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.


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!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Shut Up and Climb

I just caught up with Mandi at Darn Good Lemonade and Carol at Paw Paw Salad. Mandi talked about her love of rock climbing (yes!) and Carol posted a picture of a painting which she bought that is especially meaningful to her. It made me think of these pictures from a trip I took to Utah in 2002.

Not sure I can do this -- my first time rock climbing.
On my way up and figuring out my next move.
When I look at this picture, I think - if I can do this - I can ANYTHING!

Rock climbing in Snow Canyon

I did it!
This pictures remind me of what my life used to be like -- I want my life back.

Long Weekend, Long Post

Happy Labor Day Weekend to my friends here in the U.S.! We've earned an extra day off -- I am sure of that!

I am not sure where to start. I have a feeling this is going to be a VERY long post. Please bear with me.

First, I am feeling fine. I have absolutely no physical complaints except that I am FAT. Yes, FAT. I gained about 20 extra pounds while undergoing chemo last year. Those 20 lbs. piled on top of the 10 lbs. that I wanted to lose even before my diagnosis add up to me being about 30 lbs. overweight. It's not a pretty sight.

Then I had my hysterectomy and oopherectomy. I am in menopause thanks to the chemo and my surgery in April. My metabolism -- which has always managed to be pretty speedy on its own -- has now slammed into a brick wall.

I cannot lose a pound to save my life. And it just might be all about saving my life.

I know that carrying extra weight and bodyfat is not good for someone who had cancer. My cancer was estrogen-positive. Did you know that even after you have your ovaries removed, your body still manufactures and stores estrogen in your adipose (FAT) tissues? It's true.

So my main focus in life (besides my job and marriage) is to lose weight and gain muscle. Easier said than done.

One thing I am really learning about myself now that I have completed all my treatments is that my life is WAY out of balance. I really do not make time for myself. I love my job and tend to work a nice, full 9 hour day - many days I work more hours. I don't care -- I love what I do.

But when you work like I do, that leaves very little time for taking care of oneself.

I do not workout. I set my alarm for an hour before I normally get up thinking that I will get on the treadmill and walk but that never happens. I am just too tired thanks to the sleeping pill I am on due to menopause insomnia. So I roll over and hit the snooze and no calories are burned.

Then I go to work and sit behind a desk all day. I love what I do so much that I rarely take a lunch. Sometimes I will grab a bite to eat but usually end up eating it at my desk. And God forbid it is a day when I have a meeting during lunch. In comes the Southern "comfort" food -- the BBQ, the cornbread, the potatoes and chocolate cake. MYGOD. It is impossible for me to resist the good old Southern comfort food.

And even if I have a good day of eating, I get home and I am tired. I just want to unwind. So I open a bottle of wine and down two glasses without even thinking about it. But it does feel GOOD. I can relax, kick back and enjoy my evening (of doing nothing - no working out, no yoga, no sex).

So yes, I am feeling fine physically. But I obviously have a long way to go in the work/life balance department.

I won't even get into the emotional wreck I have been since having my hysterectomy. I hate using hormones as an excuse for bad behavior but I must admit that I feel like I have PMS every single day. If I am not overly sad and morose, I am angry, irritated and frustrated.

Those are not good emotions to have on daily basis. As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure that you can lose friends and possibly end up divorced if you keep those emotions going every day.

So yeah, life kinda sucks right now. And I feel guilty for saying it because I have been through the "worst." I have had the surgeries and chemo and radiation. Life should be a breeze right now.

Anyway - thanks to those of you who have checked in with me and left me comments. It's nice to know I am not alone in this weird "post-treatment" funk. I am sure it will get better. I just need to figure it out, I guess.

Friday, August 10, 2012

That Voice in Your Head Is Not the Real YOU!

I haven't been the best blogger lately. I have been too busy, too tired, in a funk, out of town... the list goes on and on. But I am back at it today and I am trying to figure out where to start.

I guess we should start with "the funk..."

Somehow, during the past six or eight weeks, I have had some very morbid thoughts creeping into my head. I have thought that perhaps I am not going to survive this experience. I have been almost resigned to the fact that my breast cancer is going to come back and I won't make it.

This is no way to live life. I knew that I needed an attitude adjustment but I just couldn't seem to do it on my own.

