January 23, 2019

Cancer update and thoughts

It's definitely time for another cancer update. My last big cancer update was two months ago when I looked more or less like this and I had just started radiation.

Now I have officially completed 33 days of radiation!! Wahoo!

About halfway through radiation is when I noticed me skin getting red and rough and my body feeling exhausted. I had to dedicate myself to lathering my radiation area with aquafor every night. And allowing myself to rest and nap often. The last week of radiation it also became painful to swallow because of the radiation to my neck. I could never get a good contrast picture of my radiation redness. The areas I can photograph just look like a sunburn/tan. (Other areas the contrast was more noticeable but you will have to take my word for it).

I am so grateful for a couple of friends who rotated watching Brinna when I went to radiation each day. More grateful than I can say. I could usually drop her off and make it back in 45 min.

On Kacin's birthday, I got to bring Kacin, Kyler, Brinna, and Eric to raduiation with me. They gave them a tour of the room and explained what I do each day. It meant the world to me to have family be a part of this experience in a small way.

I wrote about this on instagram, but my arm has given me a lot of trouble. My cording got really bad for awhile and then my arm starting swelling. I started wearing my compression sleeve and that helped. There was a bunch of drama around a possible blood clot in my arm. Thanks goodness it didn't end up being that after all. Between my compression sleeve and PT, my arm is finally feeling much better than it has since surgery 7 months ago.

It took a looong time, but I finally have baby eyelashes and a few eyebrows again. I dropped 7 pounds because I can walk again, I’m not giving in to random Taco Bell cravings anymore, and I’m off of the steroids that make you gain weight. My hair went from fuzzy to old man over the last month.

It is so surreal to be done with radiation. I'm not sure I can actually believe that I made it through bilateral mastectomy, chemo, and radiation. It was a wild 9 months that's for sure! I experienced so much learning and growing and saw so much good, but I would never want to go through that again. To celebrate my last day of radiation, Eric brought me flowers and an ice cream cake. We went out to dinner as a family and came home and had one of our infamous living room dance parties.

But cancer has changed me. I had to go get my port flushed a few weeks ago and it triggered some ptsd going into a chemo room again.

Honestly, it took me a long while to really realize that having cancer could mean leaving this earth much sooner than I would want to. When I was first diagnosed, I didn't even consider that I could die from it. But over time, that reality sinks in and hits hard.  For me, I was well underway with my chemo treatments when I started to feel that fear. Because even if I know I will not die right now, I do know that my chances of having cancer again someday are higher. None of us knows what life will throw at us! I think I always thought cancer, and many other tragedies, would never be in the cards for me because I've already experienced infertility, foster care parenting, a child with special needs, and so on. But now I realize, I am not invincible! That is a bit of a wake up call. If this can happen to me, what else can happen and will happen in my life?? Those thoughts have changed me. In some ways, I feel like I am becoming a much better person. In some ways, I feel like I am just different. And in some ways, I feel burdened. I carry a weight and fears that I've never experienced before. It is new and scary.

Sometimes I get the feeling that people think that cancer has to be faced with undaunted optimism. Or that you have to be strong to face it. While I think it is necessary to keep a strong hope and recognize the good, I think it is also quite healthy to allow ourselves to feel the rest of the emotions that come. I know many people who get that, but a few people I've talked to have clearly become uncomfortable if I give them a real answer as to how things are. I feel like some people want me to tell them that I am doing good. But cancer sucks and will continue to suck for the rest of my life. Right now, I still have good moments and bad moments. I know that I am healing, both physically and mentally, and it is important to give time for that. For me, I think time, honesty and patience with myself, and ultimate reliance on my Savior will bring about complete healing. I'll get there.

What is next for me? It is a lovely thing to look at my calendar and not have to plan my life around how sick I will be or a daily radiation appointment. But I'm not at the end of the road either. I will continue PT each week until we can get my arm better. I have port removal surgery on Feb 6. I have plastic surgery follow ups every 3 months and eventually will do a small procedure. I see my oncologist again on Feb. 7 and will start Tamoxifen. I follow up with my radiation oncologist next month and continue taking a daily asthma medication and using aquafor for the next six months. I follow up with my breast surgeon in 4 months. I get labs done next week.

I am so grateful for modern medicine and my strong body getting through everything that I've done in the last 9 months. I'm looking forward to life settling down and to some fun end of cancer celebrations in the next few months.