Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Day 773 - The Person I Used To Be

Several people have asked me if life returns to "normal" after breast cancer treatment. I wish I could say "yes" but I would be lying. When I was going through chemo, radiation and recovering from my surgeries, I used to get really down and exclaim: I JUST WANT MY LIFE BACK!

It's so hard to go from being an active, healthy person to someone with cancer. It sucks. Big time. Now that most of my treatment is over, I have gotten my life back but it's very different.

I remember telling a friend about my diagnosis and what lay ahead. She was very encouraging and upbeat. She did her best to bolster my spirits but I distinctly remember saying: "I sure hope I recognize myself by the time all these doctors get done with me."

Life before cancer - active, healthy, 130 lbs.
Fast forward two years later and I do not recognize myself. I went from being fit and active to being this big, lethargic blob. I went from being able to wear cute clothes to having to buy plus-size, elastic waist everything. I used to wear high heels. Now I can barely walk without tripping, teetering or stumbling. I used to work out, lift weights, climb mountains and run. Now it's all I can do to walk around the neighborhood once a day trying desperately to get in 10,000 steps (I'm not even close).

Don't get me wrong - I am grateful to be alive and done with treatment. But this journey has definitely taken its toll on me. Weight gain, lethargy, brain fog, instant menopause, irritability, neuropathy in my feet... All these things have turned me into someone I do not recognize. And I miss the person I used to be. I want my life back!

Post cancer - fat and unhappy
The first step toward getting my life back - or at least some part of it - is to lose this damn weight. I have never really been an overweight person so the 50 lbs. I have gained over the last two years has thrown me for a loop. I don't know how heavy people can be happy. My hat is off to them. I can't do it. I know that everyone says you have to be kind to yourself and accept yourself. I can't. I know what it's like to be thin and active. There is absolutely nothing acceptable about this fat life. Nothing at all.

I can't do much about cancer. It's either coming back or it's not. But I can do something about this weight. I know that if I can get control of my eating and drinking, if I can lose these 50 lbs. - I will have a BIG part of my life back.

And that would make me VERY happy.

So my blog is going to take a turn in a different direction. It's going to look more like a weight loss journal and less like a cancer survivor blog. I'll still talk about cancer survivorship and things that I'm experiencing. But starting this week - it's all about my weight loss and getting my life back.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Day 747 of 1825 - Two Years Done!

This month marks two years post-treatment for me. Two years on tamoxifen with three more years of hormonal therapy.

The plan has always been to start on tamoxifen and then switch to an aromatase inhibitor. During my six-month checkup with my oncologist today, she did just that. I start letrozole (brand name Femara) tomorrow. All the research indicates better survival rates on letrozole than tamoxifen. Some research is now suggesting women should take hormonal therapy for 10 years instead of 5. I'm not ready to contemplate that just yet. Let me make it five years cancer-free and then we'll talk.

If you've ever wondered what 24 months of tamoxifen looks like, here are 24 bottles of tamoxifen lined up on my dresser - stretching from one end to the other. Yes, I've saved them all. Every empty bottle has felt like a feather in my cap. Why do I suddenly feel the urge to sing "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall?" haha!

I guess the most difficult part of these past two years has been the weight gain - 40 lbs. in two years. That's a lot of extra weight especially since I was already carrying an extra 10 lbs. when I started treatment.

But I'm not going to worry about the weight gain today. As a matter of fact, I am not going to worry about ANYTHING today. I just hit my two year mark and I feel pretty good.

Obviously, letrozole has it's side effects - mainly bone and joint pain. I have friends who have taken it and said the pain wasn't that bad. They said it was more of a nuisance than anything and they took Advil to control it. I have also had friends who simply couldn't tolerate it. I'm hoping I can deal with it and just move on.

On to Year Three!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Day 691 of 1825 - Two Years Post Hysterectomy

This was me two years ago today. Well... not me exactly. But this is what I was having done - a total hysterectomy via DaVinci Robotic Device as the last step in my treatment protocol.

Of all the procedures I went through - core needle biopsies, lumpectomy, sentinel node biopsy, chemo and radiation - my hysterectomy was the hardest. To this day I am still feeling the effects.

And I don't like it.

I realize that menopause is a natural state for women as we age. It's not a disease and it's certainly nothing to be afraid of or ashamed of. But when you hit menopause instantly rather than letting your body transition in its own good time, the changes can be very hard to handle. At least, that has been my experience.

I don't want to sound like a complainer here. Menopause is better than cancer any day! But I will be 50 years old in just five days and I feel terrible. I feel like an old woman. An old, FAT woman.

I have neglected this blog for a variety of reasons. Mainly, I am very dissatisfied with my new "normal." I am out of shape, forgetful and more nervous about a cancer recurrence than I was about my initial diagnosis.

I wish I could report that my life returned to normal and everything is wonderful but that would be a lie. There are many wonderful things about my life, and I am very grateful! But my life is not what it was. And it is still not what I hoped it would be once I finished my treatments.

I continue to take tamoxifen every morning. As you can see from my countdown, I am about 38% through my 5 years of hormonal therapy. My next appointment with my oncologist is in June - two years after starting tamoxifen. We'll evaluate how I'm doing and decide whether or not to switch to an aromatase inhibitor. I know these drugs are not a walk in the park either.

So I have decided that during this 50th year of my life, I need to really take some serious action to get myself to a place where I am happy, healthy and less anxious. I've read my previous posts and they all say the same thing but I've done nothing about it. I am definitely in a rut and I want OUT!

One thing I did earlier this year was consult with a local cancer survivorship program. They have support group meetings, free yoga classes, all kinds of events and lectures -- everything I need to help me rebuild my life after cancer. They also recommended a licensed clinical therapist who specializes in cancer survivorship.

I made an appointment and will see her on my birthday. Happy Birthday to me! Nothing like seeing a therapist on your 50th birthday. ha!

I will try to do a better job of posting some updates. I realize there are very few of you (if any) who read this blog. That's okay. It's meant to be my own way of documenting my recovery and (hopefully) survival.

Either way, it's time for me to stop ignoring the fact that I had cancer and start reclaiming my life.