I finally started to pull out of my funk yesterday after I watched this episode on the Oprah Winfrey Network. My sister recommended it to me and it was a real life saver. (Thanks, P!) It is a conversation with author Michael Singer who talks about separating the voice in your head from the real you. What an eye opening conversation! If you are struggling with negative thoughts, constant worry or just need a little jolt of positivity, check out this episode.

I will keep this post brief... but more to come!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Dangers of Alcohol and ER Positive Breast Cancer

Enjoying my glass of wine - June 2012
I was reading Debbie's blog the other day and one post really caught my attention. She wrote about her recent "A Ha Moment" regarding her diet and how she had let it slip into her "pre-cancer casualness." I could definitely relate.

When I was first diagnosed, I went out and bought a Breville Juicer just like Kris Carr and read her books "Crazy Sexy Diet" and "Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor." I learned how important it is to create an alkaline environment in your body. Cancer doesn't like alkalinity. Cancer LOVES acidic environments. And what contributes to acidity? Well, all the good stuff I love to eat and drink - of course! The list includes animal products (especially red meat), sugary foods (including white starches), caffeine and alcohol.

But alcohol is the topic that really caught my attention in Debbie's post. She enjoys her wine -- just like me. And what's the problem with a little red wine in the evening? It's good for your heart, right?

Well, if you have (or had) ER+ breast cancer like me (and like Debbie), alcohol increases the risk of recurrence by 90%! And if you have not had breast cancer, it increases your chances of one day developing breast cancer by 40%.

Those are some big numbers.

I was never what I would call a "heavy" or "regular" drinker in my 20's and 30's. I used to drink beer and only on the weekends. I never had issues with breast health. My mammograms were clear. I never had any lumps or cysts.

That all changed in my 40's. Somewhere along my journey through life, I started drinking wine and enjoying it very much. I would routinely have one or two glasses at least four nights a week. Suddenly my mammograms would come back abnormal. I developed cysts including one large fibroadenoma when I was 42. And then I developed breast cancer.

No one can say for sure what caused my breast cancer. But I am sure about one thing -- I need to give up wine if I want the best chance possible for avoiding a recurrence.

Want more information about the dangers of ER+ breast cancer and alcohol? Read Recipe for Disaster: Alcohol and Estrogen-Positive Breast Cancer by Dr. Kathleen Ruddy, a breast cancer surgeon and leading advocate for eradicating breast cancer.

Comments on Comments:

Mandi - Lately I have been focusing on "getting my life back" and that includes eating and drinking the same way I did before my cancer diagnosis. I agree with you - life is short and we should definitely enjoy it. But I just won't enjoy my wine the way I used to before breast cancer and before reading Dr. Ruddy's article. A 90% chance of recurrence? No glass of wine is worth it (JMHO).

Catherine - I was planning to blog about this very eye-opening article when I read it on Debbie's blog a few days ago. You bring up a really good point about how many women did not follow through with taking their hormone therapy (tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitor) for five years. After all we have been through, what's one little pill once a day? I am not having any major side effects from tamoxifen so it makes it a lot easier for me to take it every day. I suppose if I was having bone and joint pain, I might not feel the same way.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Denial - It's Not a River in Egypt

For the past month or so, I have been living in denial. Big time. I didn't realize this until I missed an oncology appointment on July 18. I basically just blew it off. I had something going on at work and completely "forgot" about my doctor appointment. If that isn't denial, I don't know what is.

And here's another clue that I am in denial. I am still eating meat and drinking wine just like I was before my diagnosis. In my head I know that I need to cut out the acidic animal products and alcohol. I know that I need to eat more veggies and drink green juices. I even have a $200 Breville Juicer collecting dust on a shelf in my kitchen.

After all that I have been through, why am I behaving this way?

According to Wikipedia, denial is a defense mechanism "in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence."

There are three types of denial: simple denial, minimization and projection. I definitely fall into the category of minimization which is admitting a fact ("Yes, I had breast cancer.") but denying its seriousness ("It was caught early. I had chemo. I feel fine. I will be fine...").

The truth is, I had breast cancer. And if I want to avoid a recurrence or another breast cancer, I need to pull my head out of the sand and get serious.

In my mind, "getting serious" means:
  • Eliminating alcohol.
  • Going vegan.
  • Exercising at least 3 hours per week.
  • Meditating every day.
  • Taking yoga classes.
  • Drinking green juices every day.
And that's just for starters.

