section and it was for something that I didn't know warranted it...fighting cancer. I was humbled and surprised by the reaction.

The fundraiser brought in an astounding $30,000.00 that benefits the Susan G. Komen organization. That is $30,000.00 closer to finding a cure. Thank you to Tina for making the whole thing happen and for getting through my story without crying! I am extremely thankful to all those who contributed and came to join us for a very fun night. Thank you to Trena, Pam, Jeff, Pam, Keith, Jim, Trude, Kari, Chad, Cathy, Mary, Steve, Holly, Dawn, Mike and my wonderful husband. Thank you for your amazing generosity and thank you for being my very first cheering section. You have given me a memory that will stay with me forever.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blood on Hold

Today at my office there is a blood drive. I have been giving blood for several years and the local blood donor location LOVES me! I have O- blood meaning that anyone on the planet can benefit from my blood. It is an easy thing for me to do that helps others.

Because I have a history of blood donation, I get emails and phone calls pretty regularly telling me that the supply of O- blood is low. I finally responded back telling them that I had been diagnosed with cancer and undergone chemotherapy and had been told that I couldn't donate blood.

A very nice man responded and told me that with the particular type of cancer that I had and the treatment that I received, I will be eligible to donate blood again after one year. I am happy to think that after a year, my blood count and quality of blood will be considered healthy again. So I can't donate blood in the office blood drive today, but sign me up in September. I'll be the first in line with nice clean blood to donate in the hopes that something that costs me nothing can make the difference in saving a life.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hello 44

Yesterday was my 44th birthday and I had a great day. The whole thing felt a little surreal to me. I spent so much time last year talking about my age that I thought maybe I would never get past 43. At every doctor appointment, every time I was asked when I was diagnosed, every document that I filled out for every doctor, my answer was 43. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 43. I went through treatment when I was 43. I am ONLY 43. It was a little like one of those dreams where you keep running, but can't get anywhere. It was by far the longest year of my life.

Now I can say I made it to 44. I can say I am glad that I am getting older. I am glad that I have the chance to be 44 and I am looking forward to 45, 55, 85. I want to be able to say that I am a 40 or 50 year survivor. I want to be able to say that the best present I ever received was the eradication of breast cancer. I want to see it in my lifetime.

Happy birthday to me! I made it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Healthy Living

Today I read two different articles discussing how what we eat and drink can affect the incidence of breast and other types of cancers.

"Better diets, more exercise and controlling weight could also prevent more than 40 percent of colon and breast cancer cases in some countries"

In my case, I can't blame my cancer diagnosis on genes so I can scratch that off the list. I can't blame it on family history, cigarettes or obesity. There is no definitive reason why I was diagnosed with cancer and someone else wasn't.

I do believe that our environment has something to do with the increase in cancer diagnoses. I don't know what it is exactly. The food that goes in, the food that doesn't go in, the air quality, the toxins in the environment or some combination of all of the above.

I wish I could say that I am a perfect healthy specimen, but I'm not. I have tried very hard to modify my diet and for the most part I do quite well. I rarely drink anymore and have increased my exercise. But the fact is, I still am carrying about 20 pounds of extra weight, I still eat dairy and red meat and I could certainly use more exercise and less stress.

Though I very much appreciate the news articles, it is also a little bit frustrating to hear that 40% of cancers could be prevented with healthier living. Tell that to the organic eating, maniacal exercisers, yoga breathing people who have been diagnosed with cancer. Tell that to Lance Armstrong or Scott Hamilton. It feels a little bit like blaming the victim; "If only you wouldn't have eaten that steak, you wouldn't have been diagnosed with cancer..."

I put just as much faith in good eating as anyone else does, but there are plenty of people who have much worse living habits than I have and they seem to make it through life without a cancer diagnosis---(they may die of heart failure, but that is a different discussion altogether!)

So I guess the next time my daughters ask me how I got cancer, I'll have to tell them, "It was the Cheetos"


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hair Cut Day!

My last real haircut was in June of 2008. I knew that I was going to start chemo in July and was going to lose my hair so I wanted to have at least a month of a GREAT haircut. It lasted roughly 4 weeks and then I had that healthy head of hair shaved off.

After being bald, one would think that I would never again cut my hair, but it actually felt great. When my hair started growing back, it was very light and fuzzy for its first venture back into the world. As it has continued to grow, it has gotten thicker and much curlier than what I had before. My hair started growing back after my last chemo in September, but has taken several months to be long enough to do anything with. There still isn't much there for length, but I took my short little hairs into the salon yesterday and had it cut and colored.

I am very happy with the end result. They cut all of the fuzzy baby hair ends off and put a nice rich brown color into it so it doesn't look so mousy. It is still curly and I'm sure will continue to be, but at least now I can grow my hair out and it will look like a style instead of just grow-out. People might even think I have this hairstyle on purpose!

Both of my children asked me if this meant that I was going to keep my hair short as I think they both thought I would just let it continue to grow until it was similar in length to what it was before. They like the new cut, but I think they are a little alarmed that I have lost my mind if I am cutting the 2 inches of hair that I have.

When you start chemo, everyone tells you that it is only hair and it will grow back. It isn't quite as simple as that and there are lots of emotions that go with being bald, but yes, it does grow back and thank goodness it does!