Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Warning-Cancer-related Post

This morning, I got my period again - exactly one month to the day from when I had it last month. Some of you may be saying, "Why is this a big deal?" or "That is not a reason to celebrate. I would celebrate NOT having my period". Well, I totally understand.

But, let me explain why it is a big deal to me. There are benefits to your body of delaying menopause. Among them are two that are very important to me. The first is that the hormones related to monthly cycles also delay the onset of boneloss and resulting osteoporosis. It is beneficial to us as human beings to delay bone loss for as long as possible. The second benefit is that the same hormones aid in the functioning of the brain - particularly the area of memory. Delaying menopause also delays the effects of the hormonal changes on the brain.

So, that is why it is a big deal to me.

The other question you may have is, "Why is it a big deal NOW?"

And, that brings us to the cancer bit. As part of my treatment for Breast Cancer, I went through chemotherapy and that chemotherapy shut down the operation of my ovaries and really messed with my hormones although, at the time, I was no where near menopause. For women in their 20's, there is a small chance that they will resume their normal cycles. Once they hit their 30's, the chance is further reduced and, in their 40's, it is almost nil. Kiss a normal menopause goodbye and welcome to all of the woes of old age - decades early. For not only are you forced through early menopause but the whole 10+ years process is compacted into about 4 months. Your body ages over 10 years in that time!

I, like the others, stopped my periods. A year went by and no periods. But then, 16 months later, I had a period. Testing showed my FSH levels back to normal for a pre-menopausal woman. A miracle. My life seemed to have returned to the pre-chemo phase. But, then the next month came and...no period...and the next and.....no period. After 14 months, I had given up and just guessed that it was all a fluke. But then, almost exactly 3 years since my original diagnosis and 2 1/2 years after chemo, I seem to have fallen into a normal cycle again. For, not only did I have another period after 14 months, but I again had a period this month - 2 in a row!

So now, maybe I can go through menopause like everyone else - at the right time for me. And, in the meantime, hope that my bones and brains can be preserved a little longer.........

Saturday, April 05, 2008

So here I sit drinking chocolate milk and beer

So my last post wasn't just an April Fool's joke after all. Here I am back and writing again.

Today is Saturday and I have made it through another week. YEAH! Life is still hectic and I wonder where the time goes to. There must be some big, black hole out there that just SUCKS it in! Whoooshhh! Because one minute, it is 7AM and the next, it is almost Midnight and I don't remember much of the time in between.

And here I sit drinking chocolate milk and beer. Sounds like a country song. It all came about because I got up this morning to go to Curves and work out but got a phone call. By the time I got off of the phone call, Curves was closed so I missed my workout. The next thing on my calendar was the Animal Shelter. But first, lunch. I broiled a pork chop and poured myself a glass of chocolate milk. Got another phone call and missed my time for the shelter. Walked into the kitchen and decided to cook another pork chop and saw the beer in the fridge. Would taste good to marinate the pork chop in that, I thought. Once the bottle is open, you surely have to finish it. But I still had the chocolate milk, too. So, here I sit drinking chocolate milk and beer. What comfort food.

And, I have been doing more work on my party. Calling folks to follow up so that, if I have space, I can invite more of the people that I couldn't originally invite since the aquarium is so strict on numbers. I am also trying to finish up arrangements with the hotel and next will be the lunch stuff. DJ can't be finalized until next week. Then there is the cake tasting. Wish someone would come along with me but, it is that "busy" thing again. A day hanging out in Santa Cruz and Monterey tasting cake just doesn't fit most folks schedules. And, I still have the flowers. Not to mention the Million hours of exercise I have to get in before I can shop for a dress (and, hopefully find a beautiful one). Oh yes, the hairdresser, too. Hmmmmmm.........Will be so glad when the planning is done but then it will be time to send out the invitations.

And, I keep looking outside dreaming of getting some of that sunshine out there.

Well, back to the planning.........

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Time Flies

So, time flies and I have been a terrible blogger. It is not because nothing has happened in this year of 2008. It is just because everything has been incredibly busy. I can't believe that April 1 has already arrived. Whew!