Comments on Comments:

Catherine - Thank you for being the first to follow my new blog! I hope you are recovering from your recent reconstruction surgery. Yes, a long road ahead for sure but I think the worst is behind us.

Mandi - Hi there! Thanks for following me over here. We are not at 29 years yet - just celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary. As I was writing my anniversary card to my husband, I told him that now I understand what "in sickness and in health" really means.

Evelyne - Girl! How are you? I hope you are doing well and enjoying life. Thanks for stopping by to leave me a comment. How do you like my "Comments on Comments" section? Does it look familiar? haha!

Liz - Thank you for finding my blog. I just popped over to read yours and yes, we do have some similarities in our breast cancer experiences. You look wonderful with short hair! I hope you are feeling well and taking your tamoxifen every day. I will continue reading your blog to get caught up.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Day 1 of 1825

When I was a kid growing up in the 70's, I used to babysit for a young couple that lived in our neighborhood. This couple had a poster hanging in their bedroom which read, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." The poster meant nothing to me as a teenager. Who cares about the rest of your life? I just wanted to get through high school and run away with my welder boyfriend go away to college.
Fast forward 35 years and that saying now means a whole lot more to me. It's still a cliche, and even a little sappy. But it is true.

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis. I really don't care for the term "cancerversary." A cancer diagnosis is nothing to celebrate, but surviving the diagnosis is.
Today I embark on the next phase of my cancer experience - survival. Like many breast cancer survivors, I will be taking tamoxifen for the next five years with the sole purpose of preventing a recurrance. Today is Day 1 of 1825.

I want to be right here, updating this blog in five years. I have thought about some potential future posts that I hope to write:
  • How I Lost All My Chemo Weight
  • Another Year of Clean Scans
  • Just Celebrated My 29th Wedding Anniversary!
  • Enjoyed Another Fabulous Vacation This Year
  • June 1, 2017 - Five Years and NO CANCER!
I have learned there are absolutely no guarantees in life. But for the next five years, tamoxifen (or an aromatase inhibitor) will be my best friend. I intend to make many other lifestyle changes over to increase my odds of survival and I will write about them here.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I Need to Pace Myself

Here I am -- post-cancer treatments and post-surgery. I have my life back and I have hair. But there is one small problem. I need to pace myself.

I find myself wanting to do it all and right now. I want to power through every project at work just to show everyone that I'm back. I want to visit friends, attend art festivals, re-start my Masters degree program, take a romantic vacation and join a yoga studio. And let's not forget about working out, eating right and losing some weight.

Perhaps I am too greedy because my life has been essentially on hold for the past 12 months. I missed all those things last year while I was hooked up to an IV and feeling rather lousy. I need to get over this impatient, greedy phase and slow down because I am getting a little stressed and overwhelmed. The last thing I want to do is invite cancer back into my body. No thank you!

I really need to step back and keep reminding myself that small, consistent changes can lead to big results. I don't need to take on more than I can reasonably handle. And I don't need to do it all today.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Recovering Nicely

No matter how it's done, a hysterectomy is major surgery. And while I chose the da Vinci robotic procedure which boasts minimal down time and pain, believe me when I say there is still plenty of down time and pain. I started to feel pretty good one week post op so I got online to work from home. Big mistake.

My abdomen swelled up and my incisions started oozing. Not good. I decided to lay down and take the rest of the week off. That was the right thing to do. Now I am almost three weeks post op and feeling much, much better. I still need to listen to my body and lay down to rest when I need to.

I have my follow up appointment on June 5. My plan is to ease back into work, start walking about 20 to 30 minutes per day which my nurse said will help alleviate my swelling and just take it easy. I am a bit anxious to get this all behind me but I have to keep reminding myself what my body has been through this past year. I have been through a lot and I will not heal overnight.

I am doing well with my goal of getting outside to soak up some sun every day. So far our weather has been fantastic so I have been able to get out in the yard and "supervise" my husband's landscaping efforts. Our backyard has been the beneficiary of all my time off and also my husband's willingness to plant lots of new shrubs and perennials.

I have also lost about 4 lbs. since my surgery. I think this is just simple bloat going away. Whatever it is, I will take it.

Happy Saturday!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What A Difference A Year Makes

One year ago today I wasn't feeling it. I had zero energy. I had trouble sleeping. And I absolutely could not lose 10 lbs. no matter what I tried. So I started this blog with a simple goal: improve my health by making gradual changes and hold myself accountable by documenting my progress.

