Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 515 of 1825

I received a nice email from someone who had read my blog and thanked me for sharing my experience. She said it made her feel less alone on this journey we call breast cancer treatment. Her email really meant a lot to me and prompted me to update my blog.

So how are YOU doing? I hope all is well on your side of the universe, wherever you happen to be.

As for me, life goes on but certainly not without its challenges. My greatest challenge is trying overcome my fear and anxiety about recurrence. I feel as though I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. That's not a good feeling.

I asked a friend who went through breast cancer treatment before I did how she overcomes this nagging fear. She said that she just reminds herself that she didn't go through the surgery, the chemo and the radiation so that she could live her days in fear. No -- she went through all that CRAP so she wouldn't have to live her days in fear. Makes sense to me. And I continually have to remind myself of this fact all the time.

I also have another friend who said she would repeat to herself: "I don't have cancer today. I don't have cancer today." Because unless you get the diagnosis from your doctor, today is a perfectly HEALTHY day.

Those are two techniques I use quite often. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don't.

I am currently on a schedule of getting my mammogram once a year again like a "normal" woman. haha! And my oncology visits have been cut back from four times a year to twice a year. I was supposed to have my mammogram this month but couldn't get in on time. So it's a little delayed. That has me nervous - of course. Why didn't I do a better job of scheduling it in advance? Geez! My next oncology appointment is in December.

I guess my biggest challenge right now (besides the fear and anxiety), is the toll my treatment has taken on my body. By that I mean weight gain. I gained about 30 lbs. during my treatment and following my hysterectomy in April 2012. I feel like a whale. The hot flashes suck, too. But compared to cancer, I am not complaining.

I have decided that one of the best ways for me to fight my fear and anxiety is to develop some sense of control over my situation. For those of us who have been down this path, we know that we cannot control very much in life. But there are some steps we can take to help us feel more in control and I am referring to lifestyle changes. Mainly diet, exercise and some kind of spiritual or meditative practice.

Here is what I know for sure:

  • I know that eating sugar is bad for me. Cancer loves sugar.
  • I know that drinking alcohol is bad for me. Women have a 35% higher incidence of recurrence when they drink alcohol, even just one glass of wine a day.
  • I know that being overweight is also bad for me. Fat cells produce estrogen and my cancer fed on estrogen. Leaner women have a lower incidence of recurrence.
  • I know that being sedentary is bad for me. Women who regularly work out and get their heart rates up in their target zone have much better survival rates than those who are sedentary.

Armed with all this knowledge, you would think that I would have given up the sugary treats, stopped drinking wine, started eating healthier and smaller portions and started working up a sweat every day.

But I haven't. And I cannot tell you why.

I feel guilty about almost everything I eat or drink. It's too sugary, it's too much, I shouldn't be drinking this glass of wine... blah, blah, blah.

Every time I get on the scale or have to buy a larger size, I chastise myself for not losing the chemo weight. I know that women who are overweight are at risk for recurrence not to mention the fact that my love life is suffering (that's another story!). Just lose this damn weight already!

So while I feel a certain sense of accomplishment for having made it through my treatment, I am still not where I want to be. I kept telling myself during my treatment that I just wanted to be healthy. I wanted my life back. I guess I still do.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 291 of 1825

I was at my quarterly oncology check up last week and realized that I have reached another milestone toward survival. One year ago on March 5, I completed all my treatments for breast cancer. I remember how excited I was to wrap up treatments last year. How could I possibly let that "anniversary" slip by like any other day this year?

It's easy. I have gotten on with my life. I have been very busy filling my days with things that I love to do, seeing people I love to see and generally just trying to squeeze every drop of goodness out of every single day.

One of my more exciting endeavors started in January. We do not have any yoga studios on my side of town. I decided that I was tired of driving over 15 miles each way to take yoga classes. And yoga is a big part of my life. I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and open my own yoga studio and Avani Yoga Studio was born.

