Monday, March 2, 2015

Living With Cancer

          Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 3 is Triple Negative Breast Cancer Day - This cancer is not the kind you want to have if you have to have cancer at all. The only drug that attacks it is chemo.
         There are so many different kinds of chemo that are used, it depends on the type of breast cancer you have. People receive more than one drug at a time usually, along with steroids, anti-nausea meds and who knows what else that they are pumping into your veins. 
           It usually takes about four hours, during that time I would talk with Ron, we would talk to others in the room, or  look through cancer magazines. There were sometimes that I would take a nap and Ron would go exploring the floor.If my appointment was in the mid-morning, we would still  be there when they served a light lunch. I sat in a recliner, but Ron had to sit in a regular chair. The nurses were very kind, and if they were not too busy they would make us laugh. At one treatment Ron and the nurses sang doo wop songs, they had the whole room involved. It was a nice session. Some people had their treatments in private rooms while they were in bed. When a person was finished with Chemo the nurses would make a big deal out of it and gave out a diploma to show that they got through the treatments.
          The type of cancer I had/have is the same kind of cancer that Robin Roberts had, Triple Negative Breast Cancer.  I was diagnosed in October, the 17 of 2006. After many tests, scans, x-rays, MRI's - I had  a lumpectomy on Nov. 27, 2006. I really wanted a mastectomy, but my doctor told me that I didn't need one. They told me it was a very early cancer, with no lymph node involvement. I was Stage 1, grade 2.  I remember so vividly the one doctor telling me that this was just a bump in the road and I could go on and live my life after my treatments and radiation. I believed him.
           I had to have 5 very strong treatments of chemo followed by 33 rounds of radiation. I had a very scary side affect after my first chemo treatment. My white blood cells crashed, it actually went down to zero, which is bad. This happened three days after the treatment. I was running a fever and called the doctor who told me to go to the emergency room. At the hospital I was put into a private room and everyone had to put on a  mask and gloves before coming into the room. I didn't have an  immune system to combat any germs that might be floating around. Thank goodness for Neulasta, it somehow works in bringing the white blood count back up. After that we had to drive to AGH the next day after treatments so I could get the Neulasta shot. There were no problems with my count after that. I am not sure if that is the correct spelling of the word.
         I was relatively healthy at the time I was diagnosed, so I was able to work during treatment plus continue to exercise. Pretty much my life went back to normal after it all was done, except I had to have a pacemaker put in for Atrial Fib that I developed caused from the radiation treatments.
        Two years after I had to have a radical hysterectomy. I came home with a catheter that I had for a week. Not very pleasant and I could not wait to get it out. Otherwise everything went well with the operation and no cancer was found,
       I have not felt carefree or normal since having cancer, I have been robbed of those wonderful days of waking up feeling normal and carefree. Sure, there are days when I don't think about it as much, but not a day goes by that I don't. All I have to do is  look in the mirror if nothing else.
         5-1/2 years later my doctors told me I was on my way out. They considered me in permanent remission and they didn't want to see me for a year - a whole year! I was thrilled, I actually believed them. Finally I could start making plans for the future, my doctors told me I had it licked. That was in December, 2012.  I felt the lump in January of 2013 (same breast-recurrence) and on Feb.27, 2013  I had a mastectomy. Recuperating this time was hell for me. I had drains, pains, and too much time by myself except for visiting nurses. After I healed from all of the above, I had to go through 6 rounds of Chemo, this time with side effects, I had abnormal bleeding, I was extremely fatigued and had a hard time moving around. Treatment lasted from March until August 2013. It was nothing like the first time.  I actually had to take a leave of absence from work because of fatigue and off and on pain. I was really weepy this time, I don't know if it was from losing a breast or the fact that the cancer came back.  As I started to heal mentally and physically,  I started to  think," now I will be ok  - it's gone, no lymph node involvement, clear margins, they got it all out, and I made it through all the treatments - I'll be okay now."  WRONG -
        I was having a CT scan for another issue when the doctor told me that the CT scan showed the spot on my lung had gotten a little bigger from the last time I had a CT scan. I didn't even know I had a spot, no one ever mentioned it to me. So to make a long story short, that is how I found  out by accident that the breast cancer went to my lung. Even though it was devastating to find out, I was fortunate that the CT scan for another problem showed that spot was larger. 
        There it started all over again, I had to go to a pulmonary doctor and surgeon, I had to have a biopsy of the lung. The biopsy came back negative, even though the pet scan showed differently. I have to say I truly did not think it was cancer because of my so called gut feeling and the results of the biopsy. But my pulmonary doc explained it to me this way. "a pepper can look so perfect from the outside, all red and shiny, but when you cut the pepper open, you see that it is rotten by the core."
So this past August of 2014, I had a cancerous triple negative breast cancer nodule removed from my lung. I have seventy percent lung capacity and still have 3 spots on my lung at this time, but am now taking oral Chemo to hopefully shrink the spots and keep the cancer at bay.
      The last CT scan showed activity in the frontal part of my skull, so I had to have another test to see if it was cancer. I was really beside myself, even though my doctor said that radiation would take care of it, I didn't want it to be cancer.  I had that test this past Thursday and found out today, Monday that it is not cancer. God is so good to me and I am so very thankful. I am also thankful for all who pray for me. It is such a comfort.
       I'm living a new normal now. Cancer has taken its toll on me. I have chemo brain, *(yep it really exist) I have a hard time with my balance, and I walk like I'm drunk. Plus the fatigue, joint and back pain stop me from doing the things that were so normal to me before. Like going to a bookstore and browsing through everything at my leisure, going shopping - I really miss shopping, both grocery and department store. I am thankful that I can still go to work at a place I love and enjoy, I am still able to attend the grand kids activities and do what Ron loves most, go out to eat.
        Ron does the cooking now, lets face it - he does mostly everything. He is so good to me, he never complains, but yet listens to me complain- which I do a lot, trust me. I get upset because I can't walk right - climb steps as if they were mountains, if I want to work in the kitchen I have to sit on a chair, and the HERNIA.
       BUT- I am so thankful for what I do have, for my family, my life - yes my life - I am still here and try to make the most of the day I have been blessed with.
                       I am blessed in so many ways that I have no right to complain at all.

This has not been double checked for mistakes, so there are probably many - just ignore or correct what ever you feel like doing -

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Dee's shared items


This time of year makes me think of all of those things I have to be thankful for - - - -
my husband
my children
my grandchildren
my health
my freedom
always thankful for friends made