Just a couple of weeks later, I felt a lump in my right breast... you know the rest of the story.

To recognize the one year anniversary of my blog, I could write a post that reflects on all the biopsies, surgeries, and unpleasant chemo and radiation therapy. But who wants to read that garbage? It's old and tired. I prefer to focus on the future and what I want to accomplish over the next 12 months.

First on my agenda is my "Thank You Project." I want to take the month of May to personally thank everyone who offered their prayers, support and encouragement to me and my family. The list is long. My project could take more than one month to complete. But I would love to hit my one year "cancer-versary" on June 2 knowing that I thanked everyone who came to my emotional rescue.

Second, I will start making healthy lifestyle changes today. Two things I know about change:
  • Small changes are easier for me to make. Over time, consistent small changes add up to big results.
  • I find it is much easier for me to add healthy habits to my life than to eliminate unhealthy habits cold turkey. Eventually, the healthy habits will crowd out the unhealthy habits.
My healthy addition for May is to get at least 15 minutes of sunshine every day. My goal (weather permitting) is to sit outside, breathe deeply and let the sun deliver some much needed vitamin D to my body. How easy is that?!

What a difference a year makes.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Next Up: Total Hysterectomy

Sorry for the delay in posting here on my blog. I have been very busy getting back to "normal." (More on that in a moment...)

Tomorrow I will undergo a complete hysterectomy. It is the last big hurdle of my cancer treatment. Children have never been in my life "game plan" so it's the big H for me. Normally the doctor would remove just my ovaries but because I have a large uterine fibroid (which was there pre-diagnosis), the doctor decided it was best to just take out everything.

My doctor will be using the daVinci robotic device which is supposed to dramatically reduce post-surgical pain and make recovery just a bit faster.

TIMEOUT: I just Googled "daVinci robotic hysterectomy" because I wanted to share some basic information with you. Unfortunately, I found this graphic video on YouTube - a complete hysterectomy by a San Francisco gynocologist all set to Bach's Orchestral Suite #3.

DO NOT WATCH this video if you are having a hysterectomy, think you might want to have a hysterectomy or would simply like to enjoy a barbeque ever again. Good Lord.

Gag! I wish I hadn't seen this video. It's going to be a while before I can watch chicken sizzling on the grill and not think of what will (has) been done to my lady parts. Geez. Doctors do have a whacked out sense of what's appropriate sometimes. I guess this guy is proud of his technique and sutures.

Anyway - here is the toned-down, sugar-coated information about the daVinci hysterectomy.

So... back to normal...

For me, this past year has been anything but normal. Cancer, lumpectomy, six rounds of chemo, no hair, no sex (or very little), massive weight gain (hello 30 lbs.), 33 radiation treatments every day for six and half weeks, etc. The list goes on and on and on.

This hysterectomy is the only thing that's standing between me and getting my life back. I don't want a "new normal." I want my "old normal." The doctor is giving me six weeks to recuperate from surgery. For six weeks, I need to really take it easy.

But after six weeks, I'm taking my life back.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

No More Scarves, No More Wig

I think one of the hardest parts of my own breast cancer experience was having to wear scarves, hats and a horrible wig. I didn't like losing my hair (who does?) but covering my head was worse. Whatever I wore was hot, itchy, too tight or all of the above. And then trying to coordinate scarves with my outfit was always a challenge.

But not anymore. I have been "scarf-less" and "wig-less" for about two months now. And it feels GREAT!

Happy Easter Weekend

The weather here in Virginia is nothing short of spectacular this weekend. Bright blue skies, lots of sunshine, temperatures in the upper 60's... It is perfection.

I spent the better part of yesterday planting flowers in our yard. I love gardening. Let me re-phrase that... I love planting flowers and shrubs and doing all the fun decorative stuff in my yard. I do not like mowing the lawn or weeding. My husband handles that part of it. He bakes the cake. I just ice it. hehe!

Summer flowers and new azaleas going into the back corner of our yard.

Enjoying the afternoon on the porch

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mom

Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 72 years old today. As I write this post, I am overwhelmed by how much I miss her.

But now I am looking out the window to my backyard and there on the bird feeder is the first goldfinch of the season - bright yellow and just sitting there. He's not flying back and forth, darting from tree to tree the way goldfinches normally do. He seems to be sitting there for me to notice him. My mom loved goldfinches. Seeing him there brings a smile to my face.

