Well it sure has been awhile since I posted any updates. I have started and stopped writing at least 5 or 6 times over the past few months with the intention of finishing the post and getting it out there, but then time would get away from me. I would start again and have tons of updates and would just never finish. So, with this update I just want to give a quick summary of my cancer journey over the past year. YES! It was a whole year ago in May when I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer for the 2nd time. So May is now when I “celebrate” my Cancerversary every year (it used to be April for those 10 great years between the 1st and 2nd diagnosis). I started chemo in June and finished in August with my first surgery in September and mastectomy in December. All went as planned with no complications. What a relief. Further pathology on my tumor found a small percentage of cells to be progesterone positive (PR+), but they continued to treat me for triple neg because it was such a small amount. Then my oncologist later decided to add Tamoxifen to the mix after my regular chemo treatment ended. He said it is just an extra “extra” insurance policy to protect me against getting a PR or Estrogen positive breast cancer in the future in tissue near my mastectomy or elsewhere in my body. So I have been on Tamoxifen since October and had the usual side effects. The hot flashes came nearly every hour of the day and night with lots of sweating. I did not sleep well. I gained 25 pounds. Then, most recently, I began having terrible hip pain and some knee pain. I had nausea and headaches too, but I got used to that and it had subsided a bit. I just had a follow up appointment with my Oncologist this week and he has decided to take me off the Tamoxifen! I am thrilled and scared at the same time. He feels that I am really not at huge risk for the type of cancer that Tamoxifen protects against AND a better quality of life surely outweighs the bad side effects that I was dealing with. Hallelujah! I wait the next few weeks to start feeling even better, but in just days I have seen improvement!
As for everything else with my breast reconstruction… well, that is going well. Oh, and my hair is maybe 3 inches long since it started growing in October!! That makes me happy. I am finished filling my tissue expanders with my last fill on April 17 after months of weekly visits to my plastic surgeon to fill each side with between 50-100 cc’s of saline. My muscles have adjusted well. I did have to go for physical therapy to assist with some tightness on my cancer side due to lymph nodes that were removed and previous radiation to my skin and muscle 10 years ago. I had some pain at the end with my last couple of fills. I still do the stretches that I learned in PT and it helps a lot. I have my exchange surgery on July 31st. It will be an outpatient surgery with a short week of recovery time. I think this one will be easy! It will be the last step in reconstruction where they will exchange the saline expanders for silicone implants. Then boom, I will be done with everything! Whew! I’ll just go to my oncology surgeon for ultrasounds to replace mammograms to check for any recurrence and meet my oncologist every 6 months for blood work.
Jake and John are doing well. John will be starting his 3rd medication for Crohn’s after the first 2 failed. It has been a year since he started these treatments and has seen no improvement! Third time is a charm they say?! Let’s hope so! In just a couple of weeks Jake will be turning 13!!! Wow, I blinked and he’s a teenager?! We will be taking a cruise to San Juan, St. Thomas, Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos the week after his birthday. This trip is replacing the one we cancelled for Spring break due to John’s dad being in the hospital at the time. We are so glad we cancelled and we were able to be with him every day during his last week with us. He passed away peacefully on Easter Sunday, April 1st. Our lives will not be the same without him, but we sure treasure all our memories with him.
Lastly, in order to improve my health after this long year I have been doing yoga at the Cancer Resource Center at Condell Hospital twice a week since March. I have just added exercise classes at the end of April. I do those three times a week for one hour. It is cardio with weight intervals and OMG it is killing me. I look forward to going because I feel good afterwards, but during the hour I am dying. I do a ton of modifications to try to get through the class, and hope that I can make progress so it is not so hard for me. I have even cried halfway through from pain in my hips and feet and being out of breath. I get frustrated with the steps and sequences, but I persevere. I have to get this weight off and I have to improve my heart health after the chemo knocked me back a few notches. I feel like I aged 20 years this time around, but I know that slowly but surely I will get those years back. They say that chemo damages the heart muscle, but you can rebuild it. Well I hope my heart thanks me for this. Now I just have to stick with it! Fingers and toes crossed.
In my long year of treatment and surgeries I’ve seen moments of fear, pain and misery… but I do think I’ve felt more happiness and joy than ever before. It’s just one of those things. You feel different knowing that your life could change at any given moment. Live life to the fullest… now.
May you all enjoy your summer!