Please join us for Booze for Boobs/Tippling for TaTas/Munchies for Mammaries (no, it won't all be booze) on November 16. You bring the money, we provide food and drinks! Proceeds to my favorite local BC charity, SOS Lowcountry Or if you prefer, you can give to Susan G. Komen or another cancer charity--just give generously!
How am I feeling? Pretty darn good! I am sure I have not clawed my way up to my pre-cancer baseline, but after 10 months of poking, prodding, poisoning, surgery, and irradiating, I have to say it's pretty great to have all of that over. I am not nearly as tired as I was. The radiation burn has faded, and my skin has peeled. I have a shadow of slightly darker skin left from radiation, but it's not noticeable except when I wear my string bikini. Just kidding...no string bikini here, so it's actually not noticeable!
I won't say that cancer has not left its mark. In addition to the skin darkening, there are psychological scars for sure, along with surgical ones. Dr. Shand said it would take a good 6 months for the inflammation in the irradiated breast to subside. My hair is super curly, which it has never been before. My feet have a bit of tingling from neuropathy, and though my hands aren't tingly, they aren't as strong as they used to be. I've started to run short intervals while walking, and that first run was pretty rough--my joints were offended, and I felt like a marionette. That's getting better, but I am still a long ways from getting back to a solid 2.5 mile run.
Mentally, I am starting to look around and smell the roses, after not even knowing they were there for a while. The two biggest things I think I learned from my previous major illness were 1) there are many things that are completely out of your control, and 2) it takes longer than it should to get better. So when I was diagnosed in December, I told myself that it if I got through it, it would likely be a year. Setting that expectation allowed me to steel myself for the long haul. I felt like I was plodding forward at a steady pace, just looking at the toes of my shoes. I did not look up at the mountain I was climbing, but focusing instead on the path under my feet. And yes, I advocated for myself and I researched the treatments, but I did not let myself get too far ahead of the game. In the beginning, I consulted the best teams from two hospitals, and they were in broad agreement on treatment, which was reassuring. I made minor decisions about each phase as it came, but I largely trusted that my oncologists and I were doing everything we could to kill the cancer, and there were not a whole lot of other things I could do about it. And I pared my life and responsibilities down to pretty essential stuff. I recall that when I had TTP, I complained within the first few days that I was tired of being sick, and wanted to get out of the hospital and back to normal. Little did I know I had three months of illness and more than a year of recovery ahead of me. This time, I didn't have that impatience, because I didn't allow myself to look past the next treatment. It's like when you're running, and you're tired, but you tell yourself to just make it to the next mailbox. And once you pass that, you think, "I'm sure I can make it to that light post." And so you keep going, making new tiny goals to meet, and not thinking about the miles (or the cliff) ahead.
Now, I'm starting to look up and notice things again. After dinner, instead of sitting on the couch thinking bedtime couldn't come soon enough, I actually feel like helping with the dishes, and I notice what needs to be done. This morning, I thought, "It's such a nice day out, maybe I'll have my coffee on the porch"--something that would not have occurred to me while I was plodding up the mountain. At work, I'm chipping in on those ad-hoc things that I have avoided because I've been treading water as furiously as my weak limbs would allow, and one more thing would've sunk me (thanks, Piper and Trey, for picking up my slack!). I am trying to work through my backlog of email at work and home (but I may never succeed--there are roses to smell!). I just didn't have enough mental or physical bandwidth to be fully engaged in anything but cancer. It is SO NICE to be re-engaging with life. I didn't even realize how disconnected I had become.
If experience is any guide, I'll think I'm back to normal before I really am, since normal was so long ago I'm not sure I'll know it when I see it. I'm quite sure it will actually be more than a year in total. Five months of poison and six and a half weeks of radiation will take at least that long again in healing. But I am on the upswing, and you should totally come celebrate with us on November 16!