Mom's Birthday - 2006

Playing Golf - 2005

Easter Sunday - 2007

Celebrating Remission - 2006

Enjoying a Red Sox Spring Training Game - 2006

Glorious June Afternoon - 2005

With My Dad - June 2005

I love you, Mom. I miss you every single day but I know you are always with me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

First Mammogram After Treatment

I had to go back to my radiologist this week for a diagnostic mammogram because of a new lump I felt in my left breast. Under normal conditions, I would not have needed a mammogram for another six months. But who said I was normal?

I could tell my lump was just a fluid filled cyst. It didn't feel anything like my tumor which was small and hard. My tumor felt like an M&M just under the surface of my skin. And I was right. My new lump is completely benign and nothing to worry about.

While I was there, my radiologist decided to do a bilateral mammogram. Both my "girls" were flattened to a pancake. Mammograms are not the most comfortable procedure but after a lumpectomy -- all I can say is "OUCHIE!"

Going back to the radiologist's office this week was an interesting experience. I hadn't been there since last summer when she found my tumor and gave me my diagnosis on June 2, 2011. Walking in and sitting in the waiting room brought back so many memories for me.

I remembered the fear and dread vividly and I could see it on every woman's face in that office. Seeing me with my short cropped "hairdo" didn't help alleviate their fears. But I was cheerful and upbeat and kept a smile on my face the entire time.

One woman sitting next to me complimented me on my hair re-growth. I thanked her and we started talking. She told me she was a 24 year survivor. That alleviated MY fears!

My next scheduled appointment is in September - another mammogram and an MRI. My goal is to stay out of the radiologist's office until then!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

21 Day Cleanse

After six rounds of chemotherapy and 33 radiation sessions, it's time for a good old fashioned detox and cleanse. I just feel like my body is finally ready to start healing from all the toxic treatment I have received.

cafe-230x230I am a proponent of the Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr and have decided to follow her 21 Day Cleanse starting tomorrow. I have never done a detox or cleanse, so this will be a new experience for me.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I ran out and bought Kris Carr's books and a juicer. I probably juiced three or four times and gave up. It's not easy. You have to make fresh juice every day or every other day, depending on how many veggies you are juicing. It takes about an hour to make enough juice for two days. Given all the benefits of juicing, it is time well spent. I just need to get back into it!

Here is a checklist from the book that I will use for the next 21 days to keep myself on the right path:
  1. Did you abstain from coffee?
  2. Did you abstain from alcohol?
  3. Did you abstain from gluten?
  4. Did you abstain from animal products?
  5. Did you abstain from sugar and choose low-glycemic fruits and better alternatives such as stevia or agave nectar?
  6. Did you dry brush today?
  7. Did you clean your sinuses with a neti pot? (I won't be doing this one!)
  8. Did you move your body for at least 35 minutes?
  9. Did you meditate for 15 to 20 minutes?
  10. Did you chew your meals thoroughly and mindfully?
  11. Did you laugh out loud and tell someone you love him or her today?
  12. Did you spend time in nature? Even five minutes is better than nothing?
  13. Did you get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep?
  14. What did you eat today and did you juice?
  15. How much purified water did you consume. Include fresh veggie juices in your calculation.
  16. What supplements did you take?
  17. How was your elimination? (TMI!)
  18. What time did you stop eating? Three hours before bedtime is optimal.
  19. How do you feel physically?
  20. How do you feel emotionally?
The 21 Day Cleanse recommends drinking a green juice in the morning and then switching to vegan, mainly raw, organic meals for lunch, dinner and snacks.

For those of you who know me personally, you know that it will not be easy for me to give up coffee or alcohol. But I feel like it's time. It's time for me to do something really positive for my health over these next three weeks.

Care to join me?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

My Next Challenge

When I was going through chemo, everyone told me to avoid eating foods that I love because they won't taste the same and I won't want them after I finish chemo. They also told me that whatever weight I gain during chemo would come off within two months of finishing chemo.

They lied.

During chemo, I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted. I figured that since I have cancer and am going through chemo, I should do whatever I want to make myself feel better. And since my appetite didn't go away during chemo, I indulged. I still believed whatever weight I gained would somehow magically melt away after chemo. HA!