Jan and Feb were so full of Drs. appts as my regular semi-annual cancer checkups hit at that time. I saw the Radiation Oncologist first and he told me that I had graduated and didn't need to see him anymore. Apparently, the chance of a local reoccurrance (same breast, underlying ribs, lungs, local lymph nodes) greatly decreases after 3 years. Metastasis and distant recurrance is still a danger and only has declines at 2 years, 10 years and 20 years - although the greatest decline does not come until after 20 years. I have met many women with recurrances at 20 years.

Next, I went for my mammogram and MRI. They bypassed the ultrasound this year since they are getting a nice set of records from the MRI and will only do the ultrasound if something seems suspicious. The MRI was a traumatic experience to say the least. I had caught the terrrible cold that was going around and was coughing up a storm the week before. The coughing had stopped two days before the MRI so I thought that I was going to be okay. Not the case. The MRI session started off very badly. They had to put an IV into my hand for the contrast. The tech could not do it and tried to call someone from ER. No one was available so she tried again. 45 minutes later, she was successful. And I was stressed and in pain. We headed in to the MRI. I looked at this new (to me) machine. The facility where I usually do it was doing a computer upgrade so I had to go to another facility. On this machine, all I saw was bare, hard rubber. They had me lay down and I gagged as I thought of my bare skin touching that rubber that so many others had touched before. No sheet, no protection - nothing. My sternum was right against a center bar of hard rubber. It hurt a lot, was uncomfortable and hard to breathe. The tech, rather indelicately, reached up under the table and tugged on both breasts to center them to her satisfaction in the breast cups. Again, just hard rubber. No sheet or paper linings. They slid me into the machine and started. In the middle of the session (after about 1 hour), my chest and sternum could no longer take it. I had a coughing fit. They pulled me out. The tech was angry. You ruined the pictures, she said. I asked her how much longer and she told me we had to start over. Back in I went. My face was covered in tears and my body covered in sweat. I was soaked head to toe but determined to make it through. For the next 1 1/2 hours, I concentrated on breathing deeply - in and out, in and out and forced myself not to swallow or cough. It was horrifying but I finished. Afterward, the tech told me that I moved and the pictures were blurry. I couldn't believe it.

The next week, I saw my surgeon. She checked the MRI pictures and said that they were perfect. No problem. She also said that there was no change from last year. Yeah! That tech must have had a bad day! Another side effect was that I had a terrible reaction that appears to be an allergy to the contrast solution. I got hives, shortness of breath, loss of bowel and bladder control. Had to leave work and rush home where I passed out and slept the night away. They next day, the hives started to receed and I was better.

Finally, I saw my oncologist. He examined me, said I was fine and see you in six months.

I still haven't seen my GP, Opthamologist or Dentist. Those come this month and next. Ugh!

After all of the doctor's appts., I spent March trying to catch up at work and get my own home schedule back on track.

My 3rd anniversary as a cancer survivor passed quietly on March 15th as I spent the evening celebrating St. Pat's day with family.

I also found out in Feb that I managed to get a date at the Monterey Bay Aquarium to hold my birthday party. This is a once in a lifetime experience and I am so excited. My excitement is tempered by the fear that no one will come or that I will have way too many people. I sent out the Save the Date cards and no one responded so it looks like maybe no one will come. :(

The past month has been a whirlwind of trying to get the party planned for, make save the date cards and figure out what to do with hotels and day after lunch. I think that it will be great fun and really do hope that people will respond. They can't just show up. The aquarium is very strict and must have a number of attendees and each of their names. I am also limited in the number I can invite and need responses so that I can invite some of those that it broke my heart to leave off of the list.

And, of course, I am still working full time and trying to maintain, home, yard, dogs and see friends and family. It is exhausting and I have not been too up to par lately. The fatigue is still taking a toll on me. I am doing my best to eat well and exercise but my body has not recovered since the chemo and surgeries although I have to say that it is gradually getting better.

I am guessing that is enough of a catch up.

Happy April Fool's Day everyone!