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!