So here I am -- after six months of indulgence -- weighing 20 lbs. more than I did when I started chemo. And I still love cheeseburgers, french fries, Prime Rib Pasta at O'Charley's and ice cream. There isn't one thing I ate during chemo that seems dissatisfying to me now. It's all still good!

My next challenge is to lose the 20 lbs. I gained during chemo and then lose another 10 lbs. I had been trying to lose before my diagnosis.

I need to lose this extra weight for all the usual reasons (look better, feel better, fit back into my normal clothes, etc.). But the really big reason I need to lose this weight is to help fight a breast cancer recurrence. My type of cancer is receptive to estrogen and estrogen is stored in bodyfat. So even if your ovaries have been medically shutdown like mine have, you still need to get your bodyfat in check so you are not storing too much estrogen.

Oh - and did I mention I will have a complete hysterectomy at the end of April and my 30th high school reunion is in mid-June?

No pressure...

Sunday, March 11, 2012


On Monday, March 5, 2012, I finally reached a goal that had been set for me WAY back in July. I completed my treatment for breast cancer. It's been a LONG 10 months. Many women face more rounds of chemo and more surgeries than I did. I got off easy with just 10 months.

Many of us face the same five year period of taking tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor to hopefully prevent a breast cancer recurrence. I will start my regimen in April after my hysterectomy. I will also see one of my doctors at three month intervals for the next two years. After that, the doctor visits should slow down. In the mean time, I will do what so many other women have done before me - get on with my life.

I have heard so many women refer to this time period between diagnosis and finishing treatment as "The Lost Year." I don't look at it that way. For me, these past several months have been exactly the opposite. I found much more than I lost.

I found the love and support of so many people, it has been overwhelming. I found support from people I hadn't heard from in over 30 years. I heard from classmates who were not exactly my friends during our school days. They came to my Facebook page and told me how much they admired me. I found a whole group of new friends online, women who blog or are a part of the Crazy Sexy Cancer website community. I have even had the opportunity to meet two of them in person and now consider them my friends "in real life."

My co-workers took support and encouragement to a whole new level. During the month of October for Breast Cancer Awareness, one of my co-workers would come into my office and present me with a pink themed gift. I received plants, jewelry, t-shirts, hats, tea towels, notecards, pins and mugs. Those that work in remote locations sent me pink Care Packages packed with items they collected at their office. This outpouring of support went on during the entire month and continues even today. Just last week I had the janitor in my office with tears in his eyes telling me what an inspiration I have been to him.

But most important, my relationship with my sister grew even stronger and for that, I am really grateful. She sent me a card after every chemo session. We talked on Facetime. She sent a huge cookie to congratulate me on completing chemo. We spent time together over Christmas. Her support in particular has meant the world to me.

So yeah, I'm done with cancer treatment. I am ready to get on with my life - this time with a much greater appreciation for my relationships and my health.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Quick Post

Seriously... This will be quick.

Radiation is going fine. So far, so good. Thank God for Magic Skin Balm! I put it on every night before bed and wear a t-shirt to bed. My skin is darker but it is holding up. I have this week (4 more days), next week (5 days) and then my last day on Monday, March 5. Then I am DONE, baby! DONE!

My hair is really starting to grow back. I have an actual wave going on in the back and a bit of curl here and there. I know in about another month or so it will probably look like a poodle's butt. haha!

I'm feeling really good. I have a lot of energy. I even lost a couple of pounds. I cannot complain.

Sorry to cut this so short... It's past my bedtime.

Nite, nite!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Celebrating My Husband's Birthday

Here I am keeping my resolution to enjoy my life by celebrating my husband's birthday at Morton's Steakhouse last night with our good friend Terry. It was a fun (and expensive) evening!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

New Skin Cream + Working Out + Going "Au Natural"

Several women on the Crazy Sexy Life website have written glowing reviews about Magic Skin Balm by Brigit True Organics. They used it during and after radiation and claim that it really helped alleviate their radiation dermatitis (i.e., radiation burns). Many of them continue to use the product well after treatment.

I did a little research and lo and behold - these organic products are made about 1 hour west of me in Charlottesville, Virginia. Talk about coincidence... Anyway, the good news for me is that it is widely available at health food stores in the Richmond area. Today, I picked up a small jar at Ellwood Thompson's. My skin is holding up fine so far but I plan to use the Magic Skin Balm from here on out. I will keep you posted on how it goes...