Keep in mind, I have a regular 8 to 5 day job which I love. But I love yoga, too. And I just had this passion to start a yoga community in my neighborhood. We offer three classes a week at a local preschool. I have two great yoga instructors. I am taking 2 or 3 classes each week (yay!) and have met a lot of great people along the way.

The interest level is very good so I have decided to go ahead and set up my business as an LLC and look for a permanent retail space for the studio. My goal is to have a place up and running no later than September 1, 2013. More to come!

As for cancer -- it never leaves my thoughts for very long. How can it when I take a tamoxifen every morning? But I don't worry about cancer like I used to. Of course, as it get closer to my quarterly checkups, I do tend to worry a little depending on how I feel. But generally speaking, I try to keep it in the rearview mirror.

And maybe that's why I haven't been such a great blogger. But I will try to do better!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Let's Catch Up!

My gosh... I cannot believe it has been so long since I last updated this blog. I have been thinking about an update but just haven't made the time to sit down and post. I guess I keep thinking that the busier I get, the less I will think about cancer and the more "normal" my life will become.

Wrong.

As anyone who has received a cancer diagnosis will tell you - the thought of cancer never goes away. But in my case, it is definitely starting to fade. And I like that!

There are so many things I need to report. And it's all good.

In late October I organized a group of co-workers and family members to walk in the American Cancer Society "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" event. We raised almost $3,000 and had a gorgeous fall day for our walk. Here's a picture of our team:

My co-workers and their families at our cancer walk in October
Thanksgiving was quite special because I was not undergoing any cancer treatment, I had hair and I had enough energy and enthusiasm to actually cook a traditional dinner. My BFF Carolyn came up from Florida with her boyfriend Georg. The four of us has a fantastic long weekend playing golf, eating, drinking, laughing and just generally enjoying life. Who could ask for anything more?

Georg, Carolyn, me and Barry after golf
Enjoying the local wine bar
Now that all the debauchery of Thanksgiving is behind me, I have turned my attention toward my eating habits. For months (years) I have thought about my eating habits in connection with my weight. Now I am thinking about my eating habits in connection with my overall health.

Do I want to lose weight? Oh hell yeah. I have gained about 30 lbs. since my diagnosis and it is not coming off easily. It is not coming off at all. I thank my hysterectomy, tamoxifen, instant menopause, overeating and a sedentary lifestyle for my inability to lose weight.

Right now, I am more concerned with eating high quality, nutritionally sound meals. I recently downloaded an app to my iPhone called 21 Day Vegan Kickstart. The recipes are simple and fantastic. I do not miss meat or dairy at all. I will admit that I add one meal a week of fish or shellfish. Other than that, I am going completely vegan. I still weigh the same but I feel SO much better. Check it out their website here.

In medical news, I had a check up with my oncologist in early December. I asked her to run a test to make sure that I am metabolizing tamoxifen correctly. She ran the test and I am considered an "efficient metabolizer." That eased my mind. I really am not having many side effects (if any) from tamoxifen so I was worried that my body wasn't using it correctly.

Now I don't see my oncologist again until March. I have Christmas, New Year's, a trip to Florida to visit my father and sister and a vacation planned to Nag's Head, NC planned. Lots of fun times ahead. No time to worry about cancer!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

All Is Right With The World

I have never been one to experience "runner's high" or the rush of endorphins that so many people mention when they talk about exercise. I know a lot of people who absolutely cannot start their day without a morning workout.

I am not one of those people.

But lately, I am feeling really good. It seems like ever since I received the all clear on my MRI and mammogram, I have started to feel like I am getting my life back. I am not running from one doctor appointment to another. I have hair that can actually be styled. And I have energy.