In other news -- I actually worked out today. I guess you could call it a workout. It certainly wasn't what I was used to in my "former" life but hey, I have to restart somewhere. I did 30 minutes of cardio on the treadmill then used dumbbells for squats, biceps curls and triceps. I also did some pushups and crunches. I think it was a good start. I am also tracking all my food on Weight Watchers. I lost two pounds last week. I would love to lose another pound or two this week. *fingers crossed*

And finally, I went out "au natural" this weekend - no scarf, no hat, no wig - nothing! My hair really isn't long enough but I just didn't care. I decided to run some errands without anything on my head and guess what? No one stared. Babies did not scream or cry. No one laughed and pointed at me. Basically, no one cared. Yay! I am pretty close to going au natural at work. Maybe another week or two...

My next goal is to scope out some yoga studios and actually join one. I would love to start taking a class on the weekends.

Okay - it's almost time for kickoff... Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Some Words From the Wise

I know that many of us who are currently undergoing treatment or just finishing up treatment are experiencing an unnerving side effect: The constant worry of whether or not our cancer will come back.

I would like to share with you some words of wisdom that a friend and breast cancer survivor emailed to me yesterday. It is a little "trick" that she uses to shut out the negative worry from overtaking her.

She tells herself: "I do not have cancer TODAY. I do not have a doctor appointment TODAY so I cannot be diagnosed. This may all change TOMORROW but TODAY I am cancer free."

She says this mantra helps her manage one day at a time.

Words of wisdom for us all.

Thank you, P!

Monday, January 30, 2012

26 Points

I have gained just over 20 lbs. since my diagnosis. I thought most of that weight was due to water retention and bloating from chemo. My doctor and nurses all said the weight would come off a couple of months after I finish chemo.

Well, it's been almost two months and guess what? They were wrong. I still weigh exactly what I did on December 7 when I went in for my last round of chemo.

I was one of those rare people who didn't get sick during chemo. If anything, my appetite increased due to the steroids I was on. I also gave myself permission to eat anything and everything that appealed to me. After all, I had cancer and I felt like I DESERVED that piece of chocolate cake! Now I am paying the price.

A few weeks ago I decided to take action and joined Weight Watchers. I joined online, set up a profile, answered a bunch of questions and was told I could eat 26 points per day. How much is 26 points, you ask?

- A packet of unsweetened instant oatmeal is 4 points.
- An egg is 2 points.
- A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is 12 points.
- Most fruits and veggies are less than 2 points or no points.

You can swap food points for activity points. It's simple - the more you work out, the more food you can eat. For example, my 90 minute hike yesterday earned me 7 points to swap out for food. woo.

So what's my point? (Yes, the pun was intended.) 26 points is not a lot of food.

And here's a newsflash: Just because you join Weight Watchers doesn't mean the weight is going to magically come off. You still have to do the work!

I am ready to take this seriously though. I stocked my fridge at work with all kinds of good snacks - fruit, hummus, yogurt. I need to fit in a minimum of 30 minutes on the treadmill every day. That's going to be tough because I am doing radiation every day, too.

But I will get there. I must get there. I have my 30th high school reunion to attend in June and I absolutely cannot show up looking fat, bald and sick!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hair Regrowth and Miaderm

My hair is slowly starting to grow back. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I have colored my hair since I was in college. I went gray very early in life - not sure why! - so when my hair started to grow back after chemo, it came in absolutely white. It will look great on me when I am 80 but not now!

So this morning I colored my fuzzy head and this is what it looks like. I was hoping it would look good enough to go without a scarf or wig but I don't think it's quite long enough yet. Maybe in about another month, I can rock it but not now. It's still very thin on top and longer on the sides and back. All things considered, I am just glad to be done with chemo and seeing my hair start to grow. woo hoo!

Speaking of which, I am back to having to shave my legs, etc. every few days. It's not growing fast enough to be a daily chore, but my days of quick showers are over.

As for radiation, it's going well. I just completed my first week. I have 7 sessions down with 26 to go. Each session is getting easier for me to handle and I'm not quite so nervous about the whole process. It's getting quicker and I'm usually in and out of there in 30 minutes.

The nurse gave me a cream called Miaderm. It contains calendula which I have read is very good for your skin during radiation. Has anyone used Miaderm? Any recommendations for other creams or whatever worked for you are greatly appreciated.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Radiation and Livestrong at the YMCA

I started radiation this week with my first session on Thursday afternoon. It was relatively easy and definitely painless but for some reason, it bothered me more than chemo. It seemed scarier than chemo.