As you can see from my side bar on the right, I started working out last week. I have not been perfect but that's okay. I have a job that keeps me pretty busy with community meetings, conferences and overnight travel. It's not a Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 job, so I have realized that my exercise routine needs to be scheduled in where ever it happens to fit. Sometimes I can do it in the morning. Other times, I need to leave work by 5 PM and do it before dinner. The key for me is flexibility and it seems to be working in my favor.

Another key for me is my iPad. I love the TV show "Damages" and watch it on Netflix on my iPad on days when I do cardio. It really makes the time fly and I look forward to my workout because I want to see the next episode.

On days where I split my hour between cardio and strength training, my husband and I workout together. He gets on the treadmill for 30 minutes while I lift weights, then we switch. We did that last night and it worked out great.

My next goal is to incorporate yoga. I have looked into a couple of studios that have a good weekend schedule. If I can add just one class a week, that would make me VERY happy.

So far, so good.

Thanks for checking in with me!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Getting Back On The Horse

No. Not this horse... Although that would be fun!

I am talking about getting back on the workout horse. I have been off for quite awhile. It's time for me to saddle up and get going.

To help hold myself accountable, I added my planned workouts for the rest of this week and next week on the side bar. I will cross them off as I complete them.

My plan may be a bit ambitious but honestly, I have to get into the habit of doing something - ANYTHING - every day. Consistency is key. I may not be able to take a full 45 minutes on the treadmill, but I am going to try.

My plan is to do some cardio every day. I am so out of shape and out of breath. I really need it. I plan to do a total body strength training workout just two days a week. Eventually, I would like to work up to my old routine which was a full body strength training workout three days a week or split body workout (upper, lower, core) four days a week.

I also want to add some yoga into the mix. I love, love, love yoga but unfortunately, I do not have a studio near my house. The closest studio where I can drop in for bikram yoga is about 20 miles away. Another studio that offers hatha and vinyasa is about 15 miles away. I am reserving the weekends for yoga.

That's my plan. Wish me luck and GIDDYUP!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Second Mammogram and MRI

I had my second mammogram and MRI in a year (one every six months after my diagnosis). My results came back perfectly clear. My radiologist told me that I do not have to come back until NEXT YEAR!

I will continue to do my own self exams but for the most part, I am going to forget about "the girls" until next October.

Bring on all the pink stuff. This year, I can take it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

I'm Still Here

Thank you for continuing to check in with me even though I have not been keeping my blog up to date. I'm still here and things are good. I had a checkup with my oncologist yesterday. This was my rescheduled appointment from the one I blew off back in July.

When we met, my doctor was not very concerned that I "forgot" my appointment this past summer. She said that is usually a sign that a patient is feeling pretty good and just wants to get on with life. That about sums up where my head is at these days. Still, I realize that it's very important that I keep up with my regular checkups so I scheduled my next one for December.

I really don't have much news to report. I feel good, my hair is growing back nicely and I can feel the effects of chemo brain starting to subside. The only issue I am having at this time is my inabililty to lose weight. But if I am going to be completely honest here, I have also had an inability to actually WORK at losing this weight. So I really have no one to blame but myself.

I definitely need to make some lifestyle changes. I used to be pretty good about exercising regularly. I was usually in the gym at least 5 days a week doing a combination of cardio, strength training and yoga. I used to take spin classes and Pilates classes. That was when I worked for Florida Power & Light and we used to have a fantastic gym right in our building.

Still, I have no excuses because we do have a finished attic in our house which we've outfitted as a pretty decent home gym. Nice treadmill, weight bench, weights and dumbbells. I also have a TV with DVD player - for all those P90X DVDs I never watch.

You get the idea. I have no excuses. I need to get my butt in gear.

My plan is to slowly evolve this blog from cancer survival to healthy lifestyle. I will continue to talk about cancer just because it is definitely top of mind for me. But my plan is to also sprinkle in a little bit more about my life in general because honestly - I get tired of talking about cancer all the time and complaining about my menopausal metabolism.

My next big appointment is Monday afternoon. Six month mammogram and MRI.

Much  more to come!