Laying on the table with this giant machine circling me, it almost felt like the machine had a mind of its own. It zooms in and out to target the spots on my body that it needs to zap. Obviously the radiology technicians are operating it, but it seems like a bad science fiction movie to me.

At my session on Friday night, I decided to just close my eyes, relax and visualize positive healing. I visualized the machine treating all the right spots and the radiation zapping any lingering cancer cells. This technique definitely helped me get into a more positive frame of mind.

In other news... I forgot to mention that my oncologist recommended a program to me called Livestrong at the YMCA. It is a 12-week program to help adult cancer survivors successfully transition from treatment to wellness. The program is offered at three YMCAs in my area but none of them are very close. The only facility that offers the program in the evening is 25 miles away. I may do it anyway after I finish my radiation treatments. A few miles of driving every day would be worth it if it helps me regain my health.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

First Follow Up Appointment

I was back at the hospital a few days ago for my monthly lupron injection. I happened to notice some new reading material in the magazine rack. These were my choices:

“Living with Advanced Cancer”

“When Cancer Comes Back”

“Looking Forward: Life After Cancer Treatment”

Any idea which brochure I chose to read?

“ I will take ‘Looking Forward’ for $500, Alex.”

Which leads me to today’s post…

I saw my oncologist yesterday for my first follow up appointment since completing chemo. The appointment went well. She was pleased with how I handled chemo and felt quite certain that radiation would go just as well. We discussed hormonal therapy and agreed that I would start Tamoxifen as soon as I complete radiation.

Here’s the kicker… There is absolutely no way to tell if my cancer is going to come back. There are no tests to run, no indicators, nothing. I will have a mammogram every six months for the next couple of years. I will also see either my oncologist, my radiation oncologist or my radiologist once every three months. They are a tag team (or triumvirate) – one of them will see me and report back to the others.

Of course, I am to let my oncologist know if I experience any abnormal bone pain, difficulty breathing or headaches as these symptoms could indicate metastasis to my bones, lungs or brain. This is every breast cancer patient’s worst nightmare.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about it every day. Some days are worse than others. When I talked to my sister about it, I explained that it was like background noise. It never goes away. Some days it is louder than others but it is never peaceful and quiet. The worry is always there. At least it is for me at this point.

My oncologist tried to be reassuring by telling me that I have done everything that is recommended and medically available in 2012. Then she told me the rest is up to me and I need to start looking forward. I need to get on with my life.

When I asked my husband for his take on the appointment, he said it was the best possible follow up appointment given my situation. And his 100% correct.

Still – there are no guarantees and that leaves me feeling very vulnerable.

I have a lot more to say on this subject but I will stop here. It is well past my bedtime!

Nite, nite.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Life is Dull

I feel like I need to update my blog but I really don't have a lot of news to share. Life is blissfully quiet right now. One thing I have learned over the past few years is that when life is quiet, you must enjoy it. Eventually, something will surely go awry -- the fridge will break, the dog will get sick, the car will break down -- so enjoy the "dullness" when you can.

To enjoy my dull life today, I am leisurely spending some time putting away the last of my Christmas decorations. Then I am going into the office - not to work - but to clean up the joint. My office has become a bit of a disaster area over the past few weeks. I need to file papers and dust and clean. I may even buy a few nice desk accessories to spruce it up for the New Year.

Later tonight, we're having dinner with a friend to celebrate her birthday. As part of my New Year's resolution to "Enjoy My Life," I want to try a new restaurant in the Richmond area at least once a month. Tonight, we'll be checking out Rosie Connolly's Pub and Restaurant in downtown Richmond.

So yeah - not much is happening right now and that's okay. I love it!

Monday, January 2, 2012

My New Year's Resolution

Every New Year's Day, I love to sit down and write out my goals for the next 12 months. And like most people, I make resolutions. Does "lose weight" or "exercise more" sound familiar? I thought so.

But this year is a bit different for me. There's nothing quite like ringing in a new year after a cancer diagnosis. Suddenly those old resolutions seem lame. Not that losing weight or working out is lame. Being healthy is always a good thing. It's just that my old resolutions don't seem to matter quite so much anymore.

So this year I have just one resolution: Enjoy my life.

What does that mean exactly? I guess you will have to keep reading to find out!